So, why have I become obsessed with googling tarantulas? Because I just found out THEY LIVE IN BERKELEY. If you're not familiar with the San Francisco bay area, look it up on a map. Then start planning my funeral. People have found tarantulas in their living rooms in the east bay. I can't. It's too much. So, I've decided I need to get over my fear before it kills me. I know they always say you need to face your fears to get over them. I theorize that facing this fear would only give me a strong desire to burn everything I own and move back to Maryland. Instead, I scroll through pages of California tarantulas muttering, "no." at each one. Ugh. I can't even tell you.
|This is about three hours south of here. Apparently, they even hold tarantula races.|
My other recent obsession makes my tummy rumble and does not cause phantom spiders to crawl up my legs. Rhubarb. I'm in love with this wonderful sour stalk. In my pink post from last week, I shared some of my favorite photos of pink rhubarb creations with the promise of making something of my own with the flavor of the season.
I was originally going to go with a classic strawberry rhubarb pie. I thought it would give me a chance to talk about my mom's moment of baking glory when she was awarded a ribbon for her strawberry rhubarb pie at the county fair. My mom is not big on making things from scratch. Don't get me wrong, she's capable. She's just more interested in doing other things with her time = not a foodie. The year she made strawberry rhubarb pie, we had just moved to the country from a more suburban neighborhood. We moved into a house at the end of a long drive and as far into the middle-of-nowhere as you can get. The previous tenants had grown rhubarb in one corner of what may have once been a garden. It was the only thing left standing and it grew into a big beautiful bush of green leaves every summer. That August, my mom, who was feeling inspired by her new country life, decided to bake a pie with rhubarb stalks from our yard. She used strawberries from a patch down the road. The pie was entered in our county fair (where it competed against magnificent pies made by Amish country grandmothers). She was so proud of her ribbon! I remember when we returned home with the pie, she invited some friends over to celebrate. I was probably eight years old and was so intrigued by the sweet red juices oozing from the crust once the pie was cut. I'm not sure what possessed me to do it; but, I actually took the pie server and scooped juices from the bottom and poured them all over the top crust of her beautiful pie! I'm sure there was a serious time-out involved. Having made a few pies of my own, I am actually surprised I was ever forgiven. Ooooh, my kid-karma is going to haunt me.
I changed my mind about making a pie when I discovered Joe Pastry's blog. Oh wow. If you're into baking at all, this is an incredible resource! He has recipes and thorough how-tos complete with photos for every kind of pastry imaginable. I spent almost two hours clicking through his recipes. These are non-vegan recipes; but, I was able to successfully convert the one I used.
I decided to make danish pastries with homemade strawberry rhubarb jam:
|Strawberry Rhubarb Danishes|
Thanks to the strawberries, they were red instead of pink; but, they were the perfect combination of rich, flaky, buttery, sweet, and sour. Let's just say, I had more than a bite.
For the jam, I chopped about a cup and a half of strawberries, and a cup and a half of rhubarb stalk. I put them in a pan and cooked them over medium heat until they started to release juices. Then I added about half a cup of sugar, stirred, then added another quarter cup of sugar. Once everything had cooked down and the rhubarb was tender, I removed it from the heat and whisked in about 2 teaspoons of xanthan gum. Then I poured the mixture into a glass dish and refrigerated it.
The danish pastry dough recipe I used was adapted from the one on Joe Pastry's blog. To make it vegan, I used earth balance instead of butter, reduced the salt to 1/4 teaspoon, and used Ener-g egg replacer (mixed with the appropriate amount of water) instead of the egg. Warning: The process for making danish pastry dough is an all-day affair. You will spend a lot of time waiting for the dough to chill and rise.
|Strawberry Rhubarb Danishes|
I had extra dough, so I also made this danish coffee cake with strawberry rhubarb jam and vanilla bean cheesecake filling:
|Strawberry Rhubarb and Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Filled Danish Coffeecake|
And I made bourbon raisin snails with the remaining pastry dough:
|Bourbon Raisin Snails|
These were our favorite, by far. Ralph recently told me that he loves rum raisins. I told him if he wanted to make some, I'd bake something with them for him. He proceeded to make both bourbon and rum raisins. I tasted some rum raisins right from the jar and I do not recommend anyone else try doing that. These snails were so good, though. The bourbon raisins were plump and warm from the oven. I rubbed cinnamon, sugar, and earth balance into the dough and sprinkled it with the raisins before rolling it up. Everything got very melty and sweet. I drizzled vanilla icing over the tops for a little extra decadence. Mmmm…
In other news, I'm pleased to say Picnic Bakery's blog was nominated for an award. Unfortunately, there are a lot of hoops to jump through in order to register for the contest and I'm too busy working on getting this business going and keeping up with my blog writing to go through the process. But, I would like to thank Nichole from dulce delicious for nominating me. I encourage you to follow the link and check out her lovely blog. It's full of great recipes!