Sunday, December 23, 2007

Camera Woes

Sorry, again, for the lack of posts, especially considering the Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas seasons. These should have been three prolific months, but between work and personal issues, I have been unable to do as much cooking or writing as I should have liked. Add to that the terror of our camera having been run-over, I have also been sans camera for some weeks now; and as we all know, a foodie blog is as much about the pictures as it is the writing.

It's ironic, really, I work in a camera store, but have no camera myself. -_-;

Oh the woes of saving money to move to Oregon (though the reward will be measureless).

Joyeux Noël!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Look who's here!

Boy, I just can't seem to keep myself from wandering off anymore, now can I?

I apologize (to all 20 of you), again, for the lack of consistent posting. I've been doing a lot of thinking about a lot of things, as of late. How to tolerate my present job (sales monkey at a camera store), how to find a job in Portland, how to get to Portland in the first place, love, and how to truly live (something that eludes me at every turn here in Utah). It's all a lot of little things that add-up to big dream.

Also, my camera broke. And as we all know, a foodie blog is as much about the pictures as it is the writing, or in my case "writing." You would think that working at a camera store would facilitate me having a good camera, but such is not the case, unfortunately.

I have been cooking though, and have found a good cookbook that I want to share with you all, soon.

Stay tuned, and Happy Christmas.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Voyons! Mon premier tart tatin aux pommes!

Last week I was listening to NPR's All Things Considered. My interest became piqued when a segment celebrating my favorite Fall fruit, the apple, came on. In the report, chef Dorie Greenspan takes us through the simple process of making an apple tarte tatin (tarte tatin aux pommes, if my as yet poor French serves me).

Really more a technique than a recipe, the tarte tatin is a something of a deconstructed French apple pie (or pear pie, or peach pie, or tomato pie), and is really easy as pie, or easy as a tarte. Sorry, that wasn't even remotely funny. ^_^;

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

I know it's late in the day and only two hours of Halloween goodness remain, but who cares?

Happy Halloween, to all my readers (all five of you)!

Monday, October 29, 2007

White Noise: The Photography of Michael Kenna

Time for another one of those non-food posts, just to shake things up a bit.

Like so many of us, anymore, I found myself Stumbling through the internet during a lapse in personal activity the other day. While jumping from random page to random page, one photograph caught my eye. It was a line of trees in the snow, with no detail to speak of. Just a visual focus. It was beautiful. I decided to look further into this page among millions and saw that the photos displayed there were some of the art of Michael Kenna.

I think that Mr. Kenna's work can best be described as a visual white noise, a meditation. His work is almost Zen in its simplicity (to use an overused analogy).

These are just a few of his wondrous, magical photographs. To see more, go to Michael Kenna's homepage at


I was cleaning my desk of needless things last night (in my ever-continuing quest for the distillation of the material) when this bottle, which has sat for years atop my monitor, caught my eye.

Hm, an empty bottle shaped like a cello. How can I not? It would be a crime to pass up the opportunity, would it not? Do I dare? How can I pass up the chance for such a great culinary pun?

I see limoncello in my future. ^_^
(How wrong is it that I'm so proud of this idea?)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Stop the presses! Stop the (coffee) presses!

Like most coffee lovers, I believe that the best cup of coffee that can be had at home comes from the best, yet simplest, pieces of coffee brewing equipment; I speak, of course, of the French press. Also like most coffee lovers who own a press, I have one of your standard-issue presses from the folks at Bodum, makers of beautifully designed coffee and tea paraphernalia. This entry, however, is not about the beauty of the presses (though that isn't a bad thought for a future blog), it is about the technique of The Press, that all important morning ritual for so many.

I have done a good bit of research on brewing methods over the past year-and-a-half, or so, and have come across all methods from drip brewing, to coffee presses, to gravity-defying vacuum pots, to cold brewing, and the Turkish method (which sounds like it makes a cup of coffee with enough chutzpah to rival any espresso). I have also delved deep into the seemingly endless variations on the use of all of these methods, but most heavily the methodology of the French Press.

You see, you can go from coffee site to coffee site and find many press techniques. If you follow the instructions that come with a Bodum press, you are told to use two scoops of coffee (the press comes with a scoop) for every 6 oz. serving. This part seems pretty universal, so I'm game. Bodum also tells you to boil the desired amount of water, pour it into the carafe, then brew for four minutes. Plunge and pour. This is the method which I have used even since I bought my press, and it has seemed to work well. However, I have never been able to achieve that same bright finish that I taste when I buy a cup of Hidden Peak's Kilimanjaro blend at Adventurous Coffee and Deli (2550 Washington Blvd. in Ogden). Every time I made it at home the coffee tasted...heavier. So I decided that maybe I should study the art of brewing a bit deeper.

I wish I could say that my research abilities led me to the revelation and technique to follow, but I can not, for it was my knack at clicking my Stumble button that finally opened my eyes. What was this divine afflatus, you ask? I answer you with Metropolis Coffee. The good folks at Metro have a great website and a beautiful looking café in Chicago. I wish I could attest to this from personal experience, however I will have to make such judgments from the photos they have posted on their website. Works for me. Included in their site is a page dedicated to the art the brewing with a coffee press. It is a bit more involved than my previous formula, but after trying it I can really taste the difference in my coffee. The same bright acidity I enjoy at Adventurous, I can now enjoy without having to make the 20 minute drive to downtown Ogden every morning.
-Preheat your French press carafe with hot water.
-Use 2 level tablespoons of freshly and coarsely ground coffee per 6/oz H2O—scoop the coffee into the carafe.
-Bring some cold, filtered water to a rolling boil, then allow it to cool for 30 seconds before using.
-Start a timer (preset for 3 & 1/2 minutes), then pour around 1/2 of the freshly boiled and slightly cooled water over the grounds.
-Stir the mixture until the bubbling subsides—around 20 seconds.
-Pour the rest of the water over the grounds to fill the carafe.
-Place the plunger at the top level of the water, then allow it to brew for 3 1/2 minutes from the time that the water 1st came into contact with the grounds.
-Plunge and enjoy!
Believe me, it works beautifully! Give it a try.

Top Image credit: Andrew Saur & Angel Sarekla-Saur,

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Third Battle of Springerle

The Sun rises from over the Wasatch Mountains. A lone baker stands in his kitchen, sipping a cup of assam tea. A low heat emanates from the oven behind him. Pacing back and forth, like a general about to lead his Six Hundred into the Valley of Death, he gives a final inspection to the 21 raw springerle cookies that are lined up like soldiers on two steel sheet pans. The Baker turns on his heel, opens the oven door, and places the first of the two pans into the oven. The Third Battle of the Springerle has begun.

The Baker, having closed the oven door, thinks back on his previous engagements with The Springerle. A veteran of two previous battles, he is tired of being beaten, and feels that victory is in reach. He remembers the First Battle. Though the cookies tasted good, the detail of the image pressed into the dough was poor, and all the cookies ended up having large voids or pockets just beneath the surface, and the springerle failed to grow their traditional "feet." The Second Battle ended again with the Baker in retreat. He had decided to reduce the amount of baking powder from one teaspoon, to 3/4 teaspoon. Still, despite this adjustment, the void persisted, though the "feet" almost grew; he could see that the bottoms of the cookies had risen, but not enough to be "feet." So the Baker, defeated a second time, went to consult with his advisers.

First, he went to the creator of the molds he had used to press the springerle, Mr. Gene Wilson. Mr. Wilson advised reducing the temperature of the oven a bit. He also mentioned the effects of humidity and altitude while baking springerle. The Baker agreed, having dealt with the challenge of high-altitude baking many times before. The Baker then consulted his baking allies at The Springerle House. They too agreed that he should reduce the temperature of his oven from 300º F to 250º or 275º F. They also advised that he extend the baking time from 15 minutes to 20 or even 25 minutes.

As for the lack of detail, the Baker decided to allow the rolled dough to first warm up a bit, then having placed the mold, he jumped up on the table and knelled on the mold. (Understand, the Baker is not a big guy, so it takes do effort to press the cookie.)

The Baker applied these insights and techniques on this morning, as he waited for the first tray to finish baking.

Five minutes passed...then ten minutes...then fifteen. He peeked in the oven to see what had become of his springerle. What he saw astounded him, the springerle were floating. He closed the door, while joy and anticipation welled within him. Finally, twenty minutes had passed. He once again open the oven door and pulled out the sheet pan. Here is what awaited his gaze...

good, sharp detail, and...

the Weinachtsmann, standing up on his foot. Yes! The springerle had doubled in thickness, not by puffing up, but by growing a foot.

Encouraged by this new success, he placed the second sheet pan, this one holding cookies made with his new thistle mold, into the oven. Twenty minutes at 275º F later, again, success!

Sharp detail and a fluted edge (thanks to a linzer cookie cutter he didn't even know he had), and...

strong, well formed feet on all of the cookies.

Finally victorious after three attempts, the Baker now begins the hardest part of making springerle...letting them sit to ripen for a week before really digging in.

Friday, October 19, 2007

New Cookie Stamp!

What can I say? I couldn't help myself. I loved the springerle mold that I bought from Gene Wilson of The details were exquisite, and the old world charm is warming to the heart, so I figured, "Why not get another mold?" This time, however, I decided to get a non-seasonal mold, so as not to be limited in my use of it. After much thought and rummaging through Gene's site, I decided on a 2.25" cookie stamp.

I went with the Thistle Stamp because I am a hopeless Celtophile and love all thing Irish and Scottish. Plus I can use it for a variety of cookies, gingerbread, shortbread, and any other small cookie that doesn't rise much.

I have to, again, congratulate Mr. Gene Wilson on his remarkable craftsmanship. To think that he can make such great molds and stamps, with so much intricate detail, using a router, never ceases to amaze me!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A life lesson on Self.

I want to apologize for my distinct lack of new posts lately. The past couple of weeks have been very turbulent for me and I just haven't had time to post, now have I really cooked or baked much. However, I think that things will settle out now and I can resume posting on my quasi-regular basis. I have come out of this past week saddened and somewhat disappointed, more with myself than anything else, but what's done is done (or what's not done is not done) and to dwell on it would serve no purpose. I have learned much from this experience, and I will take those lessons forward with me as I continue to dream of leaving for Portland. It may not happen this month, but I'm shooting for soon after Christmas or the New Year.

I will never stop dreaming.

In these tired and troubled times it's easy to feel afraid

And the angry young man - and the castles that he's made

In these long and empty days it's easy to feel the fool

The angry young man, he'll break every rule

She comes to me like a high flying seagull

She comes to me like a eagle, she comes like a swan

In these tired and troubled times it's easy to feel alone

The angry young man does not know where he's going

In these long and empty days he'll pull the curtain down

And the angry young man, he spins round and round

She comes to me like a high flying seagull

She comes to me like a eagle, she comes like a swan

In these tired and troubled times it's easy to feel confused

The angry young man he will not be abused

In these long and empty days he's going to get it right

The angry Young man, he's learned how to fight

She comes to me like a high flying seagull

She comes to me like a eagle, she comes like a swan

- Dougie MacLean; High Flying Seagull

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Prima Castimonia, the Default State

Our species, our social state as we have created it, have evolved (well, maybe evolve isn't the best term)...has transitioned through many incarnations. Hunter/gatherers, various preindustrial cultures, the beginnings of economy, moving ever farther from the Earth in a post-industrial electronic society...all of these changed and "advancements," though having supposedly improved our society (as most would agree) have also served to lead us to one end, that we are moving ever away from our Default State.

All people, all cultures and societies are created and born into a Default State of freedom, unburdendness, and happiness. However, we work and strive throughout our individual lives and societal histories to loose the freedom of our Default State, for the sake of advancement--however one wishes to define advancement On the surface this may seem logical, but it is also the ultimate incarnation of self-destruction. As we further distance ourselves from our Default State we loose more and more of our inborn innocence and thus, our happiness.

When you were but two year of age, you cared nothing for wages, or economy, or politics, or any of the other concerns which now undoubtedly fill our conscious mind. And I'll bet you were also happy. You cared about nothing more than dancing in the grass at the park, or hugging your mom and dad, or exploring the mysterious world beneath your bed. You cared not for things beyond that occasional dolly or G.I. Joe. This is what I speak of when I say Default State...our original state of purity in which we are free, our Prima Castimonia, if you will.

One can even take this thought to the societal level. If you look at the virgin, isolated, native tribes of the Amazon, like the Huaorani, you can see a people who live closer to the Default State than almost anyone else on the planet. They are not burdened by taxes, finances, mortgages, deadlines, traffic, or any of the other frivolous concerns of the so called "civilized" world. They might spend five or six hours a day tending to the needs of life, and spend the rest of their day with their family. We can even look at Europe and see a greater attention devoted to family, life, leisure, and happiness, than we ever see in the States. One might work six or seven hours in a day, then go home and completely leave work in the workplace, and think only of what is important in life, family, friends, and happiness. Hell, in France the law requires that one have 30 days vacation per year, in Canada they even require ten days, and they are happier for it. True, they may not make as much money per year as an American, but they don't care because they don't need that extra few dollars to be happy. Here we can see a closer proximity to the Default State, the Prima Castimonia. Now look at the US. No guaranteed vacation time, people work an average of 50 or even 60 hours per week (verses, for example, 35 hours, by law, in France), sure an American may have more money, but we also have a much higher rate of depression than almost anywhere in the world. This is an example of the benefits of be closer to the Default State and the consequences of straying ever farther from it. But I digress...

I believe that we as a people and as individuals must begin to seek and relearn our Prima Castimonia, to return, at least a little bit, to our Default State, for the closer one is to his or her Default, the happier and less burdened she or he shall live.

Such notions, being grand and simple simultaneously, are not always so easily found...this I know. It is much easier to speak of a return to simplicity than to actually live the change. However, one does not need to follow Thoreau into the woods to live more simply. One needs only to remove for his or her life the useless things, the needless clutter that not only makes a mess on the desk and just give you more things to dust, but also that clutter the mind and the soul.

"Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail."
-H. D. Thoreau
In short, the closer we can be to our Default State, the happier we are.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Pre-holidays Springerle Test Run.

(Yes, I know, it's still too early for Christmasy stuff, but I wanted to give my new toy a spin.)

About this time last year, I became very interested in the art of springerle and other Old World Christmas cookies. At the time, however, I was unable to get any springerle molds and set my sights on the lebkuchen legacy (a blog to look for in coming months), and set aside my springerle dreams...until now.

I happened across the work Mr. Gene Wilson of Belleville, Illinois and his website, Hobi Cookie Molds. I looked about and almost immediately ordered my first hand carved springerle mold.

The molds features Weinachtsmann, one of what appear to be numerous variations of Santa in Germany. The mold is from Gene's Heirloom Springerle Collection, it measures three inches wide and five inches tall, and is 3/8 inch thick. The price was about even with most resin reproduction molds I've seen, at $26.

I am very impressed with the detail in the mold. The folds in Weinachtsmann's robe, the texture of the basket, the tree branches, even the three bags of's all there. But a mold is just a piece of kitchen decoration until one puts it to its intended use. So, I did.

The process of making springerle is pretty involved and requires a bit of planning. First, you have to let the dough rest and chill for two to three hours after mixing it. Second, after you do mold the cookies and cut them out, you have to let them dry on the counter for 12 to 24 hours. You then bake them "in a slow oven," which translates as 300º F, for 12 - 15 minutes. If that wasn't enough, after you cool them you need to let them "ripen" for a week (some recipes call for three weeks) in a container with a slice of bread. This lets you slowly reintroduce moisture into the cookies. Then you may enjoy.

I decided that I would use the included springerle recipe for my first try, and I'm fairly happy with the results.

They lack some of the finer details from the mold, but I guess you can't expect your first batch of springerle to be a blue ribbon entry. As you can see, they're quite puffy, which is a result I didn't see coming. Especially considering how flat and dense the dough was. When I broke one open (I couldn't help myself), the inside was almost cracker-like, with layers of air and cookie. Are they supposed to be like that?

I'll give them another try in a week or two, after my first batch ripens.

I'm already looking at the next molds I want to order from Mr. Wilson. This time I'm thinking...shortbread.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Great Wal-Mart Mango Mystery.

Can someone maybe clear this up for me?

I was at Wal-Mart (yes, Wal-Mart, so sue me, I needed socks) and happened past their produce section and was puzzled to see this...

"Sweetened Mango?"

And what, pray tell, is a sweetened mango? Please don't tell me that Wal-Mart, in their ongoing quest to homogenize the world, is artificially sweetening their fruit!? What's next, apples with high fructose corn syrup and red #40?

Can someone clarify this mystery for me?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Final Fantasy VII: Voices of the Lifestream released at Overclocked Remix

At the beginning of last year (28 January, 2006), over at Overclocked Remix (one of my frequent haunts), everyone's favorite remixer, composer, judge, and mod, Zircon, announced the formation of one of the most highly anticipated video game music remix projects in the site's history, Voices of the Lifestream, based on the ever popular and highly regarded Final Fantasy VII. For many months we in the OCR community waited and imagined the glorious arrival of the Project. And today, our eternal wait has come to an end...

The project spans an amazing four CDs with a total of 45 arrangements by 42 of the star Remixers from Overclocked, thus making it the largest OCR project to date.

Head over the the project's homepage to learn more about this amazing (and did I mention FREE) album, download the tracks, and learn about all the individuals involved in the project.

Great job, guys and gals, keep up the great remixing!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Peach Days and kick-ass fried chicken!

Today was the culmination of Brigham City's Peach Days festival.
Started in 1904 as a day-off from the harvest and time to celebrate "an abundance of the best peaches in Utah", this city-wide event is the longest continually celebrated harvest festival in Utah, and is reported to be the second oldest in the country. Peach Days is an honored tradition that brings approximately 75,000 spectators a fun-filled weekend that the Top of Utah and Southern Idaho residents look forward to every year.
That pretty much sums it up. As great as the fair itself is, I tend to look forward more to the trip home, when I get to stop in at the famous Maddox Ranch House and buy a box of their locally famous fried chicken and rolls.

This is serious chicken that cannot be beat. Unlike KFC or other restaurant fried chicken, Maddox does not drown theirs in batter. Instead, it's tossed in a mixture of corn meal, spices, bread crumbs, and probably a lot of other secret ingredients. The rolls are to die for; fluffy with an ever-so slight crunch to the crust. I'm pretty sure that butter, and a good amount of it, plays a role in their goodness. They also serve a killer honey-butter (pictured front and right).

Another perk to attending Peach Days is partaking in the event's namesake...peaches.

All along Highway 89 between Brigham City and North Ogden--a stretch of road known as the Fruit Way--local farms and orchards set-up stands and small markets to sell their freshest produce. Peaches are among the favorite crops of the area. I foresee some pies, preserves, and cobblers in the very near future. ^_^

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Summer salad featuring the miraculous Mother Grain

Quinoa has been in the news a lot these past few years, for a number of reasons. First, it is said to be one of the most nutritious foods known to human kind, with a near perfect balance of carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Second, quinoa will grow and thrive in soil that is sandy and alkaline and considered too hostile to other crops. Therefore quinoa holds hope to feed the starving on the world, as it grows almost anywhere. Third, it's culinarily flexible and just plain tasty. For these reasons I have been trying to cook more with quinoa, despite the complaints of my younger brothers, both of whom say white rice tastes better. Personally, I don't think American white rice has any flavor worth speaking of, but that's another blog.

Running with the desire for quinoa, I made an easy and simple quinoa and black bean salad for dinner.

Not only bright in flavor, but also vivid to the eye. A perfect, light, Summer dinner.

The original recipe came from, but I made a few minor alterations to keep it simple. The method is so simply, I can already envision some other regional twists, like Italian Quinoa, Asian Quinoa, and French Quinoa. I'll keep you posted!


Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

1 1/2 cups quinoa
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 can sweet corn
3/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 pickled jalapeño chilies, seeded and minced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 small tomatoes, diced

Juice of two limes
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin, or to taste
1/4 cup olive oil

In a bowl wash quinoa in at least 5 changes cold water, rubbing grains and letting them settle before pouring off most of water, until water runs clear and drain in a large fine sieve.

In a saucepan of salted boiling water cook quinoa 10 minutes. Drain quinoa in sieve and rinse under cold water. Set sieve over a saucepan of boiling water (quinoa should not touch water) and steam quinoa, covered with a kitchen towel and lid, until fluffy and dry, about
10 minutes (check water level in kettle occasionally, adding water if necessary).

While quinoa is cooking, in a small bowl toss beans with vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and cool. Add beans, corn, bell pepper, jalapeños, tomatoes, and cilantro and toss well.

In a small bowl whisk together lime juice, salt, and cumin and add oil in a stream, whisking.

Drizzle dressing over salad and toss well with salt and pepper to taste.

Salad may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring salad to room temperature before serving.

Serves 4 to 6 as an entrée or 8 as a side dish.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Perfect Summer French Toast. Très Délicieux!

I made the usual Summer trip to the farmer's market, yesterday morning, and came back with, among other items, a beautiful loaf of Volker's Lemon Sage Bread. It may sound a strange combination (I know I certainly would never have thought of it, myself) but I would definitely call it a great bread for Summer. The sage imparts an elusive earthiness to the loaf while the lemon peel gives the bread a slight sweetness and keeps it light in flavor. If this wasn't enough, I got the idea last night that this would make a great French toast.

The results?

Très Délicieux! The earthy, lemony bread makes for a bright Summer French toast. My dad and little brother Kenny both enjoyed it, but Sean--my other little brother--after hearing my plans announced with all certainty, "I don't think it will be very good." Incidentally he never touched his slice (the kid's a culinary curmudgeon). Oh well, more for ME! ^_^

À votre santé!
Baked Lemon Sage French Toast

4 (3/4 inch) slices of day old Volker's Lemon Sage Bread
1/2 cup soy milk
1 whole egg
1 egg white
1 tsp. vanilla extract
A pinch of kosher salt
A sprinkle of ground All-Spice

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place heavy skillet over medium-high heat.

Whisk the soy milk, egg, egg white, vanilla, salt, and all-spice together. Pour onto a plate or baking dish and soak the bread about 45 seconds on each side.

Place slices in skillet for two minutes on each side. Transfer to baking sheet and bake 8 - 10 minutes.

Serve hot with maple syrup and enjoy!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Farm fresh tomatoes, fresh-picked basil, a modest pinot noir, and Diana Krall, all elements of a relaxing evening in the kitchen.

Some of the best things in life are often composed of the simplest of ingredients and the same often goes for good food. Take this evening, for example. All Summer long I have wanted to make a pizza margherita from scratch, with fresh tomatoes, basil, a ball of mozzarella, and a crust to die for...and tonight was that night.

I started with the tried and true Giada DeLaurentiis pizza crust, as mentioned in a previous post, only this time I substituted half of the unbleached all-purpose flour for whole wheat. Other than that, I just went with the original recipe. I had originally hoped to use tomatoes from my home garden, but my vines just don't want to give me ripe fruit this year, so I instead went to the Ogden Farmer's Market and bought a bag of beauties, along with some other items (a baguette, some beets, and coffee). The basil, however, was from my garden.

I didn't use any recipe for the pizza, really, just sliced up the mozzarella and tomatoes and scattered then about the pizza dough, then topped it off with my basil, a twist or two of black pepper, a sprinkling of kosher salt and a drizzle of olive oil. No need for sauces or blends of cheese or stuffed crusts, just a pizza in its purest form. Throw it in the oven at 450°F for 15 minutes, uncork a bottle of modest pinot noir (2005 Harlow Ridge) and put on some Diana Krall and you have the recipe for a relaxing evening in the kitchen.

À votre santé.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Sweet Potato Pie, that a CAKE?

Yes, any of you who may be of the culinary conservative, avert not your eyes and quake not in fear. It's not that weird, is it? After all, we eat pies of sweet potatoes and we eat cakes of pumpkin, so why not cakes of sweet potato? And why don't we go crazy and top it with a hearty drizzle of caramel icing. That KEHR-ah-mehl, not KAR-mehl, this is homemade and therefore by default it is more gourmet. Hence, KEHR-ah-mehl.

This recipe came to me courtesy of my very dear friend, Brittany.

And yes, I did eat a few fingers worth of that beautiful icing, and don't say that you wouldn't either.

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake


4 8-ounce red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams)

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


For cake: Pierce sweet potatoes with fork. Microwave on high until very tender, about 8 minutes per side. Cool, peel and mash sweet potatoes.

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325°F. Spray 12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick spray, then generously butter pan. Sift flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Measure enough mashed sweet potatoes to equal 2 cups. Transfer to large bowl. Add sugar and oil to sweet potatoes; using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Add eggs 2 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture; beat just until blended. Beat in vanilla. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 15 minutes. Using small knife, cut around sides of pan and center tube to loosen cake. Turn out onto rack; cool completely.

For icing: Sift powdered sugar into medium bowl. Stir brown sugar, whipping cream and butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil. Boil 3 minutes, occasionally stirring and swirling pan. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour brown sugar mixture over powdered sugar. Whisk icing until smooth and lightened in color, about 1 minute. Cool icing until lukewarm and icing falls in heavy ribbon from spoon, whisking often, about 15 minutes. Spoon icing thickly over top of cake, allowing icing to drip down sides of cake. Let stand until icing is firm, at least 1 hour. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and let stand at room temperature.)

Bon Appétit, November 2000

I also apologize for the lack of posts lately. Life evolves as does the person who lives it. I am excited to say, though, that I will be teaming up with some friends in the near future to do our own chai tasting. Keep an eye out for that.

In closing, I would like to welcome any and all readers who have found their way to my little blog from The Apartment Farm. Welcome and enjoy!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ad Hoc Grilled Flat Bread

I didn't wake up this morning with the intention of posting an entry, it just happened. Being my day off, I decided that I just had to bake something, but I didn't want to be at it all day. After ruminating on the thought a while, I remembered my previous experiments with Giada De Laurentiis' pizza dough recipe from March's Bon Appétit. It was easy, simple, and delicious, as good pizza dough should be.

I followed the recipe as I had previously; yeast, flour, sugar, salt, knead, rise, punch, and know the drill. However, because of the hot weather, I didn't really want to heat up the kitchen with a 450°F oven, so I looked, as many of us do in the Summer, to the grill. I just set the burners to a medium heat and let it warm up. Going back to the dough, I brushed it with some extra virgin olive oil ans sprinkled it with some Asian seasoning blend, sesame seeds, kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. I threw it onto the grill until the bottom was brown and had nice grill marks, then flipped it over and let it go until done.

The results...

( ^ That's my favorite picture ^ )

Right off the grill, the crust is hard and crunchy while the inside is soft and a word, perfect! And those charred bits, the bets part, if you ask me.

Just cut it up and dip into some duck sauce and you got a nice appetizer or snack.

Grilled Flat Bread
3/4 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 cups (or more) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil

Pour 3/4 cup warm water into small bowl; stir in yeast. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Brush large bowl lightly with olive oil. Mix 2 cups flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add yeast mixture and 3 tablespoons oil; process until dough forms a sticky ball. Transfer to lightly floured surface. Knead dough until smooth, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is very sticky, about 1 minute. Transfer to prepared bowl; turn dough in bowl to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Punch down dough. Roll out dough into desired shape (mine was rectangular) and brush with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with Asian seasoning (I had some Emeril's Asian Essence on hand), kosher salt, sesame seeds, and coarsely ground black pepper, all to taste.

Set grill to medium-ish heat and all it warm up, about 10 minutes. Transfer dough to grill, close top, and grill until the bottom is golden brown and delicious. Flip bread over and repeat on other side, until it looks done to you.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Chocolate Stout Cake, Modification and Gift Thereof.

When my dad's birthday began to near, I decided that the best gift I could give him was not an impersonal DVD or some other mass produced thingamajig or gadget. When I think about gifts, my mind often goes back to Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay "Essay V: Gifts." In the essay, Emerson reflects on the nature and purpose of gift giving. In the second paragraph, Emerson explains it perfectly...
"Next to things of necessity, the rule for a gift, which one of my friends prescribed, is, that we might convey to some person that which properly belonged to his character, and was easily associated with him in thought. But our tokens of compliment and love are for the most part barbarous. Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing. This is right and pleasing, for it restores society in so far to its primary basis, when a man's biography is conveyed in his gift, and every man's wealth is an index of his merit. But it is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy me something, which does not represent your life and talent, but a goldsmith's. This is fit for kings, and rich men who represent kings, and a false state of property, to make presents of gold and silver stuffs, as a kind of symbolical sin-offering, or payment of black-mail."

Following this thought, I decided that the best gift I could give my dad was a birthday cake, baked from scratch, in the spirit of his birthday. After much looking, I finally happened upon a cake that I thought he would truly appreciate, and enjoy, a Chocolate Stout Cake. I decided on this cake for a number of reason, including the fact that my dad does love beer, and stout, like Guinness, is one of my favorite styles of beer. Instead of using the ubiquitous Guinness, though, I decided to use my favorite American stout, Sierra Nevada Stout. It's a lot like Guinness, but with more chutzpah.

This recipe has been floating about the internet since after its original publication Bon Appétit Magazine, September 2002, and according to every review I read (and input at the BakeSpace forums) this recipe was to make a monster of a cake. Three 8-inch layers, with batter to spare. There was only one problem with this, and that is that I don't own a single 8-inch cake pan, nor could I really afford to go and buy three. I do however own a couple of 9-inch pans as well as a 9-inch springform that has produced good cake results in the past. So I decided to make a two layer 9-inch cake using a cake pan and my springform.

My thoughts then turned to the apparent large quantity of batter. I felt pretty certain that the two pans would not be able to accommodate so much batter, and not wanting to either guess too much about temperature and time alterations or throw away perfectly good batter, I instead decided to take the hard route and reduce the recipe by 1/4, which wasn't really that hard, and I ended up with some pretty reasonable measurements. I also went and replaced the sour cream with low-fat yogurt, just to make it a little less bad for you. (The recipe is at the end.) So I set forth hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. By that I mean making sure I had enough money to run to Harmon's and buy a cake, if all else failed.

Here are the results after baking the two layers.

Looking very good, so far. Actually, these look better than most round cakes I've attempted lately. Nice and flat without any sink holes.

The frosting is a bit on the odd side. I suppose that you would classify it as a ganache, though it's texture before completely set is more like a pudding. It is good though, deep, dark, rich chocolate flavor without being too sweet. A frosting for grown-ups, I suppose. I found it easiest to spread it on the cake before it had completely set up. It made for easier spreading and a cleaner appearance.

Et voilà!

Beautiful, and one of my better frosting jobs, to boot!

Oops, almost forgot the recipe.

Chocolate Stout Cake à la Tom


1 1/2 cups stout (such as Sierra Nevada Stout or Guinness)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/8 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)

3 cups all purpose flour
3 cups sugar
3/4 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/8 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
1 cup natural, plain low-fat yogurt

1 1/2 cups whipping cream
3/4 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper. Bring 1 1/2 cups stout and 1 1/2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/8 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.

For icing:
Bring cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Refrigerate until icing is spreadable, stirring frequently, about 2 hours.

Place 1 cake layer on plate. Spread 2/3-ish cup icing over. Top with second cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake.

Culinary Epilogue (6:41 AM, 7/20/2007): The cake was delicious. It's pretty dense and rich, like a devil's food cake, and not too sweet. The stout, though not overt, adds a noticeable richness to the cake and a hoppiness that is especially tasted in the first few bites. When you sink your teeth in for the first bite, the beer announces its presence with gusto and ushers your taste buds into the chocolaty party, then steps aside and allows you to enjoy the cake, while itself staying off to the side, but keeping things interesting.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Opening day of the Ogden City Farmer's and Art Market

(Before I go into the article, let me tell you that I had a real scare after I got home and put my photos on my computers. After dropping them into my photo folder, I opened Picasa to upload them to my web album and noticed that there was two copies of the folder listed, so I went to delete one, but instead of just removing it from Picasa, I accidentally deleted the photos all together. Luckily, though , I was able to retrieve them from the depths of my hard drive's temporary files directory. Heh, got lucky that time. Now, on to the story!)

Finally, after weeks of waiting (months actually, as I've been waiting since October), the farmer's market on Ogden's Historic 25th Street has officially opened, and of course I had to be there on the first day of festivities!

The market is held every Saturday morning, from 8am - 1pm starting July 14th through September 29th. I have always loved going to check out the freshest produce, artisan breads, and a plethora of food, art, crafts, and other stuff.

One of the first things you notice on the approach to 25th St. is the many wonderful, savory aromas of bratwurst, Korean cooking, and dutch oven cooking. All of which is very tempting, and often quite good, too. I decided to pass on the Korean barbecue, though, as 9:30am is a bit too early for me to want to eat barbecue.

My first stop of the morning was Volker's Bakery table. This table is always one of the most popular at the market. The bakery itself is up in Kamas, so the market is really the only place to get the great bread down here in Ogden. Here you can buy a couple dozen different types of breads ranging from Jewish Rye, Ciabatta, Cottage Cheese and Dill, and Rosmarino, to sweet breads like Cranberry-Orange, Lemon Sage, Stollen, and Apple Strudel. The average price is about $5 per loaf. Not too bad a price, really.

One of the main reasons for me to go to the market is to find the freshest, locally grown produce. I had hoped to find some fresh roma tomatoes, however I guess it's still a bit early for tomatoes. I guess my Pizza Margherita will have to wait a little longer. However, what produce I did see was not disappointing, in the least. Potatoes fresh from the ground, fresh picked basil, sweet corn, zucchini, cucumber, yellow squash, it all looked so very delicious. In the end though , I just went with a half-dozen ears of corn. I haven't had fresh corn for weeks!

Beyond the food and produce, one can also find a lot of hand-made jewelry, pottery, paintings, fashions, and other crafts. I won't try and hide the fact that I've never spent a whole lot of time shopping for these items. I guess I'm usually caught up in the farm-fresh goods and talking with the growers. I did buy a bracelet last year, as gift for a dear friend, but other than that I've usually come to the market for the food. There are always bits and pieces of things that catch my eye, though. Like today there was a table by Escape Design, a small mask and costume company. I was pretty impressed with their stuff. There is also the usual assortment of vendors and crafters selling polished rock necklaces, walking sticks, and knitted accessories.

Aside from the foods and arts, there are also cooking demos and live music at the market. This week featured the cowboy/folk/western music of the Blue Sage Trio. They were pretty good and I enjoyed listening to them, though I don't think it's the kind of music I'd go out of my way to hear. But here at the market, surrounded by all types of people, in a carnival-like atmosphere...I enjoyed it.

In the end I definitely say I had a good time and will certainly be going to the market more often this summer, especially seeing as how my new job will make it easier. At my last job I worked every Saturday from 8am - 1pm...the exact time of the Farmer's Market. Convenient.[/sarcasm] I even got out of the market with a few bucks in change left in my wallet, a rarity, I'll tell you. My haul included a loaf of Volker's Rosmarino bread (a loaf with rasins, rosemary, pine nuts, and sunflower seeds), a burlap Volker's market bag, six ears of sweet corn, and a bottle of grape juice from Winder Dairy. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Graphic Poetry and Farmer's Market Anticipation

Time for another non-food related post (well, mostly).

I StumbledUpon a few weeks ago and fell in love with the site. It features short verses written by the site creator, W.C. Pelon, imposed over small triptics of images. I really like not only the concept, but the execution of the concept. Relating verse to images without it becoming cliché or simplistic is a challenge. I really respect Mr. Pelon's work.

Here are a few samples of his stuff.

Going back to the food scene, I'm happy to announce that the Ogden Farmer's Market will finally be opening its doors, street barricades, uh...doors this Saturday! I've been waiting and waiting for this all summer, as it is one of the few things that makes the heat, sun, and burns from said sun, bearable to any extent. The fresh, locally raised produce, the great music by locals bands, the arts, the crafts, the dutch oven cooking, the fresh baked bread...Heaven on Earth. I'm going up for opening day and will post about the morning's happenings. Stay tuned!