Monday, February 13, 2017

A Little Sweetness

Another Valentine's Day has arrived with all its heralds of the holiday...chocolates, roses, hearts, red and pink for miles.  I'm bringing you something sweet with jammy and buttery goodness.  Keep this in mind for a birthday, a dinner party, weekend brunch, or yes, even Valentine's day.

The lastest issue of the King Arthur Flour catalog was in my mailbox a few weeks ago and in it was their recipe for pound cake.  When was the last time you had pound cake?  I remember an Entenmann's pound cake was frequently in the house when I was growing up.  Rich with butter, it was perfect either topped with strawberries and whipped cream or just on its own, where you could savor the simplicity of it.

I kept thinking about that recipe and after I found a set of little heart cake pans while out shopping one day, I knew that was the impetus needed to finally bake that cake.  Of course, I had to add a little of me to the cake and decided that making a filled cake would be the way to go.  The great thing is that you can easily use a store bought jam, or take the extra few minutes and make your own.

King Arthur Flour Original Pound Cake Recipe

Quick Strawberry Preserves
Makes about a cup

1-2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 cup sugar
Juice of a quarter lemon
1/4 cup water

Put all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a low boil.  Once the mixture boils, lower the heat and allow to simmer until the fruit begins to break down.  Feel free to help the process by crushing the fruit with a wooden spoon.  When the mixtures has reduced by half, turn off the heat and allow to cool.  It will thicken slightly as it cools.  

For the cake:

You can make a classic loaf cake or a single 9-inch layer (maybe even a heart shaped layer).  Slice the cake in half and spread a fairly thick layer of jam/preserves on the bottom half, gently replacing the top.  Dust with confectioners' sugar or even a layer of whipped cream.  This cake also gets better if you let the preserves seep into the cake, kind of like a jelly donut.  








Sunday, January 8, 2017

Here We Are.

A week into 2017.  A new year.  A year of possibilities, clean slates, and brighter days. A year of uncertainty, fragile emotions, opportunities for change. Once again...I have no resolutions made, just the desire to change bad habits into smarter life choices.  Happy to be finished with the holidays and too many days laden with sweets and more sugar than I knew what to do with.  But...truth be told, I'm kicking this year off with a little sweetness, but not so overtly that it will give you a sugar headache.

I've been toying with the idea of giving up sugar, trying a Whole 30 kind of clean-eating deal, and giving up coffee...but honestly, it's just not gonna happen.  Like I said...it's a time for smarter life choices.  Moderation.  Focusing.  Being more aware of my actions.  I've made the same promises to myself for the past few years and find myself in the same place.  And deeply unsatisfied and unhappy.  At some point over the past couple of months, I realized that I was eating to fill myself up, but it wasn't just the physical hunger I was trying to satisfy.

No, this isn't a counseling session, but it is me putting it out to the universe that the choices will be different this year.  The wherewithal to move forward, continually, expect to stumble, and embrace those stumbles and mis-steps instead of getting discouraged and giving up.

So...I keep the sweetness in my life.  And I share this one with you.  

Sweet Onion and Apple Jam

1 large Vidalia or Sweet Maui onion, sliced thin (about 2 cups)

3 medium apples, peeled and grated (large hole on box grater, about 2-2 1/2 cups)

2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger

1 cup light brown sugar

1 cup water

juice of half a small lemon, preferably Meyer

Slice the onion as thin as you can and put into a medium saucepan along with the grated apples, ginger, brown sugar, water, and lemon juice.  Mix thoroughly and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Let boil for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Lower temperture and let simmer until mixture reduces.  Be sure to stir so it doesn't stick.  Refrigerate to keep for about a week.  Notes:  I used Golden Delicious apples, but feel free to use whatever you like or have on hand.  Powdered ginger would work fine if it's what you have, but to me, nothing beats that zing of fresh ginger.

I made this as an accompaniment for a good cheddar on crackers (my mind is still in holiday party mode), but as you see below, this is pretty fabulous on a bagel and cream cheese.  I'd try it on roasted chicken or pork (another suggestion), and it would probably make a great layer in a sandwich.



Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Autumn Tease

Autum is my favorite season and one of the things I miss most about living back East.  Leaves changing, that first true chill in the air, a chunky sweater, and the beginning of the baking season that runs through the holidays. In Los Angeles, Fall seems to kick off more times than not by waves of 90 degree plus days.  Not the best way to kick off the season.  We had a reprieve from the heatwave, so I took advantage of the cooler temps and turned on the oven to bake these scones.  Apples scream Autumn and the scones did not disappoint, especially warm out of the oven with butter.


Apple Cinnamon Scones
Adapted from the 'Simple Scones Recipe' from King Arthur Flour
Makes 10-12


2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) cold butter
2 cups minced apples (I used Honeycrisps)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/ 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons heavy cream, for brushing scones, optional
cinnamon sugar, optional

Preheat oven 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.  After mincing apples, put in a small bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice.  Add cinnamon and stir to coat apple bits thoroughly.  

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Cut in  butter until the mixture is crumbly. Mix in apples. Whisk eggs, extract, and milk together in large measuring cup or small bowl.  Gradually add the liquid mixture to the dry, mixing thoroughly until there's enough liquid to incorporate all the dry ingredients. 

Using your hands or a tablespoon, drop mixture onto cookie sheet.  Dust hands with extra flour to keep mixture from sticking to hands.  I made mine about 2 1/2 to 3 inches wide, about an inch and a half high.  Place about an inch and a half apart on baking sheet.  

Brush tops of scones with heavy cream and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let sit for about 5 minutes.  Serve with butter while still warm.



Sunday, May 8, 2016

Just Because...

There are days when you want to bake a cake.  Not because there's a birthday to celebrate, a dinner party to bring dessert to, a cocktail party that needs a sweet ending...but just because.  Just because you feel like cake, but not a fussy cake.  No buttercream, 7-minute, or Swiss meringue frosting needed.  No need to use any appliance more modern than a wooden spoon to mix the batter.  The kind of cake that is perfectly acceptable as breakfast, is close to perfect with a cup of tea in the afternoon, satifies that craving for something sweet before bed.

Also...apologies for the radio silence.  I'm looking to get back to regular postings even though I have taken it upon myself to foster more kittens this Spring.  My hands overfloweth with little balls of adorable fur.

In the meantime, make this cake.  Please.


Raspberry Yogurt Cake
Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe
Makes one 8-inch round cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup raspberry preserves or jam
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used low-fat)
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
10x sugar for dusting
Butter and flour for greasing cake pan

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour an 8-inch cake pan (I also like to line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper), and in a small bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a large bowl, mix the wet ingredients well with a whisk.  Gradually add the flour mixture until combined, but don't over-mix.  Electric/stand mixer not necessary, a wooden spoon will work just fine.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes.  Let cool for a few minutes in the cake pan before turning out onto a cooling rack.  Dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.




Saturday, February 13, 2016

Fancy Dunkaroos

What happens when you hand your friend a jar of Meyer lemon curd and a bag of candied orange biscotti?  You're asked if you've just given her fancy Dunkaroos.  Admittedly, Wikipedia educated me on what Dunkaroos are.  I don't remember the cookies you dip in a little tub of icing, but if you want to dunk biscotti into lemon curd and call them Dunkaroos, who am I to stop you?

First, treat yourself to candied orange slices.  Super easy to make and a sweet treat for your Valentine's Day love (hint hint).  You could make them this afternoon and they'll be ready for gift-giving tomorrow.  You could even go all out and dip them halfway in melted chocolate.

I don't know how many posts I've written on biscotti, but in my eyes, biscotti never gets old.  How could I refrain from mixing the two together?  Know what else you can dunk your biscotti in?  Ice cream.  I wouldn't stop you.

Candied Orange Slices
Makes about 12

2 oranges or tangerines (sliced a thin as you can)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Caster/superfine sugar for dusting

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the water and sugar, stirring until the sugar melts.  When sugar has melted, lower heat and add 3 or 4 slices of orange to the syrup.  Let slices simmer for 2-3 minutes then flip and do the same for the other side.  

Remove from syrup and lay on parchment lined cookie sheet to cool and dry.  Let dry for about 6-8 hours and dip in caster sugar.  

[Don't forget to save the syrup.  It will come in handy for cocktails.]


Candied Orange Biscotti
Makes about 30 cookies

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon bergamot extract
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup candied orange slices, chopped small
1 tbsp cornstarch

Pre-heat oven to 350° and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  In a small bowl, mix the candied orange with the cornstarch to coat.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, add the eggs and sugar and beat for about 3 minutes.  Add extract and mix well.  Gradually add flour and baking powder incorporating wet and dry ingredients.  Mix in candied orange.

This is a soft, sticky dough, and I highly suggest wetting your hands before handling the dough to prevent sticking.  Form dough into two logs on baking sheet, at least 2-3 inches apart.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until bottoms turn golden.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes.  Lower heat to 325°, slice logs into 1/2 inch cookies, laying cookies back on cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes.  Turn cookies over and bake for an additional 12 minutes.  

Remove and let cool.  

[You can easily swap out orange or vanilla extract for the bergamot.]









Thursday, December 24, 2015

Vintage Holidays

I decided that since I have four kittens in the house this year that I would be crazy to put a Christmas tree up.  Even if it is an artifical tree, I wasn't sure I wanted to wake up every morning/come home from work every evening/run a few errands and come home to 1) ornaments rolling across the floor; 2) kittens balanced on branches; 3) the tree laying on its side, a few times over the season or every day.

What I did do was stop at Lowe's one Saturday morning and ask the fellows trimming trees if I could raid their cut branches bin and take an armful.  I made a swag for the front door and dug out a vintage Mason jar where I have half a dozen or so boughs draped in vintage red velvet ribbon and a handful of ornaments.  All out of kitten range, of course, on top of a small bookcase.

The 'no Christmas tree' was a wise decision as I discovered that within seconds of taking the photo below, I heard the first ornamnent hit the floor and a walnut go 'swoosh' out of the bowl and onto the tile.  Kitten paws have impressive batting power.  The attention a makeshift tree garners from out of kitten sight to within kitten range is huge.

There was not a huge amount of baking done this year.  Enough to get treats out to family and friends and a very small handful left for myself, though I'm thinking a half recipe of bourbon balls might be coming to fruition in the next few hours.  Every year, I try to make something new, something different among the many batches of biscotti and other sweets made.  I picked up a slim cookbook a couple of months ago, 'Treasured Honey Recipes' from the California Honey Advisory Board. The Honey Walnut Date Bars was this year's new recipe.  I've made them four times this month.  And each time they've been devoured.  I'm always so happy when a vintage recipe still works after 40+ years.

Merry Christmas!







Sunday, October 18, 2015

Did You Feel It?

There was a shift in the seasons recently.  That time of year when all things Summer--beach days, shorts, and backyard barbecues--is quietly packed up and set aside for the next 365 days.  You may have spied it in store aisles--heralded by the dominant color scheme of oranges, yellows, and deep umbers.  Yes...you know what I'm talking about...Pumpkin Spice Season.

Oh...you thought I was going to talk about Autumn?  Or even Back to School?  Nah...they seem to have fallen to the wayside over the past couple of years.  The shift of seasons is measured by the launch of the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks.  And much like the push for Christmas seems to be earlier every year, Pumpkin Spice season seemed to arrive earlier too.  Didn't it happen before Labor Day?  In the still sweltering days of August?

Pumpkin Spice lattes, pumpkin spice cream oreos, pumpkin spice flavored coffee, pumpkin spice cream filled Twinkies, even pumpkin spice sparkling juice.  If you have a Trader Joe's in the neighborhood and receive their Fearless Flyer ad, you may have noticed in the latest edition that the first page featured pumpkin tortilla chips, and deeper within the issue there were SIX additional pages of pumpkin-this or pumpkin spice-that flavored foods.

It's pumpkin overload.  Now...don't get me wrong.  I'm not anti-pumpkin.  I will occasionally enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie.  I think pumpkin biscotti are pretty darn fabulous, and pumpkin gnocchi with butter and sage has a place in my recipe collection.  But the pumpkin spice everything--when is too much, too much?

Before we attempt to answer that question, let me sneak in a recipe for pumpkin scones.  Yes, there is spice in it.  To take it up another notch...there's even chocolate.  Enjoy the pumpkin for a few more weeks, because before you know it, Gingerbread and Peppermint seasons will soon be here.


Dark Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Scones
Makes 14-16 3 inch scones

2 1/2 cups flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
6 tbsp butter, chilled, in small cubes
1/3 cup milk or cream
2 eggs
1/2 cup 100% pure pumpkin
1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate, preferably 64% cocoa

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  In a large bowl, whisk all dry ingredients together and set aside.  In a small bowl, beat the milk and eggs.  Add the cubed butter to the dry ingredients, mix in with either two forks or a pastry cutter until you have a pebbly texture.  Mix in the eggs and milk.   Add pumpkin and chocolate pieces, mixing until well combined.  Scoop heaping teaspoons full onto cookie sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until bottoms are golden.  Transfer to a cooling rack.  

The glaze on the scones below is a quick melt of roughly a tablespoon of butter and 4-6 small squares of chocolate (an inch by half inch or so).  Melt butter over low heat, add chocolate, turn off heat, and stir until chocolate pieces melt.  Drizzle over scones.  The chocolate glaze will harden slightly.  These are also pretty awesome without the glaze.