Monday, July 16, 2018

Cherry Thyme Upside Down Cake

For some reason, a bit out of season, I've encountered so many good looking cherries at the store! It made me nostalgia for the northwest, where we were on vacation just a month ago. I grew up with two trees of cherries at my childhood home - the golden cherries with pink blush (known as "Rainier" cherries in many places) and the darker red cherries that most people think of. The birds loved them; what we picked we just ate and didn't really bake with, so I didn't have a lot in my repertoire for cherries.

I have a few recipes marked to try, but this one stood out. I recalled an episode of some baking reality show where all the bakers had to make an upside down cake of any variety, as long as it contained fruit. I liked the sound of cherries and thyme, and thought it would be gorgeous with the variety of colors of cherries.


Cherry Thyme Upside Down Cake(recipe found on MyRecipes.com)


Ingredients

TOPPING

  • 6 tablespoons (3 oz.) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup fresh Bing cherries, pitted and halved (about 6 oz.)
  • 1 cup fresh Rainier cherries, pitted and halved (about 6 oz.)
  • Thyme sprigs
CAKE
  • 1 1/3 cups (about 5 3/4 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • Whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream

Step 1
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare the Topping: Place butter in a 9-inch round baking pan, and place in preheated oven until butter is melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Tilt pan to coat sides with butter. Stir brown sugar into melted butter in bottom of pan until smooth, spreading it evenly on bottom of pan. Decoratively arrange cherries, cut-side down, and thyme sprigs on brown sugar mixture.

Step 2
Prepare the Cake: Whisk together flour, thyme leaves, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Step 3
Beat together brown sugar and butter in bowl of electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add egg and vanilla, beating until fully incorporated, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture and sour cream; beat on low until just moistened. Stir ingredients by hand until fully incorporated.

Step 4
Dollop cake mixture over fruit, and spread evenly to sides of pan. Bake in preheated oven until a skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes; invert onto a large cake plate. Let cool 5 minutes before slicing. Sprinkle with more thyme leaves, and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.


I paid attention to the instructions and barely mixed the batter, so the crumb was very tender. The cherries end up the texture of grapes, maybe, or peaches, not so much the cherries in the end, but the flavor is intense.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Review of Brown Bear Baking in Eastsound, WA (Orcas Island)

During our recent vacation, we spent a few days on Orcas Island. It is the largest island in the San Juan Islands, and has been on my travel wishlist for years. We had beautiful weather, went whale watching, and explored the tiny strip of shops that seems to sustain the majority of the residents and tourists. One of the places we went to several days in a row is Brown Bear Baking.



First I should warn you that at least the week we were there, it was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Sad! But worth the wait for Wednesday. Pay attention to those days though. And honestly half the businesses on the island seem to randomly close on Tuesday; future tourists beware.

The bakery was packed full of people with more people in line. From what the people working there said, this was the first week where they felt summer tourist traffic, and normally the pace is a bit slower and you might more easily find a place to sit. Our first day there, we ate in our rental car.  The bakery itself is in a busy central place, and the second day we went there the bunny running for mayor was also in the courtyard, with free face painting, and it was a weekday!




The bakery provides coffee, espresso, pastries, including some savory pastries, tea cakes, scones, granola, breads, and offers sandwiches for lunch (we did not try these but one person was busily doing prep for what looked like a busy lunch period!) The case was stocked and constantly depleting and being refilled.


What I loved about the bakery, besides the deliciousness, is the way everyone seemed to work together. One of the owners, who I think is Lee Hilands Horswill, seemed to be efficiently running a very busy team, but also did just as much to fill in where needed. He was a leader working just as hard as everyone else, and I think this contributes enormously to their success. In our short time there I saw him restocking the case and helping a younger worker take the dirty dishes to the back.

I do think they may need to either rethink the flow of people through the place or rethink offering espresso! There is a clog in the machine near the espresso machine, on the opposite end of the counter from where you order. There are at least two other places within a block radius that offer espresso. I say order pastries at Brown Bear and go to Kathryn Taylor Chocolates or Darvill's Bookstore for a coffee drink, and get out of there faster. But espresso is new at Brown Bear Baking, so maybe it will sort out.

I found this article about the partners who own and run the bakery, and their journey to Orcas Island, and a flap over the flag. Since we were there during pride month, it seems appropriate to share!

Brown Bear Baking
29 N Beach Rd #1966, Eastsound, WA 98245

Not a paid advertisement. I just like trying new bakeries and thought their pastries were delicious.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Dark Chocolate Banana Bread

As I was making my round-up of ABRAMS Dinner Party posts, I realized I never put this banana bread in the blog. I made it back in October from Dinner Plan: Simple Weeknight Recipes and Strategies for Every Schedule by Kathy Brennan. That entire cookbook gives ideas for meals that can be made ahead of time or saved for people who can't be at a specific meal. Banana bread fits both bills, aside from being a good use of too many bananas past the normal eating stage (I don't mind an overripe banana, but I've been told I am weird.)



Dark Chocolate Banana Bread

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour*
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted coconut oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 packed cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
3 overripe bananas, peeled and mashed with a fork
3/4 cup dark or bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 F with a rack in the middle position. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan, then line with parchment paper, if you like, and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, then set the flour mixture aside. Ina a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then add the oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and sour cream and whisk together. Stir in the mashed bananas. Fold the flour mixture into the wet mixture with a rubber spatula, adding one-third at a time, until just combined. Avoid overmixing the batter.

In a small bowl, toss the chocolate chips with the1 tbsp flour (this will help keep the chips from possibly sinking to the bottom of the loaf pan, bu the step isn't necessary), then fold them into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the loaf, 45-50 minutes. Let cool before unmolding if you like, and slicing.

*Cookbook authors claim you can substitute almond flour for the whole wheat, but I'm not sure it will have the same texture. I probably used all-purpose for both amounts. 

This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party.  

Monday, June 18, 2018

Maple Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

I keep talking about the Alaska from Scratch cookbook, and this cookie recipe also comes from it. You see, I followed the author/blogger for years, but I was even more excited it came out this year because I am going to Alaska for the first time later this summer! Cooking and baking these recipes has felt like a connection to a place I just know I am going to love.


I made these Maple Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies during the week we had in May in upstate South Carolina where it was hot, humid, and rainy ALL DAY LONG EVERY DAY. The students in my Storytelling class were tired of having to trudge around in downpours and I wanted to bake them a treat for working so hard in class. It can feel very vulnerable to share your personal stories, after all.

These were everything I hoped they would be - soft, sweet, and the "imitation" maple extract I had to order from Amazon (maple is just not a popular flavor in the south) wasn't fake tasting, and actually also contained maple syrup. The addition of pecans was perfect, and I actually think you could leave out the chocolate chips for a nice fall cookie... but if you can add chocolate, I don't see why you wouldn't.

I think you should buy the cookbook, so I won't post the recipe here. I did notice that Maya posted a similar recipe in her blog from a visit to her sister.

If anyone has recommendations for ingredients or food products I can buy in Alaska that are hard to find elsewhere, I'd love to know about them.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Apply to Join the ABRAMS Dinner Party plus 2017-18 Roundup

If you coveted my experience of spending a year experimenting with the cookbooks from ABRAMS Books, it is time to apply for the next season! The application is due July 20th, and more information can be found on the application page.

You may be wondering what a year on the ABRAMS Dinner Party is like. I felt like it reinvigorated my baking and cooking by giving me new recipes to try out and a community to share it with. I was exposed to cookbooks I don't think I would have come across otherwise, and chefs I didn't know about. Who would have thought I'd start salivating over Action Bronson's "Egg Noodles with Feta and Paprika?" (dang, that sounds good again) or that the "Traditional Pinto Beans" from The Austin Cookbook would become the most requested recipe in our household? Or that I'd take to making "Morning Loaf" from Simple Fare when I felt like bringing in a snack for my co-workers? Or that the "Gooey Chocolate Chip Bars" from What's Gaby Cooking would be one of my most popular Instagram posts all year?

I thought it would be fun to do a cookbook and recipe roundup from JennyBakes, so you can get a sense of the variety of this past season, and maybe see a dish or two you might have missed. For some of the cookbooks, I played more with regular food and didn't think it fit for JennyBakes, so there will definitely be cookbooks on this list that have not been on this blog!

Fall 2017

Acid Trip by Michael Harlan Turkell
JennyBakes: Balsamic Zabaglione with Peaches | Instagram

F*ck, That's Delicious by Action Bronson
JennyBakes: Chocolate Chip Cookies and Salted Honey | Instagram

Slow Cook Modern by Lianna Krissoff
JennyBakes: Apfel Quark Kuchen / Apple Quark Cake | Instagram 

The Dinner Plan by Kathy Brennan
Instagram: Dark Chocolate Banana Bread and a Chickpea, Tomato and Spinach Stew over Lemony Quinoa

Simple Fare: Fall/Winter by Karen Mordechai
JennyBakes: Morning Loaf | Instagram

Cook Beautiful by Athena Calderone
JennyBakes: Cardamom Cognac Apple Cake | Instagram

Southern Girl Meets Vegetarian Boy by Damaris Phillips
Instagram: Benedictine and Tempeh Bacon Sandwiches, Spicy Buffalo Deviled Eggs, and the Carrot Cake Bars
 
The Artful Baker by Cenk Sonmezsoy
JennyBakes: Double Chocolate Bundt Cake | Instagram

Paladares by Anya von Bremzen
Instagram: Katia's Ginger Cookies

Healthyish by Lindsay Maitland Hunt
Instagram: Broccoli Pea Soup, Apple Slice Snacks, Kale Caesar with Curried Cauliflower, multiple smoothies, and Beans with Baked Eggs

One Knife, One Pot, One Dish by Stephane Raynaud
JennyBakes: Pineapple with Hazelnuts and Vanilla | Instagram

Spring 2018

Tom Fitzmorris's New Orleans Food by Tom Fitzmorris
JennyBakes: Chocolate and Cafe au Lait Mousse | Instagram | Instagram

The New Farm by Brent Preston
Reading Envy: Book review | Goodreads | Instagram
 
Godforsaken Grapes by Jason Wilson
Reading Envy Podcast Episode 117

First We Eat by Eve Kosmas Flores
JennyBakes: Rhubarb Tarragon Ice Cream | Instagram

The Austin Cookbook by Paula Forbes
JennyBakes: Enchiladas and beans | Instagram

Katie Lee's Easy Breezy Eats by Katie Lee
Instagram: Spinach Salad with Pickled Strawberries & Poppy Seed Dressing and Rolled Goat Cheese & Dill Omelet.

The Cook's Atelier by Marjorie Taylor
JennyBakes: Wild Ramp Souffle | Instagram

What's Gaby Cooking by Gaby Dalkin
JennyBakes: Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookie Squares | Instagram

The Foreign Cinema Cookbook by John Clark
JennyBakes: Tahitian Vanilla Pavlova with Strawberry Coulis and Rose-Scented Rhubarb | Instagram
 

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Strawberry Shortcake Scones

We are heading to Alaska this summer and I'm still checking in and trying out new recipes from The Alaska from Scratch Cookbook by Maya Wilson. When it was finally strawberry season, and I had berries that were in their last days, I remembered seeing a strawberry scone recipe in there, and decided to make them.


This isn't the recipe to use if you're trying to use up a bunch of berries; it only calls for 12. But somehow those are well utilized and the flavor is balanced with a sweet glaze.

(I'm copying the recipe from her blog rather than her cookbook, but I think everyone should buy her cookbook. Not a paid advertisement.)

Strawberry Shortcake Scones
(from Alaska from Scratch, based on a scone recipe from Smitten Kitchen; we're all friends here)

Yields: 12 scones (or, as JennyBakes says: 8 in a scone pan)

For scones:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbsp chilled butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
12 strawberries, hulled and quartered
3/4 cup half and half or cream

For glaze:

3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup half and half or cream
1/2 tsp vanilla.


Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender until mixture resembles crumbs.

Toss in strawberries and coat lightly with the flour mixture. Add half and half and fold together gently until the mixture just begins to come together and form a soft dough (more cream can be added if needed). Do not knead or over mix the dough.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and pat into a 1-inch thick rectangle. With a sharp knife, cut the rectangle into 6 squares, then cut the squares on the diagonal to form 12 triangles. Place scones on prepared baking sheet and bake 16-18 minutes, or until scones are cooked through and golden.

Place a sheet of parchment on a work surface, then place a cooling rack over top of parchment. Remove scones from pan to cooling rack. Cool about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make glaze by whisking together powdered sugar, vanilla, and half and half until smooth. Glaze too thick? Add more cream by the tablespoon. Too thin? Add more powdered sugar by the 1/4 cup until the desired consistency is achieved.

Taking each scone by the bottom, dip them top side down directly into the glaze until top is covered. Return scones to cooling rack and allow glaze to drip down the sides and off the rack onto parchment. Glaze will firm up when scones are completely cool.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Easy Rhubarb Breakfast Cake

I was hunting for a recipe to use up some rhubarb. It's like the cereal bowl issue, I always find myself buying more rhubarb to have enough for the next recipe, and I always have leftovers. I didn't have enough to make the roasted rhubarb for this scone recipe I found on a Canadian Mennonite baking blog, but I did realize from that one that rhubarb is an easy one to chop up and freeze for later. (Perhaps next time I'll do that instead of "pouring more cereal into the bowl.")

So I went with this recipe that only called for 2 cups of rhubarb, which was precisely what I had. I do like breakfast/snacking cakes, and this one came together quickly and baked before I was starving on a Sunday morning. The color of my final cake is more golden brown than the blogger's original, but I did have to make a few changes to the recipe: I used milk instead of half-n-half, and once I started measuring things realized I only had 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour! So I used up the gluten-free flour mixture that I bought for my sister's visit, and filled in the gaps with spelt flour. I loved the texture of the cake, and the lovely flavor. I would have liked it even better with some hazelnuts or pecans. And my rhubarb doesn't look as pretty and pink after baking as the original blogger's - so even if you can't see rhubarb in there, it is! And it's delicious!


Easy Rhubarb Breakfast Cake
(from The View from Great Island blog)

Ingredients 

1/2 cup (116 grams) half and half
1 tsp lemon juice
1 stick (1/2 cup, 113 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup (214 grams) granulated sugar plus 2 tsp for sprinkling
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups (256 grams) all purpose flour, saving out 1 Tbsp to toss with rhubarb
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups thinly sliced rhubarb

Instructions

Set oven to 350F Lightly butter a 9x9 square baking pan. I like to line the pan with parchment paper with overhanging ends so I can easily lift out the cooled cake for cutting. That's optional.

Stir the lemon juice into the half and half and set aside.

Cream the soft butter and sugar in a stand mixer, or with electric beaters, until fluffy and pale yellow.

Beat in the egg and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as necessary.

Take 1 Tbsp of the flour to the rhubarb and toss well.

Whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and blend in. Add all of the half and half, and blend in.

Finally add the rest of the flour and blend just until combined, don't over mix. Fold in the rhubarb. Note: the batter is on the thick side.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top evenly with a little sugar. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until the cake is turning golden and a toothpick in the center comes out without wet batter clinging to it (moist crumbs are fine.)

Let the cake cool slightly before cutting.