Category Archives: Breakfast

The quickest bite

toasted meusli

Here’s a breakfast cereal that lands halfway between real muesli—made with uncooked oats—and granola. The ingredients are lightly glazed with coconut oil and toasted, so that each oat carries a bit of crunch and true coconut flavor, but there’s far less sugar than typical granola. Serve with milk or yogurt, topped with fruit and perhaps a touch of honey.

Toasted Coconut Meusli (PDF)
Makes: 5 cups
Active time: 10 minutes

3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
1/3 cup virgin coconut oil (measured warm, as a liquid)
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, coconut, almonds, oil, sugar, and salt until well blended. Spread the mixture on a large rimmed baking sheet and bake until evenly golden brown, stirring every 5 minutes or so, about 25 minutes total.

Let the muesli cool completely on the sheet, then store up to 1 week in an airtight container.

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Filed under Breakfast, gluten-free, grains

The 7:05 a.m. muffin

Lemon-Glazed Almond-Poppy Seed 2Lemon-Glazed Almond-Poppy Seed Mini Muffins

I grew up the uncoordinated child of two avid tennis players. All summer long, in Boise, Idaho, we organized our days around tennis, and around my mother’s aerobics classes (she also taught step aerobics, when she wasn’t lawyering), and around the pool hours. I was in no uncertain terms a gym rat, but not really the fit kind. I scuttled around on a predetermined path each day, planning my appearances to coordinate perfectly with events I knew would take place at given times. I wanted to be there to greet Billy the crazy tennis pro, and Maile the front desk woman (a gay person in Boise!), and of course to spy on the cutest lifeguards as they emerged from their cars. They were in high school, I’d heard.

In the winter, things were considerably less exciting. But at 7:05 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, just as my mother’s 6 a.m. aerobics class was about to end (I was permitted to go and “use the gym” on my own from an early age), a large white muffin truck pulled up outside the front door.

There wasn’t really a question about which one I wanted. It would be the almond-poppyseed. They were small and a little dumpy-looking, but they had the perfect crack in the top each time, and inside that crack, and all along the edge of each treat, there was a thin lemon glaze worth fighting one’s brother for. There were usually two or three almond-poppyseed muffins, but occasionally, they’d stick real almonds on the top, and that was never really an option for me. At 10, almonds were a flavor, not a thing.

And so it happened that at 7:05 this morning, emerging from a good sleep, I looked at the clock and my brain rewound twenty years. Here they are, in a slightly more modern form—made with Greek yogurt and without gluten, and based on a recipe from a friend, Jeanne Sauvage, whose book, Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays, probably thought its abuse might end on January 1st. No such luck.

Lemon-Glazed Almond-Poppy Seed 1
Lemon-Glazed Almond-Poppyseed Muffins

Based loosely on a recipe for Applesauce Spice Muffins from Jeanne Sauvage’s Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays, these muffins have a thin lemon glaze that crackles when it dries. If you’d prefer two-bite muffins, bake the batter in batches in lined mini-muffin tins. The tiny muffins will only take 15 to 20 minutes to bake.

I used Jeanne’s gluten-free all-purpose flour blend for my muffins.

Time: 20 minutes prep time
Makes: About 18 muffins

For the muffins
Muffin liners
2 1/2 cups (350g) gluten-free all-purpose flour, such as Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup nonfat milk
Sliced almonds, for topping (optional)

For the glaze
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 18 standard muffin cups (or 12 standard cups and 12 mini cups) with muffin liners and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, poppy seeds, lemon zest, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the yogurt, and beat on low speed until combined. Add half the dry ingredients and mix on low to blend. Stir the almond extract into the milk, add to the bowl, and mix again. Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat until just combined.

Spoon the dough into the prepared muffin cups, filling them about three quarters of the way full. Sprinkle the tops with sliced almonds, if using. Bake the muffins until lightly browned (a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean), 15 to 20 minutes for mini muffins and 25 to 28 minutes for standard-sized muffins.

When the muffins come out, make the glaze: Stir together the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth. Transfer the muffins to a cooling rack, then drizzle or brush a little glaze onto each muffin. Let the glaze cool for about 10 minutes, then enjoy warm.

Note: Muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days.

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Filed under Breakfast, Cakes, gluten-free, recipe

All in the family

Photo by Lara Ferroni

My grandmother clucked and preened her way through Thanksgiving. While we cooked, she wandered from room to room, deftly dodging baby gates with 85-year-old leg lifts and cute little hops. She’d announce that she has the best looking brood of grandchildren, or that her granddaughters are the prettiest bunch ever. At one point I thought she might actually lay an egg. But other than the compliments she paid us, I didn’t really see June over thanksgiving, what with the parenting and cooking nonsense.

If I’d been with friends, I’d feel guilty. I’d feel like I missed something. But here’s what I like about family: I know they’ll be there. I know I’ll see June again soon, and that she’ll still cluck and preen when I’m around, and like a good recipe, there will always be new variations on the same conversations. Our visits happen a bit differently every time.

Here’s a cake that’s family, also. It’s always in my kitchen, constantly changing, but somehow still the same. It started here, with a kabocha squash-based bundt cake that’s been one of the most popular recipes on this site. That version, made with sour cream and maple, is deeply rich, almost a sin to eat in the morning but perfect as an afternoon snack. For Dishing Up Washington, I created a version that’s more fit for the morning, with hearty emmer flour, a lighter buttermilk glaze, and a bare smattering of hazelnuts.

I’m hoping that the next time I head down to see June, I can bring her this. She’s good at having just one more little slice–a habit this cake facilitates by the nature of its curves–so we’ll sit and chat and drink good coffee, and maybe fry up an egg or two. And with any luck, I’ll be doing the same thing in fifty years with someone I’ve never met.

And pssst–if you’re here looking for squash recipes after seeing me on Q13 Fox, here’s the recipe for Roasted Squash with Maple-Cumin Caramel (PDF).

Photo by Lara Ferroni

Kabocha-Buttermilk Bundt Cake (PDF)
Every fall at the University District Farmers Market in Seattle, shoppers ogle the winter squash. Ranging from the expected oranges and yellows to vibrant reds, greens, and even bluish hues, the variety is stunning — but for baking, I go for kabocha squash almost every time. Green or orange skinned, kabocha squash has a rich, yellowy flesh that mashes up soft and smooth (like canned pumpkin) when it’s cooked. Stirred into a stunning bundt cake made with emmer flour from the Methow Valley, it’s the best way to capture a Washington fall in a cake. Yes, it’s a cake. But it’s best for breakfast.

You can leave the cake simply glazed, or top it with a flurry of toasted hazelnuts or toasted coconut right when the glaze goes on. This cake can also be made ahead, wrapped in foil and plastic, and frozen up to 1 month. Glaze after defrosting at room temperature.

Special equipment: 12-cup bundt cake pan or 10-inch tube pan
Makes 10–12 servings

Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup emmer flour or whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ packed cups mashed kabocha squash (from 1 small squash)
¼ cup chopped toasted nuts (pecans, walnuts, or hazelnuts) or toasted sweetened coconut flakes (optional)

Glaze
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon buttermilk or water

Note: To roast the squash, slice the squash roughly in half and remove the seeds with an ice cream scoop. Roast cut side down on a parchment- or silicone-lined baking sheet (no need to oil it) at 400°F for about 1 hour, or until the skin is easy to poke with a fork. (Timing will depend on the size and age of the squash.) Let the squash cool, peel away the skin and any other tough pieces, and mash it like you would potatoes, until smooth.

If you’re afraid of cutting the squash, you can also put the entire thing — stem and all — into the oven, and bake it a bit longer. Just be sure to scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff before you mash the flesh. Stir any leftover mashed squash into oatmeal or risotto.

1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously (and carefully) butter the bundt cake pan, and set aside.

2. Whisk the flour, emmer flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl, and set aside.

3. Whip the butter and granulated sugar together on medium speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use an electric hand mixer) until light, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing between additions.

4. Stir the buttermilk, honey, and vanilla together in a bowl. With the machine on low, alternate adding the dry and wet mixtures — first some of the flour, then some of the milk, then flour, milk again, and finally flour. When just mixed, add the squash, and mix on low until uniform in color.

5. Transfer the batter to the prepared bundt cake pan, smooth the top, and bake (I find it easier to transfer if it’s on a baking sheet) for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs, and the top springs back when touched lightly. Let the cake cool 10 minutes in the pan, then carefully invert it onto a serving platter.

6. Make the glaze: When the cake is cool to the touch (after about an hour), whisk the confectioners’ sugar, honey, vanilla, and buttermilk together until smooth, adding water if necessary to make a thick, barely pourable glaze. Drizzle the glaze (or pour it right out of the bowl) along the crown of the cake, allowing it to ooze down the inside and outside of the cake. Sprinkle the nuts over the glaze, if desired. Once the glaze has dried, the cake keeps well, covered in plastic wrap at room temperature, for up to 3 days.

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Filed under bread, Breakfast, Cakes, Dishing Up Washington, recipe

All the single ladies

Kabocha Cake with Honey-Cream Cheese Frosting 2

I don’t plan on being single anytime soon. But these days, since Jim is spending almost a month at sea for work, the way I plan my life feels different. I don’t really leave time for those slow weeknight meals, the kind that gently unfold once everyone’s home. It’s not that I mind cooking for just myself and a three-year-old. It’s that somehow, spending the evenings with other moms and their kids—having mediocre pizza, or a cacophonous dinner at our favorite pho place, or just hanging out at home, piling a few kids into someone’s bathtub after the inevitable toddler drama—feels easy.

I don’t know what I’d do without these ladies. They know each other, but they’re not necessarily friends. Many of them float into and out of my life from week to week or month to month, by accident or necessity, depending on the season. What they don’t know is that at times like these, when I’m balancing work and life and a kid without hands-on help from my husband, I line them up like helpful little G.I. Janes, one night after another. One stops at the store for me for milk. One helps when I back over my son’s walker with the car. Another picks all my ripe grapes, because she knows I don’t like Concords and they’ll be a mess if I don’t take care of them. Unknowingly, each one helps with these single little acts of kindness, adding up to make these weeks not just doable, but enjoyable, and not at all single-feeling. I love them for it. This weekend, Graham and I will head to Boise to visit my parents (his first visit since 2009), and some of those ladies will take turns walking the dog and petting the cat and watering the vegetables, supporting me in much more tangible (but actually less important) ways.

I made this homey little gluten-free breakfast cake for them. It’s a fallish squashy sort of a thing, scented with allspice and topped with a fluff of honey-sweetened cream cheese frosting. I’ll take a piece with us on the airplane—because wouldn’t you?—and leave the rest on the kitchen counter, so that as they come and go, these friends that make my life whole, they can stop for a bite. They’ll cut jagged pieces from the pan, or maybe even dig in directly, with a fork, and hopefully, they’ll taste the sweetness they’re giving me each day.

honey-cream cheese frosting

Kabocha Cake with Honey-Cream Cheese Frosting (PDF)

Every fall, as soon as the leaves show the faintest hint of color, I bring a kabocha squash home. Roasted (whole, stem and all) in the oven at about 400° for an hour or so, a volleyball-sized kabocha yields about six cups of mashed squash. In our house, it goes into simple cakes and muffins—if I’m not eating it straight off the roasting pan with a spoon, like baby food.

This cake is tinged with allspice and flavored with honey, but you could use any fall spice (nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom come to mind as excellent substitutions) and substitute maple syrup or sugar for the honey, if you prefer. Since it’s not too sweet, I like it best for breakfast.

Makes one 8-inch square cake

Dry ingredients
1 cup white rice flour
1 cup millet flour
3/4 cup arrowroot starch
1/2 cup potato starch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fresh ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients
2 cups mashed cooked kabocha squash (or one 15-ounce can pumpkin)
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup milk (cow’s milk or rice milk)
1/3 cup liquefied coconut oil (warm before measuring)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Frosting ingredients
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with oil or butter, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. Whisk the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl, then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until no white spots remain.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cake is firm in the center and just beginning to brown at the edges. Cool to room temperature.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the frosting ingredients together on medium speed for 2 minutes, until fluffy. Spread the frosting onto the cake, and serve.

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Filed under Breakfast, Cakes, gluten-free, recipe

A jam for jamming

Rhubarb Jam

It would be lovely, I suppose, if every stalk of rhubarb shot up clean bubble gum pink throughout, and if it stirred up into a jam the color of nail polish, and if (while we’re dreaming) it could in no way, in any quantity, poison anyone. The rhubarb I buy at the store is like this, but the stuff in our backyard—rhubarb reliably misshapen, strangely sized, and half-buried in dead leaves—is not really all that pretty.

This year, I hacked it all into pieces any which way, piled it into a roasting pan with a cup of sugar and a cinnamon stick, and roasted it for almost two hours, until the foam had subsided and a thick, gooey jam had begun to stick to the sides of the metal.

My rhubarb jam wasn’t even close to pink, and somehow, this feels like a shortcoming. But while it roasted, I put my kid down for a nap, tagged up on a deadline, made myself coffee, answered email, and made dinner. Oh, I brought the mail in, too. I was jamming, people, in more ways than one. And right now, balancing a book release and a new lupus treatment and a traveling husband and the kind of sunny Seattle weather that makes me want to lie prostrate in the back yard, I can’t think of anything more beautiful than a jam that doesn’t require actual attention.

This is one of those. There’s chopping and mashing and scooping and smashing, but you won’t need an ounce of glamour to make it. You don’t need a recipe, even-just four pounds of rhubarb, a cup of sugar, a cinnamon stick, and a bit shy of 2 hours at 400 degrees, stirring every so often. Call it jam, or compote, or stuff, even. It doesn’t matter what you call it. I pile the roasted rhubarb stuff on yogurt, and eat it after Graham goes to bed, when the house is silent, and I want the last part of the day to sweeten anything sourish that’s happened during the daylight hours.

This stuff sweetens life just enough.

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Filed under Breakfast, fruit, gluten-free, Pike Place Market Recipes

Happy Birthday!

Photo by Mark Klebeck

Two years ago, Top Pot Doughnuts was just another Seattle institution to me. Since then, I’ve spent countless hours in their bakery, gathering everything I needed to write their cookbook, getting to know their staff, and learning that random acts of kindness, in the form of doughnuts, can indeed change the world.

Those two guys that started Top Pot, Mark and Michael Klebeck? Two of the kindest, happiest, most genuine guys I’ve ever met.

Happy 10th birthday, boys.

For you, dear reader, the doughnut recipe that started it all . . .

Top Pot’s Glazed Sour Cream Old Fashioned Doughnuts (PDF)
Recipe from Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts: Secrets and Recipes for the Home Baker
From Chronicle Books, September 2011

Top Pot co-owner Mark Klebeck’s ideal doughnut experience requires a cup of hot black coffee and a plain old-fashioned. Made with sour cream and extra leavening and turned twice while frying, these doughnuts require a little more attention—but the ridges and petals that form while frying are perfect for catching extra glaze, which means glazed old-fashioneds keep better than yeast-raised or cake doughnuts. Top them with Simplest Vanilla Glaze (recipe below) when they’re piping hot.

I recommend weighing ingredients whenever possible.

Time: 1 hour active time, plus glazing or icing
Makes: One dozen, plus a few holes
Equipment: doughnut cutter (or 2 3/4 inch and 1 1/4 inch round cutters)

2 1/4 cups/255 g cake flour, plus more for rolling and cutting
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp iodized salt
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup/100 g sugar
2 tbsp shortening, trans-fat-free preferred
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup/165 ml sour cream
Canola oil, for frying

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg together into a mixing bowl, and set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the sugar and shortening for 1 minute on low speed, until sandy. Add the egg yolks, then mix 1 more minute on medium speed, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if necessary, until the mixture is light colored and thick.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in three separate additions, alternating with the sour cream, mixing until just combined on low speed and scraping the sides of the bowl each time. The dough will be sticky, like cookie dough.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, for 45 minutes (or up to 24 hours).

Using a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, heat oil (at least 2 inch deep) in a deep fryer, large pot, or high-sided frying pan to 325°F. Roll chilled dough out on a generously floured counter or cutting board to 1/2 inch thick, or about 8 inches in diameter, flouring the top of the dough and the rolling pin as necessary to prevent sticking. Cut into as many doughnuts and holes as possible, dipping the cutter into flour before each cut. Fold and gently reroll the dough (working with floured hands makes the dough less sticky), and cut again.

Shake any excess flour off the doughnuts before carefully adding them to the hot oil a few at a time, taking care not to crowd them. Once the doughnuts float, fry for 15 seconds, then gently flip them. Fry 75 to 90 seconds, until golden brown and cracked, then flip and fry the first side again for 60 to 75 seconds, until golden. Drain a rack set over paper towels/absorbent paper.

Simplest Vanilla Glaze

Time: 5 minutes active time, plus glazing
Makes: Enough for 1 dozen cake or ring-shaped doughnuts

3 1/2 cups/350 g confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tsp light corn syrup
1/4 tsp iodized salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup/75 ml plus 1 tbsp hot water, plus more if needed

Place the ingredients in a large mixing bowl or in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Using a whisk, or with the machine on low speed, blend until the mixture is smooth and all the sugar has been incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, if necessary. If the glaze seems to thick, add more hot water, a teaspoon at a time.

To glaze, dip one side of each hot doughnut into the warm glaze, and let dry 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

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Filed under Breakfast, recipe

Religious Freedom

Sufganiyot with Clove Marmalade

Consistency has never really been my strong point, so it’s not surprising that when I think of December, I think of three very different things. I think of skiing on Christmas day, when the crowds are thin and Santa’s finally been able to bag off work and take a few quick runs. I think of the menorah I must have forgotten to clean last year, like I always do, with a week’s worth of wax crammed into the little candle holes, waiting patiently for an hour of my time and a Swiss Army knife. And I think of my freshman year in college, when my friend Abby gathered a bowl of little Satsuma oranges, studded them with whole cloves, and put them on top of her bureau. I thought she was Martha incarnate; I didn’t grow up with décor. The sweet, spiced smell from that one bowl snuck under her dorm room door, and wafted down the hall, and planted itself deep within my psyche as the smell of Christmas.

Clove-Studded Satsumas

I grew up the blessed child of two religions. You hated me, remember? I was the one who got to celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas. Latkes and Christmas cookies. Eight days plus one.

Only, in reality, we didn’t really celebrate either—not in the way some families do. We swayed to the whims of two calendars, fitting gifts and meals around them, often forgoing one or the other if school events or ski races or a really good snowfall got in the way. And in the kitchen, our holiday rituals were even less dependable.

For Hanukkah, I think there were always latkes. And if we were home for Christmas, my mom would roast beef, and use the drippings for Yorkshire pudding, always marvelously puffy and lopsided, eliciting a seldom-heard insistence on getting to the table now, while it’s hot. But for a long time, instead of gathering my family’s odd holiday habits in a little bouquet of thankfulness, I was embarrassed by them. We were Jewish, but I’d never tasted sufganiyot, the little jelly-filled doughnuts traditionally served during the Hanukkah season. I didn’t know the prayers; I didn’t usually get Chinese food on December 25th. We celebrated Christmas, but we only had stockings every third year, and my mother never labeled the gifts, like I’m sure Abby’s mother did, so there was an equal, if not greater, chance that I’d open my brother’s Game Boy when I was supposed to be cracking into my Caboodles. And we certainly didn’t eat peppermint stick ice cream every Christmas Eve, or leave cookies out for Santa.

Now, though. They tell me I’m an adult. They tell me it’s my turn to pass my own traditions down. A decade ago, I might have said I’d just pick one avenue, one holiday. I’d have said I’d write down a list of Best Traditions, my own personal holiday declaration of independence, and stick to it, making the same foods every year, singing the same songs, smiling the same smiles. Now, though, having the freedom to celebrate however I want to each year, and to always do it differently, seems like the blessing.

A confused household

Now, my two-year-old is old enough to see the Star of David on top of our little Christmas tree, and to look up at me with a jammy grin as we sit on the floor in front of it on the first night of Hanukkah, stuffing our faces with sufganiyot made with leaf lard and filled with Christian-smelling sacrilege. This year, I’ll show him how to stick cloves into little baby oranges, and how to pile latkes with applesauce and sour cream, and how to set out cookies for Santa. (I’ll use Santa’s all-powerful presents as a threat, if I need to.) We’ll make pork-filled tamales on Christmas day, and steam them in the light of seven candles.

When he’s older, I’ll show him how to light the menorah one year, and the next year, we’ll forget where we put it, and stick to Christmas and roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. But every year, if we’re lucky, we’ll be with our families, and we’ll share food with friends, and we’ll smell something special—something with orange and cloves and winter.

If we’re lucky.

Sufganiyot with Clove Marmalade

Spiced Buttermilk Sufganiyot with Orange-Clove Marmalade (PDF)
Recipe by Jess Thomson, inspired by Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts: Secrets and Recipes for the Home Baker (by Mark and Michael Klebeck with Jess Thomson, Chronicle Books, September 2011)

Traditional sufganiyot are fried each year during Hanukkah to celebrate the miracle of light, when oil burned for light lasted eight days instead of the expected one. They’re often filled with strawberry or apricot jam, or a mixture of jam and custard. This version strays toward more typically Christmassy flavors, with a bittersweet filling made by spiking marmalade with ground cloves.

If you’re a really bad Jew that likes really good doughnuts, you could use leaf lard in place of the shortening.

Total: 1 hour 5 minutes active time
Makes 16 sufganiyot, or 24 if you reroll the dough
Special equipment: 2-inch round cutter, piping bag with medium round tip

3 tablespoons (four 1/4-ounce packets) active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk, warmed
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
2 teaspoons iodized salt
4 to 4 1/2 cups (550 to 620 grams) bread flour, plus more for rolling and cutting
1/4 cup shortening (trans fat-free preferred)
3 large egg yolks
1 gallon canola oil, for frying
2 cups orange marmalade
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

In the work bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar with the buttermilk and water and let sit for 5 minutes, until foamy.

In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, mace, salt, and 4 cups of the bread flour. Set aside.

Add the shortening and egg yolks to the foaming yeast mixture. Mix with the paddle attachment on low speed for 1 minute, to break up the shortening. Add about a third of the dry ingredients and mix until blended on low speed, then repeat with the second third of the dry ingredients.

Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining dry ingredients, mixing on low speed until no dry spots remain, adding additional flour as necessary, until the dough is dry enough to clean the bottom of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and knead for 2 more minutes. (It should be smooth like bread dough, but still a bit tacky.)

Transfer the dough to a baking sheet sprinkled with 1 tablespoon flour, shape into a flat disk 6 inches in diameter, dust lightly with flour, cover with a dish towel, and set aside.

Create a proofing box in your oven: Bring a large kettle of water to a boil. Pour about 8 cups of the boiling water into a 9-by-13-inch (or similar) baking dish, and set it on the floor of your oven. Place the sheet with the covered dough on the middle rack of the oven, close the door, and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

While the doughnuts rise, combine the remaining teaspoon ground cloves with the marmalade in a small saucepan. Warm the mixture over low heat until it bubbles, strain through a fine-mesh strainer, then refrigerate. Transfer the cooled jam to a pastry bag fitted with a medium-sized round tip.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll into a roughly 9-inch circle, about 3/4-inch thick, with a lightly floured rolling pin. Cut the dough into about 16 rounds with a 2-inch round cutter. (Reroll the dough for additional sufganiyot.) Gently transfer the sufganiyot to two baking sheets sprinkled with 2 tablespoons flour each, arranging them at least 2 inches apart, and let rise in the oven (with new boiling water), uncovered, for another 20 to 30 minutes, until doubled in size.

Using a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, heat oil (2 to 3 inches deep) in a deep fryer, large pot, or high-sided frying pan over medium heat to 350°F. When the dough has doubled, carefully place a few in the oil, taking care not to overcrowd them, and fry for about 45 seconds. (Note that the sufganiyot will look more brown when they’re done than they do in the oil. If you’d like, you can use scraps from cutting to test the oil.) Carefully turn the sufganiyot and fry for another 35 to 45 seconds, until golden on the second side, then transfer to a cooling rack set over a layer of paper towels to cool, rounded side up. (After the first batch, check to see that one has cooked through completely, and adjust frying time accordingly.)

When the first sufganiyot are cool enough to touch, poke the marmalade-filled pastry bag into the top of each pastry, and squeeze a scant tablespoon of filling into it. (The pastries are easiest to fill while they’re hot.) Repeat with the remaining sufganiyot and marmalade, dust liberally with confectioners’ sugar, and serve immediately.

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Filed under bread, Breakfast, jewish, recipe

A new doughnut, just for me

Gluten-free old-fashioned with honey glaze (with holes

There’s a certain irony around here, in case you haven’t noticed: my first cookbook, which focuses exclusively on doughnuts, was released the same month I started eating gluten- and egg-free. When the diagnosis came, I thought it meant no more doughnuts. Ever. Sure, there’s a recipe for gluten-free old-fashioneds in the book, and it’s a good one, but no eggs? I wasn’t sure I wanted to eat ingredient-free doughnuts. I thought they’d be the pastry equivalent of tofurkey. Sure, they look like the real thing, but without the flavor, what’s the point?

When I told our nanny that I wanted to make doughnuts, she looked at me incredulously. “Doughnuts?” she asked. “You can think of doughnuts now?” I’m not sure why, people, but I had to try. I had to stir flaxseed meal into a little slurry–a thick one, to replicate the texture of egg yolks–and whip it around in the mixer with the sugar, and watch it behave surprisingly like the egg yolks always did, last fall when I was testing for the book. I had to fry them up, and watch them ridge up into the classic old-fashioned shape with, yes, a little surprise. I had to eat them, and feel the smooth, honey-tinged icing break across the roof of my mouth. And I had to say it: these were pretty good doughnuts.

What I like about this book–and what I think you’ll like, too–is that although the recipes are based on Top Pot‘s unique methods, they’re really quite flexible. You want clove-spiced doughnuts with orange glaze? Add some ground cloves to the yeast-raised recipe and look for that orange glaze. You want gluten-free pumpkin cake doughnuts? The tools are there. Even after binging in a major, major way on doughnuts while I was writing it last year, this book thrills me because it opens such a big, wide, welcoming door, and I can’t quite bring myself to stop frying, now that I’ve started up again.

You knew, of course, that this month is National Doughnut Month. This month, I dare you: make some doughnuts. Join me, and other bloggers, in frying up your favorite fresh, fat orbs from childhood, and decorating them however you choose–then tell us about it. Paste your post below, or just tell me about your favorite doughnut experience, or email me (jessthomsonATmeDOTcom) and let me know when you’ll be posting, and I’ll give you a shout. Because above all, this here doughnut thing is supposed to be fun.

If you’re in the Seattle area, I’ll be signing at the following locations in the months to come. There will be doughnuts, of course. See you soon.

10/12/2011, 6 – 7:30 p.m.
Third Place Books (Ravenna Location)

10/15/2011, 12 – 1:30 p.m.
Book Larder

10/19/2011, 6 – 9 p.m.
Top Pot Doughnuts (Fifth Ave. Location)

10/27/2011, 6 – 7:30 p.m.
University Bookstore (Mill Creek Location)

11/10/2011, 7 – 8:30 p.m.
University Bookstore (University District Location)

Gluten-free old-fashioned with honey glaze in spotted napkin 2
Honey-Glazed Gluten-Free Old-Fashioneds (PDF)

This recipe is a spin on the one for gluten-free old-fashioned doughnuts found in Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts: Secrets and Recipes for the Home Baker, only this doughnut is even more inclusive; it’s made without eggs. To get the doughnuts to split like regular old-fashioneds, make sure you wait until you can see cracks in the surface of the dough when you’re frying them on the first side before flipping them over. Let them cool for about 5 minutes before glazing the first time.

Time: 1 hour active time
Makes: 1 dozen if rerolled, plus a few holes

Equipment: Doughnut cutter (or 2 3/4-inch and 1 1/4-inch round cutters)

2 cups/255 g gluten-free all-purpose baking flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill), plus more for rolling and cutting
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp iodized salt
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp shortening
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
2 tablespoons water
1 cup sour cream
Canola oil, for frying
Honey glaze (recipe follows)

Sift the gluten-free flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt, and nutmeg together into a medium bowl, and set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the sugar and shortening for 1 minute on low speed, until sandy. Whisk the flaxseed meal and water together in a small bowl and let it sit for about a minute. Add it to the sugar mixture, then mix for 1 more minute on medium speed, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if necessary, until well blended.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in three separate additions, alternating with the sour cream, mixing until just combined on low speed each time. The dough will be sticky, like cookie dough.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, for 45 minutes (or up to 24 hours).

Using a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, heat oil (at least 2 inches deep) in a deep fryer, large pot, or high-sided frying pan to 350°F. (Really. Measure the temperature.) Roll the chilled dough out on a counter or cutting board generously floured with gluten-free flour to 1/2 inch thick, or about 8 inches in diameter, flouring the top of the dough and the rolling pin as necessary to prevent sticking. Cut into as many doughnuts and holes as possible, dipping the cutter into flour before each cut. Fold and gently reroll the dough and extra holes (working with floured hands makes the dough less sticky), and cut again.

Shake any excess flour off the doughnuts before carefully adding them to the hot oil a few at a time, taking care not to crowd them. Once the doughnuts float, fry for 60 to 75 seconds per side, or until deep golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels/absorbent paper.

Honey-Vanilla Doughnut Glaze
Makes enough for 1 dozen cake doughnuts

4 1/2 cups (1 pound) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon high-quality honey
1/4 teaspoon iodized salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup hot water, plus more if needed

Place the confectioners’ sugar, honey, salt, vanilla, and hot water in a large mixing bowl or in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Using a whisk, or with the machine on low speed, blend until the mixture is smooth and all of the sugar has been incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if necessary. If the glaze seems too thick, add more hot water, a teaspoon at a time.

To glaze, dip one side of each doughnut into the icing when the doughnut is still a bit warm, and let dry for about 10 minutes. Dip it in again, for a second coat, then let dry before serving.

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Filed under Breakfast, recipe

Why we eat

Joe rolling out dough

The night my new eating regimen was supposed to start, I mostly ignored it. Friends had us for dinner, and there was pizza, stretched thin and slathered with homemade sauce and juicy olives, and cheese to beat the band. We sat around a table outdoors, passing slices over wineglasses and olives and little tot heads until everything was gone. I couldn’t really do anything else; when the choice is eating and sharing and laughing and righting the day or not eating at all, I’ll always choose the former.

But suddenly, with this diet thing, having dinner with friends doesn’t seem like an option. And it’s killing me.

Let me just clarify something for you here: if you meet me, say, for the first time, you will not know I have lupus. In fact, yesterday, I ran the loop around Seattle’s Discovery Park, and when I slowed down on one of the hills (to a walk, if you must know), a giant furry grey owl buzzed my head, interrupting my ponytail’s swing at the base of my neck. I craned to see it roosting on a high branch, where it simply hooted at me until I started running again. Not even owls sense it, and owls are very knowledgeable.

Lupus comes and goes. But the medicines that help keep lupus at bay in my body—things like cellcept, prednisone, plaquenil, and maybe someday benlysta—leave me susceptible to things like shingles, and food poisoning, and goodness knows what else. The goal of this crazy elimination diet is to put lupus into remission, instead of repeatedly falling into these weird tailspins. I know there is a goal.

The thing is, I don’t know for sure that I need the diet to feel better, and so far I don’t feel anything but deprived. I keep waiting to feel somehow different. It’s like waiting to fall in love with someone you don’t even know. (Thank goodness mine was not an arranged marriage.)

In general, what I’m eating now feels more like hospital food than hospital food did, when I was there for days and days and days surrounding Graham’s birth. Perhaps that’s telling of the state of culinary affairs at Swedish Hospital, where the short entrée menu at the time boasted nachos, fettuccine alfredo, and a Philly cheesesteak—all very healing foods, if you’ve been admitted for a hangover. Or maybe it’s just the difference between eating for enjoyment—which Swedish fully endorses, if the milkshakes are any indication—and eating for nutrition, which is the assignment I’m currently complaining about.

Beet green chips

But I’ve been doing it. With the exception of caffeine—I’m still desperately holding on to half a cup of coffee each morning (with coconut milk creamer, naturally)—and a piece of Kate’s pie, and a snatch of potato chips that snuck up on me at Uli’s without warning, I’m doing it. I’ve made a kale version of saag paneer, minus the cheese, which turned out silky-smooth, rich with coconut milk, and the perfect consistency for napping over curried yellow split peas with leeks and garlic. There have been gorgeous salads with avocado and sunflower seeds, drizzled with new-to-me oils that give enough flavor to only require the tiniest amount of vinegar (which I should now avoid). And last night, I actually tested recipes for Dishing Up Washington—a beet and arugula salad (I avoided the goat cheese); seared, roasted king salmon steaks; and cauliflower with cumin and pine nuts. I’ve made chips out of beet greens, roasting them in a hot oven after slicking with olive oil and sprinkling them with sea salt. These are not foods associated with suffering. But I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been hard.

I’ve ordered mint tea at one of Seattle’s best cocktail bars. I’ve spent two hours watching other people eat oysters. The worst part, though, is with Graham. The diet means that when we sit down for dinner as a family, we rarely all eat the same thing. Take Neanderthal Night, which means whole-wheat spaghetti and Bolognese for G. Dependably, a naked 2-year-old who still refuses to eat spaghetti with a fork inadvertently smears sauce over his entire torso, then offers me some—and I have to say no. Or I pretend to eat it and toss it over my shoulder. This morning I fed raspberries to the dog under the table while he wasn’t looking. Raspberries. If you’ll permit me the moment of pure crankiness, nothing sucks more than refusing your child when he offers to share his food with you.

Unless, maybe, it’s eating anywhere outside the house. On day two, we agreed to meet some friends for dinner at Whole Foods. I’m a food writer in a city of culinary wonders, and I’m eating at Whole Foods? They’ll have something, we decided. But the thing is, they didn’t. There was literally nothing in their mammoth prepared foods arena I could buy, except Vietnamese salad rolls I ate with the rice paper, until I remembered I can’t have rice. (This was day two, remember.) I ate carrots (technically too high in sugar for me, but people, it’s a fucking carrot) and hummus and weird $7 kale chips that I’d pay $7 for someone to now take out of my kitchen. And I drank coconut water. (It’s good, by the way. Coconut is my new BFF.)

But beyond that, going out to eat has been a disaster. Today, I’m supposed to meet another writer for lunch. We’d planned to meet at Dot’s Delicatessen, a new Seattle joint that may soon be famous for charcuterie and sausages. No worries, I thought. I’ll just go, and eat whatever there is that I can eat. Like the salad, which is the only green thing on a menu I’d otherwise champion. Only I’ll ask them to hold the vinegar, tomatoes, and carrots. So really, I’ll be ordering oiled lettuce, in an establishment bred to honor all things meaty. And water, please, but hold the lemon, because I can’t have that either. Goodness knows where and what we’ll end up eating.

The point of all this meandering is that I’ve been taken, this last week, with the concept of why we eat. We eat for taste, of course, and perhaps for nutrition as well. But a huge part of why I eat is about sharing, and about feeding others. When I eat, I want to eat the same things everyone at the table is eating. When I shop at the farmers’ market, I want to taste the things the vendors hand me. I’ve missed fruit immensely, but on that run yesterday, I started pulling fat, ripe blackberries from the vines lining the paths and feeding them to my dog. Somehow, that connection—watching my dog look at me anxiously, waiting for another berry, hoping I’d share—filled part of the space that’s been empty, these last days. And she’s a dog.

An empty dining room table

I knew, when I started hogwash, that there would be months like this. That’s why I subtitled it “on food and life;” for me, sometimes life is more important than food. But when lupus makes my body hurt, I usually don’t talk about it much, because there are always things that override it—food, friends, family, etc.

But this. This. This is not fun. And the things that normally help me through tough times—passing a cheese knife between two hands, or breaking a chocolate bar in two to share—just aren’t there. In a couple weeks, I’ll have a birthday, and I still haven’t figured out how there can possibly be cake.

The good news is, I think I now understand why the table feels so empty, even with all the foods I can still eat. That’s huge. As a editor of mine recently said, once you understand why you’re stuck, you have a place from which to get unstuck. Or at least start.

So I’m stuck. So what? Stuck happens. Soon–as I’m able to add foods in, one by one–I’ll be back at the party.

Sweet Rosemary Cornbread 1

For now, an old favorite. It’s a sweet rosemary cornbread from last summer-something I’d love to have right this moment, so I could slice and butter it, then serve it grilled, with grilled nectarines fat with the kind of juice they only have in mid-August. Make it for me, will you? And enjoy it, with someone else.

Sweet Rosemary Cornbread (PDF)

If you’re giving the bread as a gift, or just want it to look extra adorable, pop a sprig of fresh rosemary onto the batter before the bread goes into the oven. Then hurry it to the lucky recipient while it’s still warm, with good butter and a jar of creamed honey.

TIME: 10 minutes active time
MAKES: 2 (8” by 4”) loaves

Vegetable oil spray or butter, for greasing pans
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup half and half
3/4 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two (8” by 4”) loaf pans, and set aside.

Whisk the dry ingredients to blend in a large bowl. Whisk the wet ingredients together in a different bowl, then add to the dry ingredients, and stir until no dry spots remain.

Divide the batter between the prepared loaf pans, smooth with a spatula, and bake until brown at the edges and just cracking in the center, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pans, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

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Filed under bread, Breakfast, lupus

Tension, and a Great Gatsby moment

Blueberry-Lemon Graham Bread 3

(Listen to the radio version of this piece here.)

There are 22 different kinds of flour in my back pantry. The space itself is awkward; it’s a repurposed linen closet next to my bathroom with a latch that doesn’t click unless you body-slam the door. Whoever opens the thing wages serious battle with the hooks that double as our coat closet. But when it comes to the flours themselves, awkward is an understatement; my flours fit into that pantry more poorly than I fit in during fourth grade (which is to say, not at all).

On the top shelf, which is reserved for sparkling water, giant jugs of vinegar, coffee, extra olive oil, and assundry rarely-used Asian groceries, there is currently one bag of bread flour and an almost-full bag of whole wheat pastry flour. (I’m storing the latter on its head, because the bottom ripped open the last time it fell out of the cabinet upon opening and snowed its ingredients down the return air vent.)

On the middle shelf, where I keep savory pantry essentials—rices, pastas, beans, and grains—there’s a four-year-old bag of chestnut flour I need to throw away, some tapioca flour, and the dried chickpeas I used to grind into a flour last week.

But the bottom shelf is the actual flour shelf. The flours I can tell you I have off the top of my head, in no particular order, are quinoa, teff, almond, whole wheat, rice, sweet rice, dark rye, corn, millet, graham, and sorghum.

Then there are the flours I actually keep in my kitchen. There’s a green bucket in the corner, meant for mixing cement, that’s filled with cake flour—a remnant of the weeks spent writing a cookbook about doughnuts. Then there are two crocks of flour, my all-stars, that I keep regularly on my counter—one is all-purpose, and one is whole-wheat pastry flour. (I use the latter because it has less gluten than regular whole-wheat flour, so baked goods don’t end up heavy.)

I’m not telling you this because I think you should buy more flour. I’m telling you because what you don’t see, reading this blog or using my recipes, is the tension between the things I love about my job and the things that make me insane. What you don’t see is that there is almost more square footage in my little house devoted to flour than there is to clothing. What you don’t see is me, in my pajamas, churning out dozens of whole-grain holiday cookies in mid-June, when I should be eating strawberries. What you don’t see is me trying to populate my blog with interesting flour recipes so that when said cookie recipes come out in edibleSEATTLE in November, people will have something to do with their leftover graham flour. What you don’t see is that every time I give you a recipe for, say, buttermilk-brown sugar buckwheat muffins, I’ve tried the recipe and toyed with it, resulting in a mountain of excess I’m rather embarrassed to talk about. I own 22 different flours. Who needs 22 kinds of flour? Wouldn’t it be better if I used the same darn flour for everything?

Well, no. At least, I don’t think so. As I see it, my role as a recipe developer is to bear the burden—oh lordy, the burden—of a cabinet that looks like 1950s London. I’ll do the experimenting here, in my house, so that you can, say, buy a bag of graham flour for a lemon-spiked blueberry bread, knowing that you’ll use at least half of it, and see how straight graham flour bakes up bigger than regular whole wheat flour, and that later, I’ll come up with something that helps you use the rest. Or so you can make those muffins, and not feel like using buckwheat is just a bit of a lark. Or so you can fry a batch of doughnuts that will make your arteries curl, and bet that when that doughnut book comes out, I’ll be giving you recipes for the whole-grain baked versions I couldn’t put in the book.

I love exposing people to new foods that could make them more excited about cooking and eating and that might, in a perfect world, make them a little healthier. I like providing inspiration for celebration, and for occasional indulgence, and for gatherings where one person looks another person in the eye and learns something new about them. I like the rhythm of my day-to-day, that ever changing, syncopated dance that allows me to blend food and life together in new measures each hour, all while wearing pajamas. This is my work.

But I really hate that cabinet.

So yes, sometimes my work gets in the way of my ideal values, which include a healthy lifestyle and a dose of minimalism and a world of easy-to-close pantry doors (although you certainly wouldn’t know it to stand in my kitchen). What I do for a living gets in the way of how I want to live. But you know that little ditty about not always getting what you want? In real life, it’s true. I want to help people eat healthier, but I’ll soon be the author of a doughnut cookbook. Hypocritical? Definitely. The right business decision for me? Probably.

So I have a new mantra, because life isn’t perfect: You can’t always get what you want, but you can always try. I can’t always write recipes that make people healthier (see here), but I can write some. I can’t depend on an organized cabinet, but I can hold a little flour rodeo once a year and make a good, honest effort at wrangling those little bags. And as I move along this path, I can decide which turns to take—which, today, means fewer refined products and a little more nutrition. Which, in turn, will probably mean more little bags of flour.

And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Blueberry-Lemon Graham Bread

Blueberry-Lemon Graham Bread (PDF)
Recipe by Laura Russell

Graham flour and local honey give this classic breakfast bread a modern twist. Without any white flour or refined sugar, this bread takes a step in a healthy direction in hopes of making you feel a little bit better about reaching for that inevitable second slice.

TIME: 15 minutes
MAKES: One 8-inch loaf cake

2 cups graham flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup local honey
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Grated zest of one large lemon
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8” by 4 1/2” loaf pan.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter and honey together on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing between additions and scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary, and mix on medium high speed for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the milk, vanilla, and lemon zest, and mix on medium speed until combined. Add the flour mixture, and mix on low speed until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries by hand.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes on the middle rack, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, covering the bread with foil if it begins to brown too quickly. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and let cool completely.

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Filed under bread, Breakfast, fruit, grains, radio, recipe

A muffin you haven’t tried

Brown Sugar-Buttermilk Buckwheat Muffins 1

It’s presumptuous of me, I know, to tell you what you have or haven’t eaten. But you haven’t tried a muffin like this before. It has the crunchy sugared top that makes muffins so attractive in the first place (although, let’s face it, this is’t a muffin we’d call sexy). Made with whole wheat pastry and buckwheat flours, it has an honest, straightforward heritage, like a woman who only wears shoes she can run in. The temptation to call these them something else is strong—in an early morning introspective moment on the couch, my husband called them ButtBucks—but only a long, drawn-out title pays homage to their gentle mix of earthiness, sweetness, and tang. Made with brown sugar, vegetable oil, and buttermilk, these muffins are meant for breakfast, not dessert. Serve them warm or reheated, plain or with a smear of butter or honey.

Brown Sugar-Buttermilk Buckwheat Muffins (PDF)

TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: 1 dozen muffins

Vegetable oil spray
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 cup lowfat buttermilk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with vegetable oil spray (including the flat parts), and set aside.

Whisk the pastry flour, buckwheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar together in a large bowl. In another big bowl, whisk the buttermilk, eggs, and vegetable oil until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until the flour is just incorporated. Divide the batter between the muffin cups, placing a heaping 1/4 cup batter in each one. (The muffins will not rise much.) Douse the muffins with the turbinado sugar.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until puffed and lightly browned at the edges, but before the muffins begin to crack. Let cool 5 minutes in their pans, then cool completely on a wire rack.

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Filed under Breakfast, grains, recipe

Caramelized Rhubarb Jam

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Say the word jam, and I usually take a moment’s pause. Jam means fruit, and summer, and hot buttered sourdough toast. But more than anything, I usually associate jam with time, because making it – between the chopping and stirring and mothering and jarring – requires a luxury of hours that doesn’t pass by my calendar all that often.

This jam, though. It’s a caramelized rhubarb jam. It’s roasted, not simmered, and it’s really too quick to require a true recipe. Mix four pounds of chopped rhubarb with a cup of sugar, the juice of a lemon, and a split vanilla bean, and roast it at 350 degrees for two hours or so, stirring just once. The stalks will collapse as the sugar caramelizes, creating a rich panful of brick-colored jam – a good-sized jar for home and two jars for sharing – that’s as at home on a slice of toast as it is snuggled next to a smear of peanut butter.

Of course, if you eat it with a spoon, I won’t tell. I’ll just ask for another spoon.

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Filed under Breakfast, recipe

There’s a beer in my breakfast

Malted Millet Granola 2

It may sound strange to you, but in my brain, there’s not anything especially unusual about coming up with a recipe. It’s sort of like deciding which way to drive through a neighborhood in a new city: I see my options, and I choose. I might drive on the sidewalk every now and then, and there are the invariable wrong turns, but it’s still just driving.

Then, once in a while, I come across an ingredient that takes me a little outside my comfort zone. That’s what I love about the cookbook I’m working on right now, Pike Place Market Recipes. About half the recipes are mine, inspired by the market’s shops, and the rest come from restaurateurs and purveyors there – and in general, these days, they’re the ones bringing new foods into my life.

Last week, I cooked with malt for the first time. I was testing a Reuben recipe from The Pike Brewing Company. The concept is simple: You take a corned beef brisket, braise it in beer, then smother it in malt syrup, an ingredient used to make some beers, and roast it again until the syrup caramelizes into a thick, glossy sheen on the beef. The resulting sandwich is unusual: rich, salty, and tinged with an earthy, sweet flavor not intrinsic to your typical Reuben.

Golden malt syrup

Walking into a brewing supply store and saying you’d like to buy a cup of malt is like asking a fire truck for a drink from its hose. Somehow, when I went last week, I envisioned it sounding more normal to ask for two cups. The guys at the counter at the store near me stared at me anyway, gobsmacked by the concept of putting malt into anything but a giant plastic vat, but eventually we found a suitable container and the malt wound its way home to my kitchen. And resting on the counter, after four of us had downed an entire brisket’s worth of beef in one meal, was exactly one cup of leftover malt syrup.

Malt is the best way to convince non-beer drinkers that beer is a good thing. Dip a finger in, and it comes out coated with something akin to honey but more full-bodied. It’s sweet without being sugary, earthy without tasting like earth. It’s what honey might taste like if it was made by warthogs, instead of bees. And it’s a darn good substitute for honey in homemade granola.

This cookbook thing? It makes for busy days, that’s for sure. But it sure is a delicious ride.

Malted Millet Granola 3

Malted Millet Granola
Okay fine, you win: this is a strange-sounding granola. But think about it: Malt, the syrup derived from grain (often barley) that gives beer its sweetness, has been used as a sweetener for centuries. Why not use it in place of honey or maple syrup? I made this granola with breakfast in mind, but patted one batch into an even 1/2” layer and didn’t stir it as it cooked. The result? Well-packed granola chunks perfect for snacking.

You can buy malt syrup at any good brewing supply store.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: About 15 loose cups granola

1 cup golden malt syrup
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 18-ounce container (6 1/2 cups) old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 cup raw millet
3/4 cup sliced almonds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats, and set aside.

Combine the malt syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla in a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, place the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the honey mixture, and stir to blend. Divide the granola between the two baking sheets, spreading it into an even layer on each sheet, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring the granola after 15 minutes (and every 5 minutes thereafter) and rotating sheets top to bottom and back to front halfway through. The granola is done when it’s uniformly golden brown. (Note: The malt caramelizes quickly, so once the granola starts to brown on the bottom, watch it carefully and stir when it starts to brown.)

Let the granola cool to room temperature on the baking sheets. Break apart and store in an airtight container.

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Filed under beer, Breakfast, recipe, snack, vegetarian

The Seedy Side of Things

sour cream banana muffins 1

You’ll agree, I think, that when it comes to baked goods, banana bread is an invasive species. It’s ubiquitous in bakeries. It’s the thing non-bakers make. And in my kitchen, it’s what happens when my brain is overwhelmed with other recipes. It’s a centering device of sorts, and this week, between a gazillion recipes for canned black beans, recipes for the Pike Place Market cookbook, and some serious soul-searching about holiday cookies, I’ve needed something grounding.

This version—okay, it’s a muffin, not banana bread, but they’re practically kissing cousins—started with granola. I’ve been loving the stuff from a new local brand, Hooting Owl Granola. (Owls are hip right now, you know.) I called the owner to find out more, and she told me she’s coming out with a new flavor called The Seedy Side of Things, made with a top-secret mix of fun seeds (think chia, hemp, etc.). It made me start pawing through my pantry. Seedy muffins, I thought. Then my neighbor dropped off a hunk of chocolate chip banana bread, and those half-dead bananas started whining at me from the fruit basket. There wasn’t much choice.

I thought it might be a great first cooking project for me and Graham. He’s watched me cook, for sure, but hasn’t participated much. I assumed all those great sounds—millet bouncing off the side of a mixing bowl, a whisk whacking back and forth—might hold his attention. I suppose I also thought that having him witness the physical combination of such wholesome ingredients could erase the fact that I fed him fish sticks for breakfast yesterday in the car.

We talked about it. We banged the muffin pans together, and I explained everything about making big muffins for mommy and little muffins for Graham. We started off okay, but about 14 seconds in, somewhere between measuring the all-purpose flour and putting it into the bowl, dumping Cheerios off the side of his high chair proved a much more entertaining endeavor for my son. So it goes.

To be fair, these shouldn’t really be called seedy muffins, because they’re mostly full of grains—good-for-you things like millet, cornmeal, and those teensy weensy camelina seeds, which are absurdly rich in antioxidants considering their size. But somehow, “seeds” seemed easier to explain to Graham than “whole grains.”

So as a bonding experience, these were a complete failure. But nutritious? Sure. A good use for dying bananas? Certainly. And Graham had two (almost including the paper) without blinking. Maybe he’s ready for The Little Red Hen.

sour cream banana muffins 2

Seedy Sour Cream-Banana Muffins (PDF)
I’m not typically a big fan of muffins with lots of stuff in them, but this banana version, which depends on camelina seeds, millet, and cornmeal for crunch, is something I’d eat every day. They’re miraculously ungreasy, and the omega-3s in the camelina seeds allow you to feel virtuous for eating two (or three). If you can’t find camelina, substitute raw quinoa.

TIME: 30 minutes
MAKES: This recipe makes enough batter for 12 unlined muffins tins, heaped full, or 12 lined muffins plus 12 lined mini-muffins.

Vegetable oil spray or muffin liners
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup raw millet
1/4 cup camelina seeds
1/4 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar (or up to 3/4 cup, to taste)
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup canola oil
2 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with the vegetable oil spray (or line a 12-cup tin and a 12-cup mini tin with cupcake liners), and set aside.

Stir the flours, millet, camelina seeds, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and brown sugar together in a big bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk the sour cream, milk, eggs, and vanilla to blend. Add the oil and bananas, and stir until smooth.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir to blend. (The batter will be thick.) Divide the batter between the muffin cups—a heaping 1/4 cup for regular (lined) muffins, or heaping tablespoons for mini muffins. The batter won’t rise much, so don’t be shy. Sprinkle the muffins generously with turbinado sugar. Bake 20 to 25 minutes for regular muffins, or 15 to 18 minutes for mini muffins, or until the muffins are puffed and firm to the touch in the center. Cool 5 minutes in pans, and enjoy warm, if possible. Store any remaining (cooled) muffins in an airtight container at room temperature, up to three days.

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Filed under Breakfast, grains, recipe

A banana bread epiphany

Chocolate-Covered Walnut Banana Bread (blurry)

If you squint, this banana bread doesn’t look much different from your average chocolate- and walnut-stuffed rendition. It’s perfectly moist. It makes a house smell like there’s something good about gray fifty-degree days in mid-June. But open your eyes, and you’ll see that the walnuts are actually coated in the chocolate first. Open your mouth, and you’ll get one fantasy bite after the next, all crunchy and chocolaty and soft at the same time.

Last weekend, we stayed with my aunt and uncle in Berkeley. In the morning, there was banana bread, which we toasted and slathered with butter using sturdy Swedish wooden spoons. The first day, I couldn’t put my finger on what was so delicious. But the second day, picnicking on the carpet at the Oakland airport, I realized the walnuts were actually individually coated in chocolate – an effect that, for whatever reason, absolutely makes a difference.

I’m not sure where my aunt’s bread was from – whether she made it herself or bought it somewhere – but an hour after our wheels touched down at SeaTac, I was at the grocery store, buying the ripest bananas I could find.

I’d like to introduce you to my new favorite banana bread. Can someone please help me articulate why it’s so much better than banana bread with chocolate and walnuts stirred in?

I’m convinced. I’m just not quite sure why.

Chocolate-Covered Walnut Banana Bread

Chocolate-Covered Walnut Banana Bread (PDF)

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: 2 loaves

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups whole walnuts (toasted, if you’d like)
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups mashed banana (from 3 large, ripe bananas, a little more or less won’t hurt)

Melt the chocolate chips slowly over low heat in a small saucepan, stirring frequently. Add the walnuts and turn to coat all the pieces evenly. Spread the nuts out on a large piece of waxed paper so they’re not touching each other, and let cool until the chocolate has hardened.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8” x 4” loaf pans (or spray them with a baking spray that claims to do the same job), and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a mixing bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream 1 1/2 sticks butter and both sugars together on high speed until light, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until blended between additions and scraping the side of the bowl when necessary. Add the vanilla and the mashed banana, and stir until blended. Add the dry ingredients about a third at a time, mixing on low just until blended between additions, then gently stir in the chocolate-covered walnuts by hand.

Divide the batter evenly between the loaf pans, smooth the batter flat, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the tops are browned and beginning to crack and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with just a few crumbs attached.

Cool in pans until comfortable to touch, then remove from pans and cool completely on a cooling rack. Store up to 3 days at room temperature, well wrapped, or freeze up to 3 months.

chocolate-covered walnuts

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Filed under bread, Breakfast, Cakes, dessert, recipe

Rhubarbsauce

Rhubarbsauce 4

Rhubarb baffles me every spring. I can’t help it. Those little wrinkly leaf heads start creeping up out of the ground, looking a crowd of vegetal aliens, and I always doubt that they’ll grow into something with gorgeous fuchsia stalks and big, elephant-ear leaves. It just doesn’t seem possible.

Lucky for rhubarb (and late bloomers like me, I guess), time unfurls and beautifies things in a way no chemical can. In my garden, I wait to snap stalks out of the ground until the elegant, baffley leaves are totally splayed out, because that’s what I’d want someone to do if they were picking me. Time’s not always an enemy.

The thing about rhubarb is that while it always tastes beautiful – bright and sunny and tart in all the right ways – it doesn’t always look so great when it’s cooked. Have you noticed? In pies and tarts, it’s usually all covered up, because when you heat it, the fibers separate into unattractive little shards, and it turns a tawny reddish color that’s awfully disappointing after the shocking vibrancy of the fresh stuff. You might say this here is a food with a complexion problem.

The other day, I decided to give it a little makeover. I started by chopping about a pound of rhubarb, then melted it in a pot with Pink Lady apples and a touch of cranberry juice, for a little extra color. The pieces melted into a chunky sauce that tasted terrific, with just the right amount of sweetness, but was, shall we say, artistically challenged. So I whirred it up. Out came something much more elegant – a silky-smooth, pretty pink sauce with the punch of rhubarb but none of its unfortunate textural issues.

Rhubarbsauce 1

The problem is, no matter what you do to the stuff, the word rhubarb itself is still sort of ugly. It sounds blobby, like it belongs in the same family as words like grub, or blotter, and maybe bulbous. No matter how gorgeous, it would be hard to convince me that applesauce with bulbous tastes good.

Rhubarbsauce. Now why didn’t I think of that sooner? It sounds much more delicious.

Rhubarbsauce on pancakes

Apple Rhubarbsauce (PDF)

Tainted with cranberry juice and just the right amount of sugar, this rhubarb-rich applesauce is great stirred into yogurt, slathered on pancakes, spooned warm over ice cream, or eaten straight from the jar.

TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: About 1 1/2 pints

1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and chopped
1 pound Pink Lady apples, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then cook over low heat, covered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and let cool, then puree in a blender. Serve hot or cold.

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Filed under Breakfast, dessert, fruit, gluten-free, recipe

A little something new

Whole Grain Granola 3

It may be sunny in Seattle – you should see it, people, there are cherry trees blooming here, in the middle of February, and little baby daffodils playing peek-a-boo with the old fall leaves – but that cold front I was telling you about? I’d be lying if I said it was completely over.

I have made a little progress on the appetite thing, though. I started taking one medication at night instead of in the morning, and that helped almost immediately. I appreciate how many of you left comments about the hunger-stomping properties of another lupus drug, too – Plaquenil didn’t change my appetite the first time I was on it, but it could very well be the culprit this time.

But yes, maybe things are looking up. My friend Lorna just posted a tantalizing beef stroganoff photo that forced me to make a new shopping list. I’m spending longer at the grocery store again. And as development for holiday recipes kicks into gear (it’s crazy, I know, but that’s the magazine world), my creativity is starting to return.

In the kitchen, I’ve changed tacks a little. I’ve been cooking things I love making – foods I relish for the doing, not just for the eating. There’s been corona bean and bacon minestrone, because it’s fun to cook beans that end up close to the size of a wine cork. Ginger-scented tomato and beef stew, because I know the beef is seared properly when the fire alarm goes off, and that damned robot’s dependability cracks me up every time. There’s been sausage and feta strata, whipped up for breakfast at the neighbor’s house, because crossing the driveway in my slippers holding a casserole dish makes me feel like a good person. (Coincidentally, I set an oven mitt on fire taking that strata out of the oven, and that didn’t trigger the fire alarm. Go figure.) I’ve also been working on a top secret muffin recipe, for the July issue of edibleSEATTLE, that might very well be the crowning glory of my baking career. (Just wait. You’ll see. Here’s a sneak peek: Six muffins. Half a pound of bacon.)

Last week, I went back to one of the very first things I learned to make: homemade granola. I like it mostly because it’s both infinitely flexible and difficult to make perfectly. At its simplest, it’s a mixture of oats, a fat (often oil), and a sweetener (often brown sugar or honey, or a mixture of the two), and sundry accompaniments – nuts, seeds, fruit, spices. As long as everything gets coated in a sweet lubricant and toasted to some degree in the oven, then cooled to crunchy right on the baking sheet and broken up into snackable chunks, it can hardly be bad. (Coat some cardboard in butter and sugar, toast it, and I’d probably eat that, too, if it doesn’t set the fire alarm off first.) But finding the (sorry) sweet spot between ultimate toastiness, that rich shade of brown that maximizes flavor and helps the oats form into wonderfully spoonable clusters, and burned granola, is a delicate thing. I watch my granola carefully.

This time, I decided to bring in the new guard – all those whole grains that have been lining up in my pantry for months now. I’ve used them on and off individually here – millet for muffins, bulgur for salad, quinoa for pancakes – but I rarely use lots of whole grains together, and I’d actually never cooked with amaranth, those teensy-tiny protein-rich seeds sold in the bulk foods bins. But if I need anything right now, it’s something new. Amassed and sprinkled in with oats, cashews, pecans, and sesame seeds, these grains churned out a rich, earthy-tasting granola speckled with color. It’s crunchy, filling, and (best of all, for me, for now) incredibly interesting to eat.

So on we go.

Whole Grain Granola 1

Whole Grain Granola (PDF)

Made with oats, millet, quinoa, and amaranth (plus cashews, pecans, sunflower seeds, and a good hit of cinnamon), this granola packs flavor, crunch and nutrition. Look for the grains in the bulk foods section of a natural foods store.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: About 15 loose cups granola

1 (18-ounce) container old fashioned oats
1 cup cashews, roughly chopped
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1 cup sunflower seeds, roughly chopped
1/3 cup millet
1/3 cup red quinoa
1/3 cup amaranth
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 cup honey
1 cup canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats, and set aside.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the honey and canola oil (the honey is easier to mix in if you soften it in the microwave for about 45 seconds first), and mix until thoroughly combined.

Divide the granola between the two baking sheets, spreading it into an even layer on each sheet, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring the granola and rotating sheets top to bottom and back to front halfway through. The granola is done when it’s uniformly deep golden brown.

Let the granola cool to room temperature on the baking sheets. Break apart and store in an airtight container.

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Filed under Breakfast, gluten-free

A cake to crush on

Kabocha-Maple Sour Cream Coffee Cake 2

I saw you at the farmers’ market this weekend. You picked up a kabocha squash – that big, tough-looking green one, with the woody stump – and fairly considered it. You turned it around and around, right side-up and upside-down. It wasn’t without effort, of course – the weight of the thing made your market bag trip over your shoulder blade and careen down your upper arm, at which point you wondered how you’d get the beast home. Then your buddy said, “So, how do you think you get it open?” And I watched you put that poor squash down.

I hate to be Debbie Downer, but you made the wrong decision, sister. A kabocha squash can be a big thug of a thing, but it is not (despite those witchy warts and scars) actually scary or difficult to use.

And I don’t mean to be smug, but I should know. These days, with sore joints, a can opener is my nemesis; I do not cut hard things. The thought of hacking into anything tougher than a bagel (much less quartering a big ol’ squash) brings tears to my eyes. But I love kabocha. So my choices are threefold: 1) stop buying squash and be sad, 2) let my husband finally buy the Samurai sword he’s always wanted, and pray he doesn’t hurt the counters or himself, or 3) skip the farmers’ market and buy pre-cut squash at the grocery store.

tired tanned kabocha squash

But oh, wait. WAIT. There’s a fourth. See, you don’t actually have to cut into a kabocha before you cook it, if you want soft squash. You can just put it in the oven, stem and all, and roast away at 400 degrees. It comes out like I do after a too-long day at the beach—tanned and tired, a bit stinky and maybe a little slumpy. But it’s as easy to cut into as a stick of room-temperature butter. I almost snatched your sleeve to tell you, right there at the market booth, but that would have been so awkward and stalkerish.

Kabocha-Maple Sour Cream Coffee Cake close

See, if I’d grabbed you, I would have had to tell you about my kabocha-maple bundt cake, too. As if you needed someone yakking to you about a cake that went out of style five decades ago. As if you need more kitchen equipment. I mean really, who owns a bundt cake pan anymore? I certainly didn’t. But last week, after testing a donut recipe for my friend Lara’s upcoming book (it’s tentatively called The Doughnut Cookbook, now who could argue with that?), one with an addictive maple glaze, I had maple glaze on my mind. It tangoed around in my brain with all sorts of ingredients, until settling on—well, drizzling down, really—the sides of a bundt cake hued with the rich, sweet flesh of a kabocha squash.

Bundt pan

I broke into my neighbor’s house to borrow a bundt cake pan. (Okay, maybe there was a key involved, but rifling through her cupboards with no one in the house, it felt like a break-in.) I stirred and whipped and mashed, until I had a butternut-orange batter tinged with maple syrup and spunked with sour cream. Up it baked, in a meticulously buttered and floured pan – in 40 minutes, which was less time than I expected – then out it came, gorgeous and spongy and smooth in all the right places and, I daresay, almost sexy. Aside from the oft-abused line from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I’ve never given the bundt cake a second thought, but goodness, yes, they’re sexy, with all those curves. Add a quick maple-vanilla glaze and a sprinkling of nuts, and you’ve got a head-turner.

Kabocha-Maple Sour Cream Coffee Cake TOP

But enough about the way she looks. I have to tell you this: She might be my best-tasting cake. Ever.

I’ve told you before that I’m not much of a cake person. I don’t like the way dry edges call out for frosting—in my opinion, a cake shouldn’t need frosting, and frosting shouldn’t need cake. Each should be delicious on its own, but they should complement each other when they’re put together. Like people, I guess. But like people, it’s not always as easy as it sounds. This cake is different. The glaze is diamonds on a woman too beautiful for jewelry: certainly not needed, but once they’re there, how could you take them off?

Kabocha-Maple Sour Cream Coffee Cake top

I love this cake because it’s equally appropriate for the plate at 8 a.m., 4 p.m., or 8 p.m. (and, I suspect, at 4 a.m., although I didn’t get the opportunity to try). I like it because I let it sit for two days before serving it to a crowd, and it was still perfectly moist. I like it because unlike a regular dessert cake, it’s hard for others to tell how big a piece you’re really cutting for yourself, so you can have ten little slivers, if that suits you, or one giant hunk, without looking like a princess or a pig. I like that it has a rich, dense crumb, all the way to the edges. I love that it’s easy to cut. And most of all, I love that nothing about making it hurts me right now.

The problem with kabocha, in my house, is that we never seem to have enough. Roasting up a soccer ball-sized specimen left me with about a quart of mashed squash, and I’m already panicking about how to use the last of it. Do I make another cake and freeze it for my mom’s visit next week? Or do I whirl it up in the blender with a bit of coconut milk and a dab of curry paste, for a quick lunch soup? Or do I sacrifice an ice cube tray, and freeze the rest into little cubes, for Graham to eat, once he gets past the initial shock of putting something besides milk in his mouth?

Oh, dear me. I might just have to roast another. I’ve actually just purchased my own bundt pan, so you can guess where the kabocha will most likely go. I want to try the cake with cardamom.

Kabocha-Maple Sour Cream Coffee Cake CUT

Kabocha-Maple Sour Cream Bundt Cake with Maple-Vanilla Glaze (PDF)

Kabocha squash has a rich, yellowy flesh that mashes up soft and smooth (like canned pumpkin) when it’s cooked. To roast it, slice a kabocha roughly in half and remove the seeds with an ice cream scoop. Roast cut side-down on a parchment- or silpat-lined baking sheet (no need to oil it) at 400 degrees until the skin is easy to poke with a fork, about an hour. (Timing will depend on the size and age of the squash.) Let the squash cool, peel away the skin and any other tough pieces, and mash the squash like you would potatoes, until smooth.

If you’re afraid of cutting the squash, you can also put the entire thing – stem and all – into the oven, and bake it a bit longer. Just be sure to scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff before you mash the flesh.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: About 16 servings

For the cake:
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter (at room temperature), plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream (8 ounce container)
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 packed cups mashed kabocha squash

For the glaze:
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons water (plus more, if necessary)
2 tablespoons chopped toasted nuts, such as hazelnuts, pecans, or walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously (and carefully) flour and butter a bundt cake pan, and set aside.

Whisk the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl, and set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing between additions. Stir the sour cream, maple syrup, and vanilla together in a bowl. With the machine on low, alternate adding the dry and wet mixtures – first some of the flour, then some of the cream, then flour, cream again, and finally flour. When just mixed, add the squash, and mix on low until uniform in color.

Transfer the batter to the prepared bundt cake pan, smooth the top, and bake (I find it easier to transfer if it’s on a baking sheet) until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs, and the top springs back when touched lightly, about 40 to 45 minutes.

Kabocha-Maple Sour Cream Coffee Cake DRIPPING

Let the cake cool 10 minutes in the pan, then carefully invert onto a serving platter. When cool to the touch (after about an hour), make the glaze: Whisk the sugar, syrup, vanilla, and water together until smooth, adding additional water if necessary to make a thick, barely pourable glaze. Drizzle the glaze (or pour it right out of the bowl) along the crown of the cake, allowing it to ooze down the inside and outside of the cake. Sprinkle immediately with nuts, if using.

Once the glaze has dried, the cake keeps well, wrapped in plastic, at room temperature, up to 3 days.

MAKE AHEAD: Cake can also be made ahead, wrapped in foil and plastic, and frozen up to 1 month. Glaze after defrosting at room temperature.

Dirty bundt pan

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Filed under Breakfast, Cakes, dessert, farmer's market, lupus, recipe, vegetables

Meet Darla

Sausage and summer veg strata 2

It’s the same sort of day as most of the other days here in Seattle, I suppose. I’m sitting at a coffee shop, next to a woman who appears, at a brief glance, to be editing a Swedish-Chinese dictionary.

I’ve started working again, three days a week. Sitting down at Herkimer, my body remembered all the right moves—sidling into a seat before getting coffee because the line was long, shyly sneaking my yogurt snack into the corner of my little bench seat, tuning into Basia Bulat. I even remembered my favorite barista’s name.

It all seems amazingly simple: I had a certain life. Then I had a child. Now I have a different sort of life, and I also have a child. Life’s changed, but then again, it hasn’t.

I can’t imagine anything better, for me, for now.

At least, I couldn’t, until we got a new dishwasher.

Darla

A new dishwasher, people, really does change a life. It’s not that we didn’t have one before. We did. It was white and dirty, rusty inside and cranky. It didn’t clean dishes particularly well, and our dinner plates didn’t fit inside. I consider myself neither a dishwasher snob nor a connoisseur, but clearly, fitting one’s dishes inside and getting them clean should be two of a dishwasher’s top attractions.

I actually learned a few things in the buying process:

a) a dishwasher should wash your dishes for you, not after you

b) putting rinsed dishes in the dishwasher with abrasive soap leads to cloudy glassware

c) with a new energy-efficient dishwasher, you really only need about a tablespoon of soap

The new one is named Darla. Yes, I named it. I mean her. But only after some thorough testing. She had to earn her keep, you see.

It turns out that the guy I bought our new KitchenAid from, Joe, has an appliance blog. Yes, he blogs about dishwashers and refrigerators and washing machines. When he told me, I tried to stifle a laugh. But then he challenged me: Try everything, he said. See if you can stump your dishwasher. Then tell me what happens.

So I did. I baked blueberry crisp, ate half of it, and reheated the leftovers, so the purple scrapies on the bottom burned right into the pan. I left the empty pan in the sink overnight, untouched, and Darla cleaned it right up.

Cranberry goop

Then I made Thanksgiving. I know that sounds crazy. It was mid-August and 85 degrees outside, but I was working on some recipes for a November issue, and I didn’t see any way to avoid it. Darla took on the sticky cranberry sauce ring, and a  challinging kale gratin dish, and boy, did she shine.

Hand tarts, assorted

Next I made little hand tarts. I let the fruit bubble up and over the cornmeal crust, right down into the baby brulee dishes I baked them in, and plunked the dishes right onto the top rack, berry crusties and all. The first time, they didn’t come quite clean, but once I moved them to the bottom rack, where the real business gets done, she came through.

Hand tart mess

Finally, I gave her cheese. I made a sausage- and vegetable-studded breakfast strata, and baked it until the top layer of cheese – the cheese leather, Jim calls it – was good and brown. We ate a third of it for breakfast the first day, then a third the second day, and the last of it on yet a third day, reheating it in the oven each time and cementing (at least we thought) layers of cheese to the dish’s topsides. Again: clean.

Strata to bake on

Darla darling, we love you for your cleaning ability. Joe was right. You can do anything.

Now, if you could only figure out how to dry the dishes, we’d be much obliged. Joe said you might not like our eco-froofroo dishwashing detergent. We switched to something that looks much more environmentally harmful, but you’re still not happy.

Darla. Oh, Darla. What should we do? We’ll have to call Joe again.

Sausage and summer veg strata

Sausage & Summer Vegetable Strata (PDF)

It’s easy to fold summer’s best produce into lunches and dinners, but I think we too often forget how good the garden tastes first thing in the morning. Here’s a make-ahead strata that shines with bright cherry tomatoes and zucchini. You can buy a baguette just for the occasion and let it sit out overnight, to dry it out, but I love to use up all the old bread heels that somehow end up congregating in the corner of my freezer.

TIME: 15 minutes prep time, plus 30 minutes baking time

MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

4 large eggs

3/4 cup half and half

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Butter (for the pan)

1/2 day-old baguette, cut into 1” cubes (or 4 cups cubes of assorted bread)

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 small zucchini, chopped into 1/2” pieces

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1 heaping cup cooked, crumbled sausage (from 1 large sausage, about 1/3 pound)

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Whiz the eggs, half and half, milk, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper together in a blender until well mixed. Butter an 8” x 8” casserole dish (or similar), and arrange the baguette chunks in an even layer in the dish. Scatter the feta, zucchini, tomatoes, and sausage evenly over the bread, then pour the egg mixture over everything, turning and scooping so that all the bread pieces are moistened. Top with the cheddar. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Before baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the foil and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the top layer is toasted and melty. Serve warm.

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Filed under bread, Breakfast, commentary, failure, kitchen adventure, pork, recipe, vegetables

Shhhh. (They’re vegan.)

Vegan pancakes with toppings 1

I’ve always had texture issues with banana pancakes. I like the principle. Who wouldn’t mind a bit of extra sweetness in a breakfast favorite, especially if each bite echoed a slice of banana bread? I’ve tried plopping slices into pancake batter right on the pan, the way you do with chocolate chips or blueberries, so that you get the right number of banana bursts in each bite as you work through the pancake. But unlike its flavored pancake cousins, banana pancakes have a clear downfall: sogginess. Right around each banana slice, no matter how careful I am (or even if I caramelize the bananas on the pan before adding the batter), there’s a little ring of gooey batter, and I plum don’t like that. Pancakes can be many, many things, but they should not be soggy. So I don’t make banana pancakes.

Last weekend, I went to Boise to celebrate my birthday. My mother, who now goes by Lulu—or Woowoo, depending on how optimistic we’re feeling about our son’s future ability to articulate certain letters—whipped up a batch of pancakes with bananas right in the batter. These were vegan pancakes, made for a brunch with a vegan and someone allergic to eggs on the guest list.

Now, I’m about as open to eating vegan as I am to not eating at all, so I’ll admit I really had no intention of eating them. Vegan foods are for other people, I usually think. They’ll be sandy or chalky or otherwise culinarily handicapped. And there was that throwinginness to my mother’s body language when she made them; that always makes me uneasy. You’ve probably seen it before, in someone you know who is completely incapable of measuring: There’s a cereal spoon in each of four different bags of flour, and a day-old half banana sitting on the counter, and a hand dipped straight into the sugar dish. It’s how I like cooking best, honestly, but since I have very little experience with vegan food, and I know my mother doesn’t have much either, I got nervous. Blind-mixing pancake batter is one thing when you can rely on an egg to lift it up and a block of butter for flavor, but I don’t exactly think of soymilk as one of those magic ingredients that makes everything work.

Now, there’s nothing really wrong with vegan food for breakfast – one bite of a Mighty O chocolate-frosted chocolate donut will tell you that. But if you’ve ever tasted through the offerings at a vegan bakery, you might have tripped over a few gritty slices of cake, and decided that there’s nothing really right with it either, if it’s not completely necessary. At least, that’s what I did. Sometime long, long ago, “vegan” settled into my vocabulary as an overgrown four-letter word.

I also thought that my general distaste for vegan baked goods was my own fault. I might as well come out with it: I have texture issues. Give me a food – any food, even one everyone else deems perfect – and chances are good that I might find something wrong with it. This time of year, for example, I live in constant fear of someone offering me the “perfect” peach. Anyone normal would die for a bite, die to swoon right into the firm-ripe flesh and watch the juices run down the hand’s creases and past the place where, years ago, we used to all wear wristwatches.

But me? I can’t do the fuzz. Just can’t get past it. I taste that bright juice, but before the flavor gets all the way to my heart, something in my brain trips over a fuzzy caterpillar, or a square of shag carpet, and I have to eat my perfect slice like an orange, before I go into convulsions because I think I’m eating caterpillars or carpet. (Tell me I’m not the only one.)

When I think about the sandy texture a lot of unfortunate vegan baked goods have, I get that same shivery reaction. So it’s not so terribly surprising, I don’t think, that last Sunday, I planned to eat bagels and cream cheese and a few slices of bacon and avoid the pancakes entirely.

The problem was that by the time my mother had blended and stirred, fiddled and fixed, burned two batches and set my husband to the task of cooking off the rest of the bowl, I’d forgotten the pancakes she was making were vegan. One accidentally found its way to my mouth. And I have news for you: that pancake didn’t taste unfortunate in any way. The baking powder made each one stand up light and fluffy, the way eggs normally do for pancakes, and the banana flavor in the background was part sweetness, part fruitiness, and all deliciousness, without any of the dreaded soggy banana rings or any sort of grittiness.

Shoot, I said. I wish I’d watched you. I need this recipe. Are you sure it’s vegan? I had visions of our friend sinking into anaphylaxis at the breakfast table.

My mother rattled off what she’d added, and like always, it was a medley.

I used half this kind of flour, and half that kind off flour, and a little of this, and a little of that. Oh, and I used a recipe, she said. She skittered around for it, finally finding it in another room, completely untouched. Here, she said. It was a recipe for 5-minute vegan pancakes, one that obviously had never made it into the kitchen. I knew I’d have to recreate her version myself.

I woke up Monday morning, on my birthday, ready for pancakes. There was no baking soda. (Who runs out of baking soda?)

This morning, armed with leavener, I tried again. I used a whole banana, for good measure, and just one kind of flour. I sweetened with maple syrup. I whizzed in the blender, adding hazelnut oil instead of my mother’s grapeseed, and poured and flipped, and realized, yet again, that there’s nothing wrong with vegan food for breakfast. I’m apparently just going to the wrong bakeries.

Being not so strictly vegan ourselves, we piled our pancakes high with Greek yogurt and nectarines, and cooked up some bacon. Nothing was missing.

Vegan pancakes plain
Lulu’s Carnivore-Friendly Vegan Banana Pancakes (PDF)

Made with soymilk, baking powder, and hazelnut oil, these little pancakes are as great as traditional pancakes – or better, with their sweet punch of maple syrup and banana. My mom, who made the first version, found her inspiration in Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, and online, from a recipe for 5-minute vegan pancakes.

TIME: 15 minutes, start to finish
MAKES: 2 to 3 servings

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup vanilla soymilk
2 tablespoons hazelnut oil (or other nut oil, or canola oil)
1 ripe banana
Pinch salt
Spray vegetable oil

Blend the flour, syrup, baking powder, soymilk, oil, banana, and salt in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl and set aside.

Heat a large nonstick or heavy cast iron pan over medium heat. When hot, spray with the vegetable oil spray, and drop batter by scant 1/4 cupfuls onto the pan. Cook for a couple minutes, until the bubbles reach the center, then flip and cook another minute or two. Serve the first pancakes hot, and repeat with the remaining batter.

Cooking vegan pancakes

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