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. 🙂
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)?
The windows are slightly foggy in the corners and the house is filled with the redolent smells of baking chocolate, toasted coconut, and warm pecans. Right now, there might not be anything more tempting. All the while outside, the wind howls and the snow pelts the side of the house. Occasionally, a large mound of snow will slide off the roof to announce itself and inside, we are warm and cozy, baking one of our many holiday gifts. Later, when the wind dies down, I’ll go for a snow shoe in the field out back. If it’s really late, I’ll cross my fingers the sky is clear and the moon lights the way. Moments like these have me feeling grateful for family, warmth, small houses, little things, rosy cheeks, and Maine winters.
White Chocolate, Cranberry, and Pecan Bars
We also called these Everything-But-the-Kitchen-Sink Bars. They first appeared in At Home, At Sea: Recipes from a Maine Windjammer and this is a riff on that original recipe.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted (plus a little extra for the pan)
2 cups crushed vanilla wafers or graham crackers
2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
6 ounces shaved white chocolate or white chocolate chips; about 1 1/4 cup
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Preheat oven to 300°F. Spread the coconut in a 9- x 13-inch pan and toast for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring two or three times. In a medium bowl, combine the graham crackers, melted butter, and toasted coconut. Lightly butter the 9- x 13-inch pan and then transfer the mixture, pressing firmly with your hands to pack evenly. Turn the oven temperature up to 325°F. Chill the pan for 15 minutes and then bake for 10 minutes or until it begins to turn golden.
Remove from oven and sprinkle the chocolate, cranberries, and pecans over the crust. Drizzle the sweetened condensed milk over all and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes or until the center begins to bubble just slightly.
Let cool on a wire rack and cut into 12 or 24 even pieces.
Makes 12 or 24 bars
P.S. Cookbooks make a wonderful holiday gift. Just saying.
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.
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.
I commit one of the seven deadly sins every June on one of our knitting cruises. We have a wonderful guest who comes with delicious knitted shawls and every year I COVET what she’s wearing. She wraps herself in gorgeous colors and luscious yarn and I want every. single. piece she’s created.
This means I have two choices. Surreptitiously sneak a shawl here or there into my cabin. (I mean, she probably wouldn’t miss it, right?) Or get busy.
So, I did the honorable thing (humph) and got busy. My first shawl was this one, called Authenticity, by Sylvia McFadden, who, it turns out is one of my favorite designers. It’s made with Cascade 220 Superwash Yarn in Doeskin Heather, which they have at Halcyon Yarn (our schooner pop-up store partners). I started using this yarn on a sweater which, turns out, no matter what I did, I reeeally disliked. The whole thing just looked like a sack on me and even strategizing with Mim, one of our fabulous knitting cruise instructors, did nothing to improve the level of flattery. I ripped it out and set the yarn aside in the closet for the emotion of intense dislike to drift away. Time truly does do wonders because when it came time to get busy with making my own delicious shawls, enough time had lapsed, and I came to love this yarn again.
It’s my first, but not my last
One of the special parts of buying locally is being able to visit all of the farms that supply us year round with well-thought and well-crafted ingredients. Thankfully, the farm purveyors come to us in the summer time when I haven’t a second to do anything but receive all of their good work at the boat. Yesterday, however, I had the special chance to visit East Forty Farm.
The farm is owned by Neal Foley and Allison Lakin who recently married and have only been on the property for a couple of years. Individually, they’ve been honing their crafts for years with Neal providing nose to tail farming and cookery of all sort of animals from duck to beef and in our case, pork. Allison is an award-winning cheese maker and supplies the Riggin with gorgeous cheese from her creamery, Lakin’s Gorges Cheese. In addition to everything else, they now offer classes and farm to table dinners to draw fans of their good work to their spot in Waldoboro, Maine.
Neal and I actually met years ago when, on his former farm, he taught comprehensive butchering classes with Kate Hill of Camont in Gascony, France. Kate lives in France and comes over at least once a year to collaborate with Neal on traditional French cooking. My love of cassoulet didn’t begin with these two, but it certainly was fostered and encouraged.
For the first time, I got to see where our cheese is made and even the cows that supply some of the milk for said cheese. And while I didn’t get to meet our actual pig (except in the form of cuts from the freezer), I did get to see where they wander and root in the wooded lots on the farm. This is the next group to come up the ranks and with a couple more to follow. In addition, the cows, milked daily were lazing in the sun when I arrived and as I approached, they roused themselves to greet me.
As I drove home through the Maine countryside on curving two-lane roads, I was surrounded by the last vestiges of fall – the colors of the leaves dimming to amber interspersed with clusters of green spruce and the splash of white bark from the birch trees. The sun dappled the fields and farmhouses as I passed and I found myself grateful to live here and to be a part of a local economy that fosters a healthy, wholesome way of life.
Got my fill of farm goodness
If any of you happen to be or live in the area, I’ll be doing a cooking class at Stonewall Kitchen this Friday, October 26th. We’ll be making recipes from my newest cookbook, At Home. At Sea – The Red Book, 2nd Edition. On the menu for the learning luncheon:
Stonewall Kitchen Menu
Butterscotch-Topped Gingerbread with Sautéed Apples
Throwback Thursday to last year’s honey harvest!
Because we have a thriving bed of asparagus, it’s on the menu much of the time right now – chilled with a shallot and lemon vinaigrette when it’s warm outside and served bright green and piping hot when it’s chilly. Snapping the fat tops off the green and purple-hued stalks was one of the daily “chores” for the girls, although they fought over who got to do it, rather than the more usual, “It’s not MY turn!”
An asparagus bed is fairly maintenance free once the roots are in and settled. Just keeping it fed and weed-free is all it takes to produce enough sweet, grassy fronds until you almost tire of them and are looking forward to another vegetable to become your fascination. It takes three years before the plants are strong enough to handle a harvest. One can’t be greedy with an asparagus bed – clear cutting is a sure way to weaken a bed quickly. Some must always be left. These stalks then grow tall and fern like, with red berries dotting their fronds and are cut down in the fall.
When the bed first sprouts, the stalks are thick, the width of a strong man’s thumb and then, as the energy diminishes, they become thinner and easier to overcook. If there ever was a case to be made for al dente vegetables, asparagus is it. Err on the side of undercooked, if they are even a little over done they become unpleasantly mushy.
Enjoy the gray, chilly days of warm soups and bread, the days of hot kitchens will be here soon enough.
Pork, Potato and Parsnip Hash with Poached Eggs and Asparagus
Hash is usually made with leftover meat or fish from a previous meal. Feel free to substitute beef, pollock, or other flavorful fish in place of the pork. This recipe was originally published in my cookbook, Sugar & Salt: The Orange Book.
1 1/2 cups diced parsnips, cut into 1/2-inch dice; about 2 parsnips
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onions; about 1 small onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic; about 1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds fresh black pepper
1 pound cooked pork shoulder or other tender pork meat, pulled apart with a fork into bite sized pieces
1 pound asparagus, ends cut or snapped off; about 1 bunch
8 large eggs
Herbed Salt (below)
Place the parsnips and potatoes in a wide saucepan and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes or until tender when poked with a fork. Remove from water with a basket strainer or slotted spoon and set aside. Keep the water hot for the asparagus. In the meantime, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and onions. Sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the potatoes, parsnips, salt, and pepper and cook until the potatoes begin to brown. Add the pork and sauté until the pork is warm. Remove from heat and cover.
Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute or until the asparagus is tender. Timing will vary with the thickness of the stalks. Remove from water with tongs, transfer to a platter and cover. To the same pot of water, add the vinegar and poach the eggs ever so gently. Plate the hash, asparagus, and poached eggs and sprinkle the eggs with a pinch of Herbed Salt.
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients and set aside.
Makes about 2 tablespoons