I think the mini “Double Cornbread Muffins” for bookclub today were a hit. Since todays book was “There There”, I looked for some recipes from local Native inspired stories at www.firstnations.org.
Two of the several quotes I liked from the book included;
”The bends in the alders speak of long-ago disasters. Spikes of pale chinquapin flowers shake down their pollen; soon they will turn into spiny fruits. Poplars repeat the wind’s gossip. Persimmons and walnuts set out their bribes and rowans their blood-red clusters Ancients oaks wave prophecies of future weather. The several hundred kinds of hawthorn laugh at the single name they’re forced to share. Laurels insist that even death is nothing to lose sleep over.”
”No one sees trees. We see fruit, we see nuts, we see wood, we see shade. We see ornaments or pretty fall foliage. Obstacles blocking the road or wrecking the ski slope. Dark, threatening places that must be cleared. We see branches about to crush our roof. We see a cash crop. But trees—trees are invisible.”
As per the usual – I wanted to come up with some interesting to food to go with the stories. One dessert I have never tried was a Buche de Noel. Now mostly I haven’t ever attempted it is because they traditionally have hazelnuts so never ate one. But I have been somewhat nervous about attempting a “jelly roll” or “swiss roll” type cake in any of the many forms.
But as I tend to do – I jumped in by attempting two variations on a “log theme”.
The first was a traditional carrot cake log with cream cheese frosting and meringue mushrooms. My first challenge was to figure out the frosting – I didn’t want to use chocolate frosting -but I did want some shade of brown of the “bark”. That meant going back to my color charts. 1 part red, 10 parts yellow and a few dashes of blue made the brown. I use gel food coloring in the traditional cream cheese frosting along with some vanilla and honey to keep the liquids minimal. The recipe for the carrot cake roll can be found here
Next up.. savory style!
With the savory version “log” I came across a flourless recipe that looked like it wouldn’t work, but it did. I loved all the flavors, and confident in the knowledge that I had the sweet version as a backup, I went for it.
I found a recipe online for a flourless, sweet potato and chive log with savory cream cheese, tomato and herb filling covered in cream cheese and spicey eggplant pesto frosting. The formal recipe for this can be found here.
The version I have below is my adapted version of the one they started with.
Note: they used metric measurements so I have converted them to US measurements.
For the “dirt” I just used ground nuts and rosemary for the savory one and ground graham crackers for the sweet version.
I also whipped up some meringue mushrooms the night before. But make sure to store them in an airtight container to keep them hard.
What you will need:
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a Swiss roll pan (30cm x 24cm) with parchment paper.
- Cooke the cubed sweet potatoes in a plastic bag in the microwave for 7-8 minute to cook
- Remove from the bag and add to a food processor
- Separate the 4 eggs.
- Add the yolks to the food processor along with the shredded cheese, clove, nutmeg, and ginger, salt and pepper to taste.
- Process the mix until smooth and a thick puree and pour into a large bowl
- Add 1/2 the chives and fold twice more.
- In a stand mixer (or by hand), whip the egg whites to soft peaks
- Fold in the egg whites to the puree and fold gently to incorporate
- Pour the mix into the sheet pan and smooth with an offset spatula so that its evenly distributed in the pan.
- Bake 10-12 minutes. You want it brown around the edges and spring back to the touch in the center
- Pull the pan out of the oven and cover the “cake” with another sheet of parchment and upside down sheet pan and flip it over. You want to cake to me on the parchment on the pan but without the edges, so you can slide it on the counter to roll easier.
- Remove the cake and paper to the counter.
- Roll the cake up with the paper attached ( as if it were filling) and wrap in plastic and chill for 30 – 60 min.
- While it chills – mix the cream cheese, black pepper to taste, pinch of salt, till smooth
- Remove the roll and unroll.
- Spread the cream cheese on it. work from the center out to the edges. ( I tend to use the stuff it in a plastic bag, cut the tip and make zig zags, them smooth them out technique so minimize breaking the cake)
- Then add the layer of tomato pesto and top with the diced chives
- Then remove one edge of the cake from the paper and slowly roll the cake up. Pull the paper away as you make each rotation.
Now – you serve this at this point. But I wanted a “log” so..
- Wrap in plastic wrap and chill.
- Mix the remaining two bricks of more cream cheese with the eggplant pesto, taste for salt and pepper etc. You can then add your gel colors to get the shade of brown you want as you mix it more.
- Then using a small spatula, cover the log in long strokes.
- Serve room temp.
Another version of this cake with flour can be found here but I have to say the flourless one was so good I don’t see the need.
Because book club discussions aren’t always just about talk.
Our monthly book club is also about what foods we bring; what reading the book inspires us to bring and share. Many of us choose to find a way to bring an authentic or reinterpreted version of something mentioned in the book or from the time period.
Since this month we read David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.
My take on the book was positive as a read. Finding it a well-balanced collection of research and storytelling that manages to remind the reader of the historical narrative of racism and white privilege at the heart of so many of this countries moments. But the subject did give me several layers of emotions.
But back to the food
I opted for a Bourbon Pecan Cornmeal cake with an edible gingerbread oil rig and chocolate “oil”. My unique challenge was that I have never made a gingerbread oil rig or any structure before. So choosing the right recipe and the structural challenges were quite the experience. But in the end, it all worked out.
I won’t even mention the stress of moving it in two parts then topping the cake with its “rig” caused.
The cake itself was great.
I liked to cornmeal texture with the nuts. It is one I would remake. The recipe for the cake was from http://eclecticrecipes.com and used walnuts, but I had pecans laying around begging to be used.
And the weekend begins…
While it wasn’t intended to be this weekend ended up a full one. With several creative writing activities in the process, including new edits to the TedXProvincetown script due next week, a big meeting on Tuesday to prep for. I also have our monthly book club and trying to get some time to get Paul out and about while the weather was nice.
What to do on a day off?
Part of the reason I like book club is the research behind the books. So for me, a “Food Lab” is an essential part of the reading. This month’s read was the prompt for a few vintage themed recipes to go with the book “As Meat Loves Salt”.
As a “just in case,” I also figured I would do my take on a parfait with Honey Citrus Ricotta & Marscapone cheeses layered with simmered honey citrus blueberry and strawberries. These would be perfect or as toppings for either of the other two dishes in case the dishes failed or were too dry (and I happened to have the fruit handy), so they were the first to get made so they could set up overnight.
In keeping with the Great Britian/16th-century theme, I found a great cookbook well while at the bookstore over at Fort Mason that had 16th and 17th-century English recipes reinterpreted.
One of several that caught my eye included a Sour Cream Spice cake. Originally intended for raisins, I did switch them out for dried cherries but it was the only “change” I made. I found a typo in the recipe that confused cardamon and cinnamon, so I opted with cinnamon.
Folks liked it. Super dense and moist, with a subtle spice taste. The batter is thick and must be over the size bundt pan I have so as with some older recipes I already do with. Next time I would only use 2/3 of the batter. It was too full and would have meant a much longer bake and be super dry. As it was this still was a little moister towards the inner ring. On Sunday, I toasted it for breakfast and really liked how that tasted with some salted butter on it.
The other dish was an Apple Noodle Pudding aa s backup if the cake was dry or didn’t come out. This version of a “pudding” uses egg noodles, apples, and dried cherries as its base with butter and sugar and flour. Once cooled, all it needed was a sprinkle of powdered sugar.
Well, let’s just say – the bowl came back not only empty but CLEAN! I definitely will make this again and experiment with different flavors combinations. I am thinking rosemary and pear next time.
As luck would have it all of them came out quite good but ya gotta love those “Plan B’s” .
Sunday was a casual day with me in my head drafting, so Paul and I took Dino up to walk around Buena Vista Park.
Once we hadn’t done in way too many years before heading home for some downtime and before I grilled up some dinner and was back at it.
For last week’s Bookclub, I needed a recipe that would be connected to the theme from the book Oh Pioneers by Willa Cather.After searching around a bit – I found several versions of a local version Runza. Similar to other regional “hand-held meat buns”, such as the spicey one I did in a previous Bookclub. This was version seems to be popular in the books region oNebraskaka with the addition of cabbage to the ground beef and onions. I had some time so I also made a rolled loaf version using pizza dough that mimicked the Cheese Bread recipe I posted about back in November.
Here is my version of the Runza recipe;
- Frozen Bread Dough (I used the frozen bread dough loaves from Safeway which comes in a three pack. Each loaf, thawed allowed to raise will make 6-7 buns)
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 head of cabbage
- 1 yellow onion
- garlic salt/minced or whatever you like for garlic ( I use the Sage, Thyme & lemon seasoned salt I make)
- 2 TBSP butter.
- Brown ground beef and drain fat, season with salt and pepper ( you can do this in two pans if you like)
- Add chopped onion, garlic, butter, and chopped cabbage. Cook until wilted (7-10 min) on med-high. Mix with meat if done separately and let cool.
- Note: You can also brown meat, season, then set aside and in a second pan sauté cabbage, onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper at each step. Then toss together.
- Follow package instructions for bread dough (or make your own); Let the dough thaw covered and raise for up to 5 hours or as directed on your dough.
- Cut and Roll into small sections.
- Preheat oven to 350
When ready to make
- Flatten each section
- Add ¼ to ½ cup of the cooled beef mixture to rolled out sections of dough. Fold and seal in half/wrap/shape how you wish but gently compress the air out of each bun.
- Let sit covered with plastic wrap 20 min. (Or freeze them for later)
- Prior to baking coat with melted, salted butter, oil or an egg wash. Omit butter topping if you want a crisper bun
- Bake uncovered middle rack for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees.
- Pizza dough works well too.
- Mix in small cubes of cheddar cheese in the cooled mix for a different variation.
- Update: if you have leftover stuffing it makes a great addition to a simple soup. Simmer carrots, veggie or chicken stock, a few bay leaves, parsley, a can or two of drained canned beans and pepper for 50 mins.
- Then add the meat & cabbage stuffing, ( you can also toss in leftover rice or pasta) simmer on med for another 30 min more. Toss in some halved cherry tomatoes. Serve
For the September Bookclub, we read; Spilled Milk. A story based on the real-life experiences of surviving child abuse, offered challenges for theme food. Especially so as not to also minimize the theme and subject matter.
After some thought, I latched onto a moment in the story where she gets to go shopping and while initially offered a chance at a new doll, she instead opts for a journal. A place to put her feelings and thoughts inside while keeping the outside what others expected of her.
I decided to attempt a retro “Princess Cake”, with a marshmallow fondant, as the dress base for the “pretty outside” covering what the story ultimately illustrates is the more complex and rich inner core. In this case, a cherry–almond nut cake. Ok now shopping for this, I did notice that my bags looked like I had 10-year-old girls at home… but I digress
The recipe I used was an adapted version but you can see a similar one here in the New England Today Blog from Yankee Magazine the only change I made was using almonds and I tend to like dark cherries, so I used the canned version instead of the super sweet maraschino ones they recommend.
As a backup, because every Princess needs a “plan B” I also made a Hot Milk Cake which was from my Mom’s Cookbook, as I had never made this recipe before I wasn’t sure of how it would taste initially. But after some sneaking and testing of the bottom – I found I liked the flavor as well, and while my initial concern was it was underdone – in the end – it had a good texture and could have come out a bit earlier. Since it was already made, it got gussied up this morning to take to our pals “10 year anniversary of meeting” brunch. It also being Castro Street Fair – I figured some pink sugar glitter over a simple milk & sugar glaze with lemon zest would do the job.
In the advent that she didn’t come out, I also knocked out one of my favorite adapted recipes from Martha Stewart for a quick Cheddar Bread. Today’s version had two other kinds of diced cheese and was laced with ground pepper, garlic powder, and herbs to give it a nice savory taste with brunch. topped with some honey-herbed butter – we were packed and ready to walk down to the Castro!