The After Feast- and Gingerbread

Stacks of Dishes with my morning Gingerbread
The gathering was easy and the company divine. Good food, delicious laughs and familial ease. It was a lovely day, one of the nicest I’ve had with my family in awhile. We were a small group, so there was plenty of opportunity to share and really get to speak with one another. My children are adults now and starting to point themselves into different directions. It’s one of the hardships when pulling together large groups. I love to entertain large raucous crowds, it’s so nice to “see” everyone, but I always leave feeling like I didn’t get a chance to really visit.
Yesterday was a sweet day for visiting. The sunny afternoon was filled with relaxed talk while my Mother and my son leaned back into couches, Olivia danced with herself in the corner as we put the desserts together, and my Uncle Joe told me stories of my Grandfather- who passed when I was too young to know him- as I put on the coffee. Priceless ease.
My favorite time, once the evening is over, is the quiet morning after. I’m a bit of a pain in that I really don’t like people cleaning up my kitchen. It’s not that I’m such a control freak or anything, it’s that there is something beautifully zen about the sound of soapy water, and the clattering of dishes and silver while I review the events of the evening. There is ceremony in the storing away of platters and serving pieces- my loved things amongst loved ones, now put to rest until the next gathering. As I look around there are remnants of the evening imprinted in the dents in the pillows, crumbs on the carpet, and scattered smudgy wine glasses. It all tells a story, and every story touches me. Beauty.
The morning held no rush for me. Everyone had headed off into the evening to their own homes so I was left to myself in the morning light to putter and fuss. This year for Thanksgiving my fiancee is at home in Louisiana with her family. It’s hard to juggle families and holidays. I know so many that have to do it, it’s not like I can complain really, it’s just that she is also my family, and it’s hard to be separated. This fact just made my morning that much quieter and that much more introspective.

Late yesterday, after finishing all my dinner preparations, I had a small chunk of time and a half a can of pumpkin left over. Since the oven was already on I pulled together a tasty Gingerbread for my after-feast breakfast. A simple homey tea cake.

This quick bread is SUPER moist with a nice mellow hit of molasses and a tender bite of ginger. The pumpkin doesn’t reveal itself, it merely adds moisture and depth. As you can see it slices quite nicely and could even do with a toasting and a pat of butter if that’s your preference.

I sliced mine up super thin to enjoy with my milky latte. It was a nice quiet moment in the morning light, before I began my post feast ritual.

Morning After Moist Gingerbread
makes one 4″x11″ loaf~ enough to serve 8-10
.5 can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
2 large eggs
.5 c vegetable oil
.75c water
.5 c molasses
1c white sugar
1.75c all purpose flour
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1t ground cinnamon
1t freshly grated nutmeg
2T freshly grated ginger
Preheat oven to 350˚ and grease 4″ x 11″ loaf pan
In medium bowl combine pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, molasses and sugar. Stir smooth.
In large bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl and stir just until incorporated. This makes a fairly wet batter.
Gently spoon into the loaf pan and spread evenly.
Place pan into the center of the preheated oven and bake. After ~40 minutes test for doneness- Gently pressing on the top of the cake. When it is springy to the touch is it done. Alternatively use a toothpick to poke into center of cake. When the toothpick comes out clean it’s done.
Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before removing from the pan.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


Ginger Rhubarb Tarts with Cardamom Creme Fraiche: Day 5 Irene’s Beans

A Sunday morning repose, an afternoon respite. The crunch and yield of the pastry, the toothsome jammy filling complimented by a cool spiced cream. Easy elegance, how lovely.

Forgive me dear readers for this delayed post. I’ve been a bit of a traveling bum, and last week I indulged in not taking along my computer. Though I have missed being away, it was a delight to roam and indulge without distraction. If you haven’t had the chance to do the same in awhile, I invite you to treat yourself as soon as humanly possible! If you need me to write you an excuse note- just let me know, you have my permission.

I can clearly remember the first day of summer when I was a girl of about 9 years old. I remember waking, smelling the sweet air and thinking, “I have all day for ME! and weeks and weeks of it!”. I wore shorts every day, ran around the yard with my brother, trekked to the beach with a cooler of cold lemonade and sold my mother’s garden tomatoes on a table in the front yard to passing neighbors. This is the joy that I’ve been experiencing recently and truly, the air has been just as sweet.

This last installment of coffee treats is certainly not the least. The Gingered Rhubarb filling is a summer go to that I hope will become a favorite of yours. A healthy dollop onto a square of puff pastry makes a quick elegant jewel of a dessert, but the leftover sauce warmed and served over vanilla ice cream is another divine treat. Both of these desserts are good “emergency” sweets. Whenever I find myself in need of a last minute something, dashing for a pint of vanilla ice cream is simple enough, and a warm fruit sauce makes a near disaster sublime- and if the oven is on from dinner, frozen puff pastry takes just minutes to thaw and those babies can be popped into the oven in no time.

There is magic in puff pastry. Go for the magic.

I hope by this point you have taken a moment to visit Irene’s Beans. You will understand why I am so taken with her coffees. I can tell you that tasting the different styles has been a delight, and one I really want you to try for yourself.

So here comes the full on summer my loves. Enjoy an afternoon coffee and start planning your summer fun- and no kidding about that note, life is just too short.

Ginger Rhubarb Tarts with Cardamom Creme Fraiche 
makes about 2 cups
4c rhubarb cut into small chunks
1c strawberries rough chopped
1T fresh minced ginger
.5 c sugar
pinch of salt
prepared puff pastry- I used Dufours
4T creme fraiche
.5t cardamom- freshly ground
In a medium heavy saucepan place the fruits, sugar, ginger and salt. 
Slowly warm over low heat until the sugar draws out the moisture in the rhubarb and berries. Raise the heat and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 mins.
The lumpy chunky rhubarb will break down and meld into the the berries into a beautiful sauce.
Place into a container and cool or place in fridge for future use.
To make the tarts:
*a word on puff pastry*
I know a lot of folks that can be intimidated- and you should be. Nah, just kidding, but puff pastry does need delicate handling. Puff pastry is a heavenly balance between butter and flour that is science at it’s best. It’s important to keep your pastry as cold as possible, and not handle it more than necessary, so as not to disrupt that balance. If things are taking longer than they ought to, just toss the pastry into the fridge to cool and then carry on. You can also prep these tarts in advance, store in the fridge and then pop into the oven when ready.
Preheat oven to 350˚
Thaw pastry in the fridge. If you have a marble pastry slab this is the perfect time to use it, if not, the counter is just fine.
Cut the pastry dough into 4 equal squares. 
Lightly sprinkle the clean workspace with a little flour. Gently roll out a square of pastry to approximately half it’s thickness.
With a sharp knife, cut into 2″ squares.
Place a healthy dollop if Rhubarb sauce in the center and place onto baking sheet.
Pop into the oven for approximately 12 mins until puffed and golden.
Combine the cardamom with the creme fraiche and let stand a few minutes before serving. Making the creme the day before is even better to allow the flavors to meld and the cream to thicken- but it’s all good.


{Day 2} Candied Fruits For Sweet and Savory Treats

The Winter fruits can become jewels under the right conditions. There is magic in the glistening, translucence that comes from the candying process. As the days grow gray and the light turns to darkness sooner and sooner I love the deep vibrant colors that sparkle on the plate.

The real miracle is it’s so easy to do and delightful to give.

I’ve come up with three different candied fruits. Pear Slices, Spicy Tangerine Sauce and Candied Ginger. Yeah, I know, the ginger is nothing really new- but the resulting leftover syrup you get from the process is going to be used for a future post for something I promise you will adore- so don’t discount the ginger.

Making jewels by candying fruit is basically a two step process. First the fruit is combined with sugar, either directly in the case of the pears, or in a syrup. Next comes the heat. The pears are baked for a short while and then flipped, and the ginger and tangerines simmered in the syrup until it reaches it’s translucency.
I’ve paired the pears here with some blue artisinal bleu cheese and toasted walnuts. A lovely gift is to put the trio into a package. But the pears are also great along with a chunk of high quality chocolate for a dessert plate. My friend Priscilla Martell, a cookbook writer, chef and all around exceptional person- shared with me a link to an artisanal cheese maker in Connecticut for Cato Corner Farm. She says, “One of those little local success stories.” If Priscilla recommend them I suggest you might give them a look see.
The tangerines are remarkable. I cannot begin to tell you how delectable they are. The sweet tangy orange is made bright with a hit of chili flakes. Shown here drizzled over a goat cheese log- but can I tell you? Set this up with some ice cream and your friends will get down on their knees and praise you.
I recommend packing the Tangerines in a jar with the slices ringing the outside of the jar and then fill the middle with the chunky syrup. The presentation is show stopping.
Packaging is always where it’s at and can transport the mundane into a delight. If you plan to put the pears into a bag I recommend using cellophane. This will prevent them from getting sticky, which is what happens when placed in plastic.
The same with the ginger. Though the ginger would be excellent in a jar as well.
*Check the Holiday Resource page to find links to find bags, bows and jars*
Pear Slices
recipe taken from Donna Hay Magazine
Slice pears on a mandoline or in even 1/8 inch slices.
Press each side into sugar and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet
Bake at 350˚ for 15 minutes~then flip the pears and bake another 15. Take care doing this since hot sugar can cause nasty burns
Once out of the oven carefully transfer the pears to a drying rack and allow the pears to fully dry. If you live in a humid place placing the rack in a turned off oven with a pilot light will do the trick.
Spicy Tangerine Sauce
a Gail Watson recipe
This recipe is in ratio, so you can make as little or great as you would like. I used 3 tangerines for the recipe shown
Slice top and bottom off of the tangerines and reserve. Make 1/8″ thin slices of half of the fruit and rough top the other half, including  the tops and bottoms.
Measure out the volume of fruit and place into a sauce pan.
Next add equal amounts of sugar and water to the pot- 
2c tangerines:2cups sugar:2cups water
Add a generous pinch of chili flakes and 3 star anise cloves to every 3 tangerines.
Bring all to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer. 
Simmer the fruit for 30 mins or until the rinds are soft and the slices are translucent.
Can properly into jars, or jar and keep in the fridge for 3 weeks.
Warm sauce over cheese is amazing.
Candied Ginger
This is another ratio recipe. Purchase ginger that is firm and thin skinned- which is spicier in the end. Older ginger is fine if that is all you can find, but nothing dried out and shriveled. The ginger shrinks as you cook it, so get triple the volume you will need.
Scrape the skins off the ginger using a teaspoon. This works remarkably well and preserves the most flesh. It’s also so much easier to work around the knobs and ends.
Slice the ginger into 1//8-1/4″ slices. I made coins, but you can do long strips etc.
As above, into a pan measure 1:1:1 ratio of ginger to water to sugar.
Simmer in pan on the stove until the ginger is tender. Mine took a good 30 minutes, but it will just depend on the thickness of your slices.
Strain the slices and RESERVE the syrup (I’ve got an great use of it in a future post)
Lay the slices on a drying rack and allow to dry to a tacky state. This is important. If you rush the sugaring process you can end up with a gooey mess, so be patient.
Once dry enough toss the ginger in some sugar and you’re good to go!
{btw-I used this gingered sugar for the pears- can’t say it really added anything, but it couldn’t hurt}
Keep the ginger in an airtight container so it doesn’t dry out. It will keep for 3 months if stored well.