Monday, January 28, 2013

Lemon-Sage Wine Mustard

When this post goes live it will be my birthday.  This year's birthday is a extra special because it's the last one of my 30's.  When I think about that, I sigh a little.  I know it's cliché, but where did the time go?  I am not so sure...but I do know I plan to make the most of 39.  Then next year at this time, we'll see how well I'm embracing the reality of 40.  Long sigh.  I have a feeling I might go into it kicking and screaming just a little bit. 

The birthday plans have been low key this year.  Just enjoying a few meals out with various family and friends.  My sister's birthday is 3 days prior to mine so we always celebrate together.  We went out on Sunday for lunch at a restaurant I've been wanting to try for over a year.  They specialize in seasonal ingredients and all their dishes are under 475 calories.  I have to say I was very impressed with how they spent their calories--will definitely be going back.  On the actual birthday Hubby and I are going to dinner just the two of us to steak house.  I'm not going to be counting the calories there--trust me!  Tuesday evening I'm slated for dinner with one of my closest friends for Mexican food and Thursday is dinner with the parents at a seafood restaurant.  Food, friends and family is the perfect way to celebrate. :)

I didn't necessarily plan a specific post to coincide with my birthday, and it just so happens this lemon-sage wine mustard is up next on the blog roster.   But I'm more than happy to celebrate with mustard! 

I LOVE mustard!  It's high up on my list of preferred and necessary condiments.  My family thinks I'm a little crazy about mustard in fact.  When I eat a hot dog for instance, the ratio of mustard to dog is about 50/50.  Yeah.  Really.  I guess my family has a point and it might be a smidge overboard.  What can I say?  I just cannot seem to get too much mustard on a hot dog.  And I like it all.  Yellow.  Dijon.  Grain.  Brown.  Honey.  Spicy.  I love the acidity and tang from mustard.  Yum.

When Hima of All Four Burners challenged us to use citrus in our monthly Can It Up project, I started looking for recipes.  I came across this lemon-sage wine mustard in my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  I thought it would be kind of cool to make homemade mustard.  Plus I've only canned sweet things to date....jams, fruit butters, preserves, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine my love of canning with my love of mustard.  That sounds silly as I read it back.  But it really was fun to make and I enjoyed the final product. 

The mustard is really very lemony.  The sage is subtle and the wine sings a nice little melody in the background.  Since the lemon is prominent, I've found I've enjoyed this accompanied with a little mayo too to balance it out. At least on sandwiches.  The sandwich pictured below is homemade ciabatta bread (courtesy of Hubby), turkey, grated sharp white cheddar cheese, mayo and lemon-sage wine mustard.  Delicious! 

Mustard is surprisingly easy to make.  The hardest part was finding the main ingredient.  Whole mustard seeds.  My first stop was Whole Foods.  They sold it.  In incredibly tiny portions.  My mustard would have cost a small fortune.  I know a lot of people love Whole Foods, but I really don't seem to have the best luck there.  Next I tried Sprouts (another local health food grocery store).  What's great about Sprouts is they sell spices in bulk bins/jars where you can fill up a bag with as much or as little as you want.  I've purchased many spices this way especially when I am using something new for a recipe and I don't know if I want to invest in a whole jar.  I was thrilled to see Sprouts had a huge container of mustard seeds.  I was able to eyeball a 3/4 cup portion and it cost right around $5 dollars.  Once I secured all my ingredients it was smooth sailing.

The mustard seeds get soaked in a sage steeped wine for a couple of hours.  The seeds soak up all the liquid from the wine and get transferred to a food processor along with white wine vinegar.  Several long pulses in the food processor allow the seeds to break down, but some grain is left.  It's nice to have a little texture from the seeds in the finished product.  The mustard goes into a pot on the stove to cook along with the lemon, sage, honey and salt and, then into prepared canning jars to be processed in boiling water. 

You'll notice this mustard doesn't have a bright yellow color.  I had always assumed the mustard seed is where the color came in.  But I learned that it actually comes from one of the spices in yellow mustard, turmeric.  Since this mustard is turmeric free it has a much more muted yellow, almost pale brown color.  Don't let the color fool you, this mustard has quite a zing! 

It's great on sandwiches.  And I envision it accompanying homemade pretzels, grilled bratwurst or hot dogs or a honey baked ham. 


Lemon-Sage Wine Mustard
from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

Makes 5 four ounce jars

1 bunch of fresh sage (enough to yield 1/3 cup finely chopped plus 1/2 cup roughly chopped)
3/4 cup dry white wine (I used Pinot Gris)
3/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
1 cup white wine vinegar
Grated zest and juice of two large lemons
1/2 cup liquid honey (I used regular honey)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Finely chop enough sage leaves to measure 1/3 cup and set aside. 

Coarsely chop remaining sage leaves and stems to measure 1/2 cup and place in a small stainless steel saucepan with the white wine.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, while stirring and pressing on the sage to release as much flavor as possible.  Remove the pan from the heat and cover.  Allow to steep for 5 minutes.

Using a fine mesh strainer or sieve, drain the safe infused wine into a bowl while pressing down on the sage to remove as much liquid as possible.  Discard the sage and return the wine to the saucepan.  Add the mustard seeds to the wine and cover with a lid.  Allow to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours or until the mustard seeds have absorbed most of the moisture.

Prepare your lids and jars by washing in hot soapy water.  Place jars in a water canner, ensuring jars are covered with water and bring to a boil.  Place lids in a small sauce pan over low heat.  Set screw rings aside. 

Transfer wine soaked mustard seeds to a food processor or blender, including an residual liquid.  Add vinegar and process until the mustard seeds are well chopped but still has a slightly grainy texture. 

Transfer the mixture to a stainless steel medium-large size saucepan.  Add lemon juice, zest, honey, salt and the 1/3 cup of finely chopped sage.  Turn heat to high and boil, stirring continuously.  Once boiling, reduce heat to low and allow to gently boil, stirring often.  Allow mustard to reduce by 1/3 of it's volume, about 20 minutes (note--mine only took 10 minutes).  The book cautions from allowing the mustard to get too thick as it can prohibit proper heat penetration during canning process. 

Remove one jar at time from the canner using tongs, discarding the water and hold with a doubled up clean kitchen towel.  Ladle hot mustard into hot jars leaving 1/4 head space at the top.  Remove air bubbles by using a thin chopstick around the mustard.  Wipe any residue off the rim.  Place a hot lid on top and secure using a screw band until resistance is met and turning until fingertip tight (do not over tighten).  Repeat until all the jars are filled. 

Place prepared jars in canner.  Allow the water level to sit at least 1 full inch above the jars.  Bring to boil.  Process for 10 minutes with lid on the canner.  Once they've boiled for 10 minutes, remove the canner lid and wait 5 minutes.  Remove jars from canner and cool on a kitchen towel, undisturbed for 24 hours. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies

It's back.  Secret Recipe Club that is.  We took a break in December since the holidays are such a busy time for most.  It feels like we've been on hiatus for more than a month though.  I'm glad we're back in business!

This month I was assigned Danielle's blog, Hugs & Cookies XOXO.  WOW.  Hugs & Cookies is teeming with uber decadent desserts.  And I mean decadent!  Most of her sweets involve several layers of flavor and combining cookies, brownies and caramel or chocolate sauces/ glazes with various types of candy worked all into ONE serious treat.  To see what I mean, check out these Oreo cheesecake bars on a chocolate chip cookie crust topped with chocolate glaze, raspberry M&M's and more Oreos.  Or these quadruple layer chocolate cheesecake Kit Kat bars--now that's some chocolate love.  Danielle's creativity is evident in the seemingly endless combinations of sweet goodness she shares on her blog (nearly daily).  The sky's the limit.  If you are looking for a crowd pleasing dessert to take to a Super Bowl party I'm certain you can find something inspirational on Hugs & Cookies.   

I kept some cookies unglazed

Though I was tempted to make one of Danielle's really indulgent treats (like those Kit Kat cheesecake bars--hello!), I ended up picking something a little more straightforward.  I was drawn to her vanilla bean sugar cookies for two reasons.  One, I have Madagascar vanilla beans that I've been itching to use since the fall.  And two, Hubs is a big sugar cookie fan.  In fact, sugar cookies are his favorite type of cookie.  Oh, I and I just thought of a third reason.  It was the perfect opportunity to use my heart shaped cookie cutters which have gotten very little air time since I purchased them. 

The glaze takes on a matte finish after it fully dries

The recipe comes together easily.  I decided to create a vanilla glaze to top these little beauties with even more vanilla (I think Danielle would approve).  I added in wisp of orange extract which brought a really subtle citrus perfume in the background while still allowing the vanilla to shine through. 

Hubs, our resident sugar cookie expert, gives them a thumbs up.  He hinted that it would be A-Okay if make them again.  Thanks Danielle!


Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies
adapted from Hugs & Cookies XOXO

2 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons milk
left over vanilla bean pod from the cookies plus another 1/2 vanilla bean with the seeds scraped out
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract (optional)
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy about 2 minutes.  Add egg and beat until combined.  Add vanilla bean seeds and vanilla extract and beat until just combined. 

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. 

Turn mixer to low and slowly and dry ingredients into the butter sugar mixture until fully combined and a dough forms.  Turn dough out onto plastic wrap and divide in two equal pieces.  Flatten each piece into a round about 1 inch thick.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour. 

Roll out dough between two large sheets of parchment paper to just under 1/4 inch thick.  Flour the parchment and dough well as the dough tends to be sticky.  Use your favorite shaped cookie cutter to cut out cookies.  Carefully remove each shape and place on the parchment lined baking sheet about 1/2 inch apart.  To help coax the cut out cookies off the parchment, place your hand under the bottom sheet of parchment and pull the parchment away from the dough so you can gently remove the cookie.  Place baking sheet in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes to chill the cut out cookies.  Bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until bottom edges appear lightly golden brown.  Allow to cool on baking sheet for about 15 minutes and then transfer to cooling rack.

While cookies are baking start on the glaze.  Place the milk, vanilla bean pods and seeds in a medium bowl.  The idea is to get all the vanilla goodness infused in the milk.  Set aside.

While cookies are cooling remove vanilla bean pods from the milk and add vanilla extract and orange extract if using.  Whisk in powdered sugar.  Glaze will be loose and pourable.  Set aside until cookies are completely cooled. 

Set up a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (you can use the same sheet the cookies baked on).  Place a wire rack on top of the baking sheet.  Dip the face of each cookie so it is completely covered in glaze.  Place cookie face up on the wire rack allowing any excess glaze to drip off on to the parchment paper below.  Allow glaze to dry completely, about 90 minutes.

Makes about 4 dozen 3 inch cookies.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Pumpkin Bread

It's cold here.  I venture to guess this is one of the coldest winters we've had in Southern California in a number of years.  At least it feels that way.  I could try to research it to get a definitive answer, but it doesn't really matter.  It wouldn't change how cold it feels. 

I know that pretty much anyone living outside of California will likely not sympathize with my definition of cold.   But a high of 57 and low of 31 (today's temps) puts a chill in my toes and in our house.  You see, many California houses are not built the way cold weather climate houses are built.  The brisk air seeps in the windows and doors and it seems no matter how high the heater is, the place never really warms up.  I've been spending a lot of time bundling up with layers of clothes, extra socks and a scarf here and there during the days I'm working at home.  Then snuggling under warm blankets on the couch at night with kitty cat next to me. 

Once I'm nice and cozy, a slice of spiced pumpkin bread alongside a hot cup of tea is just the thing to warm my insides. I love it for breakfast, a snack and even dessert.  It's so delicious.

This recipe has a bit of a story. 

My good friend Sharon has been making this bread around the holidays for years.  She pumps out a dozen plus loaves and hands them out to family and friends each year.  I've been the recipient of this bread many times and absolutely love it.  Several years ago I asked her about the recipe and she alluded that it was a long time recipe which her family kept under lock and key. 

Fast forward to this past fall...I asked Sharon if I could have the recipe because I wanted to bake this yummy bread to send to the troops overseas as part of Operation Baking GALS.  A perfect autumn treat that travels well and has a long shelf life.  I let her know that I wouldn't share the recipe with anyone else, but felt the troops should have a taste of this deliciousness!  She happily agreed.  Since October, I've made over a dozen loaves myself.  For the troops, for family and just to eat myself (which I did for breakfast this morning--mmm).  One of the reasons I love this recipe is because it's very reliable.  I've had consistently good results every time I've made it in terms of appearance, texture and taste. 

Not only do I love the bread, but the troops loved it too.  They even posted a comment about it on the OBG Facebook page.  A very exciting moment!  I'm telling you this bread is the bomb.  I hinted to Sharon I would love to post the recipe on the blog and share it with all of you.  She went back to her mom to inquire and her mom was happy to hear the troops enjoyed the bread so much and agreed the recipe should be shared.  Woo hoo!  Sharon also inquired about the origin of the recipe.  Her mom is a special needs teacher and years ago, one of her students brought her a loaf of this bread as a thank you gift.  She loved it so much, she asked the child's mother for the recipe.  The rest is history. 

I'm so thrilled that Sharon's mom agreed this awesome recipe needed to be shared with the world. Well, my little pocket of readers anyway.  THANK YOU Sharon's Mom!  :)

This pumpkin bread is very easy to make and is all mixed by hand.  It yields 2 large loaves (or 8 mini loaves).  You could easily cut the recipe in half to make just one loaf.  The day it's baked it has a wonderful crusty top.  I do enjoy that crust, but I find that I really enjoy the bread best after it's been sealed in a zip top bag for 2+ days.  Though the bread is moist the day you bake it, it's gets even more moist and it seems the flavors really meld together if you can stand to wait 2 days.  The crusty top goes away due the amount of moisture that redistributes through the bread, but the enhanced flavor and incredible moistness are so worth it!  It stores beautifully for upwards of a week. 

This is most definitely my go to pumpkin bread recipe and I look forward to making many more loaves.


*Note recipe updated on 2/19/2013  to include an originally omitted ingredient (sugar)

Pumpkin Bread
from Sharon's Family

Makes 2 large loaves (9x5)

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2/3 cup water
4 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup oil (Crisco Corn Oil is recommended, but any vegetable oil would be fine)
2 cups pumpkin puree (unsweetened)
Butter and flour two 9x5 loaf pans.  Preheat oven to 350.

Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl until fully combined.  Whisk eggs, water, and vanilla together in a medium bowl or a large glass measuring cup (at least 2 cup size).  Make a well in the flour and add the wet ingredients.  Add the oil and pumpkin puree.  Fold together with rubber spatula until fully combined and no streaks of flour remain.

Divide between loaf pans and bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Notes: To make chocolate chip pumpkin bread stir 2 cups of semi sweet chocolate chips into the fully mixed batter.  I also prefer to use fresh grated nutmeg if possible. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Lemon Soufflé

Hubby and I rung in the New Year in low key fashion.  We were both a bit under the weather.  Me with a cold.  Hubs with an ear infection.  We kept it simple and made dinner at home and rented The Dark Knight Rises on pay per view.  Dinner was nice.  He made homemade pasta (which I love because it doesn't weigh you down the way store bought dried pasta does).  I made an easy oven roasted tomato sauce to top it off.  I also pan seared some fish my dad caught on a recent deep sea fishing excursion.  I wish I knew the name of the actually had a greenish hue in it's raw form--apparently the best of the catch on Dad's trip.  It was a beautifully buttery flaky white fish when cooked.  Really delicious.  To cap it off, we decided the eve of 2013 deserved a special dessert.  Lemon soufflé.  Our very first homemade soufflé.  

I have heard of the troubles soufflé can cause.  Apparently soufflés can be rather finicky with potential for a number of things to go wrong.  I'm happy to say we didn't encounter any issues.  We did take two out of the oven slightly early, but other than that, they turned out great! 

The recipe comes from Baking & Pastry from the Culinary Institute of America.  Neither of us has attended the CIA, but Hubby picked up the book at our local restaurant supply store last year to learn more about bread making.  He's made several of the bread recipes.  The soufflé is the first non bread recipe we've tried from the book.   The book is written in textbook format and there are few pictures.  You will also have to break out your kitchen scale, because everything is by weight.  Many of the recipes are fairly large scale, but this one was manageable, filling 8 ramekins. 

This is about 10 minutes after they came of the oven and you can see they are already deflating
The soufflé starts with making a lemon infused pastry cream.  The cream is made in advance so it has time to cool.  We made our pastry cream before we started on the main course.  Once dinner was done, we moved on to part two of the soufflés.  The ramekins got a slather of butter all over the inside, all the way up to the rim and a dusting of sugar.  Egg whites were whipped to medium peaks and the pastry cream and egg whites get oh so gently folded together.  The delicate mixture carefully goes into the ramekins, onto a baking sheet and into the oven.  We crossed our fingers.  We weren't sure how long to cook them since our ramekins were smaller than the ones called for in the recipe.  So we sat on the kitchen floor with the oven light turned on and watched them like a hawk.  We really did sit on the floor.  One of cats joined us, wondering what the heck we were doing.  Turns out they cooked the same length of time as the original recipe called for.  And much to our surprise...the little buggers rose up a good inch past the top of the ramekin.  Success!

I topped mine with sugared raspberries.  It was delicious.  A soufflé is light, and airy.  The lemon flavor, subtle....nice.  If you could eat clouds, I would imagine it would be a lot like eating a soufflé.  These are so light, that you might feel like it's a good idea to eat 2.  I mean, if you have a bunch of left over soufflés, best to eat them to before they deflate, right?  Once they deflate they lose all the wonderful textural puffy lemony cloud custard qualities. 

We both ate 2.  It was the right thing to do. 

Though the recipe may look a little intimidating, the steps are straightforward and very manageable.  It's not as bad as it looks.  Promise.

On a photography note...these photos were taken around 8pm without any special lighting.  I set my camera up on the new tripod Santa brought me and allowed a long shutter release (I'm sure I'm not saying that right).  Then I used the white balance editing tool in Lightroom to take all the yellow lighting tints out of the picture.  Though these aren't as good as a natural lighting option, I was pretty amazed with the results.  Go Santa with the tri-pod. 

I hope 2013 is treating you well thus far.  Happy New Year.


Lemon Soufflé
adapted from Baking & Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft

Makes 8 four ounce (1/2 cup) ramekins

1.5 ounces butter, melted and cooled
17 ounces lemon pastry cream (recipe below)
1 ounce egg yolks
6 ounces egg whites
2.5 ounces sugar
Extra butter and sugar for ramekins

Lemon Pastry Cream:
16 ounces milk
5 ounces sugar
3 ounces all purpose flour
2 ounces eggs
1.5 ounces egg yolks
0.25 ounces lemon zest (about 3 large lemons)

Start by making lemon pastry cream.  This needs to cool completely before making the soufflé. 

To make pastry cream:

Combine 8 ounces of milk with lemon zest and 2.5 ounces of sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring and pressing on lemon zest to release flavor.  Remove from heat, cover and allow lemon zest to steep in hot milk for 10 minutes. 

While the lemon zest is steeping, Combine flour and remaining 2.5 ounces sugar in a medium bowl.  Whisk in remaining 8 ounces of milk, eggs and egg yolks until mixture is smooth.  Set aside.

Prepare an ice water bath in a bowl large enough to accommodate the bowl you will put finished pastry cream in.  Don't fill too full as you don't want any water to get into the pastry cream.
Remove lid from the milk/lemon mixture and return to heat and bring just to a boil.  Strain mixture into a bowl, pressing on lemon zest to release all the liquid.

Whisk in 1/3 of hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking continuously.  Whisk in remaining hot milk, again, constantly whisking.  Return combined mixture back into the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly.  The mixture will take several minutes to thicken.  But when it goes, it goes quickly.  You want to achieve a loose pudding consistency.  The mixture should coat the back of a wooden spoon and leave a trail when you run your finger through it. 

Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl and place the bowl in the prepared ice water bath.  Cover pastry cream with plastic wrap pressed directly to surface of the cream.  Allow to cool for 30 minutes or so, then transfer to the refrigerator until ready to make soufflés.

To make soufflés:

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Coat the inside of the ramekins with soft butter.  Coat completely all the way up to the rim.  Dust ramekins with sugar and place on a baking sheet.

If pastry cream is chilled, use a hand mixer to bring to a smooth consistency.   Using a spatula stir in melted cooled butter and egg yolks until completely combined.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form.  Gradually sprinkle in sugar while continuing to whip.  Whip until medium peaks form. 

Gently blend 1/3 of the egg whites into the pastry cream base.  Gently fold in remaining egg whites until thoroughly combined. 

Portion soufflé mixture into ramekins gently spooning it in until it's a generous 3/4 full.  Space ramekins evenly on baking sheet and bake until soufflé is lightly golden and has risen 1 inch above the rim of the ramekin, about 20 minutes.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar (optional) and serve with fresh berries.

Serve immediately.