• 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.
  • 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.
  • 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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