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Archive for the ‘baking’ Category

Olive oil citrus cake

Several years ago I found a recipe for an Italian olive oil cake that became a regular dessert in our house.  It was a simple recipe that started with eggs, sugar, flour, orange juice and olive oil and ended as a dense, moist flavorful cake.  I used to serve it topped with whatever berries were in season.

Right now, at last, the strawberries are in season here (after a very long cool, wet spring) and I wanted to make another cake that would highlight the incredible taste of these little juicy berries.  So I searched for, and found, another olive oil cake recipe.

This one, from the same Rustic Fruit Desserts cookbook I wrote about here, is much lighter than the cake I used to make, but at least as good.  Instead of using orange juice, this recipe calls for the zest of a lemon, an orange and a grapefruit, and the only juice you add is in the glaze.

The cake is light and fresh tasting, and a perfect match for fresh berries, slightly macerated with lemon juice and a sprinkling of sugar.

Olive Oil Citrus Cake
(from Rustic Fruit Desserts)

Cake
1 ¼ cup unsifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon plus ¾ cup granulated sugar
zest of:  1 grapefruit, 1 orange and 1 lemon
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Using a paper towel, coat a 9-inch by 2-inch round baking pan with olive oil, then sprinkle it with about 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together TWICE.

Using a handheld mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs, sugar and zests on high speed for about 5 minutes, until the eggs are thickened and lighter in color.

Add the vanilla.  Turn the mixer down to medium-low speed and drizzle the olive oil into the batter, pouring slowly along the edge of the bowl.

Add the flour and mix on low speed until just incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake is golden and slightly domed in the center.  Cool to room temperature.

Glaze
¾ cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons fresh citrus juice (I used orange, the original recipe called for grapefruit)

Sift the confectioner’s sugar into a small bowl.  Add the juice and whisk to combine.  Pour over the cooled cake.

This cake will keep, well-wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for 2-3 days.

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It was the middle of the winter when I got a copy of Rustic Fruit Desserts, the new(ish) baking book by local chef/bakers Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson.  I pass Julie’s wonderful bakery (Baker and Spice) on my way to and from work every day and Wildwood, the Portland restaurant Cory Schreiber founded, is one of the first places we tried when we moved here.  I knew that whatever these two collaborated on would have to be good.

The recipes in the book are arranged by season, so there’s no good reason I haven’t used the book before now, but lately, with summer fruits starting to appear, I am discovering that this book will be one of the ones I use often.

Where did I start?  Well, oddly, it was the apricots that got me going.

For some reason I haven’t ever been a big fan of fresh apricots.  After this spring, though, that is changing.  The produce manager at New Seasons encouraged us to buy some the other week, and I have been keeping a bowlful in the kitchen ever since.  I’ve been eating them right from the bowl, but also experimenting with them in baked desserts. And that’s when I found myself turning to Rustic Fruit Desserts.

The recipe I chose is called stone fruit upside-down cornmeal cake.  And it’s a good one.  The cake is just sweet enough, and even a little crunchy with bits of cornmeal.  The topping — well it’s really just apricots, butter and brown sugar — and that’s just about perfect.

The recipe is very simple — melt butter and brown sugar in a cast-iron skillet, arrange the fruit (cut sides down) in the skillet and top it with the cornmeal batter.  Bake, and then turn the finished cake out onto a plate. It’s easy, delicious, and beautiful.  What more could you ask?

Here’s the recipe.

Stone fruit upside-down cornmeal cake

(adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson)

Fruit Topping
5 apricots
¼ cup unsalted butter
½ cup packed brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Score the skin of the apricots with a few strokes of a knife, then slice them in half and remove the pits.

Melt the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves and blends with the butter to form a caramel.  Remove from the heat and arrange to fruit cut side down on top of the caramel.

Cake
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¾ cups fine cornmeal
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup buttermilk

Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a bowl.

Using stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium high speed for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition, then stir in the vanilla.

Stir in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk in two additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and scraping down the bowl as needed.

Pour the batter over the fruit in the skillet and gently spread it evenly.  Bake in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes, or until the center of the cake springs back lightly when touched.

Allow the cake to cool for 20 minutes before flipping it over onto a plate.

This cake is best the day it is made but will keep for a few days covered with plastic wrap.

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The minute I saw this post on David Lebovitz’s wonderful blog, I knew I had to make Chocolate Bread.  I mean, how could I resist?  Chocolate bread?  What a great idea.  Not a new one, even to me, but this recipe was both relatively straight-forward and annotated with lots of notes about each ingredient choice.  I was hooked.

Of course, I had some questions to answer first.  DL recommends using a Dutch process cocoa powder and I wanted to use my current favorite,  Green and Black’s Organic Cocoa.  Was it “Dutched” (aka alkalized)?”  Yes.

DL also calls for bread flour (though he says all-purpose will do in a pinch) so I replenished my supply of King Arthur bread flour (it turned out I had some sitting around, but since I wasn’t sure how old it was, getting fresh flour was a good idea).

DL’s recipe cites toasted nuts as an optional ingredient.  Being a resident of Portland, where I can get freshly roasted hazelnuts at the Farmer’s Market most of the year, I chose to add those incredibly tasty nuts to this batch.

Finally I bought and chopped some Scharffen Berger 70% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate.

Ingredients assembled, I waded in.  The dough came together easily in my mixer, looking (as DL mentions) almost like brownie batter when fully mixed — very soft and not at all like most bread dough.

After a couple of rises (2 hours in the bowl, just over an hour in a loaf pan) I slid the bread into the oven.

And, oh! the smell.  Better than bread alone, better even than brownies baking, my whole kitchen was filled with the warm scent of chocolate and the yeasty smell of bread — a combination almost impossible to describe.  The scent alone makes baking this bread worth it.

Of course it tastes pretty darn good, too!

So far, we’ve eaten it plain (yes, I admit, warm from the oven), smeared with this incredible cultured butter from the Monteillet Fromagerie,

and most, recently, toasted and topped with vanilla ice cream and fresh strawberries.

My conclusion?  This bread was definitely worth the effort. I recommend you give it a try, too.

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Banana Bread, revisited

Does anyone else out there have a notebook filled with handwritten recipes collected from old friends and family?  Stuffed with loose recipes cut from newspapers, or scrawled on cards?  Well, I do. And it was to that book that I turned the other day when I found that the bananas I had planned to eat for lunch last week were really past their eating prime.

After a little searching I found the notebook and the banana bread recipe I remembered.

I hadn’t used this recipe in a few years and I decided it was time to make a few changes — I wanted to make it healthier overall as well as lactose free for my brother who would be in town to try it.

A few quick substitutions (olive oil for the melted butter, all whole wheat flour instead of a combination of all-purpose and whole wheat, ginger instead of cinnamon, and brown sugar instead of white) and I was ready to go.

The batter mixed up nicely and fit perfectly into the lovely ceramic loaf pan my sister made for me.  After an hour in the oven the bread was ready to eat!

And it was delicious (if you believe my almost-13-year-old niece, who told me it was the best she had ever had).

Here’s the new, healthier recipe.  Give it a try and tell me what you think.

Banana Bread
(makes 1 medium sized loaf)

3-4 very ripe bananas
¾ cup brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1½ cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup toasted sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mash bananas.  Add all other ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon.  Pour batter into an oiled and lightly floured loaf pan.  Bake 1 hour.

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As you may remember, I spent last week in St. Louis visiting the midwestern branch of my family.  It was the kids’ spring break and all of their friends had high-tailed it for Florida or other points south, so I was hoping to be able to provide some in-house entertainment.

The first part of the week passed swimmingly, but inevitably, there came an afternoon when vacation had obviously gone on long enough and I found myself in the living room trying to pry the children from the doldrums.  After my first ideas were rejected, my niece A suggested we “make something.”

My sister-in-law is a wonderful cook with a huge cookbook collection, so a short while later we were searching through baking books and websites seeking cupcake recipes.  In the end, I turned to my old standby, Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours, and her Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes.

The flavor of these cupcakes is a very grown up deep and rich bittersweet chocolate.  Luckily my niece and nephew are young chocolate connoisseurs.  To make them a bit more kid-friendly I sprinkled theirs with pink-coated mini-chocolate chips.  The few I reserved for adults I topped with my favorite chocolate flavor-enhancer: fleur de sel.

The recipe isn’t complicated, and like all of those in this collection, if you follow it carefully you’ll get perfect results.  I love a well-tested recipe!

Chocolate-chocolate cupcakes
(from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours)

For the cupcakes
1 cup all purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

For the glaze
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

Center the rack in the over and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  fill each cup in a 12-cup, regular-size muffin tin with paper muffin cups.

Make the cupcakes
Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until it is soft and creamy.

Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes, until it is blended into the butter.

Add the egg, then the yolk, beating for about 1 minute after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Beat in the vanilla, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add half the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear.

Scrape down the bowl and add the buttermilk, mixing until incorporated, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients.

Scrape down the bowl, add the melted chocolate and mix it in with the rubber spatula.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for 22 to 26 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes are dry and springy to the touch and a knife inserted into their centers comes out clean. Transfer the muffin pan to a rack and let the cakes cool for 5 minutes before unmolding them.  Cool to room temperature on the rack before glazing.

Make the Glaze
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.  Transfer the bowl to the counter and let stand for 5 minutes.

Using a small whisk or rubber spatula, stir the confectioners sugar into the chocolate, followed by the pieces of butter.  If the glaze is too thin, stir it over ice water for a few seconds – less than a minute.

Dip the cooled cupcakes into the glaze, giving them a little twirl as you pull them out for nice squiggle of glaze in the center.

Top with sprinkles, or, if you are feeling very grown up, fleur de sel.

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Sweet life

I’ve just finished reading a lovely book — The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz, baker and blogger extraordinaire.  I got the book as a gift at Christmas and I am really wondering why I waited so long to read it.  I’m also a bit sad that I have finished it; I’ll miss DL’s funny, slightly ironic, informative voice in my head as I fall asleep every night.

The book tells the story, in a satisfyingly non-linear fashion, of Lebovitz’s adjustment to living in Paris after over twenty years in San Francisco.  Each chapter describes a different adventure (if you can call getting the painter to finish painting your apartment, or searching futilely for 110 cm shoe laces adventures) in Paris and ends with a recipe or two.

The recipes are sometimes thematically linked to the chapters they complete but more often are not related, resulting in the somewhat disconcerting juxtaposition of a recipe for Mole au Chocolat (Chocolate Mole) following a chapter on the rather unpleasant French habit of peeing in the street.  Nonetheless, it’s a wonderful book, filled with insight, humor and tempting recipes.

I found a number of recipes I’ll be trying in the next month or so, from flourless chocolate cake to chickpea crepes.  Imagine my delight to also come upon a recipe I had made once and loved (inspired by this other wonderful blog post about the same book) for Breton Buckwheat Cake.  Inspired again, I had to make it today.

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Sometimes I just get an urge to make gingerbread.  I love the simplicity of it, the rich, spicy flavors, the moist cake accompanied by a little bit of vanilla ice cream or softly whipped cream.  Just writing about it makes me hungry.

The other day the urge came over me.  I began my usual cookbook scan and found several recipes that sounded good.  After a few false starts (I didn’t have the exact pan called for in one recipe, I wasn’t sure if I wanted chocolate chunks in my cake) I settled on a recipe I found in Baking with Julia.

Of course, I still had to make some adjustments.  First, because I only had 1 cup of molasses (instead of the two cups called for in the recipe), I decided to substitute 1 cup of maple syrup.  I also decided to add some chopped crystallized ginger for texture and extra ginger flavor.

And then there was the glaze.  Some of the other gingerbread recipes called for glaze, Julia’s recipe didn’t.  I felt like something a little more festive, so I made a simple chocolate glaze inspired by a recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking:  From my Home to Yours.

Gingerbread Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze
(modified from the recipe for Gingerbread Baby Cakes in Baking with Julia)

For the cake
2 cups unbleached flour
¼ cup instant espresso powder
3 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbs ground ginger
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 ½ tbs peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1 cup unsulphured molasses
1 cup maple syrup
¼ cup chopped crystallized ginger

melted butter for greasing the pan

For the glaze
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 tbs butter
3 tbs powdered sugar

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 F.  Thoroughly butter and flour a 10 inch round cake pan.

Make the cake
Whisk together the flour, espresso powder, cocoa powder, ground ginger, baking powder, salt and black pepper in a small bowl and set aside.

Put the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium high speed until the mixture is smooth and creamy (take your time with this, 4 – 5 minutes is about right).  Scrape the sides of the bowl frequently to make sure everything gets mixed well.

Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  It’s OK if the mixture looks curdled, it will smooth out as you continue to mix.

Beat in the fresh ginger and add the molasses and maple syrup, mixing on medium speed until smooth (1-2 minutes).

With a rubber spatula fold in the dry ingredients and the chopped crystallized ginger, mixing only until they are incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 55 minutes until the top is springy and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool on a rack for about ten minutes, then carefully remove the cake from the pan.

Make the glaze
Put the chopped chocolate into a heat proof glass bowl and microwave a to melt.  The best way to do this is to use short bursts of power, stirring in between.  Be careful not to burn the chocolate.

Add the butter to the warm melted chocolate and stir until it melts completely.

Sift the powered sugar over the chocolate mixture and stir to mix.

Glaze the cake
Pour all of the glaze (it should be thick) into the center of the still slightly warm cake and carefully spread it to the edges of the cake.  I don’t frost the sides, but you can if you’d like.


Serve at room temperature with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or on its own.  It’s even better the next day (it will keep, covered, for about three days).

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