Well, things have shifted gears over here for those of you still occasionally tuning in. My last post was on the Spring equinox and here we are approaching autumn. Shameful. After officially launching Mountain Floral, good ol' Girl In An Apron got the cold shoulder. Not on purpose. It's just there are only so many hours in a day, and I am afraid those hours have been parceled out judiciously: turning soil, weeding, cooking on the fly (or barely cooking at all), fine-tuning websites, delivering flowers in the sweltering heat...hoping they don't droop, invoicing, working with brides on color schemes, so on and so on. But, the show does go on in the food world. After all, eating still has to happen. And on occasion, so does cake. However, in the heat of summer, baking is not an awesome pastime---in my opinion. My friend gifted me a recipe card featuring an old fashioned icebox cake printed by Blue Apron, and it was clear it needed to be made. My neighbor had extended family visiting from abroad, so it provided the perfect opportunity to make the recipe to bring to her welcoming party. It got eaten quickly. The rose garnish (pictured) did not. Decorate this stack with florals you still have in your garden, before the frost (obviously leave out the noxious). This could easily stand-in as the new 'Autumn Equinox Cake'. Though I hope to be posting again before winter solstice. Thank you for reading friends. Happy (cake) eating!
Icebox Cake Recipe (Blue Apron)
4 Cups Heavy Cream½ Cup Powdered Sugar 2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract 2 Tablespoons Almond Liqueur 2 9-Ounce Packages Chocolate Wafer Cookies 5 Ounces Dark Chocolate
Make the whipped cream
In a large bowl, combine the heavy cream and powdered sugar; using a whisk, beat until soft peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the vanilla extract and almond liqueur.
Assemble & refrigerate the cake
Spread a thin, round layer (about 4 inches in diameter) of the whipped cream onto the bottom of a flat serving dish or cake dish. Arrange 7 cookies, side by side, in a circle around the circumference of the whipped cream layer. Place 1 cookie in the center. Carefully and evenly spread about ¾ cup of the whipped cream over the cookies to create another round layer. Repeat with the remaining whipped cream and cookies, finishing with the whipped cream on top. Carefully cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or up to overnight).
Shave the chocolate & finish the cake
Just before serving the cake, place the chocolate on a clean, dry work surface. Carefully drag the blade of a knife over the surface of the chocolate to create thin shavings. Garnish the cake with the chocolate shavings.
Every spring we kick things off with some wild food, usually nettles since they are getting a good lead on other new-growth by the time the equinox rolls around. Some chickweed made it into the pot as well, why not. As this has proved to be a challenging season health wise (we seem to have been the favorite hosts of most viruses and colds going around kindergarten this year), this particular recipe was part of a plan to kick our uninvited guests out for good. No more freeloading illnesses. Green is such a great cleanser, especially this time of year. The recipe is loose:
Creamy Nettle and Chickweed Soup:
*1 sweet onion, chopped
*3 celery stalks, chopped
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*5 medium gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
*5-6 cups bone broth
*5 cups fresh young nettles, washed
*3/4 cup half and half or cream
*1 cup fresh chickweed, washed
Saute the onion and celery in butter in a large soup pot over medium heat until tender. Add garlic. Saute. Season with salt and pepper. Add the potatoes. Stir. Add the broth, lower heat and simmer gently until the potatoes are very tender. Add the fresh nettles and stir until gently wilted but still bright green. Remove pot from heat and allow to cool slightly. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor until very smooth with the fresh chickweed. Return to the soup pot and whisk in the cream. Reheat and serve with some edible flowers and fresh chives.
Some other sweet images from life lately:
~The annual orchid show returned to the NC Arboretum with some absolute beauties.~
~I have launched my new floral website in anticipation of the upcoming season for weddings and special occasions. This was a fun, early spring arrangement from around the property. Mountainfloral.org~
~While we were under the weather, eating lots of comfort food (and still snapping photos).~
~A stroll to a favorite little patch of bloodroot proved to be good timing.~
~Yes, we too have hopped on the broccoli-sprout train.~
I owe this one to my friend Ben. He's a passionate vegan, and very fine host. He makes his broth from little more than an assortment of steeped mushrooms, but it's rich and punches you with umami. I've recreated it loosely many times since. The following recipe is very approximate. It's fun to play around with what goes into the broth itself, and then what accompanies it into the soup bowl. We use this for build-your-own ramen night.
Savory Mushroom Broth:
*3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
*1 onion, chopped
*2 celery stalks, chopped
*3 garlic cloves, minced
*3-4 cups fresh mushrooms, assorted, chopped
*6 cups water *4 whole peppercorns
*red wine *sea salt
Heat olive oil or butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and garlic. Saute until the onion is browned and translucent. Add the mushrooms and saute until tender. Transfer all contents of skillet (including any liquid) to a large soup pot, add water and peppercorns. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Season with small splashes of red wine and tamari to taste (keep in mind the salt in the tamari will intensify if you plan to reduce your broth). Lower heat to medium and simmer until broth reaches desired richness, 40 minutes to 2 hours. Adjust seasonings and add sea salt if needed. Strain broth through a sieve before serving.
Load soup bowls with cooked udon, scallions, cilantro, avocado, seaweed, soft boiled egg, poached fish, chili oil, etc. Pour hot broth over soup ingredients. Top with toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds. Serve.
Straight from the pages of my favorite new cook book: Home Cooked by Anya Fernald. A winter menu winner. Blood Orange Salad: *4 blood oranges *1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced *1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced *1/2 teaspoon kosher salt *1/4 cup piquant extra virgin olive oil (I used blood orange olive oil) *2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley *pinch red pepper flakes *flaky sea salt for serving With a sharp knife, cut the top and bottom off each orange and stand them on a cutting board. Beginning at the top of each orange, cut down along the curve of the fruit to remove the skin and pith, then cut each orange crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Transfer to a bowl and add the sliced fennel, onion, and kosher salt and mix gently but thoroughly to combine. Transfer to a platter and drizzle with the olive oil, then top with the parsley and red pepper flakes. Season with flaky sea salt and serve.
Little else pairs better with freshly fallen snow than a cup of hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows. This recipe is a repost from 2014, originally sourced from The Clever Carrot. These pillowy marshmallows are full of vanilla flavor and made without corn syrup.
*I recommend using a non-stick pan, but glass or metal will do. For thick marshmallows, use an 8x8 pan. For thinner marshmallows, use a 9x13 pan.
*In order for your marshmallows to set properly, the milk and sugar must be heated to approximately 250 F. Regular thermometers only go up to 220 F.
Generously coat the bottom and sides of your pan with cooking spray.
Cut the parchment paper to fit the inside of your pan. You should have about 2 inches of overhang on each side. These will be your 'handles' for easy removal.
Pour ½ cup water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the gelatin and allow to soften, about 10 minutes.
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, evaporated milk, and ¼ cup water. Whisk over low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 247- 250 F, about 10-15 minutes.
Add the hot syrup to the gelatin mixture and beat on low speed until incorporated.*See important note below.
If using a vanilla bean, slice it in half lengthwise with a pairing knife. Scrape out the seeds using the blade of the knife. Add the seeds (or vanilla extract) to the bowl.
Increase the speed to high and beat until thick, fluffy, and tripled in volume, about 10-15 minutes. Your marshmallows will be a glossy, creamy white color.
Using a rubber spatula, quickly scrape out the mixture into the prepared pan. Lightly coat your spatula with cooking spray and smooth out the surface. Marshmallows set very quickly, so you will need to work fast. Do not worry about getting every last bit of marshmallow out of the bowl or making the top perfectly smooth!
Allow the mixture to set, uncovered (not refrigerated) for at least 8 hours- overnight.
After the marshmallows have set, combine the powdered sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Whisk thoroughly.
Spoon some of the mixture into a sifter, and sift over the top of the marshmallows and a cutting board.
Using the parchment handles, remove the marshmallows from the pan and place onto your board.
Dust a large chef's knife, pizza wheel, or kitchen scissors with the powdered sugar/cornstarch mixture so that they do not stick to the marshmallows.
Cut the marshmallows into 1-inch squares.
Toss the marshmallows into the mixture to prevent sticking.
Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
* Because evaporated milk is a tan color, your mixture will initially be brown. Do not fret- after 10-15 minutes of mixing on high speed, your marshmallows will become a soft, creamy white color.