• Coconut Layer Cake With Hot Fudge Sauce

    coconutIt has been too long, and we are glad to be back to blogging here at the farm. We hope absence makes the heart grow fonder. And since we have been (mostly) absent, we decided to return with something special, Coconut Layer Cake. And trust us, this is quite a cake. And since we are all about gilding lilies in our kitchen, why not add some hot fudge sauce? Got a problem with that? We didn’t think so….and there is a method to our madness. coconut4coconut5As we said, this is quite the cake. It is sweet and flavorful and incredibly moist. So moist, it seems that the coconut and butter are barely held in suspension. This is the good stuff. The only “issue” with this cake is that it is so moist and sweet with coconut that you need something else to balance it out. This is where the hot fudge comes in. It may seem ironic to cut sweetness with hot fudge, but chocolate is a naturally earthy counterpoint to coconut, so it works here. (Come to think of it, hot fudge sauce seems to fix all sorts of problems….)coconut11 coconut7So what is the secret to this cake? As with many coconut recipes, the secret is using cream of coconut. For most of us, that means Coco Lopez. If you are unfamiliar with Coco Lopez, it is the stuff that makes your Pina Colada so tasty. It is also a very good way to use coconut in many recipes, as it is probably the most consistent coconut product you can work with (coconut milk can be inconsistent in fat content, and flaked coconut sweetness varies). The only issue with Coco Lopez is that it is very sweet, so most recipes using it adjust sugar or other sweeteners accordingly. coconut8coconut6 Continue reading

  • 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).