Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How Do I Paint Light Accents on Dark Bread?

White flair is a nice addition to any dark crusted loaf.

Simple yet elegant is always good. Anyone up for a tutorial on light tones since I've given away all the secrets to dark browns but not yet covered any of the colors or contrasts? It seems like a good week to do it. I'll be posting a lot of the painted bread this week...so come and see me again. I'm not talking about just using food coloring...but natural extracts. Let's have a little fun, shall we?

My Favorite Hippie Bread

Some hints of Color...

I got my inspiration for this one from my favorite Flower Child shirt. What do you think? Perfect with some good clogs, beads, and tassels. Lots of tassels.

Hints of color: Green paint usually is an extraction from herbs and combined with egg. Red comes from berries. Brown from a special egg wash. The white comes from flour. My favorite is violet. I was plum out of blueberries.

Heaven's Painted Loaf

This may be my favorite.
It just looks like something God would have at the dinner buffet in heaven. Just what I need here on earth. Small town USA. Figuring out how to paint white on a loaf has been crazy challenging. Finally settled on a mixture of flour, water, and sugar. I paint with it and squeeze it through a pastry bag sometimes. Most of the breads I paint after baking...if I can give you a hint of how it's done. It usually goes, mix, bake, paint, bake. A crazy hot process, but then again, all bakers are hot.

The Spotted Loaf...for the Polka-dot Lover!

When I dream...I usually dream of polk-a-dots...
and it's usually in color.

I have Dots all over my kitchen...so why not on my bread!
Obsess much? I do. Especially about dots. I love them. Have them everywhere...that is normal and healthy. Like on my plates, napkins, table clothes, shoes, hand bags. Need I go on? Well now it has gotten out of hand...just NOW. It's come to the bread. Say hello to my favorite spots.

All edible and natural! Wouldn't these be adorable at a baby shower or birthday party?

So I am able to make the dots by painting the loaf with a special egg wash infused with curry (for yellow). The Polk-a-dots of poppy seed are made by first painting on a flour paste and then coating heavily with poppy seed. The brown are made by a special egg wash. Usually I bake a plain roll or loaf, paint it, then finish the baking. Try it for yourself and see what you come up with. If you have no objection to using food coloring for painting, you can mix a few drops of color with an egg yolk and use that as a base for painting. That works fine. I have a lot of clients who are all about the natural and organic stuff so I have come up with my own way to doing it. Do what you like. I would love to see your results!! Ask anyone, it's one of my favorite things!!

Snow dusted Rose Painted Loaf

One thing I will tell you about this decorating method...it is all hand painted. Not transfer paper and certainly edible. Wouldn't these be beautiful for Valentines day or a wedding? So the pink paint is a combination of fruit juices, sugar, and flour. White paint is made of flour, sugar and water. I think I finally have the combination just right too.

The Linen Loaf

This painted loaf looks like good linen.
I could put it under my giant coco head and have sweet dreams for years to come.
Recently I had a few ask if I would share my secrets to this crazy decorating. I want to do so. I won't share my exact recipe perhaps, but give some hints to help. I am a mom trying to make extra income through teaching. Then again, I am reminded that not everyone can paint their bread like this...even with a recipe. Let me think on that. It will have to come later.
In the meantime I hope you will keep coming back to see my latest creations! Your love and support mean so much!

Monday, December 29, 2008

All Things Green...Solar Cooked Split Pea and Pesto Soup

Solar Cooking is one of the easier cooking methods.
Unlike stove top, soups and stew have a very low chance of burning, and the heat source is not only clean and free, it is also what grows these split peas in the first place! You can't get any more natural than that!

Italian style split pea soup with pesto and homemade crackers
For the soup you will need:
1 lb split peas
5 cups vegetable stock
1 medium onion, chopped
1 T dry rosemary
3T prepared basil pesto (I use my own but feel free to use your favorite brand)
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
sea salt, to taste
In a dark covered pot that fits in the solar oven, combine the first four ingredients. Cover and place in the solar oven. Oven heats quickly to around 300 degrees. Cook 3-4 hours (if left unattended, it's not a problem...it works like a crock pot in this regard. LOVE that!!)

Remove from the oven with hot pads and add 1-2 cups more vegetable stock for thinner soup,

This is how it looks without added stock.

Add the pesto, salt, pepper, and stock and it will look like this...

Garnish with crackers...
I make my own leaf shaped ones just for fun!

Enjoy being green!

Meet my newest old friend...

I see this everyday...people just going for a ride in the middle of town.

Where's the town anyway?!

Where I live in Arizona it is a little crazy that way.

I don't see this...

Meet my newest friend. Sorry about the show and tell. I did want to share one more thing I got for Christmas. An old school butter churn from my Mother in Law. I couldn't believe, #1, that she found it. I also couldn't believe, #2, that I haven't had one sooner!! She found it at an antique shop here in town. Wild stuff!! Given my "old school" attitudes on things...I think we will get along just fine. The churn that is...my Mother in law is already one of my best friends!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Solar Oven & My Global Warming...

This is a Global Sun Oven.
Global Warming goes baker.
I use it for a lot of my baking and cooking in the Arizona sun.
It really has nothing to do with heat, so much as sunlight.
Case in point, these ovens are used at the base camps of Mt. Everest.
It is plenty cold there!

Inside it looks very similar to a regular oven.
It has a temperature gauge and a glass door.


It also has these really nifty metal panels to collect sunlight. I love it! I feel like an astronaut baker. See, it's my 2001 Space Odyssey obsession, applied to baking. This is Hal. Pretty scary. Elvis would be proud. Especially when I wear my sequin lined sunglasses to remove the loaf pans. (For the youngies, 2001 is the music played to introduce Elvis at his concerts...)

The glass pane folds down and encloses the chamber. The reflective panels direct the sunlight to the oven, and the temperature raises enough to bake my breads, rolls, roasts, root vegetables, casseroles...really anything I could bake in the oven. So let the festivities begin. I will be adding a lot of information on baking with a solar oven. Because I am just cool enough to do it! Someday I will have a bakery with 50 of these bad boys! In Arizona, I can bake at least 360 days a year that way! You may have less luck in Canada. The other crazy thing, when it isn't sunny enough, I can still heat water to boiling, put it in a covered pot with my rice or grain and cover it with a blanket in my oven. 30 minutes later, my rice is cooked! Not bad on only the energy it took to boil the water!

More information can be found at:
I don't sell them.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Auntie Em's Low Carb Flourless Chocolate Diva Cups

Auntie Em's Low Carb Flourless Chocolate Diva Cups...
In the Evil Think Tank again Today with Tara, we had a special mission. If you've never seen the master minds working together, it is an unholy rift in the forces of darkness. I went to culinary school with Tara the Evil genius . I must say, if we weren't such nice people, one would think it was really wrong how we use kitchen alchemy. Evil only in ways to indulge. Really wrong. This special assignment came under very beautiful circumstances. Tara's friend is getting married soon and was in need of a gorgeous, yet low carb dessert to serve. This friend has lost an amazing amount of weight. I think she deserves to eat something delicious on her wedding day!! See, I am nice.
Since the gal was going to be the queen for the day, I thought I would take another trip to Oz. I put on my shimmering fluffy pink gown and tiara. I am the good witch!! Really!! ...Actually,my sister Auntie Em is diabetic. Em gave me a recipe several years back for low carb flourless cake that uses apricot jam in the mix, which adds a light fruit flavor as well as enough pectin from the fruit to help the cake set. The eggs and other traditional ingredients in flourless chocolate cake where there as well, but we wanted this to be extra special. So we topped it with sugar free chocolate mousse. Ending result. Inside it looks like this. Not bad for 11 carbs each. Crazy huh?

Piled High with chocolate mousse...

Get your stuff together...you'll need :
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
3 eggs, separated,
6T butter,
1/3 cup sugar free apricot jam
1 1/2 cup splenda spoonful
2 tsp espresso powder (or pero for you Mormon folk)
2 tsp vanilla

Melt your butter and chocolate just until barely hot. For goodness sake, don't cook it too long or it will scorch and taste sooo nasty!!
Cool slightly, add the yolks
jam, splenda, espresso, and vanilla. Mix well.

Whip egg whites until firm peaks form.

Combine the chocolate mixture and the whipped whites

Don't mix too much, just lightly until combined

Pour into 7 free standing baking cups or silicone baking cups.

Bake 350 degrees 18-20 minutes, until just baked. Cool completely.
For Chocolate Diva Tiaras, put design paper under parchment paper:

Carefully follow the design with melted white chocolate.

Dust with culinary gold if desired.

Now we had to taste this just to be sure it was okay to serve to company. The coffee flavor masked the aftertaste of the Splenda. What we had was master genius. I think the Queen will be pleased. All hail!! So, hats off to Evil Tara. We had a blast today and got to make sure a friend didn't break her diet, even on her wedding day! It must be LOVE!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Carmel Orange Hazelnut Danish...

There you are...the love of my life! These little bad boys are a butter-roll in Danish. The butter I infused with orange and lavender and then used brown sugar in the roll in, as is done with the Kouign Aman (Kouign Aman a Celebration in Opposites)--but the classical version uses granulated sugar. The brown sugar gave an amazing caramel addition to the already evil pastry! The result was a salty sweet infused love bomb. I can't EVER make them again or I will need to confess to my bishop. Seriously... I used the same recipe with an addition of a bit of sourdough and a much longer fermentation (2 days to be exact) which resulted in a deep flavor. Well worth the wait if you ask me! Because of this, I was able roll up the Danish and leave them on my kitchen counter overnight to rise. This lovely Christmas morning, we had hot pastry that I hardly had to think about...Though now I can't STOP thinking about.

The Mixer...

Look what Ace got me for Christmas. A new Kitchen Aid Professional. I cried. Really. Tears of joy, for the record. Then I giggled like a new culinary school grad. Then I cried again. If anyone read about our water heater fiasco (Oh Fudge On a Sheetpan! ), then I have to say it is true, I was not expecting ANYTHING for Christmas. Which was fine, it's about the kiddos anyway. I don't know how he did it, but I am sooo happy! Hmmm. I wonder what the cookie jar is doing there?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I Live in Aceland...

Random thoughts. If it looks enough like Christmas 1975 at my house can Elvis come back? Please!! My husband Ace is a huge fan! Yes. I live in Ace Land. I have a sequin suit and some seriously wicked decent deep fried peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. Of course I am plum out of ham hocks and guitar strings. Hmm. What to do...

I just finished my rendition of "Here Comes Santa Clause" in my soggy pink slippers and polk-a-dot jammies instead of the good blue suede. I have to say I love the parent side of this Santa tradition. Ace says Santa is much smarter than he remembers (since he now gets everything he really wants). Back to the Santa thing. I reserve some of the fun cookies for the tree. Yes we hang gobs and gobs of sugar cookies from our tree...what's not to love about that? It's the funky sugar high that makes me do ninja kicks that really is worth seeing. No you cannot borrow my rhinestone pink sunglasses. Yes, you can be creative and hang cookies from your tree too...well maybe next year, it is the wee of the morning. So technically...Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sourdough pancakes

Orange Sourdough pancakes with warm Ginger Apricot Cherry Sauce

One of my favorite things to do is make sourdough pancakes. They are light and fluffy. Adding orange zest the night before gives a very full flavor. There's nothing like it on earth. This batch happens to be topped with some of my homemade Gingered Apricot Cherry Sauce. Another reason I like home canning...I can make something special for my family. It's Christmas Eve, so I also added some shavings of dark chocolate... Now that is something celebration worthy!

Orange Sourdough pancakes
The night before, combine:
2 cups whole wheat flour (preferably whole wheat cake flour)
2 cups water
zest of 1 orange (if you don't want orange flavor, omit the zest)

8-12 hours later add:

1/2 cup water,
2T sugar
dash of cinnamon
1tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1tsp baking soda
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix until just combined. Don't mix too long or batter will give you tough pancakes...cook on a hot griddle with good nonstick cookware I don't even need any oil. The best part...seeing my kids little mouths full of whole grain pancakes Christmas Eve!

Homemade Sourdough Starter...

Sourdough Starters Done the Chef Tess Way

Sourdough leavening is as old as the rocks
. Maybe because someone ages ago decided they didn't like the heavy bread. Was it an accident from dough left out too long? Probably. I don't know the exact time in history it was started, but it goes way back! Yeast got on some dough. It fell in Love with the wonderful environment and stayed. Kind of like me and Arizona (...at least in the winter). Yeast is everywhere. If that shocks you I apologize. If you have a fancy air filter that gets all the yeasts and spores and stuff out of the air, you will have to use a pinch of commercial yeast (by this I mean the dry stuff you buy at the store).

Personally, I prefer starters made without commercial yeast, just the spores in the air. It is a longer process, but the flavor is gorgeous. The longer the sourdough has been going, the better the flavor. Yeast is different everywhere too, so my Arizona sourdough will never be San Francisco, because airborne yeast is different here. Not bad, just different. My starter has been around my house going on 15 years. I love it! Feed it every couple of days. It's better than a pet goldfish!

This is a real old fashioned way but basically you take 2 cups flour, 2 cups water and let stand uncovered (or covered with cheesecloth to keep bugs away) and out of a draft for several days until it bubbles (mine took about a week). Do not use a metal container! The acid reacts to the metal and it's really scary. Like a bad horror movie.
* The temperature of the room is important. I call it the 85/90 rule. not higher than 90 degrees for best flavor.
*Stir it a couple of times a day when you think of it.
* If you want it to go a little faster, add 1/4 tsp yeast and it takes a few days to get bubbly and perfect.
Now you have your own baby starter. It is everlasting yeast!

Most recipes you will find use sourdough starter more as a flavoring agent than a leavening agent. It just depends on what your prefer. I like a pretty tart sourdough. I have some fun starters. 4 I keep going on a regular basis: Raisin, Apple, white, and whole wheat. Those recipes will follow in the next few weeks.

First you need to know how to "set a sponge" , also referred to as a "start" for a recipe:
(I do this with most of my recipes...here are the ratios)
12 hours before planning to mix a recipe, mix 1/2 cup starter, 2 cups flour, 2 cups water (I use white grape juice). Cover bowl (Important non metal!!) with cheesecloth. Just before mixing the recipe, take 1 cup of batter to replenish the starter in your crock for the next batch. Use the balance in your recipe.

My Basic Recipe Sourdough Bread
1/4 tsp yeast (optional, but it speeds things up a bit)
2T sugar
1 cup water (body temperature)
1 1/2 cup sour dough *starter (this is the sponge you set 12 hours in advance)
3 1/2 cup- 4 cups Bread flour
2 tsp salt
1 egg (for egg wash)

Mix starter* (the sponge you started 12 hours ago, minus 1 cup) yeast, and warm water, and sugar. Add remaining ingredients except eggs. Knead 300-400 strokes by hand, or 5 minutes med. speed kitchen aid mixer. Form into a ball and place in a covered crock allow to raise until doubled, about 3-4 hours if your room is between 75 and 80 degrees. Punch down and form into loaf. I roll it out and fold it into thirds, and then roll it into a loaf. Cover with a little oil, and then cover with plastic until doubled again, about 1 1/2 hours. A deep dish baker is perfect for a good crusty loaf. Beat egg and brush over unbaked loaf. Put 2 T water in the baker with the bread. Bake at 450 Degree covered 15 minutes, and then uncovered 15-20 minutes more, or until internal temp. reaches 170 degrees.

Keep sourdough starter in plastic or glass, as it will have a nasty reaction to metal (have I said that enough times already?!). Stir with clean utensils. Not the ones you have stacked in the sink from cooking chicken or whatever. Yuck. Keep loose cover. Sourdough starter may be kept in the fridge for several weeks and fed periodically (I give it 1 cup water, 1 cup flour). Take it out for a date, feed it, warm it up for a day or so, and then put it back in the fridge...not unlike my dating life before I met ACE!!

Note: I do my best to make recipes usable for home cooks. If you want the weight conversions I will post them. Please let me know. I make no apologies for trying to bring it home. Have fun and try something new! Also, if your flour has been exposed to a lot of moisture in the air, it will take less flour to make a good bread. If your flour has been exposed to air conditioning or extreme dry (like the dessert) you may need more moisture. Measurements are not exact, but very close.

Sourdough Biscuits With Garlic and Cracked Pepper

I love Sourdough! I use the starter not only for bread, but also for cake, pancakes, and biscuits. Last night I made these for dinner with the simple addition of fresh pressed garlic and cracked black pepper. It had such wonderful taste I had to share! They quite literally flew right off the tray!

Sourdough Biscuits

2 cups flour ( I use whole grain white wheat...I grind my own, but King Arthur makes some)
1T baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup shortening (I use the healthy variety called Spectrum-- cold pressed shortening)
1 cup sourdough starter (more to come on Sourdough starters...I promise!!)
melted butter (or olive oil)
1 clove crushed garlic
fresh cracked pepper

Mix together the dry ingredients. With a pastry blender or a fork, cut up the shortening into the flour mixture until the pieces are tiny... like peas. Stir in the sourdough starter just until it is blended. Put a little flour on the counter top and put the dough on the flour. Put a little flour on top of the dough and with a rolling pin roll out in a circle until the dough is 1/2 inch thick. Cut with a cutter. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet... a pretty thick one so they won't burn. Bake at 450degrees for 10 minutes. Crush garlic into melted butter and spread over biscuits. Crack pepper over the top and serve hot. Perfect and quick for dinner! These would be AMAZING with cheese folded in the dough! About 1/4 cup sharp cheddar or blue cheese...ouch...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bob Ross Painted Bread...but edible!

Happy Little Trees.
Well, if dough was a canvas, this would be the Bob Ross Christmas Wreath.
I just kept painting until I felt like Bob would be happy. Just so turns out his bread order is for a guy named Bob! Just not THE Bob. Merry Christmas Bob. Wherever you may be...