Brunch. A nice word made even nicer with baked French toast and berries. It is bursting with exquisite berry flavor, especially when served with its joyful berry compote. And best yet, it can be made hours before and popped into the oven last-minute.
With this recipe in hand, go ahead! Invite your favorite moms over on Sunday, or set up a fun friends brunch. This pretty dish is also perfect for upcoming baby or bridal showers, or a just-because celebration breakfast treat. Or, why not make it with kids the night before to let the anticipation of a special breakfast build in their dreams?
Where I live, we'll be flooded in the best berries in the world in a couple of months. While we wait, we home cooks reach to the back of our freezers where last year's ripe bounty is preserved. I feel especially accomplished when use the last bag of icy blueberries or blackberries just in time for the new harvest.
Making Baked Berry French Toast
Make-ahead berry French toast is perfect with any of the berries-- straw, blue, black, Marion, huckle, rasp, or a colorful mix. Use frozen berries, or fresh. A note on berries-- it is worth waiting for peak-of-season varieties for the full flavor experience. Unless it is summer berry season where you live, quality brands of frozen berries will taste better than less-than-ripe store bought.
The quick custard is customizable, too. Use cream if you have it for the most silky texture, but any dairy or non-dairy milk will work well. Just follow the modification outlined in the recipe below. Spotlight the berry-burst flavor with a simple vanilla custard, or try adding add grated lemon or orange zest (2-3 teaspoons) for complexity. Or maybe a little cinnamon or cardamom (1/2 - 1 teaspoon.)
Assemble and bake the French toast right away, or assemble it the night before you plan to serve it. The bread soaks up the custard, integrating into one lovely dish with soft cakelike insides and crispy edges and top once baked. It easily cuts into beautiful serving squares. For best make-ahead results, stir the berries into the bread/custard mixture just before popping it into the oven.
Other Delicious Recipes to Round Out Your Brunch Menu
You'll already have the oven on, so Oven-Baked Bacon is the way to go. Try this method.
112 ozbaguette or french-style bread(one slender baguette)
½cupwhipping creamOR ⅓ cup milk or non-dairy milk
1teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓cupchopped almonds, pecans, or hazelnuts
2tablespoonsDemerara sugar or coarse baking sugar
1½cupsfresh or frozen blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries, or a mix of varietiesCut strawberries into quarters
For the Berry Compote
2cupsfresh or frozen blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries, or a mix of varieties
⅓ to ½cupssugardepending on the ripeness of your berries
3tablespoons cold water
1tablepsooncorn starch or rice flour
For the Berry French Toast
Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter or spray a 7" x 11" baking dish.
Cut the bread into ¾" pieces. There is no need to trim the crusts unless the bottom crust is quite browned, in which case trim the dark part away before cubing the loaf. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, cream (or lesser amount of milk), vanilla, salt and th optional orange zest and/or cinnamon, if using, until the ingredients ar thoroughly combined and bubbly. Fold in the bread cubes turn over and over until th read is thoroughly soaked in the custard mixture. Set aside 15 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until all of the custard has been absorbed into the bread. If making ahead, cover tightly and place in the bread/custard mixture in the refrigerator until 30 minutes before serving.
Just before baking gently stir the frozen or fresh berries into the bread mixture. If using frozen berries, do not thaw in advance. Tip the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with nuts and sugar. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown on top, 18-22 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for five minutes before cutting into squares.
For the Berry Compote
While the French toast is in the oven, combine the berries and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over meduim heat until the berries start to soften and break down, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Stir the cornstarch or rice flour into the cold water, and slowly drizzle it into the cooked berries, stirring constantly. Allow to cook another 3-4 minutes until thickened. Keep warm while the French toast is ready to serve.
When ready to serve, spoon some of the compote onto individual srving plates. Place a square of baked French toast on top, and serve.
Adulting has been especially challenging this week, and comfort food has been as important as ever. Green Goddess Macaroni and Cheese has that magical combination of being carb-y, cheesy-gooey, and packed full of good-for-you stuff that ensures that if this is all you eat for a week, you'll at least be getting your vegetables.
This recipe amps up the adult factor with the addition of Dijon mustard and a few anchovies to the cheesy base. These additions offer an exciting depth of flavor snuggled up with the same cozy familiarity you expect from good ol' macaroni and cheese.
How Can I Help?
When the going gets tough for friends and family we ask, "How can I help?" Often the response is something like, "Well, there's nothing anyone can really do except send your love/ good energy/ healing thoughts/ prayers." I'm a big fan of asking the universe to surround my beloveds in need, but when I hear that there's nothing I can physically do to help it is frustrating to not DO something.
This week the shoe is on the other foot. I have been on the other side of those words how can I help? and have learned their hidden power.
Even when there is nothing practical others can do to help, the willingness of a friend to accept a small chunk of my burden has a remarkable effect. Every person who asks this forms a network of support and love that lessens my emotional weight. Every one of the beautiful souls who steps forward to ask how can I help? becomes an invisible army around us-- my family and me.
So never be discouraged if there's "nothing you can do". Your presence, your calls, your prayers and good juju are so important. So impactful. So encouraging. Such a display of kindness. Love personified, even.
And, if you can, show up with a dish like this one so your loved one is sure to eat their vegetables all wrapped up in the comfort of good ol' macaroni and cheese.
What Wine Should I Pair with Green Goddess Macaroni and Cheese?
Anchovies and Dijon mustard make this recipe incredibly wine-friendly, not that plain mac and cheese needs a lot of help with that! And this week there definitely has been wine! We found the 2020 Conde Valdemar Blanco Rioja from Valdemar Estates Winery in Walla Walla, Washington to be a better than perfect pairing. It is light, clean, and refreshing-- in other words, a wonderful foil to the rich cheese dish. This is truly a joyful wine.
Making Green Goddess Macaroni and Cheese
I used to always make mac and cheese with this ratio: One pound pasta/ 4 tablespoons flour/ 4 tablespoons butter/ 4 cups milk/ 4 cups (one pound) shredded cheese. This ratio feeds a tribe.
Since most of us here are feeding one, two, three or four people on a daily basis I've revised my formula: One-half pound pasta/ 2 tablespoons butter/ 2 tablespoons flour/ 2 cups milk/ 2 cups (1/2 pound) shredded cheese. In our household, that makes enough for a very handy two meals apiece. If you are feeding a bigger household, guests, or a gathering, just double the recipe as it is written.
Yes, there are little anchovy fishies tucked into this dish. Umami, friend! Do give them a try. Adding the raw broccoli florets to the mixture right before baking keeps them a wee bit crunchy and not lost in the creamy pasta. The crispy topping adds a wonderful textural note, too. You may be tempted to forgo that part, but it is a low-effort-high-reward addition.
You'll also note that I used our local favorite Tillamook Creamery Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses in this dish. If you don't have a local cheesemaker near you, these are worth seeking out.
Other Comfort Foods for When the Going Gets Rough. . .
. . . for you, or for those you love: Carrot Risotto with Green Garlic Sauce: Recipe Here. Easy Winter White Vegetable Soup and Infinite Variations: Recipe Here.
Green Goddess Macaroni + Cheese
Course: Main Dish, Quick + Easy, Side Dish
Season: All Season
Prep Time: 20minutes
Cook Time: 30minutes
Total Time: 50minutes
Familiar comfort food, with a green goddess veggie twist.
8oz.macaroni other small pastaregular or gluten free
½onion, finely diced
2 clovesgarlic, minced
4oil-packed anchovies, drained and mined (optional)
1large stemsbroccoli, stem peeled and diced, florets broken apart
2Tbsp.all-purpose or rice flouruse rice four of GF 1- to- 1 flour for GF
1/2tsp.finely ground black pepper
8oz. grated cheddar, Monterey jack, or pepper jack cheese (2 cups)or a mix of any of these to equal 2 cups
Crispy Garlic Lemon Topping
½cuppankoregular or gluten free
zest of one lemon
1clovegarlic, grated into bowl
Make the Topping
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, and stir thoroughly. Set aside.
Make the Mac and Cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°. Put a pot of salted water on to boil for the macaroni. Cook the macaroni according to package directions.
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter. Add the diced onion, garlic, anchovies, and diced broccoli stems. (Reserve the broccoli florets for later.) Sauté over medium-high heat until the vegetables are tender, about five minutes.
Stir in the flour and salt and pepper. Add the milk and Dijon mustard, and continue stirring as the mixture thickens and begins to bubble, about 5-6 minutes.
Stir the spinach into the milk mixture until it is wilted. Use a blender (working in batches) or a immersion blender right in the pot to blend the vegetables into the milk mixture, turning it green. Stir in the cheese until it it completely melted. Stir in the broccoli florets. Pour the ingredients into a 9" x 13" baking dish.
Spread the crispy topping over the macaroni mixture. Bake until hot and bubbly, and the edges begin to brown. Allow to set 5 minutes before serving.
Don't let the anchovies scare you. They add a depth of flavor (nothing fishy) and elevate this dish to a wonderful adult comfort food!
For every aspirational, time-consuming, detail-laden recipe in a cook's repertoire, she needs ten like this one in her bag of tricks. These 20-minute, one bowl Quickie Olive Oil Drop Biscuits have elevated so many meals in my lifetime. They are a perfect last-minute additional to all the soups and stews of the season. The biscuits also compliment any main-dish salad, and are a great way to stretch a meal when guests pop in (like back in the BC days.) Really, they are perfect wherever a dinner roll or biscuit would fit.
A fun trick is to make the biscuits small, dropped from a dinner spoon instead of a soup spoon, and serve them as an appetizer or snack with a glass of wine, an American version of gougères.
What is to love about these golden mounds of goodness?
Selling point number one-- quickie olive oil drop biscuits are made in lightening speed. As in, begin preheating your oven now, and your biscuits will be mixed and formed before the oven is up to heat. There are only four primary ingredients to gather and measure here. Using olive oil eliminates the step of cutting in butter. Without the need to roll out and cut the dough like a typical biscuit you save that time, and a lot of cleanup by keeping everything contained in one bowl and not spread all over the counter.
Next, you'll fall head-over-heels for them because they are highly customizable. Olive oil drop biscuits without any of the optional add-ins are deliciously simple, and they become even more remarkable with the addition of some cheese, fresh or dried herbs, or better yet, both cheese and herbs. Any cheese that can be crumbled with your fingers or grated works here, and I often use a combination of cheeses just to use up the left-over nubbins.
Lastly, I love this recipe for olive oil droppers because it makes a relatively small batch. Did you know that in 2020, 53% of American households has one or two members? Most of us can't use a dozen biscuits. This fact is something I'm taking note of more and more when developing recipes, and you should see a change in the recipe sizes on these pages.
Serve your quickie olive oil biscuits alongside these recipes:
These lightning fast, crispy on the outside, tender on the inside drop biscuits are the perfect "little something" to round out a meal. Delicious plain, or with the cheese and herb add-ins. You'll have them mixed up before your oven preheats!
6 tablespoonsextra virgin olive oil (equal to ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon)
⅓cupcrumbly or grated cheeseParmesan, cheddar, gruyere, blue, fontina, gouda, etc.
fresh or dried herbs of your choicethyme, chives, rosemary, Italian seasoning, oregano, basil, cumin, etc.
Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment of a silicone baking mat. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. If you are using any cheese or herbs, stir them into the dry ingredients.
Pour the milk and olive oil over the dry ingredients at the same time, and quickly and gently stir until the dry ingredients are incorporated. This will leave a somewhat shaggy dough. Don't overmix.
Drop the biscuits by spoonful onto the parchment or mat. Sprinkle the tops with a little more cheese, if you'd like. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown and the tops bounce back up when lightly pressed. Cool on a rack, and serve.
These speedy drop biscuits are best eaten right out of the oven. If you have any leftover, rewarm them for a few minutes on an oven or toaster for best texture. Leftovers are also good for breakfast, toasted with butter and jam.
Making food for people, especially these Valentine Shortbread Heart Cookies with Blood Orange filling, is an act of love. Mr. Fred Rogers, my truest childhood hero, said, "Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”
Love is showing up, on repeat, day after day. It's the things you never knew you'd do. Like spending nights in the NICU next to your newborn's incubator. Or forgiving the hurt of a friend over and over again until you don't remember it anymore, which you hope is soon. Sometimes you are the target of your own love when you allow yourself to let go of guilt, grief, or fear.
"I know the secret of life: If you want to have loving feelings, do loving things."
Messing Up is OK
The wonderous thing about love, is that you will mess it up. That's just part of it.
Just like the verb cooking, loving calls for a lot doing. Trial, practice, mistake-making, and what can feel like wasted time and resources. But your flops are exactly how you learn to love better. The trick is to not give up. Keep practicing. Your acts refine as you practice them. Your acts become who you are. With a little tenacity your love eventually looks more like the soufflé you'd hoped for and less like the dog's breakfast.
Remember all this when you make these pretty little Valentine heart shortbread cookies for your beloveds. Each time you press your pinky into the dough, you imprint the part of yourself that is set on loving. The soft, unchilled dough gives way to make adorable little heart shaped vessels that hold a tad of sweet blood orange goodness you also have made.
As you form the little Valentine hearts, they will remind you of your beloveds. Some, like a crotchety uncle, hide their tenderness in crooked wrinkles. Some, like an emotional 8th grader, absolutely cannot contain their contents. Others are the picture of every-hair-in-place perfection. The likeness of each heart says they belong together on the plate. Their uniquenesses make the plateful interesting. Just like you and your beloveds.
Make a double boiler by simmering 3" deep of water in a large saucepan. In a medium/large stainless steel bowl, whisk together eggs, yolks, and sugar until sugar just starts to dissolve.
Whisk in both juices and zest.
Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water. Cook curd, stirring with a rubber spatula almost constantly, until it begins to thicken. It should have the consistency of loosely whipped cream. Remove from heat.
Stir in butter cubes all at once, stirring until butter is completely melted and fully incorporated. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove bits of zest and any solid egg proteins.
Chill at 2 hours before using in the cookies. This makes about 1 ¾ cups-- you will only use about ½ cup for the cookies. Store the rest for another purpose.
For the Vanilla Pinkprint Cookie Dough
Line two baking sheets with parchment or non-stick mats.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and salt on medium-high until light and fluffy, 2 - 3 minutes.
Beat in the egg and vanilla until fully incorporated and fluffy. On low speed, blend in the flour until just incorporated.
Using small scoop, scoop up a bit of dough and roll into a 1" ball with your palms. Place on the baking sheet. Using your pinky, press down near the top of the ball, making an indentation. Make another indentation right next to it. Make a third indentation centered in the hollow just below the first and second indentations to begin making a heart shape in the dough. Use your fingers to elongate the edge at bottom of the ball, and to make a dent in the edge of the top of the ball. Repeat, making fun little heart shapes, each with their own personality, using up the dough. You should have close to 20 hearts on each baking sheet.
Chill dough hearts until they are very firm, at least an hour. This part is critical, or you'll end up with a puddle in the end.
Putting the cookies all together:
Preheat oven to 350°. Bake one sheet for 7 minutes. Working quickly, once again use your pinky to depress the heart shape that has puffed up. It will be hot, so use caution. Using a very small spoon, like a baby or demitasse spoon, fill the depressions with cold blood orange curd. Don't over flow! Place the cookies back in the oven for another 5 - 7 minutes, keeping a close eye. You want them fully cooked and just barely beginning to go golden on the bottom, but not browning on the cookie itself. Allow to cook for two or three minutes on the baking sheet, to set up, them remove to a cooling rack to complete cooling. Store in an airtight container for up to a week, if they last that long.
Make It Your Own:Use store- bought lemon, lime, or raspberry curd instead of making your own. Easier yet, fill them with any red or pink jam.Save time by simply using your thumb to make an indent. No need to make a heart to make these cookies pretty and delish all year long.
Rustic Cake at Its Very Best
In my calculus, a rustic cake has a short list of ingredients, an interesting texture, and most importantly is adorned very plainly-- a straightforward glaze, scoop of ice cream or whipped cream, a smatter of nuts or seasonal fruit is all it takes. This Flourless Walnut Cake and its coffee or spice versions deliver on a promise of simplicity.
What a cake like this misses in complexity is made up with a certain honesty. It's like the fresh rosy-cheeked girl in a calico dress that smells of clothesline sunshine.
Or, our flourless walnut cake is like filtering your way through a crowded party, and meeting a gentle-souled person standing in the corner with whom to while the evening away.
Multi-tiered, colorful swooped, swirled, and filagree-frosted cakes sometimes disappoint on the part that really matters-- flavor. With flourless walnut cake or its coffee or spice versions, what you see is what you get. The beauty is natural, not forced.
Making the Flourless Walnut Cake
Starting with room temperature eggs, like with most baking, is imperative to the success of this recipe. Sugar simply cannot dissolve into cold yolks. Cold whites don't whip to their lofty heights. Here you spend a good deal of time building structure by dissolving sugar into yolks and stiffening the whites, so give yourself a guaranteed win by setting your eggs out in advance. (When I forget, I help the eggs warm up by placing them on a bowl of lukewarm water, changing it for more when it goes cold. Never try this with hot water or you make crack open a semi-cooked egg!)
Traditional recipes for this type of cake ask you to whip all of the whites into firm peaks at once. Here, I have you whip them to medium peaks at first, then add only a third of them to the yolk/sugar/nut mixture to lighten the batter. Then, you'll go back and whip the remaining two-thirds of the whites into firm stand-up-at-attention peaks before gently folding them into the batter. I have found this greatly increases the structure of the cake, resulting in a taller cake with less shrinkage when it comes out of the oven. Even though our dear little flourless walnut cakes are humble, they still like to make a good first impression.
If you chose, top either version with a pile of candied walnut halves, made the same way Sarah at Sustainable Cooks makes her pecans. The only difference is that I add 1 tablespoon water to the skillet along with the sugar. Make extra! Candied walnuts are great in salads or on a cheese platter, too.
Flourless Walnut cake is tender and delicious just as written, but the addition of coffee or baking spices takes it next level-- One recipe with three variations-- plain, Coffee, or Spice-- to suit your mood. Three primary ingredients, a few simple steps, and you'll have beautiful dessert cakes all winter.
2tablespoonsfinely ground coffee beans, plus 1 teaspoon for optional glaze
Coffee Glaze, Optional
1teaspoonfinely ground coffee beans
5tablespoonswarm or hot strong brewed coffee
½teaspoonpure vanilla extract
Flourless Walnut Cake
Preheat oven to 350°. Generously butter and flour (or use very finely ground walnuts) a 9-inch springform pan. Wrap the bottom of the pan with foil to catch any butter that melts out in the oven.
In a food processor, finely grind the walnuts. This will likely take only 8 -10 pulses. Stop just as they begin to clump. (Any further and you'll make walnut batter, not quite what we are after). Set the ground walnuts aside.
Seperate the eggs, placing the yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whip attachment. Beat the yolks with the sugar and salt 6-8 minutes until the mixture is fluffy and pale yellow. (You'll be glad you let your eggs come to room temperature for this-- the sugar more readily dissolves in eggs that are not cold.)
If you are making a plain flourless walnut cake, move on to step five. If you are making either a walnut-spice cake or a coffee flavored cake, add the spice mix or the finely ground coffee beans now and mix in thoroughly.
Remove the mixing bowl from the stand mixer and with a silicone or rubber spatula, fold the ground walnuts into the yolk mixture.
In a separate clean bowl free of any oils or grease, whip the egg whites, cream of tartar, and vanilla to medium peaks. (The cream of tartar helps stabilize the whipped egg whites.) Gently fold about a third of the egg whites into the walnut mixture. Then, whip the remaining egg whites once again until they just reach firm peaks. Fold them gently into the walnut mixture in two batches, folding until no more white streaks remain.
Place the cake batter into the prepared pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the cake is puffed, set (not jiggly) in the middle, and a cake tester (I use a bamboo skewer for this) inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool in the pan about 20 minutes before removing the springform ring. The cake will have sunk in the center and formed charming cracks and crags, perfectly normal for this rustic meringue-style cake.
Decorate with seasonal fruits, a dusting a powdered sugar, or the coffee glaze below. Seve with whipped cream.
Place the sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Add the vanilla and coffee, tablespoon at a time, and whisk until a glaze forms. It should cling to the whisk and drip off in thick long ribbons. Adjust by adding more powdered sugar or water to make it thicker or thinner. Drizzle the glaze from the whisk around the edges of the cake, allowing some to flow toward the center of the cake and some to drip off the edges. Allow the glaze to set for an hour before covering or serving.
To make the Coffee Glaze a Spice Glaze, replace the ground coffee with one teaspoon of the same spice blend you use in the cake, and replace the brewed coffee with warm or hot water.Garnish the spice cake with fresh fig halves, lightly roasted (6 minutes at 350, just to soften) plum prunes, tiny grape clusters, and/or unsprayed organic food-safe flowers or flower petals.
Even though school busses are rolling again, a blanket has been tossed on top of the summer sheets, and my favorite sweater has been brought out against the morning and evening chill, it is my first annual batch of Caraway Rye Black Bread that makes the welcome of autumn official at our house.
This black bread recipe originates with Dan Lepard's phenomenal 2011 cookbook, Short & Sweet. My adaptations reduce a little sugar, simplify the process, and make it completely dairy-free/vegan. But the texture, flavor profile, and proportions are singularly Dan's.
How to Use the Caraway Rye Black Bread
This glorious rye bread is perfect for dunking into a thick bean or vegetable soup like this for Halloween supper. Or try two slices filled with your favorite cheese, thinly sliced apple, and grainy mustard and grilled in a hot skillet or panini maker as an after leaf-raking treat. Or chunked up as a fondue dipper and served with a Grüner Veltliner or Riesling, it wins a lot of points in the stay-at-home romance category.
But here is my personal favorite-- A thick slice toasted, buttered, and with a generous schmear of butter or ghee and orange marmalade alongside a cup of hot coffee sings O Happy Day for breakfast.
About the Bread
Caraway Rye Black Bread is the lovechild of deli rye and pumpernickel. Deep dark richness comes from molasses, cocoa powder, and ground coffee beans or instant espresso powder. The unmistakable sweet warmth comes from a generous amount of caraway seeds typically found in a lighter rye bread.
The loaf is gorgeous and huge-- HUGE-- at nearly three pounds. Is that more bread than your household came consume at once? There's the solution for that! The dough is easily divided into two smaller loaves baked either in boules as directed or in standard loaf pans. The dough also makes fantastic dinner or sandwich rolls, so you could make one loaf along with a pan of those. Well wrapped, the baked bread freezes beautifully for up to three months.
The Caraway Rye Black Bread recipe creates a silky dough that bakes up into a springy fine crumb. Its soft moisture comes from grated carrot, which I routinely swap for peeled winter squash such as butternut.
I've worked to simplify the steps, none of which are difficult. The hands-on time is fairly short. As your Saturday or Sunday self-care project, there is plenty of time to relax with a book or watch movies while the dough is rising.
I hope this heavenly bread recipe will become your welcome to autumn tradition.
If a pumpernickel and a deli-style caraway rye had a baby, it would be this loaf. A fine-crumbed pumpernickel-style loaf flecked with carrot and caraway just right for cool weather soup dipping, panini, cheese plates, fondue dipping and good old sandwiches. This vegan/dairy-free version makes one 3-pound loaf, two typically sized loaves, or great dinner rolls.
2¼teaspoonsinstant dry yeastSAF brand is my go-to.
2Tablespoonsinstant espresso powder or very finely ground coffee or espresso beans
1 - 1½Tablespoonscaraway seeds
2teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1 ½cupswarm water (110°-115°) and more as needed
¼cupmolasses, dark or blackstrap
3Tablespoonsolive, avocado, or safflower oil
2cupscarrot or winter squash such as butternut, peeled and grateda fine grate will make the carrot to disappear into the dough- a course grate will make pretty orange flecks in the dough, your choice.
Combine the dry ingredients (all-purpose flour through salt) in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Alternatively, do this by hand in a very large mixing bowl.
Measure the warm water into a 2-cup measure. Add molasses and oil, and stir to thoroughly combine.
With the mixer on low speed, add the water mixture gradually to the dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the carrots and increase the speed to medium. Knead for about five minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Aim for a dough that is smooth, moist, and tacky, but pulls away from the bow. leaving just a few moist streaks on the bowl. If your dough is too soft, add additional AP or rye flour a tablespoon at a time. If it is too dry, add water a tablespoon at a time, allowing time for the flour to absorb it before adding more.
Oil a large lowl. With oiled hands, shape the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Flip it over a time or two to lightly coat it in oil. Leave it seam side down, covered with a dishcloth, to rest in a warm place for 1 -2 hours until the dough has just doubled in size.
After the first rise, gently press down on the dough. On a lightly oiled surface and with oiled hands, fold the edges of the dough into the center and press down. Do this again (twice total) to shape the dough into a tight, smooth ball. If you are baking it on a baking sheet, lightly oil the baking sheet and place the dough seam side down on the baking sheet. If you are baking your loaf in a Dutch oven (5-6 qt. is best) first place the dough on a sheet of parchment tucked into a small skillet or pan about the width of your Dutch oven, and place your Dutch oven into your oven. (This allows the dough to rise while your Dutch oven is preheating.) With either baking method, cover the dough with a dishcloth for its final rise in a warm place for one hour.
Preheat the oven to 425°/ 220C. Brush the top of the loaf with water and scatter another 1 teaspoon of caraway seed on top, if desired. With a very sharp knife and without deflating the dough, cut an "X", a line down the center, a half moon, or wheat-shaped dashes into the top. Or leave it to make its own fough gash as it expands in the oven. If you are baking the loaf in a Dutch oven, use the parchment corners to gently lift the dough into the hot Dutch oven. If you are baking it on a baking sheet, place the sheet in the oven.
Bake for 20 minutes at 425°/ 220C. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°/ 180C and bake for another 20-25 minutes. (Reduce the time if you've divided the dough into smaller loaves or rolls.) The loaf will be ready when it has a very well browned bottom crust and sounds hollow (like a drum) when you firmly pat it. Don't be afraid to give it more time in 5-minute increments-- you definitely don't want it underdone.
Remove the loaf to a cooling rack. Allow the load to cool to the touch completely before cutting into it. Slicing into a hot loaf of bread turns it into a compressed gooey mess, so be patient for this most excellent reward.
Or how to say thank you for a huge bag of summer squash and mean it.
Why people grow so much zucchini is a perfectly legitimate question. As a species we just never catch on that just three zucchini seeds will feed the whole neighborhood. How do we possibly forget year after year? The jokes about the overabundance of zucchini and the lengths people go to get rid of it are only funny because they expose this human flaw.
Neighbors drop off squashes the size of baseball bats to your front porch, ring the bell and run so you can't refuse it. Little old ladies give away brown paper grocery bags of zucchini at every church function. And if you grow a garden, you're rolling in it by mid-summer.
Even using the grate-and-hide technique of sneaking zucchini into everything-- meatloaf, chili, soups and stews, and baked goods, there is only so much one can be expected to eat.
I worked out this brightly-flavored zucchini cake as a way to draw down an enourmous supply I was gifted from a generous neighbor. It completely suits my hankering for unassuming cakes, and its sunny lemon-ginger burst is a good excuse for turning on the oven in the middle of August.
Now I get a little happy when I'm gifted a huge bag of summer squash, and my thanks are sincere.
Why is this Lemon Ginger Zucchini Cake Special?
In this cake, I swap the typical butter for olive oil. Olive oil adds phenomonal rich flavor that sings with the lemon. The technique remains similar to that of a butter cake, but here the olive oil is added to the whipped eggs and sugar, turning it into a creamy fluff you just know will be good.
I used to make this cake with all-purpose flour only, but have recently added finely-ground almond flour to add a soft airiness to cakes, and it works really well here.
The copius amount of ginger in this cake comes in two forms-- freshly grated and ground-- to amp the gingery quality. Lemon and ginger are a match made in heaven, so I use a lot of lemon zest zing along with the double-dose of ginger. This large cake can hold all this flavor. It is a flavor bomb, not a flavor whisper.
The crunchy glaze-- think glazed donut and you've got the idea-- is due to the addition of granulated sugar to the typical powdered sugar. Just make sure and paint it on while the cake is still somewhat warm for this magic to happen.
Tips for Success
In this cake and all others, start with room temperature eggs.
A stand or handheld mixer is best for the eggs/sugar/olive oil steps. It is also good for gently beginning to incorporate the flour mixture, but stop there and pick up your spatula. Folding in the zucchini, ginger, and lemon zest by hand will automatically involve the streaky bits of flour without toughening the glutens in the all-purpose flour. Your tender result will make you glad you did.
All kinds of summer squash work. I've even made this with peeled young spaghetti squash to great success. If you're using an older/larger zucchini, take out the watery seeds, and gently squeeze the grated squash over the sink to remove some of the moisture to avoid a heavy wet cake.
This turns out a large cake-- 2" tall and 9" across, making 12-15 generous slices. If you want to take it easy on cake, or are like me in a small household, this recipe fits neatly into three 6" round cakepans, with six slices each. This way we can have a little splurge, and stash two cakes in the freezer for on-the-fly entertaining or when the mood strikes again.
Made with olive oil, almond and AP flours, ginger in two forms, and loads of lemon zest, this bright rustic cake makes good use of excess garden zucchini. It's the perfect reason to use the oven on a hot summer day.
3 cupszucchini or other summer squash, finely gratedif large, remove seeds before grating and gently squeezed some of its water off over the sink
4lemons, zested grated reserve juice for glaze
3Tablespoonsfresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1¼cupsalmond flour, finely ground
1teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoonbaking soda
4eggs, room temperature
1¼cupsextra virgin olive oil
1cupconfectioners (powdered) sugar
¼cupfreshly squeezed lemon juice
For the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously butter a 9" springform pan, 9" x 2" round pan, or three 6" round pans. Dust the pan/s with flour and tap out any excess.
Grate the zucchini, lemon zest, and ginger and set aside.
Combine the flour baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk together well. Set aside.
In a stand mixer with paddle attachement or with a handheld mixer, beat together the sugar and eggs until creamy and slightly fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Again turn the mixer to medium speed and add the olive oil in a steady stream. Continue mixing in the olive oil until fully incorporated and quite fluffy, another 3 minutes. Again scrape down the sides of the bowl.
With the mixer at low speed, quickly add the flour mixture one cup at a time, not waiting for it to fully incorporate. Turn the mixer off and remove the mixing bowl.
Add the grated zucchini, lemon zest, and ginger to the bowl, and gently stir with a rubber or silicone spatula, folding up from the bottom, until the grated ingredients are evenly mixed through the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared cakepan/s and smooth the top and bake. For the 9" pans, bake for 50-60 minutes until the top springs bake when gently pushed and the edges are just beginning to pull away from the pan, and a bamboo skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. for the 6" pans, bake 35-45 minutes. It is easy to underbake this cake, especially the larger pans, so take extra care to make sure they are done in the center.
Allow the cake to cool 15 minutes before inverting on a cooling rack. While the cake is cooling, make the glaze.
For the glaze:
In a small mixing bowl, whisk the granulated and powdered sugars to break up the powerded sugar clumps. Whisk in the lemon juice until smooth and no tiny bits of powdered sugar remain. Invert the cake onto the cooling rack and place a peice of parchment, wax paper, or a large plate directly under it to catch the glaze drips and make cleanup easier. While the cake is still warm, generously paint on the glaze with a pastry brush. Allow the cake to completely cool before slicing.
The first cake on 101-Mile Kitchen is like a country summer day on a plate. It is rustic in nature-- meaning it has textural interest and isn't overly sweet or elaborate. It is unfussy. It is flourless, therefore can be served to our gluten-sensitive beloveds. And most of all it uses fresh, seasonal, local ingredients.
A decade ago I played with and wrote about the magical flavor triad of sweet corn, blueberries, and buttermilk. I had two inspirations at the time. First by Claudia Fleming's sweet corn ice cream recipe from her famous out-of-print book, The Last Course, from her time as the innovative pastry chef at Grammercy Tavern in the 1990's. Tim Mazurak of the delicious blog Lottie + Doof created a blueberry galette in a cornmeal crust and served it with the same sweet corn ice cream. Swoon.
My addition of buttermilk to the corn and blueberries brought bucolic thoughts of summer full circle. I promptly forgot about this happy flavor song until now.
This simple cake has ingredients from the farm. Before you scoff at the idea of sweet corn in your dessert, remember that peak-season fresh sweet corn is much sweeter than zucchini, an ingredient that commonly makes its way into cakes and sweet breads.
As an aside, this flourless cake will be gluten free if your cornmeal is certified that way. The generous dose of buttermilk makes it moist, tender, and subliminally tangy.
The recipe makes enough batter for one 8" round or 8" square cake. The former will result in a taller cake, the latter a shorter cake that will bake more quickly. It also makes two perfectly tall 6" round cakes. As a household of two, six-inchers are my frequent choice. One for now, the other to be tightly wrapped and popped into the freezer for impromptu company or when the dessert mood strikes.
About homemade cakes in general: Please take the time to bring butter, eggs, and milk or buttermilk to room temperature. This is critical to achieving a good emulsion. If you've ever made a cake batter that turned curdly part way through, it is because cold ingredients just cannot emulsify. Your butter may get nice and fluffy, but plop a cold egg into it and it will seize back up into tiny bits rather than become one with the egg. The same goes for the milk or buttermilk you may add. Temperature matters!
The Blueberry Compote
One fanciful learning I've had this summer is to use berry-flavored vinegar in place of lemon juice in berry desserts. Berries often need a little acid to brighten them up and to balance their sweetness. The typical remedy is lemon juice. In several trials I've found that replacing lemon juice with berry vinegar gives the same lift while amplifying the berry flavor. Either works just fine in this recipe. Use what you have.
This Blueberry Compote recipe makes a lot. It can easily be halved, but it is so wonderful on pancakes, waffles, and vanilla (or sweet corn) ice cream. Don't cut yourself short.
The magical trio-- sweet corn, blueberries, and buttermilk-- come together in this summery dessert. Rustic yet special, it makes a great summer gathering dessert and an indulgent breakfast the next morning.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously butter two 6" round cake pans or one 8" round cakepan, and generously dust the pans with cornmeal.
In a medium bowl, mix the stone ground cornmeal, almond flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
Using a stand or handheld mixer, beat butter to smooth it out. Gradually add the sugar, ¼ cup at a time, and continue beating until the mixture as paled in color and is light and fluffy. Add the molasses and beat until thoroughly incorporated into the butter mixture. Scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl several times during this step.
Add the eggs, one at a time and beating well after each one. Add the vanilla. Gradually add the buttermilk a little at a time to avoid it splashing out, and to keep the mixture emulsified. If the mixture breaks/curdles during this step, stop adding ingredients and turn your mixer to high speed for a minute or two. If the ingredients are room temperature, that should bring it back together. Scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl several times during this step.
Gently add the dry ingredients, again scraping down the sides of your mixing bowl several times during this step, until the cake batter is well combined.
If you are using two 6" pans, evenly divide the batter between them, or if you are using the 8" pan fill it with all the batter. Bake 20-25 minutes, until the center is set and a knife point or bamboo stick cake tester comes out almost clean. The center will feel puffy and springy when lightly tapped.
Allow the cake to cool in the pans for 15-20 minutes before removing the cake from the pans, and allow them to cool completely on a cooling rack.
Serve individual slices on a puddle of Blueberry Compote and a top with a tuft of lightly whipped cream, or if using the cake all at once, place the cake on a serving plate atop a puddle of Blueberry Sauce, top with a billow of lightly whipped cream, and pass a bowl of Blueberry Compote to your guests to serve themselves more.
Place blueberries, sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan.
Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until the berries have turned from dusky blue to deep purple, and some of them have started to pop open.
Combine the cornstarch and 2Tbsp. water in a small bowl. While constantly stirring, quickly and thoroughly stir the cornstarch mixture into the blueberries. Return to a boil for one minute.
Stir in the lemon juice or berry vinegar. Allow to cool.
Store in the refrigerator until using. You can easily cut this recipe in half, but you'll love having extra sauce for pancakes, waffles, and ice cream!
How to release a cake from its pan begins a series of kitchen wisdom every home cook should know. These quick tips will make your kitchen efforts more fun, easy, and successful.
Have you ever baked a cake only to have the top of it stick to the bottom of the pan in chunks, taking your visions of a perfect cake with it? Me too. Here's how to get over that.
How to Release a Cake From Its Pan
First, be sure to follow the recipe directions for prepping the pan. If it asks you to butter/grease or flour the pan, so do generously.
Be sure the cake has sufficiently cooled after coming out of the oven before attempting to release it from its pan. The pan should be comfortable warm to the touch, but not hot. This allows the sugars and proteins in the batter to set and gives time for steam to loosen the cake. If the pan is too hot, the chances of a clean release are small.
Use a knife, blade angled and pressed against the cake pan. Circle the blade all the way around the edge to begin loosening the cake.
Next, gently start to tap the pan, and gently bounce it up and down like you are waking a beloved from a deep sleep. You'll know the cake is ready to release when you feel it lightly bouncing against the pan. If the cake doesn't easily budge, leave it to cool just another minute or so and try again. Be gentle! If you are a bit rough, your cake can rip and leave it's beautiful flat top layer stuck.
If you've forgotten about your cake and left it to completely cool it may stick as well. First, test the above steps. If at first tap it doesn't budge, place it back in a warm oven for just a few minutes. This will allow the pan and the edges of the cake to warm up a bit, allowing the sugars release.
Of course, if your cake does come out of the pan missing parts, use a metal spatula to remove the stuck on parts and patch it back together. These things happen, and are nothing a dusting of powdered sugar, a drizzle of glaze, or a fluffy frosting can't minimize!
Wilton's Cake Baking and Serving Guide offers so much information! The capacity of batter and cooking times and temperatures for every size of pan; how many servings to expect, and a lot more.
Bake through the comprehensive classic recipes in Flo Braker's out-of-print book The Simple Art of Perfect Baking, first released in 1997 and updated in 2003, and you'll be a cake baking pro in no time.
I have a strong difference of opinion with myself. Brightly colored vibrant foods are my first choices. The more colors in the market basket or on a plate the better. The oranges and greens, reds and purples, and occasional black foods make me salivate just to look at.
Yet when it comes to desserts, I'm drawn to the modest beiges, creamy whites, and browns of all shades. My affinity is for rustic, crumbly sweets that out-perform their appearances. There is a place for sprinkles and colorful frosting and fancy flourishes, but for day-to-day desserts the homier the better.
Nutty meringue cookies have been around for decades. The difference here is that I've developed this recipe to feature as much hazelnut flavor and texture as the egg white meringue will hold. Don't let this quiet beige cookie fool you-- they pack in a lot of hazelnut along with their very pleasant crispy and chewy texture.
Hazelnut Meringue Cookies are terrific served with summer fruit platters, any kind of fruit, chocolate, or caramel ice creams or sorbets, (like my Strawberry Sorbet and DF Ice Cream duo!) They are also delicious as a coffee or tea break treat.
The recipe contains no gluten, no grain, and no additional fat besides that which is natural to the nuts.
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½tsp.almond extract (optional)this magnifies the nutty flavor but use only a little!
Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment or non-stick baking mats.
Finely chop hazelnuts in a food processor or by hand, if using whole. Set aside.
In an upright mixer or using a hand mixer, begin whipping egg whites on medium speed. As they begin to get bubbly and foamy, add in the extracts and salt. Increase mixer speed to high and continue beating until eggs white turn solid white. Begin adding sugar in, one Tablespoon at a time in fairly quick succession, until all the sugar is added.
Continue whipping egg whites until they are very stiff and hold stiff peaks, and the sugar is completely dissolved into them. (Rub a little of the mixture between your fingers to feel if the sugar is dissolved.
Using a spatula, gently but thoroughly fold the hazelnuts into the egg whites in three batches. The mixture will become a little stiff at the end-- that's OK.
Using a one Tablespoon scoop or spoon, drop the batter into the baking sheets. With lightly damp fingers, gently pat the tops of the cookies down. (They will not spread as they bake.) Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden around the edges and on the bottom. Cool on baking sheets.
These will keep in a sealed container for several days, and freeze well.
Make It Your Own:This recipe works well with chopped walnuts and almond, too!If you like your cookie a bit chewier, add 1/4 cup less nuts to the whipped egg whites.
You’re in the right place! I’m Pam Spettel, home cooking expert and guide, and I’m here to show you how to break up with cooking and hospitality anxiety, learn how to use recipes as guides rather than strict rules, and let your cooking intuition and confidence soar.
Superpower: Dreaming up recipes that work, serving them to my friends and family, and writing little stories about how cooking them well is the same as loving well.
Inspiration: Ingredients! The fresh, colorful, fragrant, local, seasonal ingredients found in the Pacific Northwest are my creative medium.
Heroes: Local food and wine producers– the people who keep me, my family, and our community nourished and happy.