Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Best of JennyBakes in 2013

This was an interesting year of international baking experiments and further attempts to making low-sugar baking palatable.  Along the way, I made some memorable dishes!
  1. The time I colored eggs using natural dye
  2. The first attempt at Turkish cooking - börek (and it was delicious)
  3. Frying food is always scary, but for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday of Thanksgivukkah, I made an exception for pumpkin butter sufganiyot
  4. A new reading friend said I needed to bake with more poppy seeds, and sent me a recipe to try.
  5. Puerto Rican comfort food becomes a breakfast favorite in my house
  6. An anniversary dessert so decadent we couldn't even finish our pieces
  7. A trip to a random bakery leads to a Finnish breakfast treat that we find excuses to make
  8. Finding my way with coconut flour and a trusted blogging friend = decent low carb pancakes
  9. Experimenting with the newest trendy food (I'm not convinced)
  10. A special holiday dessert combining unexpected ingredients
Happy New Year everyone!  My only culinary resolution is to bake and post more in 2014!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Review of Wintersweet: Seasonal Desserts to Warm the Home

Wintersweet: Seasonal Desserts to Warm the HomeWintersweet: Seasonal Desserts to Warm the Home
by Tammy Donroe Inman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher summary:
While many people think cold weather spells the end of the spectacular seasonal ingredients that make baking so exciting, Tammy Donroe Inman thinks otherwise. For Tammy, winter is the sweetest time of the year—a season that practically begs you to stay inside, fire up the oven, and produce decadent desserts from the bounty of wholesome winter ingredients like squashes and pumpkins, parsnips and carrots, pears, apples, citrus of all stripes, and feel-good ingredients like nuts, cheese, and chocolate.

The fresh and rustic recipes in Wintersweet push the envelope of traditional winter desserts like pumpkin or apple pies, with such delicacies as Pear Cranberry Clafouti, Spicy Prune Cake with Penuche Frosting, and Goat Cheese Cake with Dried Cherry Compote, plus a few surprises like Chocolate Beet Whoopie Pies, Parsnip Spice Cupcakes and for those in need of a winter pick-me-up, Coconut Sunshine Cake with Citrus Curd. These are recipes that celebrate the cozy character of winter—for when you’re snowed in and need the perfect blizzard boredom-buster, to your next family gathering around the fire.
This is a beautiful cookbook with stunning photography, and probably my favorite of 2013. The idea of building a cookbook around winter ingredients for baked goods is brilliant and much appreciated. There are chapters on nuts and squashes and citrus, to name a few. I appreciated the variety and creativity.  This is not just a book of rehashed recipes that you have made before!

Both recipes I tried were not dishes I had seen in other cookbooks, and had interesting flavor profiles. I made the butternut squash cake twice!

Butternut squash cake:

Cocoa Pomegranate Pavlova (I couldn't resist the striking color in this dish and the added ingredients of balsamic and cardamom made for a very sophisticated bite.)

Highly recommended, and would make a wonderful holiday gift!

I received a copy of this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  I knew from first glance I'd have to try the cover recipe (the pavlova.)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cookie Box 2013

This is my last December as the Music Librarian at Furman University (I'm still working in the library but we hired a new music librarian to start in January) and this year I made some of my old favorites for all the student workers who cycle through shifts in the music library between 8 am and midnight.  I always try to have snack bags put together by Study Day, that brief gap between classes and final exams.  I rediscovered the holiday-themed takeout boxes I'd bought last year on post-holiday super-clearance sales at World Market, and decided they would be perfect for Study Day Treats.

All in all, 17 students cycle through the music library on a regular basis, and I had 15 boxes.  I decided to give the two students who consistently take the 8 am shifts bigger containers with more treats.  8 am is rough! (Don't tell the others.)

Should we take a look inside?  I tried for one piece of fudge and two of each cookie.  My original plan of course included more, but at this point of the evening I had been making cookies for four hours and decided to call it good!

I posted this teaser picture to Instagram, knowing a few of my student workers follow me there.  This is the peppermint fudge, which I made by making the usual fudge recipe but substituting peppermint oil for vanilla and using the peppermint morsels instead of the chocolate.  In the end that meant half the chips were white chocolate, making the fudge milder in chocolate flavor than I would have liked, but it seemed to get better as it aged a bit.  Luckily I had made this a few days in advance.

The cookies inside included:
By the way, we found out that the ginger cookies are just as good with chocolate chips added, but that variety was not included in the boxes.  

Lower Carb Gingerbread Waffles

Sometimes the Internet can make a person feel like a stalker.  I follow Maya from the Alaska from Scratch blog in Pinterest and Instagram, and often see pictures of recipes before they end up on the blog.  (By the way, she also posts the most beautiful pictures of the Alaskan wilderness in Instagram, just breathtaking.)

I had seen the idea of gingerbread waffles and eagerly awaited the recipe, wondering if I could adapt it all all to be lower carb.  Notice that I said lower, not low, because I didn't think it could be gingerbread if I omitted the molasses; nut flours still have carbs albeit it more protein. 

The recipe of what I came up with is below.  If I did it again, I'd probably use less liquid so I didn't have to use coconut flour at all, something I added at the end of mixing everything together and having too thin of a batter.  Still, the flavor of gingerbread is strong in this waffle, and it is a delicious and almost-healthy breakfast recipe for the holiday season.

Lower-Carb Gingerbread Waffles
(Based on the recipe for Gingerbread Waffles on the Alaska from Scratch blog)

  • 2 cups nut flour (almond, hazelnut, etc.)
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1 Splenda packet or 2 Tbsp sugar-free gingerbread syrup (if using syrup, add with wet ingredients)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup milk 
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  1. Preheat a waffle iron and prepare as directed.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flours, Splenda, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter, milk, yogurt or cream cheese, and molasses. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until completely incorporated.
  3. Fill your waffle iron with batter according to the manufacturer's instructions. Cook until crisp and browned. Serve immediately. Repeat with remaining batter.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgivukkah Report

I love themed Thanksgivings!  This year I was debating between Turkish Turkey and Thanksgivukkah, but Thanksgivukkah (the first day of Hanukkah coinciding with Thanksgiving) only comes once ever 78,000 years.  That made the decision easy.  No, I'm not Jewish, and I do not cook in a certified Kosher kitchen.  It is possible that we had a non-Kosher Thanksgivukkah.  :)

I'll keep this brief, with links to the recipes and pictures of each.  I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

Breakfast: Pumpkin Butter Sufganiyot with Cinnamon Sugar. I used Joan Nathan's recipe from TabletMag, but made it more Thanksgivukkahish with the pumpkin butter and adding cinnamon to the sugar.

The rest is from dinner!

To drink: Pear Cinnamon cider from Trader Joes (not pictured)

Hungarian Mushroom Soup, recipe from The Artistan Jewish Deli at Home.

Sweet Potato-Rum Kugel with Browned Butter-Pecan Topping from Buzzfeed - I didn't have bourbon, so I used rum.  I decided it was close enough.

Kulebiaka from Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking by Anya Von Bremnan.  I wanted to make this recipe since I read this book.  I figure a lot of Jewish people have Russian heritage, and called it Thanksgivukkah worthy.  This is a rich pastry stuffed with fish, mushrooms, herbs, rice, and boiled eggs.  So delicious!

Cranberry Applesauce from Buzzfeed - To be honest, I'd intended to make the latkes to go with this, but just completely ran out of steam.  To be fair, we had way too much food already.  This is a nicely tart applesauce!

Pumpkin Cheesecake - Recipe from the Almost Home Tearoom Cookbook, where I used to work.  Previously featured in JennyBakes in The Curse of the Pumpkin Cheesecake, it worked out a lot better this time around!  Cheesecake has a lot of Jewish connections, so I just made a Thanksgiving flavor.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Peanut Butter Scones from Sweet Tea Revenge by Laura Childs

I don't read many mystery series, but I have a soft spot for the A Tea Shop Mystery series by Laura Childs.  They are set in one of my favorites places - Charleston, SC - and involve a little shop that sells high quality tea and delicious food.  The kind of place I would own, if I owned a tearoom!  Every volume of the mysteries has recipes in the back, so I always look forward to trying them out.  They are often the same recipes mentioned in the story.

In this book, Sweet Tea Revenge, I had to try the peanut butter scones recipe.  Imagine peanut butter cookies in scone form, and there you go.  Since Drayton had brewed darjeeling early in the book, that's what I made that morning, in my Furman mug since it was Homecoming weekend.  Find a copy of this book for that and other recipes.  There was also a delicious sounding brown sugar shortbread in there, and the peach scones mentioned in the book.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Apple Crisp Mix-In-the-Pan Bars from One Bowl Baking

Yesterday, I posted about the Mocha Valencia Cupcakes from One Bowl Baking.  I made another recipe from that cookbook about a month ago and completely forgot to blog about it - Apple Crisp Mix-in-the-Pan Bars. 

The entire concept of One Bowl Baking is that you don't use more than one bowl, targeted at making preparation and cleanup simpler.  I'm definitely guilty of destroying my entire kitchen for one recipe, so I liked the creativity Yvonne Ruperti used in developing these recipes.  This particular recipe has you do most of the mixing in the 9x13 pan the bars are going to be baked in.  While I appreciate the attempt, I am just not coordinated enough to mix in a shallow pan without getting flour everywhere, so next time I would mix them in a bowl. 

The end result was tasty, and I got to use local Mutsu apples from Flat Rock, NC.  This was my first apple recipe of the season!

Full disclosure: I did receive a copy of this cookbook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  I picked out recipes to try and posted about them here, as well as reviewing the entire cookbook in GoodReads.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Mocha Valencia Cupcakes from One Bowl Baking

Coffee + chocolate + orange has to be the best flavor combination in the world, although I might make an exception for chocolate + peanut butter or chocolate + cinnamon (I'm sensing a theme.)  Starbucks used to have a drink called a Mocha Valencia, which was this blissful combination of mocha and orange.  I had an even more favorite version at Coffee People, a place in Portland that has changed hands too many times since the time I loved it - there, they had a Cappuccino Borgia that was a similar flavor combination.

When I looked through One Bowl Baking by Yvonne Ruperti, the recipe for Mocha Valencia Cupcakes really jumped out and grabbed me.  She had a similar story - she bemoaned the loss of the Mocha Valencia at Starbucks and tried to recreate it in a cupcake.  I had to make them too.  The cupcakes are a moist chocolate cake with coffee and orange, and the topping is a rich ganache with all the same flavors.  They were a huge hit and I will make them again.

Yvonne Ruperti has worked as a recipe tester and developer at America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated, and these skills come across in the entire book.  Highly recommended!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Gluten-Free Apple Oven Pancake

The picture isn't beautiful, but I decided to blog it anyway.  I miss oven pancakes! So I decided to just wing an oven pancake using our standard pancake/crepe made from peanut butter and eggs. I sauted two sliced apples (Pink Lady!) in butter, brown sugar Splenda, and cinnamon, then poured the batter over.  I slipped the pan into the preheated 400 F oven for about 10 minutes and let the batter set.  It wasn't quite the same as white flour, but it satisfied our oven pancake cravings!! Perfect for fall.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Apple Custard Cake

I came across this Cinnamon-Apple Pie Cake recipe via Pinterest, and was intrigued.  I made it for my in-laws when they visited.  It's pretty tasty, and simply, just pile up apple slices in a pan and pour batter over it.  The batter takes on a custardy texture, so I think I would rename it as Apple Custard Cake.  The only pie-like thing is that apples are stacked on top of each other, but the batter is soft and lovely like a custard.

The recipe called for 6-8 apples but I had just gotten local apples that are huge so I used 2 Mutsu and 1 Shizuka, and that filled the springform pan to 2/3 full as directed. Definitely chill it before slicing, but I'd serve it heated back up with ice cream.  I'd also add a pinch of salt to the batter, and maybe some more cinnamon. 

Apple Custard Cake

(formerly known as Cinnamon-Apple Pie Cake from RecipeGirl)

Yield: Serves 10
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 1 hour 20 min


Enough peeled and sliced apples to fill the springform pan 2/3 full
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon- sugar (1 1/4 T. sugar + 1/4 t. cinnamon)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups superfine white sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
more cinnamon-sugar to sprinkle on top (same as above)


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 1/2 to 10-inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper and then spray again.
2. Layer the apple slices in the pan until they come about 2/3 of the way up the side. (I went a little higher than that and it worked out fine). Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar over the apples.
3. Prepare the batter by beating the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the oil and the vanilla and beat well, then stir in the flour. Pour the batter on top of the apples, and sprinkle with additional cinnamon-sugar. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to allow the batter to sink down and around the apples.
4. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool *completely* in the pan. If you try to remove the cake from the pan while it is still warm, it will tend to break apart. I refrigerated my cake before slicing, and that worked out well. Serve slices with ice cream (warm individual slices in the microwave, if desired).

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Book Review: Pomegranates & Pine Nuts by Bethany Kehdy

Pomegranates & Pine Nuts: A stunning collection of Lebanese, Moroccan and Persian recipesPomegranates & Pine Nuts: A stunning collection of Lebanese, Moroccan and Persian recipes by Bethany Kehdy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a review copy of this cookbook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I'm always interested to see cookbooks from bloggers, and Bethany Kehdy was known to me from her Dirty Kitchen Secrets blog. The photography alone in this cookbook makes it a worthwhile purchase, truly vibrant and enticing photos.

The cookbook is divided into very practical sections, by meal type, making it simple to use. There is a regional but varied collection of Lebanese, Moroccan, and Persian recipes, with a nice combination of basics and new spins on traditional recipes. I particularly appreciated the vegetarian section, since this area of the world has great vegetarian cuisine! The basics section in the back has a wealth of recipes that would be an asset to any kitchen, including spice mixes, bread recipes, and other staples.

What I've marked to try:

Dynamite Chili Cigars ("briwat")
Pomegranate and Cucumber Salad
Moroccan Citrus Salad

Pan-fried Squares
Slow-cooked fava bean and tomato stew

Semolina pancakes (called "beghrir" which means "1,000 holes," and ever since seeing a picture I'm so intrigued!)
Turkish Delight (the real kind, with actual flavors!)

Basic Recipes
Arabic bread (pictured above)
Thin Flatbread

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Primal" Banana Muffins (lower sugar, paleo)

Coconut flour and I aren't quite getting along yet.  When I first tried using it, I ended up with baked goods of amazing density.  As I got better at finding recipes with better ratios (coconut flour needs a LOT more liquid), I had such successes as Coconut Flour Pancakes and my own recipe for Crumble.

Then there are recipes like this one, where everything is just a little too moist, a little too soft, despite attempting to bake them longer.  I suspect one culprit may be that I adapted this paleo recipe by substituting Splenda for the honey, but I was so concerned I'd throw off that moisture balance that I added milk.  Completely unnecessary.

Not to mention that bananas are so high in carbs and sugar, it isn't like this recipe ends up being very low-carb the way that many coconut flour recipes do.  Ah well.  It wasn't awful, and I thought the coconut on top was tasty too. 

"Primal" Coconut Flour Banana Bread

(original recipe from SparkPeople, my notes in parentheses)


    2-3 ripe, mashed bananas (I used 3, should have gone with 2.5)
    1/3 c butter, melted
    6 eggs
    2 tbsp honey (I used brown sugar splenda and added a bit of milk)
    1 tsp vanilla
    1/2 cup coconut flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tbsp cinnamon
    1/3 cup nuts (optional)


Combine bananas and melted butter. Mix well. Add eggs, [honey], and vanilla and whisk until eggs are combined.

In separate bowl stir together dry ingredients. Add to wet ingredients. Add nuts if using and stir in.

Transfer batter to greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. (I made muffins and baked 23 minutes.)

Serving Size: makes 1 loaf (or 16 muffins)

Number of Servings: 8

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Low-Carb Pumpkin Waffles

I adapted a few recipes I found online for low-carb pumpkin waffles to use the ingredients I had on hand.  We wanted pumpkin!  These were good; the spices really added to the flavor.  And I've made waffles with this protein powder and flaxseed trick before.

Pumpkin Waffles (low-carb)
  1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients until smooth.
  2. Cook batches in pre-sprayed waffle maker on medium high temperature until bubbles form on the surface, then turn over and cook until dark golden brown.
  3. Serve with sugar-free syrup.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pumpkin Cornbread

I've been starting to think about Thanksgiving this year because we have family coming, and this pumpkin cornbread was my first recipe test success!  Not too sweet, hearty, textured - this is a winner!  When I make it again, I'll go ahead and make in muffin form like the original recipe at Sweet Pea's Kitchen gave as an option.  I think as is, it took a bit too long to finish baking in the center.

This will be so good with cinnamon-honey butter!

Pumpkin Cornbread

(recipe from Sweet Pea's Kitchen)


1 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup cornmeal
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon molasses


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 8×8″ cake pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, spices, brown sugar, and cornmeal; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, lightly beat the eggs, and then stir in the pumpkin, oil, and molasses.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined, and then pour the batter into the pan, smoothing the top.
Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Recipe Note:
This recipe makes 12 cornbread muffins, reduce baking time to 10 to 12 minutes.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cookbook Review - The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

The Artisan Jewish Deli at HomeThe Artisan Jewish Deli at Home by Nick Zukin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a review copy of this cookbook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

As someone who frequents an amazing Jewish deli in my city, yet has only had partial success in making my own bagels, I thumbed through this book with awe and trepidation. The author makes it LOOK easy, but many of these recipes take quite a bit of finesse - babka, rugelach, bagels. Most of the recipes in here are very traditional, but that's completely the point.

I'm happy to keep trying to perfect these recipes, and this book makes me want to try again. Many of the recipes have seasonal variations, which I thought was a nice touch. I've had dreams of the chocolate babka french toast since I saw the picture. That may be our holiday breakfast this year!

I did adapt one recipe to a lower sugar macaroon, and although they got a bit toasty, they were still tasty!

Other recipes I want to try:

Open-faced Potato Knishes
Hungarian Mushroom Soup
Chocolate Babka (and Chocolate Babka French Toast!)
Cheese Blintzes (seasonal toppings include blackberry lavender for summer and spiced pumpkin for fall)
Classic Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Rugelach (for winter - chocolate and fig!)
Three-Strand Braided Challah (with really great picture directions)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Cookbook Review - Southern Italian Desserts

Southern Italian Desserts: The Great Undiscovered Recipes of Sicily, Campania, Puglia, and BeyondSouthern Italian Desserts: The Great Undiscovered Recipes of Sicily, Campania, Puglia, and Beyond by Rosetta Costantino
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a review copy of this cookbook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This cookbook is very specific, focusing solely on the desserts of Southern Italy. No breads, no main dishes, no cheeses, just desserts. As a baker, I thought this was a wonderful concept for a cookbook. What usually happens is that I will go looking for Italian desserts and I'll come across gelato, ricotta cheesecake, and those fried honey balls that are from several Meditteranean cultures. The specificity of this cookbook allows for a much deeper exploration of a regional cuisine that needs more attention!

The recipes I've marked as most likely to try are a good representation of the contents:

from Sicilia:
Biscotti Eureka (almond filled spiral cookies)
Cuccia di Santa Lucia (wheat berry pudding served on St. Lucia day)

from Campania:
Pere Mast 'Antuono Imbottite (ricotta-filled baked pears)
La Coviglia al Caffe (frozen espresso mousse)

from Calabria
Torta di Melee Ricotta (apple and ricotta cake, going to try this next weekend!)

from Puglia & Basilicata
Dolci di Noci (walnut cookies)

The only recipe I could not even fathom is the Crostata al Gelo di Mellone, which is a watermelon pudding cake. But it sounds so strange, and looks so interesting, that I just know I'll end up making it. I'm always the most interested in the recipes I can't imagine.

The cookbook is saturated with historical context, in fact more of the pictures are of scenery than of the recipes. For me, I would have liked more pictures of the finished product, but the contextual information is fascinating and makes the cookbook very readable.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cookbook Review - Balaboosta

BalaboostaBalaboosta by Einat Admony
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a review copy of this cookbook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Einat Admony is the chef-owner of two NYC restaurants - Balaboosta and Taïm (a falafel/smoothie vegetarian place!). While you might expect this cookbook to be a companion book to the restaurant of the same name, it really isn't, except for one chapter called "Fancy-Schmancy," which features recipes from the restaurant.

Balaboosta is a Yiddish term meaning "the perfect housewife, homemaker, wonderful mother, cook & gracious hostess. She does it all and she does it well!" (definition taken from restaurant website). The idea is that Einat Admony is the embodiment of a balaboosta, and she includes recipes that span her own heritage as well as the broader scope of Mediterranean cuisine. If that sounds a bit far-reaching, well, it is, but there are traditional recipes alongside modern takes on dishes in this book that I really appreciated.

The sections are not divided by type of dish, but rather by theme. There are chapters such as "Grown-Up Table," "Hurry, Hurry, Hurry," and "Backyard Barbecue." This makes for a more difficult quick reference, but aids in meal planning for entertaining or just making dinner.

From the "Hurry, Hurry, Hurry" section, I made shakshuka, a spicy egg-tomato dish. I've made varieties of this dish before from other cultures, but this one is more of an Israeli focus. It was good, a nice balance of vegetables and spices, although I did instinctively cut back on the salt called for (and wished I'd cut back more!)

I had also marked the Casablanca Catch and Challah from the "Grown-Up Table" section, Moroccan Carrots and Eighteen-Minute Rice from the "Hurry, Hurry, Hurry" section, and Sabich (an Iraqi eggplant sandwich), baklava, and Sambusak (Israeli empanada-ish dish) from "Thinking About Home." The "cook/bake the book" people over at Serious Eats recently made the baklava, and the recipe is available over there if you want to take a peek.

The last recipe I had a chance to try were the Space Cookies. The recipe calls for tahini and poppy seeds, and I had always wanted to try tahini in a cookie after seeing it all over Turkish baking blogs. I'm not sure what I personally thought of the recipe - there were no eggs in it so the texture was more like shortbread, very crumbly, and I thought the tahini was pretty savory for a cookie. I brought them to work and my student workers were equally torn, until two guys came in and ate the rest between the two of them. Although the verdict was mixed, I think they were definitely appreciated by those two.

The one recipe I will most definitely still make because I can't get it out of my head is the Turkish Coffee Brownies. I had to track down cardamom at the spice store downtown because none of the local grocery stores seem to be stocking it these days, and then there is the challenge of keeping chocolate in the house... but someday, it will happen. Someday soon. And that recipe is a great example of the combination of traditional ingredients presented in a new way - Turkish coffee in brownie form.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Peach Poppyseed Cake

Even after making mohnkuchen and space cookies, I still had poppyseeds to burn!  My new friend Angelika sent me a recipe for a poppyseed-nut-peach cake, and after finding local peaches at the farmers' market, I decided to give this one a go.

I'll include the recipe as converted to American measurements, although Angelika did the translating.  It should have nuts, but I was out.  It also should have a jam glaze but I didn't have any light in color, so I made a simple butter-powdered sugar-cream-rum glaze for the top.

Poppyseed-Nut-Peach Cake

1 1/2 cups (minus 2 tbsp) flour
2/3 cup-3/4 cup poppy seeds (to taste)
2/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup sugar
12 tbsp soft butter
4 eggs
3 tablespoons rum
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 large peaches (3 small), peeled and sliced, with the pits removed

150 g Apricot jam
1 Tablespoon rum

Whipped cream and / or confectioners‘ sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Cream soft butter with sugar until creamy. Add eggs one of the time, beating after each addition.
  3. Mix in the rest of the ingredients (alternating dry and wet is a good way to go.)
  4. Put batter in greased and floured Springform pan.
  5. Push peach slices down into batter, smooth backs showing, in whatever pattern you desire.
  6. Bake about 35 Minutes (check with wooden pick)
  7. Heat jam with rum and spread it out on cake. 
  8. Let it cool and decorate as desired.

My batter looked like this prior to baking

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Trying a Recipe from Balaboosta: Space Cookies

One of the cookbooks I got to review from NetGalley is Balaboosta by Einat Admony.  The publisher description says it best:

Einat Admony is a 21st-century balaboosta (Yiddish for “perfect housewife”).She’s a mother and wife, but also a chef busy running three bustling New York City restaurants. Her debut cookbook features 140 of the recipes she cooks for the people she loves—her children, her husband, and the many friends she regularly entertains. Here, Einat’s mixed Israeli heritage (Yemenite, Persian) seamlessly blends with the fresh, sophisticated Mediterranean palate she honed while working in some of New York City’s most beloved kitchens.

The cookbook is organized not by meal type but in suggested meals or types of occasions.  It makes it a little hard to navigate but it would be completely flexible how a person could mix and match the recipes.

This isn't intended to be a full cookbook review, as I have two more recipes I want to try out first.  I keep seeing tahini cookies mentioned in Turkish blogs, so when I saw her recipe for "Space Cookies," I knew that would be the recipe I'd try.

Don't Google Space Cookies.  Or do, but all the mentions I can find of them are pot cookies.  That is not what this recipe is, so when I made them for my student workers, I called them "Tahini and Poppy Seed Cookies."  I won't be posting the recipe because the book isn't out yet, and there's a chance it will be tweaked before it is published.

I'm still not sure what I think of them.  I ate two the night I made the cookies, and kept stopping and asking, "Do I like this?"  Tahini is similar to peanut butter in some ways, and we use peanut butter in sweet dishes all the time.  There is enough tahini in these cookies to be noticeable, maybe a bit bitter.  The poppy seeds only added to that bitter element.  I also wasn't sold on the texture of the cookies; lacking eggs, they had more of a crumbly shortbread texture than I personally prefer.  Full disclosure: I have a bias against shortbread.  And still I'm not sure what to think of the cookies.  Maybe I need to make them again.

What I do love about this and other recipes in the cookbook is that Admony takes ingredients we think of from the Mediterranean region and uses them in different ways.  Some of the recipes are traditional, maybe slightly tweaked or improved, while recipes like this take ingredients like tahini and combine them in new ways.  Just wait until I track down some cardamom in order to test the Turkish Coffee brownies! 


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pumpkin Pancakes (low-carb and gluten-free)

I think I post about pancakes a lot more often since we started eating low-sugar most of the time.  Hey, they're a lot easier to make without bready flour and gluten!

This past weekend, it started to feel like fall.  Or maybe I was just really ready for fall.  It is never too early for pumpkin, anyway, and I had hoarded a can of pumpkin in the back of the pantry for when this craving was bound to hit.

The coffee has the pumpkin syrup recipe I blogged about last November, so check that out.

The pancakes recipe is a mild tweak of a paleo recipe that I found in Pinterest.  It comes from the Cupcakes to Crossfit blog, which has some great stuff on it so check it out.  I'll just post my version and not her original.  If you're not low-sugar and don't mind things like maple syrup, that would probably taste even better with pumpkin.  It relies on coconut flour, which I am growing to really like in pancakes when used correctly.  I added walnuts because I had them and they sounded tasty.

Pumpkin Coconut Flour Pancakes
Serves: 6-8 pancakes
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • ½ cup milk (original recipe uses canned coconut, I used almond)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar Splenda
  • 3 Tbs coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves 
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • Chopped nuts (optional)
  1. Blend pumpkin and milk until smooth
  2. Add eggs, vanilla, and maple syrup and beat together for 30 seconds
  3. Slowly sift in the coconut flour, spices, baking soda & salt.
  4. Blend together until smooth
  5. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat
  6. Once hot, grease the griddle with coconut or vegetable oil and pour batter into small (2-3 inch) pancakes.  I used a scant 1/4 cup. If using nuts, sprinkle over the batter immediately after pouring it into the pan.
  7. Cook until edges are firm & starts to bubble (takes longer than regular batter ~ 3-4min) then flip and cook through

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Ispanaklı ve Peynirli Gözleme

One of the foods I've been dying to make in my Turkish culinary adventures is gözleme.  To me, it looks like a Turkish quesadilla, although it is more like a flat borek.  In the picture, the cigar shaped pastry is a borek, which can come in almost any shape.  I won't give a specific recipe for the gözleme, more of a formula.  Use one yufka sheet (yufka is similar to phyllo but a bit thicker, if you can only find phyllo use three sheets together), place filling ingredients in the middle, seal with water along the edges, and pan fry in a little bit of olive oil.  So delicious.

Ispanaklı ve Peynirli Gözleme = Spinach and Cheese Gözleme.  I actually don't know if I need the "ve" in there, because you don't always use the word "and" in Turkish.  Peynirli means "with cheese" and Ispanaklı is "spinach."

According to Wikipedia:
"Toppings for gözleme are numerous and vary by region and personal preference, and include a variety of meats, vegetables, mushrooms, tubers, cheeses, as well as eggs, and seasonal herbs and spices."
This is something I love about Turkish food - so many variations for tasty treats! I will make this again for sure.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Soft Sprinkle Cookies

I needed a festive cookie recipe that would still be okay a few days later through the mail, and adapted this softbatch cookie recipe for my purposes.  I prefer it to a lot of the similar recipes I've seen where you basically use cake mix.  You could vary the sprinkle colors depending on your holiday, but these are soft and sweet!

Soft Sprinkle Cookies
(Adapted from Softbatch Funfetti Sugar Cookies on Averie Cooks) 


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large egg
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons corn starch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sprinkles

  1. Beat together the the butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla on medium-high speed until creamed, light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the mixer as necessary.
  2. Add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, salt, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the sprinkles and beat momentarily to incorporate, less than 1 minute, or fold in by hand.
  4. Cover and chill the dough at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350F,
  5. Use a cookie scoop for uniform size and don't put more than 12 to a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just beginning to set, even if undercooked, pale, and glossy in the center. These cookies should not turn golden or brown at all and should stay white. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a rack to finish cooling.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Adventures in Baking: Mohnkuchen

This summer, I read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, only I didn't read it alone, I read it along with an international reading group.  As we chatted about the book we talked about other things, and one reader in Germany found out I had a baking blog.  She wanted to know why Americans hardly ever use poppy seeds, since some of her favorite recipes have tons of them.  I'm not really sure why we don't, and one of my mother's standards was a lemon poppy seed cake, but it didn't have poppy seeds in it the way mohnkuchen does.

Fast forward to Angelika sending me a recipe for mohnkuchen.  She made an initial attempt to convert the recipe to English words and ingredients, but we still had to puzzle through items like "custard powder" and "curd."  I also had to find a place to buy "ground poppy seeds" online.  In the end, they don't look all that different to me from regular poppy seeds, but maybe I am missing something. 

Mohnkuchen translates directly to "poppy seed cake."  There are many versions out there, some that have a streusel topping, some that just have the poppyseed layer on top of a thin crust, some with poppy seeds throughout a pound cake.  This version has a shortbread crust, a paste layer of eggs, poppy seeds, almond flour, and semolina, and a cheesecake-custard layer. 

I feel like I made a lot of mistakes on this baking experiment, and I'm not going to post the recipe until I've had a chance to try it again.  That should help me figure out if it is user error or recipe error, or even ingredient error.  I used Bird's Custard Powder for the custard powder, and cream cheese for the curd.  I didn't let the middle layer cool completely.  Something in there made the middle take forever to set, and that burned the bottom of the crust.  It did set up overnight in the fridge, but was still clearly not quite right on the top layer.  I also should have rolled out the crust and just pressed it into the pan, and you can see it isn't quite right.  I still ended up bringing it to work and it was eaten.  I think next time I will take more time to let the poppy seed layer cool, but also I might try it in a larger pan where the layers will be a bit thinner.  I will also not wimp out on the crust rolling.  And I will mix the butter and cream cheese layer together before adding the eggs for the top layer.

Have any of you ever made mohnkuchen?

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Kugel for breakfast

Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Recipes RevisitedI'd had Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Recipes Revisited by Arthur Schwartzon my to-read list for years, and finally found it at the library to look through it. I'd had a taste of Jewish cuisine from an excellent deli in town and wanted to try more.

It was interesting to thumb through this cookbook on the heels of reading  97 Orchard : An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, because much of the information in the chapter on Jewish Immigrants was mirrored in the textual parts of this cookbook. Schmaltz is praised and utilized like crazy; this is old-school Jewish cuisine! The recipes come from the Ashkenazi tradition more or less, but it feels like Polish grandmother food. Same difference, maybe. Hearty, full of fat, and full of tradition.

I bookmarked quite a few recipes to try, but the idea I kept coming back to involved pasta for breakfast.  Sweet kugel, that elusive, mysterious creature, would be mine!  There are two recipes for sweet kugel in this cookbook, I picked the recipe that didn't ask for pot cheese, since I wasn't sure I could find that anywhere.

This is my rendition of Anne Whiteman's Birthday Kugel.  It is a grandmother dish too!  Anne Whiteman is the mother of the man who helped create Windows on the World, the restaurant well known for its presence in the World Trade Center.  I mixed it up the night before and by morning, the citrus zests and creamy custard were ready to permeate the noodles.  It felt like home, and I made a silly post in Facebook about kugel making me believe in reincarnation.  Well - I'd never had a sweet version before, but it felt so familiar and homey.  I suppose that is what traditional, comfort food is for. 

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Lower Carb Pie Crust - Coconut-Almond

I was playing around with ingredients and came up with a crust that was nice with the berries and a sugar-free glaze.

Coconut Pie Crust
1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
1 cup other flour (I used a combination of almond flour and graham cracker crumbs)
3 tbsp butter, melted
1 egg

Mix dry ingredients, toss with wet until blended and dough sticks together lightly.  Press into pie plate.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until browned and your house smells amazing.  Let cool before filling with some kind of summery filling that you can chill to set.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Nora Ephron's Key Lime Pie

"The pie I threw at Mark made a terrific mess.... The Key Lime Pie is very simple to make. First you line a 9-inch pie plate with a graham cracker crust. Then beat 6 egg yolks. Add 1 cup lime juice, two 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk, and 1 tbsp grated lime rind. Pour into the pie shell and freeze. Remove from freezer and spread with whipped cream. Let sit five minutes before serving.... I should add that the pie was hardly the first thing I'd thought of throwing at Mark...."
-Nora Ephron, Heartburn, Random House (1983 print, 2013 audio)

Who wouldn't want to make a key lime pie after it played such a pivotal role in this story?  Heartburn is Nora Ephron's first novel, and I recently listened to the audiobook.  Ephron would go on to make some of my favorite films (Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, etc!) but this is where she started.  Each chapter involves some kind of recipe that came from her own collection.  They are told in this narrative fashion, as the main character is a cookbook writer who can rattle off recipes like they are stories.

The scene involving the key lime pie also made it into the movie, where Meryl Streep stars alongside Jack Nicholson who plays Mark.  The audiobook is read by Meryl too, so it was a nice tribute to the movie.

I used the slight tweak on the recipe as desribed by the blogger at A Common Sea, with a little less juice and a little more zest.  I also used a pre-made crust because then I could bring it to work without having to bring dishes home.

Nora Ephron’s Key Lime Pie

6 large egg yolks
¾ cup key lime juice (I used bottled)
2 Tbsp lime zest (I used a regular lime)
2 14-oz cans sweetened condensed milk
9”-10” graham cracker crust
A few slices of lime for garnish
Whipped Cream
  1. Beat the 6 large egg yolks in a large bowl. Add lime juice, zest, and sweetened condensed milk. Mix until well blended.
  2. Pour into prepared graham cracker crust pie shell.
  3. Freeze 6 to 8 hours, until firm.
  4. When ready to serve, allow pie to thaw for a few minutes on counter. Add whipped cream (if you’d like) and lime slices for garnish.
  5. Cut and serve. Throwing at your husband is optional.
This isn't my favorite key lime pie ever; I tend to prefer the custardy baked kinds.  But this was about using Nora's actual recipe!  I brought it to a meeting and by the time the meeting was over, the pie had melted and morphed into a less appetizing cold key lime pudding.  Definitely make this when you can control when and how it is served!  With the key lime juice, it was very tart and refreshing.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Coconut Flour Pancakes (low-carb, gluten free)

This past week, I posted about cream cheese pancakes that I had made in the unending quest for low-carb pancakes that aren't awful.  One of the (happy few) who seems to read this blog consistently posted another recipe to try, and I went running to the All Day I Dream About Food blog for the recipe.  It seemed logical - a scant 1/2 coconut flour to 6 eggs and 1 cup of milk (coconut flour is greedy), so I marked it to try for the weekend.

I made them this morning and I'm already blogging about them, so that should tell you something.  The batter gets thick instantly and even though you have to spread it in the pan, they still manage to have a pancake texture.  You can taste the coconut flour, and it has a bit of a density crunch, but these might be my favorite low-carb attempt yet.  The only change I made was using a few Splenda packets instead of the listed sweetener; I often make pancakes completely unsweet so I'm not sure they needed either.  The syrup you see is sugar free.

I'm copying the recipe here since recipes can't be copyright protected, but the original blogger had more to say about cooking with coconut flour, and I recommend a trip to her blog!  I would also say that this recipe is intended to feed 6, and I only used half the batter.  Next time I'll cut it in half.

Coconut Flour Pancakes


1/2 cup coconut flour
3 tbsp granulated erythritol or 3 Splenda packets
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup almond milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Additional butter or oil for the pan

Preheat oven to 200F. In a large bowl, whisk together coconut flour, erythritol, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, melted butter, almond milk and vanilla extract. Add the egg mixture to the coconut flour mixture and stir well to combine. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and brush with vegetable oil or melted butter. Scoop two heaping tablespoons of batter onto skillet and spread into a 3 to 4 inch circle. Repeat until you can't fit any more pancakes into the skillet (you should be able to get 3 or 4 in). Cook until bottom is golden brown and top is set around the edges. Flip carefully and continue to cook until second side is golden brown. Remove from pan and keep warm on plate or baking sheet in oven, while repeating with remaining batter.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cremita de Maiz

I haven't yet read a book set in Puerto Rico, but I have made something for breakfast from Puerto Rico that I will never forget.  Why won't I forget it? Because we love it and will keep eating it!

Cremita de Maiz, when I first saw it on the Always Order Dessert blog, looked like comfort food through and through.  She remembered having it as a child when she got sick, and it looked kind of like the cream of wheat my Dad used to make, painstakingly making it lump-free. I followed the recipe exactly except because of the pan I was using, I really didn't need 10-12 minutes to cook my porridge.  I think mine cooked for 5.  I also used Splenda instead of sugar since it was just for us.  But since 1/3 cup corn meal goes for two people, this recipe isn't that bad carb-wise, and is very satisfying and soul-soothing.  Highly highly recommended!

Cremita de Maiz (Puerto Rican Cornmeal Breakfast Porridge)
Serves 2


2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for serving
3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1/3 cup finely ground cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Ground cinnamon, for serving

Combine the milk, salt, butter, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir gently just until the milk starts to bubble. Lower the heat to the lowest setting and add the cornmeal, stirring continuously with a whisk until the porridge thickens--about 10 - 12 minutes. (Note that it will continue to thicken as it cools.)

Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and divide into two dishes. Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve immediately topped with additional butter.  (If you'd like it thinner, stir in an additional half cup of warm milk.)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cream Cheese Pancakes (low-carb, gluten-free)

Yes, low-carb.  Yes, low-sugar.  Yes, gluten-free.  And they did pancake-like things in the pan, like sticking together and browning (after trying a large number of so-called pancake recipes, you would want to qualify it too).  As the pan got hotter, they started looking more like flowers and less like rounds, but still were tasty.

I doubled the recipe I found on the "I Breathe... I'm Hungry..." blog, and thought that nicely fed two hungry people.  Are they as good as floury, fluffy pancakes?  Well, no.  But when you eat lower-carb, you learn to find satisfaction with other things that seem kind of like other things.  And these are a pretty good version of almost pancakes!

  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 packet stevia (or any) sweetener
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Put all ingredients in a blender or magic bullet. Blend until smooth. Let rest for 2 minutes so the bubbles can settle. Pour 1/4 of the batter into a hot pan greased with butter or pam spray. Cook for 2 minutes until golden, flip and cook 1 minute on the other side. Repeat with the rest of the batter. Serve with sugar free syrup (or any syrup of your choice) and fresh berries.
Approx nutrition info per batch: 344 calories, 29g fat, 2.5g net carbs, 17g protein