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Over the last few weeks, several batches of focaccia made their way through my oven.  Each batch took on a different personality.  I topped one with oven-dried figs, walnuts, and blue cheese as an appetizer, another I brushed with garlic oil and served as a side dish.  Another batch I made into a simple pizza and the last I topped with apples and cinnamon sugar for breakfast.  Anyway you top this bread, it is delightful.

Besides its versatility and incredible taste, this bread is also very convenient to make.  The dough rises twice, then rests in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours.  When you are ready to bake, just pull a dough ball from the fridge, stretch it out, and top it as you please.  Twice I served this bread for brunch.  Usually I do not even consider a yeasted bread for brunch, because of the time it takes to rise, but since rises the day before, it is easy to pull off for a meal any time of day.

Though I have topped this bread many ways, my favorite remains brushing it with a garlic infused olive oil, sprinkling it with fresh herbs, and scattering coarse salt over the top.  The outside becomes crunchy and brown, but the inside stays chewy and moist.  The garlic flavor permeates the whole flatbread and the salt provides a crunch.  It was a great accompaniment to our Huevos Diablos con Chorizo the other morning.  Topping it with thinnly sliced apples is a close second, for a sweet version that is suitable for both brunch or dessert, though I would sweeten it up a bit more if serving it for dessert.

These recipes were submitted to Yeastspotting.

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Tequila Lime Tart

May 1, 2011

What can I say?  Sometimes it is not enough to drink a margarita, I want to eat it too! I was inspired by Food52’s recent tart recipe contest. Tarts are fun to prepare and display so beautifully.  I love to make them sweet and savory.  Perhaps you already checked out my Caramel Apple Tarts or Sausage Kale Dinner Tart.

When  the recipe for Tequila Lime Tart came together, I was busy making batch after batch of Meyer Lemon Curd.  It occurred to me to make lime curd.  While lime curd sounded  delicious, wouldn’t it be even better with a splash of tequila? While I was at it, I might as well fold in some whipped cream.  Viola, Tequila Lime Tart!

The tequila lime filling sits on a my favorite gingersnap crust.  The tangy lime and spicy ginger are delicious companions.  Make the tart ahead and let it chill in the refrigerator.  When you are ready, slice and serve.  Take care in lifting the pieces as the crust is brittle. This is a perfect dessert for anytime of year, as limes are always available.  It would pair particularly well with a Mexican meal, but really it would be good anytime.  Enjoy!

Note:

This recipe earned an Editor’s Pick on Food52’s recent tart contest!  Here’s what they said:

My Pantry Shelf’s tart harnesses the power of late winter citrus and turns limes into a vibrant tart. The mousse-y filling is both refreshingly bright and satisfyingly creamy and the gingersnap crust is a great combo with the lime filling. Be careful with the delicate crumbly crust when removing the tart ring. The touch of tequila is just enough to make you think of a margarita on the beach—perfect for getting through the last days of winter.

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Oatmeal Jam Bars

April 22, 2011

With Easter around the corner, the house is a buzz with preparations for the Easter bunny.  The chickens are busy laying eggs, the kids are dying them and collecting greens from the garden to leave for a bunny snack.  As the Easter bunny’s executive assistant, I have collected some items for the bunny to present the children.  We  (the grown-ups at least) are not big on candy in our house (especially when the kids would presumably start eating it upon rising and discovering their baskets.)

So this year, there are books, stickers, and as a compromise, a small cache of jelly beans.  I wanted there to be something special as well, something beautiful, exciting, sweet, but not so over the top that I would cringe as my kids ripped into them at 7 am.  Ah ha!  This year the Easter Bunny takes up baking!

Strolling through the supermarket aisles, I found a large cookie cutter in the shape of an egg.  Inspired, I sought out a recipe for an oat bar which I would top with jam to create a colorful egg-shaped cookie bar.  After an extensive search, I settled on a recipe for Raspberry Breakfast Bars from Deb at Smitten Kitchen.  Since my pantry is still full of jam, I adapted the recipe to skip the raspberry filling (though it looks quite good and I may revisit it in raspberry season) and use my homemade jam instead.  I also added coconut flakes to the crust, just because I am on a coconut kick right now.
The real trick here was to figure out a way to make sure the jam would show through.  The original recipe calls for the crumb topping to cover the entire bar, but I wanted colorful polka dots of jam.  To accomplish this, I  tried multiple methods and settled on dotting the top of the crust with jam.  Once cool, I cut them into egg shapes and bagged them individually for the Easter bunny to present.  Mmmm, the smell of these bars is out of control.

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The countdown to summer has officially begun.  Summertime is that special time of year when I hang my teaching hat and spend my days tickling my children, swimming, running through the hills, and of course canning the bounty of the season.  So in these final weeks before summer is here, now is the time to clear out the pantry and make  room for another season of dutiful and celebratory filling of jars.  While some canned goods, such as jam, may be stored for longer, I always aim to eat my preserved foods within one year.  Lemon curd is best eaten within 3 to 4 months, after which time the curd may darken, but still be safe to eat for one year.


There are many lovely ways to enjoy lemon curd, but not many that I feel justify me to eat it for breakfast.  Thanks to the ever versatile crepe, I now feel free to indulge myself!  This crepe recipe is directly from Julia Child’s The Way to Cook.  They are  incredibly easy to make and so good.  For this special breakfast, I filled the crepes with lemon curd and topped them with a warm berry sauce made from frozen berries.  The tangy lemon, sweet berry, and buttery crepe make for a beautiful and tasty treat.  It is just the thing for a special weekend breakfast or brunch.

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This is definitely one of my favorite winter cakes.  Every year, I watch our satsumas ripen and dream of this dessert. I invent reasons to gather with friends, just so I can share this cake.  I am not to be trusted with this buttery, tangy, orange vanilla cake without many mouths with which to compete.  It is that good.  Make it quick, while satsuma mandarins are in peak season!  This cake would be great with any tangerine or mandarin.  We have  an overabundance of satsumas so that is what I use.

Upside down cakes are a new thing for me.  Nothing against the legendary pineapple upside-down cake, but it has never really captured my attention.  To be honest, I have a hard time veering from chocolate when choosing a dessert to make, especially in the winter.  This cake is so incredibly flavorful, moist, and buttery that I really don’t miss the cocoa  (If someone has an idea of how to make this better by adding chocolate, please let me know.  Though as is, I think it may be perfect.) Using real vanilla scraped from the pod infuses the cake with a serious dose of deliciousness.

To make this cake, start by thinly slicing the satsumas.  It is easiest to use a mandoline, but if you don’t have one you can use a knife.  Be sure to make the slices as even as possible.  Blanch the satsuma slices and then dry on a cloth.  Melt the butter, vanilla, and part of the sugar in the cake pan, then arrange the satsuma slices.

Gently layer on the cake batter and bake in the oven until the top is browned.  This batter is fabulous with other toppings as well.  I recently made a cranberry upside cake with this base and it turned out delicious!  This cake is best eaten the day it is made. It is delicious the next day as well, but the top gets a bit moist.

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Chocolate Pudding

February 13, 2011

Originally I was planning on making a decadent chocolate mousse for Valentine’s Day.  I craved the over-the-top chocolately richness of a mousse, but at the store with cream in hand, I reconsidered.  Valentine’s Day or not, I wasn’t feeling like I could justify my family and I consuming a pint of cream.  Then I remembered pudding! Chocolate pudding may be the ultimate chocolate comfort food.  Each bite sings of childhood, yet by using dark chocolate and  the optional addition of liqueur, it can be quite the adult indulgence as well.

This chocolate pudding is very rich.  It incorporates both unsweetened cocoa and semi-sweet chocolate.  As with all chocolate desserts, it will only be as good as the chocolate you use.  I like Ghiradelli, which is widely available in supermarkets.  Feel free to cater to your personal craving.  If you want something even more rich, use bittersweet chocolate in place of the semi-sweet.  If you want a milder chocolate flavor, more akin to the kid-friendly box pudding mixes, cut the semi-sweet chocolate in half.  You can experiment with low-fat milk as well.   It would probably work fine, but I haven’t tried it myself.  You really can not go wrong.  Plus, if you have only made pudding from the box, I imagine you will be fully converted to this method.  It is super easy and quick and the result is tremendously satisfying, just look at my happy Little Miss!

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Meyer Lemon Curd

February 6, 2011

Oh la la, lovely lemon curd.  Lemons have always been a favorite.  Growing up on the San Francisco Peninsula, we had a Meyer lemon tree.  I would sneak outside to pick the lemons and eat them whole, despite my mother’s warnings that I was ruining my teeth.  Now I am a bit  (not much, but a bit) more sophisticated and like my lemons seeped in vodka or cooked up with butter and eggs (much healthier, I am sure).

Deep in winter when the trees are dripping with lemons, one fabulous way capture the fresh tang of lemons is lemon curd.  This lemon curd is intense, lemony, creamy goodness.  Meyer lemons work best here because of their balance of sweet and tart.  You can use Eureka lemons (standard supermarket variety) as well, just increase the sugar.

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