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Frozen Fruit

Too.hot.to. eat. – No recipe here today, just suggestions.  As the heatwave continues in the US, and definitely here on the east coast, with a heat index of 110 degrees, let’s talk fruit.  Frozen fruit– Grapes, Strawberries, Raspberries, Pitted Cherries, Oranges, Grapefruit and more!

Fresh fruit is delicious and refreshing enough, but for that extra bit of refreshment to help cool you down, freeze it!  Seedless grapes, raspberries, blueberries, pitted cherries and strawberries can be frozen whole.  Wash fruit and place on paper towels to dry.  Put the fruit in a ziplock bag and place in freezer.

For a twist, segment an orange or grapefruit to freeze.  To segment, peel the skin with a sharp knife, cutting all of the exterior off and the white “pith”.  Holding the fruit in your hand, slice through each segment on the inside of the membrane to release the slice. Place the orange or grapefruit slices on a piece of parchment (or wax) paper on a cookie sheet and freeze until solid.  When they are frozen, place in a ziplock bag to enjoy.

     

Use your frozen fruit in place of ice cubes in cold drinks to add flavor and color.

 

Now THAT was scary!

How about a little snow in October?  Just in time for Halloween, a record-breaking snowstorm hit the northeast.  It began on Saturday with heavy, wet snow.  Since the leaves hadn’t fallen off of the trees, that heavy snow began to break limbs within the first hour!  I was in the kitchen baking cookies and could hear the snapping of limbs all around us and the sound of tires trying to grip the road.  The photo to the right is of the 11″ of snow flattening the trees over lines and across roads in our neighborhood.

Funny story: late Saturday afternoon, right outside of our front door, a car struggled to get up the hill.  The driver went up and down and sideways trying and trying again.  My husband grabbed a coat and went out to help, certain that he could get the car up the hill.   Dear husband decides to help the frightened woman driver and tells her to move over as he made several attempts to get up the hill.  Turns out, the car had bald tires and with no traction it wasn’t about to climb the hill.   My husband decided that she should move her car back into our driveway, off the road, to be safer and he would change her tires all around and that may provide enough traction for her to get home.  While changing the last tire, there was a huge cracking sound and then….huge limbs crashed on the poor woman’s car (barely missing my husband!) crashing onto the hood and shattering her windshield!  Well, he meant to be helpful!  I love how my husband rushes to the aid of others – but, we sure got a laugh out of wondering how the woman explained how the damage happened!

Within a few minutes, our electricity had gone out and the woman was calling for a ride.  We got our electric, heat and water (and computer!!) back last night.  A new recipe post will be up in a couple of days.  In the meantime, stay warm and dry and expect and prepare for a rough winter (I think).

Happy “Blog-iversary”

One year, one hundred and ninety (190) posts and recipes, hundreds of (not-so-great) pictures, and several pounds later, it’s here – our 1st Blogiversary!  This blog is more than me uploading recipes, methods, tips and ideas…it is a forum, an audience, a creative outlet.

You, the readers of “the baKING way”  have kept me blogging.  When I’ve been discouraged or had “writer’s block” or been too busy, you encouraged me to continue.  Blogging is hard!  No, really!  I didn’t think so before I started, either.  It is time consuming to plan recipes, shop, scale, bake, decorate, take pictures along the way and then write about it!

And still…I’ve decided to keep blogging and I hope you’ll keep coming here to read, and better yet, to try the recipes for yourself.  I also hope you’ll write to me and let me know your results and thoughts.

Now go grab yourself a piece of cake and celebrate with me!

Struggling to “Get Back on the Horse”

After a long, hard summer, the effects of the hurricane, and now the death of the dearest woman I’ve ever known, I’m facing a dry spell.  Not sure what to bake, what to blog about, or even if I care to do either.  I know I have to “get back on the horse” and begin to go back to my “normal”.

The truth is, baking has always been a release for me – I bake because it makes me feel good to create something that brings pleasure to others.  Sometimes, I bake to get “lost” in the kitchen so I can think, and sometimes I bake just to prove to myself I’ve still “got it”.  Blogging about my recipes and experiences gives me a “virtual audience” for sharing.  I feel like I’m talking to you, teaching a virtual course on baking right in my kitchen and you are all right there with me, eager to learn and experiment and get your hands sticky.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as I gather myself and learn how to start again.

Question of the Week: What’s the Difference Between Granita and Sorbet?

Granita – a semi-frozen dessert made from sugar, water and various flavorings – no dairy is involved. Further, no ice cream machine or special equipment required.  Basic granita begins with a boiled sugar syrup which is added into a fruit juice.  The granita is then placed in the freezer in a shallow pan and scraped occasionally with a fork which produces a course texture.

Sorbet – is a frozen dessert made from sugar, water and fruit juice or fruit puree, sometimes chocolate, and sometimes wine, and/or liqueur.*  Sorbet also has no dairy ingredients, but is frozen in an ice cream freezer for a smoother texture which is pleasing to the palette (often served between courses of a meal as a palette cleanser).

* Alcohol slows the freezing process so adding liqueurs will result in a softer product which will melt much faster.

“Zippy” Watermelon!

Is it incredibly hot where you are?  It’s HAZY, HOT and HUMID here in NY.  When it’s this hot, what’s more refreshing than a watermelon treat to beat the heat?  If you don’t think watermelon could possible be made more refreshing than it naturally is, you’ll want to try this quick and easy “recipe” (not sure this qualifies to be called a recipe ; )

Have you ever gotten one of those watermelons that isn’t quite as red and ripe inside as it promised to be?  I have, and it has challenged me to “zip” it up!  Three simple ingredients will take your watermelon from “good and cold” to “WOW and REFRESHING”!

I used a 7# Watermelon, but really, who’s weighing, anyway?

Wash the outside of the watermelon before cutting.*  Cut the watermelon from the rind into small bite-sized cubes.  Place the cubed watermelon in a bowl large enough to toss.

Zest one lime into the bowl.  Cut the lime and squeeze the juice into the bowl.  Add 1/4 cup more Lime juice.  Grab a handful of fresh mint leaves, and julienne.  Toss lightly.  Serve cold.  Garnish with a mint leaf or lime wedge.

    

* Always wash (with just water) ALL fruits (and vegetables) on the outside before cutting.  If you do not wash, any bacteria on the outside of the fruit will be carried through the flesh by the knife, thereby contaminating the fruit.

What’s Your Favorite Summer Fruit?

NO OVEN??!!!

What’s the worst thing for a baker to hear: “the oven isn’t working”.  Those were the words I heard earlier this week and despite the 90 degree weather, I was devastated.  Well, devastated is really an overstatement.  After all, here in NY, it’s been in the high 90’s all week and who actually heats the kitchen up on days like that?

Hopefully, the oven will be working soon and I’ll be back to my baking-blogging self!   Stay cool and make a healthy cold fruit salad!

A Fresh, New Perspective on Baking

My youngest daughter, Rachel, helped me in the earliest days of my baking career by following my directions to measure and mix recipes.  During those days, she helped out due to her love for me – not a passion for baking. I remember a Mother’s Day where she wrote a card to me that said something akin to “If you should die, I’ll carry on and complete your dream for you.”  She meant my dream of opening my own bakery and when I told her how sweet that was, she said, “Yeah, I’d rather not, but I’d do it for you.”  😉  After a few years in the bakery, Rachel went on to college and grad school and began her teaching career and was too busy to come around to help.

Now married and the young mother of two, Rachel bakes often – actually 3-4 times a week. Usually, she bakes the same thing: my mother’s recipe for Chocolate Chip cookies.  Recently, she told me “Mom, I think I really want to bake – and try different things.  I really enjoy baking!”   Funny thing, because just the day before I was thinking how much fun it would be for Rach to “Guest Post” occasionally about her baking trials and errors as she is somewhat “new” to this.

Fortunately, Rachel agreed to post a recipe occasionally complete with pics to guide you through the process.  She’ll give you a different perspective and won’t hesitate to give her opinion along the way.  I know you’ll love Rachel as much as I do!

Creme Caramel

It’s hard to think of writing a blog when you have a “delicious” new grand baby on your mind. But…his mommy loves this dessert, so there was a special reason to make it yesterday.

Creme Caramel/Flan is a creamy baked custard that is accentuated by a caramel syrup.  It is quick and easy to put together, bakes up perfectly every time, and is not a heavy dessert – perfect for Spring!

This recipe comes from the amazing folks at America’s Test Kitchen and makes enough for 8 ramekins.

Prepare 8 ramekins by placing them on a piece of paper towel inside a larger baking dish.

TO MAKE CARAMEL:
Combine in a small pot:
1 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Water
 

Cover the pan and bring to a boil.  Remove the cover and continue to cook until a candy thermometer reaches 350 degrees – I found that there is NOT enough syrup (depth) to accurately monitor and reach the correct temperature, so I recommend keeping a close watch on the pan and look for golden brown color.  BE VERY CAREFUL to not over-brown because hot sugar goes from light brown to burned very fast!    (I did not let mine get brown enough out of fear it was burning – but it was delicious anyway!)

         

Pour the syrup into the ramekins.  Allow the syrup to set for 15 minutes.

TO MAKE THE CUSTARD:
In a pan, heat to steaming:
3 cups Half and Half
 
     
In a large bowl, whisk:
3 Eggs
2 Egg Yolks
2/3 cup Sugar
dash Salt

When the half and half is steaming, slowly pour it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.

Stir in:
1-1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Strain the custard into a large measuring cup or pitcher.  Pour into ramekins.  Pour boiling water 1/2 way up the sides of the ramekin.  Cover with foil.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes.  Test for doneness by inserting a knife in the center.  Knife should come out clean when removed.    Remove the custards from the hot water bath (use tongs) and place on a rack.  Allow the custards to cool for 1-1/2 hours.

To remove, run a knife around the sides of the ramekin.  Place a plate on top and invert the plate.  Lift the ramekin to remove the custard and caramel.  Cover ramekins with plastic wrap to refrigerate.

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