Tête-à-tête with Chocolate Skillet Cake, Raspberries & Autumn Leaves

October 24th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Chocolate Skillet Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting and Raspberries (Gluten Free Version from Bravetart). Cast iron pan from Lodge.

What is it about the first blast of chilly, autumn air that brings out my seasonal craving for baked goods? Do you experience this phenomenon as well? Luckily, my family has plenty of October birthdays to celebrate, providing the perfect excuse to indulge! There’s nothing quite like the smell of vanilla and warm brown sugar to put me in the fall spirit. Usually, at this time of year, I’m more inclined toward apple pie. But I’m surrounded by a family of chocolate lovers, and to be honest, who can really resist? Toss a handful of late-season raspberries on devil’s food cake, and I am more than ready to compromise with the party goers!

Although I am an experienced and confident cook, sweets aren’t a daily part of my diet and baking is still something of a novelty for me. Over the past couple of years, in an effort to get more satisfying results, I’ve invested in a new kitchen scale (weighing ingredients really is key), a couple of confectioner’s gadgets and a few cookbooks written by professional bakers. I’ve been following Stella Parks on Instagram and enjoying her creations for Serious Eats, for awhile now —which is where I spotted this chocolate skillet cake— and find her recipes not only easy enough for a beginner, but consistent crowd-pleasers as well. And there’s nothing quite so sweet as praise to encourage a new baker, right?  So when Stella’s new book, Bravetart came out last summer, I checked the mailbox regularly, eagerly anticipating the arrival of my pre-ordered copy.

I have not been disappointed! One of my goals has been to add a few gluten-free options to my sweet repertoire. It seems that whenever I attend a big party, at least two or three people have a gluten intolerance, and they are unable to enjoy conventionally made desserts. That seems very unfair! Fortunately, Stella has includes gluten-free versions of her recipes in Bravetart; all with clear and simple instructions. I’ve made the gluten-free version of her chocolate skillet cake twice now this month —using her homemade wheat-flour substitute— with great results. This weekend however, I was in a hurry. So, for the version below, I simply used Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten-Free Flour. Perfection in a pinch.

Chocolate Skillet Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting and Raspberries (Gluten Free Version from Bravetart). Cast iron skillet from Lodge.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Skillet Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting & Raspberries

Adapted from Serious Eats & Stella Park’s sweet cookbook: Bravetart

Special Equipment: Lodge 12″ cast iron skillet, whisk, hand-held mixer and offset spatula

Cake:

6 ounces unsalted butter

6 ounces freshly brewed, black coffee

1 1/2 ounces Divine or other Dutch cocoa

3 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used 70%)

8 ounces light brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 tsp kosher salt

4 large eggs

4 1/2 ounces Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten Free Flour* (or use Stella’s recipe)

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Frosting:

6 ounces Endangered Species milk chocolate, or your favorite brand, finely chopped

8 ounces heavy cream

Salt to taste

1/2 pint fresh-picked raspberries (or other seasonal berries), for garnish

Method:

For the frosting:

Heat the heavy cream to a simmer in a 10″-12″ cast-iron skillet. Add chopped chocolate to a heat-proof bowl. When the cream is bubbling at the edges, pour on top of the chocolate and whisk. Add salt to taste and continue to whisk until blended smooth. Allow mixture to cool approximately 15 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until ready to finish the cake.

For the cake:

Center oven rack in lower-middle. Preheat to 350° F.

Warm the butter and coffee over low heat, in the same 10-12″ cast-iron skillet, stirring until butter has completely melted. Remove pan from the heat. Carefully mix in the cocoa and the chopped dark chocolate, stirring until well blended. Add in the brown sugar, salt and vanilla. Gently whisk in the eggs. When combined, add the flour and baking soda. Whisk to combine until smooth.

Slide the skillet into the hot oven and bake until firm. This took approximately 25 minutes in my 12″ Lodge skillet. Bake 5-10 minutes longer in a 10″ cast-iron skillet. Watch carefully, because oven temperatures and pan thicknesses can really vary baking times. Remove the cake from the oven when a wooden stick pulls clean from the center, and cool for approximately 2 hours at room temperature before frosting.

Finishing:

When ready to frost the cooled cake, remove the milk chocolate ganache from refrigerator and stir. Stella suggests beating the frosting with a spatula until it reaches a yogurt-like consistency. I opted to use a hand-held, electric mixer, and whipped the frosting on medium high for a minute until light and fluffy. Gently top the cooled cake with the ganache, using an offset spatula to create swirling patterns. Top with fresh-picked raspberries.

*If you wish to make this cake conventionally, as opposed to gluten-free, simply use 4 1/2 ounces of regular, all-purpose flour in place of the Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten Free Flour. We could not taste the difference, nor did we notice a change in texture or density, either way!

Ready, set  . . .Devour!

Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Blue Green Dragon’ Morphs from Green to Pink to Red-Orange Fire 

Article and Images copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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Calamondin Orange Marmalade: Homemade Beauty for Breakfast . . .

March 23rd, 2018 § 7 comments § permalink

Beauty for Breakfast: Calamondin Orange Marmalade & Vintage Roses 

I really, really wanted a vacation this winter, but fate had other things in mind and personal responsibilities held me close to home. So, I’ve been giving myself mini-staycations to compensate a bit. These weekend retreats —usually nothing more extravagant than a new book, homemade pâtisserie or a trip to the greenhouse— have really made a difference. This new awakening —a beauty renaissance of sorts— seems to be giving my days the je ne sais quoi that I have been seeking. Can the key to happiness be as simple as setting a lovely breakfast table with flowers, fresh-baked bread and homemade Calamondin Orange Marmalade? Perhaps it is not so easy, but I think I may be on to something. There is joy to be found in the creation of a beautiful, everyday experience.

Calamondin Oranges are One of the Easier-to-Grow, Indoor Citrus Trees. For Tips, Click Here to Visit My Previous Post on Growing Citrus Indoors.My Own Calamondin Oranges, Freshly Picked from the Tree Making Your Own Pot of Gold: Calamondin Orange Marmalade

Today’s lesson: celebrate the beauty surrounding you by appreciating, using, and savoring what you’ve got. If you’re a gardener, this is pretty simple in summertime. But in winter? You’ll have to look a bit harder. Have a terrarium or beautiful houseplant? Set that in the middle of your dining room table. Have frozen blueberries in your freezer? Make blueberry popover pancake. Grow herbs on your windowsill? Bake a loaf of No-Knead Rosemary Bread. Have a citrus tree? Harvest some fruit and make a batch of marmalade. It’s amazing how gratitude fosters happiness.

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C a l a m o n d i n   O r a n g e   M a r m a l a d e

Special Equipment:

Food processor, non-corrosive saucepan, candy thermometer, canning jars/lids and canning kit

Ingredients:

1          cup calamondin orange juice/pulp/rind (40-50 calamondin oranges)

1          cup water

2          cups granulated sugar

Have an extra-large harvest of Calamondins? This recipe can be doubled.

Method: 

Wash 40-50 calamondin oranges and pat dry. Slice fruits in half at the equator. Holding fruit over a large liquid measuring cup or small bowl, remove seeds and discard. Fit a slicing blade inside a food processor and toss fruit, rind, pulp, juice and all, into the bowl. Pulse two or three times until the rinds are cut up to the consistency of marmalade. Do not over-process or puree. You can also squeeze the juice/pulp into a bowl and slice the rinds by hand if you don’t have access to a food processor.

Pour the fruit juice/pulp/rind into a large, liquid measuring cup. You should have about 1 cup, but the juiciness of fruit varies. Add water to the reach the 2 cup line and stir well.

Pour the orange/water mixture into a medium sized, non-corrosive saucepan (large if you are making a double batch). Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Slowly, over 10-15 minutes time, add sugar in small amounts and continue to stir the boiling, bubbling mixture. Be sure each amount of sugar dissolves before adding more. After approximately 20 minutes, use a candy thermometer to check the temperature. Remove from heat when the marmalade hits 228°F.

Carefully pour marmalade into sterilized canning jars and seal. Process marmalade in a boiling water canner (5-15 mins according to your altitude and USDA safe canning instructions). USDA instructions for safe canning may be found here.

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Photography copyright Michaela Harlow at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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Nibbling Lemon Tart as the Snow Falls

March 11th, 2018 § 2 comments § permalink

Meyer Lemon Tart 

What is it about late-winter snow storms that inspires me to bake? Perhaps it’s the warm oven and comforting aromas, or maybe it’s post-snow-shovel sugar cravings? Either way, this has always been the case for me. Of course, baking during a blizzard —when the threat of a power outage looms large— is a big risk.  So, I try to think of things I can bake in less than an hour. Snow also means using the ingredients on hand, since travel is out of the question.

Walking back from my tractor after making a quick, snow-clearing pass down the drive, I paused to admire the snow-dusted Witch Hazel. Oh, sugar-sprinkled lemon tart? Inspiration struck! Homegrown citrus —lemon, lime and calamondin— I usually have from my own trees (see tips for growing your own citrus here). This year, my Meyer Lemon has been a little stingy —I think I brought it inside a bit late, exposing it to frost— but it has finally relented; offering up 3 ripe fruits. Fresh eggs? Check. Butter? Check. Cream? Oh yes . . . Always. Time for a lemon tart!

Inspiration for a Sugar-Dusted Tart: Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’

Dressed with Half a Container of Organic Raspberries & Dusted with Confectioner’s Sugar

Hamilton Beech Commercial Citrus Juicer. Less-than-Perfect Lemons = Perfectly Fine Juice for a Perfectly Delicious Tart

I am a fresh citrus lover. Long before I began growing my own lemons, limes and calamondins, I started pressing fresh juice for drinking, cooking, baking and cocktail-making. For years I had a cumbersome and flimsy citrus press, then voila, this fantastic, Hamilton Beech commercial citrus juicer appeared beneath the tree one Christmas and I have never looked back. If you love pressing citrus, this tool will make short work (and fun), of the process. I find that I get more juice (and if double pressing, pulp too), when using a strong press.

M e y e r    L e m o n    T a r t

I n g r e d i e n t s 

One pre-baked, sweet tart shell (see recipe below)

½     cup Meyer lemon juice (about 2-3 lemons & their zest, depending upon size)

2     eggs

3     egg yolks

6     tbs sugar

2     tbs cream

pinch of fine salt

6     tbs best-quality, unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

Confectioner’s Sugar & Organic Raspberries for Decoration/Serving

M e t h o d 

Juice the lemons, (I love my Hamilton Beech commercial citrus juicer), pressing as much pulp as possible through the strainer, and grate the peels. Add both juice and peel together, in a small bowl (watch for and remove seeds, if hand pressing). Beat eggs and egg yolks together with sugar until just mixed. Add egg/sugar mixture to a heavy saucepan and warm over low heat. Add cream, stirring constantly. Add the juice mixture, again stirring non-stop as you go. Add the salt and then the butter pieces, slowly stirring as they melt. When the mixture thickens enough to coat a spoon, remove from the heat and allow to sit 5 minutes. Whisk to smooth and pour into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate to chill for about a half hour or keep chilled for up to two weeks.

Preheat an oven to 375°F.

Fill the cooled, pre-baked tart shell (do not over-fill), and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until just set (slightly puffed and firmed but still a bit wobbly at center). Remove and allow to cool for an hour before serving or place in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

If refrigerating, allow the tart to come back to room temperature (about an hour), before serving. When the tart has reached room temp, garnish with raspberries, dust with confectioner’s sugar & serve.

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P â t e    S a b l é e

(Sweet Dough for 9″ Tart)

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi

I n g e d i e n t s 

1 ½     cups (201 grams) all-purpose flour

½     cup (60 grams)  confectioner’s sugar

¼     tsp grated lemon zest

¼     tsp fine sea salt

9 tbs (4 ½ oz/128 grams) chilled, best-quality, unsalted butter, cut in small pieces

1     large egg yolk

M e t h o d

Place the flour, sugar, lemon zest and salt in a food processor and pulse to blend. Lift the lid and scatter butter over dry ingredients. Cover again and pulse until the mixture is roughly the size of peas. Slowly add in yolk, mixing in short pulses. Then, increase pulsing to 10 second intervals until the dough forms small clumps. Stop here. Do not overwork. Rinse your hands in ice water, dry and turn the dough out onto a work surface.

Mix with the heel of your hand, smearing across the counter, rather than kneading, until blended. Gather up in a ball and flatten to a disk.

Butter a tart pan (I like to use a removable bottom tart pan), and evenly press the dough over the bottom and up the sides. Do not overwork. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork and cover with foil. Place in a freezer for about an hour or longer —or overnight— before removing to bake.

Center an oven rack and preheat to 400°F.

Place the frozen tart on a cookie sheet and bake blind for 25-30 minutes (or until golden brown). You need not use pie weights if you have properly chilled the tart, it should not shrink much. Remove from the oven and cool for at least ½ hour before adding lemon filling.

Meyer Lemons and Tart

Post-Nor’easter: Eighteen Inches of New-Fallen Snow in the Garden

Meyer Lemon Tart: Antidote to Late-Winter Blues

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Photography copyright Michaela Harlow at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. At no additional cost to you, a small commission will be paid The Gardener’s Eden, to help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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Designing Spring’s Prettiest Potager & Rosalind Creasy’s ‘Edible Flower Garden’

February 8th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Rosalind Creasy’s The Edible Flower Garden

When you begin plotting out your spring vegetable garden, do you include space for edible flowers in your planting plan? Wait, did I just say edible flowers? Indeed I did. Gourmet gardeners will already be familiar with the delicious flavor of stuffed squash blossoms and the zing of spicy nasturtiums, but there are many, many more flavorful flowers to consider when drawing up your potager design. Looking for fresh inspiration while designing a long-time client’s 2018 vegetable plot, I pulled out Rosalind Creasy’s The Edible Flower Garden and found myself dreaming of candied flowers, lavender ice cream, rose petal syrup and beds filled with Johnny Jump-Ups, Violets, Begonias, Calendula and Hyssop. What great wintertime reading for a gardener, and a perfect Valentine’s Day gift for your favorite flower lover.Image: Rosalind Creasy’s The Edible Flower Garden

Long time followers of this blog will recall many posts on potager design and edible gardens; including those featuring the use of herbs and flowers. The addition of flowers —especially edible buds and blossoms— to a vegetable garden is beneficial in so many ways. Not only do colorful flowers make an edible landscape more beautiful, they also provide sustenance to pollinators, beneficial insects, birds and yes, even the gardeners themselves. Designing a pretty potager is not only desirable, it also makes good gardening sense!Nasturtium Tangle in My Own, Summertime Potager

When it comes to selecting seed for your spring planting, The Edible Flower Garden is filled with great information about flower flavors and textures as well as advice on how to grow and prepare your blossoms. From easy-to-cultivate annuals to long-lived perennials and investment shrubs, The Edible Flower Garden will help you decide what to grow.Most Tuberous Begonias have a crisp texture and pleasantly light, lemony flavor. Image: Rosalind Creasy, The Edible Flower Garden

One of the best parts of this book, as well as others in Rosalind Creasy’s edible gardening series, is the recipe section. From simple sauces and salads to delicious-looking main courses and desserts, there’s something for everyone. Spring dreaming? May visions of Edible Flower Canapés and Rose Petal Sorbet dance in your head ’til springtime. Gather your seed packets and tubers, I’ll meet you in the garden come May!

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A copy of this book was provided by Tuttle Publishing in exchange for independent, un-biased review. No other compensation was received. The Gardener’s Eden is not an affiliate of Tuttle Publishing, but is an affiliate of Amazon.com.

Article copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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Caramel-Drizzled, Spiced Coffee Cake, Daylight Savings & Winter’s Last Hurrah

March 9th, 2013 § 5 comments § permalink

Caramel Drizzled Coffee Cake ⓒ 2013 michaela medina - thegardenerseden.com Caramel-Drizzled Coffee Cake Takes the Edge Off a Winter Storm

Late winter snow storms are real heart-breakers. And it seems that, no matter how many times we’re hit by an early March ‘weather event’, I’m always caught by surprise. Songbirds are returning, buds are swelling on trees, and clocks are about to spring forward to daylight savings time (p.s. Don’t forget to move clocks ahead an hour before you turn in tonight, as DST starts 3/10/13).

It’s just starting to feel like a new season, and then. . .  It hits. A wet, heavy snowstorm. Doesn’t seem quite fair!

At times like these, I usually feel the need to bake something to lift my weary spirits and give me energy to dig out; something warm and golden and just a little bit gooey. What to do? I scanned the kitchen and my eyes focused in on my Finca Rosa Blanca coffee beans, sitting on the countertop. Mmmm. That’s it! Something like . . .

Caramel-Drizzled Coffee Cake

(ingredients for one 10-inch tube cake or two smaller cakes)

1/2 lb (2 sticks) of butter at room temperature

1 cup of granulated sugar

3 eggs at room temperature

2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of salt

3/4 cup sour cream or plain, Greek yogurt (full fat or 2%)

1/4 cup espresso or very strongly brewed French roast coffee, cooled*

5 teaspoons vanilla extract (or rum for a twist)

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Caramel Topping

1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)

1/4 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Method

This is a very simple cake, but first, make yourself some espresso or some very strong French roast coffee to wake yourself up. Then, set aside 1/4 cup of espresso/coffee to cool and preheat your oven to 350° fahrenheit. Butter and flour a 10″ tube or Bundt pan (you can also use other shapes and types of pans of similar size, or make two cakes in 8″ spring-form pans, as I did for the photo). Now go gather your ingredients.

In a large bowl, blend the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together with a fork. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream or Greek yogurt with the espresso (or coffee) and 5 teaspoons of vanilla, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl (I use a stand mixer), beat the butter for a few seconds, add in the sugar and beat a minute or two. Add in three eggs at room temperature and beat until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Very slowly, combine the dry ingredients to the large mixing bowl, and beat until smooth. Add in the sour cream or yogurt/coffee/vanilla mix and beat the mixture a bit longer.

Pour the cake batter into the buttered/floured pan, stick it into the oven and set your timer to bake for 45-50 minutes. It’s done when the top is golden colored and a stick pulls out clean from the center of the cake. When done, let rest for 5 or 10 minutes and then remove the cake form/invert to cool. Flip the cake onto a serving platter. Now, at this point, I like to prick little holes in the cake with a stick or fork so that some of the caramel drizzle gets inside. That’s up to you.

To make the caramel drizzle: combine the brown sugar, yogurt and vanilla in a small bowl and stir well until blended. Set aside until cake is cooled and then drizzle over to your heart’s content (and set some aside for sinfully delicious dipping).

*If you’d rather not add coffee (even decaf?), you can omit this ingredient and instead use one full cup of yogurt or sour cream in the main cake.

Snow-Covered Nest ⓒ 2013 michaela medina - thegardenerseden.com

Now, if you’re like me, you hate waiting, so you go outside to shovel while your cake bakes. This gives you the heart to clear snow from the roof, which has slid down and piled atop the already snow-covered terrace and drifted into the walkways. Finish that off, then come in, drizzle the coffee cake, have a thick slice, and then go back out to clear the pathways, cars, truck, tractor and utility areas. Meanwhile, your partner-in-crime plows and pushes back snowbanks, while troubleshooting a stalling engine on the ’86 Chevy. Winter sure is a lot of work!

I recently read that shoveling snow by hand burns something like 400 calories (or more) per hour. Of course, the heavier the snow  the harder you work, and the more calories you burn. Oh, and don’t worry, this probably won’t be the last work out you get before spring. Keep that shovel ready. You’re gonna need a LOT of coffee cake to clear the nest!

Snowy, Sunlit Viburnum trilobum ⓒ 2013 michaela medina - thegardenersedenFrosted Viburnum trilobum Along the Sunlit Walkway

Lavender Hills ⓒ 2013 michaela medina - thegardenerseden.com To the Southwest: Warm, Lavender Hills

March Sunset in the Garden After the Storm ⓒ 2013 michaela medina - thegardenerseden.com Sunset in the Northwest Gardens, After the Storm

Photography and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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