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applesauce cake

adapted from Gale Gand's Applesauce Cake 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened to room temperature 2 cups brown sugar (dark or light), ...

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Makes 12-16 cookies

  • 1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder*, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1-1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • optional: 2 tablespoons whole milk, if needed
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2-1/2 - 3 tablespoons cinnamon

preheat oven to 350 ˚F, and butter a half-sheet baking pan** or cookie sheet. cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until fluffy. add the egg and vanilla, and whisk until completely smooth and incorporated. mix the flour, salt, nutmeg and (sifted!*) baking powder in a small bowl, and add the flour mixture to the butter/egg mixture. mix together just until it comes together. if it seems too dry and crumbly, add a 2 tablespoons of whole milk.
mix 1/3 cup sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl***. scoop out the dough (I use a small ice cream scoop to get consistent cookies), roll them into balls between your palms. you're aiming for spheres that are approximately 1-1/2 inches in diameter. as you finish rolling each cookie, lightly drop it into the cinnamon sugar. pick up the bowl and swirl it around to coat the cookie dough completely, then place on the prepared baking sheet. give them about 3/4" clearance so they have some room to spread a little (they won't spread very much). they may all fit on your sheet pan or cookie sheet, but if that would crowd them, then bake them in two batches. pop the pan into the preheated oven and bake for 14 - 16 minutes; until golden brown. cool them on a baking rack.

*baker's note: regarding baking powder and sifting: I generally don't sift flour these days for anything other than very fine and/or delicate pastries. almost every kind flour I find at the grocery these days works well without sifting (though I have a very strong preference for King Arthur flour) (<-- BTW, that link is purely for reference, the price is ridonkulous). everything I bake with it comes out well. baking powder and baking soda are another story. I've found that I absolutely need to sift baking powder and/or baking soda before measuring and using, because they're hygroscopic (they attract moisture from the air), which results in hard little clumps that don't break up properly when you mix your dough or batter (or whatever else you're baking). so for best results, sift your baking powder and/or baking soda in a sifter, push it through a small sieve or just thoroughly pulverize it with the back of a spoon before using. re-measure after you sift.

**baker's note II: in case you're looking, I found a nice steel half sheet pan here; I don't like aluminum pans.

***baker's note III: you'll probably have a little leftover cinnamon sugar when you're done. I trust you know what to do with it (hint: buttered toast! mmmm). if that doesn't sit well with you, use a little less of the sugar and the cinnamon, but: you may run out. sometimes the little fellows pick up more cinnamon sugar than others!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

we interrupt our regular broadcast...

so you're going to start seeing a few affiliate links here and there on this blog. I wanted to mention it now, before I go hog wild and it turns into links-only-no-recipes. okay, that's not going to happen. but every once in a while, there will be a link to something I consider relevant. I'm open to feedback re: your opinion of/experience with these things.

I've become part of the LinkShare program, and if it's the sort of think you want to do, you can, too. or you can just take a look to see just how far I'm selling out (hint: not much). just click below:

LinkShare Referral Program (<-- (please ignore that obnoxious little white box; I'll try to find a way to make that look less hideous ASAP)

my goal is to keep the links unobtrusive, and to focus on the food, because, after all, it truly is all about the food!
comments welcomed. thanks, and now back to our normal programming...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

banana bread

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or finely ground sea salt)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 very ripe bananas (slightly over-ripe is ideal)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla (Mexican vanilla is great in this)
  • optional: 3/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda

preheat the oven to 350 °F (325 °F if using glass pans). butter a loaf pan or a 9 x 13 cake pan.

cream the butter, sugar and salt together thoroughly in a large mixing bowl; it should be light and fluffy when finished (a sturdy wooden spoon is perfect for this; switch to a sturdy whisk for the next step). add one egg, beat until fully incorporated, then add the other, and beat again until mixture is smooth and light.

peel the bananas and break up into chunks into a smaller bowl, then mash with the milk, cinnamon and vanilla. whisk banana mixture into the butter/sugar/egg mixture until smooth (small chunks of banana are not only fine, of course, but desirable). add pecans (if using).

add the flour, baking powder and baking soda to the banana mixture and whisk in carefully, until just combined. the batter will be fairly thick. using a spatula, transfer batter to baking dish and lightly smooth out the top. place in oven and bake ― 60-70 minutes for loaf pan; 45-55 minutes if using cake pan. banana bread is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out perfectly clean. place pan on cooling rack before cutting into serving pieces.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

introducing whole grains to improve "no-knead" bread

update 03/05/2012: flour and water measurements adjusted slightly -- recipe writing is, indeed, a process.

I've been continually baking homemade bread for a few weeks now, ever since I finally tried Jim Lahey's "no-knead" bread. along the way, I've made some slight changes to the technique. I've scaled down the basic recipe to use a little more than 2 cups of flour/batch (which makes a loaf both my roommate and I like), and I've also been maintaining a lively sourdough that I use that to raise the bread. it's easy to substitute for yeast -- use about 1/4 - 1/3 cup recently-fed, vigorous loose starter (I keep mine about the thickness of pancake batter just because it's easier to deal with) to substitute for the 1/4 teaspoon yeast called for in the recipe, and adjust the amounts of flour and water down a bit to accommodate. I do add the tiniest dash of yeast to ensure the dough will rise in a reasonable amount of time (which for me is 8 - 16 hours); I could just as easily leave that out and allow a full 16 - 30 hours for a slow rise (part of that in the refrigerator, to develop flavor and keep from exhausting the yeast), but I prefer to keep my bread proofing on the countertop. I've scaled the flour and water adjustments below to work with a mixture of King Arthur Bread Flour and King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour to get some whole grain into my daily bread, and the flavor and texture are excellent. please do remember that flour is different everywhere and dough acts different almost every time you bake it -- you're looking for the same dough characteristics at the beginning (sort of wet and shaggy) before the bulk rise, and will add more flour after that when you actually CAN do a little bit of kneading if you want , although you really only need to do a couple of folds. when I fold, I use a roll-up fold, scroll down a bit after you click the link to see it. when I'm in the mood to knead, after the fold I just give it a bit of a knead, just a few times. you don't want to knock all the bubbles out. proceed with the recipe technique as in my own variation on the classic "no-knead" recipe, but use the following ingredients to add flavor, some whole grain and interest to your loaf:

  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup sourdough starter** (and I often, OFTEN augment this with the tiniest dash of Red Star active dry yeast -- maybe 10 grains?). if you don't have sourdough or just don't feel like feeding it, use 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast.
  • 1-1/4 cup King Arthur bread flour
  • 1 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour (*a note on this flour: it uses a different variety of wheat and is ground finer than regular whole wheat flour, but still uses the whole grain. it produces a creamy, ivory-colored flour with a wonderful whole-grain flavor that's more refined than regular whole wheat flour -- I love it! and the crusts of the finished loaves come out the most gorgeous burnished, shiny brown color, with an off-white/ivory crumb)
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 teaspoon mild rice vinegar (*optional, depending on the sourness of your starter; if not desired, add another tablespoon filtered water if needed)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
the dough will seem a bit wetter than regular no-knead at first -- that's because it takes the white whole wheat flour a bit longer to absorb water. mix it together well with a wooden spoon, cover with plastic wrap and bulk-ferment overnight (8-16 hours -- it's flexible), then check the texture and you should find it's just right. if anything, it may need a sprinkle of flour to knead.

the finished loaves are tasty and lovely! I'd love to hear what you think.

**I'll post on creating and maintaining a happy sourdough starter with a minimum (or no) waste very soon -- this latest one is the simplest, liveliest and the most effective sourdough I've ever used.