Posts Tagged With: baking

Pennsylvanian Recipes: Shoofly Pie

The sun setting on the Susquehanna river: another cornerstone of central PA life

The sun setting on the Susquehanna river: another cornerstone of central PA life

After an uncomfortably long hiatus from baking, researching, and digging into the history of the foods we enjoy every day, I’m overjoyed to be back and able to share another recipe with close cultural ties to the Pennsylvanian people. Since I’ve just moved to a small hamlet that holds many of my earliest, happiest memories, I thought I’d pay tribute to one of the favorite foods of the people who first founded this little river community: the enigmatically named shoofly pie. If you’re not familiar with this particular dessert, you’re not alone. From what I’ve been told, few communities outside of PA and parts of the south carry on the tradition of this rich and accessible dessert. At its core, shoofly pie is a dark, cake-like dish made with molasses that holds strong historic ties to the British treacle tart (a catch-all term for any number of sugar-syrup based pastries first popularized in the 17th century thanks to England’s access to roughly processed sugar). This British tradition followed the settlers to Pennsylvania as the earliest residents only had access to the supplies that could survive the arduous trek across the Atlantic Ocean; one such ingredient was the infinitely shelf-stable molasses, which formed the groundwork for great Pennsylvania Dutch recipes in the New World.

But before most visitors to the region even consider asking what shoofly pie contains or why it’s so popular, they usually want to know what’s going on with that name. Unfortunately, food historians can’t quite agree on the true origin of the name “shoofly,” however there are several popular theories to sate the curious cook. One of the simpler theories proffers that “Shoofly,” the name of an 18th century molasses company highly popular during the time of Pennsylvania’s colonization, simply lent its name to the recipe that relied so strongly on its chief export. But, the most popular theory looks back to the cooking methods of the early Pennsylvanian bakers. Cooking at this time was much more communal that it is today, with much of the baking being done outside in large community ovens. To produce a town-sized batch of shoofly pie required large amounts of molasses to sit outside awaiting use, attracting hungry crowds of humans and insects alike. With their natural affinity towards sugar, flies flocked to the sticky sweet molasses, which required that the townspeople to be on constant guard to shoo away the six-legged pests.

No matter the story you choose to believe, shoofly pie is a Pennsylvanian dessert that simply must be tried. So, without further ado, let’s dig into this sweetly dark and Dutch delicacy!

Shoofly Pie Recipe

 

Coffee and molasses are a perfect match for this historically dark dessert!

Coffee and molasses are a perfect match for this historically dark dessert!

Ingredients

  • 1 9 inch unbaked pie crust
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1/2 cup warm, strong coffee (the darker the roast the better!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F / 175° C
  2. Combine the flour, sugars, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl, and mix with a pastry cutter or fork until crumbly. Transfer 1/4 of the crumb mixture to a small bowl and set aside.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the molasses and coffee until the molasses dissolves. Slowly stir in the baking soda until dissolved.
  4. Pour the molasses into the large bowl of crumb and fold until smooth and well-combined. Pour this mixture into your pie shell and sprinkle with the crumb you set aside.
  5. Bake in your preheated oven for 40 – 45 minutes, or until the filling has risen and has a cake-like consistency.
  6. Serve warm or cold and enjoy with a cup of strong coffee among friends!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this week’s recipe! I hope to see you next week for another excavation into humanity’s communal storehouse of fascinating and delicious dishes!

Keep digging!
~Nate

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Categories: Baking, Dessert, History, Pennsylvanian Recipes, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Year Round Recipes: Rice Pudding

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been reminded in subtle (and less-than-subtle) ways that sometimes, life can be unpredictable, unrelenting, and holistically draining. And, as much as we like to think that we’re strong enough to handle life’s challenges alone, it’s become incredibly clear to me that it’s not innately incorrect to need to rely on others and outside forces to weather life’s storms. And, while I still feel that I’m in the middle of one of these maelstroms, I thought I’d share a rather simple recipe that I’ve long held as a satisfying balm for the soul. Oddly in line with my youthful associations with the dish, rice pudding originated in several ancient civilizations in the Middle East and Asia as a medicinal, not culinary recipe. Designed to treat digestive ailments in people of all ages, rice pudding has a long and storied history as a catch-all cure for the stomach, the alleged “seat of the soul” for some ancient religions and philosophies. So, whether your stomach or your soul is in need of some old-world healing, I can’t suggest this recipe for rice pudding any higher. Just be careful: once you make one bowl of this enlightening dish, you might soon find yourself readying another sooner than you think!

Let’s dig in!

Rice Pudding Recipe

 

Rice: soothing stomachs and souls for millennia!

Rice: soothing stomachs and souls for millennia!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup medium or short grain rice (make sure your rice isn’t the traditional long grain variety-only the medium and short grain rice will “melt” down to that smooth and creamy consistency)
  • 2 cups milk (I used soy)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2/3 cup raisins [Optional]
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Stir in the 3/4 cup of rice and reduce the heat to low. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the milk, the sugar, and salt. Turn the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 15 – 20 minutes until the mixture is thick and creamy.
  3. Mix in the remaining 1/2 cup of milk, the beaten egg, and the optional raisins. Keep cooking for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla until combined.
  5. Enjoy warm or cool, with a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg for even more soul-satisfying flavor!

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As always, thanks for stopping by! I hope to see you next time as we excavate another of the world’s greatest culinary creations!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Cooking, Dessert, History, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Year Round Recipes: Angel Food Cake

With our recent excursions to Aztec-era Mexico and the California crops of today, I thought it was time to return to my Pennsylvanian roots (and our less-than-tropical climate) for this week’s recipe of angel food cake. Thanks to the culinary archeologists who have researched Pennsylvania’s historic cookware and crockery, angel food cake (or as it was known in the early – mid 19th century, “snowdrift cake”) is actually a Pennsylvanian invention, thanks to the overabundance of historic tube pans discovered in early Pennsylvanian towns (tube pans being the smooth bundt-cake style pan that angel food cake is typically made in). But, even with its potentially northern inception, angel food cake truly caught on in the antebellum South because of one horrific practice: slavery.

A bowl of egg whites, sugar, and a lot of time and energy

A bowl of egg whites, sugar, and a lot of time and energy

Not unlike the scullery maids who allowed early English land barons to produce bigger and better culinary creations at the expense of their workers’ health and safety, African American slaves supplied the sheer manpower necessary to create the light and fluffy creations desired by southern plantation owners. Angel food cake batter, because of its high egg-white content, must be whipped with consistent, arm-crippling force for ten, fifteen, even twenty or more minutes to turn a veritable puddle of egg into a dense, rich foam. Because of the sheer time and energy requirement behind dishes like angel food, producing these types of desserts for friends, and neighbors became a show of status and wealth. Closing a meal with a plate of angel food in the days before electric mixers told your audience that you not only had the means to pay for a person or team of cooks and kitchen hands, but that you also had enough surplus labor to dedicate one or more slaves to the sole purpose of whipping egg whites. Thankfully, with the abolition of slavery, kitchen scientists stepped in to take away the brute force needed to whip egg whites (first with mechanical egg beaters and now with electric mixers, immersion blenders, and the like).

For our angel food recipe today, we’ll be using a set of instructions geared towards the modern kitchen. However, if you’re interested in making angel food cake traditionally, the 1881 cookbook of Abby Fisher, a former slave, (appropriately titled “What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Southern Cooking“), is still in print and widely available! I encourage you to at least attempt whipping your egg whites with nothing more than a balloon whisk, if only to gain a small sense of what pre-electric cooking was like; and then, after your arm gives out after several minutes like mine did, feel free to switch to your electric mixer with a renewed appreciation for modern food tech!

Angel Food Cake Recipe

 

The edible cloud

An edible cloud

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 12 egg whites (Be careful if you’re planning on using a carton of pre-separated egg whites, as these are generally treated in such a way that the whites will not whip up successfully)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and 3/4 cup of granulated sugar. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg whites, vanilla extract, cream of tartar, and salt. Whip by hand, or with an electric mixture until the mixture turns white and forms medium-stiff peaks. Slowly add in the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar, and continue to whip until the batter forms stiff peaks.
  3. In three additions, fold the flour and sugar mixture into the egg whites, being careful not to overmix.
  4. Preheat your oven to 375°F / 190°C.
  5. Pour the completed batter into a completely clean, dry, and ungreased tube pan (any residue in the pan could interfere with the whites’ ability to expand. Bake in your preheated oven for 30 – 45 minutes (begin checking the cake at 30 minutes to stave off overcooking), or until the top is brown, and the cracks in the top are dry.
  6. To cool, turn the tube pan upside down, balance the pan on top of a bottle, and let cool completely. When cooled, run a knife along the edge of the cake and remove the angel food gently from the pan.
  7. Slice and enjoy with a a topping of fresh fruit, whipped cream, or on its own for a taste of heaven on earth.

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As always, thanks for stopping by! I hope to see you again as we unearth another of humanity’s collective culinary creations!

Keep digging,
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Breakfast, History, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Year Round Recipes: Chocolate, Avocado, and Pistachio Sandwich Cookies

While I typically like to keep my my ingredients local and seasonal, I do, for very special cases, go against my culinary conscience and indulge in the omnipresent agriculture of our modern world. This past week has been full of these special cases. With the weather finally breaking away from this year’s unusually frigid tendencies, I splurged and celebrated like only the Aztecs could, with a bitter chocolate drink imbued with the essence of Mexican chiles. And now, at the end of this most special of weeks, I couldn’t help but pull one last ingredient from the west coast of the North American continent: the great Californian avocado.

Avocados and Pistachios: two of the west coast's most delicious exports!

Avocados and Pistachios: two of the west coast’s most delicious exports!

Several months ago, two of the greatest people whom I’ve ever had the honor and pleasure of calling friends moved from this frigid clime to the ever-pleasant land of San Diego, California. And just as the clouds of winter finally broke (and are scheduled to return in the next few days), their absence from our Pennsylvanian lives was temporarily put on hold with a short visit this past week. So, in honor of our friends’ new home on the west coast, and for the light and warmth they’ve brought to us back east, I couldn’t help but try out a recipe that subtly features the avocado, the crop that many consider to be the epitome of Californian farming. Typically, when we think “avocado,” our minds immediately conjure up images of guacamole; and, while I adore guacamole in its season (preferably when local tomatoes and veggies are ripening here in the east), I was struck by a recipe by Kylie Held on immaeatthat.com. Instead of the traditionally savory uses for avocado, she presents a new way of viewing this creamy crop as a butter substitute in frosting. So, thoroughly fascinated, and aching for an innovative and inspiring avocado recipe, I couldn’t help but dig in!

Chocolate, Avocado, and Pistachio Sandwich Cookies

 

Sixteen cookies brimming with Californian flavor!

Sixteen cookies brimming with Californian flavor

Ingredients for the Frosting

  • 2 ripe California avocados
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/3 + 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Ingredients for Cookies

  • 1 cup almond flour (lacking almond flour, I used all-purpose, which produced a lighter, but no less tasty cookie)
  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup whole and halved pistachios + 1/4 cup chopped pistachios
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Directions

  1. Scoop out the flesh of the avocados into a medium mixing bowl, and beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
  2. Add cocoa powder, honey, vanilla, and almond extracts, and continue mixing until incorporated and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
  3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the two flours, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and 1/4 cup of whole/halved pistachios (set aside the chopped pistachios for now). Stir in the coconut oil, honey, egg, and almond extract to form a dough.
  4. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces, place on an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten until each cookie is round and thin.
  5. Bake at 350° F (175° C) for 10 – 15 minutes, or until lightly brown. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on a wire rack.
  6. When your cookies are cool, spoon the chocolate avocado frosting onto 8 of the cookies, and top with the additional 8 cookies to make your sandwiches. Roll each cookie in the additional 1/4 cup of chopped pistachios so that they stick to the sides of each sandwich.
  7. Chill in the freezer for 4 hours or overnight, or until the frosting fully hardens.
  8. Enjoy with a glass of milk, tea, or coffee, and be sure to take a moment to appreciate the wonderful people on the west coast as you do!

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Categories: Baking, Dessert, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Year Round Recipes: Rugelach

With a new blizzard, nor’easter, or ice storm being forecast seemingly every other day here in the northeast U.S., I’ve been on a mission to preserve the memory and hope of warmer days, even in the face of such wintry opposition. And, after opening up some of last year’s peach preserves for the jam sandwich cookies we made a couple weeks ago, I’ve been itching to find another recipe that could highlight such a sweet summery flavor, especially while we’re still in the dead of winter. With this goal in mind, I decided to return to the cuisine of Russia and Eastern Europe to find a culinary escape from thoughts of ice and snow (what better place to find examples of winter escapism than a land plagued by severe winters?). While digging up the culinary treasures of this expansive corner of the world, I stumbled across a twisting, crescent-shaped pastry that seemed to answer all of the desires I held for this week’s recipe: it originated in Eastern Europe, it’s typically filled with fruit preserves, and, as an added bonus, has an origin shrouded in mystery!

It's not hard to see how these delicious little pastries earned the title of "little twists!"

It’s not hard to see how these delicious little pastries earned the title of “little twists!”

This culinary form takes on a different name in each country that makes it, so for the sake of simplicity, we’re going to call this pastry by its traditional Jewish name, “rugelach” (translating literally to “little twists”). With such a widespread distribution in many Eastern European countries, no one seems to know exactly where the rugelach first came from, only that it is a distinctly Jewish invention. As it has no attachment to any Jewish holiday, the rugelach is a perfect year round recipe that can be altered to fit whatever season you’re in! For today, though, we’re going to capitalize on the rugelach’s affinity for fruit preserves and make a peach and pecan variation of this centuries old pastry!

Rugelach Recipe

Ingredients for Pastry

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

 

Peaches and pecans are a perfect pair of cold-banishing flavors!

Peaches and pecans are a perfect pair of cold-banishing flavors!

Ingredients for Filling

  • 6 Tablespoons fruit preserves (apricot is traditional, but any fruit will really work!)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (or a mixture of both)
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer. Add in sugar, vanilla extract, and salt, and beat until fluffy and combined.
  2. Mix in 1 and 1/4 cup of the flour slowly until the flour incorporates with the batter. Mix in the remaining 1 cup of flour and repeat, being careful not to over mix the dough.
  3. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 – 20 seconds, just to ensure that the flour has completely mixed into the dough. Divide the kneaded dough into three equal parts, wrap the pieces in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours, or until the dough is firm.
  4. Meanwhile, to make the filling, combine the chopped nuts, granulated and brown sugars, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
  5. When the dough has chilled, remove one part from the refrigerator, place on a floured surface, and roll out into a circle. Top the circle with 2 Tablespoons of fruit preserves, leaving one inch of room around the edge, and then sprinkle with one third of the nut/sugar mixture. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the circle into 16 equal pieces.
  6. Working from the widest end of each segment, roll each piece of dough to form a small crescent shape (see pictures below for a visual guide). Be careful not to roll the dough too tightly or the filling will spill out of the pastry, which can cause the dough to burn in the oven. Place the rolled rugelach on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  7. Repeat this process for the remaining two pieces of refrigerated dough.
  8. Bake in a 350 F / 175 C oven for 30 minutes, or until the pastries are just lightly brown.
  9. When the rugelach has finished baking, let them cool completely on the baking sheets before enjoying!

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As always, thanks for stopping by! I hope to see you again soon for another kitchen excavation!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Dessert, Winter Recipes, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Year Round Recipes: Russian Black Rye Bread

While I’m not a particularly avid sports fan, I’ve always held a certain fascination for the Olympic games, as they stand as a multicultural link between our modern world and the games’ mythical origins over 2700 years ago. And what I love the most about our modern Olympic ritual is the transportation of the games to a different country for each biannual incarnation. As the spotlight of the games moves across the globe, we are allowed a unique opportunity to stop, examine, and celebrate the culture and history of countries outside of our own. With the games being in Russia this year, I have been relishing the chance to take a moment and discover for myself the cultural heritage of this year’s Olympic hosts. Because of my fascination with culinary history, I have been particularly excited to try out some of Russia’s traditional cuisine, especially since my knowledge of Russian delicacies really begins and ends with caviar and vodka. Today, then, I thought we’d dig right into the heart of Russia’s rich culinary past with a culinary form that embodies the stark duality of historic Russia: suffering and triumph.

Deep, dark, and dense: Russian Black Rye Bread is as functional as it is flavorful!

Deep, dark, and dense: Russian Black Bread is as functional as it is flavorful!

Just like any other ancient civilization, Russia’s food history seems to begin with the humble loaf of bread. However, what makes Russia’s bready origins unique is the rye grain native to eastern Europe which has allowed the Russian people to triumph over the adversity of their country’s climate. Producing a denser, darker, more flavorful and healthful loaf than traditional wheat grains, rye bread (also known as “black bread” due its dark brown color) allowed the Russian people to avoid starvation in the harsher periods of their tumultuous history. As the rye bread has followed the Russian people into modernity, it has grown to represent the overcoming of incredible difficulty, and the prosperity that can be found after hardship. So, while our cultural eye is fixed on Russia for the Olympic games, let’s take a moment to break the bread that has allowed the Russian culture to flourish into the modern age!

Russian Black Rye Bread Recipe

7. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for 3 - 5 minutes. Keep adding rye flour if the dough is too sticky to work with

The key to perfect Russian black bread lies in hearty, dark rye flour

Ingredients

  • 1 1/ cups warm water (100 – 110 F / 37 – 43 C)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 cups rye flour
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder [This is a modern addition to the recipe to deepen the color of the bread, and is completely optional]
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons caraway seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Directions

  1. Mix the molasses and yeast into the warm water, and let the yeast proof for 10 minutes, or until the top of the liquid becomes foamy. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the bread flour and 1 1/2 cups of the rye flour. Stir in the [optional] cocoa powder, brown sugar, salt, caraway seed, and fennel seed.
  3. Pour the yeast mixture, melted butter, and apple cider vinegar into the large mixing bowl and stir until the ingredients combine to form a rough dough.
  4. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for 3 – 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. If your dough is wet and difficult to work with, knead in additional rye flour in 1/2 cup increments until the dough is only lightly sticky.
  5. Transfer the kneaded dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean cloth, place in a warm spot, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  6. After the dough has risen, punch it down and divide into two equal pieces. Roll the pieces into loaf shapes, and place each in a 9 x 5 inch, greased loaf pan. Cover the pans with a clean, floured cloth and let rise again for 30 minutes.
  7. Cook the loaves in a 400 F / 200 C oven for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches an internal temperature of between 180 – 190 F /82 – 87 C.
  8. Remove the finished loaves from the pans and let cool completely on a wire rack.
  9. Slice, toast, and enjoy this piece of Russian history with a healthy topping of butter and caviar, a nice sharp cheese, or your favorite sandwich toppings!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this week’s recipe! I hope to see you again on Sunday for another taste of cultural cuisine!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Bread, Cooking, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Year Round Recipes: Crêpes

If you’re from the Eastern US, or have been following the weather for this corner of the world, you’ll know that this week was fraught with an uncharacteristically devastating series of snow and ice storms. During this meteorological event, my typical love for the forest that surrounds our neighborhood was turned to dread, as heavy, ice-laden branches and trees exploded to the ground for much of the past week, taking homes, cars, and power with them. So, if you noticed the lack of activity from the blog on Wednesday, that was due to the dark, chilled state of our home as we weathered yet another display of winter’s power.

The crêpe: not just a thin pancake!

The crêpe: not just a thin pancake!

But! Power has returned, the roads are at last safe to traverse, and I’m still in the mood for a little French cuisine (my previous French excavations can be found here and here)! Even though the roads have been cleared for a day or two by this point, I still haven’t made it to the store since last week; so, I thought we’d dig up the crêpe, a 12th century French staple that can be made with only a few, basic ingredients typically found in every kitchen! The original crêpe would have been (and still is) made from buckwheat flour (you can check out an excellent buckwheat crêpe recipe here from Buckwheat for your health), which produces a savory dish that makes the perfect foundation for any meal of the day. However, with my pantry devoid of buckwheat flour, we’ll be looking at the sweeter version of the crêpe, made from basic all-purpose wheat flour to conjure a canvas fit for the most decadently simple dessert or breakfast! I happened to have a slightly dodgy apple still rolling around in the fridge, so I’ll show you how to make a quick and easy spiced apple topping to fill your crêpes with; but, keep in mind that this French classic can be paired with anything you have on hand! Peanut butter, ice cream, fruit preserves, you name it, the crêpe can enhance it! And, what better way to surprise that special someone this Valentine’s day than with a homemade breakfast straight out of romantic 12th century France? Without further ado, let’s dig in!

Crêpe Recipe

Just a few simple ingredients combine to create a 900 year old masterpiece of French cuisine.

Just a few simple ingredients combine to create a 900 year old masterpiece of French cuisine.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used soy)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, water, sugar, butter, and vanilla extract.
  2. Add the flour and salt, and stir thoroughly to remove any large lumps (you want as smooth a batter as possible).
  3. Place a greased frying pan over medium high heat, then pour or ladle about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan. Rotate the pan to ensure that the batter is evenly distributed and covers the entire bottom of the pan.
  4. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes, or until the bottom of the crêpe has turned light brown. Flip over the crêpe and repeat.
  5. Top with your favorite fillings, roll, and serve with a dusting of powdered sugar! To make a quick and easy apple cinnamon filling, keep reading below the pictures!

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A flavor heralding from the warmer days of autumn!

A flavor heralding from the warmer days of autumn!

Ingredients for Apple Cinnamon Filling

  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

Directions for Filling

  1. In a small bowl, toss the apples with the sugar and spices until coated.
  2. Place butter in a small frying pan and melt over medium high heat. Add the coated apples to the pan and fry for about 5 minutes, or until the apples become soft.
  3. Top your hot, fresh crêpes with a spoonful of apples and enjoy!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this week’s recipe! If the weather cooperates this week, I’ll see you again this Wednesday!

Stay warm, and keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Breakfast, Cooking, Dessert, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Year Round Recipes: English Muffins

If you stopped by earlier this week, you may have seen that I’ve had to adjust my weekly posting schedule due to my new work schedule. Wrapped up in this time change has been the rather sudden (and not entirely welcomed) need to wake up around 3:00 a.m. each morning to get ready for work (a complete reverse from my previous routine of working at 3:00 p.m.). So, in order to survive the eternal darkness of the early morn, I’ve found myself in dire need of a substantial, yet quick breakfast staple to really get me going. After suffering through a week of instant oatmeal (a far, unsatisfying cry from the hearty baked oatmeal I’d relied on in the past), I knew this next week had to improve. To remedy my dismal breakfast dilemma, I decided to try my hand at making one of my absolute favorite breakfast foods: the English muffin (or “toaster crumpet”)! With its origins stretching all the way back to the original Anglo-Saxons (inventors of the true crumpet – essentially an English muffin with the nooks and crannies on the outside), the modernized English muffin has long proven its worth as a staple at the breakfast table. And, with its soul- (and appetite-) satisfying nooks and crannies making perfect wells for everyone’s favorite spread, butter, or jam, the English muffin is a wonderfully universal answer to the eternal question: “What’s for breakfast?”

English Muffin Recipe

A hearty, heart-warming batch of English muffins almost ready to enjoy!

A hearty, heart-warming batch of English muffins almost ready to enjoy!

Makes 8 – 10 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm water (100 – 110 F / 37 – 43 C)
  • 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used soy)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons butter (vegan substitute works perfectly, too!)
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Corn meal

Directions

  1. In a small container, combine the warm water and yeast; let sit for 10 minutes until the water is cloudy and the yeast has started to foam.
  2. Over medium-low heat, combine the milk, butter, and honey in a small saucepan and cook until the butter has melted. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 2 – 3 minutes.
  3. Measure 1 1/2 cups of flour into a medium sized bowl and set aside.
  4. Gently stir the yeast mixture into the saucepan, and pour the combined ingredients into the flour. Stir until combined.
  5. Add the remaining 1 cup of flour and the salt to the bowl and stir to form a rough dough. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for 3 – 5 minutes, or until the dough is springy and lightly sticky (you may need to add some additional flour to eliminate excessive stickiness). Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with corn meal. Set aside.
  7. Flatten your rested dough to a thickness of about 1/2 inch / 1.5 centimeters. Using a biscuit cutter, round cookie cutter, or round implement of your choice (I used a mug), cut out your muffins and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Reroll the scraps and continue cutting out as many muffins as possible.
  8. Sprinkle corn meal over the tops of the muffins, cover with a clean towel, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
  9. When your muffins have risen, heat a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Dust any excess corn meal off of your muffins, and gently transfer them to the hot skillet (allow enough space in the pan so that the muffins aren’t touching). Cook for 8 – 10 minutes, or until the bottoms are well browned. Flip and cook for another 8 minutes. Transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool.
  10. Slice, toast, and enjoy with your favorite spread!

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As always, thanks for stopping by!

Keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Bread, Breakfast, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Year Round Recipes: Jam Sandwich Cookies (Jammie Dodgers)

Butterflies and picking peaches are both distant memories in the frigid month of January

Butterflies and picking peaches are both distant memories in the frigid month of January

Here in the arctic heart of winter, our dreams of warmer weather can feel impossibly distant. With the vibrant green memories of spring and summer whitewashed by snow, slush, and dormant flora, it’s easy to slip into a mindset oppressed by thoughts of having to weather another month (or more) of polar winds and lifeless landscapes. But, thanks to the wisdom and knowledge passed down by our cooking ancestors, we are able to, in a small but powerful way, capture the sweet aromas, rich colors, and unmatched tastes of the warmer months through the art of preservation and canning. So, in an attempt to celebrate this practice and the joy it can bring, I thought we’d take the time to break open a few of the fruit preserves we set up this past summer and escape from the deep freeze of winter into the warmer embrace of summer harvests!

For today’s warm-weather treat, we’ll be emulating the style of the Jammie Dodger, a British shortbread biscuit that is traditionally filled with raspberry jam. If you, like me, don’t have raspberry jam on hand, any fruit preserve or filling will work for this recipe! With thoughts toward future warmth, and memories of the harvest, let’s dig into some jam sandwich cookies!

Jam Sandwich Cookies / Jammie Dodgers Recipe

A batch of shimmering summer flavors just waiting for a cup of tea!

A batch of shimmering summer flavors just waiting for a cup of tea!

Makes around 2 – 2 1/2 dozen cookies
Adapted from a recipe by Gourmet Photography

Ingredients

  • 250 grams (~ 1 cup) softened butter
  • 150 grams (~ 1 3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 300 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • Jam or fruit preserve of your choice

Directions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixture until combined and fluffy. Mix in the egg yolk and vanilla extract.
  2. Beat in the flour until the mixture begins to clump and forms a crumbly dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and need for 1 – 3 minutes, until the crumbles meld into a smooth ball of dough.
  3. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, wrap each piece in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  4. After the dough has chilled, preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or baking liners.
  5. Unwrap the dough and place back onto a floured surface. Flatten the dough with a rolling pin until rather thin (1 cm / 1/3 inch thick). Using a cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as possible from the first ball of dough. Place the cookies on one of your lined baking sheets and set aside. Repeat this process with the second ball of dough, but with this batch, cut out a small “window” in the center of each cookie with a smaller cookie cutter or other kitchen implement you have on hand (I used a strawberry stem remover).
  6. Bake each tray of cookies in the preheated oven for 15 – 20 minutes or until the cookies are firm and lightly brown (they will fully harden as they cool). After baking, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. When your cookies are finished cooling, spoon about 1 teaspoon of jam onto each of the solid cookie halves. Gently top with the “windowed” halves being careful not to crack the cookies.
  8. Sit back and enjoy a sweet reminder of summer’s warmth!

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As always, thanks for stopping by; I hope to see you again soon!

Stay warm and keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Dessert, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Winter Recipes: Hot Cross Buns

Brr.

Brr.

As yet another severe winter storm whips its way through the eastern United States, bringing nearly a foot of snow and another round of dangerously low wind chills, I couldn’t help but daydream of sunny days, green trees, and warm spring breezes while shoveling the driveway, ankle-deep in crystalline cold. And, as my thoughts meandered towards spring, my appetite seemed to follow. Over the last several days, I’ve had an odd craving for hot cross buns, a classically springtime treat, marked by its symbolic association with the Easter season. But, even though Easter and warm weather are still so far away, I thought I’d still take the time to cross a few buns in hope of warmer days!

Not Crossed Buns

Not Crossed Buns

Composed of spiced dough speckled with fruit (typically raisins, currants, or sultanas), and topped with the eponymous cross, hot cross buns (or just “cross buns,” as they were known in their homeland of 15th century England) have captivated the hearts, minds, and spirits of the western world for at least 600 years. Although little evidence exists to support the claim, some food archaeologists believe the crossed bun actually dates to the religious rituals of the Saxons in 9th century England, where they were used to honor the goddess Eostre, an alleged deity whose impact on western culture is still hotly contested. Whatever their origin, the hot cross bun serves as a delicious staple to warm our way through the rest of this wintry weather, and keep our minds fixed on spring!

Now, as this recipe is of British origin, there are a few features to this process that are (unfortunately) foreign to the average American baker. First, because much of the world uses scales in the kitchen, many of the measurements for this recipe are by weight, not volume (though I’ll convert these measures as accurately as possible). Second, this recipe calls for “mixed spice,” a blend of warm spices not unlike pumpkin pie spice. To make a small batch of mixed spice for yourself, simply combine the following ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove

With our British to American conversions out of the way, lets dig into some hot cross buns!

Hot Cross Buns Recipe

Cool Crossed Buns

Cold Crossed Buns

Makes 12 Buns

Ingredients for Buns

  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk (100 F / 37 C)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 600 grams (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon mixed spice
  • 50 grams (about 1/4 cup) melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup raisins (or dried fruit of choice)
  • [Optional] 3/4 cup chocolate chips

Ingredients for Crosses

  • 6 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup water

Ingredients for Glaze

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons water

Directions

  1. Combine the yeast, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and warm milk in a small bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes or until the yeast proofs and becomes foamy.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, mixed spice, and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Pour in the yeast mixture, melted butter, egg, raisins, and chocolate chips. Stir until the mixture becomes a rough dough.
  3. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, springy, and only lightly sticky.
  4. Place the kneaded dough into a lightly oiled bowl and roll the dough to coat in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm location to rise for 1 hour.
  5. When the dough has risen, place the dough back onto a floured surface and roll into a log. Divide the log into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a ball and place into a greased, floured 8 x 8 cake tin, or a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Cover your pan(s) with a clean towel and let rise for another 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat your oven to 390 F / 200 C.
  7. To make the crosses, combine the flour and water in a small bowl, then place in a ziploc or piping bag. Cut off the corner of your bag and pipe lines across your buns to make the crosses.
  8. Bake the buns for 30 – 35 minutes, or until the tops are well browned. When the buns are between 5 – 10 minutes from being finished, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan to begin making the glaze. Heat the sugar water over medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Set aside.
  9. When your hot cross buns have finished baking, remove from the oven and brush each bun with the glaze. Let the buns cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. Enjoy a spiced, crossed morsel of English history with your own batch of hot cross buns. To truly maximize their flavor, heat the buns in the microwave for about 40 seconds and top with butter for a classic crossed bun experience!

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As always, thanks for stopping by! May your weather be more pleasant than ours!

Stay warm and keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Baking, Dessert, History, Winter Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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