31 October 2013

Afternoon Tea Review - El Encanto by Orient-Express


Aaaahh ... Afternoon tea on a sunny terrace overlooking the Pacific. What a treat! While in southern California recently, a friend ran me up the coast to Santa Barbara where the scenic drive led us to El Encanto on a hilltop overlooking the ocean. Afternoon tea is served seven days a week either in The Lounge or on The Terrace. 

Growing up with tea as I did and being a frequent giver, as well as attender, of afternoon teas, I have some pretty high standards. Having had tea from coast to coast and in three countries, I want a certain ambience, elegance, proper service, delicious and pretty food, and properly prepared tea. Most venues get a few things right, but few can deliver on all counts. El Encanto is one of the few.

Of course, expansive ocean views along with the hotel's "casual elegance" vibe and beautiful hand-painted tea china mean they've got the ambience part down. All the staff I encountered on the property were friendly, efficient and enthusiastic. Our server brought out a wooden case of sample tins of the various loose teas so our noses could help us with our tea choices. 


With executive chef Patrice Martineau bringing his experience on three continents, including two years at The Savoy in London, the food did not disappoint. Unlike so many, he knows the difference between the more formal and lighter afternoon tea and high tea, so there are no inappropriate departures (such as soup or salad) from the traditional afternoon tea menu.


The sandwiches, adorned with edible flowers, were as delightful to eat as they were to look at. I had been rather alarmed when I saw that the tea included just three sandwiches, but these sandwiches were more substantial than usual. I'm not a fan of smoked salmon, so the chef made a lovely ham sandwich in its stead. The open-faced cucumber sandwich was a thing of beauty. And the savory egg salad with snipped chives and French cornichons was outstanding.


The scones, served with clotted cream and house-made jam, were excellent. Though I don't usually eat the pastries at afternoon tea, I couldn't resist trying just a few bites from the jewel-box assortment of diminutive desserts. Superb! Oh, nearly forgot to mention the perfect, not overly sweet Bellini, a nod to Orient-Express, I presume.    


For reservations, call El Encanto at 805-845-5800. El Encanto is 97 miles from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and 90 miles from Burbank Bob Hope Airport (BUR). 

For tea at home, see: How to Make a Proper Cup of Tea and Tea and Scones. Look under Teatime on my Recipes index page for other teatime recipes. 

Disclosure: Though I attended the afternoon tea as a guest of El Encanto, I assure you that does not alter my opinions or influence my review.  

19 October 2013

Kokoskakor - Swedish Coconut Cookies


I've always made coconut macaroons, which use only the egg whites, so I was intrigued by this classic Swedish flourless cookie that uses whole eggs.  Flourless, it is a naturally gluten-free cookie.

I first learned of kokoskakor at one of my favorite food blogs, Five Euro Food. Of course, as is my wont, I made a couple of minor changes before even trying the original! Though I added a pinch of salt and a dash of vanilla, you might want to leave them out in the interests of being "authentic."

Charles, the fine cook behind Five Euro Food, is British by birth, married to a Swedish woman, currently living in France and in the process of moving to Sweden as we speak. So, henceforth, I shall defer to Charles on all things Swedish since that's definitely out of my bailiwick!

Think I'll make these instead of macaroons from now on. No more having a little dish of egg yolks in the fridge nagging me to make something out of them soon so they won't go to waste!

Tell me (in the comments), what is the classic cookie of your culture? One of mine is Hazelnut Shortbread, which is also good half-dipped in chocolate.

Kokoskakor - Swedish Coconut Cookies

(Makes 24)

Adapted from the recipe at Five Euro Food

4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
2 cups unsweetened grated coconut
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar (next time I'll use just 1/3 cup)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt  
Note: See below for chocolate-dipped* option.
1 Line baking sheet with parchment paper. (Love my heavy-duty half-sheet pan!) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In 2-quart glass bowl (I use a 2-quart glass measure) in microwave, melt the butter. With a fork, stir in the coconut until all is moistened with the butter.
2 In 1-quart bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt. Stir into coconut until well combined.

3 Using a #60 (1/2 ounce / 1 tablespoon) scoop, drop scoops of dough about 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheet. With your fingers, form them into a rough cone shape, pinching them to a little point on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden.


* Chocolate-Dipping Option: In heatproof glass bowl set over simmering water, melt 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips with 1/4 teaspoon neutral oil, stirring occasionally. Dip bottoms of cooled cookies, place on waxed paper and chill for about 45 minutes.
4 Store cookies in single layer in airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. 

17 October 2013

Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake


More of my friends are going gluten-free, so I've been stepping up my gluten-free recipe development. One gluten-free friend just handed me an angel food cake pan she'd been given and asked me to figure out what she can do with it, so this angel food cake is bigger than my regular Angel Food Cake that I make in a loaf pan.

And, of course, that gave me an excuse to use my new Cuisinart stand mixer! In fact, it was the first time I used it with the wire whip. You could also make it with a hand mixer. I can't believe anyone ever made it by hand, but angel food cake predates even hand-cranked egg beaters.   

Berries and Custard Sauce - Crème Anglaise go beautifully with angel food cake, and custard sauce is a perfect way to make use of 7 of the leftover egg yolks. How do you like to serve angel food cake?

   
Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake

(Makes one 9- or 10-inch cake)


1 packed cup (5.5 ounces) gluten-free blend*
3/4 packed cup unsifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups (11 or 12 large) egg whites, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar

Note: Separate the eggs cold. Cover and refrigerate the yolks for another use; let the whites stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.



1 Place oven rack in lowest position (I didn't bother--no problem), and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9- or 10-inch angel food tube pan (2-piece with "legs") by simply making sure it is completely grease-free. Also, make sure your mixing bowl and wire whip (or beaters) are squeaky clean.

2 Using two small bowls, sift together gluten-free blend* and powdered sugar three or four times. If you have a food processor, just process for 30 seconds instead of sifting.


*Gluten-Free Blend: I use Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flours and starches. If you use a different brand, the package sizes might be different, in which case you would need to use a scale to duplicate this formula. 

In large bowl, whisk together until thoroughly combined: a 24-ounce package potato starch, a 22-ounce package sorghum flour and a 20-ounce package tapioca flour. Pour into air-tight container and store in refrigerator or freezer, depending upon how often you use it.

3 In mixer bowl with wire whip in place, starting on speed 1 and gradually going up to speed 6, beat together the egg whites, cream of tartar, salt and vanilla until egg whites have thickened and increased in volume (mixture looks like a bowl of suds!) and are nearly at soft peaks stage.

4 On speed 8 gradually beat in sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until egg whites are stiff enough to hold up in soft peaks but are still glossy and moist. Watching carefully, continue beating until whites just reach stiff peaks but are not dry.

5 Sift about 1/3 of flour mixture over egg whites and fold in lightly, with a rubber spatula, just until incorporated. Repeat two times.

6 Spoon batter into pan and smooth the top. Gently make a few knife cuts through the batter to break up any large air bubbles.

7 Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until it is well browned and springs back when lightly touched. Invert pan; let stand upside down as it cools, about an hour. Remove cake from pan.



 

10 October 2013

Classic White Sandwich Bread - Stand Mixer Method


One of the first things I made with my new Cuisinart SM-55 stand mixer was my stand-mixer adaptation of my strictly by-hand Classic White Sandwich Bread. Though I've always loved kneading bread (it is so therapeutic!), I have a feeling I'm going to be using the Cuisinart a lot more often than my bare hands! (my review of the Cuisinart SM-55)

Bread--all kinds of bread--is one of my favorite comfort foods. I call this white bread Classic because it's the bread you should master first (unless you're gluten-free, of course) even if you prefer whole-grain bread. It's perfect for any kind of sandwich, including tea sandwiches. Once you've got it down, you can start experimenting with add-ins.

When I started using instant yeast for no-knead breads, I converted all my active dry yeast recipes for it so that I'd only have to keep one kind of yeast on hand. And, just to keep life simple, I keep just one kind of wheat flour on hand, organic unbleached all-purpose. (Of course, half my freezer space is taken up with a vast array of gluten-free flours and starches!)

People have a tendency to make a way bigger deal out of making bread than it needs to be! Whether it's taking the temperature of the dough or calculating hydration percentages, sure, have fun with it if it interests you; if not, don't let all that keep you from making homemade bread. 

Do leave a comment and tell me about your favorite method or best tip, or ask a question. Do you use a bread machine? That's the one thing I haven't tried.


Classic White Sandwich Bread

(Makes 4 loaves)

This recipe can easily be halved, but make all four loaves and freeze or give away what you can't use!

10 packed cups (50 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
4 cups milk or water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil


1 In the mixer bowl, whisk together 4 cups flour, sugar, salt and instant yeast. Attach the flat beater and mixer bowl to the mixer. Heat the milk or water and butter or oil until quite warm, about 120 degrees. On speed 2, mix in the warm liquid until thoroughly mixed. Mix in 4 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a dough forms. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes. 

Or do the initial mixing of the dough by hand. In the mixer bowl, stir together 4 cups flour, sugar, salt and instant yeast. Heat the milk or water and butter or oil until very warm, about 120 degrees. Stir the warm liquid into the flour until thoroughly combined. Stir in 4 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a dough forms. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.    


2 Remove the flat beater and attach the dough hook. On speed 2, add about 1 cup flour until dough forms a smooth ball that cleans the bowl. Continue kneading for 2 minutes, adding flour (from the remaining 1 cup) just 1 tablespoon at a time as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the bowl. Set the timer for 4 minutes and knead the dough on speed 3.

3 Clean out the mixer bowl or use another 5.5-quart container (preferably with straight sides). Lightly oil the bowl and put the ball of dough in it, turning dough to oil all sides, cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 to 2 hours, or until doubled.


Note: This time I divided the dough and did the first rise in two containers, one a 2.5-quart bowl and the other a 2-quart Pyrex measure (pictured below), as I wanted to use my mixer bowl for something else. Note to self: An extra mixer bowl would come in handy!


4 Lightly oil four 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pans, also known as 1-pound loaf pans (another 1-pound loaf pan). Turn risen dough out onto lightly floured (still from that remaining 1 cup) surface, flattening gently to break up any large bubbles. Divide* dough into two equal pieces, then each of those into two equal pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the others covered. Press each piece into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle. Fold in short ends of dough until piece is about 6 inches long. Roll from one rough edge, pinch seam to seal and roll gently to form a tight log the length of pan. Place seam-side down in prepared pans and press dough into pans so that it reaches sides, ends and corners.


* I'm a rather precise person, so I always use my OXO Good Grips 11-Pound Digital Scale to divide the dough precisely, making sure all my loaves and rolls are the same size.

5 Cover loaves loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for about 1 hour, or until dough rises just above top of pans and springs back just a little when lightly poked with a floured finger. 


If your house is cool and you want to help things along, heat oven to 200 degrees, allow to heat for 2 minutes, turn off oven and put dough in to rise. When baking just two loaves, I sometimes put the pans and a mug of hot water under an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet held up by a 1-pound can in each corner and covered with a towel (see above). Unless I'm in a hurry for some reason, I prefer to let the dough rise slowly; that's when flavor is developed.

6 During the last 20 minutes, heat oven to 450 degrees (taking the rising loaves out first!). You don't have to do it--I don't always--but sometimes I like to score the top of the loaves just before putting them in the oven; with a very sharp small knife, cut a not more than 1/4-inch deep line down the middle of the dough. 



7 Put loaves in oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees. Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 to 40 minutes or until loaves are golden brown, shrink from sides of pans, and bottoms of loaves sound hollow if tapped (internal temperature 200 degrees on instant read thermometer). Remove immediately from pans and let cool on wire rack for 1 hour. Wrap well as soon as bread has cooled thoroughly. Store at room temperature or freeze in zipper freezer bags.

02 October 2013

Stand Mixer Review and Giveaway - Cuisinart 5.5-Quart 12-Speed Stand Mixer


Just in time for the biggest baking season of the year ...

A food blogger without a heavy-duty stand mixer? Shocking! I was probably the last food blogger on the planet who did not own one, but that has all changed. Yes, I've always made most of my breads, cakes, pies, cookies ... entirely by hand or with a partial assist from either my trusty food processor or my most definitely light-duty mixer. But the time had come to resort to a labor-saving, time-saving device. So the research began.

After considering the pros and cons of all the possibilities--and knowing what a reliable workhorse my Cuisinart DLC-10E food processor (that I've had since I was a mere girl) has been and still is--I decided on the Cuisinart 5.5-Quart 12-Speed Stand Mixer (it also comes in a 7-quart model).




The mixer has been highly recommended by some venerable testing labs, and I was eager to put it through its paces in my kitchen. Here are some of the features I appreciate:

  • Fairly reasonable footprint: at 15.5x10x12.5 inches high (and a hefty 21 pounds), it fits under my upper cabinets and doesn't take up too much valuable real estate in my average-size kitchen. 
  • Comes in three colors: white, black and brushed chrome. I went with white. Call me dull, but even if I had gotten a mixer that comes in a vast array of colors, I would have gotten white. 
  • Bowl and attachments can go in the dishwasher (ever since I got a dishwasher, I want to put everything in it!).
  • Great manufacturer's warranty: limited 3-year product warranty and a full 5-year motor warranty.
  • The 5.5-quart bowl can handle 12 cups of flour; double batches are no problem. Made a huge batch of cookie dough--enough to freeze dozens of ready-to-bake cookies!
  • When you tilt the head back, the splashguard comes up. And the splashguard has a really handy spout for adding ingredients.
  • Slow-start and gentle-fold (continuous or pulse) functions. Believe me, the mess-saving slow-start function will come in handy for someone whose husband sometimes calls her The Black Tornado (a reference to an old commercial for a cleaning product nicknamed The White Tornado). 
  • The 15-minute countdown timer with auto shutoff.
  • Optional accessories/attachments: pasta maker, mincer/grinder, citrus juicer, blender, small food processor. (Now I'm wishing my old blender would die so I can replace it with this one!)


 
If you'd like to win one of these fabulous Cuisinart mixers (color of your choice), see below. And come back next week for a recipe! I post every Thursday (but I posted a day early this time because I am so excited about this mixer and giveaway!). Follow me by email so you'll never miss another recipe (box in right column). 

Watch for my new recipes for big batches of cookies, breads, and more in the coming weeks.




Cuisinart Stand Mixer Giveaway 

This giveaway is open to US residents 18 years of age or older. Leave a comment below (one entry per person) that includes your color choice (black, white or brushed chrome) and the first thing you'll make with it. Please include your email address in the body of your comment. Must enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday October 9. 

Winner will be chosen by random drawing and be announced here in the comments before noon Eastern time on Thursday October 10. If I don't hear back from the winner of the random drawing by noon Eastern time Sunday October 13, another drawing will be held and a new winner selected from the original entrants (those who commented before the giveaway deadline).

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Disclosure: Cuisinart provided a mixer for review purposes and a mixer for the giveaway. I received no compensation. The views expressed here are entirely my own. I always tell my readers what I really think!

 



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