Monday, June 23, 2014

Why is this blog called Christopher Morninggood?

When I was growing up, we took a lot of road trips with my dad. He loved to get an early start, hitting the open road with a fresh cup of coffee as the sun was rising. He also loved to make up funny songs, singing them loudly as he sat up even straighter in the driver’s seat to belt them out. And I admit, he also loved to occasionally fart really loudly, and would exclaim “Well, I didn’t know there was a spider in the van!” (replace spider with duck, or other animal who apparently makes loud farting noises). In short, he loved to make his kids smile. I remember him looking back at us in the rearview mirror, his face aglow with a big smile of his own, happy to see that his antics were making us giggle.

During one of these adventures, he made an impression on me when he said, “Well, if I could call myself whatever I wanted, I believe I would call myself Christopher Morninggood!” He probably repeated the name several times in various voices, with a sing-song tone. Kind of like an announcer shouting the names of the boxers about to step into the ring. “CHRRRRISTOPHEEEEEEEERRRRR MORNINGGOOOOOD! King of the road! Rise and shiiiiiine!” And then maybe it would become a little singing ditty, something like, “Got my coffee in my cup, in my cup, and I’m ready to hit the road, hit the road…so watch out all you toads on the road…” Head bobbing, maybe a little finger pointing, or fake drumming on the steering wheel.
Yep, that’s my dad. So many great memories of those road trips. His self-appointed moniker is perfect. He is a total morning person, and, his grandfather and great grandfather on his Dad’s side were both named Christopher.  I loved the idea of it, and it always stuck with me.
The name also seemed just right for this blog.
Mornings are for fresh pastry with your coffee, for getting started on your baking, for making your dough so it can chill and rest during the day, for getting an early start on whatever adventure you’ve got planned. Mornings are bundled with a feeling of can feel the whole day ahead of you. I think some days I keep drinking coffee just because I don’t want that fresh morning feeling to go away.
The sun is new each day….rise and shiiiiiiine!! Here’s to you, Padre, and to all the Christopher Morninggoods of the world.

Canele, Take One

I made them. I feel deflated. They were not the magnificent, glistening, caramelized-encased pillows of custardy dreams that I had envisioned for two weeks while I waited for that dang silicon mold from New York. Yes, I read in multiple places that they are really difficult to perfect. But part of me didn’t really believe it. My roller coaster ride of cannele baking proves them right. In a nut shell, here was the process, after letting the batter sit for three days in the fridge:

1.       Butter the mini-cannele molds, using my fingers, with Plugra. Place in freezer for 5 minutes.
2.       Fill the molds, just barely below the top.
[transfer batter to something with a small pour spout]

[mini-canneles mold, silicon]

3.       Set mold on a baking sheet and place in pre-heated oven.
4.      Keep peeking through the oven window, which isn’t a very clear look, so sneak the oven open. Faux pas? I think yes, but I couldn't help myself.
5.       Smile as you watch them sizzle in the butter.
6.       Worry as you watch them rise way up out of their molds.
7.       Ponder if maybe they’re OK after all as you watch them sink back down to the level of the mold.
8.       Observe a level of “golden brown” that makes you wonder if they’re done.
9.       Let them cook a minute longer.
10.   Take them out and let them cool.
11.   Eat one.
12.   Be disappointed by all these things: crooked, not caramelized properly or uniformly, undercooked on the inside.
13.   Place back in the oven to bake longer.
14.   Be more satisfied that they’re not undercooked anymore….but wonder if maybe they could cook longer and they’d get crispier on the outside?
15.   Leave them be.
16.   Allow yourself to admit they are pretty tasty and it’s a good sign that you want to just keep popping one more in your mouth.
17.   Try baking two more of them with the remaining batter.

[two of them cooked up pretty straight and even!]

18.   Be happy these last two cook more evenly, and wonder if your oven temperature is accurate because you cooked them at a higher temp than the original batch.
19.   Notes to self – try a higher starting temp and a higher temp to go down to; try filling only the outside molds, allowing for more heat to circulate around each one, as you’ve read in a couple places; try adding rum next time versus going strictly vanilla; buy an oven thermometer.
20.   Finally – don’t get discouraged! Someone left me a nice note on the Instagram photo I had posted of my canneles, saying they were “super delicious” (someone who got to try a couple I had left with my son and his fiancée….my son’s future mother-in-law…that should make her something to me, no?)
21.   Just like Celine Legros says at the end of her recipe – they’ll be better next time!

On a side note, I used my leftover vanilla bean pod by placing it in some sugar in a small container. Every so often now, I crack it open and smell the vanilla-infused sugar. Ahhhh….that’s some aroma therapy. (If you live near a store that offers spices in bulk, look for a vanilla bean there. One vanilla bean at PCC in their bulk section cost me about $1.50. If you have to buy it in a brand name spice jar, it will be much more expensive.)

Canneles – je n’ai pas fini!
(Canneles – I am not finished!)
[mixing butter, milk and vanilla in a saucepan over heat; the seeds were scraped out of this vanilla pod eventually and the pod was re-purposed by placing it in a small container of sugar to make vanilla-sugar]
[in the midst of mixing sugar & flour with egg]
[the final batter...look at all those yummy vanilla bean seeds ready to infuse the batter with their punch of flavor...and into the fridge went the batter for three days before baking]
[the day after I baked them was Father's Day -- this was taken on the ferry leaving Seattle to go meet my padre for brunch]
And the sun will be new another day for Canneles, Take Two.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


I just got my package of silicon mini-canele molds that I had ordered through J.B. Prince. The package took 2 whole weeks to get here, Seattle, from New York. That is not fast. That is slow. But I should have started the batter a few days ago so I would be ready to bake. Doh!! Canele advice for a newbie, anyone? Yeah, that's right. I'm totally baiting for some comments. Is anyone reading this yet? Ack! Merde!

I read about a canele-only shop in New York and I read that the owner used to be a lawyer before becoming a canele shop owner of brilliant caneles. Why are pastry people so smart? That's a serious question and it deserves an answer/comment.

Canele by Celine. In New York. New York's first and only canele shop. It will be on my itinerary for my layover in New York, en route to Paris.

Funky Fremont a la Dimanche

Sunday was full of glorious sun! I decided to be a tourist in the quirky funky area of Seattle called Fremont. It started with a cruise through Fremont Sunday Market, where I found an Eiffel Tower and a Space Needle sitting together on a shelf just waiting for me. I didn't yet have cash in hand, so I booked it down the block to the local PCC Market to buy one apple, so I could get cash back without having to pay the ridiculous fees at the ATM. Then I booked it back to the stand where I'd seen them and whew! They were still in waiting. I'd been wanting them and they finally appeared! It felt graciously serendipitous.

My destiny for all things French-themed over the weekend continued.....I found many more Eiffels in numerous places throughout the day. It was getting weird! The French thing had started the night before... I had a dinner date at a French-style restaurant called 'Bastille' in Ballard. While walking there from our parking spot, we happened upon a shockingly fast bike race called 'Ballard Twilight Criterium' -- they were racing in laps around a small area of the neighborhood. They were decked out in pro gear on pro bikes and they were packed up and whizzed around the corners FAST! The streets were closed for several blocks. Seemed reminiscent of being at La Tour de France, or so I imagined since I've never been in person. People were cheering and clanging cowbells and it was raucous. (Really with the cowbells? Do I say that now as embellishment or ? I'm not completely sure, but either way, it was friggin' awesome!) Sadly, I got no pix! But if you search #ballardtwilightcriterium on Instagram, someone did.

Anyway, the French theme started there, where we had steak frites, steamed mussels, and expensive mixed drinks full of hard liquor. Mine was called a 'Black Mamba' -- I don't recall what was in it exactly, other than coffee liqueur, but it was a short list of liquors. It was GOOD. And for dessert: profiteroles with hazelnut ice cream and chocolate sauce. That stuff was BOMB!

Segue into Sunday in we ate Blue Moon burgers for lunch, I pulled my Frenchie hardware out of my bag and admired it like a kid with new toys. The end of our day was punctuated with a travel agency sign hanging from the side of a building, and on top of it? Mais oui! La Tour Eiffel. Everyone said it's definitely a sign. I mean, more than literally a travel agency sign. J'espere!

Mercedes Unimog Espresso Truck
I need my car to say this to me when I leave for the grocery store!

My prized Frenchie hardware + Space Needle....and 'Murican Beer.

Walking up the hill towards the popular Fremont Troll.
I don't know why I am hugging his fingers...he's about to crush a car with that hand!

The belly of the Aurora Avenue Bridge. Where trolls live. :)
Lenin is here! The story of how he got to Fremont is pretty interesting. don't need me. Guh-oogle. 

Appropriate juxtaposition. Naked Bike Ride is a traditional event at the Fremont Fair. The
mannequins in the window of the lingerie shop are almost dressed down enough to join in.

If it's over your head, just keep on movin'...

Not only does Fremont have its own Troll and Lenin, they've got their own rocket ship too. 

Theo Chocolate also resides in Fremont. This is a picture I took of their logo, painted on the wall of
their retail shop. I love their logo. It's genius. And their chocolate is on par. Plus, they even have classes: Chocolate University, I shall attend you perhaps in winter when it's not a sin to miss out on Seattle sunshine!

Creative merchandise display at an antique shop. Don't let the daily grind get to you!

More Eiffels!

Cute sign for a ceramic plant pots shop. But alas, it was closed!

Alors....the universe seems to be sponsoring a marketing campaign directed at me and Paris.
A little help in the pocketbook department is all I need. Perhaps bakes sales every weekend for a few years?

Fremont Sunday Market vendor dudes having some sing along fun....sing it! Like A Rhinestone Cowboy!! 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Berry Rhubarb Crostata

Rhubarb!! No peeling, no pitting, no seeds – just slice and dice beautiful ruby red stalks into sweet & tart gems, perfect for springtime baking. Don’t delay – they’ll be gone soon! (I think I could have been a great marketer. Yeah, like maybe in the 50s.)
Before rhubarb is out of season, I wanted to make this crostata (or galette; basically the same thing) that I saw Joanne Chang (of Flour Bakery + Café in Boston, and author of Flour and Flour,Too) demonstrate on an episode of the cooking show called “Simply Ming.” The focus was “Cooking on the Fly – Working with Butter.” She mounds up the pastry dough just shy of it all coming together, while the butter is still in small chunks, and pushes sections of it flat with her hands. The butter gets streaked into the dough in a free-form way, unlike the symmetry and precision of puff pastry. But you still get the butter to make some random layers, and then it steams and creates flakiness while it bakes. The end product out of the oven is gorgeous, but it’s really simple and quick. (The link to her recipe is posted below.)

Make a few disks of dough while you’re at it and throw some in the freezer.  That way, you’ll have pastry palettes ready for all that fresh summer fruit from your local farmer’s market. Create a Jackson Pollack of fruit – throw whatever your heart fancies at it. The possibilities are endless. In the savory department, I think asparagus, mushrooms and a local cheese would be delectable. You’ll love the versatility of this dough. Not only does it mix up quickly, it’s also very easy to roll out once chilled. I like to roll it out on the parchment paper I’ll use to bake it on. Then the whole shebang gets transferred right to the baking sheet.

I used strawberries instead of raspberries this go round. My pint ‘o raspberries had been nibbled up more than I knew.  I’ve made this once before – just as good with either berry.

Brought it to my sister’s house this past weekend. She said the top of the crust reminded her of a croissant. Awwww yeah!!

I was at my sister’s place with my mom to meet my sister’s family’s new puppy, and to watch one of my nephews play soccer. Ridiculous levels of cuteness on both accounts. And Gooooooooaaaaaaallllll!!!!!
Here’s the link: Joanne Chang's Raspberry-Rhubarb Crostada 
Happy baking!

You can see the chunks of butter in the dough after it's chilled and ready to rock & roll.
It calls for two stalks, but I used three. That's what I had, so why not? It's like making pie -
a little more or less fruit and/or sugar to taste isn't going to break it. 
It's totally possible you won't need as much sugar as is called for in the recipe.
Depends on how naturally sweet your fruit is already, and your personal taste.

Take your time when folding the edges up over the fruit. I think more folds than less looks prettier.
Also, you can use the egg wash to help secure the dough on top to the dough in the fold underneath. 
Wait for your crostata to bake, preferably in a relaxed position in the sun.

It should bake to a hearty golden crisp. Mine didn't take quite as long as what's called for in the recipe.
I couldn't help myself and spooned out a heap of the bubbling fruit from the center.
Almost burned my's hard to be patient when it just smells so darn good. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Bakery Nouveau

Chocolate Blackberry Mousse Dome from Bakery Nouveau, the French-style bakery in my relatively new neighborhood. I am totally in love with this bakery. There will be more 'reporting' from this dream location. It's a destination bakery. There's been a line out the door on more than one occasion I've been there. Fortunately, they have incredibly efficient and friendly customer service, making them even more than perfect. I heard about this bakery shortly after I moved to Seattle. The gal behind the check-in counter at a yoga studio, when I struck up a conversation with her, eagerly telling her I was new in town, asked me if I'd been to Bakery Nouveau yet. "Oh you have to go! It's totally amazing. The owner was the captain of a World Cup Baking Team a few years back. And they won Gold, including in the croissant division. Oh yeah! I heard the French Baking Team was on suicide watch for weeks!"

Then I had one of my cousins, also a yoga teacher, tell me that one of her students is French, and proclaims that Bakery Nouveau has the best croissants outside of France. The first time in, I bought a twice-baked almond croissant. I brought it home for dessert and had it with a glass of red wine, and I just couldn't shut up about it. It was like I developed a tic or something. Each time I bit into it, I couldn't stop myself from saying "Oh my gosh, this is sooo good. Mmmm." "Oh my gosh, how do they make these so good?!" "Oh my gosh, I can't believe how good this is."

Bakery t'adore.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Fruit Art, Fruit Tart

Last weekend was my oldest son's birthday. I texted him asking if he could pick any homemade dessert, what would it be? ....   ....   .... Yeah, that's right. No reply. He's in his early 20s. Actually, technically he's now in his mid 20s (what the?!). His age and generation, and the fact that the text came from his (dear, dear) Madre would help explain the lack 'o reply. But, he was driving north across the Canadian border with his fiancee to go bouldering on a rare bluebird spring day, so I'll cut him some slack. Anyway, I decided this was just dandy - I got to pick! No problemo. Sort of. No problem in that I got to try a new recipe, and stick my nose in the baking books. But coming down to a final choice was a mini-problem. I am definitely an indecisive person. At least I think so.... But this was an ideal state of indecision, like a kid at eye level with the candy shelf type. Ultimately, I went with a fruit tart for the following reasons: lots of nutritious fruit on top, to satisfy those healthy and fit bouldering stud muffins who often are on a no sugar thing; a shelf life longer than "it tastes best if eaten within four hours of baking," since I had to make it a day in advance and buckle it behind a seat belt for a 90 mile delivery drive; and I got to shop for and purchase a new tart ring. Sweet!

I stood indecisively weighing my two tart ring options at the kitchen section of one of my local grocery markets. This kitchen section is a cut or 10 above most in a grocery store. High end brand names and lots of niche products. I found lots of tart molds in a variety of sizes and shapes. After I finally decided on a 9-inch ring versus 10-inch, I got stuck on the price delta of my 9-inch options. Both were made in Europe, so that always helps a person feel important. But the $ difference was nothing to sneeze at. The only product difference seemed to be that the more expensive version had a non-stick coating. Hmmm....... well, I bought the non non-stick coating one. I figured the butter in the tart crust would offer enough of a non-stick quality. I don't know if that was really the reason, but it worked like a charm. I spent $14.99 instead of $23.99, and felt smug when I removed the tart ring with ease.

I used the pate sucree recipe from Joanne Chang's cookbook called Flour for my tart crust, and the pastry cream recipe from Jacquy Pfeiffer's cookbook called The Art of French Pastry for the cream filling, and a quick cruise of #fruittart on Instagram for decorative inspiration. Overall, I was very pleased with it visually and taste-wise. What I would do differently next time:
  • Use pie weights in the pan when pre-baking the crust, as it tended to puff up a bit.
  • Take Jacquy's advice and infuse the milk in advance with real vanilla bean seeds, versus adding vanilla extract just after cooking the pastry cream. I have used real vanilla bean before in creme brulee, and I know it can make a show-stopping improvement in vanilla flavor.
  • Cook the pastry cream at boiling point for less time than I did. I tried to follow the instructions, but since I wasn't certain about when it started to thicken and boil, I think I overdid it. I considered starting over, but since taste seemed unaffected, and since the cream would be covered by fruit, I went with it. I felt like the texture was too thick and globular. It also could be that I put it in the freezer in a 'pile of cream in a bowl' fashion versus spreading it thin on a sheet as instructed. (Jeez, follow instructions, ya think?!)
  • Slice the strawberries so that the hollow section isn't visible. Some of the strawberries looked 'prettier' than others.
  • Finally, I chose not to brush jam on top for a glossy, glazed look. It turned out just fine without it. I would try it next time though, so I know how to prepare it that way.
Arranging the fruit on top was A little bit of creative pondering in advance before plopping your fruit down is good. And when the last raspbery was placed, I had a clap-my-hands-together-say-awwww-yeah! moment.

And about that final raspberry -- ensure you have a few extra on hand in case your younger, true early 20s, son decides to steal one off the top after arriving home late. It's akin to smudging the frosting, or blowing out a candle on the dinner table. It just says "I was here" so eloquently.

So Happy Birthday to my first born! His fiancee and I stuck candles in the tart and made him endure our horrible, off-key singing of the birthday song. What can I say but all the cliches. I think it was delicious, yummy, sublime. Made me so happy to hear him say, "Mom, this is SO GOOD!" You should make one too, so you can hear the same life-affirming compliment. (If your child is a teenager, you might have to wait a few years for free-flowing compliments and gratitude, but be patient, I promise they turn back into real people.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


I have always been drawn to the dessert section of any cookbook. Of course my sweet tooth points me in that direction, but it’s also because I love the way a finished dessert has a creative, artistic quality to it. I need meat and vegetables to sustain me, but turquoise frosting flooded on a hummingbird-shaped sugar cookie, or the luscious, vibrant colors of summer fruit arranged on a tart..…creating a dessert is an outlet for creative and aesthetic senses, and if done well, satisfies tastebuds and olfactory simultaneously. (Ugh, that's kind of a geeky sentence. Looks smashing, tastes friggin' awesome and smells good enough you draw in your breath and grin from ear to ear in a sheer moment of delight. How's that?)

Today’s cookbooks are stunning -- gorgeously photographed, some pictures worthy of framing and hanging on your wall. Dessert cookbooks are especially intoxicating gems. I often go to bed with a stack of my dessert books, vicariously baking all sorts of beauties as I fall into my dreams. A few weeks ago, after falling asleep on the couch with a book about pies and tarts still clutched in hand, I woke myself up as I made slow, chomping motions with my mouth. When I opened my eyes, I realized I’d been about to bite into a heavenly piece of banana cream pie. Sheesh.
I want to try so many new recipes that my mind is frequently all in a dither about how I should prioritize my list, seeing as how I work full time and often only bake on weekends. At one point I actually jotted down a litany, numbering it all in order of priority. I had everything on there from croissants to baked Alaska, butterscotch cream pie to chocolate eclairs, pithiviers to blood orange mini-tarts. I’m not sure what happened to that list, but it keeps growing and floating around in my brain. Sometimes I think I should take time off just to plow through this baking bucket list I am so obsessed with. A staycation of baking….a bake-cation? (As I had this thought, I wondered if that was already a term in use, and why yes, it is. According to a slang dictionary, it's when someone stays home to ‘get baked’. OK then.)
This penchant for baking started snowballing last summer. I’d recently moved from a fairly small town into the city of Seattle, and I was so excited by all the new possibilities. I could now walk to restaurants, coffee shops and grocery stores. I heard about a dangerously close French-style bakery that everyone raved about. I started Googling 'stuff', including the bakery, and cooking classes at the local PCC Market, where I had seen an in-store demo kitchen. Eventually my online "recherche" led me to a cookbook store in Fremont called Book Larder. They were hosting an author talk and demo by Joanne Chang, of Flour Bakery + Cafe in Boston. I was in! She graciously showed her audience how to make pate a choux, and signed copies of her books, Flour and Flour, Too. I purchased her first book, Flour, and took a photo with her as I held up the cookbook. I dove into that thing immediately. It’s full of detailed descriptions of how to make everything from cookies and scones to brioche and sticky buns. I adore this book -- she has a way of making you feel like she’s right there next to you with a calm, guiding voice as you follow a recipe. (She also, I discovered not long after, replies to emails and might even post a picture you unabashedly had attached to said email on the Flour Bakery + Cafe Facebook page. How awesome is that?) 
I continued Googling: "best dessert books” and “best dessert blogs” and “best food memoirs” and searching hashtags like #brioche and #pithiviers. Each search branched out into new information and new searches, and before I knew it, I was buying brioche a tete molds and looking on eBay for kugelhopf molds from France ($$$$! – that one’s still on my wish list).
Since then, I started taking photos while baking new recipes. I look forward to sharing things at work or baking something for someone’s birthday. An outlet for sharing this process and my sense of excitement and pride when I take a new treat out of the oven has been a growing desire. Et voila! Here I am. I’m uber excited. I look forward to sharing successes as well as getting constructive feedback, both in cheerleader tone, as well as “Hey, it would turn out better if you did this….”
If I'm lucky, I'll get permission to post a few recipes from some of the authors I've been following.    
To start this thing off, below are some photos of Craqueline, the first recipe I tried from Flour by Joanne Chang (Flour Bakery + Cafe).  It's the first book I bought at the impressively comprehensive cookbook-only store in Fremont, Book Larder. It was also the first time I ever tried making brioche, or ever ate brioche for that matter!
Craqueline, made with brioche as mentioned, is filled with candied oranges and topped with sliced almonds. Oh yeah!! The brioche dough, which is yeasted, has to refrigerate and rise, as well as proof, over the course of at least 10 hours, so this is ideally a two-day process (weekend warriorism!). The way it will fill your house with enchanting smells is in itself an experience to be had. The scent of the bread as it bakes will make you feel like someone is wrapping you up in a comforting hug. Sure, maybe you can buy brioche at the bakery, but you can't buy the way it smells as it bakes, and it's so worth it.

[letting them proof, i.e. rest and rise in a warm place]

[Joanne was a gracious hostess and let the person behind me in line
snap our photo together after she signed my copy of her book. I printed
the photo and taped it inside the front cover for posterity.]