Monday, May 26, 2008

Berry Cobbler

Last summer I picked over 60 pounds of Marionberries and blackberries! I made a few batches of jam and froze the rest to use in smoothies, pies, crisps, pancake topping and cobblers like this one. Fresh or frozen berries work equally well, but be sure to drain frozen berries after thawing. I like to add the juice to lemonade.

8 cups Marionberries, blackberries or blueberries (or any combination)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 fresh lemon (you will need 2 teaspoons juice and the zest, finely grated)
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
6 ounces (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) whipping cream or evaporated milk
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove zest from the lemon (I love my Microplane metal rasp) and set aside. Juice the lemon and measure out 2 teaspoons. Stir together the sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Add the berries and lemon juice and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for one minute. Transfer to an ungreased 9 x 13 baking dish and keep hot in the oven while you prepare the biscuit dough.

Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and lemon zest in a large medium mixing bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until it resembles a coarse meal. Stir together the cream or milk and the egg to mix well, then gently toss with the dry ingredients until all the flour is moistened. Turn out onto a lightly floured board, press together and knead lightly 10 times. Roll out 3/4 to 1-inch thick and cut into desired shapes. (Of course, you can skip the kneading and rolling and just drop the dough by spoonfuls onto the hot berries!) Place biscuits on top of hot berry mix, brush lightly with cream or milk and sprinkle with sugar. I like to use a coarse, light brown Demerara sugar for topping cobblers and pies.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until berry juice is bubbling and biscuits are golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature by itself or with a scoop of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

Chive Blossom Vinegar

Last week in our Master Food Preserver class we learned about making flavored vinegars. In the past I have made raspberry vinegar and Marionberry vinegar using fresh berries, grape vinegar using the pulp leftover after steam-juicing Concord grapes, and Bing cherry vinegar after pitting many pounds of them for drying! Chive Blossom vinegar will be something new!

Simply snip the blossoms off and pack them in a pretty glass jar or bottle that you have sterilized by boiling for 10 minutes. Cover with white vinegar or white wine vinegar. Cap tightly and place in a cool, dark cupboard to steep for at least a month before using.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Whole Wheat Pita Bread

It was 95 degrees last week when I decided to bake a batch of Whole Wheat Pita Bread out on the grill! Later I filled the pockets with a mix of kidney beans, garbanzo beans and vegetables in a light vinaigrette for a "Let's Not Heat Up The House" dinner. I used freshly ground hard white wheat flour for these and they puffed beautifully without cracking at all. Photos of the process follow the recipe.

Whole Wheat Pita Bread

16 ounces (approximately 3-3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, preferably ground from hard white wheat)
1/4 ounce (1 teaspoon) salt
1/4 ounce instant yeast (about 2 teaspoons) aka Quick-Rise or bread machine yeast
12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) room temperature water
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) olive oil

Stir together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl or in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Add the oil to the water and stir into the flour mixture. Add additional water if necessary to form a soft dough. Knead, by hand or machine until dough passes the windowpane test (you should be able to stretch a small piece of dough out so it is transparent with out tearing). This will take 10 to 15 minutes by hand or 8 to 10 minutes in a mixer. Try not to add too much flour to the board if kneading by hand.

Place dough in a lightly greased or oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until almost doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Deflate, replace in bowl, spray lightly with oil, cover and let rise until doubled, about another hour. Or cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Turn dough out onto a floured board and divide into 6 or 8 pieces, depending on how large you want the pitas. Shape each piece into a ball and let rest, covered with plastic wrap 20 minutes (30 minutes if refrigerated.)

Begin preheating a baking stone in the oven at 500 degrees or line the grill of a gas barbecue with firebricks and preheat the grill (lid closed) at the highest setting.

With a rolling pin, roll each ball into a flat disk about 1/4-inch thick. Roll from the center out to the edges, turning the disk as you work your way around it. Rolling it very thin helps the pitas puff evenly, so that both sides of the pocket are the same thickness. Otherwise you end up with one thick side and a very thin side that tends to break and tear when you fill it.

Allow the pitas to rest on a the board, covered with a cloth or dish towel for 10 minutes before baking.

Sprinkle a bit of flour or semolina on a wooden peel or the back of a baking sheet. Place 3 or 4 pitas on it and slide them onto the hot stone or firebricks. Immediately close the door (or lid) and turn the oven down to 450 degrees or turn the burners on the barbecue down slightly. Bake for 2 to 3 minutes until the pitas are puffed but not beginning to brown. Remove to a wire rack. The pitas will soften and flatten as they cool, but will have a nice pocket when sliced open.

Repeat baking process with remaining pitas.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Then and Now

Me with my first Kenner Easy Bake Oven, age 5

Doing a bread demo with a propane oven at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market, May 3, 2008

Pickled Asparagus

I am currently taking the Master Food Preserver course through the OSU Extension Service in Eugene. Yesterday we learned all about pickling. Here's a photo of my pickled asparagus.