Monday, July 27, 2015

Ratio Pancakes

One of the cookbooks I got for my birthday was Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman. Since baking is absolutely a ratio science, I was excited to try some of the recipes inside. Michael Ruhlman seems to set up each ratio/recipe with a basic ratio and then talks the reader through how to vary it or add to it. Variations might be for sake of the weather, personal preference, or other variables. For pancakes, which fall under "quick cakes" in the book, it is about personal preference - how dense or thick of a pancake do you like? I like mine a bit thinner than Ruhlman, so I added more milk. And blueberries since they are the peak of season right now.

And since I am trying to make all the pancakes from every region, I suppose I can count this as one of the many American pancakes. The perfect pancake? Well they are pretty good. Creamy and light. I can't think of a better normal pancake.

Basic Pancake Batter
Wet Ingredients

8 ounces milk
2 large eggs
2 ounces butter (1/2 stick), melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Dry ingredients

8 ounces flour (1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cups)
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Combine the wet ingredients in a bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined. Combine the dry ingredients (press the baking powder through a strainer if it's pebbly.) Combine the wet and dry ingredients and whisk or stir until the batter is smooth. This ratio results in a fairly thick batter, and thick, cakey pancakes. If you like them thinner, add 1-2 ounces of milk. Cook on a lightly oiled surface, griddle or pan, over medium heat until done.*

Yield: about 8 4-inch pancakes (although I made half the recipe and had a solid six)

*Before the recipe, Ruhlman says he likes to cook his pancakes on a film of bacon fat for a crisp crust. I used oil since we are vegetarian!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Happy Blogiversary to JennyBakes with Blueberry Cornmeal Butter Cake

On the 24th of July, 2006, I started JennyBakes. I had recently moved to a new state and a new job, one that was a full-time faculty librarian position. No more long commutes, no more juggling multiple jobs... all of the sudden I had time on my hands. With a few years of library school between my culinary jobs and the present (of 2006) I decided it could be time to bake for fun again.

The blog has shifted a bit over time, from building a community with other bloggers to taking on Daring Bakers challenges to experimenting with alternative baking. I have learned a lot, failed from time to time, and made some great discoveries! Thanks to those of you still checking in.

This time of year blueberries are at their peak, so although I had plans to make a fancy apricot mousse cake for my blogiversary, I was faced with three pints of blueberries in my fridge that had to be used! I poured through my cookbooks and stumbled across this recipe, and decided to knock it out. I'll bring it to work on the day this post goes live.

This comes from the marvelous Smitten Kitchen cookbook, a combination of blueberry crumb cake with cornbread. And it really works. I had to bake it longer than suggested but my blueberries were very plump and juicy. Not surprising. This is a marvelous little snacking cake!


Blueberry Cornmeal Butter Cake

(recipe from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and while recipes are not protected by copyright, I highly recommend having this one on your shelf)
(yields one 8x8" pan - about 16 squares)

Ingredients


Cake Batter:
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick (8 tbsp.) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. lemon zest
1/3 c. sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
2 c. blueberries, rinsed and patted dry

Streusel Topping:
1/2 c. sugar
6 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. cornmeal
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, COLD and cut into small pieces

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350*.

Line the bottom of an 8x8" square pan with parchment paper, and then coat the parchment paper and sides with nonstick cooking spray. Wipe the cooking spray to evenly spread and to ensure it gets in all of the corners, thoroughly coating the bottom and sides.

CAKE BATTER:
Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, for at least 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition, then add the vanilla and zest.
Then add a third of the flour mixture, all of the sour cream/yogurt, and another third of the flour mixture - beating until just blended after each addition.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix the remaining third of flour mixture with the blueberries. Gently fold the blueberry-flour mixture into the cake batter.
Spread the cake batter into the prepared pan.

STREUSEL TOPPING:
For the streusel topping, combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Mash in the cold butter pieces with a fork, your fingertips, or pastry blender. Scatter the topping evenly over the batter.
Bake the cake 35 minutes until the top is golden brown and center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Run a knife or spatula around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake, then gently lift out the cake to cool completely. Cut into 16 squares.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Sweeter Side of Beaufort, SC

At the end of June, my husband Nathaniel and I spent a week in Beaufort, SC to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary.  We had the chance to try several sweet spots, and I'll highlight my favorites below.

Best afternoon tea: Southern Graces Bistro (inside the Beaufort Inn)

We stayed several nights at a cottage that makes up part of the Beaufort Inn, so we had the chance to have several meals at Southern Graces Bistro. My favorite was afternoon tea, which we did for our anniversary. You have to make a reservation. The picture on top is how our table looked when we sat down - an entire plate of fresh fruit and sliced cheese, a plate of sandwiches (they accommodated our vegetarian needs nicely), and a cake tier of sweet things (muffins, cakes, scones.)  I'm not sure if you can have afternoon tea anywhere else in Beaufort, but we would recommend this one.

Best candy: The Chocolate Tree

This store is filled wall to wall with homemade chocolates. They have milk and white chocolate too, we just love dark. They have a large sugar free collection, jelly beans of all kinds, pre-made gift baskets, and a back wall of candy making supplies. They do everything in-house and it was just as busy in the heat of summer as it was the week before Christmas. My favorite thing might have been the raspberry jelly covered in chocolate, but that may be a nostalgia chocolate for me. I'm always surprised by how inexpensive it is!

Best espresso: Common Ground Coffeehouse

I don't have a picture representation but we went here almost every day. They are in the perfect location, midway down Bay Street, accessible from the waterfront walk too. They have a variety of savory food, pastries, and gelato, but I really liked their coffee drinks.

Best drink to beat the heat: Scout Southern Market


There is a wine bar in town, but in 99 degree weather that is far from what I want to have. Scout Southern Market is a beautiful store of blues and white with a little sweet tea bar in the back. Their specialty drink is a tea float, which you can have with sweet tea or unsweet tea, with lemon sorbet or peach sorbet. I don't like things super sweet when I'm hot so I went with lemon and unsweet. I had never had anything like it. As the sorbet breaks down, I ended up with what I can only describe as an Arthur Palmer slushie. I left Scout much cooler than I came into it. They also have regular tea and a few snacks to order.

Best sweets with a burger: Fat Patties (Port Royal, SC)


Down the road from Beaufort is a marine base on Parris Island. (All of Beaufort changes every Thursday night and Friday morning because about 300 marines graduate every Friday morning!) The nearby tiny town of Port Royal is a military family town. Fat Patties offers burgers of all kinds (you can even get a shrimp burger!) and homemade icecream. That homemade icecream can be made into milkshakes, even spiked milkshakes. I got the burned marshmallow milkshake and it was delicious.

Best Bakery: Beaufort Bread Company


A quick drive over the bridge (the one used in Forrest Gump!) to Lady's Island and you will find the Beaufort Bread Company in a nondescript strip mall. Excellent artisan breads, unique pastries, and homemade sausages (?). We went here more than once, discarding other breakfast plans. Of what we tried, the raspberry croiffin and kouign amann were my favorite pastries. I wish this was my local bakery!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

JennyBakes' Low-Sugar Low-Carb Gluten-Free Single Serving Chocolate Chip Cookie

This is a spin on the microwave brownie I posted in January. Most of the carbs in the recipe come from the sugar free chocolate chips, so if you can use something else or eat the cookie plain, you'll come out even better. This really hits the spot if you are craving cookies, or if you happen to have egg yolks leftover from a recipe that you need to use (I find this to be a great excuse er I mean reason.)


JennyBakes' Low-Sugar Low-Carb Gluten-Free Single Serving Chocolate Chip Cookie
(this is my own recipe, so please link back if you post it, thanks!)

1 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp brown sugar Splenda or other lower carb sugar alternative
a few drops vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup almond flour
1-2 tbsp sugar free chocolate chips

Mix together ingredients and spread in microwave safe ramekin or mug. Cook 45 seconds. Let cool before eating! 

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Blueberry Ricotta Cake

I love ricotta in baked goods. From the day I tried making the Ricotta Thumbprint Cookies with Fig Jam, Honey & Pistachios from Very Small Anna (which I made the month after she posted them) to the time I had a ricotta filled doughnut from an Italian bakery in The Hill in St. Louis, I have been a huge fan. Ricotta doesn't have much flavor but it makes up for it in texture!

I'm not good at keeping up with blogs these days, in fact I don't think I've even glanced at my thousands of items in Feedly since November, which must have been my last day of actual down time.  But I do follow some great people in Instagram, including Food Librarian, a blogger I've followed forever because of her month-long celebrations of bundt cake that first caught my eye.

A few weeks ago she posted a raspberry ricotta cake and commanded her followers to make it immediately. It sounded good, and I wanted something simple to bring to work. The blueberries looked better than the raspberries so I whipped it up one morning before work. Super easy, super moist, highly recommended with any fruit combination! If I had been feeling incredibly patriotic I would have gone with red and blue. Also I believe the recipe says frozen berries but I used fresh and they were fine.



Ingredients

Servings: 8
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • cups ricotta
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (I used amaretto because I am always out of vanilla)
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries or blackberries, divided

Preparation

active: 15 min total: 1 hour 35 min
  • Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9”-diameter cake pan* with parchment paper and lightly coat with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  • Whisk eggs, ricotta, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth; fold into dry ingredients just until blended. Then fold in butter, followed by ¾ cup raspberries, taking care not to crush berries. Scrape batter into prepared pan and scatter remaining ¼ cup raspberries over top.
  • Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50–60 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before unmolding.
  • Do Ahead: Cake can be made 2 days ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.
I used a 9x2 cake pan which actually wasn't quite big enough for all the batter. I think they are going for a 9x3 pan, maybe a 9" square, but I removed about a cup of batter and baked it in a separate ramekin for a shorter amount of time, and that was about right.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Ukrainian Pancakes (Oladi or Oladushki)

My local book club read Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking for the last read of the season. The author, Anya von Bremzen, had previously penned the James Beard Award winning cookbook, Please to the Table. I got it out from the library after successfully making her recipe for kulebiaka for Thanksgivukkah. Please to the Table is a far-reaching all-region-spanning Russian cookbook full of interesting sounding dishes I have never tasted.  This might be a book to own, if the rumors are tree that Georgian cuisine (the country, not the American state) is the next big thing. I love how there are articles of regional focus and suggested menus for things like Butter Day or Russian tea.

I came across what Anya calls "buttermilk fritters," or Oladushki. When I did a little looking online, almost the entire Internet calls these "Ukrainian pancakes."  I am calling them Ukrainian too! When she wrote the cookbook, the USSR was still in place, and I'm sure variations of these are throughout the land.  These are served more as an afternoon snack than breakfast, with sour cream or jam or honey.  These are not quite the same as blini, which tend to have a greater sturdiness or density to help hold up toppings such as caviar.  They are also tiny, perfect for snacking!

I have made pancakes from interesting places on this blog.  Check out the Finnish pannukakku, Icelandic pönnukökur, Papua New Guinean banana pancakes, the Danish ebleskiver, and what we call the German oven apple pancake.


Ukrainian Pancakes
aka "Buttermilk Fritters" in Please to the Table by Anya von Bremzen

2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus additional oil for frying*
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

1. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks, buttermilk, and the 1 tbsp vegetable oil. Mix well.

2. Sift the dry ingredients together and gradually add them to the buttermilk mixture, beating until well-blended. Let the batter stand for 1 hour.

3. Just before frying the fritters, beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks and carefully fold them into the batter.

4. Heat a scant tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. For each fritter, drop about 1 1/2 tbsp batter into the skillet. You should be able to fit in 4-5 at a time. Fry on both sides until golden.

* I ended up adding butter to the pan for an improved texture. Just a personal preference.


Monday, June 01, 2015

Double chocolate flourless muffins (lower sugar, gluten free)

These were decent! I used coconut sugar in place of the honey and sugar free chocolate chips in place of the chocolate chips. A better texture than some of the almond flour or coconut flour muffins I've made, but probably higher in fat!

Flourless Double Chocolate Muffins
recipe from Running with Spoons (I have noted my changes below)

Ingredients
  • ½ cup almond butter* (I used peanut butter because I had it!)
  • 1 ripe medium/large banana
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup honey (I used coconut sugar)
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp. ground flaxseed (mine was golden)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips, plus more for sprinkling on top (I used sugar free)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F and prepare a muffin pan by spraying 9 cavities with cooking spray. Set aside. (I made 8 muffins in silicone cups.)
  2. Add all ingredients except for chocolate chips to a blender and blend on high until batter is smooth and creamy. Stir in chocolate chips by hand.
  3. Pour batter into prepared muffin pan, filling each cavity until it is about ¾ full.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the tops of your muffins are set and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool in pan for ~10 minutes before removing. Store in an air-tight container for up to a week.
Notes
* To make these nut free, simply replace the nut butter with soy nut or sunflower seed butter.