Category Archives: Special Treats

5 August 2017: Coconut Cornmeal Cake

2017-Aug-05_FourNightsAWeek_1356CAKE2Seriously, Thug Kitchen, this cake is the bomb.  As the Thugs say, “… save frosting for something that needs the help.” This does not.  And it didn’t need butter or eggs either.  Little bit of fresh fruit on top and we will be good to go for tonight’s dessert. If this makes it until then.  I have a feeling there will be some taste testing going on really soon. [Edited for  the delicate or children.]

From: Thug Kitchen LLC. Thug kitchen: Eat like you give a f*ck.  (2014). Emmaus, PA: Rodale. p.200.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups canned coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest

Method

  1. First, heat your oven to 375 degrees F. Grab an 8-inch cake pan, grease it, and dust it with flour to make sure your cake doesn’t stick. If you are still consumed with fear, cut a round out of parchment paper the same size as the pan and stick that in the bottom to be extra ——- sure your cake will come out in one piece. Now relax, you got this —-.
  2. Get a big bowl and whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a crater in the center of the dry mixture and pour in the coconut milk, vanilla, and lemon zest and stir it all up until there are no dry pockets and very few lumps.
  3. Pour that batter into your cake pan that you prepped earlier because you followed the g-d directions. Let somebody else lick the spoon and bowl because 1)The batter is tasty as —- and 2)They will now owe you one. Cash in that favor the next time you need help moving. You’re ——-welcome.
  4. Bake the cake until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then turn it out on to a wire rack to finish cooling until you’re ready for it.
  5. Serve cold or at room temperature.

 


Cornmeal-Lime Cookies

2017-Mar-12_fournightsaweek_0494Original Recipe found in: Chang, J. Flour: spectacular recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe. (2010). San Francisco: Chronicle. p 118-119.

Joanne Chang says “Eat Dessert First” and frankly if my metabolism were a bit different, I would definitely follow that advice! Today I was looking for a cookie with a little bit of a spring hop to it (New England’s March weather is featuring 12-18 inches of snow starting in 24 hours). This delightful cookie has the crunch of cornmeal and the refreshing bite of limes.  I highly recommend Joanne Chang’s cookbook as Joanne offers lots of great baker’s tips to get things just right. And, if you’re in the Boston Metropolitan area, be sure to stop by one of the Flour Bakery’s cafe sites – be ready to be amazed.

Ingredients

For the cookie:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (2 sticks)
  • 3/4 cups plus 2 TBSP granulated sugar
  •  2 TBSP finely grated lime zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup medium coarse yellow cornmeal (I used the polenta I had on hand)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

For Lime Glaze

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tsp water
  • 2 TBSP fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp finely grated lime zest

Method

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Stop the mixer a few times and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and paddle. Add the lime zest and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute to release the lime flavor. Add the eggs and vanilla and continue to beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined. Scrape the bowl and paddle again to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. On low-speed slowly add the flour mixture and then mix until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed.
  4. Drop the dough in scant 1/4-cup balls onto a baking sheet (I lined mine with parchment), spacing them about 2 inches apart. Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of your hand.
  5. Bake for about 25 minutes (I found I needed to pull the tray out at about 15 minutes, so keep your eye on the bake) or until the cookies are pale brown on the edges, still page in the center and just firm to the touch in the center. Be careful not to overbake the cookies and let the top brown. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes, then transfer to the rack to cool to room temperature or just a bit warmer before glazing.
  6. To make the glaze: while the cookies are cooling in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioner’s sugar, water, lime juice and lime zest until smooth. Your should have about 1/2 cup.
  7. Brush the cookies with a thin layer of the glaze then allow the glaze to set for about 10 minutes before serving or storing.
  8. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. The unbaked dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 1 week (Trust me, bake the entire batch!).

Yield: 14-16 cookies


13 December 2016: St. Lucia Buns

2016-dec-13_foodblog_0138Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Both of my great-grandfathers were bakers; if that’s an inherited trait, I’m officially thanking them both here for instilling in me a love of yeast and flour. Working with yeasted doughs and breads is quite satisfying, and it has been something I’ve dabbled in since high school.  

I found this recipe on the King Arthur Flour website recently and decided to try it out. Eggy and not too sweet, I’ve put some of the dozen buns aside for Christmas breakfast. And, as an extra bonus, the smell of baking dough has filled our apartment.

Ingredients – Buns

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp saffron threads, lightly crushed
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour (King Arthur recommended)
  • 1 TBSP instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup potato flour OR 1/2 cup instant potato flakes
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs (1 will be separated)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients – Topping

  • 1 large egg white (reserved from dough) mixed with 1 TBSP cold water
  • OPTIONAL coarse sugar (pearl sugar recommended)
  • OPTIONAL golden raisins

Method

  1. In a small saucepan set over medium heat (or microwave safe bowl in the microwave), heat the milk and saffron to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Set the mixture aside to allow the butter to melt and cool to lukewarm which will be about 30 minutes time.
  2. In a large bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together yeast, flour, potato flour, salt and sugar.
  3. Separate one of the 3 eggs and set the white aside to use in the topping.
  4. Pour the lukewarm mix/butter mixture over the dry ingredients. Now add the two whole eggs + the 1 egg yolk and the vanilla. Mix to combine and then knead (use the dough hook) for about 7 minutes by mixture (or if you’re a purists, mix for 10 minutes by hand) until the dough is smooth and supple.
  5. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour until it’s quite puffy (but it doesn’t have to double in bulk).
  6. Gently deflate the dough (give it a punch, it’s okay) and divide it into 12 equal pieces. If you use a scale for this each piece weighs about 92 grams or 3 1/4 ounces.
  7. Shape the dough into rough logs and let rest covered for about 10 minutes.
  8. Roll each log into a 15 or 18 inch rope; shape each rope into an “s” shape by rolling the ends into opposing coils. If you are using raisins, you can tuck a raisin into the center of each side-by-side coil (I skipped the raisins).
  9. Place buns on lightly greased sheet (or on parchment) leaving about an inch between each piece. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes. While dough rises, pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  10. Brush each bun with the egg white/water mixture. Sprinkle with coarse pearl sugar if desired.
  11. Bake buns until golden brown (about 18 to 20 minutes). King Arthur Flour recommends tenting the raising with foil for the last 3 minutes to prevent the raisins from burning (which is yet another reason I skipped the raisins).
  12. Remove the buns from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.

05 Sep 2016: Granola

2016-Sep-05_FourNights-Granola_1299Granola recipes are nearly a dime a dozen, and once you’ve read through one (or baked it), you can pretty much adapt that recipe to suit your personal taste or to suit whatever you have in the house for fruits and nuts.  This past June, we traveled to Waikiki and I was reintroduced to a granola variation when I ordered an Acai Bowl. The granola in the bowl had a definite local tropical influence – macadamia nuts, dried tropical fruits, ginger. It was stunning and I’m still working to duplicate it.

Usually I end up making a batch of granola about once a week. While I no longer follow a recipe, if you’re more comfortable using one, here’s a good granola recipe from Alton Brown of the Food Network. The following is – and should be – readily adapted according to taste preferences.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats (NOT quick!)
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cups pecan pieces, chunked up macadamia nuts, or other nut meats
  • 1 cup dried fruit (dried ginger, dried pineapple, raisins – or any combination you prefer)
  • scant 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 TBSP cinnamon (have also used ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon – the ginger is strong so go easy!)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted (oil of preference; use something light & neutral tasting if you don’t have coconut oil – safflower for example)
  • About 1/2 cup of real maple syrup

Method

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients together first. My suggestion is to use your hands and toss everything together as you add each ingredient.
  2. Add the oil and maple syrup. Combine thoroughly – this time I’d switch to a spoon! The mixture should just appear to be moist – not soaked.
  3. Spread on a cooking sheet lined with parchment.  Pop into a 300 degree oven for about 15 minutes – stir the mix around at that point so it will toast evenly.  Return to the oven for about another 15-20 minutes. At this point, you want to keep an eye on things so the granola doesn’t burn. It should be toasty golden brown, not burned looking or tasting.
  4. Cool on the sheet and store, refrigerated, in an air tight container.

 


08 May 2011 Heart-Healthy Dried Fruit Scones

Adapted from: Chang, Joanne. Flour: Spectacular recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe. (2010). San Francisco: Chronicle Books LLC. p. 50.

My Comments: Lucky enough to live in the Boston Metro area (well, that’s a

Flour Bakery Dried Fruit Scones

Copyright © 2011. Adrien Bisson Photography.

little stretch – a 40 minute ride puts me downtown though), I’ve been to 2 of Flour’s locations.  If you have too, you know how awesome this bakery/cafe is — no wonder lines stretch around the counter and there’s SRO!  Last week, I treated myself to Joanne Chang’s cookbook and this recipe seemed like the place to start for me.

Recently I have been told to try to cut wheat products from my diet. Not willing to give up on my love of baking, I am discovering some new flours to use. Today I substituted a gluten free baking flour from Bob’s Red Mill.  Since I don’t have to totally eliminate wheat, I kept about a cup of the wheat flour in the recipe. Not sure how a total replacement would have gone, but this substitution was just fine (yes indeed I have had this scone at Flour!).

I’m not publishing Joanne Chang’s recipe here; seriously — if you love baking buy the book! 

As this inaugural foray into Flour’s recipes takes place on Mother’s Day, we treated ourselves to quite a breakfast spread: smoked salmon (for Adrien), Vermont brie, raspberries, homemade vanilla/honey yogurt sprinkled with homemade granola, and of course, the scones. I don’t think we’ll be eating again until tomorrow.


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