Category Archives: tea

Cake Every Week (or Day)

Winter is a great time for baking.  What better way to warm up when it is cold outside than to turn on the oven and bake something?  Lately, I have been trying to use the oven as much as possible, which means that almost everything we eat these days is either baked or roasted.  This is partly to make up for the fact that not all the burners work very well on our range, so cooking is sometimes a challenge and other times it is downright frustrating.  A full kitchen renovation is in the works, but until the ball gets rolling, I am baking and roasting away.  Thankfully, there is nothing wrong with the oven other than the fact that I could use another one because I often want to make two things at once that don’t require the same temperature.

In the last couple of weeks in particular, I have been focusing on cakes for the sweet part of the oven work.  I made these little blueberry cakes using the last of some jarred blueberry pie filling that I had canned a long long time ago.  It was a good thing the filling was sweet because I forgot to add the sugar to the cake batter.  I blame the computer for that mistake because I was unable to print out the recipe.  I have not made the switch over to using a device in the kitchen, mostly because those devices are expensive and I do not want to risk spilling something on them!  So, I had to shuttle back and forth between the computer in the family room and the kitchen.  Somewhere in there the sugar got left out.  The filling saved the day and it ended up tasting more like a blueberry cobbler, which was fine with everyone here.

After that fiasco, the next sweet bake was a gorgeous Lemon Cake.

Zesty lemon cake for a dreary wintry day.  Only half iced for those of us who do not like icing.  #beautifulfood #cakeeveryday

This is Maida Heatter’s East 62nd Street Lemon Cake with a simple powdered sugar icing over half of it.  Why only half?  Well, not everyone in this house likes icing and I was trying to make it appealing to everyone.  It is a fabulous cake that I urge you to try making.  Don’t be tempted to leave out the breadcrumbs in the pan.  I am pretty sure I had made this years ago, but bread crumbs was not a standard pantry item for me, so I know I left it out.  Trust me, the crust on this cake, not to mention the wonderful way it releases from the pan, relies on those bread crumbs.  I used panko bread crumbs, which is the only kind I have and it was fabulous.

Tea, cake, yarn, beads, pattern, and a new project bag.  What more does a knitter need on a wintry day? #knittersofinstagram #cozywinter

I think I had two slices a day until it was all gone, which was in less than 48 hours.  It’s perfect with tea.  There might have been some clamoring over the last slice; iced or not, it did not matter at that point.  The lemon adds some brightness to these dreary winter days, which we need desperately now that the temps are mostly below freezing and Jack Frost is a regular visitor.

This cake renewed by love for cake in general and the act of baking cakes.  There will certainly be more cake in the future.  Maybe not every day, but at hopefully every week,  And this lemon cake will return for sure.

Do you have a favorite cake?  Tell me about it because if I haven’t had, I will want to try it!

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Plum and Almond Danish Braid

Ok, I am not going to talk about cookies today because today is Tuesdays with Dorie Day and we are making Danish Braids!

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I am pretty sure I have made this recipe before, though it has been so long that I don’t remember the details. Danish dough is not too hard to make, though. It’s definitely easier than croissant dough, even if you don’t follow the directions exactly, like I did.

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When I made the dough on Friday, I was also making apple pie, apple challah, and apple swirl buns. What can I say? I was multitasking a bit too much. So, while I was cutting up the butter for the pie crust dough, I went ahead and cut up the butter for the danish dough into the same size pieces, not realizing that I actually needed bigger pieces of butter for the danish. Still, I kinda caught my mistake in time before I hit the pulse button on my food processor too many times, so my butter pieces did not all get too small.

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Then, the dough sat in my fridge for the weekend. It’s nice that the dough is patient and will wait until you are ready. Yesterday, I pulled it out, did all the rolling and folding, chilling and filling.

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To save time and energy, I used a jar of mixed red plum jam that I made last year and some leftover almond filling from making croissants awhile back. To make that almond filling more like the recipe for almond danish filling, I just added the two tablespoons of butter and the egg white.

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I made the two danish braids with the same filling. Boring, I know, but my plan was to freeze one, so I was ok with it. In retrospect, I wish I had doubled this recipe and made four braids, especially after I saw what they looked like after they came out of the oven.

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Clearly, my icing could be more drizzly and less gloppy, but I wasn’t hearing any complaints about the appearance when I served it for an afternoon snack. In fact, I didn’t hear any conversation at all, which, for boys, means that one has succeeded.

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The husband and I thought that that filling was a bit too sweet. Next time, I will use less jam and maybe skip the icing. The pastry, however, was delicious: buttery and flaky, and light and soft.

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It’s perfect with coffee or tea and breakfast, snack, or dessert. Originally, I had planned to make an apple version since I still have a lot of apples, but we have had a lot of apple desserts lately. Whatever the flavor, these danish will be more than tasty. I don’t think I will be waiting too long to make this recipe again.

Want to make it yourself? You can find the recipe here. Happy baking!

Not Your Average Shortbread

Ever since I bought the Baking with Julia book many years ago, I have been eying this recipe for Hungarian shortbread, but I have never made it.  The photos are really enticing.  There’s this jewel-like layer of jam sandwiched between two shortbread layers and it is all showered with a generous coating of powdered sugar.  I have been longing for this shortbread.  So, why have I waited 12 years to make it?  I’ll tell you why.

A pound of butter.  The recipe calls for a pound of butter and makes just one 9 by 12 inch pan of shortbread.  For some reason, that just seemed like an awful lot of butter, even for me, and I do not normally shy away from butter content at all.  In fact, I have been known to go through multiple pounds of butter in a day, but I do a lot of bulk baking and I freeze a lot for future events.

Anyway, excuses aside, I was excited to finally try this recipe because I thought it would be really good.  I mean, can you go wrong with a pound of butter, some flour, egg yolks, and jam?  Also, I was interested in its unusual method of freezing the cookie dough and then grating it into the pan.  Getting the dough together and shaped into tubes that would fit in my food processor was easy enough.

With the food processor, grating was really easy and just took a few seconds.  I wanted two different flavors, so I used two eight inch pans.  The grated dough looks a lot like grated cheese.  After I spread out the bottom layer, I baked the bottoms for 15 minutes first.

After the bottom baked for a bit, I took them out and spread jam on top.  I used jams I made last year: one was a rhubarb jam with candied ginger and the other was a raspberry blueberry jam.  I wanted to stay faithful to the recipe, but, honestly, not everyone likes rhubarb.  My husband and I love it, but my kids, not so much.  Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be too bothered by this, but we are talking about a pound of butter here and I didn’t think it wise that the husband and I should be “stuck” with the whole pan.   This way, most people would be happy and I wouldn’t have to buy a whole new wardrobe.

Anyway, the shortbread looked and smelled delicious coming out of the oven.  I think I tried to pull out one of them a little early.  That is why one of them appears cracked.  I pushed it back together and had no issues with it.  The bars stayed together just fine.

This time, I planned ahead a little and made sure to make this on a day when a good friend was coming over for a chinwag.  It was great.  Finally, after all these great recipes, I was able to have a little tea party.  These were perfect with tea.  They were a little crunchy, but then they melted in your mouth.  The rhubarb jam was a great, tart contrast and the berry was very yummy as well. All the kids chose berry and they were inhaled at a record pace.  I think the grating of the dough really made this a fluffy shortbread, not the dense, crunchy kind you normally think of when you hear the word shortbread.

The rhubarb version is in the foreground and the berry is in the back.  We had a great time chatting and I was happy to discover that my dear friend loves rhubarb!  Now, clearly, we did not eat them all.  I sent some home with her, but still had over two dozen left, so I took them with me to a workshop over the weekend.  When it was over, the tin was empty.  Everyone loved them.  The husband even said that they were the best shortbread he has ever had.  And now, I’m a little sad that we don’t have any left over.  I think I may have to make some more.

Now that I think about it, a pound of butter is not so bad.  I got 32 servings from my two pans, which makes it about one tablespoon of butter per bar.  That’s better than a piece of pie.  I have a lot more jam in the cupboard.  I wonder what I should try next?  Fig citrus?  Cherry grapefruit?  Apricot butter?  Strawberry Peach?

You can try these yourself.  I highly recommend the food processor for grating–I can only imagine the mess when doing it by hand.  The recipe is posted here and here.

Tea + Me = Sanity

Every morning when I wake up, I make myself a nice cup of tea.  Real tea.  No herbal tea for first thing in the morning.  And none of that lame Lipton stuff either.  There is only one brand of tea that I like to have in the mornings.  When I run out, I get get a little grumpy.

Brodie’s of Edinburgh.  I discovered this tea when the husband was in grad school.  The closest grocery store to our sardine tin sized apartment was this super gourmet store called Andronico’s.  It was the only one I could go to by myself because it was on the campus bus route and, at the time, I did not drive.  It was the sort of store that made its own pate for sale and had a butcher’s counter.  I Love butcher’s counters!  But, that’s another story.  I’m talking about tea.

So, I found this tea at Andronico’s and when I tried it, it was a revelation.  I had never seen tea this color.

It’s like a nice, rich, orangey-brown color.   And when I took a sip–Wow!  It’s really strong, but not at all tannin-y.  Tannin is a bitter flavor that makes your mouth feel kind of tacky.  Some unripe fruits have lots of tannin.  Most times, when you over-brew tea, you get a very strong tannin flavor.  With Brodie’s, though, you could leave the tea bag in for 10 minutes and it still would not have a taste of tannin.  It was love at first taste.

Now, we enjoyed this tea very much, but when we moved away and back to the East Coast, I could not find it anywhere.  It was tough.  I tried to make do with Taylor’s (it’s ok, but not the same), Twinings (blah, blah), and even Harney’s (weak), but nothing could compare.  So, I order off the internet.  I order a lot.  Of each kind.  They make 4 different kinds:  Scottish Breakfast (my morning cuppa), Scottish Teatime (great for afternoon tea with a piece of cake), Famous Edinburgh (the husband’s fave), and Edinburgh Tattoo (the strongest and great for when you need a little extra pick-me-up).  I order bagged for convenience and loose because loose tea really does taste better.

I start my day with a nice cuppa and it sets me up for the day.  I have another cuppa in the afternoon when I start to drag a bit.  I am so thankful for this tea.  It gives me a few minutes of calm when I drink it.  It keeps me sane.

And, sometimes, when I am drinking it, I like to think about maybe visiting Scotland someday.