• The Best, And Easiest, Strawberry Jam

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    The Best Strawberry Jam.

    straw1So what makes this strawberry jam the best? Well, it is just strawberries, sugar and lemon juice, so nothing gets in the way. If you have ripe, sweet strawberries, this is the real deal. And we use a technique that makes the process much, much easier. If you like jam, but don’t like all the specialized gear and the huge tub of boiling water, we have a solution: the oven.

    straw2It turns out you can sterilize your jars and lids in the oven, You can process the jam, too. (Just make sure your oven is true to temperature, they often are NOT, use an oven thermometer to be sure). Simply place your clean jars and lids on a baking sheet and heat in a 250 degree oven for at least 30 minutes. Remove the jars from the oven when you need them. Then fill the jars with jam, leave a 1/4 inch of room, wipe the rims clean, place the lids on, seal them and put the jars back in the oven for 15 minutes. Then take the jars out of the oven and they will seal as they cool. So. Much. Easier.

    straw3straw4The other fuss about making jam usually has to do w/ pitting and skinning fruit, or in the case of strawberries, hulling. There are specialized hulling tools, but we use strong plastic straws (flimsy won’t work here) and run them from the bottom through the center of the strawberries. It is the fastest way to hull the strawberries, and something anyone (read, your kids or guest) can be dragooned volunteer to do. It’s almost fun, and you can snack on a few berries along the way.

    straw5straw6As for the jam, we adapted the recipe (and the oven technique) from Blue Chair Fruit Company in Berkeley. Blue Chair has fine jams and marmalade, gear, classes and one of our favorite cookbooks. Worth a visit.straw8straw7

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  • Apple Cinnamon Muffins (And the sweet smell of victory!)

    Apple Cinnamon Muffins.

    So what do you do when your team wins their second World Series in three years? Well, you put your happily beaming children to bed, watch a few minutes of the post game, then mix up a tasty cocktail and smile….. and then you go outside and give up a seriously primal scream of joy and relief. UNBELIEVABLE!  And you know what you do the next morning? You sit down with a good cup of coffee and a tasty apple cinnamon muffin and read all the news on how your team kicked-ass won. Your kids are still beaming, the kitchen is warm and smells like fall. Happy days here by the Bay.

    And even if your team didn’t win the Series, you can still enjoy a tasty, spicy apple muffin. If you’re like us, we can get a bit “enthusiastic” when we buy apples. If we don’t eat them out of hand, we take the extra apples that may be getting soft and make applesauce or these muffins. And these muffins are exactly as advertised. They have a pronounced apple and cinnamon flavors and feature a crisp top with a very soft interior. Good for breakfast, but not bad as an afternoon treat, either.

    Like many baking recipes, these muffins come from a familiar formula, but a few tips and techniques do matter. Firstly, we grate our apples in this recipe. Grating provides a more uniform texture and gives you apple flavor in every bite. Secondly, we also butter (using cooking spray) the muffin tin, then the paper cups and the top of the tin. There is a method to the madness, the longer muffins cool in the tin, the tougher they get. If you heavily grease the tin and the paper cups you can get the muffins out of the tin as soon as you can handle them. This makes a big difference, the muffins will be moist and tender. And finally, we substitute half of the all-purpose flour with white whole wheat flour for a “nuttier” flavor. We like the extra flavor, but regular AP flour will work fine.

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  • Cinnamon-Filled Scones

    Cinnamon-filled scones.

    The concept of the “lazy days of summer” doesn’t really apply to Carolyn. While the boys and I are still snoozing on Saturdays, she is up making pancakes, scones or muffins. She takes very good care of us, we are very lucky. And this weekend we were very,very lucky and got some cinnamon-filled scones. And they were great. Along with a few berries from the garden (the berries in the photos are part of this weekend’s haul) and a cup of coffee, this was a perfect breakfast. Lots of happy faces at the table this morning.

    Notice the “cake-like” crumb. This is a good thing.

    These scones are a bit different as well. Based on a King Arthur Flour recipe (and you do know about King Arthur Flour, don’t you?), these scones have a mixture of cinnamon chips and a rich cinnamon filling. The filling impacts the moisture of the scone while baking, and the result is a more tender and slightly less flaky scone. This recipe is almost “scone as coffee-cake”, and since scones are much easier to make, this is a very good thing, and a very good recipe.

    The recipe is pretty standard for scones, with the exception of the cinnamon filling and layering it into the dough. The filling is a combination of sugar, cinnamon, flour, butter and milk that, if the butter is soft, takes just a few minutes. Otherwise the steps should be familiar to the home baker (and similar to our Maple Syrup Scones). Dry ingredients are combined and butter is cut into the mixture. Wet ingredients are combined and then added to the dry ingredients and then the whole is lightly kneaded into a dough.

    Cinnamon filling is easy to make.

    Cut the butter into the dry ingredients.

    Combine wet ingredients with dry to form the dough.

    The extra step for this recipe is splitting the dough in half so you can place a later of cinnamon filling in the scone. This can be done two ways. The first way is to simply layer half the dough in a 9-inch baking pan, spread the cinnamon filling in and then layer in the rest of the dough. We like it this way, as we get a more rustic appearance. But if you like a more uniform look, split the dough and roll out two circles that will fit in the baking pan. Then simply place a circle of dough in  the pan, layer on the cinnamon filling and place the other circle on top. Finish with a light brushing of milk and a sprinkle of sugar.

    Layer in 1/2 the dough and then the cinnamon filling. Continue reading

  • Maple Syrup Scones

    Maple Syrup Scone with lime curd and clotted cream

    Most weekends, and some weekdays, Carolyn will bake fresh muffins, scones or coffeecake for the boys and I (yes, she is perfect and we are very grateful). Carolyn has dozen of good recipes, but recently has been working with recipes from “Breakfast, Lunch, Tea” a cookbook from the Rose Bakery in Paris. The cookbook is very well-designed, with stylish photos and is turning out to be a very good resource for baking and some savory dishes. It is a good cookbook and worth a look.

    One of the best things we have tried from the cookbook so far is a simple recipe for Maple Syrup Scones. Scones are a great treat for breakfast and can be made that morning- so they are a good pastry to have in your toolkit. This is a simple recipe, but the addition of the maple syrup adds wonderful flavor and aroma that just screams “breakfast time”. I won’t lie, it is a joy to wake up to the smell of Carolyn baking tasty treats.

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  • Tropical Granola

    Tropical granola. Yum.

    Aloha. A good chunk of the Putney Farm crew are on the road this week, so we will be posting from the tropics. (Jeni and friends will be holding down the fort and eating all the bacon, a nice consolation.) And since we are in the tropics, we will be sticking with the theme. Expect some tiki cocktail recipes soon, after some “testing”. But for now, let’s start with breakfast.

    As you may know, Carolyn makes homemade granola on a regular basis. The boys and I can’t get enough of it- the boys even sell it at school events. But as it is spring and we are in warmer climes, Carolyn developed a tropical version of the recipe, and it’s great.

    Carolyn took the base granola recipe and added macadamia nuts, sesame seeds, nutmeg, ginger, dried mango and dried pineapple. What you get is a sweet and slightly spicy (from the ginger) version of granola. We also use olive oil in our granola, it adds a distinctive savory note (along with some salt) that rounds out the flavor. If you want a lighter flavor, basic vegetable oil will also work, but try it with the olive oil- you may never go back.

    A final note on how to manage the texture of the granola- if you want big chunks press down firmly on the granola with a spatula before you put the baking sheet in the oven. If you like a more crumbly granola, skip this step. Continue reading

  • The Putney Farm Bacon Chronicles: Breakfast Bacon

    Along with our running tests of chocolate chip cookie recipes, we continue to tinker with our homemade bacon recipes (our main bacon recipe is here). This week we made what we call “breakfast bacon”, a sweeter, “porkier” bacon we thought would go well with traditional breakfast fare like eggs and pancakes.

    For our breakfast bacon we made a cure with no garlic, less herbs and pepper and a LOT more sugar. In this cure we almost doubled the normal sugar, with ¼ cup of both dark brown sugar and grade B maple syrup. We also finished the bacon in the oven, rather than smoking it, with the hope that we would get the pork, sugar and salt as the dominant flavors.

    How did the breakfast bacon experiment go? It went pretty well, the bacon was very tasty and we had a good pork belly to work with, so it was very attractive, meaty bacon (yes, I just described bacon as “attractive”). A number of us tasted, and all liked the bacon very much, as it was both sweeter and “porkier” than our savory bacon. The extra sugar also caramelized slightly on the bacon when cooked, which a few of us liked. Continue reading