Brioche and the baking season

This is the time of year that gets my baking motor running! I love to bake, especially when the temperature is a little cooler and windows are open. In preparation for Thanksgiving I mull over new recipes and old favorites deciding which to make. One of my favorites is brioche. This bread is so light, buttery, and full of slightly salty sweetness. It takes a bit of time to make and rise so I usually spend a day or two making batches and batches of it so I can freeze the little rolls and have them handy for dinners or breakfast. I found a great recipe for Brioche on epicurious from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s, The Bread Bible, 2009. But the best recipe I’ve tried is from Columbia City Bakery and you can find it at

www.seattlemet.com.

Here’s a cookie recipe from Victoria magazine that were quick and simple to make and a big hit at my Christmas party!

Orange Mexican Christmas Balls:

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 cups of butter, unsalted
4 Tablespoons orange zest
4 1/2 cup of AP flour
1/2 tsp salt
Additional confectioners’ sugar for dusting

In a mixer combine the butter and sugar and beat until creamy. Add the flour, salt, and zest, beating after each addition. If working in a warm environment, chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. While preheating the oven to 350 degrees, grease a baking sheet with butter or use parchment paper to line. Roll the dough into 1″ diameter balls and space 1″ apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes until they appear set (the color of butter cookies-which is basically what these are) being careful they don’t brown. Roll the cookies while warm in confectioners’ sugar.

They have a bright orange and smooth sugary finish! yum!

Mexican orange cookies

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Chicken a l’orange

This is the classic recipe for duck adapted for a lighter less greasy meat-chicken. It is robust enough for Sunday dinner and easy enough to prepare the day before:

two to four chicken breast with skin on
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 large orange
1 large onion, chopped
fresh thyme
1 cup of chicken stock (enough to cover the breast while marinating)
2 large chopped garlic cloves
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
black peppercorns
sea salt

1. Score the chicken breast skin in cross hatch fashion
2. Place the breast in a large bowl
3. cover with chicken stock
4. add the red pepper, peppercorns, garlic, and onion
5. zest the orange skin into the marinade.
6. remove the pithe of the orange and add the sections to the marinade.
7. Add the vinegar and salt

Place the mixture in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to prepare your meal. Remove the chicken from the marinade, set the marinade aside to make sauce, and place the chicken, skin side up in a baking dish, salt and pepper each side, and bake covered at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove the cover and broil, crisping the skin for about 10 minutes. Watch so it does not burn.

Remove the solids from the marinade and reduce by 3/4 over a medium heat. Add butter and whisk until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add salt or pepper if needed.

Serve over a platter of fresh greens and add your favorite side- et voila!

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Sheep shape…baaaah!

Okay, I have always loved sheep. Growing up in Philadelphia (in those days waaaayyy back) you were only a 20 minute drive away from a farm in any direction. On Sundays, my father would take us all out for a drive in the car. That was a black and white DeSoto…ahem, stop laughing! Anyway, we would inevitably stop at a creamery and get ice cream and look at the animals while we finished our cones. The cows and horses amused my parents. My father would make mooing sounds and see if a cow would come closer to him. My brother had allergies and didn’t get out of the car (we were a normal family-not). Me, I gravitated toward the sheep. They were smaller, less intimidating, and white and fluffy- what little girl doesn’t like a white fluffy animal?.

Anyway, I recently had the fun of going to the Duchess County sheep festival in New York with best friends. This festival was so posh that I say the sheep had goat cheese stands and put the proceeds of their sales into Prada pouches! But really, this was a fun little fall festival. It is held at the peak of the fall foliage season. The trees were bright orange and reds. There were sheep auctions, demonstrations on shearing and sheep dog herding, spinning wool, and plenty of things to buy and eat. Some of the most popular items were Christmas ornaments and felted wool hats, angora scarves, pottery, fried pickles, kettlecorn, and plenty of fall flower vignettes to photograph. The weather was beautiful- cool, crisp, and sunny. Well worth the trip from NYC,  only 1.25 hour on Amtrak to Rhinecliff and a 5 minute car ride to Rhinebeck. Take a look!

 

Sheep to auction

Arlene at her fav

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Fall…ahhh!

It’s harvest time. This is the time of year that brings a lightness of foot. The heady feel of oppressive heat is a distant memory, and there’s a snap of cool in the air. Apples are ripening on the trees, late corn is harvested with squash and pumpkins, and you smell the beginnings of wood burning fire.

This brings to mind a party I once had in my home outside of Philadelphia. It was a harvest moon party. The food, well good, but so long ago I don’t remember what I cooked. I do, however, remember the cool almost downright cold weather outside that evening, a bright full moon, and the warmth of a drink called “boilo”. Now I had heard of this drink growing up but always thought it was something that was special to coal mining towns of Northeastern Pa. (my family origins) and not what you might serve to city folk. But reviewing the recipe it seemed as appetizing as any English cold weather infused drink so I decided to make it for the party. At once, I began to call every long-lost cousin who might know how exactly to make it and get pointers. Combining three very close recipes I concluded this to be the best one:

2 liters ginger ale

1 lb. honey

1/5 of 4 Queens whiskey

1 large orange sliced

1 lemon sliced

3 cinnamon sticks

Bring all the ingredients (except the whiskey) to a low boil over the stove until the honey is melted, then turn down heat to a simmer, and add the whiskey and keep warm.

As I recall, the “boilo” simmering over the open-hearth, guests ladled the warm sweet tonic into their cups on this cold fall night and the conversation became very lively. I personally prefer boilo to any mulled wine recipe, but this is probably just my Irish talking. Combine it with a substantial meat and potato combo and a few marshmallows to toast afterwards, and you have a simple easy way to get jolly with your friends on a fall harvest night. Enjoy this treasured recipe, it is a rare one, and I hope you don’t have to get up early to plow the field tomorrow!

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End of Summer?

Well the last day of summer was officially September, 22; well at least for most of us. I, fortunately and unfortunately, live way south of the Mason-Dixon. We are not out of the comfort zone as yet regarding hurricaines-can you believe that? That is the unfortunate part. The good thing is that this week cooler air came in across our state and it feels like our Miami fall has begun. I can always tell when the end of summer is here for us without a calendar though- my pool no longer feels like a bathtub but rather cool enough for a visiting northerner to say “what are you talking about, it’s not in the least bit cold!”

So here we are in 70 degree weather with a bright sun every day shining down on us and we are collectively anticipating cooler weather yet to come. So when you Northerners long for the more temperate climate as the it gets colder and colder above the M-D , write and ask me to send a photo of palm trees. Meanwhile, I’ll dream of changing leaves…

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Little flowers

I am a regular reader of the New York Times. On Sunday mornings you can find me on my patio with a pot of coffee hanging out on the home page. The ritual continues moving on to the cooking section, in particular Mark Bittman, and then to the travel section, ending up no doubt, exploring the other side of the world and putting that place on my bucket list.

This one particular Sunday I came across an article about the Little Flower School click here. Now I went to a high school name Little Flower, so my interest was immediately peaked. Only this was not a story about my school but rather about a flower arranging school in Brooklyn. What a charming name! I wished I lived there so I could attend. I like finding folks with similar interests, and who doesn’t. They were arranging all of those lovely long slender vines and branches mixed with unusual blooms, using the most interesting architectural vases.

Flower arranging is one of my favorite activities and can be quite therapeutic (just in case your in the market for some type of therapy). Whether needing relief from stress or boredom, seeking out and buying flowers to display in the house gives me joy. The big challenge is to find those cherished tender flowers, exotics, and greens not necessarily indigenous to your area. A good florist will allow you to explore their back room coolers. Not many will, and to tell you the truth as a real flower lover, I tend not to patronize those businesses. I am polite, ask if I may enter the cooler to look for myself, and willing to pay the price, but they still look at you funny. That is until I start asking for specific types of blooms, then those astute shop owners appreciate that I just really know my flowers and allow me entrance.

One local favorite of mine is Hirni’s Wayside Garden here in Miami. THEY HAVE FOUR WALK-IN COOLERS! Wow, pay dirt! Now Miami has its own exotics; we are in the land of birds of paradise, palms, and passion-flower vine after all, but it is not the place to cut fresh daffodils in spring, or dahlias in summer, or collect pyracantha branches in the fall. It is a wonderful thing to find a place locally that carries these hard to find items. On any given day I can go to Hirni’s and find those elusive blooms that are familiar to me from up north.

So feeling a little like a pixie with an arm full of colorful blooms, I fly home and go to town! Here are some of the arrangements I have made for special occasions or just for a Friday night happy hour at home. Enjoy and share yours!

Seeded eucalyptus

Tropical ginger

Pink gerbera, roses, and lysimachia

Red hypericum berries and roses

New and old flower frogs- ribbit!

Peony and white lysimachia

Callas, snapdragon, lisianthus, amaranthus

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Welcome!

Welcome to marysmuse! A site dedicated to writing about the good things in life, good food, and living!
In this trying economic time it might seem insensitve to dedicate a blog spot to the subject on the good things in life, but this is exactly the time when we all need to focus on what makes us the most happy, and on quality rather than quantity. I hope to entertain you with my musings and share my viewpoints on those things in life that give me pleasure and wish you share yours with me and my readers. I look foward to befriending those folks who love a good meal with friends, enjoy the peace of an elegant homelife, and other wonders of happiness. Come and join me in my musings and share yours!

Posted in Art and design, Dining in, Dining out, Home life, On creativity, Party!, Recipes, Share your muse | Leave a comment