Category Archives: Recipe

Day 11: Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Lemon Icing

This is one of my favorite cakes to make and not just during this time of year.  We eat gingerbread all year round because it’s good and shouldn’t just be limited to just one month out of the year.

This one is dark and spicy with bursts of candied ginger throughout.

But, the thing that makes this gingerbread extra special is the lemon glaze.  The zinginess of the lemon goes so well with the spicy mellowness of the cake.  You want to be sure that your icing is fairly thick or else most of it will just fall off.  This happened to me the first time and I had to redo it, which is why the cake pictured looks like it has two icings.

The cake tastes better if it is made a day ahead of time.  I made this cake for an event tonight, so I don’t have any pictures of it cut right now, but if there are any leftovers I will add a photo or two tomorrow.

That’s all for now.  Sorry to be so short today, but it’s been a busy few days and I need a little lie down before going out tonight.

Be sure to leave me a comment for another entry into the Christmas treat box giveaway.  I think it is mostly packed up now and just waiting for the winner’s address.  I can’t believe tomorrow is the last day!  I would love to hear about  your favorite Christmas tradition.

Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Lemon Icing

adapted from the Standard Baking Co., Portland ME

2 3/4 cups (13.25 ounces) all purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 Tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (4 ounces) or 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons (4.5 ounces) sugar

2 large eggs

3/4 cup mild molasses

1 1/3 cups cold water

1/4 cup (2 ounces) finely chopped crystallized ginger

Lemon Glaze

1 3/4 cup (5 ounces) powdered sugar

2  Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a bundt pan or spray with Baker’s Joy.  Set aside.

Whisk together the flour and spices.

Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until combined.  Add the large eggs and beat to blend.  Beat in the light molasses.  It will look grainy.

Add half of the dry ingredients and beat until blended.  Beat in half of the water. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients and beat until blended.  Add the remaining water and mix until mostly incorporated.

Stop the mixer, give the bowl a good scraping down.  Then, add the chopped crystallized ginger and beat the mixture again on medium speed for at least a minute.

Transfer the batter to your bundt pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

For the glaze:

Whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice to get a thick icing that drops in mounds (you don’t want it too runny or it will just run right off–I did this the first time).

With the cake still on a rack, pour the icing evenly over the top of the cake, letting it run down the sides.

 

 

Day 8: Cheese Crackers

In this season of sweetness, it’s sometimes nice to have something that is not sweet.  Cheese crackers are not something I would normally think of to make because crackers are so easy to buy and they don’t last long in my house with all the snacking that goes on, so it’s not something I generally think of as a good way to use up my time.

However, the few times when I have had freshly made crackers, they have been really tasty and nothing like the dry, overly seasoned things you buy in boxes.

So, I thought I would make some and they are not hard to make.  Everything gets mixed up in the food processor, which does all the blending.

The next step is shaping, which I did in two ways.  I rolloed out half the dough into a 1/4 inch thick sheet and cut out as many little holly leaf shapes as I could.

It turns out that 1/4 inch thick crackers are too thick.  The first pan was good, but they did not retain their crispness.  One eighth of an inch is a better thickness for crackers.

They bake for quite awhile, about 20 minutes for these little ones to get them nice and dry and crispy.

The other half of the dough got shaped into a log for slicing.  I haven’t made those yet, but probably will soon, because these disappear fast!  They are very easy to eat, quite tasty, and are a welcome break from sweet things.  They will be good for serving to guests as they are hanging around and waiting for the big meal.

I noticed that cinnamon buns are quite a popular Christmas breakfast treat!  In our house, we can’t remember what we ate for Christmas breakfast before I started making Pandoro.  Everything else is eclipsed by the Pandoro as if those breakfasts did not exist.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for another entry into my Christmas treat box giveaway.  I’ve started to pack the box now, but there are still a few things yet that need to be made.  My house is beginning to look like a bakery and my freezer is almost full!  How are you doing on your preparations?

Cheddar Cayenne Crackers

adapted from Williams-Sonoma

makes a lot of tiny crackers or 4-6 dozen medium sized crackers

1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces) all purpose flour

1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika powder

8 Tablespoons (4 ounces) softened butter

2 heaping cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 or 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a food processor bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to combine.

Add the butter and pulse a few times until the butter is in small bits.

Add the cheese and pulse until the mixture looks pebbly.  Add the cream while the machine is running and then pulse until a ball begins to be formed on the blade or the dough starts to clump together.  If you squeeze a handful of dough together, it should stay in a ball.

Transfer the dough to a a sheet of parchment paper or clean pastry board.  Knead a few times to bring it all together into one mass.  Divide the dough in half.

If you would like shaped crackers, flatten the dough into a disk and roll out between two sheets of parchment to a 1/8 inch thickness.  Use 1 inch to 2 inch cookie cutters to cut out shapes.  If the dough is too soft and sticky, place the sheet of dough into the freezer for a few minutes to firm up.

If you want slice and bake crackers, shape your dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Wrap in parchment of plastic and refrigerate for at least two hours before slicing.  When you are ready to bake, slice the log into 1/8 inch thick slices.

Transfer the shapes to your prepared cookie sheets so that they don’t touch.  A half inch of space around each cracker is sufficient.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your crackers.  Larger cookies will take longer,  They should be golden brown.  Let cool completely on a rack.  Store in an airtight container and eat within a week.

Day 6: Pizzelles

Most people I know collect something.  For some, it’s teapots.  For others, it might be beer steins.  If a person has a lot of money, they tend to collect things like art or cars.  Me, I collect cookie cutters.  I look for cookie cutters everywhere I go and I have quite a large collection now.  It’s so large, that I have to sort it by holiday to avoid having to dump out the bin when I need a particular shape.  I love pretty much anything to do with making cookies and now that I have caught the Springerle bug, I can see myself buying and collecting those as well.

But today, we’re going to talk about the ultimate cookie making tool: the Pizzelle maker.  I bought this on impulse last week when I was making my list of recipes I wanted to make for you.   I ran across a recipe for this cookie and remembered how a friend of mine would sometimes bring them to our church’s cookie exchange and how much I loved them.  The two or three that went home with me in the box never seemed to be enough.

Now, I know what you are thinking.  This is a one trick puppy.  It only makes pizzelles.  You cannot make anything else with it.  Generally speaking, I stay away from tools that can only be useful for one thing and won’t get much use except for one or two weeks out of the year.  But, then I read that pizzelles can be used to make cannolis (if you’re willing to depart from the traditional fried shells) and ice cream cones.  It was the ice cream cones that sold me.  Before I knew what hit me, I hit the buy now button and the rest is history.

We don’t regret a thing.

Firstly, it is insanely easy to make these.  In the time it takes to make the batter, the iron heats up and then everything is ready.  This pizzelle maker makes two pizzelles every thirty seconds!  In less than fifteen minutes, we had 2 dozen pizzelles, some of which we fashioned immediately into ice cream cones.

It went by so fast that we couldn’t stop there and the next day, we made another batch with candied ginger.  Even with the extra couple of minutes that it took to finely chop the ginger, we were done in 15 minutes.  Amazing.

The first day, we made a vanilla version with salted butter.  However, we all agree that the ginger ones are better.  Once I find some anise extract, I will make some with that flavor because I have read that those are the traditional flavor for this time of year.  I also think that candied citrus would be really tasty.

I am pretty sure that we will be using this new tool way more than any one of the cookie cutters that I have in my bin.  Ice cream sandwich, anyone?

Here’s a link to the pizzelle maker that I bought.  I highly recommend it.

Leave a comment here to enter to win a box of Christmas treats.  Pizzelles will definitely be in the box!  Tell me what you collect!

Triple Ginger Pizzelles

makes about 24

1  1/4 cup (6.25 ounces) all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

3 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

1/2 cup (3.5 ounces sugar)

3 Tablespoons (1.5 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled a little

4 Tablespoons (2 ounces) canola oil

1/2 teaspoon ginger extract

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) finely chopped crystallized ginger

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and ginger in a small bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the oil and melted butter and whisk together until smooth.  Whisk in the extract.

Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in the dry ingredients into the egg mixture.  Fold in the crystallized ginger.

Follow your pizzelle maker’s instructions to make your pizzelles.  For the Chef’s Choice Pizzelle Pro maker, I used a scant tablespoon of batter per pizzelle and timed them for 30 seconds exactly.

 

Simple Boozy Apple Cake

It’s fall!  The leaves are turning and that means it is also apple season.  Little did we know when we moved here last year that we would be in the middle of apple country.  There are many apple orchards within a 15 minute drive of our house and if you expand that radius, the number of orchards just keeps multiplying.  We are not strangers to pick your own apples, having gone every year for almost 20 years now.  However, we’ve never been this spoilt for choice for apple orchards.  As a result, the boys and I are on an unofficial mission to visit as many apple farms as we can so we can better assess our favorite.

So far, we’ve gone to two.

Ok, that’s not exactly fulfilling the mission, but, unfortunately, we also have to get some work done around here sometimes.  Sigh.

Anyway, the benefit to going more frequently is that we do not feel the need to pick a whole season’s apples all in one go.  So, we have been picking one basket at a time.  This means that our apples are always fresh!  What a bonus!

There is nothing like eating a fresh picked apple.  They are crisp and juicy and scrumptious.  We easily ate through over half of our first basket before I even started thinking about baking anything.

And when I started baking, I naturally turned to cake first.

Now, apple cake and I have a rocky relationship.  I love the idea of apple cake, but often do not like the reality of apple cake.  It can often be very moist, almost soggy, and they have notoriously long bake times, which can make them hard to judge doneness.  They are also often really yummy warm and eaten the day they are baked, but as the days go by, they get soggier and wetter.

That soggy cake texture has never been appealing to me.  I wanted a cake that was moist, but able to hold up for a few days without becoming pasty.  And I also wanted a cake that would take a fair amount of apples.  After all, at this time of year, I am usually trying to use up as many apples as possible before they go bad on the counter.  I didn’t want to make a cake that would just use one apple.

After several tries, I think I finally have a cake recipe that accomplishes all those things.  And it has booze in it as well.

Plus, the recipe is pretty easy; no mixer necessary.  The hardest part is chopping up the apples.  And, I have included a little bit of whole wheat, so it’s also good for you!

It is especially good with salted caramel slathered on top of it.

What’s not to like?

Simple Boozy Apple Cake

makes one 9 inch square cake

You can use any kind of booze in this cake.  I tried both Smoked Maple Bourbon and a lighter apple Liquor that I had.  Both were good, though the apple Liquor one was a much lower proof, which made it almost imperceptible in the finished cake.  If you don’t want to use booze, you can also use the same amount of orange juice or apple juice/cider.  I also topped my cakes with a glaze of Smoked Maple Bourbon Caramel sauce.  Very yummy and I highly recommend this addition.  You can find the recipe here.  The caramel sauce can be made up to a week in advance and kept in the fridge.

4 medium sized apples, peeled, cored and diced, about 16-18 ounces after dicing

1/4 cup (2 ounces) bourbon, rum, hard cider, or apple liquor

1 Tablespoon (1/2 ounce) lemon juice

1 and 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour

1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

a pinch of ground cloves

2 large eggs

1 cup (7 ounces) light brown sugar

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (option, but very good)

1/2 cup (4 ounces) butter, melted and cooled

————————————————-

Butter and flour a nine inch square cake pan or spray with a nonstick spray with flour added.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the apples, booze, and lemon juice in a medium bowl.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, lemon zest, and butter until slightly lighter in color.  Whisk in the eggs until well combined and light.  This will take about a minute.

Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in the dry ingredients to the egg mixture.  It will be very dry. Do not try to get all the flour mixed in.  There should still be a few spots of flour when you stop (see photos above).

Add the apples and all the liquid in the bowl to the batter.  Stir with the spatula until the batter smoothes out.  Scrape into your prepared pan and level it with your spatula.

Transfer to the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes.  The cake will be golden brown and a toothpick or tester should come out clean.

Let cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes before glazing with caramel sauce and eating.  The cake will keep for up to three days at room temperature, covered.  It will get moister as the days pass, but should not get soggy.  Enjoy!

 

 

Lemon Blueberry Cornmeal Quick Bread

One of the first things I did when we returned from our travels a couple of weeks ago was to look around for blueberry farms that would allow us to come and pick our own.  We’ve been blueberry picking every summer for almost two decades!  There were several that popped up, but most of them did not seem appealing for one reason or another except for one that happened to be rather close to our house.  Well, close meaning it was a 25 minute drive, which is how far we are from just about everything.  Anyway, we jumped into the car and drove over there and the whole time I was thinking that if it was a bust, at least it wasn’t that far away.  Happily, it was a fantastic little farm and we were there on the opening day of blueberry picking, so the blueberries were very plentiful.

We were there for less than an hour and picked all this, including the raspberries.

I can”t tell you what a relief and joy it was that we were able to find this farm.  After a long first year here with countless moments of homesickness, this was a couple of hours when we all felt actually really happy and glad to be here.  Don’t get me wrong, none of us regret moving (well, maybe a little), but living in a place where everything is new and nothing is familiar just wears on a person.

It was nice to enjoy a familiar activity.  In fact, we enjoyed it so much we went back the next week and did it again.  And I am hoping they will still be open for another week so we can get some more because, unbelievably, we have gone through 12 quarts of blueberries in two weeks.  There were a couple of tarts and batches of jam.  Three or four of those quarts went into the freezer for the long winter.  And, of course, there were pies and breads and smoothies.  And recently, with the last quart of berries facing me, I also made a lovely loaf cake dotted with blueberries, flavored with zingy lemon, and enhanced by the subtle crunch of cornmeal.

Best of all, the cake is super easy to mix together.  The hardest task is zesting the lemons.  Everything else can be done with a whisk.  These are my favorite kinds of recipes.  Simple.  Tasty.  Unfussy.

When the loaf comes out of the oven, it gets a sugar and lemon juice glaze.

Then, once it has cooled, it gets a drizzle of icing.  You may be tempted to skip the icing and it would be ok without it.  However, the cake itself has less sugar than most, so the icing really enhances the cake instead of just adding to the sweetness.  Plus, it makes it really pretty.

 

Lemon Blueberry Cornmeal Quick Bread

makes one 9 by 5 inch loaf  (I used a 11.5 by 3.5 inch pan that I got from Ikea, but the 9 by 5 is about the same volume.  If you don’t have that, an 8 by 8 pan would work, but it would be shorter and probably need to bake for a shorter period of time.)

1 1/4 cups (6.25 ounces) all purpose flour

1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) fine cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar

zest of one lemon

1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk

2 large eggs

8 Tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

1 cup plus 1/4 cup fresh blueberries

for glaze:

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

for icing:

3/4 cup (3 ounces) powdered sugar

zest of half a lemon

1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice

To make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with a piece of parchment.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together until mixed.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and lemon zest together.  Add the dry ingredients and whisk until almost fully mixed.  Add the melted butter and whisk until smooth. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in 1 cup of blueberries.  Scrape the batter into your loaf pan and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of blueberries on top.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until nicely golden on top and a tester comes out clean.  Meanwhile, mix together the 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice and sugar for the glaze.  As soon as you remove the cake from the oven brush the glaze over the top of the cake while it is still in the pan.  After 15 minutes, remove the cake from the pan and let cool completely on a rack.

Mix together the ingredients for the icing.  Begin with a tablespoon of lemon juice.  Whisk the powdered sugar, lemon zest, and juice together in a bowl, adding additional juice until the icing drops smoothly from a spoon or whisk.  Drizzle the icing decoratively over the top of the cake.  Transfer to a serving plate and serve at room temperature.  The cake will keep well, covered for a day or two.