• 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.
  • Tiramisu Layer Cake

    Tiramisu Layer Cake.

    Tiramisu Layer Cake.

    We gather that Tiramisu means “pick me up” in Italian. While a fitting translation, in our family it might as well mean “disappearing cake” (or in my case “expanding waistline”). We enjoy all sorts of desserts here at the farm, but everyone (and quite a few friends) agree that Tiramisu is a very special treat. This stuff goes fast. Tiramisu is hard to resist, and as a big cake, it is even harder. Too easy to go for seconds….way too easy.

    tira3tira4In truth, we have a local bakery that makes an excellent version of Tiramisu cake that we occasionally bring home. But Carolyn and the boys decided to make their own, and we are glad they did. After looking at a few recipes, they combined elements from King Arthur Flour, Martha Stewart and our favorite basic yellow cake recipe into a simple, delightful recipe. This cake looks complicated, but it is easier than you might think.

    tira5tira6This Tiramisu cake is really three basic recipes combined into one dish. You have a simple yellow cake, a coffee syrup and the mascarpone filling / frosting. For gear, all you need are cake pans, a springform pan (nice but not required) and an electric or stand mixer and you are business. The only tricky thing about making this dish is cutting layers from the yellow cake. A cake cutter is a nice tool here, but otherwise a serrated knife and some patience will do the trick.

    tira7tira8As for time, this recipe has only 30ish minutes of active time, but the dish does require a few hours of inactive time. First, you do need some time to bake and cool the cake. Next you need to cut the cake layers, brush on the coffee syrup, apply the mascarpone filling and dust on some cocoa powder. Easy enough. But then you need to let the cake set up in the fridge for a few hours, and at least 4 hours is better. For me some of us, those hours did seem to pass sloooowly….but our patience was eventually rewarded with a perfect bite. This cake has everything; light, moist cake, sweet coffee, creamy filling and a blast of cocoa. And it was big enough for a second piece. Excellent.

    tiraTiramisu Layer Cake:

    Notes Before You Start:

    • For cleaner edges and better presentation it is best to build this cake in a springform pan, but you can go without. The cake will still taste great.
    • The yellow cake recipe yields two cakes. You only need one for the recipe, but now you have extra cake. Always good to have extra cake, and this cake freezes well. Otherwise, halve the recipe, if you like.

    What You Get: Tiramisu as a cake. A very good make-ahead dessert for a crowd.

    What You Need: A mixer and 8 or 9 inch cake pans. An 8 or 9 inch springform pan is nice to have.

    How Long? 4 hours with about 30 minutes of active time. You can make this dish any time, just plan ahead to allow the time in the fridge.

    Ingredients:

    (Makes a cake with 12-16 servings)

    Yellow Cake:

    • 3 cups (12 3/4 oz.) all-purpose flour, sifted
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
    • 2 cups (14 oz.) granulated white sugar
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Coffee Syrup:

    • 1/2 cup water
    • 2 teaspoons espresso powder
    • 1/4 cup sugar

    Mascarpone Filling:

    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese at room temperature
    • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
    • Cocoa powder, for garnish

    Assemble:

    Yellow Cake:

    1. Grease 2, 8 or 9 inch round cake pans with shortening and then dust evenly with flour. Tap out excess flour. Place the rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
    3. In the large bowl of your mixer beat the butter until soft and smooth. Add the sugar and beat until light and smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl a few times while mixing.
    4. With the mixer at slow speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, starting and ending with the flour. Stir in the vanilla.
    5. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Smooth the batter in the pans so they cook evenly. Bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake tops are lightly springy.
    6. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then remove the cakes from the pans and place on a wire rack. Allow the cakes to cool completely before cutting or frosting.
    7. You will have an extra cake with this recipe. You can wrap the cake tightly in plastic and freeze for future use, if you like. (Or just eat some cake.)

    Coffee Syrup:

    1. In a small saucepan stir the syrup ingredients over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a full rolling boil, remove from the heat, and set aside to cool.

    Mascarpone Filling:

    1. Using your mixer at medium speed, whisk the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Do not overbeat the cream, as the you want a smooth texture.
    2. In another bowl, whisk together the mascarpone and the confectioners’ sugar until smooth.
    3. Gently fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture until completely incorporated.

    Tiramisu Layer Cake:

    1. Remove the top brown crust from the cake (so the syrup will soak in). Cut the cake in half horizontally. Place one layer of cake into a springform pan that’s been lined with a piece of parchment or waxed paper.
    2. Sprinkle the cake with half of the coffee syrup. Spread half of the mascarpone filling onto the cake. Top with the second piece of cake. Sprinkle with the remaining coffee syrup and let it sit for several minutes, then top with the remaining mascarpone filling. Refrigerate for several hours or until well-chilled.
    3. To serve, run a thin spatula around the edge of the pan. Remove the springform. Move the cake to a serving platter. Sprinkle with cocoa powder. Serve cold. Refrigerate any leftovers.
  • Brown Sugar Poundcake (And A Bunny In The Kitchen)

    pound8

    Brown Sugar Poundcake.

    pound9This is some very tasty poundcake. It uses brown sugar and we serve it with fresh strawberries and sour cream (similar to how we serve strawberries with sour cream and raw/brown sugar). It tastes like a good poundcake with a deeper sugar flavor, as you would expect. The recipe comes from “Sweet Auburn Desserts” an excellent southern dessert cookbook, but it is just poundcake, no special steps, limited hassles, happy faces. We suggest you make it for a summer party. It is also very good toasted for breakfast (not that we would ever do anything like that).

    poundSo, since that doesn’t fill many paragraphs, let us tell you about the wild bunny running around in the kitchen. Since we have a large garden “farm”, we get plenty of critters. Some welcome, some not. The veggie beds are caged above and below, but there are still plenty of goodies (mostly in the orchard) to entertain the gophers, wood rats, moles, lizards and squirrels. We have a large deer fence around the “perimeter” to keep most of the deer, coyotes and perhaps larger animals at bay. These are our “passive” defenses, and they work pretty well.

    pound1pound2As for the “active” defenses we have some traps for gophers (the enemy) and we happily dispatch wood rats (the ones that steal fruit) whenever we find their nests. But on a day-to-day basis, Oreo the cat is our primary “enforcer”. Oreo is a rescued barn cat that lost her tail to a coyote. She lost her gig at the barn. This ended up being a good deal for the cat, as she gets to practice her “craft” with minimal interference here at the farm. And, until recently, everything was good. But then things started to change…

    pound4First, the cat started to catch songbirds. She didn’t usually kill them, but would bring us a “gift”. The sight of Carolyn shaking the cat to release a bird (they usually get away in a puff of feathers) is…..”amusing”, to say the least. Then a few weeks ago some rabbits moved inside the deer fence and, suddenly, here is the cat bringing us bunnies as gifts. Not good. Bunnies are cute, the kids like bunnies. (And are we so “shallow” that we value cute songbirds and bunnies more than ugly gophers and rats? Yes, absolutely.)

    pound5So the other evening the cat brings us a still kicking live bunny as a gift. We come out to “free” the bunny and, once free, the bunny runs inside the house and into the kitchen (right past our puzzled dog, I might add). Now we are chasing a very scared bunny in laps around the kitchen island until it tries to hide and we finally catch it (gently) with a towel to move it outside. Great. Then we let it go and it runs right into the open garage! Ugh. Dumb. Bunny. (Dumb farmers? Maybe.) The bunny later escaped from the open garage during the night. We just hope the cat wasn’t waiting….Never a dull moment here at the farm.

    pound6pound7Brown Sugar Poundcake:

    (Adapted from “Sweet Auburn Desserts”)

    Notes Before You Start:

    • No notes. It’s poundcake with a little something extra- go make it.

    What You Get: Poundcake with deeper sugar flavor and some extra color. Good cake for a crowd.

    What You Need: No special equipment required. A stand mixer will really help, though.

    How Long? A couple of hours, but maybe 15 minutes of active time. You start poundcake in a cold oven, so it takes 90+ minutes to bake. Plan accordingly.

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  • Summer Fruit Lazy Daisy

    Summer Fruit Lazy Daisy.

    Summer Fruit Lazy Daisy.

    There are some dishes we make here at the farm that are a bit of a mystery before we try them. We ask ourselves if we chose the right recipe, bought the right ingredients, cooked them properly with optimal equipment, plated them well, etc. The only way to really know how we did is to make the dish, take a look at it and taste it. But this is NOT one of those dishes. From the moment you start making a Lazy Daisy cake with summer fruit you know its gonna be good, real good….like staring at the oven while bakes good. From batter to oven to plate this cake just screams “I taste good, serve me with some ice cream!” (It does, we heard it from the oven….we swear).

    lazy3lazy4If looking and tasting great wasn’t enough, the Summer Fruit Lazy Daisy has a few other charms, it is as easy as cake making gets and it will work with almost any summer fruit. If you are like us, between growing fruit and buying it at the farmers market we tend to be up to our armpits have a “surplus” at times. And while we enjoy fruit out of hand and making jam, there is something about a big pancake mixed with peaches and berries and baked in the oven that sounds pretty good (and that’s basically what a Lazy Daisy is). Top it with ice cream and you are ready for a big smile and a nap.

    lazy5lazy6As we noted, and the name suggests, making a Lazy Daisy isn’t hard and is similar to making pancake batter. Heat your oven, grease a pan, melt some butter, mix the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients and melted butter, pour into a pan, add in some fruit and bake. Cool, sprinkle on some powdered sugar (fend off your eager family and friends) and then serve. It really is that easy.

    lazy7lazy8lazy10The only hard decision is your choice of fruit and presentation. We used our peaches, strawberries and blueberries and then added some blackberries from the farmers market (our blackberries got fried in the heat wave, sigh). A good balance of tart and sweet. You can use any combination of berries and stone fruits, but we suggest you taste them and adjust the sugar to match the sweetness of the fruit. As for presentation, you can choose a pretty design, or just mix everything together. We chose the latter…it is a “Lazy” Daisy, after all.

    lazySummer Fruit Lazy Daisy:

    (Adapted, somewhat, from King Arthur Flour)

    Notes Before You Start:

    • Nada. Big oven pancake with summer fruit. ‘Nuff said.

    What You Get: A delicious and very easy summer cake. A perfect dessert for a summer get together.

    What You Need: No special equipment required.

    How Long? About and hour and 20 minutes, with about 15 minutes of active time. Anytime dish.

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  • Maple Moon Scones

    moon1

    Maple Moon Scones.

    Mother’s Day has come and gone, but Carolyn is such a cool Mom that she made these scones for us, her folks and friends for Sunday morning (don’t worry, Carolyn got a nice Mother’s Day dinner). She is indeed the perfect woman. And these scones are worthy of a special occasion. Big (huge, really), moist and with plenty of maple flavor, these are some serious scones. They do look like the moon, too. Cool.

    moon4moon3moon5The recipe comes from Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa), although Carolyn adapted a number of ingredients, including some oat flour, date sugar and maple essence for deeper flavor. But the standard Ina Garten formula of scads lots of butter and buttermilk stays the same. Ina never met a buttery scone or shortbread she didn’t like. But if you are baking from scratch, the recipe may as well work. And butter does make everything better. Add some real maple syrup and it is hard to go wrong.

    moon6moon8moon9And it truly is hard to go wrong here. This recipe is “scone 101″, plus some extra glaze. Mix dry ingredients, add in cold butter, mix the wet ingredients and add to the dry, roll, cut and bake. The glaze is super-easy as well, if you can stir, you will have glaze. So if your waistline can take it (or if you have hungry kids), you can make these scones whenever you like.

    moon10moon12Even better, you can cut the scones from the raw dough and refrigerate them for a few days without any loss of quality. So if you want scones during the week, make the dough and then bake the scones as needed. But you may as well cook the full batch, your crew will certainly eat them, and your friends will be happy if you share.

    moon2Finally, love and thanks to Carolyn from the boys and I. We are truly blessed to have her, and we are eternally grateful.

    moonMaple Moon Scones:

    (Adapted from Ina Garten)

    Notes Before You Start:

    It is best to dice the butter first, and then put it back into the fridge until ready to use.

    Also a good idea to measure and mix the wet ingredients first, and also store in the fridge until use. It keep everything colder, longer.

    This is a sticky dough- use lots of flour on your surface and on your hands.

    What You Get: Big, awesome scones with serious maple flavor.

    What You Need: A stand mixer really helps here. No other special equipment required.

    How Long? About an hour.

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  • White Whole Wheat Biscuits

    Bisk

    White Whole Wheat Biscuits.

    bisk1So let’s get right to the question, “what is white whole wheat”? It’s real whole wheat, just from a variety of wheat that has none of the red color and somewhat less of the overtly strong and tannic flavors of traditional whole wheat (think albino whole wheat). White whole wheat flour has all the nutritional benefits of whole wheat, but has a softer flavor with just a pleasant hint of “nuttiness”. What it also means is that you can bake whole wheat biscuits, scones and pastries for your kids (and other picky eaters) and they will eat and enjoy these treats as if they were made from refined flour. A neat trick. Good for you, too.

    bisk2bisk3And if you get your hands on some white whole wheat flour (we use King Arthur, but there are other brands), we suggest you make some biscuits. Why biscuits? Firstly, who doesn’t like a biscuit? Secondly, you can get a good idea how white whole wheat flour provides a hint of “whole wheat” flavor and color, while having a texture like refined flour. And finally, biscuits are easy once you get the hang of it.

    bisk5bisk7Making these biscuits follows a mostly traditional method. You combine dry ingredients with cold butter. Then add in wet ingredients and lightly mix to create a dough that just holds together. The less you handle the dough, the less gluten forms, the more tender the biscuit. The only trick in this recipe is that if you use honey as your sweetener (and you should, but you can use sugar), is that you need to heat it slightly so it will mix easily with the eggs and cold water without clumping. Otherwise, just cut the biscuits from the dough, bake, eat and repeat. And smile.

    bisk8bisk9Before we get to the recipe, a note about one of the ingredients you may not see in most recipes, the dry nonfat milk powder. Dry milk powder is basically the calcium and protein from the milk without the water or fat. Protein makes baked goods firmer and calcium helps with browning- without adding extra water that may alter the chemical balance of the recipe. In this case, the milk powder helps get you a nice brown biscuit that holds its shape. There are other ways to add protein and calcium, but they can require some serious reformulation (and remember, baking is chemistry), we just use the dry milk powder when we are told. It works. So if you see it in a recipe, there is nothing to worry about, just get some and use it, there are even organic versions. One more tool for your baking “arsenal”.

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