Friday, December 26, 2014

Blueberry Yogurt Muffins

I know it's not a good idea to count your chickens before they hatch but I can't stop counting my zucchini and tomatoes.  I'm also pretty proud of my container herb garden.  There's nothing better than growing your own, not just because they taste better but watching them grow is a tonic for the soul as well.  Now, I'll be totally up front with you and tell you my radish crop was a complete bust.  Luckily radish tops make a great addition to a garden salad.  Have a look at what's doing good...

One thing I keep meaning to grow is blueberries.  I know it's not as easy as tomatoes or zucchini, I know you need at least two bushes to get started, but I'm thinking that soon I'll be picking my own for recipes like these yummy muffins.
blueberry yogurt muffins

1/2 cup butter
1 cup raw cane sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 & 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 & 2 tablespoons yogurt
1 & 1/2 cups blueberries (organic if you got 'um)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla extract; beat well.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.

Add dry ingredients alternately with yogurt in a couple of additions.  Mix well.  Fold in blueberries.  Line cupcake pan with cupcake papers (or butter and flour) and evenly divide batter.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tester comes out clean.  Makes about 10 muffins.


Walnut Honey Pie

Out for lunch one day with my sis we indulged in a dessert of Salted Honey Pie.  While the creamy filling was quite delicious, with a strong honey flavor and a mouth-watering salty note, I kept thinking something was missing- like walnuts.  The crust, however was perfect, if you like those buttery, flaky, puff-pastry kind of crusts, and I do!

So this recipe is all about recreating that experience, with nuts, for our Holiday dessert.  I looked at a bunch of recipes for the filling and this one came closest to what I thought should be in the pie (plus lemon juice, which is brilliant).  I cut back on the salt because I was bringing another salty-sweet snack to the party and I didn't want salt to be the leitmotif for the evening.  I also cut back on the browned butter since I thought it might compete with the honey flavor, which can be all too easily over powered. 

For the dough I made this recipe and am I ever glad I found it!  It was super easy to make, rolled out like a dream and was flaky, tasty and the perfect compliment to the honey filling.  Also, I rolled out all the scraps after the pie crust was made, filled them with jam, rolled them up and baked them.  Best baker's treat ever!! Like mini croissant in a fraction of the time!  This dough isn't just for pies, I can envision a whole dessert table of goodies to make with it. 

The pie was a big hit with the party goers and I was happy.  It was creamy and crunchy and not too sweet or too salty.  It was kind of like the little blond sister to a pecan pie.  The perfect end to a perfect Holiday!

walnut honey pie (adapted from Kinfolk)

6 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup toasted walnuts
1 pie crust, blind baked (made with your new favorite pie dough)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium heavy-bottom pot melt butter.  Once butter has melted continue to heat on medium high until it starts to brown every so slightly. (If you want a strong browned butter taste, take it a bit longer.)

Remove pot from heat, whisk in honey until completely incorporated.  Cool mixture for a minute or two then add sugar, flour, salt and lemon juice; whisk to combine.  Whisk in eggs one at a time then add vanilla and heavy cream.

Put your blind baked pie crust on a baking sheet and fill with toasted walnuts.  Pour honey filling over nuts.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until filling is set.  Cool on  a wire rack and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.  Serve with vanilla ice cream or a heaping of freshly whipped heavy cream.  Serves 8 to 10.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sourdough Stollen

As soon as I read that this month's Sourdough Surprise was going to be Stollen I knew I wanted make use of candied orange peel and homemade "marzipan", as the post suggested.  I'd made candied orange peel a couple of years ago but never got a chance to use it in any baked goods, now I had an excuse to make it again.  

And while I didn't make true marzipan to fill my stollen, I think the method I used was easier and just as tasty. Using this recipe as a guide, I changed a few things along the way to suit what I had on hand.  The end result was rich but light and bursting with flavor. It made a feast for breakfast, it was perfect to have on hands when friends came to call, and it was more than one midnight snack while streaming Christmas tunes and watching the lights flicker on the tree.

sourdough stollen

1 & 2/3 to 2 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 more tablespoons sugar
2 cups fed starter (fed with bread flour)
1 teaspoon yeast
pinch of sugar
1/4 cup warm water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup soft butter
3/4 cup raisins (soaked in boiling water and drained)
1/4 cup finely chopped candied orange peel

almond filling
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon egg white (or enough to pliable paste)

for the top
melted butter
confectioners' sugar

Start the night before you bake stollen.  Combine bread flour (reserve 1/3 cup), sugar and salt in a stand mixer fitted with dough hook.  Whisk yeast and sugar into warm water.  Add yeast mixture and starter to flour mixture and mix on low.  Add eggs, vanilla extract and almond extract and blend on medium until everything is well blended.  If dough looks particularly sticky, add a bit more flour.

Mix on medium until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.  Turn dough out on to a lightly floured surface.  It will be sticky, but knead it for several minutes.  Place dough in buttered bowl and let it rest for an hour.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface.  Start to knead in the raisins and candied orange peel a bit at a time until they're all evenly incorporated.  Return dough to bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning take the dough out of the fridge.  Make the almond filling by combining all ingredients in a food processor until it holds together.  On a lightly floured surface pat the dough into a roughly 6 by 10 inch rectangle.  Roll the almond mixture into a 10 inch tube and lay on the long side of the dough.  Roll the dough around the filling and tuck in the ends.  Place dough on parchment lined baking sheet, cover and let rest for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake stollen for 20 minutes.  Spin the tray and continue baking 20 to 25 more minutes.  Once out of the oven, bush with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with confectioners' sugar.  Cool on wire rack until cool enough to cut.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Raisins and Walnuts

Ladies and gentlemen, start your mixers!  

Holiday cookie season is under way.  Butter is being stockpiled in fridges; sacks of flour are clogging pantries; sprinkles are disappearing from store shelves.  What a wonderful time of year!  Not to be left out, I started before Thanksgiving (everyone else is starting Christmas before Thanksgiving so why not?) with these Chocolate Chunk cookies. 

I did, however, do a Google search before writing this post.  I was curious to see how many other recipes there were out there for chocolate chunk cookies with raisins and walnuts.  Would my contribution be worth the time, or would it be redundant?  What Google spit back at me were a lot of recipes for oatmeal cookies with walnuts, raisins (and chocolate chips) in them.  But chocolate chunk cookies with raisins and walnuts, not so much.

Maybe people prefer their walnuts and raisins in oatmeal cookies.  Maybe I'm wrong to leave out the oatmeal and mess up a perfectly good chocolate cookie with stuff people would rather not see in there.  Maybe there isn't a beloved candy out there with raisins and nuts engulfed in chocolate that's a bit on the chunky side.  Or maybe the internet needs to just catch up, because Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Raisins and Walnuts are a thing, and they are a delicious thing!  

As proof I offer a paraphrase from a thank you note written by my neighbor who received a half dozen.  She said she felt she had to eat her cookie in a room by herself because she was making so many nom nom noises!

Maybe it's the crunch of the walnuts or the extra sweetness and chewiness from the raisins.  Maybe it's the novelty or the surprise factor.  Maybe plain old chocolate chip cookies just aren't good enough (no, they are).  Maybe chocolate chunks are better than chocolate chips (yes, they are).  Whatever it is, chocolate chunk cookies with raisins and walnuts are my new favorite cookie.  At least until I start baking more Christmas cookies!

chocolate chunk cookies with raisins and walnuts

1 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup raw cane sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 & 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chunks (not chips)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cups raisins soaked in boiling water and drained
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a stand mixer cream butter and add sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat on medium to combine.  Scrap down beater and bowl as necessary.  In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.  Add to butter mixture and beat on medium to combine. 

Add chocolate chunks, walnuts and drained raisins and mix well.  Scoop batter out by tablespoonfuls on to parchment lined baking sheets.  Bake for 6 minutes and then spin trays back to front and bake an additional 5-6 minutes or until cookies are light golden around the edges.  Cool cookies on wire rack.  Makes about 30 cookies.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie

I always do a pumpkin mouse pie for Thanksgiving, it's kinda like my thing.  And in my days as a pastry chef with my own restaurant I made way too many of them.  I like to say I bought my house with pumpkin mouse pies!  But this year I wanted to come up with something a bit different and this is it.  I tweaked this recipe for no-churn ice cream and gave it a pumpkin spin.  Poured into a ginger-graham cracker crust and frozen it made the best, easiest, most differenter Turkeyday sweet ever!

It has all the elements of my signature dessert; pumpkin, because Thanksgiving, heavy cream, because umami, and graham cracker crust and spices because pumpkin. I realize this is a circular reference but cut it into 10ths or 12ths and everyone will be happy! Happy Thanksgiving!

pumpkin ice cream pie

1 can pumpkin
1/3 cup raw can sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
 whipped cream (optional for garnish)
candied walnuts (optional for garnish)

In a large bowl whisk together pumpkin, sugar and spices.  Add sweetened condensed milk and whisk to combine.  Whip heavy cream to soft peaks and fold in to pumpkin mixture.

Pour mixture into prepared pie crust, cover and freeze for at least 5 hours, or overnight.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sourdough Milk Rolls

Just in time for Thanksgiving, this month's Sourdough Surprise is Fluffy Dinner Rolls.  I found this one kind of intriguing because although the ingredients seem simple enough, it's the method of kneading the dough that produces the fluffy effect.  Coincidentally I've been noticing a lot of recipes for Japanese Milk Bread like this recipe and this one. 

It turns out the method for Japanese Milk Bread is strikingly similar to that of Fluffy Dinner Rolls.  It's all about the kneading.  (I gave the dough a solid and enjoyable 10 minutes of hand kneading.)  With Japanese Milk Bread you start by  cooking a milk and flour starter.  While this seems to be the defining element in milk bread, I wondered what it would be like if I substituted my sourdough starter.

Taking my cues from the recipes above I came up with what I think is a pretty good mash up that produced same darn fine rolls.  Of course, they do have yeast in them.  As I may have said before, I'm not ready to take the training wheels off yet when it comes to my starter.  Wanting to highlight the fine texture, I kept the rolls very plain, just a quick brushing of melted butter before and after baking.  They turned out perfectly light and fluffy, just begging to be torn apart and smeared with butter or soaked in some gravy!  Gobble, gobble!

sourdough milk rolls

2 & 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup warm milk
2 teaspoons yeast
1 cup freshly fed starter
4 tablespoons soft butter (plus more for the pan and finishing)

In a stand mixer fitted with dough hook combine flour, sugar and salt.  Stir yeast into warm milk and add to flour along with beaten egg and starter.  Mix on medium until dough comes together.

Slowly add the butter a bit at a time until it's all incorporated.  Beat on medium for 3 or 4 minutes.  Turn dough out on to lightly floured surface and knead for ten minutes.  You should be able to stretch the dough to the point of transparency with out having it break.

Place dough in lightly butter bowl, cover and refrigerate over night.

The next day turn the dough out on work surface and knead briefly.  Butter a 9 by 12 inch baking pan and set aside.  Divide dough into 12 equal portions and roll each into a ball.  Place in pan, evenly spaced.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brush rolls with melted butter and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  When rolls come out of the oven give them another brush with butter.  Turn out of pan and cool on a wire rack.

Friday, November 14, 2014


I love learning about new recipes and sharing them with you.  File this post under "learning new recipes and sharing them with you".   Sbrisolona is a totally unfussy, crunchy, crumbly  almond torte/cookie that comes from Northern Italy.  (I can be excused from never hearing about it before because my people hail from the southern part of the country.)  And when I say unfussy, I mean unfussy.  Some bakers don't even bother to cut the torte but rather just break it and serve it up as sweet, almond studded shards.

Being unfussy it's one of those recipes that lends itself to interpretation.  Some bakers play it straight up and simple, and some add a bit of pizazz by sandwiching in a sweet filling.  For the most part sbrisolona are made with chopped almonds, that's the crunch part, and corn meal, that's the crumbly part.  I used all almond flour instead of chopped almonds so this version has more of a snap than a crunch.  But the traditional vanilla, lemon and almond favors shine through and it still retains it's traditional corn meal crumble.

However you make it, just make it.  I know the Holidays are coming up and this recipe is going to compete with your many baking obligations.  Fair enough, so please bookmark this page and return to it in the New Year because by then something delicious and unfussy will be exactly what you'll be needing. 


1/2 cup almond meal
1 cup unbleached AP flour
6 tablespoons corn meal
1/3 cup raw cane sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9X9 inch, or 9 inch round, pan and set aside.  In a large bowl whisk together all the dry ingredients.  Cut in the cold butter until the mixture is crumbly.  

In a small bowl combine yolk, zest and extracts.  Add the yolk mixture to the large bowl and stir just to combine.  Transfer mixture into prepared pan and lightly pat it into an even layer.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the torte is golden.  Let cool on a wire rack.  Once cool either remove from pan with a spatula and break into pieces, or cut into squares.  Makes 8 to 16 servings.

(For something fancier, make a double batch and layer with a filling of raspberry jam or Nutella.)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Roasted Broccoli and Sweet Potatoes

I may not be original, but I will be the last to spot a trend.  If the internet isn't broken yet with the flood of posts about roasted broccoli, then it might be after this one.  How, in heaven's name, have I never tried roasting broccoli?  I mean, I love broccoli, I always buy organic broccoli on market outings.  It's so good for you, right?  Unfortunately, it can't do much for your health just sitting in your crisper, and steamed broccoli or even sauteed broccoli, kinda gets tired after so many tastings, super healthy or not.

That's why this roasted broccoli is so brilliant!  Roasting brings out a smokey-sweetness that you never knew broccoli could bring to the table.  Combined with sweet potatoes, chic peas and golden raisins, and tossed with a zesty gremolata, it's a side dish or vegan main dish that'll leave your crisper empty and your belly full!  

The key to success with this recipe is getting the veggies to roast at the same time.  This might take some practice, but it's worth it.  I cut the potatoes into inch squares and mistakenly cut the broccoli a bit larger thinking they would take longer to roast.  That was not the case and I ended up cutting them in half and roasting them for a bit longer by themselves.  The bottom line is, keep an eye on the oven and test for done-ness half way through roasting, adjusting your time accordingly.

roasted broccoli and sweet potatoes

1 head of broccoli florets, cut into roughly one inch squares
2 sweet potatoes, cut into one inch squares
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon course salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup golden raisins, plumped in boiling water and drained
1 cup canned chic peas, rinsed and drained


2 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh herbs, finely chopped (I used sage, thyme and parsley)
zest of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss cut veggies in olive oil, course salt and pepper.  Arrange on baking sheet in one layer.  Bake until tender, about 15-25 minutes.  (You can also toss the broccoli and sweet potatoes separately and roast on separate pans, or on either side of the same pan, if your not confident they will be done at the same time.)

In the mean time, prepare gremolata by combining all ingredients in a small bowl and whisking together; set aside.  

Once veggies have finished roasting, combine in a large bowl with raisins and  chic peas.  Add gremolata and toss to evenly coat veggie mixture.  Makes 4 servings.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Sourdough Croissants

This month's Sourdough Surprise is croissant and if you've never made them before it may seem like a real culinary adventure with a delicious, buttery, flaky treat at the end, of which you will happily eat too many.  If you have made them before, and I have, then you know they are a journey fought with countless pit falls that may lead to a delicious, buttery, flaky treat or, just as likely, any number of lesser items (burnt, flat and misshapen), of which you will also (sadly) eat too many.

Ya see, making croissant is a very technical process and I'm kinda more of an instinctual baker.  So, I can tell you, I had my reservations.  Croissant are a big investment in time, ingredients and ego (not to mention a heck of an upper body workout) and I certainly didn't want to squander any of them.  But I made up my mind to do the deed and see it through, one step at a time (and there are many), to the end.

I said I made croissant before, although to be honest it was a long time ago.  So the first step in the process was to read the recipe.  This is most likely the gold standard recipe for sourdough croissants.  It is obsessively analytical but the results are truly amazing!  Precision is not my strong suit so I chose this recipe and, fingers crossed, tweaked it to incorporate a sourdough starter which had been fortified for a couple of feedings with bread flour earlier in the week.  Then I just had to find my metal ruler and get started...

I was quite pleased with the results.  All through the 3 day process I was cheered by the aroma of the dough, which just smelled like the best bakery in the world!  The dough itself was easier to handle than I remembered.  This got me worried at first but I was under the spell of it's delightful fragrance and really enjoyed the act of rolling, turning, resting and repeating.

The third day was show time.  The croissant rolled out beautifully and after carefully measuring and cutting they were ready to shape.  I filled some with almond filling and some with dark chocolate.  I let them proof for 3 hours and kept a watchful eye on the temperature the entire time.  And while I was waiting I fried up some croissant scraps, because CRONUTS!!

In the end I was pleased with the results, pleased enough to eat one plain and one almond filled before the oven even had a chance to cool down.  They were delicious and well worth the weekend it took to make them.  A big hug and kiss to Sourdough Surprises for this delicious, buttery, flaky, sourdough adventure!

sourdough croissant (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Note: I've included the barest minimum instructions.  For more details, please check the links provided or take a course at the Cordon Bleu.

2 cups bread flour
1 & 1/2 cups unbleached AP flour
1/2 cup & 2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup & 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons soft butter
1 tablespoon & 1 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup starter (fed with bread flour)
10 ounces of good quality butter

for optional almond filling combine:
1/2 cup almond flour
1/4 cup raw cane sugar
1 tablespoon egg white

for optional chocolate filling:
3- 4 ounces good quality dark chocolate
cocoa for sprinkling on finished croissants

In a stand mixer combine all ingredients except the 10 ounces of butter.  Mix on low with a dough hook, scraping the bowl as necessary until dough forms.  Put the speed up to medium and beat for two or three minutes.  Wrap dough in plastic and chill overnight. 

Next day, cut the cold butter and arrange the pieces on a piece of parchment or waxed paper to form a 5- to 6-inch square, slicing the butter through the middle as necessary to fit. Top with another piece of parchment or waxed paper. With a rolling pin, work the butter so they join together.  Roll the butter until it’s about 7-1/2 inches square and then trim the edges. Put the trimmings on top of the square and pound them in lightly with the rolling pin. Wrap and refrigerate while you roll out the dough.

Roll chilled dough on a lightly floured surface into a 10 &1/2 inch square.  Brush off excess flour.  Unwrap butter and place it on the dough so the points are centered along the sides of the dough.  Fold one corner of the dough over the butter, stretching it a bit so the point reaches the center of the butter.  Repeat with the other 3 corners.  Press all the corners together to completely seal in the butter.

Dust top and bottom of dough with flour. Use your rolling pin to press the dough and elongate it slightly and then begin rolling.  Try to concentrate on lengthening the dough instead of making it wider, and try to keep the edges straight.

Roll dough until it’s 8 by 24 inches. If the ends lose their square shape, gently nudge the corners with your hands.  Brush flour off dough. Pick up one short end of the dough and fold it over the dough, leaving one-third of the other end exposed. Fold the exposed dough over the folded side. Wrap with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (or longer is your busy)  to relax and chill the dough. 

Repeat the same rolling and folding two more times. Always start by rolling in the direction of the open ends of the dough, and  chilling and relaxing the dough in between, just as above.  After the third roll wrap the dough well and chill overnight.

Next day roll dough on lightly floured surface to about 10 inches.  Cut in half; wrap one half and chill.  Continue rolling the remaining dough until it is 9 by 20 inches, trimming as necessary.  Mark the dough every 5 inches and cut with a pastry wheel.  Cut each section on a diagonal so you end up with 10 triangular pieces.

Carefully pick up a triangle of dough, slightly elongate it without squeezing the dough.  Lay the dough down and, starting at the long end, gently roll the dough away from you.  Repeat with the rest of the dough.

For filled croissants, make a notch in the long of the dough and fill just below the notch with desired flavor.  Roll as above and curve ends in towards the middle.

Put formed croissants on parchment lined baking trays.  Brush with egg wash (refrigerate unused portion for later).  Proof for 2 to 3 hours in a draft-free place at about 75 to 80 degrees.  They won't double in size but the layers will start to become evident and they'll be a bit jiggly.

When croissants are almost proofed, preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Brush with the remaining egg wash.  For almond croissants also top with sliced almonds.  Bake for 10 minutes then spin trays and bake another 8 to 10 minutes until croissants are deep golden.  Makes about 16 croissants.