Monday, May 22, 2017

Armenian Nutmeg Cake

Technically, I made this cake the first time back in 2012, when I was still involved in the Daring Bakers and trying to keep pace with their monthly challenges. This simple cake didn't go so well the first time around, and it overflowed the pan I tried baking it in. When I needed something to bring to my book club's annual potluck and book pick party, I thought back to the year. We read one book about the Armenian genocide, and I had made nazook that were not good enough to share for that gathering. I decided to make this cake again, but in a bigger pan!


I put the cake on the table with all the dishes and forgot to take a picture of it. So I snapped this quick photo next to a pile of some of the books we are considering. You can't really see it, but I did notice a few people having multiple pieces (to me: always a sign of success!)


Is it bad to admit that even though I did want to bake for my reading class, the main reason I baked this cake again was to take a better picture of it? I brought another one in to eat while we watched a documentary on the romance novel industry. The cake starts with a crumble, a very unusual method, and half the crumble of flour, brown sugar, and butter gets dumped into the pan and makes a crust. The rest gets whisked with milk and eggs and is more of a coffee cake type batter. Everything is sprinkled with nuts - the recipe said walnuts, I used hazelnuts. It is simple yet delicious. Some of the book club members felt they tasted rosemary but I think it was just a large amount of fresh hazelnut that had a somewhat mysterious taste.

Armenian Nutmeg Cake
(recipe from Jason at Daily Candor)
  • 1 cup milk (whole preferred)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (or more) walnut pieces (or another nut)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 6 oz (170 g) butter, preferably unsalted, at room temperature
  • 1 to 1-1/2 tsp ground nutme, freshly grated
  • a springform pan (9"/23 cm should be perfect)*

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F (175C).
  2. Mix the 1 tsp of baking soda (not baking powder; that's for the next step) into the milk. Set it aside.
  3. Sift the 2 cups of flour and 2 tsp of baking powder into a large bowl. One sift is fine
  4. Add the 2 cups of brown sugar. Go ahead and mix the flour and brown sugar together.
  5. Toss in the 6 oz (170 g) of butter in cubes.
  6. Mash the butter with a fork into the dry ingredients (you can also use your fingers if you want). You'll want to achieve a more-or-less uniform, tan-colored crumbly mixture.
  7. Take HALF of this resulting crumbly mixture into your  pan. Press a crust out of it using your fingers and knuckles. It will be easy.
  8. Crack an egg into a mixer or bowl.
  9. Grate 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg. Toss that in with the egg.
  10. Start mixing with a whisk attachment, or a whisk if you're doing it manually. Once it's mixed well and frothy, pour in the milk and baking soda mixture. Continue to mix until uniform.
  11. Pour in the rest of the crumbly mixture. Mix that well, with either a paddle attachment, or a spatula. Or continue to use the whisk; it won't make much of a difference, since the resulting batter is very liquidy.
  12. Pour the batter over the crust in the springform pan.
  13. Gently sprinkle the walnut pieces over the batter.
  14. Bake for about 30-40 minutes at 350F (175C). You'll know it's done when the top is a golden brown, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  15. Allow to cool in the pan, and then release. Enjoy!
*Both times, I used a 9x13 pan and it was perfectly baked at 30 minutes.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Bakery Review: Buttermilk Bakery, Winter Park, FL

On a long drive home from Orlando last weekend, my husband and I stopped first at Buttermilk Bakery. It had been recommended to me by one of the other librarians, and I had been following them in Instagram for a few months. I knew from their feed that they were champions of brunch and laminated doughs, among other treats. I expected there to be a line outside the door, but we got there pretty early and before brunch started, and after the academic year ended, I think. Good timing, anyway.




All the treats are visible where you order, lines of savory and sweet pastries. The loaves of bread available that day were immediately behind the cashier, and they looked amazing. It was incredibly hard to choose, but because we'd had a bit of a sweet overload, we went mostly with savory (but Nathaniel did get one of the cinnamon sugar donuts.) Libby's favorite treat is the kouign aman and I wish I'd tried one of those; I am also regretting not getting a homemade pop tart!



This is the kind of bakery I would want to work in if I had gone that direction in my life. Creative offerings, incredible quality, and I highly recommend it.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Scones with Paleo Baking Flour

Most of the time when I am baking low-carb, grain-free, and/or paleo, I use my own flours. This can backfire because I run out of different flours at different speeds, and to end up with a good texture you often need to use more than one in a recipe to replace all-purpose flour. My husband brought home a bag of Bob's Red Mill Paleo Baking Flour, and I used it in two scone recipes to varying success. I thought I would reflect on what worked and what didn't, should you decide to go the same way. This is not a paid advertisement; we bought the flour.

Paleo chocolate chip scone attempt #2 (not as good)

I used two recipes from a tiny cookbook I use for most of my scone baking, Scones, Muffins, and Tea Cakes.  I think I've had it since before I got married in 2000! The first recipe was a buttermilk breakfast scone with more butter and liquid, no eggs. The second was originally a lemon scone with eggs in addition to liquid and far less fat. I replaced the flour called for in the recipe with equal amoutns of the paleo baking flour. The second recipe was dry and lacking in flavor (also partly because I used chocolate chips that weren't as sweet), very disappointing after the first one was firm on the outside and hte texture of cookie dough inside. Underbaked? Maybe, but the outside was brown and I didn't want them to burn. For the second batch I baked at a lower temperature, but they were drier, probably with less fat.

When I'm baking paleo scones from a recipe, I usually depend on coconut oil instead of butter, because it seems to be the best pairing to the dry almond flour, it adds a great deal of tenderness. I really would only call the first recipe of this attempt a success, due to the overly dry nature of the second recipe, so that is the one I will detail below. It is a half recipe of the one mentioned, with a few paleo modifications.

Overall, I think I'll stick with my own flours when I can, because I think the mix is a bit high on coconut flour, while the recipes I'm frequently using aren't adjusted for the amount of liquid needed for that (and Bob's doesn't have a large library of options.)



Buttermilk Chocolate Chip "Paleo" Scones (lower-carb, grain-free)

1 1/2 cups paleo baking flour
3 tbsp coconut sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
6 tbsp butter, cold, cut into small pieces right before adding
1/2 cup sugar-free chocolate chips
1/2 cup buttermilk (I used milk plus lemon juice and allowed to curdle)

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line baking sheet with parchment or spray a scone pan.

Stir the dry ingredients together. Add the butter and rub with fingertips until well blended. Add the chocolate chips. Pour in the buttermilk and mix until blended.

Gather the dough into a ball and divide in half. Roll into a circle and cut into 8 wedges (I used a standard scone pan and it filled half the slots, so only 4.)

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until they are golden.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Banana Sorghum Bouchons

My husband is a devoted reader of The Local Palate, and showed me an article on southern cakes in the most recent issue. I zeroed in on the recipe for Banana Sorghum Bouchons, because I had overly ripe bananas and sorghum syrup on hand. It is apparently a traditional North Carolina recipe from the mid-1800s.

I did not have a bouchon pan, but the recipe said I could use mini muffin pans, so that's what I did.


Banana Sorghum Mini-Muffins 
(from The Local Palate)

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¼ cups sorghum
½ cup mashed ripe banana
3 large eggs
2½ cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:
  1. Place a rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Lightly mist the 12 wells of a mini-popover pan with non-stick spray and set aside.
  2. Place butter and sorghum in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium and beat another minute, until creamy. Add banana and eggs, and beat until eggs are combined. The mixture may look curdled. Set aside.
  3. Place flour, soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk or sift to combine. Beginning and ending with flour mixture, alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk to sorghum batter. Beat only until just smooth.
  4. With a small scoop, drop batter into prepared wells of pan, filling them two-thirds full. Place pan in oven. Bake until bouchons rise and spring to the touch, about 15 to 18 minutes. Remove pan from the oven, let it rest 10 minutes, then run a knife around bouchons and gently lift them out of pan and onto a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining batter. To serve, dust bouchons with powdered sugar

Monday, April 10, 2017

Hermit Cookies for the Hermitage

I participated in my first silent retreat this weekend. I wanted to bring a snack to share, and found Geoffrey Zakarian's recipe for these cookies in my Pinterest board. They were more relevant than I even knew, since some of the spaces are referred to as the hermitage at Heartwood Refuge.


Hermit Cookies

Cookies
  •  
Glaze:
  •  

Directions

Special equipment: A piping bag.

For the cookies: Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, allspice and ginger in a medium bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter, brown sugar and molasses together in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, eggs and orange zest. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until incorporated. Add the spiced flour mixture and beat until the dough just comes together. Fold in the chocolate chips. Scoop the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and refrigerate on a plate or baking sheet until firm, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, adjust the oven racks to the top and lower third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

Arrange the chilled dough balls about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the tops of the hermits are no longer glossy and the edges are firm, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

For the glaze: While the cookies cool, mix the confectioners' sugar, egg whites and vanilla seeds in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until smooth and shiny.

Transfer the glaze to a piping bag and pipe stripes onto the cooled hermits. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

(notes on recipe below images from the retreat)



The meditation center at Heartwood (or the "hermitage")


Recipe notes:

Traditionally, hermit cookies have some kind of dried fruit in them, instead of chocolate. I have to say that I think Chef Zakarian made a misstep in his variation, because despite the orange zest, the combination of molasses plus dark brown sugar plus chocolate chips just results in a murky flavor. I would pull back to regular brown sugar and add vibrance through dried fruit and maybe a nut, or even some oats. (I probably wouldn't make this actual recipe again, because aside from the murky flavor of the cookies, who wants to deal with egg white for cookies named for simplicity? I didn't.)

Monday, April 03, 2017

Mango Carrot Cake

The original recipe for this cake calls for two layers and a cream cheese frosting. I went for a simpler approach of a 9x13 pan and no icing, and thought it was tasty on its own. The recipe below will be what I did; follow the link to the original for the layer cake.



Mango Carrot Cake
(based on Mango Ginger Carrot Cake with Candied Ginger Frosting from Rock Recipes)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger root, finely grated*
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup fresh ripe mango, diced small**
  • ½ cup chopped lightly toasted macadamia nuts (optional)***
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  2. Grease and flour one 9x13 pan.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, powdered ginger and salt.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla and oil until light and fluffy.
  5. Stir in the grated carrots, mango, grated ginger root (and nuts if you are using them.)
  6. Fold in the dry ingredients by hand.
  7. Stir only until the dry ingredients are incorporated into the batter. Do not over mix.
  8. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Jenny's notes:

* - I couldn't find the ginger root that I know I bought. I would recommend adding this layer of flavor, or maybe crystalized ginger in the batter.
** - I used frozen mango which is in rather large chunks (as evidenced in photo) - I would definitely cut those chunks in half next time, and maybe increase mango flavor by replacing some oil with mango puree or mango nectar.
*** - I did not add nuts but ended up wishing I had more texture - nuts or coconut, etc.

Monday, March 27, 2017