Cinnamon Buttermilk Coffeecake

This is a really easy recipe to make -- only two steps.  My main substitution was a mixture of pecans & walnuts for sliced almonds.  I was fresh out of almonds and remembered to make a note on this week's grocery list.  

By the way, I keep pistachios, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and (when I have them) almonds in the freezer; they just last longer and aren't tipping on the brink of rancidity...because who wants that problem?

PS: I enjoyed a piece this afternoon with a free cup of coffee from Berry Chill (Zipcar membership has its privileges!).  Crop to Cup developed this blend, and I suggest trying it.

Cinnamon Buttermilk Coffeecake

adapted from The Wednesday Chef
serves 4 - 6 (I cut this recipe in half)

9 ounces AP flour (or 1 1/8 cups)
4 ounces packed brown sugar (I used light brown)
3 ounces granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (used Saigon)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
3 ounces corn oil (used vegetable oil)
2 ounces chopped pecans
2 ounces chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg ( I don't know if halving an egg really works and I don't purchase liquid egg "stuff")
4 ounces buttermilk

1. Mix flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, salt and ginger. Blend in oil until smooth. Remove 3/4 cup mixture and combine with almonds and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Mix and set aside.

2. To remaining flour mixture, add baking powder, baking soda, egg and buttermilk. Blend until smooth. Pour into buttered x-inch baking pan. Sprinkle reserved nut mixture evenly over surface of batter. Bake at 350 degrees 35 to 40 minutes. Place pan on wire rack to cool. Cut into squares to serve.

Two Berry Muffins

Last summer I stocked my freezer with the season's blueberries, cherries, rhubarb, and raspberries to use during the winter.  Frozen fruit is perfect for baked goods especially these muffins.  

But, the recipe is not without critique.  There are some pros and cons....  

Pros: I only had a handful of blueberries left so I decided to toss in some raspberries.  The fruit combo created a nice blend of flavors, textures, and colors.  The use of buttermilk allowed me to use up some leftovers from the fridge -- recipes either call for a couple tablespoons of buttermilk (thus requiring customers to buy a quart and are left wondering what to do with the rest) or in mass quantity.  I was happy that these muffins provided a way to use up what I had left-over.  

Cons: the yield & the baking time ... I got 18 muffins when the recipe states 12.  I am pretty certain that I used smaller muffin trays than the cookbook's testers.  And, it took almost 30 minutes to bake said 18 muffins.  Note that my oven is much older and therefore more unreliable that most ovens these days.  I kicked up the heat to 350 degrees for the second batch of muffins and the result produced a more golden top.

Adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery

stated yield: 12; my yield: 18

1 3/4 all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 3/4 evaporated cane juice (sugar)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder (or use extract)
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup blueberries, frozen
1 cup raspberries, frozen

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees

Put the flours, cane juice, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl of a freestanding mixer or a use a handheld mixer and beat on low speed.

Put the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla into a bowl (or use the measuring cup used for the buttermilk) and mix to combine.  Slowly pour the liquid into the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.

Pour in the melted butter and beat until the butter is incorporated, then turn up the mixer to medium speed and beat until dough is smooth.

Carefully fold in the frozen fruit.

Spoon the batter into paper muffin cups until 2/3 full and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes (mine took closer to 30 minutes -- all ovens are different).  Cool the muffins slightly in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack.

Keep muffins at room temperature or freeze for future use. 

Great press for a Chicago girl & her flavorful doughnuts

Filed at 8:54 p.m. ET

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Pomegranate thyme and bing cherry balsamic may sound like salad dressings, and lemon chamomile creme custard may evoke thoughts of fancy teas, but they actually are cutting edge flavors in the latest fad to hit the U.S. baking scene: doughnuts.

So much for glazed and jelly.

Fresh off the nation's fascination with cupcakes, bakers across the country are experimenting with gourmet flavor combinations and unorthodox ingredients in doughnuts, everything from meats to Cocoa Puffs breakfast cereal.

At Glazed Donuts Chicago, for example, mint leaves spring from the holes of iced mint mojito doughnuts. Baker Kirsten Anderson also adds grape jelly to the dough of her peanut butter and jelly doughnuts.

''You're taking a relatively inexpensive item and you're turning it into a luxury item,'' says Anderson, whose seasonal offerings also have included butternut squash and white chocolate blueberry doughnuts.

''So maybe people can't afford the best house or the best car, but they can go out and buy a piece of indulgence at a price they can afford.''

Paul Mullins, author of ''Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut,'' calls them ''designer doughnuts'' and says the trend defies the stereotype of doughnut shops as smoke-filled havens for laborers lingering over burnt coffee and bad doughnuts...

Additionally, fancy doughnuts are increasingly common. Designer doughnut shops, bakeries and related businesses have proved popular with young urbanites on both U.S. coasts, as well as large inland cities such as Chicago, Mullins says.

''The chefs, they're really skilled, they are really creative,'' he says. ''These designer doughnuts by regular Krispy Kreme-standards are pricey, but by haute cuisine standards, $5 or $6, that's not that much.''

The doughnut-makers are playing with consumers' notions of creativity and curiosity, Mullins says. ''What in the world does a chamomile doughnut taste like? I don't know if I'd want it on an every-week basis, but I'd give it a shot.''

Michelle Vazquez, owner of Mandarin Gourmet Donut Shoppe in Miami, Florida (home to the chamomile creation, as well as a guava and cheese variety), says her doughnuts are attractive to health conscious customers who want something ''a little bit higher-class than a regular doughnut.''

She uses organic ingredients, trans fat-free oil, seasonal fresh fruits, Ghirardelli chocolates and cheeses such as savory French fromage blanc and creamy Italian mascarpone.

Mark Isreal, owner of Doughnut Plant in New York City, sees doughnuts as palettes for creativity and experimentation. He created a square doughnut filled with homemade jelly. Other recent flavors have included peanut butter, roasted chestnuts, cranberries and coconut.

''The bakery is my artist's studio in a way, where I create,'' Isreal says. ''You're going to have a flavor and a texture that is totally new for a doughnut, and that's exciting.''

Designer doughnuts are not as popular as cupcakes, which spawned a craze of cafes and bakeries, but the groundwork is there, says Sarah Levy, a pastry chef who owns two dessert shops in Chicago and is author of ''Sweetness: Delicious Baked Treats for Every Occasion.''

''It's an item where you can put a unique twist to it to kind of freshen it and make it exciting again,'' she says. ''It's kind of a cool blank slate that you can doctor up and make them festive with different ingredients.''

At Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, Oregon, owner Kenneth ''Cat Daddy'' Pogson says the bakery puts a signature stamp on doughnuts by using sugar cereals such as Fruit Loops and bacon strips as ingredients. The shop's bacon maple bar doughnut came to be after a discussion about mixing savory and sweet flavors.

''I walked in with some bacon one day and boom, there it was,'' Pogson says. ''Two strips of bacon.''

Back in Chicago, Anderson makes doughnuts for customers like Ellen Pecciotto of Chicago, who bought butternut squash and frosted apple cider doughnuts.

''I love the different flavors,'' Pecciotto said after making her purchase at a recent local farmer's market. ''Nobody does that.''

Anderson says she will continue to experiment with her doughnut flavors.

''There's a lot of room for growth,'' she said. ''I think things are just beginning.''

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On the Net:

Glazed Donuts Chicago: http://www.glazedchicago.com

Doughnut Plant: http://www.doughnutplant.com

Voodoo Doughnut: http://www.voodoodoughnut.com

Mandarin Gourmet Donut Shoppe: http://www.mandaringourmetdonutshoppe.com/

Kitchens of the Future: Tech and Trends at CES

Here is a look at some high-tech kitchen products from the Consumer Electronics Show:

via The Kitchn by Emily Ho on 1/11/10

Wireless appliances, a splash-resistant recipe reader, and an interactive oven were among the intriguing new home kitchen products we spotted at CES – the International Consumer Electronics Show – last week. Read on to find out which products are available now, and for a sneak peek at the technologies we'll be seeing in the new decade.

Read Full Post

New Years Weekend Happy Hour

What I made for my New Years weekend get together:

Lemon Buttermilk Cake by The Hummingbird Bakery & Fig Cookies by Donna M

Artichoke & Green Olive Crostini from Smitten Kitchen

Three Bean & Spinach Salad: French lentils, fresh green beans, black beans, red bell pepper, red onion, spinach, parsley

Spicy Tomato & Blue Cheese Soup by Michael Symon

Bacon Wrapped Potatoes with Spicy Greek Yogurt

sparkling wine from Drinks Over Dearborn: Pierre Delize Blanc de Blancs

Detox/Cold Weather Tea

Need to perk up after celebrating the holidays?  Looking for a healthy, hot drink to fight off the winter blues?  Try this ginger lemon tea.  

I made some slight modifications due to my pantry's supplies, but I think it turned out well.  I made the full batch (32 ounces) but only drank about eight ounces; the remaining tea is parked in the fridge for future drinking.

Full recipe and health benefits can be found here: http://chicagoist.com/2010/01/04/ginger_lemon_detox_tea.php 

Ginger Lemon Detox Tea:

4 cups water

¼ cup peeled, grated fresh ginger root (I used crystallized ginger and a pinch of powdered ginger)

Pinch of cayenne pepper and pinch of red pepper flakes

juice of one lemon

sweetener to taste (I used agave nectar)

Steps:

In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. 

Toss in the grated ginger and cayenne pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. 

Remove from heat and add the lemon juice. Strain the tea into a pitcher or other container. 

Sweeten to taste and enjoy.

Macaroni al Forno: David Tanis

 

You know that lady on the Food Network that became famous for her meals in under 30 minutes ....  well, I am sure that this recipe would qualify provided that you multi-task and have all ingredients ready to go.  

After pouring over this book (A Platter of Figs) for almost a year, I wanted to cook something from the book that consisted of (almost) everything in my fridge and pantry.  This recipe was up to the challenge with a couple of substitutions: spinach for rapini (broccoli rabe), small macaroni for the orecchiette (translation: little ears), and half & half for the ricotta (a very very weak substitution -- I want to make this dish again with the real deal).  

adapted from A Platter of Figs (David Tanis)

Orecchiette al Forno
serves one or two

3/4 cups small macaroni (or any other small dry pasta; tip: if you have leftover pasta from a previous meal, use it!)
Olive oil
1 small bunch of spinach, clean & stems removed
4 ounces sausage (I used a sage breakfast sausage that I had in the freezer; could be omitted for a vegetarian meal -- add in another vegetable for more flavor)
2 small garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp each finely chopped rosemary and thyme
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt
Splash of 1/2 and 1/2 or heavy cream (original recipe calls for fresh ricotta cheese, but I didn't have any)
Butter or vegetable spray
Grated pecorino

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cook the pasta until extremely al dente (pasta will continue cooking in the oven).  Remove from the water and spread on a cookie sheet to cool; lightly drizzle with olive oil to keep pasta from sticking together.

In a medium skillet, lightly brown the sausage and then remove from the pan.

Pour off any fat from the skillet and add one tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat over medium heat.  Warm the garlic in the oil, but don't let it brown.  Add the spinach, rosemary, thyme, and red pepper flakes.  Lightly salt the spinach, stir around the pan, and then remove from the heat.  The spinach should be slightly wilted.

To assemble the dish, place the cooked pasta, sausage, and greens in a bowl and toss.  Add the 1/2 & 1/2 or heavy cream and toss again.

Butter or spray a small square baking dish (mine was glass) and put the mixture in the dish.  Sprinkle with pecorino cheese.  

Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes; remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes.  Serve with more pecorino.

What to eat for good luck in 2010!

via Chicagoist by Megan Tempest on 12/31/09

   

At some point in your life you’ve probably had to tolerate pork and sauerkraut, or another similarly perplexing “good luck” meal, on the first of January. Read on for a little insight in to the wisdom behind several New Year’s culinary traditions.

Grapes - Natives of Spain are known to consume twelve grapes at midnight, each representative of the months of the year. In theory, in your third grape is sweet, you may anticipate good things in the month of March. This tradition reportedly originated in the early 1900's as a way for grape growers to make use of their surplus.
Pork - Perhaps the most universal “good luck” charm of the New Year, the fat-rich pig is symbolic of wealth, progress and prosperity. Around the world, including Portugal, Ireland, and Cuba, roast suckling pig is the standard New Year's dish.

Greens - Given their resemblance to money, folded green veggies, such as collards, cabbage, or kale are thought to bring wealth and fortune.
Fish - Believed to bring good luck in many regions, the tradition of eating fish on the New Year (especially those with silvery scales) dates back to the Middle Ages. According to German tradition, putting fish scales in one’s wallet will bring financial wealth.

Ring-shaped foods - The likes of doughnuts and bagels are believed to represent the cyclical nature of life, and of the year coming full circle. Italy, Poland, and the Netherlands enjoy doughnut-type pastries at the New Year. In Mexico, locals indulge in a ring-shaped cake adorned with candied fruit known as the rosca de reyes.

Legumes - Beans, peas and lentils, with their small, rounded appearance, resemble coins and are thought to bring financial prosperity. Brazilians typically feast on lentil soup for the New Year. Germans favor split pea soup with pork sausage. In the U.S., especially in the south, black-eyed peas are the lucky New Year’s food, a tradition that traces back to the Civil War when food was scarce and many survived on this hearty legume.

Noodles - With their long shape, the Japanese greet the New Year with buckwheat noodles to ensure a similarly long life.

Happy New Year!

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2009: a year in review

Memorable Meals (in random order):

The Bristol, Chicago IL
Au Pied de Cochon, Montreal Quebec
Hungry Mother, Cambridge MA
Purple Sage, Park City UT
Thursday night only dinner at Terzo Piano, Chicago IL
Brunch at Hot Chocolate, Chicago IL

Favorites Things:

Ricotta & Fig Spread from Sportello, Boston, MA
Sea Salt & Caramel Cupcake from More, Chicago, IL
Alpha King and Gumball Head, Three Floyds Brewery
2006 Whispering Angel Rose, Chateau d'Esclans, France
Little Bloom on the Prairie (cheese): Prairie Fruits Farms 

Cheers to more good eats, drinks, and moments in 2010!