Mom’s Cream Puffs for a Friend…

Mom's Cream Puffs...pate choux filled with homemade vanilla bean pastry cream...(for my dear friend's birthday)

Mom’s Cream Puffs…light and delicate – crispy on the outside, eggy on the inside, petite pate choux puffs  filled with homemade vanilla bean pastry cream…(a request from my dear friend Dawn for her  birthday)

I guess you could call cream puffs a retro dessert.  My Mom would whip these lovely, delicate, crispy yet creamy pastries up seemingly on a moment’s notice.  Cream puffs were popular in the 1960’s and have long been a favorite of mine.  I hadn’t made these in a couple years, but when my good friend was over last month telling me how much she would just love an eclair that wasn’t filled with an over sweet pastry cream and that it didn’t need to be dipped in chocolate either –  I told her the best recipe is actually in my Tea With Betty book (which she has) and that Mom’s Pastry Cream and Pate Choux recipes are simple to prepare.  She looked at me like, “right, I’m going to make those with two kids and a job” sooooo, I jumped in and said “I’ll make you some for your birthday”…(which was a couple weeks away).  When the time came, I was unexpectedly swamped with a work project and didn’t think I could get them done on time.  I fretted over this, as I detest not fulfilling a commitment; so, late the night before her birthday, I determinedly pulled my recipes out, read them, realized I actually had all the ingredients on hand and  concluded,  “I CAN do this!”  The next afternoon I delivered a very fresh batch to her on time…and I had fun preparing them.  As I delivered her not too sweet puffs, the fragrance wafting from the container took me right back to Mom’s kitchen … so, it was with a double special feeling that I watched Dawn and her family gobble down these delightful sweets.  Mom’s pastry cream recipe is here in a post I did a couple years ago.

Sometimes I overthink things … and make mountains out of mole hills (as my husband would attest to), and which is what I did when worrying about baking these on time.  My savior of time was dragging out my husband’s big, heavy, 35 year old,  avocado green Kitchenaide stand mixer.  I used the mixer to finish the pastry cream, then, while it was chilling in the refrigerator, I threw together the pate choux using the mixer.  Mom always made her pate choux in a heavy bottom saucepan using a wooden spoon to beat in one egg at a time (a job my sister and I took over as we got into our teens).  I must say the mixer did the work beautifully and swiftly.

Below is the pate choux, ready to put in a piping bag and pipe onto parchment for baking…then the finished product just out of the oven.  They came out perfectly, a little crisp on the outside and nice and soft on the inside with plenty of room for filling.

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I did attempt to make elongated, eclair shaped puffs but they came out rather thin and were difficult to fill…so I opted for round too…they were all just wonderful in the end.

These go really well with a cup of Jasmine pearl green tea.

Elongated eclair shapes are what I started out to make...but they were a bit too thin, but tasted great...I ended up having to split them in half to fill them, but everyone stilled loved them.

Elongated eclair shapes are what I started out to make…but they were a bit too thin, yet tasted great…I ended up having to split them in half to fill them… everyone stilled loved them.

Mom’s Sweet Potato Biscuit … Re-engineered…Gluten free, Soy free & Yummy!

Food is memories.  That’s what my sister wrote in an email to me this morning after she watched the movie, 100 – Foot Journey, last night – Her email comments inspired me to write today.  Thanks sister 🙂

I just love food and learning anything about food, but have been a bit frustrated and stymied because some of our old food memory recipes don’t work for the whole family anymore.  Stubbornly, I don’t want to give up on these food memory foods; therefore, I decided to figure out how to re-engineer our most favorite family recipes… with a little re-work, re-invention, and responsible food sourcing…I’m inspired again and coming up with products that work for our dietary needs today…it’s turned out to be a feel-good journey too.

The first recipe I’ve re-done is Mom’s yam (or sweet potato) biscuit recipe.  For over 30 years, Thanksgiving at our family’s homes have included a petite yam biscuit served with her homemade pumpkin butter.  In the late 1970’s, Mom, (Betty), had taken cooking classes where she came away with petite bite recipes for her catering business.  Many of those stuck with the family as favorites for holiday dinners, happy events (cocktail parties or showers), and offered at tea time.  These yam biscuits hit a chord with all of us as a must have served with the Italian chicken soup course on Thanksgiving day.

Our niece has taken over the helm as the yam biscuit and pumpkin butter maker for our holiday dinner (often for over 25 guests).  With a new baby in tow, we shared duties this year…her pumpkin butter was the best I ever remember consuming.  For the yam biscuits (we often substitute with organic sweet potatoes as they are delicious and easier to source), I substituted the flour and fat historically called for to ensure everyone at the table could comfortably consume the biscuits, slathered with her stunning pumpkin butter.  We have gluten-fee, soy free, sodium reduced diet needs to accommodate.  The old recipe called for all purpose flour (wheat) and Crisco (soybean oil) … I substituted with William Sonoma’s Cup for Cup Gluten-free (wheat free) flour and chilled Kerrygold Grass-fed Unsalted Butter (soy free).  While a bit of a sticky, challenging dough resulted…the biscuits were just fabulous…and everyone could eat them.  We cut them small (1 1/2″ round) so they instigate your appetite and don’t fill you up.  Although my nephews can eat a dozen at a sitting 🙂

Below is the new recipe…gluten free, soy free and even me…the diabetic… can happily fit one into my meal plan.

Organic sweet potato biscuit prepared with gluten free flour and grass-fed butter

Organic sweet potato biscuit prepared with gluten free flour and grass-fed butter

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Sweet Potato Biscuit

I suggest baking them just prior to serving as they are sooo good served hot (or you can bake them ahead and heat them for a few minutes on a low temperature just prior to serving).

The first time we learned of these biscuits was at a Southern foods cooking class. They were served with a slice of country ham and honey mustard—a savory little “slider” that’s perfect for tea time.
Makes approximately 24 ( 1 1/2”) biscuits.
PREP TIME: 10 minutes TOTAL TIME: 50 minutes (including prepping yam and baking time)
Preheat oven to 400° F.

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (substitute with Cup 4 Cup gluten-free flour).
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup Crisco® shortening (substitute cold butter – I used Kerrygold unsalted)
3 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream
Approximately ¾ cup mashed yam, boiled or baked, then mashed and cooled (substitute with sweet potatoes – use organic if available).

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
Cut in shortening (or cold butter) until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add yam/sweet potato and cut in with a pastry cutter or two knives.
Add cream to form a soft dough that holds.
Lightly knead and pat down onto a floured surface to ¾” thick, cut into rounds using 1 ½” to 2” cutter. Do not use a rolling pin…use our hands to lightly pat down. Rustic looking biscuits are cute :-).
Bake in a buttered pan or sheet pan lined with parchment or Silpat® at 400° F for 18 to 20 minutes.
Serve hot with butter and sliced country or baked ham or with pumpkin butter.

 

 

The Finesse of the Donut @ Blue Star Donuts

Blue Star Donuts...this way, you couldn't miss it with the line out the door.  The line moved along quickly and efficiently...it was fun being there and gave you a bit of time to figure out which donut to choose

Blue Star Donutsthis way>>> Actually, you couldn’t miss it as there was a  line running out the door. The line moved along quickly and efficiently…it was fun being there and moving through the line gave you a bit of time to figure out which donut to choose.

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Visiting Blue Star Donuts on a drizzly Portland, Or. morning

Visiting Blue Star Donuts on a drizzly Portland, Or. morning

Portland, Oregon offers a plethora of fabulous, remarkable, and renowned cafes and bakery establishments….none more popular (and rightly so) than Blue Star Donuts.  With a line of patient patrons running out the door, this Food Network featured cool shop, known for offering unique, quality donuts which reflect a high degree of craft, understanding of ingredients, and skill in creating is totally worth the wait and the calories.

The display of products was tantalizing, clean, and simple…and donuts are just about made fresh to order.

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The donuts...

The donuts…using fine ingredients such as Valrhona chocolate, hazelnuts, and my favorite combination, maple & bacon Mmmmmmmm

Who would have thought a donut could be cool.

The staff was delightful and helpful.  I love an open kitchen, theirs reflected great organization and was really clean!  My nephew said he once heard Chef/Owner Stephanie Thornton say “we just make donuts.” How nice to see someone master their craft, do it well, and offer remarkable consistent products which tantalize your taste buds with diverse combinations.

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Blue Star kitchen...organized, clean and lots of brioche donuts ready to get dressed :-)

Blue Star kitchen…organized, clean and lots of brioche donuts ready to get dressed 🙂

The decor was cool, white, and clean with really neat descriptions of their philosophy of quality and a good education in the definition of various social media platforms…note the use of Steven Smith Teas…and Portland’s Stumptown Coffees. All consistent with the quality of the donuts.IMG_1689

 

It's about "quality" and I got schooled too in social media defined...

It’s about “quality” and I got schooled too in social media defined…

My biggest challenge was managing how to eat breakfast at one of the awesome breakfast eateries and  fit in donuts!  It was work, but we figured it out :-). While we did a good job getting to several eating establishments on our Portland must do list, we will definitely need a few more trips back to this wonderful city to consume more of the beautiful products offered.

Our New Kitchen Gadget…Juice It Up!

My darling husband has claimed that the best gift I ever got him was his Nespresso coffee machine. The second best, his soda stream for creating his own sparkling water – yay, no more lugging home cases of Pelligrino from Costco.  However; he says my latest gift to him ranks right up there too… our new Breville citrus juicer. He is just in love with it and is “citrus” juicing up a storm…meyer lemons primarily.  Breville products are outstanding in function and design.  This juicer is much larger in size than we expected, but boy, does it get the juices flowing.  It’s addicting.  Once you start, it’s hard to stop.

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Our new Breville Citrus Juicer...beautiful design, stainless steel, easy to clean..a bit large for the counter---actually rather "giant"

Our new Breville Citrus Juicer…beautiful design, stainless steel, easy to clean..a bit large for the counter—actually rather “giant”

 

 

 

 

 

Last week, he juiced more lemons than needed, so I snagged a cup and made my infamous, tart, lemon curd, the recipe is here.  It’s quick to prepare…don’t sweat the seeds or lumps, as you will strain the end product to come out with a smooth, luscious curd.

Silky, smooth lemon curd...straining out any lumps, seeds, or bumps.  My recipe is below...it is on the tart versus sweet side

Silky, smooth lemon curd…straining out any lumps, seeds, or bumps.

This prompted me to fulfill a few requests from friends for scones…so I threw together a batch (takes all of 10 minutes) and I had instant gifts for two of my scone and lemon curd-loving friends (after I taste tested a few, of course).   Note: my favorite little biscuit scone (recipe here).  Chunks of butter show and the dough is light and fluffy (not rolled or flattened), this makes for a delightfully light texture in your scone.

Of course, this curd and scone is lovely with a cup of tea…in particular a Jasmine Pearl green tea.  Enjoy.

My favorite biscuit scone...note the chunks of butter ...these make for a nice texture...and the dough is light, fluffy (not rolled down)...again, makes for a finished product that splits apart easily to take on your curds, creams, and jams...

My favorite biscuit scone…note the chunks of butter …these make for a nice texture…and the dough is light, fluffy (not rolled down)…again, makes for a finished product that splits apart easily to take on your curds, creams, and jams…

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Hello Friands…

No…this is not a typo.  But I thought it was when I saw “Friands” as the chapter heading in a sweet little tea book I found at the Huntington Gardens and Library this week.  As you can imagine, I have many books about tea and tea time experiences.  The photos in this one are strikingly clean and beautiful.  I picked it up to purchase, flipped to the table of contents, and was taken aback by the apparent misspelling of their chapter titled Friands.  My mind’s paradigm immediately assumed that tea with friends was a fitting chapter for an afternoon tea book. I even read a blog titled Tea With Friends.  Wondering how an editor missed this blatant typo, I flipped to page 32 and saw it again….but this time, realized there was no error…I learned something new…about a baked good called Friands.

Table of Contents from the book The Afternoon Tea Collection by Sterling publishing

Table of Contents from the book The Afternoon Tea Collection by Sterling publishing

Friands is the real name for a growing food trend in pastry for afternoon tea partakers and  petite pastry fans. It’s also simple to prepare as a gluten free product as less than 6% of the ingredients is flour.

Friands...featured in The Afternoon Tea Collection...by Sterling A tiny cake primarily made from almond flour, egg whites and sugar...easy to adapt for a gluten free treat

Friands…featured in The Afternoon Tea Collection…by Sterling
A tiny cake primarily made from almond flour, egg whites and sugar…easy to adapt for a gluten free treat

Friands originated in France (no surprise  🙂 )  May also be called a financier.  It is popular in Australia and New Zealand.

The main ingredients include egg whites, almond flour (or ground almonds), sugar, butter and flavoring of your choice and is baked in small molds, often oval in shape.

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Lemon Friand...dainty little cake - from Friand

Lemon Friand…dainty little cake – from Karen Kennedy of The Friand Cake Company, U.K.

From Karen Kennedy of The Friand Cake Company in Scotland...”Having icing sugar and egg whites instead of whole eggs and very little flour, makes them dreamily light, while the ground almonds keep them beautifully chewy and moist. Moreover, my Friands are all made using gluten and wheat free flour. To this basic recipe, I add an elaborate range of fillings, drizzles and toppings to produce a delicious and delicate tea or dessert cake in the true patisserie genre.
The French word friand broadly translated means “dainty or a gourmet who delights in delicate tastes” Literally it is translated as “partial to or fond of “ which is very appropriate for a Friand because most people are! ” Pictured here are a few photos of The Friand Cake Company’s gorgeous delicate little cakes.

Enjoy with a lovely cup of tea 🙂

 

Friands from Karen Kennedy, The Friand Cake Company

Friands from Karen Kennedy, The Friand Cake Company

The Best Ever Giant Birthday Cake & The Best Mayo Cake Ever!

When our dear friend Pat passed away four years ago, it was a tremendous loss to our family for many reasons; including the fact that she was an AWESOME cake maker.  If she heard someone had something, anything, to celebrate…she volunteered to make the cake.  I used to think she was crazy for doing this as her efforts often resulted in she and her incredibly supportive husband nerve-wrackingly and carefully hauling multi-tiered wedding cakes hundreds of miles to their joyful destination.   She found great joy in providing this service and her loving husband would do anything for Pat.

The void she left forced me to step up to take on baking our grandson’s birthday cakes.  They were used to her spectacular offerings, but were young enough to appreciate my initial, somewhat pitiful, efforts.  I figured if they were colorful, topped with lots of their favorite characters (knights, pirates etc.), we’d be o.k…however, they are getting a bit more savvy in their requests and discerning in their tastes, so this year, I recruited expert help…Grandpa.  While I am good at the cake baking…I am deficient in the design and decorating department…this is where the meticulous skill of Grandpa (who has an award winning history in cake making) stepped in as creative designer and decorator.  The result was the best looking cake ever…a Pirate Lego Cake, with a mini M&M’s Chocolate Candies river.  Everyone who tasted the cake “just loved it.”  My daughter told me it was the best cake I ever made (the cake part)…it was Mom’s Mayo Cake recipe.  It is foolproof.  Use this.  You can’t go wrong. Below is the recipe.  Two notes:  use Best Foods/Hellman’s regular mayonnaise (really, don’t fool around with anything else) and don’t over bake your cake…really…Pat always told me this…don’t over bake your cake!  Nothing is worse in baking than a dry cake 🙂 Words according to Pat.

Pirate Lego Cake...two layer half sheet Mayo Cake with creamed cheese frosting...enough cake for 40 guests

Pirate Lego Cake…two layer half sheet Mayo Cake with creamed cheese frosting…enough cake for 40 guests –

The best marble cake ever...the mayo cake, made with Best Foods Mayonnaise ...a 50's recipe that is the #1 requested cake in our family

The best marble cake ever…the mayo cake, made with Best Foods Mayonnaise …a 50’s recipe that is the #1 requested cake in our family – recipe below…we made a triple recipe….two half sheet layers – the first shown here using a bun pan extender (increases the height of our 1/2 sheet bun pan)…it was a BIG cake

 

It was a really big cake...hardly made a "dent" in the cake serving over 30...two layer, (two full cake recipes), Mayo (marble) half sheet cake...dense and delicious with a creamed cheese frosting.

It was a really big cake…hardly made a “dent” in the cake serving over 30…two layer, (two full cake recipes), Mayo (marble) half sheet cake…dense and delicious with a creamed cheese frosting.

I didn’t want to be short on cake…knowing many children would be at the boy’s birthday party, so I made a third batch into mini and regular sized cupcakes…these were back up and easy to grab and go for those not staying for cake.

Back up cupcakes...I went a little crazy with frosting on these...you can tell my cake decorator expert didn't do these :-)  The mini cupcakes are a perfect "one bite" guiltless size.  We had plenty of cake.

Back up cupcakes…I went a little crazy with frosting on these…you can tell my cake decorator expert didn’t do these 🙂 The mini cupcakes are a perfect “one bite” guiltless size. We had plenty of cake!

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We found the Lego shaped candies at Dean & DeLuca in Napa Valley...Pirate decorations were from William Sonoma

We found the Lego shaped candies at Dean & DeLuca in Napa Valley…Pirate decorations were from William Sonoma

The infamous Best Foods Mayonnaise Cake recipe...a classic.  My version has reduced the sugar by 1/4 cup as the  rich chocolate and vanilla flavors pop when not masked by too much sugar. My mother made this recipe for decades…she never frosted it, just dusted it with powdered sugar. It is delicious with a cup of tea.

Makes 24 cupcakes, or one 9” x 13” cake, or one Bundt pan cake, or one 9” two-layer cake, or one layer half-sheet cake

PREP TIME: 20 minutes TOTAL TIME: 1 hour 15 minutes (includes full cake baking time)
Preheat oven to 350° F.
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 ½ cups BestFood’s/Hellmann’s brand mayonnaise
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups fresh water
8 tablespoons best quality unsweetened cocoa; reserve until after batter is prepared (I use Ghiradelli or Dean & Deluca Dutch processed)

Mix dry ingredients together, except for the cocoa.
Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix for about 2 minutes using a hand mixer or with a wooden spoon.
Reserve 2 cups of the batter and add the cocoa to this reserved batter; put aside.
Pour remaining vanilla batter into your baking pan of choice: a 9” by 13” cake pan, large angel food cake pan, Bundt pan, cupcake pan that is lined with paper baking cups, or two 9” cake pans for a two-layer cake. With a spoon, dollop the reserved chocolate batter in various spots onto the vanilla batter.
Using a table knife or skewer, gently swirl this chocolate batter in a circular motion to create a marbling effect with the vanilla batter. Be careful not to touch the sides or bottom of the baking pan while swirling.
Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until tester comes out clean for a full-sized cake. Do not over bake.
Bake 18 to 20 minutes for a regular cupcake size or 8 to 9 minutes for a mini cupcake.

Bake 9 minutes for mini cupcakes

Bake 20 minutes for one layer, half sheet pan sized cake

Here is a photo depicting the swirling in of the chocolate batter into a bundt sized cake…

Swirling in the chocolate batter with a metal skewer to "marbleize" the cake

Swirling in the chocolate batter with a metal skewer to “marbleize” the cake