• 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

  • 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.
  • Chocolate S’more-bet Sundaes

    Chocolate S'more-bet Sundae.

    Chocolate S’more-bet Sundae.

    We love summer here at the farm. Not only for time with friends and produce from the garden, but also the opportunity to hit the road and travel. And while there are all sorts of reasons we like to roam, new food does seem to play a central role in our choice of destinations. Clam shacks in Long Island, shrimp boils in the Low Country and farmers markets in Kauai are all things that will tempt us away from our gardens. And there is a bonus to all this travel…the best dishes come back with us. And this dish, inspired by (the incredibly awesome) Penny Ice Creamery in Santa Cruz, didn’t have to travel far to make it back to the farm (just a hop over the hills).

    smoresmore1And this is one of the best desserts we’ve found since we started blogging. A simple combination of chocolate sorbet, toasted marshmallow creme (more on this in a bit) and graham crackers, this is one tasty take on the classic s’more. Penny Ice Cream serves this on a waffle cone and browns the top with a brulee torch. We serve it as a sundae and add the graham crackers instead of a cone, but you will be happy either way. The combination of flavors and textures is a delight.

    smore2smore4smore5As for browning the marshmallow creme, it is easier than you think. If you have a brulee torch (and being total geeks, we do) just torch a scoop of fluff before service. If you don’t have a torch, just place a scoop of creme on a piece of graham cracker and put it under the broiler for 30-60 seconds. Then place the cracker and creme on top of the sorbet. It will look a bit different, but taste just as good.

    smore6smore7smore8What about the sorbet? If you haven’t had chocolate sorbet, you really should. The best recipes are just chocolate bombs, but have a lighter texture than ice cream and won’t fill you up (quite) as much. Easy to make, as well. There are many recipes out there but most seem to be a riff on a David Lebovitz recipe. And his recipes are certainly good enough for us. The key here is the combination of chocolate and cocoa powder, it’s like a chocolate punch in the mouth…but in a good way. This sorbet is great by itself, but add a bit of marshmallow and some graham crackers, and you may have the perfect summer treat.

    smore9Chocolate S’more-bet Sundaes:

    (Inspired by Penny Ice Creamery and David Lebovitz)

    Notes Before You Start:

    • No notes, go make dessert before summer is over.

    What You Get: A perfect summer dessert and a much better (IMHO) version of the classic s’more.

    What You Need: An ice cream maker and a blender. No other special equipment required.

    How Long? Maybe 30 minutes of active time, with a few hours of inactive time to chill the base and make the ice cream. Weekend dish, but the sorbet keeps well.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 1/4 cups (555 ml) water
    • 1 cup (200 g) white sugar
    • 3/4 cup (75 g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
    • Pinch of salt
    • 6 ounces (170 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • Marshmallow creme
    • Graham crackers

    Assemble:

    1. In a large saucepan, whisk together 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) of the water with the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Bring to a boil whisking frequently. Let it boil, continuing to whisk for 45 seconds.
    2. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it’s melted, then stir in the vanilla extract and the remaining 3/4 cup (180 ml) water. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend for 15 seconds. Chill the mixture thoroughly with an ice bath or in the fridge (down to at least 40 degrees F), then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If the mixture is too thick to pour into your machine, whisk it to thin it out.
    3. After making the sorbet, harden it in the freezer for at least an hour.
    4. To make the sundaes, place a scoop of sorbet in a  bowl and top with marshmallow creme. Torch the creme with a brulee torch and garnish with graham crackers.
    5. -OR- Place a scoop of creme on a piece of graham cracker and broil for 30-60 seconds in the oven, until lightly brown. Place the cracker and creme on the sorbet. Serve.
  • 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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