Tag Archives: bread

Strawberries, Two Ways

18 Jun

Summer in a cake

While we’re on the theme of excellent dishes to bring to barbeques/potlucks, both of these fit the bill. I hope you’ve been checking out your local farmer’s market recently, and if you have you probably have lots and lots of strawberries (and not too much other fruit yet, unfortunately). The first dish, a strawberry-balsamic flatbread-y thing, is awesome because it allows you to use up those strawberries even if you don’t want to make a dessert! The dough was also so much fun to work with– really pillowy and soft, it was very easy to knead, so don’t be put off by that. I did end up thinking the bread was a little dry, however– I might reduce the baking time next time. I also don’t think the bread itself would suffer from adding a few more flavorings (though this could be because I forgot to add the salt till the last minute. D’oh). But even as is, this was a delicious addition to a potluck my friends and I had last week.

Foccacia/flatbread/delicious thing

The second dish is a super simple strawberry cake. Though it takes a little time to bake, it’s perfect if you want a dessert to use up a ton of berries and wow your friends (or yourself), without spending a long time messing with pie crusts or anything like that. My batter was a little thick and absolutely COVERED in berries, so I was a little unsure that it would rise up as shown in Deb’s pictures, but it turned out looking absolutely amazing. My one tip would be to layer up more on the edges than in the middle… the middle became basically a pool of strawberries on my cake, which was delicious but perhaps not optimal.
So hurry down to the farmer’s market (or, ok, the supermarket) and snap up some strawberries before the season’s over!

Cramming in as many strawberries as possible

Strawberry Balsamic Flatbread with Goat Cheese (Adapted from Joy the Baker)
Equipment: baking sheet
5 teaspoons (about 2 packages) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
3 cups of flour, divided into 1 cup increments
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
zest 1 orange
1 cup thinly sliced strawberries (less than a pint)
coarse sea salt
1/2 cup goat cheese
balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh mint or basil


In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water.  Stir with a fork to dissolve and break up any clumps.  Add one cup of flour and blend together until smooth (can use the fork).  Cover with a tea towel and set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour. If your oven has a “proof” setting, and there is no warm place in your house, you can use this.

After the mixture has risen, remove the covering and stir in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, sugar, and orange zest.  Add one cup of flour and stir to blend.  Add the remaining cup of flour and salt and work together into a dough with a wooden spoon or your hands.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.  If the dough is too sticky, add up to 1/3 cup more flour and knead.  Dough will be slightly sticky, and that’s alright.

Clean out the large bowl and coat with 1 teaspoon olive oil.  Place dough in the bowl, and flip it over so that it’s entirely coated in oil.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and knead for just a minute, before pulling and stretching the dough into a 16×9-inch rectangle (a little smaller than a standard baking sheet). Place on a greased baking sheet and let rise, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

When dough has risen, use your fingers to make random indentations in the puffed dough.  Drizzle with olive oil (carefully, it is difficult to not have it all go in one place!).  Top with sliced strawberries, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.  Bake bread for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden, crisp and baked through. As noted above, if you want it a little softer, perhaps bake for a little less time. If one side is browning faster than the other, rotate the pan once, halfway through baking.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Chop mint or basil and crumble goat cheese. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and then sprinkle with herbs and goat cheese. Slice into twelve pieces with pizza cutter. Serve immediately, it only really keeps for a day.

Simple Strawberry Cake (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Equipment: Electric mixer (hand or stand), 9 or 10-inch springform or cake pan, or 10-inch pie pan

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (can substitute 3/4 cup for barley flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound (450 grams) strawberries

Method: Hull and halve the strawberries, set aside. Butter your 9 or 10-inch springform/cake pan, or 10-inch pie pan (or 9-inch deep-dish pie pan).
Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and one cup sugar together with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about three minutes. Mix in egg, milk, and vanilla until just combined. Mixture may look slightly curdled, this is fine. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.
Pour (or spoon, in my case) into prepared pan. Spread mixture evenly, if needed, and arrange strawberries on top, cut side down, in as close to a single layer as you can get. (I had to overlap them a bit, and ended up using just shy of a pound because I felt there were enough on there.) Sprinkle remaining two tablespoons sugar over berries.
Bake cake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325 F and bake for another 50-75 (my time) minutes, until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter. I found I was still getting some crumbs sticking to my tester after quite a long time, but eventually decided that was just due to the moistness of the cake. Let cool in pan on a rack, and serve. It should keep for two days, lightly covered, at room temperature.


Thanksgiving Madness

25 Nov


The Thanksgiving table!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Our meal was excellent, and both our stomachs and our fridge are still completely stuffed. Everyone in the family put in some cooking time, but since Father Spice is in charge of the turkey we thought we’d let him do a special guest post. And though the store-bought chocolate pecan pie was rather good, my Godmother Marcia was kind enough to send along her recipe, which I will definitely be trying next time. It is posted below! Hope everyone’s Thanksgivings were full of good food and company, and now here’s Father Spice– Gina

Getting everything ready to go

Part of the fun of Thanksgiving for us, as the girls have said, is to mix up European stuff with American traditions, which is what we do with the turkey. We always cook the turkey (at both Thanksgiving and Christmas) in the French style, which involves… well, you’ll see.

The bird about to go in

The first step is to make a turkey stock, so at noon I sautéed the giblets, neck, liver, the works, in some olive oil, with a whole onion and a couple of small bayleaves. Seasoned, chucked in a few peppercorns, about a liter of water, brought to the boil and simmered. Cleaned the bird and seasoned it inside and out, rubbed the skin with soy sauce and dotted a little butter over it.

While the stock was simmering, I got to work on my stuffing. I have no idea what American stuffing is made of – bread, I guess (we use bread in a different way, as you will see.) Anyway, it tastes like wet wool. So we do two proper ones. Mother Spice had made hers, which is all about prunes and chestnuts, last night. Mine is based on sweet Italian sausage with herbs. (Recipe below.)

Sausage stuffing in the works

The nice thing about Thanksgiving is that the rituals remind you of the past. Like, I chopped my herbs for the stuffing in a neat little spice chopper that our friend (and GingerSpice #2 godfather) Mike gave us at Thanksgiving 11 years ago. That was the first and only time we ate deep-fried turkey, at a neighbor’s house. Don’t think we’ll repeat that experiment, though I did like having a cigar with the men-folk over the deep fryer, though to be honest I like having a cigar pretty much any time. Anyway, having thought about Mike I thought about my first Thanksgiving, with my friend Marcia (a GingerSpice #2 godmother) in Evanston, Ill., in 1974. So I called her while the stuffing was cooking and she emailed over her recipe (Marcia is an ace baker) for chocolate and pecan pie.

Father Spice demonstrates how to stick cloves in an onion, for bread sauce

When the stuffing was done I stuck it in the big cavity ,then turned the bird upside down and stuffed the other end with the prune and chestnut, knitting everything in place with strategically placed skewers. Then I placed the bird in a deep roasting pan, poured stock around it until it was about an inch deep and covered the whole thing in a tightly-fitting foil tent. (With this method, you’re really steaming the turkey for three hours, then you take off the tent of foil and let the bird brown for an hour or so.) I’d preheated the oven to 350 degrees, and stuck in the bird at 1.00.

Father Spice prepares to carve the turkey

That done, I turned to my other job at Thanksgiving , which is to make bread sauce, a traditional English accompaniment to poultry and game. Now, I’m prepared to concede, this doesn’t sound that exciting. In fact, The Constance Spry Cookery Book, which was first published in 1956 and is something of a Bible in our house, is brutally frank when it comes to bread sauce. “Flavourless, lumpy or unseasoned, it can be unpleasant, and because it is a homely sauce if often carries all these defects.” The sauce should be “neither sloppy not stodgy,” admonishes Constance, while warning that if you don’t get things right “the whole affair can take on the texture of a poultice.” But if you follow my recipe below, you’ll be more than fine – and discover that the creamy sweetness of a good bread sauce is the perfect compliment to tart cranberries as an accompaniment to turkey.

One plate of food...

... and one of pie!

Sausage stuffing


1 lb. sweet Italian sausage

1 medium onion

2 stalks celery

1 apple, preferably tart (Bramley perfect, but hard to get in US)

Sage and other herbs

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

1 or 2 eggs


Chop the onion, celery and apple finely. In a heavy frying pan, soften the onion in the olive oil, then add the celery, apple and sausage. Season with salt and pepper. Chop a good handful of sage with a bit of whatever other fresh herbs you have to hand in the garden (I used thyme and marjoram) and stir into the mixture. Cook over a medium heat for about 20 minutes, being careful to ensure that the mixture doesn’t brown. Drain it thoroughly of all fat, leave to cool, and then bind the mixture together with an egg, or two of them if you’ve got them from the farmer’s market and they’re small. Stuff into turkey’s large cavity.

Bread sauce


Four thick slices of good farmhouse bread, preferably a little stale

1 medium onion

1 pint of milk

About 12 cloves


Cayenne pepper


A decent knob of butter

As much heavy cream as you need


Peel the onion and stick it with the cloves.  Place the onion and bayleaf in a pan with the milk, bring to a boil, and simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Don’t let it boil over. Turn the bread into breadcrumbs however you want – I use a food-processor. Take the onion and bayleaf out of the milk and stir the breadcrumbs in. Add a decent seasoning of salt and pepper, a knob of butter and a generous pinch of cayenne. Then get your nutmeg – I’m still using a bunch I got from Grenada (whose flag has a nutmeg on it) in 1982, and they’re super nutmeggy. Grate as much of it as you like into the mixture – I like lots – stir and cool. As the sauce cools it will look like wallpaper paste. Don’t panic! When you come to reheat it, add a big dollop of heavy cream, and keep adding it until the mixture starts burping like one of the geyser beds in Yellowstone. Or New Zealand, I suppose, but I’ve never seen those. That’s when you know it’s ready. Serve piping hot with the turkey.

Chocolate Pecan Pie (Courtesy Marcia)


2 ounces (2 squares )unsweetened chocolate)…You can use the supermarket kind or a more fancy pants chocolate… just remember UN sweetened.
3 Tablespoons butter

1 cup light corn syrup

3/4 cup sugar

3 eggs lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 and 1/2  cups pecans. Marcia uses a cup pecan halves and 1/2 cup coarsely chopped.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Line a 9″ pie plate with pastry and crimp edges
Mix the sugar and the corn syrup together and boil for two minutes undisturbed.. take off heat. Add the chocolate and butter and stir until they have melted.  Let cool slightly..beat the eggs in a medium large bowl….pour the syrup mixture over the eggs slowly,   stirring constantly the whole time (you don’t want to cook the eggs).  Add the vanilla and pecans and turn the mixture into the prepared pie plate. Bake for 45-50 minutes until the pie is completely puffed across the top, and the crust is browned. Don’t overcook as you want that nice gooey center. The pie will deflate as it cools..this is OK..serve with whipped cream.