Cooking with Annie: Episode 11 – Irish Soda Bread

Hands down, my favorite meal to have with this bread is New England Boiled Dinner, an absolute classic.  Next would be a beef stew or other hearty soup.  It makes wonderful toast the next day and doesn’t last long in our house at all.  For those of you having a hard time finding yeast, this is a good one.  No yeast required.  Also, no rising time.  It’s an easy one!

It does call for buttermilk, but don’t fret.  If you don’t have that on hand, combine a bit more than 3/4 cup milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar and let it sit for 5 minutes or so.  Presto!  Buttermilk is made.

Irish Soda Bread 
This is another recipe passed down through the women in my family. I’ve used dried apricots or raisins in place of the currants. The caraway seeds are traditional, but also optional. My grandma favored currents and caraway seeds and my mom made it unadorned. Either way, it’s a versatile recipe.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)
1/2 cup currants
3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk (maybe a little extra)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift the flour, salt, baking soda, cream of tartar, and sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the milk. Stir until a ball just forms, adding a little extra buttermilk if needed to get everything to come together.  Turn onto floured board and knead until just combined, about 5 turns. Cut the dough in half and shape into two 6-inch round loaves. Place the loaves on a baking sheet. Make two perpendicular cuts on top of the loaves in the shape of a cross. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 1 loaf

Variations
Fennel and Raisin – Add 2 tablespoons fennel seeds and 1 cup raisins.
Caraway and Currants – Add 2 tablespoons caraway seeds and 1 cup currants.
Whole Wheat and Flax Seed – Replace 1 cup all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. Add 3 tablespoons whole flax seeds.
Stilton and Chives – Reduce the buttermilk by 1 tablespoon. Add 1 cup crumbled Stilton and 1/2 cup minced chives.

Cooking with Annie: Episode 9 – Chocolate Mint Brownies

I can feel steel being forged in my spine and my spirit as each day I wake to choose calm, grace, kindness, and caring. As I choose to focus on how grateful I am for so many of the ‘little’ things, while what I maybe would have called the ‘big’ things swirl around and around. Outside of me. Outside of my control. Outside of my realm of influence.

The realm I choose is grateful. The realm I choose is grace. The realm I choose is forging steel in my spine and my spirit as each day I sit, sometimes with faith and sometimes with discomfort, and give witness to this experience. It will not go to waste, this time of waiting.

And until the waiting is over, we bake… with chocolate.

 

Bailey’s Irish Cream Chocolate Mint Bars 
This is one that my family would make every Christmas, sans Bailey’s when we were little. My brothers and I could eat a pan of these in no time flat. It’s really no different on the Riggin – they disappear quickly.  Excerpted from At Home, At Sea: Recipes from a Maine Windjammer.

2/3 cup (1 1/3 sticks) unsalted butter
4 ounces (4 squares) unsweetened chocolate
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs1 tablespoon Bailey’s Irish Cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt

Frosting
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

Glaze
3 ounces (3 squares) unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9- x 13-inch baking pan. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler until the chocolate is almost melted. Remove from heat and stir occasionally until the chocolate is completely melted and cooled to room temperature. Beat in the sugar, eggs, Bailey’s, and vanilla. Sift in the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the center springs back when lightly pressed. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Frosting
Beat the frosting ingredients together until light and creamy and then frost the bars.

Glaze
Melt the glaze ingredients, cool slightly, and pour the glaze over the frosting. Tilt the pan to spread the glaze. Cool before cutting.  Cut into 24 bars.

Makes 24 bars

Annie
Hang in there!

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

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 – White Chocolate, Cranberry, Pecan Bars

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, Pecan, and Coconut Bars Photo by Elizabeth Poisson

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.

Crust
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

Topping
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

Crust
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.

Topping
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

Annie
P.S. Cookbooks make a wonderful holiday gift.  Just saying.

Nautical Holiday Cards – First 10 Orders Get One Free

All of these nautical holiday cards are for sale in our little online store.  Anyone interested in cookbooks for the foodies in your life can find them there as well.  The packs come in sets of 10 and the first 10 orders receive a pack of “Santa’s New Ride” for free.

Every one of these beauties was hand-painted by Jon, my super talented husband and the captain of the Riggin.  He’s got an eye for boats, that guy does.

Capt Jon Finger Nautical Holiday Cards numbered
Nautical holiday cards by Capt. Jon Finger

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

Stonewall Kitchen Cooking Class

Stonewall Kitchen cooking class with Annie Mahle of the Schooner J. & E. Riggin

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

Poached Garlic Soup with Thyme and Red Pepper Cream
Cornish Game Hens with Smoked Shrimp and Brandy Stuffing over Greens
Leek and Carrot Parmesan Gratin
No-Knead Stirato Bread

Butterscotch-Topped Gingerbread with Sautéed Apples

Stonewall Kitchen cooking class with Annie Mahle of the Schooner J. & E. Riggin

Stonewall Kitchen cooking class with Annie Mahle of the Schooner J. & E. Riggin

As you might expect the kitchen is well-appointed and kitted with beautiful equipment.  I can’t wait to share some stories, some recipes, and lots of laughter with you all!
Details:  Friday, October 26th, from 11:30 to 1 p.m. at the York, Maine flagship store.
See you there!
Annie

Boat Magic with Yankee Magazine

For those of you who don’t live in Maine or New England, this month’s issue of Yankee Magazine might be a harder to come by, but if you can get your hands on a copy, do it!  Amy Traverso, accomplished writer, has given the Riggin wonderful kudos and Mark Flemming, photographer extraordinaire, adds a lovely balance to her words.

Recipes included in the article are Pecan Sticky Buns, Cornish Game Hens with Smoked Shrimp and Brandy Stuffing, Zucchini Gratin, and Lime Pie Jars.  You can also find these recipes in At Home. At Sea – The Red Book, 2nd Edition.

This is one of the best articles we’ve seen on our sweet girl and you should check it out.  #boatmagic!

Photo by Mark Flemming

 

Cook the Book: French Toast

French Toast

I will use almost any leftover bread for this recipe.  This is a good example of leftovers being better the second time around.

1 egg per person
1/2 cup milk per person
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4  teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4  teaspoon rum – if it’s for grown ups
Butter for the skillet
3 slices day-old Crusty Peasant or French bread per person

Combine all of the ingredients except the butter and bread.  Mix well. Heat the butter on a griddle or skillet over medium heat. While the pan is heating, soak the bread slices in the batter (be sure both sides are coated) and immediately place the slices on the heated skillet. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, flip the bread, and continue to cook until the other side is brown. Set the toast aside on a plate in a warm oven and continue cooking until all the bread is gone.

Variations:

I often make a special French Toast with cream cheese and jam in the center of two slices of bread.  Here are my favorite combinations

Cranberry Bread

Marmalade

Cream cheese

Pumpkin bread

Cream cheese

French bread

Raspberry jam

Cream cheese