Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pecan and Currant Salt-Crusted Rye Bread

It seems a rite of passage for women to stress and fret over a thanksgiving meal. And while I cannot begin to explain the mystical voodoo that makes women want to impale themselves with the nearest turkey baster, I do know that if you have some easy recipes for simple homemade holiday treats, the rest falls into a place. But as ever candid, very comical friend Jean says, “Sheesh, it’s just dinner, it’s not like you don’t eat for the other 364 days of the year.” Tried and true recipes, loving family and friends, and grateful heart, seems to be all you need for a great Thanksgiving.

So speaking of tried and true, this recipe was a gift. Literally, my graduation from college present, and my first experience in fine dining was when a wonderful family of friends took me and my childhood buddy to the Inn at Little Washington. Due to a fortunate mishap of events, they lost our reservation and we were seated at the chef table. Little did I know, years later I would be taking culinary courses from the then Souse Chef Bonnie Moore. Nor did I realize the privilege of watching Chef Patrick O’Connel work. Nonetheless, if the spectacular meal, in the grandiose fire place kitchen with monastic hymns was not gift enough, we received an autographed copy of his recipes. In that book was this recipe for a salt-crusted Pecan and Currant Rye Bread. It is very easy and always delicious.
For the bread…
2 cups of warm water not hotter than body temperature
1 Tablespoon of dry yeast or a package is roughly equivalent
1 Tablespoon of Sugar
2 ½ cups of rye flour
3 cups of all purpose or bread flour
1 ½ Tablespoons of Caraway Seeds (plus more for crusting)
1 Tablespoon of table salt
1 cup of currants or raisins
1 cup of chopped pecans
In a mug pour together the warm water, sugar, and yeast allows proofing for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
In a separate bowl measure out all of your dry ingredients, don’t worry you will use it again. I pour it all in and use a whisk to mix up the seeds, salt, and flours.
Now into your mixer with the dough hook attached they all go mug o yeasty water and dry goods. After about two minutes and the dough forms a ball around the hook, add your pecans and currants. After another two minutes and the dough is a well incorporated ball, take a oil or cooking spray and grease the bowl you mixed all the dry ingredients. Place the dough in the greased bowl, cover with a warm damp tea towel, and allow to rest in a warm place. If you live where it is cold and your house is 60 F like mine, use this nifty trick. Take a mug, the same one you used before is fine, heat up a cup of water in the microwave. After a minute, push the mug to the back of the microwave and place in your dough. The mug and hot water will keep the microwave at about 80 F for an hour. Let your dough rise and rest for about an hour.
Pre-heat your oven to 350 F.
Shape your dough into three small loaves, and wet the top with tap water. Using your hands crust the top with more caraway seeds and your favorite salt. I used grey sal de mer, but kosher is plenty fine too.
Bake for 30 minutes on a greased cookie sheet.
There you have it delicious holiday treat with minimal effort. Serve it with any cheese, butter, or any jam or jelly you wish. I love it with cream cheese and pepper jelly.
Much love, many blessings, and happy baking and Thanksgiving! I hope you are having a blessed day of feeling full and grateful.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rasberry Cheese Cake Layered Coffee Cake

This is an easy holiday coffee cake. The recipe is wonderful for the many holiday mornings or bake-take to parties coming up. It is easy enough to be whipped up last minute, and fancy enough to be served with mimosas at brunch. Best of all the ingredients are inexpensive and usually in our pantry and fridge.
You know that as-seen-on-TV sandwich machine gadget that would heat up and toast both sides of the bread while making little pocket of melty goodness. When I was little my father used to make us hot sandwich pockets of jam and cream cheese. My sister loves these sandwiches to this day. And happy memories of this are the inspiration for this jam and cream cheese coffee cake. I took my classic sour cream coffee cake and added the always welcome accompaniments of jam and cream cheese. The streusel topping is my unabashed attempt at being luxurious around the holidays.

To make this tri-layer coffee cake:

A couple hours or the night before you make this cake take out the butter, eggs, and cream cheese so they have a chance to come up to room temperature.

When you start getting out the ingredients to make the cake and toppings, preheat your oven to 350 F. Choose what you are going to bake the cake in. I choose a 9-inc spring form pan and layered a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom. You could really use any thing you liked but this is a sticky batter so the more butter and protective layers the better.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

In your hand-dandy kitchenade mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. This is when I made my toppings. When light and fluffy, add the sourcream, egg, and vanilla. Sift together all the dry ingredients i.e. the cinnamon, flour, baking powder, and salt. (I know it doesn’t make sense but sugar is considered a wet ingredient. It is just one of those things you do because your mother said so. Kind of like how fish is considered not a meat by the Catholic Church. I just don’t get it; it’s an animal, its meat. Maybe that is just me. Ok back to the cake.) Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix for a few minutes. The batter will be very thick but creamy. Spread it in to a spring form pan, which is buttered and has a parchment paper bottom.

Streusel Cover

1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup of sugar bowl sugar
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
½ teaspoon or a good shaving of fresh nutmeg
¼ cup or ½ a stick of cold buttah (it’s like buttah)

Just throw everyone in the food processor and give it a bliz; just a couple of pulses and viola. Set aside until after the cake is ready.

Cream Cheese and Jam Topping

An 8oz package of cream cheese (softened because it was left out over night)
¼ cup sugar bowl sugar
1 large egg
A teaspoon of vanilla
½ cup of any jam (I used raspberry because that is what I had open)

Whip up all of these ingredients in your mixer of by hand. Then just pour over batter.

Bake the tri-layered confection for an hour (60 minutes) in a 350F oven. Let it cook and serve warm. In retrospect, I would have used fresh berries on top and made the streusel a little more crumbly with pecans. But according to my co-workers this is a fantastic coffee cake, so if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

As always, much love, many blessings, and happy baking.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A taste of summer mid-November

This one comes to us courtesy of my good friend Andy who celebrated her third or fourth 21st Birthday last week. In her honor this strawberry angel food cake was born.

Angel Food Cake

1 ¾ cups pasteurized egg whites, room temperature (roughly equalt to 12 large egg whites)
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 ½ teaspoons of real vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift flour, ½ cup fine sugar and salt; then sift it again, and again… until your patience runs out. Save the mixture for later use. In a very clean, dry bowl beat egg whites at medium-high speed until frothy and bubbly. When white but not yet forming stiff peaks add the vanilla and cream of tartar. Continue the beating on high until soft peaks form. The trick is to hold the beater upside down or just use a spoon as to not have to unhook and unplug your standing mixer. Once stiff, remove the bowl from the standing mixture.

Sift the flour mixture over egg whites and gently fold in with spatula. Pour the batter into an ungreased tube pan. The ones with the false bottom and little ledge on top to turn the pan upside down are the best.

Bake at 350 for 45 to 50 minutes. The top will look cracked and golden brown.

Turn the cake pan upside down on a cooling rack and allow coming to room temperature. When cool use a knife to loosen the sticky batter from the sides. Take out the false bottom and run the knife to loosen. Once you have rescued your cake and it is free decorate, ice, glaze, or simply just devour as desired.

For Andy’s cake I used a strawberry glaze, cream cheese frosting, and fresh strawberries to decorate.

I was always intimidated by angel food cake, don’t be just have the right pan and clean bowl to whip the egg whites.

As always, much love, many blessings and happy baking.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fall Veggie Soup and Onion Tart... Its a good day for lunch at home

I think the art of good simple cooking is not locked away for the elite who can afford the outrageous prices of Whole Foods, nor is it reserved for the quaint country village of Provencal France. Nope, good quality and wholesome meals are the direct result of choosing to spend a little time and keep your vegetable bin moving. These two easy recipes do just that, and are delicious.

This classic recipe for veggie soup can use any vegetable you have in your crisper drawer, especially if they are starting to lack luster. I used asparagus, broccoli, onion, and potato, because that is what I had.

Soup Ingredients
2 onions
2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
4 cups of chicken stock (vegetable, beef, what ever suits your fancy)
1 potato (peeled and cubed)
1 teaspoon of thyme dried or four springs of fresh
1 bay leaf
1 lb of whatever green or not so green veggie you have in your home or crisper.

In your favorite soup pot heat up the olive oil and slice the onions. Add the onions and cook until translucent at medium high heat. Once translucent at the garlic and cook for just less than a minute. Burning garlic leaves a terrible bitter taste, if you do, better to scrap it and start over. Add the stock, potato pieces, and the herbs. The stock and herbs are for flavor, so please feel free to invent, amend, edit, add, experiment. The potato is to thicken and provide that serotonin induced carb euphoric mental state. Allow the soup to cook covered until the potato is soft and easily pierced with a fork. Once your soup is ready through in your washed, chopped, vegetables of your choice. Allow them to cook for just a few minutes, no more than 3 minutes, then turn the heat off completely. You want to blanch them so they turn bright green and lock in all of their flavor and nutrients. Any longer and you start to denature the proteins that are so good for you. Now, my favorite part, with your handy dandy wonder wand, hand held blender, cream your soup. You can eat it with out blending, you can also use a standing blender just remember to cover with a kitchen towel and not the lid. This allows the heat to escape their by preventing you from a to scale re-enactment of an a-bomb explosion.

As a yummy accompaniment I made Pissaladiere - French Onion Tart.

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2/3 cup of warm water
1 teaspoon of brown sugar
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil

caramelized onions (2 onions, chopped, sauteed with olive oil, 1 tablespoon of honey, and a sprinkling of cumin)
Parmesan cheese

Throw together all of the dough ingredients, until it makes a sticky doughy mess. Allow it to rest in the bowl you mixed it in for 20 minutes or so. What to do? I don't know, maybe work on the soup while you wait, or mop? I always need to mop. I am affectionately refered to as the cuisine-art with no lid.

Crank your oven to 425 F

Spread out the dough on a floured board or cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. You can use a rolling pin, or your fingers, just roll it to the shape that make you happy. Using a fork or your fingers make little pockets in the bread to catch the onions and olive oil from the pan. How thick or thin you like it is really up to you. Drip over allow the sweet onions to lay on the bed dough you just rolled out. Sprinkle Parmesan or any cheese you have handy.

Bake for 10 minutes or less depending on how thick you laid the dough or how crunchy you want the bread. But check on it at the half way mark, you might not want crackers and you certainly don't want burnt.
Allow to cool and enjoy, with or without healthy veggie soup.

As always, many blessings, much love, happy baking, and happy fall

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Two less than conventional birthday cakes

There is only two rule in my house regarding birthday cakes:
1) The birthday girl or boy gets to pick their cake.
2) The birthday person gets to eat the last piece or duel the challenger in a cut throat game of Jenga.

So while, I would prefer to make the incarnation of a sugar high, in all its fondant clad glory: these birthday girls got their own choosing, and for that I am most happy for them.
Birthday Number 1: Krissy’s Apple Birthday Cake

Topping and Center

6 apples, peeled, cored, cut into wedges (any variety is fine)
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
5 tablespoons of brown sugar

2 cups of sugar
1 cup of oil
¼ cup of o.j.
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2 and ¾ cups of cake flour sifted
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
Crank your oven to 350 F
How’d you like them apples.
I always do my favorite thing first, therefore… I peeled and chopped the apples first. I think I love this process only for nostalgia. My great-grandmother, Mimi, could peal an apple with a knife in one long strip of peel. And she could do it in less a minute. My mother gave me one of those apple core-errs and slicers, and because she gave it to me, I try to use it at every opportunity. I through the corps of six apples and dusted them generously with the cinnamon sugar.
Get to the cake…
Add all the wet ingredients to your standing mixer (yes, sugar is considered a wet ingredient). Sift all your dry ingredients together, and then add to your mixer. The batter is de-lisouso!
In a tube pan, or baking receptacle of choice, spray or brush a non-stick layer. I spray Pam, it is easier. Pour in half the cake batter, cover with a layer of apples. Pour in the other half of the cake batter, and then top with the rest of the apples. Through in any yummy apple juice and cinnamon sugar left in the bowl.
Now, bake for what seems like hours, but really it is less than 2. I while I am big proponent of using whatever you have on hand to bake in, I definetly would not make this in a regular pan, this would take FOR-EV-ER to bake if it didn’t have heat coming from all sides including the center.
Top with powdered, sugar, insert candles… sing.
Cake Numero Dos: Ms. Sandra Cheery Cherry Cheese-Birthdaycake

I have to say, originally, I feared making a cheesecake for fear of the infamous curse of crack. Indeed this blemish did rear it’s ugly head, and that my dear is why you have a topping. I used a cherry, sugar, and cornstarch concoction. While, I would rather have a perfect top, the cake was super easy to make and delicious, fissure and all.

Graham Cracker Crust

1 cup of crushed graham crackers (I whizzed them in my food processor, but I see an excellent opportunity to vent some stress)
¼ cup of sugar
7 tablespoons of butter (yes, seven it is just shy of one stick)

Cheesey Sweet Goodness

12 oz cream cheese
1 cup of sugar
½ teaspoons of vanilla
3 eggs
Topping of your choosing

Crank your oven to 350 F.

Start with crust. Mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter. Press into your spring form pan, and bake for 10 minutes.

Whiz together your cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and eggs.

Pour into your pre-scorched crust, and continue baking for 45 minutes.

Some people are very fussy and double wrap their pans in foil, and lay them gently in bath of boiling water. They gently coax the in-process cheese cake out of the heat. Those people are correct, this would prevent cracking; however, I knew mine had a delicious guise called cherry topping.

Cool until room temperature, chill in the fridge until time for candles and singing.

Please enjoy these super easy very tasty recipes.

As always, much love, many blessings, happy baking, and happy birthday!

Friday, September 26, 2008

White & Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Ying and yang, Regis and Kathy Lee, some opposites were meant to be together, dark and white chocolate brought into harmony by delicious and simple cookie dough. I have never understood milk chocolate eaters, either you eat dark or you eat white. Milk chocolate, lives in a realm of ambiguity that leaves you feeling unsettled; much the same as Clay Aiken and the people that answer a question with another question. Long and short of it, if you are going to eat chocolate, eat chocolate; don’t mess about with a milk candy confection when there is good chocolate to be had.
About good chocolate, if there is a trick to good food, it is good ingredients and good tools. There is one factor in chocolate chip cookie, it is the chocolate. The reigning king is AMEDEI, PORCELANA, 70% Dark, Single Origin Chocolate Bar, but at just over $100 a pound, I dare not bake with this. High sultan of the baking kingdom is France’s Tain L'Hermitage Valhrona. At first glance you might have visions of astronomically overpriced stale chocolate from Sur La Table, instead look in your humble Trader Joe’s impulse buy candy shelves near the checkout. At under $2 a bar, how can you pass it up? Should your patriotism inspire your cooking, San Francisco has some phenomenal chocolate. Seeing that I was a young child in that great culinary epicenter, Ghirardelli will always have a place in my heart. I love their white chocolate bars that I chunk by hand, or their semisweet oversized, kiss shaped chips. This is the kind of chocolate that makes the likes of Nestle and Tollhouse, blush for shame, as they should.

Tools: Parchment Paper, get it, you need it, don’t argue… just go. You needn’t bother yourself with expensive slip mats. Slip mats are wonderful but they are for candy making, cookies and other baked confections need parchment paper. Ok, I am off my soap box. Don’t you feel sorry for my Sunday school kids? Well, don’t feel too bad, I do bake for them.

The cookie recipe itself: I must confess I have been sucked into the vacuum that is the food blogosphere, and I love many a food blog. Hi, my name is Sandy, and I am addicted to food blogging. Smitten Kitchen has wonderful recipes, out of homage to this great communiqué portico these delicious bites of heaven were made and out of my impetuousness this recipe has been slightly modified.

Now the diatribe, my great American novel, is finally complete, please try these delicious, simple, crispy-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside cookies.

The very good stuff:

½ cup of sugar bowl sugar
½ cup of brown sugar
1 stick of butter softened overnight
1 egg
1 teaspoon Tahitian Vanilla
½ teaspoon bicarb
1 and ¼ cup of all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon of sea salt
1 cup of best quality chocolate chips (no less that 65% cocoa)
4 oz bar of dark chocolate chunked (again no less that 65% cocoa)
4 oz bar of white chocolate chunked
Crank your oven to 350 F.

One at a time, in the order that it is written, throw your ingredients into your standing mixer and let her rip. I am sure that you don’t need to do them in that order; just habits are hard to break. Spoon them out on to your parchment clad baking sheets. Leave plenty of room to spread otherwise you will have a tasty blob reminiscent of B-rated sci-fi films. I heart my mini ice-cream scooper…
Bake for 7 minutes, then turn the pans 180 degrees, and bake for another 4 minutes. Rack'em up to cool.

Or don’t bake at all the cookie dough is phenomenal, a far cry from the prepackaged highly marketed cookie dough in your supermarket's refrigeration case.

As always, much love, many blessings, happy baking!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dark Chocolate and Pecan Banana Bread

I have no problems using banana bread as a chocolate and pecan delivery system especially when it is good dark chocolate. One new years, many eons ago, my best friend and I did go on a culinary quest to find the best delivery system for chocolate, and while ham is not my favorite, nothing was worse than canned salmon. And while that maltaste lingers on your tongue for a moment, in my humble opinion pecan banana bread and chocolate good, salmon and chocolate not so much.

The Goods

1 cup of sugar
2/3 cups of butter
3 ripe bananas
2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/3 cup of buttermilk
1/2 cup of toasted pecans
1/2 cup of chopped dark chocolate

Crank that "happy it is fall" oven up to 350 F

Whip the sugar and butter in your standing mixer, mash in the bananas. Through in all the other ingredients save the toppings, and let her rip. When well mixed, fold in the chocolate peices and toasted pecans.

Bake until clean, I made 4 mini loaves that took about 35 minutes. I love using parchment as paper liners. Like oversized muffin cups, they add the functional element of easy cleanup and yet are charming rustic detail.

Enjoy, or make someone's day by offering a homemade treat.

Happy baking, and many blessings!

Friday, September 19, 2008

It’s the great pumpkin muffin, Charlie Brown!

Who doesn’t love a great pumpkin muffin? This classic recipe was introduced to me by my great friend Aunty M. Who… introduced me to much both in and out of the kitchen. She was my child-hood best friend’s mom, but she was my friend too, and for that I am much obliged. This delicious bread (cake) can be made in a googleplex of renditions, cream cheese filling, dried cranberries, any nut you like, but the base is still the best.

I have to say I love grating my own spices on a micro plane, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. I get my cinnamon from a Latin store so that it is actual canella and not tree bark with cinnamon oil which is what most super markets peddle. I find the best nutmeg in the world is actually from Jamaica and the ginger… I get from my local Asian market. Is it just me or is the produce at the Asian Market out of this world. What is dragon fruit, and did you know that durian fruit is so dangerous it is classified as a weapon in Thailand. Back to pumpkins, please try this easy recipe and enjoy…

Pumpkintastic Ingredients

1 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Crank your oven to 350.

In your standing mixture throw in all the wet ingredients and let her rip. In another bowl, I use the same measuring cup I measured the flour in; add all of the dry ingredients. Add the dry concoction to the pumpkin slurry and allow the standing mixer to do the voodoo that it does so well.

Lubricate your baking vessel of choice, I used a mini bundt pan (which was a great adventure finding) and bake until a tooth pick comes out clean, about 20 minutes for a muffin tin, 30 minutes for a loaf.

Enjoy… carve a pumpkin, go for a hike, and be a kid again.

As always, many blessings, happy baking, and happy fall.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Go Blue! Sugar Cookies

All right team, we got a game to win. I want to see all of you out there sporting your game-day best, cheering at an unhealthy decibel, and supporting the gentlemen and their hearts that carry on a tradition we can be proud. Hail to the Victors!

¼ stick butter
¾ cup of sugar
1 egg
1 Tablespoon cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 and ¼ cup of flour
¼ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda

Preheat your oven… (like the Sam McGuffie is warming up right now!)

In your standing mixer (be it human or kitchen appliance) add your softened butter and sugar and whip it (like Michigan whopped the Gators at last year’s Bowl Game.) When fluffy, add the egg, cream and vanilla, and continue whopping. I added the flour, salt and baking soda all at once. Keep the party going until everything is fully incorporated but just mixed (like Rich Rodriguez’s Spread Offense).

On parchment paper or a slipmat, lay out spoonfuls of cookie batter (like Mike Martin layed out the Miami QB, so hard he lost his shoes.) Sprinkle generously with the decorating sugar colors of your choice... (ehmmm Maize and Blue are the only acceptable colors.) Bake them for 10-15 or until lightly golden on the edges (not burned to crisp like the Fighting Irish tomorrow).

Happy Baking, Much Love, and Go Blue!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Bourboun Banana Nut Bread

Everyone loves banana bread, it is the sort of mind-altering comfort food that no matter where you are be it a jungle in the Dominica Republic or the middle of an ocean on aircraft carrier instantly draws you home to your happy mother with its warm, buttery scent. Few baked goods posses this ability to ripple the space-time continuum, but while this confection is indeed a masterpiece all on it own, you can't go wrong with adding a little Bourbon.

1/2 cup butter left out over night, nice and soft
1 cup sugar-bowl sugar

2 large eggs (did you know brown eggs come from brown chickens)

2 cups all-purpose flour (sifted)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda (you know the fridge box)

1/2 teaspoon salt (shaker, don’t waste your sea salt on baking)

3 yucky over-ripe brown bananas
1 tablespoon vanilla extract2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ cup of pecans chopped

1 oz or a shot of good Virginia or Kentucky Bourbon

Crank your oven to 350 degrees F

In your handy-dandy mixer cream the butter and the sugar. When it is light and fluffy (I could eat this stuff as is) add the bananas and let them dance. Add the eggs and the vanilla, until the batter is nice and fluffy. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and the salt. Let your mixer work its voodoo until your batter is mixed, maybe a minute tops.
In the mean time, spray your loaf pan with some Pam or cooking spray. I like to lay down some parchment paper for extra insurance.

(Yes, I meant insurance, not assurance, or to ensure. However in honor of a raging democrat that is dear to my heart and Mr. Joe Biden, I will now explain. I purchased insurance to ensure that my mother was assured that her car would be taken care of.)
Pour your batter in the loaf pan, or whatever baking vessel you choose. Sprinkle the brown sugar and the pecans over the top. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let your banana bread cool… and you can eat it now if you like, it is very good. But as President Wilson said “All things come to him who waits - provided he knows what he is waiting for.” Pour about of a shot of bourbon over cooled cake in the pan, and cover with plastic wrap. Let the bourbon soak in while it chills in the fridge. Then enjoy!

As always, happy baking, much love, and many blessings.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

One Potato, Two Potatoes... Perogies

So what does an Egyptian-Cuban Cook do with too much mashed potatoes... sounds like a bad joke I know.... Perogies! No I'm not Polish, about as close to Poland I can get is licking Kelbasa.
Nonetheless, perogies, the polish potatoe stuffed pasta is an easy, delicious, hardy meal. To be honest I was surprised how quickly everything came together. And, if I were a hard working Polish Man who worked in the cold all day, this is what I would want. Even though I am hard working technical writer who works in a cold air conditioned office all day. Still, this will make a great fall or winter meal for a crowd.

To make the Dough
2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of warm water
2 tablespoons of sour cream
1 egg

In my handy-dandy kitchenade standing mixer, I threw in all the ingredients. Let it mix. It was done in about 2 minutes. Then I put it in some plastic wrap and stuck it in the fridge. While I made the filling.

Setting up the cooking station

Get a big pot of boiling water going, and have a large pan to fry up the dumplings as they are done.

Get your Filling On
About a cup of day old mashed potatoes
A handful of shredded cheese (any kind, I used cheddar)

I mixed the ingredients in the tupperware that the mashed potatoes were resting in.

Time to make-a da pasta

1) I rolled out the dough to about 1/8 of an inch think on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Really everything should be floured, you, your kitchen, your apron, it should be one beautiful white cloud puff of flour.

2)Then with an old soup can i cut out the rounds. If it is still too thick, you can roll the rounds again.

3) Fill the rounds with about 1 teaspoon of the filling.

4) Wet your fingers with water and wet the edges of each dough round so it will stick together.

5) Fold the dough rounds in half and pinch together.

6) Once all of them are done, don't be shy, just pitch them all in the boiling water and stir once so they don't stick together.

7) In about three minutes they will be done, take them out with a slotted spoon and into a hot pan with a little butter to fry up just for a minute.

8) Enjoy! I served mine with sauteed onions and some crisped up kelbasa.

There you have it Perogies in 8 steps or less. I hope you try it, its really much easier than it sounds.

As always, much love, many blessings and happy baking (or pasta making)!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Quick Apple Cherry Scones

Scones… a baking precipice I have not yet surmounted. Nonetheless, I persevere, attempting to find the ellusive great classic recipe for scones. This recipe is not it, but it is still pretty darn tooting good, even for one less enchanted with our British cousin to the muffin. Please don’t be intimidated this entire process took less than 30 minutes.

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 sticks or (1.5 cups) of chilly butter, cut in with a food processor or a pastry cutter
1 cup buttermilk (you may need a splash more if the dough is too dry)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 large Granny Smith apple
½ cup of dried cherries (soaked in hot water or the liqueur of your choice)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle

Crank your oven to 375 degrees F.
Peel, core, chop the apples (I zipped it in food processor to make them super tiny).
Soak the dried cherries in warm water or as I did, left over sherry. Remember to drain before adding.

Mix up all of the dry ingredients, it’s done in a second if you do a quick blitz food processor or you can always do it by hand. Then cut in the butter, again easier in the food processor, but sometimes I rather enjoy the nostalgic feeling of using a pastry cutter. Add the buttermilk until just mixed. Fold in the apples and the drained cherries. Then I used an ice cream scooper and muffin tin, but feel free just to drop 2 tablespoons on a greased cookie sheet.

Then brush with heavy cream and sprinkle cinnamon sugar over top.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and your home smells of morning deliciousness. Serve warm with butter or apple butter.

Voila delicious, easy, quick scones. It had to be quick I’m working on two proposals this week. But what is a week without baking, even if it is a 78-hour work-week.

Much love and happy baking… and don’t work too hard.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Peachy Peachy Peachy… Mimi’s Peach Cobbler

For my birthday this year, a very special lady thought of me while she was in Savannah. She sent me the best present a baker could hope for… a Paula Deen Autographed Cookbook with all her baking secrets from her Southern Culinary Mecca, and a “The Lady Can Cook” apron, also signed by Paula. Of all my wonderful birthday presents … those were certainly my favorite. What could be more Georgian than peaches, and what could be sweeter than cobbler; unless the recipe comes from a wonderful person you have been blessed. Cheers, to you Mimi!

4 cups peeled and sliced peaches (about 8 large peaches, or you can used the more homely canned variety, just reduce the sugar by ½)
2 cups sugar, 1 for the peaches, 1 for the batter
1/2 cup water
8 tablespoons butter, a full stick
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/2 cups milk

Crank your oven to 350 degrees. Take a large baking dish, at least 3 quarts, and place it in the oven with a stick of butter to melt. I recommend a shallow casserole Pyrex dish so that you have loads of crispy topping.

Cut your very ripe peaches in half, slip your fingers under this skin and slowly peel the fruit away from its jacket. When the fruit is naked, turn them on their belly and slice evenly. In a medium saucepan, add the peaches and cover with 1 cup of sugar and ½ cup of water with a lid over medium high heat. In ten minutes or less what started out as humble peaches will have transformed into a delectable glistening peach honey, which seems almost a shame to bake. (Even at 7 in the morning I was thinking about taking this golden concoction and making an ice cream sundae. I didn’t, I had egg whites instead … but one day.)
In the mean time, make yourself useful, and mix up in a small bowl the milk, sugar, and self-rising flour. Something so simple, but trust me it is wonderful.

Now here is the funky part, take your melted butter pan out of the oven. Cautiously and smoothly pour the batter; it will bubble in the butter. Now, add your peaches at a snail's pace with a spoon so that they are evenly laid out, and pour the syrup over top. The chemistry in this recipe was so much fun to watch the peaches sink down to the bottom as did the syrup and the bubbling batter and butter come to the top.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes and the whole house smells delicious. It is a lovely, lovely, lovely, little dish and one I am sure to make again, you should too.

Thank you, Paula, for the great recipe. Thank you, Mimi, for the wonderful cookbook. Thank you, Mama, for the dishes and teaching me how to bake. Thank you Lord, for the beautiful peaches and all the wonderful women you have put in my life.

Much love and happy baking.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Good Morning Angel

I love orange juice in the morning, I love orange angel food cake with mandarin orange whip cream and orange syrup even better. I wish I had an exciting tale of mystery and adventure to find this recipe, or maybe a heart-wrenching drama soaked story of one of my good friends. But the truth is, I worked late last night, and decided that I would bake an Angel Food cake and go for a stationary bike ride in the get-skinny-room (aka the gym) to relieve the stress. I love baking Angel Food cake, it allows you to feel very accomplished as a baker by a very unmerited means. Also, it just happens that my work out and cake clocks are roughly the same 35 minutes is about my max for both. The inspiration for the topping came from… where else… orange juice this morning.

Orange Angel Food Cake

1 3/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cake flour, sifted
1 ¼ cup of egg whites (12 eggs if you do it the old fashioned way but I bought the egg whites in a carton)
1/3 cup warm water
1 teaspoon orange extract, or extract of your choice
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

Crank it (Preheat oven) 350 degrees F. In your handy-dandy electric chopper (food processor) blitz sugar about 2 minutes until it is superfine. Divide your spun sugar in half: 1) bowl sift half of the sugar with the salt the cake flour, 2) in the other bowl save the slashed sugar to sprinkle in a minute.

In mother’s little helper (your electric mixing stand) with the large bowl and the whisk attachment on: add the egg whites, water, orange extract, and cream of tartar. Spin on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or just enough time to put everything back where it belongs. (I know no precision what so ever my analytical chemistry teacher would be horrified.) Slowly add in the reserved sugar and whip on high for a few minutes until those alpine white soft peaks are formed. This is the hard part; I have a weakness for meringue. But I was strong and I folded in the flour/sugar/salt mix. The second everything is wet, not fully mixed, just wet enough to pour, use the same spatula and pour the mixture into ungreased (no pam, no butter, nada) tube pan. You want one that the bottom comes out otherwise… cake unleashing drama later.

Immediately, put in the oven to bake for a bike ride or 35 minutes. You never want to under bake an angel food cake it ends up looking like a sad soufflé and tasting even more depressing. The top will be browned and crackled, the house will smell like a candy shop, and a tooth pick will come out clean.

Voila, your very own Angel Food Cake. Now, turn the cake upside down and let it cool there for an hour or so. I let mine stay out all night… wild thing. Then using a sharp knife cut around the edges to release.

Orange Syrup

3 cups fresh orange juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon orange extract

Pour everything save the butter and extract into a heavy bottomed pan on high heat. Let the delicious syrup-to-be come to boil and stir occasionally. After about 20 minutes or so, the flavors will concentrate and the juices reduced. Turn off the stove top and add the butter and extract. Whisk-it baby and then pour.

Mandarin Orange Whipped Cream

Couldn’t be easier take a tub of whipped topping or whip the cream yourself, add a can of drained mandarin oranges. Fold in and serve…

Deliciouso… Well, I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and maybe just maybe make something yummy for breakfast tomorrow. As always, much love and happy baking!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer Camp Cookies

As the New Kids on the Block sing summertime, I too am rejoicing this summer with ROCK’S BEACH WEEK! Sun, fun, praise and worship! Could this be more awesome?

The ROCK aka McLean Bible Church Senior High Ministry just came back from Myrtle Beach for Beach Week… Holla! It was awesome to see 375 students sing praises to the Lord and truly be changed by one week away from home. The only drawback is the ridiculously long bus ride to South Carolina. How do you fix this… “What a girl wants” and Peanut Butter with Chocolate Chip Cookies.
So this is a super easy recipe and it makes 50-60 cookies, but feel free to cut it in half if you are not feeding a bus full of beach-bound teenagers.

1 c. butter
1 c. peanut butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 beaten egg
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. flour
10 oz or a full package of chocolate chips

Crank that oven to 350 F.

This is super fast in your mixer but you can do it by hand too. Plop all your ingredients into your mixer; I threw everything including the chips. On a foil wrapped and Pam sprayed cookie sheets I used my handy dandy mini scooper to dollop out teaspoonfuls of deliciously decadent cookie batter morsels. Then with a fork I made the archetypal crisscross pattern a top.

Bake until gracefully browned about 10 minutes later, the house was infused with the scent of delicious peanut butter delights. The cookies will still be very soft but a chill out period on some wire racks will bestow the perfect consistency of slightly crisp edges and gooey centers. As the cookies cooled on racks I could already catch a glimpse of my happy hyper adolescent automobile riders… off to the beach.

Much love, happy baking, and happy beaching.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Blythe’s Honey Cake

So my great friend Blythe is taking her honey to the chapel of love in August. In celebration of her fabulousness and her soon to be nuptials all the girls got together to shower her with love and best wishes. But since we were talking about the birds and the bees what could be more appropriate then a honey bee hive cake. What makes this delightful sweet is not the cake itself, but the honey lavender glaze.

The cake:

2 sticks organic unsalted butter, left out overnight
3 cups sugar bowl sugar
1 cup sour cream (full fat, full stop)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Crank it (oven) to 325 degrees F. Pam spray (or butter for you work-harders) and flour your baking receptacle of choice and set aside. I have the cutest bee hive mold that I got Williams and Sonoma, but any cake pan will work.

In your electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until it is a light and airy consistency maybe 5 minutes on high. So as my brother says, “drive it like you stole it.” Slow the mixers down to add the indulgent amount of os sour cream, in one glorious dollop of tart cream. Add your eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Add extracts and stir to combine. Sift flour and baking soda together and add to creamed mixture. Decant the happy concoction into your prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Cool cake in pan until it is cool enough to handle, and then turn out onto a wire rack. Cakes are like hockey players, when their hot, you can’t do anything with them, so let it cool.

Honey Lavender Glaze

½ cup of sugar bowl sugar
½ cup of honey (I love that little bear)
½ cup of filtered water
1 tablespoon of edible grade lavender
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan add all the ingredients and stir until slightly thickened and all of the sugar has melted. Maybe 3-4 minutes, but not much longer otherwise you will have a caramel, which is not necessarily bad and maybe a good idea for next time. Let it cool on the stove for a few minutes and then pass through as sieve to discard the lavender petals. Pour warm over the cake to soak in.
You don’t need to be singing “How sweet it is to be loved by you” when you are making the cake, but it kind of helps. You also don’t need a friend who is getting married; I made an extra batch to bring one into the office so we could spread the love around.
Cheers to you Blythe! Congratulations, much love, much laughter, healthy children, and happily ever after.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Meg’s Birthday Cake

So last Friday night Meg's Fan Club, aka her husband and friends, toasted our birthday girl in celebration of her lastest spectacular achievement: surviving another crazy year in this mad, mad world. Here is a peak at the cake: Chocolate Buttercream Cake with Milk Chocolate and Contrieau Frosting. If you have a friend named Meg, and it is her birthday, please also make her this delicious cake (very yummy batter, very yummy frosting.) Also I encourage you to make this cake even if you have no friends named Meg and it is indeed not her birthday.
Word of caution: This recipe is gi-normous. I was afraid it wouldn’t fit in my mixer. It yields 2 very large 9 in cake layers, and 8 cupcakes. I would say feel free to ½ the recipe. Or more so… feel free to indulge.
The usual suspects:

3 1/2 cups all-purpose regular flour
2 cups good cocoa powder (apparently there is a difference in processing, so like dating, go Dutch, well atleast until you know him better)
1 tablespoon baking soda (soda, not powder, how many times…)
1/2 teaspoon free flow table salt (if you are using sea salt, add after sifting)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) good unsalted butter, at apartment temperature
1 1/3 cups regular, sugar-bowl sugar
1 1/3 cups light brown sugar, oppressed until submission into the bottom of the measuring cup
4 extra-large eggs, at kitchen temperature
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 2 cups buttermilk, at counter temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 cup brewed coffee, not hot

So first things first, before bed fish out all you need for this cake, you can choose to measure it out or not, but leave it all out, overnight, on the counter. It won’t spoil, just leave it out, the temperature difference inhibit proper combination in the mixing process. Wow, sorry, can you tell I’m a technical writer for the benjamins. What I mean, like Nike, just do it, it will make a difference in the cake tasting yummyness factor.

In the a.m. make yourself a cup-a-joe and reserve a quarter cup for the cake.

Crank the oven to 350 degrees F. Pam spray your baking vessels. I used two round 8X3in cake a pans and a cupcake mold for the leftovers.
Ok now the dry’s… dry ingredients are like men or subcontractors, they need their own special treatment, sifting, fluffing, and pampering for them to work. Take the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl, on a piece of parchment paper so you can funnel it to your mixer. I learned the parchment paper trick from Bobby Flay…ahhh, starry eyes and cartoon hearts popping over head (just kidding).

In your favorite electric mixer with paddle attachment…ahhh, starry eyes and cartoon hearts popping over head (I’m serious). On high speed, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy like an indie film cloud. Break open the eggs and vanilla and add to your creamed sugar and butter, then add in the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. Slow down your mixer and then add the flour mixture. I can not count how many times I have left it on high, and engulfed myself and my kitchen in a tsunami like wave of white powder. Let the mixer go just until everyone is acquainted, if you wait too long… the Cake Nazi says, “No rise for you, make another cake!
Pour the batter into your baking vehicles and send to the oven for a good cooking. It took mine a good hour and 20 minutes. But it is worth it. Cool it on a wire rack. I baked this before work, and iced after, so plenty of time for the frosting not to melt and do a one-cake homage to melting face in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when they open the Ark.

Now the super good stuff: the Cointreau Icing

1 bag or a full pound (16 oz.) milk chocolate
3/4 of a bag or so of hazelnut chocolate
3/4 cup egg whites, I use the pasteurized version, but 4 egg whites from the more natural shelled persuasion should do you choose
1 1/2 cups sugar-bowl sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon table free-flow salt
3 sticks of good quality unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 teaspoons instant coffee, Taster’s Choice, whatever…
3 tablespoons Cointreau

This is a 3 step process: 1) melt chocolate, 2) make meringue, 3) take chocolate, meringue, and butter to make buttercream.

1) This is a lot of chocolate, and while normally I big proponent of the microwave method, I made double boiler with a metal bowl and a pot of boiling water, because of the shear amount. Chop the chocolates and add to your improvised double boiler. Stir deliciousness until almost completely melted and set aside to cool. Leave the water pan to simmer.

2) In another heat proof bowl, this time I used the mixing bowl of my kitchenade. Mix the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl, and whisk. Place over your simmering water, (I love double duty), and let it heat up until sugar melts into the liquid. The concoction will turn a light white, continue to mix, touching the sugar goo every few seconds. In about 3 minutes, or when the good is warm to the finger tip, put back on your electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip it into high gear for 5 minutes, or until the meringue is cool and holds a stiff peak. I like to take this opportunity to dance around the kitchen to Devo’s Whip It.

3) Slow down the party and take your mixture to medium speed. Add the butter, a tablespoon or so at a time. You will have to scrape down the bowl, to fully incorporate. Add the melted chocolate, vanilla, espresso, and Cointreau. I was icing a lot of cake, so I let the mixer beat air into the buttercream for about 5 minutes. But please stop when your frosting has reached your desired consistency.

Also, ancient Sandy trick to frosting: Sandy say, “If runny, you must add powdered sugar. If too thick, you must add water. No recipe can tell how much, only finger.”

Happy Birthday Meg! Cheers to you my wonderful friend. I am grateful that Providence saw to bless me with such a good, fun, funny, and kind friend. I hope you get your birthday wish!

To all of you, much love, Happy Birthday, and happy baking.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Apple Pie/Cake Identity Crisis

It’s an Apple Pie; it’s a Coffee Cake; it is breakfast/dessert in identity crisis. Nonetheless, me with my morbid sense of humor, thinks that it is delicious either way. If you yearning for an apple pie but don’t have the time or the inclination to mess about with a finicky pie crust, please enjoy. Plus you gotta love a recipe that requires a wooden spoon.

2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cap full vanilla extract (I am sorely saddened by recent purchase of Tahitian vanilla if given the choice, I would go for best quality pure bourbon vanilla extract. Unlike pearls and coffee, I think this one thing my beautiful fellow-Americans cannot do as well as us Continentals)
3/4 cup regular sugar-bowl sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (powder not soda)
½ a stick of ground cinnamon taking a slim down via the microplane
a good run of nutmeg along the microplane
1/4 teaspoon salt (be careful, too much salt is dreadful, I still have nightmares about a ruined soda bread)
2 to 3 pounds of gala apples before cleaning
a good sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar for the top

Crank your oven 375 F, and Pam spray or butter your baking vehicle of choice. I used a 10-inch tart pan but pie plate would make a lovely presentation also.

Peal, core, and slice your apples and put them in a bowl of water with half a lemon or a vitamin C tablet so they don’t oxidize. It doesn’t really matter, because you are going to bake them anyway, but I do this more out of habit then necessity. Also after the water has guarded your apples, and they are safely baking in your cake; you can microwave the bowl of lemon water on high for 2 minutes and with a paper towel, viola clean microwave. Waste not, want not: as my mother so aptly taught me.

In your mixer or just a plain ol’ bowl, add the rest of the ingredients all at once until well combined. Remove the bowl from the mixing stand, and get out your favorite wooden spoon. Take your apples and pat dry, or if you didn’t let them go for a swim just, throw them in. Coat the apples with batter. The batter is more apple the cake mix, as is the cake, so no worries.

Spread your batter into your prepared dish, until you have an almost even surface. The batter tastes lovely by the way. Now with great wild abandon sprinkle a few tablespoons of cinnamon sugar according to your taste. My iPod was on my classical playlist at the time, so mine was a little more reserved. However, if I was playing Pour Some Sugar on Me, I am sure we would have had a sweeter and darker crust.

Bake for 30 minutes or so until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the apples are soft.

This is truly an easy, fast, and delicious coffee cake. Please make it and bring it in to your office. Mine loved it.

As always, much love, many blessings, and happy baking.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Instant Brunch Classic... Orange Muffins filled with Strawberry Mascarpone

What do you get when you make a fluffy and delicious orange muffin and fill with strawberry mascarpone filling? Instant brunch classic! This is my way of making sure I will always have a place to brunch on Saturdays. Just kidding, but they are truly fabulous muffins and so much easier than you think. But like many things in life the key to good muffins is making sure to leave it out on the counter overnight... just kidding. The key to good muffins is planning, so the night before or a few hours before take everything out and let it come to the same temperature. Don’t worry nothing will spoil in 6 hours, how do you think they lived before chill boxes?

For the muffin… or the strawberry mascarpone delivery vehicle let's be honest

2 cups all-purpose flour (self-rising, no problem just don’t use in the extra baking powder)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon fine table salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, nice and soft

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus up to 1 tablespoon for topping the muffins

1/2 an orange’s freshly squeezed juices
1 teaspoon of pure orange extract (inexpensive and so worth it)
2 large eggs, at room temperature 1/2 cup milk (I use whole milk, cooking for others allows me to cook like a rock star… full fat, here I come, I don’t eat, just enjoy others)

Crank the oven to 375 F.

Spray or butter brush a 12-muffin tin.

Mix all the dry ingredients in separate bowl, or sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and let it hang out while you take care of the wets.
In my beloved Kitchenade, with the paddle or I creamed the butter, orange zest, and 2/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. I separated the eggs, whipped the whites and add the yolks, one at a time, until fully mixed. Then I gently folded the whites into the rest of the mixture to keep everything nice and fluffy. But you don’t have to do any of that really, just throw it all in, it will turn out fine, I promise.

Now comes the muffin mamba…ready.
1 part wet, meets 1 part dry… and mix… cha cha cha
Mix with half the milk and … and mix… cha cha cha
2 parts wet, meets 2 parts dry… and mix… cha cha cha
Mix with the rest of milk and … and mix… cha cha cha

So you don’t really have to do this but if you have some J. Lo or Cuba Joe handy it’s a lot of fun. Like I said, just throw it all in, it will bake up just fine.
Pour into your tin, I like to use liners, but bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool your muffins in the on a rack.

Strawberry mascarpone filling… yum.

While they are cooling, make the strawberry mascarpone this more a matter of taste then a recipe so please don’t be annoyed at my imprecision.

A hand full of berries cleaned and quartered
An entire container (8 oz.) of mascarpone cheese
½ cup of powdered sugar
A few swirls with honey

Add all of these yummies into food processor and send it for a blitz until full combined. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag with a sharp metal tip, I used a star shaped one but it didn’t matter. Push the tip into the muffin and squeeze until you feel or see the muffin grow with the filling. (Sounds kind of naughty… sorry mom) These will be funny for Halloween… alien muffins… ahhhh. Ok, I’m done. Then repeat… until all your muffins are filled. (he he he, still sounds kind of dirty.)

But they are awesome, please try them and feel free to get creative with the fillings and the flavors, I know I will. I hear I have switched some orange muffin haters… to lovers. Why you gotta be hater… when there is so much to love?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Kathleen Strawberries and Cream Pie

I have never liked the colloquialism “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” This trite insensitive statement has almost a patronizing effect, more so than a comforting one. Lemonade isn’t comforting; it doesn’t soothe you or make your belly feel nice and full. If someone is sad, do you hand them lemonade? Of course not, you might offer hot cocoa or a margarita, but lemonade not so much. So for my dear friend, who someone has spitefully spoiled her milk, I say, “When you have buttermilk, make strawberry pie.”

Before you minimize this screen and never return to my humble blog posting, let me tell you two things. 1) Buttermilk isn’t spoiled milk, it is cultured, you know artsy stuff. Just kidding, it is processed much like yogurt. 2) Oh, and for a custard this is a crazy easy pie, no whipping, separating, sifting. Just throw it all in, let take twirl and pour it out.

This Southern signature desert is a combination of a velvety pale yellow cream that is sweet but tart, a crunchy graham cracker crust, and I, just to be extravagant, unapologetically topple over dozens of sweet ripe strawberry slices besprinkled with powdered sugar. If you’re curious, I would call buttermilk custard the uglier and poorer, but friendlier, cousin of crème brulee minus the brulee. And might I add, the buttermilk, brown sugar, and the nutmeg belong together like the Motown Trio. “How sweet it is to be loved by you.”
Preheat your oven 375 F.

Billy Graham Cracker Crust

8 large graham crackers, I like the sugar and cinnamon ones
¼ cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
¼ cup of melted butter (that’s half a stick)
So yes you could blitz this in your food processor but I find it to be much more stress relieving to place the cookies in a ziptop bag and have it with a rolling pin, channel your inner heavy metal guitarist. Should you need some therapeutic incentive, please feel free to write your ex-boy/girlfriends name on the bag. Not that I have ever done that. Once the crackers are sufficiently pullverized add in the other ingredients to your food processor or your rehabilitation ziptop bag. Squig around a bit until you have the consistency of wet sand. (I can't wait to make this with my children. Not that I have children, and not that I am close to marriage, nonethess if you have children, please enjoy this process with them.) Press with your fingers into a pie or tart pan and throw into your hot 375 oven for 10 minutes.

Buttermilk Custard Center

2/3 cup of brown sugar
3 tablespoons of all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon of salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla
A good sprinkle of nutmeg freshly grated. The old recipe I had said an eighth of a teaspoon but I don’t measure nutmeg from the grater. Just run the aromatic bead against a micro plane for a few seconds.
1 tablespoon of melted butter
1 and ½ cup of buttermilk

Just measure and add all the ingredients in at once, no magical incantation or waiting for eggs to be fully incorporated. Mix until well combined, and pour into your pie shell. This recipe is much like people, a gestalt, what goes into the mixer as meek and modest ingredients lusciously billows out as a golden elixir that perfectly fills your freshly made crust. (Store bought is fine. To me, pie crust is like prayer, sure you can use one already fabricated by a person far far away but why when you can compose one from the heart.) Pop into the oven for 30 minutes at 350 F. Pull out the gilded cream when it is set but still a little wobbly, it is not a cake, it’s a custard.
Dress-up Time

Let the cream cool, and cut up some strawberries as you like. This is a matter of taste, there are some days when I absolutely refuse arrange anything out of principle, but as you like: strewn or arrange your strawberries and dust well with powdered sugar. The sugar will add a wonderful sweetness to pie as well as provide a beautiful glaze. Stawberry juice and sugar, nuff said.
Enjoy, the sooner the better.

The next time your friend is sad, please share with them this pie. I hope that you both have a happy day because of it.

Much love Kathleen, you’re awesome.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A little bit of sunshine for a rainy day... Lime Strawberry Muffins

So If I believed in the ancient Greek gods, I would guess Poseidon and Zephyr were pissed. This has been the most bizarre weather week I have ever seen for Alexandria. On Tuesday there was an earthquake and yesterday tornadoes. And it is true between the freakish nature tantrums and the torrential down pour; the dreary weather could soak down your spirits and sop up your heart. Nonetheless, with a happy tune and yummy treats all is well. To bring back a little bit of sunshine I adapted a recipe from Nigella's Lemon Raspberry Muffins to be a little more summer friendly. It is super fast and super easy, and your reward fresh, hot, sweet but not too sweet, summery, golden, muffins. Please enjoy and remember to smile...

Lime Strawberry Muffins

1 1/3 cup of flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 cup of sugar
zest and juice of 1 lime
just shy of 1 cup of milk
1/2 cup of mushed up strawberries
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of butter
1 egg

Crank up that ol' oven 400. Line your muffin tin muffin cups, I also like to spray with some non-stick cooking spray the muffin tops don't stick to the tin.

Pop the butter in the microwave and nuke it until melts. Leave it in there while it cools a bit.

In a largish bowl whist together all the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and the zest of the lime.

In a measuring cup with juice your lime, and fill with milk the rest of the way to the 1 cup mark. Add your strawberries and mash until feeling fully relieved of all upper back tension (to your discretion.)

In the bowl you melted the butter in add 1 egg and beat until combined.

Whisk the dry ingredients to aerate, quickly add the wet ingredients at once. You have to work quickly here just barely mix the ingredients until slightly damp but well combined. Spoon into the muffin cups (I use a ice cream scooper that makes perfectly rounded half moons and deposits them with a flick of a finger and the greatest of ease.)

Place in a hot oven for 15-20 minutes or until they are golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

Please enjoy your little bit of golden summer, much love, and happy baking.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Birthday Girl's Almond and Orange Pound Cake smothered with White Chocolate Frosting

Go, go, go, go

Go, go, go shawty

It's your birthday

We gon' party like it's yo birthday

We gon' eat cake like it's your birthday

So lucky me, I get to make a couple of birthday cakes, but this one is for the office. So we will call it a pre-birthday practice cake. So muse with me for a minute Almond and Orange Pound Cake smothered with White Chocolate Frosting, with Raspberry and Dark Chocolate and Almond Garnish.

You can make it too because “We don’t give a fudge it’s not your birthday.” Mom, don’t cringe it is just a joke. :)

For the decadent happy girl birthday-cake:

2 sticks organic unsalted butter, left out overnight

3 cups sugar bowl sugar

1 cup sour cream (full fat, full stop)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

6 eggs (I know, right as my good friend Meg would say)

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Now as Black Eyed Peas Says Pump It (oven) to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour your baking receptacle of choice and set aside.

In your electric mixer (Andy notice how I didn't call it sexy, although mine is), cream butter and sugar together until it is a light and airy consistency. You know the kind that you can’t stop licking. I used to keep the mixer on low, but I found the more faster the more better. So as my brother says, “drive it like you stole it.” Then hit the brakes and slow the mixers, add sour cream, in one glorious dollop of whitey-goodness. Add your eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Add extracts and stir to combine. Sift flour and baking soda together. Add to creamed mixture. Goo-goog the happy concoction into your prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Cool cake in pan until it is cool enough to handle, and then turn out onto a wire rack. Bench it until is completely cooled before frosting.

Yummyness, Frosting by any other name would still be so sweet.

6 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped

1 3/4 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup milk

4 ounces (8 tablespoons) butter

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

In a microwave safe bowl, add chopped chocolate. Now pulse your microwave, and by that I mean, heat for 30 seconds, stir, then put back in and heat for 30 seconds. When all the chocolate is melted but not quite yet smooth stir and let the residual heat melt the small bits the rest of the way. Don’t use white chocolate chips, they have stabilizers and pesky preservatives that mess with the melting and cooling process. In your electric mixer: beat up the milk and powdered sugar until the mixture is smooth. Little by little add butter, vanilla extract, and salt and continue to beat up until smooth and shiny.

With a rubber spatula, stir in the cooled white chocolate. (Side note, my little sister thinks that rubber spatulas are the neatest thing since they put the pocket in pita. For some reason she thinks they clean things better than a dishwasher. When she grows up there will be no sponges or soap in her kitchen sink, only lots of rubber spatulas) Finally, your sad, beaten-up, melted, yet delicious white chocolate frosting needs to chill for about 30 minutes in the refrige.

Spread goodness around a cooled cake and then you can lick the spoon. But only after you are done frosting the cake that other people will eat. You will notice, saliva, not on the ingredient list.

Then please wash the bowl, the whisk, the spoon, and even the blessed Rubber Spatula, with hot water and soap. (Shout out to the monkey.)

Much love, happy baking, and happy birthday, whenever yours is!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bad Subcontractor Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

So you had a bad day, so the song says, and says, and says. Am I the only one that doesn't understand why Daniel Powter keeps bringing it up. Oh well, sometimes, taxes get you down, or bad a hair day, or you use the wrong font in a proposal. Sometimes, you are just bummed. An even more rare, sometimes, your subcontractor orders equipment he shouldn't.

An ol' fashioned remedy to make a bad day go away... oatmeal raisin cookies. So here they are

Bad day, go away, ol' fashioned oatmeal cookies

Dry Goods

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt


  • 1 cup of best butter

  • 1 heeping cup packed light-brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup honey or golden syrup

  • 2 large fresh eggs

  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


  • 3 cups Quaker Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats (you know the smiley ol' guy, doesn't that commercial with the big plastic Quaker just freak you out.)

  • 1 cup raisins (plumped up in hot water… or rum if your are feeling frisky)

  1. Crank up ol’ Bessy and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper

  2. Sift together all the dry ingredients: flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt.

  3. Put the butter, sugar, and honey in the bowl of your mixer with the paddle.

  4. Beat at medium speed until the newly formed goodness is light and fluffy. It takes about 5 minutes, I ironed my shirt for work, but let it butter and the sugar form this light as a cloud, melt in your mouth, decadent pudding like substance.

  5. Add the eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla.

  6. Now, whip it, whip it good.

  7. Ok, enough fun. Put the mixer on low, and slowly add the dry ingredients.

  8. Stir in oats and plumped raisins. Actually you could probably choose any dried fruit you like, I bet apricots would be awesome, cherries, craisins, anything would do as long as you like it.

  9. Drop about a tablespoon of dough on the baking sheets. Leave plenty of room to spread.

  10. Bake until golden, about 10 to 12 minutes.

  11. Take the baking sheets out and don’t touch them. They need to cool or they will fall apart.

Now, like I said this is an old fashioned recipe and it is very chewy and very oatmealy… (oatmealy, nice word). Stay tuned for a more high-octane cakey cookie with some amped up flavors… I’m thinking sea salt and apricots soaked in rum.

Happy baking, much love, and I hope your day gets better.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Mama's Brown Sugar and Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Come over here and give mama some suga... brown sugar.

Can you blame me, a girl needs a little suga. So while contemplating of deliciousness to bake up for the office, I came across a Zingerman's Gourmet Food Catalogue.

Tangent about my love affair with Zingerman's: Which by the way, if you are ever blessed enough to pass through Ann Arbor, MI, or incredibly blessed enough to live there you know what I mean. Delectables from every corner and nook in the world, a phenomenal bakery that rivals those of Europe and a deli with so much meat it would make Jewish butcher blush. Their Colossal Rubens on Marbled Rye... nuff said. Don't get me wrong University of Michigan maybe the best educational institution in the world, the football games at the Big House, awesome. But I would move their for Zingerman's, alone.

OK I'm back from my mental vacation... Yes, sour cream cake came to mind but what is in a cake without sugar? So this is what the gnomes in my kitchen decided on:

For the cake:

1 stick plus 2 teaspoons butter
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar (i always buy in small quantities and open a new box)
2 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pour salt (not sea salt)
1 cup sour cream (full fat, none of this fancying about with skim milk bit)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (leave the imitation's for desperate house wives)

For the crumble middle and topping:

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Use a cooking spray to slick up a bunt pan or i am sure any oven-proof dish will do.

In my red hot, oh so sexy Kitchenade, aka my love, with the beater attachment: cream together the butter ("its so creamy its like butta") and brown sugar until light and airy. Add the eggs 1 at a time. Add the sour cream and vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Then add the flour. Finally just as everything is coming together, add the baking powder. Pour about half the batter into the prepared baking dish of choice, spreading out to the edges of the creamy goodness.

In a separate bowl make the cinnamon and brown sugar topping, mix with a fork the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter, and mix until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle about half of the topping over the cake.

Then add the other half of the batter spreading with a spoonula to cover. Sprinkle all of the left over topping. And put the whole pan of sweet bliss in the oven. (Now you can lick the spoon, this batter, well lets just say i didn't want to bake it.)

Bake until golden brown and set, 35 to 40 minutes. Use the toothpick trick to make sure its done. Take the tasty cake out of the oven and let it cool on wire rack.

There you have it, a happy set of tribal leaders at the office and a day of peace and quiet for writing.

Much love and happy baking.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Guiness Pint-cake with Irish Whipped Cream

Top of the Morning to you! I hope you had a nice St. Patrick's Day. To celebrate my friends and I had a wonderful Irish meal with some great Irish Cheddars, Soda Bread, Corned Beef and Cabbage and to top it all off... a Guinness Cupcake with Irish Whipped Cream. This was an awesome cake definitely the hit of the party.

For the cupcakes you need to set out:
1 pint (2 cups) of stout (such as Guinness or an Oatmeal Stout)
2 cups (4 sticks) best quality butter
4 cups sugar-bowl sugar1
1/2 cups cocoa powder (Valhrona is the best)
4 large eggs
4 cups all purpose flour (sifted)
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/3 cups sour cream

To make the icing you need
1 cups whipping cream
1 shot (1 ounce) of Irish cream liquor
2 Tablespoons of powdered sugar (XXX sugar)

Crank up old Bessy (my oven) up to 350 degrees F.

So I think the key to good cakes, is to keep your butter and eggs at room temperature, keep your cream cold, cream your sugar and butter first, and always sift your dry ingredients.

So here we go. In my love (my Kitchenade free standing mixer) I creamed the sugar and the butter. I added the cocoa and the eggs until the consistency was creamy. Sift all the dry ingredients together. Add the dry ingredients and then finally add the sour cream and the stout. Be careful that the stout doesn't bubble up over. Mix until well combined... go ahead you can taste it as long as you are using fresh eggs. :) I won't tell.

This made 24 cupcakes, baked in a lined muffin tin for 22 minutes. Every oven is different so wait until a toothpick came out clean.

But, while you are waiting: stash the cream in the deep freeze for a few minutes. Whip it up to soft peaks and fold in the Irish cream and sugar. I highly reccomend singing the Devo Whip It Song. It helps.

When they were completely cooled. I iced with the cream. You definetly want to wait until its cold otherwise your beautiful whipped cream will become a delicious puddle.

Please enjoy these cakes, I know we did.

Much love and happy baking.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Midnight Heart-Ache Chocolate Cake

So like all women, I get my heart broken for various reasons. Missing people, missing phone calls, acting foolish, it doesn't really matter. Unlike all women, eating ice cream doesn't do it for me. Don't get me wrong I love to make ice cream, but I prefer to bake away my tears and then give away my treats. There is something very comforting about giving away love to heal your own heart.

So here we go ... just me and lovely Valhrona.

1 cup sugar-bowl sugar
1 cup dark baby brown sugar
1 cup butter (leave this out on the counter for an hour or so to really soften up)
3 eggs (i love fresh eggs bright orange middles, who knows how old the grocery store ones are anyway)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (i like my vanilla like i like my drinks, the Bourbon kind)
0.33 cup pureed peeled tomatoes (just trust me on this one)
1.5 cups of sexy dark rich cocoa powder
2.5 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
0.5 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups buttermilk (the rising action is a what i call a double soda bread combo, we have the yeast like rising power of the buttermilk and the baking soda, as well as mommy's little helper, baking powder.)

Crank up your oven to 350 degrees.

In your little lovely kitchenade mixer, add both sugars and butter until light and creamy. Add in the eggs, vanilla, and tomatoes. With your handy dandy parchment sift together the cocoa, cake flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Now, we are going to call this next move the buttermilk cha cha, while the mixer is on low, alternate between adding half butter milk and half of the cocoa mixture.

In your baking vessel of choice, rub down the insides with butter. Instead of using flour to dust the bottom, use cocoa powder. I used a 9 inch spring form so it took about 30 minutes, but please double check yours. Every oven is different. You know use the toothpick trick, if it comes out clean in the center, its done. Completely cool and decorate as desired.

Happy baking, hope this makes your heart happy.

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