Saturday, March 17, 2018

Unusual Scones both Tender and Light

Unusual Scones? Well, I describe them this way because not everyone will have the flours I used, nor necessarily be able to replicate. I just had to put this recipe out here though, simply because these have to be the absolute lightest and most tender scones I have ever made.
Buckwheat Spelt Scones with Craisins & White Chocolate
Buckwheat Spelt Scones with Craisins & White Chocolate

I love scones. If they are rather dry, as with store-bought ones at times, I simply sip coffee or tea with them. No problem. If they crumble? No problem at all. I expect them to crumble a bit. But light? Even with all the awesome scones I have made to date, I don't think I have ever been able to describe them as "light." But these? They are light as feathers. Well, almost. But close enough.

You know how a really great pie cruse has lightness, tenderness, flakiness? I would not go so far as to say these scones are flaky, exactly, but the tenderness and lightness is truly beyond amazing to me. Do they crumble? Oh yes. Not horribly. They just need a light hand, because they are that tender. 

One thing I did differently than usual, and I don't know how much difference this may have made: I used Kerrygold unsalted butter, instead of Land O'Lakes, as I usually do. I know European butters have less water content, and I had some Kerrygold on hand because I had made croissants recently and wanted the best butter possible.

(Oh, and Happy St. Paddy's Day to all my readers!)

So What are these Scones Made of, Anyway?

This morning I was thinking of making scones. My initial thought was to grind some whole Kamut grain and use that whole meal flour, since it is so light colored, it doesn't feel or taste like you are eating a whole grain. And then I thought about some organic white spelt flour in my freezer and went that direction instead. 

Buckwheat Spelt Scones with Craisins & White Chocolate
Buckwheat Spelt Scones with Craisins & White Chocolate
But - I really didn't want just white flour scones. Granted, spelt is an alternative wheat, sometimes tolerated better than our modern-day wheat. But this spelt flour was not whole grain. So, whether modern wheat or not, it is still white flour. Empty carbs. And I sat there a few minutes looking around the kitchen wondering what I could add to the spelt flour to make these less "empty-carb." And I thought, "Buckwheat!" Buckwheat (read more about buckwheat here) is not a grain at all, not is is in any way related to wheat. Nor is it a grass. In actuality, it is a seed encased by its fruit, and related to rhubarb. I digress.

I happen to love the flavor of buckwheat. I have eaten it as a breakfast "cereal" instead of oatmeal. I often grind it in my grain grinder and make pancakes or waffles. Or even just soak the buckwheat with other seeds to make waffles or pancakes without added flour of any kind. I know buckwheat may not fall into everyone's favorite category, but it is in mine. 

A Template for Really Great Scones

I used a very similar base template recipe to what I have been using for a couple of years now, since this template really turns out some fantastic scones. I only altered the base template a tiny bit. This is the base template for great scones:
  • 2 cups flour (I play with the flour combinations a lot, but keep to 2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 5 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
The mixing is pretty much the same no matter what you are mixing. Mix the first 5 ingredients, cut in the cold butter, finishing with fingers to break down into very small bits, add cream and form into dough. Presto. 

The alterations I made were using a tablespoon less sugar, since I wanted to add white chocolate, always over-the-top sweet. I also went with 1 teaspoon of salt. The half cup of white chocolate and half cup of craisins (dried cranberries) were the flavors I chose this morning. And without further ado, here is my recipe:

Buckwheat Spelt Scones with Craisins & White Chocolate

Makes 8 scones 
Buckwheat Spelt Scones with Craisins & White Chocolate
Buckwheat Spelt Scones with Craisins & White Chocolate

1 cup (preferably freshly ground) buckwheat flour 
1 cup white spelt flour (or substitute all-purpose flour)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
½ cup white chocolate bits, lightly chopped
½ cup craisins, lightly chopped
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Place the first 6 ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add in the cold butter, cut into small cubes and cut in as for pie pastry. If the pieces stay too large, finish by using fingers to break up the butter into the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate and craisins, then pour the cream over all at once and stir , tossing slightly, with a fork until the mixture starts to come together in a mass. Oil or spray a counter or smooth surface with cooking spray. Turn out the dough and pat into a ball, then do a quick knead, twice, just to bring the mas together. Pat it out to an 8-inch circle. Use a large knife and cut the circle into 8 wedges. Use a spatula to transfer the wedges to the parchment lines baking sheet, setting them at least an inch apart.

Bake the scones for approximately 15 minutes, until set and golden. Serve warm. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Delicious Meatball Recipe

Ever since my husband and I started on a healthier eating regimen last year, I have looked for any way to add fiber into our diet, along with healthy carbs. Vegetables are always there in some way, and fruits, to some degree. But I have gotten into lentils and other dal-types in a big way, adding a handful to soups, if they aren't made a stand-alone part of a meal. Yesterday, I was thinking about meatballs. I was reading one of Mary Berry's cookbooks yesterday. (My husband got me FOUR cookbooks by Mary Berry and FOUR cookbooks by Paul Hollywood, because I was animatedly telling him about all the things I learned watching The Great British Baking Show! Making me remember the quote from Sabrina: "More isn't always better, Linus. Sometimes it's just more." 😬) Mary had a recipe for Sausage Meatballs. I had a package of bulk sausage meat (intended for another recipe, but I hadn't gotten there yet), and thought about it.
Sausage & Lentil Meatballs with Spaghetti and Sauce
Sausage & Lentil Meatballs with Spaghetti and Sauce

I thought for a while, and then recalled that I had just been saying I needed to get back to more lentil type things in our diet, since we've been a bit lax on the regimen since the holidays. And I wondered to myself how it would turn out to use cooked and mashed lentils mixed with the sausage meat? Interestingly, this was one idea that most online searches did not come up with. There were "meatballs" made vegetarian, using only lentils. That was not my plan though, so my main concern was how would the meatballs cook up, if mixed with lentils. So I just forged ahead and made them, adding in things here and there as I saw fit, and felt would enhance flavor. I was also concerned about the cooking part. 

I have always liked forming my meatballs and dropping them into boiling, salted water, just long enough that they start to float a bit. Then I take them out of the water and either fry them or bake them, but in this way, their round shape holds true. I never like to try and fry or bake raw meatballs right off the bat, because they end up with flat sides here and there. Would these half-lentil meatballs hold up in the boiling water?

Why yes, they would, in fact. 

Sausage & Lentil Meatballs with Spaghetti and Sauce
Sausage & Lentil Meatballs with Spaghetti and Sauce
This was refreshing and made me feel much better about all of it. I went on to bake them afterwards, to finish cooking and give them some color. Since I don't care for making meatballs generally, I always try to make large batches, so I can freeze them until needed. Since I weighed the finished mixture and had 2½ pounds of it, this was wonderful news. Now I have some spare bags of meatballs in the freezer for another day.

In the meantime, how did they come out? 

Well, except for the fact that I totally wasn't thinking about the fact that pork sausage comes seasoned - with salt - I had added salt enough for the whole mixture. They were salty! I compensated by not adding much salt to the tomato sauce and no salt at all to the pasta cooking water. This way it worked. But for the recipe I am placing here, don't worry, that will be no problem. I also used some mushroom powder in the meatballs. I have dried shiitakes, and I place a few into a spice grinder and pulverize them to a fine powder, discarding any large bits (read stems) that will not process down. I keep some of this powder on hand for things that might benefit from a flavor boost, like gravy, for example. If you do not have mushroom powder, no problem, just leave it out. I had it. I used it.

To continue with the fiber and better carbs theme, I made my own spaghetti with my pasta machine. I used whole Kamut grain, ground fine in my electric grain grinder, so it is the whole grain fiber goodness, and Kamut is particularly "blonde" in color, so the pasta comes out the prettiest golden color, with no off flavors one expects from whole grain wheat, even though it is, albeit an ancient form of it. 

Sausage & Lentil Meatballs

Sausage & Lentil Meatballs
Sausage & Lentil Meatballs just baked
Made 54 One-tablespoon sized meatballs

1 cup brown lentils
2½ cups water for cooking lentils
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced 
1 pound pork sausage meat
1 cup shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon mushroom powder, optional

2 teaspoons dried sage leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed

1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the lentils and water into a saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 30 to 35 minutes, until the lentils are completely soft. Once soft, drain off any water remaining and allow them to dry out a bit before mashing. I used a potato masher. Set aside to cool

In a skillet heated over very low heat, cook the onions with ½-teaspoon of the salt in the olive oil for about 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. They will turn golden very slowly and become very sweet. Add in the minced garlic and cook slowly for a few minutes more, just to cook out the raw taste. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, place in a mixing bowl the sausage meat with the shredded cheese, eggs, mushroom powder, fennel, sage and remaining ½-teaspoon salt. Add in the cooled mashed lentils and the onion and garlic mixture. Mix well with spoon or (preferably) hands to distribute the ingredients evenly. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Set a pot of water to boil. Scoop out meatballs with a tablespoon measure and form into neat balls. Gently drop about 10 at a time into the boiling water, allowing them to form up. They will not float completely, but just begin bobbing a bit. Remove them to a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remainder of the mixture. Once all the meatballs are on the baking sheet, bake them in the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned. 

Use the meatballs in your favorite recipe. If you choose to freeze for later, place the cooled meatballs in a freezer zip-top bag and use within 4 months. 


My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

An Amazing Carrot Cake

I have been writing this blog and placing recipes on my website for almost 6 years now, and I just realized that in all this time I had never put my Carrot Cake out here anywhere!
Carrot Cake, Carrot Cake Recipe
Carrot Cake

I have seen many carrot cake recipes quite similar to mine, but I have been making my version of Carrot Cake for about 35 years, so I have had lots of practice. What I hadn't done is take proper photos of it. I did get some photos the last time I made it, but I am still not happy with them, though they will have to do.

I have made very simple carrot cakes, which have been very good. And then this one, which ticks everyone's boxes, has all sorts of good things in it. I cannot begin to say how delightful and moist this cake is, so I will just proceed to giving out the recipe, and let things go at that!

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake
Carrot Cake
Makes one 2-layer 9-inch cake, or one 13 x 9-inch cake

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup melted butter or coconut oil
¾ cup buttermilk
3 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar 
2 carrots, finely grated
⅔ cup pecans, chopped
⅔ cup drained, crushed pineapple
⅔ cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 or 9-inch cake pans and line bottoms with parchment. Grease the parchment. (Or, simply grease a 13 x 9-inch baking dish).

Sift together the first four ingredients and set aside. In another bowl, combine the melted butter or oil with the buttermilk, eggs, sugar, grated carrots, pecans, pineapple and coconut. Thoroughly mix together these ingredients and then add in the dry ingredients, stirring until no white remains. Divide the batter evenly between the round tins, or pour all the batter into the 13 x 9-inch pan. Bake the round pans for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center has just a crumb or two clinging to the tester. If baking in a 13 x 9-inch pan, bake for about 40 to 45 minutes. 

This cake is absolutely perfect with Cream Cheese Frosting

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Fermented Peppers for Harissa

I have been interested in making harissa for quite a while. I do not make anything too spicy in our house, in deference to my husband, who cannot tolerate the heat. Some months ago, I made an attempt at harissa and it was okay, but for me, had strange flavors. I just couldn't truly say I enjoyed the flavor. And yet, it seemed there must be a combination I would like. After all, there is nothing in the mixture that I don't like. So, what could I do to make it more palatable?

Fermented Pepper Rose Harissa
Fermented Pepper Rose Harissa
Okay, since I am not from Africa or anywhere near, coming to get to know harissa was something like an exploratory safari, never knowing what is around the next corner. I must confess, I have never even bought harissa, so I have no basis for comparison. Still, from everything I have read, "fiery" is most often applied among the descriptors for this condiment. Maybe this is what has kept me from ever buying it. Just as I have never bought Thai Red Curry Paste, but always made my own version. Personally, I am not afraid of a little heat, but too much means (to me) that I won't be able to use much, therefore not being able to really taste what it is, and then of course, my husband wouldn't be able to eat something if I made it too hot. So, my own versions are mild, at best. I can always add a sprinkle of cayenne to my plate, or a bit of sriracha, if I want heat.

What is Harissa?
Fermented Pepper Rose Harissa
Fermented Pepper Rose Harissa

Harissa is a mainly north African (Tunisia, Morocco, etc) condiment, made from peppers of some kind, be they hot dried chili peppers or a mixture of these hot peppers combined with red bell peppers. To these are added at minimum garlic and olive oil, and combined to make a paste. 

At maximum? A whole lot of other flavors can be added in, but the main ones seem to be cumin, caraway, coriander, sometimes preserved lemon, sometimes rose petals and/or rose water, sometimes paprika, sometimes smoked or hot paprika, or both, or all three. Of course, as with anything else, the variety changes with each cook. So, is my harissa anything authentic? Probably not. But it's tasty. And not too hot.

My Inspiration

A couple of years ago I got heavily into fermenting foods. Fermenting foods is the earliest form of food preservation, and it is a lot safer than canning, despite peoples' fears. You see, botulism, that specter that hangs over us when we start home canning, ferments out during the fermentation process. While I loved the whole process of fermenting, and still have sauerkraut and fermented curtido in my fridge, as well as my Honey Fermented Cran-Blueberry Relish, my husband won't eat them. Don't precisely know why. So again, it's just me, and it takes a while to consume these things. 

Still, when I received my latest Saveur magazine and read about Cortney Burns and her preference for fermented things, and with a recipe for Harissa, well, I was wholly intrigued. I had no prior knowledge of Ms. Burns, but I took her concept for fermenting red bell peppers as the base for my harissa. After that, I went out on my own, adding things I thought would work for me. Some are in her recipe, others are ingredients I selected from other recipes I had read.
Preserved Lemon and Rose Petals
Preserved Lemon and Rose Petals

For example, I have seen the use of preserved lemon in some harissa recipes, and I happen to have a jar of preserved lemons (read: partially fermented) in the fridge. The amounts of spices varies widely from recipe to recipe. Cumin is low on my list of spices I really enjoy. If I taste a dominant flavor of cumin, it is way too much for me. If you love cumin, add in more! 

Another Case of Mistaken Identity?

One thing I am truly curious about is the use of caraway. I have seen caraway in breads, of course. And I have used caraway in my sauerkraut and other things German. But somehow it has never been seen in any of my Middle Eastern recipes before. This makes me wonder if, as with Indian cooking, caraway as the seed we know in the US, might be misinterpreted.

I know there are various spices in Indian recipes that are misinterpreted, because whoever wrote a certain recipe knew what THEY were writing about, but others would not necessarily be in the know. "Bay Leaf" in India refers to another leaf entirely, called Tej Patta. And Tej Patta tastes more like cinnamon that anything else. Certainly not our domestic laurel leaf. And then I discovered that often when an Indian recipe calls for "caraway," they actually mean black cumin (Bunium persicum), which is totally different, and with completely different flavors. Black cumin is used in the Middle East, so could it be that when they write "caraway," they might actually mean black cumin? I may never know. But still I wonder...

Black Cumin vs Caraway

And meanwhile, for this time at least, I used actual Caraway seed (Carum carvi).

And then, with anything fermented, since a heavy dose of salt is always part of the mix (this keeps down bacteria until the fermenting process takes hold), you end up with a highly salted mixture. In this instance, since the peppers are lightly fermented, and then dehydrated to a paste, that salt has now become a pretty concentrated and dominant part of the flavor. Then again, if you are careful with the salt in a dish, and use this harissa instead, things should balance out well.

Fermented Pepper Rose Harissa

Fermented Pepper Rose Harissa
Fermented Pepper Rose Harissa
Makes 2¼ cups, approximately

Special tools: dehydrator recommended

2.5 pounds red bell peppers
4 to 5 teaspoons Kosher salt
1½ teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
⅓ to ½ cup olive oil
1 shallot, minced finely
8 cloves garlic, finely minced, or passed through a garlic press
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon hot ground chili powder (pure ground chilies)
¼ wedge of preserved lemon, finely minced, optional
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons food grade dried rose petals, ground, optional
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon rose water, optional

At least one week ahead, prepare the red bell peppers: Seed and core the peppers and cut into chunks. Set pieces into a high powered blender or food processor with the salt and puree finely. Pour this puree into a quart or slightly larger capacity jar, preferably with a bail wire closure. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the puree and close the jar. Set the jar in a dark area, preferably at 60 to 70 degrees. If the area is not dark, cover the jar with a towel to keep out light. Every day for the next 6 days, remove the plastic wrap and stir the mixture. Replace with clean plastic wrap onto the surface each day before sealing the jar. On the 7th day, the pepper puree should have fermented slightly (giving a mildly sour flavor) and will have separated into solids and liquids.

Pour this mixture into a wide, low container and set into a dehydrator at less than 115 degrees, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has the consistency of tomato paste. This can take 10 to 16 hours. Alternately, if your oven has a very low setting, it can be dried there, but will likely take less time. Watch carefully. Once the peppers reach the right consistency, you can proceed to making the harissa immediately, or put the paste into a jar n the refrigerator up to a week before using.

TO MAKE HARISSA: Place the coriander, caraway, fennel, peppercorns and cumin into a very hot, dry skillet and heat until very fragrant, taking care not to burn. Pour the toasted seeds onto a plate to cool, then grind to a fine powder in a spice grinder. Set aside.

Making the Harissa
Making the  Harissa

Heat the olive oil in the same skillet over very low heat. Add in the minced shallot and garlic with the ground seeds, the paprika, hot pepper powder and preserved lemon. Stir well and allow this mixture to cook extremely gently for about 45 minutes. There should be no simmering, and little sign of cooking aside from the lovely aroma. Place the rose petals into the spice grinder and grind fine. Add these with the tomato paste and honey to the skillet and stir well. Allow to cook gently for another 5 minutes or more. Stir in the rose water and the fermented red pepper paste and stir well. Pour the mixture into a clean jar and refrigerate until needed.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Darling but Finicky Macarons

Last Year's Less Sweet Chocolate Macarons
Last Year's Less Sweet Chocolate Macarons
It's been a year since I made my first attempt at macarons, those darling, but finicky, little confections. I had been seeing photos of them for years already, and making them was on the "to-do" list, which sometimes takes a while before accomplishing. I also had never tasted them before, and when I finally did try some from a local "patisserie," which does a fantastic job at all their pastries and breads mind you, I was really surprised and dismayed at how tooth-achingly sweet they were. At that time last year then, I was searching for ways to make them less sweet, and so called my confections "Less-Sweet Chocolate Macarons." Not necessarily a glamorous name, but it fit the bill, and they were amazing. They were also a LOT of work, even for me.

I guess sometimes time passes and we forget the magnitude of a thing. Kind of like having a baby and swearing off sex, only to come back once all that trauma wears off and decide to give it another go. Maybe it wasn't quite that bad, after all? 

Unsuccessful First Attempt at Matcha Macarons
Unsuccessful First Attempt at Matcha Macarons

So it happened that last week I got an idea. I swear absolutely that I did not look up a single recipe, nor had I even seen macarons in photos for quite a while. I decided that if cocoa in macarons would  help making them less sweet, then surely Matcha tea powder would do the same thing. And then I thought about what I would use to fill Matcha flavored macarons and came up with two possible options: raspberry or orange. As it happened, I had a frozen bag of raspberries that needed using, and so raspberry filling it would be.

What are "Macarons?"

Macarons are a confection made with meringue and almond meal. There is no flour being added to the batter, so these are essentially meringue "cookies" of a sort, and by their nature, gluten-free. There is a delicate balance needed with the ingredients to get the texture just right, otherwise the characteristic smooth tops and pretty, frilly little "feet" at the base of the cookies will not happen. The batter itself has to come out slightly thick, but acting much as a lava flow: slow, but implacable movement. If it is too runny, it will spread all out of shape and make thin, unappetizing wafers. If the batter is too thick, it cannot spread at all, and the tops can never become smooth. The little frilly feet cannot form when baking. There is no "give." And so, that delicate balance. And I speak from experience. 😉

I have most often seen macarons as quite small confections of a bite or two size. They can be made larger, if preferred, but the baking time will need to be altered as well, to accommodate the proper setting and drying time. I like the 1½-inch diameter size, but they can be made smaller, as well.

First Attempt

I used the recipe I placed on this blog last year, substituting Matcha tea powder for the cocoa. But somehow, my measurements were totally off or something, and instead of adorable little cookie confections, they turned out rather incredible-hulk-ish. There was far too much dry ingredient to be able to mix into the meringue. There was far too much Matcha tea powder, period. The whole mixture was dry and deep dark, dark green. Not a single view of the little "feet" at the base of the cookies. Not terribly appetizing or appealing (not the photo above right). The one great thing was the filling, which turned out perfect. 
Successful Matcha Macarons with Raspberry Filling
Successful Matcha Macarons with Raspberry Filling

In the meanwhile, a couple of days back, out of curiosity, I Googled "Matcha Macarons with Raspberry Filling". You cannot even believe how many recipes are out there for this same combination. Oh well; nothing new under the sun, I swear. Still, my idea also encompasses the less-sweet aspect, and the way I chose to make my filling was totally different that those recipes I read. This version is all my own. Once the raspberry puree is fully cooked down to a thick paste, it is nicely tart, toning down the very sweet icing and making a great counterpoint to the meringue cookie. Plus, you just cannot beat that lovely, all-natural color.

Raspberry Filling
Raspberry Filling

Raspberry Filling

Makes about 2 cups

12 ounces frozen or fresh, unsweetened raspberries
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
¼ teaspoon salt

Place the raspberries in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cover and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes, until well broken down. Remove from heat and pour into a sieve over a bowl. Use a spoon to press out raspberry juices and any solids that will pass through the sieve. Keep pressing until the seeds are looking very dry inside the sieve. With a clean spoon scrape off any thick raspberry puree from the outside of the sieve and stir well into the juices. Discard the seeds and return the puree to a clean saucepan. Set over low heat, allowing the puree to cook down to approximately 2 tablespoons of very thick puree. Let cool, not refrigerated.

Straining raspberries - cooked down puree - mixed with icing
Straining raspberries - cooked down puree - mixed with icing

Make the frosting by first placing the butter into a stand mixer and beating on medium speed for 8 minutes, until very light, nearly white in color, scraping down sides and bottom as needed. Slow the beating speed to as low as it will go and add in the confectioners' sugar and salt. Beat gently about 1 minute, to incorporate the dry ingredients, then increase to medium speed and beat a further 6 minutes, scraping down sides twice during this time. The frosting will be very light and fluffy. Add in the completely cooled 2 tablespoons of raspberry puree and beat well to completely incorporate.

Use immediately or refrigerate, well covered for up to a week. Bring completely to room temperature before using.


Round Two . . .

As I said, somehow last week I had to have measured or weighed wrong. It can happen to the best of us. I went back and re-examined my older recipe, re-read my own blog, and still couldn't find any flaw in it, so apparently it was my measuring at fault last week. Today, I tried it again. I still had plenty of the filling left to use, so it was only the macarons themselves I had to re-do. And today I worked carefully and measured carefully and they came out - if not completely perfect - at least 98% close. I am more than happy. The tops are not 100% smooth. But there are lovely little feet at the base of each cookie. The flavor of the Matcha is lovely and not overdone. I am happy. 

Matcha Macarons with Raspberry Filling
Matcha Macarons with Raspberry Filling
In order to make macarons less sweet, there are a couple of things that can be done without totally screwing up the delicate balance of the recipe. 

  1. It is possible to substitute ⅒th of the confectioners' sugar (but no more, at the risk of altering the consistency needed) with rice flour. Simply take the total amount of the confectioners' sugar called for in a recipe, easiest done by weight, and multiply by ⅒th:  8 ounces x .10 = .8 ounce. This means that this same amount, (.8 ounce) is removed from the confectioners' sugar, leaving 7.2 ounces of the sugar, as well as measuring out .8 ounce of rice flour to add back in. This keeps the proportion even, without upsetting balance.
  2. You may substitute 1 tablespoon of the almond meal with 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder or Matcha tea powder, both bitter on their own, which further helps tone down the sweetness.
Today, I re-weighed and re-measured these substitutions, to ensure that my older recipe was okay. As the photos demonstrate, this time they came out quite well. I think I might add in just a little more egg white, if I was making these again. Maybe using 4 ounces of egg white would give a bit more looseness to the batter, making for smoother tops. That will be my next test.

Altogether, the macarons came out really wonderfully, with far less bitterness from the Matcha that that first time, and the nice bright and tart raspberry filling just pops with flavor.

Matcha Macarons with Raspberry Filling

Made 76 (1½-inch) individual macarons or 38 sandwiches
Matcha Macarons with Raspberry Filling
Matcha Macarons with Raspberry Filling

7.2 ounces (204 grams) confectioners' sugar
0.8 ounces (22 grams) rice flour
5.4 ounces (153 grams) almond meal
0.2 ounces (4 grams, or 1 tablespoon) good quality Matcha tea powder
3.85 ounces egg whites (3 to 4 medium), completely room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1.4 ounces (3 tablespoons) superfine sugar

One recipe for Raspberry Filling, above

Set the egg whites in a squeaky clean glass or metal bowl and allow them to come completely to room temperature, at least 2 hours.

Draw 1½-inch circles, spaced at least 1-inch apart, on the underside of three sheets of parchment. Set the parchment onto three baking sheets with the circles on the under side. They can be seen through, giving a template. Make at least 80 circles. Set baking sheets aside.

Weigh out the almond meal first and pass through a sifter or sieve with medium holes. Any almond bits that do not pass through, place these into a tablespoon measure. Remove a further amount from the sifted almond meal, enough to top off the tablespoon measure, leveled. This tablespoon of almond will not be used; discard or return to the bag of meal. Return the sifted almond meal to the sifter and add in the tablespoon of Matcha powder. Sift again, and once completely sieved through, return any bits of almond that did not pass through, back to the bowl with the rest (some become so coated with the Matcha powder that they seem too big, but they are not). Once more, add the sifted almond-Matcha mixture back to the sifter. Add in the confectioners' sugar and the rice flour and sift the whole mixture into the bowl and set aside.

Prepare a piping bag, or a zip-top bag and have it ready. The batter will need to be used right away once finalized.

With extremely clean beaters and a stand or hand mixer on medium speed, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they are very foamy and holding soft peaks. Continue beating, raising the speed and adding in the superfine sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until well incorporated and the mixture is holding stiff peaks.

Using a large spatula, fold the dry mixture into the meringue in three additions, folding each addition in completely before adding the next third. It should take a total of about 50 to 60 "folds"
to completely incorporate all the dry ingredients. (Folding: Spatula down the center of the bowl from 12 to 6 o'clock and continuing the swipe down around and up the side edges of the bowl and folding over to the center. Turn the bowl slightly and repeat, until all the dry is mixed in.) At this point, the batter should resemble a lava flow, a slow but definite slide off the spatula. If not, then do a couple more folds.

Scoop the batter into the prepared bag and snip off the tip to make a ½-inch opening. Be careful, the batter is soft and will start to run out. Pipe the batter inside the circle templates on the parchment. The batter should spread only slightly. Once finished piping all the circles on one sheet, set the bag aside and with both hands, lift the baking sheet and let it drop at least three times from a height of about 6 or 7 inches. This helps to release air bubbles. Set the pan aside and proceed with piping rounds of batter inside the circles on the next sheet, repeating with the lifting and dropping once that pan is filled. If there is more batter, continue on the next sheet of parchment.

Once finished piping all the batter, set the trays aside for 30 to 60 minutes and let them air dry. The tops of the meringue cookies should be dry to the (gentle) touch. Fifteen minutes before you are going to bake the cookies, set the oven to 300 degrees. Set one tray in the oven and time for 5 minutes. Rotate the tray 180 degrees and bake for a further 5 minutes. Then put the handle of a wooden spoon in the oven door to keep it slightly opened and bake a further 5 minutes. Once done, replace the tray with the next one and repeat the sequence.

When all the meringue cookies are baked and cooled, you can begin removing them from the parchment. Understand that these meringues are quite delicate and need to be handled gently. They should not stick badly to the parchment, but if they do not lift off easily, use the method of sliding the parchment over the edge of the counter and releasing the meringues that way.

If your filling is prepared, pipe a small amount in the center of the underside of one cooled meringue, then gently press a second meringue over top. Repeat with all the meringues.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Please Enjoy my March Newsletter

A Harmony of Flavors March 2018 Newsletter
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Happy St. Patrick's Day, Mardi Gras, Soda Bread
Happy St. Patrick's Day, Friend

It's March already, and St. Paddy's Day is just around the corner. I am in no way Irish, though my husband has a significant percentage of Irish in him. We don't really "celebrate" St. Patrick's Day in any significant way, outside of a nice Irish Lamb Stew and some really great Soda Bread!

While March is host to St. Patrick's Day, it is also the month where Winter finally starts giving way to Spring, sometimes with a real blast of Winter weather to bid farewell. (And here up north, that blast can continue on through April or later.) But eventually, Spring does make its appearance and presages some warmer weather and more outdoor activity that does not have to do with clearing snow. Little hardy flowers like snowdrops and crocus start to peek out right at the edges of the snow. New life.

Please check "A Harmony of Flavors" website and "A Harmony of Flavors" blog site, continually being updated with new recipes. There is a lot to choose from!
Spring, celebrations
low budget dinners, warming foods
Warming Foods for the last of Winter

While Spring is just around the corner (and in some areas that corner is a lot closer than here in South Dakota), Winter is still very much in evidence, and on chilly days, it is so nice to have a warm and hearty meal. Great tasting foods can make things in general feel a whole lot better.

I turn to comforting foods, when looking for something to make on a chilly day. Whether something I grew up with, such as Holupki (or Pigs in a Blanket) or Beef Stew, or things I have invented along the way such as a new version of "Stuffed Pork Chops" or a new meatloaf blend, these are all very warming and comforting meals to set in front of your loved ones.

All these meals use easy to find cuts of meat, low in price. Two use ground beef, one uses pork chops and one uses chuck stew meat. Clockwise from top left:

Meatloaf Inspiration: Some simple things came together and created a truly flavorful meat loaf, which is never my favorite meal. But inspiration hit that day, and I have made this many times since. Easy to mix together, leave it to bake and serve it with some mashed potatoes and a green vegetable. Yum!

Holupki (or Pigs in a Blanket): These do require a bit more planning ahead. But the great thing is that they can be made on a weekend and then frozen in packets. Thaw them, or just set them in a slow cooker to reheat slowly during the day you want to serve them. These are also fantastic with mashed potatoes and green peas make an excellent side dish.

Unstuffed Pork Chops: Make these for a Saturday or Sunday meal, where you have a little time to prepare and let them bake. The stuffing mixture is simple and delicious. The pork chops cooked with the stuffing makes the whole dish that much better.

Mom's Beef Stew: Another favorite from childhood, Mom made beef stew quite often. Easy to extend with extra vegetables, and using an inexpensive cut of meat, this works well for a large family. Ketchup and Worcestershire sauce are the old-time additions that make the flavors so great in this stew.

Below is a button to connect with a really great Bonus Recipe for this month, celebrating Spring.
CLICK HERE for a Bonus Recipe
St. Patrick's Day, celebrations
A Homey, Cozy Dessert . . .

Apple Dumplings were another favorite of my childhood. They are rich. And Filling. As a matter of fact, when Mom made these, one dumpling constituted our entire dinner. But it was oh, so worth it, for the magnificent flavors. Apples are around all year in the grocery stores, and something like Apple Dumplings, whether as a meal or as a dessert, are a magnificent recipe to make.
apples, dumplings, dessert
St. Patrick's Day, Spring, celebrations
spinach, ethnic recipe, homemade cheese
Are You a Creamed Spinach Lover??

If you love creamed spinach, you might want to look into the Indian version, called Palak Paneer. "Palak" means "spinach," and Paneer is a kind of quick cheese, very easily made at home with no more special equipment than a pot, colander and cheesecloth or thin tea towel. I happen to love this cheese. And, it makes a great addition to the creamed spinach, though it isn't absolutely necessary.

The one ingredient in the spice list that is less likely to be found in most kitchens is the dried fenugreek herb. While this herb has a particular flavor that just fits, it also is not essential to making the dish. Don't let the lack of the herb be a deterrent to trying out the flavors of this remarkable side dish that goes as fantastically well with a nice grilled steak, as it does as an accompaniment to a great Indian meal.

Of course, if you are anything like me, mention of a new spice or herb means I have to find it and try it out! If so, do try it out in this recipe for Palak Paneer. It is so worth it.

St. Patrick's Day, Spring, celebrations
Beets, horseradish, Easter traditions
A Family Tradition
I grew up in a family where the ethnic traditions were very strong, since my grandparents on both sides were from "the old country." In this case, my paternal grandparents were from what is Vojvodina today, in northern Serbia, and my paternal grandparents were from Slovakia.

This recipe for Beets with Horseradish came from my paternal grandmother, and was served unfailingly alongside the Easter ham. I grew up with the flavor of these two things together, and while Easter technically is not until April (April 1st, to be exact), my next newsletter will fall after Easter is past, so I wanted to bring this wonderful recipe out and dust it off, so to speak.

I have a good friend who loves beets and loves horseradish, so I described this mixture and told her about how great it is with ham, and now, when we are together at Christmas and have ham, she asks that I make this. Ultimately, while it was traditionally an Easter condiment, it is great with ham, no matter when.
fenugreek seeds, fenugreek herb, Trigonella foenum-graecum
Fenugreek: Three Ways?

Fenugreek is an interesting plant that is used as a green herb, cooked fresh. Or the herb is dried and used that way. And then as the plant goes to seed, the seeds are fenugreek seeds, with a different flavor profile. A very useful plant, to be sure.

Fenugreek is part of the Fabaceae, or family of legumes, peas and beans. Most people who are already familiar with the name, only know of the seeds, and these are, in my experience, most often called for in Indian cooking, and called "methi." Since I love Indian cooking and spices, I use a fair amount of fenugreek, both as dried herb (kasuri methi), in making my Indian Spiced Lentil Stew and in Palak Paneer and in seed form (methi), in Coorg Pork Curry and in Goan Pork Vindaloo.

The seeds smell slightly of maple syrup, though they are not sweet, but in fact rather bitter. Toasting helps reduce some of the bitterness, and the seeds are toasted when mixed into spice mixtures such as Panch Phoron, or in Ethiopian Berbere. Read more about this interesting herb / spice in my article on this subject.
author, Chris Rawstern
Happy St. Patrick's Day and impending Spring and to all my readers. I hope you will visit all my sites and try some new (or old) recipes, learn something new about an herb or spice or other subject, or maybe just daydream. However it is accomplished, I endeavor to provide articles of interest. Not everyone cooks these days, due to time constraints, though I did cook meals for my family back when I had 4 youngsters and worked 2 jobs, so I know it can be done. It requires some real attention to detail, to be sure. Many of my newer, more complex recipes have been created now that I am retired and have extra time on my hands, yet many are easy and quick.
St. Patrick's Day, celebrations
Please forward this newsletter to any friends who may find my stories, articles and recipes of interest. Subscribe to this Newsletter by hitting the Subscribe Button below. Follow me on Facebook, check out my A Harmony of Flavors website, and A Harmony of Flavors blog. Find all my food (and lots of other) photos on Pinterest at AHOFpin.
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