Elderflower-lemon is the combination of the moment

 elderflower drizzle cake

Ever since the flavors for the royal wedding cake (baked by Claire Ptak) were announced, social media posts have been buzzing about the combination of elderflower and lemon. Bakeries across the US quickly jumped on the bandwagon, and hundreds of posts on Instagram were tagged with #lemonelderflowercake or #lemonelderflower.

Elderflower has never become as popular in the US as it is in the UK, but that might change now. It isn't just bakeries that are discovering this harmonious pairing - bars are also using elderflower cordials and syrups in cocktails. The most popular brand of elderflower cordial in the US is St. Germain, although if you dig around you may be able to find other brands. 

There's no doubt that thousands of this season's wedding cakes will be featuring this delightful pairing. A quick perusal of the EYB Library shows that lemon and elderflower together have been gracing cakes long before the royal wedding, including the Lemon & elderflower drizzle cake from Daisy and the Fox by Nigella Lawson, pictured above. The combination can also be found in other sweets and even a salad or two, such as Leeks, goat's cheese and spelt salad with lemon and elderflower from Diana Henry. 

The produce paradox

vegetables

After a particularly long and harsh winter, spring is bursting onto the scene in the northern part of the US. Along with the rapid greening and pleasant temperatures, produce is beginning to pop up at farmers' markets across the northland. However, I've noticed a paradox concerning the bounty of luscious vegetables and fruits: a scarcity of available time to properly cook and enjoy them. 

Yes, quick salads with locally-grown ingredients can make a lovely meal, but if you are like me, you can only handle so many salads in one week. I yearn to make more complex and sophisticated dishes from the farm-fresh ingredients that appear but for a fleeting moment. The violets that peppered my lawn two weeks ago are but a memory now. Thankfully I found time to candy a few of them and make a violet syrup for cocktails, but this came at the expense of necessary housecleaning and garden tending, and I could only make use of a small percentage of the lovely purple blooms, one of the first harbingers of warm weather. 

Gardens (and houses) require an investment of both money and time. The paradox is that if I want to have a productive and attractive garden, it means I will have little to no time left over for enjoying the literal fruits (and vegetables) of my labor. After working 60 hours per week (two jobs plus a lengthy commute), there is scant time left to make dishes like the gorgeous vegetable tian that is coming in Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook, Everyday Dorie

Exhausted after a day of hanging garage doors, weeding, planting, staking newly planted trees, laundry, and a host of other small but necessary tasks, I shamefully find myself ordering takeaway or throwing a frozen pizza into the oven. It's ironic that in the dead of winter I have oodles of time on my hands for baking projects and making complicated dishes, only to be underwhelmed by the produce section at the supermarket. 

I realize that this dilemma is a fortunate one to have and am not complaining (okay, maybe I am just a little bit). My plan is to make the most of the largesse available to me via farmers' markets and my own garden. To make sure that this summer is not a repeat of previous ones, I have armed myself with a host of books that should keep me from the dreaded drive-thru dinner.

I'm hoping that David Tanis Market CookingSix Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables, Onions Etcetera, and The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook will allow me to find easy yet delicious recipes to make use of the summer's bounty during the times when I'm too tired to innovate. What's your secret to making the best from summer produce when your schedule is crammed full of activity? 

What's going to be served at the royal wedding?

 Buddha bowl

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's upcoming nuptials are groundbreaking for many reasons, now including the food to be served as well. We previously reported on how the royal couple chose a non-traditional wedding cake to be baked by Claire Ptak. Now we're learning a few details about the food that will be served on Saturday, which also bucks tradition

While we will not know the details of the menu until a good while after the ceremony,  Windsor Castle's royalchef Mark Flanagan released a teaser of what will be offered at the reception banquet. Keeping with their previous non-traditional choices, the Prince and his bride will forego the usual sit-down wedding breakfast and will instead be treated to trendy bowl dishes and small canapés, much of which will include local produce, including items from the royal gardens, and prepared in the Windsor Castle kitchen. 

"We know the couple wanted us to make sure we used all of the local seasonal produce as much as possible throughout their menu, and this recent good weather is really helping us to achieve that," Chef Flanagan said in an official statement. "(For) all their decisions, we purely made suggestions and the couple… they've tasted everything, they've been involved in every detail."

In addition to the bowl food and canapés, sweet treats including chocolate truffles, crèmes brûlées, and other small bites will be served at the afternoon reception for a large crowd of approximately 1,200 people. Later that evening, a formal dinner, hosted by Prince Charles, will be held at Frogmore House and attended by a more select group of 200 guests.  Millions more people around the world will celebrate vicariously by making our own special dishes to enjoy while viewing the wedding. 

Photo of Big buddha bowl from Great Bowls of Food by Robin Asbell 

Are you a procrastibaker?

 bread

When faced with a task or chore that you need to do but don't really want to tackle just now, what do you do? If you are like a growing number of people, you turn to the kitchen to whip up a batch of cookies, a loaf of bread, or a pan of brownies. Baking to avoid doing other work has its own label - 'procrastibaking,' a mashup of procrastination and baking - and is a popular hashtag on Instagram, says Julia Moskin of the New York Times. 

Writers do it to cope with writers' block, students procrastibake in between cramming for exams, and telecommuters work in baking between tasks when working at home. "Some procrastibakers like to make long, slow recipes that break up the entire day, returning to their spreadsheets or study guides in between steps like proofing, chilling and rising," says Moskin. Others, who use baking as a transition from one task to another, prefer shorter bakes like quick breads or brownies. 

You might think that professional bakers would be immune to the concept, but that's not the case. "I used to beat myself up over it, but I don't anymore," said  Erin Gardner, a cake decorator in New Hampshire. "I think it's part of my creative process, and I just need to submit to it."

Of course there are other ways to procrastinate, but few are as satisfying - or as Instagrammable - as baking. I admit that I've procrastibaked when I should have been cleaning my house and when I should have been working on a writing project. Procrastination may be a bad habit, but at least procrastibaking is tasty. Other methods of procrastinating aren't as satisfying - or as Instagrammable. 

Sous vide's surprising history

 Sous vide salmon

When you think of sous vide cooking, you probably conjure images of fine-dining restaurants and cookbooks like Modernist Cuisine and Under Pressure. Although the world's top chefs have embraced the technique, sous vide cooking goes back much further than the recent interest. Most people credit two French chefs - Bruno Goussault and George Pralus - with developing and refining the technique, but there is at least one person who was working on it decades before them.

Ambrose McGuckian, a retired Army colonel, started cooking meat and vegetables in sealed plastic pouches immersed in a water bath back in the mid 1960s. After retiring from the military, McGuckian was hired by the company W.R. Grace to develop a cost-efficient method to improve hospital food. McGuckian's strategy was to cook meals in sealed pouches to specific temperatures, after which the food could safely be refrigerated for up to 60 days, then heated as needed in a microwave oven. 

The flavor of this food was superior to that of frozen or processed meals, and it saved the hospitals money on food preparation and involved less waste. McGuckian and W.R. Grace patented the system, which they named A.G.S., although it isn't clear if the French chefs who were working on the issue in the 1990s had ever heard of it. Now that the equipment needed for modern sous vide cooking is no longer prohibitively expensive, people have embraced the method for precision cooking. 

Photo of Sous vide teriyaki salmon from Simply Recipes by Elise Bauer and Emma Christensen

Jenny v. Modernist Bread - Emile Henry Giveaway

A little over a year ago I shared with you The Making of a Cookbook Collector, the story of how my love of cooking and baking blossomed into a full blown obsession. While I have always been a fearless cook and baker, I've never deeply delved into the art of creating bread. Sure, I have baked a loaf or two, but my goal is to learn everything about bread from the starter to the shaping - to the perfect crumb and crust - and that is where Modernist Bread: The Art and Science by Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco J. Migoya comes into play. 

Modernist Bread is a guide to the science of bread baking (see this article for more information)  and follows in the footsteps of Modernist Cuisine which is also indexed for our members.  Modernist Cuisine shares science-inspired techniques for preparing food that ranges from the otherworldly to the sublime and our shows a brilliant look inside. For those who want to begin exploring these sets, the Modernist Cuisine at Home is a perfect stepping stone. The Cooking Lab is working on their next project - Modernist Pizza and I am hoping for a Modernist Pastry set soon! 

Back to bread, ourprovides a beautiful look inside Modernist Bread and each volume of the five book set is indexed as follows:

At the moment, we are in house limbo. We will finally have our house on the market this coming week and if all goes well, we will be moving within the next two months or sooner. When I am in my new home, I will begin my deep exploration of bread using Modernist Bread and a number of wonderful products from Emile Henry including this gorgeous Bread Cloche

Founded in 1850, and located in Marcigny, a small town in the province of Burgundy, France, Emile Henry has established a worldwide reputation for manufacturing the finest quality ceramic ovenware, gourmet cooking products, and bakeware products. Still owned and operated by the Henry family, the company today manufactures all of their new cooking products from Burgundy clay using their proprietary High Resistance Oven Ceramic state-of-the-art manufacturing process. 

Their products are not only beautiful but durable. Specifications are as follows:

  • Burgundy clay evenly and slowly diffuses cooking heat to the very center of the cooking dish. Food is cooked evenly, which brings out the flavors and aromas. Burgundy clay has superior heat retention properties which keep food hot and more flavorsome when resting on the dining table or on a kitchen sideboard.
  • All Emile Henry products are direct freezer-to-oven. They exhibit extraordinary thermal shock properties. They go under the broiler and in the microwave.
  • Emile Henry products do not chip or crack easily. One can cut directly on the surface without scratching or damaging the product.
  • The surfaces do not trap and hold baked on or burnt food. Cleaning is remarkably easy. All Emile Henry products can go in the dishwasher.
  • There is no lead or cadmium in their products, all of the glazes meet California Prop 65, and all of the products are 100% food safe. Offered in a large variety of colors, the glazes will not craze, discolor or fade over time.
  • All Emile Henry products carry a limited household ten (10) year warranty against breakage due to defective workmanship.

There are certain brands that signify class and craftsmanship and Emile Henry is certainly one of those. I love the Bread/Potato Pot and use it often to make roasted potatoes - so easily to flip the pot instead of using a spatula to turn potatoes over to roast evenly and not to mention the stunning factor when serving as these gorgeous products go from oven to tabletop in style. Emile Henry's Baquette  and Bread Cloche are going to accompany me on my journey through bread baking and I hope that you will follow along. 

This is a project I am extremely excited to begin and I feel that working my way through Modernist Bread will be the equivalent of a culinary course in bread. The team behind Modernist is offering me their support and I hope that you will also cheer me along. Those who live nearby may be the recipient of loaves of incredibly fresh baked bread! All my posts on this series will be tagged #modernistbread. 

To celebrate this project, Emily Henry has generously offered one of our members a beautiful Bread Cloche for your baking needs. To enter scroll down to our giveaway which consists of the cloche only, please support our sponsors for these giveaways by completing all the entries where you can. 

 

Emile Henry is offering one cloche to EYB Members in the US. One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post.

Which Emile Henry product would you like to try first?

Please note that you must be logged into the Rafflecopter contest before posting or your entry won't be counted. For more information on this process, please see our step-by-step help post. Be sure to check your spam filters to receive our email notifications. Prizes can take up to 6 weeks to arrive from the publishers. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends at midnight on June 18th, 2018.

Special thanks to Emile Henry for providing me with two of their stunning products for my Modernist Bread project and for providing a cloche in this giveaway. I own Emile Henry products and highly recommend this brand for its quality, craftsmanship and beauty.

I purchased Modernist Bread for purposes of this project and this set of books is not a part of the giveaway. 

See stunning cakes at Brisbane's International Cake Show

cupcakes

If you are binge-watch shows like 'Cake Boss' or 'Cake Wars', or even if you are just a fan of cake in general and you live in or near Queensland, clear your calendar for next weekend, 18-20 May. Those are the dates for the 2018 International Cake Show Australia, held in Brisbane. 

Event organizers describe the show as "the Top Gun of cake decorating, where the best of the best vie for the crown, where cake is the canvas and imagination the only limitation!" Top bakers from around the world will vie for honors in 22 categories. In addition to viewing showstopping cake creations, people can attend master classes, and there is additional entertainment planned. Of course, many popup shops will be sprinkled throughout the show, so you can shop for ingredients, tools, and more. 

The main event is a two-day televised "cake-off" featuring six of the world's most famous cake artists - Paul Bradford, Dorothy Klerck, Timbo Sullivan, Verusca Walker, Margie Carter, Paul Delaney & Karen Portaleo.  ICSA will be held at Brisbane Showgrounds Exhibition Building in Bowen Hills from Friday 18th May to Sunday 20th May in 2018.

When recipes lie

 open cookbooks

A seasoned cook can generally judge a recipe by a quick glance through the instructions. Novice cooks are at the mercy of the recipe writer, however, and this can pose problems, says food writer Debora Robertson. She assures readers that when a dish turns out badly, it's not necessarily their fault (free registration required for full article).

Robertson looks for clues like the time stated for softening or caramelizing onions to ascertain whether a recipe is accurate. She thinks that many cookbook authors and other recipe developers are under pressure from editors to make recipes sound easier so they don't put people off from attempting them. Space constraints provide another pressure point - gorgeous food photos leave less room for instructions, Robertson says. Designers also prefer the look of more streamlined, shorter recipes, which can lead to incomplete instructions. 

Another problem is translating chef's recipes for the home cook. Chefs tend to season throughout the cooking process, tasting as they go. It can be difficult for a ghostwriter to capture that for the home cook. Says Robertson "It's my job, as the person in the corner with the notebook, to write these tiny tweaks down and make sure they end up in the final recipe. Unfortunately, in these days of pared budgets, there's often not the money for people like me who make sure what happens in the kitchen makes it to the page."

All of these sins of omission can add up and lead novice (and even some experienced) cooks to feel that an unsuccessful dish is their own fault. Even though it isn't "sexy" to write long explanations for how to complete a recipe, but Robertson thinks that food writers owe it to their readers to guide them through the process. 

Bombshell from Sweden regarding an iconic dish

 Swedish meatballs

Cities, regions, and even countries take pride in foods that become irrevocably linked to the location - think Nashville's hot chicken or New Zealand's pavlova. For Sweden, the national dish is Swedish meatballs. A recent tweet from Sweden's official Twitter account, however, has shocked the collective conscience of the country.

"Swedish meatballs are actually based on a recipe King Charles XII brought home from Turkey in the early 18th century," said Saturday's tweet. "Let's stick to the facts!" Charles ascended to the throne in 1697 at the age of 15. For several years, he lived in the area now known as Moldova, which was ruled by Turkey as part of the Ottoman Empire. When Charles returned to Sweden in 1715, he brought with him the recipe for the meatballs that would become associated with his country.

This announcement shows the fragility that accompanies claims of provenance, and also rends holes in the fabric of the label "authentic". Ingredients, spices, and recipes have circumnavigated the globe for eons. While the pace may have picked up in the last several generations as modes of transportation improved, the evolution of foods has been occurring for much longer. Many of the foods firmly linked with European countries, for example, came to the region from the New World. Shall we say that Italy's tomato sauces or Ireland's colcannon are then "inauthentic"? How long does a food have to be in a country before it is considered part of its heritage?

So can Sweden still claim the meatballs as their own? Well, why not? It's fair to say that the dish may not have enjoyed such longstanding reverence without the intervention of King Charles XII. Serving the meatballs with lingonberries also bolsters Sweden's claim. "[Lingonberries] don't grow in Sweden exclusively," the country tweeted Wednesday. "But lingonberry jam accompanying meatballs is damn near as Swedish as it gets!" Not only Swedish, but delicious, and that's the most important part.

Photo of Juicy and tender Swedish meatballs with rich gravy from Serious Eats.

 

A special pie for a cartoon milestone

 Apple pie

Oscar Wilde once opined that life imitates art much more than art imitates life. But sometimes the latter does happen, as in the case with a recent episode of The Simpsons, the long-running cartoon. In the record-breaking 636th episode, we learn more about Homer Simpson's backstory, which involves a special apple pie recipe. 

The cartoon flashes back to Homer's childhood, where he bonded with his mother, Mona, over baking. We even get to see a brief flash of Mona's famous apple pie recipe, handwritten onto a card. Homer cherished his mother's recipes, but we discover that the prized recipe box in which they were housed was tossed off a cliff by Homer's father, who was enraged when Mona left him. To make matters worse, Homer's father lied to his son about what happened to the recipe cards, setting the boy up for a lifetime of disappointment and abandonment issues. 

Alhough the story is fiction, the apple pie recipe is real, and belongs to chef, author, radio host, and restaurateur Evan Kleiman. In addition to hosting the radio show 'Good Food' on NPR affiliate KCRW, she also organizes an annual pie contest. Kleiman tweeted that having the recipe included in the episode "might be the coolest thing I've ever been able to do." You can find more information about the episode, along with Kleiman's apple pie recipe, on indiewire

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