Category Archives: Breakfast & Brunch

Comfort on a cold day: Toasted Anise Cake

frozen_fennel

During the coldest days of the year, I make frequent trips out to the chicken coop. The hens are fine of course, they’re rated to about -20F (-30 if you speak Celsius), and a few of them will happily wade around in snow up to their egg-holes as long as the sun is shining — but the eggs freeze solid and explode if left in the nests for too long.

frozen_chicken_coop

no_skating

I’m nowhere near as cold-hardy as the chickens, but once I’m outside I marvel at the stark beauty of the icy yard and almost manage to forget about the cold.

ice_on_the_pond

ice_designs

In the end I’m always glad to be forced out into the elements, because it makes the house seem that much warmer when I come in.

bake_in_loaf_pan

Especially when I have a batch of these toasted anise cake slices fresh out of the oven. They make the house smell heavenly, and the crunchy texture (similar to biscotti) is perfect alongside a steaming hot cup of coffee or tea. Or a bowl of sorbet, when the days get warmer again.

enjoy_with_coffee_or_tea

Toasted Anise Cake

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Yield: About 12 cookies

Toasted Anise Cake

These toasty cake slices are similar to biscotti, and are delicious with a hot cup of coffee or a bowl of lemon sorbet.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons anise seeds, finely crushed
  • Special equipment:
  • mortar & pestle
  • stand mixer
  • 8 1/2 by 4 1/2" loaf pan

Instructions

  1. Put rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350F. Lightly butter and flour loaf pan.
  2. Crush anise seeds using mortar and pestle.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, anise, and salt in a small bowl.
  4. Beat eggs and sugar in a mixer bowl at high speed until tripled in volume, and thick enough to form a ribbon that takes 2 seconds to fall apart when beater is lifted (about 12-18 minutes)
  5. Sift flour mixture over egg mixture in 3 batches, folding in each batch.
  6. Gently stir in butter, and immediately pour batter into loaf pan and smooth top.
  7. Bake until loaf is golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35-45 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, and then turn out onto a cutting board (right side up) and cool for 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 400F.
  9. Trim ends and cut loaf into 1/2-inch-thick slides. Arrange slices on a baking sheet and bake until undersides are golden brown, about 7 minutes. Flip and bake until the other side browns, about 5 minutes more. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes

Adapted from Gourmet.

http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/toasted-anise-cake/

Unruly Hens and Old Fashioned Gingerbread

frozen_sunset

We’ve barely begun 2014, but the sun sets a bit later each day and I can feel the promise of spring on the horizon.

The hens are feeling it too; egg production is ramping up and it’s getting harder to enforce their early winter curfew.

Most of the chickens follow me right out to the coop, but I almost always have to round up a few stragglers at bedtime. It’s normally a quick and easy affair, but the other day was something else entirely.

beeline_for_the_birdfeeder

It was sunny when I let the chickens out, so they happily plowed through an acre of snow just to get to the bird feeder. Then, a cold front came through and they didn’t want to walk back through the snow to get back home.

A couple of the hens started to follow me out to the coop, but I came back to find they’d given up and planted themselves in the garden, fluffing their feathers like little down jackets. One after the other, I scooped them up and carried them to the coop, their feathers warming my hands as they settled into my arms. I’m pretty sure they were grateful.

I soon realized I wasn’t done giving free rides out to the chicken coop, and that not everyone would be as cooperative. The other hens huddled together, eyeing me uneasily, reluctant to be picked up but not wanting to run out into the snow.

Most allowed themselves to be caught without any trouble, but not Shelly. She dodged me several times, but finally I managed to come within an inch of grabbing her. That is when she completely freaked out.

Shelly is a pretty small chicken, and I knew from her past adventures that she is better at flying than most. But I was shocked when, with a series of loud squawks, she launched herself off the ground and flew across the entire garden, about 150 feet. And then she started gaining altitude and fluttered up onto a tree branch, about 8 feet off the ground.

oh_shelly

I scrambled up onto a piece of lawn furniture and grabbed hold of her tail before she could fly up to a higher branch, prompting her to go hide under the big spruce tree instead (with four of her friends). It took me over an hour to get them all in for the night.

sunset_stream

Today, most of the hens are out in the snow again, pecking at the door and lurking on the back steps. Probably waiting for me to give them a ride home. Or maybe they’re just hoping I’ll let them in, where there’s freshly baked gingerbread and chai tea, and it’s (slightly) warmer than outside.

morning_tea

As excited as I am for the spring weather to get here, I’m always sorry to see gingerbread season end. In case you’re wondering, gingerbread season starts when the first chill of autumn creeps into the air, and ends after the last blizzard of April — if to you gingerbread means houses and cookies shaped like little men, you’re definitely missing out on the best part of the season. Fortunately, you still have time to catch up.

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Ebelskivers (Danish Pancakes)

Last week, I was rummaging around in the cupboard and found a forgotten gem hidden in the back: an ebelskiver pan.

turn_them_carefully

I first fell in love with these little Danish pancake balls during a snow day in the second grade. My mom made them, stuffed with spiced apples, and my friend and I inhaled the entire batch before heading out to play in the snow. On our first toboggan run, fortified by all that flour and sugar, we set a new distance record — and went sailing right though the wooden snow fence at the bottom of the hill. It was our only run of the day. Minutes later we were in the car, creeping over snow-packed roads to get my friend’s forehead stitched up.

Whether it was the trauma of the sledding incident, or just that we ate all the ebelskivers before she got a chance to try any, Mom didn’t make ebelskivers for us again and eventually gifted me the pan. And then I forgot about them too, until last week.

fold_whites_into_batter

ebelskivers_on_plate

Ebelskivers can be made plain, like little pancake popovers, or filled with pretty much anything. I used chopped spiced apples, plus a variety of homemade preserves — raspberry, chokecherry, and plum butter. Generally speaking, the thicker the filling, the better the result. The unanimous favorite was the plum butter I made a few seasons ago (and meant to recreate for you this past summer, but then there were no plums to be found anywhere.) Chokecherry jelly was a close second.

add_batter_to_cover_filling

Browsing around on the internet, I found a lot of instructions involving knitting needles and metal chopsticks. Some say the proper way to make ebelskivers is to stick a pointy object (gently!) through the batter and turn them gradually to make a perfect ball. I didn’t think this would end very well for me and my jam-filled morsels, and didn’t bother to try it. Instead, I found it easiest to run a butter knife underneath the ebelskiver, then quickly flip it over and tuck the uncooked side into the well with my fingers.

plum_ebelskivers

And really, once you’ve tried these tender little pancake bites you won’t care about the proper technique, or burned fingers, or even that these are slightly more fussy and time-consuming than their flat relatives. Now that I’ve become reacquainted with my favorite snow-day breakfast, ebelskivers will be making an appearance during every blizzard, brunch, and holiday in my house.

plum_filling

Ebelskivers (Danish Pancakes)

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: About 21 ebelskivers

Ebelskivers (Danish Pancakes)

These traditional Danish pancakes are perfect for a snow day or lazy weekend brunch.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted (plus additional for greasing pan)
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • Preserves or chopped apples for filling (about 1/2 cup)
  • Special Equipment:
  • Ebelskiver pan

Instructions

  1. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl.
  2. In a metal mixer bowl, beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks.
  3. Whisk sugar, egg yolks, milk, and butter together in a large bowl.
  4. Sift dry ingredients over wet and whisk until just combined (batter will still be lumpy). Fold in egg whites.
  5. Heat ebelskiver pan with about 1/4 teaspoon butter in each well until bubbly. Add 1 tablespoon batter to each well, then add 1 teaspoon of filling. Add batter to cover filling.
  6. Cook over low-medium heat until edges are set and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. With a knife or metal chopstick, gently turn the ebelskivers over and tuck them upside down into the wells to cook the other side.
  7. Cook until both sides are browned, about 4 more minutes. Serve dusted with powdered sugar.

Notes

Ebelskivers may be kept in the oven on warm until the whole batch is cooked, but they're best straight out of the pan.

Adapted from Serious Eats.

http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/ebelskivers-danish-pancakes/

Green Chile Bread Pudding (+ an update on the chickens)

getting_their_wings

After a busy weekend, I looked at the chicks and realized they’re getting their wing feathers already. They’re nearly a week old now, and they’ve also mastered scratching in their feeder and in the clumps of grass I put in the brooder; seconds after I place them in the freshly cleaned box it’s trashed again.

6_day_old_chicks_trashing_the_brooder

They’re adorable though, and all eight appear to be thriving and will shortly be moved to their private quarters in the chicken coop. And then this Saturday, incubator #2 is due to hatch so we hope to have a few more joining the fun.

welsummer_egg_hatching

welsummerXfaverolles_just_hatched

The big chickens have also been going through a lot of changes this week. We found our first tiny pullet egg this week, and the rest of the girls from our April hatch should start laying anytime. And of course, the young roosters found their voices and started trying to put the moves on the ladies. It’s been an awkward few weeks, steeped in rejection, frequent ambushes, and plenty of dominance battles. Visiting the coop was like being in middle school again.

Ideally, the ratio should be 10 hens for every rooster. And as the boys matured, I learned firsthand that chickens aren’t meant to live in equal numbers. Our once-harmonious flock grew edgy and out of balance as the hormones kicked in, and we knew it was time.

With this flock, we planned from the start to harvest all but one of the boys. And so on Saturday morning, we followed through and butchered nine beautiful roosters. It was hard and sad work, but ultimately gratifying to see an entire shelf full of meat that we raised with care, from egg to freezer. Most roosters never even have a chance at life, they’re just an unfortunate byproduct of egg production — for each of the 18 female chicks we’ve purchased from hatcheries, a male chick was sent off to a rendering plant.

And so I think it’s more ethical to hatch my own laying hens and raise the roosters for the freezer, because I can ensure they’re well cared for and treated with respect. Even so, I get the occasional comment to the effect of “I wouldn’t kill a good looking rooster like that, send him to a nice farm!” (Actually, I’m pretty sure we are that farm). Butchering is bloody, brutal work to be sure, but I consider myself fortunate to be part of the process and know that my birds are treated with respect — really, I feel like I had more blood on my hands back when I was buying factory-produced chicken and eggs without acknowledging the source.

Butchering includes several steps, and as novices with nine roosters, my sister and I had our work cut out for us. Fortunately, our wonderful neighbor came over to help and even recruited her three houseguests to join us — maybe not what they were expecting on vacation, but they were excellent sports.

With six people on the line, the work passed quickly and the emotional burden felt a bit lighter too (or at least, having other people around helped me keep the water works under control). After just a few hours, we were all freshly showered and drinking a champagne toast to the boys, who were cleaned and chilling in the fridge.

I put brunch together the night before, since the kitchen would be devoted to packaging chickens and I doubted I’d feel like cooking afterwards. This dish is one of my go-tos when I’m having people over, because all I have to do in the morning is pop the pan in the oven. It’s usually improvised in my house, sometimes with bacon, sometimes with jalapeños, always with cheese — so just think of this recipe as a template for your own creation.

Green Chile Bread Pudding

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4-6 servings

Green Chile Bread Pudding

A perfect dish for those days where you've promised someone you'll feed them brunch, but really want to sleep in.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium loaf of crusty bread, about 300 grams
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite green chile sauce, or roasted and peeled anaheims, or a small can of diced Hatch chiles
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3 slices bacon (optional but highly recommended)

Instructions

  1. Cut bread into chunks about 1" thick and arrange in a 13x9 glass baking dish.
  2. Beat eggs with milk, and whisk in salt, chiles, half of the cheese, and bacon (if using).
  3. Pour egg mixture over bread and press down on the pieces to coat them.
  4. Sprinkle remaining cheese across the top and cover; refrigerate at least 8 hours (and up to 24).
  5. In the morning, let the dish come up to room temperature on the counter (about an hour) then bake in the middle a 350 degree oven until the cheese is browned and bubbly, about 25 minutes.
http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/green-chile-bread-pudding-an-update-on-the-chickens/

 

Savory Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tart

mushroom_goat_cheese_tart_cut

Last Saturday, I had big plans. First, it was off to the Farmer’s Market in search of fruit, and then I was going to fire up the outdoor canning station and make jar after jar of plum butter and peach basil jam.

But when I got there, the only peaches were already in jars — they’d sold out of fresh peaches within 15 minutes of the market opening. And what’s worse, the farmer told me that the late spring blizzards this year killed off all their cherry and plum blossoms. On the bright side, they still have peaches and I like them better in August anyway, when there are freestone peaches instead of cling.

Still, the thought of a year with no plum butter followed me around the market like a little black raincloud. That is, until I spotted the sign for Hazel Dell Mushrooms. They were pretty picked over too, having already sold out of their lion’s mane (my favorite), but they still had some shiitake and oyster mushrooms left. A quick stop to grab some Haystack Mountain goat cheese, and I was on my way home with an idea already starting to take shape in my head.

ingredients_for_mushroom_tart

Every once in a while, I get really lucky. I’ll come up with some half-baked plan, and it turns out exactly as I imagined it on the first run. This is rare, though it happens slightly more often now that I’ve had more practice in the kitchen and have learned from my previous disasters (luck favors the prepared mind, right?).

But if I happen to be working with expensive ingredients in short supply, my experiments are pretty much guaranteed to flop the first time. It’s Murphy’s Law.

fresh_shiitake_and_oyster_mushrooms

saute_mushrooms_until_liquid_is_reabsorbed

whisk_eggs_and_milk_into_goat_cheese

pour_filling_into_tart_shell

So you’ll imagine my surprise when this tart, basically a savory mushroom cheesecake, turned out almost exactly as I envisioned it. I cobbled it together from bits and pieces of various recipes, and for once ended up with a great result on my first test run. It may just be my favorite thing I’ve ever invented, but I’ll probably need to make it again next weekend just to be sure.

Savory Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tart

51

Prep Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Savory Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tart

Rich and flaky, with a silky layer of goat cheese underneath, this mushroom tart is even better the next morning alongside a green salad and some scrambled eggs.

Ingredients

    For the tart dough:
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons cold salted butter, cut into cubes
  • 4-5 tablespoons ice water
  • For the filling:
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 pound fresh oyster mushrooms
  • 1/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons minced white onion
  • 1 small clove garlic (or half of a large clove), minced
  • 1 tightly-packed teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, removed from stem and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1 small handful fresh chives (to equal about 2 tablespoons minced)
  • 5 ounces fresh chèvre or other soft mild goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg (I used 2 medium)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Special equipment:
  • A 9" fluted tart pan with removable bottom

Instructions

    Make the tart dough:
  1. Combine flour, salt, and butter and mix with a dough cutter until the lumps of butter are pea-sized (you can also pulse it in a food processor)
  2. Dribble ice water across the top, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together in a ball. Shape it into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then refrigerate for at least an hour while you make the filling.
  3. Make the filling:
  4. Whisk together goat cheese, eggs, and cream in a large bowl and stir in chives. Set aside.
  5. Chop mushrooms (I left a few larger slices of shiitake for decoration)
  6. Heat butter in a large heavy skillet and add onions and mushrooms, cooking over low-medium heat until the mushrooms have given off their liquid and are mostly dry. Add sherry, thyme, and garlic, and cook a few minutes longer until the liquid is absorbed and remove from heat. Set aside.
  7. Assemble and bake the tart:
  8. Preheat over to 375F
  9. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and roll it out on a lightly floured surface. Try to get it about 1/8" thin, and don't worry too much if it cracks at the edges -- you'll have plenty of overhang and some leftover dough.
  10. Gently drape dough across your tart pan and tamp down the bottom edges and sides. Leave a section of dough hanging over the pan if you can (I forgot) to reinforce the edge, as the dough will shrink a bit.
  11. Use a fork to prick holes all over the bottom of your tart shell, this keeps it from puffing up when it bakes.
  12. Pour goat cheese mixture into the tart shell and bake until set, about 6 minutes. Carefully spread mushrooms across the top and bake until the edges of the shell are golden brown, about 35-45 minutes. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes and then move to a rack to finish cooling. Serve warm or at room temperature.
http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/savory-mushroom-and-goat-cheese-tart/

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

half-eaten

It’s summer squash season, and the piles of fresh zucchini are starting to lose their novelty. So when I’m staring at a fridge full of squash or a zucchini the size of my leg, I usually resort to shredding and hiding them in baked goods. Or at the very least, shredding and hiding them in the freezer for a snowy day.

cocozelle_squash

shredded_zucchini

Zucchini does wonderful things for muffins. It makes for a soft, delicate crumb; and more importantly, it enables you to call them “muffins” when really they taste like cupcakes.dry_ingredients

I used black cocoa powder, which is basically Dutch-processed cocoa taken a step further so that it’s even darker and less bitter. It’s great to have on hand if you want baked goods with a mellow chocolate flavor and super dark color, i.e. Oreo-type cookies or ice cream sandwiches.

A note on cocoa powder: You can usually use natural cocoa powder in place of Dutch (NOT vice versa, at least for cakes and cookies). But be warned that the natural acidity will react with the baking soda in this recipe and your muffins will have a reddish tint, like Devil’s Food cake. And I can’t promise they won’t be a little taller or flatter than they should be, since I haven’t made that substitution in this particular recipe.

coconut_oil

Finally, I find that coconut oil makes these extra delicious and “healthier,” giving us all the more reason to eat cake for breakfast. You’re welcome.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 12 muffins

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

A delicious, kid-friendly way to use up extra zucchini.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder ("black" cocoa powder if you have it)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin coconut oil (I like Nutiva)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 pound zucchini (1 cup grated)
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • Special equipment
  • Electric mixer
  • 12-cup muffin tin
  • Cupcake liners

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and coarsely grate zucchini. If you're using a big monster zucchini, scrape out the seeds first.
  2. Whisk together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Beat together sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla using an electric mixer until creamy, about 3 minutes.
  4. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just incorporated. Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips.
  5. Divide among 12 lined muffin cups and bake until tops spring back when lightly pressed, about 30 minutes.
  6. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove from pan to cool completely.
http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/chocolate-zucchini-muffins/

Kale Frittata with Bacon

frittata_ingredients

Most of the eggs from my chickens have been diverted for other purposes lately, and I’ve been missing them. But now that the eggs are in the incubator, I’m back to eating the ones I collect from the coop every day. And when a few days’ worth stack up, this is what I like to do with them.

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