Binging on British TV for Baking Inspiration

The progress of creating a food business have many odd twists and turns. As I gear up for a July launch of Meadballs – my farm to your table dinner service – I have different avenues to pursue for both inspiration and boredom.

Sometimes the two are intertwined.

Starting  a business, even a simple one with a sole proprietorship, requires some tedious work. It’s not all shopping, chopping, and Bakewell Tarts (more on that in a minute). It started in the fall when I took the Erie County Department of Health food safety course, and subsequent exam, to become certified. The point is not to learn the basics of the restaurant business, but to learn the basics of not harming your customers. Quite rightly, there is a lot of focus on hand washing, cooking foods to proper temperatures, and the proper heating, cooling, and refrigeration techniques.

Kudos to the Health Department because this could all have been deadly dull. But the instructor was most engaging. And you’ll be happy to hear that I passed with the high school equivalent of an A.

In the months since then, there have been papers to file with the Pennsylvania Department of State to register the business, kitchens to check out because you can’t cook food to sell in your home kitchen (some states you can get a cottage kitchen license), suppliers to check out, etc.

Some of this happens while I sit on the computer scrolling through rules, regs, and pricing of product. It’s rather dull work, so the television is often on in the background. Lately the BBC series priest-detective “Father Brown,” based on the short stories of G.K. Chesterton, has been my Netflix pick of choice. It’s set in a rural English parish in the late 1950s. Aside from the mystery in each episode, there is also a fair amount about English country life during that period, especially the church fetes, flower shows, bake sales, and the like. I’m fascinated by tea – I think it’s a right proper thing to do. I’m not into the beans-on-toast sort, but the ones with cakes.

In the summers, there are strawberry scones, fruit crisps, and the like. But during the late spring, before anything starts to produce, there are cakes make with preserves. One episode included something called a Bakewell Tart, which the “Great British Bake Off” featured on several episodes. I only know this because I had never heard of a Bakewell Tart, so I Googled it. And found several recipes on BBC.

Essentially, it is a shortbread crust, topped with a bit of jam (raspberry is the preferred, but some have gone so far as to use – gasp – cherry), and then a frangipane, which is not marzipan. Similar, in that it is almond and sugar based, but it also has butter and eggs.

So, while filling out the latest form from the state (Department of Revenue, for sales tax collection), I popped a Bakewell Tart into the oven.

And here, dear readers, is the recipe. In a couple of months, I hope to give you an actual sample instead of just this virtual one. I do have to tell you – it is divine. And I might just have to tart it up when cherry season comes!

Until then – toodle pip!

Marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

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Bakewell Tart
Course dessert
Cuisine American, British
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American, British
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. To make the pastry, measure the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter (and salt, if needed) with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water, mixing to form a soft dough.
  2. Press dough into a tart pan with a removable bottom. Refrigerate 30 minutes or overnight.
  3. When ready to bake, heat oven to 400 degrees (F).
  4. Bake pastry for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Spread with jam.
  5. Melt the butter in a pan, take off the heat and then stir in the sugar. Add (salt, if using) ground almonds, egg, and almond extract. Pour over crust. Sprinkle over the flaked almonds.
  6. Bake for about 35 minutes. If the almonds brown too quickly, cover loosely with foil to prevent them burning. Remove tart from oven to cool.
  7. Put powdered sugar into a bowl. Stir in extract. If the mixture is too thick to drizzle over tart, add water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
  8. Drizzle icing over top. Or place icing into a zip-top baggie with one corner snipped off, and pipe the icing over the top.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from several recipes on http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes

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Bake Madeleines for April in Paris

I’m head over heels in love – with spring. Everything about it renews my soul. The sound of the birds fills my head with song – sweeping away some of the darker thoughts of winter. On my walks I inhale the perfumes of the daffodils, the hyacinths just coming up  – even the dark, dampness of the soil.

The creeks are filled with purpose, rushing by the willow trees with the laughter of a young child. That same creek will meander like an old man by the time August comes around. But, for now, it reminds me of a toddler in a bathtub.

Out on the lake, the ducks, geese, and gulls are chatting away with their honks, squawks, and dives into the water.

The flowering tree outside my widow is showing small white flowers. If I look away too long, I suspect they will burst forth into bloom.

Yes, the the world is alive again.

Springtime reminds me of Paris. The last time I visited we were on the cusp between spring and summer – having the honor of experiencing both seasons (according to the calendar). In truth, the first day was gorgeous – and we were jetlagged. I think it was rainy and 50 degrees every day after. The Seine was threatening its riverbanks.

I visited during all four seasons – fall, winter, spring, and summer. And will be returning in early June. Perhaps I will have an opportunity to revisit during all the the seasons again. But, at the same time, there are other countries to visit as well.

In any case, it is spring. And I am thinking of Paris. Which makes me think of sitting at café outside, eating and drinking my way through one of my favorite cities. And this makes me think of the famous French madeleines, the little cakes shaped like shells that are famous in Paris.

Being very American, I was at first disappointed in madeleines. They weren’t cakes. They were cake-like cookies. I expected CAKE. American cake. Big slices of cake.

Over time, I appreciate how the French eat. They eat sweets, and croissants, and butter, and sauces, and French fries (called frites), and steak, and, and, and. And they aren’t fat. That’s because they eat in moderation.

So just one (or two) madeleines should take care of that sweet tooth after dinner.

They don’t keep. They are best eaten the day they are made. Don’t put into plastic or a container to try to save them. It won’t help. The batter keeps well in the fridge, so you can just make a small batch for a craving.

Like all things French, there is a debate about the correct way to make them. At issue is whether to use baking powder or not. If you do, use one without aluminum (so there is no tinny flavor), such as Rumsford (red and black label). I don’t use baking powder for mine because I don’t like the taste. As a result, my cakes are a little denser than those made with the baking powder.

I do use cake flour. Most recipes call for all-purpose flour. It’s up to you. I find them to be a little more delicate with the cake flour. If you do use AP, I like Gold Medal for baking. It’s a Cook’s Illustrated favorite.

Madeleines are made in a specific pan, which violates my code not to buy pans for just one purpose. Sometimes you just have to break the rules. If you are buying one, buy nonstick. Otherwise, I like to melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter with 1 tablespoon of flour. Then I brush that into the indentations in the pan to keep them from sticking. Remove the little cakes from the pans about 3 minutes after they come out of the oven.

You can glaze them with lemon and powdered sugar. Or I just sprinkle with powdered sugar.

TIP: Use a tea ball with a handle as a go-to powdered sugar spinkler for cakes, cookies, etc. It sifts, sprinkles, and can be stored in the container with the sugar.

Enjoy.

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
French Madeleines
Course dessert
Cuisine French
Servings
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine French
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Use an electric mixer to beat eggs and 2/3 cup sugar in large bowl just to blend. Beat in vanilla, lemon peel and salt. Add flour; beat just until blended. Stream in 10 tablespoons of the cooled melted butter in into the batter, beating just until blended.
  2. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
  3. In the meantime, add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the melted butter. Stir to combine. Use a pastry brush to coat the indentations in your pan. (Don't use it all. This recipe makes from 24 to 30 cookies). Place madeleine pan in freezer for 1 hour.
  4. Spoon batter into each indentation in pan, estimating it to be about 3/4 full. Do not spread it out. This will be about a scant tablespoon, depending on the size of your molds. Mine take about 2 teaspoons.
  5. Bake for 8 minutes. Turn pan. Bake for another 3-5 minutes. The madeleines should be browned around the edges and slightly golden on top. Remove from oven and cool 3-5 minutes. Gently remove from pan. Repeat process, buttering and flouring pan before each batch.
  6. Dust cookies with powdered sugar.
Recipe Notes

You can make a batch of the madeleines and then refrigerate the remaining batter to make more the next day. This will keep for about 3 days.

Some people will decrease the amount of sugar to 1/2 cup and add 1 to 2 tablespoons each of honey and brown sugar; add 1 more egg; add baking powder; add lemon juice, etc. This is a recipe, once you make it, that you can then make your own. I sometimes use almond extract instead of vanilla. Or you could add lemon extract to boost the lemon flavor.

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Happy Pi Day

There are so many reasons to love Pi Day. The chief among them is that it inspires people to make pies, even if National Pie Day was in January. I know that makes no sense. But that is the joy of Pi Day.

For those of us who didn’t study math with any great enthusiasm, pi was just 3.141592 (rounded, of course, to 3.14). It first came to my attention in 2015, when the numerals lined up to 3/14/15, or March 14, 2015. I made a French silk pie, with a whipped cream pi symbol, π.

With the frightful weather outside, today was a good day for making pies inside. It’s also citrus season. The two combined to inspire today’s pie, which is Lemon Chess Pie. Why it is called chess pie is somewhat uncertain. That this is Southern is not in dispute. The rest is kind of murky. There are some theories on What’s Cooking America that it really was a term for cheese pie. There is no cheese in it, so it seems a bit of a stretch.

Even the ingredient list can vary by chef. The filling is lemon juice, sugar, egg, butter, and some cornmeal. Some recipes call for milk, cream, flour, cornstarch. Adding milk or cream will create a fluffier filling. The recipe I like has no milk or cream, so the filling is pure lemon flavor – a lot like lemon bars.

On this snowy Pi Day, this Lemon Chess Pie is a little taste of sunshine.

Enjoy

XOXOXO

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Lemon Chess Pie
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place pie crust into a pie pan, cutting off any excess overhang. Refrigerate crust while you make the filling.
  2. Add sugar, salt, cornmeal, and cornstarch to the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the eggs (4 eggs and 1 yolk). Beat on medium to medium-high until the mixture is pale and sugar is fully incorporated. With the mixer running, add the lemon juice. Then pour in melted butter in a thin stream. Continue beating for about 30 more seconds.
  3. Pour the filling into chilled pie shell.
  4. Bake the pie on the bottom shelf of the 375-degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the center is set. The top should be golden brown.
  5. Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool before cutting and serving.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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When Erie is Like Florida

Weather and distance have been a recurring theme in the past week.

I left Erie to visit Florida for the President’s Day weekend … and then the temperature was warmer in Erie on Saturday than it was in Clearwater, Florida. Today, Erie will only be about 5 degrees cooler than where the some of the Erie snowbirds are flocking.

Erie has its own micro-climates as well. I knew this growing up, just didn’t know what to call it. In the summer we’d head to the beach from our house in Millcreek. When we’d leave the house, not far from the Millcreek Mall, where it would be sunny and warm. By the time we got to the lake, it could be 10 degrees cooler and cloudy.

Taking the kayak out onto Lake Erie in late February 2017.

This morning, I left my house by I-90 in Fairview and it was 57 degrees. I drove 5 miles down to the lake and it was 42 degrees, courtesy of the easterly wind coming off the 35-degree Lake Erie. As it shift to the south today, the temperatures will come closer. And I’ll be paddling on Lake Erie for the second time during the month of February.

It’s crazy.

I’m worried about the fruit trees being fooled into budding. As much as I love a 70-degree day in February, I love peaches throughout the month of August even more. And cherries. And plums. And apples.

I don’t dare dream of actually having spring in March in Erie. That’s just out of the question. Then we would really know the world was out of whack.

Before leaving for Florida, I had the honor of hosting a group of women called the Black Diamond Divas, a mastermind group of women who are part of the Coffee Club Divas. They are a fantastic group who are taking me to the next level of developing a business. More will come on that at a later date.

The challenge for making them lunch is the diversity of diets – namely gluten intolerant and vegan. Neither of these comprise my typical meal – but I do love a challenge. This Thai Quinoa Salad, adapted from FoodieCrush.com was perfect. Indeed, my daughter loved it the night before (I made early before so it could marinate in the dressing). I didn’t mention gluten free of vegan. She just declared it delish.

Hope you do too.

XOXOXO

marnie

marniemead@gmail.com

 

 

Print Recipe
Thai Quinoa Salad
For me the secret to the salad is two-fold: make your quinoa in a rice or pressure cooker and marinate the whole salad the night before serving. You can add protein, such as roasted chicken or shrimp if you feel the need for a more substantial dish.
Course lunch, Salad
Cuisine American, Asian
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course lunch, Salad
Cuisine American, Asian
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Rinse quinoa under cold water. Cook according to package directions. Remove from pan and allow to cool.
  2. Add vegetables, quinoa, cilantro, and basil to a large bowl. Toss.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk soy sauce, Braggs, limes, sugar, vegetable oil, sesame oil and red pepper flakes until the sugar has dissolved. Taste and adjust to your liking (mainly checking for more heat or sweet).
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to combine. Can serve immediately or refrigerate overnight.
  5. Sprinkle peanuts over the salad before serving.
Recipe Notes

I like to use the multi-colored quinoa, just for color.

Adapted from FoodieCrush.com

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