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Category Archives: baking

Liverpool Leading Lady

I’m not as English as I once thought.

My father and I were talking about having corned beef and cabbage for Saint Patrick’s Day and I said that it would be worth the effort, “Even though there’s not an ounce of Irish blood in us,” to which my father replied, “I’m half Irish.”

Oh. Really?

Well, then we certainly should have some corned beef and cabbage and throw in a loaf Irish soda bread while we’re at it.

Now, I was perfectly justified in thinking that I was English. My great-grandparent and company were all born in Liverpool. Well, there’s a story behind that.

It just so happens that I am not the first actress in my family. My grandmother Kathleen was certainly one of the most dramatic people I knew, but her grandmother certainly takes the gold.

For many, many years being Irish was not nearly as grand as being English and my great-great grandmother thought she could do something about that. When the time came to give birth to each baby in her brood, she would go to Liverpool, have her child, and then go back to her homestead in Ireland. Doing this made her English (In her mind, of course). She did the baby act a few times and it was not easy, but the performance must have been worth it.

So, in honor of her and her wild antics, I adapted Nick Malgieri’s recipe for Irish Soda Bread Muffins. Don that green apron of yours and bake some up this weekend.

Irish Soda Bread Muffins

Makes 12 standard muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour     1 ½ teaspoons baking powder    ½ teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted    ¼ cup sugar    1 large egg    1 ¼ cups buttermilk

¾ cup raisins, currants, or cranberries tossed with 1 tablespoon flour

confectioner’s sugar    vanilla extract    half-n-half

  1. Set a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 350 F.
  2. Line your muffin tin with paper liners.
  3. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar. Whisk in the egg and ½ of the buttermilk. Gently stir in ½ of the flour mixture and then add the remaining buttermilk.
  5. Stir in the dried fruit and then the rest of the flour mixture.
  6. Spoon the batter in to the muffin cups and bake for about 30 minutes or until the muffins have a touch of gold and are firm to the touch.
  7. Allow the muffins to cool on a wire rack.
  8. Mix together a cup of confectioner’s sugar, two tablespoons of half-n-half, and one tablespoon of vanilla. Add liquid or sugar until you get a nice consistency. Drip the icing over cooled muffins and allow the icing to harden. The muffins should look glazed.

Jessica’s Rustic Apple Pie

Posted on

Rustic apple pie.

What makes something “rustic?” Is it unfinished looking? Usually. That’s the case with this apple pie. There are no crimped edges, no perfectly pressed crust. There’s not even a stitch of butter in the crust, which is normally a no-no for me [Jessica]. This pie takes about 15 minutes to throw together, and that’s what’s so beautiful about it. Maddy Lu has an eye for the “rustic” in dessert. It might not be pretty, but I bet it’s one of the best things you’ve ever eaten! Here is my recipe for rustic apple pie. I highly recommend it… and your husband will thank you when he walks in from work and smells the cinnamon. Maybe a back rub is in order?

Preheat Oven to 375…

Ingredients:

FILLING

  • 8 Medium Sized Apples, cored and sliced
  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • A generous sprinkling of cinnamon
  • 3 TBS Flour

CRUST

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  1. To begin, slice and core your apples. This is the time when an apple peeler/corer comes in handy.
  2. Melt a stick of butter on medium heat, once melted, add the flour.
  3. Add the white/brown sugars and the cinnamon.
  4. Let the mixture simmer for a few minutes. That’s it.
  5. Get that crust prepared- using a pastry cutter or a big fork, cut the flour/salt into the shortening.  Mix in the water with your hands until the dough comes together.
  6. Roll out the dough on a floured surface- you want a big huge pancake.
  7. Lift the dough onto your baking sheet, and dump the apples into the center.
  8. Pull up the edges so they come in about halfway towards the center.
  9. Bake on center rack at 375 or until you can see the apples are bubbling and the crust is browned.

In a Sequined Christmas Blouse

We took down our trees today. I know it’s a bit late, but we were waiting for snow. The snow came down early this morning…

and the trees followed.

While we tried to not be nostalgic, I couldn’t help but think of the season when the most delightful part of each day will be choosing from the manor’s menu–boiled ham sandwich or beef goulash.

The holidays will arrive and my children will draw from a hat to see who will feed me and the unlucky grand-kids will cry, “Do we have to?!”

I will sit in the manor lobby in my sequined Christmas blouse and wait. I imagine I’ll wait for at least forty-five minutes before I see an angry-looking relative.

All year long I’ve been looking forward to a festive dinner and I’m given an hour or so to choke down my rations while no one even attempts to talk to me. I don’t even get a peek at the Christmas tree.

I’m back in my room again before I know it and it’s time to choose breakfast–honey bun or runny eggs. Neither. Thanks.

To lighten the mood, I went with something terribly easy for someone in such a mental state–chocolate chip bars. And chocolate can be so comforting.

The recipe comes from Jim Fobel’s Old-Fashioned Baking Book. These chocolate chip bars are just right.

Jim Fobel’s Chocolate Chip Bars

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour                                            1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon baking soda                                                 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt                                                1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened                     6 ounces of chocolate chips

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter and flour an 11 3/4-by-7 1/2-inch pan.

2. Stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

3. Beat together the butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla.

4. Combine the wet with the dry and fold in the chips and nuts ( I omitted the nuts).

5. Spoon the mix in to the pan and spread it out evenly.

6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (I baked for 18).

7. Place the hot pan on a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature.

8. Cut the bars and eat them.

Happy Winter. Enjoy the soft centers and the chewy edges.

Stress

I’ve noticed a trend. When I become stressed I often do one of two things: I cut my hair or I bake.

Maybe three things. I’ve been eating a lot of frozen gingerbread lately.

There’s not much more chopping that can be done to my hair (I did my last “trim” using a fingernail clipper), so I turned the oven to 375.

The spring semester is beginning next week, so I made raisin bread, a large pan of sandwich bread, and some whole-grain apple walnut bread thinking that I would freeze it so we wouldn’t starve before commencement in May. But we ate all of that before I could take any pictures and…I don’t know. I didn’t feel like making a post about it. Maybe I don’t have a good attitude. Maybe it’s all of that gingerbread getting back at me or maybe I need more vitamin D. Maybe I need to get more sleep.

I’ve decided to share a cookie experiment with you. I’m calling it an experiment because I like the results, but I wonder if something else could be done to it. Dip it in chocolate? Make it a thumbprint cookie and add a caramel center?

Well, I’ll tell you what I did. I think it makes a nice cookie. My taster said that it tastes old fashioned and modern. He said that he doesn’t really have a grid for it.

Praline Nut Cookies

1 1/2 cups of pecans

1/4 cup walnuts or almonds

1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar, plus more for sprinkling

8 tablespoons of butter, softened

1 egg

2 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla

1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 375. Take a couple of cookie sheets and line them with parchment. Throw the nuts in a food processor and pulse until you get nut crumbs, but not nut powder. Combine the nuts, sugar, butter, and egg in a mixer and beat for a minute. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour to the mixture. When the mixture is fully combined, use a small ice cream scoop to spoon out the dough and roll into small spheres. Place the spheres on the sheets and lightly press them down. Sprinkle the dough lightly with brown sugar. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes.

What do you think?

Caramel and Crumbs

Soft bites and chewy edging. Perfection. Butter meets caramel meets powdery crumb topping. The flavor expanded and spread over every taste bud and then I was hit, mentally, by a shot of satisfaction and I smiled.

I meant to save some of these edges for Josh. I’m not sure what happened.

Rewind, rewind, rewind.

She’s gotten too smart for me. No more holding my breath while putting her down for a nap, to exhale upon my feet hitting the cold kitchen floor. After she graduated from naps, I used to try to bake while she painted or set up her princess figurines, but she couldn’t go at it for very long before needing me to squirt more paint or change Tiana’s dress.

(I did let her refill her palate once. Notice I said once.)

I would level off a measuring cup or separate an egg, run to Sophie, change the dress, run back and before I could find my place in the recipe, I would be summoned once again.

No good.

I gave it up. But I found that I couldn’t give up on baking. So we work together. Note the shower caps. She likes us to wear “hats.” Oh and don’t note the dishes. I did get to those. Eventually.

I wear the orange apron and she wears the green one. I weigh and measure the ingredients and she throws them in. We may lose a touch of flour this way, but mother and daughter are not losing their minds. If the recipe is complicated, she runs off after a few steps and I finish up on my own. We’re both happy with this set-up. I get to bake and she gets to make. Yes, I said make. “Can I make with you?” Sophie asks. And she’s right. It’s never just baking or cooking, It’s a lot more.

Today we made Caramel Crumb Bars from Nick Malgieri’s The Modern Baker. This book is just right. I love what it features—pies, tarts, cakes, cookies, bars, pastry, and even savory tarts, pies, and breads. The photography is complimentary and I have faith that each recipe will give me a delightful product.

I chose this recipe because 1) I have the ingredients and 2) I was able to make it with a three year old. (Don’t attempt puff pastry with a toddler as your sous chef.)

We were happy with the results. And the recipe was fairly simple. And I like the idea of cookie bars. They’re rustic and pleasing and almost always appropriate. And a baker can be somewhat experimental with bars. Experimenting with different nuts and fillings and crumbs and toppings can be exhilarating. Trust me.

Caramel Crumb Bars

Dough

2 sticks of butter    1/2 cup sugar    1/4 teaspoon salt    1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Filling

4 tablespoons unsalted butter    1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1/4 cup dark brown sugar    1 (14-ounce) can sweetened, condensed milk

Directions

1. Butter and line a 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan with buttered parchment paper.

2. Preheat the oven to 350.

3. Beat the butter with the sugar and salt at medium speed for 3 minutes.

4. Beat in 2 1/4 cup flour at the lowest speed. Scrape down the bowl a few times in the process.

5. Take 1/4 of the dough and press it into the pan. Chill the pan.

6. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour into the rest of the dough and make crumbs by rubbing the dough with the flour between your fingers.

7. Make the filling by simmering the butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, and condensed milk in a medium saucepan. Stir often and cook for about 10 minutes. Pour mixture into a stainless-steel bowl and allow it to cool for 5 minutes.

8. Remove the pan from the refrigerator and pour the filling on top, spreading it evenly with a small spatula. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top.

9. Bake for about 30 minutes.

10. Place the pan on a rack and allow it to cool for 15 minutes. Cut it into bars before it cools completely.

Crafting a Carb

What’s the point?

Hm.

Maybe that’s not the question to ask.

All I know that it was quite thrilling to find that I could indeed make my own bagels. I know that bagels are not that hard to come by and they really don’t have the greatest reputation after the whole Atkins movement, but perhaps that’s what compelled me.

Let me bake something that I can get at any grocery store or deli, that isn’t chocolate, and doesn’t have sprinkles on it. Oh and something that’s controversial.

Does Dr. Atkins feel any remorse?

I won’t play judge, but I will tell you that homemade bagels are not too hard to make and they are rather tasty. Can anyone honestly say that they do not like the taste of a warm, toasted bagel?

Didn’t think so.

So, here we have it. The bagels:

(You can’t tell this just by reading, but I couldn’t find my camera to upload the pictures, so I went down to the basement freezer for some Rocky Road biscotti. I did find the camera, obviously and I do think that eating the biscotti had something to do with it. It must have been the chocolate. Mmmm. They are incredibly good straight from the freezer. Was I supposed to save them for something?)

The recipe I used comes from (drum-roll…) How to Bake by Nick Malgieri. I can’t begin to explain what this one little (big, really) book has done to me. I have yet to find a disappointing recipe.

I hope Nick’s alright with me sharing his findings.

Nick’s Bagels

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast     1 1/2 cups warm tap water

5 to 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour     3 tablespoons sugar     2 teaspoons salt

Egg wash: 1 egg white well beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Optional toppings: sesame seeds, coarse salt, poppy seeds, chopped dried garlic, etc.

Makes 10 to 12 bagels.

1. Whisk the yeast into warm water and set aside.

2. Combine 5 cups of flour, the sugar and the salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse to mix. Add the yeast mixture and pulse until the dough forms a ball. Let it rest for 5 minutes and then run the machine for 30 seconds. Knead in the remaining flour by hand.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl. Turn the dough over a few times to coat the surfaces. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest until it has doubled, about 1 hour.

4. Bring a 5-quart saucepan of water to a simmer.

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into ten or twelve equal pieces and then roll each piece into a 10-inch cylinder. Keep a piece of plastic wrap over the rest of the dough while you work to prevent it from drying out. Moisten the ends of each cylinder with water and then press the ends together to make a circle.

6. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

7. Lower 2 bagels at time into the simmering water and cook for a minute, turning each bagel over once during this time. Remove the bagels and place on a rack. Once the bagels are dry, brush them with the egg wash and sprinkle them with toppings.

8. Place on a baking sheet lined with oiled foil. Bake the bagels for about 30 minutes.

9. Transfer to cooling racks.

Enjoy these bagels fresh or freshly toasted with a smear of cream cheese or butter. They’re good with anything on them really. BLT bagel, anyone?

Have This On Hand and A Pie Story

From a triple layer chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and peanut butter filling to vanilla sheet cakes to pies, pies, pies.

And pies.

Oh, but I love it.

Pies are truly wonderful and I hope you get your fill (is that possible?) tomorrow. There are so many possibilities with pies, but what makes a pie fantastic is that it is both sweet and savory, no matter what the flavor. Think of your typical apple pie—sweet, chunky, spicy, fruity filling with a rich, buttery, flaky crust.

This is food perfection. Eat it any time and all of the time. And the chicken pie—protein and vegetable goodness in a crust that makes you feel loved. What more could you want?

My little man couldn’t agree more. Mommy and Baby can often be found devouring a pumpkin pie by the light of the open refrigerator.

With the holidays here, pies are necessary and excellent any time of day. There is nothing like a leftover piece of pie first thing in the morning. Or a forkful before a run.

It makes me go faster.

But you may want other breakfast possibilities. I’ve made a routine of making pan bread every other day. We usually work through a loaf in a day and I have another waiting in the freezer. I tried out Nick Malgieri’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread. A toasted slice with my morning latte was quite nice. It’s not a sweet bread, mind you. It’s a nice toasting bread and the cinnamon swirl dresses it up a bit for this time of year.

Cinnamon Swirl Pan Bread

*Adapted from How to Bake by Nick Malgieri.

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

2 cups warm tap water

5 to 5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (substitute some whole wheat flour for all-purpose)

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon honey

5 tablespoons vegetable oil or unsalted butter, melted

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 to 1/2 cup raisins

1. Oil two loaf pans.

2. Whisk the yeast into the water and set aside.

3. Place 5 cups of flour in a mixer with the salt. Add the yeast mixture, honey,  and oil or butter and mix on low with a dough hook for 5 minutes. If the dough is really sticky, you can add some flour one tablespoon at a time.

4. Oil a bowl and place the dough inside, turning it over once to oil it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to double. This takes a little over an hour.

5. Mix together 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, and 2 teaspoons of melted, unsalted butter. Set this aside.

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Deflate the dough and divide it in half. Make a clump into a rectangle. Spread half of the cinnamon mixture over the rectangle and sprinkle it with about 1/4 cup of raisins, fold in the short sides and then the long, making a cylinder. Put it in the pan seam side down. Do the same with the other clump. Cover the pans with plastic wrap and let the loaves rise for about an hour.

5. When the loaves are about ready, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

6. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.

7. Unmold and set on racks to cool.

This bread is great warm. Have a loaf today and freeze a loaf for tomorrow. You could also make some wildly good French toast with this stuff.

Thanks Nick!

Happy Thanksgiving.