Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thanksgiving : A Six Pound Souvenir

 Gingerbread folk for my friend Nolan's sixth annual Rock Band party.

My visit back home was fulfilling, with emphasis on the filling part. The spread at Thanksgiving alone would have been enough to make me cringe at returning to Singapore, where it's bikini season all year long.

 Sifting the dry ingredients.

I made velvet cake for the three family birthdays in November, coffee cake, Alton Brown's gingerbread folk, and Cheryl Smith's onion tart.  The cakes are from previous entries, the onion tart is best saved for another day. Right now is the time for gingerbread.

 Shortening and butter making friends.

Fats and sugars beaten to a grainy, fluffy finish.

I made the gingerbread folk cookies not only for Thanksgiving, but for my oldest friend's sixth annual Rock Band party as well. Decorating them is tons of fun, until your hand starts cramping from squeezing all that royal icing out of a pastry bag or cornet.

 Folding in the dry ingredients until just combined.

Gingerbread Folk Cookies
Adapted from Alton Brown's Gingerbread Cookies 101 at The Food Network
Yields a whole mess of cookies, in the 100+ range if using a 1" cookie cutter

3 1/4 C (325 g)  all-purpose flour
1 tsp  baking powder
1 1/2 tsp  cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp  ginger
1 tsp  all spice
1 tsp  cloves
1/2 tsp  salt
1/4 tsp  black pepper
1 stick (115 g)  butter
1/4 C (55 g)  shortening
1/2 C packed (110 g)
     brown sugar
2/3 C (230 g)  molasses
1  egg

All ingredients are at room temperature unless otherwise stated.
Top right: Floured dough on parchment paper.
Bottom right: Rolled and cut dough.
  1. Combine all the dry ingredients and sift or whisk to combine and set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, cream together the shortening and butter until homogeneous.
  3. Add the sugar to the fats and beat fluffy.
  4. Add the molasses and egg and beat until combined.
  5. Fold in the dry ingredients.
  6. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or place it in a gallon size seal-able bag and press flat to remove all air.
  7. Refrigerate the dough over night.
  8. The following day: Preheat the oven to 350F (177C). Work with half the dough at a time. Lay out parchment paper and lightly flour the surface, place the dough on top, flour again, and top with another layer of parchment.
  9. Roll out the dough between the parchment to 1/8 to 1/4 inch (about 3 to 6 mm) thick, re-flouring to keep the dough from sticking to the parchment at necessary.
  10. Dip your cutter in flour, tap it to remove the excess, and cut into the dough. Wiggle the cutter slightly before removing it from the rolled out dough to make cut-out removal extra easy.
  11. Repeat step 10 until the rolled dough is completely cut, place cut-outs on a greased cookie sheet (it's okay to place them as close as 1/4 inch as they don't expand much).
  12. Regroup the remaining dough and repeat steps 8 through 11.
  13. Bake cookies 6-10 minutes, depending on the size, thickness, and desired firmness when cool.
  14. Cool completely before decorating with royal icing.
  15. Enjoy!
 Gingerbread folk ready to be baked.
    Gingerbread Folk Reflections
    I baked my approximately 3/8" thick, 1" cut-outs for 6 minutes for a medium-firm cookie, and received praise for the texture, flavor, and cuteness of my veritable army of gingerbread folk.

    Mini rockers ready to be consumed by the masses.

    I tried out two recipes for the royal icing: a traditional icing with egg whites and an icing without raw egg (I feared I might somehow make the three-years and under crowd ill at Thanksgiving, see JazzyCake's entry). I preferred the traditional royal icing; I found that I could get it to a much nicer consistency with less work and the end color was a much brighter white than the egg-less version. I did have issues with peaks once I lifted my piping bag away from the cookies, but that's easily remedied by beating the whites to a less firm peak in the future.

    Guitars made of royal icing take practice. For cleaner looking gingerbread folk, be sure to brush away any excess flour before baking.

    Gingerbread folk are fun to decorate, but I think I'll enlist the help of the wee little boys that ate the majority of the cookies at Thanksgiving for the next round. Another thing I'd like to keep in mind for next year is eating reasonably when I'm home to avoid packing a six pound souvenir from my short trip back to the States.

    The only picture I got of the gingerbread folk made for Thanksgiving was at the end of the night. There were few survivors. Though a little more buttoned-up than the Rock Band crowd, these gingerbread folk held their own during the holiday.

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    Back in Singapore

     Hi all! I've returned to Singapore and have plenty to post from my visit to the States. Expect some yummy photos and accompanying recipes next week!

    X Melissa

     My two backyards. Left: My parents' place days before Thanksgiving in the States. Right: The sky from my bedroom in Singapore this morning.

     Ginger folk for my oldest friend's sixth annual Rock Band party.

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Coffee Cake: "I feel like a huge idiot! All these years I’ve never tried coffee cake because I don’t like coffee. I didn’t know it didn’t have coffee in it."

    Coffee cake cupcakes having a moment in the sun before a taste test with friends.

    Often, I read the reviews and comments of the recipes I intend on trying out myself. Usually this is informative, but sometimes it's a little amusing. I don't think it's an uncommon assumption that coffee cake has coffee in it. Let's go along with the idea that it is referred to as coffee cake because it's great with a nice, hot cuppa.

     Blending the brown sugar and cinnamon topping with my favorite tool, the pastry blender.

    If this cake were to be named for something that's in it, I'd go with butter. Sure, there's a generous amount of sugar, both brown and white, but who is ever shocked at the amount of sugar in a dessert? Certainly not me. This cake (now is the time you might want to look away if you've already had a slice) contains three sticks of butter. That's around 350g, for the metric folk out there. Before you start crying, I reduced my version down to 250g, or a bit over two sticks of butter. Not really out of fear of cardiac arrest, but rather out of necessity; I only had one brick in the fridge.

    The cake batter is thick; be sure to have a rubber scraper on hand because even hard whacking against the counter won't settle your batter evenly in the pan.

    If you can get past the outrageous amount of butter, you can begin to appreciate this cake for being remarkably delicious and Ree Drummond at Pioneer Woman for wrangling this out of her mother's recipe binder.

    Coffee Cake
     Adapted from Ree at Pioneer Woman
    Yields one 9"x13" sheet cake and nine cupcakes

    1 tsp  salt
    3  egg whites
    1 1/2 sticks (3/4 C or 172g)  unsalted butter, soft
    2 scant C (345g)  sugar
    1 T  Kahlua or vanilla, optional*
    3 C (298g)  all-purpose flour
    4 tsp  baking powder
    1 C  milk*
    1/4 C  plain yogurt*

    5 T (75g)  unsalted butter, cold*
    3/4 C (75g)  all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 C (302g)  brown sugar (not packed down)
    2 T  cinnamon
    1 C (130g)  pecans

    *These are deviations from the original recipe. These are the original ingredients and amounts: No Kahlua or vanilla, 1 1/4 C whole milk, no yogurt, 1 1/2 sticks (172g) softened butter for the topping.
    1. Preheat the oven to 350F (177C) and grease the cake pan and line the cupcake tins.
    2. Combine the egg whites and salt and beat until stiff; set aside.
    3. Sift together the flour and baking powder; set aside.
    4. Cream together the butter and sugar and then mix in the Kahlua and yogurt.
    5. Alternately mix in the flour-baking-powder and the milk; do not over mix.
    6. Fold in the whites.
    7. Combine all the topping ingredients and cut together with a pastry blender.
    8. Fill the cake pan and cupcake tins about 2/3 to 3/4 full and sprinkle topping on.
    9. Bake the cake 40-45 minutes and the cupcakes 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
    10. Cool to a temperature that won't burn your mouth (room temp is always a safe bet) and enjoy!
    Coffee Cake Reflections

     The cake didn't bake up around the topping as much in the sheet pan compared with the cupcakes, but it was just as yummy.

    I caught the cupcakes right at the point where the batter goes from goopy to solid, affording me the softest cake I've had in my life. The topping was crisp and a bit crunchy, a very nice contrast to the delicate sponge. This magic is a combination of the right recipe, not over mixing, and pulling the cupcakes from the oven at just the right moment.

    The recipe made what I'd consider to be way too much topping for the portions I made. Perhaps if it was all done in a deeper pan or one with more surface area, the amount would have been just right. The topping recipe above is how I did it, so feel free to halve that (reduced butter) or the original recipe.

    Something not so magical: My butter had been in the freezer up until I needed it. Sooo it wasn't exactly softened when I went to go cream it. I also, rather mysteriously, threw the sugar in with the other dry ingredients to be sifted. Awesome job, brain. Way to get those synapses firing at full speed at 10:30 in the morning. Despite my rough start, everything came together. The textures and flavors in this cake are pretty perfect. I think it has something to do with all that butter.

    The cake made its official debut at a housewarming hosted by my friends at Ming and Milo. It became a part of the wine tasting later in the evening, which featured wines from my home state! If you happen to be in Singapore and are scouring the island nation for the best pairings, they are your guys.

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    Next Post: Thank Ree @ Pioneer Woman

     Crumble topping with cinnamon, brown sugar, and pecans.

    I have found another blog to sing the praises of: The Pioneer Woman. Ree Drummond writes about food, photography, life on the ranch, and more. She has a wonderful writing voice and takes beautiful pictures. And she is not afraid of butter. Ree Drummond, I applaud you.

    Stand-in taste testers, Sunday evening's dinner party guests, and you readers have her to thank for the next butter-sugar-dairy rich post.

    I'll be off the grid over the next three days due to frantic packing, flying from Singapore to Seattle via Tokyo, and face planting into my childhood bed. Maybe add a few more days onto that for my oldest friend's sixth annual Rock Band party, another friend's studio opening, additional face planting, and the pursuit back home food favorites like Cave Man Kitchen. Until then, you can drool over the crumble topping above.

    Keep Baking,

    X Melissa

    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    French Apple Tart: Is It Still French If I Add Cinnamon?

    The apple tart on the road to my friends at the dessert bar. Who better to share with and get feedback from?

    This is going to sound incredibly cheesy, but bear with me. Do you ever wake up in the morning and just feel inspired? That instant I've-just-got-to-do feeling and you're not even quite sure what it is that you've got that feeling about yet, but you know something is coming?

     I had these apples in the kitchen to have with yogurt and granola for breakfast, but I think they were dedicated to a far greater cause.

    That's how I felt Friday. I was itching to bake. It's not as if I was going through withdrawals; I'd made two different batches of cookies, a crepe cake, and a lemon cake the week before. Still, I itched. I knew I didn't want to make more cookies or cakes. Then I thought about fruit and what was in the kitchen. Grapes... Dried cherries... Grapefruit... Apples... Bright green apples... Granny Smith apples. DING DING DING! It was time to make a tart.

     One of my favorite tools in the kitchen: The humble pastry blender. It is used to cut solid fats into dry ingredients, which plays a major roll in achieving the lightest, flakiest pie and tart crusts you can imagine. I hope there are other people that wax poetic about you, pastry blender, because you deserve it.

    Google, that brilliant, mildly creepy creature that knows way more than a magic eight ball, gifted Ina Garten's French apple tart recipe to me. Not one to be ignored, the search engine put the Barefoot Contessa's recipe at the top of the list.

    Measuring out the flour, sugar, salt, and butter for the crust.

    French Apple Tart
    Adapted from Ina Garten at The Food Network
    Halved from the original recipe, makes one 8" round tart

    Left: The pastry blender at work. Top right: After using the pastry blender, the dough resembles coarse bread crumbs. Bottom right: The crust pressed into the pie pan and pricked with a fork.

    1 C (100g)  all-purpose flour
    1/4 tsp  salt
    1/2 T  sugar
    6 T (86g)  unsalted butter, cold and cubed
    1/4 C  ice water

    Quarter inch apple slices.

    2  Granny Smith apples
    1 T  sugar*
    1 tsp  cinnamon (optional)*
    2 T  unsalted butter, cold and diced (softened is fine)
    2 T  peach jam*
    1/2 T  water*

    *All of these are deviations from the original recipe. These are the original ingredients and amounts: 1/4 C sugar, no cinnamon, 1/4 C apricot jelly or sieved jam, 1 T water, Calvados, or rum.

     Butter makes the world go round.
    1. Combine the dry crust ingredients (flour, salt, and sugar) and cut the butter in until the mixture resembles coarse crumbles.
    2. Add the ice water tablespoon by tablespoon, tossing with a fork after each addition, until the dough just holds together (you don't want it too wet; I only used 2 T).
    3. Quickly knead the dough together (just a few turns), wrap, and refrigerate at least an hour or pat it down to about 1/2" thick and keep it in the freezer for 30 minutes.
    4. Preheat the oven to 204C (400F).
    5. If the dough is in the freezer, remove it and let it sit on the counter while working with the apples. If it's in the fridge, leave it there. Now peel, halve, core, and slice the apples into 1/4" slices. You can toss the finished slices in a little lemon juice if you work slowly and are worried about browning.
    6. Roll the dough out to fit your tart or pie tin and press it in. Prick the dough with a fork to prevent warping while baking. (Ina says to line the bottom of the pan with parchment, which I did, but I don't think it's necessary.)
    7. Overlap the apple slices in concentric circles on the crust or do whatever looks nice to you.
    8. Mix the cinnamon (optional) and sugar, sprinkle it over the apples, and dot with butter.
    9. Bake the tart 45-60 minutes, until the crust is brown and the apples have begun to brown.
    10. Warm (maybe 10-20 seconds in the microwave) the jam and water, mix, then brush it over the tart.
    11. Serve at room temperature or warm.
    12. Enjoy!
    French Apple Tart Reflections
     It's funny that the light in the cab was better than the light in my apartment, though I'm not surprised.

      This tart is amazing. It's the kind of tart that makes my stand-in big brother at the dessert bar exclaim, "Oh my god. Spectacular." At first, I thought it was a little too tart, but as I ate my way towards the edge of the crust, I realized it was the triple layer of apples at the center that was a bit strong. I placed little slices of apple in the center to support the second ring of slices and then topped the center with a few more slices. Next time, I'll sprinkle a little cinnamon-sugar between the layers.

    Also, I sort of cut the sugar topping down by 75% on accident. But what a happy accident that was! I knew sugar was going on top, but I read the crust sugar content again and sprinkled away. This is the way my not-professionally-diagnosed-mild-dyslexia manifests itself. Deliciously. I think the original amount would have cut the tart, Granny Smith flavor way too much. I mean, what's the point of using a sour apple if you smother the defining factor?

     This almost ended up on the cab windshield after some hard breaking. Luckily, I had it clutched in my hands because I didn't want my apple slices to slide around as it cooled. Pie-psychic. Uh, tart-psychic, technically, but pie-psychic sounds sooo much better.

    Can I get an electronic hand clap for the cinnamon and jam please? The cinnamon is a throw-back to all my apple pie experiences in the States. I don't know how the French feel about cinnamon on apple tarts, but I think it's mighty fine. Also, I used my favorite peach jam from Organic Himalaya. I, um, didn't sieve it and sure, it was on the aesthetically lumpy side, but my taste buds could care less. I used about half of what the original recipe recommended, and I'd say this was the right choice, since more jam just would have distracted from those awesomely tart apples.

    Finally, that crust. Man oh man, that crust! I think I got hung up on the pie crust recipe from my mom's late 1970's/early 1980's edition of The Good Housekeeping Cook Book and never bothered to try anything else, but it had slipped my mind this time and thank goodness for my brain's gentle reminders that I am no spring chicken. The crust is something that would make a person with the munchies' mind spin. Light, softly sweet, flaky beauty.

     Taking the first slice at the dessert bar.

    I will definitely be making this again. This tart lands a pretty solid spot on my potential future bakery cafe list. Still, if that bakery cafe never happens, you can rest assured that the tart is easily made at home.

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Pictures of Baked Goodies Past

    Remember a long time ago when I just showed you slivers of what my friend Ari and I had made? Well, I never found the recipes that we actually used, so you'll just have to drool unfulfilled. We made apple pie with tart green apples and a crumbly cinnamon-sugar top, and yellow cake cupcakes with chocolate cream cheese frosting. We did play with sugar paste, trying out flowers and such, but only the snail survived. Have a looksie and don't forget to wipe your chin before you go anywhere.
     Oh, the yellow cake recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, which I've blogged before, just with chocolate chips thrown in. It really is a wonderful recipe. The photos are courtesy of my friend Ari and her lovely photographic skills.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    The Day After McDelivery: Pizza

    Spinach, zucchini, feta, and garlic pizza, my cure for pasta boredom.

    The Resident Taste Tester is still in Deutschland, leaving me to fend for myself in the kitchen. Now, I don't want you to get the wrong idea (I can cook more than a mean quesadilla), it's just that it is far less enjoyable to cook for one.

     Cafe Karl Schneller on Amelienstrasse 59 in Munich. They had, hands down, the best cake I ate in Germany, and I ate A LOT of cake ("Kuchen" in German). Do practice your Deutsche ahead of time because the bilingual college kids are not always serving.

    Last night, after several dinners of variations on a vegetarian pasta, I did something a little out of character... I ordered McDelivery. For one. Not only is that sad, it's a sure sign of RTT withdrawal.

    Today, I fought back with home made pizza. Healthy home made pizza, the sort with spinach, zucchini, a bit of feta cheese, a dousing of olive oil, plenty of garlic, and a fifty percent whole wheat crust.

    Smitten Kitchen has my go-to easy pizza crust recipe. I did the optional whole wheat flour substitute and followed the recipe pretty much as is.

    Now, with a belly full of pizza, it's time to get back to my Halloween costume and adventures in sewing without a sewing machine!

     Pizza Crust
    Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

    Yields one thin pizza crust, approximately 12" in diameter

    3/4 C (75g)  bread flour
    3/4 C (100g)  whole wheat flour
    1 tsp  salt (I use sea salt)
    3/4 tsp  yeast
    1/2 C + 1-2T  warm water
    1 T  olive oil
    1. Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 C warm water and set aside.
    2. Combine the flours and salt in a medium bowl.
    3. Add the yeast solution and oil to the dry ingredients and stir, adding 1-2 tablespoons of warm water if needed.
    4. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 1-2 minutes, then transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover.
    5. Let the dough double in volume (about 1-2 hours), then punch it down, cover, and rest for 20 minutes.
    6. Preheat the oven to the highest temperature and roll out the dough into a thin circle.
    7. Top with anything you like, just keep the slices thin and don't pile the toppings too high (otherwise your dough might not do so well).
    8. Bake approximately 10 minutes, until the edges of the dough are crispy and brown.
    9. Enjoy!
    Pizza Crust Reflections

    My dough didn't rise a whole lot; it could be because the yeast wasn't completely dissolved. Also, dough was on the dry side; even though this didn't really affect the end quality, it would have made kneading easier. The only thing I would change if I did it again would be to add another tablespoon or two of warm water and dissolve the yeast in it first (as the recipe is written above).

    The RTT is gone for another week and a half; any hot ideas on cooking for one?

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    Hallo Deutschland

    Hi all!

    I'll be on my way to Germany to visit the Resident Taste Tester in one day. Don't worry, I'll be back in late October. Until then, I'll be eating a lot of Brot, wishing us away to Paris for a weekend, and I might even wear a Drindl.

    Hang tight and keep baking.

    X Melissa

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Ladyfingers: Paving the Road to Tiramisu

     Ladyfingers piled into a tin shortly before being soaked in cold espresso.

    I've done mis en place for tiramisu many, many times. I've even assembled these parts into a visually appealing (well, more or less given my fear of high speed plating) dessert on occasion. However, I've never made one of the very basic parts that arguably comprises a good two-thirds of the finished cake volume: Ladyfingers.

     Egg whites and sugar beat to stiff peaks.

    Why on earth would you make the ladyfingers when you can buy them at the store and save yourself some time? I understand that at home, making tiramisu might seem like a lengthy process and the prospect of making each and every one of those little cookies (some of which break or dissolve to mush during the espresso soaking) sounds daunting, but I just can't help myself.

     Flour being folded into beaten egg yolks and sugar.

    I need to know how things are made. I've come a long way from mixing flour, water, and food dye and "baking" it in the sun (I was a kid!), but the curiosity remains.

     Vaguely neat rows of piped batter.

    Like I said, I've made tiramisu before, so that's part of the reason I won't go over the recipe (the other being it's not mine to share - oooh secret recipes). This, my friends, is about the humble ladyfinger.

     What I was aiming for.

    Adapted from Delicious Days

    Yields 25+ ladyfingers (these lovely approximations pop up when I start pinching cookies before the counting is done)

    3  eggs, divided
    90g  sugar*
    1 tsp  vanilla
    60g  flour
    powdered sugar
    1.  Preheat the oven to 200C (390F) and line two trays with silpats or parchment paper.
    2. Combine the yolks and about half the sugar in a bowl and beat to around ribbon stage (pale yellow, thick, and leaves a trail when dribbled on the surface of the mixture).
    3. Stir in vanilla.
    4. In a separate bowl, combine the egg whites and the remaining sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
    5. Sieve the flour into the yolk mixture and fold to clear (no flour remains visible).
    6. Add about one-third of the beaten whites and mix to lighten the batter; gently fold in the remaining whites.
    7. Fill a piping bag with the batter, snip the tip off (to about half or three-quarters of an inch in diameter), and pipe the batter in lines about 4" long, 1" apart.
    8. Dust the piped batter with powdered sugar (be liberal with it!) and bake about 13 minutes until light golden brown.
    9. Immediately remove the ladyfingers from the parchment or silpat and place them directly on the oven rack.
    10. Crack the oven door an inch or two and allow the ladyfingers to cool inside.
    11. Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container.
    Ladyfinger Reflections

     Unique ladyfingers (like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike, at least not piped at my hands) placed in the tray to test for fit, pre-espresso soaking.

    When these first came out of the oven, they were pretty soft cookies; a far cry from the stiff, boiling hot coffee resistant store bought breed I'd dealt with before. I decided to treat them like baguettes or any bread that I want a crisper crust on, hence steps 9 and 10. When they came out of the oven, they were a sturdier version of themselves, but still not nearly as tolerant of physical abuse as the pre-packaged variety, which was just fine by me.

    The cookies are plain and pleasant enough on their own, very light and mildly sweet, the vanilla peaking through. Okay, pleasant enough that the Resident Taste Tester and I gobbled down a good handful without blinking.

     Home made tiramisu.

    They did a lovely job in the tiramisu. I gave them a double turn in cold espresso and didn't have any of the problems of packaged ladyfingers (namely burning my hands trying to get the espresso all the way through without complete mushification). The RTT and I ate the cake straight away, and were both daunted by the task of finishing one piece each (these packed a triple layer of soaked ladyfingers and mascarpone, mind you); so rich and there seemed to be slightly too much mascarpone. But! After one night in the fridge, the cake had settled and found its stride; the textures and flavors and pieces all came together to make us swoon before lunch time.

    Ladyfingers are not created equal. Rather, some are squiggly, some shorter or longer than 4", and some look, um, suggestive. None of this matters (at least, not to me personally). What does is that you took the time to make something from scratch just because, and it tastes mighty fine.

    *I use this website for converting baking masses to and from volumes

    Friday, September 17, 2010

    Banana Zucchini Bread

    Banana zucchini bread, fresh from the oven and cooling on the stove top burner grates.

    When I was a kid, we had a small vegetable garden. Nothing elaborate, just some tomatoes, erratically growing sunflowers (with seeds we never ate), and most memorably, zucchini.

     One average sized grocery store zucchini yields about 1 cup when grated.

    The zucchini would go unharvested until the squash dramatically presented itself, overshadowing and crushing the leafy vines from whence it came. These deep green behemoths would be piled on the worn surface of the kitchen table, only to be grated down into a soggy pile and integrated into a batter that would become zucchini bread.

    All-purpose flour, oats, and ground flax seed.

    I had no idea of what else people did with zucchini well into my teens. It certainly didn't show up in savory dishes at home, but during those summer days when my mom could be found buttering slices of zucchini bread any time between sunrise and sunset, I couldn't have cared less.

    Banana Zucchini Bread
    Adapted from Heather Duncan at

    Yields one loaf

    1  whole egg
    1  egg white

    1  T olive oil
    1/4 C  plain yogurt
    1/2 C  packed brown sugar
    1 C  grated zucchini
    1  banana, mashed
    1 tsp  vanilla

    1 1/4 C  all purpose flour
    1/4 C  oats
    2 T  ground flax seed
    1/2 T  ground cinnamon
    1/4 tsp ground ginger
    1/4 tsp  ground nutmeg
    1/2 tsp  salt
    3/4 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp  baking soda

    1/2 C  walnuts
    1. Preheat the oven to 325F (165C) and grease and flour a loaf tin.
    2. Beat egg and egg white to break up the membranes.
    3. Add the oil, yogurt, sugar, zucchini, banana, and vanilla and mix until homogenous.
    4. Add the flour, oats, flax seed, spices, and leavening agents and mix until homogenous.
    5. Fold in the walnuts.
    6. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake about 60 minutes (most recipes call for 40-60 minutes, mine took about 75 minutes, so do the toothpick test, though this isn't entirely reliable here).
    7. Cool 45 minutes in the pan on a rack before unmolding and slicing.
    8. Enjoy!
    Banana Zucchini Bread Reflections

     Slicing the banana zucchini bread reveals walnuts, stark white oats, and traces of green zucchini skin.

    I played around with this recipe a lot and I would be lying if I said it was absolutely perfect. I could kick myself every time I go to bake and I don't have any whole wheat flour on hand. I added oats and ground flax seed to boost the fiber, reduced the sugar and oil, added yogurt to keep it moist, doubled the walnuts, and added more spices. All things considered, this is definitely a healthier version of the original.

    The bread was oddly moist coming out of the oven at 75 minutes. I figured I'd let it rest the 20 suggested minutes and then try to slice it, but a pre-cooling test (which burned my fingers... oooh patience) hinted at the bread still not being cooked through all the way.

    A good hour later (the bread still retaining some heat), I sliced it with my trusty bread knife. Zucchini bread is a mighty soft thing, and I'm sure sans nuts it could be tackled with a butter knife, but a sturdy, serrated knife was required in its thoroughly walnutted state.

    Surprise! It was actually baked through. Another surprise: It was a tiny bit chewy, like over-done oatmeal (I like mine half-cooked with a splash of cold milk). And another surprise: Mildly sweet and not overbearing as the batter tasting suggested. No surprise: It's nothing like my mom's.

    In the future, I would forgo the oatmeal and go straight for the all-purpose and wheat flours mix. I might add a tiny bit more sugar if I wanted something closer to home. All in all, it was a decent effort with decent results and something I'm not ashamed of. Still, I'll have to remember to ask my mom for that recipe soon and turn a blind eye to the amount of oil and sugar that pour on in because I just can't beat those summer memories.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    If I Knew You Were Coming, I'd Have Baked a Cake

    I ran into this Sesame Street clip during my food blog wanderings (thanks Delicious Days for the reference and Nanto for posting on YouTube). I know I've been an incredible, bright-eyed procrastinator and have promised many-a-posts to you. With that said, I'm going to bake some zucchini bread (or maybe banana bread, if there's not enough zucchini) and post it tomorrow before the day is done.

    I hope that making good on my promise will elicit renewed faith and readership. If I knew you were coming, I would have baked a cake.

    Seriously, I would.

    Sunday, September 5, 2010

    Teaser: Cupcakes and Apple Pie

    There goes another month. Sorry!

    Just a heads up: I'll be traveling here and there over the next few months, so updates may be severely jet-lagged and not just absent due to flat out negligence.

    Here's a teaser on the next legit post: My friend A came to visit and we baked pie and cupcakes! Yay! You'll get the full post just as soon as I, um, find the recipes we used. Heh.

    Happy baking everybody!

    X M

    Saturday, August 7, 2010

    LG Farmers' Market: The Spread

    Every time I go to the Loewen Gardens Farmers' Market, I spend about two to three times as much as I would in a normal, productive grocery store trip, and half of the spoils could be considered frivolous delights. But it only happens once a month, right?

    I arrived via the chariot of the proletariats, the train and bus, with an assortment of tote bags at my side. Surveying the spread and the crowd, I lamented my inability to make it to the farmers' market pre-noon. There was a good crowd, which meant certain favorites would already be sold out.

    I checked with Organic Himalaya and there was Cynthia, chatting away with someone about ginger jam and doling out samples. I came for my usual peach jam, and walked away with their new version (with cointreau), peach classic, and plum jam. If you're a regular reader, you know I love their peach jam, but why the plum? Well, the Resident Taste Tester is very much into plum jam and our recent supermarket purchase just didn't satisfy, so I went to our most reliable (and arguably most environmentally friendly) source, OH.

    So after I spent two-thirds of my allotted market money on jam (ahem), I went in search of fresh rosemary. OH was out (though Cynthia said to just send her a message next time and she'll set some aside for me), but The Pantry guy had a nice fat bunch of hydroponically grown rosemary that made me swoon at the scent. Still in a daze from the herb bouquet, I bought over a kilo of Brussels sprouts, nodding in agreement that they probably would make fantastic soup. I wandered through to the back end of the market and sampled some cured ham from the people with the paella (does it really hang around to dry for two years after curing?) and bought organic asparagus from another vendor. My last purchase was half an Australian variety of Japanese pumpkin (yeah, I was a little curious when the nice lady told me that too, but think on it a while) from a stall near the front of the market, which will be roasted if I'm feeling mildly ambitious, or steamed if I can't be bothered.

    If you made it to the end of this post, good for you! I sort of can't believe you actually read my recount of Saturday farmers' market shopping in its entirety. For your charitable reading, you are thus rewarded with preview photos of up-coming posts of things I meant to tell you about ages ago:

    Yes, it's that welcome back brioche.

    Lemon seeds strained out of lemon juice with a tea steeping cup for outrageous lemon cake (RTT birthday cake one of two).

    The taste-testing batch of meringue (or pavlova, if you will) for Z's birthday.

    By the way, after I drafted this post, I made dinner. I made the pizza dough from and rolled it out really thin, then brushed it with olive oil and scattered thin slices of garlic and crumbled feta on it before baking. Now, before I baked that, I roasted pumpkin slices and halved Brussels sprouts (wow, I've been slurring those words together for my entire life without realizing there was an "S" at the end of the first) with rosemary. Then I piled as much of the vegetables on top of my baked pizza crust and ate it while pumpkin loaf cake finished baking. Score.

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    Farmers' Market Tomorrow, Saturday 7 August

    I borrowed the flyer below from the folks at Organic Himalaya; I'm on their mailing list and they always give a heads up when there's a sale coming (in addition to updates on the varied political situation that sometimes holds up their shipments). Anyway, I love their peach jam and I'm going tomorrow to replenish my stock, so I hope to see some of you folks there.

    As I've said before, it's not rife with fresh local produce, but it's a mash-up of homemade cakes, cheeses, imported specialty olive oils, wine (you might even catch my "big brother" there giving a wine talk), stir fry, sun-dried tomatoes, quality fruit and vegetables, and more.

    Loewen Gardens is right by Dempsey, so wander the market and then walk ten minutes to have a lovely brunch (if you haven't already gorged yourself on samples).