I did some apartment-sitting for a classmate while she got to vacation in Tahiti with her husband. She was very thankful and presented me with this gift upon her return. For those that don't speak French, it is pineapple-vanilla jam. The pineapple provides the stable base for the jam and the vanilla gives it a delightfully heady plume of aromatic flavor. It is very delectable on toast and just something different from your run-of-the-mill strawberry jam or orange marmalade.
My community supported agriculture has been fairly similar over the past weeks. The main features are strawberries, blueberries (not pictured), and lots of squashes: zucchini, Mediterranean zucchini and yellow squash. I accumulated so much zucchini that I had to do this:
Paula Deen makes a mean zucchini bread. I had so much zucchini that I made two batches, which is supposed to make 2 loaves per batch, hence the high productivity. Instead of chocolate chips, I substituted one pint of blueberries in each batch. I also doubled up the spices (cinnamon and nutmeg) in the first batch and added some cardamom and ginger powder in the second batch. All in all, I made one large loaf, 4 mini-loaves, 4 large muffins and 6 regular muffins, all of which were delicious. On a random note, the blueberries turned the bread slightly blue-green instead of purple.
On the subject of Southern cooking, Southern Living had on the inside cover of their latest issue something I could not resist making. They may look like normal chocolate chip cookies, but trust me, they're huge. Each has half a cup of dough in it. Plus, the real surprise is in the center: the cookie contains a brownie. That's right, Southern Living managed to stuff a baked good inside of another baked good. These treats are a tremendous endeavor to eat, but well worth it, even if you feel like you have to take a nap or hit the gym right afterward.
Mom came into town for a visit and her birthday, so I/we did quite a bit of cooking and baking. For breakfast, I managed to find this wonderful gluten-free recipe care of Martha Stewart. You prepare one batch of polenta (with an hour of frequent stirring), adding in some milk, maple syrup, orange zest, cinnamon, and raisins. You then pour the polenta into baking dishes and let it set overnight. In the morning, you slice up the set polenta and pan-fry it until golden brown. Top it with maple syrup and some fresh North Carolina blueberries (or whatever state you happen to be in). For those who cannot eat toast, and even for those who want something out of the ordinary for breakfast, this is the perfect recipe. Just be warned that this is one of the more involved breakfast setups, but it can be well worth it.
Mom brought a recipe with her to make a chocolate pavlova, also care of Martha. Pavlova is pretty much like a giant meringue cookie. This one was in the shape of a bird nest, filled with a chocolate mousse, then topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. This dessert had it all: chewy, creamy, crunchy, chocolate. This is a great way to end a meal with a cup of coffee on the side.
For Mom's birthday, I made this interesting flourless chocolate beet cake. You shred some beets, cook them in agave nectar until tender, then stir in some cocoa powder and some other additives, bake it for twice as long as the directions say, et voila! a cake. We topped it with some whipped cream and served it. It looks like we tried to make a red velvet cake but only got halfway there. The cake itself is a deep red-brown with a dense, moist, chocolate flavor and a subtle hint of beets, but definitely in a good way.
Lastly, I've started a cake decorating class at Durham Technical Community College. Yesterday was our first chance to work on a cake. Above you can see the Funfetti cake I made for the class.
Two problems arose while decorating the cake. First, I did not want to make a full cake just for this class, so I used a box cake, meaning an overly moist work surface. Second, I did not own 6" cake pans, so I just cut down my cakes from 8", all without using a guide or measuring tool of any kind. End result: the whimsical cake.
I was slightly embarrassed by the cake at first, but I still wanted to bring it into my lab for everyone to eat. But my buttercream was not quite up to snuff. I probably needed another cup or so of confectioner's sugar in it (it already had 10 cups in it), so it slowly oozed down the sides of the cake. The end result: the top layer slipped off the bottom layer in a giant mess. So next week, I will stop cutting corners and shoot for the moon.