Tag Archives: baking

Do-Sa-Do!

Well a do-sa-do and to and fro to you Cafe’ friends!  We’re do-sa-do-ing at the Susitna Cafe’ today in celebration of our recent viewing of Charles M. Russell’s masterworks at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH).

We’ve been a fan of Charles M. Russell’s artistry and humour for many, many years here at the Cafe’.  In fact, one summer, “R” and I road-tripped all the way to the boonies of Montana to visit the C. M. Russell Museum in Great Falls.  While there, we spent hours reading and viewing Charles M. Russell’s many beautifully illustrated letters.

Afterwards, I searched far and wide for a copy of his book “Good Medicine, The Illustrated Letters of Charles M. Russell”.  Since the book was published in 1930, it wasn’t easy finding a copy.  But I did find a copy, and to this day we treasure it.

So, I’m sure you can guess that when we were invited to a preview of  “The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell:  A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture” at the MFAH, we got there as fast as we could!

Oh my, it was great fun!  There was a really nice reception with tasty appetizers like assorted cheese and grapes…

Texas size strawberries and brie cheese…

Oh, and did I tell you there was cheese (my favorite :o)?  The exhibit was really wonderful too!

I just love Charles M. Russell’s sense of light, don’t you?

When the Land Belonged to God, 1914 oil on canvas (Courtesty of Montana Historical Society MacKay Collection, Helena, Montana)

This particular painting, When the Land Belonged to God, rarely travels from the Montana Historical Society, so we consider it a real treat to have viewed it in person.  In fact, this painting  just made all the visitors feel like dancing.  So, we did!

Seems like everyone just started do-sa-do-ing…

And to and fro-ing…

There were some singing cowboys too…

Hey, how about if you join us at the Cafe’ for a little dancin’ and cookin’?  What?  You don’t know how to cowboy dance?  No problem, just watch this video and start kicking your legs around.

Next, just start cookin’.  Let’s make Charles M. Russell proud!

Susitna Cafe’ Do-Sa-Do Pecan Tart

Makes two (2) 11 inch tarts.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Shortbread Crust*

1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup cane sugar

3 extra large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 1/2 cups unbleached flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

*Susitna Cafe’ recommends using organic ingredients whenever possible.

Begin by mixing the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then set aside.  Next, cream the butter and sugar together with your electric mixer at medium speed.  Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well.  Add the pure vanilla extract.

Now begin adding the dry ingredients into the batter at low speed and do so until all ingredients are combined.  The dough will be fluffy and sticky.  Pour the dough into two (2) 11 inch ungreased tart pans.  Press the dough into the pans leaving a 1/2 inch wide thick crust on the edge.  The crust in the center section of the pan should thinner than the edge crust to allow room for the pecan filling.  You may wish to flour your hands to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands while you are working the crust in the tart pan.

Bake the tarts for 15 minutes.  The crust should be “set” but not brown.  Allow the crusts to cool while you prepare the pecan filling.

Pecan Filling*

1/2 pound unsalted butter

1/2 cup honey

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

1/8 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoon vanilla (I used Mexican vanilla in the pecan filling)

1 pound whole pecans

1 cup Ghirardelli Gourmet 72% Cacao bittersweet chocolate chips

*Susitna Cafe’ recommends using organic ingredients whenever possible.

Combine the butter, honey, brown sugar and orange zest in a heavy saucepan.  Cook over low heat to melt the butter, and stir to combine all ingredients.  Raise the heat to medium high and boil for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Allow to cool for a minute.  Meanwhile, sprinkle 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips into the each of the two (2) cooled tart crusts.

Next add the heavy cream and whole pecans to the warm filling.  Stir to combine.  Pour 1/2 of the pecan filling into each of the two (2) tart crusts.  Spread the filling evenly in the well of the crust.

Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Meanwhile, this is a good time for you to practice do-sa-do-ing while the tarts are allowed to cool to room temperature.

Cut the tart into pie wedges.  Serve either at room temperature or after refrigerating until cold.  Store remaining tart (if any) in the refrigerator.

Cook’s Notes:   This recipe is adapted from “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook” Pecan Squares recipe.  Although the Pecan Squares are absolutely delicious in the original recipe, I modified the recipe to serve as a tart containing a chocolate layer between the shortbread and pecan filling.  In addition, I’ve placed more emphasis on the orange (vs. lemon) flavoring in the filling simply because we like the combination of orange and chocolate together.  We hope you do too!

Note that if the dough in the well rises too much during the initial baking, you may scoop out any excess with a spoon.  This will ensure that you have enough room in the center for the pecan filling.

Traveler’s Note:  The Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH)’s exhibit, The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell:  A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture,  is on view through August 29, 2010.

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Filed under June 2010

Mush On!

Hi!  Welcome to the Cafe’!  Today we’re talking about our heroes.  You know, the people that have influenced us in some special way.  Do you have a hero?

Well, my hero is Susan Butcher.  She’s the four time winner of the Iditarod Dog Sled race.  She’s up there on my heroes list with Sgt. Preston of the Yukon and his dog King.

Susan was an amazing athlete.  In fact, she is the person who influenced the Alaskan slogan, “Alaska…Where Men are Men and Women Win the Iditarod”.  Funny, huh?  Alaskans have such a funny sense of humor!

Oh, by the way, just in case you didn’t know, the Iditarod is a grueling dog sled race that starts in Anchorage and ends in Nome, Alaska, a total of over 1150 miles traveled in 10 to 17 days.  The trail was originally used, beginning in the 1920’s, when settlers traveled the thoroughfare following a goldstrike.  Later, the trail was used for transporting food and mail from location to location.  In the winter, travel was typically via dog sled.

Speaking of the Iditarod…what day is it?  Oh my!  The Iditarod Race begins tomorrow, March 6 at 10 am (Alaska time), in downtown Anchorage.  Oh Joy!  We’re just in time to watch the race start-up here at the Cafe”.  Just click here:

Anchorage Webcam

Don’t you just love those enthusiastic and happy sled dogs?  Here’s a thought…how about if we make some healthy doggy treats?  After all, our pups are about to run the “The Last Great Race on Earth” (or at least dream about it like my own dog does during his many naps…).

Well then…let’s Mush On!


Susitna Cafe’ “Mush On!” Doggy Treats

Ingredients*

4 cups whole wheat flour (plus extra for your work surface)

1/8 cup canola oil

1 cup baked sweet potato, mashed

2 ounces honey

1 cup water (approximate)

*organic ingredients are preferred

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Combine all ingredients, except the water, into a large mixing bowl.  Add water, a little at a time, while mixing ingredients with your hand or a pastry cutter.  Continue to add water and mix until mixture holds together and can be formed into a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface or pastry board.  Roll out dough with a rolling pin until approximately 1/4 inch thick.

Cut into shapes with a cookie cutter.  Dog bone and heart shapes are always fun for your canine friend (and, on the most part, for you!).

Place onto a cookie sheet and bake until light golden brown (approximately 15 minutes).

Cook’s Notes:  Thanks to “R” for sharing his favorite dog treat recipe with us.  He’s a real doggy chef and musher for sure.

Traveler’s Notes:  Don’t forget to attend the March start-up of the “Last Great Race on Earth” in downtown Anchorage every year.

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Filed under March 2010

Caffe’ Ahh…Roma

Ciao!  I’m glad you’ve stopped by the Cafe’ today.  We’re discussing Italy.  Have you been?  Hmm…how about a quick culture lesson?

A very nice man, Bruno Bozzetto,  produced a video on Italian culture.  It won’t take too much of your time to view…just a few minutes…let’s watch the video together, shall we?

Oh, by the way, be sure to take notes when you see the “Coffee” section of the movie.  It’s really important.

So, what do you think?  Isn’t it just the berries that you can have sooo many coffee choices?  That’s why I like Italy, and Rome in particular.  In fact, my name is “happy-happy” when I’m around the ahh…Roma of coffee.

My view of Italy, and particularly Rome is probably different than most.  I think it has something to do with the caffe’ (pron. kahf-Feh with an accent at the end:o).

Oh don’t get me wrong.  I love Italy.  I love Rome.  I truly do.  It’s just that once you’ve tried the caffe’ in Rome, something happens to you.

It certainly happened to me.  When “R” and I were in Italy last year, we walked and wandered the streets of Rome.

It was our second trip.  We had seen many of the sights before, and it was oh so nice to see them again…

Somehow though, Rome was different on that trip.  In fact, “R” agrees too.  Rome had taken on an ahh…Roma-like personality.  You know, sort of intense and aromatic.

Ahh…Roma is everywhere in Rome.  Doesn’t seem to matter where you are…it’s just there.  After all, there is a caffe’ bar on every street and street corner.

You can just walk-in (the doors are always wide open), order your caffe’ from the barista, and sip away while standing.  It’s like a quick “happy-happy“, and then you’re off to see more of ahh-Roma!

Oh wait.  Here are some more pictures.  You’ll see what I mean about the ahh…Roma-like personality.

Oh look, there’s a Latte Macchiato.  Isn’t it lovely? sigh

Oh yes, I remember this sight.  This is Caffe’ Ristretto.

Oh Joy!  Aren’t Italian baristas just the best!  Look at the perfect swirls of milk foam on the Cappuccino!

I think there’s just one more photo…yes, here it is…a favorite of mine, the Mocacchino.  You know, the one with chocolate!

Oh my, you’re right.  There is something  missing in all these photos….Hmm…what do you think it is?

Oh, I know!  It’s that wonderful little cookie that is served with the caffe’.

No problem!  We’ll just make some.  Let’s see…let’s celebrate “happy-happy .  So, how about baking some Chocolate Caffe’ Ahh…Roma Biscotti?

To start, let’s assemble the ingredients.

Ingredients*

1 3/4 cups unbleached flour (will need some extra to dust your pastry board or work surface)

1 cup natural cane sugar

1/2 cup cacao powder (Valrhona is best for this recipe)

1 1/2 Tablespoons allspice

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 Tablespoons fresh brewed espresso

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli Gourmet 72% Cacao chips are wonderful in this recipe)

8 ounces pistachios

parchment paper, wax paper or silpat liners (enough for 2 large baking sheets)

*organic ingredients are preferred

Now that the ingredients are assembled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Begin by adding all of your dry ingredients (flour, cane sugar, cacao powder, allspice, baking soda, and salt) into a large mixing bowl.  Stir to combine.

Next, add your liquid ingredients (eggs, vanilla, and espresso) into a small bowl and lightly beat together to combine.

Let’s now pour the combined liquid ingredients into your large mixing bowl containing the dry ingredients.  Mix until thoroughly combined.  Next, fold in the pistachios.

Transfer your dough onto your floured work surface and begin to knead.  Note that the dough will be sticky and stiff.  Add additional flour to your work surface, as necessary while kneading, to prevent the dough from sticking to your work surface.

Divide the dough into 2 balls.  Shape each ball into 2 loaves approximately 12-inches long.  Place 1 loaf onto your prepared baking sheet.

Bake the loaf until it appears cracked (about 35 minutes).  Set the loaf aside to cool.  Meanwhile, bake your 2nd loaf until it appears cracked.

After you remove your 2nd loaf from the oven, reduce your oven temperature to 300 degrees.

While you’re waiting for the 2nd loaf to cool, place your 1st loaf on a cutting board.  Using a sharp serrated bread knife, cut your loaf into 1/2 inch diagonal slices.  You will have approximately 25 biscotti slices.

Place your biscotti slices onto your baking sheet.  Bake for approximately 7 minutes, or until lightly toasted.  Once toasted, turn over the slices and bake again for 7 minutes or until toasted.

It is important at this stage, to do the following:  walk out of your kitchen for approximately 1 minute;  breathe in some fresh air; next, walk back into your kitchen; and, breathe in a Big breath of Chocolate Caffe’ Ahh…Roma Biscotti air.  Isn’t it wonderful?  Aren’t you “happy-happy“?

Now repeat the twice-baked procedure with your 2nd loaf.  You may, at this point, repeat the Big breathe-in procedure too.

Allow your biscotti to cool thoroughly so that the chocolate chunks harden.  Once cool, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.  Or, freeze the extra (if there are any).

Oh…think of the possibilities…perhaps if we crushed the biscotti, we could use biscotti crumbles for a cheesecake crust…yum…

There now.  What a relief…  The photos are complete.  There is “happy-happy” biscotti with the caffe’.  Sigh

Cooks Note:  This recipe was developed after testing (and tasting) many, many chocolate biscotti recipes.  Thanks to Martha Stewart for her “Martha Stewart Living Cookbook” Double-Chocolate Biscotti recipe and to Todd English and Sally Sampson for their “Figs Table” Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti recipe.  Their brilliance led me to adapt those recipes and ultimately develop the  “happy-happy” Chocolate Caffe’ Ahh…Roma Biscotti.

Traveler’s Notes:  Don’t miss the beautiful sites in ahh-Roma:  the Coliseum; Campo di Fiori; the Trevi Fountain; the Arch of Constantine; the Vatican Museums (and the spiraling staircase); the Pantheon; and, of course, the Spanish Steps.

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Filed under February 2010