• Orange Sour Cream Pound Cake

    poundThere are few things easier to make than a pound cake. (Few things better to make, for that matter). And you can find pound cake just about anywhere. But that doesn’t mean pound cake isn’t blogworthy. Far from it. Like a blank canvas, the basic equal-proportion pound cake recipe is a worthwhile place for bakers to riff and create tasty new treats. And this recipe is a perfect example of how a few substitutions and/or additions to the traditional pound cake can make something entirely new (and good).

    pound8pound7This recipe uses most of the equal proportion of flour, sugar and egg, but then splits the fat between butter and sour cream. This adds more tang while keeping a rich flavor. Meanwhile, that tang is enhanced by a little orange zest. Topped with two different citrus-sugar glazes, you suddenly have a very rich cake, but with a tangy and slightly acidic core that keeps you coming back for another bite. If you find basic pound cake a bit cloying, this type of recipe is a good place to play.

    Pound5pound4Carolyn adapted the recipe from “Sweet” by Valerie Gordon. Sweet is a solid cookbook by a well-known pastry chef / confectioner. Beyond the recipes, the photos are beautiful. Our sons, drawn by the photos and the thought that “maybe Mom will make some of this for us” gave Carolyn the cookbook for Christmas. Smart kids.

    pound3pound2 Continue reading

  • The Best Almond Cake

    Almond cake. Life is good.

    Almond cake. Life is good.

    So let’s say that your Super Bowl team just laid an epic egg had a disappointing game. (Sorry Denver, our Niners lost to the same guys a few weeks ago…sometimes you just get beat). Or let’s say winter “snowmageddons” or endless droughts have you down.  Or maybe you just want a good dessert. Well, have some almond cake. Trust us, this will make it all better….uhh, maybe Peyton will need two slices.

    almondalmond1Anyway, this cake truly is the best almond cake we have tried. Usually, being the food geeks bloggers we are, we will try a number of takes on any given dish before we say we found the “best” recipe. But when Carolyn says “we can stop looking for other recipes”, she means it. And this recipe she adapted from Food52 is a real winner.

    almond3almond4almond6And don’t be fooled by the somewhat basic appearance of this cake. It is moist, flavorful and easy to make. Think “big marzipan cookie as a cake”. Kids and parents love it. You can serve it at any time and with almost any topping. Ice cream? Check. Chocolate sauce oh yeah. Check. Toasted with jam at breakfast? Yes, life is good here at the farm…. Continue reading

  • Carolyn’s Christmas Toffee

    Toffee. Good at any time, but best for Christmas.

    Toffee. Good at any time, but best for Christmas.

    And the sprint begins……Now that Thanksgivukkah is over here at the farm, we have only three weeks until Christmas. We also have a few family birthdays, a party to throw, and many to attend, in just 22 days. Yikes! Of course, these events are a delight. Even with the craziness of the holidays, time with friends and celebrating together is something to treasure. The only challenge with all these events is figuring out what to bring as a gift…but Carolyn (like always) has us covered.

    toffee3toffee4toffee5We will bring wine and/or spirits for those who like such things (and, shockingly, many of our friends do like a bit o’ booze) but we often give things we make here at the farm. A lot of Putney Farm jam and fruit butters will be doled out over the next few weeks, and they will be quite tasty (IMHO). But if you are extra-lucky, Carolyn will bring you some home-made toffee. This my friends is the good stuff.

    toffee6toffee7toffee8And not nearly as hard to make as you think. Toffee requires only a few common ingredients, one special tool and a little patience. Basically, if you can read a candy thermometer (or a thermocouple digital thermometer), you can make toffee. And if you mess up, it will still taste pretty good, and you get to try another batch. A fun holiday project and a perfect gift. (Who doesn’t like sugar, butter and chocolate?) Continue reading

  • Mixology Monday “Intercontinental” Cocktail #1: The Horn Of Good Hope

    Horn of Good Hope Cocktail.

    Horn of Good Hope Cocktail.

    Ah, another Mixology Monday, always good fun and a nice little prod to keep us from becoming lazier lazy drinkers. And this month we can’t be lazy at all, since we are hosting. The theme is “Intercontinental” and if you want to full download here it is. But basically we need to mix some drinks with ingredients from most of the continents. So far, there are already a number of very creative (and quite tasty looking / sounding) cocktails submitted. So we figured we may as well get going with a few of our own creations.

    mxmologoAnd since we already have a geographic theme we decided we would go a little further and look at the globe for inspiration. In this case we said where is the “end of the earth”? And we decided that Cape Horn in Chile and the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa fit the bill and started looking for spirits (we also looked at Cape Grim in Tasmania, but came up short on ingredients, otherwise we would have ‘The Grim Horn of Good Hope’, oh well…sigh).

    cape7cape5For Chile / Cape Horn it was easy to find an ingredient, Pisco, the local grape brandy that is very common here in Norcal (Pisco also comes from Peru) . For South Africa / Cape of Good Hope we have more options with all sorts of South African wine or Amarula, the local cream liqueur from the Marula fruit. We aren’t big cream liqueur fans, but couldn’t resist trying out the Amarula (we already have a few Amarula sightings for this MxMo).

    cape4It may be a hokey description, but Amarula basically tastes like “tropical Bailey’s” with sweet cream, caramel, a touch of ginger and mango-ish notes. Not bad at all, and not surprisingly Amarula is often mixed into coffee or chocolate cocktails. We chose to go in the direction of coffee, and the rest came together pretty quickly.

    cape3cape6The Horn of Good Hope combines Coffee Liqueur (Kahlua Especial from North America), Pisco (South America), Amarula (Africa), Grand Marnier (Europe) and a dusting of nutmeg (Asia), shaken with ice, strained and served as a cocktail. The flavor is in the Black Russian / Bailey’s and Coffee realm, but the Pisco adds strength and heat, the Grand Marnier adds burnt orange notes and the Amarula adds spice and tropical fruit flavor. The nutmeg adds extra depth of flavor and aroma that rounds things out. There is also a lovely nutty note throughout (no idea where it comes from, but don’t mind it being there). A good sip, even if somewhat (dare we say it) “frappuccino-ish”.

    cape2But this is a sweet, boozy drink, and best served as a sip- or almost a small dessert. We suggest you split this cocktail in half or even thirds and serve it as a quick shot or 2-3 sip cocktail. The first few tastes are the best, before the drink loses its chill and the sweetness takes over. Otherwise, if you like sweet drinks take your time and enjoy the full cocktail.

    cape1So that is our first try at “Intercontinental” cocktails. We got five continents on this one. We are aiming for six or seven with our next creation. Stay tuned…

    The Horn Of Good Hope:

    Ingredients:

    (Serves 1 to 2)

    • 1 oz. Pisco (We actually like Encanto from Peru, but Chilean Pisco is great, too)
    • 1 oz. Coffee Liqueur (Kahlua Especial)
    • 1/2 oz. Grand Marnier
    • 1/2 oz. Amarula
    • Fresh Nutmeg, for dusting

    Assemble:

    • Combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until very cold and double-strain into small chilled cocktail glasses or coupes. Dust with fresh nutmeg. Serve.
  • Mystery Fig Jam

    fjamWhile gardening tends to require some attention to detail, sometimes it is simply best to roll with things. And our figs are a good example. A few years ago we had a Black Mission Fig Tree put into the orchard. We cheated a bit and bought a tree that was a few years old and already a few feet high (hey, we wanted figs sooner, rather than later). But that tree didn’t last long, the gophers ate the entire root ball and the tree literally fell over. Nature often gets the last laugh, and your best plans are laid to waste.

    fjam1fjam2But that doesn’t mean we stopped fighting. We got another fig tree, wrapped the root and planting area with wire mesh and planted again (insert Monty Python’s Holy Grail “Swamp Castle” joke here). And this time we beat the gophers…..sweet! Oh, except the figs were green, not black, and now we have no idea what they are. Kadota? Adriatic? Greek Royal? Who knows….we just know they ain’t Black Mission. Ah, nature.

    fjam3Regardless, we got a decent spring crop and an excellent fall crop of these green figs. When ripe, the figs are soft on the outside and have beautiful bright red flesh. And they taste great, too. The only problem is that the figs don’t keep well. You need to eat them quick. And we do. But when you have a couple hundred figs, it is time to make some jam.

    fjam4fjam5fjam6And fig jam is a treat (even if it isn’t the most attractive thing going). It works simply on toast, but the rich sweetness is an excellent foil for cheeses and charcuterie. In fact, if you want a perfect sandwich, make a good grilled ham and sharp cheddar sandwich with fig jam. A perfect dish.

    fjam7fjam9fjam10The recipe we use is adapted from the Blue Chair Cookbook, one of our favorites. It is just figs with sugar and lemon juice and a splash of Yellow Chartreuse and Benedictine for herbal notes. Being the cocktail nerds “cocktailians” we are, we actually have Chartreuse and Benedictine, but If you don’t have them, ignore or use some candied ginger (or go buy some and mix some drinks). The only bummer with this recipe is that it takes a while. Nothing really hard here, it is just that you are making jam and need to do some boiling, reducing, stirring, etc. But since the figs go bad quickly, this is your best option if you grow or buy a lot of them.  Now if we could just figure out what kind of figs they are…

    fjam11Fig Jam:

    (Adapted from The Blue Chair Cookbook)

    Notes Before You Start:

    • You can use any ripe, thin-skinned green figs here, but Adriatic are suggested. Kadota or Greek Royal also work.
    • If you have thicker-skinned figs, you want to precook the fig slivers in a little simmering water until tender, then use as directed.

    What You Get: Delightfully rich and sweet jam that works with sweet or savory dishes. A way to use your ripe figs.

    What You Need: A jamming setup. What? You don’t have one? Well, now is the time…

    How Long? Forever. Well, not quite. But free up a few hours.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 1/2 pounds plus 3 pounds Adriatic figs, stemmed
    • 3 pounds white sugar
    • 6 oz. fresh lemon juice
    • 2 ounces yellow Chartreuse
    • A few drops of Benedictine

    Assemble:

    1. Place 5 metal spoons on a plate and put them in your freezer for jam testing.
    2. Slice 2 1/2 pounds of the figs into 6ths or 8ths, depending on their size. Place the fig slivers in a large heatproof mixing bowl, add the sugar and mix. Let the mixture macerate while you make the rest of the recipe.
    3. Place the remaining 3 pounds of figs in a Stainless steel pot or kettle big enough to hold them in one layer. Add cold water up to 1/2 inch depth in the pot. Cover the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir and decrease the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook another 5 minutes. Then, using a potato masher, crush the figs to release their juices. Stir, cover, and cook for another 20-30 minutes until the figs are mushy and translucent. Stir often to avoid any burning on the bottom of the pan.
    4. When the figs are done, put them through the a food mill with the finest setting and add to the slivered figs and sugar. Add anything that does not go through the food mill into the mixture as well, breaking up any large chunks. Stir everything together to dissolve the sugar, then add the lemon juice, Chartreuse and Benedictine. Transfer the mixture to a large nonreactive pot or kettle.
    5. Bring the jam to a boil over high heat, stirring regularly with a heatproof spatula. When the jam boils, lower to an active simmer. Simmer 7 more minutes and then mash again with the potato masher. Continue cooking another 25 minutes, stirring regularly and lowering heat of the jam starts to stick.
    6. Test the jam for doneness on the frozen spoons. Place the jam on a spoon, put it back in the freezer for 3-4 minutes, and then tilt the spoon. If the jam is gloppy and runs slowly, it’s done. If runny, cook a few more minutes and repeat the test.
    7. When done, pour the jam into sterilized containers and process per your manufacturer’s instructions (although we suggest processing in the oven, it’s much easier).
  • Banana-Chocolate Chip Squares

    spelt2spelt1speltWhen life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And when bananas turn black, might as well start baking. In fact, for many (ok…me), old bananas baked into desserts are a much better way to leverage the soft, sweet fruit than raw preparations. And if you happen to add some dark chocolate and some spice, well then you are onto something. Something good. Something called Banana-Chocolate Chip Squares.

    spelt5spelt6Happily, Carolyn hates to be wasteful, so when those bananas get black, the boys and I get this treat. But Carolyn is still a Mom (with a capital M) and that means if we get sweets, something healthy often gets snuck in as well. Usually this means some whole wheat flour in baked goods. And while we like whole wheat flour, sometimes it makes for dense and somewhat bitter-flavored dishes. That is OK for bread, but for sweets, a total bit of a bummer. But Carolyn has an answer (doesn’t she always?).

    spelt7spelt8In the case the hack solution is to use spelt flour rather than whole wheat. Spelt is an ancient “proto-flour” that behaves in similar fashion to whole wheat but with softer flavor. So you get some of the nuttiness of whole wheat, but very few bitter notes. In fact, other than slightly denser texture, it would be hard for even a trained palette to notice and bitter flavor at all. And since you get a big dose of the sweet bananas and chocolate, along with spice, all you will really notice is how good these squares are. And if you add in some vanilla ice cream, it is even better. Think “banana split as it should have been” and you might be close.

    spelt9spelt10Like many of our recipes, Carolyn adapted the basics from King Arthur Flour (no, we aren’t on the payroll yet, but one can always hope…). The main adaptation is substituting white chocolate chips for chopped walnuts. Our kids don’t love walnuts in baked goods, so why not add more chocolate? And besides, we are using spelt to avoid bitter flavors, so why risk it with a tannic ingredient like walnuts?

    spelt11Nope, we will always take more chocolate. And like we said, if you serve this with ice cream, the dish goes from good to great. Now maybe we need to add some burnt caramel sauce…maybe even a hint of salt…hmmm….

    spelt4Banana-Chocolate Chip Squares:

    (Adapted from King Arthur Flour)

    Notes Before You Start:

    • Nope, get cooking.

    What You Get: Something like a Blondie, but much better. A good use for over-ripe bananas.

    What You Need: Old bananas.

    How Long? About an hour, or so. Mostly inactive time. You can make this dish any time you have the over-ripe bananas.

    Ingredients:

    (Makes 2 dozen, 2-inch squares)

    • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks, 6 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
    • 1 1/4 cups (9 3/8 oz.) dark (or light) brown sugar
    • 3 very ripe medium bananas, about 8 oz. peeled
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 3/4 cups (6 1/8 oz.) whole spelt flour
    • 1 cup (6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
    • 1 cup (6 oz.) white chocolate chips

    Assemble:

    1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.
    2. Cream the butter and sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Beat in the bananas, lemon juice, vanilla, baking powder, salt and spices, scraping the sides of the bowl. Add the egg, beating until smooth and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, again. Stir in the flour, mixing thoroughly.
    3. Spoon the batter into the prepared baking pan. Allow the batter to rest for 15 minutes, it will thicken slightly. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of the batter.
    4. Bake the squares in the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the center is moist, but not liquid. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a rack.
    5. For the best texture you can cool the squares overnight (if you have the patience). Cut and serve with vanilla ice cream, if you like.