Confession time: I had some serious reservations about taking the blog in this direction, focusing on heritage recipes. As excited as I was to try something new, my personal tendency is to leave the recipe-testing and tweaking to others (I am in awe of Smitten Kitchen’s ability, for example, to make the same recipe half-a-dozen time until it’s just right for her audience) and gravitate, like most people, toward recipes that I know are going to work the first time, dammit.
Almost immediately, it became apparent to myself and Nicole that a lot of the old recipes we wanted to try are in need of updating and tweaking (understandable since I think a lot of them are passed down orally or by hand and some things can get lost in the translation to paper and then to the online world. Not to mention new technology and equipment and the availability of ingredients.) As I said… I am definitely not used to cooking or baking this way. It was scary and a little daunting (it still is) to think that I’d have to start approaching the kitchen differently; not as familiar, homey territory, but with an added reliance on my own instincts and skill. Make sure you are working with the proper kitchen tools, check the better Oven at cooktop hunter
As I get older and more settled into my adult life, I feel a new sense of determination to seek out the scary, daunting things; I’m curious about the version of myself I’ll meet on the other side. If you’ve been a little bored and uninspired in the kitchen lately and you’re a regularly practicing, passionate cook or baker, used to strictly following recipes and have not yet branched out into experimentation or adaption, I’m going to put your mind at ease right now- you have the skills and instinct to change the recipe. And you should do it.
Maybe it’ll hit you the first time you try it, or the second. Maybe it’ll hit you the seventh or twenty-ninth time but eventually it’ll sink in- oh, I know this place… You’ll be so happy you did, trust me.
We’re only two recipes in our heritage recipe adventure and, as scared as I still am, I’ve already fallen in love with the process- and by that, I mean researching the recipes and where they came from and then getting to tweak them in the kitchen. (I mean, look at this; the end of the post got me all choked up. Is it dusty in here or something?)
We decided to make Hot Milk Cake with Jam before Valentine’s Day. It’s pretty close to a classic crumb cake with the exception of the liquid being hot milk and melted butter, mixed alternately with flour. I had some glossy expectations for it- for one thing, I expected the fruit filling to stay where we put it, right under the crumb topping. Alas, this was not to be (thankfully Hot Milk Cake with a Jammy Bottom is a hilarious name option and also sounds weirdly British). I did not expect my version to turn out a dense, ultra-rich cousin of coffee cake and pound cake (resulting in us halving the original recipe completely). What you will find here is a Depression-era classic (NYT found a recipe from 1955 but there are reports of it popping up in the late 30s, early 40s) that is more aligned with the Mid-Atlantic version. Move farther South and a very similar cake with the same name is usually served with fruit on top and icing. It became popular because basically everyone (from your great-grandmother down) agreed it tasted way better than sponge cake. The crumb is good and though the edges of the cake risk getting overbaked, I’ve been told by my taste-testing coworkers that the crunchy exterior is worth it. When I make it again, I’m going to attempt it in its classic style- 2 9″ cake tiers with a fruity cream cheese frosting between the layers; I have a feeling it’ll be insanely delicious and I can’t wait.
We hope you’ll share it with someone you love tomorrow. And as always, please share if you have a heritage recipe that makes you proud! We’re logging your comments and want to make your family recipes to, with full credit to you.
Hot Milk Cake with Jam
Makes: One 9 x 13″ Cake | Serves: 12 | Print Recipe
1/2 Stick of cold butter
1/2 Cup of flour
1/4 Cup of packed brown sugar
1/4 Cup of granulated sugar
1 and 1/4 Teaspoons of cinnamon
1/4 Cup of ground pecans **optional
3/4 Cup of whole milk
1 and 1/2 Sticks of butter
1 and 1/2 Cups of sugar
2 Teaspoons of vanilla
2 and 1/4 Cups of all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 heaping teaspoons of baking powder
1 Teaspoon of fine salt
1 Cup of fruit jam
Maddie hovered beside the food table, pretending to mingle.
She had walked into the party so casually, with such grace and ease, but somewhere between her third and fourth vodka tonic she had become somewhat obsessed with the fact that her offering to the party, an asparagus and green onion tart (in a freeform galette pastry that Maddie had been assured would make her look both rustic and elegant) was still completely and utterly untouched. Well, aside from the small square in the corner that Maddie had cut off herself, in a vague attempt to prove that the tart was edible! Oh look, someone took some of the tart, now I can join them and I won’t be the first person to cut into this gorgeous and so thoughtfully-vegetarian dish and look how pretty it is- it’s so, what’s the word, rustic. And yet fancy. Who did this? Who made this? The woman who made this clearly has her shit together, I bet she didn’t even have to take off her rings while putting it together, this rustic and elegant and vegetarian (so thoughtful!) dish, have you tried the asparagus tart? It’s so good. Here take mine, it’s so good. Get some before it’s gone.
Maddie hovered beside the food table, wondering if she should cut another slice of her poor, lonely tart. She cast a baleful eye on the other plates. Brenda’s deviled eggs were going fast. Kyle’s guacamole was a hit, yes, but guacamole was always a hit; Kyle was playing it safe with his monochromatic tie and he was playing it safe with his party offerings. Nan’s coconut kale salad was a towering monstrosity but people dug into it with giant spoons, like they were in the last Whole Foods on earth. Even Tonia’s pathetic contribution of cashew hummus and carrots had attracted the majority of Patty’s book group, who were all on Whole30 and raving about it as they gnawed on carrot nubs and their pale eyes roved over everyone’s small plates as they slid past. But no corner of the table was as populated as the dessert section. Maddie watched with envy at the crowd of laughing, giddy people who were tucked over a plate of brownies, a mountain of thick and chewy bakery cookies and two monstrous cinnamon roll bread loaves.
She leaned over her sad tart and gave in, cutting it into small squares so that it might become more appealing, more accessible, more like the person she was trying to be. She arranged them on the plate and spaced them out, saying good-bye to rustic and elegant and going for ease-of-grab, vowing to make and bake cinnamon bread next time, great big loaves of them.
Do you know how long I have wanted to make pull-apart bread? Do you know how long I have wanted, desired, ACHED to make pull-apart brioche cinnamon roll bread? Way too long. It makes me sad to admit how long. Don’t be like me, kids! Don’t wait! Do it. FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS.
One year ago: Ottolenghi’s Classic Hummus
Two years ago: Sweet Whiskey Lemonade
Three years ago: The Twix Tart
Four years ago: Pretzel Bites with Honey Mustard
Pull-Apart Brioche Cinnamon Roll Bread
*Overnight alert! The brioche dough comes together easily but needs 1-2 hours to rise and then an overnight rise in the fridge.
1/4 Cup of warm water
3 Teaspoons of instant yeast
3 Tablespoon of granulated sugar
1/2 Cup of warm whole milk
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons of salt
3 Eggs, beaten
12 Tablespoons of butter, melted
3 and 1/2 – 4 Cups all-purpose flour
Half a vanilla bean, seeds (optional)
6 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 Cup of brown sugar
2 Tablespoons of ground cinnamon
Half a vanilla bean, seeds (optional)
Pinch of sea salt
2 Ounces of cream cheese, softened
1 Cup powdered sugar
1-2 Tablespoons of milk or cream, to thin
1 Teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1. In a large bowl, combine warm water, yeast and sugar and mix until well-incorporated. Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes.
2. Add the warm milk, salt, eggs and melted butter and mix until combined. Gradually mix in the flour until the dough comes together. (Tip from my bread-making class: add 3 cups of flour and then add the remaining flour in 1/2 or 1/4 cup intervals, gauging the wetness of the dough and its need for flour as you mix it together.)
3. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Kneed into a smooth ball for a few minutes (the butter will make the dough very soft but it shouldn’t be overly sticky). Grease a large bowl and add the dough to the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit 1-2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
4. To make the filling: add the brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla beans and salt to a bowl and mix well.
5. Lightly dust surface with flour. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch the dough dough and roll the dough into a rectangle (about 9×24 inches). Spread about 6 tablespoons of the very soft butter evenly over the dough. Spread the brown sugar + cinnamon evenly over the butter and lightly push the brown sugar into the butter. Starting with the long edge closest to you, pull the edge up and over the filling and carefully roll the dough into a log, keeping it fairly tight as you go. When you reach the edge, pinch along the edge to seal.
6. Place the log seam side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a pair of sharp kitchen scissors cut diagonal slices almost to the bottom of the log. Arrange the cut sections so that they lean to alternating sides. Use your hand to gently push the dough together to help compress the log better.
If using the loaf pans: Cut and shape the dough as directed and then use your hands to push the dough together to almost the size of you bread pan. The dough will zigzag slightly. Using the parchment paper, lift the dough up and into the bread pan.
7. Immediately cover the dough and place in the fridge overnight. (Note from Half-Baked Harvest: do not let the dough sit at room temperature long or it will start to get very big.)
8. The next morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the dough from the fridge while the oven preheats and brush with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Bake the bread log for 20-25 minutes (the bread in the loaf pan needs about 45-50 minutes) or until lightly browned on top- do not over bake.
9. While the bread is baking, whisk the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla together until smooth. Add milk until your desired consistency is reached.
Serve the warm, gooey, sticky, sweet bread with a drizzle of frosting. Everyone loves you.
Aunt Lulu had been dying for years.
“Marybeth,” she croaked to her niece from her chair by the window. One long, skinny arm was outstretched. No matter that Marybeth was in the kitchen, rolling her eyes over a mound of dough on the counter. “Marybeth, I have something to tell you.”
Marybeth and Lulu had been paired up for years, since Marybeth’s own mama had passed on and left her daughter in charge of her sister’s care. Before that, years and years before, Aunt Lulu had been dying under the watchful eyes of Miss Henry from Pawtucket and before that, she was moaning and casting life advice to her fellow residents at The Carter Boarding House for Single and Widowed Womenfolk. As far as Marybeth was concerned, Aunt Lulu was somewhere between 85 and 125 and had been dying for at least half her life. She doled out life advice like her niece doled out baskets of baked bread, to anyone near enough to take it.
Ever the dutiful niece, Marybeth plunged her hands in and around the dough and turned it around in the flour. One more turn, pat, pat. “You hear me in there?” She had to move fast or the pockets of cold fat would melt. “Marybeth!” She had half a mind to keep going. Get the biscuit cutters out, cut, cut. Move them fast. Pretend like Aunt Lulu’s croaking voice couldn’t be heard over the whir of the kitchen fan. “MARYBETH.” And there it was, that pang in her chest. Maybe this was it, she thought. Maybe this was really it. With a sigh, Marybeth scooped the whole armful of dough onto the baking sheet and rushed it into the icebox. She wiped her hands, and the refrigerator handle, and marched into the sitting room.
Aunt Lulu beckoned her close. She’s still breathing, Marybeth thought sourly. What would it be this time? A word or two about how Marybeth could snag a man of her own (“Lemon juice in your hair! Makes it shine and smell pretty! Listen now!”) A platitude about the poor and feeble-minded (“Well, everybody’s got their mountain to climb. Make sure they got the right shoes, all you can do.”) Her tight-lipped response when politics was on the TV (“makes better talk in the bedroom than it does in the living room!” Which Marybeth still didn’t understand). Marybeth took a deep breath, reminded herself of the promise she’d made to her mama and crouched down beside her aunt’s chair. “What is it, Aunt Lulu?”
Aunt Lulu looked her own from head to toe. Her mouth opened and shut again. Dammit, Marybeth thought as she fought a smile, the old bat forgot what she was going to say. And then Aunt Lulu caught a glimpse of the flour on her niece’s hand. “You let that butter melt?”
Marybeth looked her aunt in the eye. She didn’t have her own platitudes about men or the poor or politics but if there was anything she was sure of in this world, it was flour and fat. “No, ma’am, I did not,” she replied to Aunt Lulu. “As God is my witness, I will not let that butter melt.”
There is nothing quite like a fresh-baked scone. The beauty of most scone recipes, too, is how easy they are to customize. Different herbs, fruit, spices. Today I saw one with dates, this is one of my all-time favorites but I was surprised to see we didn’t have a savory scone option on SKS until now. “Let’s see what Ina has to say about that,” is what you mutter when you realize you’re missing a baked good whose primary components are flour + fat. Good thing we did. These are crazy good and at 16 years old (!) they could even be deemed a classic.
Cheddar Dill Scones
4 Cups plus 1 Tablespoon of all-purpose flour, divided
2 Tablespoons of baking powder
2 Teaspoons of salt
3/4 Pound of cold unsalted butter, diced
4 Extra-large eggs, beaten lightly
1 Cup of cold heavy cream
1/2 Pound of extra sharp yellow cheddar, small dice
1 Cup of minced, fresh dill
1 Egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon water or milk (egg wash)
1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
2. Combine 4 cups of flour, the baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is in pea-sized pieces.
3. Mix the eggs and heavy cream and quickly add them to the flour-and-butter mixture. Combine until just blended.
4. Toss together the cheddar, dill, and 1 tablespoon of flour and add them to the dough. Mix until they are almost incorporated.
5. Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it for 1 minute, until the cheddar and dill are well distributed.
6. Roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. Cut into 4-inch squares and then in half diagonally to make triangles.
7. Brush the tops with egg wash. Bake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 20 to 25 minutes, until the outside is crusty and the inside is fully baked.
Together, they stood on the lawn and stared up at the roof. Clint Barner peered up with a critical eye. Mel Hallowell had no clue what she was looking at but she hoped she did.
“Well,” old Clint said with a scowl. He wasn’t friendly but he wasn’t unfriendly either. As neighbors went, he was a solid B. “You didn’t shovel the roof, didya?” His accent was thick, even for their rural town, forty miles inland and twenty miles due south of Bangor.
Mel shifted slightly. Did he say “shovel the roof?” “I shoveled,” she said and beside her, Rufus the dog glanced at the driveway as if he knew exactly what she meant. She waved a hand and he trotted back to the house.
“Well,” he replied. “You didn’t do it recent, I’d say.” He put his hands into the pockets of overalls that were likely older than Mel and leaned back on his heels. He took a deep breath and whistled.
There were many things Mel wanted to say in reply. She wanted to tell him that she was cold and could they please go inside and discuss her shortcomings in the warmth of her woodstove. She wanted to leave him there, mulling things over and pondering the next thing he wanted to say because this was Maine and you have time, doncha? and go back to that woodstove and her Greek yogurt and granola and half of a banana that sat on the counter. She wanted, badly, to remind him that she didn’t want this house, that she was left this house, and that no, she didn’t know she had to shovel the roof, is that what people did around here, climbing up on their roof with a shovel and did they have snow blowers, did they haul that up there, was this really something people grew up knowing? Mel imagined what would happen if she unleashed that torrent of words on old Clint, if it would be like dumping a bucket of old hair on a turtle. How long, she wondered, would it take him to shake it off?
Mel had been in Maine for two years. She tilted her head back, surveyed the roof and matched the length of her word to Clint’s slow drawl. “Well,” she said. “Yup.”
Congratulations to Amber P., the winner of our giveaway! Amber has won a delectable ice cream sundae kit from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Thank you to everyone who entered and thank you for telling us what kind of recipes you’re loving right now- this will be a big help in deciding what we should make for you in our 4th year!
Here in Maine, winter is long. I couldn’t help but laugh when I read a blurb in Bon Appetit this month (and I agree with Luisa completely, by the way. Not sure a subscription renewal is in my future. The recipes are great but oiy.), something about how Mainers don’t complain about the cold even though March is especially brutal here. So tough, we are up here where the ground is still frozen solid and the snow lingers. Yeah, okay. I don’t know who they interviewed (maybe it’s that one guy in the BA office who is very smug about his Bean boots? I don’t know) but the people I’ve met here love to talk about the weather and OH, they are not afraid to bemoan it with the best of them. Sure, you meet tons of people who love the cold and embrace it but there’s just as many who step outside to a 20 degree day at the end of March and throw a complete and utter temper tantrum to rival anything you might hear echoing in Boston or New York or Chicago. Mutual survival of the long winter is how we bond with each other and complaining about it is a crucial component of that bonding.
Having said that… there is a part of living in Maine and the dregs of March that I’ve embraced completely and utterly, with an open, fluttering heart. And that is Maine Maple Sunday. On the fourth Sunday of this cold, bitter month, the sugarhouses in Maine open their doors and host pancake breakfasts, offer up maple cotton candy and smothered ice cream, hayrides and the like. It’s… magic. This year it was incredibly cold but thousands of us were undettered and lined up for smoky, sweet treats. Because syrup. Syrup.
On the crowded list of things I planned to make with my haul, this granola was firmly at the top. It satisfies all of my maple requirements- salty, sweet, and crunchy and you can eat it by the handful. The only thing I’d add is a sprinkling of dried blueberries (Maine all the way). And Joy made it when she came to visit Portland, to boot. For our fourth year, it’s a very good place to start.
Maple Pecan Granola
1 to 1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
8 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 heaping cup coarsely chopped dried apricots (or blueberries, if you’re a Mainah)
1. Preheat oven to 325° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, toss together coconut, pecans, rolled oats, cinnamon, and salt.
3. In a medium suacepan over low heat, stir together the oil, maple syrup, and honey. Stir until melted together. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract. Stir together.
4. Add the wet ingredients, all at once, to the rolled oat mixture. Toss to coat, insuring that all of the dry ingredients are coated in the maple syrup mixture. Divide the mixture between the two prepared baking pans. Spread into an even layer.
5. Bake granola for 30 about minutes (original recipe said 45 minutes but one of the pans burned. The other was done at 30 minutes so watch your granola, people!), removing the pans from the oven twice during baking to toss and stir. Once mixture is evenly browned and toasted, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Add dried fruit and stire granola in an airtight container at room temperature.
My sister Jenn called me just now, somewhat sheepishly. She was going to wait, she said, but she needed me to send three chapters of my first novel to her. Her friend Mary (who I think has known me since before I could walk) had been chatting up the book with a friend, an author, who very nicely offered to show it to her agent.
(The fact that I’m writing it this way, so matter-of-factly, should hopefully imply that this is not the first time this conversation has occurred.) “I told her you aren’t really shopping it around,” my sister said to me. “That Dad tries but you aren’t really sending it around anymore.” I tried to stamp down my annoyance. At that very moment, I was trying to wrap up a ton of work at my job so I could run home, get my house in order, jump in the car with my brother and drive four hours to her very house, for our mother’s birthday this weekend. Wrestling, among a mountain of clothes I haven’t been able to clean and a giant dog who hasn’t seen me in days, the nasty remnants of a truly terrible work week which have settled into a sturdy pit in my stomach. (And, oh yes, I need to send her three chapters and write this blog post before I leave.)
The reason why I just smiled and said thank you and sure, I’d send the chapters, no problem, you never know, thank Mary for me (she really is the best) is that I am profoundly grateful, insanely grateful, to have my family in my corner when it comes to my books. Do I think they’re maybe a little biased? Sure. But there are worse things (I could list a million, I’m sure you could too) than having your big sister pitching your book every chance she gets. Just because she believes. And because I know she truly didn’t want to tell me just yet about this possibility, knowing full well that the rollercoaster of “someone’s going to look at your book!” only to then follow up with news that they passed is one I’ve become so accustomed to that I’m fully numb by it all by now. I hung up the phone, crossed the next item off my to-do list and sighed. Still, she believes. That’s something. This week it’s hopefully enough for the both of us.
It’s fitting, in a way, that this week’s recipe is for delicious homemade corn muffins. They were always big in our house when we were growing up and seeing the photos makes me think of my siblings, and our mother (happy birthday Mom!) with a smile. Except we called them Corn Cuffins at the time. Be sure to use finely ground cornmeal or they could be a little gritty for your taste.
Homemade Corn Muffins with Jam Butter
Source: Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, January/February 2015 | Makes 12 muffins | Print Recipe
2 Cups (280 grams) of finely ground yellow cornmeal
1 Cup (130 grams) of all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 and 1/4 Teaspoons of fine sea or table salt
1 and 1/4 Cups (300 ml) of milk, whole is best here
1 Cup (240 grams) of sour cream (full-fat plain yogurt should work here too)
8 Tablespoons (115 grams) of unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 to 5 Tablespoons (35 to 60 grams) of sugar
2 Large eggs
Favorite jam, seedless and fruitless
- Heat oven to 425°F (220°C). Either grease or line a 12- cup standard muffin tin with disposable liners.
- Whisk 1 1/2 cups cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl. In a large bowl (if you have a microwave) or a medium saucepan (if you do not), combine milk and remaining 1/2 cup cornmeal. In a microwave, cook cornmeal–milk mixture for 1 1/2 minutes, then whisk thoroughly, and continue to microwave in 30-second increments, mixing between them, until it’s thickened to a batter-like consistency, i.e. the whisk will leave a clear line across the bottom of the bowl that slowly fills in. This will take 1 to 3 minutes longer. On the stove, cook cornmeal mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens as described above, then transfer to a large bowl.
- Whisk butter, then sugar, then sour cream into cooked cornmeal until combined. At this point, the wet mixture should be cool enough that adding the eggs will not scramble them, but if it still seems too hot, let it cool for 5 minutes longer. Whisk in eggs until combined. Fold in flour mixture until thoroughly combined and the batter is very thick. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups; it will mound slightly above the rim.
- Bake until tops are golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 13 to 17 minutes, rotating muffin tin halfway through baking to ensure even cooking. Let muffins cool in muffin tin on wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove muffins from tin and let cool 5 minutes longer.
- To make jam butter, mix softened butter with jam and serve with warm muffins.
Laurel smoothed out the front of her long, white wedding dress and stared at her reflection in the glass. A bride, she thought. Who would’ve thought?
Not her. Not now. There was a time, maybe, when she thought about it. When she was twenty. Twenty-two, twenty-eight. Thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two, thirty-three and so on. At forty, she stopped thinking about it. She blew out the candles and let the thoughts go.
She remembered doing it. It was a conscious choice at the time. Time to stop letting your mind wander about the flowers that would grace the aisle, she thought. Time to stop wondering where that aisle would be, on a beach in Maui, in a chapel in the country, the court house downtown. Time to stop wondering if your mother would still be alive to see you at the end of that aisle. She would not. She knew that now. Laurel met her own eyes in the mirror, her mother’s eyes, and felt oddly comforted. What a strange day.
She was not alone as she dressed. She had thought she would be. But Oscar’s daughters had asked her if she needed help and she said yes. So there they stood, in a triangle. Laurel at the mirror, in her dress, her hair freshly done and swept back from her face. Willow stood behind her, at her right, fixing her bouquet. She was twenty, Willow, and fanciful about weddings. She thought Oscar and Laurel’s story was romantic. She wanted to like Laurel, had wanted it from the beginning and so she did. Willow was sweet. Ellen was not.
Ellen stood to her left, her arms crossed across her chest. Ellen had not wanted to like Laurel, had not wanted to like her from the beginning and so she did not. Although after their time together, Laurel suspected that there was little Ellen liked at all. She regarded her surroundings with her lips pursed, as if the air tasted like lemons. Sour, Laurel thought, as Willow ran a brush through her hair. Sweet and sour. Both of them hers, after today. What a strange day.
And we’re off!
Nicole’s heading to the East Coast and I am heading further north to Prince Edward Island this weekend. These bars, Smitten’s Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars, are Nicole’s treat for the road. They were my dessert during a long and stressful week. Hers had more strawberries than rhubarb, mine had blueberries instead of strawberries. Either way, they’re delicious (albeit a little too delicate to be eaten on the run. Mine were anyway.), wherever you happen to be heading. Happy weekend!
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars
1 Cup (80 grams) of rolled oats
3/4 Cup (95 grams) plus up to extra 2 Tablespoons (15 grams) of all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup (95 grams) of light brown sugar
Heaped 1/4 Teaspoon of table salt
6 Tablespoons (85 grams) of unsalted butter, melted
1 Teaspoon cornstarch (optional but helps firm filling)
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) of lemon juice
1 Tablespoon (15 grams) of granulated sugar, divided
1 Cup (125 grams) of small, diced rhubarb (from 1 and 1/2 medium stalks)
1 Cup (155 grams) of small, diced strawberries
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Prep 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper.
2. In a small bowl (I found it difficult to mix it in the dish with the parchment paper), place oats, 3/4 cup of flour, brown sugar and salt and mix. Pour melted butter over and stir until clumps form. (If clumps look soft or damp, add remaining 2 tablespoons of flour). Tumble 1/2 of the crumb mixture into bottom of the baking dish and press down evenly to form crust.
3. Spread half the fruit over the crust. Sprinkle it evenly with cornstarch then lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon of sugar. Spread remaining fruit over this and top with second 1/2 tablespoon of sugar. (Again, I did this in a small bowl. I don’t mind washing the bowls.) Scatter reserved crumbs over fruit and bake bars for 30 to 40 minutes (firmer fruits will take longer) until fruit is bubbly and crisp is golden and smells toasty.
4. Let cool in the fridge or somewhere cold where they become crisp once chilled (less so at room temperature). Cut into squares.
They had blueberries for breakfast, a pint of them. Grecia held out her hand and her daughter carefully tumbled the berries into her waiting palm. “What colors are these, my love?”
“Blue!” Tammy was four and knew her colors well. She popped a blueberry into her mouth and then another. Grecia followed, more slowly. They tasted so sweet and good and whole. She paced herself and had only eaten three when Tammy lifted her berry-stained hands. “All done.”
“Do you like blueberries, my love?”
Tammy’s eyes narrowed. She tapped her hand against the table. “I like Poncy.” Grecia smiled. Poncy was her stuffed dog, the one she carried everywhere. “And hot dog day at school. And pancakes with syrup on Sundays. And Nonna Mary.” That was her grandmother, Grecia’s mother, who waited for the pair in the corner, her head in a paperback book, her eyes refusing to meet her daughter’s. Tammy waved her chubby hand and Grecia’s eyes flickered over to meet her daughter’s instead. “Hi. Hi, Mommy.”
“Hi, my love.” Grecia tried not to look at the clock on the wall, she tried not to look at her mother. She did not want to know when her hour would be up. She kept her eyes fixed on her baby and she ate another blueberry.
Slumped, baked pancakes. Reading Rainbow is fully funded, the words of Maya Angelou are all over the Internet and there are pancakes in your future. It’s not perfect, by any means (couldn’t we keep Maya? Just Maya? Forever?) but it’ll do for this morning.
In other news, my cookery bookery angel friend Meg learned that Jeni (this Jeni) was going to be signing her new cookbook in New York City and promptly went, got the book signed for me and mailed it post-hence. And the book… is amazing. I’ve had it for less than a week and I’ve already made an ice cream layer cake because I have an impulse control problem. (And frozen custard! Salty Vanilla Frozen Custard! I had to make it. A combination pudding/ice cream cake?) The book is irresistible and damn them for putting it out at the exact perfect time- when summer is beckoning and the air’s slowly (slooooowly) getting warmer and I suddenly find myself buying gallons of milk and heavy cream at the supermarket, how did that happen? I already have a list of other recipes to try and a LOT of dairy in my refrigerator right now. Don’t be surprised if you see another cake pop up here this weekend. Or eclairs. Or sundaes. Or pie cookies. Or, you know, everything.
Blueberry Dutch Pancakes
4 Large eggs
1 Cup of whole milk
1 Cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 Cup of granulated sugar
1/2 Teaspoon of finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/4 Teaspoon of salt
2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 Cup of blueberries, plus more for topping
Confectioners sugar, for sprinkling
1. Preheat oven to 400°F degrees.
2. Blend together eggs, milk, flour, granulated sugar, lemon zest, and salt in a blender.
3. Heat four 6 inch cast-iron skillets (this made me laugh. Really, Martha? Like I have four 6-inch cast iron skillets hanging around? To her credit, she does say a 12-inch skillet will take about 20 minutes in the oven) over high heat. Divide butter among your endless supply of skillets and melt. Divide batter among them, scatter with berries.
4. Bake until puffed and cooked through and tops are set, 15-18 minutes. Top with berries and sprinkle with confectioners sugar.
5. Serve immediately.
When Mallory Evans felt the tail end of January grab her by the heels and whip her down to the icy street and drag her home, she called in the reserves.
She made no bones about it. She went into her apartment, dusted herself off (she’d fallen on the ice again), let out a great, big huffy breath and shook her fist at the gray skies. And she called her uncle Mortimer right away. She didn’t even need to say what she needed. He heard her voice on the voice and barked, “I’m comin’, niece, and I’m bringin’ the cat!”
The cat was a barn mewler that Mortimer had found under his porch last July. He’d scraped the brown dirt from the gray fur, fattened him up and promptly refused to go anywhere without him. The mewler didn’t have a name. Mortimer declared it unnecessary, entirely; her uncle was that type of person.
He arrived four hours later, on the dot, and Mallory could hear his old truck rattling outside, the rusted doors of it battering against the wall of ice and black snow piled high on the sidewalk. Up the stairs he walked but she heard the cat first, heard it hiss as he dropped it at the door. Mallory opened the door wide and the cat shot inside, as hell-bent on not going anywhere as Mortimer was to bring it absolutely everywhere. “Well,” Mortimer barked after she gave him a kiss on his papery cheek. He was thin and had only patches of hair on his head, and every year he seemed more cartoon than person. “Let’s get to work. Here.” He pushed a brown bag into her arms and Mallory looked down. It was filled to the brim with lemons. They were so fresh and sweet that the smell almost knocked her back. He toed off his shoes and set off into her apartment to get to work.
Mortimer didn’t just pull back the curtains, he yanked them down. Mallory thought about protesting (about the neighbors, propriety, local ordinances) but knew better and kept her mouth shut. It didn’t matter because Mortimer justified his actions anyway as he worked. “No use having these up, you want all the sun you can get when you can get it!”
He nudged her toward the kitchen. “Start baking something with those,” he barked and she thought about protesting again but he was too quick for her, barking the ingredients for her nana’s Lemon Cake. “Flour! Eggs! Sugar! Milk! That baking powder stuff! A pan to put it in!”
Mallory stepped into the kitchen and did as he said, watching out of the corner of her eye as her uncle swept the dust from the floors and moved to and fro, muttering and barking in equal measure. He moved piles of books from one corner of the room to another (“It’s new to you to see ’em over there!”) and turned her wall clock upside down (“A little rush of blood to the head is not a bad thing!”) and cleared all the things from the floor, her shoes, her hand weights, magazines (“You need room to dance in here! There’s no room for dancin’!”) He poured her a glass of orange juice that was so cold, it shocked her gums (“It shocks the gums!”) and told her to pick up the hair off her neck (“Pony tail! You ever see a depressed horse? No, you did not! Don’t question me!”) and he went into her closet and pulled out every item that was black and white and gray and stuffed them into a second brown paper bag (“I’m taking these! You moonlightin’ as the Grim Reaper?”) and she nodded and nodded and nodded some more.
He spun around her, bringing the light back into her life, and the cat hissed and the cake baked, the smell of lemons blooming in the air.
There are two things I’d like to say about today’s recipe. The first has to do with trial and error.
This has not been a super week for the incredible, superhuman, larger than life baking abilities of Nicole and Judi. On Monday, I went to a friend’s house, attempted to make brownies, these brownies, and as I mixed the batter, I noticed that it was dry (baking in a strange kitchen, in front of people, while drinking wine, is apparently not my strong suit). Very, very dry. Nonetheless (because of the audience maybe, because I was showboating a little because I’m a food blogger and thus an ass, but mostly, you know, wine) I assumed it would all be fine because SURE, when baking, just praying that it’ll all work out is always the solution.
What emerged from my friend’s oven was a brown, pale, tasteless brick. I reread the recipe and realized my mistake (I’d forgotten the brown sugar, almost a cup of it). It was supremely humiliating. The brownies went into the trash and I went home and anger-baked (that’s a thing) those damn brownies all over again in my house. I read the recipe carefully. I measured, folded and whipped. And they were friggin’ perfect, thank you very much, WINE.
And then, there was Nicole. Oh, Nicole. Nicole made this lemon drizzle cake not once, not twice but three times this week. The culprit? Not wine (well, maybe) but self-rising flour. The first time she used regular flour. The second time (oh, man, I could feel her frustration through the email) she made it with regular flour AGAIN even though the self-rising flour was newly purchased. And on the counter. Gah.
And the third time? She measured and whipped and folded. And it came out friggin’ perfect, thank you very much, no one.
And now, if I may veer wildly from anger to… something else entirely (it’s been that kind of week, frankly), the second thing. This is the anniversary of the day my grandmother died. It was three years ago today. She was the matriarch of our family, on my mother’s side, and even though she was well into her 90s and lived a full, glorious life filled with all the things an Italian woman could ask for (mainly, a loving husband, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, food, and yet more great-grandchildren), my mother continues to feel the depth of the loss as if it happened yesterday. As my mother’s daughter, there’s not really much I can do except acknowledge her grief and feel sorry for it and to maybe listen a little more closely to what her voice sounds like on the phone today, to try and commit it to memory as best I can, just a little bit extra time, a little bit more attention, something to save and remember, just in case, because I’ll be her one day, I know this to be true.
I didn’t intend to write about my grandmother at all, actually, but as I was scrolling through Nicole’s photos for this post, I thought, “This cake looks like sunshine.” And then, just like that, I could hear my grandmother singing, the song she murmured to those grandbabies and great-grandbabies, her hands soft and sure, even well into her 90s. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.”
Committed to memory, though I wasn’t even trying at the time. There when I needed it, all the same.
Lemon Drizzle Cake
Source: Bake for the Border | Makes: 1 Loaf | Print Recipe
9 Tablespoons (125 grams) of butter
1 Cup (175 grams) of caster sugar*
2 Large eggs
1 and 1/3 Cups (175 grams) of self-rising flour**
2 Unwaxed lemons***
2 Tablespoons of milk
1/4 Cup (50 grams) of granulated sugar
* To make caster sugar: use granulated sugar and measure what you think you’ll need. Place in blender or food processor or (clean) spice/coffee grinder. Pulse until sugar is super-fine but not powdery. Let rest for a few minutes. Re-measure. If you need more, pulse a fresh batch.
** To make self-rising flour (oh, Nicole): For every 1 cup of flour needed, add 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder and 0.5 teaspoon of salt.
*** I don’t know what this means. I assume you’ll be fine if you just buy, you know, lemons.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
3. In the bowl of a stand-mixer, add caster sugar and butter and beat until pale and creamy.
4. Add one egg and half the flour to the bowl, mix until incorporated.
5. Add the other egg and the remainder of the flour and mix gently.
6. Add the zest and juice of one lemon to the bowl, then the milk, and mix gently.
7. Place the batter in the loaf pan and even it out.
8. Place in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
9. In a small bowl, zest the remaining lemon and mix with half of the granulated sugar.
10. In a small saucepan, add the juice and the remaining sugar and allow to come to a boil. Reduce the heat until you have a syrup. When the cake is baked, skewer the warm cake with holes and pour the syrup over the cake. Sprinkle with zest and sugar and allow to cool.
11. Top with lemon curd for extra sunshine.
“And then I told them, I said listen, you might want to meet my friends,” he said with a grin and lifted his fists. “These are my gun friends.” The big guy swayed into the door and Lenora bit back a laugh.
He’d been easy to find, this big lunk of a guy. She’d ridden her bike as far as she could go on quarter of a tank, found the darkest bar on the dustiest road, and tapped the biggest man in the room on the shoulder.
At six-foot-four and almost three hundred pounds, he looked less like a man and more like a wall. He was draped in leather and denim from head to toe, his head was shaved and his beefy arms were covered in tats down to the wrist. And he had the tolerance of a freshman sorority girl. Lenora grunted as he leaned his massive frame against her. Did he really think she could carry him? “Okay, big guy. Almost there.”
“Loaf,” he muttered.
“My name. S’ Loaf.” He blinked at her. “You’re pretty.”
“I, um, thanks.” He smiled at her and she found it hard not to smile back. She was so distracted, in fact, that when the very undead dude swung around the corner of the truck, he almost succeeded in taking a chunk out of her arm. “Oh.”
Loaf’s eyes widened. “What the- that guy’s green!”
Lenora moved fast. She used Loaf like the tree he was and aimed a solid kick to the green guy’s head. It stunned him, it, just long enough for her to give Loaf a subtle push so that he laid against the hood of the truck. “Just stay there, big guy.” And she went back to work.
He was easy to kill, all in all. The greener they are, she thought as her stomach rolled at the sight of his dangling eyes, the more rotten the flesh and the slower they became. It was the newly dead, diseased, that moved the fastest. She swung her small body through the air and within seconds, she had her arms, thankfully covered, around his neck. She twisted her grip and he wilted in her arms like a flower, slide through her legs and onto the dirt.
She stood for a moment and shivered in the cold October air. This was not good, she thought, he was old, very old. Which meant there was a nest nearby. The old did not survive so long alone. “Dammit.” And suddenly Loaf was towering over both of them, his eyes wide. “He’s dead.”
“Yeah.” She fixed her eyes on Loaf’s and put her hands on his shoulders. Once caught in her gaze, he couldn’t look away. “You killed him, big guy. You saved me. We were walking out to my bike and he came out of nowhere and you sobered up enough to take him down.” She waited until his eyes got that look, that glazed over look she knew so well, one that said he believed her. And inwardly she sighed. It took no special powers to convince a man he was a god. “Thanks.” You served your purpose, she thought. One more dead and they’d never know it was her. When she came for them, they wouldn’t even see it coming.
Can we talk candidly for a second? I’m wondering how you feel about something.
I think I’m starting to fall out-of-love with Bon Appetit. Is it me? Is it just me? Can someone just tell me if I’m losing my mind?
I just… I can’t take another city guide to Portland, OR- city guides for Portland are the magazine equivalent of Lady Gaga covers of Vogue (EVERY. YEAR. MULTIPLE). Or another star-struck interview with some celebrity who doesn’t, uh, actually eat anything (Gwyneth! ON THE COVER. I can’t). Or see one more picture of a bearded chef with his arms crossed (congrats guys, you all look EXACTLY THE SAME NOW.) Why does Andrew Knowlton fill more than half the magazine? Why don’t they write articles anymore? Why do the recipes increasingly look like outtakes from a Portlandia sketch? BA isn’t for home cooks anymore, it feels like it’s for restaurant groupies. Which… ugh. I love Anthony Bourdain, I think he’s entertaining and great… but he doesn’t inspire me to cook. He just doesn’t. BA feels like it’s being written for him, not me.
I miss Julia Child. I miss… connections to reality. Why does more cooking-world look SO DIFFERENT than theirs? Why is it so much closer to this- why does THIS person feel so relevant and revolutionary and IT and why do the online people seem to be the only people who realize it?
Anyway. Rant over. Pumpkin bread now. Spiced pumpkin bread. Not our first quick-bread for fall and certainly not our last. It’s just simple and good. It’s seasonal. It’s warm. It’s love. ( You can find utensils that will help you and find the Top 10 Best Bread Loaf Slicers). No really it is- this recipe makes two loaves, one for you to eat and one to give away. You should go forth and do so. Ranter’s orders.
Spiced Pumpkin Bread
Source: Bon Appetit | Makes 2 loaves | Print Recipe
3 Cups of sugar
1 Cup of vegetable oil
3 Large eggs
1 16-ounce can of solidly packed pumpkin (way to be weirdly specific, BA)
3 Cups of all-purpose flour
1 Teaspoon of ground cloves
1 Teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 Teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 Teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon of salt
1/2 Teaspoon of baking powder
1 Cup of coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Butter and flour two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans.
3. In a large bowl, beat sugar and oil to blend.
4. Add eggs and pumpkin to sugar/oil and mix.
5. In another large bowl, sift flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and baking powder.
6. In 2 additions, stir flour into pumpkin mixture.
7. Mix in walnuts, if desired.
8. Divide batter equally between prepared pans.
9. Bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
10. Transfer loaves to racks and cool for 10 minutes. Use a sharp knife and cut around loaf edges. Turn loaves out onto racks and cool completely.
“Here’s to the waning days of summer!” Across the train car floor, the man they called One-Eyed Jack lifted his tin cup in salute. Only a few strands of straw separated us. I leaned against my wall of the car and tried to ignore him, tried to get some sleep. The dog beside me, I hadn’t had the time to name him, let out a snore. He was shaggy and gray with dust and deaf to boot. Without me, who knows where he’d be.
One-Eyed Jack drank the rest of whatever was left in his cup and used a shaking hand to catch what dribbled into his beard. “You’re not one for drinking, huh?” he called over to me. I wished he’d quiet down. The train was approaching a stop, Lewisburg if I had to guess from my glance at the schedule back in the yard, and I’d rather not have to break out of the car at a run, not with my knee aching the way it did.
He might’ve been a bit drunk but he wasn’t dumb and this wasn’t his first train. When we slowed to a stop, he shut right up and we both held our breath when the door to our car opened. The dog beside me started to growl. I laid a hand on his good ear.
But it wasn’t no bother, no cops or anything. Just a guy like us whose round face lit up when he caught a glimpse of Jack in the corner of the car. He climbed right up and shut the door behind him and they greeted each other like old friends.
But when he turned to me and they sat side-by-side, I realized they weren’t friends at all but brothers and not just brothers but twins, identical safe for the glass in Jack’s bad eye. I couldn’t help but stare. “Hello, brother,” the man said to me, not to Jack and raised a hand. I nodded back. The dog whoofed.
“A silent man,” Jack said soberly with regard to me and he clapped his twin on the shoulder. “How you been there, Bobby?”
“Oh, you know.” Bobby grinned. He was missing most of his teeth. “Here and there, everywhere. Got these though. Old Mike was getting pinched and dropped ’em.” He lifted the paper bag, it made more noise than was my liking, and then turned it over as the train pitched forward. What was inside it rolled toward me and bumped my leg, the one that had no dog to keep it warm and still.
I lifted the peach and now stared at it instead of the same-faced men across from me. Bobby gave me another wave, “Enjoy it, brother.” He crawled across the floor and grabbed the rest and separated them, half for him and half for One-Eyed Jack.
By chance, we bit into them at the same time. They were ripe and the juice dribbled down our three chins. The taste filled me. I clawed at a piece and held it out for the dog who ate it greedily in seconds. For the moment, we were all kings.
Rosemary, Bacon and Sugar Roasted Peaches
4 Slices of thick-cut bacon
4 Large semi-ripe peaches (cut in half, remove pit)
1 Tablespoon of granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon of brown sugar
1/4 Teaspoon of coarse salt
1/8 Teaspoon of black pepper
4 Large sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 Ounces of blue cheese (crumbled)
1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. In a bowl, combine the brown and white sugars.
3. Heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat and add bacon, fry until crisp and fat is rendered. Once crispy, remove with tongs and let rest on a paper towel to drain. Pour most of the bacon grease out of skillet (into a heat-safe jar is best), leaving a thin layer in the skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low.
4. Take the peaches and sprinkle them (cut-side up) with half of the sugar mixture, and all of the salt and the pepper.
5. Place the peaches in the skillet, cut-side down, and tuck the rosemary between them. Cook for 5 minutes or until cut sides are caramel-colored and golden. Sprinkle the remaining sugar on the un-cut side of the peaches. Drizzle with 1-2 teaspoons of bacon juices over the peaches.
6. Place skillet with peaches in the hot oven and roast for 10 minutes.
7. Remove from oven flip the peaches carefully so they are cut-side up. Roast for another 5-10 minutes until peaches are soft and fragrant.
8. Remove from oven. Discard rosemary. Sprinkle on the crumbled bacon and blue cheese. Serve immediately.
As soon as their humans had gotten up, as soon as Hammer and Buckley heard the heaviness of their feet on the floor, heard the groans, heard the swearing, they ran down to the kitchen and waited.
Hammer, a mop-eared mutt with one eye, took his spot right beside the kitchen island. He was a Mallory first and he got the primo spot. (Thems the rules.) Buckley, a long-haired Golden Retriever mix, was relegated to the other side of the counter where he moped until the humans approached.
Blonde One was first. She shuffled in and Hammer held himself back from attacking the furry pink rabbits that had attached themselves to her human feet. He knew enough to wait until she’d gotten a handle on the pot of magic and taken a sip before approaching. And today, the way she was muttering to herself and her hands were scrambling against the cabinets for her green pills, Hammer knew he should wait even longer to approach. He hung back and peered at her from behind the island.
Dark Haired One was next. He squinted at the dogs, squinted at Blonde One, squinted at the pot of magic, squinted at the green pills and then held out a hand. She handed him the bottle and they stood there for many, many minutes, drinking the brown liquid with the magic powers. And then, the dogs’ ears pricked, they got to work.
Out came the bowls and the spoons and the milk and the flour. Blonde One didn’t say much as she sifted and stirred. Dark Haired One scowled for many minutes at the hot tabletop until Blonde One said, “You need to turn it on.” Then, he scowled at her so she called him a bad word and handed him more magic juice. Then, he seemed better.
And then it was time for the tumbles! Out came the container of blueberries and then one after another, they tumbled to the floor, Blonde One and Dark Haired One too distracted to notice as the dogs snuck up and ate them. Oh, what a joyous morning when Blonde One and Dark Haired One didn’t rush out to door but stood in the kitchen and muttered things to each other and they were so squinty and drank magic juice and then made more magic juice and Blonde One’s hair looked like the tail of Buckley’s squirrel toy, and there were berries of blue that rolled over the floor.
The pictures in this recipe illustrate perfectly one of the core differences between me and Nicole. The conversation went like this:
Nicole: “Hey, could I use a Belgian waffle maker to make these? The recipe says not to.”
Me: Sure. I used a Belgian waffle maker and it worked fine.
Nicole: Okay, great! Thanks!
When I saw the photos, I laughed. My Belgian waffle maker is a generic beast that I got at Target last fall (when we wanted to make this). It’s crusty with remnants of waffles past, it already looks 10 years old and, design-wise, looks like it’d be right at home at a continental breakfast table at the Holiday Inn Express. Nicole’s creates beautiful waffle heart/flowers. Because of course it does. That’s pretty much us in a nutshell- me trying desperately to ladder up to acceptable-status and ending up at a Holiday Inn Express and Nicole effortlessly being awesome. (Note: she will read this and shake her head but you can’t dispute me here, Nicole! I hold the floor! Effortlessly awesome! It is decided!)
We both ended up making these waffles for guests over the last week and both give the recipe two (four?) thumbs up (am I Ebert? Oh man, I’m totally Ebert). The waffles are deliciously, yeastily flavored, they have a fantastic crisp to their edges and airy-light insides. This made me write about the whole experience for other food fanatics to read, just like how this reviews site does. When you oil the maker in between batches, you walk away with a waffle that’s almost fried-dough like but lighter than your typical diner waffles. They’re fantastic. They’re my new go-to and paired with blueberries and the batter mixed the night before? This one’s a no-brainer. Essential for good reason.
Blueberry Waffles aka “Essential” Raised Waffles with Blueberries
1/2 Cup of warm water (about 105 to 110 degrees, not too hot or it will kill the yeast)
1 packet (1/4 ounce) of active dry yeast (note: Judi only had instant yeast and just substituted the warm water for cool water, worked fine)
2 Cups of milk, warmed (again, not too hot)
1 Stick (4 oz) of unsalted butter, melted and cooled until lukewarm
1 Teaspoon of table salt
1 Teaspoon of granulated sugar
2 Cups of all purpose flour
2 Large eggs
1/4 Teaspoon of baking soda
Oil or melted butter for waffle iron
Powdered sugar, syrup and blueberries for serving
The night before:
1. In the bottom of a large (larger than you think you’ll need, this batter will rise a lot overnight) bowl, pour warm water and sprinkle yeast on top. Let yeast dissolve and foam (slightly) for about 15 minutes.
2. Stir in milk, butter, salt, sugar and flour. (Deb’s note: do a little wet ingredients and then dry, back and forth, to avoid forming lumps and if lumps form, just whisk them out.)
3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set out on counter overnight (or place in fridge if it’s super hot in your house).
In the morning:
4. Whisk in eggs and baking soda until smooth.
5. Heat waffle iron (Deb advises against using a Belgian waffle maker but they worked fine for both Nicole and myself!) Batter is thin so err on the side of underfilled until you work out the right amount.
6. Repeat with remaining batter.
7. Waffles can be kept warm and crisp in a warm oven (250 degrees, foil on rack) until ready to serve. Batter keeps well in the fridge for several days if you want to make it ahead.
Recently, I had a conversation with a (newish) friend. She was having a rough day (really rough) and we went to a bar near work for a drink.
We talked about a lot of things, mostly about what had sent her to the bar, to cry into her drink. In trying to pull her out of her misery, in whatever small, pathetic way I could, we veered off onto other topics. We talked, among other things, about her being an only child and her close friend who had just gotten married. We talked about my friend SJ, who is about to have a baby. Somehow, I ended up having one of those moments where a thought forms while you’re saying something out loud. Has this ever happened to you? You don’t really know how you feel and then you just start talking and… boop, there it is. Huh. That is how I feel.
What I had been saying, out loud, to her and to myself, was that there are so many aspects of adult friendship that you’re never really prepared for. There are so many books and movies and television shows about what friendship is like but they’re skewed so young- they talk about what it’s like to have friends when you’re in school and all, and then you get older and suddenly everything about romantic relationships. Everything you see is so narrowly focused on dating and married life, engagements and weddings. Nobody really talks about what happens when you grow up, what happens to your friendships, how they morph and change, the nuances of them.
Specifically, I was talking about how stunned I was to realize how much I already love my friend’s baby, who hasn’t even been born yet. I feel the same way about this as I did when my sisters were expecting their babies- I said it out loud to my friend and suddenly it became true in my mind, “Isn’t it amazing? Even if you’re an only child, you can still be an aunt. If you have a friend who you love and they have a baby, that love for their baby is just as strong. It’s amazing.”
The second novel I wrote touched on this subject a little. It was purely accidental; I hadn’t intended to write about how I felt becoming an aunt for the first time, how stunned and bezonked (that’s the only way to describe it, with a made-up-word) I was to love someone so fully who DID NOT EXIST a minute ago, it just happened. That whole experience just spilled out of me. And now it was happening again, only this time I was having the same realization about my friend, not my sister. I can’t believe I’ve been so lucky to live through this realization twice.
Love is amazing, you guys.
I’m bringing it up because of a weird convergence- that friend who was so sad in the bar is now moving to Chicago and SJ is due any day. I find myself, on the first day of summer, about to leave work and step into the sunshine, thinking about how much I’ll miss her, how much I miss Chicago, and about SJ who is probably at this moment, sitting on the couch and staring at her belly, willing her baby girl to come out and play.
Nicole was inspired to make this dish after having a similar one at the Publican in her neighborhood in Chicago. I miss Chicago terribly, and so much more in the summer when the whole city seems to step out and play and enjoy the sunshine. You should make it. The combination of banana bread and lemony ricotta and walnuts and mint might seem a little strange, but convergence is a funny thing when it works.
Eat delicious things and get out into the sun. Happy first day of summer.
Julia’s Best Banana Bread with Walnuts, Ricotta, Mint & Honey
NOTE: Banana bread can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
For banana bread:
Non-stick vegetable oil spray
1 and 3/4 Cups of all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons of baking soda
3/4 Teaspoon of kosher salt
3 Large eggs
1 and 1/2 Cups of sugar
1 Cup of mashed, ripe bananas (about 2 large)
3/4 Cup of vegetable oil
1/2 Cup of whole milk ricotta
2 Teaspoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Make banana bread:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan with vegetable spray.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt together.
3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, bananas and oil until smooth.
4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just combined.
5. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top.
6. Bake for 60-70 minutes, until tester comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
In a small bowl, combine ricotta with fresh lemon juice.
Dollop lemon ricotta on plate. Slice and lay banana bread on top. Top with sprigs of fresh mint, toasted walnuts and a heavy drizzle of honey.
This is the opposite of facing your blog post with not enough to say. I just got back from two weeks in Italy and I have too much to say. Too much.
Coming back from a trip is hard, I feel, because people seem excited to see you and ask you how your trip was but you’re not quite sure how much they want to know. I’m not a “why don’t you come over and eat food and you can look at all my trip photos!” type of person. Mostly because I personally feel that looking at 500 pictures of someone’s else’s trip is somewhat akin to listening to someone tell you about all the dreams they’ve had over the last year. “And then this monkey showed up! And it had my math teacher’s face! And it gave me a coconut!” Mother of god. Make it stop. In some ways, we are all still toddlers- if we’re not in the wedding photos, why do we care?
In this way, Facebook is actually a blessing because you can just throw all the photos up there! And if you want to look at them, GREAT. And if you don’t, at least I don’t have to suffer that glazed-over look on your face, I know, I missed you too.
In the same way that Facebook is a perfectly acceptable place to house all my trip photos, I realize that SKS can serve its own perfectly acceptable function- mainly, let’s talk about the food in Italy. And then we’ll eat biscuits, a perfectly acceptable non-Italian food because I’m pretty sure if someone put a plate of pasta in front of me at this juncture, I’d run headfirst into a wall in the opposite direction.
I spent the first week in Rome with my girls, a 10 year reunion from when we all lived there, together, during college, for the loveliest semester of my life. We rented an apartment in Trastevere which helped us save money, relive how it felt to walk the streets like residents and not tourists, eat as much Roman-style pizza as possible (square cut, airy crust, resplendent) and also helped me fulfill one of my trip goals- go to a market in Rome, buy food and then cook it. Which I did. Stepping foot into the market, Sunday, by the Roman Forum, with its buzzy locals, surrounded by food and bread and fresh-cut flowers was a highlight of my adult life, to be sure. I’m glad I crossed it off the list and I’m sure you, you kindred spirits you, can fully understand why I had to do it.
Rome was marked by a few home-cooked meals and one particularly memorable home-cooked meal that just happened to be in a restaurant in Trastevere where I almost wept openly over a plate of Caco e Pepe. And pizza, from a variety of places but mostly the places we used to hit while we were in “school”. We all had our favorites and they all delivered. There is something like those two square pieces, folded together and wrapped in paper, handed over the counter, that resonate deeply within me, a combination that can only be achieved when genuine deliciousness and your happiest of memories collide.
And gelato. I felt like it was my obligation to eat Nutella-flavored gelato at least once a day. For you. All for you. And my ass.
The second week was all about Calabria and Sicily and my family. We visited the towns of my great-grandparents in Calabria and my grandfather’s home in Southern Sicily, met relatives, drove a giant van through narrow Italian streets, dented said-van, cried upon emerging from the van because you should never do this, drive the world’s largest car through the world’s smallest streets, and we ate. We ate a lot. A lot. A lot cannot be stated enough. Octopus. Swordfish. Squid. Artichokes. Lemons. Ricotta. Eggplant. (So much eggplant!) At one point, my uncle’s cousin revealed the olive oil they used for the insane, 5 course meal his daughter cooked for us (the meal took 2 days to prepare and it was stunning, from start to finish, GOD BLESS YOU PATRON SAINT OF CALABRIA), a jug of gold they he said he got in the mountains somewhere. I wondered, in one wild-eyed moment, how offended they would be if I leapt over the table, grabbed the jug and made a run for it. But I was too laden down with stuffed calamari to make a move. Lucky for all of us. I finally let him walk away with it, a tear sliding down my cheek.
Lest you think Sicily was lacking in dessert, oh, OH, don’t worry- I ate my body weight in cannoli. One every day. One better than the last. They haunt my dreams.
And now, back to reality. Delicious, American reality.
These malted buttermilk biscuits are danged good. And I love the way they look when cut, closer in kin to a homemade English muffin. Best served warm, in a basket or shallow dish, wrapped in a kitchen cloth. Is there anything better than pulling back a little bread blanket and finding warm biscuits underneath? There is not. You are correct.
Malted Buttermilk Biscuits
3 and 1/4 Cups of all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons of sugar
1 Tablespoon plus 1 Teaspoon of baking powder
2 Teaspoons of kosher salt
1 Cup (8oz) of unsalted butter, frozen for 15 minutes (and some additional melted butter for tops)
1 Cup of buttermilk, cold (make your own)
1 Tablespoon of barley malt syrup
Sea salt for sprinkling
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. In a large bowl, whisk to combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
3. Using a box grater, grate the frozen butter over the flour mixture and distribute through flour with a rubber spatula.
4. In a small bowl, combine buttermilk and barley malt. Stir to blend thoroughly.
5. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the flour-butter mixture, stirring just until dough comes together.
6. On a lightly floured work surface, turn out dough and lightly knead to finish incorporating ingredients. Gently press the dough together into a flattened ball.
7. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to a 1-inch thickness. Cut out biscuits using a 2 and 1/2 inch biscuit cutter (don’t twist cutter. Flour it well and punch down and up.) Reroll scraps once but be gentle.
8. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, place biscuits about 1 inch apart.
9. Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
10. Bake until golden and cooked through, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving.
“Parla come magni,’ It means, ‘Speak the way you eat,’ or in my personal translation: ‘Say it like you eat it.’ It’s a reminder – when you’re making a big deal out of explaining something, when you’re searching for the right words – to keep your language as simple and direct as Roman rood. Don’t make a big production out of it. Just lay it on the table.”
“To my taste, the men in Rome are ridiculously, hurtfully, stupidly beautiful. More beautiful even than Roman women, to be honest. Italian men are beautiful in the same way as French women, which is to say– no detail spared in the quest for perfection. They’re like show poodles. Sometimes they look so good I want to applaud.”
“I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair.”
All quotes from Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love.
I leave for Rome tomorrow. I’m a little excited. Can you tell I’m a little excited? Does it show?
In any event, here are the facts:
1. I leave for Rome tomorrow. And Calabria. And Sicilia.
2. Long-lost relatives have been contacted. One of them is called Guiseppe. I kid you not.
3. While I’m away, you’ll still get delicious recipes. Nicole has promised and she’s good at keep her word.
4. If you’re feeling a wee bit of envy, we suggest you start with some biscotti. Bring one (or two) to the table in the morning with your coffee. It’ll make you feel better. Just some dunk and some yum and some crunch. Always sets me right. (White chocolate drizzles don’t hurt.)
5. Can someone water my plants?
Apricot White Chocolate Biscotti
2 Cups of all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 Cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 Cup of sugar
1 Teaspoon of grated lemon zest
1/4 Teaspoon of salt
2 Large eggs
1 Cup of fine chopped dried apricots (about 12 dried apricots)
2 Cups of white chocolate chips, divided
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking pan by lining it with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and the baking powder.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer or stand mixer, mix the butter until soft and fluffy. Add sugar, lemon zest, and salt and mix in.
4. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix until incorporated.
5. Add the flour mixture until just incorporated.
6. Stir in the apricots and 1 cup of white chocolate chips.
7. Place the dough onto your prepared baking sheet and form it into a rectangular log, about 13 by 3 inches.
8. Place in the oven, whole, and bake for about 35 minutes or until cookie log is golden brown. Let cool for 30 minutes.
9. Transfer the cookie to a cutting board and use a serrated knife to cut 1/2 inch slices on a slight diagonal.
10. Return cookies to baking sheet and arrange them cut side down. Bake for 10-15 minutes until cut sides are golden. Let cool completely.
11. Melt remaining white chocolate in a double boiler (bring water to a simmer in small saucepan and place heatproof bowl over it. Make sure water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.) Carefully transfer to a plastic bag or piping bag. Drizzle over the cooled biscotti.
12. Place in fridge to firm for about 30 minutes.
13. Commence dunking biscotti in coffee, tea or espresso.
Trina was going to dump Max. She was almost sure. She was almost positive.
Things had been going… okay. Which was largely the problem. They were just okay. Not explosive, not stupendous, but strictly and decently okay. Trina was getting tired of the word. Lately she’d taken to avoiding it altogether in conversation.
When she did say the word, accidentally, she conjured up Max’s face across the table from her at Coletti’s, the restaurant by his place. He sat there, twiddling his thumbs over a plate of Spaghetti Rositano (the house special), adjusting his glasses and doing that thing when she spoke, where he glanced around at the other diners to see if they were listening. He wasn’t paranoid, just curious. Curious and stable and he always ordered Spaghetti Rositano, which in her opinion could use a little more spice, like red pepper or maybe oregano.
The metaphor was not lost on Trina.
She made up her mind that she was going to do it after weeks of wavering, far too long in her girlfriends’ opinion. They went to Coletti’s on Friday and nodded hello at Bruno behind the bar, Bruno who always made a fuss over them when they were later to dinner than usual and the place was packed. He always slid his drink over to her with a smile and called her “Principessa.” Was she imagining it or was Bruno a little sad as he cast a glance over at Max and handed him his beer.
They weren’t late that Friday and got their usual table by the window. The waiter was new though. He was young and good looking and wore a smirk, not the usual type at Coletti’s. Max muttered something when the new guy failed to hold her chair out for her as she sat down and she shot him a look, embarrassed.
The new guy was oblivious and handed them their menus. When they spoke, he did what Max did, glancing around at the restaurant at the other diners but he had a bored look on his face, like he was looking for a better offer. He blinked at Trina when she asked her question about the swordfish a second time and this time, gave her a crude once over that made her feel like she’d just emerged from under his shoe. “I don’t know. I can ask if you want.” And when she tried to brush it off, she saw him roll his eyes.
Trina flushed and she was caught off guard when Max spoke up. “Why don’t you go do that?”
“Huh?” The waiter blinked as if just noticing Max for the first time. “Do what?”
“My girlfriend wants to know about the swordfish, where it’s from,” Max said. He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back. Trina stared at him. “See, she’s interested in safe fishing practices. Her father was a fisherman. So was her grandfather. And his father before that. And all of her uncles. It’s a big deal. And she likes the fish here and usually when she asks about a fish, it’s because she knows that the fish is on the danger list but she’s a nice person so she always wants to give Bruno and Carl the benefit of the doubt. So why don’t you go back into the kitchen and get the information she’s asking for.” He leaned forward and stared the guy right in the eye. New guy was finally looking at him, really looking, and so was Trina. “And when you come back here, if you decide to come back here and wait on us, I want you to look at my girlfriend like she’s the only person in this room who matters. I want you to smile. When she says something, anything, I want you to pay attention. I want you wondering why everyone else in this place hasn’t stopped talking so they can listen to her too. And at the end of the night, when you’ve been the best damn waiter this place has ever seen, when you made her feel like a million bucks, I want you to bring her a piece of olive oil cake , on the house, because it’s her favorite and she just killed it on a paper this week after working her ass off and she deserves it.” He raised an eyebrow and took a sip of water from his glass. “You got it?”
The other diners had stopped. They were listening. The new guy swallowed hard and stammered an apology to her. Behind the bar, Bruno clapped once hard and yelled, “Bravo!”
And Trina decided not to break up with Max.
I’m sitting in my new apartment in “the office.” It’s getting dark. I should really consider turning on the lights.
I just finished working for the week. Veronica Mars is playing behind me on mute (because yay! That’s right. I’m a total Marshmallow.) I’m HOME. I’m kicking this cold’s ass. I’ve got a countdown running until I’m in Italy (!) for two weeks (!) with some of my favorite people on the planet. My niece Corinne is turning 4 on St. Patrick’s Day. And there’s Blood Orange Cake in my immediate future.
St. Patrick’s Day marks another auspicious occasion- our blog anniversary! Two years! We’re very excited. Amidst a flurry of emails this morning along the lines of “I’m still having fun, are you still having fun?” “I’m still having fun. This is fun.” we decided to do another giveaway next week in honor of the occasion. So get ready! And let the good times, well, you know…
Blood Orange Cake
Source: Quince and the Pea | Makes 1 9×13″ Cake | Print Recipe
Caramel and Orange Topping:
1/2 Cup of sugar
2 Tablespoons of water
2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 to 4 Blood Oranges
1 and 3/4 Cups of all-purpose flour
1 Cup of sugar
1 Teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 Teaspoon of salt
3/4 Cup of orange juice (blood orange or regular)
3/4 Cup of olive oil
2 Teaspoons of orange zest
1 Teaspoon of orange flower water (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Zest oranges and set aside zest. Peel and slice oranges into approximately 1/4 inch-thick slices.
3. Generously oil bottom and sides of 9×13 pan.
4. Make caramel: In small saucepan over medium heat, heat sugar and water. Scrape any sugar from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon but do not stir. Bring to a boil, swirling occasionally to dissolve sugar, until caramel turns into a dark amber color (this will take several minutes. Do not walk away.) Once desired color is achieved, quickly remove from heat and add butter (it will foam up, don’t be scared) and stir with a wooden spoon. Put back on medium heat for a few seconds, stirring. Quickly pour caramel into the prepared cake pan, tilting so it coats pan as evenly as possible. Caramel will harden. (Do not lick spoon. Caramel is very hot.)
5. Arrange the orange slices on top of the caramel, laying them out in a grid pattern.
6. Mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
7. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, orange juice, zest and orange flower water.
8. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed, being careful not to over-mix.
9. Pour the batter over oranges and bake for 40-45 minutes until toothpick emerges clean.
10. Allow to cool slightly in pan, and then flip upside down to finish cooling.