Zucchini Maple Pecan Cake – In Honor of Maine Maple Syrup

This cake, like many delightful life events, came to me by accident.  You see, it’s maple syrup time here in Maine and many of our friends with maple trees are boiling their sap.  Their weekends are taken by all-day boils and then sometimes even staying up late to tend the wood fires.  They are surrounded by steam, wood smoke, and enveloped eventually with the ultimate reward of sweet maple syrup.

Zucchini Maple Pecan Cake

We don’t have maple trees on our property, so this is not a family ritual for us, but to honor our friends and the heritage of Maine maple syrup, I wanted to create a cake without sugar and to replace it with maple syrup.  While I was at it, the idea of using coconut oil, a healthier oil than canola or vegetable oil nudged its way into my process.

This lovely number is delicious, if a tad less moist than the original cake.  I then conjured a glaze with a maple liqueur, given to me by a favorite Canadian guest, and the results were addictive.

Zucchini Maple Pecan Cake

Zucchini Maple Pecan Cake
1 teaspoon salted butter and flour for the pan
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup coconut oil
1 cup pure maple syrup
2 cups grated zucchini; about 1 medium (or a portion of a huge one)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Glaze
3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons Gélinotte or other maple liquor

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour one 9- x 13-inch pan. In a large bowl thoroughly mix the oil, maple syrup, zucchini, and vanilla extract. Add all the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Transfer to prepared pan.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed.

Glaze
Combine the butter, syrup, and liquor in a small bowl and while the cake is still warm, brush the top with the glaze mixture. It may seem like a lot at the beginning, but it will soak in (and be delicious). Cool in the pan and slice into 12 or 16 pieces.

Serves 12 to 16

 

 

How to Make Delicious Baking Powder Biscuits

I learned to make biscuits from my grandma while sitting on her kitchen counter as she measured by eye and hand a formula she’d made hundreds of times.  When my grandma was gone, my mom, armed with the written recipe, finished my formal education into this culinary comfort food.  There is a good bit of mystique that surrounds the making of biscuits, but in reality, just like pie crust, a little practice and some simple rules are the difference between hard tack and sublime.

Because the recipe is so simple, there are only a couple of places where a person can get a bit tripped up.
1. To start, make sure that the fat is well incorporated. Using a pastry knife is the easiest.
2. Like my grandma taught me, I use my hands to incorporate the milk so I can feel the exact amount of liquid to add.
3. Adding the liquid is the trickiest part. Too much and the biscuits aren’t fluffy. Too little and the biscuits are dry.  The recipe wants just enough milk to incorporate all of the flour, no more. It’s okay to reserve a little to make sure your batch needs all the recipe calls for.
4. Don’t over mix. As soon as you begin mixing in the milk, gluten begins to develop and this is what makes biscuits chewy instead of fluffy. The less mixing the better.
5. Pat out your biscuits on a well-floured counter. Instead of rolling, which sometimes has us touching the dough too much, pat the dough out with your hands, again because working the dough too much makes hard, chewy biscuits.
6. If you find that you might have overworked the dough, a little helpful trick is to set the biscuit aside once you’ve cut them for 10 minutes or so to give the gluten time to relax before baking.

That’s it!  Fluffy, buttery biscuits are yours!

Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010
Use a pastry knife to cut in the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010)
Feel the dough with your hands.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Add liquid and stir with your hands.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Use your hands to best tell when you’ve added enough milk.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Only mix until combined,
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Press the dough flat with hands dusted with flour.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Cut out the biscuits with a biscuit cutter and bake!

Baking Powder Biscuits
This recipe is excerpted from my cookbook, At Home, At Sea: Recipes from a Maine Windjammer.  My grandmother used shortening, and maybe even lard. Currently, shortening is out and butter is in, but to honor the history of the recipe, I’ve left shortening as an ingredient. It is a one to one replacement to substitute butter.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 450°F. Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt into a sifter set in a medium bowl. This is an important step because you want to add air to the mixture so the biscuits are as fluffy as possible. Use a pastry knife to cut the shortening into the mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Add milk, stirring until a soft dough forms. It is important to not overmix; you’ll hard tack instead of fluffy biscuits. Turn out onto a floured board and knead 10 times, then STOP!  Roll or pat out the dough until it is 1/2-inch thick. Cut with a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter. Transfer the biscuits to an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 12 biscuits

Cardamom Bread – Must Make

This recipe was given to me by a crew member who had fantastic memories of her mom making it growing up.  That mom is Betsy Maislen and has since come sailing with us for many years in the fall as my end of season lifesaver.  She’s funny, quick, and a wonderful cook.  She still make this recipe at home even though it’s just she and her husband.  I’ve adapted it a little to fit my recipe format, but left the rest of it the same as it needs no changing what so ever.  Your house is going to smell amazing!bread baking, homemade bread, baking bread, how to bake bread, cardamon bread

Cardamom Bread Photo Rocky Coast Photography

Cardamom Bread Photo Rocky Coast Photography

Cardamom Bread
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons butter, plus a little extra for the bread when it comes out of the oven
1 cup whole milk
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons table salt
8 to 15 cardamom seeds, cut hulls, pulverize centers (or 1 teaspoon ground cardamom)
8 cups flour

In a small bowl, combine water, yeast and sugar and let stand for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine butter, milk, eggs, second sugar amount, salt and cardamom. Add yeast mix and then flour. Knead well for 10 to 15 minutes by hand or 4 to 6 minutes by machine. Rub the bowl and dough with a little oil and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside to double, about 1 hour. Remove from bowl and shape into 2 loaves. Place into 2 greased bread pans. Let rise another 45 minutes or so to double again. Bake in a 325F° oven for 35 to 45 minutes. Rub with butter when hot. Let rest in pans for 5 minutes and then remove.

Annie
Heaven in a pan

Garlic Knots – Little Bites of Heaven

As the summer season progresses, I sometimes run out of creative ideas and begin asking the crew what they want me to make. Pretty much anything is on the table as long as I can make it on the woodstove and without electricity (meaning something with a lot of whisking is off the table). Not too many years ago, we had a crew member of Italian decent who was from New York, and he asked me to make garlic knots. I’d never heard of them, being from the Midwest and having lived in Maine the better part of my life.

He was flabbergasted. So I looked them up and fashioned my own recipe. And aren’t they just little bits of heaven?  There’s always more to learn.

Dressed and ready to pop into your mouth
Tied in a knot and proofing on a baking sheet


Garlic Knots
Dough
3/4 tablespoon dry active yeast
1 teaspoon table salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Garnish
2 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic; about 2 cloves
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/2 ounce grated Romano cheese; 1/4 cup lightly packed

Dough
Combine the yeast, salt, and flour in a large bowl. Stir in all the remaining ingredients, reserving 1/4 cup water. Mix thoroughly and add the reserved water if needed. Knead for 5 to 10 minutes or until smooth. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and set aside in a warm, draft-free place to rise for 1 hour or until doubled.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place a pan filled with stones in the bottom of the oven or alternately, prepare a squirt bottle of water. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll the dough into 4 long logs and cut each log into 5 equal lengths, making a total of 20 small logs. Roll each piece again briefly and then tie into a loose knot. Arrange evenly on a baking sheet, cover, and allow to rise again until doubled. Place the pan in the oven, add water to the stones in the pan (or squirt the oven with water), and quickly close the oven door. Bake for 20 minutes or until an internal-read thermometer registers 190°F.

Garnish
Meanwhile, combine the butter, oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and set aside. Transfer the hot knots to a large bowl, toss with the butter mixture, and sprinkle with Romano. Serve warm.
Makes 20 garlic knots

Ready to eat!

 

Top 10 Gifts for the Bakers in Your Life

baking powder biscuits
As anyone who has sailed with us knows, Kitchen Aides and Cuisinarts are not a part of my tool kit on the Riggin.  They require electricity, something I don’t have in my galley.  What I do have is good, old-fashioned muscle and technique.  I use very basic tools to make very special baked goods and I don’t need a lot to accomplish this.

Also, because I have limited space, the tools I do have on the boat need to be ones that I use all the time or they need to do more than one task.  Here’s my list of tools that I wouldn’t go sailing without and that might spark an idea or two for the baker in your life, whether they bake on dry land or on the water.

My three favorite stores for baking and cooking tools are: The Good Table, Now You’re Cooking, and King Arthur Flour.  All are wonderful, local stores with a well-curated supply of useful baking tools.

Sifter – While a whisk will work for this task, there’s nothing that works better for making light, fluffy cakes.

Scale – The best bakers weigh all of their ingredients.  If nothing else, sometimes a recipe calls for a weighed amount and not a measured amount.  Super helpful.

Thermometer – All baking is about details and precision.  Don’t over or under bake anything again by removing it from the heat at just the right temperature.

Parchment paper – A gift from the non-stick gods.  Lining cake pans and cookies sheets with parchment or with a silicone sheet helps with the least favorite part of baking – the clean up!

Whisk – Just don’t try a baking life without one.  Great for thin batters, egg whites, and whipped cream, but a whisk will also work as a sifter in a pinch.  Just not for those super fluffy genoise cakes and such.

Rolling pin – Wooden ones are my favorite.  With or without handles, this is an essential piece of any bakers arsenal.

Pastry bag – At some point you’ll want to try your hand at pate au choux or decorating a cake.  The professional way to go is with a pastry bag and at least a few basic pastry tips.

Cookie scoop – Bake cookies that are all the same size by scooping them with this cookie scoop.  It makes the process go so much faster too.

Pastry knife – For making biscuits and pie crust, this tool is essential.  There isn’t a day on the boat that goes by where I don’t use this handy tool.

Bench scraper – Bread bakers, pie bakers, biscuit bakers and basically anyone who gets dough on the counter for any reason will love this tool.  Again, I use it on a daily basis.

Cooling rack – While this is one tool that I don’t have space for on the Riggin, I do use them at home all the time, and there I almost never have enough. 🙂

Annie
Also, doesn’t it go without saying that every baker (and cook) should have cookbooks that they love and trust (like Sugar & Salt and At Home, At Sea)?

Holiday Baking – Homemade Crackers

Almost always, making something from scratch is better than anything you can buy at the grocery store.  These crackers are no exception.  Super crispy, super flavor, super fun – and a special addition to any holiday appetizer board (especially with Rosemary Cheese with Apricot Preserves).

20150904_142706a

Homemade Crackers
I like them simple – with just salt and pepper sprinkled on them, but if you prefer, sprinkle fennel, sesame, or poppy seeds instead.  Recipe excerpted from Sugar & Salt: Book 2 (The Orange Book).

Dough
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons table salt
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup water

Topping
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Optional
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 450°F. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and then add the oil and water. Mix together for 1 to 2 minutes until fully combined. If there are still bits of flour in the bottom of the bowl, add more water a teaspoon at a time until the flour is fully incorporated.

Transfer the dough to a floured counter. Cut the dough in half and cover one half with plastic wrap while you roll out the other to a thickness of 1/8-inch. Slice into small squares with a pizza cutter and with a spatula, transfer to a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper and the other optional toppings and bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the edges begin to brown and the centers are firm. Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Cool completely and store in an air-tight container.

Makes about 8 dozen crackers

Annie
These crackers also make a special hostess gift, wrapped in a cellophane bag and tied up with some red and white kitchen twine.

Thanksgiving Leftovers – Take Four – Turkey Shepard’s Pie

Thanksgiving dinner is truly my favorite of all the holiday meals, but it’s a toss up as to whether I like the meal itself or the leftovers more.  Here’s another idea for how to use up all those delicious leftovers and a few from previous years to keep you busy for a couple of dinners following the big one.

Thanksgiving Leftovers
One – Leftover Turkey Soup and/or Leftover Turkey Sandwich Ideas
Two – Turkey Hash
Three – Potato Cakes, Potato Bread, Potato Leek Soup

Also, don’t forget to freeze and label what you won’t use in the several days following the big meal.  Save it all for later in the winter when you need a weeknight dinner right quick and in a hurry.

Turkey Shepard’s Pie
In a casserole dish, layer cooked turkey meat, gravy, cut up green beans (or other vegetable) and top with mashed potatoes or mashed squash.  Bake at 350°F or until the edges are beginning to brown and the center is hot all the way through.  If you don’t have enough gravy, make a little sauce of your own by heating up the turkey and the green beans with a little butter in an oven-proof skillet.  Sprinkle with flour and stir to incorporate.  Add a cup or so of stock and stir.  Add more if the mixture is too thick.  Then layer the rest of your ingredients on top.

 

 

Cooking Class Complete

Getting ready to roll!

If you’ve never taken a class at Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School in York, you should.  The space is beautifully appointed and the crew top-notch.

Fun fall decorations outside the cooking school.
Using the garden as harvest decoration

It’s also seriously at least 10 times the cooking space I have on the Riggin.  Instead of standing at my stove and turning, turning, turning from stove to baking supplies to counter top, I had miles of kitchen to cover and all sorts of spaces to loose track of my knives and glasses and any number of trays of mise en place kitted up for the class.  This girl is not used to being able to spread out!

Working on the Poached Garlic and Thyme Soup

I had not a clue what to expect when I arrived, as I’ve never been in the cooking school side of the campus before.  As I walked around to familiarize myself with the space, I had several lovely surprises in the form of Riggin guests who kept walking through the door.  As soon as I’d hugged one, the next walked in!  What a treat to have the support of those who already knew me as I began the class and walked everyone through the recipes from bread to dessert.

One of our long-time guests and her friend arrived to lend support and fun. xo!
The mile long counter top, and I’m not kidding.

After teaching to a full class for 90 minutes, there was time to sign books and talk with folks as they filtered out.  What a lovely way for everyone to spend a long lunch and what a fun time I had sharing it with them.  Many thanks to the Stonewall Kitchen crew for making my first time go so smoothly.

Signing books and chatting with the peeps

Annie
Looking forward to the next time