A sticky project

13 12 2011

One of the things I have discovered in the last couple years is the Italian fruit cake called panforte. It is delicious. So good. Especially with chevre. Mmmmmm… And it’s f’in expensive! So last year I took a try at making it myself and it turned out lovely:

So I made it again! It’s baking in the oven as I type.

The recipe is not complicated (there are a ton of them on the web) but it is something you have to plan for because there is 1 part where you really have to be on the ball and work quickly. Here is my version:


  • 3 oz semi-sweet or dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots (or other dried fruit of choice)
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried dates (or other dried fruit of choice)
  • peel of 1 lemon, pith removed, finely chopped
  • 2 cups blanched and toasted almonds
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder (which I didn’t have today so I skipped it – no biggie)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup honey

1st, be sure that your spices are relatively fresh. This is a spiced cake and if they are at all stale it will be unexciting.

Start by melting the chocolate in a glass bowl over a pan with water or in the microwave. I melted mine in the microwave today and forgot to stir between 30 second intervals and it got burned. Then I had the bright idea to scoop out the burning chocolate with my finger. Idiot. See the blister forming at the base of my first knuckle?

Anyway, so melt your chocolate and set it aside. Butter the bottom of a tart pan with removable sides (or a cheesecake pan) and layer with rice paper or parchment paper.

Mix your fruits, nuts, spices, flour, and cocoa in a big bowl.

Stir the honey and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil; without stirring wait until it gets to 240 degrees. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Now! Quickly mix the chocolate into the nut mixture, and then even more quickly mix the sugar and honey in. Rush to put it in your prepared pan and spread it all around using a spatula or your hands (but don’t burn yourself). Bake at 300 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until the edge starts to get little air bubbles that stay, just like pancakes. Let cool for a bit, remove ring of tart pan and dust with powdered sugar. Allow to cool all the way, slice into wedges, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and keep in a cool dark place for up to 3 months. This mails very well.

Some people eat it as a cake, but I prefer thinly sliced slivers with goat cheese. It’s super sticky and thick, so I don’t really get the cake thing…

Btw – at the store, this stuff sells for about $14 a wedge? At home, it’s not much cheaper at about $8 per wedge if you source the ingredients locally, which is what I do because I’m a nerd like that.


Carbs are delicious

10 12 2011

Occasionally I try and limit the carbs I’m eating to make up for how many of my calories are consumed in liquid form, and then the rest of the time I realize how silly that is because CARBS ARE LIFE. And make your brain work. So in that theme, today I ate a breakfast burrito, a sandwich, ricotta lemon honey toasts, and I just finished making bagels.

These are topped with rosemary salt from Eatwell, or a mixture of fennel, sesame, flax, and pumpkin seeds.

Bagels are one of those projects that are a bit intimidating and I wouldn’t have felt easy about trying the recipe in last month’s Cooking Light unless I’d already gone through the process once before. Not only did I feel comfortable, I was fearless in changing the recipe a bit to incorporate whole wheat.

Adapted from the November 2011 Cooking Light recipe:

  • 2 cups warm water (100-110 degrees)
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat gluten
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • cooking spray
  • water for boiling
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Equipment: stand mixer, 2 baking sheets, parchment paper, spider or other large straining utensil, large pot, cooling rack, large bowl, plastic wrap.

  1. Combine 2 cups warm water and yeast in bowl of standing mixer and allow to sit for about 5 minutes (until yeast is visibly active). Meanwhile whisk together flours and gluten, setting aside 1/4 cup.
  2. Add flour (minus that 1/4 cup), honey, and salt to yeast/water mix and run on low speed in the mixer with a dough hook for 6 minutes or so. You want it smooth and elastic. I have a slightly smaller mixer so I had to split the dough into 2 batches at one point because it just wasn’t doing anything much and the motor was struggling.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a board that has been lightly floured with some of your remaining 1/4 cup and knead by hand for 2 minutes or so until you have a smooth and elastic ball. You may need to add a bit more flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands; add it in 1 Tbs increments. Spray a bowl with cooking spray, put the dough in the bowl, turning it once to coat, and top with plastic wrap. Set aside in a draft free space to rise for 30 or so minutes.
  4. Reserve plastic wrap and turn the dough out onto a board that has been lightly floured with any remaining flour and divide into 12 equal portions (next time I will do 18 – these bagels are giant). Keep the dough covered as you work with each piece. Taking a piece, form a ball and then poke a hole in it, stretching the hole out to about 1 1/2 inches. Place the bagels on a baking sheet with parchment paper that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. When all bagels are formed, spray tray with cooking spray and cover with your piece of plastic wrap. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, get water on to boil in your large pot (CL recommended 12 cups but whatever; I never measure that crap) along with 3/4 cup sugar (at food club we used baking soda…), and heat the oven to 450 degrees.
  6. Once the water is boiling, spray your cooling rack with cooking spray, and gently place 3 bagels at a time into the boiling water for a count of 30, setting them to dry a bit on the cooling rack as you go. (If you are going to add toppings to your bagels, do it immediately after they come out of the boiling water before they have dried.) When all the bagels have been boiled, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray (I just reused the parchment on the tray from earlier), dividing the bagels between the sheets.
  7. Bake for 7 minutes, rotate and swap sheets and bake another 7 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.


3 12 2011

I come from a long line of hookers but I’ve always resisted picking up the trade. But in assisting my mom in running her rug hooking camps, Monterey Fiber Jam (previously Monterey Rug Camp Retreat), and now Little River Inn Rug Camp, it became apparent that my role there would be benefited by hooking a rug. Learning the process as an actual doer and not just a watcher. So I made one!

I chose to do a butterfly because the Fiber Jam in February will be different than a rug camp. The Fiber Jam won’t have teachers – folks will just hang out and do their thing for most of the day – but participants were invited to pitch mini classes or discussions to lead and one of the options is a butterfly challenge. So I designed this butterfly after the swallowtail butterflies that frequent our backyard.

I didn’t capture all of the steps but here is a brief summary of how this rug came into shape:

I researched butterflies on the internet and found a couple pictures I liked. I then sketched out a shape onto a piece of linen using a red crayon, drawing over my final lines with a black sharpie before picking out wool. Then I raided mom’s stash of wool (which I’ve always loved shoving my hands into, like a bowl of dried beans), cut some into strips, borrowed a hook, and got started.

For the background I was going to do a mock linen look, like one might pin an actual butterfly to, but mom suggested I go with a design my grandmother does all the time and do blocks of color.

At first I was just picking which colors to do randomly and then I decided I should map them out.

I was instructed by a few of the ladies hooking that one is supposed to put in a “beauty line”, framing the whole piece first so that the rectangle doesn’t get wonky (previous pictures show loose tails of wool at the edges). Luckily I’m all crazy about straight lines so the misstep was easily corrected.

Now all I have left to do is whip the edges with black yarn, label the back of the rug, and sew on a sleeve for a hanging rod. Phew!

I managed to pinch my ulnar nerve holding my makeshift frame so beware! Make sure proper equipment is used when hooking.