Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I don't go in for bleeding brain cupcakes or cookies that look like witches fingers, but if I show up at your door and you serve me gingersnaps and apple cider I'm afraid I might never leave.

Gingersnaps just mean Halloween to me, I guess because that's when those huge stacks of spice cookie boxes show up at the market.  These cookies are very similar.  They're snappy around the edges and chewy inside.  The mix of ginger, cinnamon and cardamom impart a pleasing warmth, more bark than bite.   

After all the ghouls and goblins go to bed on Halloween night you will find me in front of the fire with a cup of cider and a gingersnap or two.  Frightfully delightful.


3/4 cups butter
3/4 cups raw cane sugar
1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoon molasses
1 egg 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 & 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoons cardamom (or cloves)
1/4 teaspoon salt
demerama, or sanding sugar to coat the cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a stand mixer cream butter and both sugars, scraping down the bowl and beater as necessary.  Add molasses. egg and vanilla extract. Cream until fluffy, about 1 minute.

In a small bowl whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, cardamom and salt.  Add flour in 2 or 3 additions to butter mixture and mix on low just until incorporated.

Scoop out cookies by rounded tablespoons.  Roll into a ball and coat in demerara sugar.  Place on parchment lined cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.   Flatten cookies with the bottom of a glass and sprinkle with a bit more sugar.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are lightly golden. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

French Apple Pie

This perfectly imperfect French apple pie was the perfect dessert to make on a blustery October Saturday.  A mix of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp apples, sweet raisins, flaky butter and Crisco crust... you get the picture.  Of course, lets not forget the milky sugar icing on top.  Vive La France! 

If anyone knows the genesis of this slice of Franco-American cooperation, please let me know.  It's pure genius.  It seems to me to be an attempt to elevate the humble American apple pie to international status when all it does is make it more sweetly American.  

I tried to google but just became mired in all the photos and, you know, there was pie to consume.  My guide for the recipe was Tastykake's French apple pie, so beloved as a childhood (and young adulthood) treat.  Sorry to say the product is nothing like it was back in the day.  If you want a good Halloween scare just read the list of ingredients.

I had some left over dough so I indulged in the old family tradition of never letting anything go to waste and made a few "schmickles", little raspberry jam filled beggar's purses.  Because you need something to nosh on when you're waiting for the pie to cool! 

French apple pie

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cold butter, cut up
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
ice water (3-4 tablespoons or enough to form dough)

Combine flour, butter, sugar and shortening in food process and pulse just until mixed.  Slowly add the water until dough comes together.  Divide dough in half, form each into a disk, wrap and chill for at least one hour.

Once dough is chilled roll out one disk on a lightly floured surface to about 12 inches or large enough to fit a 9 inch pie plate.  Fit the dough into pie dish.  Trim the edge if necessary and roll it underneath along the rim of pie plate; crimp to secure.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line the pie shell with a tin pie plate or tin foil and weigh it down with pie weights or beans.  Bake for 20 minutes or until edges are lightly golden.  Remove and cool.

apple filling, assembly and topping

4 or 5 large baking apples (Granny Smith, Honeycrisp or whatever apples you like)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon potato starch
1/4 cup raw cane sugar
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon lemon rind
1 egg cracked and beaten for egg wash
1 and 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peel, core and slice apples into quarter inch pieces.  Whisk together water and potato starch in a large heavy bottomed pot.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; lower to a simmer and cook until apples are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.  If mixture looks dry add a bit more water. Remove from heat and cool before filling pie.

Preheat oven to 375.  Roll the other disk of dough to about 11 inches.  Fill shell with apple filling and brush egg wash over edge.  Carefully cover with rolled dough, trim if necessary.  Tuck the top dough around the crimped edge of the bottom crust.  Vent the top crust with a sharp knife and brush with egg wash.

Bake on a cookie sheet for 25 to 35 minutes or until crust is golden and juices are bubbling.  Cool pie completely before icing.

For icing, combine confectioners' sugar, milk and vanilla extract in a large bowl and whisk until smooth.  Coat the top of the pie with a spatula and let harden for 5-10 minutes before slicing.  



Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sourdough Cranberry Walnut Bread

As I was making this bread it's a balmy 82 degrees outside, definitely unseasonable for early October.  Not that I'm complaining.  The weather's gonna do what the weather's gonna do.  And I'm actually happy it's warm, you see there are still a bunch of tomatoes on the vine that need ripening.  But I chose to make an autumnal favorite for October's Sourdough Surprise because I saw my self curled up on the couch watching the leaves fall with a hot cup of tea and a sweet slice of cranberry walnut bread.  And not just any ordinary cranberry walnut bread, but a sourdough cranberry walnut bread.  

Actually it doesn't need to be cold outside to enjoy this bread.  I ended up taking it to my sister's and she and her daughter and our other sister all enjoyed it after a long day of cleaning out her kitchen in preparation for her new one she's having put in (yes, I'm totally jealous).  

I know that was a mouth full.  Well, so is this bread!  It's moist and chewy, spicy and crunchy and really lives up to it's name in the quick department.  Best of all, it goes just as well with a cold glass of milk as it does with a hot cuppa.  Now let me imagine enjoying it in MY new kitchen.

cranberry walnut bread (adapted from this recipe)

1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup boiling water
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sourdough starter
1  & 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts   

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and butter and flour a 5 by 9 inch bread pan.  In a large bowl pour boiling water over cranberries.  Add butter and stir until butter is melted.  Stir in honey, brown sugar, beaten egg, vanilla and sourdough starter.

In another bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  Mix dry ingredients into wet just until combined.  Fold in walnuts.  Turn batter out into prepared bread pan.  Bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes, turn out of pan and continue cooling on a rack before slicing. 


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Braided Sourdough Peach Tart

Fall is in full swing around here, the days are blustery and the leaves are starting to take on those characteristic autumnal colors.  Our minds are turning to pumpkin treats and spice cookies.  But there's no reason why we still can't enjoy something peachy.  Case in point- this braided sourdough peach tart.

I found a great deal on peaches at the market this week so I put them to good use in this tart.  The base is a rustic sourdough pastry, adapted from Julie's at Willow Bird Baking, not at all sweet.  The filling is a whole lot of peaches and not much else.  After all that restraint, I let loose on the top with a gooey cream cheese layer.  The effect was something like a peach cheese cake tart.  That you could have for breakfast.  And I did.  And it was peachy.

braided sourdough peach tart

1 & 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup raw cane sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut up
3 ounces cream cheese
1 cup sourdough starter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 beaten egg (for brushing)

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in food processor and pulse to mix.  Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until dough forms.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead briefly until smooth.  Wrap dough and chill for 1 hour.

filling, topping and assembly

4 large ripe peaches
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons raw cane sugar
1 teaspoon potato starch
4 ounces of cream cheese
2 cups confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Peel peaches and cut into 1/4 inch slices; toss in a large bowl with lemon juice, sugar and potato starch.  Roll dough on parchment paper approximately 8 by 14 inches.  Make diagonal cuts along the sides of the dough about 2 and 1/2 inches long and 1 inch apart.  Transfer the dough on the parchment paper to a baking sheet.

Lay the peach mixture down the center of the dough and cover with the strips, alternating sides as you go.  Brush top with beaten egg.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden.

Cream the cream cheese in a stand mixer and add confectioners' sugar.  Beat for a minute on medium until creamy.  Spread on top of tart.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

I Love Lemon Sugar Cookies

I love a soothing cup of lemon tea from time to time.  It's caffeine free but still packs a pick-me-up buzz from all that lemony goodness.  The only thing that could possibly make it better is if it was a cookie.

Well wait no more, here's a cookie with the heart of a cup of tea.  Of course it's suitable for dunking, in your tea.  I started with a wonderful recipe from King Arthur Flour, took out the egg white and replaced it with a couple of tablespoons of strong brewed lemon tea.  I used Bigelow's I Love Lemon tea, hence the name.

This cookie is sweet, no doubt about it, it's a sugar cookie first and foremost.  But right behind the sweet stirs a mellow lemon zing.  And let me just warn you, they go down easy.  They're chewy on the inside and crunchy around the edges.  I gobbled up three before they were barely cool!  This recipe makes several dozen,  of course that won't be a problem if, like me, you love lemon sugar cookies.  Or feel free to roll half the dough into a log and chill for a future reincarnation as lemon icebox cookies with cream filling.

I love lemon sugar cookies (adapted from this recipe)

3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter 
1/4 cup cream cheese
1 & 1/4 cups raw cane sugar, plus more for the top
1 teaspoon lemon rind
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons brewed lemon tea

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a stand mixer cream together butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add lemon rind, yolk, vanilla extract and tea; scrap bowl and beaters as necessary.

Add flour mixture and mix on low until incorporated.  Scoop dough by tablespoons onto parchment lined cookie sheets.  Press cookies down with the bottom of a glass and sprinkle with additional sugar.  Bake for 12 to 14 minutes.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Figgy Bars

You already heard about the fig harvest this year and the wonderful fig preserves.  Since I got two jars of preserves out of the recipe I thought it was a good idea to make figgy bars out of one of those jars.  I don't think of them as dessert, I think of them as preservation!

This is a not-too-sweet treat suitable for breakfast or with your evening cuppa, but they're great anytime of day.  If you like a certain fig cookie that favors the name of a famous physicist and mathematician, you will most likely love these figgy bars.  I swapped out half the flour in my version with chic pea flour, but for a lighter product go with all white whole wheat flour.

figgy bars

crust and filling:
2 cups white whole wheat flour (or 1 cup www flour and 1 cup chic pea flour)
1/2 cup raw cane sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup cold butter, cut up
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 & 1/2 cups fig preserves

3/4 cup white  whole wheat flour
3/4 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cold butter, cut up

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter and flour a 9 inch square baking pan, set aside.  Add flour, sugar and baking powder to food processor; pulse for a few seconds to combine.  Add cut up butter and pulse until mixture is crumbly.  Add egg and pulse until incorporated, mixture will still be crumbly.  Press crust into the bottom of prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. 

While the crust is baking, make the topping.  Add all ingredients to food processor and pulse until crumbly.  Spread fig preserves over cooled crust and sprinkle with topping.  Return to oven for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until preserves are bubbly.  Makes 16 bars.