Culinary Tea Party


Culinary Tea cookbook

The Fearless Cooking Club and friends gathered to celebrate all things tea. We had food steeped from tea in eggs, candy, fruits, vegetables, and salmon. We also drank tea as well. Culinary Tea written by Cynthia Gold, the tea sommelier at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Towers, was the basis of most of the recipes. Char visited Boston last fall and enjoyed an afternoon tea a the hotel. She delighted us with her cooking skills and beautiful setting to enjoy a culinary tea.

Char and Debbie greeted us at the door with a flute of champagne infused with raspberry truffle tea syrup. Wow!

hostess and greeter

the culinary tea table

Each guest was presented with a card to keep track of types of teas tasted.

place setting

culinary tea card

We started with a flowering tea pod or bud.

pouring the water

After pouring hot water atop, the bud opens into a beautiful flower

flowering tea

Our first course was marbled eggs. They were hard boiled eggs, the shells cracked but left intact then steeped in green tea with brown sugar. After two days of steeping in the refrigerator, the shells were removed and voila marbled eggs.

marbled eggs

The marbled egg was served with rose petal and wine salts and mixed green salad.

marbled egg, flavored salts

Each guest brought a tea pot. We all went around the room telling the story of our teapot and the type of tea we were sampling. This was an opportunity to share our teas with others.

tell us about your tea pot

The main course was salmon en papillote steeped with darjeeling tea and acorn squash with chai cherry walnut tea.

Salmon en papillate with acorn squash

To cleanse our palate before dessert we had a Blackberry tea sorbet. I was surprised it wasn’t made with a blackberry tea. Instead fresh blackberries, sugar and Darjeeling or Assam tea.

blackberry tea sorbet

And for dessert (I was so full by this point), Riesling Poached Pears with Cardamon cream and

White Chocolate chai and Earl Grey Chocolate  truffles

poached pears and truffles

Patty’s Points:

1) Everything was sumptuous and beautiful. Char hit a high mark with her beautiful presentation and culinary tea skills. Her dining room was a beautiful tea room.

2) Char said that if she could change one thing she would’ve put more cracks in the egg shells before steeping them in the tea for 48 hours to add more marbling. I thought they were wonderful. The salts made of rose petals and wine were Mary Beth’s contribution from her trip to Europe this past fall. Thanks Mary Beth, they were a spectacular addition.

2) Everyone had a touching story to tell about their tea pots, given to them by loved ones or special memories of purchasing it. I didn’t have a remarkable story to tell about my tea pot, I had just purchased a new one the day before as I had broken mine. Pictured below is a combination tea pot and cup that belonged to my mother. She purchased it in Ireland (I believe), made in Galway. My father is caring for it at present. I carefully dusted the glass shelving it sits on along with twelve Irish coffee cups. I hope to collect it someday.

Irish teapot and cup

Thank you Char for a wonderful afternoon of all things tea!

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Oh my goodness, Christmas is here!

Oh how the month has flown. Christmas is upon us and I finally sat down to chronicle my food adventures.

Cookies for Santa

Do-It-Yourself Vanilla

I saw directions for homemade vanilla extract all over Pintrest.com this season for DIY gifts. But it was the post from, the host of The Splendid Table, that made the most sense to me. In my opinion, Lynne Rossetto Kasper is the voice of reason out there in the blogging and media world of food and cooking. Follow the web connection of The Splendid Table- Vanilla Extract to see the recipe and directions.

Vanilla Beans

vodka and bottles

split the vanilla beans

fermenting vanilla beans

24th Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange

2013 Cookie Exchange group picture

quilted cookie plate

“Quilted” Sugar Cookies (aren’t they darling?)

Chocolate Pistachio Sables'

Chocolate-Pistachio Sablés from Bon Appétit  magazine December 2013

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Chocolate Almond Shortbread

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Sesame Street Cookies

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I don’t know what the name of these cookies but they were really tasty.

Patty’s Points:

1. The homemake vanilla extract takes at least 4 weeks to ferment. I started making mine before Thanksgiving. I have yet to try it out to see how it tastes. I gave it to true bakers who really were excited to receive it as gifts.

2. Vanilla beans and vodka are best to buy in bulk to keep the cost down. Costco was my main stop. I made 10 bottles of extract = 40 beans and 2 large (1500 ml) bottles of American vodka=$15.00 each. Each bean averaged about $1.20 which is a good deal. Think of it like a sourdough bread starter; you can replenish the vodka, add more beans and even use the beans for another recipe.

3. The cookie exchange was fabulous. Many people said the cookies were the best efforts in years. Of course, the talk of the party were Pat’s sugar cookies with the edible quilt square pattern atop. She ordered them online. I’ll have to corner her to find out where she got them.

4. I made Chocolate-Pistachio Sablés- from Bon Appétit  and Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars. I had a theme of cookies with sea salt.

The Chocolate-Pistchio Sablés were great for a working person as myself. I made them a month ago and prepped them for the freezer. I thawed, sliced and baked them a day before the party. The sea salt is placed atop each cookie before baking. Next time I’ll make the rolled dough a little thicker for a bigger diameter cookie.

 I saw several Salted Caramel Bar cookie recipes online and quickly deduced how easy they were. Make your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and place half of the dough in a lightly buttered 8 x 11 baking pan. Melt 6 oz of caramel squares with 1-3 TBSP of milk or cream or purchase a 6 oz jar of caramel sauce. Melt the squares in the microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring until smooth. Place the slightly cooled caramel atop the cookie dough and sprinkle with sea salt. Place the other half of the cookie dough atop the caramel and smooth with an oiled spatula. Sprinkle the top of the dough again with sea salt. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes, turning the pan halfway through for even baking. Let the dough rest because it will be very soft with the dough and caramel. Cut into two inch squares.

Happy Christmas and New Year to all my readers and fellow bloggers. Enjoy your time with family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.

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The never ending search

The planning for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year has been going on for a month and a half now in the food and crafting blogs. This past week I saw posts on planning, cooking, decorating, and recovering from Thanksgiving. Luckily, I only had to make two side dishes to the Thanksgiving dinner I attended.

This great big world of the internet is kind of funny.  I am sure that you, like me, have been searching for new recipes and looking for old standards to make and share with our loved ones. Dinner, cookie swaps, afternoon teas, potlucks, parties, brunches and cocktail hours.

A new favorite website of mine is Pintrest; my daughter got me hooked on it. I’ve discovered that the pictures are sometimes better than the actual recipe. That is the beauty and the downfall of the internet and blogging.

I recently read a blog post on Blogher.com about Martha Stewart’s comment where she was uncomplimentary to amateur internet food bloggers.  I like Martha Stewart, especially when she was new in the business and was more involved her television show and magazine. She’s been to jail, she’s been humbled, she knitted sweaters; she’s been there and did that. Her humble beginnings are now a big conglomerate. Her brand also has a professional blog , Martha Stewart “Up Close and Personal.”

I started The Fearless Cooking Club and this blog out of admiration for Julia Child. Julia had humble beginnings and was a pioneer in cooking and television. She wasn’t afraid to make mistakes. She lives on with her quotes, philosophy and recipes on PBS.com. The blogging world is a combination of Martha and Julia. There are big blogs and small blogs; there are blog businesses and blog amateurs. I am an amateur with a small blog. There are other small bloggers out there like me.

I’m a self-taught cook and blogger, I’ve learned a few things about recipes. So in the spirit of this blog and the holiday season here are my points on the never ending search for the great recipe.

Patty’s Points:

1. When reading a recipe, look at the ingredients first. I blogged about this back in 2011. I was philosophical back then.

Do you like the ingredients? Are they in your pantry? Will it take time out of your day to get them? Is the ingredient necessary to the recipe? or could a substitution be made?

I make substitutions all the time. I regularly substitute chard for kale. I am still harvesting chard from my garden. To buy kale specifically for a recipe would be wasteful. It is an equal substitute.  Sometimes substitutions just don’t work, like putting Stevia or Splenda to replace sugar in a baking recipe. I tried this with a blueberry pie recipe last year. I’m not sure it tasted very good. It definitely would not work with taking candy to a hard crack like this Pumpkin Brittle.

pumpkin brittle

2. Read the directions. Do they make sense? Are they easy to follow? How much time will it take? Will you need to refrigerate the ingredients over night?

smores picture

homemade marshamallows

I have never made homemade marshmallows –  yet.directions

When I first started cooking and baking I threw everything into a bowl or pot and that was it! Very little technique was involved. I read a hand written recipe that had the ingredients on the card and at the bottom the directions were ‘Cook for 1 1/2 hours.’  If you don’t have any cooking knowledge or memory of how it is made it would be difficult to follow. Many loved recipes my mother wrote on stationery from my dad’s business. I’ll never throw them out because they are priceless piece of my family history. But, I’ll have to draw on my cooking knowledge or memory to make it.

Cooking and baking is about technique. The directions help develop technique and skill. I’ve been reading about how to make croissants off and on for several months. There is a lot of technique to making croissants and some day I may tackle it. In the meantime, I am still reading about it, getting up the courage to make a mess in the kitchen. Croissants take at least two days to accomplish. It wouldn’t be a good idea to start making it then go out of town next week.

3. Have you made a recipe similar to this one before? From your past experience, is there an easier way to make the recipe than the directions?

I made a turkey meatball soup today. I had all but one of the ingredients on hand but it was easy for my husband to pick up while doing errands. It took a day of preparation before I made the soup. I had to thaw the ground turkey overnight and there were a lot of ingredients that needed chopping. I chopped all the ingredients and placed them in a container to refrigerate overnight.

The next morning I was putting the recipe parts together. The meatball recipe looked bland; the cooking technique looked like it might be mushy.  So I referred to two of my basic, stand-by cookbooks. One cookbook  mentioned that if making the meatball with poultry you should refrigerate the balls for one hour before cooking or they would fall apart. The other cookbook advised to put the meatballs in mini muffin tins to keep them firm and round.  Also, one of the ingredients was 1/2 cups brown rice. Was is cooked or un-cooked rice? I couldn’t tell, so I relied on my instincts of making a similar meatball recipe. Everyone has their own way of doing things, but it needs to translate to my kitchen.

meatballs

meatball soup

4. My kitchen, maybe like yours, is the dumping ground for purses, grocery bags, kitchen equipment etc. Sometimes I am spinning around my kitchen looking for the olive oil bottle and still can’t find it because of the clutter.

piles in the kitchen

kitchen clutter

dirty dishes

Before making the recipe: a) clean the kitchen, b) do the dishes, and/or c) clear the clutter. I think in the directions it should say have those as the #1 on the list. You run the risk of starting a fire or dumping ingredients all over. I accidentally dumped cake batter onto my Brighton purse once. That was crazy. Everytime I carry that purse I think of that day! Don’t you wish you would see Ree Drummond or Lidia Bastianach show how they clean the kitchen before and after making their signature dishes?

Good luck out there navigating the internet. Five weeks of the holidays are yet to come. And don’t forget, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner!

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Another Award

liebster-award

I am the slowest person on the planet at replying to award nominations from other bloggers.

From My Kitchen To Yours nominated me six weeks ago for a Liebster Award. How sweet!

“The Liebster Award is given to up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers…

Nominees of the Liebster Award must…

  1. Post 11 things about themselves.
  2. Answer the questions that the tagger/nominator has posted for them.
  3. Create 11 questions and choose (nominate) 11 blogs of 200 followers or less and link them in the post.
  4. Go to their page and tell them.

My 11 questions to you all

What is your favorite food to cook?

Lately it has been veggies.

What is your favorite food to eat?

Jelly or Jam, and specifically Ginger Jelly (I know really?)

What was your favorite childhood book?

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler by E. L Konigsburg

Why did you start your blog?

I turned 50 years old and I felt that I had no significance in the world. I have been told that I am funny,  have a talent with writing and good ideas. I thought the blog would help me express my feelings formally.

How do you decide what to cook?

My cooking is intuitional based. I grew up loving beets, green beans, cucumbers and corn because we grew them in our garden. I was in 4-H sewing, knitting, baking, and learning to cook anything with hamburgers or pork. I was raised on the outskirts of a small town with a state university, my Dad was a country boy and my Mom was a small city girl. I am a combo of city and country  – loving both.

How often do you go to the grocery store?

Anywhere from weekly to two to three times a week. Because I work full-time my “play time” in the kitchen varies from none to several times during the week.

What is your biggest dream?

I like living in a balance and I must have a creative outlet. I have this blog for my creative outlet but I also am a healthcare professional relishing in both worlds.

Recipes or no recipes?

If I get into a groove I can be inspired and throw ingredients together easily. When I’m stressed I have to look at the cookbook or recipe literally.

What is your favorite color?

Blue. It always has been and always be.

What do you hope comes out of your blogging?

I’m a late bloomer to writing and blogging. But, I have been told that I have an interesting point of view.

What is your favorite holiday?

St Patrick’s Day. My mother is Irish and her loves were a big influence in my life. I celebrated St Patrick’s Day this year in New Orleans. That was interesting. There were a total of four different St. Patrick’s Day parades in the city over the weekend. People throw cabbage as well as bead necklaces.

I nominate the following blogs for the Liebster Blog award:

Here are the following eleven questions to answer:

1. What is you go-to comfort food?

2. What recipe or food are you afraid to cook?

3. What is your favorite movie?

4. Are you a cat or dog person?

5. If you had a dinner party, which three  people would you invite (dead or alive) ?

6. If you won the lottery, how would you spend your money?

7. Who is your favorite TV chef?

8. What is your favorite candy?

9. What is your favorite childhood memory?

10. What was your favorite song?

11. What inspires you?

Happy Spring everyone!

Gabe the Pie Man

appletini pie

The Fearless Cooking Club met last weekend to celebrate National Pie Day January 23rd. We invited self-taught baker, Gabriel Mills, who demonstrated his expertise at pie and pizza pie making.

Gabe was born in Baker, Oregon (really) and he and his sister were raised by three sets of people. His mother was bi-polar where home was chaotic. Then raised by a nice elderly couple where the woman taught he and his sister how to cook and bake. There was an atmosphere of no fear and she was a kind teacher. Then they were sent to live with a not-so-nice aunt and uncle. It was never okay to ask for a toy as a gift, but to ask for a practical gift like a rolling-pin or kitchen tool was fine. At age 13 years he began his quest to unseat his aunt as the family Pie Queen. He became the family Pie King when the relatives gathered for Thanksgiving and they gobbled up his pie and left hers still in the plate. So began his baking career.

Gabe brought us all a pound of butter he buys wholesale, $2.00 apiece. That’s a lotta butta!

James Farm Butter

85 grams flour (2 cups)

1/4 teaspoon salt (use a pinch for a sweet pie)

1 Tablespoon sugar

155 grams unsalted butter (cold) or (2/3 cup)

113 grams cold water or (8 Tablespoons )


prepping for pie crust

Add the cold butter cut into small cubes and cold water to the dry ingredients on the pastry sheet and work them together using two dough scrapers with the goal of keeping it cold. Work the dough by stacking formed pieces together on top of each other making thin folds.

pastry scrapingWrap the dough in plastic wrap and put in freezer for at least twenty minutes before using it in a recipe or for up to four days in the refrigerator. It may be placed in the freezer almost indefinitely.

Each crust weighs 120 grams for a 9-inch pie pan. Pre-heat the oven to 370 degrees and place in the middle of the oven. Follow the directions for the filling of your pie recipe.

Gabe’s Go-To-Tips:

1. Measure everything with a scale. Flour is sensitive to humidity and lack-there-of (especially in the Mile High City where it is pretty dry). You get a more accurate end-product if you do.

2. Gabe likes the Pie and Pastry Bible  cookbook by Rose Berenbaum as his baking reference. He said that some of the recipes are quite lengthy to prepare, but the result is worth it.

3. Gabe uses a non-slip pastry sheet for rolling out the pie dough. As you can see in the picture, Joy brought her vintage Tupperware pastry sheet. I had one just like it oh-so-many years ago but it got cut up and damaged. You can still find them at Tupperware or you can find a vintage one on EBay. A marble slab is the ideal board for keeping the pie ingredients cold.

4. Gabe likes aluminum pans as he gets a consistent end-product result. He brushes the crust with egg white and sprinkles it with sugar.

5. Gabe likes Gold Medal flour, but King Arthur flour is his prime choice as it is organic. He usually buys it if it is on sale as it is a little more expensive.

6. If you use your hands working the dough, it warms the dough. The pie dough is very forgiving because it eventually ends up in the refrigerator or freezer before using in a recipe. If need be, the dough can be placed there for a time to get the temperature right and then return to the work board to get it back to a good consistency.
Gabe the Pie Man

Patty’s Points:

1. I looked up James Farm butter and could only find that it is distributed out of New York. What little I could find on the internet was that in the Julie and Julia movie, Julie Powell leaves a pound of James Farm butter at the Julia Child kitchen replica at the Smithsonian. Butter made in the old USA. There is also a band called James Farm. They got more hits on the internet than butter searches.

2. The pie pictured above was baked by Gabe prior to the baking party. It is an Appletini Pie with gin and vermouth added in. He likes to use Honey Crisp with Granny Smith apples together. He also likes the Pink Lady variety which adds a pink color to the pie. He doesn’t add a lot of sugar to the fresh fruit, instead choosing to let the fresh fruit shine in the recipe.

3. The pie crust was flaky and light, the apples were so fresh, without being heavy. He does NOT use Crisco. He has used lard on occasion but butter is best.

As Gabe was telling his story of how he started baking as a child I had memories of other pie makers and the stories behind them.Art of the Pie , a blog written by Kate McDermott is one. I met Kate this past summer at the BlogHer Food 2012 conference in Seattle when she personally shared her story about her kind neighbor. And of course there is the movie Waitress. The lead actress played by Keri Russell, baked and created unusual pies with titles reflective of her unhappy marriage, unexpected pregnancy and affair with her doctor.

The pie story continues on the next post as we made pizza pie dough and lotsa pizza.

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Old Year. New Year. Thank you fellow bloggers.

I work full-time at another job and this blog post is a creative outlet to a crazy world. I thank everyone who stops by and admires what I do to share my thoughts and talents with the blogging world.

In November 21, 2012 Life is Short Eat Hard  nominated me for The Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Make sure and check out her blog. She is an Aussie living in Arizona. Thanks very much.
very-inspiring-blogger-award1

In November 11, 2012 Virginia Views, a city girl who lives in the Virginia countryside, nominated me for the Liebster Blog Award.

liebster-blog-award

In December 10,2012 The Food Gypsy a writer’s journey into experimental cooking nominated me for the Liebster Award.

liebster-award2

For my thanks I have responded in the following way:

  • Link back to the blogger who gave you this award
  • Post the award to your blog
  • Post 11 things about yourself.
  •  Nominate 11 people and have them answer the same questions about themselves.
  • Go to their pages and tell them they have been chosen.

Gosh. Thanks. I am going to combine all of these awards into one response. I’ll do the best I can.

1)    If you could go anywhere in the world and stay for a month, where would you choose to go?

Australia because our son just moved there. Second choice would be Europe because I have never been there.

2)    What is your hobby?  Baking. Knitting.

3)    What was your childhood dream? To be a singer and a nurse. The nurse won out.

4)    What was the best gift you ever received?

A Christmas ornament, a fishing reel and a marriage proposal as one gift December 1985.

5)    What is your favorite movie?

Something’s Gotta Give, Wizard of Oz and Pride and Prejudice. If these movies are on TV I stop everything to watch them.

6)    Who is the person who inspired you the most?

I have been inspired by strong women: my three aunts – my father’s sisters and my nursing instructors. My aunts were all different one never married but was the matriarch of the family; one married, had a family had a strong faith and I am her spitting image; and one had a professional career when it was rare for women to have one, married late in life and is the wise sage of the family.

My nursing instructors showed me how to be a caring person, be a strong woman leader and to face your fears.

7)    What is your favorite dessert?

Pure dark chocolate with orange.

8)    What is your favorite quote?

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw

This quote ends all my email messages at work. Work email is where messages can be promoted to help a project move forward, but also be misinterpreted and cause rifts in team building. I pride myself in speaking the truth and keeping communication lines open.

9)    What do you do for relaxation?

Take a bubble bath.

10) What is your favorite remembered scent/smell from childhood?

Snickerdoodles baking.

11) If you could be a character in a book, who would you choose to be?

This is tough because I really enjoy biographies of real people. Probably Julia Child because her life was so interesting. She serve in WWII where she met her husband Paul, she traveled the world, she learned to cook when women didn’t become chefs, and she was a late bloomer.

I admire the following bloggers:

JannaTWrites – My most faithful follower and commenter

jothetartqueen – Another faithful follower and wonderful cook/chef.

theseasidebaker – A baker and food photographer living in California, we met at the BlogHer Food Conference in Seattle.

boulderfoodie – An engineer who cooks and eats fresh local foods and restaurants in Colorado

Marinating Online – A chef living and cooking in Colorado foothills

Mama’s Empty Nest – Nuff said? I can totally relate.

The Hungry Australian – A freelance writer, blogger, cook and photographer in Melbourne.

Nurse Frugal – A nurse and blogger living frugally in California and working on paying off the house.

Sugar and Spice Baking – A social worker living in England, bakes a lot and works out a lot.

Los Rodriguez Life – A couple living in Kentucky with a bilingual blog who post on their lives, music and photography.

Piglet in Portugal  – An American posting on gardening, cooking and living in Portugal.

Happy New Year of connecting with each other through blogging. And as the Brits say Keep Calm and Carry On.