Pear Blueberry Dutch Baby

He's done it, again!

Victor the Kitchen Magician has used his magical skills to create the perfect dessert!

Dutch Baby's are one of the most versatile things to make. They can be sweet, they can be savory. Items can be mixed in or served on top after cooking. Victor took a basic formula and added orange zest, thinly sliced pears to the pan before adding the batter, and blueberries scattered on top to create a truly excellent dessert!

The delicate orange came through, the pears were sweet and tender, and the blueberries popped with juicy flavor!

Light and delicate - the perfect dessert!

 

Pear Blueberry Dutch Baby

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp fresh orange zest
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 Bosc pear, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • Confectioners' sugar, for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Put a 10-inch cast iron skillet or oven-safe nonstick pan into the oven and heat for at least 5 minutes.

In a blender, combine the eggs, flour, milk, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, the salt, orange zest, and vanilla. Blend until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender jar as necessary, about 30 seconds.

Open the oven door and drop the butter into the preheated skillet. Close the oven and allow the butter to melt, about 2 minutes (do not let it burn).

Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and place the pears in pan. Pour the batter into the buttered skillet and scatter the blueberries on top.

Place the skillet back into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until puffed and golden.

Carefully remove the skillet from the oven.

Dust with confectioners' sugar and then cut into wedges.

Serve with maple syrup.

I'm thinking having a Breakfast for Dinner sometime soon with a savory version...

Stay tuned!

 

 


In The Beginning...

... there was no World Wide Web. There was no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok... There wasn't even MySpace, let alone the concept of streaming movies or TV on demand.

Back in those Dark Ages, there was Compuserve, Prodigy, and America Online. You paid a monthly fee for an extremely slow dial-up connection to your service of choice. That fee entitled the user to 'X'-amount of minutes per month - and when you went over your allotment, you were charged by the minute for your overages. A lot. I know.

Victor and I were introduced online - he was on Prodigy, I was on America Online, and our Yenta, Nancy, was on both. She decided we should meet.

We did, and it will be 30 years in November...

During those years on Prodigy and America Online, we met a lot of really great people - people we were able to connect with in real life, and who remain cherished friends to this day.

One person we only knew from the Prodigy online world - who we lost contact with when Prodigy went away in 2001 - was a woman named Lisa Deaton. Lisa will always be remembered because she gave us her recipe for Double Fudge Brownie Decadence. And, as the recipe implies - it is decadent!

The secret to this particular recipe is the corn syrup. And, yes, boys and girls, there is a difference between Karo Corn Syrup and high fructose corn syrup.

Double Fudge Brownie Decadence

Lisa Deaton

Brownie

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9" cake pan.

In saucepan, heat butter and corn syrup until butter is melted. Stir in chocolate until melted. Cool, slightly.

Add sugar and then eggs, mixing well. Add vanilla, flour, and nuts, mixing well.

Pour into prepared pan and bake about 30 minutes, or until it springs back when lightly touched.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then remove and fully cool on rack.

For glaze:

Melt together chocolate, corn syrup, and butter. Stir in vanilla. Frost with glaze and then chill about 15 minutes to set glaze.

The online world really was so much different back in those days. To quote Simon and Garfunkel... A time it was, and what a time it was, it was... A time of innocence...

Not that we were actually innocent, mind you... we could definitely be hell-raisers walking the fine line of being TOS'd... I spent an inordinate amount of time on the Christianity Boards. It was fun being the Gay Atheist who knew more about the Bible than those who professed to follow it...

I also came close to working for the GLCF - Gay Lesbian Community Forum - on AOL circa 1992-93. Alas, the actual money wasn't there. With 20/20 hindsight, I probably would have made a fortune in stock. Oh, well...

It is difficult to imagine a time when you didn't carry access to the entire world in your pocket. A time when you called someone on the phone and it would be busy for hours because they were online with their dial-up. It's also hard to imagine a time when 14.6kbs was fast! You actually had to go to a bank - online banking didn't exist. Bills came in the mail - and were paid by check. It was downright archaic!

But I digress - as usual...

Thanks, Lisa, for the recipe - and the stroll down Memory Lane...

And speaking of Memory Lane... the plate is from the 1992 James Beard Award Dinner - a set of 4 from our friend, Susan, who has been a friend for more than 45 years - waaaaay before the online world existed.


Cast Iron Orange Cake - Without a Cast Iron Pan

The recipes one finds just reading the daily newspaper! Why I have spent untold thousands on cookbooks and cooking magazines is beyond me...

Case in point - a Cast Iron Orange Cake. We have both been really good about desserts - our A1C was creeping up juuuuuuust a bit, and neither of us felt like succumbing to Type 2 Diabetes in our dottage.

That being said... once in a while we must treat ourselves. That's once in a while - not nightly.

Enter the New York Times...

Victor saw a recipe for this cake that really sounded intriguing - made with whole oranges - skin, pith, and all. Only problem was it calls for a 10" cast iron skillet. We no longer have any cast iron skillets - they didn't make the move west.

We do, however, have the top to a cast iron dutch oven that I have used for bread baking. But it's on a bottom shelf in the far corner of a cupboard, and my hips in their current state do not enjoy crawling around on the floor searching for things. We do, however, have every size cake pan imaginable - all at eye-level. I grabbed one of the 10" pans and went to work.

 

Now, having never made this cake before, I have no idea how my version compares to one baked in cast iron, but my 10" Allied Metal Spinning cake pan made a damn fine cake!

Cast Iron Orange Cake

adapted from the New York Times

  • 2 cups/400 grams granulated sugar
  • 2 navel oranges
  • 2 teaspoons or vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted and coarsely ground (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus a pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup/226 grams butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2 cups/255 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup/50 grams semolina flour (or another 1/4 cup/32 grams all-purpose flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup/60 grams chopped toasted walnuts
  • Olive oil, for the pan

Make the cake: Place a 10-inch cast iron pan on the middle rack of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F while you prepare the batter.

Add sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and finely zest one orange into it. Set the bowl aside and then trim a bit of the stem end off both oranges and discard. Cut oranges into 8 pieces and puree in a food processor or blender, scraping the bowl as needed. You need 1 1/2 cups puree; set aside.

To the stand mixer bowl, add vanilla, fennel seeds (if using) and a pinch of salt. Rub ingredients together vigorously with your hands and fingers.

When sugar is fragrant, add butter and set the mixer to medium-high speed to cream until fluffy, at least 5 minutes. Scrape down bowl and paddle, making sure you aren’t leaving any butter unattended.

Add egg yolks and beat on medium-high until well incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes more, remembering to scrape bowl and paddle as needed.

While wet ingredients are working in the mixer, prepare dry ingredients by whisking together flour, semolina, baking powder and salt.

Scrape butter mixture down from bowl and paddle. Give it a good stir to make sure the batter is well mixed. Return to the stand mixer, add the reserved 1 1/2 cups orange puree and slowly incorporate on medium-low speed, then turn to medium-high to blend well.

Starting on low speed, add dry ingredients, then increase speed to medium-high and eventually to high, scraping bowl and paddle until batter is very well mixed.

Stir in the nuts.

Remove the hot skillet from the oven, brush with a generous amount of olive oil and spread batter in the hot pan. It should sizzle and will get a nice, toasty caramelized bottom during baking.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The cake should be set in the middle and golden brown on top. You can use a cake tester if you have one; it should come out clean. This cake can be eaten on its own warm out of the oven after sitting for a little over 30 minutes.

It did not sizzle when I put the batter in, but it did bake up nicely.

I also substituted pistachios in place of the walnuts 'cuz we were out. (Just did a Trader Joe run this morning and we're well-stocked for the holidays!)

I'm thinking 1 1/2 cups of lemon, lime, or grapefruit would work quite well in this recipe...

Just not this week.


Sicilian Melon Pudding

Yes, you read that right - Melon Pudding...

Made with local melons from Walchli Farms in Hermiston, Oregon. They're the largest melon grower in the Pacific Northwest - and I have to say, the absolute best melon I have ever tasted.

We heard about them from our friends, Bonnie and Nancy up in Washington. Their local farmer's market up there carries them for a short time each season, and they were raving about how good they are. I found them at our local New Seasons Market and headed over there, yesterday morning. New Seasons is an upscale grocer and can be a bit expensive, for things - but not nearly as expensive as Whole Foods and with a much better and friendly staff - so I just picked up a few things before heading up the road to the local WinCo - much more pocketbook friendly.

The melons were on special in their weekly flyer and I get a 10% veteran discount on Tuesdays - so it was about $11.50 for 2 large melons - about 9 1/2 pounds, total. I put the melons in the car and headed up the road. 20 minutes later, I came out of WinCo and opened the door. I was immediately hit with the strongest melon scent, ever.

Back in my produce-buying days,, a good melon was instantly noticeable by the rich melon scent and a bit of give at the stem end. One doesn't often find those characteristics in supermarket melons, anymore. For several years now, melons have been pretty hit-or-miss. Even when you've gotten a bit of a whiff of melon scent, they've often been mealy or just flat - lacking in that fruity summertime flavor.  I knew these were not going to disappoint.

I added the rest of the groceries - mostly junk food since we're doing a family camping trip this weekend over my Birthday - and drooled all the way home.

Into the house and the kitchen immediately lit up. These are some potent melons - and well worth the price.

The pudding recipe comes from a website called Jul's Kitchen - Stories and Recipes from Tuscany. There are some fun recipes there - and I like her style.

Gelo di Melone - Sicilian Melon Pudding

adapted from Juls Kitchen

  • 2 melons
  • 80 g sugar
  • 70 g corn starch
  • 4 tablespoons elderflower syrup

Instructions

Cut the melon into wedges, remove the seeds, and then purée it in a blender. Pass it through a sieve placed over a bowl to eliminate the pulp. If you have a juicer, cut the melon into chunks and juice it, then pass the juice through a sieve into a bowl. You should get about 4 cups/1 lr of melon juice. Should you have any leftovers, save the juice for another use, or drink it cold with a squeeze of lime.

Add the sugar and the cornstarch to a saucepan.

Dilute them with 1 cup of melon juice. Add the rest of the melon juice and the elderflower syrup.

Bring it to a simmer on medium-low flame, stirring continuously. When you spot the first bubbles, cook for one more minute, then remove from the heat.

Pour the thickened melon juice into 4 1-cup pudding molds, or glasses, smooth the surface, and refrigerate until set.

I used a Ninja blender and did not have much pulp to strain - those suckers know how to blend!

And the final verdict is - it's eating the melon in pudding form! Smooth, creamy, soft, rich, flavorful... I'm running out of superlatives! It was that good!

It's a very easy recipe. You can use your favorite melon - and I highly recommend the Walchli if you can find it - or go for your favorite summer fruit. Just strain it to make it as pulp-free as possible. Obviously, the more fresh and ripe the fruit is, the better the flavor.

I see this as an annual summer treat.

Thanks, Bonnie and Nancy for the tip!

**edited to add: If you don't have Elderflower Syrup, just omit it. Or, add 4 tablespoons of a light cordial or something that will compliment the fruit. Don't not make it because of one simple ingredient.


Whoopie Pies

We're having a bit of a local family get-together tonight at my sister's house. Even though we all live within a few miles of one another, we really don't all get together that often.

I asked what we could bring - no one person should have to feed this motley crew - and my niece said a desert - "your desserts are the best."

Flattery will get you everywhere!

So... what to make for 15 pseudo-adults and two toddlers?!? Why, Whoopie Pies, of course! Fun, hand-held, the kids can make a mess of them... Perfect!

These are a combination of recipes I've made in the past. The classic filling is a shortening and marshmallow fluff concoction I don't really care for, so I devised more of a cream cheese frosting with marshmallow fluff that's more to my liking. I'm the one cooking, so it's all about me.

Whoopie Pies

Cakes:

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups milk

Filling:

  • 8 ounce pkg cream cheese, softened
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 12 oz jar Marshmallow Fluff

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, and eggs together until well combined. Add the oil and vanilla and beat again.

In a separate bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. Add half of the dry mixture to the egg mixture and beat or stir to blend. Add 1 1/2 cups milk and beat again. Add the remaining dry mixture and beat until incorporated. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk and beat until blended.

With a 4oz scoop, scoop out 32 or more circles of batter onto a baking sheet. Bake for 12-13 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, cream butter and cream cheese. Add fluff and mix well. Add vanilla and slowly add powdered sugar. Mix to a stiff, creamy texture.

Fill half of the cakes with filling and top with second half.

Enjoy.

I had to finish the batter by hand - it was too much for my KitchenAid mixer - but it worked out okay. I got 42 cakes - 21 Whoopie Pies.

Your results may vary - just make sure you have an even amount.

And... if you're in a Fall Mood, here's a link to the Pumpkin Version!

 


Panettone

I have finally made a panettone that looks and tastes like a panettone!

Panettone has eluded me for years. It is the ultimate sweet dough - light, feathery, and full of flavor. Most of my attempts were more like bricks than feathers, but after several attempts with several different recipes, I finally took the best of several and made my own.

One of the biggest changes was lowering the amount of fruit. Most recipes call for 2 or more cups of fruit for 3-4 cups of flour. It weighed the dough down too much. The other is doing an overnight rise in the refrigerator. Pull the dough out of the 'fridge and let it set on the counter for a couple of hours before adding the fruit and forming the loaf. And definitely make sure it rises above the rim of the form before baking.

Panettone

Fruit

  • 300gr mixed dried fruits (currants, raisins, cranberries, candied lemon and orange peel, dried cherries, or any combination)
  • 6 tablespoons brandy

Dough

  • 1 1/2 tbsp rapid-rise yeast
  • 5 ounces 98°F milk
  • 50gr (1/4 cup) sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp Fiori Di Sicilia extract
  • 500gr (4 cups) bread flour
  • 5gr salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • 255gr unsalted butter, at room temperature

Place dried fruits in bowl, add liquor, cover and keep at room temp overnight.

Mix sugar with barely warm milk. Add yeast and set aside.

Mix flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add yeast mixture and mix to combine.

Add the eggs. Mix on medium speed until the dough begins to smooth out.

Cut the softened butter into 1 tbsp chunks and add the butter a few pieces at a time, mixing it in fully before adding more. Total mixing time will be about 10 minutes - maybe a bit more. It should be glossy and satiny. It will be sticky.

Butter a large bowl and scrape dough into it. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The following morning, strain the soaking fruit.

Place dough on a lightly floured counter and spread out into a rectangular shape.

Place half of the fruit onto half of the spread-out dough. Fold the dough over the fruit and fold over, again. Pat out, again, add the remaining fruit, fold several times and then form into a ball.

Butter a 7" panettone mold or paper.

Add the dough ball, lightly cover, and allow to rise for about 3 hours - or until the dough is rising above the rim.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 300° F and bake for an additional 45 to 55 minutes.

Cool completely before slicing.

The Fiore Di Sicilia is a great flavor addition. If you can't locate it locally, you can buy it from Fante's in Philadelphia. I think it's worth it. Your millage may vary.


Guinness, Jameson, and Bailey's Cupcakes

It's the Wearin' of the Green time in the good ol' USofA.

Funny how a fairly nondescript holiday in Ireland turned into such a huge day of revelry here in the states. Then, again... when you look at immigration and discrimination in this country, it's not that surprising, at all. It's not unreasonable for a group to want to have their heritage recognized by the ruling classes... the Italians latched onto the now-not-so-popular Columbus Day. Mexicans have Cinco de Mayo. And, of course, there's Chinese New Year, to name but a few... but once recognized, we shouldn't look down upon the next wave of immigrants coming in. We've [mostly] all been there...

So... while I shan't be drinking green beer or making green pizzas like I did at Pirro's, lo these many years ago, I did decide to make some cupcakes to bring to my sister's tomorrow. We'll be doing the traditional corned beef and cabbage - the Jewish connection to our humble beginnings in the slums of New York - along with soda bread and a new recipe I found for an Irish Freckle Bread. Freckles are something my Dermatologist and I know lots about.

But I digress...

I found this recipe quite a few years ago but have only made them once before. Time for a repeat.

Guinness, Jameson, and Bailey's Cupcakes

adapted from The Browneyed Baker

For the Guinness Cupcakes

  • 1 cup Guinness stout
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoons salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅔ cup sour cream

For the Jameson Ganache

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (finely chopped)
  • ⅔ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter (at room temperature)
  • 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey

For the Bailey's Icing

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream

Make the Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two standard muffin tins with liners.

Place the Guinness and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream on medium speed until combined. Add the Guinness-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat just to combine. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat just until it starts to come together, about 30 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter until completely combined. Divide the batter among the cupcake liners. Bake until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the Whiskey Ganache Filling:

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Place the heavy cream in a small saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat. Immediately pour it over the chocolate, then let it sit for two minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the mixture from the center outward until smooth. Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined. Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped, about 30 minutes. (If it becomes too stiff, simply give it a good whisk and it will loosen up.)

Fill the Cupcakes:

Using a paring knife, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes, going about two-thirds of the way down. Using a cookie scoop or spoon, divide the prepared ganache between the centers of the cupcakes.

 

 

Make the Baileys Frosting:

Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the powdered sugar until all of it is incorporated. Add the Baileys, increase the speed to medium-high and whip for another 2 to 3 minutes, until it is light and fluffy.

Using your favorite decorating tip, or an offset spatula, frost the cupcakes and decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Store the cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

 

And the inside of the finished product!

 

 

I know it looks like a lot of work, but, really, they're quite easy to do - and really taste great!

And while we're speaking of immigrants...

“Ní thuigheann an sách an seang”

“The well-fed does not understand the lean.” Those who have may not understand the concerns of those who don’t have, and that you may need to lose a little to understand what it is like to have nothing.

Think about it.

 

 


Orange Olive Oil Cake

Ah... Valentine's Day...

I have to admit that after 26 years, Valentine's Day does not have the same significance it did when we first met... There's no need to show one another how much we love one another by buying overpriced roses, expensive chocolates, or overpriced diamonds...

No... today, it's little things. Like baking a cake.

 

Orange Olive Oil Cake

We both have a penchant for desserts, and while I tend to get most of the credit for baking, Victor is a great baker - and I have never been displeased with what he has made.

Case in point: Orange Olive Oil Cake.

We usually have a couple of stray oranges in the fruit bowl this time of year, so Victor grabbed them and went to work.

Orange Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • zest from 2 oranges, preferably organic
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, good quality
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice, strained (2-3 oranges)
  • 2 tablespoons coarse or granulated sugar for topping

Instructions

Preheat oven to 325°F for 8" pan or 350°F for 9" pan. Lightly grease and flour the bottom and sides of the pan.

In a small bowl combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

Fit a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Whip the eggs on medium speed until foamy. Add the granulated sugar and orange zest and whip on high speed until the mixture is fluffy and pale in color, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium, and with the mixer running, slowly add the olive oil. Mix until the oil is completely incorporated.

Add half the flour mixture and mix on low speed until blended. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the milk and orange juice and mix on low until blended. Add the remaining flour and mix just until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle 2 tablespoons coarse sugar on top. Bake 8" cake in preheated 325°F oven for 60-70 minutes or 9" cake at 350°F for 45 to 55 minutes until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached.

Cool the cake on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before removing the sides.

The cake is rich, flavorful, not too sweet, and the perfect after-dinner - or mid-afternoon - snack!

The perfect Valentine Gift!

 

 


Sicilian Olive Oil Cake

Our new oven is definitely getting a workout! Lots of breads, rolls, casseroles, roasted veggies... all of the things we couldn't make in the Extended Stay, and all of the things we didn't make the first month we were here with the old electric range.

The new gas range is awesome - we're both having a lot of fun in the kitchen - getting used to a new layout after 20 years, new places for pots, pans, and bowls, new places for spices and other ingredients... We're quickly getting things organized. It is a smaller space than what we left, so we've been getting creative. It's giving the old brain cells something to do...

Victor's brain cells decided we needed a cake, so he pulled out a recipe he's had for a while and went to work.

olive oil cake

I really wish we had gone metric in the '70s when the rest of the world did... weighing out ingredients is just to much better...

Sicilian Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs (150 grams)
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (112 grams) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (188 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 grams) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.5 grams) kosher salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray an 8-inch round cake pan with baking spray with flour; line bottom of pan with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs and sugar at high speed for 30 seconds. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, beating until combined. Add milk, beating until combined. Reduce mixer speed to low. Beat in extracts.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture, beating until combined, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 33 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove from pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack. Brush with fresh olive oil just before serving. Store at room temperature wrapped loosely in foil or plastic wrap.

 

 

It came out great! Excellent texture, tons of flavor, not too sweet... the perfect dessert! He dusted with powdered sugar instead of brushing with olive oil - something I definitely recommend.

I think one could also go with some lemon zest and a bit of lemon juice or extract and switch it up a bit, as well.

So many ideas, so little time to eat them all...


Date Nut Bread

Date Nut Bread

In our latest box from Imperfect Foods - nee Imperfect Produce - I ordered a bag of Medjool Dates. No particular reason, except we both like dates. Imperfect Foods, if you haven't heard of them, is a great produce and food delivery service. They're especially good in the time of Covid - less time spent in a grocery store and their prices are good!

As I said, I had no particular idea for the dates, but the moment Victor saw them, Date Nut Bread flashed before his eyes! And in no time, it was in front of mine, as well!

Date Nut Bread

He found an interesting recipe on the King Arthur Flour website, calling for a cup of hot coffee. It is often said that cooking is an art and baking is a science. Well... in scientific terms, the acid in the coffee works with the baking soda to create the leavening, so, while it doesn't add a deep coffee flavor, it's a necessary ingredient.

The recipe also calls for a tablespoon of vodka or brandy - Victor used Meyers Rum. Alcohol works as a flavor enhancer, serving to disperse flavor molecules throughout the bread. More science. Fortunately, the recipe itself is pretty basic and straightforward - you don't need to be a mad scientist to make it or even know why it works the way it does. Personally, I find it helpful to know why things work the way they do so I can play and experiment.

No experimenting needed with this, though - it came out perfect! Moist, nutty, rich, and flavorful - the perfect dessert - or breakfast!

Date Nut Bread

I have a kitchen scale and use it whenever possible when baking. Weighed measurements really are the way to go. I also wish we had gone on the Metric System back in the '70s when the rest of the world did. It really makes more sense... But I digress...

Date Nut Bread

adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (227g) chopped dates
  • 4 tablespoons (57g) softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup (142g to 159g) brown sugar
  • 1 cup (227g) hot brewed coffee
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) vodka or brandy, optional; to enhance flavor
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups (206g) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup (113g) coarsely chopped walnuts

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan. Place the dates, butter, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Pour the hot coffee into the bowl, stirring to combine. Allow the mixture to cool for 15 minutes.

Add the egg, vanilla, liquor, baking powder, and flour, beating gently until smooth. Stir in the walnuts.

Pour the batter into the pan, gently tapping the pan on the counter to settle the batter.

Bake the bread for 45 to 55 minutes, tenting the loaf gently with foil after 30 minutes, to prevent over-browning. Remove the bread from the oven; a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean, and an instant-read thermometer should read about 200°F.

After 10 minutes, gently turn the bread out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Cool completely before slicing. Wrap airtight, and store at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.

In less than 2 hours you can be enjoying a slice!

 


Apple Cake

Apple Pear Cake

We received three small apples and 3 small pears in our first Imperfect Foods box, on Friday. I really love the concept and we've signed up for a medium box every other Friday. I think it will be a lot of fun seeing what comes through the door - and it's going to be fun figuring out what to make!

And in these days of Covid-Spiking, the less time in a store, the better.

The cake Victor made was a take on his Apple Cake - he just tweaked it a bit to use both apples and pears. We borrowed the pan from my sister...

Apple Cake

Apple Cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 5 large apples

Preheat oven to 350°.  Peel and cut apples into small chunks.  Add 4 tsp sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon and stir together.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and set aside.

Beat together eggs, OJ & vanilla.  Add oil, mix in flour mixture.

In a well-greased tube pan, pour alternate layers of batter and apples.  Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top.

Bake at 350° for 1 1/2 hours or until cake tests done.

Cool before slicing.

We've made this in an angel food cake pan, a bundt pan, as a 10" round and a layer cake using two 8" rounds. You need to adjust the baking time, but it's really versatile.

Enjoy!!


The 47th Anniversary of My 21st Birthday

I guess most people have at least a vague recollection of their 21st birthday. It is a right of passage, after all... I spent my 21st birthday floating a few miles off the coast of California. I was still in Uncle Sam's Yacht Club and my Leading Chief denied my 3 day leave request. We were back from Viet Nam and stationed back in Alameda, awaiting a trip to Long Beach in a few weeks. It was just to get the boat out for three days to run drills and the like. Your taxpayer dollars at work.

He knew it was my 21st birthday and his sole function in life at that point was to mess with me any way he could. He really hated that I was ridiculously organized and took to production baking like a duck to water. He hated my attitude - the perpetual smirk on my face. The fact that I could get things done without going through proper channels.

He had pulled me out of the bakeshop and made me Office Yeoman so he could keep an eye on me. Of course, he quickly found out he couldn't say anything in front of me because others might hear about it. Pity.

I had been on the boat for almost a year and a half by this point and had been finally taken out of the office and assigned to the storeroom - mainly just keeping records of food supplies coming in and going out. Keeping track of requisitions and making sure the proper signatures were always in place. It was pre-computer - all manual - and the military loved its forms in triplicate. He always tried like hell to find errors - but I was really really good at my job. That was another reason he really disliked me. My very sincere disdain for military authority probably topped the list, though.

Yes, boys and girls, I was a smart-ass at the ripe old age of 21...

Six months later - when it came time for my active duty discharge, he made me get a regulation-style haircut before he would sign my separation papers. It grew back and I never had to see him, again.

One of 68 birthdays... there are others that stand out, as well... There were five of us at Tahoe whose birthdays were 26-30 July. We decided to hold a joint birthday party at our house. We had a live band and literally hundreds of people.

It was the first time I had ever taken acid.

I was not a stranger to recreational drugs, but I had just never taken LSD. I had talked far too many people down from it in high school. There just wasn't a huge urge to do it.

And then I did...

Besides having an absolutely wonderful time, I do remember at one point being up in the loft and looking out over a sea of heads downstairs. I thought it would be fun to just walk across their heads. Evidently, someone noticed me starting to climb over the railing and convinced me it wasn't such a great idea. That was a great house!

And I still talk regularly to my old roommates... we've all known one another well over 40 years. Not bad.

Speaking of forty...

My brother got a box at Candlestick for my 40th birthday. The Giants and The Dodgers almost always have a home game on my birthday - and almost always at night. Late July at Candlestick could be freezing! And look at that - nary a gray hair on either of us!

And Victor threw a big ol' party for my 50th...

 

My first birthday in this house was my 49th. My 55th was the day after I had a wisdom tooth pulled and Victor had foot surgery. That one was a Percocet and Vicodin haze.

And we saw Mama Mia one year, did a few days in Atlantic City another - driving home the Black Horse Pike to hit the farm stands... The past few have been pretty lowkey... we're saving up for next year when we celebrate on the west coast!

The Social Security Birthday saw us up in Rochester visiting dear old friends with a trek to Niagara Falls. I  hadn't been to the falls since I opened the Hyatt Regency Buffalo back in 1984.

We had a so much fun we went back in the winter! Brrrrrr.....

As a kid growing up, my birthday dinner was veal scalopine and pineapple cream pie. It has morphed over the years to Stuffed Cabbage, and this year, Victor made his famous Apple Cake for dessert!

The stuffed cabbage was a labor of love because Victor is not overly fond of cooked cabbage. After making this, however, he's become a convert!

Stuffed Cabbage

Ina Garten

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes and their juice
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large head Savoy or green cabbage, including outer leaves

For the filling:

  • 2 1/2 pounds ground chuck
  • 3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onions
  • 1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onions, and cook over medium-low heat for 8 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, brown sugar, raisins, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Stuffed Cabbage Sauce

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Remove the entire core of the cabbage with a paring knife. Immerse the head of cabbage in the boiling water for a few minutes, peeling off each leaf with tongs as soon as it s flexible. Set the leaves aside. Depending on the size of each leaf, you will need at least 14 leaves.

For the filling, in a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, eggs, onion, breadcrumbs, rice, thyme, salt, and pepper. Add 1 cup of the sauce to the meat mixture and mix lightly with a fork.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

To assemble, place 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a large Dutch oven. Remove the hard triangular rib from the base of each cabbage leaf with a small paring knife. Place 1/3 to 1/2 cup of filling in an oval shape near the rib edge of each leaf and roll up toward the outer edge, tucking the sides in as you roll. Place half the cabbage rolls, seam sides down, over the sauce. Add more sauce and more cabbage rolls alternately until you've placed all the cabbage rolls in the pot. Pour the remaining sauce over the cabbage rolls.

Stuffed Cabbage

Cover the dish tightly with the lid and bake for 1 hour or until the meat is cooked and the rice is tender.

Serve hot.

And the Apple Cake... ::sigh::

He often makes it in a tube pan. This time he used a 10" springform pan. Perfection.

 

Apple Cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 5 large apples

Preheat oven to 350°.  Peel and cut apples into small chunks.  Add 4 tsp sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon and stir together.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and set aside.

Beat together eggs, OJ & vanilla.  Add oil, mix in flour mixture.

In a well-greased tube pan, pour alternate layers of batter and apples.  Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top.

Bake at 350° for 1 1/2 hours or until cake tests done.

Cool before slicing.

I have said over and over that it just does not suck to be me. I have a great life, the love and support of great family and friends, and the special love and support from one truly outstanding guy. It is a great life, indeed.

So here's to the last birthday in Pennsylvania, and here's to all of the future ones in Vancouver.

Little Sister said that she'll make me a Pineapple Cream Pie.

*edited to state we never moved to Vancouver. It sucked. We settled in Beaverton, OR - blocks away from little sister!!