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Cherry Walnut Soda Bread

I come from an Italian and Greek family. We celebrate a lot of things with a lot of food.

But, here comes St. Patrick’s Day. The Dear One is Irish (mostly) and can trace his roots back to Town someplace in the County something. Totally lost in translation for me.

Sadly, this is what I know about being Irish …

Irish Whisky
Guinness (Steak & Guinness Pie)
Uncle Nicky’s Irish Cream
Irish Stew
Beer
St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC
LeprechaunS

I’m sure there are other things … but the knowledge is SERIOUSLY limited.

I want to make something special for the Dear One. Celebrate his heritage a wee bit.

I opened the Boston Globe and there was a recipe from Lisa Yockelson of Baking Style Diary for a cherry and walnuts soda bread. This is the ticket.

No blarney, this was fantastic and easy … and gone. Great combination of favorite flavors. This could make even the least Irish amongst us to feel a bit green on St. Patrick’s Day!

  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into teaspoon-size chunks
  • 1 egg plus 1 extra yolk
  • ½ cup buttermilk, or more if needed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup dried Montmorency cherries
  • ⅔ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

NOTE: Didn’t have buttermilk. Didn’t want to buy a gigantic container of buttermilk for a mere 1/2 cup. I do, however, keep a container of buttermilk powder in the fridge for just such emergencies. Worked like a charm! The powder goes in with the dry ingredients and you add water to the wet ingredients. Not sure how it works – magic, I’m sure – but it does!

Set the oven at 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar to blend them.

Scatter the butter over the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or two blunt knives, cut the fat into the flour until it is reduced to pea-size bits. Using your fingertips, lightly crumble the mixture for 1 minute to reduce the butter into small flakes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, buttermilk, and vanilla. Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture. Scatter the cherries and walnuts on top. With a rubber spatula, stir to form a dense but cohesive mixture to bring the dough together. If necessary, add more buttermilk, 1 teaspoon at a time. Knead the dough lightly and briefly in the bowl for half a minute.

Turn the dough out onto the counter. Form it into a plump ball about 5½ to 6 inches in diameter. Place the ball on the baking sheet and use a sharp paring knife to slash a shallow “X” in the top.

Bake the round for 45 to 50 minutes, or until set and golden on top. Using two spatulas, carefully transfer the bread from the parchment paper to a wire rack to cool completely.

Use a serrated knife to cut into slices.

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New York Crumb Cake

Ready

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once said “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” … “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.

Not that I’m one to argue with a dead, French journalist, who coined one of the most used sentences … well, EVER …

BUT, for me, truth be told, the more things have changed, the more different they have become.

I was born in New York City. Grew up in New York City. Grammar school and high school in New York City. Up until November 2013, I had never lived further than 10 miles from everyone to whom I’m related – except my sister Maria who abandoned ship to marry a great guy and now lives in Oswego, IL.

I worked for my Dad for around 30 years as a paralegal and office manager.

I had GREAT gal pals.

November came along and EVERYTHING changed. I moved from the hustle and bustle of New York City to the calm and quiet of Bar Harbor, Maine (well, except for July and August when town is over run by tourists). Am no longer (mostly) working for my Dad, have new jobs, added some new gal pals to my beloved inner circle, live in a beautiful home surrounded by beautiful gardens, with the MOST incredible man.

I decided as I was packing my boxes that I no longer wanted to be a paralegal. I didn’t want a 9 to 5 office grind. If I was going to change everything about my life, I may as well change everything about  my life.

BUT WHAT DO I WANT TO BE WHEN I GROW UP!?

Well, who knows?! (and I refuse to grow up …) But I do know it HAS to involve food! At the moment, I’m working at Reel Pizza Cinerama – truly one of the coolest places EVER! I began my own summer based cooking business – The Maine Ingredients – which truly struggled its first summer. I even picked up a few shifts as a sous chef in a friend’s restaurant – Sweet Pea’s Cafe.

A little restless. A little bored. Feeling a little sorry for myself.

AND THEN! … an email from my friend Jennifer Steen Booher, whose photographs are the coolest I’ve ever seen (check them out on Quercus Design) arrived. Her daughter Tabby wants to cook, bake, be in the kitchen. They tried a cooking camp and it was a massive FAIL. Would I consider coming over and teaching Tabby and a couple of friends the way around a cake tin? WOULD I? HELLS YEAH!

We had a blast! We made pretzels and scones and bread and blueberry muffins and quiche and lemon meringue pie (which I had personally never made either and was knocking knees that it would work out – and it did!) and sticky buns and this New York Crumb Cake.

Jenn wrote a great piece about our time in the kitchen – check it out – and check out hr fabulous photography!

Thank you, Jenn for sharing your kitchen and daughter with me! Thank you Tabby, Anna, Irene, Geneva and Carolyn for making the lessons so much fun and for turning out some fabulous baked goods!

I’m hoping others will see this and Jenn’s piece on her blog and want some lessons too … if you do you can reach my by email themaineingredients@gmail.com or 207-801-0302!

See, the more things have changed, the more they have changed and the better they have become!

Makes one 9-by-12 1/2-inch cake

  • 2 T canola oil, plus more for pan
  • 4 C all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 2 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1 C packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Place rack in center of oven, and heat oven to 325°. Lightly brush a 9-by-12 1/2-inch baking pan with canola oil, dust with flour, and tap to remove excess. Set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a second bowl, whisk together egg, milk, canola oil, and vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture.

Batter in pan

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine remaining 2 1/2 cups flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Pour melted butter over flour mixture, and toss with a rubber spatula until large crumbs form.

Adding crumbs

 

Sprinkle crumbs over batter.

Transfer pan to oven, and bake, rotating pan after 10 minutes. Continue baking until a cake tester comes out clean, about 10 minutes more.

Cooling

Transfer baking pan to a wire rack to cool.

Dusting

Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Using a serrated knife or bench scraper, cut into 3-inch squares. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Warm Cinnamon-Spiced Blueberry Muffins

And here’s another I thought was in the Land of the Lost!

Done

ROAD TRIP!!

Nothing better than a ROAD TRIP with a dear friend!

Heading out of New York and up to Cape Cod. Yippeeee! 12 days of uninterupted peace and joy, good food, lots of laughs, and no work.

NOTE: I came back armed with many new blog posts, a few I’ve posted already, a few more to go, as I’ve been experimenting on my favorite (and most appreciative) ginny pig!

But wait! There has to be a downside, doesn’t there? Well, yes, actually, a downside. A 5 1/2 hour trip starting at 7:00 in the morning!

Food! We need food! No road trip is complete without good music, laughter, something to munch on. It has to be hand held, preferably sweet, and yummy.

I have a favorite blueberry cake from The Weekend Baker by Abigail Johnson Dodge – the warm cinnamon-spiced blueberry cake. Cake won’t work, especially for the driver. I wondered if these could be transformed into muffins. Muffins would be perfect for the ride.

Let’s see what happens ….

  • 1-1/3 C all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t baking soda
  • 3/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t table salt
  • 6 T butter, at room temperature
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 C sour cream

Topping:

  • 3/4 to 1 C blueberries (no more), rinsed and well dried
  • 3 T granulated sugar
  • 1 T all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon

Position an oven rack on the middle rung.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees (180 C).  Lightly grease and flour the bottom and sides of a standard muffin/cupcake tin – even if it’s non-stick.

NOTE: I used Baker’s Joy.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Whisk until well blended.

In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat with an electric mixer (a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld mixer) on medium speed until well blended.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat just until blended.  Add the vanilla with the second egg.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the butter mixture in 3 batches alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tin.  Bake for 10 minutes.

As soon as you put the tin in the oven, make the topping.  In a small bowl, combine the blueberries, sugar, flour, and cinnamon.  Mix the ingredients together with a fork, lightly crushing the blueberries.

Adding blueberries

After the cake has baked for 10 minutes, sprinkle the topping evenly over each of the muffins, about a tablespoon on each.

NOTE: They slip around and off a little bit. Do your best to get them to stay center-ish.

Continue baking until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean, about 20 minutes longer.

Transfer the muffin tin to a rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the inside edge of each muffin to loosen them. Remove from tin.

Serve warm or at room temperature, or on 95 going 70.

Store cooled muffins in an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Enjoying

NOTE: As muffins these worked out really well. The topping does better on the cake. The wide cake surface helps them sink a little bit into the cake. I need to put them on top soon before the muffins set too much. Next time, I’ll put the topping on sooner than 10 minutes, and hopefully that will help them sink and stay on the muffins better. All in all, though, the conversion from cake to muffins was great and these were yummmmmm.

Hurricane Sandy Faux Donuts ~ FAUXNUTS!

OMG! It’s a hurricane.

The water is coming! The wind is coming!

We need provisions! (as if this were a provisionless home!) I went to the market on Saturday, like I always do. I went with the same list I always go with … bananas, skim milk, chocolate milk, cold cuts, bread, veggies, pretzels …

People were shopping as though the end of the world were coming. As I approached the check out a woman looked at me and said “FOOD! You need FOOD! What are YOU going to do without food!?” I looked at her and said, “First, I have a freezer full of food. Second, you do realize, that they WILL deliver food again?” She looked at me as though I were completely daft.

In hindsight, I’m glad I shopped the way I did. My neighborhood was part of the lucky few areas that kept its lights, was whomped by wind, but not a LOT of damage, a tree here and there, but came through reasonably unscathed.

AND THEN THE BOREDOM STRIKES … yes, we are safe, but we can’t leave Brooklyn (a horror almost too much to bear), can’t get to work (yes, even I am itching to go to work!), can’t buy gas, certainly can’t give up a parking space! Stores are closed all over. Traffic is EVERYWHERE. How much time can you spend with loved ones before someone has to … well, someone must DIE …

The solution make donuts to tame the beasts and alleviate the boredom of the chief cook and bottle washer.

And here comes Pinterest again! While trolling through Pinterest one day I came across these lovely donuts pinned by a blogger over at Little Bit Funky. Seriously simple. All the donut without all the hassle. A new experiment to keep me occupied for a while.

Well, the donuts are one, two, three easy to make … but I had to cut the holes, decide to make the donut holes too, get my camera, set everything up, take pictures, sit and go through them, write this blog post, add the photos and press the publish button. OH, and I ate them as well!!

These easy peasy donuts gave me unending amounts of pleasure.

  • Canned biscuits ~ I used Pillsbury Buttermilk Grands. Anything BUT flakey ones.
  • 4 T melted butter in a shallow bowl
  • Sugar & Cinnamon in a another shallow bowl (this amount really goes by taste)
  • Vegetable or Canola oil to fill a pan up about 1/2 inch or so.

Heat oil over a medium flame.

While it is heating up, cut holes in the donuts with a cookie cutter or some other circular object. I used a Wilton medium sized flower fondant cutout.

Once cut, gently put into hot oil. When one side is golden brown, flip.

When the second side is golden, remove from oil and let drain on paper towel lined plate.

When the donuts have cooled enough to handle, dip one side in the melted butter, let the excess drip off, dip in cinnamon and sugar mixture, getting it nice and coated.  Repeat for the other side.

Thank goodness there are a number of kids on my block! These HAD TO GET OUT of the house before I ate every last one!

OH!! And I fried the faux-nut holes too! Piped some jelly inside and rolled them in powdered sugar. YUMMMMMM!

Bagels

 

Some of you may remember that last summer my friend Lizzy from that Skinny Chick Can Bake and I did a joint baked beans cook along – different recipes, same dish. We had so much fun doing this together we decided to try it again. The baked beans were my idea, so it was Lizzy’s turn to pick. Much to my chagrin, she chose bagels!

I have been dying to try my hand at bagels. Long story – when I was a kid (not just a kid at heart), and we had our house in Westport, the one annoying thing about the town was that every single solitary store (except perhaps Mr. Grubb’s – another story) closed at 6:00. One night my mom had a yen for bagels and none to be found. She pulled out her Joy of Coooking and got going. She didn’t finish until late, children falling asleep with tongues hanging out waiting for bagels, but they were great! Needless to say, gone in minutes!

When Lizzy said bagels, I figured I would follow in Mom’s footsteps – whoa, tooooo many steps! Off I went in search of a simple bagel recipe! As I stood gaping at my ever growing collection of cookbooks, I saw The Brooklyn Cookbook. What could be more Brooklyn than bagels? There must be a recipe for bagels there!

Gloomy, miserable rainy. Can’t go out. After the car fiasco on the Verrazano Bridge, I wasn’t driving ANYWHERE in the rain! (yet another story!) May as well make bagels. I can already hear Ernie sighing and saying “Walk to the corner. Buy them!”

 This bagel recipe was simple and fool (ME being the fool!) proof.

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/3 C warm water
  • 1 t salt
  • 4 C all purpose flour
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 C milk
  • 1 egg, beaten with a little water, for glaze
  • coarse salt, or poppy seeds, or sesame seeds

Sprinkle yeast over the warm water, stir, and let dissolve.

Put the salt, flour, and 4 teaspoons of the sugar into the bowl of a food processor equipped with the dough blade. Pulse the mixture several times to mix it well. This aerates the ingredients.

Combine the yeast mixture and milk in a measuring cup. WIth the motor running, pour the mixture through the feed tube. Knead until the mixture balls together and is no longer sticky, about 60 seconds.

Lightly flour a large plastic bag, place the dough inside, squeeze out the air, and close the end of the bag. Let the dough rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Punch it down.

NOTE: At this point the dough can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. Bring it to room temperature before proceeding.

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Pull off pieces of dough to form 12 2 inch balls. Poke a finger through the ball, making a hole the size of a golf ball. With your fingers, shape the bagel evenly.

Put the bagels on a cookie sheet, cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let them rise until puffy, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring 4 quarts of water to the boil in a wide pot. Ad the remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar. Poach the bagels, 3 or 4 at a time, for 30 seconds. Turn them over and poach for 30 seconds more.

Remove with a slotted spoon, let them drip briefly on a towel held under the spoon and place them 1 inch apart on a baking sheet.

Brush each with a little of the egg glaze.

Leave them plain or sprinkle with coarse salt, poppy seeds or sesame seeds, or a combo of all three.

Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

Let cool on racks – if you can bear to wait!

THINGS TO REMEMBER FOR NEXT TIME!:

  1. Use whole milk. I only had skim and the dough didn’t come together well. I added a bit more, but from the processor running for far more than 60 seconds, the dough was a little tough.
  2. Bake on parchment paper. When you egg wash them, if the egg wash trickles down onto the baking sheet, the bagels stick and that’s no bueno.

This was simple to pull together and the end result was fabulous, even given the over worked dough. This method is not an overly long process. These are not really big bagels, but not as small as mini-bagels.

And my favorite breakfast on a delicious bagel I MADE MYSELF!

Top Hats

I am very late to the Pioneer Woman bandwagon. Not sure why. I love her recipes and style of cooking. Might have to do with my general aversion to blogs for such a long time. I still find it amazing when I look at my stats each day that people actually stop by here and read my blog!

Anywho … I was gently lulled into my affection for the Pioneer Woman.  Watching her one morning on the Food Network she made Egg in a Hole. This recipe opened the flood gates of memories for me. My Aunt used to make this for me when I was little. She called them Top Hats. It has always been one of my absolute favorite breakfasts. So comforting.

Thank you Ree for reminding me of this childhood favorite.  This was included in The Pioneer Woman Cooks – don’t have it? Get it! There are some great recipes in here!

Breakfast doesn’t get easier than this. Whether you call this Egg in a Hole or Top Hats or Bird’s Nests, make them! They will quickly become a favorite of your family!

  • 1 slice of your favorite kind of bread
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • dash of tabasco (optional)

With a biscuit cutter or the rim of a glass, cut a hole in the center of the slice of bread. This disk forms the “hat” part.

 

Heat a skillet over medium heat and melt in the butter. When the butter is melted, place the piece of bread and the hat in the skillet. As the bread and hat begin to turn golden brown, crack the egg into the center of the hole. Salt, pepper, a dash of tabasco, if using.

 

Cook until the egg sets a bit on the bottom, about a minute.  After the minute, flip it over with a spatula and salt and pepper the other side.

Move the whole piece of toast and the hat around the skillet, soaking up all of the butter. Let cook until the yolk still feels soft.

YUM! And don’t let anyone steal your hat! That’s the best part!

Blythe Danner’s Blueberry Muffins

 

I love blueberries. I like them in everything and on anything. It makes me sad that blueberry season is so relatively short.

BLueberries freeze beautifully, so there are always bags of frozen blueberries in the freezer so I can have a little bit of blueberry sunshine all year ’round.

While thumbing through My Father’s Daughter – a surprisingly terrific cookbook by Gwyneth Paltrow – I came across this recipe for Blyth Danner’s Blueberry Muffins. This had to be the first recipe I tried from this book!

I changed a few things in the recipe to make it my own.

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • 1/2 C whole milk
  • 2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 C plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 1/2 C fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried

 

NOTE: I added lemon zest in. I love the brightness it brings to everything and blueberries and lemons are natural partners in goodness!

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners or spray well with cooking spray.

NOTE: I opted for the cooking spray. I hate the added hassle of trying to get the liners off!

In a large bowl whisk the cooled butter, eggs and milk until everything is incorporated. In a separate bowl whisk the flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, baking powder and salt.

Pour the butter mixture into the dry ingredients and stir everything together until the batter is smooth and creamy.

Fold in the blueberries.

Fill each muffin cup about 1/2 full, dividing the batter evenly amongst all 12 cups. Sprinkle the muffin tops with the remaining teaspoon of sugar. Bake them for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

NOTE: I used demerara sugar to sprinkle the top. I love the extra little crunch and sparkle it gives!

These were SO good and so quick to come together. They were light and fluffy and chock full of blueberries. The batter was thick enough that the blueberries did not sink to the bottom. This may need to become my go to blueberry muffin recipe!