buttermilk-wheat cake with caramel glaze.

buttermilk-wheat cake with caramel glaze.

I’m pretty much a sucker for any treat that involves the words “caramel” or “caramelized.” I can’t help myself. Whether it’s chocolate with caramel, or caramelized onions, or coconut-caramel cookies, or anything topped with caramel sauce, I’m fairly certain to be on board. So when I was sifting through the annals of Lottie and Doof and came across this favorite cake of his, my culinary interest was immediately piqued.

And, as luck would have it, as I was pondering my next foray into the world of cake, I had on hand a fair bit – a ton, actually – of whole-wheat pastry flour that was sent to me by the good folks at the Missouri Grain Project. The Project is a worker-owned collective that mills grains grown at the Terra Bella Farm, also in Missouri. Although Lottie and Doof’s recipe doesn’t call for any type of wheat flour, I thought a mixture of this nice, flavorful pastry flour and regular ol’ cake flour would create a nice, nutty-but-still-fluffy finished product. So how about you come along for the ride, eh?

mixing fixing futzing etc.


Simple things are so heartening, which is definitely part of the allure of this particular concoction: a fluffy buttermilk cake topped with a simple caramel sauce. No layers, no fussy frosting, no surprises or twists. The lack of complications was also inuring to my benefit as Kenan and I were due at a small gathering in the evening, and I had decided to undertake this little escapade at the last minute. So I started in the late afternoon, measuring and laying out ingredients: flour, bakings powder and soda (granted, that is certainly not correct, but I like it), butter, sugar, salt, eggs, and buttermilk. I sifted together the dry ingredients, creamed the butter and sugar, added the eggs, and then mixed in the buttermilk and the dry ingredients. The only adjustments I made to the recipe were to use a bit of brown sugar in addition to white, as well as the aforementioned partial flour substitution. When everything was mixed together and ready to rumble, I poured the batter into a cake pan and popped it in the oven. And it baked up really, really beautifully. The wheat flour seemed to impede the rising a tiny bit, but the cake still turned out quite fluffy and soft, and had turned a gorgeous, nut-brown color. I was very excited to eat it, but, like a good bringer of treats, I kept my sweet tooth under control and refrained from tasting until I had brought the cake to the party.*

Once my cake friend had cooled off, I started on the glaze, which is also deliciously simple. I heated some sugar, cream and a pinch of salt in a saucepan until they reached candy temperature and poured the sauce over the cake. By the time we had walked over to our friends’ apartment, the glaze was set and the cake was looking shiny and sticky and very tempting.

* Okay, actually, I may have “accidentally” shaved a tiny, teensy bit off the top just to make sure it wasn’t, like, poisoned or something, but you can keep a secret, right?

oh my goodness.


Waiting for cake-eating time was excruciating. First we chatted and caught up with our friends, and then we ate dinner, and then there was the obligatory holding period in which everyone (or at least me) was wanting to eat cake but not quite ready to own up to it. But then, finally, it was time for dessert. And, I have to say, holy handbaskets, this cake was really, really good. Seriously. I absolutely understand why the dude over at Lottie and Doof says he doesn’t share it with anyone: it’s fluffy and chewy and not too sweet and, most importantly in my opinion, there’s just something that feels cozy and heartening about it. I was also really pleased that I had decided to use some wheat flour; it added just enough of character and body to spice things up a bit, taste-wise. So thank you, Lottie and Doof, for alerting the world to the existence of such cakely deliciousness.

And you can partake in the aforesaid deliciousness, too, you know, just below the fold.

fantastic buttermilk cake with caramel glaze


recipes and funtimes, after the jump

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fig newtons.

fig newtons.

When I was a kid, I loved me some fig newtons. I remember them being moist and chewy and just the right size for sneaking out of the kitchen. Plus, they had actual fruit (or rather, “fruit”) in them, so they didn’t quite count as “real” cookies. Having eaten a few of these guys as an adult, however, I’ve been disappointed by the chalky, gristly quality of the dough and the over-sweetness of the filling. So I was really excited when I came across an organic, planet-friendly, small-bakery type of fig newton at Urban Rustic a few weekends ago. And they were really quite good; they were flavorful and chewy and not nearly as gristly as the packaged kind. But they were still a little bland, and I started thinking to myself, “you know what? I can probably make these cookies myself, and make them better.” So I set out to do exactly that.

figgy dough.

kenan with cookie

I happened to have a recipe in one of my cookbooks for “fig newton dough,” but the book, curiously enough, did not include a recipe for filling. Taking a closer look informed me that this cookie (which I was beginning to suspect was intended as more of a stand-alone cookie than a foil for fig filling) had figs and raisins and oats in the dough. But stranger things have happened to my tummy, so I decided to go along with it, more or less: I’d make this crazy fig-filled dough and then fill it with more figs and other jam and fruit things, and hopefully end up with something at least approximating the cookies I knew and loved. But, you know, actually good, rather than just good in memory.

Having hashed all of this over, I schlepped over to the Garden to buy some fig foodstuffs. I picked up figs, raisins, apricots, fig jam, and some wild local honey for the filling. Then I scurried back home, excited for this new little adventure. I laid out all the ingredients and got ready to bake.

When I started to combine the ingredients as listed in the recipe, however, I thought that the proportions seemed a bit off. The recipe noted equal amounts of flour, figs and raisins, but it seemed to me that that particular combination would make for a dough that would be really tricky to roll out. In fact, even though the recipe mentioned something about filling at the end of the instructions, I became fairly convinced that the recipe as written would turn out a dough that wasn’t intended to be filled or rolled around anything. But I also thought it would be crazy to make a fig newton without the newton (in my mind, the “newton” is the filling part, for some reason) – why, that would give you nothing more than an overladen oatmeal cookie, which was not what I was in the market to bake.

In order to remedy this chunky situation, I cut back significantly on the amount of figs and raisins called for and added a bit more flour because the dough was seriously wet and sticky and seemed like it would be a nightmare to roll out as prepared. I also used about two-thirds cake flour (which is what is called for in the recipe) and one-third wholegrain hot cereal (uncooked, of course) (the one I used was made by Bob’s Red Mill, but any whole-grain flour or cereal will do). I changed up the flour because I thought it would add a nice bit of nuttiness, and also because I wasn’t really concerned about the cookies being puffy or flaky, which is generally why one would use cake flour. Anyhow, then I cut the dough in half, shaped each half into a little disc, flattened them out, and let ’em hang out in the fridge for a little while to cool their heels and firm up.

figgy filling and falderal.

making soldiers

And then it was dough time. I didn’t really have a clear idea of what to do with the filling, so I just winged it: I chopped up some more dried figs and put them in a bowl. Then I added some chopped dried apricots, a few raisins, and a bit of honey. And with that simple little admixture, my figgy guys were ready to be assembled. I got the dough out of the fridge, dusted my work surface with flour, and rolled one of the dough discs into a wide circle.

And then… I was a bit stumped as to how best to proceed. I’m sure you know what fig newtons look like: they’re little squares of dough filled with a smooth, figgy substance, with two straight and cleanly demarcated edges. But my dough and filling were both really chunky, and certainly weren’t going to lend themselves easily to being forced into tight little packages. So I improvised. I spread some filling over the surface of the dough, leaving a border around the edge, and rolled everything up. This turned out not to work so very well; as you can imagine, rolling the whole thing up into one log made for a really, really thick cookie. So I had to chop them up pretty good, and by the time I had gotten them into manageable chunks, they were a far cry from picturesque (Kenan and I destroyed the visual evidence of this first, aesthetically disastrous attempt). But they were still gonna taste good, so I plopped them on my baking sheet and threw ’em in the oven. And despite their ugliness, they baked up really well: the outside took on a nice dark golden brown color and looked really appealing. The only problem was that they didn’t quite have enough filling; I wanted to get some real chewy fig taste along with the crunch of the cookie part.

Luckily, I still had more dough to use, so for the next tray, I thought better of my filling and rolling system. This time, after I had rolled the dough out into a circle, I cut it into wide strips and spread a good bit of filling on each of the strips and then rolled the long edges of the strips up so they looked like little mini-logs. Then I sliced them up and they looked much, much neater and prettier than their visually challenged cousins.

And after those guys were cooked and cooled and ready, we gave them a taste. And they were super duper. Really. Chewy and tasty and crispy and crunchy and nutty and fruity. They bore just enough resemblance (as far as I’m concerned) to actual fig newtons, but they had their own character, too. They had texture and spiciness and oomph. In short, I liked them.

So maybe you should give ’em a shot, eh?


fig newtons

recipes and figgy times, after the jump

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apple strudel.

apple strudel.

It’s a trip to Germany this week at afternoons in tablespoons. Last weekend, Kenan and I planned to head over to Chris and Jodi‘s place to catch up on Lost and do some hanging out. Chris is part German, spent some time in Berlin last year and seems to have a general delight for all things Deutschland. So when I was scheming about things to make for the gathering, I immediately decided strudel would be sufficiently delicious and German-themed. I’d never tried it before, so I thought it’d be fun to give it a whirl.

Ja, voll (yea, verily).

chopping apples

And as luck would have it, my new, hefty, exciting baking tome had a recipe for strudel. I was most intrigued by the dough: strudel is made not like traditional pastry, for which one prepares a dough that has a very high fat to lean ratio and needs to be turned one or two times before use, but rather with a very elastic paste that is rolled out and then stretched until it reaches almost the breaking point. Apples are not exactly in season, but I decided to go with an apple strudel anyway, because none of the other fillings suggested in the book looked alluring, and also because those were the only passable fruits I could find at our local grocery store.

I started on Saturday morning, stopping at the farmer’s market and grocery store to get fruit and other sundries. Back home, I got cooking. I placed some flour, water and salt in my new standing mixer and kneaded the dough for 10 minutes, until it got super stretchy and supple and sticky. Then I coated it with some oil, wrapped it up in plastic and set it aside to rest. Resting the dough allows the gluten structure to relax; if the dough is not allowed to rest, it can overstress the gluten and cause the dough to tear and become tough. After a few hours of resting, the dough was ready to roll out.

I laid a linen cloth out on my work surface and dusted it heavily with flour. The fabric facilitates the stretching process and also allows the filled dough to be easily rolled up and transferred to the baking pan. At any rate, I then placed my little doughy friend in the center of the cloth and rolled it out. Because the dough is so elastic, it’s incredibly easy to work with as long as you keep dusting the work surface and the top of the dough with flour to prevent sticking. After it was rolled out, I coated the rolled dough with some butter, covered it, and allowed it to rest for another 20 minutes or so.

In the meantime, I prepared the ingredients for the filling. I heated up the oven and then peeled, cored and chopped a mixture apples (granny smiths, jonagolds and pippins) and stirred them together with some sugar and spices. Then I weighed out some bread crumbs and mixed them with some melted butter. After that, it was time to give the dough its final stretching and fill the strudel. I enlisted Kenan to help me with the stretching process, as it’s a bit of a two-person job. We stood on either side of the work table and gently slid our hands to the middle of the dough, lifting and gently pulling the dough toward ourselves. We got a few little tears, which I chalked up to our being first-time strudel stretchers. I was a bit worried about the tears, but I was able to patch the holes up fairly satisfactorily with some of the dough from the sides. Then I coated the dough with a bit more butter, sprinkled the whole lot with the bread crumb mixture, and strewed the apples at the edge. Then it was time to roll everything up, which was a bit of a harrowing task.

You see, when the dough is stretched out, it’s about 21 inches long and 15 inches wide; not exactly petite. But I rolled up my sleeves and went at it, using the towel to fold the dough over the apples and quickly (or rather, as quickly as possible) roll everything up into an at least somewhat picturesque little package. I was then faced with another problem: getting the sizable strudel log (ahem) onto my tiny, Brooklyn kitchen-sized baking pan. The dough, as I mentioned, is already stretched to the breaking point and fairly difficult to handle without tearing, which further complicated an already delicate task. I ended up dealing with the situation by gently nudging and cajoling the strudel onto the pan with a combination of shaking and prodding and then bending the dough into a sort of crescent shape once the bulk of it was safely on the pan. Then I cut some steam vents along the top of the strudel and coated the lot with some more butter. Then it was into the oven with my little German guy.

Baking and Pastry says the strudel should take about 45 minutes to bake, but for whatever reason, my oven took forever with this thing. But eventually, well past the 75 minute mark, the thing looked done: ever-so-slightly golden brown and crackly around the edges and top. I took it out of the oven and wrapped it up for its journey over the Chris and Jodi’s place.

lost and treats.

wall of apples

Over at Chris and Jodi’s place, we ordered some food and settled into a couple episodes of Lost and some growlers full of delicious beer. After we had done a small modicum of digesting, we tucked into the strudel. The crust was incredibly difficult to cut through and necessitated an inordinate amount of sawing. Taste-wise, it was rather bland: the texture was nice, but it didn’t have the buttery tenderness that I look for in a good pastry. The filling was good, but not terribly inspiring or amazing. All in all, I think there are some improvements I could make to this guy, but it’s a pretty good starting place nonetheless.


apple strudel


get your precise prussian recipe below the fold.

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bittersweet chocolate dipped macaroons

bittersweet chocolate dipped macaroons

Snow days. You probably heard all about it on the news: massive snowstorm batters the east coast, end of the world as we know it, we’ll never be able to leave our houses again, Fox News makes outrageously irresponsible and and misinformed statements about global warming, yadda yadda yadda. What it meant for me was that I got to leave work at 1 p.m. on a Wednesday. It was amazing; it felt like skipping out of school at recess. And what was even better than the coming home early was that there was ample time to bake. So I pulled out Elinor Klivans’ wonderful Big Fat Cookies, looking for an inspiring idea for cookies. I’ve made many of the recipes from Klivans’ book before, but not in recent years, as my copy lives at my mom’s house. But I was wanting to make some of those recipes again, so a few weeks ago, I went out and bought a new copy, and I’ve since spent a bit of time reacquainting myself with the aforementioned big, fat cookies. And so, on that snowy, blustery afternoon, I chose a recipe for chocolate-dipped macaroons, because, well, macaroons are awesome. Let’s get to it, shall we?

oh, macaroons.

shredded coconut

I made a quick list of ingredients and went, perhaps foolishly, back out into the snow to the grocery store (luckily, I had Kenan at my side, for moral support and also to make sure I didn’t disappear under a snowdrift). Somehow, we survived the muck and arrived back at the apartment, armed with baking supplies and treats from Champion, ready for some snow day baking time.

These coconut-chocolate babies are lovely and simple. First, I mixed together some sweetened shredded coconut, sweetened condensed milk, salt, and vanilla and almond extracts. Ms. Klivans’ recipe calls for a surprising amount of almond extract (1 1/2 teaspoons), which, even as someone who adores the stuff and uses it every chance she can get, I found a bit excessive. But I decided to trust the lady’s tastebuds and adjust things later if need be. In any case, then I whipped a large egg white with cream of tartar until it formed soft peaks, added some sugar, and whipped again until it formed those oh-so-desirable shiny, stiff peaks. Then I folded the whites into the coconut and we were ready for business. I dropped the cookies in large spoonfuls onto a lined baking sheet and popped them in the oven. Roughly 20 minutes later, they had puffed up a bit and gotten ever so slightly golden brown. I let them cool completely and then did the chocolate dip thing, melting bittersweet chocolate with a tiny bit of oil to make it shiny and then allowing it to cool just enough to thicken slightly. Then I dipped the bottoms of my cookie friends into the chocolate and flipped them upside down, allowing the chocolate to set completely.

holding hands, eating macaroons.

mounds of coconut

Even though we wanted to keep our little mounds of coconut happiness to ourselves, we decided it would be more neighborly (and better, in the end, for the well-being of our stomachs) if we brought them downstairs to share with Coach n’ Boots. And they were spectacular: chewy, a bit crispy on the outside, moist, and just generally delectable. I think my doubts about the amount of almond were correct, however: the macaroons were delicious, but the taste of almond was just a bit overwhelming. My other concern about these guys is the amount of processed stuff that goes into them. I have no desire to know what sweetened shredded coconut actually is, but I’m sure making it involves lots of chemicals and processing and other generally icky stuff. And I have similar concerns with sweetened condensed milk. All of this is not to denigrate the recipe; it’s fantastic, and they’re probably the best macaroons I’ve ever had. I’m just saying that I’ll probably want to return to the macaroon, to see if I can’t make something just as moist and incredible with regular, unsweetened, unprocessed shredded coconut and, you know, without the canned milk.

But for now, throw caution to the wind and luxuriate in some awesome macaroons. I mean, it’s certainly still winter outside, and how else are we all going to keep our winter padding on?


baked macaroons

make macaroons to your hearts delight and get yr recipes, over this-a-way

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chocolate pie!

chocolate pie!

Chocolate pie, my friends. I think that’s pretty much all one needs to know. Last weekend was super duper cold in this city, and the cold always ups my craving for comfort foods. We had a small get-together on Friday night, wherein Boots made delicious, delectable pizza, and I pulled out a recipe for a chocolate souffle pie from the good folks over at chocolate bar. I’d made it before, a few years ago, and had nothing but fond memories of sinking my teeth into this rich, chocolatey, melty pie; I was certainly ready to relive the experience.

mixings and fixings.

crusty guy

chocolate bar’s recipe is fantastic, and fantastically simple: a basic sweet pie crust is filled with a rich chocolate pudding-esque liquid and then baked for about an hour. The result is a pie that is creamy, indulgent and messy (well, at least messy if you don’t chill it, which I don’t). The only thing that’s even remotely a to-do is the crust, which really is only time-intensive insofar as it involves a modicum of advance planning. I picked up some ingredients on my way home from work on Friday and set to work straight away, so the crust would have ample time to chill before any baking happened. In my food processor, I mixed together some flour, sugar, salt and butter, and then added iced water until the dough started to clump together. Then I turned it out onto a piece of parchment paper, wrapped it up and placed it in the chill box for a few hours. Then it was downstairs to Coach and Boots’ place to see what was happening.

I’ve mentioned Boots several times in this here blog-thing, but what I don’t believe I’ve written about are her prodigious cooking skills. Seriously, the lady cooks a mean dinner. And what’s even more remarkable about that particular talent of hers is her ability to look in her fridge, see five or six seemingly (at least to the untrained (i.e., my) eye) disparate and non-complementary ingredients and magically create an awesome, hearty, tasty meal. What’s more, she never seems to make the exact same thing twice. Seriously, I may be pretty good at this whole baking thing, but Boots is an artist when it comes to meal preparation. All of which is to say that her meals are looked forward to and enjoyed with relish on the part of Kenan and myself. Which is why we went knocking on her door on Friday night, bearing pie dough and coyly asking what was happening for dinner. And sure enough, Boots was in the middle of chopping up vegetables and rolling out pizza dough, and Coach was breaking out a new tin of white truffle oil (holy moly). It just so happened that Chris and Jodi were coming over, and there was more than enough pizza to go around. Hooray for comfort food.

high time for pie time.

slicey guy

Everyone chipped in and helped make the pizza, and it was lovely and amazing, and we ate each small, delectable pie with joy in our bellies. After the pizza baking was done and we had sated our appetites for cheesy goodness, I took the pie dough out of the fridge and cleared some space to roll it out. This particular crust recipe is very dry, so things got a bit crumbly and stuff, but it was easy enough to roll out and patch together where it was needed. Then I placed the dough in the pie pan, crimped the edges and set it in the fridge to cool a bit before baking. When the crust had firmed up sufficiently, I popped it in the oven to pre-bake, and about 20 minutes later, the crust had turned a light tan color and smelled of butter and sugar. I got a bit concerned about halfway through the baking process because the bottom of the crust had started to sweat and looked greasy (due to the high ratio of fat to lean material), but it dried out and baked up nicely in the end. After I’d nestled the baked crust on the window ledge to cool its heels until baking time, I was ready to move on to the filling.

And, as luck would have it, the filling is just as reassuringly and heartwarmingly simple to prepare as the crust. First, I mixed some gigantic eggs with a bit of flour, some sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Then I melted chocolate, butter and cream and mixed the chocolate into the egg mixture. I poured the whole lot into the pie crust, but there was still quite a bit left, so I poured the rest into muffin molds so we could have mini muffin friends. I know; really awesome.

After the pie had baked for about an hour, the top was puffy and ever so slightly cracked and smelled of chocolate and butter in the best way. And it was so, so very delicious. The crust was flaky and buttery and tender, and the filling was luxurious and sweet – all in all, absolutely amazing. Granted, it’s also very rich, so be careful when eating large amounts of it if you want to avoid a tummy ache, but otherwise, it’s a home run.

So make some pie, before spring creeps up on you and leaves you terrified that you’ll actually be expected to leave your apartment.

melty chocolate pie

yummy guy

get a recipe and a tummy ache, below the fold

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