Hye Thyme Cafe: October 2015

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Graveyard Cake

Graveyard Cake : Hye Thyme Cafe

I had intended to make and bring this cake to the office pot-luck we had on Monday, along with the Zombie Finger Cookies, etc. I had already baked and written on tombstone cookies, picked up a bag of ghost marshmallows at the grocery store (saving myself the trouble of making them), and hit up the Dollar Tree for some gummy worms, zombies, and bones. I had even printed out a clipart gate, covered it with waxed paper and piped melted chocolate over it to make a gate. I was all set to frost and decorate the cake Sunday night, inverted it out of the pan, and it completely fell apart on me!

I didn't want all of the decorations to go to waste, and since I'm only in the office on Mondays and Fridays, I figured I'd throw it together to bring in today. I had to chuckle when I walked into the kitchen and found people standing around it taking pictures. Hopefully someone's turned out better than mine and I can swap out. My camera has been acting up lately.

The cake is just a box mix - nothing fancy there. Before frosting it, I cut out a grave, being careful when frosting that particular area. I put a little dab of frosting on the bottom of the ghosts to make sure they stayed in place and used icing to dot little faces on them. The "dirt" is a short stack of chocolate cookies crushed and sprinkled all over. The dirt pile at the foot of the open grave with the worm creeping out is a spoonful of frosting dusted with more crumbs. I had originally gone to the Dollar Tree looking for what I had found another year when doing one of these - a candy skeleton. As much as I dislike the various Dollar stores for the lead found in so many of their kids' products (jewelry, crayons, etc.), I do love them for this type of thing.

Graveyard Cake : Hye Thyme Cafe
Graveyard Cake : Hye Thyme Cafe

As I mentioned, I had made cookie headstones already, but then I got it into my head that rice crispie treats would be better because they would be thicker (more realistic), and the cereal would give it more of that granite look. I decided that if I added a bit of black food coloring to the marshmallow, it would turn out gray-ish, looking even more like granite, but as it turned out, once I mixed in the cereal, it pretty much just looked like I made coco-crispie treats. I did not factor in that trying to write one them would be more difficult because the icing slid into all those little crannies. The writing was originally black, but because there wasn't enough contrast when it dried, I went over them in white later.

Graveyard Cake : Hye Thyme Cafe
Graveyard Cake : Hye Thyme Cafe

I ended up having a great idea for the bats - I had leftover marzipan from making the Zombie Finger Cookies' fingernails, so I kneaded black food coloring into a bit of the marzipan, flattened it out on a piece of waxed paper, put a bat stencil over it and pressed all around the edges of the stencil with the tip of a lobster pick to push the marzipan through. I let it dry out for a few minutes, then carefully ran a small, sharp knife under them to release them from the stencil. For the eyes, I poked little holes with the tip of the lobster pick and used a clean set of tweezers (my second favorite decorating tool) to pick up little orange nonpareils and set them in place. When I was ready to place the bats on the headstones, I dabbed a bit of frosting on the bottoms to hold them in place.

Graveyard Cake : Hye Thyme Cafe
Graveyard Cake : Hye Thyme Cafe

Graveyard Cake : Hye Thyme Cafe

One thing I had meant to try but forgot about was making a flower or two out of marzipan to go on top of the dirt pile or another one of the graves. Not sure how well that would have gone for me, but I'm bummed that I forgot to try! I had also thought about piping a tree like the gate to stand up in the back corner but thought that might be overkill. Maybe next time I'll do that instead of the gate. We'll see ...

Graveyard Cake : Hye Thyme Cafe

Graveyard Cake : Hye Thyme Cafe

Graveyard Cake : Hye Thyme Cafe

Graveyard Cake : Hye Thyme Cafe

Have a safe and happy Halloween !!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Zombie Finger Cookies (A New Twist on an Old Favorite)

Zombie Finger Cookies : Hye Thyme Cafe

I have seen a bazillion versions of Zombie Fingers online, and aside from maybe coloring them green, they're all pretty much the same; finger-shaped cookies with almond slivers or halves for fingernails. Some press the almond over red icing to make it look like blood along the cuticle, but I don't get why they would be bleeding there. A while back, a friend of mine posted one such recipe on Facebook, and in looking at the photo, it struck me that not everyone is zombified sans manicure, and I would venture to guess that more than a few even have tattoos on a finger or two. That's when I knew I had to make a batch, but I had to wait for an excuse. An office pot-luck was convened at just the right time for me to play.

The reason I'm not posting an actual recipe is that I wanted to bake something that wouldn't rise or spread too much and lose the detail of the fingers, so I found a recipe on a cookie baker's page claiming that they use this particular recipe for just that reason. Well, they didn't turn out too bad, but they definitely did rise and spread, making them larger than I wanted. Also, the flavor of this particular recipe was just OK, so I will definitely play around with these again but figure out my own cookie base.

Not being sure what I wanted to do about the nails, I first bought a box of DOTS candies, intending to use cross-sections for fingernails, rolling them out a bit for different sizes, etc. That would have killed two birds with one stone - they would have nails, and some would be pre-colored/manicured. Then marzipan came to mind. Of course, I always do things inside out, upside-down or backward, so I made the mistake of starting with the DOTS. Once I made a few nails with the marzipan, I went back and ripped off all of the DOTS I had already used to replace them with marzipan.

Dang it!! Typing marzipan just gave me an idea - TOO LATE!  I was contemplating painting a few rings onto fingers too, thinking just because a finger got ripped/chopped off a zombie doesn't necessarily mean their jewelry fell off. I decided against that, but it just occurred to me that the marzipan would have worked great!  Just knead in a bit of color to make it gold or whatever and wrap it around the finger. If you're really patient and have a steady hand, you could even make a design for the top rather than just doing a band. Why didn't I think of that sooner?!?

To shape the cookies, you just pinch off a little dough, roll it into a log, and rip off one end to make it jagged.  You can pinch in the sides a bit to give the knuckles definition. For the knuckle lines, I used a melon baller because it has two different size scoops. I pressed the larger end for the outside lines and the smaller end for the inside lines. You could just use the tip of a spoon.

Zombie Finger Cookies : Hye Thyme Cafe
Zombie Finger Cookies : Hye Thyme Cafe

Zombie Finger Cookies : Hye Thyme Cafe

For the colors, I mixed a bit of powdered sugar with a few drops of milk and a touch of extract in tiny prep bowls and stirred in some Wilton gel coloring. Having seen lots of Zombie Fingers with the open ends dipped in red that was nowhere close to blood red, I first tried mixing the red with a bit of bergundy (turned out to be closer to pink than bergundy), then added a bit of brown thinking it would look more like dried blood. Brush on a bit of cocoa powder to make them look "dirty."

I'm sure that 99.9% of you are perfectly comfortable piping things like this, but I'm known to be heavy handed and presuppose that I will squeeze too hard and gush icing all over the kitchen, so I actually use a lobster pick or tiny paint brush for icing. It's probably slower that way, but it gives me better control. Whatever you find that works for you is great.

I had to laugh when two people came up to me after the pot-luck to compliment me on the cookies but tell me they were too grossed out to eat one. Lucky for them, I also made Pumpkin Bars and Chicken Chili. I had also planned to make a Graveyard Cake, but that imploded on me! I had already baked and written out cookie headstones, piped a chocolate gate, bought other edible decorations, fluffed the frosting, etc., but when I went to invert the cake out of the pan to begin decorating, it completely imploded. I guess using a Devil's Food cake for a little Halloween irony was the wrong choice. :(

Zombie Finger Cookies : Hye Thyme CafeZombie Finger Cookies : Hye Thyme Cafe

Zombie Finger Cookies : Hye Thyme Cafe

Zombie Finger Cookies : Hye Thyme Cafe

Have a safe and happy Halloween everyone!  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Broccoli-Cheddar-Ham Quiche with Garlic Tahini Crust

Broccoli-Cheddar-Ham Quiche with Tahini Crus: Hye Thyme Cafe

Realizing I had almost a full dozen eggs in the fridge that I hadn't been using, and a head of broccoli, I decided to combine the two into a quiche or frittata. It's been a while since I made a quiche, so I couldn't remember offhand what I use for a crust. I was going to dig through my recipes but then started thinking about some tahini samples I recently received from Sesame King. I remembered reading that tahini is similar to nut butters and thought hmmm ... crust / butter / tahini ... what would happen if I replaced the butter in the crust with tahini?

It worked out great! It added just the right touch of garlic, and a slightly nutty flavor. Although, I do have to admit that there were a few small spots on the outside edge of the crust that turned out on the tough side where I hadn't rolled it out thin enough. I'm notorious for two things in the kitchen - misjudging the size of whatever bowl I'll need to use, and not rolling things out thin enough. What can I say? I'm a work in progress.

My favorite pie plate is a 10" glass plate, so that's what I used for the quiche. You can see that I didn't have quite enough dough to let me do a scalloped, crimped, or otherwise "fancy" edge. Of course, not rolling it out thin enough also contributed to that, but you might decide to use a 9" pie plate instead - up to you, but if you do, you might want to reduce and broccoli and/or ham a bit so you don't overflow.

1 1/4 c flour
1/4 t salt
1/4 t baking powder
1/3 c Garlic Tahini

1 med onion, chopped
1 T butter
salt and pepper
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
6 lg eggs
3/4 c heavy cream
1 crown of broccoli
1 1/2 c shredded cheddar
1 c diced cooked ham (I used a small ham steak)

  1. I made my crust in the food processor, but you could certainly do it by hand, using a fork or pastry cutter to incorporate the tahini - or use your stand mixer. In either case, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder to combine, then add the tahini until a sort of crumbly or sandy texture is achieved. Scraping down the bowl as necessary, add water, first 2T, then 1T more at a time, until it pulls together into a dough. Roll out between sheets of waxed paper, then transfer to greased/sprayed pie plate. I like to peel off the top layer of waxed paper, then pick the crust up by the bottom layer - center it in the pie plate, then peel off that layer.  Set aside.
  2. You want to plunge the broccoli into boiling water for about 30 seconds to blanch, then run under cold water until cool - just to take that raw crunch off of it. If you plan to include the stalks in your quiche, give those an extra minute or so. If not, you can drop the whole crown in the boiling water if you plan to discard the stalks (easier to handle in one piece). If you want to use the stalks in a salad or something (raw), chop them off first but still leave the florets in large pieces. Break down the cooled broccoli into small pieces and set aside.
  3. Chop the onion and saute in the 1T butter until translucent. Add the crushed red pepper, season with salt and black pepper, and continue to cook until the onion starts to brown - remove from heat and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and heavy cream, seasoning with salt and pepper. I'm not one to use a whole lot of salt when cooking, but I do go heavy on the pepper. In this case, you want to make sure to taste your ham to see how salty it is before deciding how much salt to use here. Stir in the cooled broccoli, diced ham, onion, and 1 c of the shredded cheddar. Pour the mixture into your crust and top with the remaining cheddar.
  5. Bake at 350 for 45-60" until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. The time will vary depending on which size plate you used, how true your oven runs, whether you're baking in glass or metal, etc. Let sit for about 10" before diving in.

Broccoli-Cheddar-Ham Quiche with Tahini Crus: Hye Thyme CafeBroccoli-Cheddar-Ham Quiche with Tahini Crus: Hye Thyme Cafe

Broccoli-Cheddar-Ham Quiche with Tahini Crus: Hye Thyme Cafe
Broccoli-Cheddar-Ham Quiche with Tahini Crus: Hye Thyme Cafe

Broccoli-Cheddar-Ham Quiche with Tahini Crus: Hye Thyme Cafe
Tahini Crust

Broccoli-Cheddar-Ham Quiche with Tahini Crus: Hye Thyme Cafe

I thought it was pretty cool using the tahini in the crust. Aside from the flavor it added, it's nice to know (at least for someone in a Mediterranean or Near/Middle-Eastern household likely to have tahini on hand) that you have a new substitute for butter in your crust if you run short. Now that I know it works, it will be interesting to play around with different flavors in other applications.  :)

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