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Rosewater frosting

20 Jun

May came and went. But, it was not for lack of things to do, people to celebrate, or events to remember.

The fifth month of the year immediately follows my mother-in-law’s birthday (and mine), and then it actually consists of our wedding anniversary (sometimes coinciding with Mother’s day), Christopher’s birthday, Mother’s day (often coinciding with my brother-in-law’s birthday that also happens to fall on our anniversary), and my own brother’s birthday, which also happens to land on the same day as my sweet little niece’s birthday.  Whew. Is your head spinning? Because mine does ever since I’ve been married. And the spinning increases with the years.

So, of all these celebrations, efforts and hearts seems to naturally focus on one special little girl’s day. It was, after all, her very first birthday.  Sweet Juliet turned one on May 23rd, and I was fortunate enough to have a very willing mommy ready and (dare I write?) eager to listen to my silly, elaborate crafty ideas.

Perhaps my favorite thing of all was the cake. Melissa, the proud mommy, baked three layers of perfect chocolate cake, and I piped on the pink frosting with a 1M tip. SO easy! And, the result was truly a happy one.

Rosewater Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

½ C butter (set at room temp about 10 minutes but still cool)
6 oz. cream cheese (directly from fridge)
4 C powdered sugar, organic
2-4 T rosewater
1 drop natural food coloring (I get mine at Whole Foods)

Directions:

Place butter in a large mixing bowl and blend slightly.
Add cream cheese and blend until combined, about 30 seconds.
Add powdered sugar and blend on low speed until combined. Increase to medium speed and beat until it begins to get fluffy.
Slowly add the rosewater, a little bit at a time until desired consistency is met. Don’t add too much if you want the frosting to stay in place when piped onto cake.
Beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.

Use at once or keep refrigerated. (This frosting will keep well in the refrigerator for several days, but you may need to re-beat it for the best texture.)

Happy frosting!

King Cake and Rosemary-Sage-Garlic Bread

21 Feb

(You’ll have to scroll waaay down for the Rosemary-Sage-Garlic bread entry)

Working with yeast can be frustrating. It is definitely time-consuming. And, ultimately, it should be wonderfully rewarding. Honestly, who doesn’t enjoy a piece of fresh-baked, heaven?

This Sunday, our kitchen was overrun with labels featuring semolina, all-purpose, active, and other such descriptions. I worked hard, but I had so much fun. It was as if I were in the dark room again, transfixed by the ritualistic process and reaping the rewards as images came to life right before my eyes. I will always look back on those days in the photo lab with nostalgia and idealism; however, I believe I have found a worthy substitute in the kitchen– baking yeast breads!

Atticus was so excited to watch the dough "grow bigger, and bigger, and bigger, until it got gigantic, enormous!"

My co-worker, Chrissy D’Amico is originally from New Orleans, and she is my inspiration for the first recipe. You may or may not know that tomorrow is Mardi Gras. It just so happens we are also celebrating two birthdays in our office with a pot luck. (Yes, well, you might groan, but hold off on that for now.) It wasn’t the first time we had talked about King Cake. Chrissy had explained that in New Orleans people eat King Cake on Mardi Gras, although it is originally eaten on January 6th to celebrate Epiphany, much like the Rosca de Reyes is in Spanish and Latin American traditions.

And so, I decided to attempt a King Cake. I had never before tried to bake or eat one. She suggested a Food Network recipe. As usual,  I read that recipe, then obsessively looked around for more until I found a satisfying combination. My recipe most closely resembles the Southern Living Magazine’s King Cake recipe.

Southern Living Magazine’s King Cake

I used Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for the bread; added 1/3 cup light cream cheese and orange rind to the filling;  substituted lemon rind for the yellow decorating sugar; and used a far less sweet cream cheese frosting for the glaze.

Like anything else, you can and should make this bread your own. Here is how it went for me:

Raw sugar and organic cinnamon for the filling

Orange rind for the cream cheese filling

I don’t usually advocate it, but punching can be fun.

King cake dough "before" and "after" rising

Punch the dough

 I think the process is rewarding enough, but I am strange that way.

Roll out to a 10-inch with, and as long as it can possibly go

 Any filling will do. Make it your own. Some people opt to use fruit fillings. Others use pecans.

Thin layer of cream cheese, orange rind, topped with cinnamon and sugar

Roll the dough and join both ends to form a giant ring. Don't forget to hide an almond, bean, or plastic baby at the bottom.

If you find the baby (or bean, as the case may be), you should throw the next party.

Rosemary-Sage-Garlic Bread

This yeast bread recipe is from a recent blog discovery– Alexandra’s Kitchen recently featured Rosemary Semolina Bread with Sea Salt from Seattle’s Macrina Bakery. The pictures in Alexandra’s blog are excellent and decidedly far too tempting.

I followed the recipe pretty well. I did, however, add roasted garlic cloves and shredded sage. Oh, and I brushed an egg wash with a sprinkling of water right before putting the bread in the oven, and repeated every five minutes during baking.

Just in case you are wondering– we could not stop eating this! Not one of us.

Roasted garlic to mix into the dough

One last thing– I made two very decent-sized coiled loaves. I don’t own a baking pan that would house either her original intention nor her actual execution of the shape.

This recipe calls for two different flours– all-purpose and semolina (or pasta) flour.

Pour the yeasty, bubbly, all-purpose batch into the grainy semolina mix.

I loved Alexandra's coil shape so much that I made two!

Happy baking and, as always, happy eating!

See You at the Market

8 Feb

“The market is fun, isn’t it?”
Atticus’ nod was barely perceptible. Perhaps he would have answered the nice lady, but he was seriously concentrating on eating that delicious, juicy tangelo without getting any of it on his mustard-colored shirt– a task that proved unsuccessful.

Saturday morning was the first time I felt like going out in almost a week.
I coaxed Christopher into making my first outing a trip to the farmer’s market. Atticus didn’t need much convincing. The little guy was quarantined just as long as I had been, and he certainly wasn’t about to protest going anywhere on a sunny February day.

If you have concerns about pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, go ahead and ask the vendors about them. These strawberries are grown in Fountain Valley and are a variety that gives fruit year round in So Cal.

After our first trip to the Irvine Farmer’s Market nearly two weeks ago, Chris and I agreed that we just had to head back for a closer inspection. It’s one of the best we have visited, and the other plus is that it’s in our new neighborhood! Okay, so maybe I get a little more excited about the market than other people, but maybe the images below can help put things in perspective. I’ve included a few tips that I hope you’ll find helpful.

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Did you notice the picture of the beets? I am always on the hunt for beets at farmer’s markets because that’s where I tend to find ones with the firm, green leaves and bright red stems. Although Swiss chard still remains dear to my tummy, last year  a college friend of mine and founder of Cuatro Caminos Collective, Eddie Casarez, introduced me to a new world of nutritious and delicious possibilities with beet greens. That’s right, that part of the beet that your mom threw away before steaming those red roots is not really meant to end up in the compost pile.

A favorite: beet greens!

Beet greens pack quite a nutritional punch. They are delicious simply sautéed in a little olive oil. Throw in a sliced garlic clove and a dash of black pepper, and you’ve got yourself a perfect side dish. Sometimes, I’ll even add ribbons of beet greens to a pasta sauce, quinoa, or even a Quiche.

Another stand-out was the tangelo. And, it’s not all about that sensational color either. The citrus-sampling station was packed with an impressive variety of grapefruit, blood oranges, clementines, and the like, but it was hard not to notice the three-year old take bite after bite of tangelos.

A twenty- or thirty- something blond in a ball cap called out to his lady companion, “He really seems to like those. What are they?”

I wonder just how many pounds Atticus helped sell that day.
In what I took to be either an act of kindness or gratitude, the vendor suggested that we pick out the firm and cool tangelos. He assured those would be sweeter and juicier than others. Sufficed to say, we will be back this Saturday. Our supply at home didn’t make it past Wednesday morning.

I hope to see you at the market!

Irvine Farmer’s Market at the University Center
Campus Drive and Bridge Road
Irvine, CA 92612
Saturdays 8am – 12pm