Orange Cocktail Bitters

While this may seem a little obsessive, making your own bitters, when a simple trip to the store is far quicker. I like going the extra bit to make it from scratch.  That and I can say I know how to do it and isn’t learning to make something new part of the fun and the challenge?  Have fun everyone!

Before you start there are a few things that are needed:

3 glass jars that can hold up to 2 cups of liquid with sealable lids, a dehydrator or oven with baking sheets, oh and a little patience.  This takes about 4 weeks to make.

Homemade Orange Bitters

4-5 oranges, pealed

1 cup Everclear

1 teaspoon gentian root, available online

1 teaspoon quassia bark, available online

1 1/2 cups good bourbon, I used Knob Creek

1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

1/2 teaspoon whole cloves

4 star anise pods

Zest the oranges using a vegetable peeler and place peel in a dehydrator, set the machine to 200 degrees and allow to dry for up to 3 hours. This can also be done in a oven with a convection setting. Check the peels periodically to avoid burning.

Cool the zest and place in a jar with 1/2 of the Everclear. This is the orange flavoring.

Combine the caraway seeds, cloves, star anise in another jar with the remaining 1/2 cup of Everclear. This is the spice for your mix.

Mix the gentian root and quassia bark in a jar with the bourbon. This is the bitter part of the  mix.

Over the next 2 weeks give each to the sealed jars a bit of a swirl and shake each day. You’re just make sure that all the orange is submerged as much as possible and nothing in any of the bottles is drying out.

After your two weeks has elapsed stain out each jar and reserve the orange peel. It’s now time for everything to hangout together with the orange peel for an additional 2 weeks.

Stain the mixture once again and store in a sealed bottle. ?

Elderflower Simple Syrup

Making a simple syrup is just that, simple, and they can be flavored with just about anything.  This one serves as the base for two fun cocktails that I think you’ll enjoy.

Elderflower Simple Syrup

3 pounds granulated sugar, yes pounds

3 liters water

4 lemons, slices

4 oranges, slices

2 ounces dried elderflowers

Combine water and sugar and bring to a gentle boil and boil for 15 minutes. (Congratulations you’ve just made simple syrup! See how easy that was you’ll never need to buy it at the store agin!)

Place elderflowers, orange slices and lemon slices in a bowl large enough to accommodate everything and still fix in the refrigerator.

Allow the simple syrup to cool slightly and pour over the citrus and dried flowers, this will now steep overnight in the refrigerator.

The next morning strain the mixture through cheese cloth a couple of times and por into  sterile bottles and refrigerate.

Now…what shall we make with our simple syrup?

Elderflower Margarita

Elderflower Margarita 

2 ounces good Tequila

2 ounces Elderflower Simple Syrup

1 ounce fresh lemon juice

1 ounce fresh lime juice

Combine with a half cup ice and shake well in a cocktail shaker.

 

Elderflower Martini

Elderflower Martini

3 ounces Citroen vodka

1 ounces Elderflower Simple Syrup

1 1/2 ounces lemon juice

4 drops orange bitters, homemade of course

Fill a shaker with ice and add vodka, simple syrup, lemon juice and shake well.  Pour into a pretty glass and float 4 drops of orange bitters on top.

 

Brown Sugar and Cream Cheese Pound Cake

What’s the old children’s song about little bunny Foo Foo?  “little bunny Foo Foo I don’t want to see you picking up the field mice and bopping them on the head.”  Unlike that little bunny these little bunnies are very sweet and you can invite them over for tea any time!

 

Let Sleeping Bunnies Lie.

Spring green!

Setting a pretty table

Brown Sugar and Cream Cheese Pound Cake

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened                                                                                          1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
5 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla paste or vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Butter and flour two 1 pound loaf pans or in the case of our bunnies your cakelette mold and an additional loaf pan.

Whip cream cheese, butter and sugars to mixing bowl and beating in an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.

Combine buttermilk and vanilla in a small measuring cup and stir.

Alternate adding flour and milk to the batter, starting and stopping with flour.

Pour batter into buttered/sprayed, and floured pans.

Bake for approximately 1 hour for the loaf pans and 20-25 minutes for the cakelette pan. Check if done with a cake tester or wooden skewer.

Let cool for 15 minutes before gently removing from pans.

Little Bunny Foo Foo?

Grapefruitcello

Recently my husband and I tried a grapefruitcello at a local Italian restaurant and I decided to try my hand at reproducing it.  I went through several different limoncello recipes that I had done in the past and came up with this version for you to try.  Sweet, a little bitter and definitely with a bite.  I can definitely compare this to life,  if you aren’t paying attention to it, it can kick you in the butt.

Nectar of the Gods

Grapefruitcello

8 weeks lead time

2 Ruby Red grapefruits, they will be peeled and then juiced
750 ml of Everclear
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Peel the grapefruit into strips, being careful to not get very much of the pith, the white membrane around the fruit. The pith is bitter and will have a bad after taste for your cello. Once you have peeled the fruit, immerse the peel in a wide mouth jar, with the Everclear, and allow is to steep for 2 weeks.

Take the peeled grapefruit and juice them. Then stain the juice and freeze the juice for your two week wait time.

At your two week point create your simple syrup, by dissolving the sugar in water over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil and reduce to a syrup and then cool completely. Pull your juice from the freezer and allow it to thaw.

Strain the Everclear mixture and stir in the grapefruit juice.

Once the syrup has cooled, mix it, the juice, and Everclear infusion all together.  Everything will be in the mix now.

These little guys are going to hang out for an additional 6 weeks. After 6 weeks the grapefruitcello is ready to drink.

I recommend keeping it in the freezer and serving it in a small shot glass or cordial glass. The alcohol content will keep it from freezing solid.

 

Sweet, bitter and with a bite.

Mixed with prosecco and with a twist of grapefruit peel it is much smoother cocktail ! And not nearly as Everclear forward.  The recipe can also be created using vodka in place of the Everclear.

Valentine Cutout Sugar Cookies

Happy Valentines Day to everyone! I wanted to share this little moment to tell the people in my life that they are special to me.  While I may not be good a communicating all the time with words, I do communicate with the food I create.  This is my go to recipe for cutout cookies. This recipe was given to me to be a friend a number of years ago. Pam S. was the mom who did everything, baking, cooking, sewing and was the room mother for all her childrens classrooms. These cookies have been taken bake sales and block parties too many to count.

Once I tried this recipe I have never used any other recipe, it’s just that good. Tender, not hard, like some cutout cookies, and just the right amount of butter for richness.  These cookies are the way I say I love you!

Valentine Cutout Sugar Cookies

2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
4 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a stand mixer cream together butter and sugar. Add egg yolks, vanilla paste and mix well. Sift together flour and sugar and combine into the butter mixture.
Chill dough in the refrigerator for one hour.
Roll out a portion on a floured surface and cut in to desired shapes.

 

Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes until golden.

Cool and decorate with royal icing.

~ OXOX ~

Apple Butter Bars

The smell of apples and spices are a simple comfort when its cold outside.  When you combine apples, spices, butter and sugar it gets even better.  I was lucky enough to have a friend who had extra apples on her trees and was given a 5 gallon bucket of these home grown little gems.  They were small and tart and very firm, but that meant they cooked down a little more slowly and they had a wonderful intense flavor.

I did a simple combination of sugar, cinnamon, allspice, lemon juice and apples in the slow cooker. Setting the slow cooker to low the cooking process for the apple butter lasted around 10 hours. Watching the liquid evaporate and replacing it as needed and watching the color go to a rich brown.

Short bread crust:

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 cup butter

Cream butter and sugar together and then incorporate the flour to create a medium crum.  Press into a 9″ square baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes until firm. Cool and top with apple butter mixture. And bake a second time for 25 minutes until the top is set.

Homemade Apple Butter

The apple butter was simply made by peeling and coring apple,adding sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice and reducing in a slow cooker for 12 hours.

Lemon Flavored French Macarons with Raspberry Buttercream Filling

Lemon Macarons with Raspberry Filling

Lemon Flavored French Macarons with Raspberry Buttercream Filling

1 cup Almond flour, sifted
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
3 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
A pinch of salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4-6 drops yellow food coloring, optional

Sift together powdered sugar and almond flour,  whisk in zest and set aside.

Whisk egg whites, salt, cream of tartar and white sugar to soft peaks. Then add food coloring if desired.

Fold in drying ingredients, being careful not to deflate the whipped egg whites. Fold to a smooth consistency.

Spoon mixture into a piping bag and pipe quarter to half dollar sized coins onto a silicone or wax paper lined baking sheet. Allow the disks to dry for 30 to 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 250°.

Once the disks have formed a skin, bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Raspberry Buttercream Filling

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 tablespoons raspberry sauce

Cream butter and sugar together and then add raspberry sauce.
Spoon raspberry filling into a piping bag and pipe filling onto the disks then sandwich the cookies together.

Salt Cured Egg Yolk

On a recent trip to Hawaii my husband and I made a stop at Mahini and Sun’s Restaurant. The menus is locally sourced and wonderfully innovative.  They served a salt cured grated egg over a butter leaf lettuce salad that was totally awesome.  So when we got home I decided to give it a try.  The whole process takes about two weeks, but in my opinion it really is worth the effort. The egg provides a very umami and obviously salty favor to the salad. But using it on a pasta or risotto dish would be another great option!

I first started with equal parts salt and sugar. I poured half the salt/sugar mixture into a shallow ceramic baking dish and made small divets in the “sand.” I then took my egg yolks and placed one in each divet and completely covered it all with the salt/sugar mixture. Then popped it into the refrigerator uncovered to start the drying process.

Now came the waiting and the watching.  I am not the most patient person when it comes to my food in any way shape or form.  So waiting for a week without touching it was a little hard. Oh, and be sure the refrigerator isn’t smelling off. The eggs can and will pickup any odors or flavors they come in contact with. This can be a good thing or a bad thing.  If you want to flavor the eggs with herbs this great, just mix in some herbs with the salt, however if the refrigerator smells like fish, not so much.

Once you’ve reached your one week mark remove the eggs from the salt and brush off as much of the salt as you can and wrap each egg in a small piece of cheesecloth, tie with a bit of string and suspend in the refrigerator for and additional week.

Now that your two weeks have  been completed you can unwrap the eggs and brush any remaining salt from the eggs.  The eggs should be completely dry now and not tacky. They can now be stored, wrapped in their cheesecloth,  in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

I used mine up fairly quickly but they should be good in the refrigerator for up to two additional weeks or put them into the freezer as well.

Grated over a salad or pasta the dried egg has a similar texture to parmesan cheese.

Mixed greens with salt cured egg and raspberry vinegrette .

Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze

 

Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze

Adapted from recipe by Kinfolk

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, cold
1 cup frozen blueberries
2 large eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream, plus 1 tablespoon for brushing
1 teaspoon vanilla paste

Lemon glaze
2/3 cup Powdered sugar
1 tablespoon Lemon juice
2 teaspoons cream

Preheat oven to 400°.

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. With your hands combine flour and butter pinching the mixture to resemble small peas or use a pastry blender to cut together.

Stir in blueberries.

Whisk eggs vanilla and cream together.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients together.

On a floured surface shape the dough into a 14″ square. Cut the square into 4 equal pieces, then cut each square diagonally into triangles. You will now have 8 triangles of dough.

Place the scones on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the top of the scones with cream.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Cool and then drizzle with the lemon graze.

Tea and Scones

Cleanup Crew

2nd Day Black Bean Soup

Black eyed peas are suppose to be eaten on New Years day to bring good luck for the coming year.  But since I didn’t have black eyed peas I decided to go another route and do black beans instead.  This particular soup thickens and becomes more flavorful if you wait a bit to eat it. So I recommend making it a couple days before you plan to serve it to amp up the flavors.

2nd Day Black Bean Soup

Adapted from Cuban Black Beans by Nigella Lawson

2 cups dry black beans
2 yellow onions, diced
2 red bell peppers, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
11/2 quarts chicken stock
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 teaspoons dried chili flake
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 can diced tomatoes

1 bay leaf, optional

Toast cumin seed and chili flakes in a small shallow fry pan until you can smell the spices coming up. Pour the mixture into a mortar and pestle and add the garlic and salt, grind into a rough powder.

Sauté peppers and onions until translucent and pop in the aromatics. The kitchen in smelling pretty amazing now.

About now you can pull out the slow cooker if you have one. If not, a cast iron Dutch oven works as well. Toss in beans, no need to soak, stock, tomatoes and your sautéed mixture, set the controls to low for 8 hours and you’re  out of the kitchen for the rest of the day.