Thursday, December 29, 2011

southern charm

I love southern cooking.  Or really, I love a dessert that doesn't hold back. I also love a dessert that someones mom and grandma used to make and that while there are a million different ways to make it- everyone has their way of doing so. The right way; how they remember it.

What I love about it, besides all the butter and bold flavors, is the process. While I grew up as far from the south as you can get, I understand the feeling of having something taste just so, perfect not only because of the ingredients and recipe, but because of the memory.  I feel this way about a lot of things I've made and shared- blondies, banana bread, peanut butter cookies- and don't even get me started on German Chocolate Cake....

So here is my first attempt at bread pudding.  Crispy, buttery bread, creamy sweet custard, and whiskey soaked raisins.

The jury is still out, but it made my house smell delicious and I think that's a start.  And hey, if you live in Seattle it is featured as a special at The Sexton  - so you can let me know how it stands up.

Bourbon Bread Pudding
Adapted from Cooks Country Cookbook 

1 baguette, torn into one inch pieces (around 9 cups)
1 cup whole milk
3 cups cream
8 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup bourbon
1/4 dark molasses
1 1/2 packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 450 and spread torn bread pieces in a single layer on a parchment covered baking sheet. Bake until toasted, around 10 minutes rotating the sheet pan half way through cooking time. Remove bread, let cool and reduce oven heat to 300 degrees.

Add 1/2 cup bourbon and raisins to small sauce pan. Heat over medium high heat until bourbon begins to bubble. It should take around 2-3 minutes to get the raisins plump. Remove from head and strain out raisins, keeping bourbon and raisins in separate bowls.

In a large bowl combine milk, cream, egg yolks, vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk to combine.   Whisk in bourbon from plumping raisins and 1/4 cup warm dark molasses.
Mix in bread toasted bread and let sit until bread is soft- approximately 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the bread to absorb some of the custard.

Butter a 9 by 13 inch baking pan and pour half of the bread custard mix into the pan. Top with raisins and then add the remaining bread mix. Cover with tin foil and bake for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile mix granulated sugar, cinnamon, and butter together in a small bowl until you have small pea size dollops of sugary butter.  After pudding bakes for 45 minutes, remove tin foil, top with butter crumble and make another 20 minutes with out tin foil.  Turn up oven temp to 400 and cook for 2 more minutes, or until the top bread is crispy and golden brown.

Let cook for 30 minutes. Serve with ice cream or on its own.  This dessert also goes well with cowboy boots, large antique silver spoons, and a tall glass of bourbon lemonade. Just saying...

Monday, December 26, 2011


Here's my secret:

I have this box, I keep hidden, with money I set aside from work. It's like a rainy day fund, but in my case it's a: plane ticket, kitchenaid, someday I'll get health insurance, blow torch fund.

It's not very big yet, but I've definitely cashed in and it wasn't to get healthcare...

Meet my new boyfriend. It may just be the happiest day of my life...

The best part about having my kitchenaid at home for the holidays is that interms of relationships go - he's pretty unflappable.  Also, it's nice to know no one is gonna judge you for eating a slice of


for breakfast while watching Charlie Brown.

Or for bringing your own hot coca mix, complete with mini marshmellows, to a coffee shop

The wheels in my head are already spinning of ways to ring in the new year with sweet treats and perfectly mixed confections.  What it comes down to though is my new Kitchenaid makes me smile-- and really, isn't that what Christmas is all about?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Boozy GingerSpice Cake

I couldn't think of a single other tittle for this post. It is what it is.

Boozy. Ginger. Spiced. Cake.

Happy Holidays everyone.

First I made an adaptation of ginger spice cake from 101 cookbooks recipe for Black Sticky Ginger Cake  While her's  looked amazing, I made some adaptations and came up with-

Ginger Spice Cake 
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour 
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour 
1 1/2 baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon 
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 ground cloves 
3/4 cup black strap molasses 
1 cup dark brown sugar 
3/4 cup real honey 
3 eggs (at room temp) 
1 cup butter 
1/2 cup milk 

First you melt the butter with the sugars and mix. Set aside until just warm to the touch. Add in eggs and milk, stirring well between each egg. Finally stir in flour mixture.  I used mini bundt pans because I am obsessed and wanted individual cakes, but if just making for a group use a loaf pan or large bundt pan. This cake doesn't slide out very easily so be forewarned- it is easiest to eat sliced directly from the pan.

 Now for the booze...

I've taken a strong liking towards boozy desserts lately.  This ginger cake is no exception. When I first made the cakes I had no intention of making a glaze, but after fussing with them long enough to get them out of the bunt pans, they looked a little lacking.  So, I went for my fall back - bourbon, maple, lemon glaze.  It's super easy to make- just add a couple splashes of bourbon and a teaspoon of maple extract to your basic glaze of powdered sugar, brown sugar, and fresh squeezed lemon juice.

I topped mine off with powdered sugar and there you have it.  Bourbon-y, maple-y, molasses-y goodness.

I'm going to be handing these out with my other Christmas treats: Bourbon Corn Cookies and Salted Ginger Molasses Cookies. 

Merry Christmas everyone- I'll be wishing for snow....

Saturday, December 17, 2011

the simplest of things

no bakes.

I've been making these for so long I almost forgot about them.  In fact there are only a few things I feel confident I can make in my sleep - and even after all these years I can still remember the page number of the cookbook I used to first make these delights.

I started making them in high school, which carried into college where they remained my favorite thing about exam week, all nighters, and last minute papers. Sure, I messed with the recipe over the years - attempting to get the same effect with less ingredients,  perfecting the exact measure of liquid to sugar ratio, or experimenting with chocolate versus purely peanut butter cookies but in truth, these cookies are best enjoyed how I first remember them.

It's all about texture with no bakes.  The sugar and butter combine to make an almost velvety fudge like consistency and the oats add just the right about of texture.  Basically, they are like crack. But better.  It's been ages since I've made them, but I'm glad they're back.

No Bakes 
Adapted from Forum Feasts Cookbook and the St. Jay High School Cafeteria 

2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup butter
4 tablespoons cocoa powder (omit if  you want just peanut butter no bakes)
1/2 cup milk (I often use almond milk, which works the same)

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (no specific kind needed, just avoid any brand that is grainy. I prefer the no stir kind)
3 cups quick oats

Combine first 4 ingredients in a sauce pan, gradually brining up the heat until mixture comes to a rolling boil.  Let boil for at least 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in peanut butter until smooth. Add in oats and stir.

Drop cookies onto parchment lined baking sheet with a cookie scoop with around a 1/4 cup capacity. Let cool to set.

Eat. Eat. Eat.

Simply delicious and ridiculously sweet you may just get hooked. And if you are in the Seattle area and need a fix- stop by The Sexton on Ballard Ave, where they'll be on the menu!

Here's to a new, or old, standby. Cheers...

Friday, December 9, 2011

I've been missing it

New England.

And when I get a little homesick I like to bake. Specifically, I like to bake with my favorite ingredients- the one's that remind me most of home.

Corn, Maple Syrup, and Whiskey.  I guess I could have grown up in the south too, but I would have missed the snow.

Also, my sister is in town and if ever there was a reason to bake something with Vermont in mind, she would be the reason.  She is in town for a science conference and to buy her wedding dress. Both of which to me, are reasons to celebrate with some good old fashioned corn cookies.

I love corn cookies.  They are simple with a touch of sweetness and an innate saltiness that makes them the perfect cookie for snacking, or for tea.  While I've often had corn cookies with some sort of lemony sweet frosting, I decided to take my cookies north and whip up a brown sugar-maple-bourbon glaze.

Cornmeal Cookies
3/4 cup butter
34 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Bourbon Maple Glaze 

1 1/2 powdered sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
Juice of one large lemon
2 slugs of bourbon (I used Jim Bean)
1 teaspoon maple extract

Whisk ingredients together until you have a light brown, thick, royal icing. Glaze partially cooled cookies.

Eat.  Remember, it's not 40 below and it's not snowing, and enjoy.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I've felt this way for years


I am gonna go out on a limb here, but I think these may just be the best go to dessert there ever was.  A hybrid cookie, brownie, pie.... yes please.

As a kid blondies were much more common in our house than say your typical chocolate brownie.  To me they represent the best of all worlds. The proverbial cake that you can eat too.

As great, and easy as they are, in all honesty I don't remember the last time I've had a blondie. It just may have been a decade, a dessert lapse I find truly tragic.  Don't worry, I fully intend on bringing them back.

I found this particular recipe in One Sweet Cookie by Tracey Zabar. I of course had to make my own adaptations to account both for nostalgia and newly acquired dessert aesthetic.  The biggest change I made was swapping Ms. Zabar's pecans for chopped walnuts.  As far as I am concerned this is a must. Required really. Blondies have walnuts and that's just the way it is. Sorry pecans, but they're just a better nut.

Secondly, instead of regular bittersweet chocolate chips I used a combination of semi-sweet chips and bittersweet bars.  Personally I like the combination of bitter and semi, as well as the texture difference between chips and chunks.

Finally, rather than use a typical square brownie pan I baked my blondies in a 9 inch deep circle pan.  Thus, accounting for my newest obsession with pies, tarts, and all things round and delicious.

So in honor of a mother who instilled in me a love for a far superior brownie, here you go...

Blondies or (cookie pie) 
Adapted from One Sweet Cookie 

1 3/4 chopped and toasted walnuts
2 cups golden brown sugar 
8 ounces butter
2 large eggs 
1 tablespoon Madagascar Vanilla extract 
2 cups All-Purpose Flour 
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1 teaspoon salt 
8 ounces chopped bitter sweet chocolate 
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 350.  Place parchment paper on cookie sheet, line with chopped walnuts and put in oven for 5-9 minutes or until toasted.  Melt butter in saucepan.  Measure brown sugar into bowl.  Pour melted butter on to sugar and beat. Add in eggs and vanilla. Beat again. Add in flour, salt, and baking powder, and mix again just until incorporated. Fold in walnuts and chocolate.  Spread evenly into a pan lined with parchment paper. Bake 45 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Cut into wedges.

Eat. Enjoy. But please refrain from mocking brownies too much after trying these.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Some times I forget

Certain things are hard to make, even if they sound simple.

Like Turkey, for example. I've never made one, I probably never will, but I am sure glad other people have it figured out.

Talk about delicious. Red Chili and Honey glazed Thanksgiving Turkey... yes please. I never really understood why people say this but, seriously, gobble gobble. 

While my contribution consisted of...

You guessed it, pie.  The other thing I've recently learned is harder to make than expected is fudge....

And so feeling creative last night I made pumpkin fudge. Twice... and I will probably have to make it a third time to really get it right...

Maybe it isn't actually that hard, but my advice to you when it comes to fudge- don't well fudge it. I tried to resist saying that, really I tried, but it was just too obvious.

Bad puns aside, in all seriousness, use a thermometer- a candy thermometer that reads above 230.  Also, once you get your sugar up to a boil, turn it down to medium low. Since you don't want to over stir the sugar, you also don't want to burn it- which will happen if you don't turn down the stove. I promise. Then you will be left with a hot, sticky, burnt lump of pumpkin and sugar.  Not as much fun as fudge.

So happy confectioning everyone. There is a first time for everything!

Pumpkin Fudge 
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
dash nutmeg
dash cloves
dash ginger
dash salt
dash cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional, but I used pecans, as they seemed relevant to the whole pumpkin, thanksgiving theme.)

Bring sugar, pumpkin, milk, salt, spices, and cornstarch to a boil. Reduce to medium low heat and continue to cook until 236 degrees or the mixture "soft balls" in cold water. Meaning, as far as I understand, clumps into a soft ball rather than completely disintegrating in the water.  It's a fine line, if you don't cook the sugar enough you mixture won't harden and will remain sticky and granular. But, if you over cook, the sugar will burn and you won't want to eat it.

Remove from heat, add butter and nuts and stir until incorporated.  Pour into buttered or parchment lined pan and let cool.

Cut into pieces and enjoy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I may be falling...

for Huckleberries.

Seriously, west coast, just when I begin to curse you for your rain and your perpetual grayness- I remember the five pound bag of Huckleberries in my freezer.  Hands off though, these berries are few and far between, and I refuse to reveal my source.

These berries are tart and with a simple filling of lemon juice, sugar, and cornstarch-- perfect for pie. In fact, they may be made for it.

Don't let it fool you though- as sweet as it is in pie, these berries have a dangerous side as well. Make sure you add enough cornstarch because if you dont....

Then you may have to explain why you look like you've been murdered, but why you are smiling walking down the street carrying a pie.

But it's a pie worth sharing, especially when you get dinner out of it.

Hence a new tradition, thus far dubbed Lambleberry 

Lamb for pie.  Genius.

Happy Turkey- Day everyone.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

There was just enough time

Last night I didn't have to work, so I made pie.  Applesauce pie.

While that's been the norm for me as of late, I am happy to report that even now that I am getting paid to make pies all day - well all night- I still want to make them at home.

A few weeks ago I received a package from Amazon, in which came a textbook thick book tittled Pie: 300 Tried and True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie.  While I am not really a recipe follower when it comes to pie, specifically pie fillings of the fruit variety, I figured with 300 recipes there was bound to be something with apples that jumped out at me.  And somewhere around page 350 I found a recipe for  Cider Apple Pie.

The idea being, if you cook down your apples you can incapsulate more apples between your double crust. Thus-- ensuring a delightfully appleicous pie.

But, me being me, and being picky about my apple pies I of course decided to throw in my own touch. Give it a little panache if you will...

I am calling it Apple's Saucy Pie.  Granny Smith Apples, Maple Sugar, and Bourbon.

The trick is to pre cook the apples in Apple Cider and Bourbon (of course), chill them, and then bake them as you would normally.

It's a little mushy a little crunchy, sweet but not too much so.  This is definitely a pie that needs to rest. If you are a warm Apple Pie kinda person, lets this rest at least 2 hours, and then rewarm it up if need be.

Happy almost Turkey Day.  It's my favorite day of the year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What we take with us

As a kid I took piano lessons for six years, partially because I was forced to, but mostly for the peanut butter cookies.  Yes, I learned to play Pachel Bel Cannon and Beatles songs, and am grateful that I could still plunk along to something if I so desired, but music was never really my creative outlet.  One I think I am tone deaf and two I much prefer peanut butter cookies...

So despite the fact that I too will most likely make my future kids play the piano some day -- the only residual benefit of six years of weekly afternoon piano lessons is this peanut butter cookie recipe from my piano teacher herself.  Of course, I've made some tweaks to accommodate my more recent obsession with salty sweet desserts. Classic peanut butter cookies meet salt. Say hello...

These cookies are salty. Seriously. Also they are chewy and gigantic and are good with or without milk chocolate. A glass of milk is probably a must though, if you really want to do it right.

Salted Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from Lisa Reeve's of Lyme, NH
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp
1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp bourbon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup salted creamy peanut butter (don't get the no stir kind, the more oil the better)

2 cups flour (pastry or all purpose)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tablespoon plus a pinch of kosher salt ( if you aren't using a larger flake salt use less)

Cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add in vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter stirring between each addition.  In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, salt. Beat dry ingredients into wet slowly.  Dough will be sticky so use an ice cream scoop (about 1/4 cup capacity) to scoop cookies on to sheet.  Cookies will spread so I suggest not baking more than 5 to a sheet.
Bake 15 minutes at 350. Cookies will look underdone, but will finishing cooking as they cool on the pan.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I am so happy to have found you....

The other night I went to Sitka and Spruce for an impromptu dinner.  Nestled in the back of the Melrose Market on Capitol Hill, this is the type of restaurant that will make your heart melt.  It will also, incidentally, make your belly very very happy as well.

It's a strange feeling when you walk into a place, a place you've never been, and you feel like you are home.  That is what Sitka is. It's homey, eclectic, and rustic, in the most understated and elegant of ways.
With a communal dinning table that extends directly out of the kitchen, seriously talk about open kitchen, and a spread of tarts, olives, and crockery waiting at the ready- you truly feel as if you are sitting at  your mothers', your friends', your grandmothers' kitchen table.   Now if only I knew more people who could cook like that...

I know this is a baking blog and I don't often weigh in on the savory, but after a meal like that, I feel I am obliged to throw my hat in the ring. And don't worry, it all ends with dessert.

We started with raw tremiti olives, while we poured over the extensive wine list. Incidentally, I never knew most olives can't be served raw, but that's just another perk of dinning with chef friends.  The olives were exactly what you want in an olive. Meaty, salty, and for me, not too over powering.

Next, smoked silver salmon with lentils, beets, and crispy leeks. Despite, the disappointing fact that the lentils didn't make it to our plate, this dish was delicious. I can only imagine the lentils would have made it perfect.  Although none of us realized the absence of lentils until after we had moved on to the next course- so maybe the perfectly smoked salmon and fresh beets didn't need a thing.

We then tried the steamed winter squash with house made yogurt, dukkah spice and salted lemon.  The squash was steamed skin on and maintained a great flavor and texture. The yogurt was mild, and the dukkah was a little too caraway heavy for me, but the slated lemon- seriously salt and lemon may just be all you need to squash anyways.

Finally, the duck. Duck. Duck. It's worth saying three times. I don't have that much experience with duck, from a culinary perspective, but I am now officially it's biggest fan.  Well, maybe fan isn't the right word because I am now going to want to eat them all the time, but hey, delicious is delicious. We asked our server to have the kitchen pick between the lamb and the duck, and while, the service was all in all a little underwhelming, the kitchen made a great call.

Sitka's spiced duck with poached quince and button chanterelles was the perfect protein to round out our meal. The duck was juicy, gamey, and amazingly tender.  Quince, may quite possibly be my new favorite fruit, paired phenomenally with the rich duck, adding just the right amount of tart flavor and crisp texture.  The chanterelles added a nice crisp bite to the dish.  But seriously, duck and quince... come on.  I may have mentioned it before, but as a more recent carnivore, I have no idea how I survived six years without eating meat.  I've said it before and I will say it again, my life is infinitely better.  I am a convert, and things like roasted duck breast, aren't making me regret my decision in the slightest.

Now, on to my favorite part....

When I go out to eat I consider dessert as my research. Therefore, barring some freak occurrence, I never skip it. Seriously never and let's be honest I don't really understand people who do.  So for research's sake, we split the house made mignardises and the gateau basque with poached pumpkins.  The mignardises were average, the chocolate chip cookie a little flat and greasy and the almond biscotti, while flavorful, was a little too crispy for my liking. I appreciate meringues, but usually just in concept, however if we didn't have the tart to get to I could have eaten a million of the dates- sweet, chewy, with a perfect salty nutty crunch.  But, since I am putting all my dessert opinions on the line here, dates aren't really dessert- they're just not.

This is why I order two desserts.

Gateau basque has recently become one of my favorite desserts. Although it holds the name of a cake (gateau) it's really more pie or tart than cake.  The crust often made from almond flour is nutty and eggy, and the filling usually consisting of a pastry cream and some sort of fruit preserves- is the perfect rustic, tangy, creamy, and simultaneously rich and light dessert.  As far as I am concerned, this is definitely one for team pie though.

So without knowing what I was getting into I decided I would give it a go.

It's all about the crust. Yolky, lemony, buttery, and nutty it is the perfect complement to a simple pastry cream center.  You don't get a recipe this time because this particular cake is still a work in progress, but I'll say I was happy with the crust and not so much with my filling.

I am sure there are a number of reasons but when it comes down to pastry creams and whipped creams I am at a loss. I am getting better, working through the tips of the trade that people have generously offered, but it's definitely an experiment.  I need help.  I haven't quite reached the dollop-able consistency that the gateau basque needs, or rather-- that it demands.

Still, it looks pretty tasty.

All in all I am glad to have found Sitka

Get ready.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Machiavelli was wrong...

Or else he didn't know how to bake chocolate chip cookies.

There are some people you just want to bake cookies for. And when you do. Make these

This post could also be tittled: the post in which I give chocolate chip cookies their long awaited centerfold.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

it must be fate...

Last night at work I had a sudden craving for banana bread. Lucky for me, this  gem appeared in my inbox this morning....

It must be fate.

Plus, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to bust out the vintage neon green bundt pan I bought at a thrift store the other day. My obsession is getting a little out of control...

Lemon Olive Oil Banana Cake
adapted from 101 Cook Books 

1 cup All purpose Flour 
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour 
3/4 cups dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon lemon zest 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt (I used maple) 
1/3 cup olive oil 
1 1/2 cup mashed bananas (3 bananas) 
1 cup course chopped bittersweet chocolate 
1/2 cup dark brown sugar 
1/2 cup powdered sugar 
6 teaspoons lemon juice 

Preheat oven to 350 and grease pan. Set aside. Whisk together flours, sugar, salt, baking soda, and chocolate, set aside. Mix olive oil, mashed bananas, eggs, yogurt, vanilla, and lemon zest. Fold in dry ingredients and transfer into greased pan. Bake untile golden brown, the original recipe recommended 50 minutes but I found 40-45 was more accurate. You don't want to loose the moisture of this cake.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to wire rack and let completely cool.  Prepare glaze (whisk all ingredients together until smooth). Once bread is cool pour glaze on top of cake. Glaze will thicken and harden.