Monday, June 20, 2011

Waterlogged Stawberries??

Since it was Father's Day, and I have a pretty awesome dad, I wanted to bake something that he would enjoy eating. Trying to figure this out on my own was difficult for many reasons, but the biggest one is that he claims to not like desserts. I called my ma to ask her what she thought I should make and she said a strawberry pie.  We both laughed for a little bit at the fact that my dad claims to not enjoy eating her cookies and such. Honestly, I think he secretly does. It's just the two of them at home these days, and SOMEBODY is eating those treats. I finally called my dad just to ask, what does he actually like. According to Papa Jim, he loves milk chocolate, any type of pastries and pie. He emphasized the pie part, so my mom was right. I guess I shouldn't be shocked, they have been married for what probably feels like forever. Joking, joking. One of the bazillion reasons I love my dad is because he doesn't ask for anything. Well, other than help with yard work.  I hate yard work, so instead of driving to North Dakota to help with yard work, I made a pie in honor of my dad. The sad thing is he didn't even get any, and if you ask him, he'll probably say that sounds about right.

I was pretty excited after my mother had told me to make a strawberry pie because I had seriously just seen an ad on Twitter for a Strawberry Festival in Cottage Grove. You are probably wondering who on Earth I follow on Twitter, but you don't need to worry yourself with that.  This festival was Friday through Sunday and I had decided I wanted to go Sunday. There was a pancake breakfast on Sunday and I knew I would get my boyfriend in the car for sure if I offered him breakfast.  We wake up early on Sunday morning, like other elderly couples, and drive to the Cottage Grove Strawberry Festival for our pancakes, and strawberries of course.  So, we get to this park and when we finally walk up to the 'activities' there isn't really anybody there. Shocker, I know.  We find the pancake barn and eat our sausage links and drink out 'orange drink' in delight and all of a sudden the talent contest starts. Here is a little tidbit about me, I mentally can't handle these types of public embarrassments. What do I mean you ask? It's when people go on stage to perform in front of a crowd when they clearly can't sing or dance. I can't handle it, I start rocking back and forth. Needless to say, we finished out breakfast fast and got the hell out of there.  Before we left I bought my farm fresh strawberries. Apparently because of the heavy rain that morning the berries were waterlogged. The man that sold them to us said to, "Eat 'em fast, cut 'em fast, freeze 'em fast". Ummmmm, OK dude.

Since I had to apparently hurry the hell up, I made that pie as soon as I got home.  That was a lot of strawberry choppin'! I used a recipe from Christopher Kimball. I have a love/hate relationship with that man, but his pies looked pretty tasty. The recipe I used is actually called the Master Recipe for Fruit Pie. Apparently you can use any type of fruit and the rest of the ingredients are the same.  I have a confession, I didn't make my own pie crust for this one. It was incredibly hot and humid. My grandmother told me that things rarely work in high humidity, so I listened. Thanks for the excuse grandma! Here is the recipe, I hope you can get your farm fresh berries as well, 'tis the season!!

Master Recipe for Fruit Pie
(Makes one 8- or 9-inch double crust pie)

1 double crust pie dough
8 cups fruit, prepared (peeled, cored, sliced)
1 teaspoon grated orange or lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3/4 to 1 cup granulated sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons Minute Tapioca

1. Toss the fruit with the other ingredients and let sit for 15 minutes.

2. Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out your pie dough into your pie plate.  Add fruit mixture, and place remaining dough on top of fruit. Crimp top and bottom crusts with your fingers or fork to close.  Cut three small slits in top of crust for air vents.  If pie dough is very soft, place in freezer for 10 minutes before baking.

3. Set pie on a baking sheet, (VERY IMPORTANT), place in oven, turning oven down to 350 degrees.  Bake for 1 hour.  Check after 35 minutes and rotate if pie is not browning evenly.  Juices should bubble before removing pie from oven.
4. Let pie sit and cool to room temperature before serving so that juices thicken (allow at least 1 hour).

This pie was incredibly easy to make.  My only issue was that mine didn't thicken enough. It was to runny, which means I should have added more thickener. Lesson learned!! Also, I usually  put a foil wrap on the edges of the pie crust.  I don't want the edges burning!!  I usually take the foil off when there is about 20 minutes or so left to bake.  Even though this pie didn't turn out perfect, it tasted pretty darn good. I hope you're able to try it out so you can let me know exactly how much thickener to put in!! Happy baking.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tasty little loaves.

I decided to make these little cakes just because I felt like it. I saw the recipe in the new Martha Stewart magazine and thought it looked too good not to try, and when it was as good as I thought it would be, I wanted to share it with you.  Another reason I thought it would be fun was because I received mini-loaf pans as a gift and was finally going to use them!  They are the fancy Williams-Sanoma Goldtouch Nonstick pans, so you can see why I was so excited. That probably sounded sarcastic, but depending on how well you know me, you might not realize that I really was that excited to use them.

Let me tell you something, I love Martha Stewart. I have come to the conclusion that the woman can do anything. She can even make prison look good. Martha has two television shows, something like four magazines, a podcast, and the list goes on. I had always wanted a subscription to her original magazine, Martha Stewart Living, but I just never got around to signing up for it. Then one day, much to my surprise, I found out that my niece joined girl scouts and guess what they were selling? Magazine subscriptions. Who knew they sold more than just those little boxes of disgusting/amazing cookies?!?! Needless to say, I finally got my subscription. Thanks, Emma. Oh, and thanks as well to Girl Scouts of America or whatever you are called.  

In this particular magazine Martha always saves the best recipes for the very last page. It's the first thing I flip too.  It's usually some sort of dessert and not always easy to make. This one looked simple enough and seriously good.  They are called Blueberry-Lemon Tea Cakes.  I figured since blueberries were on sale I might as well try these little cakes out. Yes, just one more way I'm a 'grandma'. I shop the sale ads at Lunds/Byerly's for my fruit.

Blueberry-Lemon Tea Cakes

1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for pans
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
6 ounces blueberries ( 1 1/4 cups)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter baking pans, and dust with flour, tapping out excess.
  2. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and syrup is thickened, about 4 minutes. Let stand while making cakes.
  3. Meanwhile, combine heavy cream, remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and the vanilla in a bowl. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in another bowl.
  4. Beat butter, lemon zest, and remaining cup sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low, and add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with cream mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Gently fold in blueberries using a rubber spatula.
  5. Divide batter evenly among pans. Bake on a rimmed baking sheet until a toothpick inserted into the center of each comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
  6. Transfer pans to wire racks, and brush tops of cakes with lemon syrup. Let stand for 15 minutes. Turn out cakes from pans, and brush all over with remaining syrup. Let cool completely on wire racks.


To make a large loaf instead of several little ones, use a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan, and bake for 55 minutes.

Something I like do to when baking with berries in quick breads and muffins, or in this case a tea cake, is to toss the fresh berries with some flour.  Not a whole lot, but enough to cover them.  That way while they are baking the berries don't sink to the bottom. Cool, huh?! Yes, I can sense you rolling your eyes.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Part 2. The tiny oven.

When you're browsing for apartments, after a while they all sort of mesh together. We knew the area we wanted, which is expensive, so we tried to find one that gave us more for our money.  Some of these places we looked at were just plain nasty, but then we finally found one we both really liked and decided to take it. Immediately. That's the other thing about Uptown apartment hunting, these suckers go fast. Especially if they are livable. By livable, I mean clean, appropriate amount of counter space, floors still intact and utilities working. It's a great apartment, don't get me wrong, but the one thing that went wrong was the oven. I'm still unsure about it. It's MUCH smaller than I remember.  I can literally  fit a cookie sheet in there, but only if it's turned a certain way.  The stove top is great, and it's a gas oven, so it's should work fine. It's just much smaller than I have been using, which may end up challenging me in a good way.  I just won't be making Thanksgiving dinner in this oven any time soon, that's all.

I actually haven't baked in my new oven yet, so I haven't figured out if it's temperature is true to the dial.  It's been incredibly hot outside and I finally just got all of my kitchen items unpacked and washed up. We do still need to eat though, so I made Buttermilk Pancakes with Rhubarb Syrup.  I know, I know. Enough with the rhubarb already. I just can't help it! It's delicious and there is only a month or so left while it's still in season! I'm not normally a big pancake person, but I thought the syrup looked too good so I had to make them. They are some rich pancakes. Butter, sour cream, and buttermilk. Uffda. They were gooooood. The syrup was almost too easy to make. The hardest thing  you will have to do with it is chop enough rhubarb to fill a cup.

I'm going to give you the pancake recipe as well as the syrup one.  I  want to make a bold statement and say that these pancakes will be better than the "Batter Blaster" ones. You know, the batter than you squirt out of an aerosol can? Oddly enough, they advertise that stuff as organic. Seriously? How can it be? Oh, well. I shouldn't judge, I've never actually tried them, but I still bet these are better.

Buttermilk Pancakes


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
3 tablespoon unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
1 - 2 teaspoons vegetable oil


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Spray wire rack set inside baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray; place in oven. Whisk flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in medium bowl. In second medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, sour cream, eggs, and melted butter. Make well in center of dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients; gently stir until just combined (batter should remain lumpy with few streaks of flour). Do not over mix. Allow batter to sit 10 minutes before cooking.

2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Using paper towels, carefully wipe out oil, leaving thin film of oil on bottom and sides of pan. Using ¼ cup measure, portion batter into pan in 4 places. Cook until edges are set, first side is golden brown, and bubbles on surface are just beginning to break, 2 to 3 minutes. Using thin, wide spatula, flip pancakes and continue to cook until second side is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Serve pancakes immediately, or transfer to wire rack in preheated oven. Repeat with remaining batter, using remaining oil as necessary.

Rhubarb Syrup
1 cup coarsely chopped rhubarb
1 1/2 cups maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
pinch of salt

In small saucepan, combine all ingredients with 1 cup water.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until fruit breaks down and syrup thickens, about 30 minutes.  Pour over vanilla ice cream, yogurt, pound cake or pancakes.

The pancake recipe came from Cooks Illustrated. I really like their magazines and the books are swell too. Oh, and I have no idea where I got this rhubarb syrup recipe. I ripped the page out of some periodical, but can't seem to remember which one. Sorry!  Try these pancakes out, or use the Batter Blaster and just make the syrup. I'm still unsure about what I should bake first in our new oven. If you have any suggestions, let me know. Thanks! Stay nifty, reader. Happy baking.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Part 1. On the move...again.

I moved again. For those of you who know me well, it's not too shocking that I have once again moved, because it seems like I've moved every 8-12 months for the last 7 years.  It actually makes me tired just thinking about it. It also makes me feel insane. Some of my moves have been for unfortunate  reasons, like a roommate that made curry non-stop and our house smelled like feet, and a landlord that didn't give me heat in December. Other reasons have been good ones, such as moving out of my parents house for the first time, moving half way across the country to a city where I knew almost no one, and having my boyfriend asking me to move in with him.  Good or bad, they have all been exciting.  This last move was out of a house and there is one reason I was sad about it.  It was the place where I had the perfect oven. It wasn't standard size, which scared me at first, but it was a gas range. Which is the best.  It actually was the best oven I have had the pleasure of using. 

I figured I needed to bake one final thing in my favorite oven.  I happened to have a freezer full of overripe bananas, which you can not move with you, seriously.  I didn't want them to go to waste so I made something that would use them up.  I even doubled the recipe so I could use more of them.  I hate wasting perfectly good 'banana bread' bananas.  I decided on Banana Cupcakes with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting. It was an easy enough recipe and I didn't need to buy a thing. Those are the kind of recipes I like, the ones where I don't need to go out and buy 15 dollars worth of supplies. I had never browned butter before, and it smells delicious.  It's such an amazing smell it makes you want to drink it, but I wouldn't recommend doing that for obvious reasons. To be honest, these are pretty much banana muffins, but called a cupcake.  I'm sure they are called that so the originator of the recipe didn't feel guilty putting delicious frosting on top.
I took this recipe out of the 'Chicken and Egg' book. Yes, I'm once again using this cookbook. I can't get enough of it! This lady is fantastic!! Here is the recipe, I hope you are able to enjoy these!

Banana Cupcakes with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup milk
2 very ripe bananas, mashed (1 cup)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut up
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 to 2 cups powdered sugar

To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners or coat with nonstick cooking spray.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, allspice, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat the butter, granulated sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, beating well after adding each one.  Beat in the flour mixture in three parts alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour.  Beat in the bananas and stir in the walnuts. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups (they will be almost full).

Bake the cupcakes for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  Remove the cupcakes from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the frosting:  While the cupcakes are cooling, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the milk solids in the bottom of the pan turn brown and the butter smells nutty, reducing the heat to medium-low or low if the butter is cooking too fast.  Watch carefully so the butter does not burn.  Poor into a medium bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, or until the consistency of softened butter, stirring occasionally.

Beat the browned butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth.  Beat in the cream cheese and vanilla.  Slowly add enough of the powdered sugar to make a spreadable frosting. Frost the cupcakes. Serve at room temperature.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

I brought these cupcakes to some friends and they seemed to enjoy them.  I hope you do as well! Stay tuned to hear about my new oven and apartment! Part II coming soon. Happy baking! Oh, and farewell, dear oven.