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Pie: Portland

7 Dec

Happy Holidays, everyone! All in all, the Thanksgiving baking was a success and lots of fun. Had a blast making three pies and a batch of sesame rolls (my first attempt at a yeast roll, as opposed to yeast bread).

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For the big day, I made a traditional Libby’s pumpkin pie, but I did add some black pepper and nutmeg, which the original recipe doesn’t call for, to give the filling some extra flavor (a la Blue Ribbon Pumpkin Pie).

The crust turned out well, but darn it, I baked it too long again, and it cracked horribly down the middle. Hence, pecans to the rescue! It looks like I almost meant to decorate it that way.

The sweet sesame rolls were an Associated Press recipe I saw in Foodday. They were super simple and delicious. Having never made yeast rolls before (IMO cinnamon rolls don’t count), I wasn’t sure what to expect, but these seemed foolproof. Highly recommend for their crunchy texture and subtle nutty flavor.

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The day before Thanksgiving, I took these two pies to the office (something I do every year). Typically, I pick something traditional and something experimental. This year, I picked cranberry-apple with a crumb topping and maple-walnut. The walnut was almost like a pecan pie, with its gooey center, but I have to admit that I favored the fruit pie. Both recipes from the always-reliable “Pie.”

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Solo projects: Fall baking in Portland

9 Nov

Happy Fall, everyone! It’s been a busy October and early November. After taking some time off during the summer (something about using a hot oven when it’s above 80 degrees just doesn’t seem right), I’ve jumped back into the delights of baking. And so far, I’ve made one of the fall baked goods I had on my list.

Here are three highlights from the last few weeks:

I finally tried making Bon Appetit’s butterscotch pie with curry crust. It was surprisingly delicious and well-received at a coworker get-together. (I’ve also come to a realization about my taste for fennel: only in baked goods and only when toasted or crushed to disarm the flavor.) The crust combines vanilla wafers, curry powder and toasted fennel seeds. Its savory taste plays amazingly well off the super-sweet butterscotch filling, which is nothing more than a caramel custard with gelatin. All dressed up with whipped cream and cashews, I couldn’t have hoped for a prettier pie.

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For Halloween, I couldn’t resist reprising the pumpkin gingerbread recipe Hannah and I made a few years ago. This year, my mom sent me a combo cookie cutter-stamp set for making GingerDEAD men, so naturally I had to try these out. My frosting technique could use some practice, but they tasted great and weren’t too crunchy. Just the right amount of cakey texture, which is how I prefer gingerbread cookies. The recipe calls for pumpkin pie spice, and I tried an experimental mixture of my own this year. Basically, I adapted the recipes from The Kitchn, whose baking and cooking tutorials I adore, and My Baking Addiction, while adding some cardamom instead of mace. I’ll always make my own from now on. Couldn’t be simpler.

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Armed with quite a bit of leftover icing from the gingerdead men, I decided that hot cross buns would be the perfect way to use the extra. On Nov. 1, All Saints’ Day, my mother would often make us “saint cakes,” which are actually just hot cross buns. They’re typically more associated with Easter and Lent than All Saint’s Day, but the two baked goods are pretty similar. Plus, these ones are a yeast bread, which makes them extra flavorful. Egg wash always gives these such a lovely sheen.

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With the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap getting underway this month and Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I’m sure to spend more time in the kitchen on everything from cookies to pies. Figuring out which recipes to use will be the hard part, but I’ll keep you posted on all my November baking adventures.

Joint project: Kolache

6 Aug

Mmmm! Kolache!

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Hannah took the world’s fastest vacation out to Oregon this last weekend to stay with Nora and visit with our fabulous collegiate social circle. Naturally, it was time to bake together! Nora suggested that we make Kolache, a Czech pastry with fruit filling. Both of us have Czech heritage, and have made delicious Kolache before, but we had an excellent reason to revisit this fabulous baked good: our lovely friends Martin and Nicole are moving away from Portland to Bozeman, MT. Martin is a first-generation American born to Czech parents, and he often teaches Hannah and Nora things about the Czech Republic. A batch of freshly baked Kolache seemed like a nice treat for Martin and Nicole’s last weekend in Oregon.

This is a badly back-lit photo of Martin and Nicole, the night we ate the Kolache! (Nice hat, Martin.)

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Kolache are relatively simple to make. Nora had a little flipbook of recipes called Cherished Czech Recipes, so that was our source for the recipe. Actually, Martin and Nicole got that book for Nora! (Talk about self-gifting, amirite?)

Kolache are mostly sweet yeast bread, with little thumbprint wells on top, filled with (a usually sweet) filling of some kind. The recipe book had so many filling options, both sweet (honey poppyseed, cherry, butter rum…) and savory (cabbage, of course!). We settled on 1/2 cherry filling (which was basically just cherry pie filling) and 1/2 lemon curd.

Here’s Nora, shopping for cherries to use to make the cherry filling.

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Oregon cherries, of course!

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At home, we whipped up our yeasty beasties:

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Then came warm milk and melted butter, and finally our flour/sugar/egg mix. Hannah used Nora’s beautiful red stand mixer to do this part:

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Nora kneaded the dough just a little bit:

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…then left it to rise for about an hour. An hour we filled by watching “The West Wing“!

Then we divided the dough, rolled it into little balls, brushed them with melted butter, and let them rise again on the baking sheets.

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Meanwhile, Nora made the cherry filling (basically, cherries/their juice and sugar, thickened in a pan over low heat with corn starch).

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Hannah made the “crumble topping”, which was basically strudel. Flour, sugar, and cinnamon cut together with butter using a pastry cutter.

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Once the little balls had risen again, we punched the wells in and filled them up! Hannah’s disembodied hand making wells:

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Nora’s disembodied spoon in the background, adding cherry filling:

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Crumb topping added!

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They baked up beautifully and our end product was awesome! They were really airy and just the right amount of sweet.


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…And a blurry, self-taken phone picture of the bakers!

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Apple Charlotte: Portland

29 Apr

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Well, it’s been a while. Having recently returned from visiting Hannah in Denver, I felt I needed to finally get to posting.

Julia Child’s Apple Charlotte, which I made more than a month ago around my birthday, was a success. The secret of course, was butter, and lots of it. Perhaps too much, but some say that’s not possible. If there indeed is such a thing as too much butter, I think I might have discovered it with Apple Charlotte. This recipe took a bit of time, but the ingredients were inexpensive and simple (see above). Per Julia’s suggestion, I used golden delicious apples, which worked quite well.

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To save some time on cutting the apples, I did take the shortcut of using an apple slicer. It was worth it, considering the other finicky steps that went into crafting this dessert, such as cutting the crusts off many slices of bread.

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It might not seem like removing crusts would take a lot of time, but in an effort to not destroy every piece of bread I touched, I used a knife and tried to be precise in my de-crusting.

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Now for the butter. I think I ended up using close to three sticks of butter for this recipe, which in hindsight seems like far too much. But it did make the bread and the filling extremely soft.

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After dipping each piece of bread in butter, I made a layer on the bottom of my pie plate. A tip is to toast the pieces of bread before dipping them in butter to avoid overly saturating the bread in butter but to ensure it soaks in enough. I learned that after creating this first soggy layer of bread.

DSC_0572On top of the bread went a layer of apples, lemon juice, lemon zest and cinnamon. This step, I think, was the prettiest part of the whole experience. The lime green of the apple peels, the bright yellow of the lemon zest and the bronze of the cinnamon contrast so well with the off-white interior of the apples, don’t they? I had a lot of fun trying to make this layer look pretty, even though it would soon be covered by more buttery bread.

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I did another couple of layers of bread and apples to fill up the pie plate, before topping it with the final layer of buttered bread. If I did this again, I would make sure to overlap my pieces. Of course, they shrank slightly as they baked, so it left little gaps. Ideally, it would have looked like one cohesive crust on top.

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It certainly could have been worse, though, seeing as my oven has a talent for burning baked goods.

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You can see the cracked crust a bit better in this one. Still, it didn’t detract from the taste.

DSC_0591Here’s how it turned out on the inside. It tasted a lot like apple pie, but with more butter and a more gooey consistency. Sort of like an apple pudding. (Though I wonder, would homemade brioche have been better than white bread?)

Because I made this as a birthday week treat, we served it with vanilla ice cream. Oddly, the ice cream helped distract from the overly buttery taste and didn’t add too much richness. Out of all the apple baked goods I’ve made, this one worked, but I think for the everyday occasion, I’d prefer a simpler apple tart. Now that spring is here, I’m excited for a new challenge, perhaps one with fruit…

Challenge #21: Apple Charlotte

24 Feb

While visiting Julia Child’s kitchen at The Smithsonian last month (which finally happened on our visit to D.C.), Hannah and I watched a video of Julia making Apple Charlotte with chef Jacques Pepin, part of a PBS special. I used to watch Julia Child when I was a kid, but I hadn’t really watched any of her shows since then (Julie and Julia does not count).

The visit to the Smithsonian was one of the highlights of the trip for me. And because I’ve never made a Charlotte before, I propose we try our luck with Apple Charlotte. As Julia says, trust nothing but a golden delicious for this dessert.

I found Julia Child’s master recipe in the book “Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom,” which I’ve referenced before. But I also found a few versions from other sites. I like to compare recipes so I can pick and choose elements if I like. We’ll see which one I end up referring to the most.

  • One version is from the blog “Downton Abbey Cooks,” which I immediately love the idea of (and it has a lovely Earl Grey creme anglaise recipe).
  • The second is an easier skillet version from Jacques Pepin (who we saw cooking with Julia) on the Food & Wine website.
  • The third recipe is Apple Charlotte a la Julia Child.
  • The fourth is a pan version from Real Simple.
  • (Also, in my Internet quest for Apple Charlotte-related things, I found THIS. I’m both confused and enchanted.)

The really interesting part of this recipe, I think, will be determining what to bake it in. Typically, this dish is made in a Charlotte pan, which I don’t own. I suspect I’ll end up using a 13×9 pan or my 9×9 pan, but who knows. I might get creative.

Pumpkin-beer bread: Portland

23 Oct

BAKER’S NOTE: My camera wasn’t working again (but it’s fine now), so I was relegated to these sub-par phone photos. It doesn’t really do the pumpkiny goodness justice, but you get the point.

I love quick breads, I love pumpkin, and I love beer. This recipe perfectly combines the trifecta into a moist, spicy loaf that’s almost like a cake. In fact, I was tempted to add cream cheese frosting to make it fancy. But I got lazy, as so often happens. The bread itself, though, was incredibly easy and tasy. So easy, in fact, that I made it three times in a week. Two were for work (before I left for vacation), and one was for my family reunion in Nebraska.

imageFirst, the dry ingredients, including the necessary spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, etc.),went together. It’s not a pumpkin dish without those three spices.

imageNext, after the butter was melted, the brown sugar, vanilla, egg, pumpkin and beer came together on the stove. For the pumpkin beer, I chose Elysian (a brewery out of Seattle), which has an owl on its label. I’ve been trying a lot of pumpkin beers at this place we go for trivia every week because they switch nearly every time I go in, so I’ve had my fair share this fall. In baking, the quality of the beer isn’t as important, but for straight drinking, this one was pretty good. For the family reunion loaf, I used O’Fallon Pumpkin Beer, which produced pretty much the same effect.

imageNext, the dry and the wet ingredients came together in typical fashion, at which point they went into my trusty loaf pan (below) to bake more a little more than an hour.

imageUnfortunately, I don’t have a good picture of the finished product (next challenge, I’ll have my camera back), but I can say that this bread turned out incredibly moist and sweet. As I said before, almost like cake.

Pumpkin Beer Bread: Denver

28 Sep

I, like Nora, eagerly await the arrival of autumnal baked goods all year. I actually eat canned pumpkin pretty much year-round (I like it in my oatmeal in the mornings) since it’s full of the precursor to Vitamin A (for the science nerds out there, we make it into vitamin A using the enzyme Beta-carotene 15,15′-monooxygenase…thanks, biochemistry!).  However, there’s something extra-special about the spicy smell of pumpkin goods in September. I’ve actually been feeling a little defensive of my love of pumpkin- and other fall-themed items, lately; for as long as I can remember, my mom baked with winter and autumn squashes this time of year, but lately they seem ubiquitous. Pumpkin latte this, pumpkin muffin that. Get off of my bandwagon!

delicous, delicous molasses.

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I actually wasn’t crazy about this particular recipe. Like a lot of the comments on the SOURCE RECIPE, I found it to be bland. Here’s the kicker, though: because so many people found it to be bland, I tasted the batter before I got it in a loaf pan – and MAN did it need more spices. I doubled the spice load in the batter, and it still just didn’t taste like much more than nutmeg. Boo! It also came out pretty dense, but otherwise, I liked the texture. It did make my apartment smell incredible, though, I’ll give it that. And…I got to measure beer out in a measuring cup. How often does that happen?

One of the virtues of this recipe is that it is a really, really simple quickbread recipe. I started with my dry ingredients (sorry, I did a dismal job of taking photos on this one).

Then I mixed together my pumpkin, eggs, oil, and spices. I actually decided to replace some of my brown sugar with molasses. I mixed the two together, and it did make a pretty batter.

I made a double batch, because we were planning to head over to some friends’ apartment to celebrate their successful attempt at running more miles than anyone actually thinks is a good idea. They were celebrating by mimosa (as anyone who knows me knows I think is the best way to celebrate anything), so I thought some pumpkin bread would do them well.

I made half of my batter into a loaf:

And half of my batter into muffins.

These took quite a while to bake – almost 10 more minutes than the recipe dictated. Then again, there wasn’t a lot of free liquid in the batter, and I’m at altitude, so maybe that was to be expected.

Once they were cool, I found the muffins to be quite dry (not the recipe’s fault – it was prepped to be baked in a loaf pan!), but they were pretty good reheated in the microwave and with butter. The loaf was moist, though dense, but like I said, I didn’t taste much pumpkin. People at the party didn’t seem to complain, though, so maybe I’m being overly sensitive.

Fortunately, it’s only September, and I still have plenty of time to get seasonal baking out of my system.

Written with the help of my Trusty Sidekick, Yeti.