Tag Archives: baking

Rye Soda Bread

I like breads that are quick to make and bake.  A homemade bread can be assembled and baked in the time that it takes to toss together a pot of soup or a nice salad, and that small amount of additional effort brings so much to the meal.

Some yeast-leavened breads can be made quickly; I mean, check out this oaty little number.  And the speed of a beer bread is hard to beat–just stir, dump, bake–but then, of course, it tastes like a beer bread.  Enter soda bread, the dowdy but delicious ready-in-an-hour bread of choice in our house.  Or ready-even-sooner if you follow the method I used to make these whole wheat soda bread rolls.

This rye version comes from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day, and it has many redeeming qualities.  It’s made with lots of whole grain rye flour, which gives the bread a dark, attractive color, in addition to providing flavor and health benefits.  More importantly, though, it truly is a stellar vehicle for the herby mash of dilled butter and goat cheese with which Swanson pairs the recipe in her book.  Or, you know, just butter.  Or soup.  Like split pea soup.  Or (what?  It’s not raining anymore where you are?) a brothy springtime soup with fresh peas and asparagus. Continue reading Rye Soda Bread (click for recipe)


My Favorite Recipes: April 2012

I don’t know if this whole idea of picking our five favorite recipes from each month is such a good one.  I mean, this list might leave you with the impression that there aren’t others that we cooked again and again and will be keeping in the rotation.  Like that (vegan) Farro Bowl with Toasted Kale and Coconut and Curry-Roasted Tofu.  Like the amazing (also vegan) Thai Greens and Tofu, which I left off simply because for most people it would require a trip to a well-stocked Asian grocery store.  The Smoked Salmon Salade Nicoise?  My standby Simple Lentil Soup?  All my favorites.  You see the problem.  It’s a good problem to have.

How to Make Homemade Organic Vegetable Broth for Free
Broccoli Salad with Ravioli, Feta, and Lemony Harissa Dressing
Queso Fundido with Mushrooms, Greens, and Chiles
Kale Salad with Apples, Currants, and Gorgonzola
Rhubarb Cake with Crystallized Ginger Crumb
And last but not least, the readers’ favorite: Homemade Matzo with Olive Oil (but I’ll just be calling them “Spiced Flatbreads” until Passover rolls around again)

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Banana Olive Oil Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Is it wrong to make cake two days in a row?  My weekend was just kind of like that.  Watch for some healthy salads in the coming days to balance things out!  Well, maybe.

Yesterday’s rhubarb cake was inspired by the new produce of springtime, but today’s recipe is inspired by old produce: a bunch of browning bananas.  I tend to throw them in the freezer and forget about them, but it was my turn to bring snack to the soccer game, so I figured I’d toss the bananas into some healthy muffins.  Instead, I made these cupcakes–a happy accident.

See, the recipe comes from the Moosewood Simple Suppers book, and it features four ripe bananas, olive oil, and yogurt.  Healthy, right?  I somehow glossed over the amount of sugar until I was actually measuring it into the bowl.  These are cupcakes, folks, plain and simple.  And good ones!  And quick to make.

The cream cheese frosting is optional and we enjoyed most of our cupcakes plain. If you do choose to make the frosting, though, the recipe gives you the option of dressing it up with a splash of coffee or a spoonful of cocoa powder, either of which would be a worthy compliment to the sweet banana flavor.

Continue reading Banana Olive Oil Cupcakes (click for recipe)

Rhubarb Cake with Crystallized Ginger Crumb

Remember when my backyard rhubarb was barely poking its head up through the ground?  I was happy to see the first signs of spring, sure, and new life unfurling is always inspiring, yada yada, but really?  I was excited because I was already thinking about this cake.

It’s sweet and light, with barely-tart shards of rhubarb nestled in every bite.  It’s topped with a crystallized ginger crumb that gives it a bit of a coffee cake appearance, which lets you get away with serving it for breakfast.  (I’ve never understood why topping a sugary cake with MORE sugar makes it into breakfast fare, but I’m not complaining.)  It’s a family favorite.

This recipe comes from Rustic Fruit Desserts, a book by Portland baker Julie Richardson and chef Cory Schreiber.  If you don’t have it already, you might want to run out and get it right now.  I know I’ll be using my copy all summer. Continue reading Rhubarb Cake with Crystallized Ginger Crumb (click for recipe)

Granola with Orange Zest, Currants, and Walnuts

I mean to bring something nice over when you invite me to your house. Hopefully I will at least show up with a bottle of wine or a six pack of drinkable beer. But sometimes getting out the door with shoes and coats and all three children is all I can handle and on those occasions, sorry, I owe you. I’m lucky to have understanding friends (and reciprocity agreements in place).

Last weekend, I got about halfway to my goal of bringing some kind of nice baked good to our weekend hosts. Which brings us back to the topic of traveling with oats. I didn’t manage to actually bake the batch of granola I meant to take to our friends in Portland, but I did get as far as packing two jars with the ingredients for this olive oil granola: one big jar of dry ingredients and another smaller jar of wet ingredients. It wasn’t quite like showing up with a perfect cellophane-wrapped treat with a ribbon on it (just kidding, I’ve never done that), but at least the house smelled good while it baked.

We have eaten a lot of that olive oil granola in recent months.  (Here’s a variation with pistachios, dried apricots, and cardamom.)  J claims he could eat it for every meal, but it’s so sweet that his teeth might fall out. Here’s another option, a bit less decadent and perhaps therefore better suited to eat as an everyday breakfast.  Or for three meals a day, your call.

I am an orange zest junkie (have you made this bread yet?), so this recipe appealed to me immediately. Orange zest, currants, walnuts. I was intrigued by the fact that the recipe (mine is adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day) calls for butter in place of oil, but I really didn’t taste any difference and will probably just make it with oil next time. Maybe even olive oil.

Continue reading Granola with Orange Zest, Currants, and Walnuts (click for recipe)

Leek and Mushroom Pizza with Blue Cheese

I can never resist the cheese counter at my local co-op.  It has a small selection of cheeses, but they’re meticulously curated by a cheese enthusiast whose palate seems in tune with my own, and I always love everything he recommends.  Last time I was in the store I browsed by myself, however.  I know I probably should have chosen a cheese based on the type of milk used, or the region from which it hailed, but I will admit to having used one criterion only to select this cheese: its name.

Oregonzola.  Isn’t that cute?  See how they did that?  A blue cheese, a local spin, a clever pun, and I’m sold.  And it was quite nice, I must say.

It’s the weekend, so make your pizza crust today (recipe here) to have it handy in the fridge for a speedy weeknight dinner.

Continue reading Leek and Mushroom Pizza with Blue Cheese (click for recipe)

A One Year Old’s First Birthday Cake, or, Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Our baby is one!

We’ve had her in our lives for a whole year.  And what a year the first year of life is!  A baby grows from a shapeless, snuggly bundle of tiny fingers, big eyes, and warmth into a little person who can play peekaboo and demand bananas.  It’s been a good year.

A birthday, at our house, calls for a cake.  I know there are birthday-pie people and people who think one-year-olds shouldn’t eat sugar (they probably shouldn’t), and we aren’t even really cake people so much but…. Birthday. So cake.  I have made this same cake for all three of my little ones’ first birthdays.  Here it is.

You can think of this particular cake in two ways.  If you want to feel virtuous, you can describe it as a tender, butter-free whole wheat cake, glazed with a maple-sweetened cream cheese frosting, chock full of carrots and tinted pink with beet.  If you want to feel honest, you can describe it as a total sugarbomb of a cake, well-suited to any celebratory occasion.

In the past, I’ve grated a beet and squeezed it in cheesecloth to use as pink food coloring.  This time, I came across powdered dried beet at my spice shop and gratefully took that less-messy route.  I bought about a quarter cup of the stuff.  Achieving the magnificently pink hue below required half a teaspoon.  Oops.  Does anyone need some powdered beet?  What should I do with the rest? Continue reading A First Birthday Cake, or, Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (click for recipe)

A Delicious Cracker: Homemade Matzo with Olive Oil

Tonight is the first night of Passover, so we are baking matzo (matzoh? matzah! I can never decide which spelling to use) this morning instead of challah (hallah!).  Inspired by a sweet post on Gourmandistan, I took their advice and didn’t use their recipe, instead opting for one that Mark Bittman published in the NY Times a couple years ago.  Already untraditional in its use of olive oil and salt, I took the glad-not-to-be-actually-fleeing-Egypt spirit one step further and sprinkled the tops of some with the outstanding fennel and nigella salt from SugarPill and others with a dukkah blend from World Spice.

The result? Truly delicious crackers.

The recipe admonishes you to roll the dough paper-thin.  And when you say paper-thin, I say pasta roller.  That did actually work quite well, but I will also share that the much thicker rounds that my three-year-old rolled out by herself were equally delicious and only marginally less crispy.  So this is not a fussy dough.  Enjoy yourself.  And once you try these, you may decide to make them a year-round staple.  I am already thinking of the dips I want to serve these with after Passover is over and I can avoid the spelling conundrum by simply calling them “flatbreads.” Continue reading Homemade Matzo with Olive Oil (click for recipe)

Bittersweet Chocolate and Dried Apricot Cookies

There has long been a sweet little cafe in Seattle called Macrina Bakery. It has a few outposts now, and any of them are fortunate places to find yourself at lunchtime or when you need an afternoon pick-me-up.  Or for breakfast, of course.  Or whenever.  Freshly baked breads, good coffee, great pastries, a handful of equally decadent savory options to round out the offerings.  And lucky for us, they published a cookbook.

I was in search of a unique chocolate chip cookie.  Do yourself a favor and don’t waste time idly Google-ing “unique chocolate chip cookie.”  Sometimes the internet is useful, and sometimes it’s not.  I needed a cookbook.

My cookbook collection is largely geared toward the savory side of life, it turns out.  What are your favorite baking books?  I picked up one of the few I own, Leslie Mackie’s Macrina cookbook, and luckily it came through for me.

Chopped bittersweet chocolate and dried apricots certainly contribute generously to this cookie’s appeal.  But there’s another deeper, darker secret: the mere half teaspoon of finely ground espresso.  It lends a rich, difficult-to-place depth to the cookie’s flavor, firmly cementing its status as THE unique chocolate chip cookie I was looking for.

One friendly tip.  The recipe instructs you to chill the dough before baking it.  That is not the kind of thing I like to do.  If you know me, you know that I do everything at the last minute, which means that when I make cookies they are going straight into the oven because I need them to be ready ten minutes from now.  But in the spirit of experimentation, I also set aside a bit of dough and baked it the next day.  The cookies were even better.  The flavor was a bit more caramelized, deeper.  The original cookies were good.  The chilled batch was amazing.

So hey, what’s your favorite baking book?  I like easy, unfussy, not insanely decadent.  I can certainly recommend the Macrina cookbook (and not just on the strength of this recipe; I’ve made some others, and had still others made for me, all great).  I also love Rustic Fruit Desserts, by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson, and I am looking forward to pulling that one out more come summertime.

Bittersweet Chocolate and Dried Apricot Cookies: In a large bowl, combine 2 1/2 c. flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. finely ground espresso beans, 10 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate, and 3/4 c. finely diced unsulfured dried apricots.  Cream 8 oz. (2 sticks) butter with 3/4 c. granulated sugar and 3/4 c. light brown sugar on medium speed for 5 minutes.  Add 2 eggs and 2 tsp. vanilla, scraping down the bowl as you go.  Add half of dry ingredients, mix until incorporated, then add other half and repeat.  Refrigerate the dough for one hour (or up to 4 days) if you can possibly wait.  Roll into 1″ balls, flatten slightly, and bake 8-10 minutes on parchment-lined sheets at 350, until the edges are golden brown.

My Favorite Recipes: March 2012

I spent all day today wondering what on earth I could have done with my slippers.  I looked everywhere.  I kept asking if anyone had seen them.  (Nobody answered, but I assumed they thought I was just muttering to myself, which, ok, I was.)  I had to make do with a ratty old pair that I was apparently keeping just in case of an emergency like today.  Finally, late at night, J admitted to me that my 5 year old squirreled my slippers away early this morning as step one in an April Fools joke she had planned.  What?

First, should they really be teaching kids about April Fools Day in schools?  What about the unintended adverse consequences, like me having to wear different slippers today?  And second, since when can my 5 year old plan and execute devious schemes over the course of multiple days?  I clearly am going to need to up my parenting game.

I leave you with my favorite recipes from the past month and a warning to be on the watch for April foolishness.  I’m off to fill the kids’ breakfast bowls with fish sticks and broccoli.  And if you have any great ideas for April Fools tricks to play on my children, please share, as I believe I will have to be planning more elaborate ruses in future years.

How to Cook Black Beans
The Best Red Lentil Soup of 2012 (and a close runner-up for my favorite soup this month: Cauliflower and Cheddar Soup)
Challah French Toast with Vanilla and Orange Zest (perhaps made with your homemade challah?)
Quinoa Cakes with Cheese, Garlic, and Herbs
Roasted Broccoli Pizza with Feta
And last but not least, a readers’ favorite: Sweet Potato Chips

Thank you for reading and cooking along with me, and for sharing your own great tips, recipes, and humorous anecdotes.  To receive daily recipe updates, you can subscribe to this blog via RSS or email, or follow @emmycooks on Twitter (links on the sidebar).