Monday, December 09, 2019

Cheddar Biscuits with Pecans

Martha Stewart calls this a "Southern hors d'oeuvre" and it's true that I was first gifted a tube of these during the holidays in the south. I knew I'd want to make them as gifts in the future, and that future is now. These are a super easy food-processor recipe, you just need chilling time. I think this is similar to the mixture used for cheese straws but rolled up and sliced is a bit easier. I apply the egg white prior to pressing the pecan on, because that made more sense to me, but you should try it however it makes sense. I added very little cayenne but if you are baking for people who have higher spice tolerance, you can play with that as well.

Cheddar Biscuits with Pecans
(recipe from Martha Stewart)

4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
30 pecan halves
2 egg whites, lightly beaten


Place cheese, butter, flour, salt, and cayenne pepper in the bowl of a food processor; process until a dough is formed, about 10 seconds. Turn dough out onto work surface and divide into two equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a 1 1/2-inch-thick log; wrap with wax or parchment paper and refrigerate until dough is firm, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

Unwrap dough and slice each log crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Place dough rounds on prepared baking sheet 1 1/2 inches apart; gently press a pecan half into the center of each. Brush with egg whites and sprinkle lightly with paprika.

Bake biscuits until crisp, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes on baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Biscuits may be kept in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Pecan Pie and Thanksgiving with the -Stans

We traditionally have anything but tradition at Thanksgiving - a practice born of vegetarianism and not needing to make anyone else happy but us. So we've had tamales, two years of Native American foods, paella, Italian, even Thanksgivukkah the year Thanksgiving landed on the first day of Hanukkah.

This year I took inspiration from one of my reading goals for 2019 - to finish reading a book from every country in Asia. This has opened up the steppes making up much of the former USSR and byproducts of English colonialism. I've played with some Southeast Asian cuisine but decided to dig into the -stans. I had fun researching traditional foods of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Krgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. I didn't end up making food from everywhere, especially since the two most traditional foods of Kazakhstan are horse and mutton.

I made sabzi (spinach) and gulpi (cauliflower) from Afghanistan, one of many dal recipes from Pakistan, also a comfort-food rice recipe called khichri from Pakistan, and attempted dumplings from a YouTuber I found from Uzbekistan. I ended up not making a few recipes I had marked that would fulfill more -stans, but we had plenty for two people. I let Trader Joes make the flatbread because I was wiped, and I didn't fully make a pulao/plov rice recipe that is very much prominent in this region - it also usually includes meat as a main ingredient so I just didn't have a way to replicate it. I did, however, use a half-ton of onions across the board.

My husband asked for pecan pie for dessert. Somehow, in my entire life, I'd never made a normal pecan pie. I once burned a chocolate pecan pie, which wasn't a good memory. So I embarked on research. I have found if you search for "best" alongside practically any recipe, you'll find your way to some pretty good recipes. There were quite a few mentions of the Texas State Fair recipe, which I suspect is one of the standard southern versions that has made the rounds. But then I found a guy named Craig who had blogged his hunt for the best pecan pie. He ended up combining the best parts of his grandmother's pie with the best parts of the Texas State Fair pie.

I decided to use a crust recipe I liked best, but that's when I really ran into an issue - do you prebake the crust or not? Craig says to bake the crust 40 minutes (!!) while some of the recipes he had used didn't prebake at all. King Arthur Flour says 10 minutes but it was still pretty pale. I cut the difference and baked it 20 minutes. But since I didn't have any dried beans in my pantry, a few places the crust sank down a bit. (I know how to bake a pie crust but didn't do a good job doing what I know, honestly.)

I had filled the crust to its capacity, taking into account the low sides, but there was still some dark brown sugary mixture in the pan so what did I do, when I knew better? I went ahead and poured it into the crust. So it carmelized on the bottom. While I did not have a soggy bottom, I definitely had a crispy, caremlized crust that did not want to come out of the pan in a solid piece. Ah well. We ate a few pieces and threw the rest away... I guess maybe pecan pie isn't really my thing. I linked you to Craig's recipes above, so I won't repeat it here, since I'm not sure I did it right anyway.

Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Cranberry Cobbler

Back in 2018, I mentioned in a post about Grapefruit Buttermilk Cake that I hoped to someday come back to this recipe for Cranberry Cobbler. I bought all the ingredients for Cranberry Nut Bread (which I've made religiously every year since 9th grade) but wanted to do something different with some of the cranberries, so I started combing through my cookbooks until I hit inspiration. Turns out it's a recipe that inspired me once before, but I couldn't find any more fresh cranberries in the stores. This year, I made it in time.

For my taste, I think I'd either double the fruit portion or make half the biscuit portion, to have a little more fruit action. On the other hand, cranberry is pretty tart, so maybe this is the right proportion.

Cranberry Cobbler
(from Wintersweet)

12 oz (340 g) cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (125 ml) apple cider*
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground ginger*

2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp granulated sugar, divided
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup (170 g) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup (125 ml) plus 1 tsp milk, plus more as needed, divided

Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C.) Butter a 9-inch pie plate.

For the filling: combine the cranberries, sugar, apple cider, vanilla, and ginger in a medium bowl. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie plate and cocver it with foil. Place it on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the berries start to split their skins and spill their juices, 20-25 minutes.

For the biscuits: add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture forms a coarse meal. Dump the mixture into a medium bowl and add 1/2 cup of the milk. Fluff it with a fork until a scrappy dough forms. (If you don't have a food processor, you can cut the butter in with a pastry blender or pinch the butter apart with your fingers until the pieces look like tiny peas.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead it briefly, just utnil it comes together. If it seems too crumbly, add another spoon or two of milk. Press or roll it out into a disk about 1/2-inch thick. With a biscuit cutter or jelly jar, cut the dough into circles, enought to cover the cobbler.

Remove the berreis from the oven, uncover them, and stir. Arrange the biscuits on top. Brush the biscuits with the remaining 1 tsp of milk and sprinkle them with the remaining teaspoon of sugar. Bake the cobbler uncovered until the biscutis are golden brown and the mixture is bubbling, 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes before serving with ice cream. 

Wrap lightly and keep for a few days at room temperature.

*Notes from JennyBakes:

-I didn't have apple cider but I had orange juice, so that's what I used. It seemed to work okay.
-I doubled up on ginger and still didn't really taste it, so I think there's room for some flavor layering here.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Cardamom Cake

I continue my experiments from The Nordic Baking Book, but don't want to post all recipes just in respect to others actually buying the book. Instead I thought I'd reflect on my experience to see if I could do better next time.

I love cardamom, and love that the Swedish love cardamom, so when I saw a recipe for cardamom cake I knew I'd end up trying it. The recipe is fairly simple but I should have known when I saw it was a butter cake that I would struggle.

Why does the world want to make butter cakes when they are always dry? Or what is it that I do wrong that everyone else does right? The recipe says the batter will be quite thick, and it was. But it also took at least 20 minutes longer than specified for the toothpicks to come out mostly clean, and I still had a stripe of somewhat less baked cake in the rise of the upper half.

In the one picture of this cake in the giant cookbook, it's in a smaller bundt type shape, and it makes me wonder if it doesn't bake more evenly in that kind of shape. But the recipe calls for a loaf pan.

I liked the idea in the beginning of the recipe of adding the generous amount of spice during the butter and sugar creaming process. I would like to try that for more recipes (the only other time I have done this is when rubbing citrus zest into sugar before creaming, always with positive returns.)

This recipe also calls for 3/4 cup sour cream. I had some leftover ricotta in the fridge and almost just tried half and half on a whim, but thought I should make it as stated first. The batter was a rather unappealing gray after adding the sour cream (to the cardamom infused butter and sugar which was already a strange color.)

I'm going to try some of the "cake moistening" tips I found on the internet when I eat this for breakfast, but I'm also wondering if the conversion might be at fault, either in temperature or measurements. I was reading the section about yeast, because I want to make buns, which seem very important in nordic nations, but wow who would have expected yeast to vary so substantially in different countries? But it does. Fresh yeast is preferred and simply what is used in Scandinavia. It would be hard for me to find in South Carolina, and even if I did, it would not necessarily be the same amount by weight. And I will need to convert it to dry yeast. But - should I convert it against Scandinavian equivalents or American? Argh. It is currently clear as mud but I suppose all I can do is try one way and then evaluate.

Can I make french toast out of a cake like this? Maybe that would be a better use of it.... I can at least toast it. It's pretty dang dense.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Chokladsnittar or Chocolate Cuts

I continue to bake my way through The Nordic Baking Book by Magnus Nilsson. I started trying some of the cookie recipes to see if I wanted to give them away for the holidays. Today I made a chocolate cookie that you bake in logs and then cut while still hot, but I made the logs the wrong shape and they were never going to bake on the inside, so I made somewhat of a Swedish biscotti (cut them and baked one more time.) Not exactly a success but they smelled good and tasted good, even if I did it wrong and maybe invented something new.

Chocolate Cuts (Chokladsnittar)

7 3/4 oz (1 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp) sugar
7 oz (1 + 3/4 sticks), at room temperature
11 oz (2 1/2 cups) weak (soft) wheat flour
6 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp vanilla sugar

To decorate:
egg wash
pearl sugar

1. Place the sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat until pale and fluffy.
2. Add the remaining dry ingredients by sifting them into the bowl. Work until just combined. Don't overwork the dough or you will get a poor texture.
3. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work counter, and divide it into four equal pieces.
4. Roll each piece out into a roll, about 3 cm/ 1 1/4 inches in diameter, and place them on the prepared baking sheets, 2 rolls on each sheet, as they will spread out a little.
5. Press each roll down lightly to flatten it slightly.
6. Preheat oven to 350 F, and line two baking sheets with baking (parchment) paper.
7. Brush each roll lightly with egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar, if you like.
8. Bake them for about 12 minutes. They should not get any real color from baking, but still need to be cooked through and not to become chewy. They should fluff up and crack a bit during baking.
9. Remove from the oven and leave the hot and slightly flattened rolls to cool down a little. When they are still warm and starting to firm up, use a sharp knife to cut diagonally across the rolls into pieces. Leave to cool completely.

Notes from JennyBakes:

This is a crumbly dough. I saw a few versions online that included egg, which might have helped bring the dough together a bit, but I really struggled. I added a bit of vanilla extract since I didn't have vanilla sugar. But baking them twice did make them a bit crunchy, probably perfect with coffee!

Monday, November 04, 2019

Thick Oven-Baked Pancake with Apple (Appelpannkaka)

I've been slowly baking my way through the pancakes & waffles section of The Nordic Baking Book by Magnus Nilsson, avoiding the salt-pork and blood pancake versions for now. I had some apples I still hadn't used from North Carolina and a longer morning, so I made a 1/4 version of what will follow to try to make an individual pancake. In the end I wish I'd baked it for the full time because the best parts were the fully browned parts, but it was good enough to share... knowing I'd probably improve it if I make it again.

Appelpannkaka (Swedish Thick Oven-Baked Pancake)

Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour
Serves: 4

250 g/9 oz (2 cups plus 1 tbsp) weak (soft) wheat flour*
4 eggs
good pinch of salt
1 litre/34 fl oz (4 1/4 cups) milk
50g/2 oz (3 1/2 tbsp butter)
2 apples, cut into slices**
sugar and ground cinnamon, to sprinkle

Preheat the oven to 220 C/425 C/Gas Mark 7.

Combine the flour, eggs, salt and half the milk in a mixing bowl and whisk until no lumps remain. Add the rest of the milk, whisking continuously.

Put the butter into a 30x40 cm/12x16 inch roasting pan and heat in the oven until the butter has completely melted.

Add the 2 sliced apples and sprinkle some sugar and ground cinnamon on top.

Pour the batter into the hot pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until it is dark golden and completely set.

Remove from the oven and leave to sit for 5 minutes, which will make it much easier to remove from the pan. Serve with your preferred combination of accompaniments.***

Notes from JennyBakes:

* - I used all-purpose flour
** - I peeled my apple and used about half of a mutsu
*** - Original non-apple recipe suggests sugared lingonberries and cream, or with jam and a sprinkling of sugar.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Pumpkin Tea Cake

 Another recipe from the revised Tartine cookbook, because I had leftover pumpkin puree in the fridge that was going to go bad otherwise. I was hoping for a loaf cake similar to the Starbucks pumpkin loaf because it is one of those things I find myself ordering too often a certain time of year.

It gets close! I held back from adding things like white chocolate chips or anything on top to respect the original recipe the first time, and this cake is very tasty, but I definitely would have liked it even more with a bit of texture, whether it came from pepitas on top or some kind of chunk throughout.

Pumpkin Tea Cake


1 3/4 cups (230 g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp + 2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cup (255 g) pumpkin puree
1 cup (240 ml) vegetable oil such as safflower or sunflower
1 1/3 cups (265 g) sugar, plus more for topping
3/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F (160 C). Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9x5 in (23x12 cm) loaf pan.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves into a mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. In another mixing bowl, beat together the pumpkin puree, oil, sugar, and salt on medium speed or by hand until well mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition until incorporated before adding the next egg. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. On low speed add the flour mixture and beat just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on medium speed for 5-10 seconds to make a smooth batter. The butter should have the consistency of a thick puree.
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula. Sprinkle evenly with 2 tbsp of sugar. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, and then invert onto the rack, turn rightside up, and let cool completely. Serve the cake at room temperature. It will keep, well wrapped, at room temperature for 4 days or in the refrigerator for about 1 week.
 Notes from JennyBakes:
  • I used a review copy of this cookbook with this recipe in it so it may not be accurate or official, but it is the recipe I made! Ha. 
  • I actually think I only used 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg or so because 2 seemed like a lot... in the end there is enough batter that it probably could have taken it.