Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Buttermilk Pudding Cakes with Fresh Peaches

I'm trying to get back to my Unread Shelf Project and tackle a cookbook a week. One cookbook a week, from my collection, try a handful of recipes, decide whether or not to keep it. I already know I'm keeping this one, so it was silly to test it - The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern: Knockout Dishes with Down-home Flavor. Apart from being the longest cookbook title ever, this is a cookbook from the brothers who grew up in Charleston who pay tribute to southern food in a myriad of ways. I own their first one, The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, and have referred to it when I needed a recipe for red velvet cake, vegetarian collard greens, and even a recipe for savory waffles with creamed mushrooms, which is on the menu for this week by complete coincidence. The Simple Fresh Southern Cookbook is thinner than their others cookbooks, but I have loved what I've tried. One recipe for field peas with roasted beets is my favorite solution for coming home from the farmers' market with random stuff (I usually add goat cheese to it.)

So when I flipped through the cookbook this time, I found myself drawn to the Buttermilk Pudding Cakes. They looked simple, quick, and versatile. The cookbook has a long list of simple accompaniments and more complicated dressings like peaches in bourbon, but I just sliced up fresh peaches and called it good. And it was! I struggle a bit with pudding cakes, always hard to know where the line is between "pudding" and "raw batter." (Jenny's note: I already know what I did wrong as I create this post! My oven temperature was wrong. DOH.)

Buttermilk Pudding Cakes with Sugared Raspberries
Serves 8

Buttermilk pudding cakes:

3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour (3 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 cup whole or lowfat buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature


8 ounces (2 cups) fresh raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
Whipped cream (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 425 F with a rack positioned in the top third of the oven.
2 Sift the flour with the baking powder in a large bowl. In a second large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until creamy and yellow, and then whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla, sugar and butter (the mixture will look curdy and broken; that is fine). Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, and whisk until the batter is combined and smooth.
3 Divide the batter among 8 standard-size (3-ounce) nonstick muffin-pan cups, filling them two-thirds full. Bake for 9 minutes. Check the cakes by inserting a knife tip between the rim of the cake and the muffin cup and pulling gently to expose the side of the cake. If the side of the cake appears evenly browned, the cakes will hold together when inverted and are ready. If not, bake for another minute and check again.
4 While the cakes bake, place the raspberries in a medium bowl. Shower them with the sugar, and then use your hand to gently toss them in the sugar until they have a light dusting on them. (If the berries are overripe and bursting, or wet because you washed them, the sugar will dissolve on them. This is fine -- they'll still taste great!)
5 When the cakes are done, invert them onto individual small plates and divide the berries among them, mounding them on top and around the cakes, and top with a dollop of whipped cream, if using.

Monday, July 23, 2018

1-2-3-4 Cake

The Late Bloomers' Club is the most recent novel by pastry chef Louise Miller. It is the story of two sisters with a tense history, and other characters in a small Vermont town. One character leaves some recipes behind, and one sister's boyfriend Max decides to make cakes from them. The most traditional recipes, like the 1-2-3-4 Cake, only consist of a list of ingredients, without instructions.

"That's all I need," says Max. Because, of course, he has training. Back in May, I told a similar story about the recipes my grandmother gave me. "Back then," she said, "everyone knew what to do." And really, the name of the cake tells you almost everything you need to know - 1 cup of butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, 4 eggs. Plus a few other little things. Hmm, or maybe 1 cup is for the milk? Now I'm confused. Sometimes old fashioned tricks only work if you learned it the right way!

I took the ingredients listed in the Miller novel, and assumed certain things about the technique. I made a simple chocolate buttercream to go with the cake, although in the novel, the characters eat it with jam in between the layers. I just didn't have enough jam at home, and didn't want a trip to the store just for jam! (I'd already switched recipes to make this weekend due to the absence of another ingredient.)

1-2-3-4 Cake
(Ingredient list from Louise Miller, instructions by me!)

4 eggs, separated*
1 cup milk
3 cups cake flour (sift and then measure)
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsweetened butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter two 9-inch cake pans and line with parchment.
2. Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla, then eggs, beating after each addition.
3. Mix flour with baking powder and salt.
4. Alternate between adding flour mixture and milk, adding flour mixture first. Only mix well enough to incorporate ingredients.
5. Divide into cake tins, smooth batter to edges, and bake 28-30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
6. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes and turn out of pans to cool completely before icing with frosting of choice.

*Well, I ignored separating the eggs. That may have lightened the cake a bit, but I just added each one separately and beat the heck out of the batter after. It wasn't bad, although butter cakes always taste a wee bit dry to me.


Monday, July 16, 2018

Cherry Thyme Upside Down Cake

For some reason, a bit out of season, I've encountered so many good looking cherries at the store! It made me nostalgia for the northwest, where we were on vacation just a month ago. I grew up with two trees of cherries at my childhood home - the golden cherries with pink blush (known as "Rainier" cherries in many places) and the darker red cherries that most people think of. The birds loved them; what we picked we just ate and didn't really bake with, so I didn't have a lot in my repertoire for cherries.

I have a few recipes marked to try, but this one stood out. I recalled an episode of some baking reality show where all the bakers had to make an upside down cake of any variety, as long as it contained fruit. I liked the sound of cherries and thyme, and thought it would be gorgeous with the variety of colors of cherries.

Cherry Thyme Upside Down Cake(recipe found on MyRecipes.com)



  • 6 tablespoons (3 oz.) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup fresh Bing cherries, pitted and halved (about 6 oz.)
  • 1 cup fresh Rainier cherries, pitted and halved (about 6 oz.)
  • Thyme sprigs
  • 1 1/3 cups (about 5 3/4 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • Whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream

Step 1
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare the Topping: Place butter in a 9-inch round baking pan, and place in preheated oven until butter is melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Tilt pan to coat sides with butter. Stir brown sugar into melted butter in bottom of pan until smooth, spreading it evenly on bottom of pan. Decoratively arrange cherries, cut-side down, and thyme sprigs on brown sugar mixture.

Step 2
Prepare the Cake: Whisk together flour, thyme leaves, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Step 3
Beat together brown sugar and butter in bowl of electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add egg and vanilla, beating until fully incorporated, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture and sour cream; beat on low until just moistened. Stir ingredients by hand until fully incorporated.

Step 4
Dollop cake mixture over fruit, and spread evenly to sides of pan. Bake in preheated oven until a skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes; invert onto a large cake plate. Let cool 5 minutes before slicing. Sprinkle with more thyme leaves, and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

I paid attention to the instructions and barely mixed the batter, so the crumb was very tender. The cherries end up the texture of grapes, maybe, or peaches, not so much the cherries in the end, but the flavor is intense.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Review of Brown Bear Baking in Eastsound, WA (Orcas Island)

During our recent vacation, we spent a few days on Orcas Island. It is the largest island in the San Juan Islands, and has been on my travel wishlist for years. We had beautiful weather, went whale watching, and explored the tiny strip of shops that seems to sustain the majority of the residents and tourists. One of the places we went to several days in a row is Brown Bear Baking.

First I should warn you that at least the week we were there, it was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Sad! But worth the wait for Wednesday. Pay attention to those days though. And honestly half the businesses on the island seem to randomly close on Tuesday; future tourists beware.

The bakery was packed full of people with more people in line. From what the people working there said, this was the first week where they felt summer tourist traffic, and normally the pace is a bit slower and you might more easily find a place to sit. Our first day there, we ate in our rental car.  The bakery itself is in a busy central place, and the second day we went there the bunny running for mayor was also in the courtyard, with free face painting, and it was a weekday!

The bakery provides coffee, espresso, pastries, including some savory pastries, tea cakes, scones, granola, breads, and offers sandwiches for lunch (we did not try these but one person was busily doing prep for what looked like a busy lunch period!) The case was stocked and constantly depleting and being refilled.

What I loved about the bakery, besides the deliciousness, is the way everyone seemed to work together. One of the owners, who I think is Lee Hilands Horswill, seemed to be efficiently running a very busy team, but also did just as much to fill in where needed. He was a leader working just as hard as everyone else, and I think this contributes enormously to their success. In our short time there I saw him restocking the case and helping a younger worker take the dirty dishes to the back.

I do think they may need to either rethink the flow of people through the place or rethink offering espresso! There is a clog in the machine near the espresso machine, on the opposite end of the counter from where you order. There are at least two other places within a block radius that offer espresso. I say order pastries at Brown Bear and go to Kathryn Taylor Chocolates or Darvill's Bookstore for a coffee drink, and get out of there faster. But espresso is new at Brown Bear Baking, so maybe it will sort out.

I found this article about the partners who own and run the bakery, and their journey to Orcas Island, and a flap over the flag. Since we were there during pride month, it seems appropriate to share!

Brown Bear Baking
29 N Beach Rd #1966, Eastsound, WA 98245

Not a paid advertisement. I just like trying new bakeries and thought their pastries were delicious.