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So I was supposed to go camping this weekend…but instead, I baked bread! (^_^)

It’s a cinnamon-sugar-raisin swirly loaf of bread goodness. It’s amazing. It’s gorgeous. It’s—it’s—maybe one the most beautiful breads I have ever baked.

It was such joy to make (mostly because it worked out). And I have the Two Fat Als to thank for the recipe. (They have such a beautiful site—an altogether inspirational culinary experience.) Their method is pretty basic, and they’ve also adjusted the recipe for (temporarily) stand-mixer impaired people like myself.

The science behind the baking fascinates me. I am in awe of the entire process—watching the yeast come to life and bubble and foam, working the dough, letting it proof and witnessing it transform into an edible miracle, a culinary work of art.

And along with this awe comes fear—fear because you never know if it’s going work out. Is the yeast too old, the air too cold/too dry? Is the dough too dry? And the question of all questions—will it rise? I suppose this is all a part of what makes baking so exciting. You never know if it will turn out—when it doesn’t, it is a sad, sad thing. But when it does, the pride you feel of having transformed the plain and ordinary (flour, eggs and water) into something so beautiful is indescribable.

That’s how I feel about this bread. It was a mother of a dough to work with. I worried, I self-doubted and I even thought about scrapping the whole project. But I refused to give up and just kept on kneading (for about 20 min.) until the dough finally came together. The rest was easy.

Oh, it was so pretty when it came out of the oven—a golden dome of crust masking the secret swirl beneath. And the smell of it—it enveloped the whole apartment in a cloud of cinnamon and sugar perfume.

I waited until morning to slice and taste test. (It seems odd to get such delight from slicing bread, but I do. (^o^”) ) It’s fluffy, light, mildly sweet and cinnamon-sugar-infused throughout. It makes me so happy just thinking about it!!

Enjoy!

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Oh-My-Goodness-Cinnamon-Raisin-Swirl Bread (adapted from the recipe from Two Fat Als)

INGREDIENTS

Dough:

1/2 cup milk

4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 package dry active yeast (2 1/4 tsp)

1/2 cup warm water

1/3 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 tsp salt

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra

Filling & Glaze:

1/4 cup sugar

5 tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 cup raisins

milk for brushing

1 large egg

2 tsp milk

INSTRUCTIONS

1. For the dough: Heat milk and butter together in a small saucepan until butter melts. Cool to lukewarm.

2. Meanwhile, sprinkle yeast over warm water in a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir slowly in a circular motion while adding sugar, eggs, salt and lukewarm milk mixture.

3. Continue stirring a bit more quickly, and add 2 cups of flour until mixed thoroughly, then add remaining 1 1/4 cups flour until mixed through. Add more flour if dough seems extremely sticky.

4. Remove dough from bowl, and knead on a floured surface for about 10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, until dough is smooth and elastic. Place in covered, greased bowl to rise for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until doubled in size.

5. Once risen, punch dough down once in the center, and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix cinnamon and sugar together for filling, and grease 9×5 inch loaf pan.

6. Roll dough into an 8×18 inch rectangle, with the 8 inch side facing toward you.

7. Brush milk over dough, and sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture and then raisins over it, leaving a 1/2 inch edge on the side farthest away.

8.Beginning with the side closest to you, roll dough into a log shape, pressing ends together to make sure that it does not become more than 8 inches. Pinch dough ends together to form a tight seam, and push ends of dough toward the center. Pinch outside dough edges together to form a seal. Place the dough seam-side down into the loaf pan, and press down evenly. Let the dough rise more until it is about 1 inch above the edge of the pan (30-60 minutes).

9. Preheat oven to 350, and combine milk with egg. Before baking, brush this mixture over the top of the loaf. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown, and let cool for 45 minutes before serving.

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Life is really quiet right now. Simple. This is what I wanted—or thought so anyhow.

At the same time, I feel like I am on the brink of something big. Life is about to change, and I wish that I could see how or wish that it would just happen already!

In the meantime, life continues on and I just go with the flow. And wait for this strangeness to pass.

I haven’t really been in the mood to do much cooking or baking. Yesterday, for example, I got home, and didn’t feel like cooking or eating! This NEVER happens.

This is a phase. I’m not even going to try to pretend to be inspired today. So I’ll leave you with a recipe for a cake I’ve made a few times in the past but never got around to blogging about.

For the life of me, I can’t remember where I got this recipe from. I have a feeling it’s another one I adapted from TipTopf, but I could be wrong. (If anyone recognizes the base recipe, please let me know!)

The times I’ve made this, I’ve always halved the recipe and kept the original bake time, which in the end worked out well. This might have to do with the fact that I only have an 8-inch cake pan rather than a 10-inch as the recipe calls for.

The cake is dense, banana-rich and super spongey. You can experiment with nut types—I’ve used almond, walnut and hazelnut, which resulted in a slightly different sponge character each time. Thinking about it, I wonder how banana and salted pistachios would work together.

Chocolate Banana Nut Cake (adapted from a recipe in TipTopf?)

INGREDIENTS

6 oz unsalted butter, diced

6 oz bittersweet chocolate

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1 cup  extra-fine sugar

1/2 cup ground walnuts

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2/3 cup buttermilk

1 tbsp vanilla extract

2 cup lightly mashed bananas

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup chopped walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds or pecans

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease and line a 10-inch cake pan. Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler till it is smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. Sift together flour and baking powder and baking soda. Add sugar, ground hazelnuts, and salt. Blend thoroughly.

3. Stir in buttermilk, vanilla extract and banana just until combined. Set aside.

4. Add the eggs to the cooled chocolate mixture. Stir until well combined and thick. Stir into the banana mixture until well combined.

5. Pour batter into pan and bake for 20 min. Remove and sprinkle chopped pecan nuts over the top and continue to bake for another 25 to 30 min. until skewer comes out clean.

6. Cool cake on rack. Serve either plain or a dollop of spiked whipped cream.

This is one f*ing expensive city—and I earn barely above minimum wage. (I am not being ungrateful, God. I am grateful for the blessing of work in these economically harsh times—really I am!). Suffice to say, things are tight right now. I’m doing mental math with my salary all the time and wondering where I can cut back (even more) and still enjoy life.

So this is what I’ve come up with so far.

-Bag lunch it to work: WAS doing really good with this—lunching on wholesome fruit salad in a nearby park—but with SF’s temperamental weather moods, I end up buying. Actually, since I only ever order a single bagel+butter ($1.55), it feels more like I’m renting a table to sit and read at for 30 minutes.

-Go out less: I hate this one.

-$40 weekly grocery budget: I was even toying with cutting that to $30. I haven’t tested out $40 yet, but I think it’s going to be tough. Maybe I should go back to non-organic.

Why is eating organic so dang expensive? This is why I avoided all organic craziness for so long (I recently gave in after seeing Food, Inc.)—you can’t be a have-not if you want to enjoy non-genetically modified food. Nevertheless, I’m determined to try.

-Eat in and cook with what I have, not with what I want: Eating in is not the problem. Even if it’s just me, I really enjoy the effort that goes into making a warm, colorful, flavorful meal for myself. It’s the trips to the grocery store before cooking that are the problem. So, I’ve decided to try to be more resourceful with the food I have already at home.

Today I successfully avoided going to Trader Joe’s after work and came up with a pretty good go-to meal for myself.

Mushroom-Corn Frittata with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes Served with a Tomato Salad with Balsamic-Olive Oil Vinaigrette

Sounds nice, right? It was!

I don’t have one of those oven-safe pans, so after pan-frying the veggies, I poured the whisked eggs/milk on top and covered the whole thing with a lid. A few minutes in, I sprinkled in the goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes and let it finish cooking. And when I removed the lid, I had a light, fluffy frittata—steamed on top and golden on the bottom.

Organic Mushroom-Corn Frittata with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes Served with a Tomato Salad with Balsamic-Olive Oil Vinaigrette

Serves 1

INGREDIENTS

Frittata:

olive oil, for frying

1/2 small onion, sliced thinly

1 clove garlic, minced finely

3 mushrooms, sliced (I used brown cremini)

1/4 cup frozen corn kernels

2 large eggs

splash of milk (I used non-fat)

1 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes in oil, sliced

1 tbsp soft goat cheese, crumbled

salt & pepper

Tomato Salad

2 Roma Tomatoes, sliced

extra virgin olive oil

balsamic vinegar

salt & pepper

1 tbsp goat cheese, crumbled

DIRECTIONS

Tomato Salad:

1. Slice the tomatoes and layer them on a plate.

2. In a small bowl, mix together the extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Then, pour over the tomatoes. (Didn’t bother with the bowl and poured the individual ingredients directly over the tomatoes.)

3. Top with crumbled goat cheese. Set aside (to marinate) while you prepare the frittata.

Frittata:

1. Pre-heat a small (I think mine is 5″) non-stick pan on medium-high. In a little olive oil, fry the onion, garlic and mushrooms until softened and browned. (The higher heat is necessary because of the high water-content in mushrooms.) Sprinkle in a little salt and pepper to taste. (I always add salt later in the cooking process, as salt draws out water.)

2. While the mushrooms, onions and garlic are frying, whisk together 2 eggs, a splash of milk and salt & pepper in a small bowl.

3. Into the pan, stir in the corn, allowing to just heat through. Then, distribute the vegetables in the pan, so that the entire bottom is covered.

4. Pour in the egg/milk mixture, making sure to cover all the vegetables. Place a lid on top and allow to steam for 2 minutes.

5. Remove the lid. Sprinkle the sliced sun-dried tomates and crumbled goat cheese on top. Replace the cover and steam for another 3-4 minutes.

6. Fold the frittata onto the plate with your tomato salad and ENJOY!

Why the new name? Honestly, my mom didn’t like the old one. And when I thought about it, neither did I.

As for Cook.Bake.Eat.Write—it fits better. I like it.

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Two posts back, I blogged about my day of apple-picking in Sebastopol (Still can’t get over the name (^o^) and about how  I came back with a big brown bag of Gravenstein apples. I was so excited/inspired/motivated to get crazy creative with the little darlings. As it turned out, besides the apple tart, I managed to make nothing—yes, it is a classic case of greedy girl eating with her eyes and not her stomach.

In any case, 2 weeks later, I am stuck with about 10 apples of the worst sort—waxy, soft and sad. And though I’ve been doing the whole “apple-a-day” thing, I can’t keep up. There.are.just.too.many.of.them.

I suppose I haven’t really had too much time to think about baking lately. Love life’s a mess; been drinking too much; been spending way too much. Last night, though, I was alone in the house—both L. and M. are in deeply committed, loving relationships blah, blah—and found myself staring at the apples (and vice versa).

I’ve been wanting to have a go at pound cake for some time now. (What’s with all the quickbreads, cake-loaves and pound cakes—I know; I’m not sure why I’m so into them right now.) And I recently discovered a tub of whole milk ricotta that I had planned on using for an Italian ricotta cheesecake (which I still plan on making).

So what to do with waxy apples and a tub of ricotta. Of course—make apple-ricotta pound cake.

There were recipes for apple pound cake and ricotta pound cake but none which used both. So I adjusted this Gina de Palma recipe (found on the Proud Italian Cook website) for ricotta and added 2 grated Gravensteins to the batter.

Love the recipe and LOVE the richness of the ricotta. As for the apples, I can’t taste them. I don’t really care this time—2 down, 8 more to go—but next time, maybe I’ll rough chop the apples or add less ricotta.

This is one heavy mother of a pound cake—I swear it weighs at least 2 lbs.—which is probably why it took about 70 minutes to bake, instead of the 35 as per the recipe’s instructions. Actually, when I read 15 min. at 350 deg. and then 25 at 325, I already knew this was unrealistic.

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This is a stunner when it comes out of the oven—golden, well-risen, syrupy even and with the signature pound cake crack on top. So I was kind of disappointed when I took it out and came back 15 minutes later to find that it had lost about 1 1/2 in. in height.

I waited until the morning after to slice into the thing and do my little amateur 8am photo shoot. So I’m supposed to be on a diet—it’s driving me crazy—but I went ahead and had a piece. Oh, it’s good. Maybe the best pound cake ever.

Hope you try it! Let me know how it turns out! (Will add the picture soon!)

At last—the recipe:

Ricotta Pound Cake (adapted from a Gina de Palma recipe found on Proud Italian Cook)
INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 c cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt

3/4 c unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c fresh whole-milk ricotta
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 vanilla bean (Didn’t have any, so upped extract amount by 1/2 tsp)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting (skipped this—it’s sweet enough.)

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and position rack in center. Grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside. With your mixer cream together the butter, ricotta, and sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 2 min. Beat eggs in one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Split the vanilla bean, scrape out, and beat into the batter along with the extract. On low speed beat in the dry ingredients. Scrape down and beat for 30 seconds more.

Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth down with a spatula. Gently tap pan on counter to remove air pockets. Bake just for 15 min., then turn pan 180 degrees to ensure even browning. Lower temp to 325 degrees F and bake till cake springs back lightly, the sides start to pull away, and when it comes out clean in the center, about 25 min. more.

Note: Proud Italian Cook said if the ricotta is too wet, you should drain it. I wish I would have read that far. That’s probably why mine took AGES to finish baking.

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Being on a home baking ban sucks. I realize that hubby can’t eat everything I make without gaining weight. So–I’ve decided to BAN him from eating my creations and have started bringing everything in to work! (Seriously, I understand and hold no hard feelings 🙂 It takes 4x weekly yoga and really small portions  to be able to keep my own waistline in check.)

Anyhow, this cake is another I made for the office. 

All in all, a super simple recipe. Bake time states between 70 and 90 minutes–I needed the entire 90 in my oven. In any case, the finished result was sticky, sweet and and dense. 

Jewish Apple Cake

(recipe from Columbus Foodie – columbusfoodie.com)

3 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

2 cups white sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

1/4 cup orange juice

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1 handful raisins

2 tsp ground cinnamon

5 tsp white sugar

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour one 10 inch tube or bundt pan. Combine the ground cinnamon and 5 tsp. of the sugar together and set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and 2 cups of the sugar. Stir in the vegetable oil, beaten eggs, orange juice and vanilla. Mix well.

3. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Top with half of the sliced apples and sprinkle with half of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Pour the remaining batter over the top and layer the remaining sliced apples and cinnamon sugar.

4. Bake at 350 F for 70 to 90 minutes. (I needed the full 90 min.)

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I served this for dinner a while back and am only now getting to posting it :). The recipe was inspired by several recipes I browsed at online. All in all, it’s a pretty simple dish to put together. And though I’m not exactly a fan on baked tomatoes, I definitely don’t mind eating this–or anything with ricotta and pan-fried breadcrumbs!

Serves 4 as a starter/side or 2 as a main.

Ricotta Stuffed Baked Tomatoes Topped with Pan Gratata

INGREDIENTS

2 medium tomatoes, halved, seeded and flesh scraped (Reserve 1 tbsp for later.)

PAN GRATATA

1 cup day-old bread, cubed

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 sprig fresh rosemary

salt and pepper

a generous glug of olive oil

1/4 tsp grated lemon zest

RICOTTA FILLING

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

2 tbsp parmesan, grated

a handful fresh basil, sliced thinly

salt and pepper, to taste

reserved 1 tbsp tomato flesh

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 200 C.

2. For the pan gratata: Prepare the bread in the food processor until bread crumb-sized. 

3. In a heated pan, sauté the garlic and rosemary sprig in olive oil. When you can smell the garlic, add in the bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Sauté the bread crumbs until crisp and golden. Remove the rosemary and set aside. (If you dont like chunks of garlic, leave them whole and remove at the end.)

5. For the filling: Combine all ingredients, stirring well.

6. Assembly: Place the tomato halves into a baking dish. Spoon the ricotta mixture into each tomato half, pushing it in as firmly as you can. Top with the bread crumbs, pushing in with your fingers as well.

7. Bake in the center of the oven until golden and the tomatoes are soft, but not collapsing (about 20 minutes). Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.



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  • Mama Leah: Well, my darling, I am extremely impressed and inspired. I, of course, don't have one iota of the culinary skills that you have (except for baking, b
  • saffronandbasil: Thanks for the recipe. By the way, LOVE LOVE your site.