Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Midas touch in Maine

Goldfingers!! Ha ha. These last few weeks here in Maine have been a flurry of gold leafing activity....
..the shapes, which are aircraft grade aluminium (does that mean anything to you...means nothing to me but if you know aluminium it means a lot!!), have been primed and then sized with a special gold leaf size..size being a clear liquid that is brushed onto the primed surface and then allowed to dry to the point of being squeaky when rubbed with ones knuckle...I'm serious, that's the test for adequate dryness...before the tiny, little, flimsy, floaty, diaphonous gold leaf squares are carefully laid down and gently adhered to the prepared surface.
You need to lay the squares as close to one another as possible and preferably ever so slightly overlapped in order to make the most efficient use of your ever so expensive gold wastage allowed....
....after your gold leaf has been laid it is then very gingerly burnished with a ball of cotton...or perhaps even a cotton ball...and any 'holidays' (ie places you've missed with the gold) are filled with the excess leaf floating around and about.
Here yours truly is laying out the letters which I have cut by hand...all thirty two words worth of them...onto the finished gold leafed shapes, you can see some blemishes here but they are burnished away before the final installation of the artwork...which is James' by the way and not I am the assistant to the Maestro!
Here are just a few of the finished shapes elegantly arrayed on a good old Maine drying many drying racks have been used before for such an elevated purpose?? can see glimpses of the words which have been purposely designed in such a way by James so that they appear and disappear as they move in the lightest of breezes, which gives you a hint that perhaps these are part of a kinetic sculpture.

You will have to wait patiently for the next Midas installment when I will reveal the finished sculptures upon which all this divine gold has been lavished....I have to admit gold really is a magnificent metal which transforms the simplest of things into something so elegant and luxurious...and it's practical a finish on a sculpture it can endure the harshest of Maine winters-it even improves with some wind burnishing, it is hard wearing, non-toxic for the environment, looks amazing and doesn't tarnish...what more could you ask for.....'til the next post...keep shining!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Buttermilk scones from nearly all Maine ingredients

First of all here is my, Lucie and Eleanor's 'homage' to one of the cutest logo's going....have you seen the picture of the real Kate on Kate's packaging, it is truly adorable....
After discovering Kate's real buttermilk...the actual milk leftover after the making of Kate's delicious homemade butter...and when they say homemade they really do mean HOMEMADE...(I just saw a video at the Boston Globe online of the butter being made in Dan Patry's garage...YES his garage click here to see for yourself) ... I started thinking about the things I could make for the blog that featured this delightful ingredient. As I haven't made scones yet they seemed like the perfect place to start, then I thought, you know I could put Maine made blueberry jam on the scones and Maine wildflower honey...and then I realized I could use Maine flour...the only things I didn't use that were made in Maine were the salt, the yoghourt I put on one of the scones and a tablespoon of sugar.
Here's the list of the ingredients:
Kate's butter and Kate's buttermilk, Old Orchard Beach, Maine
Colleen's Homemade (and this also is made in someone's home) blueberry jam, Route One, Searsport, Maine
Swan's wildflower honey, Albion, Maine
Fiddler's Green high gluten flour (also someone's home literally at the back of our fields) Belfast, Maine

The recipe, from 'Having Tea' Recipes and Table Settings by Tricia Foley, is really simple, quick and we go
1 3/4 cups flour (I used high gluten just because it was the most appropriate one I could get from's like bread flour but you can use regular unbleached white, I have done this recipe with both and could see or taste no discernible difference)
1 tablespoon sugar, any kind you like
1 teaspoon of salt, that's if you don't use salted butter...I always use salted butter so leave out the salt if you do too
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons/2 1/2 ozs cold butter cut into small pieces ...Kate's sea salted for me
Approx 3/4 cup Kate's buttermilk...depends on the flour and the weather how much of this you will use...I ended up using a good bit less than this but you never know.
1/2 cup raisins if you like them...I do very much, I wanted to use Maine dried blueberries but there weren't any at the Belfast Coop
1. Preheat your oven to 450F
2. Combine dry ingredients together in a largish bowl and mix thoroughly, I also add a little grated nutmeg because I like nutmeg in practically everything I make...especially baked goods.
3. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients...I do this with my hands by 'rubbing' it in, you can use a pastry cutter, two knives if you know how to do that...or do it in a cuisinart...until it resembles fine crumbs...don't overwork and let the ingredients warm up as the butter will start to melt and the recipe will get messed up, and then we'll all have a bad day.
4. Add just enough buttermilk, bit by bit, to make a soft dough
5. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/2" thick and either just cut roughly into squares or use a round cutter to make little cute circles...I like the rough squares because that's how my Mum did it when I was growing up!!!
6. Bake the little darlings for about 10-12 minutes til nicely browned on the top.
7. Cool, spread with butter, jam, honey, CLOTTED CREAM if you can find it....there's nothing like clotted cream so I drained some maple yoghourt overnight, to stay with the Maine theme, and used that instead...NOT quite the same, I prefer butter and jam or honey on my scones.

Now here's the question we all want answered is it SCOnes as in bones or sconns as in bonbons...for me as a Northern girl it is the former...SCOnes as in bones...but you can say it whichever way you like!!!

Here are the finished scones...somehow they seem to develop their own midway horizontal line where you can gently pry them apart in preparation for the lashings of butter and jam or all you need is a good cuppa tea!!!
Lucie, who helped me do the baking...what am I saying she DID the baking, and I as usual drank the tea.....anyway, Lucie certainly liked the scones, she ate about 5!, she preferred hers with blueberry jam as she is not a big fan of honey...I went the honey route...Swan's wildflower honey is very floral and's fantastic on scones and buttered toast...I bet Winnie the Pooh would like it!!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bilberries, blaeberries, whortleberries, whinberries, whimberries, fraughns, hurts, hurtleberries or wild BLUEBERRIES!!! Blueberry Curd and a Pavlova...

In North America they are called wild blueberries, in England and Ireland they can be called by any of the title names....whinberries, whimberries, whortleberries, blaeberries, fraughns, hurts, hurtleberries or the most popular, bilberry. Traditionally in Ireland the Sunday nearest to the first of August is 'Fraughn Sunday' when the wild blueberry is celebrated, this year that would have been last Sunday July 26th but things are behind here in Maine where the weather has been overcast and rainy forEVER and that has held up the harvest. Nevertheless some blueberries came into the Belfast Coop in the last couple of days and I couldn't resist buying them and making a little something for James and myself!!
Above is a watercolour painting I did for a Maine company a few years ago celebrating the wild took me a LONG time to paint because capturing the bloom was quite the challenge and there's a lot of blueberries there!!

Here are the ingredients...Maine wild blueberries, organic cane sugar, local eggs from happy chickens, flaked almonds that have been toasted for that divine extra flavour, a little lemon juice for complementary tang and delicious salty cream adds more lusciousness!!

...and here are the egg whites whipped to a glossy, marshmallow perfection before being baked into crispy, chewy heavenly meringues...reminds me of making nougat, which I did once and it nearly killed me with the amount of whipping.....which I do all by hand because I am a baking purist fool!! I have this bogus idea that if you burn all the calories you can whipping and beating by hand it may somewhat ameliorate the amount of calories you consume in the dessert...great idea right????

The final result of my wild blueberry endeavour...a meringue nest with blueberry lemon curd and whipped cream sprinkled with blueberries and toasted almonds...would you like the recipe??
4 egg whites at room temperature
6 ozs white sugar...fine if possible
1 teaspoon of cornflour
1 teaspoon of vinegar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1. Whip the egg whites 'til stiff
2. Add sugar 2 tablespoons at a time and whip, whip, whip until all the sugar has been added and the result is glossy and dense and divine as the picture above.
3. Pile dollops of meringue onto parchment and spread out into rough and rustic rounds then pipe the meringue in stars around the edge of the 'circles' so as to form a little well in the centre for the blueberry curd to nestle.
4. Mix cornflour, vinegar and vanilla together in a small bowl and then gently fold into the egg whites
5. Bake in a 250F oven for about an hour then turn oven off and leave meringues in there to cool...I started making the meringues on a blissful sunny day with a slight breeze and by the time I was finished the fog had moved in and the damp arrived so my meringues are, ONCE AGAIN, not perfect...the humidity stops them from drying out as much as you want them to and it makes them get sticky really quickly when they are removed from the oven....oh well what can a girl do about Mother Nature??

1 cup of wild blueberries
2 tablespoons of sugar

1. Put these two ingredients in a heavy bottom pan and heat gently 'til the blueberries give up their juices and pop open, allow to cool slightly before adding the yolks....

3 tablespoons lemon juice (more or less to can put this in at the end and see how much you like)
4 more tablespoons of sugar
2 egg yolks
2 ozs butter (I always use salted Amish butter that has a bright flavour)

2. Whisk together the yolks and sugar in the top of a double boiler, add the blueberry mix and heat over simmering water and stir constantly until the curd gets nice and thick, it will thicken more as it cools.
3. Allow to cool completely

ASSEMBLY: Spoon the blueberry curd into the well in the centre of the cooled meringues, add a dollop or more of lightly whipped, sweetened heavy cream and scatter artfully with flaked, toasted almonds and the odd unadorned blueberry. James christened this dessert my Pavlova Palaver!!

Happy baking in dry weather...IF you can find it!!!

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