Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rhubarb Scones

I was gifted yet another bag of rhubarb yesterday...this time from Casey. The rhubarb came from Washoe...taller rhubarb is getting closer in proximity to RL! I plan to put up some rhubarb compote, more jam, and perhaps freeze some, but in the meantime I had thought last night I would get up this morning and make a low-gluten rhubarb muffin. That is until I stumbled upon a link David Lebovitz shared on Facebook about Weck canning jars. I was curious what the link had to say of the these beautiful canning jars. Turns out the link went to Food52 website with another link to an online mercantile out of California for purchase of the jars. I personally do not own a single Weck canning jar, but someday I may treat myself.

OK, so for the Food52 stuff here! I'm always amazed at the great sites a person can just stumble upon. This site developed out of the result of folks testing recipes for The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser. I will take time later to explore...on with the post! On the Food52 site there are pictures and recipes submitted by other people??? That may not be an accurate statement since I haven't spent alotta time on the site, but bottom line...there was a recipe for Naughty Rhubarb Scones. Use the link if you'd like to read more on how that name came to be and see her recipe. That inspired me to "move away from the laptop" and make a breakfast scone. I used a scone recipe I've had since the days of cooking at the Lazy E-L Ranch. I ending up making a "healthier" rhubarb scone by using low/no-gluten flours and buttermilk rather than white flour and heavy cream. I'm including both recipes so that you can see the variations.

Rhubarb Scones with Coconut & Toasted Almonds

makes 8

1 cup Bob's Red Mill spelt flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill oat flour
1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill almond flour
1/4 cup organic dessicated coconut
1 tbsp baking powder*
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup organic cane vanilla sugar
1/4 cup cold unsalted organic butter
3-4 oz buttermilk
2 eggs
3 stalks rhubarb, cut 1/4" dice
1/4 cup toasted almonds, slivered, sliced or whole chopped

egg wash (1 egg mixed with a splash of water)
demara sugar

*I used this amount to obtain extra oomph for the low gluten flours

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix first six ingredients. Cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles small peas. Whisk two eggs and add buttermilk. Add rhubarb and almonds and stir to incorporate. Add wet ingredients and stir just until incorporated. Scrape out onto a floured work surface and shape into a seven inch circle. Divide into eighths using bench scraper. Using bench scraper again, place individual scones onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and brush with egg wash and sprinkle with demara sugar. Return to oven and bake an additional 10-15 minutes longer. Serve warm.

Basic Scone Recipe

makes 8 scones

2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
3 oz heavy cream
2 eggs
1-1 1/2 cup fruit (blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, etc)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix first four ingredients. Cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles small peas. Whisk two eggs and add heavy cream. Add wet ingredients and stir just until incorporated. Work in fruit. Scrape out onto a floured work surface and shape into a seven inch circle. Divide into eighths using bench scraper. Using bench scraper again, place individual scones onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until done. Serve warm.

I had a latte to go along with my breakfast scone that was topped some of the newly canned strawberry-rhubarb jam and homemade creme fraiche. Notice the darling vintage dinnerware place setting I happened upon at the thrift store. Five piece place setting under $3.00USD. It is Crookville China out of the 50's. I found a pretty extensive website for identification of American dinnerware out of Ohio made during the early to mid 1900's...I'm particularly fond of Homer Laughlin China...they have a dedicated website.

Oh, and yes, its May 29th, a friend and co-worker just rolled into town after spending 8mo in Florida. He hates it, but mother nature is "gifting" us with one of those wet spring snows...this one could work out to be a "doozy"...I heard 9" last night...guess time will tell. The poor rhubarb plants in town sure have it tough.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam with Vanilla Bean and Bergamot

I was gifted another batch of rhubarb from Patricia. You really have no idea how excited I am to be receiving all this rhubarb so early in the season! I perused through several of my favorite canning blog sites and found a recipe on Food In Jars for vanilla rhubarb jam. The recipe called for adding vanilla bean and a cup of earl gray tea. This sounded interesting, but I knew I wanted to add strawberry to mine because the rhubarb I had was more green in color and would not render a beautifully hued red jam. In addition, I performed a google search & came up with a recipe from an online source that sells cookbooks. The name of the store is The Cookbook Store and is based out of Toronto, Canada.  Their site featured a jam recipe from a book entitled Jellies, Jams & Chutneys by Thane Prince. Feel free to use the link to view the recipe I used as my starting point.  I used frozen strawberries because they are not ripe where I live. I also wanted the earl gray tea flavor nuances from Food in Jars recipe, so I added bergamot essential oil since I had that on hand.

I'd like to share a little information about essential oils. I was first introduced to essential oils about six years ago when getting a massage. I've since become an avid user of oils; mainly for holistic care and aromatherapy, but I also know they can be used for culinary purposes. I purchase my oils through Young Living if you'd care to read more about their uses.


makes 10 half pints

2 1/4 lb rhubarb
1 lb frozen strawberries, defrosted
4 lb organic cane sugar
2 lemons, juiced
9 oz liquid pectin
1 large vanilla bean

5-7 drops essential oil of bergamot

1.Cut the rhubarb into 1/2 inch lengths. I had large stalks so I also split them lengthwise as well. Puree strawberries with an immersion blender.
2. Place fruit, sugar & lemon juice into a heavy nonreactive pot. Stir to incorporate. Let sit in a cool place overnight.
3. The next morning, warm the pot contents over low heat. Stir from time to time then bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Cook for 2 minutes then turn off the heat and stir in the pectin along with the vanilla bean pod and seeds. Return the mixture to a boil, and boil until the jam has reached the setting point.

4. Remove from the heat, remove vanilla bean pod and skim off any foam from the top of the jam. Add the essential oil.
5. Ladle into hot sterilized jars. Seal and process in a water bath. I utilized the Ball Blue Book on canning as a reference for water bath processing time. I own two copies, one from 1982 and another from 1999. I've provided an Amazon link to the latest edition from 2004. I put the jam up in several different sized jars, so here are the times I used from the 1999 edition:
  • 4oz jelly jar--10 minutes
  • half pint--15 minutes
  • pint--20 minutes
Note: These times are based on living at EL. 5,555ft.

I'm also including a link that provides information on how to test for the set point when making jam. I used a thermometer for mine.  Here is a close up of the jam put up in vintage Kerr jars. I think they're from the 70's. The picture doesn't show off the squared-off squatty appearance of these half-pint and pint jars that I love so much!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Homemade Creme Fraiche Experiment

I start this post talking of sour cream, but be patient...there is a reason or this. Most commercial sour cream on the market shelves these days have added ingredients other than just sour cream.  Take a look the next time you are at the grocery might be surprised. Added whey, modified food starch, aka, a 'starch' from corn, wheat, potato, rice or tapioca--it depends on the manufacturer.  Modified food starch is a starch that has been treated physically or chemically to modify one or more of its physical or chemical properties. Commercial sour cream ingredients can also include different "gums" and carragennan.  I've come to the conclusion that when ingested, all these added starches and gums in processed food 'stick' to, well, you know where.  I have found organic to be a 'cleaner' product in that it does not contain the added 'stuff'. Our local grocery store carries Nancy's brand organic sour cream made by Springfield Creamery out of Eugene, Oregon. And while it is good, there is a price tag to go along with it.  A cheaper alternative is homemade creme fraiche.  Besides being less inexpensive to make, I personally think the taste is better. It has a richer flavor and creamier in texture.  Creme fraiche made in France is made from unpasteurized cream. All of our milk products in the United States are pasteurized so fermenting agents have to be added to produce equal results. Creme fraiche has many uses on the savory side of the kitchen. It can be added to sauces or soups and will not curdle when boiled; unlike sour cream.  It works equally well with when paired with desserts as a not so sweet replacement for whipped cream.  And yes, creme fraiche can be purchased, but again it is back to making a homemade version.

With a little advance planning, creme fraiche can be made at home. I say advance, because there is a "curing" time of 1-3 days; depending on the ambient room temperature. There are several different recipes that can be found online, however, the most common recipe I found is a heavy cream to buttermilk ratio; usually 16 parts heavy cream to 2 parts buttermilk as found on Epicurious. So an example would be 16 tbsp (1 cup) heavy cream to 2 tbsp buttermilk.  There were even versions of adding 2 parts creme fraiche from your "mother batch" to "grow" new.  The version that interested me most was the use of plain yogurt with heavy cream. I liked the idea of the good probiotics contained in yogurt being carried over into the creme fraiche.  I always have an interest of knowing "what is best" when it comes to things such as this, so I set out do do an experiment.  I decided to do two batches; one using the buttermilk and the second using plain yogurt...basically because I had both yogurt & buttermilk on hand. All I had to purchase was heavy whipping cream.

These are the products I used. We do not have access to organic buttermilk. The heavy cream is organic, and while the yogurt is not, I do know it is certified free of the growth hormone rBST. I could digress at this point and go into alotta typing about organic versus commercial dairy, but I'll save that for another post.  Until then, go with your heart.  Oh, and the cream I used was 'ultra pasteurized' because that is what our local grocery store carries.  Online comments suggest using this product makes curing time take longer.  Onward to the experiment...pretty simple stuff here:

version 1:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp buttermilk

version 2:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp plain yogurt (notice I opted for whole fat)

Place ingredients in individual non reactive bowls such as glass, stainless or ceramic.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit out on your counter for 1 to 3 days. Yeah, I know this is the scary part, but you're not gonna get sick doing this, trust me. The creme fraiche is ready when it has turned into a thick velvety mass and it has a slight tangy-nutty flavor.

The experiment produced differing results and in my haste I forgot to take pictures showing this.  The creme fraiche made with yogurt was indeed thick and velvety while the buttermilk version was still thin.  I let the buttermilk version sit for another 8 hours and there was not alot of change. Not wanting to "waste" the ingredients, I took a chance and combined the buttermilk and yogurt versions together and let cure yet again.  I had success...whew! I could have been throwing all of it out.  I cannot explain why the buttermilk version did not work to my satisfaction...impatience perhaps?? I know the buttermilk version is used extensively, but for me, I'm choosing the yogurt route. I have also been told by a fellow chef that they have been unsuccessful whipping creme fraiche that was created using buttermilk.  And for me personally, I have been able to whip the version made with yogurt and it has not "broken". Creme fraiche is pretty stable and depending on the temperature of your refrigerator, it will keep a few weeks.

Where I work, we recently served whipped vanilla bean infused creme fraiche with a berry tart. Here is a scaled down version of the recipe for how I made it.

Whipped Vanilla Bean Creme Fraiche

1 cup heavy cream
1/4 vanilla bean
2 tbsp vanilla yogurt*
2 tbsp powdered sugar

*I used low-fat vanilla yogurt because that is what we had on hand. Feel free to use plain yogurt as there is plenty of flavor infused from the vanilla bean.

Place heavy cream in a saucepan.  Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds from the pod. Add both the seeds and pod to the cream. Heat mixture to approx. 105-110 degrees. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Strain cream mixture into a non-reactive container using a chinois. Add yogurt and stir. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to cure as mentioned earlier in the post.  Once cured, refrigerate overnight.  To whip, place creme fraiche into bowl of stand mixer. Add powdered sugar. Turn mixer on medium speed and whip to desired consistency. The amount of powdered sugar can be tinkered with depending on how sweet or 'unsweet' you would like it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Raspberry Swirl Cinnamon Rolls

I had planned a day of thrift shopping with some friends and wanted to make a pre-road trip goodie. I saved the recipe for these sweet gems that came from the January 2011 issue of Food & Wine magazine and decided to give it a try. Initially I was going to follow the recipe verbatim, but in the end I just couldn't use that much white wheat flour, so I added whole wheat pastry flour along with lower gluten spelt and oat flour in an attempt to make it slightly healthier.  I also cooked the raspberry filling, thinking it would make rolling easier. In the end, that part was a tad messy, so the jury is out whether or not that was a good choice. Fee free to follow the original recipe for this step by using the link above. I did use less sugar in the dough as well as with the raspberry filling, but made up for it in the glaze by adding more powdered sugar along with the addition of cream cheese.

What really piqued my interest with this recipe is the fact it called for frozen fruit. Think of the different berries that can be frozen over the summer, then utilized during the cold months.

Raspberry-Swirl Cinnamon Rolls
Makes 16 rolls


1 cup milk
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast (2 pkgs)
1 stick unsalted butter, softened*
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt*
1 cup all-purpose flour (I used Wheat Montana brand) plus more for dusting

1 cup Wheat Montana Prairie Gold whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup Oat flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1 cup Spelt flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
*I only had organic salted butter on hand, so I reduced my salt by 1/2 tsp

One 12 ounce package IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) raspberries
3 tbsp organic cane sugar
1 tsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp cinnamon (I used Vietnamese)

1 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp cream cheese

1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp half & half

1. In a small saucepan, warm the milk over moderately low heat until it reaches 95 degrees. Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the dough hook and stir in the sugar and yeast. Let stand until the yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes. This method is called proofing.

2. Add the softened butter, eggs, grated lemon zest and sea salt.

3. Add the flours and beat at medium speed until a soft dough forms, about 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the dough is soft and supple, about 10 minutes longer.
2. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands 2 or 3 times. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly buttered bowl. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.

4. In a medium saucepan, add the frozen raspberries with the sugar and cornstarch. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened. Remove from heat and let cool.3. Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, allowing the paper to extend up the short sides. Butter the paper and sides of the pan. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and, using a rolling pin, roll it into a 10-by-24-inch rectangle. Because I have a small convection oven that only takes quarter size baking sheets, I opted to freeze roughly a third of the rolls and prepped 2-9" baking dishes.

5. Spread the raspberry filling evenly over the dough. Tightly roll up the dough to form a 24-inch-long log. Working quickly, cut the log into quarters. Cut each quarter into 4 slices and arrange them in the baking pan, cut sides up. Scrape any berries and juice from the work surface into the baking pan between the rolls. Cover the rolls and let them rise in a warm place until they are puffy and have filled the baking pan, about 2 hours.

6. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake the rolls for about 25 minutes, until they are golden and the berries are bubbling. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 30 minutes.

7. In a small bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese until well blended. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and half and half and beat until the glaze is thick and spreadable.

8. Remove rolls using extended parchment paper and place on a cooling rack to cool slightly.  Transfer to a platter. Dollop glaze over each roll and spread with an offset spatula. Serve warm or at room temperature. I had leftover glaze since I had froze some of the cinnamon rolls. I placed the glaze in a lidded storage container and tossed in the refrigerator.  It will keep for the next few weeks when I bake off the remainder.

Make Ahead
The recipe can be prepared through Step 5. Cover the rolls, refrigerate overnight and then return to room temperature before baking.

Variation The sweet rolls can be filled with a variety of frozen fruit. Try blackberries, strawberries, blueberries or chopped sweet cherries. I'm thinking of giving strawberry-rhubarb a try!

ps. I found lotsa treasures shopping...all I can say is "no more" bail top canning jars!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rhubarb Mustard

I was fortunate enough to be gifted some local rhubarb from Patricia Decker.  She harvested it from her garden in Billings. The stalks varied in length from 6-10". Whats amazing to me is to see the difference between their growing season and ours. The plants in town have barely popped through the soil and are sprouting their leaves.  I'm sure we'll have rhubarb of comparable size in the next 2-3 weeks.

Inspiration for making rhubarb mustard came from a gourmet post a few years back. I had intended to try this recipe last year, but couldn't get past making strawberry-rhubarb jam, muffins or pies. When the availability for fresh rhubarb came so early in the season, I made up my mind I would start the season out by giving this recipe a whirl.

In the end, I made several alterations, so here is the recipe for my version. When you compare the recipes you'll see that I added more fenugreek and sweetener. For me, the rhubarb's bitterness overwhelmed the mustard.

Rhubarb Mustard

makes 8-4oz jars or 4 half pints

3/4 cup yellow mustard seeds*
1/2 cup brown mustard seeds*
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
3 1/2 cups rhubarb cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 3/4 cups cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

*reserve 2 tbsp of each type of mustard seed if you would like a grained mustard for a finished product.

Grind the mustard and fenugreek seeds into a fine powder. I use an electric coffee grinder that is dedicated for spice grinding. Put everything in a wide pot and cook over medium heat until the rhubarb is soft. At this point, decide if you would like a chunky or smooth mustard. I opted for smooth, so I used an immersion blender to make the mixture smooth. Add reserved mustard seeds. Pour mustard into hot sterilized jars, seal and process 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.

I'm envisioning this to be great on a grilled sandwich or a dipping sauce for venison summer sausage this fall.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Don't ask me where this interest comes from, but I've got a thing for all things old.  Because of this, yard/garage sales, thrift stores and antique stores are particularly exciting fun for me.  I hit my first yard sale of the season last week and came upon a few great finds.  The first is this amber canning jar...very clear with no hazing, cracks or chips.

I performed some online research and I found that the jar was originally sold containing "snuff", with an ad campaign that touted it's ability to be used as a canning jar once emptied.  The era of the jar is mid to late 1800's and is inscribed "Helme's Railroad Mills". It has a zinc ring, a matching amber glass lid and an OLD rubber gasket.  While the gasket is past it's prime, I'm reluctant to get rid of it, not knowing if that would affect the value.  The company was based in Jonesburg, VA. I won't be using this for canning, but will opt for storage of a bulk food item, perhaps oat bran.

The other find was a vintage frame. The frame appears to be made out of walnut, with with an inner border of fine plaster detailing. The glass is in good condition. I already have a project in mind for it...I'm thinking sepia toned photography.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Dinner With Fresh Local Spinach

I made a tasty dinner over the weekend and was able to incorporate locally grown spinach. The spinach was grown by Robin in the greenhouses at Cafe Regis. The spinach was uber fresh. I added grilled Washington asparagus purchased from our local grocery store and pan seared wild pacific cod that was purchased at Costco. The meal came together within thirty minutes and was light and refreshing.

Grilled Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus-approximately 1 pound, ends trimmed
olive oil
kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Start grill. Place asparagus on a baking sheet.  Drizzle asparagus lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Place asparagus on grill & cook to desired doneness. I happen to like it crisp-tender, so it was ready in less than 10 minutes. Remove from grill & keep warm.
Pan Seared Cod
2 cod fillets
kosher salt & fresh cracked pepper
1 tsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
lemon wedges
Lime Riesling grapeseed oil-optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a saute pan over high heat. While the pan is getting hot, season fillets with salt and pepper. Add butter and olive oil to hot pan-swirl to blend the two fats. Place filets in pan and cook until nicely browned. Turn fillets then place saute pan in the oven to finish the fish. I have a convection oven, so it took approximately 6 minutes. Remove from oven and hold while you finish the sauteed spinach.
Sauteed Spinach

1 bunch spinach-approximately 4 cups
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp olive oil
salt & fresh cracked pepper to taste

Place a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add olive oil. Add garlic and lightly saute until aromatic. Add spinach. Using tongs, continuously turn spinach as it wilts. This goes fast. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.
Plate food by creating a mound of spinach in the center of the plate. Top with cod. Drizzle cod with grapeseed oil. Finish plating by adding asparagus and a fresh wedge of lemon. The lemon goes quite well with all three components. Enjoy!
 A quick note about the flavored infused grapeseed oil. It was given to me by a friend from Washington. The oil is a by-product of the wine making process and is made by ApresVin Enterprises, Prosser, WA. Grapeseed oil is very healthy. It can be used as a finishing oil, but it also makes a great oil to saute in as it's smokepoint is 485 degrees. As an afterthought, I wish I had sauteed the cod in it. Purchases can be made online for everyone not living in Washington state.
Even though I know the Farmer's Market is a good month and a half out, I'm excited just the same because I was gifted some fresh local rhubarb from a gal's garden in Billings!! Check back in a few days to see what I create with it!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Good Afternoon Latte!

I have started this post with a picture depicting a shot of the mountain from the vantage point of my living room. Today it is snowing on the mountain and the ski-run is not visible. Spring is trying so hard to arrive, but as you can see in the photo; the quaking aspen tree buds have not burst. Mother nature is caught in this "gray state"--desperately trying to move to green.

A month has passed since my last blog post and whilst I have been busy, there is only one item of noteworthy mention. Myself and four friends were fortunate enough to see Elton John in concert. The concert was amazing because Elton made it amazing. He belted out classics, one right after the other. For me, it will be a fun night to be remembered for years to come.

So, on to the post.  I thought I'd talk about my espresso maker. I don't use it every day, but being able to whip up a latte that rivals those made at an espresso bar while still in a person's pj's is one of life's luxurious pleasures, this is, at least for me.

I purchased this unit about 15 years ago, as witnessed by the dated forest green. Dang it, why did I not pick the black or stainless model?? This unit is a Starbucks Barista model, manufactured by Saeco. While this particular model is no longer available, used versions can be purchased on Ebay and Amazon. Saeco has a comparable unit referred to as the "Aroma" model.  My unit ran $300USD, and it has more than paid for itself many times over.  Similar units can be found online for $325-$400USD. That may sound expensive, but when you consider what you spend at the coffeehouse for your daily latte, its really not that bad, but you do the math.

This morning I made a latte and added some homemade Kahlua a friend gave me for Christmas...not gonna lie, it was yummy. I made the drink using beans from our local coffee roaster here in town. I'm also including a link to a youtube video showing step-by-step instructions. And yes, like my espresso maker, the video is dated as well!
Notice the crema this unit puts out. It has a pump driven system with a pressurized boiler unit. The picture does not do it justice, but the steamer wand also produces frothy steamed milk or cream, again just like you'd receive from the professionals.

A word of unit was stored for a period of time while I worked some temporary jobs. I had to have some repairs done. The unit has a water reservoir, that I emptied prior to storing it. But what I did not know is the water can remain trapped inside the workings of the unit, and when exposed to freezing temperatures, can ruin several of the system gaskets. I paid $100USD for the repairs, which I felt was still better than the cost of a new unit. That was almost three years ago. This little baby is still producing shots of espresso with the same vigor as when it was new.

Oh, and by the way...this is what our spring weather looks like right now...the mountain is no longer visible, and there is little white frozen flakes flying about...Happy May Day everyone!