Monday, January 24, 2005

Baking Up a Storm

When the weather forecast calls for cold temperatures, about 6" of snow, and high winds to follow, what's a girl to do???

Fire up the oven and bake, that's what.

As the first snow came drifting down Saturday morning, I started off the day's baking with a batch of sesame crackers (new recipe). I added some toasted sesame oil to the dough for an extra dark kick of nutty sesame flavor, and the tray of crackers that got browned the most turned out to have the most satisfying taste overall. Made an excellent sidekick for the soups I have lingering in the fridge!

Next came scones... ah, sweet sweet scones. I pulled out one of my favorites, the ginger-date recipe, and got to work. The original recipe calls for cashews, but as I was out, I substituted some mini diced crystallized ginger to layer that flavor a little more, and I also tossed in the remaining few cinnamon chips in the cupboard. As always, the scones turned out light and tender... just right for afternoon tea.

At this point, the snow stopped, and I was able to shovel the walk and the driveway... only to discover a few hours later that the snow had started falling once more, accompanied by the wind that threatened to undo all my work by blowing that powdery stuff back into drifts. So.... back to the kitchen!

I had some wild rice tempeh in the fridge that I've been meaning to roast (with the yummy Chinese brown sauce), so I made that up for dinner. Though I made too much sauce this time, I considered it a bonus, as I then had "gravy" to spoon over the rich, savory tempeh strips (and over the millet-cauliflower puree that accompanied the tempeh and the steamed kale for my dinner). A nice vegan twist on the old meat-and-potatoes standbys of my youth!

After a hearty dinner like that, what else is there to do but to make cookies? I tried a recipe for hazelnut squares with a shortbread base and a butter/honey/brown sugar/nut topping. They're very fine and delectable (and they made the cut for this week's tech sacrifices), but honestly, I have to say that I prefer my three-nut bar recipe because it has a better flavor and a softer texture to the filling. Still, I'm not complaining... my share of the hazelnut squares has disappeared, and I expect the same will happen with those I brought in to share.

Though the snow stopped and the skies cleared to make an absolutely gorgeous winter Sunday, after an invigorating (read: ridiculously cold and windy) walk to the grocery store yesterday morning, I knew it was time to fire up the oven yet again. This time I whipped up the Georgian tea cake recipe that will appear on the Dinner Club menu come Wednesday. There is actually black tea in the batter, along with some apricot-cherry preserves (I didn't have plum jam as the recipe called for), and a combination of baking soda and vinegar, followed by beaten egg whites, to give the whole cake an extra lift. It smelled wonderful and looks very moist and tasty, so you're all very lucky that I have a certain amount of will power (or is that won't power?) to avoid tucking into the cake before all you lucky Dinner Club members have had a chance to sample it.

Suffice it to say, with all this baking, my home stayed warm and cozy, with delightful fragrances periodically wafting through the rooms to tempt me back into the kitchen for more. I'm rather amazed I could tear myself away from such sweet scents to come to work this morning.

But then, I brought those sweet treats with me.

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