Apr 8 2014

Neighborhood Bread

Since Forth and SpitfireMoms have become a part of my life the last year+ I’ve been struggling a bit to figure out what goes here when there’s so much that goes there.

Tonight, though, I wanted to share a game changer. It’s my neighborhood bread recipe.

It started at Mike & Jenny‘s, a family two blocks over, who got the recipe from Mike’s mom Gayle. M&J baked it often and passed the recipe on and on and on. When we were all regularly haunting one another’s houses before kindergarten sapped some of the strength of the Playgroup, the bread became a frequent player in our gatherings.

I made it for this recent Thanksgiving and served it with Rare Bird Preserves.

Today I made it again. A mention of herb butter and an easy bread recipe piqued enough interest that sharing the recipe seemed like a good dead easily done.

Here’s where I go to get the recipe.
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Yup. Everytime. I keep my next door neighbor’s text close to my heart.

Why? Because as I said to my friend Johanna who dared me to describe it in 10 words: 5 ingredients including water. Stir twice. Rise. Dump. Bake. Eat.

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I’ve yet to screw it up and I, eventually, screw up most things I bake. I’ve even audibled in whole wheat flour and it’s been awesome.

Today I forgot to bake it. It needs two hours to rise. I accidentally left it for eight. EIGHT HOURS. And it turned out perfectly. CopperTop thanked me for baking it. And she pretty much lives on air.

The coolest part about this bread, I think, is that storage is easy. Prop it cut side down on the counter and it’s good overnight, at least.

photo 3

 

Magic, yummy bread. So easy. Get to it. You’re welcome.

 


Dec 23 2013

Simple Infused Syrups, Simple Homemade Gifts

We met our dear pals last night to view insane Christmas lights and eat at Chili’s. Because that, to me, is just about the best holiday tradition ever. These friends gave us some lovely cocktail bitters last year. I wanted to make them a little something as a token of affection and acknowledgement of what a banner year they’ve had.

Flavored simple syrups to add to cocktails and other drinks are so yummy and so easy, and I had everything I needed on hand.

I settled on:

Lavender

Saturday nights were made for culinary lavender.

Rosemary

Saturday nights were made for infusing rosemary.

Ginger & black peppercorn

Sunday afternoon ginger and black peppercorn experimentation.

For each one, it was a matter of simmering some sugar and water and a bit of something lovely. I went with floral, herbal, and zesty options to offer some variety to cocktails. A French 75 with the lavender? Ginger with lemon and bourbon? A rosemary gin fizz?

Each batch makes more than anyone could need, so a jarful can go along to parties and family visits. And, there is even some left for us to play with too.

Three very simple syrups.


Sep 24 2013

Book Club Baking: Champagne Cupcakes

I have a standard (and excellent) vanilla cupcake recipe I’ve been relying on for a while now. It’s fast and easy and I could probably make it in my sleep.

For our book club meeting, though, I wanted to bring something a bit more interesting without having to put more than a bit more effort in. I didn’t feel like going to the store and wanted to make do with whatever I had on hand. How’s that for restrictive parameters?

I Googled something like “awesome cupcakes” or “world’s most awesome cupcakes.” Lemon Sugar’s recipe for champagne cupcakes popped up. I assumed it was going to involve fanciness I just wasn’t up to. But Erin, the maestra of Lemon Sugar, said it was easy peasy yoga pant baking.

And, luckily, I had a bottle of champagne on hand.

Book Club Baking: champagne cupcakes from @lemon__sugar @lemonsugarblog

And you know what? It was super easy AND only used a portion of the bottle. So I got to sip in my PJs and bake and feel fancy, accomplished, and all without working too hard. Heck, this month I even finished the book early.

She went for pink frosting, I used purple gel food coloring which came out more pale blue than anything else. I decided that was champagne-y. Someday I will not accidentally double the recipe despite the warnings to not double it. We had so much GD frosting.

A few dragées because why not (and it turns out the source recipe used ‘em too. I’m a genius!).

I had it in my head that there would be a Pop Rocks experience…that the bubbles would somehow crystalize and solidify and burst? They didn’t. But I would definitely say there was an effervescence to the cupcakes that was really lovely. The addition of the champagne syrup Erin devised was awesome and essential.

I won’t repost the whole recipe but, again, you should go here and bake ‘em yourself. People will think you are fancy! Nay, people will know you are fancy!

Champagne cupcakes!

 


Jun 6 2013

Test Kitchen: A Forth of Rhubarb

(If this venture had ended badly I was gonna call this Rhubarb Hubris. Rhubris?)

I fancy myself pretty worldly. I’ve been some cool places and eaten some things.

I had, until last week, never touched rhubarb. Honestly, until my friends at the Sugar Beet set about to Beet some seasonal food sense into me, I’m not even sure I would’ve been able to tell a stalk of rhubarb from a flamingo’s leg before last year.

Why not decide to try it out for a big event, untested and with only a good tot nap standing between me and disaster?  What harm?

Before Forth was rained out by the April 18 Flood of the Century (Which, c’mon, happened like four times this year but wins at our house because ONE stair heading upstairs flooded. What?)I had baked a ginger pear bundt cake. The thing is damn good. Our event is seasonal though, based on a rambling vision I shared with Lisa & Kelly, and ginger pear just doesn’t shriek Spring. I took the FotC (Flood of the Century) as a chance to reboot and pick something a bit more May. And Spring? That’s rhubarb’s time to shine (I think).

I picked a rhubarb tart with a citrus glaze. I Pinned it. I planned it. And, because I am me, I waited until about an hour before I needed to leave to approach the rhubarb for the first time. Dude, it’s stringy and harder to cut than I expected. Like celery’s really cranky, blushing older sister.

But I worked it out.

rhubarb tart

 

I mean, that looks good, right? (Good as in I opted to ignore the instructions to cut/place the rhubarb in a geometric or organized pattern and decided it would be a “rustic” tart, which means mishappen rhubarb bits, a crust that is barely a rectangle, but shabby chic enough.)

I then went to work on the glaze. Easy, I can reduce shit like nobody’s business. Ten minutes later I had a saucepan full of near-glass. My solution? Try it to see if it was good. I proceeded to burn a whole in my chin (note: I also was heading to take head shots for Design Cloud.). It was not good, my face was melting. But because I am a stress shopper I had enough extra oranges and limes to sack up and try the glaze again. And this time? I added vanilla to show it who’s boss.

Y’all? I think it turned out pretty lovely. Made all the lovelier by staging from a new crush, Janelle of re:Find Joy,who is about as delightful a human being as ever.

rhubris be damned

And, by the by, Forth was ah-mazing. More on that soon.

Rhubarb Tart with Citrus Glaze, from epicurious

  • 1 cup fresh orange juice *I juiced 2 oranges. I think.
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 pound rhubarb stalks, thinly sliced diagonally (1/8 inch)
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17 1/4-ounces package), thawed
    *DO THIS. Like, don’t forget everytime you are going to use puff pastry that it needs to thaw for about 40 minutes. Especially when you have provided yourself about that time to do the whole damn thing.
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • *I added a hearty splash of vanilla to the glaze per some reviewer’s recommendations.

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.

Stir together orange juice, lime juice, and sugar in a bowl. Add rhubarb and let stand, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut pastry in half lengthwise, then roll out each piece into an 11-by 7-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Arrange pastry rectangles side by side on an ungreased large baking sheet.

Make a 1/2-inch border around each pastry rectangle by lightly scoring a line parallel to each edge (do not cut all the way through). Prick pastry inside border all over with a fork.

Strain rhubarb mixture through a sieve set over a bowl, reserving liquid. Top 1 pastry rectangle (within border) with half of rhubarb, overlapping slices slightly. Repeat with remaining pastry and rhubarb.

Bake until pastry is puffed and golden (underside of pastry should also be golden), about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil reserved rhubarb liquid in a small saucepan, skimming foam if necessary, until reduced to about 1/4 cup, 15 to 18 minutes.

Transfer tarts to a rack. Brush rhubarb and pastry with glaze and sprinkle with zest.


May 30 2013

Bake Forth: chocolate chip meringues

Tonight is the first Forth, a salon-inspired gathering I’m staring with Lisa Guillot of Step Brightly and Kelly Allison of Kelly Allison Photography. We’ve got a crew of insanely amazing women coming together at Design Cloud to talk about the power of starting. Each woman attending is a specialist in starting, having recently ventured into new waters or for their power to inspire others to start. What better group to start something new with?

We hope to have four events a year around seasonal themes. We hope to maybe help other women launch similar events in other cities. We hope it’s awesome.

I’m in that place where I’m so ramped up I want to keep creating. I was up late. I was up early. Lots of bags and piles. Brett’s been very patient.

So, I’m writing about baking because I just kind of need to put one more thing out there.

A long-serving go to recipe for me has been these chocolate chip meringue drops. I can get behind a one-bowl, five-ingredient recipe that takes about 10 minutes to prep and then sits in the oven for hours. I can proudly say I’ve never burned this one.

It’s easy, easily scalable and the drops have that satisfying crunch that means you can either enjoy one and be done or keep on crunching and feel like you are accomplishing something. No picture because, honestly, they look a bit too turdish. But trust me, they’re anything but.

  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil or parchment paper. *I’ve used both foil and parchment.
  2. In large metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar while continuing to beat until they hold stiff peaks. Mix in the vanilla and cocoa on low speed, then fold in chocolate chips by hand. Drop small mounds of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. *I’ve done bigger and smaller versions.
  3. Bake for 1 hour. Turn off oven, and leave the cookies in the oven for 2 more hours, or until centers are dry. Remove from pan and store in an airtight container. *You can leave them in longer if you are a Nervous Nelly. Our oven’s been cranky lately so leaving in an extra 15-20 minutes ensures they’re dried. 

Now, more piles! Lists!


Mar 13 2013

Sweet (Some)day

How cute is this? A wee little hand snagging a treat while my back is turned photographing ingredients.

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Monday was not a day baking was going to happen. Until about 11 Sunday night I assumed I’d be unable to make it into Design Cloud.

And so, when 9 am rolled around and  I rolled into work, I was baked goodsless, a way I hate to be. I promised to make amends today.

We meet on Wednesdays in the morning to survey the creative freedom landscape and I thought having something to tempt the masses might be nice. There is usually a decent crowd just processing their coffee so I thought something breakfast-y would be a good match.

I started where I often start, at 101 Cookbooks. I came upon this recipe for donut muffins and stopped. Donut muffins? YES. The critical element in the baking is nutmeg, the critical element to replicate donut goodness is the cinnamon sugar coating.

But, well, there wasn’t really a recipe. There was talk of one and description of mixing things but not 1/2 cup of this and 1 tsp of that.

Google brought up this, which mentioned nutmeg, so off I went. Allrecipes.com usually has a large review pool and I found this.

The recipe is here. I use unsalted butter. And I stress about what percentage of milk to use. We have whole for the kid. Skim for my coffee/Brett’s cereal obsession. Both seem extreme. My solution was to splash both into a measuring cup at the same time till I got 1/2 a cup. Real professional.

Here’s a before & after the cinnamon sugar coating.
Both were tasty. But that coating was an extra dash of awesome.
Photo1 4

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

And for the top:

  • 1/4 cup margarine, melted (again, mama uses unsalted butter)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 24 mini-muffin cups.
2. Mix 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup margarine, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in the milk, then mix in the baking powder and flour until just combined. Fill the prepared mini muffin cups about half full.
3. Bake in the preheated oven until the tops are lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
4. While muffins are baking, place 1/4 cup of melted margarine in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of sugar with the cinnamon. Remove muffins from their cups, dip each muffin in the melted margarine, and roll in the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Let cool and serve.

 

 


Mar 6 2013

Sweet Monday

This week I dug into my easy wins with a modified version of this recipe. (Psst. I ignore all her optionals and do white chocolate and dried cherries. Details are below.) This was supposed to be easy because I needed to make two separate batches.

Aside from Sweet Monday at Design Cloud, I was jazzed to bake to support the Sugar Beet Co-op‘s film screening as part of the One Earth Food Festival. My dears at the Beet, Cheryl & Jenny, were putting together a luncheon. As a proud co-op member (and general helper outer) I said I’d bring something.

And that something went horribly awry. Underdone in the center and a nearly scorched earth diorama on the edges. I wound up carving out cooked-enough pieces and sending Brett to deliver the sad, sweet shrapnel.

I was flummoxed. I screw all kinds of things up in my daily life. This recipe is not one of those things. When we bought the house and redid the kitchen, we got a double oven specifically so that I could use the top oven for baking (less energy, just kind of sounds cool). The top oven has consistently not done a great job with baking at temp or on time. I’ve been setting it 5º higher and baking for a few minutes longer, both of which did me heaps of not much here.

After the CopperTop was up for an hour in the wee hours and I was up again at the crack of dawn feverishly packing my brown sugar, I demanded redemption. Replaced the baking powder and soda. Used the larger oven in our double oven. Let the eggs reach room temperature. If baking is like science, a scientist should tweak one thing at a time. But even if it is, I am not and I went to tweaking town. It still took about 15 minutes longer than it should’ve. And the edges were still dancing way too close to crispy. But there was no shrapnel.

And the best part is that I caught an express train so I arrived with still warm treats to tempt. And tempt they did, crispy edges and all.

blondies2

Tempted? Assuming you don’t screw them up as much as me, they’re worth it.

Oatmeal Blondies with White Chocolate and Dried Cherry

  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • chocolate chips (optional)
  • raisins (optional)
  • chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until thoroughly mixed and creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract until well mixed, and mix in salt, baking soda, baking powder, flour, rolled oats, plus other junk. Mix well to moisten all ingredients, and spread into the prepared baking pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before cutting into bars.

**Clearly step 3 is full of crap. I baked those beasts for a hundred hours. Raw in the middle. Burned on the edges. I felt shame.
***Clearly the next logical step is for me to get the oven (ovens?) checked. Sigh.


Feb 25 2013

Sweet Mondays 2/25/2013

Pear & ginger is a combination that makes my heart happy. For a good month in the first year of our marriage, B and I went on a pear-ginger kick. We made pear-ginger pancakes. Pear-ginger waffles. That might have been the extent of the kick but we knew that the flavors worked well together.
So when I was thinking about what to bake for tomorrow, I flipped through a binder we have of recipes and came across one I’ve done once before, a pear ginger bundt cake that incorporates a ginger syrup and utilizes crystalized ginger. I thought it would be a not-too-sweet option. Here is is from HuffPo.

Photo1

Four things.

One.
Why doesn’t any spell check recognize bundt? Makes me anxious.

Two.
Chopping crystallized ginger is like cutting a live jellyfish. It recoils and wiggles and moves. I do not like it.

Three.
Be sure to cool the ginger syrup thoroughly before adding it to the egg/milk/oil mixture. I forgot why again this time but put it in the freezer for a few moments anyway. Then, as I added I had the realization that scalding hot syrup dumped into raw eggs is a recipe for one nasty scramble. Hey, dodged bullet, nice to see you.

Four.
HOW THE HECK do you get a bundt cake to dump the cake without leaving a cake limb, a cake eye, and a piece of my soul stuck to the f’in pan? I greased it. I scraped. I jiggled. I know there is a trick. I just want to know it already.

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I hope you can tell what a Frankensteined mess this thing is. I actually cut a third of it out and decided I’d present it like a rainbow. And then realized that was absurd. So I smashed it back in. Lord.


Feb 20 2013

Sweet Mondays 2/19/13

We were in California this week.

So I wasn’t baking for Design Cloud friends. But I was with my delightful family.

My sister hosted a dinner on Sunday night. We got some insanely lovely pies from Phillips Farm in Lodi. Think part wine tasting, part petting zoo, all with breakfast burritos. You can’t really lose.

IMG_2962And while I didn’t bake, I did make some whipped cream to go with the pies. This has been my go to recipe for quite some time.

Three ingredients. If you can, stick the bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes before hand. I don’t know why the hell it helps, but it does.

I’m always stumped by how you can stop whipping “right” before stiff peaks form but so far, no one has called me out for a major whipped cream failure. Sub-par whipped cream beats no whipped cream.

 

 


Sep 16 2012

Something I Love

Oh, Victorinox bread knife. I love you.

When registering, we wanted a bread knife. A good bread knife.

I stumbled across the insanely good Amazon reviews of this knife after being whisper-guided that way by a clerk at a store. The clerk pointed our way to an under $50 knife that would serve us very, very, very well.

The wavy cut of the 10 1/4 blade works beautifully on baguettes and we also came to learn tomatoes. No more shirking tomato cutting duties for this girl.

And the best? The best is that it has made easy work of chocolate cutting. I read about it in a cookbook and it was a game changer.

First time I tried it is the photo above. We needed a ton of dark chocolate for raspberry stracciatella ice cream. The perfectly chopped chocolate hits the cold ice cream, re-hardens and is “torn apart” which is where the term stracciatella comes from. Love me some etymology. And some ice cream.