Happy Easter! Lemon Ginger Bundt Cake

Lemon Ginger Bundt Cake 2

Happy Easter! This post is popping up a little later than planned, but I suppose that’s life with a newborn and a toddler in the house. And a puppy. Yep, that puppy is wild, too.

Lemon Ginger Bundt Cake 4

In case any of you are still on the lookout for an Easter-ready dessert (or a feels-like-spring dessert for that matter), look no further. This lemon ginger bundt cake comes together in a snap and tastes as happy as it sounds. I love that it uses crystallized ginger instead of ground. Have you cooked or baked much with it? It’s pretty fun, delicious stuff. Zingy and bright and just what spring is supposed to taste like. I’m currently in search of new gingery recipes so I can use up the rest of it.

Easter 4

In other news, Beany went to her very first Easter egg hunt yesterday and had a pretty great time. Fortunately, she didn’t realize all the sugar that came hidden inside those eggs until the very end of the hunt, so we managed to escape without her getting too incredibly sugar filled. Of course, now in her zeal for jellybeans and chocolate, she’s requesting eggs by the dozen.

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Easter

Easter 3

Easter 5

Easter 2

Hope your Easter is a good one, too!

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Lemon Ginger Bundt Cake 3

Lemon Ginger Bundt Cake
Adapted just slightly from Martha Stewart

• 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
• 6 large eggs
• 1 cup sour cream
• powered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and grease a 12-cup bundt pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, lemon zest, ginger, baking soda and salt.

Beat together the butter and granulated sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Blend in the lemon juice and vanilla.

With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture and sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Blend until just incorporated. Spoon batter into prepared pan, and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 30 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Lemon Ginger Bundt Cake

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XO,
Katrina

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Comfort food to calm the chill: Fettuccine with garlic cream sauce and sautéed tomatoes

Fettuccine with Garlic Cream Sauce and Tomatoes

I think it’s safe to say that we’re officially in the thick of a true Boston winter. There’s snow on the ground. Snow on the rooftops. Snow in piles. Snow on the way. It’s icy and slushy and downright cold. But you know what? It’s pretty glorious. Sure, native Bostonians and more experienced East Coast residents are still meeting our winter enthusiasm with mild shock and a lot of, “Just wait until mid-March, and you won’t love it so much,” but for now our family is definitely enjoying this long-lasting winter wonderland. If it’s going to be cold, it might as well be snowy. And we have plenty of both.

Fettuccine with Garlic Cream Sauce and Tomatoes4

Cold weather does call for comfort food though, the kind that warms you up from the inside out and makes you feel good and cozy on a truly blustery day. You can certainly go the soups and stews route, but for me, nothing says comfort like pasta. So pasta we shall have! And this pasta we have had, in fact — weekly at least — for a solid month. Maybe that’s why we’re still loving all this snow.

Fettuccine with Garlic Cream Sauce and Tomatoes2

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Fettuccine with Garlic Cream Sauce and Tomatoes3

Fettuccine with Garlic Cream Sauce and Sautéed Tomatoes
Adapted from The Kitchy Kitchen

• 16 ounces fettuccine
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 pint cherry tomatoes
• ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
• kosher salt
• freshly ground black pepper
• ½ cup cream
• 2 teaspoon lemon zest
• 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, and sauté just until golden, about 30 seconds to a minute. Add the tomatoes, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper. Lower heat, and sauté, tossing occasionally, until tomatoes are soft, another 7 to 10 minutes, depending on how hot you keep the pan.

In the meantime, cook the fettuccine to al dente, according to package instructions. When the pasta is nearly finished cooking (and the tomatoes are soft), add the cream to the pan with the tomatoes, give everything a good stir and heat the sauce until it’s almost simmering. Add the lemon zest and thyme, and stir to combine.

Pour the hot garlic cream sauce over the pasta, and toss to coat. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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How are you staying warm and cozy this winter season? Good food? Good friends? A good vacation void of snow and ice? Do tell!

XO,
Katrina

Beany vs. the Boxed Cookie: A Quest for Homemade Fig Newtons

Fig Newtons2

Anyone who’s a parent will probably tell you that, despite all of the times and all of the ways that they feel they’re falling a bit shy of the mark, there are at least a few parenting-related things that they feel pretty good about. It’s been true for us. Yes, we cave to demands for extra bedtime snuggles, use disposable diapers and Beany watches more Mickey Mouse Clubhouse than a doctor might recommend, but when it comes to her diet and nutrition, we’ve tried to stay pretty up and up with good-for-you eats and made-from-scratch desserts. Not always, but most of the time. And it’s worked out pretty well so far.

After two years of eating this way, not only does Beany seem to have pretty good taste for a toddler, but she’s also developed a rather discerning palate when it comes to baked goods. This has translated into outright refusal of nearly any prepackaged or non-homemade sweet. We’re talking birthday cake at parties, snacks at the grocery store, even Oreos. She’d happily eat ginger spice cookies, banana muffins or brownies as the day is long, but hand her something that you didn’t bake yourself, and somehow her toddler super senses kick in, and she instinctively turns up her nose. This was true for a long, long time. But then, we went to Grammy’s house.

Fig Newtons8

One day after lunch, Grammy pulled out a “special cookie” from deep inside the pantry. It was a Fig Newton. “I doubt she’ll eat it,” I told my mom when she asked if Beany could have one. “But she can try it. We’ll see what she does.”

Fig Newtons5

Beany looked at the cookie skeptically, took a teeny tiny nibble from the top and then proceeded to eat the entire thing. In three bites! Mouthful of cookie and face covered in crumbs, she smiled the smile of a kid who finally understood the joys of processed sweets. If 2-year-olds have vices, Beany had found hers, wrapped in a square of fig and pastry.

Fig Newtons6

It’s hard to deny your child something that you know brings them so much joy, and I dare say that our girl looked nearly euphoric every time she had a Fig Newton during that three-week vacation. Upon returning home, however, before I let myself succumb to the call of the prepackaged grocery store cookies, I vowed to give the homemade version a try, just to see if I could win back Beany’s sensibilities. If you have a Fig Newton-lover in your house, and you’re willing to put in the extra time and effort that the homemade route demands, this recipe is spot on. Steaming the cookies as soon as they’re done baking gives them that unmistakable Fig Newton texture, and the flavor is just like the original but amplified a bit with extra orange zest and vanilla.

Thankfully, after a sideways glance or two, Beany was willing to try them last night, and though her response wasn’t overwhelmingly this-is-so-amazing the first day, by day two she heartily approved. Of course, I haven’t offered her the packaged vs. homemade challenge, with the two options side by side. Honestly, I’m too scared of the results.

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Fig Newtons

Homemade Fig Newtons
Recipe from petitbleu, Food52.com

For the pastry:
• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 
teaspoon baking powder
• ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
• 10
 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 2/3 
cups brown sugar
• 1
 large egg
• 2
 teaspoons vanilla extract
• zest of one orange

For the filling:
• 1
 pound dried figs, cut into small pieces
• ½ cup water

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl, and set aside. Then beat the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla and orange zest, and beat until well combined.

Using a spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture until well blended. (The dough will be super soft.) Spoon the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape it into a disc, and refrigerate it overnight.

In the meantime, make the fig filling by combining the figs and water in a medium saucepan. Bring the water to a boil, put on the lid, and allow the water to boil until the figs have absorbed it. (If the figs are still not soft, add a bit more water and allow it to simmer a bit longer.)

Transfer the figs to a food processor, and pulse them until the mixture is completely smooth. Allow the filling to cool.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place a large piece of parchment on your work surface, and flour it liberally. Divide the chilled dough into four pieces. Place one piece of dough on the parchment, and return the others to the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them.

Shape the piece of dough into a rectangle by squaring it on the work surface, and then roll the dough, into a long rectangle, about 4 inches wide by 12 inches long. Make sure you keep lifting the dough and flouring the parchment. The super soft dough will stick easily if you don’t keep checking it.

Place the fig filling into a pastry bag or a large Ziploc bag with one corner cut off. Pipe the filling in a 1-inch strip down the center of the dough rectangle. (To help flatten out the filling a bit, dip your fingertips in water and gently press down on the filling.) Fold one side of the dough over the filling, then the other. Press down on the seam to close it. Then flip the cookie roll over, seam-side down. Transfer it carefully to a baking sheet, and refrigerate while you repeat this step with the other three pieces of dough. (Per Jared’s super smart suggestion, I used the metal ruler I already had out to measure my dough rectangle as a base to transfer the cookie rolls. It’s 12 inches long, so it worked like a charm.)

Once all four cookie rolls are assembled and on the parchment-lined baking sheet, bake them for 16 to 22 minutes, or until the dough is no longer tacky and begins to brown around the edges.

While the cookie rolls are still warm, cut them into 2-inch cookies. (If necessary, wipe your knife off every so often between cuts; the figgy mixture is pretty sticky.) Immediately place the cookies in a single layer inside a large Ziploc bag or airtight container with the lid on or bag sealed. It sounds weird, but steaming the cookies is what gives them that soft Fig Newton texture. Cool the cookies completely, and then eat and be merry!

Makes about 30 cookies

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Have you ever tried homemade versions of your favorite boxed treats? Cookies? Cakes? How about Pop-Tarts? I’d love to hear about it!

XO,
Katrina

Salad for lunch, cookies for dinner: Peanut butter chocolate chip biscuits

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Biscuits3

Well, we’ve made it through the season of sweets, and now my blog reader and Pinterest feed are filled with fancy salads, whole grains and about seven gazillion paleo recipes. I suppose January is the time for all of that. It’s out with the, “Eat what you want because it’s Christmastime, y’all!” and in with the “No really, honey, I think you’ll like quinoa.”

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Biscuits4

We’re doing our own version of the get-back-on-track bandwagon, but then again, I’ve always been an advocate of making healthy choices for meals if it means I can reward myself with a healthy dose of dessert. I say a salad for lunch is a pretty fair tradeoff for a stack of cookies come evening.

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So today, it’s a cookie recipe for you: peanut butter and chocolate chip biscuits. Consider it your reward for two good weeks of healthy eats. You can always have oatmeal tomorrow morning.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Biscuits

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Biscuits
Adapted just slightly from Winter on the Farm (Matthew Evans, p. 209) 

• ¾ cup light brown sugar
• 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 300 grams creamy peanut butter
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 ¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Then add the egg and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Beat in the peanut butter, salt and baking soda until well combined.

Slowly add the flour to the mixture, and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Roll the dough into tablespoon-sized balls, and place about 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press the balls down with the tines of a fork until they’re about ½ inch thick, then bake for 10-14 minutes, until the cookies are tan but not dark.

Makes about 40 cookies

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XO,
Katrina

Eat like a monkey: Ginger(monkey)bread

Monkey Gingerbread

The first time I ate monkey bread was for breakfast at a school friend’s sleepover when I was 12 years old. I remember watching, fascinated, as her mom cut Pillsbury Grands biscuits into six pieces each, rolled the dough into balls and then dunked them into a bath of butter and cinnamon sugar before layering them freely in a bundt pan. Forget the fact that it was premade dough, or that the bath of butter was actually a bath of margarine, or that I was much more of a pancakes-with-syrup-on-the-side kind of girl than a connoisseur of overly sweet morning concoctions; I convinced myself, while watching the magic unfold, that this would indeed be the greatest breakfast of my young life.

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Many moons later, and I honestly can’t remember how that monkey bread tasted. What I do remember, however, is crowding around a small kitchen island, a half dozen sleepy-eyed girls in mismatched pajamas and socks, happily pulling off balls of bread, one by one, until our tummies were content and our sugar spots filled. As much as I love baking for flavor, the recipes I savor the most, especially as our Beany grows older and more interested in the happenings of the kitchen, are the ones that bring with them an experience. Monkey bread, when eaten correctly, is an experience in itself. And if it tastes great, too? Well, then you really can’t go wrong.

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Ginger(monkey)bread

Adapted slightly from arielleclementine, Food52.com

1
 packet active dry yeast
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1/3 
cup warm water (110 degrees)
• 2
 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1
 cup whole milk
• ¼ cup molasses
• 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus ¼ cup, if needed
• 2
 teaspoons kosher salt
• 2
 rounded teaspoons ground ginger
• 1 rounded tablespoon ground cinnamon
• ½ rounded
 teaspoon ground cloves
• 2
 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 1
 stick salted butter, melted
• 1
 cup packed light brown sugar

Quickly stir together yeast, the teaspoon of sugar and warm water in a small bowl. Set it aside for about 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes nice and foamy. In the meantime, heat 2 tablespoons butter, milk and molasses in a small saucepan, just until the butter is melted. Set it aside for a minute or two to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Attach the dough hook, and turn the mixer on low. Slowly add the molasses mixture, followed by the yeast mixture. Keep mixing until the dough comes together, about 7 minutes or until smooth. (This is pretty sticky dough compared to other breads — it will stick to the bottom of the bowl — but add a bit more flour, a tablespoon at a time, if it seems too wet.)

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for another minute to form a smooth ball. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn it to coat in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm spot to rise until it’s doubled in size, about 1 to 1.5 hours.

Butter the bundt pan generously with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Put the melted stick of butter in one small bowl and the brown sugar in another.

When the dough has risen, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and pat into an 8-inch square. Cut the dough into 64 pieces, and roll the pieces into balls. One by one, dip the balls in butter, roll in brown sugar and place them in the bundt pan (distributing them as evenly as possible).

Cover the bundt pan with plastic wrap, place it in a warm spot and allow the dough to rise for another hour. (Although I didn’t try it, reviews of this recipe suggest that you can put the dough in the refrigerator at this point — overnight if you wish — and bake it later. Just make sure to allow an hour for the dough to come to room temperature and finish rising before you bake it.) Once the balls have risen, they should be puffy and about an inch below the top of the pan.

Bake the monkey bread for 30 to 35 minutes in a 350-degree F oven, until the top is golden brown. Cool the cake in the pan for just 5 minutes, then invert it onto a cake stand and cool for another 5 to 10 minutes. Then gather the family, and enjoy! This monkey bread really does taste best when it’s warm from the oven, so don’t wait!

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I love how this recipe turned out, and though the process can be a bit time-consuming with all of the hands-on rolling and individual dipping, the bread itself actually comes together fairly easily. It tastes wonderfully gingerbready, and the gooey, carmely outer layer really takes it over the top. And just think how great it would be to stand around the kitchen counter with your nearest and dearest while you pull the bread apart and enjoy that surge of sugary goodness! I already have plans to bring it back for Thanksgiving and Christmas morning. Get ready, little sister! You’re helping me with all the rolling and dipping!

XO,
Katrina

Fall in New England: Apples, waffles and a hooray for new seasons

Apple Waffles

I’m sitting here at my desk with a 50-degree breeze coming through the window and feeling almost too chilly to be comfortable. It’s wonderful! It seems fall comes much earlier in New England, and I’m so, so happy for it. This transition to Boston has been tougher on me than I expected. It’s busy. It’s noisy. I miss the South and the Midwest more than I knew I could. But I’m glad to have a new chill in the air to remind me to count all of the good things. Family is always good. Fall is always good.

Apple Waffles 3

Apple Picking 8

We’re taking full advantage of the weather these days, especially on the weekends when Jared is home. After two consecutive years of missing apple picking in North Carolina (my non-farmer mind always figured you’d pick apples in late September, which makes for slim pickin’s down south), I was determined to not miss our chance again. So we planned a trip on one of the first chilly mornings of the season, headed out of the city and into a rural-ish town about 45 minutes away. It was beautiful and wonderful and such a perfect day.

Apple Picking

Apple Picking 7

We actually went on the first day that Honeycrisp apples (my favorite!) were ready for picking. Huzzah! Apparently they go fast, so we got there at just the right time.

Apple Picking 6

Apple Picking 4

Beany had an absolute blast. She squealed on the hayride out to the orchard and then wore herself out running up and down the rows of apple trees. She slept the entire way home.

Apple Picking 5

Apple Picking 3

And how great is it that the trip comes with a built-in snack break? Our girl is an apple fiend, and this one little apple kept her occupied for more than an hour. I told Jared that anyone who thinks kids won’t eat fruit needs to come apple picking. Every kid there, from the itty bitties to the teens, was going to town on just-picked-from-the-tree goodness. Basically, we should all have apple trees.

Apple Picking 2

Apple Waffles 5

We brought home 10 pounds of glorious apples, and we’ve been enjoying every last one of them. Lots have been eaten plain as can be because they’re just that good, but we’ve also been having fun with new recipes. These cinnamon-spice waffles with sautéed apples are a new family favorite and one I’m sure we’ll be making on many fall mornings to come. Although each element is good on its own, I really think the combination of the cinnamon waffles, maple syrup, plenty of butter and fresh sautéed apples is what makes it such a perfect breakfast. It sounds like a lot, but try it all together. You won’t be disappointed!

Seasons are meant to be enjoyed. So far, we’re really enjoying this one.

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Apple Waffles 7

Cinnamon-Spice Waffles
Recipe adapted from Alton Brown

• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 cup whole-wheat flour
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
• ½ rounded teaspoon ginger
• ¼ rounded teaspoon cloves
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 3 whole eggs, beaten
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• 2 cups milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla

Butter your waffle iron or spray it with cooking spray, and preheat according to manufacturer’s instructions. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt and sugar. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs and milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir until combined. Slowly add melted butter to the mixture, and mix until just combined. Allow mixture to rest for about five minutes.

Ladle batter into the waffle maker, and bake according to the waffle iron’s instructions, until waffle is golden brown on each side. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200-degree F oven until ready to serve.

Sautéed Apples
• 2 tablespoons salted butter
• 3 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped (I like to use a tart variety to cut down on all that sweet.)
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, cinnamon and brown sugar, and toss until the apples are coated. Cook the apples for 8 to 10 minutes, until they’re tender but not mushy.

Top the waffles with a drizzle of melted salted butter, a bit of pure maple syrup and a healthy serving of the warmed apples. Then sit back and enjoy that happy fall weather!

Apple Waffles 6

Apple Waffles 4

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Has fall arrived where you live? What’s your favorite way to kick off the season? And has anyone else already downed at least a dozen pumpkin spice lattes already?!? Yay, fall!

XO,
Katrina

It’s popsicle time! Blueberry lemon pops

Yogurt Pops 4

Every spring, I convince myself that this will be the summer I accomplish everything on my ever-growing to-do list. This will be the summer I finish organizing the closet. This will be the summer I complete a bucket list of must-do warm-weather activities. This will be the summer I finish knitting the blanket that never quits.

Yogurt Pops 6

But then the summer actually begins, and before I know it, it’s mid-July, and I’ve spent six weeks spinning in circles because the summer months move so much faster than the other ones. Am I the only person who keeps saying, “How is it July already?” “Where did the summer go?” “Will someone come knit this blanket for me?!?!”

Yogurt Pops 7

Probably not. Everyone’s busy. And I fear my poor kitchen has been feeling neglected from our weeks of spinning chaos. So what to do when the world is moving so fast your feet are wobbling beneath you? Make popsicles of course!

Yogurt Pops 5

Popsicles are super easy, super fast and make it abundantly clear that it is indeed summertime. No matter the the hustle and bustle, we all deserve a few moments of bliss to enjoy a taste of the season. Blink, and it will be fall.

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Yogurt Pops

Blueberry Lemon Yogurt Popsicles
Adapted from le zoe musings

• 1 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt, plus a few extra dollops for each popsicle (Greek or regular, whichever you prefer)
• 3/4 cup fresh blueberries, plus a few extra for each popsicle
• 1 tablespoon honey
• zest of 1 lemon

To make the blueberry yogurt layer, add 1 cup of yogurt, 3/4 cup blueberries, the honey and lemon zest into a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. To layer the popsicles, put one or two whole blueberries in the bottom of each popsicle mold, followed by a few dollops of the plain vanilla yogurt. Next add another few whole blueberries, and fill the rest of the way with the blueberry yogurt mixture. Press a popsicle stick into the center of each mold, then put popsicles in the freezer until frozen.

Makes 4 full-sized popsicles

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Popsicles are wonderfully adaptable, so feel free to add whatever fruits, yogurts or add-ins you like. Truth be told, my sister and I loved the blueberry layer but could take or leave the plain vanilla section. Beany, on the other hand, happily ate every last bite.

Has your kitchen hit a lull this season? How are you enjoying the summer months? I’d love to hear about it!

XO,
Katrina

A tale of time and taste: Sour cherry cream cheese coffee cake

Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake4

Some recipes are wonderfully simple and can be whipped up in a flash. You don’t really have to plan for them (aside from having the ingredients), they’re easy enough to make while your mind juggles other matters, and you can mix them up in the time it takes for your toddler to pull out everything but the last two travel mugs from her favorite kitchen cabinet. Cookies, brownies and muffins all fall in that category for me: the anytime category. Sometimes timing is everything, and the timing you need is fast. But this is not one of those recipes.

Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake8

Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake7

This is one of those recipes for which you make the list ahead of time and have a baby wrangler on standby. But don’t let that scare you because it’s well worth the effort!

Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake5

Sometimes you just have to get your hands dirty, make a mess of a half dozen bowls and work those oft forgotten muscles that nothing but a good kneading seems able to reach. Sometimes you need to remind yourself that those lovely cakes lining the glass of the local bakery didn’t appear in an instant, that they were lovingly poured over by a hard-working baker, probably in the wee hours of the morning. This will also serve to remind you exactly why a slice of cake can run you $4 a pop. Oy!

Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake2

Again I have to say, please don’t be scared off by all of this effort. This cake, though time-consuming, is still relatively simple at its core, as is true with most baking. It’s just a matter of following instructions and enjoying the process. And maybe keeping the kiddos out of the kitchen for a pinch (though a bowl filled with plastic cookie cutters does work as 15 minutes’ worth of wonderful distraction).

Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake6

In the end, your efforts will be rewarded. Sour cherries and cream cheese make a winning combination, and when baked into a yeasted coffee cake, magical things happen. The cake is rich, sweet and gigantic, which really is ideal because all that time in the kitchen deserves at least a few extra slices.

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Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
Adapted just slightly from Martha Stewart

For the cake:
• ¼-ounce envelope (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
• ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons plus a pinch granulated sugar
• ¾ cup whole milk, warmed to 110 degrees F
• 1 egg
• 1 egg yolk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surface
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• zest of ½ lemon
• ½ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for bowl and parchment
• 1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream for egg wash
• 1 ½ cups pitted fresh of thawed frozen sour cherries

For the filling:
• 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
• 1 egg yolk
• ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

For the glaze:
• 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
• 2 tablespoons whole milk

To make the dough: Whisk the yeast and a pinch of sugar into the milk in a small bowl. Let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. In the meantime, whisk together the remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar, the egg, egg yolk and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the foamy yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the flour, kosher salt and lemon zest. Add the egg mixture, and beat on low until it’s fully combined, about 30 seconds. Switch the paddle attachment for the dough hook, add the butter and beat at a low speed (I used speed 2 on my KitchenAid mixer) for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, soft and slightly sticky.

Butter a large bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead it a few times until it’s smooth. Place it in the buttered bowl, turn it so it gets coated with the butter, and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough stand in a warm place for 1 ½ to 2 hours until it has doubled in volume.

To make the filling: Stir together the cream cheese, egg yolk and confectioners’ sugar. Once the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and transfer it to a floured work surface. Let it stand for 5 minutes.

Roll the dough out into a large rectangle, about 20 by 16 inches (about 1/8 inch thick). Brush the edges with egg wash. Spread the cream cheese filling over the dough, and top that with the cherries. Starting with one of the longer ends, tightly roll the dough like a jelly roll, and pinch the seam to seal. Roll the jelly roll into a snail shape on a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Brush the top with egg wash.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cover the dough with plastic wrap, and let it stand in a warm place for about 30 minutes, until it has risen by half.

Remove the plastic wrap, and cut six ½-inch slits into the top of the dough. Bake the cake, rotating halfway through, for about 55 minutes, until it is golden. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Continue baking the cake until it is deeply golden, 15 to 20 more minutes (cover with foil if top gets too dark). Transfer pan to a wire rack, and let cake cool.

To make the glaze: Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and milk. Drizzle it over the cooled cake. Let it set for 5 minutes before serving, until the glaze has hardened a bit.

Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake3

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This cake officially joins the ranks of our company-approved menu items. Not only is it delicious, but it can also be made ahead and tastes just as good the next day. Make and bake it the night before, then save the glazing for the morning, right before serving. You might even get some oohs and ahs as you drizzle on those finishing touches. Or at the very least, feel free to ooh and ah yourself. Mm, good cake.

XO,
Katrina

Pretty in pictures, lovely in words: Orange and cranberry fairy buns

Fairy Buns2

When I’m cruising Pinterest or flipping through cookbooks or magazines, it’s usually the photos that pull me toward a recipe. I consider myself a writer much more so than a photographer or baker, so I do feel a bit shameful in admitting that I’m so easily influenced by visuals first and words second, but when push comes to shove, we’d probably rather eat a gorgeous-looking cupcake than a wonderfully worded ode to its light and airy texture.

Fairy Buns3

Pictures are powerful, though it’s good to remember that there are always exceptions. Every so often I happen across a lovely recipe whose text wins me over, and those are the days when I breathe a sigh of relief in knowing that the written word is still pretty powerful, too. I’ve written about my Avoca cookbooks before, and even though I flip through them often, I love that I still find new nuggets of wordy wisdom nestled within their pages. For instance, in Avoca Tea Time, it reads: “Measurements are more exact [in baking] than in any other branch of cooking, but too often this is taken literally. You need to feel your ingredients. There is no point in adding all the milk if the mixture ends up looking sloppy. Be patient and explore.”

This recipe for fairy buns is adapted from Avoca Tea Time as well and won me almost entirely with its name. I baked them on Sunday, which happened to be St. Patrick’s Day. Now whether you envision fairies as friendly pixies or devious mischief-makers, most would agree that fairies and leprechauns go hand in hand, so fairy buns seemed an appropriate treat for the day. Although the cookbook offered no photo to show me what to expect, it warned that these treats are “a favourite for children’s parties, but it is well worth making an excess as adults seem to rather enjoy them, too.” I heeded their advice — and was quite glad for it.

Fairy Buns5

Words are wonderful. Of course, photos never hurt. While mixing the fairy buns, I was patient and explored, as the cookbook advised, and found myself adding citrus and cranberries to liven up the tiny treats, which made for even happier, sunnier shots. It was actually a rather dreary day outside, but oranges are great at brightening, in flavor, in words and in photos.

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Fairy Buns

Orange and Cranberry Fairy Buns
Adapted from Avoca Tea Time

• 120 grams unsalted butter
• 120 grams sugar
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 3 eggs, lightly beaten
• 150 grams all-purpose flour, sifted
• 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• zest of two oranges (about 2 teaspoons)
• 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice
• ½ cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
• 150 grams confectioners’ sugar
• 2 tablespoons warm water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and line muffin tins with 18 muffin papers. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add the orange zest, and mix until well combined.

In another bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the orange juice, and mix until well combined. Add the eggs alternately with the flour mixture, and blend until just combined. Gently fold in the cranberries.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, and bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, until a toothpick comes out just clean.

Stir together the confectioners’ sugar and water in a small bowl until well combined. Then, once the buns have cooled for a little while, spread the icing over their tops, letting it drizzle a bit down the sides.

Fairy Buns6

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How do you go about choosing recipes? Do you flip through photos? Look for certain ingredients? Jump on board anything with a zippy title? Do tell!

XO,
Katrina

Life without a microwave: Brown butter Rice Krispies treats

Brown Butter Rice Krispies

We have no microwave in our home, and we haven’t since we moved here a year and a half ago. As apartment dwellers, we’ve spent the past five-plus years relying on the appliances our rentals provide, and when we moved here, there was no microwave. Gallant folks that we are, we decided to trudge on without one.

Funnily enough, the people our no-microwave situation seemed to affect the most were our respective moms. Both offered their condolences at our lack of a microwave, both offered suggestions as to where in our tiny apartment we might house one, and both even offered to buy us one should we decide the void was too great. They were sweet to offer, and zapping leftovers is a convenience I do miss on occasion, but the truth is, we made adjustments and are getting on just fine without one (though I will admit that I have yet to find a reasonable means of reheating my mom’s coffee when she visits, after she tops it off with a healthy glug of milk. Hmm…).

This no-microwave backstory is important to this post because it is precisely how my mom came to accidently invent something awesome. While she was staying at our house for a few weeks after Beany was born, she volunteered to make a batch of Rice Krispies treats (a family tradition that we can eat by the tray-full — seriously). She ran out to Target, bought all of the ingredients and was in the kitchen ready to whip them up before my post-pregnancy brain remembered we had no microwave in which to make them. No bother, she said. She’d make them on the stove.

Brown Butter Rice Krispies3

Long story short, we got to chatting, the butter got to bubbling, and it wasn’t until we heard it sputtering from the stovetop that we realized what was going on. After considering starting over, my mom decided to take her chances and finish the batch anyway. And it was from that near disaster that our first batch of brown butter Rice Krispies treats was born. When I’m 100, I’ll still think of it as one of my mom’s greatest culinary achievements. She made them for us at least two more times that visit.

For a good 15 months I’ve been crediting my mom as the inventor of brown butter Rice Krispies treats and the greatest accidental dish of all time, but just this weekend, while flipping through The Essential New York Times Cookbook, I found a nearly identical recipe. Craziness! I suppose what this really means is that my mom was inadvertently rolling with the culinary big dogs. Top Chef, watch out.

The recipe shown here is a hybrid of the NYT version and my mom’s. Although they aren’t the typical gooey treats you might remember from school, they make up for it with a rich, caramel-like flavor. They’re super chewy but pretty crunchy as well. I suggest cutting them into small bite-size squares for easy snacking.

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Brown Butter Rice Krispies2

Caramelized Brown Butter Rice Krispies Treats

Adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook (Amanda Hesser, p. 708)

• 1 cup salted butter, plus more for buttering pan
• 1 16-ounce bag of marshmallows
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 12 ounces Rice Krispies cereal

Butter an 11-by-17-inch baking dish or rimmed baking sheet, and set it aside. Melt 1 cup of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Once it melts, it will start to foam. Stir occasionally as the butter turns to a clear golden color. It will then start to turn brown and smell nutty. Watch closely, and continue to stir often.

Once the butter is evenly browned, stir in the marshmallows and vanilla. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the mixture turns pale brown. Then stir constantly until it is lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Turn off the heat, add the cereal and mix until well combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, and press down lightly. Let the mixture cool, and then cut it into small squares.

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Have you had any wonderful kitchen disasters lately? Botched recipes turned awesome? And is anyone else out there trucking on without a microwave? Do tell!

XO,
Katrina

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