Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pump up the Jam: Strawberry Mint Jam & Strawberry Rhubarb

Being obsessed with fruit since a young kid (fresh strawberries squished on rye bread with a sprinkle of sugar), blueberries and cream on a simple sponge cake base, going cherry picking and eating as many as I could before we got tired, and working in a fruit and veg shop for many years before I came to America I have learned to seriously appreciate seasonal fruit. 

Seattlites have been waiting and waiting for some sort of berry to come to the markets for many weeks now, but the past two weeks have been strawberry weeks. Early varieties are available, not as sweet or flavorful as some later ones ("Hood" strawbs are the BEST <- underlined and bolded) sweet, full bodied, rich and so much "strawberry" packed in a little bundle. But, while I wait a few weeks for those guys to come into their peak I have been making some jams out of local strawberries. The latest are: strawberry & rhubarb and strawberry mint. 

Strawberry rhubarb is amazing. I have to admit I never had this combo until I came to the USA, but let me tell you, the American's were onto something. You have tart and sweet all at once, just the way I like it. I also decided to make a strawberry mint jam. It's a slow cooked jam with no pectin added, instead the berries are left to macerate in sugar and lemon juice overnight so the juice of the berries is removed from the fruit. I then let this cook down on a very gentle simmer for a couple of hours, and perhaps at two hours in I added some fresh mint leave and then a couple of grinds of pepper. It's a tart, rich and refreshing jam. 

I'll be making plenty more jams as the seasons progress, I'm looking forwards to integrating some good local wines into my jams as well. I have some good baking ahead!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mushroom Tart

I was talking to a friend last week, and she expressed disappointment in the fact that all I have on this blog is macarons. Sorry Deniz! Instead, today I decided to write a quick write up about a tart I made for dinner on Monday night. It was pretty darn tasty. 

At Lake Forest Park Farmers Market there is a vendor there who sells foraged things (hence where I got the fern fronts a few posts back). But, this week they were selling freshly foraged morel mushrooms. They are sublime if you can clean them well enough. He suggested that you put it in a bowl of water and sort of let them sit there for a moment to wash the bits of sand out of the folds. I've always wanted to hunt for morels, but I'm pretty new to the whole mycology thing so the past year I didn't get out in time to forage. This year is nuts, so I haven't had any time. However, it's awesome to have access to some lovely mushrooms, even when I don't get the chance to find them for myself. 

Back to the tart. It's a mushroom tart. It contains the wonderful morel, white mushrooms, and crimmini mushrooms for a local store. I made a pate brisee crust and while that was doing it's thing in the freezer, I cleaned and sliced them and sauteed them with a bit of olive oil, salt and some shallots. Then I made custard out of eggs from the farmers market, creme fraiche from the market and some milk from another farmers market (I know, how many markets can I visit in a week?!). I seasoned it and added some fresh thyme, then quickly grated some parmesan over the layered mushrooms, and that's it. 

A lovely dinner with a giant salad of fresh red leaf lettuce and lemon dressing from, you guessed it the farmers market. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sourcing: Transparency

One of the reasons I started this business was about control. Sure, I am a control freak, I'll totally admit to that, I want to make what I want to make, and how I want to make it.  But I also really want to be conscientious about my product, and in doing so I'm incredibly picky about my ingredients. I've decided to be completely open and transparent about my ingredients, where they come from and why I chose them. This is up-to-date as of today, but in the future it may change.

My almonds come from the Californian supplier Mandelin who use almonds supplied by Vetsch Farms of California. They are not organic, but they use a method of pest control called "Integrated Pest Management" or IPM. It's not the greatest method, but it is a environmentally sensitive approach to pest management (see more about IPM at: 

My powdered sugar comes from "Wholesome Sweeteners". It is both organic and fair trade, and I buy it because of this and the fact that the type I use doesn't use the typical corn starch, but uses tapioca starch. 

My sugar, I use conventional sugar, C&H to be precise. I have used organic and fair trade sugar before, I just find that when I make caramel that the added color (slightly brown) confuses my sense of caramel! It also has a molasses taste that I don't want in the macarons. 

My egg whites come from two places, Wilcox farms, and Organic Valley. Wilcox is a transition farm, meaning that it is on it's way to becoming certified organic (cage free). It is also Salmon Safe and certified Humane, and it is local they are located in Roy, WA.  Organic Valley is a large supplier of egg whites, they are certified Organic by Oregon Tilth. 

Food coloring, I know this is a quite a contentious issue at the moment. I use conventional food coloring, not natural at all. The reason for this is unfortunate. I would love to use all natural food coloring, I really would and have experimented with it. Unfortunately, there is a reaction between the food coloring and the  egg whites. This reaction means that when I go to whisk my egg whites, the food coloring makes them collapse, and not whisk to the meringue consistency. So, at this point in time I use conventional food coloring. 

Butter, I use Wholefoods 365 Organic butter in my butter creams. However, I do use different butter as well, it depends on price and convenience.

My cream comes from Organic Valley.  It is certified Organic, part of a food co-op and last but not least it tastes good, and is widely available.  

I have so many other ingredients, that change all the time. My chocolate however mostly comes from the Swiss chocolate maker "Felchlin". They pay more than fair trade prices to farmers, they know where their cocoa beans originate, they also disassociate themselves from those farms that use child labour (they only purchase from farms that comply with the International Labor Standards in regards to child labor. They also produce awesome chocolate and cocoa powder, so I'm very happy using their products. 

As for other ingredients, I have no issue discussing where they come from, or how they were produced. I think it is incredibly important to be aware of where things come from, and that price not just be the bottom line, but to make conscientious decisions based on facts, as far as I can know them. 

Menu for the week:
-Orange and Rhubarb (Rhubarb from Five Acre Farms). It's a rhubarb jam cooked with orange zest and fresh orange juice. It has a dollop of orange buttercream in the center.
(Almonds, organic fair trade powdered sugar (cane sugar, tapioca starch), sugar, egg whites, food coloring, rhubarb, orange zest, orange juice, organic butter, organic cream, orange oil).

-Chocolate Ganache (a 65% 'Better than Fair Trade' chocolate from the Swiss Chocolate maker Felchlin). Rich and lovely.
(Almonds, organic fair trade powdered sugar (cane sugar, tapioca starch), sugar, egg whites, food coloring, cocoa powder, 65% bittersweet chocolate (contains soy lecithin), organic cream, organic butter, salt).

-Lemon and Rosemary. A rich lemon buttercream, with fresh rosemary integrated into the shell.
(Almonds, organic fair trade powdered sugar (cane sugar, tapioca starch), sugar, egg whites, food coloring, organic lemon, organic cream, organic rosemary, organic butter, lemon oil).

-Mocha Ganache (coffee is the Organic Santa Teresa Estate Pacamara from Perkins Roasting Company)
A complex combination of bittersweet chocolate and freshly roasted coffee. Not too bitter, a good balance with a nice kick!
(Almonds, organic fair trade powdered sugar (cane sugar, tapioca starch), sugar, egg whites, dehydrated coffee, cocoa powder, 65% bittersweet chocolate (contains soy lecithin), organic cream, organic butter, salt).