Tag Archives: baking

carrot cake bran muffins

kitchen seems sunnier

Okay, so it is really odd, my culinary response to the Easter season. I always want to make things with carrots. Reading this hilarious essay by Nicholas Day on Food52 recently probably didn’t help. For one thing, it reminded me of the 3-pound grocery store bag of unglamorous, bizarrely fluorescent carrots in the bottom of my crisper. (By the way, if you’re looking for pantry-savvy dinner recipes, using carrots, you should read this piece.) There is just some switch in my mind that goes, Easter, Easter bunny, carrots. I mean, eventually I come around to the ham, the coconut cake (mandatory), coconut meringue pie,  hot cross buns, and the egg dishes. And I have even adopted a love of the seriously weird Easter pie tradition here in New Haven, including rice and wheat. But it’s cold, still, and I like breaking open my baked goods and seeing a little spark of color. Orange specks! Yes?

why is this so fluorescent

And this recipe, it is pretty good. It’s like a kind of carrot coffee cake (there is sour cream, after all) crossed with a bran muffin. My basic bran muffin is a riff on the one in the Cheese Board Collective Works—if you don’t own this cookbook, and you have even the teensiest obsession with muffins and scones, go out and get a copy now. It is virtuous, but delicious. None of the punishing texture that can sometimes be associated with bran muffins. Not too sweet, and just perfectly spicy. The ingredient list is long, but if you keep bran and germ in the house, the rest of the list is just staples, and much of it is an assortment of spices. If you have a favorite crumb or streusel topping, it might be good on here. I often find myself eating my morning muffin on the run, so I left those off. Crumbs tend to get stuck all over me when I walk and eat, and the result is not good for my sartorial presence in the office. What is the best accompaniment to these muffins? A slab of cream cheese, right down the middle. Reminiscent of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, but good for breakfast.

orange flecks

Bonus: these muffins freeze really well. You can pull one out of the freezer and toss it in the microwave for a few seconds to thaw it. The best part? When the days warm up, you can have a nice muffin for breakfast without turning on the oven. I am counting the days until this is a legitimate worry, my friends. Enjoy your spring festivals, everyone!

Carrot cake bran muffins

Adapted wildly from Cheese Board Collective Works

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup rye or whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup wheat bran
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated carrot, packed (about 3 to 4 carrots)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, if you like

1. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin thoroughly, or line muffin tins with paper or foil liners. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, sour cream, oil, molasses, water, raisins and vanilla. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, brown sugar, soda, salt, bran, wheat germ, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg.

3. Pour egg mixture into the center of flour mixture and stir just until combined. Add carrot and nuts, if using, and mix well, just until dry mixture is thoroughly incorporated into batter. Let batter rest for 15 minutes, so the moisture can distribute.

4. Spoon batter evenly into prepared tin. Bake at 375 F for 5 minutes and then reduce temperature to 350 F. Bake 25 more minutes. Test to ensure muffins are done by inserting a toothpick near the center. The toothpick should emerge batter-free. Cool in tins for 5 minutes, and then carefully remove to a cooling rack. Serve warm or room temperature with butter, or a smear of cream cheese.

Leave a Comment

Filed under recipes

brutti ma buoni

gorgeous

“Brutti ma buoni!” I declare to everyone when I present them with one of these cookies, “Ugly but good!”

Don’t let the name ruin it for you. I had three egg whites left over from making these hamantaschen last weekend, and proceeded to convert them into another sweet treat. Many recipes for brutti ma buoni cookies call for grinding almonds with the sugar, but I happened to have hazelnuts on hand, and found that this was not an unprecedented substitution. When you grind the nuts and sugar together, it has the wonderful side-effect of making the sugar ever so much finer, allowing it to fold into the egg whites easily and uniformly.

separation is hard

We are nearing the time in the calendar when eggs will be abundant in the farmers’ markets. (It is not a coincidence that all of our major early spring festivals feature eggs—it’s because normal chickens kept in human conditions will produce massive amounts of eggs during this time period.) These cookies would be a great choice for celebrating spring. The way I formed the cookies, with an elongated serving spoon, meant that they even took on an egg shape. I think these would be a marvelous choice for Easter or Passover.

but good

The cookies do keep for a few weeks if they are left to cool completely (for several hours) the day they are made, and then stored in a dry, tightly sealed tin or container. They’re light as air, and crisp, fragrant with hazelnuts and ever so slightly chewy in the center. Good, indeed. Let’s be honest, sometimes “ugly but good” is how we would describe the essence of our lives. And we focus on the good, no? Can I get an amen?

Brutti ma buoni

Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

  • 2 cups or 8.5 ounces hazelnuts
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 3 egg whites, room temperature
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • pinch of cream of tartar (if you have it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 300 F. Place hazelnuts on a single layer on baking sheet and put into oven. Toast for 10 (room temperature nuts) to 12 minutes (refrigerated nuts), until skins begin to loosen on nuts and they’re just toasting. Remove from oven and turn nuts onto a clean linen dish towel. Pull up the towel’s edges to fully enclose the nuts, and knead, rub,  and roll them on the countertop. Open towel and check; most of the nuts should now be free of their skins. Pick the nuts out of the chaff and add to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. It is okay if some of them still have some skins on them. Allow nuts to cool a bit while you prepare to mix the cookies.

2. Line two baking sheets with parchment. (Alternatively you may butter the baking sheets.) Pour the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the metal whisk. (Be sure the bowl and whisk are free of even the faintest trace of oil or grease. Add salt and cream of tartar (if using) to the egg whites. Set these aside and return to the food processor. Make sure nuts are just warm, and not hot. Add sugar and pulse with hazelnuts until they are finely chopped. Pour this into a separate bowl and add the vanilla. Set aside.

3. Whip the egg whites on medium speed until foamy, and then increase the speed to medium-high to high. Beat until stiff peaks just form, but not a moment longer. (They’ll go quickly from holding a soft speak to holding a stiff peak.) Remember, because you are not adding sugar at this point, the meringue will not become glossy. It will simply stiffen. Remove mixer bowl from stand, add nut-sugar mixture to egg whites and gently fold together until sugar and nuts are completely incorporated.

4. Drop batter onto prepared cookie sheets by the spoonful. You can make small teaspoon-size cookies, or larger tablespoon-size cookies. Bake in prepared oven for 25 minutes from smaller cookies, and 30-35 minutes for larger cookies. The cookies will be dry to the touch and slightly gold in color when done. Carefully remove cookies from parchment and allow them to cool thoroughly on a wire rack. Packed tightly, cookies will keep several weeks.

1 Comment

Filed under recipes

hamantaschen | muhn or linzer

 pockets

When I was a little kid, when we got into bed at night, we listened to tapes of a guy reading the King James Version of the Bible. The tapes were in giant dark green upholstered fake leather cases, lined up row after row.  The man who narrated them was fairly expressionless. He didn’t really get into what he was reading, or act out the parts, or do accents or voices or anything. The tapes started at Genesis and went all the way through to Revelation. Deuteronomy got a little dry at a certain point and Ezekiel and Kings both have passages where you have to listen to a lot of building measurements in cubits. What are cubits?

bowl of butterMostly I did what I was supposed to—and this is what a rigorous religious upbringing gets you, if your parents play their cards right—I just listened to the next tape in order, cubits or so-and-so begetting so-and-so or what have you. But every once in a while I would beg to hear my two favorite books of the Bible. They were short books and you could pretty much hear the whole story on your way to sleep. One favorite was Ruth, and to this day my favorite name is Boaz because of that story. The other was Esther, the Jewish queen who saved her people from destruction.

ground poppyseeds

As a result, although I am not Jewish, I love the Purim holiday. In college I was beyond excited to learn that in Judaism, Esther has her own holiday! And people dress up for it! And it is super joyful. And there are special cookies to be made! See, all those nights, in my bed, I would be so angry at Haman and his outrageous abuses of power. I would curl up in a ball and think, Haman, you lying snake, I shake my fist at you! I would listen all the way through the part where the king honors Mordecai (Esther’s uncle), and makes Esther his queen, and hangs Haman, and Haman’s 10 sons.  At this point I would pump my fist in righteous celebration, and mutter, yesssss! The last chapter recounts all the details of the holiday of Purim, but somehow I never focused on that, and in all honesty, by then I may have been asleep. It is pretty exhausting stuff, after all.

linzer

These cookies are traditional at Purim, but I think they are one of the all-time great cookies. Crisp, buttery exterior, toothsome pastry interior, a burst of flavorsome filling: this is cookie heaven. Most sources say the name hamantaschen actually derives from the German word for poppy (the traditional filling), muhn, and the word for pocket, taschen. And when you look at these little triangles, they really are just pockets filled with poppyseeds. Here I use a second filling, which is not very traditional: a coating of melted chocolate topped with a dollop of raspberry preserves. Also delicious. The filling recipes below are each enough to fill an entire batch of cookies. You can halve the recipes to make half muhn and half linzer, or simply make one or the other. Leftover muhn filling is great dolloped into the middle of your favorite coffee cake.

muhn

The cookie here is a very short butter pastry, which doesn’t fold easily. I know, you’re thinking, that doesn’t make sense—the whole point of this cookie is that you fold it. But when you get to the part about forming the cookies, you’ll see that even though the pastry will mostly break along the fold, you can simply press it back together without risking flat, melting hamantaschen. (When I first read this post on SmittenKitchen I felt so much better after countless years of runny taschen.) Even though it is a pain in the neck to form these crumbly cookies, the truth is that they don’t spread or run on the baking sheet, and thus will save you countless hours of heartbreak. And therefore leave you even more time for listening to the King James Version of the Bible on tape, or whatever else it is you do for a fun time.

cookie of liberation

Hamantaschen | muhn or linzer

Adapted from SmittenKitchen, which is adapted from this recipe on the NY Times; makes 60 cookies.

Pastry

  • grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) butter cut into small pieces, room temperature

1. Add zest, powdered sugar, flour, and salt to the bowl of your food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to combine. Add yolks and pieces of butter. Pulse in long pulses (2 seconds or so) until the dough forms a clumpy mass, or a ball. This takes many pulses. Scrape dough onto plastic wrap, knead it two or three times, form it into a flatt-ish disc, and wrap it up tightly. Transfer to refrigerator for at least one hour, or overnight.

Muhn Filling (poppy seed, enough for a whole batch of cookies)

  • 1 cup poppy seeds
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1/3 cup golden or black raisins, or chopped prunes
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur (such as Cointreau)
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter

1. In two batches, grind poppy seeds in your very clean coffee grinder (the kind with a blade, not a burr grinder) until they are sticky and chopped. Scrape into a saucepan. Add milk, sugar, zest and raisins. Warm over medium heat to a bare simmer, reduce heat and simmer until seeds absorb the milk. This takes about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally, and more frequently towards end of cooking.

2. Add remaining ingredients and stir well to mix. Set filling aside to cool completely. This can also be done the day before and kept in the refrigerator.

Linzer filling (enough for a whole batch of cookies)

  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 ounces bittersweet dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)
  • 1/2 cup raspberry preserves (with seeds)

1. In a metal bowl suspended over a pan of boiling water, carefully melt the chocolate, stirring constantly once it begins to melt. When just a few solid pieces are left, remove from heat and continue stirring. Allow mixture to cool completely.

To assemble the cookies:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line up to 4 baking sheets with parchment.

2. Cut chilled pastry in half and place half on a floured counter. Lightly flour your rolling pin and roll dough (forming a circle) to just shy of 1/4-inch thick. Use a 2.5-inch round cookie cutter to cut circles, placing them on prepared baking sheets nearly touching. Add just 1/2 teaspoon of muhn filling on each cookie. If making the linzer version, place a smear of melted chocolate with 1/2 teaspoon of raspberry preserves on top of each. Do not overfill cookies.

3. Clean hands, then carefully fold cookies. First fold up one side across filling. The pastry will likely break along the fold; simply nudge and pinch it back together. Repeat with two more sides on each cookie, forming triangles. Pinch along the edges to seal the cookies.

4. Place cookies, one tray at a time, into the oven. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until light brown. Let cookies rest on tray for 5 minutes before carefully removing to a wire rack.

2 Comments

Filed under recipes

construction site birthday cake

construction site

Birthday cakes are special. And making the birthday cake is an enormous responsibility, not to be taken lightly. It has to not only be scrumptious if it’s for a three-year-old, it also has to be enchanting.

On our nephew’s second birthday, I made this train cake. On his first birthday, it was a dump truck. The obsession with things with wheels, unsurprisingly, continues. However, he is a pretty hard-working little three-year-old, and he loves to help and work in the yard. Moreover, he loves this book, Good Night, Good Night, Construction Site, which is apparently  a sedative for three-year-olds in literary form. And what else does he love? Chocolate.

While I had absolutely no idea how to make a cake into a construction site, I did know a thing or two about how to make a fantastic chocolate cake. Cooking is like everything else: start with what you know. Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Cake Bible is still the greatest instruction manual and work of art on the subject of The Cake. I got my copy for my fourteenth birthday (speaking of birthdays) in 1988, the year it was first published.  There are little notes in pencil throughout it. Not because these are recipes that I have ever toyed with—most of my cookbooks have notes in them when I change recipes and make adjustments—but because they’re recipes that have been an integral part of nearly every special occasion involving dessert in my life, ever. One cake has a note that says “Robyn’s birthday” another that says “Christmas 1989” and another that says “Bob’s favorite.” This is not a book of recipes that you adapt, or transform. These recipes are precise; they are perfect. Measurements are given in volumes and weights, and ever since my fifteenth birthday (when I asked for a kitchen scale) I have used the weights. The point is: obtain this book and cook from it whenever a cake is called for. I would also add that the raised waffle recipe in there pretty much sums up the difference between eating to live and living to eat. Or, the difference between not living and really living.

rome wasn't built in a day

I decided to make my favorite chocolate cake from the book, the Chocolate Fudge Cake. It is the perfect cocoa-based chocolate cake, with a wonderful crumb, a fudgy texture, and with an incredible richness from its use of brown sugar instead of white. I made the cake into two 7.5- or 8-inch square pans. After the layers were baked and cooled, I measured the height of one of the layers. Then I cut one end off of one of the layers the same width as the height measurement. (So the piece you’re cutting off is a square when viewed from the end.) This is to make the ramps. You can see this in the picture, but you want to leave an inch or two before you start cutting the ramp on a gentle slant away from that plateau. You should come out with two ramps. One goes flush with the bottom layer (frost that first and then snuggle the ramp up to it). The second ramp goes up top along the cut side of the top layer (which is the one with the piece cut off of it).

engineering

Then you just frost the whole thing! And to frost it, I used the Cake Bible Milk Chocolate Buttercream, which, not to spoil anything, has three ingredients: milk chocolate, dark bittersweet chocolate, and butter. And these three ingredients only come in two measurements. One pound or one-half pound. (We found the high level of fat in the buttercream made for an easy clean-up of the birthday boy and it simultaneously provided a nice moisturizing treatment for the hands of the three people it took to clean him.)

As for decorations, we found these fantastic candy-coated “rocks,” which are filled with chocolate, and also used chocolate-covered almonds as “boulders.” This set of trucks plus the two men to go on the cake rounded out the design, along with—wait for it—birthday candles shaped like construction cones.

busy trucks

The cake inside this masterpiece is a marvelous delight for children and adults alike. It is wonderful to have such a whimsical cake for a little boy’s birthday, but it is even better to slice into it and find that inside is a very serious cake. As much as I get caught up in the appearance of the cake with each passing year (what will it be next year—dinosaurs?), I love knowing that there is a show-stopping cake inside that will be a treat for the entire family. It’s even good with a sturdy glass of red wine! Having a baking book like the Cake Bible is like having a true friend beside you in the kitchen, reassuring you that no matter what, your nephew’s third birthday cake is going to be fantastic.

When Harry woke up from his nap, after he rubbed his eyes, he saw the cake. His face lit up and he looked at me and said, “Good job, Auntie Joy! I love it.” What, I ask you, could be sweeter than that?

scrumptious cake

5 Comments

Filed under recipes

rye drop biscuits

Oh, how I hate to go to the store in this wintry weather.

This tells you that I’m ridiculously lazy, since there is a lovely co-op only two blocks from my house. But January is a month in which I rely more than usual on my pantry, and rarely have a nice fresh loaf of bread in the house, in spite of the temptations routinely proffered by our talented neighborhood bakers. I make regular runs for aromatics (leeks, shallots, onions, garlic) and citrus (oranges, lemons, limes), but I mostly stock up at the weekly winter markets and hope for inspiration to strike each evening when I survey my kitchen in the dark hours after work.

biscuits on a tray

Often in these cases I resort to soup or beans, and the best way to provide these dishes some comfort is with a nice quick bread. Quick breads are breads leavened with baking powder or soda, rather than yeast, and include biscuits, cornbreads, soda breads, scones, and farls. Once my soup or stew is gurgling away on the simmering burner, I will often whisk together flour with a leavener or two and salt, fold in some melted butter and cream or buttermilk, and make some nice buttery breads to go with the supper. The trick to this recipe, and others in my repertoire, is one that I learned from Cooks Illustrated a long time ago: melt the butter and let it stand for a few minutes. Then pour it straight into the ice-cold buttermilk or milk. It curdles into small particles when it hits the cold liquid, which creates the same effect as cutting or rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients, but with none of the work. Perfect for someone too lazy to even walk two blocks to the co-op for a fresh loaf.

biscuit on a plate

For this batch, I used half-and-half mixed with lemon juice to sour it, which makes a rich and fluffy biscuit. You could use buttermilk for a less fatty version and omit the lemon juice. Or, you could whisk some plain nonfat yogurt into your milk or half-and-half as well. There is more than one way to skin this cat. Enjoy experimenting with it.

Rye drop biscuits

Makes 6 to 8 biscuits.

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons or 1/2 cup) of butter
  • 1 cup dark rye flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or grease lightly with butter or shortening. Melt butter gently in the microwave (at 50% power) or on top of the stove just until barely melted. (I turn it off before it melts entirely and whisk to get the remaining solid butter to melt.) Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. In a 2-cup measure, combine half-and-half with the lemon juice. Stir with a fork. It will curdle. Pour in cooled butter. Stir again with a fork.

3. Whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour in the butter mixture and use a rubber spatula to mix into a large mass. Using a metal spoon, drop mixture into 6 or 8 large, craggy biscuits on the prepared baking sheet. Pop biscuits into the oven and bake for about 15 to 16 minutes, until golden brown on top and bottom. Serve immediately, while piping hot.

3 Comments

Filed under recipes

grandma bardo’s raisin-filled cookies

In a way unmatched by any other type of food, baked goods live on in my memory. This is strange because I don’t have a sweet tooth, and will always pass up dessert if I can have something savory instead. Yet the baked goods I have had during the winter holidays hold a particularly vivid space in my consciousness. Some of the best holiday baking over the years has come from our family friend Janice, who has collected recipes from people she has known from all over the world. She has showed up at our house with Greek cookies and German ones, and cakes of all descriptions.

This recipe comes from Janice’s great-grandmother and has been kicking around our house for years. We are a raisin family, but not just in the normal way of putting raisins in an oatmeal cookie or what have you. We have family recipes for raisin pie, and make our own mincemeat, which is mostly raisins and currants. My grandmother’s applesauce cake is studded with raisins. So these cookies play to our tastes, stuffed as they are with a thick, spicy filling of ground raisins. As you can see from a comparison with the original recipe (see photo at the end of this post), I have changed it a bit, primarily by reducing the sugar in the filling. I find I like it a bit less sweet, and a lot more raisin-y, with a bit of allspice to boot.

I should add that, probably more than anything, I hate making cookies. And what I hate even more than that is rolling out and then cutting out cookies. When you could just use your spatula and one bowl to make a tea bread, or bread pudding, I can never figure why you’d want to dirty so many dishes, and make such a mess on the counter. But these cookies are worth the effort. They keep very well, but you’ll probably never get to find that out. I still clearly remember the first time I had one of these cookies. To me, a special cookie like this is the smell and taste of Christmas.

Grandma Bardo’s raisin-filled cookies

This is a half recipe, which makes 48 circle-shaped cookies, or twice as many half-moons

Cookie dough:

  • 3 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg

Filling:

  • 1/2 lb. raisins
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

1. Make filling first. Combine raisins, sugar, and boiling water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes, until raisins are plump and soft. Remove from heat and cool for 30 minutes. Then add raisin mixture to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until raisins are chopped, about 5 pulses.

2. Return mixture to saucepan. Add allspice and orange zest. Bring raisin mixture to a simmer. Meanwhile, mix cornstarch with just enough cold water to form a smooth slurry by whisking. Slowly add cornstarch mixture and stir while simmering. Simmer for about 8 to 10 minutes, until mixture is thick. Set aside to cool completely.

3. Make cookie dough. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt. In a measuring cup or pitcher, whisk together milk and egg. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients alternately with milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. (Mix in one-third of dry ingredients, then half of milk mixture, then one-third of dry ingredients, then the rest of the milk mixture, then the rest of the dry ingredients.) When last of dry ingredients is mixed in, stop mixer.

4. Scrape dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, and form dough into a disc. Wrap tightly and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line baking sheets with parchment. On a well floured counter, roll dough into a large circle. The dough should be thick enough to hold together, but thin enough to easily fold in half. Use a 2.5-inch round biscuit cutter to cut circles of dough. Place circles on baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Place 1 teaspoon raisin filling in the center of each circle. Wet your fingertip in a little water and moisten the edge of the circle, and place another round of dough on top, pressing down the edges with your fingertip. Gather up any scraps, and re-form into a disc, roll out, and continue cutting circles until you use all the dough. You probably won’t use all the filling.

6. When you have filled the trays with sandwiched cookies, use the tines of a fork to crimp the edges of the cookies. (You can also place 1/2 teaspoon filling to the side of the center of each circle, and fold the circle in half to make half-moon cookies.) Bake cookies for 10 – 12 minutes and remove immediately to a cooling rack.

Leave a Comment

Filed under recipes

rosemary + olive oil bread

Ty came back from a recent trip to Maryland with this lovely, gorgeous rosemary, and a recipe for rosemary bread from his mother. This bread is so easy to knead, in part because it is a soft and more liquid bread due to the use of olive oil. This makes it a bit sticky on the kneading board. You can divide it into two loaves (grease and line the loaf pans), but below I give directions for one large round. The dough is far too loose to rise in a round on its own. The solution I came up with was to use the ring from my springform pan, unlatched in its largest circumference, as a pen to hold the rising dough. And boy, does this dough rise–and fast!

The speed with which the dough rises makes it another weekend winner in my opinion. In total, it has about an hour less rising time than most other breads I frequently make. If you aren’t a regular bread-maker, this may be a good loaf to start with. Just remember, most recipes you try in the future won’t be this easy to mix up, or so fast to rise.

I think fresh rosemary is really key in this recipe. You could use even more than the 4 tablespoons of minced rosemary needles I call for in the recipe. Its sticky, piney flavors add a lot to the bread. Bonus: if you toast this in the morning, your house will smell just as lovely as it did when the bread was baking, all over again. I wonder this winter if I might try this in other variations, perhaps with thyme or even chives.

Rosemary + olive oil bread

1 enormous round

  • 2.5 cups warm (wrist temperature) water
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 6 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 cup olive oil plus more to grease pan
  • 2 tablespoons salt, divided
  • 4 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced

1. Place warm water in a large bread bowl and whisk in honey. Sprinkle yeast on surface of water and allow to sit for about 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon add 4 cups of flour, then oil, 1 tablespoon of salt, and rosemary. Stir until smooth and add remaining flour. Mix it as thoroughly as you can in the bowl with the spoon, then turn onto floured counter and knead for 10 to 12 minutes, vigorously, until smooth. Add small amounts of additional flour if dough is sticking to the counter. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover it with a clean towel. Let it rise for 45 to 60 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.

2. Punch risen dough down and form it into a smooth round. Line a metal baking sheet with baking parchment. While holding the ring only of a springform pan in the open position, spray it with cooking spray, or brush it well with olive oil.  Place the ring on the lined baking sheet, and then place the round of bread inside the ring. Cover it again and let it rise about 45 minutes, until doubled in bulk.

3. Preheat oven to 450 F and place a 13 x 9-inch pan filled with boiling water on the bottom rack of the oven. Place the other rack in the middle of the oven. Sprinkle the top of the loaf with remaining salt, and then place it in the oven (leave the springform ring in place) to bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Bread is cooked when it is a deep golden brown, and when the loaf is lifted off the baking sheet and the bottom of the loaf is tapped, it makes a hollow sound. Let bread cool for at least an hour before slicing.

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under recipes

apple + oat crumble

Every Wednesday and Saturday, I walk to the farmers’ market. Among my purchases this time of year is always a half-dozen or so apples. Something strange happens in the crisper of my refrigerator as late summer weeks pour over into late fall. It seems like about one apple from every trip isn’t eaten by the time the next wave comes in the door. By the end of October, my crisper looks like the land of misfit fruit. The apples are slightly shriveled, speckly, and generally neglected and miserable-looking. I would feel worse about this if it wasn’t the perfect excuse to make pie or crumble. As it is, I believe that I probably, subconsciously, buy too much fruit each week on purpose.

I started out wanting to make a recipe from SmittenKitchen, which makes a granola topping for the apples, with very little sugar. However, I have a slight intolerance for nuts and coconut, and then decided I wanted the topping to have a little more bulk and crumble. One thing led to another, and I wound up with this lovely dessert, which works equally well for breakfast with some Greek yogurt. It’s the perfect destination for your misfit apples. And it’s not too fussy, either. I cut each apple into eighths and then just cut each one-eighth wedge into two or three chunks. No delicate slicing is needed.

If you’re a big fan of the crumbly topping, you should double it. The amount below gives a nice, substantial coating to the dish, but isn’t overly dense. The other way to play it is to select a smaller pan (like an oval baking dish) and use fewer apples, but the same amount of topping. I had a good number of rag-tag apples to use up (six large ones) and so I used a 9 x 13″ pan and I thought it worked out perfectly.

Apple + oat crumble

Serves 10 to 12 in a normal family, serves 6 in my family; adapted from SmittenKitchen, so much so as to be unrecognizable

Filling:

  • 3 to 4 pounds apples, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Butter a 9 x 13″ baking pan and set side. Toss all filling ingredients together in a large bowl and pour into prepared pan.

2. Place pepitas in a dry skillet and toast over medium-high heat until pepitas turn light gold and just begin popping and dancing around the pan. In a small saucepan, melt butter and honey together over medium-low heat. Pour pepitas into a medium bowl. Add salt, oats, flour, and baking powder to the bowl and combine with a whisk. Pour in melted honey-butter mixture and use a spatula to combine well, until dough forms a mass and then breaks into chunks.

3. Crumble the topping over the filling evenly. Place in preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes. Check to be sure top is a deep brown color and apples are juicy and cooked through. If not, bake for another 5 to 10 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature.

Leave a Comment

Filed under recipes

soda farls

I feel that along with the poetry of William Butler Yeats, the soda farl may be one of the great gifts Irish civilization has given to the world. I mentioned these shortly after my return from a vacation in Ireland this summer, and I have dedicated myself to figuring out how to make these miraculous breakfast breads. They are the most pedestrian thing in the world in the northern part of Ireland where I traveled, but to an American who is always excited to have freshly baked goods for breakfast, but who is not always excited to heat up the oven or to get into a seriously complicated pas de deux with her Kitchen Aid first thing in the morning, the soda farl seems just the thing.

I was told that “farl” is a word in Gaelic that means “triangle” because these biscuits—they are, essentially, biscuits—are always cut out of a round piece of dough. This recipe makes four good-sized farls, quarters of an 8-inch round. You could double it and make two rounds, also cut into quarters, or smaller sections if you like. The basic idea here is that you take your usual Irish soda bread recipe, and instead of baking it in the oven, you pat it into biscuits that are “baked” on top of the stove. I was also told that this preparation was developed because in Ireland, most stoves were fired by coal or peat, 24 hours a day. But in the morning, when the stove was stoked up first thing, it was not an ideal time to bake inside the oven (temperatures fluctuating, and the fuel flaring up), so breakfast bread was baked on top of the oven. This may or may not be true, but sounds like a reasonable enough explanation to me. The key to cooking something this thick on top of the stove is to get the griddle nice and hot at first, but then cut back the heat right away after you place the dough in the pan. Let them cook nice and slowly, as the bottoms gently brown.

Unfortunately, my usual Irish soda bread recipe has too much sugar and is too heavy for this treatment. So here I revert to a much more typical mixture. However, I ultimately added a trick that my mom has always used in her biscuits—the addition of cream of tartar. Like buttermilk, cream of tartar is an acid (tartaric acid, to be precise) and it just makes the dough rise up a bit higher and a bit more tender. You can make these without it, just as the recipe is written. The whole point is that it’s first thing in the morning! Don’t knock yourself out. Just pull out a pot of jam and enjoy.

Soda farls

  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

1. Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in buttermilk. Using a spatula, gently mix buttermilk into dry ingredients until it produces a shaggy mixture. Be careful not to overmix; there should still be a few teaspoons of dry flour in the bottom of the bowl.

2. Lightly flour a counter and turn contents of bowl onto counter. Pull dough together and knead very lightly for five turns. Pat gently into a circle about 8 inches in diameter. Dough should be about 1 inch thick. Cut into quarters.

3. Heat a dry and well-seasoned cast-iron skillet–large enough to accommodate the farls you have cut–over medium-high until very hot. The griddle should not smoke. Reduce heat to medium-low. Take each farl and place into the pan. (Try to shake off any extra flour before placing in the pan, as the flour will burn. If it does, it is not the end of the world, however.) Cook on the first side for 10 minutes. After about 1 minute, gently nudge each farl around the pan to loosen it from the griddle. After 10 minutes, carefully and lightly flip each farl over and cook for another 10 minutes on the second side, until cooked through.

4. Remove farls from pan and serve piping hot with breakfast. Jam and butter are great, or just eat yours with eggs and bacon.

1 Comment

Filed under recipes

rose geranium sugar

When you live in a house with an herb garden—whether a modest one or an extensive enterprise—you can take this time of year for granted. All of the herbs are in full leaf, and with frequent and generous trimming, it seems like the supply might be never-ending. Perhaps the basil is fading, but the sage is really taking hold, the rosemary is flourishing, the thyme is thick and hardy.

But if you are me, and you don’t even have a yard, and the only sniff of really, truly fresh herbs you get is when your mother-in-law sends them on the train all wrapped up in your better half’s golf bag—well, you really appreciate the herbs that you can get your hands on. Last year, I met a friend at a city bus stop in order to get a giant shopping bag of fresh sage she’d hacked out of her garden at the end of the season. (It made for the best of the end-of-season herb rubs, as I dried it at 120 F in my oven for several hours and then made it last for two or three months through what can only be described as parsimonious perseverance.) Another co-worker brought me a giant bag of oregano, cut back at the end of summer and preserved (same oven-drying technique) for as long as I could stretch it out.

For certain herbs, drying in the oven isn’t quite the thing. Ty brought home a giant bag of herbs from his mother last week—including a healthy bunch of rose geranium. Drying the leaves wouldn’t do very much good, unless you planned to use this to infuse into tisane. So, some of it went into an infused simple syrup (for cocktails) and the rest went into this delightful and fragrant infused sugar. It is terrific sprinkled on berries, used in crumble topping, or stirred into iced tea. It’s the best way I know to bank some of the amazing herbal, savory, and, yes, flowery fragrance of rose geranium leaves for the winter. It seems at a shame to trap the leaves in a jar, smothering them in sugar. But I promise you’ll change your mind the first time you sprinkle it on top of sugar cookies, or a pound cake. And in the dead of winter, when your verdant herb garden is but a distant memory, you’ll be so very glad you put this sugar by.

Rose geranium sugar

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 20 to 25 rose geranium leaves

1. Select a clean pint jar (like a Ball canning jar or something similar, with a fairly wide neck). Pour 1/4 cup sugar into the bottom of the jar. Rub 3 or 4 rose geranium leaves between your hands to release their scent, and place on top of the sugar in the jar. Add another 1/4 cup sugar, and another 3 or 4 rose geranium leaves, and repeat until the jar is full, rubbing the leaves between your hands or fingers each time before adding them. Finish by completely covering any leaves with sugar.

2. Close jar and let sugar infuse for 2 weeks before using.

4 Comments

Filed under recipes