One Word Photo Challenge: Strawberry Pie!

February 4, 2015 Strawberry pie 017

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What tastes more like spring than strawberries?

We love strawberries sliced and drizzled with a bit of honey almost as much as we love them whole and warm, freshly picked and fragrant.

Coastal Virginia is known for our abundant harvest of sweet strawberries, but the harvest is still months away.

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Our produce guy hinted these may have come from “south of the border.”  No matter.  We are thrilled to have them!

We will enjoy them this evening on top of chocolate coconut pie.  The filling is made from a pudding recipe I found several weeks ago in Vegetarian Times magazine.  Yes, I’ve tweaked it a little bit…. but it is still vegan and gluten free, if that is important to you.  We often eat this as a pudding, but tonight it is made into a pie.

Here are the “step by steps” should you want to try it for yourself.

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Crust:

Preheat an oven to 350 F.  Melt 6 TB of butter or margarine in a pie pan with a handful of thinly sliced almonds, about five minutes.  Meanwhile, mix together a cup of almond flour, 1/2 c. of wheat or rice flour, a little salt and 2 TB of sugar (coconut sugar here).  Stir into the melted butter with 1/2 tsp. of almond extract, and press into the pie pan to form a shallow crust.  Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes or until fragrant and lightly browned.

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Filling:

Combine 2/3 C. of powdered icing sugar, 4 heaping TB of cornstarch, 1 C. of unsweetened coconut, and a little salt in a dry pan.  Combine well until no clumps of cornstarch are left.  Slowly add 3 cups of coconut milk, stirring to dissolve all of the cornstarch and sugar in the first cup.  Add 1 cup of water, and stir over medium heat.  Allow the mixture to heat gradually, stirring from time to time as the mixture thickens.  Take care that a layer is never allowed to form on the bottom of the pan.  Stir constantly as the mixture approaches boiling,  letting it bubble gently for only a minute or two before removing it from the heat.  Stir in 1 tsp. of vanilla extract.

Now this coconut pudding is delicious just as it is.  Use it at this stage if you prefer vanilla or coconut pudding.  But we go a step further….

Pour a half of a bag of chocolate bits into the hot coconut pudding.  Here we’ve used Hershey’s Special Dark bits.  Stir with a rubber spatula as the bits melt until the pudding is a uniform deep chocolate.  Pour the pudding into the pie shell, leaving 3/4 inch head space in the top of the pan.  We had enough filling left over for two little pudding cups…

Cover the pudding filled crust and chill for an hour.

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February 4, 2015 Strawberry pie 024

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Strawberries:

Wash a quart of fresh strawberries, cap, and slice.  I cut the two best looking sides off for layering, and dice the middle of the berry into the pan for sauce.

Drizzle honey over the sliced berries and allow them to sit for at least 30 minutes.

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Strawberry Sauce:

Mash the diced berries or process in a food processor.  Add 1 tsp. lemon juice, a dash of salt, and 1/3 C. cherry juice for color.  Mix together 2 TB  sugar and 1 heaping TB of cornstarch in a small bowl, then whisk this mixture into the mashed berries as they heat.  Drain any juice off of the sliced berries into the pan as it heats, along with 1/3 C. of cold water.   Stir over medium heat until the mixture thickens and turns almost clear.  (The milkiness of the cornstarch will disappear when the sauce is done.)

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Finishing:

Layer the sliced berries over the chilled chocolate pie, and top, if you wish, with the strawberry sauce.  Chill for at least an hour.

Garnish with whipped cream and additional chocolate curls just before serving.

Enjoy!

With appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Well’s

One Word Photo Challenge:  Strawberry

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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February 4, 2015 Strawberry pie 008

Something New

December 28, 2014 winter 025

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I’ve gotten a head start on a “new” year.

Here is the first loaf of sourdough bread, baked from a newly made starter, in a brand new Dutch oven given to me for Christmas.

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The entire house is perfumed by this wonderful bread.

I’ve been reading two new books about baking bread  this week.

9781607742746_p0_v2_s114x1669781452100289_p0_v1_s260x420Both of these speak of time as an essential ingredient to baking good bread.  They introduce some new techniques and ways of making dough I have only just begun to learn.

I love beginning a new year with learning something new!

The bread I’ve baked today began a week ago when I mixed some rye flour (a gift from a friend who chose to shift to a gluten free diet) with some bottled spring water, and set it aside to come alive.

Rye flour harbors some specific yeasts and bacteria which when activated, will grow into a “sourdough” culture or “levain.”

After two days, I began feeding my new culture with bread flour and more bottled spring water.

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December 28, 2014 bread 006

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On the third day I divided my culture in half, giving half to another baking friend, and continued to feed the culture with flour and water.

By Friday the culture was ready to leaven a batch of bread dough.  When I divided the culture to feed it, half went into the bowl to serve as the basis for bread.

I also finally purchased Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast,  and set about reading beyond the “sample” to dig into his techniques and recipes.

I didn’t follow his recipes for this bread, but I followed many of his principles.  I made a well hydrated, loose, dough; “folded” it several times during the rise, and allowed it plenty of time to rise slowly.

Translated:  The dough was much softer and wetter than I normally make it.  I let it rise for about four hours on the counter, and then put the dough into the refrigerator, in a covered bowl, for an additional 36 hours before forming the loaf early this morning.

Once formed, with plenty of extra flour used in making the loaf, I let it rise an additional four hours before beginning to bake the bread.

This bread is leavened only with the “sourdough” levain.  There is no additional yeast. 

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December 28, 2014 winter 029*

And the ingredients list includes only flour, water, honey, olive oil, and salt in addition to flour and the levain starter. I brushed the loaf with melted butter and sprinkled sesame seeds and sea salt on the top crust before baking.

 

Bread board by Michael Laico.

Bread board by Michael Laico.

It is the soul of simplicity:  bread made as our grandmothers made it in the centuries before we could purchase yeast at the grocery store!

What was old is new again….

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December 28, 2014 bread 002

Woodland Gnome 2014

Biscotti, Gone, But Fondly Remembered!

December 5, 2014 ornaments 010

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Our friend, who is an amazing cook, made these beautiful cranberry orange biscotti for our coffee group yesterday.

They are delicious.  But even better, they are absolutely gluten free and vegan.  There is no added fat in the recipe, beyond what occurs naturally in the nuts.

Even though I’m the sort of cook who keeps a bag of Vital Wheat Gluten in the fridge at all times, more and more of my friends and extended family maintain gluten-free diets.

It is always a challenge to stick to a restrictive diet, although recovering one’s health and well-being serves as a powerful motivator!

And it is especially challenging at the holidays.  So many of our warm memories and good times with loved ones involve our favorite seasonal foods.  It is hard to enjoy family gatherings when our favorite foods are on the table, and we can’t enjoy them.

It was tough for me when I shifted to a fully vegetarian diet in the 80’s.  I suddenly felt very out of place at social events from cook-outs to cocktail parties.  Hostesses were nervous in inviting me to dinner.  Some still are, although there are far more of us vegetarians and vegans these days.  There are many more options everywhere you go to eat well and avoid meat.

It is a much tougher thing for those who require a gluten-free diet.  Traditional family holiday meals are full of gluten, from appetizers to desserts.  Gluten is a protein found in all wheat products.  Anything which contains flour, or even comes into contact with wheat, becomes “contaminated” with gluten.  That covers an awful lot of the holiday table, doesn’t it?

That is why I was so excited to enjoy these wonderful biscotti yesterday.  They are everything I love in biscotti:  crunchy, delicious, and totally satisfying.  They hold up when dunked in a cup of coffee, and then melt in your mouth at the next bite.

And they are also very healthy to eat; as cookies go….

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When I asked for the recipe,  my friend sent a link to the recipe on the “elana’s pantry” food blogPlease follow the link to the recipe if you are interested.

These wonderful biscotti are gone now, but certainly not forgotten.  I plan to make a batch for Christmas, as a gift to those in my own family who eat a gluten free diet.

Whether you follow a restrictive diet or not, this recipe is well worth the effort to try it.  It is actually an easier preparation than traditional biscotti, with fewer ingredients.

I would make only one change to this delicious recipe…. and it involves drizzling melted dark chocolate over the finished biscotti as they cool….

 

Woodland Gnome 2014

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