Eccles Cakes

A Plate of British Eccles Cakes
Yes, I’ll admit it – I’m a bit of an Anglophile. And, with the holidays just around the corner, I don’t simply dream of a white Christmas, but a Dickensian one. I imagine a holiday with Victorian carolers strolling snow-covered cobbled streets, a cozy Cotswold cottage lit with candles and scented with crackling roast goose and steamy figgy pudding, pulling Christmas crackers with family and friends around the table, and nibbling treats like these very British Eccles cakes.

The Eccles cake may have been created about 20 years before Dickens was even born, yet these are just the type of sweetmeat I imagine gracing Mr. Fezziwig’s overladen Christmas Eve party table.


Eccles Cakes

An Eccles cake is a small, heavily spiced pastry filled with currants and candied orange peel wrapped in a flaky (rough puff) pastry. The origins can be traced to the town of Eccles, formerly within the Lancashire boundary, but now a suburb of Manchester. Weights are in grams, nodding to their British origin.

Ingredients

    Filling
  • 120 grams currants
  • 50 grams candied orange peel
  • 50 grams butter, softened
  • 40 grams light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • Zest of ¼ lemon
  • Juice of ½ orange
  • 1 Tablespoon brandy
  • Pastry
  • 250 grams All-purpose flour
  • 5 grams salt
  • 250 grams very cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 125 milliliters ice-water
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • Turbinado sugar (such as Sugar in the Raw)

Directions

  1. Stir together all filling ingredients in a small bowl. Microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute until butter is melted. Cover and set aside for the flavors to meld and currants to soften. Refrigerate. Once cold, the filling should bind together without extra liquid. Drain if necessary.
  2. Pulse flour, salt and butter in a food processor until butter pieces are pea-sized. Gradually pulse in about 100-125ml cold water until mixture comes together into a dough. Do not overwork.
  3. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle three times as long as it is wide. Fold the top third down into the middle, then the bottom third up over the top, then rotate the pastry 90 degrees so the fold is now vertical. Roll out again and repeat then wrap in cling-wrap and chill for 20 minutes. Repeat the rolling, folding, rotating, rolling and folding one more time. Chill for an hour.
  4. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface a little thicker than 1/8th of an inch, then cut out rounds about 3 ½ inches wide. Put a half-tablespoon of filling in the center of each, then dampen the edges of the circle and bring the edges into the middle, pinching together to seal well. Put on a baking tray smooth side up, and squash slightly until flattened. Repeat with the rest and chill for 20 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Remove pastries from refrigerator, brush with egg white and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Cut three slashes in the top of each and bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden and well-risen. Allow to cool before eating – the filling will be hot.

 

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Nectarine Galette

Nectarine Crostata

Did you know that the Pledge of Allegiance wasn’t written until 1892, 100 years after America became a country? It wasn’t the founding fathers who created it; it’s not in the constitution. Did you know this was the original pledge:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Notice what’s missing? It’s those two contentious words, “under god,” the source of so much brouhaha these days. Did you know those words weren’t added until 1954? 1954! President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add those words to help undermine what he thought was a pervasive Communist threat in the US. So when the mandatory-allegiance supporters say, “it’s what the founding fathers wanted,” “it’s what our country stands for,” or “it’s tradition,” they are misinformed.

I believe children should be given the choice of reciting the pledge of allegiance in school. Childhood recitation will not define allegiance to this country as an adult. When you recited the allegiance in school , truly, was there any feeling behind it? As a child, did you understand the words? I recited it for seven years in a hazy half-sleeping monotone. Further, adults (kid’s don’t care) shouldn’t point out or ostracize any child that doesn’t choose to recite it – as long as the student sits or stand respectfully during its recitation. Teaching a child to assert their beliefs, while being respectful of other’s differing beliefs, is a more valuable lesson than daily reciting of a pledge. It’s called Tolerance and it would serve us well now.

Happy Birthday, America!

Stepping off of my soapbox now. This galette is so simple to throw together; it’s perfect for easy entertaining like a backyard bbq. It’s less fussy than a traditional pie, but does just as good of a job highlighting summer’s bounty of stone fruit. Add a dollop of whipped cream or scoop of ice cream and you’re good to go!


Nectarine Galette

  • Servings: about 8 slices
  • Print
Preheating the baking sheet and sprinkling the crust with panko ensures a flaky crust.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups sliced nectarines
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • Zest and juice from ½ small lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ⅓ cup flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup canola oil
  • 3 Tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 Tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar, preferably turbinado, such as Sugar in the Raw

Directions

  1. Preheat a sheet pan in a 375⁰ oven. In a medium bowl, combine nectarines with brown sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and cinnamon. Toss to coat. Set nectarine mixture aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Combine oil and milk and gently add to flour mixture. Roll crust between two sheets of parchment paper to about a 10” circle.
  3. Remove top sheet of parchment and sprinkle crust with panko breadcrumbs in a circle, leaving a 1” border. Arrange nectarine slices on crust, overlapping in concentric circles, leaving border. Fold border over nectarines. Dot nectarines with butter.
  4. Beat egg and brush over pastry border. Sprinkle border with turbinardo sugar. Place galette on parchment on preheated sheet pan. Bake at 375⁰ for 40-50 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack.

Quick Apple Sticky Buns

Quick sticky buns

Over 20 years ago, a young woman traveled to Sedona and stayed, on recommendation, at Don Hoel’s cabins. They were a cluster of small cabins near Oak Creek, looking a bit tired, but still cozy and homey, each with a kitchen, fireplace and a separate bedroom.

12 years later, she returned to Sedona and the first lodging she considered was Don Hoel’s. She was disappointed to learn she couldn’t reserve a cabin – the owner was selling and the cabins were closed. She stayed just down the road at Junipine, at a place that was neither cozy nor homey. During that trip, she drove past Don Hoel’s and saw the large “For Sale” sign across the closed gates. Even then, she daydreamed about buying it. The place was big – over 20 acres, with 20 cabins and a market. Her thoughts on the matter stayed in the daydream world.

The woman is back again. The place is now renamed, owned by a young couple for the past 5 years . They’ve polished the place up, adding the much needed character, and turned it into a little gem. The woman, who is not so young anymore, is envious. Again, she thinks “I could do that” and this time she doesn’t consider it just a daydream.


Quick Apple Sticky Buns

I don’t usually use packaged or pre-made products and call them my own, but sometimes busy mornings call for shortcuts. Adapted from Real Simple Quick Sticky Buns.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into 10 pieces
  • 1 medium apple, peeled and grated
  • ½ cup pecans, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 7.5 ounce tube refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
  • ½ cup powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drop a piece of butter in the bottom of 10 muffin tins. Divide apple among tins and sprinkle with pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon. Top each with a biscuit.
  2. Bake until golden brown, 8-12 minutes. Remove from oven, cover with a baking sheet and flip the tin over. Tap the bottom to release the buns.
  3. Combine powdered sugar with enough water to make a thick glaze. Drizzle glaze on still-warm sticky buns. Serve warm.

Lemon Cheese Pastry Squares

Lemon Sweet Cheese Pastry Squares

She hikes along the path, entreating the universe, “please let me find an arrowhead, please let me find an arrowhead.”  She even makes ridiculous pledges like, “I swear if I find one, I won’t keep it…I just want to see if I can wish it into existence.  I’ll bury it once I find it.”

Many years ago, she found another arrowhead, quite by accident, near an abandoned homestead on a cattle ranch outside Galconda, NV.  She placed it in the back pocket of her Levi’s for safekeeping.  After a long, dusty and bumpy ride back to the ranch in the bed of a pickup, she was astonished to find her pockets empty.  While disappointed, she decided her possessing it wasn’t meant to be.

Now, for a reason that she doesn’t understand, she’s on the hunt to locate one again.  For four days, she’s hiked with her eyes fixed on the trails in front of her.  She’s picked up a dozen of pieces of flint for closer inspection. Nothing.

She’s driving out of town today, on her way back home, leaving a little early to fit in one last brief 45-minute hike on a hill she’s never hiked before.  The day is hot, 93 degrees, under a blue and cloudless sky; time slips by quickly.  As she heads back to her car, she spots it on the path, dusty and damaged, most likely from being stepped on by hikers – a black flint arrowhead.

Decisions, decisions. She promised the universe not to keep it, but now it’s in her hand and the location and timing of her discovery convince her this was predestined.  This town is her magical place, after all.  She stops to consider her choices.  After a few minutes, she slips the arrowhead in her back pocket, concluding, if it’s still in her pocket when she arrives home, she was intended to keep it, at least for a while.


Lemon Cheese Pastry Squares

These use the same dough as the Almond Pockets, substituting a cream cheese and lemon filling. Of the two pastries, these were the crowd favorite in the office.

Ingredients

  • Danish Pastry Dough
  • 8 oz. Cream Cheese
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 Tablespoons raw sugar

Directions

  1. Follow the instructions for making the dough.
  2. Make the Cheese filling: Beat the cream cheese, sugar, yolk and zest together until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Make the squares: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough into 20” x 20” square. Divide into 16 squares approximately 5”x5”. Place the cheese filling in the middle of each square, Brush 2 all corners with egg, fold each corner over the center, pressing down firmly to seal. Proof for 15 minutes.
  4. Egg wash the outside of the pastries and sprinkle liberally with raw sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

arrowhead

Turkey and Roasted Red Pepper Meatloaf

Turkey Meat Loaf

This kitchen has been turning out a plethora of pastries and desserts lately.  I attended culinary school to become a better chef, not a pastry chef.  I’ve always been more comfortable around flour and sugar recipes than meat, vegetable and starches.  My recipe books are chock full of recipe clippings that have languished for years without being tested.  I’ve decided for the next two months to make at least two new non-pastry dishes per week.  These aren’t necessarily ground-breaking meals – I won’t be testing  my sous vide skills in the near future, but my goal is to reduce the number of recipe clippings in the “to try” pocket of my recipe book while adding a few new staples to my repertoire.

Recipe #1

Turkey and Roasted Red Pepper Meatloaf
(adapted from Real Simple magazine)

½             onion, chopped fine
2              cloves garlic, chopped
½ c.        panko bread crumbs
1              egg, beaten
½ – ¾ c. grated parmesan
2 T.         Dijon mustard
7 oz.       jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
½ c.        flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 t.          dried basil
Salt and Pepper
1 ½ lbs. ground turkey

Heat oven to 400 F. Combine the first 10 ingredients in a bowl until well combined.  Add turkey.  Mix well but do not over-mix.  Shape into an 8-inch loaf and place in a baking dish (do not use a loaf pan).  Bake until internal temp registers 165 F, about 45 minutes.  Sprinkle additional Parmesan across top and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

The result is a moist and flavorful meat loaf with less calories than the standard meatloaf.  I inhaled three slices for dinner and warmed up another two for lunch today.  It would also make a delightful sandwich.