Buddha’s Hand Scones and Marmalade

My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scones.jpgJanuary is a great time for citrus, but the My Berkeley Bowl challenge means you won’t find any navel oranges on this blog. Nope, this blog necessitates something extraordinary. And I assure you, you won’t find a citrus fruit more extraordinary than Buddha’s Hand.My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scones.jpgIt’s not hard to guess how this fruit got its name. The long, delicate “fingers” evoke images of a young buddha with his hands in prayer like a blooming lotus. While this is the common interpretation, I think it looks like a radioactive squid, but “squid citrus” doesn’t sound quite as poetic.My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scones.jpgIn addition to it’s weirdly animate shape, Buddha’s Hand has another unique feature: an intoxicating floral aroma. It really doesn’t have any juice or flesh inside —  all its value is in its aromatic rind. For this reason, Buddha’s Hand is commonly displayed in homes and temples in Japan and China as a natural air freshener, and because it symbolizes happiness and good fortune. It reminds me of the perfumy scent of azahar (orange-blossom water), which the spanish love to add to baked treats like muffins, breads, and french toast. I guess that’s what got my wheels turning and taste-buds buzzing for this recipe: Buddha’s Hand Scones.My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scones.jpgNow, I don’t want to get roped into a philosophical debate about scones. There are already plenty of people engaging in passionate arguments about all aspects of scones, including how to pronounce it, if they should be round or triangular, if they should use butter or not, and even if the cream or the jam should be put on first (FYI, 57% say jam first). If you are one of those people and have your stronger-than-oak opinion about how a scone should be, I encourage you to just add the Buddha’s Hand to your recipe so that you’re sure to have the type of scone you like — buttery or dry, fluffy or dense, flaky or crumbly. My recipe is for a slightly crispy scone that is moist on the inside. (I don’t even know where my basic scone recipe came from, as figuring that out would be like figuring out where my chocolate chip cookie recipe came from.)My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scones.jpgBecause one Buddha’s Hand has so much rind, it was really more than I needed for scones. I decided to use the rest of it to make some marmalade, which went quite nicely with the scones. Marmalade is not for everyone, as it does have that slightly bitter “kick.” But I find marmalade to be the perfect way to dress up things like scones, cheese, or other treats that you don’t want to overpower with sweetness.My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scones.jpgOn this atypically rainy afternoon, I pretended like I was in the Cotswolds with my scone, jam, and hot tea. The Buddha’s Hand bits give the scone a hint of floral citrus without being overly sweet (if you do like sweet scones, I imagine you could candy the citrus bits first, but then it wouldn’t be a throw-it-together recipe like this one). Scones aren’t exactly a health food, so I made sure I enjoyed every last crumb to the sound of the rain pattering on my skylight.My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scone.jpg

Buddha's Hand Scones

  • Servings: 10
  • Time: 25 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, frozen
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons cold buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped Buddha’s Hand
  • 1 Tablespoon demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl. Grate the frozen butter into the dry ingredients using the large holes of a cheese grater and lightly work the butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or pastry cutter until it resembles a coarse meal.

Add 3/4 cup buttermilk and the chopped Buddha’s Hand to the flour mixture and stir until it is just moistened and can be formed into a ball. Place the dough ball on a lightly floured surface and form it into an 8″ circle using your hands. Use a sharp knife dipped in flour to cut the circle into 10 wedges.

Place the wedges at least 1″ apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush each wedge with the remaining buttermilk and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the scones are golden. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on a wire rack before serving.

Buddha's Hand Marmalade

  • Servings: Two 8-oz jars
  • Time: 1 hour 30 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 Buddha’s Hand, finely chopped
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • Juice from 1 lemon

My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Marmalade.jpg*For instructions on how to sterilize jars and preserve your marmalade for shelf-stable storage, see this recipe by Alton Brown. Otherwise, marmalade will keep covered in the fridge for about a month.

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer on low for about 1 hour or until the volume has been reduced by half. Then increase heat and bring to a bubbling boil until the temperature on a candy thermometer reaches 220 degrees fahrenheit. Pour into jars and let cool before serving.

 

Carnival Cake (Vegan!)

IMG_20151115_223114As I already explained in Part I of Squash Week, this is a big freakin’ deal in our household. It’s like when the fair comes to town, except that instead of feeling all gross inside after gorging on funnel cake and corn dogs, we feel all warm and gooey inside after gorging on one of the world’s healthiest foods.

IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcakeFor Part II of Squash Week, and in honor of the fair, I chose this fun, bespeckled squash with the apt name: Carnival Squash. I realize that it’s kind of a cop-out to pretend that I created a recipe for an exotic produce item like Carnival Cake when, really, you could substitute any winter squash. But…well actually, I don’t have a but. I just have some delicious cake in front of me. So there.IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcakeDid I mention this cake is vegan? And whole wheat? I have served this at many gatherings to unknowing carnivores and lacto-ovo vegetarians, and always leave with a tube pan full of crumbs.IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcakeI’ll keep this cozy and sweet, since that’s how this cake tastes. If you’d like more background on winter squash or on Squash Week, see the previous post.IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcake

Carnival Cake

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 30 minutes active time, 100 minutes bake time
  • Difficulty: medium
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  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups Carnival Squash puree* (or substitute any winter squash puree)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
  • Toppings: 1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds and 2 Tablespoons demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a bowl. In a separate, large mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients (except for the toppings) and whisk until smooth. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. Pour into a greased and floured tube pan and top with the pumpkin seeds and demerara sugar. Bake for 60 minutes. Allow to cool before removing the outer part of the tube cake pan and serving.

* To make the Carnival squash puree: slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds, place cut-side down in a baking dish and add about 1/2 inch of water. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30-50 minutes or until the squash is very soft when you pierce it with a fork. Scoop out the cooked squash with a spoon and mash with a fork or blend in a food processor until you have a smooth puree.

Lemongrass Coconut Ice Cream (Vegan!)

You might want to sit down. Or maybe even lay down. Yes, this gelato should be eaten laying down to avoid injury when you literally pass out because it is so damn delicious.

And yet…wpid-img_20150930_222339.jpg…so simple!

It is so simple in taste and in process that I’m not going to subject you to a prolix post. Here are the only facts you need to know:

  1. Lemongrass is one of the most enchanting ingredients, with an aroma and flavor so synchronously citrusy and herbal that it keeps you wondering — and you don’t even know what you’re wondering at. It’s a member of the sugarcane family, common in Asian (especially Thai) cooking, and is perfect for infusing into liquids like….wpid-img_20150929_134959524_hdr.jpg
  2. …Coconut Milk, a.k.a. vegan panacea for former ice cream addicts. Don’t you dare buy the Lite stuff. The fat in the Good Stuff is not only healthy for you, but it also gives this concoction such a velvety, rich, creamy mouth-feel that vegan bullies might dangle you over a ledge and demand that you admit you put cream or eggs in your ice cream. wpid-img_20150930_222812.jpg
  3. Do yourself a favor and get an ice cream maker. Like I said in the prickly pear sorbet post, I have had wonderful results from this one.

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Short and sweet, as promised. I don’t want to waste your time that you could be spending making this recipe.

Lemongrass Coconut Ice Cream (Vegan!)

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 30 mins plus chilling time
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2 stalks lemongrass, sliced thinly
  • 2 cans coconut milk (regular, not lite)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2-3 slices of fresh ginger

To prepare the lemongrass, remove the outermost layer of the stalk and then trim the ends and the base off the stalk so you are left with about 5″ of the thickest part. Give the stalk a couple of whacks with a heavy object to loosen the layers a bit and then slice them thinly.

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and stir gently over medium heat until it just begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and let stand for 15 minutes to let the lemongrass infuse. Pour into a container and chill in the fridge for 4-8 hours.

When ready to make your ice cream, strain the mixture and throw out the contents of the strainer. Turn on your ice cream maker and pour in the strained coconut milk. Allow the ice cream maker to do its magic until you have a perfectly creamy ice cream. Serve right away or, if you like your ice cream to be more set, you can put it in a container in the freezer for an hour or two.

Prickly Pear Sorbet

Nothing screams summer like frozen treats. So in honor of the first week of summer, I am introducing you to my life-changing sorbet. Yeah, that’s right, LIFE-CHANGING.

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This sorbet is so lusciously and luxuriously magenta, you won’t be able to stop staring at it. And when you take your first bite, you won’t be able to stop eating it. And when it’s all gone, you won’t be able to stop talking about it. It is just that good.

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Who would have thought that the source of all this goodness could be the little prickly fruits that sit on top of the prickly pear cactus? This unsuspecting fruit is a nutritional powerhouse, as are the pads of the cactus plant itself (also called nopales). Both the fruit and the cactus pads have been shown to have many health benefits, including lowering blood sugar, cholesterol, and even preventing hangovers. And the fruit is packed with fiber (over 5 grams per cup!) and impressive amounts of copper and magnesium, two harder-to-come-by minerals that are important in immunity and enzyme function. And of course, a fruit so richly colored is super high in antioxidants like betalains and Vitamin C.

Prickly pear cactus: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/df/Prickly_Pear_Closeup.jpg/640px-Prickly_Pear_Closeup.jpg

But obviously, the prickly pear doesn’t make this sorbet all on its own. What’s the secret? A good ice cream maker, ripe prickly pears, tangy lime juice, and… drum-roll please… just the tiniest hint of serrano chili that will have your friends thinking, “I think it’s there… no, maybe not…but it sort of tastes like… hell, give me another scoop because this is damn good.”

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I can’t stress enough the importance of making this in a real ice cream maker. Do NOT make this “granita style” by freezing it solid and scraping it or blending it later — the ice crystals that form will be way to big and clunky and you’ll miss out on the velvety, luxurious texture of this sorbet. I can’t think of a better way to spend money this summer than on an ice cream maker…

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Prickly Pear Sorbet

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 20 minutes plus chilling and freezing time
  • Difficulty: medium
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  • 7-8 ripe prickly pears (should make 1 2/3 – 2 cups puree)
  • 1 cup water
  • Juice from one juicy lemon
  • Juice from one juicy lime
  • 1/2 – 2/3 cup sugar (depending on desired sweetness)
  • 1 serrano chili

To make the puree, slice the prickly pears in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh into a blender, getting as close to the skin as possible. (Caution: prickly pears can have invisible spines/fibers that are really annoying little buggers, so I recommend wearing gloves when you do this). Pulse the prickly pear pulp in the blender for a few seconds to make a puree and separate the flesh from the seeds. Strain out the seeds with a sieve and set aside the puree for later (you should have about 1 2/3 to 1 3/4 cup of puree).

In a small saucepan, heat the water and sugar until the sugar completely dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon and lime juice. Stir in the prickly pear puree. Next, use a fine grater or microplane to grate the sides of the serrano chili all the way around, avoiding the seeds in the middle. Taste the mixture when you are partway through grating the chili to see if you want to add more or stop there. Once the mixture is to your liking, put it in the fridge to chill completely.

Once the mixture is chilled, set up your ice cream maker and pour in the mixture, following your factory settings. Mine took about 20 minutes to set to a perfectly frozen yet velvety consistency. Serve immediately or put in the freezer for later. If you put it in the freezer, take it out of the freezer before serving to let it soften enough to be able to stir it with  spatula and bring back the smooth, velvety consistency.

Santiago Under The Stars

I’m a complete sucker for anything almond. Almond croissants, almond-scented lotion, marzipan, almond paste straight from the tube… yeah, I have been that desperate before.  The word “almond” on a dessert menu can magically create a vacancy in my stomach that just a second earlier seemed stuffed to the brim. If you are like me, then you would LOVE Tarta de Santiago.

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The template used to make the cross on the Tarta de Santiago

Originally from the province of Galicia but now enjoyed all over Spain, a traditional Tarta De Santiago is a beautifully simple torte made with ground almonds, eggs, sugar, and a touch of lemon zest. It’s typically dusted with powdered sugar in the shape of the cross of Santiago (Saint James).  Pilgrims who walk the famous 500-mile camino that ends in Santiago de Compostela (where the remains of the apostle St.James are entombed– or so it is said) earn themselves a huge slice of this cake. Lucky for them, this torte can be found in almost every shop window of this medieval city, enticing almond lovers like me to taste and compare as many as possible.

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The scallop shell, marking the path of the “Camino de Santiago” through a typical town of Glaicia

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Typical rainy day in Galicia

Tarta de Santiago has always been my favorite Spanish dessert, so I was a little weary to mess with a classic. But when I saw the starfruit at Berkeley Bowl, I felt inspired to incorporate this beautifully shaped delicacy into the torte. I wanted to capture an image I have of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela under a starry night sky.

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I decided to slice the stars and lay them in the bottom of the torte pan dusted with a little sugar before pouring the batter on top, so that the fruit would caramelize during baking. The result after flipping the torte over is as beautiful as it is delicious.

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A little background on the fruit, which is also known as Carambola in Southeast Asia where it originated. Its flavor and texture are like a combination of apple, pear and grape. Starfruit is very low in sugar for a fruit (only 4% sugar content) so it has a slight sour taste that makes it great for poaching or cooking, just like green apples. You’ll get lots of antioxidants, potassium and vitamin C along the way.

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It’s important to warn that people with kidney problems should avoid starfruit completely– it’s high oxalic acid content is thought to make star fruit dangerous, or even deadly, for people with poorly functioning kidneys. Also, people on cholesterol lowering statin drugs or other prescription meds should avoid starfruit because it has the same potential to interact with medications as grapefruit (potent cytochrome P450 inhibitor).

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Santiago Under The Stars

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: moderate
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  • 1 starfruit
  • 1 tablespoon brown or demerara sugar
  • 8 ounces blanched almonds (can be whole or slivered)
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Slice off the very ends of the starfruit. If it has any browning on its five ridges, trim them carefully and then slice into 1/4″ thick slices. Grease the bottom and sides of a 10″ or 11″ springform cake pan with some butter and sprinkle the brown/demerara sugar over the bottom before laying the starfruit slices across the bottom. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the almonds in a food processor and grind until you have a fine meal.  Set aside.  With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and sugar until it they are smooth and creamy. Add the lemon zest, almond extract, salt, and ground almonds and mix well.

With clean beaters, beat the egg whites in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold them into the egg and almond mixture until it is well incorporated. Pour the batter over the starfruit slices in the cake pan and bake for about 45 minutes or until the middle feels firm when touched lightly.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

Run a knife around the outside of the tart to ensure it is not stuck to the sides before releasing the springform pan and inverting the cake onto a serving plate. Carefully lift off the bottom of the springform pan to reveal the starfruit-topped cake below. Serve small slices, as this is a dense, flavorful cake.

Cherimoya Panna Cotta

If you have never had a cherimoya, you are totally missing out.  In fact, Mark Twain called it “the most delicious fruit known to man” in an article he wrote for the Sacramento Daily Union in 1866. The outside looks like some sort of dragon egg, but the taste and texture are out-of-this-world. It is also known as the “custard apple” because its white flesh is so creamy and sweet you can eat it with a spoon and pretend grandma cooked you up somethin’ real nice.  If I had to compare it to another flavor, I’d say it’s sort of like a papaya mixed with a pear.

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Almost six years ago, Mike and I were in a museum in Trujillo, Peru looking at artifacts of the Moche people who lived in that area 100-800 A.D.  These talented ceramicists loved to depict all aspects of daily life in their creations– and I mean all aspects (I’ll just say that they really used the orifices and handles of vases creatively…).  These X-rated ceramics were displayed amongst other G-rated vessels of fruits and animals, but you can probably guess which ones people spent more time looking at…

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I was so distracted by the graphic pottery that I didn’t even notice that the fruit they often depicted in the family-friendly ceramics is a cherimoya!  See the photo above?  Anyways, once native to the Andes, cherimoya are now grown all over the world, including in California.  Lucky us.

wpid-img_20150405_195419.jpgI headed over to the tropical fruit section of Berkeley Bowl and asked “my guy” to help me pick
out a good one.  As per usual, he cut one open on the spot so I could sample a wedge and drip cherimoya juice all over the produce aisle (this is why I love Berkeley Bowl).  Although I didn’t know what I was going to make with cherimoya only two seconds earlier,  I immediately had my answer: the sweet, velvety flesh reminded me of one of my favorite desserts, panna cotta.

Panna cotta, meaning “cooked cream” in Italian, is usually made with some combination of cream, sugar, and gelatin, sometimes with embellishments like sour cream or mascarpone.  I fiddled around with proportions and textures and came up with the recipe below.  I used agar agar instead of gelatin to make this vegetarian-friendly, but if you want to make it vegan you can just substitute more coconut milk for the half and half (I did not because I wanted to taste the cherimoya and not the coconut).  It is a beautifully simple dessert which really allows one to taste the delicate flavor of the fruit while enjoying the velvety, custard-like texture.

I just split the big one in the photo below with my husband for dessert. It’s hard to believe something this delicious could be good for you, but in this case it is. Cherimoya is packed with nutrition, providing about a third to a half of the recommended daily intake for vitamin C, vitamin B-6, and dietary fiber, plus a whole bunch of other vitamins and minerals. So make sure you buy two: one for preparing this recipe, and one for eating straight up with a spoon.

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Cherimoya Panna Cotta

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 25 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1/3 teaspoons powdered agar agar (vegan substitute for gelatin)
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 ripe cherimoya
  • 1 star anise
  • 1/4 cup sugar

 

In a small saucepan, combine the half and half, coconut milk, star anise, and sugar and place over medium heat. Whisk in the agar agar and whisk for 2-3 minutes until all ingredients are fully dissolved and the liquid begins to simmer. Turn off heat and let sit for ten minutes.

Cut the cherimoya in half and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Squish the flesh between your hands to remove and discard all the black seeds.  Once all the seeds have been removed, puree the cherimoya flesh in a blender or food processor.  You should have about 1 cup of puree. Add the cherimoya puree to the saucepan and discard the anise. Stir to combine and pour into 6 small ramekins. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours until set and chilled through.

To serve, run a spatula around the edges of the ramekins to loosen the sides, and invert onto a dessert plate.  Or, you can eat it directly out of the ramekin.