Hot Milk Cake with Jam

Posted by on Feb 13, 2016 in Breakfast, Brunch, Desserts | 4 Comments



Hot Milk Cake with Jam



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.

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. 



Hot Milk Cake with Jam



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



Hot Milk Cake with Jam

Makes: One 9 x 13″ Cake | Serves: 12 | Print Recipe

Streusel Ingredients

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

Cake Ingredients

3/4 Cup of whole milk
1 and 1/2 Sticks of butter
3 Eggs
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

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Prep 13 x 9 x 2 pan with parchment paper and cooking spray.
2. Make streusel first, mixing ingredients together until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, and set aside.
3. In a small, microwave-safe bowl, add the milk and butter together and heat until the butter has melted, then set aside.
4. In a separate large bowl, add the eggs, sugar and vanilla and whisk together until all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Sift all of the dry ingredients together into a separate bowl.
5. Add 1/3 of the flour into the eggs and whisk well, then add half of the butter/milk mixture and whisk again. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients until you have achieved a smooth batter and everything is combined. Pour into prepared pan.
6. Add fruit filling and swirl.
7. Add streusel topping.
8. Bake for 30-35 minutes and check middle for doneness.

Late Summer Parfait

Posted by on Sep 17, 2015 in Brunch, Desserts | 5 Comments



Late Summer Parfait from Some Kitchen Stories



The other mother yelled a lot. Wyatt watched from inside the van as his mother and the other mother squared off opposite each other. The other mother waved her arms. 

Wyatt’s mom nodded a lot. She had her hands on her hips, a pose which Wyatt knew meant she “was very, very serious about this.” She continued to nod. The other mother yelled more, her face red, her hair a little wild. Wyatt shrunk down into his seat. He did not like to see this. He fiddled with the buckle on his seat and didn’t look up again until he heard the front door of the car finally open. He heard his mother grunt as she sat down in the seat. Instead of driving, she let out a deep, deep sigh. 

“Why was Matt’s mommy so mad?” Wyatt finally asked. 

She met his eyes in the rearview mirror. She spoke softly. “Matt’s mommy said she saw you and Matt on the slide. I guess she thought he almost got hurt.”

“Oh.” He blinked. “But why was she mad? She was yelling a lot. Matt didn’t get hurt at all. He didn’t cry or anything.” 

 

 

 



Late Summer Parfait from Some Kitchen Stories



His mom held Wyatt’s eyes for a long moment. Then, she got out of her seat and moved to the back of the van. She opened the door and climbed into the seat beside his. “When you were born,” she said carefully, “you were this big.” She held out her hands. “My little burrito.” He laughed. “And something magical happened,” she said. 

His eyes widened. “What?”

“Well.” She frowned. “My heart, and everything in it, left my chest. It floated down my arms and out of my sleeves and latched on to you. And my thoughts followed- just slid right after my heart. And then everything else,” she made a sucking noise and grabbed his arm. “suddenly stuck right to you. And I looked down and my little baby had this little world around him, my whole world. And every day, you walk around and you fall down and you eat and you play, and you carry my world with you. And the same thing happened,” she said, “to Matt’s mommy. She’s got her heart and world all wrapped up around Matt just like I have mine wrapped around you. It’s a lot to get used to,” she told Wyatt. “Sometimes when adults get scared, it comes out sounding like they are angry. But if you’re a mommy or a daddy and you’re talking to another mommy or daddy, you don’t hear the yelling,” she said. “You hear ‘I LOVE MATT VERY MUCH!'” She smiled. 

“Really?”

“Yes.” She took a deep breath, fished out a goldfish cracker out of his snack pack and popped it into her mouth. “You just have to listen for it.”



Late Summer Parfait from Some Kitchen Stories



We’re going to take a break for a while, from the blog. For good reasons.

Very good reasons.

The best reasons, actually.

We’re leaving you, just for a while, with this lovely Late Summer Parfait. We saw it on Food52 and it’s just… too pretty. It’s September in a jar. It’s worth making. If it makes you sing its name in this tune, then we might be soul mates.

See you soon!



Late Summer Parfait from Some Kitchen Stories



Late Summer Parfait

Source: Food52 | Serves 10-12 |Print Recipe

You will need…

1 Pound Cake (homemade or store bought)

FOR THE CREME:

2 Cups of whole milk
1/2 Vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
3 Eggs
3/4 Cup of sugar
6 Tablespoons of cornstarch
Pinch salt
1/4 Cup of crème fraîche
2 Cups of heavy cream

FOR THE ROASTED FRUIT:

1 and 1/2 Lbs of assorted late summer fruit
2 to 3 Tablespoons of sugar or honey
1/2 Lemon, juiced
2 Strips lemon zest, peeled with a veggie peeler
Reserved vanilla bean pod from making the pastry cream
1/4 Cup of rum, bourbon, amaretto, frangelico, chambord, or grand marnier

Directions

To make the creme:

1. Bring the milk and the vanilla bean pod to a simmer in a large pot. Turn off heat and set aside for one hour, to steep. (You want the milk to cool because you’re whisking it into an egg mixture.)

2. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla bean seeds together until smooth. Remove the vanilla bean pod from the cooled, steeped milk and whisk milk into egg mixture. Return the mixture back to the pot.

3. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble. It will be very thick. Once the mixture starts to boil, cook it (still whisking constantly) for one minute to ensure the starch is fully cooked.

4. Pour the cream into a clean bowl and press a layer of plastic wrap onto the surface. Chill until completely cold.

5. Whip heavy cream to medium peaks. In a separate bowl, whip the chilled pastry cream until smooth, add in the crème fraîche, and fold in whipped cream.

To make the fruit:

6. Preheat oven to 375° F.

7. Slice and pit fruit into evenly sized pieces. Toss with sugar, lemon juice, zest, and vanilla bean pod. Arrange in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast in the oven until the fruit is soft and juicy, about 15 minutes. Remove the fruit to a clean bowl and let cool completely before assembling the trifle.

To assemble:

8. Cut the cake into 1/2-inch cubes. Put a thin layer of vanilla cream on the bottom of the trifle dish (or dishes). Add a layer of cake cubes and brush on a bit of liqueur, followed by spoonfuls of roasted fruit and vanilla cream. Repeat the layers until all of the ingredients are used. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight before serving. Top with additional unsweetened whipped cream and a slice of fresh fruit if desired. This recipe will make one large trifle or 10 to 12 individual ones, depending on the size of the glasses.

 

Pull-Apart Brioche Cinnamon Roll Bread

Posted by on May 23, 2015 in Breads, Breakfast, Brunch, Desserts | 3 Comments



cinnamonbread



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. 



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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



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Pull-Apart Brioche Cinnamon Roll Bread

Source: Half-Baked Harvest | Makes 1 large loaf or 2 9×5 loaves | Print Recipe

*Overnight alert! The brioche dough comes together easily but needs 1-2 hours to rise and then an overnight rise in the fridge.

Ingredients: Dough

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)

Filling

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

Frosting

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

Directions

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.

Red Pepper and Baked Egg Galettes

Posted by on Apr 30, 2015 in Brunch, Entrees | One Comment



redpepperegggalette



Gerald, you don’t need a cookie.

You don’t need a cookie, Gerald.

Gerald, listen to me. I am your brain. I know what’s best for us. What’s best for us is… not to eat any more cookies.

You made them for your nephew’s birthday party, Gerald! Those cookies ARE NOT FOR YOU.

What are you doing? Gerald, sit down. Don’t pretend like you’re “just getting water” and “you must be thirsty.” You think I don’t know your tricks, GERALD? I invented the “I’m just getting up to get some water and oh, look, the cookies are right here.” I also invented the “I mean, we should probably try them, we don’t want anyone to get food poisoning.” No one has ever gotten food poisoning from properly prepared cookies, Gerald. Did you put shrimp in the cookies? Old shrimp? I must’ve missed that when we were making them. Also, if anyone’s going to get food poisoning, it’s going to be you because you ate some of the cookie dough even though it has raw eggs in it. 

Gerald, no, don’t…. huh… God, cookies are amazing. You were right, Gerald. This is good, I’m glad we did this. No, no, you were right. You always are.

Okay buddy. Let’s go back to Netflix.

Cookies… see you in 15 minutes.



redpepperegggalette2



And I’m off! Three days in beautiful Vermont to spend some quality time with my mama, eat way too much food, get massaged and hopefully not cry in the masseuse’s arms when she comments on how “tense” I feel in my shoulders (it’s… happened). I hadn’t planned this mini-vacay for very long but I knew I needed it. I plan on enjoying every second of it.

Until next time…



redpepperegggalette3



Red Pepper and Baked Egg Galettes

Source: The View From Great Island & Jerusalem Cookbook | Serves 4 | Print Recipe

Ingredients

2 large or 4 small red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch strips
2 small onions, (red or white) halved and cut into 1/2 inch wedges
fresh sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
6 Tbsp olive oil
handful fresh parsley, chopped
handful cilantro, chopped
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten, for brushing the pastry
12 tsp sour cream
4 large fresh eggs
salt and fresh cracked pepper

Directions

1. Set oven to 400F°

2. Mix together the pepper, onions, thyme and spices in a bowl. Add the olive oil and toss well so that everything is coated with the oil and spices.

3. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring and rearranging the veggies a few times so they don’t burn.

4. Sprinkle the veggies with half the fresh herbs and set aside.

5. Turn the oven up to 425. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface until it reaches a 12×12 inch square. Cut into four 6 inch squares. Transfer to two parchment or silpat lined baking sheets.

6. Take a dull knife and score a little 1/4 inch frame around each square of pastry. Don’t cut all the way through. Prick the inside of the squares all over with the tines of a fork. Put back in the fridge for 30 minutes.

7. Remove the pastry from the fridge and brush all over with a beaten egg. Spread the inside of each square with 3 tsp of sour cream.

8. Top each with some of the veggie mixture, spread it out evenly, leaving the borders free, and leaving a shallow depression in the center for the egg, which will go in later.

9. Bake for about 10 minutes until rising and starting to brown.

10. Remove and carefully crack in egg into the center of each galette.

11. Put back into the oven for about 10 minutes until the egg is set.

12. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and remaining herbs. Drizzle with some good olive oil and eat right away.

 

Cheddar Dill Scones

Posted by on Apr 21, 2015 in Breads, Breakfast, Brunch | No Comments



Cheddar Dill Scones // Some Kitchen Stories



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.



Cheddar Dill Scones // Some Kitchen Stories



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.”



Cheddar Dill Scones // Some Kitchen Stories



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

Source: The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook | Makes 16 large scones | Print Recipe

Ingredients

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)

Directions

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.

Almond Olive Oil Cake with Brown Butter Glaze

Posted by on Mar 6, 2015 in Brunch, Desserts | One Comment



Almond Olive Oil Cake with Brown Butter Glaze // Some Kitchen Stories



“Olive oil, in a cake?” 

The baker looked at his apprentice and lifted a dripping spatula far, far too high. Batter rained on them both. “To bake, and to cook, takes a leap of faith, Geoffrey.” He scowled into the bowl and pushed the thick batter aside, searching for pockets of flour. “It is like love, that way.” 



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Sometimes, many times (most times), I make something I know because I quite simply do not want to fail.

I buy just enough food, and ingredients, for one week. This tendency is not born of ideology but of budget- I buy what I can afford and then I stop. I am that person in the supermarket with a calculator out, adding up prices as I tick ingredients off the list. (My apologies to anyone lagging behind me as I push the cart slowly past the herbs, my face buried in my phone. I’m not texting or updating my status on Facebook but trying to calculate fractions of weight version price per pound in my head.) When I hit my number, I have to stop and reassess the items in my cart, wonder which ones will have to go back to the shelf. Actually, this rarely happens- for some reason, I have become very attuned to my budget and what I can afford and rarely end up more than a few dollars over.

So when I come across a recipe that’s a risk, I pause for dramatic effect. Because, see, if it fails, I have to eat it anyway or there’s nothing else, really, to eat. If a recipe has too many pricey ingredients, it’s immediately out- I can’t make one $40 meal for the week when my budget is $50.

This strategy serves me well. It’s a lot of work and it’s sometimes painful. On those rare occasions when I’ve put things back at the register, it’s downright humiliating. But it helps me save money so I can travel, go out, buy concert tickets on a Monday night, see a friend for a long weekend. (Food is everything but yet not everything.) So it’s worth it.

I make an exception with olive oil. A big, gaping, ridiculous exception.



Almond Olive Oil Cake with Brown Butter Glaze // Some Kitchen Stories



Brene Brown has a whole section in one, or multiple, books on scarcity and our great, clamoring fear of it. I recognize the feeling well- when a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of olive oil, I pause and my chest gets tight. Watching the level of the olive oil bottle is frightening to me and it’s scarcity, that hum of a word, that’s behind it. I take a deep breath, remind myself how vigilant I am about food and price and ingredients and I say to myself, out loud, “When it runs out, I’ll buy another bottle.” And not a cheap bottle. A good bottle. The best I can find. The thing with olive oil, see, is that it’s important to me. I’m Italian American, maybe that’s part of it, maybe the biggest part, why that bottle is a source of comfort to me. I use it often and when I cook something spare and simple and good, the better the ingredients, the better the final product. Somewhere along the line, I decided to grant olive oil a pass. It sings, the stuff. If you know what to do with it, it goddamn sings.

Listen to me now- in this, you should not be afraid. Buy a really, really good bottle (imported or from California, pure olive oil, extra virgin, the best you can possibly afford) and use a giant-sounding, heaping 1/2 cup of it in a cake. This cake.

Do it. You won’t be sorry. It’s good.

You can always buy another bottle.



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Almond Olive Oil Cake with Brown Butter Glaze

Source: Lottie & Doof | Makes: 1 9″ Cake | Print Recipe

Ingredients

1 Cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup of almond flour or meal
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons baking powder
1/2 Teaspoon of kosher salt
3 Large eggs
3/4 Cup of granulated sugar
1/2 Cup of extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 Teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1/4 Teaspoon of pure almond extract
Grated zest of 1/4 medium orange
1/2 Cup of orange juice

For glaze:

2 and 1/2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 Cup of confectioner’s sugar
3 Tablespoons of whole milk
A few drops of fresh lemon juice
1/2 Cup of sliced almonds, toasted and cooled

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan or springform pan and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder, salt, and set aside.

3. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk them lightly to break up the yolks. Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk it in very thoroughly. Add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is a bit lighter in color and has thickened slightly, about a minute. Whisk in the extracts and zest, followed by the orange juice.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined, about 30 more seconds.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake the cake for 30 to 45 minutes, rotating the cake pan halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning. The
cake is done when it has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, springs back slightly when touched, 9 and a cake tester comes out clean.

6. Allow the cake to cool for ten minutes in the pan, then gently remove it from the pan and allow it cool completely on a rack.

7. When the cake is almost finished cooling, make the glaze: melt the butter over medium heat in a small, heavy saucepan. When the bubbles subside, lower the heat and watch the butter carefully, swirling it in the pan occasionally to distribute the heat. When the butter begins to turn a light tan color and smells slightly nutty, turn off the heat and let the butter sit. It will continue to darken as it sits.

8. While the butter cools, sift the confectioner’s sugar into a medium bowl. Whisk in the milk until completely smooth but thick, then slowly whisk in the butter. Taste the glaze and add a few drops of lemon juice to balance the sweetness. Stir in the toasted almonds. Spread the almonds and glaze onto the top and sides of the cake and let it sit until set and dry.

 

Smitten’s Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars

Posted by on Jun 6, 2014 in Breakfast, Brunch, Desserts | 2 Comments



Smitten's Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars



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. 



Smitten's Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars



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!



Smitten's Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars



Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars

Source: Smitten Kitchen | Makes 16 small bars, 8 large bars | Print Recipe

Ingredients

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

Directions

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.

 

Blueberry Dutch Pancakes

Posted by on May 31, 2014 in Breakfast, Brunch | 4 Comments



Blueberry Dutch Pancakes



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?”

“Yes.”

“What else?” 

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.



Blueberry Dutch Pancakes



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.



Blueberry Dutch Pancakes



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



Blueberry Dutch Pancakes

Source: Martha Stewart | Makes: 4 Individual Pancakes | Print Recipe

Ingredients

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

Directions

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.

 

Rosemary, Bacon and Sugar Roasted Peaches

Posted by on Aug 30, 2013 in Breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, Side Dishes | 3 Comments



Roasted Peaches from Some Kitchen Stories



“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.



Roasted Peaches in Skillet from Some Kitchen Stories



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.



Peaches from Some Kitchen Stories



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.



Roasted Peach with Bacon and Rosemary from Some Kitchen Stories



Rosemary, Bacon and Sugar Roasted Peaches

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by way of How Sweet It Is | Makes: 2-4 Servings | Print Recipe

Ingredients

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)

Directions

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.

Doughnut Muffins for Mothers

Posted by on May 11, 2013 in Brunch, Desserts | 4 Comments







“You just get on shift?”

“Yeah.” The word fell out mid-yawn. Jen gave herself a smack in the face. “Ugh. I feel like I’ve been up for forty-eight hours straight.” She grunted. “Oh right, I have been.”

Gina smiled sympathetically and grabbed her purse from the locker. “Baby girl didn’t sleep again, huh?”

“No. She’ll never sleep again. The time for sleep is over. This is my life now.” Jen shook her head, envious as Gina grabbed the rest of the things. She just got into the hospital and already she couldn’t wait to go home. She avoided the clock on the wall. “Any notes for me?”

“Hmmm.” Gina fixed her hair in the mirror. She never looked out of place, even after she pulled a double. That’s what you get when you’re a nurse, single and childless, Jen thought grouchily. She tried to remember the last time she was able to even grab a shower before work. “Oh. Keep an eye on the sweetheart in 202, would you?”

“Is that a sarcastic sweetheart or a legit sweetheart?”

Gina smiled and patted her on the shoulder. “You’ll see.”







Legit sweetheart, Jen soon realized. The girl in 202 (and she was truly just a girl, seventeen if she was a day) smiled the instant Jen entered the room. It was four am and the girl’s eyes were open wide. “Hi,” she whispered, even though they were alone. Lucky girl had managed a room to herself.  

Jen smiled back, despite herself. “Hi.” She checked her vitals and flipped through her chart. Rough delivery, she noted. “Can you sleep? You should sleep.” Sleep now, she wanted to say, because when you take that baby (a baby boy, she read on the chart) home, sleep is history.

The girl laid on her side. “I can’t sleep, no. But it’s okay. I don’t want anything. Is my baby all right?”

“Last I checked, he was just fine.”

“Where’s Gina? Did Gina go home?” Jen nodded as the girl’s face fell and she struggled to smile. “I’m Marcie.”

“Hi Marcie. I’m Jen. I’ll be your night nurse. Looks like you scored a private room, for the moment.” The other bed was empty but likely wouldn’t be, for long. Jen looked at it longingly. When she glanced back over to Marcie, she was startled to see tears on the girl’s face. “You all right, hon?”

Marcie struggled with the words. She covered her face with her hands and Jen noted there was no ring on her finger. “Is there someone you’d like me to call for you?” Jen asked with a sinking feeling. She had suspected the girl’s story the instant she saw her in that bed. The girl had been there for two days and the room was unmarked. No balloons. No cards. No stuffed teddy bears. No visitors.

Jen looked down at the girl she’d once been herself, not too long ago. She thought of her daughter and felt an ache where her heart should be. “There’s no one,” Marcie murmured through her hands and her shoulders pitched forward from the silence of her cry. 

Jen stared down at the girl, amazed that she knew what to say. The words were there because this moment was in her memory- her in the bed, her nurse standing over her. The pain was the same and the comfort would be the same. Jen gripped the side of the bed post and crouched down until she was close to the girl. She reached out and grabbed her hand. Marcie looked at her, dazed and overwhelmed. “I’m going to go and get your baby for you.”

“You are?” Marcie blinked. “Why?”

“Because then you’ll see, you’re not alone anymore. You never will be again.” Jen squeezed the girl’s hand and smiled. “It’s going to be okay, sweetheart.”

“Trust me on that.”







Every year, Mother’s Day gets bigger. I think that just kind of happens as you get older. Suddenly it’s not just your own mother to celebrate (Mom!) but your sisters too (Meliss! Jenn!)

And then your friends get into the game. More and more friends who are now mothers (Hope!) or are about to become mothers (Sarah!) or have literally just become mothers a minute ago (Brigid!). Awesome friends/sisters make for awesome mothers- this is a factual statement.

Also factual- awesome mothers deserve awesome homemade doughnut muffins. One for every unsung hero gesture they make.

That is a lot of muffins. That’s a tidal wave of muffins, in fact. You’d better get busy.

Happy Mother’s Day!







Doughnut Muffins

Source: King Arthur Flour | Yield: Makes 12 Muffins | Print Recipe

Ingredients

For the batter:

1/4 Cup of butter
1/4 Cup of vegetable oil
1/2 Cup of granulated sugar
1/3 Cup of brown sugar
2 Large eggs
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 Teaspoon of baking soda
1 to 1 and 1/4 Teaspoons of ground nutmeg, to taste
3/4 Teaspoon of salt
1 Teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 and 2/3 Cups of All Purpose Flour
1 Cup of milk

Topping:

3 Tablespoons of melted butter
3 Tablespoons of cinnamon sugar

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a standard muffin tin or line with 12 paper cups and grease cups with nonstick vegetable oil spray.

2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter, vegetable oil, and sugars until smooth.

3. Add the eggs, beating to combine.

4. Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt and vanilla.

5. Stir the flour into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and making sure everything is thoroughly combined.

6. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared pan, filling the cups nearly full.

7. Bake the muffins for 15 to 17 minutes, or until they’re a pale golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the middle of one of the center muffins comes out clean.

8. Remove them from the oven and let cool. Meanwhile, melt the butter for the topping.

9. Brush the top of each muffin with melted butter, then sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar. Or simply dip the tops of muffins into the melted butter, then roll in the cinnamon-sugar.

10. Serve warm, or cool on a rack and wrap airtight. Store for a day or so at room temperature.

A Room With a View: Lemon, Olive Oil and Ricotta Cake with Lemon Glaze

Posted by on Apr 17, 2013 in Brunch, Desserts, Pastry | 11 Comments








At the same moment the ground gave way, and with a cry she fell out of the wood. Light and beauty enveloped her. She had fallen on to a little open terrace, which was covered with violets from end to end.

“Courage!” cried her companion, now standing some six feet above. “Courage and love.”









lemoncake_3



She did not answer. From her feet the ground sloped sharply into view, and violets ran down in rivulets and streams and cataracts, irrigating the hillside with blue, eddying round the tree stems collecting into pools in the hollows, covering the grass with spots of azure foam. But never again were they in such profusion; this terrace was the well-head, the primal source whence beauty gushed out to water the earth.

Standing at its brink, like a swimmer who prepares, was the good man. But he was not the good man that she had expected, and he was alone.

George had turned at the sound of her arrival. For a moment he contemplated her, as one who had fallen out of heaven. He saw radiant joy in her face, he saw the flowers beat against her dress in blue waves. The bushes above them closed. He stepped quickly forward and kissed her.

Before she could speak, almost before she could feel, a voice called, “Lucy! Lucy! Lucy!” The silence of life had been broken by Miss Bartlett who stood brown against the view.

Excerpt from A Room With a View by E.M. Forster







Lemon, Olive Oil and Ricotta Cake with Lemon Glaze

Source: A Cup of Mascarpone | Makes 1 cake | Print Recipe

Ingredients
for the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons whole milk
3/4 cup of ricotta cheese
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
a small amount of butter, softened, for buttering the pan

for the glaze:
1 cup of confectioner’s sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice {or limoncello}
confectioner’s sugar for dusting on top {optional}

Directions
1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line the bottom of a removable bottom quiche/tart pan with parchment paper, lightly butter the pan, and the paper.  I used a quiche/tart pan that measured 8” across the bottom, and 10” across top, with a 2 1/8” height, like this one here.  I loved the presentation it made.  You can also use an 8” – 9” round cake pan, or anything similar.  Just remember to adjust cooking times accordingly.

2.  In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

3.  In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine the egg yolks, granulated sugar, and lemon zest.  Beat on medium speed until the mixture thickens, is pale yellow, and forms ribbons when the whisk is lifted, 3 – 4 minutes.  Allow to sit.

4.  In a separate bowl, with an electric hand mixer, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.  Set aside.

5.  In another bowl, hand whisk together the evoo, milk, ricotta cheese, and lemon juice.  Slowly drizzle the oil mixture into the egg mixture in the electric stand mixer, while the mixer is running.  Reduce the speed to low, and now add the flour mixture, and mix just until combined.  Drizzle in the butter, and mix just until combined.

6.  Remove the mixing bowl from the stand mixer, and fold in the stiff egg whites.

7.  Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.  Bake, rotating the pan after 25 minutes.  Bake until the top of the cake is golden, the center bounces back when touched, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean – approximately 40 – 45 minutes.

8.  Remove from pan after about 10 minutes, and cool enough to touch.  Let it cool completely on a wire rack.

9.  While the cake is cooling, prepare the glaze.  Combine the lemon juice, or Limoncello, with the powdered sugar until completely smooth, and combined.  Adjust the consistency to how you like it…thinner, add more lemon juice…thicker, add more powdered sugar.  Place the cooled cake on a serving plate, and pour the glaze over the cake and let it set up {at least 30 minutes} prior to slicing.  I kept the glaze a little on the thicker side and spread it just to the edge of the scallops on the cake.  If desired, dust a small amount of powdered sugar over the top.

Apricot White Chocolate Biscotti

Posted by on Apr 4, 2013 in Breads, Breakfast, Brunch, Desserts | One Comment







“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

Source: kitchenconfidante.com | Makes 18 Cookies | Print Recipe

Ingredients

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

Directions

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.

Blood Orange Cake

Posted by on Mar 15, 2013 in Breakfast, Brunch, Desserts | 2 Comments







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

Ingredients

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

Cake:

1 and 3/4 Cups of all-purpose flour
1 Cup of sugar
1 Teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 Teaspoon of salt
2 Eggs
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)

Directions

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.

Honey Cake with Fleur de Sel

Posted by on Mar 6, 2013 in Brunch, Desserts | 5 Comments







They were doing fine until they got to the last box. The very last one. 

Everything had been put away. Every drawer had been filled, every shelf, every closet. Gloria and Bill had made countless trips down the three flights of stairs into the basement with their empty boxes and holiday decorations and old, dusty keepsakes that had belonged to Gloria’s mother. Bill was tired. His legs hurt. His back hurt. They stared down at the open box, surrounded it on two sides like sentinels, and looked into the tangled mess of wires. 

“Wha?” Bill reached down and pulled out a handful of wires that went to nothing, that he could recall. Everything was hooked up that needed to be hooked up. They were so close. SO CLOSE to being done with moving. He looked at Gloria. “What is all this?”

“I don’t know.” She was just as tired as he was and just as baffled. “I didn’t pack it.”

“Well, I didn’t pack it.”

“It had to come from somewhere, Gloria!”

“Well, what do you think, Bill? That I have some SECRET WIRE COLLECTION? Oh, yeah, I’ve been collecting wires for years and years, Bill, I love wires. I love to tangle them up and stick them in random boxes, that’s what I like to do in my free time! When I’m not cleaning our house or raising our dogs or paying the bills or balancing the checkbook or picking up your prescriptions and your laundry or laying out your damn clothes for you in the morning so you don’t look like a half-baked cornhusker when you go to the office, I go around town and I stop in at local businesses and I say, ‘Hey, do you guys have any wires that go to absolutely NOTHING because I have a collection and I really need 16 more pairs of those red-white-and-yellow wires that I still have no clue how to use, can I just look through your dumpster THANKS.”

They glared at each other for one long minute and then they both looked down at the box between them. Bill cleared his throat. “I think I’m going to just throw it away.”

“Yeah, good idea.” 







It should be illegal to move between February and March. It should be doubly illegal to move between February and March when Mars is in retrograde. Yeah, that’s right! Just dropped some ASTROLOGY up in here. I don’t even know if it’s accurate! But it feels accurate!

I am finally done unpacking. Yes, yes, I moved Saturday and it’s Wednesday and I know there’s a type of personality who is more than happy to plod along, partially unpacked, with boxes still in corners for weeks at a time but I am not that person. I want stuff to be put away. I want it to be done. I want no visual reminders of the turmoil of moving. I literally (LITERALLY) threw the last, broken down box into my storage cube last night, in the dark basement. It fought me, that last box. It’s sides bounced off the sides of the walls and came back to hit me in the face but I prevailed! I folded up the sides and threw it in there again. Done! Knives down, hands up everybody.

Special thank you to my parents who drove up from New York, cleaned and scrubbed and hung shelves and drove me to Home Depot for two days until we were all hobbling around like cowboys with hemorrhoids. Thank you, Mom and Dad. We made you a cake.







Honey Cake with Fleur de Sel

Source: The Vanilla Bean Blog | Makes One 10″ Tube or Bundt Cake | Print Recipe

Ingredients

2 and 1/2 Cups of all-purpose flour
2 Teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon of baking powder
1 Teaspoon of salt
1 Cup [2 sticks] butter, room temperature
1 Cup of [good] honey
3/4 Cup of sugar
3 Eggs
1/2 Cup of strong brewed coffee, cold
2 Tablespoons of sour cream
1 and 1/2 Cups of chopped nuts [optional]

Warm Honey Topping

1/2 Cup of honey
2 Tablespoons of coffee [optional]
Fleur de sel

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 10-inch tube pan.

2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

3. In a standing mixer or with a hand mixer, beat butter for a minute or two, then add the honey and sugar. Beat for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy.

4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition [batter may appear curdled].

5. Add half the flour mixture and mix until combined.

6. Add the coffee and mix until combined.

7. Add the remaining coffee and mix until combined.

8. Add the sour cream (and nuts, if using) and beat the batter for one minute, until smooth.

9. Pour/scoop the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake cake for 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

10. Let cool in the tube pan for 30 minutes, then gently invert the cake onto a rimmed baking sheet; remove the tube pan, place a wire rack on top of the cake and invert again.

11. While the cake is still warm, prepare the warm honey topping by heating honey and coffee (if using) in a small saucepan until warm and very runny. Pour over warm cake, using a brush for the sides of the cake. Sprinle with fleur de sel.

We Made The World’s Best Pancakes

Posted by on Jan 25, 2013 in Breakfast, Brunch | 13 Comments







Izzie picked up her pencil and paper and regarded both with great seriousness. At 8, she was small for her age and her thick glasses threatened to swallow her round little face. She faced her aunt over the tiny cafe table in the corner of her aunt’s tiny, yet stylish, apartment. Her aunt was tall and thin and still largely a mystery to Izzie, who had only been living with her a short time. 

Izzie faced the butterflies in her stomach and read the first question on the page. “What is the best part of being a grown-up today?” It was an assignment for school. Izzie did very well in school.

Her aunt sipped her espresso and tapped against the table. After a moment, she met Izzie’s eyes. “Guess.”

Izzie frowned. The paper did not indicate that Izzie should guess- it told her to ask a grown-up these questions and write down the answers.

An interview. Perhaps her aunt didn’t know what an interview was. 

Izzie might’ve wondered such things aloud to her mother. But her mother was no longer there. And though her aunt always answered her when Izzie mused aloud (which was often), her aunt’s answers tended to be more… peculiar. Izzie sighed and tried to think. The best part about being a grown-up… “You can wear nice clothes?” she asked hopefully.

Her aunt raised an eyebrow. “No. Not that.” 

Feeling a bit flushed, like she had said the wrong thing (but her aunt dressed so fancy! And she seemed to delight in her clothes!) Izzie tried again. “You can vote?”

“That’s a better guess.” But her aunt shook her head. “Sadly, no. Not the best part. Good. But not the best part by far.”

Izzie guessed several more times (you can have a dog!) (you can visit France!) (you can ride the subway alone!) but her aunt dismissed them one by one (No.) (That’s true, but no. Well… no.) (The subway?) Finally, Izzie drooped in her chair, defeated. “All right,” she said to her aunt. “I give up.”

Her aunt took a sip of espresso and smiled faintly over the rim. “Fine then. Write this down. It’s quite simple, really. I’m sure once you hear it, you’ll agree.” Inside Izzie’s head, she grumbled a bit. “The best part of being a grown up,” she said slowly, so her niece’s pencil could keep up, “is being able to eat truly excellent pancakes whenever one wishes.”  

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

Izzie was surprised by the answer yet not too surprised; her aunt was peculiar, after all. (And she did make truly excellent, excellent pancakes.)







There’s something comforting about having a blog and occasionally sharing quintessential  recipes. I’m not sure why… Maybe because of the sheer volume of recipes out there. So many variations and tests and special tricks and techniques. Not to mention the sources. So many sources. Endless sources. I don’t really need to go into how impossible it is to determine “the best possible” recipe in any category, do I?

Nevertheless, here I am, telling you that these are the world’s best pancakes. But maybe that’s a misnomer- let’s call them quintessential pancakes then.







They consist of white flour. Butter. Whole milk. Sugar. Baking powder. Eggs. Vegetable oil. And salt.

You’re trying to resist me, I can feel it. You’re trying to imagine variants with skim milk, soy milk, no butter, less butter, whole wheat flour, less white flour. No eggs. Maybe applesauce? Just… stop. Just for a second. I commend you for what you’re trying to do, I really do. (I do it myself! Hi!) But now’s not the time. Ruth and I (we’re friends, we’re so close.  We’re likethis.) would like you to just… take a break. Just for now. Just this once. Just for breakfast.

Because we made you pancakes. Crisp and chewy. Shiny with syrup. Topped with a pat of butter. We hope you like them as much as we did.







World’s Best Pancakes

Source: ruthreichl.com | Makes 8 large pancakes | Print Recipe

Ingredients

1 Stick of butter
1 Cup of whole milk
2 Large eggs
1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 Cup of flour
4 Teaspoons of baking powder
4 Teaspoons of sugar
1 Teaspoon of salt

Directions

1. Melt the butter. Whisk together the cup of milk, eggs, vegetable oil, then add the butter.

2. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with baking powder, sugar and salt. Whisk into milk mixture until just combined. (Add a bit more milk if it’s too thick.)

3. Skim a good pan with butter or oil and pour in some batter (the size is up to you). Watch as the bubbles appear in the batter, grow larger, and then pop and vanish. When they’ve all popped, flip the pancake and cook the other side.

SKS Note: Eat the first pancake off the pan as a test. This is your right as the maker of breakfast.

 

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