Browsing Tag

baking

book review, recipe

Bel Canto + Tres Leches Cake with Dulce de Leche Glaze

I read somewhere once that Bel Canto is the book you should start with if you want to give Ann Patchett a try. As a result, it’s been on my TBR and my bookshelf for a while now. You may recall that I actually read her newest novel Commonwealth first, but this is the novel that caused me to truly fall in love with Ann Patchett’s writing and storytelling.

At first glance, this wouldn’t seem like a novel I would enjoy. Not much happens by way of plot – in the beginning, a group of rebels interrupt a birthday celebration in order to capture the unknown South American country’s president and take on a whole mansion-full of hostages. That is sort of where the plot gets stuck, until the very end. The real story is in the growth of the characters – all of them so rich and well-developed. The setting, too, is unique, and it’s one that really lets the characters come to life, almost unexpectedly.

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book review, recipe

Educated + Peach Cobbler

As I mentioned in this month’s edition of Show Us Your Books, I read Tara Westover’s memoir Educated in a whirlwind over the weekend. It was one of my most anticipated books of the year, so even though I was excited to get a free copy from NetGalley (and read it before it even came out!), a little bit of me was also nervous to read it and be disappointed. Luckily, it lived up to expectations; I couldn’t put it down.

Tara grew up in Idaho, where her parents were determined to be self-sufficient, teaching their children to be prepared for the end of days that were always just around the corner. They canned peaches and stocked up on other necessities, saved for solar panels and built a bomb shelter. The Westovers didn’t believe in government-sponsored education and insisted on homeschooling all of their children, though the education they received was more of the hard knocks variety than something akin to reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. Perhaps the most terrifying thing about Tara’s parents was their refusal to submit to the “Medical Establishment.” Every wound or injury – no matter the severity – was treated at home.

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book review, recipe

The Secret Life of Bees + Banana Cream Pie

I always appreciate a book where you can immediately fall into it and remain completely immersed to the end – part of the joy of reading, for me, is leaving your own world/viewpoint/experiences and hanging out in someone else’s for a while. The powerful storytelling in Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees did that for me.

During a hot South Carolina summer in 1964, Lily Owens is about to turn 14. Propelled by a fuzzy recollection of the day her mother died and desperate to know more, she sets off on a haphazard journey from home with Rosaleen, a black woman who has become her stand-in mother. Their immediate safety may be Rosaleen’s driving force, but Lily’s search for clues about her mother’s existence brings them to Tiburon.

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book review, recipe

Friendship Bread + Cherry Chocolate Chip Amish Friendship Bread

Today’s blog post actually started three weeks ago when I read an NPR article called “The Friendship Bread Project: Can Baking Promote Unity In A Divided World?” The idea they discuss – that food can bring people together – is one I typically subscribe to and is one that prompted Darien Gee to write her 2009 novel Friendship Bread.

I was surprised and delighted to find that there was a whole book about friendship bread; naturally I had to check it out for myself. Before even starting the book, I was researching how to make starters and went down a bit of a rabbit hole, but I was already intrigued enough to make my own. It felt like a natural fit for this blog – it would just take a few ingredients and a little patience.

When I picked up Gee’s book from the library, in fact, the cover alone was enough to prompt the librarians to start up a conversation about previous friendship bread crazes and wonder aloud if “any of those starters from the 70s were still hanging around.” I made a mental note to bring them a loaf when I returned the book.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the novel – the cover evokes “chick lit” (and looks delicious), and I wasn’t sure that a story revolving around a baked good could have much substance. Happily, I was wrong about it lacking substance. For the most part, Friendship Bread follows Julia, who discovers friendship bread when a mysterious gloopy bag appears on her front porch; Madeleine, the owner of a tea salon; and Hannah, a former concert cellist who’s new in town. The three of them form an unlikely bond as the town is overtaken by its own friendship bread craze. On the whole, it was uplifting and optimistic and ends pretty neatly tied up, but it also explores the trials of loss and maintaining relationships quite realistically.

I began my starter the day I brought the book home, January 9. It was simple enough – dissolve a packet of yeast in warm water for 10 minutes before adding 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of milk. (These three ingredients are key in starter care.) Then, let it sit for 10 days, mixing each day. It’s important not to use a metal bowl or a metal spoon, but otherwise caring for a starter is pretty forgiving. (I forgot to stir it for two days and it turned out fine!) You add the foundation ingredients on Day 6 and again on Day 10, when you divide up the mixture to give to friends – keeping some for yourself, of course.

I tried my best to divide the starter wisely – opting to spread it out rather than releasing it in a concentrated area. I connected with fellow Michigan-based book blogger Kerrie at Comfy Reading, who lives about an hour away from me, and bestowed a cup of starter on her. (Here is her post on the experience.) When she saw I had read the book, my mom (who also lives about an hour away, in a different direction) requested starter, so I saved some for her as well. I gave a cup to a supportive coworker, Cheryl, who’s excited to care for it and bake together with her daughter. Finally, after a lot of research, I mailed a quarter cup to one of my best friends, Katie, who lives in Pennsylvania. Apparently, if you don’t want to dry it and send flakes (I didn’t), it’s best to send in small quantities so there is still room for it to expand as it ships. I’m hoping the cooler weather and 2-day shipping will keep the starter from expanding too much within it’s box.  

Admittedly, this was my first experience with a starter, and it gave me a whole new appreciation for the novel Sourdough, which I read last fall. I kept my starter in the oven, where it could keep cozy and grow with abandon. Thankfully, the friendship bread starter wasn’t as rambunctious as Lois’ sourdough starter, but mine still ended up yielding just under 7 cups, instead of the typical 4 cups. (I kept the extra for myself, not only to bake, but to keep feeding for another batch.)

Like most quick breads, the recipe for Amish friendship bread isn’t too difficult. It’s also quite flexible, as you can incorporate a variety of add-ins to suit your tastes. I had an abundant supply of dried cherries on-hand, so instead of making the traditional cinnamon-sugar bread, I wanted to make something with cherries and chocolate. I found a recipe on the Friendship Bread Kitchen site close to what I was looking for, so I adapted that recipe a bit to be more like what I had in mind.  

I began with 1 cup of my starter in a nonmetal bowl. To it, I added the ingredients as listed in the recipe. I only used 1 box of instant vanilla pudding, deciding to save the second box I bought for my second batch, but you can leave it out altogether if you don’t want to use it. I mixed everything together using a wooden spoon and then divided the batter between the two loaf pans.

After baking, I allowed them to cool for a bit in the pan before moving them to a cooling rack and dusting with a bit of sugar (because I forgot to do it before I put it in the oven).

Being from Michigan, I already love cherries, and I thought the cherry-chocolate combination in this bread was delicious.

Well, that’s it for today – I’m off to return my book to the library, along with a loaf of the bread for the librarians. I hope they like it as much as we did!

Have you ever made friendship bread or received a starter? I’d love to hear about your experience!

Cherry Chocolate Chip Amish Friendship Bread

  • Servings: 16 (2 loaves)
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup Amish Friendship Bread Starter (recipe here, if you don’t already have one)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1-2 boxes instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • up to ½ cup sugar, for dusting

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add ingredients as listed (excluding sugar for dusting).
  3. Grease two large loaf pans.
  4. Dust the greased pans with ½ cup sugar.
  5. Pour the batter evenly into loaf or cake pans and sprinkle the remaining sugar on top.
  6. Bake for one hour or until the bread loosens evenly from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.


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book review, recipe

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society + Potato Peel Pie

Recently, my book club elected to read Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a charming piece of historical fiction about life on the British Channel Islands during and after WWII. It is a bit of a book about books, but more than that it’s about how literature can bring people together, unexpectedly, even in the worst of times.

In 1946 London, a mysterious man writes to Juliet Ashton because he somehow came to be in possession of one of her books and is looking for more by the same author, who he’s come to adore. Of course, as a reader, Juliet steps in to help him get the books he needs, and with that, she launches a friendly correspondence with him – and his fellow islanders. All of them belonged to an impromptu book club during the German wartime occupation of their home on Guernsey, and Juliet is beside herself to learn more about them.

While I was expecting a potentially difficult read, as many WWII novels tend to be (including The Nightingale and Lilac Girls), I was pleasantly surprised. There are some brief descriptions of time in the concentration camps, but it mostly serves as a way to provide the characters – who’ve survived the war at that point – with some closure. Book narratives that take place solely through letters can sometimes fall flat, but in this case, my whole book club enjoyed the choice. I thought it added to the charm.

Though the Guernsey Literary Society also boasts the name of a disgusting-sounding dish, the potato peel pie is mentioned only briefly in the novel. It is described as a pie made out of potato peels and something to do with beets. As I read, I was slightly horrified to think about making such a pie for this post. Luckily, I remembered my Book Club Cookbook and thought I recalled seeing this book listed in the index.

Sure enough! It listed a recipe for an “occupied” version, using just beets, potatoes (including the peels) and a bit of milk, but it also included a “non-occupied” version, which sounded delicious. I decided to make it for our book club meeting. 

Since we were meeting during the week and I don’t have a lot of time after work before everyone arrives, I got started the night before. Since the non-occupied version still includes potato peels, I made sure to scrub them thoroughly before peeling. Here is the after photo:

I peeled them as carefully as I could and layered them into the pie dish, making sure to completely cover the bottom.

While they baked in the oven, I cut the potatoes into large chunks and got them going in a pot of salted, boiling water on the stove.

After about 20 minutes in the oven, the potato peels were looking slightly crispy, so I pulled them out before they burned. I was surprised, however, to see that they’d all curled up and no longer completely covered the bottom of the pan – a bit of a disappointing crust in look only, as it still tasted delicious later.

Once the potatoes were fully cooked, I drained them and transferred them to a large bowl with some butter to mash them up with a hand mixer (my typical method, since I don’t actually own a manual masher). Then, I stirred in the milk, and once that was absorbed, added the cheddar cheese and sour cream as well.

Finally, I spread the whole mixture in the pie dish on top of the potato skins.

Because I wasn’t serving it until the next day, I covered it with plastic wrap and stored it in the fridge overnight. Then, prior to book club, I baked it for the first time. It was still cold from the fridge (not room temperature, or slightly warm as if I’d baked it immediately), so I cooked it for longer – closer to an hour.

Once it was melty, slightly bubbly on the edges with just a touch of brown on top, I removed it from the oven. My entire book club could smell it, and we were starving, so we didn’t wait the recommended 15 minutes before serving. It ended up being more like cheesy mashed potatoes – probably the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had, honestly – than potato “pie” but everyone enjoyed it just the same. The crispy skins throughout added a pleasing texture.

From our book club to yours, we recommend checking out this charming novel before the movie comes to theaters in April. I, for one, always look forward to the opportunity to have a lively discussion about whether the book or movie is better (even though we all know the answer going in) – and who better to do that with than your favorite book-loving friends?

Annie Barrow’s Non-Occupied Potato Peel Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients

  • 1½ – 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes (about 4 medium or 6 small potatoes)
  • No beets
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, cut into pieces
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1¼ cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • and maybe some sour cream, too (about ¼ cup)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Go ahead and use the peelings as the crust, but cook them first: Scrub potatoes and pat dry. Peel potato and lay peelings evenly in the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan. Place in oven and cook for about 15-20 minutes, because it would be nice if they were a little crispy. When they’re done, reduce oven heat to 350 degrees F.
  3. In the meantime, place potatoes in a large pot, cover with salted water, and boil until they’re soft, however long that takes (about 30-40 minutes). Then, drain the potatoes and mash them up with the butter until they’re nice and fluffy. Add milk slowly and stir until milk is absorbed. Stir in that delicious cheese and the sour cream, too, if you want it (and who wouldn’t?).
  4. Pour the potato mixture on top of the crispy skins. Then, put the pie in the oven for about 30 minutes until it’s all melty and glorious (and lightly browned). Allow to cool for about 15 minutes, until it sets. Serve warm. To reheat: Cover with foil and heat for 15-20 minutes in an oven preheated to 300 degrees F.

From: The Book Club Cookbook, pages 162-163

Recipe Notes: If, for whatever reason (say, book club), you need to make this the night before. I recommend stopping before you put the potato peel pie in the oven. Fill pan with the mashed potato mixture, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Remove from the fridge while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour (checking as you go) to ensure it’s heated through and then allow to cool before serving, per the above directions.


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book review, recipe

Everything, Everything + Vanilla Bundt Cake

Though it’s not my typical choice, I’m no stranger to YA fiction. I like to pick them up for a quick read, and often – as with John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down – they bring difficult topics to the forefront and make them relatable, which I always appreciate. My latest YA read, Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything, tells the story of Maddy, a girl who lives in a bubble, and was captivating from the beginning.

Like many YA novels, it centers around a love story. Maddy watches from her window as new neighbors move in – one of them, Olly, a distractingly handsome teenage boy. That part of the novel was pretty predictable, in my opinion, but well-done and entertaining. Aside from the consequences of Maddy’s precarious health problem, it is with Olly – and through the window – that this novel touches on some darker real-life situations.

What made the novel worth it for me was the twist that came about two-thirds of the way through. I definitely did not see it coming, but I’m glad that it did. I won’t spoil it for those of you that haven’t read it yet, but I thought it added some welcome heft to the story.

One of the funnier series of events comes early on in the book, when Olly’s mom sends him over to Maddy’s house with what he describes as an “indestructible” bundt cake, which comes to be known as The Bundt. Olly and Maddy bond over this seemingly rock-hard inedible cake, and I found the whole thing endearing.

Obviously, I had to make my own bundt cake. Because of her illness, Maddy can only eat limited pre-approved foods and since vanilla cake is her go-to birthday dessert, I knew mine had to be vanilla as well. As funny as the cake’s indestructibility is in the novel, no one wants to fail that badly at baking. To capture the rock-hard aspect of the cake, I bought a beautifully structured hard-edged bundt pan to bake it in. (And now I have a bundt pan! I had to borrow my mom’s for the Tipsy Chocolate Cake a few months ago…) If you’re interested, I found it on Amazon here.

Like most cakes, this one wasn’t too difficult to make, but the recipe I chose has a very specific order in which ingredients need to be added, so make sure you read it through before you get started.

I preheated my oven to 350 degrees F and began mixing the batter. To start, I creamed the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. To that, I added the baking powder and salt.

At this point, I measured out the flour by scooping it into a 1-cup measuring cup and leveling it off before adding it to a medium bowl (for a total of 3 cups).

I added the first 3 eggs to the butter and sugar mixture, one at a time. Then, I added 2 Tablespoons of the pre-measured flour to that and mixed until just combined. I added another egg, mixed, and then alternated 2 Tablespoons of flour with one egg until all 6 eggs were incorporated.

I happened to have almond extract on-hand, so I added both that and the vanilla extract to the milk. To the batter, I added one-third of the remaining flour, mixing on low until combined. Then, I added half of the milk, mixing again, and began alternating with the remaining flour and milk, until all ingredients were incorporated. Finally, with the beaters on medium-high, I mixed the batter for another 30 seconds, until it became smooth and fluffy.

I used shortening to grease the bundt pan, taking great care to make sure I got all the nooks and crannies. Then, I scooped the batter – which is thicker than many traditional cake batters – into the bundt pan and leveled it off with a spatula.

I checked my cake at 50 minutes, but it wasn’t fully baked until an hour had passed. I turned it out onto a cooling rack, leaving the pan on top as it cooled for 10 minutes.

While it cooled in the pan, I made the glaze – combining the water, granulated sugar and salt in a small bowl. I used the microwave, heating it at 30 second intervals and whisking until the sugar was fully dissolved. Then, I added the vanilla extract to complete the glaze.

I removed the pan from the bundt cake and used a pastry brush to cover the cake with the glaze. (Be sure to put a plate or something else underneath the cooling rack to catch any glaze that might drip.)

I am happy to report that the finished product was not rock-hard and was actually quite delightful.

Did anyone see the recent movie version of Everything, Everything? Did The Bundt make an appearance? 

Vanilla Bundt Cake

  • Servings: 20
  • Print

Cake Ingredients

  • 24 tablespoons (1½ cups or 3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract, optional
  • ¾ cup milk

Vanilla Glaze Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 5 teaspoons water
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat together at medium speed until the mixture lightens in color and looks fluffy. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  3. Add the baking powder and salt, mixing just to combine.
  4. Measure the flour by gently spooning it into a measuring cup, sweeping off any excess with a straight edge. Set it aside.
  5. With the mixer running at medium speed, add the first three eggs to the butter/sugar mixture one at a time. Wait until each egg is absorbed into the mixture before adding the next.
  6. Add 2 tablespoons of the measured flour to the bowl after the third egg, and mix until combined. Add the fourth egg, mix until absorbed, then mix in another 2 tablespoons of flour. Continue in this fashion with the fifth and sixth eggs, alternating the addition of the egg with 2 tablespoons of the flour from the recipe.
  7. Add the vanilla (or vanilla bean paste) and almond extract (if using) to the milk.
  8. Add one-third of the remaining flour to the batter, beating gently to combine. Gently beat in half the milk. Mix in another third of the flour, then the remaining milk. Stir in the remaining flour. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then beat until the batter is smooth and fluffy, about 20 to 30 seconds at medium-high speed.
  9. Thoroughly grease a 10- to 12-cup Bundt pan, using non-stick vegetable oil spray or shortening (not butter; butter tends to increase sticking). Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.
  10. Bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes, until it’s starting to brown, appears set on top, and a toothpick or long skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. (If you’re baking in a dark-interior pan, start checking at 45 minutes.) If the cake appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with foil for the final 15 minutes of baking.
  11. Remove the cake from the oven, and gently loosen its edges using a heatproof spatula. Turn the pan over onto a cooling rack. After 10 minutes, lift the pan off the cake, and allow it to cool completely.
  12. While the cake is cooling in the pan, make the glaze. Combine the sugar, water, and salt. Heat briefly, just to dissolve the sugar; a microwave works fine. Stir in the vanilla. Once you’ve turned the cake out of the pan onto a rack to cool, gently brush it all over with the glaze.
  13. Just before serving, sift a shower of confectioners’ sugar over the top, if desired. A garnish of fresh berries is lovely and tasty. Store leftover cake, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.


This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

The Word Exchange + Mini Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes

For those of you who read my recent Top Ten Tuesday, where I covered books I’m thankful for, you’ll recognize today’s title. Alena Graedon’s debut novel is a dystopia called The Word Exchange. It had been on my TBR list for a little while now, but I forget how it got there. I remember adding it to the consideration set for our office’s Diversity Book Club when we were selecting from various dystopias one month. It didn’t win then, and honestly, it may have taken me a lot longer to get to it if not for my good friend Deanna suggesting it for our most recent book club meeting (outside of work).

Though I ended up loving The Word Exchange, it wasn’t an instant hit for me. I struggled a bit through the first couple of chapters; I even warned our book club to get started sooner rather than later and break out the dictionary. The language was complicated (purposefully, I found out later) and those chapters were dense. But, after about 50 pages or so, I began getting into the story and was suddenly hooked.

Graedon describes a near-future where the death of print has happened and handheld devices are taking over society. Furthermore, people begin to rely on something called The Word Exchange, where people makeup definitions and words in a sort of online marketplace. Anana works with her father at the North American Dictionary of the English Language, and when he goes missing, she finds herself in a world where language is quickly losing meaning. She enlists her bookish coworker Bart in the search for her father and answers – trying to avoid contracting the rapidly spreading “word flu” all the while.

The combination of the importance of language and our reliance on technology was done quite skillfully, in a way that still haunts me whenever the novel comes to mind. I’ve tried to be more conscious of my use of technology – particularly my cell phone and social media – since finishing this book. Not that any of it is bad in and of itself, just that it’s important to me to not become dependent on these, particularly as a way of passing time. As I learned over the recent Thanksgiving Readathon, putting down my phone gives me a lot more time to focus on something more worthwhile – like spending time with family or reading.

Anana’s father’s favorite fruit is a pineapple, and if you’re wondering why I know that, it’s actually a bit of thing throughout the book. Anana’s name, in fact, means pineapple when an s is added to the end. I knew almost immediately they would be a huge part of what I made to go along with the book. If I’m remembering correctly, pineapple upside-down cake was his favorite dessert. I decided to make it in mini form, thinking that would be easier. (In the end, I don’t think that’s the case.)

It was really important to me to find a recipe that used the rings rather than the chunks, and so after a bit of research, I found this one from Baker by Nature. I started the whole process by ordering some jumbo muffin tins from Amazon – the jumbo ones are required so that the pineapple rings can fit in the bottom.

They arrived in time for me to make the mini cakes for our book club meeting, so I got to work the night before. I preheated the oven and greased the jumbo tins.

Then I mixed together the cake batter. I combined the eggs with the sugars and rum, beating until smooth. To that I added the pineapple juice, just stirring it in. Separately, I sifted together the dry ingredients, and then added them into the wet ingredients, whisking until just combined.

In a small saucepan, I made the topping for the cakes. I melted butter and then added brown sugar, rum and salt, stirring while it cooked.

I added the topping to the bottom of the jumbo tins (because they’ll be flipped upside-down later!) to start.

Then, I added in the pineapple rings on top of that, with a maraschino cherry in the middle of each.

Finally, I added the cake batter, filling them roughly ¾ of the way full.

I baked the cakes for about 20 minutes and then pulled them out of the oven to cool.

They cooled in the pan for 5 minutes before it was time to turn them out to cool on a rack. I want to caution you to be very careful when flipping your pans. If you have two tins of 6 cakes each, please do them individually and not at the same time – even if you think you can manage it. The topping is VERY hot and still ooey gooey, which I can tell you from personal experience makes a huge mess if something goes awry and it happens to get all over the kitchen.

It is important to place the cooling rack within a baking pan with a lip. Place that upside down on top of the muffin tin and then quickly and carefully flip that over so that the pan and cooling rack are on the bottom. Repeat with the other rack/pan/muffin tin.

I hadn’t had pineapple upside-down cake before, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. Anana’s dad was onto something!

Mini Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes

  • Servings: 12
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup pineapple juice
  • 2 teaspoons rum (or pure vanilla extract)
  • 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • 2¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1½ cups dark brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 teaspoon rum (or vanilla extract)
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 12 pineapple rings
  • 12 maraschino cherries

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Generously spray a 12-mold jumbo muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl; whisk smooth. Add in the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and rum (or vanilla), and beat smooth. Stir in pineapple juice and set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and cornstarch. Gradually add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. Be sure not to over mix here! Set mixture aside while you make the topping.
  4. For the topping: In a small sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add in the brown sugar, rum, and salt, and cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly. Remove from heat.
  5. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the topping mixture into the bottom of each muffin tin; place a pineapple ring on top, then place a cherry in the middle of each pineapple ring. Divide the cake batter evenly among the prepared tins, fill each muffin tin 3/4 of the way full.
  6. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the tops are puffed and golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes. Gently run a knife around the edge of each cake to help loosen any stuck bits, then gently place a wire cooling rack on top and quickly flip over. You will want to place the cooling rack on a large sheet pan before doing this, to help make it less messy. Serve cakes warm or at room temperature.

From: Baker by Nature

Recipe Notes: Rum may be substituted with pure vanilla extract. Cakes are best eaten the day they are made, but may be stored in the fridge, in an airtight container, or on a plate covered tightly with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.


book review, recipe

The Red Tent + Honeyed Cake

Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent has been on my radar since I read The Boston Girl earlier this year. Several people recommended it to me, so I bought it at my library’s used book sale in the spring. I finally got around to reading it, and though I was expecting a bit of a grueling read – it’s set in biblical times – I was pleasantly surprised.

In this piece of historical fiction, Diamant explores the life of Dinah, who is briefly mentioned in the Bible as the only daughter of Jacob (father of a dozen sons). The Red Tent starts with the story of Dinah’s mothers, the four wives of Jacob – Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah – and continues into her life as she grows up and leaves the land of her father.

For the most part, the lives of women are glossed over in the Bible, and this novel takes an interesting look at what life might’ve been like for a woman of that time. It gives several strong female characters a voice when the book in which Dinah first appears did not and thoughtfully portrays the unique relationships that women have with one another. It also offers a different, and dare-I-say feminist, perspective on a Christian narrative in which things may not have been exactly as depicted.

In Jacob’s camp – which is how I thought of it, as it was rambling and full of tents and animals – the family usually ate quite well. In an interview Diamant said, “There’s a lot of food in The Red Tent…To not write about food…is to not talk about women’s experience.” They depend on the land for food, and the selection seemed quite abundant. There is mention of olives, lamb, figs, pomegranates, barley, mint, and of course, honeyed cake.

Honeyed cake, in fact, was mentioned a few times, and though it was given little description, I was intrigued. I wanted to make it try it myself. After a Google search, I finally settled on a recipe from Genius Kitchen for a recipe that seemingly dripped with honey. (And drip with honey, it did!)

To start, I combined the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and some orange zest. The orange zest smelled absolutely amazing while I prepared the rest of the ingredients.

In a different bowl, I creamed the butter with the sugar and then added in the four eggs, one at a time. To these ingredients, I added the dry mix, mixing just until incorporated. Then, I added the chopped walnuts.

I poured the batter into a prepared square pan and set it to bake for 40 minutes in a 350-degree oven.

Meanwhile, I began making the honey sauce. This recipe uses quite a bit of honey, which can be expensive, but otherwise the ingredients are pretty run-of-the-mill baking ingredients. Still, we used almost half of this little honey bear.

In a saucepan, I combined 1 cup of honey, 1 cup of white sugar and ¾ cup of water. I let it simmer for about 5 minutes before adding the lemon juice and bringing it to a boil. Please use a medium-sized saucepan. When it gets boiling, it can boil over easily and quickly – it’s not as easy to tame as boiling water. And it’s possible you’ll get a sticky mess all over your stove, like I happened to do. Anyway, once it was finished cooking for 2 minutes, I removed it from the heat, where it say until the cake was ready.

After the cake finished baking, I removed it from the oven and allowed it to cool for 15 minutes.

I then cut it into triangles. The original recipe recommends diamonds, but I’ll admit I wasn’t sure how to accomplish that. I’m not sure shape matters that much, though the more cuts, the more honey will soak through the cake. Regardless, after cutting the cake, I covered it with honey sauce. I used about a third at a time and did my best to allow it to soak in before covering it with the next third. (This requires some patience.)

I found the cake to taste a bit like Fruit Loops (probably from the orange zest). Overall, it was quite good but very sticky.

Greek Honey Cake

  • Servings: 12
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • ¾ cup butter
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup honey
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 inch square pan. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and orange rind. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated. Stir in the walnuts.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then cut into diamond shapes. Pour honey syrup over the cake.
  4. For the Honey Syrup: In a saucepan, combine honey, 1 cup sugar and water. Bring to a simmer and cook 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.


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book review, recipe

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance + Sponge Cake with Forest Berries

One of my favorite things about Book of the Month (among the many) is the opportunity members sometimes get to read a book before it’s released to the rest of the world. Ruth Emmie Lang’s wonderfully unexpected novel Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, which will be released next week on November 14th, was one of the October selections, and honestly, I was planning to share this post with you then, but I enjoyed this book so immensely, I couldn’t wait.

Lang’s imaginative novel follows Weylen Grey, a young orphan who was raised by wolves, as he grows up and travels the country looking for his true home. Each section of the story (set in a new year and different location) is told by those around Weylen – young Mary who befriends him in the woods while making deliveries for her father; a teacher who is taken aback by the student refusing to sit in a desk; an inexperienced mayor whose town is faced with an impending hurricane.

Judge Steph Ortiz, who chose this book for BOTM, described Beasts as “so comfortable and uplifting” and said it was “exactly the book [she] needed right now, and it made [her] so happy [she] wanted to howl at the moon.” After finishing the phenomenal The Rules of Magic, I was ready to be swept away again. A book that made me extraordinarily happy was exactly what I was looking for, and this one didn’t disappoint!

Unlike many of the other books I recommend, which while amazing are often full of tough topics, this novel left me with a wonderfully cozy feeling, and seriously, if you haven’t stopped and pre-ordered it yet, I’d suggest you do so now. It’s an excellent debut; I can’t wait to see what else Lang cooks up in the future.

Speaking of cooking (you had to know that was coming, right?), I decided to whip up a whimsical dessert to go along with this fairy tale novel. On one of her visits to the forest to see Weylen, Mary brings with her a freshly baked sponge cake, which they eat with hand-picked berries. I found a slightly fancy-sounding but down-to-earth-looking sponge cake recipe from Vikalinka and knew it would be a perfect fit.     

The only tweak I made to her recipe was to add some additional berries to the compote (and in decorating). In fact, I started by making the berry compote, adding the raspberries and blackberries to a small saucepan with a touch of water and some sugar. After about 15 minutes, I smushed the berries up a bit because there didn’t seem to be much thickening occurring. I let it continue cooking for another 10 minutes or so before following the rest of the directions. I used my food processor to blend the mixture until smooth, pushed it through a fine sieve and set it aside.

To make the cake, I started by preheating my oven to 350 degrees F and greasing my cake pans. (I didn’t line them with parchment paper, like the original recipe directs, but I didn’t have any issues getting the cakes out of my pans once they were cooled.)

In a large bowl, I mixed the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, adding the eggs one at a time and mixing for about a minute each. Finally, I added the vanilla and lemon zest.

In a separate bowl, I combined my dry ingredients, sifting together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. I added the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing well. The end result was a very thick batter (according to Vikalinka, it should be the consistency of buttercream frosting).

I scooped approximately half into each cake pan and then used my kitchen scale to ensure they were even (about 2 pounds each, including the pan). It wasn’t specified in the original recipe, but I had some minor concerns they wouldn’t spread out due to thickness, so I used a scraper to spread the batter as evenly as I could in each pan. Then, the cakes went into the oven for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, I made the mascarpone cream. I used a hand mixer to whip the chilled mascarpone with the powdered sugar and vanilla extract for about 2 minutes. To that mixture, I added the whipping cream and whipped for a few more minutes until it was stiff. I covered the bowl and put it in the fridge to stay cool while the cake finished baking and cooled.

Once the cakes were out of the oven, I allowed them to cool on a baking rack for 20 minutes, before turning them out so they could cool completely. I was a bit nervous about assembly (since I’m not usually the best cake decorator), but this cake features a very unfussy decor and is perfect for an imprecise decorator such as myself.

To start, I placed one of the cooled cakes on a cake stand. I covered that with a thick layer of the mascarpone cream (I ended up having a little bit left… it seemed like a lot when I was decorating).

On top of the layer of cream, I poured the berry compote and spread it a bit with a cake spreader. (Mine ended up being somewhat thinner than it appeared in the original recipe, but it still tasted delicious, and made for a lovely garnish on the plate afterward.) Atop the filling, I added the second cake and began the decorating process. I used some of the leftover cream on about half of the cake, used leftover berries to make a design and dusted the whole thing with a bit of powdered sugar.

The finished cake may not have been as gorgeous as I had hoped, but it still looked impressive (in my opinion). More importantly, it tasted amazing. This is definitely a cake I’d like to try again.

Sponge Cake with Forest Berry Compote

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

  • 1⅕ cup blackberries and raspberries
  • ⅕ cup sugar
  • 2 tbs water
  • 1 cup butter, softened and unsalted
  • 1⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs, large
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract, divided
  • 1¾ cup flour
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup mascarpone, chilled
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ¾ cup whipping cream

To make the forest berry compote

  1. In a small saucepan combine berries, sugar and water. Smash berries and cook over low heat for 15 minutes until the syrup coats a spoon.
  2. Remove from the heat and process in a food processor or a blender until smooth.
  3. Push through a fine sieve to get rid of the seeds and set aside.

To make the cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, grease two 8″ round cake pans and line with parchment paper, set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer cream softened butter with sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Start adding eggs one by one, whipping until well combined after each addition for about a minute.
  4. Add 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/extract and lemon zest.
  5. Combine sifted flour, baking soda and powder and salt in a separate bowl.
  6. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mix well, stopping the mixer and scraping sides and the bottom of the bowl.
  7. Divide the batter between two pans. Weigh them to get exactly the same cake in size.
  8. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
  9. Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely.

To make the mascarpone cream

  1. Whip chilled mascarpone with powdered sugar and 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/extract for 1-2 minutes until well combined.
  2. Then add whipping cream and whip for 2 more minutes until stiff.
  3. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Assembling the cake

  1. Spread mascarpone cream on the bottom layer of the cake.
  2. Pour the berry compote on top and gently spread with a offset spatula.
  3. Top with another cake layer and dust with some powdered sugar for the traditional look. Optional: top a portion with leftover mascarpone cream and/or berries.

Slightly adapted from: Vikalinka

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book review, recipe

The Rules of Magic + Tipsy Chocolate Cake

Happy Halloween, readers! Before I kick off today’s typical post, I want to share a little story. A couple of months ago, I had an epiphany – I thought of the perfect Halloween costume, and almost immediately, I set about finding all of the necessary pieces. Normally, Halloween isn’t exactly my thing, but once I realized who I had to dress up as, that all changed. This year would be different. Readers, I decided to be Julia Child and my excitement could not be contained. I was lucky enough to find the perfect top, skirt and heels secondhand (thank you, thredUP!) as well as a wonderful replica of her L’Ecole des Trois Gourmandes badge from Etsy. Armed with her cookbook and some cooking utensils, all I needed to complete the look was a curly-haired wig and an apron. Here’s what I came up with – what do you think?

Now, onto the usual post, which I’m also excited to share with you. As you may recall, I recently picked up Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic in anticipation of its prequel The Rules of Magic, which came out earlier this month – just in time for Halloween reading! For fans of Practical Magic, Hoffman’s latest novel follows the lives of the beloved aunts you well-remember, Frances and Jet, as well as their brother Vincent as they negotiate being teenagers.

Thankfully, The Rules of Magic was exactly as good as I had hoped it would be. If I’m being honest, I liked it better than Practical Magic (the book), which I read and reviewed here just a few weeks ago. I loved finding out more about Sally and Gillian’s aunts, who make a big impression even though they only appear briefly in the movie. Growing up in New York City during the sixties, the sisters wrestle with the normal struggles of being teenagers alongside the unique consequences of the Owens family curse.

Though not a traditional pageturner, Hoffman’s writing and magical storytelling made this a really quick, enjoyable read. Previously, the story of the Owens family revolved around women – often sisters, so I was surprised to learn about Vincent. I have to say I loved the addition of an Owens brother; his story was unexpectedly beautiful.

As with Sally and Gillian’s story, Franny and Jet’s includes a beloved aunt as well. In the summer of Franny’s seventeenth year, family tradition takes all three siblings to the Massachusetts home of their Aunt Isabelle, where they eat cake for breakfast and stay up as late as they like. It is also there that they learn how to unlock their powers and about their family’s past. Isabelle’s tipsy chocolate cake, which she bakes with copious amounts of rum, makes an impression as well – for the sisters continue to make it even when they move back home to New York City. (Sometimes leaving out the rum, when children are invited.)

I found a recipe from The Crumby Kitchen for a chocolate bundt cake filled with rum, both baked in and covered in a rum-soaked glaze. It looked easy enough, and most of all, it sounded delicious. To start, I sprayed my bundt pan with cooking spray and dusted it with cocoa powder.

Then, I preheated my oven to 325 degrees F and combined the dry ingredients in a bowl – sifted flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large saucepan over medium heat, I mixed the butter, buttermilk, hot chocolate, rum, cocoa powder, and cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves. I stirred it together, and once the butter melted, I whisked in the brown and granulated sugars until they dissolved. I removed the pan from the heat and allowed it to cool for at least 5 minutes before transferring the mixture to a large bowl.

In a small bowl, I whisked together the eggs and vanilla. I added it to the cooled chocolate rum mixture in the larger bowl, stirring until combined. I added the dry ingredients to the large bowl of wet ingredients and stirred it until it was just combined. The batter was slightly lumpy as described. I poured it into the bundt pan.

The cake baked for about an hour. (Check after 50 minutes.) I let it cool while I started to make the glaze, for at least 20 minutes.

In a small saucepan, I dissolved brown sugar into heavy cream over medium-low heat before adding the rum. I let it come up to a simmer until the liquid reduced and the glaze thickened. The last step in the glaze was to add two tablespoons of butter, stirring until it melted.

Using a skewer, I poked a bunch of holes into the bottom and spooned the glaze over the cake. I let it sit for about 10 minutes so it would soak in, and I repeated this process twice more.

Finally, once the cake was cooled, I turned it out onto a plate. I covered the top of the bundt cake with the rest of the glaze.

Even Julia Child got in on the action – I brought it to work so the whole office could enjoy the tipsy chocolate cake for our Halloween festivities. Both the cake and the costume were a hit.

I hope you all have a safe and happy Halloween!

Tipsy Chocolate Cake

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup hot chocolate
  • ½ cup dark rum
  • 1½ cups plus 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder, divided
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1¾ cups brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • For the Rum Glaze:

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup rum
  • 2 Tablespoons butter

Directions

    To make the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 15-cup bundt pan with baking spray, then dust with 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder; set aside.
  2. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan set over medium heat, combine butter, buttermilk, hot chocolate, rum, cocoa powder, and spices. Heat until butter melts and all ingredients come together, then whisk in sugars, stirring until dissolved. Cool mixture for 5 minutes, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla extract, and add to cooled chocolate rum mixture, stirring until combined.
  5. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined – batter will be rather thin but slightly lumpy/bubbly.
  6. Pour batter into prepared bundt pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted to the bottom comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 20-30 minutes while you prepare the glaze.
  7. To make the glaze:

  8. In a small saucepan, dissolve brown sugar into cream over medium-low heat. When combined, add rum and set heat to low. Allow to simmer until liquid is reduced and thickens. Add butter and stir to melt, then remove from heat.
  9. Using a skewer, poke multiple holes across the bottom of the cake. Spoon or brush buttered rum glaze on the cake, and allow to soak 5-10 minutes, then repeat with more glaze two more times. Let cake soak & cool 20-30 minutes.
  10. When cake is cooled, turn it out onto a cake plate. Brush top and sides of cake with remaining glaze, making multiple passes over it until it’s all used up.
  11. Top with whipped cream or ice cream if desired before serving. Enjoy!

Adapted from: The Crumby Kitchen

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