Monday, February 03, 2020

Za'atar Bread

I recently read a novel about Palestinian refugees living in America, and a few generations of children (A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum.) Near the end, the granddaughter of the original refugees learns to make her mother's recipe for za'atar from her grandfather. Za'atar seems to be able to refer to the spice blend - thyme, oregano, sumac, sesame seed - but also the flatbread/pita type bread with the spice blend mixed with olive oil that can be spread on top. The book seemed to refer to both, so I went search for a good recipe, and came across one that just makes four at a time, which seemed like a good fit. Instead of blending the spices, I used a preblended zatar (seems to be an alternate spelling) that I just happened to have on hand (thanks Pita House.)

Za'atar Bread
1.5 Cup (8.5 oz / 240g) All Purpose Flour
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/4 Tsp Sugar
1 Tsp Yeast
1 Tbsp Sesame Seeds
1 Tbsp Dried Oregano
1 Tbsp Dried Basil
1 Tbsp Sumac
1/2 Tsp Salt


1- Heat 1/2 cup water to 110º F, 43º C for the dough.



1- Combine sugar and yeast in a large bowl.
2- Add 1/2 cup warm water, stir and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
3- In a separate bowl, mix flour and 1/2 tsp salt.
 4- Pour in 1 tbsp olive oil.
5- Gradually, Stir in the yeast mixture.
6- Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes. Note: Add more water if needed.
7- Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic bag and allow to rest for an hour at room temperature.


8- Combine dried oregano, basil, sumac and sesame seeds.
9- Add 1/4 cup of olive oil and stir thoroughly.


10- Divide the dough in four and roll out into a thin round shape on a well floured working surface. 11- Top the dough with a thin layer of the topping.
12- Add a pinch of salt (Optional).
13- Preheat oven to 400º F (204º C), Place a flatbread pan and while preheating the oven.
14- Bake the bread for 8 minutes or as desired.

Notes from JennyBakes:

I added extra toasted sesame seeds and the recommended salt, and I would definitely do that again. I heated a flat cookie sheet in the oven when the oven preheated, and mine were small enough that I baked all four at once. (The video of the recipe shows them as a bit bigger than that.)

I ate one with my leftover carrot soup, a great combo.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Hippy Banana Bread from Shutterbean

I came across this recipe following a link to pickled carrots. Ah, the internet. What I loved about this one is how it invites substitution - while the original calls for sunflower seeds, pepitas, nuts, and dried cherries, I used a combination of things I had on hand and needed to use up from the pantry, and it was still a success! I can imagine going a chocolate direction as well.

Hippy Banana Bread
(recipe from Shutterbean)

makes 1 loaf
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup puree)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries*
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds*
  • 1/2 cup raw pepitas
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan. Line pan with a sling of parchment paper, with the long sides overhanging. Lightly butter the parchment, then set the pan aside.

Whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil and brown sugar, breaking up any lumps. Add the maple syrup and vanilla, whisking until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat until fully incorporated. With a wooden spoon, stir in the bananas. Add the flour mixture to the liquids, stirring until just combined. Stir in the walnuts, cherries, sunflower seeds and pepitas until fully incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan, evening out the top if necessary.

Place bread in the oven and bake until cake tester inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean, about 55-60 minutes. Remove from the oven, and leave the bread to cool in its pan for 10 minutes. Using the parchment sling, lift the bread out of the pan, unwrap and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Notes from JennyBakes:

I ran out of maple syrup so I ended up using 2 tbsp maple syrup and 2 tbsp dark Karo syrup.

I used dried orange-scented cranberries instead of cherries, because I had leftovers from the holidays.

I used shredded coconut instead of sunflower seeds because I had it on hand.

I did use walnuts and pepitas, because I happened to have them...

Monday, January 20, 2020

Happy Wife, Happy Life Chocolate Cake

On Episode 171 of the Reading Envy Podcast, I spoke with Jen Nathan Orris about foodie recommendations - cookbooks, memoirs, and more. She brought up Julia Turshen, cookbook author and recipe developer extraordinaire, and recommended all of her cookbooks, particularly Small Victories. Julia actually appeared on Jen's podcast, Skillet, where she cooked Chicken Pelau. (I would later discover Turshen also has her own podcast called Keep Calm and Cook On, which is on brand for her reputation of making cooking accessible.)

I am always excited when I learn about an author or cook (or both) who I haven't heard of before, because it gives me an excuse to dive into something new. So of course I listened to the podcasts and hunted down the cookbooks. I would actually love to try making the chicken pelau at some point, because I am still feeling a bit tentative about cooking chicken and it has some unique techniques like starting with burned sugar. 

I'm not sure if this happens to anyone else, but sometimes I will encounter a recipe in a blog, Instagram post, or cookbook, and it will stick with me. When I'm thinking of my grocery shopping lists it will come to mind again, and I'll make sure I have the ingredients in case I feel inspired to make it. This cake is one Turshen makes for her wife. I was intrigued by the simplicity of the recipe and the strange (to me) ingredients in the frosting. I liked that it tasted better cold. The combination of chocolate and raspberry probably moved it up a few notches. And then when I needed to bake something to burn off some nervous energy, this was the thing. My husband was called home to Oregon at the last minute, and I must admit I've been eating this cake for breakfast (but you know, happy wife and all that.)

Happy Wife, Happy Life Chocolate Cake
from Small Victories by Julia Turshen


1 1/4 cups (150 g) all purpose flour
1 cup (200 g) sugar
3/4 cup (75 g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder (such as Guittard or Droste, sifted if lumpy)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
8 Tbsp (110 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup (240 ml) strong black coffee, at room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk or plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract


3/4 cup (130 g) semisweet chocolate chips or roughly chopped semisweet chocolate
3/4 cup (180 ml) sour cream, at room temperature
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup (160 g) raspberry jam (seeded or seedless, whatever your preference)

Raspberries for serving (optional)

To make the cake: Preheat your oven to 350 F (180 C). Use your hands to butter the bottom and sides of two 8-inch (20-cm) cake pans, then line the bottom of each with a circle of parchment paper. For good measure, butter the parchment paper. Set the pans aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the melted butter, eggs, coffee, buttermilk, and vanilla and whisk until the batter is smooth. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans.

Bake until the cakes are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer the cakes, still in their pans, to a wire rack and let them cool completely. Once cool, use a dinner knife to loosen the edges of the cakes from the pans and invert them onto your work surface (you might need to give the pan a little whack). Peel off and discard the parchment.

To make the frosting: Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Put the chocolate chips in a large stainless steel or heatproof glass bowl and set it over the pot (the water should not touch the bowl - if it does, simply pour some out). Stir until the chocolate is melted. (Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave in 15-second increments, stirring between increments.) Remove from the heat and whisk in the sour cream and maple syrup. The frosting should be smooth and quite silky. Refrigerate the frosting until the cakes have cooled. It will thicken as it cools (a good thing).

Once the cakes are cool, put one on a serving platter upside-down so that the flat side is facing up. Spread the jam over the top. Put the second cake on top of the jam-slathered cake, again flat-side up—this way you get a nice flat top. (If the jam makes the layers slip and slide a bit, use a couple of skewers to hold the layers together while you frost the sides and then remove the skewers to frost the top). Using a small offset spatula or a dinner knife, spread the frosting all over the sides and top of the cake. There’s no need to be perfect with this; I like it kind of rustic looking. But if you’re more of a type-A person, go ahead and smooth the top and sides (and you could even stick strips of parchment paper under the bottom of the cake before frosting it to keep your serving platter clean). Whatever makes you happy.

Let the cake sit for about 1 hour before serving. There’s something about letting each element get to know the others that serves this cake very well. In fact, I prefer to make it the day before and refrigerate it overnight, and serve it cold. Either way, slice and serve with some fresh raspberries alongside if you’d like.

Note: If you only own a single cake pan, fear not! Simply pour the batter into the pan and bake it until a toothpick tests clean (it will take 10 to 15 minutes longer in the oven than the two separate layers). Once the cake cools completely, use a serrated knife to cut it into two layers. Voilà.  

Notes from JennyBakes:

I don't have a lot to say because the recipe is solid. I did specifically look for Dutch-processed cocoa at the store and even in the 21st century, I'd have to go to a specialty place for it, so I just went with a combination of the last of the Ecuadorian cocoa powder from Libby and the Ghiradelli I had in the cupboard. And it was fine. I also didn't wait for the coffee to cool and only quick thinking with the buttermilk saved my eggs from curdling, but all told this is a pretty forgiving recipe. The frosting was such an interesting texture from the start, and the tang of the sour cream is amazing with the raspberry.   

Monday, January 13, 2020

Save-the-Day Spinach Pie

One of my goals for this year is to get better about weekday dinners, and to learn more recipes that might be palatable for younger eaters. I was poking around the internet and found a recommendation for Every Day is Saturday: Recipes + Strategies for Easy Cooking, Every Day of the Week by Sarah Copeland. This recipe is in the "Projects" section because it's just as easy to make two at once, and then you will have made an extra! I like the unusual sections in this cookbook because it's based on type of meal or rather need like quick dinners, last minute friends, etc.

I made a few mistakes with this recipe but I don't think they mattered to the final taste, but it's definitely not as pretty as the one in the cookbook! I'll add some notes at the end to talk about what I could have done better.

Save-the-Day Spinach Pie
(recipe from Sarah Copeland) 

Serves: 8


30 oz frozen spinach, thawed
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese
3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp fine sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Set the spinach in a colander to drain while you prepare the remaining ingredients, then place it in the center of a large, sturdy dish towel. Squeeze out as much moisture as you can. (If you wash the towel shortly after, the color won’t stain.)

Heat a large pan over medium heat. Melt the butter, and pour off and reserve about 5 tbsp.* Add the onion to the skillet and cook until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with the squeezed spinach, and add the ricotta, eggs, feta, dill (If using), lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Brush a 9x11 inch baking pan with some of the reserved melted butter. Lay the two first sheets of phyllo side by side in the bottom of the pan to cover it and come 1 inch up the sides; brush with butter. Continue with another two sheets of phyllo right on top, layering them slightly overlapping to cover the bottom and up the sides (so far, you’ve used four sheets.) Add the spinach mixture and spread into an even layer. Lay two more sheets of phyllo side by side on top, to cover the entire filling, and brush with butter. Tuck the sides of the phyllo over the top, and layer the two remaining sheets of phyllo on top. Brush with the remaining butter.

Bake until the phyllo is cooked through, shiny, and golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove and let cool until just warm to the touch before cutting. Cut into 9 or 12 pieces and serve warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

One pan is a great start, but two pans of spinach pie will have you set for one hot meal, plus packable lunches and late-day snacks. Cool one pan completely and freeze, well wrapped (in plastic wrap and foil, right in the pan), for up to 2 weeks. To eat, bring to room temperature first, then warm in a hot oven for 5 minutes.

Notes from JennyBakes: Thawing the spinach and phyllo requires some thinking ahead and this makes this recipe more challenging (I know I need to do better at planning!) Making a double batch makes sense, maybe one in a disposable pan, because otherwise you just throw phyllo away.

Phyllo is tricky; you need to keep a damp towel on top of it every second you aren’t working with it directly. It’s ridiculous to melt all the butter in the pan only to pour and measure it out. I melted 3 tbsp in the pan (and that’s probably too much for one small onion!) and 5 tbsp in a ramekin for the assembly.

I might use nonstick spray for everything except the top next time, since the filling has so much fat already and it would assemble more quickly.

And I should have baked this about 5 more minutes!

Monday, January 06, 2020

Spoon Cookies (Lusikkaleivat)

I've had this recipe pinned for a while but finally made them before the holidays. They are called spoon cookies because of the unique way they are shaped - using a regular or teaspoon. I'm not sure if the traditional Finnish uses browned butter, but this one does, and made the cookies extra tasty. If you recall the chocolate cherry trifle of last week, I had some cherry jam leftover, and it was perfect in these.

Here is a picture of the cookies after shaping but before baking:

And here they are after baking, sandwiching, and sprinkling with powdered sugar:

Spoon Cookies
(Recipe courtesy of FoodNetwork)


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch fine salt
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 to 1/3 cup jam, such as a berry, plum or cloudberry
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  2. Melt the butter in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Continue to cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter browns lightly and smells slightly nutty, about 15 minutes. Transfer the butter to a medium bowl -- be sure to get all the tasty brown bits -- and cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in another medium bowl.
  4. Whisk the egg yolk, sugar and vanilla into the cooled browned butter.
  5. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture to make a uniform but crumbly dough that looks like wet sand.
  6. Scoop out dough with a small teaspoon (the kind you set the table with, not the ones you measure with). Rock spoon gently back and forth against the side of the bowl, packing the dough into the spoon, then scrape/slide the spoon against the inside of the bowl to make spoon-shaped cookies. Trim excess dough with your fingers and slide out onto the prepared pans, preserving their shape. (Try to make sure you form an even number of cookies, since these sandwich together.)
  7. Bake cookies until just browned, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool almost completely on the baking sheets, and then transfer cookies to a rack to cool.
  8. When cool, spread 1/2 teaspoon jam on the flat side of a cookie, and then sandwich together with a second cookie. Repeat until all cookies have met their match. Lightly dust the cookies with the confectioners' sugar. Serve.
  9. Busy baker's tips: The dough can be prepared several hours ahead and stored at room temperature. Freeze baked cookie halves wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, followed by aluminum foil for up to 2 weeks. When ready to serve, defrost at room temperature and assemble as desired. Store sandwiches in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Do not store with crisp cookies, as moisture from the jam will soften the texture of other crisp cookies.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Top JennyBakes Recipes in 2019

This list is based on my own opinion, not necessarily by popularity of the post.
  1. Lacy Brown Butter and Ricotta Cookies (from Stella Parks @bravetart in Instagram)
  2. Peanut Butter (and Chocolate) Chess Pie (from South by Sean Brock) 
  3. Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies
  4. Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup (from The Bacon Bible)
  5. "Featherlite" Pancakes (from Rosa Parks via the National Archives)
  6. Chocolate Chunk Cookies (from Genuine Pizza)
  7. Chocolate Sheet Cake with Whipped Salted Caramel Ganache Frosting (from Edd Kimber @theboywhobakes on Instagram)
  8. Orange Honey Cake (from Icing on the Cake)
  9. Brown Butter Blondies
  10. Pumpkin Tea Cake (from Tartine)
You know a recipe is good when you repeat it. I've made #9 at least three times this year.

I liked #7 and then went and made a different cake for my birthday, one I threw away without even finishing the first piece! Boo.

This was my last year with the Abrams Dinner Party, and recipes #4, 6, and 8 came from cookbooks they sent my way. 

Chocolate Cherry Trifle

I was wandering Lidl or Aldi and came across a large jar of sour cherries, and it brought to mind this ancient recipe of Nigella Lawson's show where she makes a chocolate cherry trifle, in her inviting, no stress way of making the viewer feel they can cook or bake just as easily as she can! (You can see that original video and see what I mean.) The unfortunate thing in my household is that I'm the only person who loves cherries, so I knew I'd need to make it for the annual library holiday lunch. I feel like it was a good choice; I saw a few people go back for seconds.

Nigella buys small chocolate pound cakes from the store but I didn't have that option; I did however have an aging chocolate cake mix in the pantry, and made this pound cake recipe using it as the base. It was just fine and worked well. A few notes at the end of this post about other differences I picked up along the way.

Chocolate Cherry Trifle


2 (approximately 12 ounces each) chocolate pound cakes
1/2 cup black cherry jam
1/2 cup cherry brandy
2 cups drained bottled sour cherries (recommended: Morello)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, minimum 70 percent cocoa solids, chopped
1 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon milk
1 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
3 cups heavy cream
1-ounce bittersweet chocolate
Special Equipment: Large wide trifle bowl


  1. Slice the chocolate pound cake and make jam sandwiches with the cherry jam, and layer the bottom of a large wide trifle bowl. Pour over the cherry brandy so that the cake soaks it up, and then top with the drained cherries. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to macerate while you make the custard.
  2. Melt the chocolate on low to medium heat in the microwave, checking after 2 minutes, though it will probably need 4 minutes. Or you can place it in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once the chocolate is melted, ser aside while you get on with the custard.
  3. In a saucepan warm the milk and cream. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and cocoa in a large bowl. Pour the warm milk and cream into the bowl whisking it into the yolks and sugar mixture. Stir in the melted chocolate, scraping the sides well with a rubber spatula to get all of it in, and pour the custard back into the rinsed saucepan. Cook over a medium heat until the custard thickens, stirring all the time. Make sure it doesn't boil, as it will split and curdle. Keep a sink full of cold water so that if you get scared you can plunge the bottom of the custard pan into the cold water and
  4. whisk like mad, which will avert possible crisis.
  5. The custard will get darker as it cooks and the flecks of chocolate will melt once the custard has thickened. And you do need this thick, so don't panic so much that you stop cooking while it is still runny. Admittedly, it continues to thicken as it cools and also when it's chilling in the refrigerator. Once it is ready, pour into a bowl to cool and cover the top of the custard with cling wrap to prevent a skin from forming.
  6. When the custard is cold, pour and spread it over the chocolate cake layer in the trifle bowl, and leave in the refrigerator to set, covered in plastic wrap overnight.
  7. When you are ready to decorate, softly whip the cream for the topping and spread it gently over the layer of custard. Grate the chocolate over the top. 
Notes from JennyBakes:

The custard made me nervous and I feel I undercooked it, but I was worried from this recipe that it would get too thick or burned. I sure wish they included a temperature!

I added a little powdered sugar to the whipped cream because I felt strange adding it unsweetened.

Since this was a daytime function, I replaced the cherry brandy with the cherry juice from the canned cherries, but did put 2 tbsp of kirsch to make up the 1/2 cup. This way there was plenty of flavor but not an overwhelming amount of alcohol.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Buckwheat Double Chocolate Orange Cookies (gluten-free)

I came across this recipe while looking for new cookies for the holidays, and thought it sounded tasty enough to apply to everyone. I was disappointed when I made them because the gluten-free flour combination resulted in that somewhat bitter aftertaste I think most people who have baked gluten-free will be familiar with. Well boo, I thought, I'll just freeze them and send them to my family when I'm ready to send that box, which wasn't quite when I made these.

This morning I decided to taste one to see how they did post-freezer and discovered - no bitter aftertaste! Dang! They are actually quite soft and delicious! And I could have included them in my cookie boxes after all, which were all already packed. Ah well. Hopefully my sister will enjoy them. I'm wondering if a quick trip to the freezer will solve all my gluten-free flours taste woes and plan to try that strategy again.

Buckwheat Double Chocolate Orange Cookies 
(from fixfeastflair, where they call them Buckwheat Orange Double Chocolate Cookies)


  • 6 Tbsp. (85 g) unsalted butter
  • 12 oz. (345 g) bittersweet chocolate (60–70% cacao mass), chopped (about 2 1⁄4 cups), plus several chunks for the tops of the cookies
  • 11⁄2 tsp. (1 g) packed finely grated zest from 1 medium orange (or bergamot if you can find it!)
  • 1⁄2 c. (65 g) buckwheat flour
  • 2 Tbsp. (15 g) tapioca flour
  • 3⁄4 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1⁄2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. (130 g) organic granulated cane sugar
  • 1⁄2 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Flaky salt such as Maldon, for the tops


  1. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350ºF (175ºC). Line 2 rimless cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Place the butter in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan set over the lowest possible heat. Add
  3. 8 ounces (230 g) of the chocolate and the orange zest, and melt together, stirring frequently to prevent the chocolate from scorching. Continue cooking until the mixture is pleasantly warm, but not super hot, to the touch. Remove from the heat and keep warm. Sift the buckwheat flour, tapioca flour and baking powder into a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, place the eggs, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and whip on medium-high speed until the mixture is very light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to low and stir in the vanilla until just combined, then the warm chocolate butter mixture. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a flexible silicone spatula to fold in the remaining 4 ounces (115 g) chopped chocolate.
  5. If the batter is very runny, let it cool for a few minutes until it firms to the consistency of a thick brownie batter. Use a #40* spring-loaded ice cream scoop or 2 spoons to drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Top each cookie with a few chunks of chocolate and a few flecks of flaky salt.
  6. Bake the cookies until puffed and cracked and the edges are set, 8–12 minutes, rotating the pans front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Let cool on the pans. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. The cookies are best the day of baking but will keep, airtight at room temperature, for up to 3 days. 


-Usually I ignore recipes that say to scoop all cookie dough onto cookie sheets at once. For this recipe, you really should, because the tapioca flour will keep thickening the dough.
-Seriously, freeze these cookies overnight before eating.