Wow, fall came to Seattle so quickly that all of us are still kind of reeling. We had such a lovely, warm, sunny summer (it was the best we’ve ever had according to the weather people). And then one day: Bam! Fall. It came on so abruptly that I haven’t really had time to adjust. Everyone is walking around, complaining about how cold it is—even though it’s not really that cold. I think I’m still in denial and I’m still wearing my favorite clogs without socks. And then I wonder why I’m so cold. Sigh.
It’s been busy here at Chez Four Chickens (that’s kind of what we call ourselves due to the name of my original blog). The actual chickens here are also coping with the effects of the early fall. Chickens do something called “molting” at the end of summer, which means they lose a good portion of their old feathers and grow a nice, new, fluffy feather covering. This keeps them warm for the winter. But the fact that they molt in the fall always seems so dumb to me. They molt just as the cold weather hits, which means that they are without a lot of their feathers for a few weeks, freezing their little chicken butts off. And they look horrible. They all look like they got into a fight, what with their feathers hanging off of them and their necks looking all straggly. Whenever friends see them at this time they ask if they are OK. And I always have to remind Girlfriend that they aren’t sick, they’re molting.
School started with a vengeance and we haven’t had much time to catch our breath. Girlfriend’s school is extremely overcrowded this year and the first few weeks were kind of a mess. Everyone’s schedule was in shambles and the kids were switched around a lot. Girlfriend’s schedule completely changed 2 weeks into the term. I’m sure the school registrar was about ready to tear her hair out. And, they ran out of lockers and asked kids to volunteer to share. Girlfriend and one of their pals offered to share. And now they are learning some lessons on how to compromise—including: who gets what hooks? Who uses the floor? How do they decorate? I’m very proud of them in that they haven’t killed each other yet. So far, the organization seems to be: Girlfriend gets the hooks, her pal gets the floor of the locker. They both seem happy with this arrangement, which is nice.
I’ve been busy teaching classes and demos; working on some new book ideas (squee! More news as it comes up); and attending events for or getting together with fellow food and cookbook authors. In the past couple of weeks I’ve had the good fortune to have had the opportunity to spend time with several of my favorite food people. First, I got to spent the day with my pal, Joe Yonan, Food and Travel Editor for the Washington Post, who was here promoting his new book, Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook. (this is a terrific book, by the way). Later that evening, our mutual friend Kat Flinn held a party in honor of Joe and his new book, which was very fun. She prepared some dishes from the book (and even adapted some to be gluten-free for me!). Everything was delicious!
Then, I had the opportunity to chat a bit with Dorie Greenspan (one of my baking goddesses) and her lovely husband, Michael. Dorie was in town to be the keynote speaker at the International Food Blogger’s Conference. I met a pal for breakfast and we bumped into each other. I’ve had the good fortune to have met (and bake for) Dorie on a few occasions, so it was nice to catch up a bit with her and Michael. And if I understood them correctly, Dorie has a new cookbook that she is working on that I can’t wait for!
Then a few days later, I had a lovely breakfast with Alice Medrich, another of my baking goddesses. She was in town for the Northwest Chocolate Festival. She is in the process of finishing up her newest book, which I think you all are going to love! I can’t say much, but keep an eye out for it in the Fall of 2014.
Then a few days after that, I got a chance to listen to and meet Mollie Katzen, who was here promoting her newest book, The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation. Mollie’s books are among my “desert island” books (i.e., books you would take if you has to go live on a desert island with a full kitchen–lol). This one harks back to her Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Moosewood Cookbook days. Not only is the book filled with amazing recipes, but the first few and the last few pages are filled with her drawings. It turns out that she studied art as a young person and art is one of her first loves. I guess that should have been obvious from the art in her first two cookbooks, but it never dawned on me.
Then last week I got a chance to have coffee with Kyra Bussanich, who is gluten-free, is a Cordon Bleu trained pastry chef, who won the TV show Cupcake Wars against wheat bakers twice (!) with her fabulous gluten-free cupcakes. She also owns a cupcake bakery–and she brought me a box of gluten-free cupcakes. I couldn’t believe it! They were so yummy. I shared them with our neighbors, who are also gluten-free, and d’Ahub, Girlfriend and I had two each. So good! She has a new cookbook out, Sweet Cravings: 50 Seductive Desserts for a Gluten-Free Lifestyle. I attended her demo of recipes from her book and–yowzaa! They were good. Look for a further post on my site about her book!
Last week I got the chance to have coffee with Nick Malgieri, who is one of my baking gods. He is the Director of Pastry and Baking Program at the Institute of Culinary Education. He was in town doing some baking demos from his book, Nick Malgieri’s Bread: Over 60 Breads, Rolls, and Cakes, plus Delicious Recipes Using Them. We’ve been online friends for a while, so it was wonderful to get a chance to meet and chat with him. And, I learned some new techniques in his bread demonstration.
In between all of this gallivanting around, I’ve been working on new recipes to share with you. We had stellar apple harvest this year from our two tiny dwarf apple trees. When I say “dwarf” I mean it. They each come up to my waist. But they produce regular-sized apples. We have a Liberty tree and a Honeycrisp tree. So, we’ve been eating fresh apples and I’ve been trying recipes that use them. Below is one of our favorites. I found this on the Pillsbury site. It’s phenomenal. I mean, really, really good! One of the things I did with this adaptation is that I made the nuts in the recipe “optional” in case you can’t have nuts. I’ve also opened it up for you to use any nut you happen to like. I like pecans best, so that’s what I used. But you can use whatever you like best. Also, note that if you can’t have dairy sour cream, there are non-dairy versions on the market, as well as many recipes to make your own. Or, you can use a non-dairy yogurt, which works just as well. Happy baking!
Apple Sour Cream Bars, Gluten-Free
-adapted from Pillsbury.com
Yield: 24- 2 inch bars
2 cups (280 g) Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour mix
1 2/3 cups (355 g) packed brown sugar (I use dark)
½ cup (115 g; 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (95 g) chopped pecans or other nuts of your choice (optional), toasted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 oz/227 g) sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 extra-large egg
2 cups (285 g) finely chopped apples (I like Honeycrisp)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown, sugar, and butter. Mix with a fork until combined and crumbly. Reserve 1 ½ cups (230 g) and press the remainder into bottom on an ungreased 9 in by 13 in pan. Sprinkle half of the chopped nuts (if using) over the this bottom layer and press into the flour/butter mixture.
To the reserved mixture, add the remaining nuts (if using), cinnamon, baking, soda and salt. Mix to combine. Add sour cream, egg, and vanilla and use a large spoon to combine. Stir in apples.
Spoon the apple mixture onto the crumb mixture in the pan and then use a spatula spread the layer evenly and to smooth top.
Bake at 350 degrees F until the top is brown and a tester comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes before cutting to allow the crumb mixture to firm up. May be served warm or cool.
Store tightly covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.