Monday, December 28, 2009

delicious christmas

Pretty loaves all in a row.

It should come as no surprise to any who know me that majority of the presents I both give and receive at the holidays are food-based. I also have a thing for homemade presents, whether edible or just delicious-looking. This year, Christmas for my family was a little homemade box of breakfast treats, perhaps a bit less ambitious than my original plan, but satisfying to give nonetheless.

A festive box, tied up in green ribbon, with two tasty loaves and two tiny jars. The loaves - lemon poppyseed and cranberry walnut; the jars - honey butter and vanilla cream cheese. Unfortunately, since my stove was only turned on two days before Christmas, (Merry Christmas to me!) my plan for some homemade orange marmalade didn't come through. Well, there's always next year.

And of course, for the receiving. Not just one, but two people gave me knives this year. A really cool Kyocera ceramic paring knife from Brother #2. I've always wanted a ceramic knife. And these beauties from my honey J-Cat; knives more lovely than I ever thought I'd own. A 3-piece set of Shun Classic knives. So pretty that I hardly dare to use them, except that I want to use them on anything and everything. Dicing onions is a dream.

And of course, as always the very best thing under the tree has her own set of knives built in, and can do plenty of slicing and dicing if provoked.

Happy Holidays to all, and to all two recipes for bread after the jump!

Adapted from

3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
13 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Lemon Syrup:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup granulated white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour (or spray with a non stick vegetable/flour spray) the bottom and sides of 4 1/4-lb mini loaf pans. If the pans are not disposisble, line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper and butter and flour the paper. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and milk. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and poppy seeds until combined. Add the softened butter and half the egg mixture and mix on low speed until moistened. Increase the speed to medium and beat for about one minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining egg mixture in two batches, beating about 30 seconds after each addition.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. You may have to cover the bread with buttered foil after about 30 minutes if you find the bread over browning.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the sugar and lemon juice to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

When the bread is done, remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Pierce the hot loaves all over with a wooden skewer or toothpick and then brush the top of the loaves with the hot lemon syrup. Store at least overnight before serving to allow the lemon syrup to distribute throughout the loaf.

Makes 4 mini loaves.

From, November 29, 2009

Non-stick cooking spray
4 cups cranberries
2/3 cup fresh orange juice (about 2 large oranges)
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
2 eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose white flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon sugar

Instructions: Preheat oven to 375°. Coat 6 mini or 2 regular size loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray.

Coarsely chop 1 1/2 cups of the cranberries by hand or in a food processor; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the orange juice, buttermilk and eggs. Whisk in the melted butter.

In a separate large bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Stir with a fork until thoroughly mixed.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently fold together with a rubber spatula until just combined; do not over mix. Gently add the whole and chopped cranberries and walnuts. Mix just enough to distribute them throughout the batter.

Divide the batter evenly between the loaf pans. Prepare the topping by mixing the cinnamon, cardamom and sugar in a bowl; sprinkle over the top of the loaves.

Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean - 30 to 35 minutes for mini loaves, about 45 to 50 minutes for standard loaves. Let cool on a wire rack.

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Monday, December 21, 2009


J-Cat and I have bought into a pork CSA that we are splitting with Bosslady from an upstate pig farm called The Piggery. We bought a quarter hog share and get tasty piggy delights every week for 3 months. It's kind of like Christmas every Thursday evening when I rip open the box and find out what we'll be stuffing that night. Sausages, bacon, ham, spare ribs, pork chops, and my personal favorites - terrine, rillettes and pates. I am rather lucky that Bosslady is not into the potted meat family, I get all of that good stuff. Jars of cornichons are now a constant in my fridge.

Splitting the share has also brought about some interesting behavior. Last week I found myself planning a pork handoff on a subway platform to Mr. Bosslady when Bosslady wasn't going to be in the office. I handed him a bag with about 3 pounds of pork products and he got right back on the train. The swine has landed, handoff successful.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

holiday spice

Oh hai. I'm back. I still have no stove, but I do have an oven. So when Bosslady decided that we should have 12 days of cookies in the office I was happy to say that I could actually participate despite my partially crippled kitchen.

I decided to use my colleagues - who really, will eat pretty much anything as long as it's free - as guinea pigs for a little cookie experimenting. I've been wanting to play around with some fun flavors and spices for the holidays and here was my opportunity. The best base to play around with is, in my opinion, the simple shortbread cookie. Perhaps that is because it is my favorite kind of cookie. 90% butter.

One flavor combination that has been floating around in my head is inspired by the Indian ice cream Kulfi. Pistachio, cardamom, and a touch of rose. Now, both cardamom and rose are rather strong flavors that are perhaps less familiar to the average American palate. So I was a little conservative with my amounts, and found myself wanting much deeper flavor. Next time, I think I can even double the amounts of both and still not go overboard, but of course it's a matter of taste.

But nevertheless, I started to worry that my strange cookie experiments would disappoint my colleagues, who just want some holiday cookies. So I made a second batch of shortbread, this time with a somewhat more straightforward flavor - Earl Grey Tea. This is a recipe from my good friend Claire, and when she made this in season 1 of her show, I took home as many as possible. Addictive. The touch of citrus, the smokiness of tea, it is a perfect balance of flavors.

Shortbread is such an easy cookie to play around with, you'll see with these recipes how easy it is to swap out flavors and try something new. Plus, making these in the slice and bake style means you can actually whip up the dough days ahead of time and keep the logs in the freezer until you're ready to bake. And with a food processor the dough itself is the work of minutes. Now there are no excuses, you can't resort to buying pre-made cookie dough any more. Recipes after the jump:


1/2 cup shelled pistachios
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom (if using pre-ground you may want to increase this amount to a heaping teaspoon)
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons rosewater
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

In a food processor, process the pistachios into small pieces. You don't want to process too long if you like some bits of pistachio in the finished product. Add the flour, salt, and cardamom and pulse until well combined. Add the sugar, rosewater, and butter and pulse just until the dough comes together. Turn dough out on to a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap well and store in the fridge for an hour until firm. You can also store in the freezer for a few days.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Place on a parchment lined sheet pan about 2 inches apart. Bake for 12-14 minutes until just starting to brown around the edges. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Recipe 5 Ingredient Fix with Claire Robinson

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, tea, and salt, until the tea is just spotted throughout the flour. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and butter. Pulse together just until a dough is formed. Place dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, and roll into a log, about 2 1/2-inches in diameter. Tightly twist each end of wrap, and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice the log into 1/4-inch thick disks. Place on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets, 2 inches apart (2 probably needed depending on size of sheets). Bake until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool to room temperature.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

battle no stove

No, seriously. I still have no stove. One month and counting. But no, this doesn't mean I'm not cooking. Granted, I'm not really cooking anything new and exciting. I think in this time of endless apartment frustration, I'm turning to some of my old favorites and amping up the comfort factor. Here are some of my favorite recipes that require no stove - turn on the oven, break out the slow cooker, you might even dust off the microwave.

Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup

Slow Cooker Chicken Adobo
Oven-Baked BBQ Brisket
Remy's Ratatouille
No-Fry Eggplant Parmesan

And then, of course, there's all those desserts...

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