TOMATOES IN CREAM AND FRESH THYME

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The most wonderful part of walking out to the garden and  picking tomatoes is the fragrance of  their leaves.  You rub them between your fingers then inhale.   It’s an intoxicating aroma.  It begs you to pluck a ripened tomato from the vine.  You know which tomato is perfect for picking.  You gently  touch it and it falls into your waiting hand.

You fill your basket with the little darlings.   Then if you are like me you can’t resist choosing the most perfect tomato and bite into it.  You  savor the sweet flesh and juices still warm from the sun.   This is bliss.

And then when you get just a little weary of another BLT sandwich or one more tomato enhanced salad  you make this glorious, very French, so addictive,  extraordinary simple dish of tomatoes simmered in a little butter, sprinkled with fresh thyme, sea salt and freshly ground pepper and cloaked in rich cream.  Unlike most French recipes containing tomatoes you do not peel or seed the tomatoes.

This is the perfect side dish for grilled meats or roasts.  Served with savory suppertime crêpes it is positively a star.  Head out to the garden or your favorite Farmer’s Market and choose the most perfect tomatoes for TOMATOES IN CREAM WITH FRESH THYME.

 

 

CHRISTMAS SHORTBREAD FINGERS

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The ultimate shortbread is worth its weight in gold.   It must have just the right amount of butter.  Butter creating a rich flavour and  crumbling texture.  Then there should be a whisper of vanilla.  Not too much sugar.  The perfect measure of flour.   There is a joyful sense of the occasion when you make shortbread.  You generally only make this mouth-watering cookie at Christmas, and it is always worth waiting twelve months to enjoy.

What is so wonderful about baking shortbread –  it contains no exotic ingredients.  It is simply butter, sugar and flour.  There are a few secrets to making the perfect shortbread.  I share them with you when you bake CLASSIC SHORTBREAD FINGERS

STICKY CINNAMON BUNS

BASIC SWEET DOUGH (yield: 4-5 dozen rolls depending on size etc)

1 cup milk

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp salt

3/4 cup cold water

1/4 cup butter, margarine, lard or vegetable shortening at room temperature

1/2 cup luke warm water

2 tsp  granulated sugar

2 packages  fast-rising dry yeast

2 eggs room temperature well beaten

Around 7 cups of flour  (start with a less amount than add more if necessary)

In a medium sized saucepan bring milk just to the boil.  Stir in 1/2 cup sugar, the salt,   and the soft shortening.  When the shortening has dissolved add the 3/4 cup cold water.  Cool to lukewarm.

Measure the 1/2 cup lukewarm water into a small warm bowl; stir in the 2 tsp sugar, sprinkle with the yeast and let stand for around 10 minutes then stir until well blended.

In the bowl of your stand mixer Stir in the lukewarm milk mixture, well-beaten eggs and 3 1/2 cups of the flour, measured without sifting.  Beat until smooth and elastic.

Work in sufficient additional flour to make a soft SLACK dough (about 3-4 cups).  You can always work  more flour into the dough as you knead it.

Turn the dough out on to your counter and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  The dough should feel silky soft and warm to your touch.

Put the dough into a lightly oiled large warm bowl.  Lightly oil the top and cover with plastic wrap.

Let rise in a warm place (75 to 85F) free from draft, until double in bulk – about 1 1/2 hours.  Punch down dough.  Turn out onto a lightly greased board or table.

Cut into 4 equal pieces with greased, sharp knife. Round up each piece, cover and let rest 15 minutes.

Shape the dough into rolls or cinnamon buns.

Let rise until double in bulk ( around 1 1/2 to 2 hours) then bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for about 20 minutes.  Turn out on a wire rack to cool.

CINNAMON BUN  RECIPE

Make your sticky syrup by putting 1/4 cup water, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar and 4 tbsp butter in a small sauce pan.  Bring to the boil and reduce heat and simmer for about 8-10 minutes until thick and syrupy.  Set aside.

YIELD 16 BUNS

Grease an 8 x 8 x 2 inch pan

Roll 1/4 of the sweet dough recipe into rectangle 9″ by 12″.  Brush lightly with melted butter.  Pour the sticky syrup over the bottom of the pan.   If desired sprinkle the bottom of the pan with chopped walnuts.

Combine 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon.  Sprinkle evenly over dough

Roll up as for jelly roll sealing edge.  Cut into 16 pieces.

Place rolls in pan, covered with lightly oiled waxed paper and a dry teatowel and let rise in warm place  until double in bulk (11/2 to 2 hours)

Bake in a reheated oven of 375 F. for about 20 minutes.  Turn out on wire rack to cool.

Chef’s notes:

I’ve had several inquiries about how many cinnamon buns does this recipe make.  First of all it depends on how thick you cut the rolls.  I generally cut my one and a half inches thick as the buns will double in size.  For this recipe I used a 8 x 8 inch pan, a 9 by 16 inch pan, and then I had two large pieces left over so I put them into the miniature brioche pans.   If after you’ve cut your buns and filled your pans and you still have dough left over you can put them into muffin tins.     You may end up just having to use three or four sections, so  remember to add a little water to each of the muffin tin sections you don’t use.

Dear Friends, if you are not a regular baker of yeast products remember not to add all the flour at once.  For this recipe start with five cups and then add more as needed.  A slack dough makes a more delicate tender bun.  And don’t we all want perfect buns.