Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring weekends


Saturday morning started with me pulling Mildred the Mixer out of her resting place and making banana bread.   As the bread was baking and my coffee was brewing, I stood on the back deck watching the day begin.

Springtime in North Carolina is the purple of redbud trees, the white of dogwood blooms unfolding, the bright green of brand new leaves seemingly springing out overnight and the sunny yellow daffodils and forsythia bushes lining driveways. 

Baking on Saturday mornings is one of my weekend pleasures.
Going to the Durham Farmers' Market is also one of my weekend treats.  We headed out early, after coffee and banana bread.  I wanted to take some lavender infused honey from Celo, NC to Dolly Mama for perhaps new chocolate creations.  She paid me with a cup of her hot chocolate topped with chantilly cream.  I got a great deal!  (I did let the un-ex have a couple of small sips...)  I love our farmers' market.  I have gotten to know a few of the vendors so it's fun to make the rounds and say hi to Dave from Elodie Farms, Dolly Mama, and Tim and Helga MacAller of Four Leaf Farm.
I bought herbs from them-- basil, lime thyme, rosemary, sage, dill and chives.  Tim flatters me by calling me a food writer-- what a charmer!

I bought lavender from WeatherHand Farm and oregano from Flat River Nursery.  They are now in pots on the back deck where they will receive lots of morning sun and grow so that I can use them in my cooking very soon.  Pesto, rosemary potatoes, potato salad with dill...  Next week, I hope to find tarragon and maybe some mint.  I'll also be looking for a couple of tomato plants.
We ran into a former student and basketball player, his wife and their 6 month old daughter.  Chef Dorette and her husband Rich were out and about buying up herbs and geraniums.  We spent time catching up with parents of students we had taught.  My favorite wine guru was there with his wife and two daughters.  The sun was shining, a gentle breeze was blowing, what a glorious morning.
Sunday afternoon, I headed back into the kitchen to experiment with making palmiers, French cookies.  One of my 6th grade boys brought some in for the class a couple of weeks ago and his mom sent the recipe, telling me how easy they are to make.  I've eaten them in France and was much too scared to try them until I realized that Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry can be used.  Sugar and puff pastry.  How hard can it be?  Well, for a directionally challenged person, it can be a little confusing, shall we say.  My first ones didn't really look like any palmiers I had ever seen.  Is rolling and cutting pastry dough even remotely related to geometry?  I was miserable at that, too.  Thank goodness French teachers only need basic math.
Hmmm... what went wrong?  I googled and found pictures of how to roll the dough so the second batch came out better.
My advisees will be treated to French cookies tomorrow and I bet they won't care what they look like. I will save pretty ones for Señor and Signora to have with their morning cup of coffee at break. Since they are both fabulous cooks, I know that I will be repaid!


2 cups sugar
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
2 sheets Pepperidge Farms puff pastry, defrosted

Preheat oven to 450F.
Combine sugar and salt.  Pour 1 cup of this mixture on a flat work surface and spread it out evenly.
Place one sheet of pastry on the sugar.  Pour 1/2 cup of sugar evenly over the top of the pastry.  With a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is a 13-inch square.
Fold the sides of the square toward the center so that they go halfway to the middle.
Fold them again so that the two folds meet exactly in the middle.
Then fold one half over the other as though closing a book (it should now make a long roll).
Slice the dough into 3/8 inch slices and place cut side up on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake 6-7 minutes or until caramelized and brown on the bottom.  Turn with a spatula and bake 3-5 minutes more.  Cool on a rack.
Place second sheet of pastry on the sugared surface and repeat the process.
Makes about 24 cookies.

Bon appétit, le Printemps!

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