Tag Archives: baked goods

Strawberry & Balsamic Galette

You  know when you were a kid, and every day at dinner your mom would be trying to feed you meatloaf or tuna casserole* or some other real horror, and you’d say “when I’m an adult I’m going to eat candy for dinner and stay up all night playing Sonic the Hedgehog, and instead of going to school I’m going to found a pirate colony in the backyard”?  It’s a shame that now, as an adult, I have evenings where I eat a sensible dinner made up of vegetables and lean protein followed by a piece of dark chocolate (Antioxidants! Moderation! PHOOEY!), then fold laundry and go to bed early.  My child-self would be appalled, not to mention seriously bored.

*I would like to issue an apology to my mother because she was right about meatloaf being good, but also demand one from her because she was NOT RIGHT about tuna casserole being good.  When is hot mayonnaise a good idea?  Oh!  Maybe when you put peas in it.  Blech.

*Note from Sue-I love tuna noodle casserole AND hot mayo, I think it’s fair to say we all just hate the cream of whatever soup. Mmmm hot mayo dips.

So, I made a strawberry galette for dinner.  BECAUSE I CAN.

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tbsp powdered sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 cup cold butter, diced

1-3 tbsp ice cold water

Method: Pulse the dry ingredients in a food processor until combined.  Add the butter and pulse until the dough forms a thick crumbly mess.

any recipe where the butter can be cold is a recipe i can get behind.

this was much sandier and finer than the recipe led me to believe.

Add the water a tablespoon at a time, pulsing very briefly between, until the dough JUST holds together.  Smush the dough into a big disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for an hour.

don’t smush it too much, though, because it’ll get chewy instead of flaky.

For the filling:

2 cups  fresh strawberries, quartered

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp honey

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp corn starch

Method: Mix strawberries with vinegar and honey and let sit for an hour or so.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick circle.

someday maybe i’ll get a rolling pin. until then, there’s metal waterbottles!

Lay the dough on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.  Sprinkle the brown sugar/cornstarch mixture around the whole circle, about 1/2 inch from the edges.  Strain the strawberries, reserving the liquid. Arrange the strawberries, artfully, this isn’t a hoedown, and fold over the edges of the galette.

ARTFULLY.

Bake the galette until golden brown and bubbly, about 40-45 minutes.  Let it REALLY cool until you cut it, or the strawberries won’t have had a chance to solidify and you’ll have a runny, sad mess.   In the meantime, pop the reserved strawberry liquid into a small saucepan and reduce it by half or so, until it’s thick.  To serve the galette, cut it into pretty slices and drizzle it with the sauce. I didn’t photograph the sauce, because I took this picture at 7am.  But I did eat it for dinner and it was fantastic.  The strawberries cook down into concentrated strawberry perfection.  You know when you eat a strawberry, and it’s sublime and transcends the way that normal strawberries taste to become a sort of strawberry archetype, informing your opinion forever on what a strawberry SHOULD taste like?  This is like that.  Also, the crust baked perfectly- crispy on the bottom and flaky and buttery. Plus, look how attractive it is.  This is the kind of thing that people who live in Italian villas whip up when they have visitors and then eat while drinking chilled wine from the estate on a stone patio at sunset.

And let me say: DO NOT SKIP the sauce.  You want the sauce.  Really.  Trust me.

– Cat

pretty, huh.

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Gluten Free Blueberry Pie Bars

Last weekend, I went berry picking with some friends.  I have never done so in Oregon, which is idiotic, because everyone knows Oregon has the best berries anywhere.  It is strawberry season in Oregon, and is starting to be blueberry and raspberry season.  Blueberries are easy to pick, because they are on trees at a normal, human height.  Strawberries, however, are low to the ground and apparently enjoy hiding in thickets of thorny nonsense.  You kind of squat down and scuttle along the rows looking for berries.  Collecting a big bucket of berries made me feel satisfied to have come from a long line of peasants on both sides of my family, which is contrary to my childhood feelings about the same subject, during which time I was sure I was descended from royalty.  Not so, I’m told.

In any case, I picked a shitload of berries.  Far more than one person can consume.  So, I froze a bunch of them, in that Martha Stewart-y method where you lay out the berries on a cookie sheet and freeze them, then gather them up into ziploc bags individually when they’re frozen, so you have pretty, individually frozen berries instead of a frozen gloppy mess.  It worked perfectly.

In the interest of using up some of my berries AND of making a gluten free dessert for a buddy, I landed on Gluten Free Blueberry Pie Bars.  (I wanted to make a blueberry tart, but I don’t have a tart pan and seeing as I DO have a bundt pan AND a springform pan, that seems like enough pans I use once per decade.)  If you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know anything about celiac disease, wheat allergies or the general gluten free food thing, I’d like to introduce you to the internet.

I’ve never made anything gluten free on purpose.  You know, like roasted asparagus.  That is gluten free.  But something normally made with wheat not made with wheat?  No.  Turns out, though, that there is a plethora of gluten free choices.  Almond flour, amaranth flour (?  This seems like what lembas bread is probably made from, and if you get that reference, you’re a dork and we would get along famously), rice flour, oat flour, arrowroot flour, fava bean flour, chickpea flour, etc.  I opted for rice flour, because a dessert made out of fava beans is weird, and oat flour, because that is something I could make myself.

These bars were so easy.  So so easy and so very delicious.  I think with nuts in them, these bars would be easily good enough for you to have for breakfast, or you could have them for dessert with ice cream and they’d still be wonderful.

Gluten Free Blueberry Pie Bars

Crust:

1 cup rice flour

1 1/4 cups oat flour (you can make your own by pulsing oats in a food processor until more or less fine, but they make a nice base when they’re a little rough)

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup (1/2 a stick)  butter, softened

1 egg

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Blueberry compote:

2 cups fresh blueberries

1/4 cup sugar

3 tbsp corn starch

juice of half a lemon

Method:  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a small saucepan, cook the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch on medium heat for 15-20 minutes, then let it cool until you can touch it.  It should be relatively thick, like jam.

For the crust, mix together all the dry ingredients, then smush in the butter, egg and oil with your fingers until the crust is sandy but mostly holds together.  Into a greased square baking pan, press 3/4 of the dough into the bottom, pretty firmly and be sure to cover the pan completely, not leaving any holes.

tamara doing the actual work.

Pour the blueberry compote onto the dough, then drop the remaining 1/4 of dough onto the top of the berries.

notice in this picture that i have some extra Thai chiles from when i made stir fry last week.  they’ll just sit there.  forever, probably.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top dough is lightly browned.  Let cool completely before cutting.

These turned out perfectly. Taking the extra step of cooking the blueberries was my way of ensuring that they didn’t get too runny and create a cobbler instead of bars.  They turned out beautifully.  I even took them to the beach.  And!  No gluten!

– Cat

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Pecan Blondies

do they look like they have butter in them? because they do. lots.

You know that thing where you start doing a task a really stupid way, for instance deciding to break up whole toasted pecans with your fingers because you don’t feel like washing the cutting board and knife it would take to chop them properly, and you realize like 4 pecans in that you’ve made a serious error, but you think to yourself “there aren’t THAT many, this isn’t THAT stupid” so you go ahead and break up the rest of them with your fingers and then realize that it took you 15 minutes of your life because you were too stubborn to admit defeat EVEN TO YOURSELF?

Also,

You know that thing where you cook something really lovely at home, such as caramel made out of butter and brown sugar and it makes your hair smell like sugar for once instead of the steak you cooked in a pan that made your hair smell like charred meat,  or channa masala because you were standing over the pan while you made it and now your hair smells like leftovers, especially when you first step into the shower, but this time you like it because it’s nice and sugary instead of totally gross?

Furthermore,

You know that thing where you take a bite of something and know immediately that you have absolutely no control over how much of that thing you are about to eat and will also be totally consumed by thoughts of said thing during any of the times you manage NOT to eat it in the time it is still in your house, and then lament immediately when you do eat all of the thing and realize it’s out of your life forever?

All of those things happened to me while making these blondies.  These are dense, chewy, caramely, nutty morsels of buttery, fatty perfection.  They are what you want chocolate chip cookies to taste like.  They are what you hope shortbread will be.  They are absolutely what they serve during snack time before recess in Heaven.  Also, they take place in one pot and are really, really easy.  Hallelujah.

Pecan Blondies, from Fine Cooking

2 sticks (1 cup) of butter

3 cups packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 egg yolks

3 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/4 cup all purpose flour

healthy pinch of salt, plus more for sprinkling on top

1 1/2 cups of chopped, toasted pecans

Method:  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, and butter or Pam a 9×13 baking dish.  In a pot on medium heat, melt the butter and brown sugar until the sugar has dissolved.

the sugar has mostly dissolved, and i let mine boil for probably 5 minutes.

Then, let it boil gently for a couple minutes.  Take the caramel mixture off the heat and let it cool until you can touch the pot.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla, and mix it into the cooled caramel, taking care not to cook your eggs*, because that is gross.  Then, mix in the flour, salt and pecans until JUST combined, pouring it into the pan.  Sprinkle some kosher salt on top.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.  Enjoy complete adulation from everyone you feed these to.

* A note on tempering eggs:  the official recipe wants you to make sure your eggs are room temperature before mixing them into the warm caramel mixture.  The reason is that if the caramel is too hot, it will cook the eggs instead of incorporate them into the batter, and that means your blondies will have scrambled eggs in them.  Foul.  To avoid this, try to make your eggs as close to the temperature of the caramel as possible.  If you, like me, never ever have room temperature eggs because you never plan anything food-related that far in advance, you can break your eggs and yolks into a bowl, and whisk them together over another bowl of hot water to warm them up a bit, though the process of whisking the eggs together in a warmer bowl will do that as well.  Then,  whisk the egg mixture into the caramel a little at a time, whisking the whole thing constantly until the eggs are fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth.

– Cat

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Salted Fudgy Brownies

fudgy!

There are 4 things I like about this recipe.

1. It calls for melted butter instead of room temperature butter.  My butter is never room temperature unless it’s in my butter bell, and if it’s in my butter bell, it’s for putting on bread.  My butter is always refrigerated or frozen, so making it room temperature is a battle of wills between me and my microwave, as I heat it for 5 seconds at a time, turning it between each 5 seconds, telling my microwave that it better not melt it while worrying that I’m getting head cancer from standing in front of my eye-level microwave.  Melting it is easy- not melting it is hard.

2. It takes place in one bowl.  Melt the butter in the bowl, put everything else in, the end.

3. It produces fudgy brownies as opposed to cakey.  I’m a fudgy brownie girl- always have been.  The reason, I think, is because I would always rather have fudge.

4. I like to sprinkle kosher salt on sweet things.

Salted Fudgy Brownies

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted

2 cups sugar

1 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup flour

1 cup good quality semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

more salt for sprinkling

Method:  Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and spray Pam on a 9×13 baking dish.  In a large, microwave safe bowl, melt that butter.  When it’s melted, stir in the sugar and let it sit for a few minutes, cooling off the butter and melting the sugar a little.  Stir it around, too.  After 4 or 5 minutes, stir in the cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and vanilla extract.

it's very sandy at this stage. that's okay.

Mix in the eggs.  Mix in the flour, then the chocolate chips.  Spread the batter evenly in the pan (taking care to save some to eat with a spoon).  It’s a very thick batter.

seriously, save some batter to eat with a spoon.

Sprinkle the whole thing with more sea salt and bake for 30 minutes.  If, at 30 minutes, you stick a toothpick in and it’s still batter in there, bake for 3 or 4 more minutes.  You should see a nice wet crumb, because these are supposed to be fudgy.  I baked mine for 32 minutes all told, but ovens are different.  Let them cool fully before you cut them, because they will firm up a lot as they cool off.  ALSO- I read a tip recently that if you cut brownies with a plastic knife, they won’t stick to the knife and make those horrible ragged edges.  I didn’t have a plastic knife, but if anyone tries this tip, please let me know if it worked!

– Cat

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Hostess Cupcakes

i will pretty much make anything that calls for marshmallow fluff.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a girl named Sue.  Sue played an excellent top part of Heart and Soul on the piano, never wore jeans (she was quirky), had a giant collection of funny socks (including those kind that are like gloves for your feet), and on the occasion of our meeting, wore white iridescent lipstick.  She was outrageously cool.  Sue drove a stick (the only person anyone knew who could), made my senior prom dress by laying out a dress of her sister’s and improvising the rest, drew my first tattoo (and in fact nearly all of them since then), shared my love of Steak & Shake and is the only person I know who looks good in yellow.  She’s pretty cool still, in fact.  She is the best cook in the world, throws an excellent party, can handle a roomful of rowdy drunks without batting an eye and is a talented artist (exhibit A: my house which is like a gallery of Susan L. Croal artwork).

But once, she didn’t know anything about good snacking.  When we were first friends, (circa 1997, don’t go searching for photographic evidence of this attractive time in both our lives, because you will find it) Sue was handicapped by the fact that her parents were concerned about her health, and encouraged snacking of the following types: granola bars, fruit, whole grain crackers with ALL NATURAL PEANUT BUTTER.  Some people are born into families who own furniture stores, or who give all their children names with the same first letter.  Sue was born into a family with healthy eating habits.

Enter my dad, King of Snacks.  My dad is an excellent snacker.  You’ll be watching TV, he’ll go into the kitchen for a snack, (pretzels and cheese?  Chips, maybe?) and come back with a whole tray of nachos with delicious toppings and sharp cheddar cheese.  Without  my dad, I wouldn’t know about salami-cream cheese-pickle roll-ups or pickled bologna, and what sort of life would that be?  Our friendship introduced Sue to the wonders of Twinkies, Ho-Hos, Kool-aid and Hostess Cupcakes.  Her taste has certainly evolved past delicious, radioactive baked treats, but mine has not.  Now, Sue makes things like sabayon and macaron and Swiss buttercream, whereas I make these.

These cupcakes are delicious and sweet enough to make your teeth ache, and are adorable and give you a reason to buy marshmallow fluff.  I had been wanting to make them for some time, but it seemed like a lot of steps so I didn’t.  It is three distinct steps, but it was no big deal, in the end.  They’re so darned adorable.

Hostess Cupcakes (makes precisely 15 cupcakes, double all three steps if you want more)

Cupcakes

1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder

1/2 cup hot brewed coffee (I used leftover from the morning and heated it up in the microwave, ‘cuz I’m classy)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 sticks butter (3/4 cup), melted

1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar

2 eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup plain, nonfat yogurt or sour cream

Marshmallow Filling

About a cup of marshmallow fluff

2 tsp half & half or heavy cream

1/2 cup or so of powdered sugar

dash of vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache

1/2 cup cream or half & half

8 oz dark chocolate, chopped

2 tbsp butter, room temperature

Cupcake Method:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a muffin tin with cupcake papers.  In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, and set aside.  In a large bowl or in the bowl of a standing mixer, mix together the sugar and melted butter until cooled, about 3-4 minutes.

i thought it would get fluffy, but it didn't.

Mix the eggs and vanilla extract into the butter/sugar mixture.  Alternating and starting and ending with the flour, mix in the flour mixture and the yogurt.  (1/3 of flour-mix in, 1/2 the yogurt-mix in, 1/3 of flour-mix in, remaining yogurt-mix in, remaining flour-mix in.)  Fill the cupcake papers to about the top and bake for 20 minutes.  This recipe makes exactly 15 cupcakes, so you’ll need three in another tin or bake in another batch.

When they’ve cooled, use the cone method to hollow out the cupcakes.  Essentially, you take a serrated knife, and cutting in to make a cone shape, cut a circle into the top of the cupcake, so when you lift out the piece, it’s a little cone.  Then you cut the little chunk off the top of the cone so you’re left with a sort of cupcake hat, which you can put back on top of the filling in the middle.  Like this:

cupcake hats.

Marshmallow Filling Method:

Mix together all ingredients and set aside, resisting the temptation to eat it all.  When you’ve cut the cones into the cooled cupcakes, spoon about a teaspoon of the filling into each cupcake and top with the little cupcake hat.  Reserve a couple teaspoons or so, so you can pipe that little white swirl onto the top of the cupcakes later.  Put those couple teaspoons into an ordinary sandwich bag, snip off the corner and POOF!  Pastry bag.

Chocolate Ganache Method:

In a little saucepan, heat the cream until steaming.  Mix the chopped chocolate into the cream until all dissolved, then stir in the butter.  Let it cool until it’s thickened a bit, then spoon onto the tops of the cupcakes and spread it around with the back of the spoon.  It’ll drip a little, but will definitely firm up nicely after awhile.  When that’s cooled, pipe the white swirl (using your “pastry bag”) onto the tops.

– Cat

pretty. like my senior prom dress.

for comparison, this is an actual Hostess cupcake. mine looks more suitable for consumption by humans.

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Rhubarb Raspberry Yogurt Muffins

if you don't like these, you probably hate kittens and sunshine too.

Play by Play Baking Muffin Baking Analysis.

10:25am: Aloud, to self, “Rhubarb is weird.  It  looks like celery, but it smells like candy.”

10:28am: Aloud, to self, “Stupid Ina Garten with her stupid ‘spoon the flour into the measuring cup’.”

10:32am: Aloud, to self, “These raspberries kind of fell apart when I stirred them into the batter.  I hope they don’t turn into a raspberry colored swampy mess in there.”

10:33am: (standing on a chair, in a nightgown [yes I have nightgowns, because I am becoming my mother] digging in the baking cupboard) “*$#!@@#!  I swore I had cupcake papers in here.”

10:34am: (sounds of copious amounts of Pam being sprayed onto a nonstick muffin pan)

10:35am: Aloud, to self: “This is the most delicious muffin batter on planet earth.  Good thing I don’t believe in salmonella because there’s a raw egg in here, and I’m about to eat a bunch of the batter anyway.”

10:47am: Loudly, to self: “These are also the most beautiful muffins on planet earth.  I can’t believe how attractive these are.  I really hope they don’t stick to the pan and become a sloppy, mutilated berry juice stained failure.”

11:03am: Via Gchat, to Sue: “Dude I just made the greatest muffins on planet earth.  I’m going to sell the recipe to Starbucks and make a jillion dollars and then we can go on a world food tour.”

These muffins are light, airy and really fruity.  They’re not overly sweet, which makes that brown sugar topping extra important.  You could easily sweeten these up by making a powdered sugar glaze, but it would cover up the pretty berries and also I try not to eat a ton of sugar in the morning, and probably so should we all.  The most interesting thing about these muffins is that because the raspberries and rhubarb aren’t baked together into a mush (a la strawberry rhubarb pie) you can really taste the distinct fruit flavors.  Rhubarb is mostly tart, almost lemony, and the raspberries taste really, really sweet.  The yogurt helps the batter stand up to the heavy fruit, and complements it nicely instead of being overpowered by the berry flavor.  Also don’t skip tossing the fruit in the flour, if you do, it’ll likely sink to the bottom of the batter and make a gloppy mess.

Raspberry Rhubarb Yogurt Muffins

2 cups plus 2 tbsp flour (2tbsp are for sprinkling on the fruit so it doesn’t sink to the bottom of the muffins)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup (half a stick) butter, room temperature

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup white sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

1 cup plain, nonfat yogurt

3/4 cup rhubarb, chopped (I cut the ends off mine, then cut it once lengthwise, then chopped it into about a half inch dice, see below)

1 cup raspberries (fresh is preferable, but if you use frozen, just keep them frozen until you put them in the batter)

1/4 cup brown sugar (for sprinkling on the tops)

like this. see? rhubarb is weird.

Method:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and put cupcake papers in your muffin tin (if you have them, if you don’t, be liberal with the Pam and everything will turn out okay).  Put the raspberries and rhubarb in a small bowl with the 2 tsp of flour and toss them gently until the fruit is all covered.  In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, oil and butter until smooth.  Add in the egg, yogurt and vanilla and beat until combined.  In a separate bowl, mix together the 2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet about a third at a time until JUST combined.  Don’t overmix.  Very gently, fold in the fruit.  Put about 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin paper and sprinkle with a little brown sugar.

i wanted to show you how full to make them, but i forgot until after they were in the oven.

Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

If you wanted to make these and then take pictures of yours too, because they are so so pretty, I wouldn’t blame you.

– Cat

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