Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

h1

Microwave Mocha Mug Cake

January 10, 2018

The whole concept of baking in the microwave sounds bizarre to the modern cook – microwaves are only for reheating leftovers, right? But when microwave ovens were first taking off as the must-have kitchen appliance in the 1970s and 1980s, there were all sorts of cookbooks released with recipes ranging from baking cakes to “roasting” whole chickens(!). Fortunately since then people have seemed to realize that microwaves aren’t a one-size-fits-all miracle do-everything kitchen appliance (and I wouldn’t be surprised if we viewed the current rash of electronic pressure cooker cookbooks the same way in 30 years – prime rib in an Instant Pot? Heaven forbid).

However, there is one type of baking for which microwaves work somewhat well, and that’s the single-serving “mug cake.” Sometimes I’ll get a craving for warm, gooey chocolate cake – like a single-serving lava cake – but don’t want to spend the time (or ingredients) to make a recipe that serves 8 people. Plus I want to enjoy the cake NOW, not in an hour! Microwave mug cakes are perfect for this purpose: they generally take less than 5 minutes start-to-finish. And as a bonus, they only dirty a single mug and a measuring spoon or two!

This version from Serious Eats uses the addition of instant coffee to kick the flavor up a notch, and incorporates chocolate chips for some extra-tasty melty chocolate bits. Perfect for satisfying your chocolate craving on a cold winter evening. Enjoy!

Microwave mocha mug cake

See recipe

h1

Poppy Seed Coffee Cake with Cardamom Streusel

December 27, 2017

Doing more housecleaning of blog post drafts that I started and never finished!

This streusel cake that I made for one of my former coworkers’ birthdays gets elevated beyond a standard poppy seed cake with the addition of cardamom. The streusel topping provides textural contrast to the soft crumb of the cake. Great dessert when you’re looking for something not-too-rich and slightly out of the ordinary flavor.

Recipe is from the Bon Appetit Desserts cookbook. Enjoy!

Poppy seed coffee cake with cardamom streusel topping

See recipe

h1

Chocolate Whiskey Bundt Cake

December 26, 2017

I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts folder for 2.5 years, and I think it’s high time I shared this amazing recipe! I’ve made this cake several times now and it has become my go-to for when I need something that looks impressive but actually comes together with very little effort.

Here’s my original write up (the friend mentioned is now 32, yikes!):

One of my best friends from grad school turned 30 on June 1, and his wife asked me to be in charge of the cake for his surprise party. I had made an ambitious two-tiered almond cake for her 30th birthday the previous summer, but since this party was only a few weeks before my due date, I didn’t think I’d be able to take on too big of a project. But I needed to come up with enough cake to serve around 30 people. In a flash of inspiration, I decided to make three separate bundt cakes… one for each decade of life! Which sounds like way more work than just making one big cake, but it was actually way easier. I’m a huge fan of bundt cakes because they make gorgeous centerpieces but require much less effort than layer cakes – they generally only require a quick glaze or dusting of powdered sugar rather than a complicated frosting.

This particular cake has a wonderfully rich dark chocolate flavor, and the whiskey flavor really comes through (makes sense as there’s a full half-cup in the batter). A dusting of powdered sugar and a dollop of whipped cream are the only accompaniments it needs; anything else would be overkill. Recipe is originally from the Gourmet Today cookbook. Enjoy!

Chocolate whiskey bundt cake

See recipe

h1

Matcha Tea Cake Cookies

January 16, 2016

As you can probably guess from the lack of activity here, I’ve been a bit preoccupied for the past 7 months! Our daughter Vivienne was born on June 24th after a (very very thankfully) short labor and uncomplicated delivery. So with the arrival of our newest family member, food photography and blogging have unfortunately fallen so far down the to-do list that it’s something that hasn’t even crossed my mind to pick back up until recently.

Poor Vivienne isn’t feeling well this weekend, so while she was getting some much-needed snuggle time with her dad this morning, I decided to try out these easy cookies. I recently cleaned out my cooking magazine stash – I’m hanging on to all my old Bon Appetit issues, but I looked through my copies of Food and Wine and clipped out recipes that sounded like I might actually make now that my cooking and baking time is much more limited. This cookie recipe was in the February 2015 issue, and while matcha isn’t something I usually keep on hand, I cut it out because their color was so striking (plus they sounded easy to make – no creaming of butter and sugar).

Matcha is a ground green tea powder from Japan. If you’ve ever seen a traditional Japanese tea ceremony performed, matcha is the type of tea used. It’s also used in various Japanese confections like mochi. The green color permeates everything that the powder is mixed with, giving baked goods and sweets an almost unnaturally intense hue.

These cookies may not appeal to everyone, but I really enjoyed the way they turned out! They’re not overly sweet and they have a strong matcha flavor (there are two whole tablespoons of the powder in the dough, plus more for dusting on top), and there’s a hint of almond which complements the green tea flavor nicely. I also enjoyed the cake-like texture – I think it suits the flavor better than a more traditional drop-cookie texture would.

If you’ve enjoyed other Japanese confections made with matcha, I think you’ll love these cookies! If you give them a try, let me know what you think!

Matcha cookies

See recipe

h1

Rhubarb Pie with Cardamom and Orange

April 29, 2015

The rhubarb in our garden is getting bigger every day, and I can’t wait until there’s enough of it to make some delicious summer desserts! Here’s one I made last year that I’m hoping to make again this summer.

This rhubarb pie recipe (from Bon Appetit Desserts) was supposed to have a lattice crust, but I decided to make it when I only had a single pie crust in my fridge, and I didn’t feel like making a second just for the lattice. :) So I used scraps from the single crust and cut out lots of dots to cover the surface with. I’m not sure if a true lattice would have prevented some of the bubbliness and drips around the edges, but the dots effect looked cool and it’s easy enough to use a cookie sheet underneath the pie plate to catch any drips. The filling certainly didn’t lose too much moisture from not being more covered!

I love fruit desserts that are on the tart(er) side, so rhubarb has always been one of my favorite “fruits” in dessert. We really enjoyed the subtle complexity that the cardamom and orange added to the flavor of the filling, without overwhelming the flavor of the rhubarb itself. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, this makes the perfect early-summer dessert.

Rhubarb pie with cardamom and orange

See recipe

h1

Cherry Pie

August 4, 2014

Sour cherries are a truly seasonal fruit: unlike raspberries or blueberries, they can’t be grown year-round in a hothouse. Last year I let the short season pass me by, and this year I was determined not to miss it again. When my parents mentioned that they were going cherry picking a few weeks ago, I jumped on the chance to stock up. My mom asked me how much I wanted, and I told her “as much as you feel like carrying!” :) She’s the best mom ever: she picked me eight pounds of sour cherries, and felt so bad about how long it would take me to pit them, that she came over one afternoon and pitted all of them while watching a movie! So of course I shared samples of all my baking adventures with her… not enough of a thank-you for all her work. I’ll find a way to make it up to her somehow!

I think this is actually the first time I’ve made a sour cherry pie, and this recipe from the Gourmet Today cookbook was highly praised by the author of the Gourmet Project blog, so it’s the one I picked. Bon Appetit featured a cherry pie on one of their recent magazine covers with small holes cut out of the top crust rather than the traditional star-shaped slit. I don’t have any tiny biscuit cutters, but I found that the bottom of a cake decorating tip was the perfect size to achieve this effect! I like the way the larger holes reveal more of what the filling of the pie is (which is better for photographs), although those who feel squicked by the appearance of lotus seed pods would probably prefer a less hole-y crust. :)

The pie was fantastic; not too tart and not too sweet. To thicken the filling, this recipe uses a combination of both ground tapioca and cornstarch. At first I was wondering if this would  make it turn out too thick or gelatinous, but it turned out perfect for the amount of juices generated by the cherries. The touch of cinnamon added a really nice nuance to the flavor without being overwhelming. I would definitely make this pie again during next year’s sour cherry season! Or I may have to break out the gallon-size bag of cherries stashed away in the freezer… maybe mid-February when everyone could use a little touch of summer. :)

Cherry pie

See recipe

h1

Lattice-Crust Pear Pie

July 14, 2014

All pies, all the time!

Today I’m sharing another pear dessert recipe that I made back in the fall – a more complex pie instead of an easy tart this time! Although honestly the pie isn’t that much more complicated, just possibly more intimidating if you’ve never made a lattice crust before. :)

The most important thing when making a lattice is to not let your dough get too warm. As soon as your dough warms up, it’ll get really soft and tear easily. Which means you need to keep your top dough piece in the fridge until just before rolling it out and topping the pie with it. It’s also definitely to your advantage to have a stiffer dough rather than a soft, easy-roll pie dough. Adding sugar to pie dough makes it softer, so I choose to leave it out for this recipe.

The second important thing is knowing how to properly weave the lattice so it doesn’t look like you just have strips of dough sitting on top of other strips. GimmeSomeOven has awesome step-by-step photos of how to weave the lattice right on top of the pie itself, so you’re not trying to do it on your counter and then transfer the whole thing over (which makes tearing way more likely).

This past November was the first year my coworkers have let me make something for my own birthday. Since one of my coworkers and I share a birthday, I was able to pass it off as making it for her and not really for me. :) They always thought it was weird that I actually wanted to make my own birthday dessert, but since I love baking and I love to eat the desserts I make, I didn’t think it seemed too weird to me! Pear pie sounds a bit unusual, and since I love things that are out of the ordinary, I’d been wanting to try this recipe from Gourmet Today for a while. It was delicious! The texture was similar to apple pie, but a small amount of nutmeg instead of cinnamon allowed the pear flavor to come through without being overwhelmed by spice. I’ll definitely be making this again in the fall!

Note that this recipe requires a 9½-inch deep dish pie plate rather than a standard 9-inch pie plate.

Lattice-crust pear pie

See recipe