In the Spotlight: Homestead Favorites

Today, I’d like to introduce you to “Homestead Favorites”, a ranch with a long history, going back almost 150 years and 6 generations!

In 1849, John Carsten Grupe, embarked on a sailing vessel which brought him on the long voyage around Cape Horn to California. The young man had been attracted to the coast by gold prospects, later turned his attention to freighting to the mine fields from Stockton to Mokelume Hill. After a few years, he began a very successful agricultural career in the Linden area. This pioneering family established a diverse and very successful farm raising fruits, vegetables, grains, and cattle.

“Homestead Favorites” is in the Spotlight today for their cherry orchard and yummy cherry jellies!

Since 1960, when it was planted by Karl Potter Grupe, this orchard has continued to produce the finest cherries in the Linden area. Many of the original trees still bear pounds of fruit through the May to June harvest. The Bing cherries are shipped around the world as first class fresh market cherries.

Courtesy of Homestead Favorites, here are a few recipes:

Cherry Almond Focaccia Recipe (Awarded 1st place at Linden Cherry Festival)
Ingredients:
– 1 can refrigerated cinnamon rolls with icing
– 1/2 c. cherry jelly
– 1/4 c. sliced almonds
– 1/2 c. granola, grape nuts or any crunchy cereal

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 375° F;
2. Cut each roll into 4 pieces, arrange 1/2″ apart in greased pan. Gently press pieces together to form a crust.
3. Spoon cherry jelly over crust and top with almonds & granola.
4. Bake for 18-20 minutes & drizzle with icing.

Chutney Chicken Summer Salad
Ingredients:
– 1/2cup mayonnaise
– 1/2 cup cherry chutney
– 1 tsp. curry(?)
– 2t. lemon zest
– 1/4 cup lemon juice
– 1/2 t. salt
– 4 cup diced cooked chicken in cubes

Directions:
1. Mix dressing, add chicken, add 1 chopped apple or pear, 3/4 almonds or pecans & 1/2 c. raisins or cranberries.
2. Set on a bed of lettuce

The Grupe homestead is one of the last surviving family ranches in the Linden area and they even received an honorary award from the California Chamber of Commerce!

Their cherry jellies can be found at a few wineries in Northern California. If you’d like to buy some of their cherry jelly, please visit them at www.homesteadfavorites.com and contact them through their contact page.

What is Shortbread?

Quite popular around Christmas time and the Scottish New Year, shortbread emerges in many different forms, including festive iced cookies and drier accompaniments to your cup of coffee. Shortbread is a rich pastry usually made with four simple ingredients: butter, eggs, sugar and flour. After baking, the biscuit becomes tender-crisp treat with a crumbly texture. To avoid browning, shortbread is baked at a low temperature. When it comes out of the oven, it is nearly white or a light golden brown color.

Basic Vanilla Shortbread

Ingredients needed to make a basic shortbread include ¾  (1 ½ cups or 3 sticks) of unsalted butter at room temperature, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, and ¼ teaspoon salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (that has a paddle attachment), mix together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla extract. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, and then add the ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture. Mix the dough on low speed until it starts to come together. Once mixed, dump the dough onto a surface dusted with flour. Use your hands to bring everything together. Divide the dough into four pieces. Flatten slightly. Wrap each piece in plastic and put into the refrigerator to chill.

This recipe will make about 48 small shortbreads.

What to Do with Shortbread Dough…

Some people will roll the shortbread dough and cut out shapes to bake as cookies. Others use the dough to make a range of sweet creations. There are plenty of variations you may consider when making a simple shortbread recipe. You can:

•    Cut into the shape of diamonds and dip an end in chocolate
•    Make thumbprint cookies topped with fruit preserves
•    Tea cookies dusted with confectioners (or powdered) sugar
•    Brushed with a lemon glaze and decorated with sprinkles

Chocolate Brulees Dessert Recipe

Recipe and image courtesy of our friends at Pillsbury.com.

INGREDIENTS:
2 containers (6 oz each) Yoplait® Thick & Creamy French vanilla yogurt
2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons fat-free half-and-half
6 raspberries

DIRECTIONS:

1. Spoon 1 container yogurt into each of two 6-oz brulee dishes or small custard cups.

2. Place chocolate chips and half-and-half in small microwavable bowl. Microwave uncovered on High 15 to 20 seconds; stir until smooth. Spread over top of each dish of yogurt in thin layer.

3. Refrigerate brulees until chocolate hardens, about 15 minutes. Top with raspberries.

Photo courtesy of Pillsbury.com

Baking Essentials: Vanilla

With a distinct aroma that sweetly fills the air, vanilla is one of the most used flavorings found in pastries, cakes, cookies, candy, and other desserts. At one point in time, vanilla was so rare and priceless that only royalty had access to the flavoring. Today, nearly almost every kitchen uses the flavor in some form. While there are plenty of imitations on the market, the cheaper man-made vanilla extract cannot compare to pure vanilla. If you are interested in baking a masterpiece or creating something sweet in the kitchen, vanilla is certainly a baking essential.

Vanilla extract comes from vanilla pods (or beans). There are three common types that you may encounter: Madagascar or Bourbon- Madagascar, Mexican, and Tahitian. Vanilla is the fruit of a thick green orchid vine that comes from regions, such as the islands of Madagascar and regions in the Indian Ocean. The vine also grows wildly in Mexico – producing a thicker, darker bean with a strong flavor. Tahitian vanilla beans are the thickest and are nearly black in color.

The green pods of the vine are picked by hand in an unripened state and undergo a fermentation process that can take between two to six months. The beans turn into a dark brown color as they age. The vanilla pods are then dried and cured to enhance their flavor.

Vanilla is sold in many different forms, including the very popular extract, pods (beans), powdered, essence and vanilla sugar. The vanilla extract often used in the kitchen is made by steeping the vanilla beans in an alcohol and water solution for several months. Some manufacturers will add sugar to produce a clear dark liquid with a rich flavor.

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

To experience the flavor of fresh vanilla extract, you can make your own by cutting one whole vanilla bean in half – lengthwise. Place the vanilla bean in ¾ cup of vodka, which equals out to 180 milliliters. Cover the contents tightly and let steep for six months before using.

When cooking, keep in mind that one whole vanilla bean equals two to three teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Baking with a Springform Pan

When you’re looking for the perfect pan to bake a delicious cheesecake – choose a springform. This type of pan comes in two pieces with a removable base and bottom, and a buckle-joined vertical surface (or rim). With the flick of a latch, the sides can open and close for easy removal of your sweet creations after they have completely cooked and cooled. The pan truly comes in handy when baking delicate sweet treats, flourless chocolate cakes, and creamy cheesecake desserts.

The traditional material used to make springform pans is tinned steel. The waffle-shaped bottom of the pan gives it strength to handle the relatively heavy weight of cheesecake and torts. The tin coating covers the steel of the pan and helps prevent rust from developing. It is important to thoroughly dry the pan after washing and place in the oven to remove all traces of moisture.

Choosing aluminum springform pans is an advantage in the kitchen because they don’t rust and can be cleaned in the dishwasher. The base is kept in place because the rim is curved inward at the bottom. They don’t have a lip that is locked so they are less likely to suffer damage over time. However, stainless steel springform pans are still popular and non-stick versions make it easier to remove cakes.

Springform pans can be used to make:

  • Traditional layered cakes with a moist texture, such as carrot cake
  • Cheesecakes with crumbly crusts
  • Graham cracker crust before filling
  • Flourless cakes
  • Quiches with their custard-like fillings

Minimize Springform Pan Leakage

To ensure proper use and care of a springform pan, you should know that all springform pans have the potential to leak, especially when baking a very light batter. Pans with a more intricate design are more likely to leak. To minimize leakage, you can place the pan in a water bath when in the oven or line the outside of the pan with aluminum foil. When storing your springform pan, put in a place where no one can reach to avoid any bending, which can lead to leakage.

 

 

National Pie Day and Laura’s Sticky Toffee Pudding Apple Pie Recipe

Throwing a pie baking – and pie tasting – party for friends or coworkers, or to raise money for a favorite charity, are all delicious ways to celebrate National Pie Day on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012. Why is National Pie Day celebrated on Jan. 23 or 1/23? Because celebrating the wholesome goodness of pie is as easy as 1-2-3!

Bakers of all skill levels are invited to enter the 18th Annual APC/Crisco® National Pie Championships® to be held April 27-29, 2012 in Orlando. Entry forms will be posted soon at www.piecouncil.org. Those who prefer to appreciate the nuances of pie without all the work won’t want to miss the APC Great American Pie Festival sponsored by Crisco®, featuring the Never Ending Pie Buffet, held April 28-29, 2012 in nearby Celebration, Fla.

Here is a winning recipe from last year, courtesy of The American Pie Council.

Laura’s Sticky Toffee Pudding Apple Pie
Linda Hundt, DeWitt, Mich.
Crisco® Innovation Best of Show
Professional
2011 American Pie Council Crisco® National Pie Championships


Pie Crust
1 ½ cups of flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ cup cold butter cut in small pieces
½ cup of refrigerated Crisco® shortening

Mix all above ingredients in Kitchenaid style mixer on medium speed swiftly until crust appears “pea-like.” Carefully sprinkle water in crust mix until it starts to become moistened and gathers together. Pat into a disc, wrap and refrigerate for at least one half hour. Roll out on to floured surface and make and crimp crust. Freeze until ready to use.

Apple Filling
Five medium to large Michigan Cortland, Ida Red Apples, peeled, thinly sliced, diced
1 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons flour
4 Tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
Cook above ingredients in large pan on medium heat until cooked halfway. Stir in 3/4 cup homemade caramel until melted.

Homemade caramel – recipe below
Praline pecans – recipe below

Sticky Toffee Pudding Filling
½ cup praline pecans
1 stick of butter softened
½ cup brown sugar
2 T heavy cream
1 T lemon juice
1 egg – beaten
½ cup self-rising flour
Mix above ingredients just until blended.

Crumb topping
¾ cup of flour
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick of butter softened

Mix all together all crumb topping ingredients by hand or a pastry blender until fine and crumbly.

Directions:
Spread sticky toffee pudding mixture on bottom of crust. Put apple mixture over pudding mixture. Sprinkle with crumb topping. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for one hour or until knife easily slides into center of pie with no resistance. If pie becomes too brown before done, turn down oven to 350 degrees to finish baking and cover with foil completely.

Top with a generous amount of homemade caramel and praline pecans.

Homemade Caramel
1- 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ stick butter
1 Tablespoon real vanilla extract

In heavy 3 quart saucepan, combine all ingredients, but vanilla. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, covering all parts of bottom of pan with wire whisk to avoid scorching. Stir until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, constantly stirring, until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and continue stirring until caramel reaches 244F on a candy thermometer or firm-ball stage. Pour in glass container. Cool to use.

Praline Pecans
1 cup of chopped pecans
2 T butter
2 T brown sugar
Melt butter in small pan on medium –low heat until melted. Add pecans and sugar and stir ingredients until you start smelling the nuts roasting. Take off heat and cool. Crumble.

***

The American Pie Council® (APC), the only organization committed to maintaining America’s pie heritage, offers pie lovers plenty of reasons and ways to celebrate. The APC offers recipes on its website www.piecouncil.org and many APC members offer activities, specials and more in celebration of the special day. The APC is comprised of amateur, professional and commercial pie manufacturer members. Any amateur pie maker or pie lover can join for just $40 for a lifetime membership.

What are Sipping Chocolates?

Sipping chocolates are not the same thing as drinking your typical mug of hot chocolate. The cacao tree produces beans that are used to make a variety of drinks – one of which was a sipping chocolate originally flavored with spices, wine, and chili peppers. A cup of hot cocoa is made with cocoa powder (which has the fat of cocoa butter pressed out of it), while sipping chocolates are made from real chocolate using the cocoa solids, which are then melted to create a creamy chocolate drink.

History of Sipping Chocolates

Sipping chocolates have a long history that traces back 3,000 years to the Mayan and Olmec civilizations of Central America when cacao was an important part of the culture. In 1528, the Spanish explorer Cortes introduced chocolate to the rest of the world after his Central American conquests. When he returned to Europe, he brought back cacao beans and samples of the Aztec chocolate drink.

In 1585, the first shipment of chocolate arrived in Spain. The Spaniards took the original recipes and started heating the mixtures while adding sugar to offset the natural bitterness of the drink. Instead of using chili peppers like the Mayans and Aztecs, the Europeans added cinnamon, vanilla and other spices.

In 1657, the first chocolate house in London was established – serving the drinking chocolate that became an instant hit with the upper class in Europe. The sweet treat became a luxury by the late 1600s. Around the same time that London delighted in the drinking chocolate, Dutch colonists brought the drink to North America.

Buy Sipping Chocolates

If you are interested in sampling the sipping chocolates of today, consider some of the following:

7 Pie Crust Tips for the Holidays

From crisp apple to seasonal mincemeat, thousands of holiday cooks will scramble to create the perfect pie for the dinner table. Thanksgiving and Christmas are popular occasions where pies become an important part of the festivities. To enhance the look and taste of your pies, consider the following tips for the holidays.

1. For a Flaky Crust

Thanks to pockets of fat in the dough, a pie crust develops its flakiness. A pastry blender or two knives that cut into the fat will help achieve these results. The dough should still have some pea-size pieces. It is important to handle the dough as little as possible with your hands. Another way to create a flakier crust is to substitute ice-cold sour cream or heavy cream for the water in your recipe.

2. Buttery and Tender Crusts

If you are interested in making a tender pie crust, use lard and shortening. If you want a buttery flavor in your crust, use half lard or shortening, and replace the other half with butter.

3. Refrigeration

For the best results, try refrigerating all of your ingredients (even the flour) before making the dough for your pie crust.

4. Easy Rolling

To make rolling the pie crust dough easier, chill for 30 minutes.

5. Spice Up Your Pie Crusts

Adding nutmeg, ginger, or cinnamon to pie crust dough will enhance the overall flavor.

6. Choice of Baking Dish

The baking dish you select for your pies will affect the end result of your pie crust. Pyrex glass pie plates are a good choice because it evenly conducts heat and lets the bottom crust of the pie bake all of the way through. When using a glass pie plate, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees. Also, do not oil or grease your pie plates. Aluminum pie pans do not cook evenly and if you must use – try using two.

7. Egg Washes for a Better Appearance

When you’re looking for a shiny crust, use a pastry brush to apply an egg wash to the tops of your pies. For every egg, only one teaspoon of liquid is required. A few combinations to consider include combining a whole egg and salt for a shiny crust; egg yolk and cream for a shiny, dark crust; and just plain ol’ egg white to achieve a pale, crisp crust.