Monday, March 19, 2018

Coffee Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I'm still loving the Alaska from Scratch cookbook, and made another delicious treat from the breakfast section a few weeks ago. I only wish I'd taken a picture of the browned butter apple blondies I made and took on my trip with me. I will be making those and this recipe again!

Coffee Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Recipe from Alaska from Scratch website and Alaska from Scratch cookbook

Yields: 1 loaf
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 1/3c butter, melted
  • 3/4c sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1t vanilla
  • 1/4c strong brewed coffee
  • 1t baking soda
  • 1/4t salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2c chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan.

Peel bananas, break them up and toss them into a bowl. Mash with a potato masher (I leave some banana pieces so you get occasional nice bites of banana in the bread; don't mash until the bananas are completely liquefied).

To the bananas, add the rest of the wet ingredients and stir with a wooden or plastic spoon. Add dry ingredients and stir until combined. Do not over mix. Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until center springs back when lightly touched.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Swedish Pancakes from Alaska from Scratch

I have been a baking blogger for over 10 years. Back when I first started, I had a set of food and baking blogs I followed religiously. Since the demise of Google Reader, I've lost frequent contact with a lot of these blogs, but some I've rediscovered through Instagram. One of those is Alaska from Scratch (link to blog; link to Instagram.) I was absolutely thrilled when Maya published a cookbook, and ordered it to arrive the day it came out. I've been having a lot of fun trying recipes out from it, and haven't exhausted its possibilities yet. You may hear from it again this year.

The first recipe I made was for myself one morning, and instead of retyping it from the cookbook I'm copying it from the first time Maya posted it on her blog. (She posted it again four years later without a lot of changes, but enough to make me think that this is a recipe on frequent rotation at her house! She increases the amount of milk and adds lemon juice to serving.)

Swedish Pancakes

Yields: 12 Swedish Pancakes
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup milk (later versions us 1 1/4 cup)
  • 3 Tbsp sour cream + more for serving, if desired
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • oil for the pan
  • lingonberry jam, for serving
  • melted butter, for serving
  • powdered sugar, for dusting on top to finish
In a blender, whirl eggs, milk and sour cream together. Then add flour, salt and sugar to the blender. Whirl until completely smooth. Batter will be thin and pourable.

Heat a medium-sized frying pan over medium heat. Oil the pan with about a teaspoon of oil (may need to add more later). When pan and oil are hot, pour 1/4c sized amounts of batter onto the center of the pan. Quickly but gently lift and swirl pan to spread batter to the edges. Batter should sizzle some in the oil if pan is hot enough. Cook about 60-90 seconds, until bottom begins to turn golden, then flip. Cook another 30-60 seconds until other side begins to brown. Fold in half and in half again to make a triangle. Set pancake aside and repeat with remaining batter.

Serve with melted butter, powdered sugar, and lingonberry jam (with sour cream, if desired).

These were delicious. The sour cream introduces a tang and a soft element that really works with a tart jam. Since what I had on hand were blueberries and lemon curd, that's what I used.

Like pancakes? I seem to make them from around the world! Check out the Finnish pannukakku, Icelandic pönnukökur, Papua New Guinean banana pancakes, the Danish ebleskiver, the Hungarian palacsintas, and what we call the German oven apple pancake. I also made ratio pancakes from Michael Ruhlman's book, which we can call American. 

Monday, March 05, 2018

Chocolate and Cafe au Lait Mousse from Tom Fitzmorris's New Orleans Food

One of the cookbooks I received for the spring season of the ABRAMS Dinner Party is Tom Fitzmorris's New Orleans Food. It is the "revised and refreshed" edition, based on recipes from the best restaurants and chefs in New Orleans, intended for the home cook.

For the recipes to originate in restaurants and with chefs, you'd better believe that some of them are complex and require multiple parts. Others require ingredients you may or may not be able to access if you live too far away from New Orleans. My first read through the cookbook had me ordering Tom's recommended New Orleans coffee and chicory blend from Union (via Amazon.) I set the cookbook aside until that showed up, and brewed some cafe au lait from the pages while I went through a second time.

I started pining for summer, when the coastal seafood suppliers show up at my local farmers markets (4 hours inland.) I just couldn't imagine making some of the shellfish recipes with frozen or lesser ingredients than they seemed to demand. There is a heavy richness to some of these dishes, as you would find in old school New Orleans cuisine. I made the shirred eggs with crab remick for brunch this past weekend, and even leaving the bacon out, it was incredibly rich and flavorful. Even so I had to buy multiple ingredients just for the sauce that I didn't already have in my pantry. Luckily these are common enough in the south that I was able to find chili sauce, creole mustard, and salt-free creole seasoning from my local grocery store. I have a bunch of recipes marked for when I have better access to oysters and shrimp. SOON.

For now, I turned my attention, as I do, to the breakfast, baked goods, and dessert sections of the cookbook. Since I was enthralled with the cafe au lait flavor, I decided to make a very traditional dessert - chocolate mousse! This recipe doesn't have a story linking it to a specific restaurant or chef, so I imagine this is Tom's recipe. Since I didn't need to serve 6-8, I halved the recipe, and ended up very glad I did. A half recipe was almost too much for my mixing bowl when I folded ingredients together. You'd need commercial stainless steel mixing bowls for the full recipe! I am including the full recipe from the cookbook below, but it divides in half fairly easily.

Chocolate and Cafe au Lait Mousse

1 lb. Baker's semisweet chocolate
6 eggs, separated
1/2 cup warm, brewed very dark coffee, preferably coffee and chicory blend
1/4 cup warm milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

  1. Melt the chocolate in a bowl in a microwave oven in 30-second bursts, stirring between each burst until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. (This can also be done in a bowl over a pan of boiling water.)
  2. In another bowl, whip the egg yolks until they become distinctly lighter in color. Combine the coffee and milk, and add it slowly to the yolks, whisking as you go. Add the chocolate slowly the egg-and-coffee mixture and whisk well until the mixture is just barely warm and well blended.
  3. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then add the sugar and vanilla. Continue beating until stiff. With a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Do this gently; don't worry about achieving an absolutely uniform texture.
  4. Whip the heavy cream in a metal bowl. Remember that cream whips best when cold and that if you overwhip, it will break up into butter and buttermilk.  
  5. If the chocolate mixture is still warm, let it continue to cool to room temperature. Then fold in the whipped cream with the rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Do this gently and keep at it until you have a uniform texture.
  6. Spoon the mousse into serving dishes or pipe it in with a pastry bag for a more elegant presentation. If you like, top it with shaved chocolate or a strawberry.
Serves 6-8

This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party. All experiences and opinions are my own!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Chocolate Cake Dressed In Berries (Gluten-Free)

For the week of Valentines Day, I designated a cookbook on theme: Intercourses: an aphrodisiac cookbook. From this cookbook, I selected a tiny chocolate cake. I used raspberries instead of strawberries, and apricot jam instead of strawberry jam, and Kirsch instead of vanilla extract, because that is what I had on hand, but you know, it worked. I was also pleased that the recipe was naturally gluten-free, and did not suffer because of this fact. This is a perfect cake for two! I have added a few details to the recipe to make it better for baking, things I wish the cookbook author had done.

Chocolate Cake Dressed in Berries

1/2 cup toasted almonds, finely chopped*
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla*
1/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries*
1/4 cup strawberry preserves
2 tbsp heavy cream
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips*
strawberries for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine the almonds and cocoa powder in a small bowl. Cream the butter and sugars in a bowl until fluffy. Beat in the eggs and the vanilla. Fold in the almond mixture, then the fresh strawberries. Spoon mixture into a greased 8-inch springform pan. Bake 35-45 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool completely. Remove from the pan. Spread with the preserves. Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips. Stir until smooth; cool for 5 minutes. Pour over top of cake (let drizzle down the sides.) Garnish with fresh strawberries if desired.

*Notes from JennyBakes - I had a huge bag of almond flour, so I used 1/3 cup of that instead of the nuts. I used kirsh instead of vanilla and raspberries in place of strawberries, and chopped dark chocolate instead of chocolate chips. I would say you shouldn't boil the cream, but heat it, maybe 20 seconds in the microwave, and if needed, heat the chocolate and cream up until you can mix it smoothly. After five minutes of cooling, my chocolate was not going to drizzle down the sides, so I just spread it on top of the jam to the edge, and it was shiny and beautiful. 

Intercourses: an aphrodisiac cookbook, by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge, first came out in 1997. It's now in a new edition titled The New Intercourses. I've owned it practically since I got married in 2000, which means it has moved between kitchens at least four times. Its focus is on a few recipes for ingredients that have been designated as aphrodisiacs, whether from tradition, shape, or other properties. The real draw for the cookbook is the gorgeous photography, nude models posing strategically with the key ingredients. I've made the honey peppered salmon recipe a bunch of times, but the rest of the cookbook has lingered on the shelves. After the success of this cake, I might be tempted to try more of the recipes. Some of the so-called aphrodisiacs don't bring romance to mind... black beans? Huh.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Paleo Chocolate Pudding

I often look to paleo recipes because they are pretty close to how we eat. However paleo allows for more natural sugar than I usually eat, often using copious amounts of maple syrup or honey. So I'm often focusing on the subsection of lower sugar paleo desserts and baked goods.

Two weeks ago, cookbook for my unread cookbook shelf project was The Paleo Chocolate Lover's Cookbook. In it, I found this pudding recipe with only five ingredients, all of which I had on hand, so I knew it would be an easy one to try. Ultimately my conclusion is that my blender does not as finely as one would want for the right texture, as my finished pudding had chunks of date in it, but it was still fairly tasty, and definitely the right consistency apart from the chunks. This is not a low-sugar dessert, but does qualify as paleo if that's your thing.

Paleo Chocolate Pudding

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup canned full-fat coconut milk
4 large, soft, pitted Medjool dates
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped, seeds reserved
3 oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped

  1. In a blender or food processor, puree the almond milk, coconut milk, dates and vanilla bean until completely smooth. The mixture will probably separate, but that's okay.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan, and bring it to a simmer, watching carefully so that it doesn't boil over.
  3. Reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking frequently.
  4. Turn off the heat, and add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the pudding.
  5. Ladle the pudding into bowls, and serve it warm or cold. It will be thicker after refrigerating.
Makes 2-4 servings, depending on the size of the bowls. 

Cookbook notes: I also made the banana chocolate pancakes (not quite sweet enough and did not hold together well in the pan), which I won't post, and previously made the raspberry chocolate clafoutis in 2015. The recipe I wish I'd had time to try making was the paleoleos (similar to oreos) but was discouraged by the fact that I couldn't get my hands on one of the ingredients needed for the filling, and in seeing they had to be stored in the fridge.

All the recipes are depending on a core set of paleo ingredients - coconut milk, Medjool dates, cocoa powder, etc. I find this to be somewhat limiting and would have liked to see a slightly less narrow focus. The heavy use of coconut is surely going to decrease in popularity as the years go by, and when it does, this one will feel pretty irrelevant. Texture is sometimes sacrificed for the paleo ingredients but anyone trying to bake this way will not be that shocked! There is a distinct attempt to do more than just basic recipes, to offer some fancy yet still paleo recipes, and this is something I definitely appreciate. Interested bakers should note that chocolate is not always the central flavor, and white chocolate is given some attention as well. Because I love chocolate, I really only seriously considered the chocolate focused recipes.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Finnish Cardamom Braid (Pulla)

Last week, I posted Apricot Diamonds from the same cookbook this recipe comes from, The Winter Vegetarian. It was my cookbook for last week's focus for my year-long unread cookbook shelf project. Comments about the cookbook overall will be at the end.

Pulla is a Finnish sweet bread with cardamom. It has a similar texture to challah, with the addition of vanilla and cardamom. It came together quickly and ended up being pretty forgiving (I suspected I didn't add quite enough flour.) There are a lot of grandmothers in YouTube who will demonstrate two ways of braiding the bread - one uses three strands and the more traditional seem to use four. For simplicity, I went with three.

Pulla was delicious in slices, toasted, with butter and orange marmalade (because, you know, orange and cardamom are magical mystery twins.) It would have made good french toast too!

This recipe makes three loaves, but they freeze well. I brought two to work and kept one home.

Finnish Cardamom Bread (Pulla)

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 tsp plus 3/4 cup sugar
2 cups lukewarm milk*
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cardamom (from about 32 pods)*
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, melted*
4 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
7-8 cups unbleached white flour

1 egg white, lightly beaten until frothy
3 tbsp sliced almonds*
3 tbsp pearl sugar or coarsely crushed sugar cubes

Dissolve the yeast in the water with 1 tsp of sugar until bubbly. Stir in the milk, remaining 3/4 cup sugar, salt, cardamom, melted butter, eggs, and 4 cups of the flour. Beat well. Gradually add just enough flour to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead until the dough is stmooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Place the dough in a large greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and leave to rise until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down the dough and let rise again until nearly doubled, about 1 hour.

Divide the dough into three pieces. Divide each piece into three balls of equal size. Roll each ball out between your hands into a rope about 12 inches long. Braid three ropes together, turning the ends under. Place the loaf on a lightly greased baking sheet (you will need two sheets). Repeat with the remianing dough. Cover the loaves and leave them to rise until slightly puffy, 20 to 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Brush the loaves with the beaten egg white, then sprinkle each with 1 tbsp of almonds and 1 tbsp of pearl sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until nicely browned.

*Notes from JennyBakes: I used buttermilk because I had some I needed to use up. I didn't notice until typing this up that I was supposed to use salted butter, so I probably should have added salt as I don't keep salted butter on hand. I did not sprinkle almonds on the loaves before baking; I was worried they would burn. I used ground cardamom and did not grind it fresh from cardamom pods!

The Winter Vegetarian by Darra Goldstein
Cookbook notes: The sticker on the front of this said it came from Half Price Books, which means I bought it used when I lived in Indiana, sometime between 2001-2006. It was published in 1996, and was also published under the title The Vegetarian Hearth. Darra Goldstein has written Russian and Georgian cookbooks previously (Georgia the country, not the state), so many or most of the recipes in this cookbook come from a Russian and Eastern European background. I wanted to focus on this one while it was still winter since so many of the recipes seem quite heavy. Back when I was trying to have a cooking blog, I made the mushroom coulibiac, and I believe that was the only recipe I'd made from this cookbook in 15 years.

This time around, I marked more recipes than I got to. I bought all the ingredients for mushroom dumplings except couldn't find mushroom broth, and it wasn't a realistic weeknight dish, so the mushrooms went bad, whoops. I did make the turnip gratin but not the rutabaga pudding, another Finnish recipe. I tried making the sweet cheese pancakes (syrniki) but I feel I must have done something wrong as they weren't a great texture. I would have liked to make the blini and more of the sweets, but the majority of recipes in this book for regular food are too rich and too heavy for how we usually eat! But you never know until you try.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Apricot Diamonds

This is the first of two recipes I'll post from this past week's cookbook focus, The Winter Vegetarian. I'll save my broader comments for next week! All that's important here is that this recipe is simple, can be made into practically any flavor depending on the jam you like best, and the cookies are tasty. I rewrote the recipe in my own words, because this recipe is so simple I could still remember the ingredients it called for.

Apricot Diamonds

2 sticks butter, or 1 cup, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup apricot jam

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes.
3. Mix in egg yolks and vanilla. Scrape down as needed.
4. Add flour and mix just until blended. The dough may not be completely cohesive and this is okay.
5. Dump 1/2-2/3 of the dough into a 9x13 pan and press down to make an even crust. 
6. Drop spoonfuls of the jam onto the crust and spread out as evenly as possible.
7. Crumble the rest of the dough on to the jam and spread evenly. It can help to press some together in flat pieces, but I found that just dumping and lightly spreading, pressing down into the jam, worked just fine.
8. Bake 25-30 minutes or until browning along the edges.
9. Cut into diamonds and serve.

If you don't know how to cut into diamonds, there are a bunch of videos on YouTube with grandmas who have their own cooking channels, showing you how to cook bars into diamonds.