Category: almond

And to all a good night!

Welp, today is Christmas Eve.

That came super quick, didn’t it? Or maybe it’s just me.

Regardless, it’s here now. And on Christmas Eve I have a few family traditions: making the last of my Christmas Day treats (usually more fudge), pre-cooking whatever has to be done for Christmas Day (if anything), wrapping up any last minute gifts, and a eating a dinner made up of a variety of appetizers while drinking cocktails & watching A Christmas Carol; more specifically, the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim (the best version, in my humble opinion). Sometimes there’s a big, gigantic tin of assorted flavor popcorn thrown in there as well. That’s been the tradition in my house for as long as I can remember. When Jay came into the family, we had to work around his schedule as well as everyone else’s, which wasn’t really an issue until he became a cop. Then that kind of really threw a monkey wrench into things. And I don’t say that negatively; I say it meaning sometimes the Christmas Eve traditions end up being on Christmas Day, while the Christmas Day dinner ends up on Christmas Eve. Or sometimes, the big family Christmas dinner is pushed forward to the 26th or 27th. But that’s totally fine with me. I’m adaptable. I like having multiple celebrations, anyway… it’s fun to spread out the awesomeness for a few days!

(Pardon these photos… the lighting was poor & I was kind of rushing. I hope you get the gist of it, and can enjoy them anyway)

I had to make cupcakes for Christmas, that’s obvious. So I baked up those delicious Stollen-inspired cupcakes, courtesy of the Food Network magazine.

A Stollen is a fruit cake containing dried fruit and covered with sugar, powdered sugar or icing sugar. The cake is usually made with chopped candied fruit and/or dried fruit, nuts and spices. Stollen is a traditional German cake, usually eaten during the Christmas season, when called Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen.

Stollen is a bread-like fruitcake made with yeast, water and flour, and usually with zest added to the dough. Candied orange peel and candied citrus peel (Zitronat),[1] raisins and almonds, and different spices such as cardamom and cinnamon are added. Other ingredients, such as milk, sugar, butter, salt, rum, eggs,[2] vanilla,[3] other dried fruits and nuts and marzipan may also be added to the Stollen dough. Except for the fruit added, the dough is quite low in sugar. The finished cake is sprinkled with icing sugar. The traditional weight of a Stollen is around 4.4 pounds (2 kg), but smaller sizes are now available.

The Dresden Stollen (originally Striezel), a moist, heavy bread filled with fruit, was first mentioned in an official document in 1474,[4] and the most famous Stollen is still the Dresdner Stollen,[5] sold, amongst other places, at the local Christmas market, Striezelmarkt. Dresden Stollen is produced in the city of Dresden and distinguished by a special seal depicting King Augustus II the Strong. This “official” Stollen is produced by only 150 Dresden bakers.

-Wikipedia

So of course, these cupcakes aren’t genuine Stollen. They’re just inspired by it, and because I have this weird thing where my cupcakes have to have frosting, I added a vanilla whipped cream-ish frosting. I swear, making these cupcakes with no frosting almost killed me. I absolutely HAD to frost them! However, if you aren’t as opposed to frosting-less cupcakes, you can leave it at the confectioner’s sugar, or make a simple icing with heavy cream, rum & confectioner’s sugar to drizzle on top.

Also, that tablecloth in the photos was handmade by my mother when she was 10 years old. It’s red felt, with a little white fringed edge, and cut out green felt trees decorated with glitter, beads, sequins, & paillettes. That tablecloth plus my grandmother’s “spaghetti ware” Santas, the retro-y Meri Meri Merry & Bright Christmas cupcake kit I had & the stollen-inspired cupcakes (stollen always seems like an old fashioned dessert/bread to me), really made it feel like a vintage Christmas.

STOLLEN-INSPIRED CUPCAKES (adapted from the Food Network magazine, Dec. 2012)

Makes about 1 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of a mix of citron, dried currants, dried cranberries & raisins, or whatever you like (optional)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3 cup marzipan, room temperature & softened slightly
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted (for topping)
  • confectioner’s sugar (for dusting)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a larger bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), beat the softened butter with the marzipan and sugar until fluffy. Then beat in the 2 eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla & almond extract.
  3. Slowly beat in the flour mixture and 1/3 cup milk in alternating batches. Divide among 12 prepared muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full, and bake 20-25 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and set aside for five minutes. Brush with melted butter while still warm, but not hot, and dust with confectioner’s sugar. When 100% cooled, then frost.

WHIPPED CREAM FROSTING (adapted from The Food Pusher)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder
  • 2 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whipping cream (regular or heavy, I used heavy)
  • pinch salt
  • 5 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in small bowl to soften.
  2. Scald 2 tablespoon of the cream; pour over gelatin, stirring till dissolved.
  3. Refrigerate until consistency of unbeaten egg white. (This takes about 10-15 minutes.) Then, with a whisk, beat until smooth.In a stand mixer with a whip attachment, or with a hand beater, whip remaining cream, salt and sugar; whip in the smoothed gelatin mixture, stopping to scrape the bowl twice.
  4. This recipe stands up well, even in warm weather. Keep leftover frosting and any product topped with it in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

I’ll avoid any overly sappy holiday messages… all I will say is that this Christmas we all have so much to be thankful for. After the Newtown, CT shooting I’m sure we all had a little wakeup call about that. I know all the parents that I know certainly did, and me too. I may not be a parent- but life is short, and you should appreciate what you have while you have it. You just never know what may come tomorrow. So be thankful for your family & friends & pets, tell them you love them every chance you get & don’t let fear get the best of you. I had to remind myself that after being in NYC during the 9/11 attacks- when it was time to get back on that train, it was kind of hard to do. Fear of what could happen should never take away from your life, or interfere with you living. And I know there are some parents who might feel a form of survivor’s guilt; why did their child live? How did they get to be so lucky when others were so terribly devastatingly ruined by this? I don’t know why or how, but I do know that you should just be thankful & not let that guilt or those questions take one minute of time away from you enjoying your family as much as possible. I don’t have the answers. And I don’t really have anything to say that can solve this, provide comfort, or take pain away from anyone. I do know that sweets make people happy. And when I make people happy, it gives me solace that my one little tiny act of baking a cake or pressing “publish”  can maybe help make someone smile in an otherwise shitty situation. So in that vein, I’m continuing to light up my little section of the web with deliciousness (& hopefully a few laughs). Food can sometimes give the comfort words themselves can’t.

I’ll leave it at that and I’ll just get right to the point…

Merry Christmas to all… and to all a good night.

Snap, crackle, Snackle Mouth.

;

Snackle Mouth is an awesome company. I’ve done two different posts with their delicious granola snacks before, and I had so many more ideas floating around my head. So I was thrilled when they offered me some boxes of their new varieties: Bacon Maple and Salty Chocolate. BACON. MAPLE. Did you read that? Bacon maple. And salty mutha’f’n chocolate. WHAT. Yes.

Sweet and Salty….we get it and we likey!  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night, snack time – seriously, any time is the right time to eat Chocolate.  So, we baked in loads of yum and sprinkled just the right amount of sea salt for a little zippy-do.

-Snackle Mouth

They sent these to me around a month ago, perhaps longer, and I couldn’t wait to start experimenting. But first comes the taste testing! And after thoroughly testing each one, I had some serious thinking to do. I had already done a coffee cake, and made parfaits with it. And being early August at the time, there weren’t a lot of “cozy” moments; it was hot as hell. So I was a little hesitant to bake. But that’s what I do, yanno? I bake. I get down in the kitchen with a wooden spoon and beat batter & people with whisks. Plus, fall is swiftly coming upon us. And I know the warm, late-summer days & nights are numbered. In a few weeks, maybe even days, things will change; I’ll be cooking up (& eating up) fall treats & I’ll want to wear toasty, fall-y clothes.

But now? Now there are still those hot, sweaty & humid days. Except now there are more of the much cooler, lovely nights. And I like to spend those nights drinking an Octoberfest or Pumpkin Ale, sitting around the fire pit. The smell of burning wood & toasting marshmallows, the crackling & snapping sounds, the need for a (light) sweater. So with all that in mind, I decided to bake something with the Snackle Mouth after all. And I came up with these babies:

;

Salty chocolate granola campfire bars. The granola’s name, Snackle Mouth, kind of reminds me of the crackle of a fire. So I thought, why not incorporate their salty chocolate granola into a more portable version of the classic campfire treat: the s’more. You all already know I love s’mores. But they can be messy, you know? And yeah the messiness can be the entire point, and even what makes it so fun, but what if you want a s’more at like, 12 noon on a random Thursday? Or while you’re at school… and there’s no campfire? That, my friends. That’s why you make these.

The bottom “cookie” layer has a graham crackery taste, but yet it’s soft, like a chewy chocolate chip cookie base. The chocolate chips melt just enough and the saltiness of the Snackle Mouth combined with the marshmallows… UGH. So delicious. And sweet. And a little salty.

;

I made this recipe three times, each a few weeks apart, and wrote and rewrote it numerous times before I got it to the point where it was good enough to write up for you guys on the blog.

;

I think this is it.

;

;

SALTY CHOCOLATE GRANOLA CAMPFIRE BARS

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted & cooled to just slightly warm
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 box Salty Chocolate Snackle Mouth granola
  • 1/2 bag mini-marshmallows
  • 6 ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chunks (or chips)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F. Line an 8″ x 11″ brownie pan (or a 9″ x 13″ pan) with parchment paper & spray lightly with PAM, or brush a little of the melted butter on it. Set aside.
  2. Combine the butter, sugars, flour, vanilla, salt and honey in a bowl with a hand mixer. Once it’s thoroughly combined, pat the dough into the prepared baking pan, a handful at a time. It will be very moist but very crumbly. Using your (clean!) hands, press it and push it together to form a cohesive dough. Make sure it’s as even as you can get it so it bakes evenly. I made it slightly lower in the middle, making a little “crust” on the edges like a deep dish pizza, but you don’t have to do that.
  3. Spread the chocolate chips on top in an even layer, pressing them into the dough just slightly. Bake it for about 15-20 minutes, or until the chips are almost but not yet completely melted. Remove from the oven and add the Snackle Mouth granola, pushing it down in between and on top of the chips.
  4. Bake another 15-20 minutes or until the crust is baked through. Remove the pan from oven. On top of the granola layer, arrange the marshmallows evenly while it’s still hot.
  5. Turn on the broiler and place the pan under the broiler until the marshmallows begin to toast & melt slightly. Remove immediately and let cool completely to room temperature before slicing.

;

If you drape the parchment like I did, it helps when you’re taking them out of the pan. If you’d rather cut them on a board instead of in the pan, just lift them up & out. Once they’re 100% cooled that is. Look at this melty goodness.

;

They were sweet, messy (when eaten on the warmer side as I did- I couldn’t help it) and perfectly campfire-y. I guess I’m just on a toasted marshmallow kick lately, huh? So I hope by now you’ve realized that granola, especially Snackle Mouth, isn’t just for snacking on right out of the box or for making into granola bars. You can use it in all sorts of different ways- coffee cakes, parfaits, cookie bars. And there’s more to come! I have tons of ideas. But these will tide me over until I come up with an appropriate Bacon Maple recipe. Hmm…

I think it goes without saying I lit a fire in the fire pit, settled in next to it and ate these until I couldn’t stand it anymore! And I hope that this Labor Day, you do the same, hopefully while remembering the reasons you have off from work.

;

Cherry-bomb cupcakes for Julia’s birthday.

“The best way to execute French cooking is to get good & loaded & whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon Appetit.”
-Julia Child

;

;

I think every food blogger in the universe has been inspired by the book and the ensuing movie Julie & Julia; or at the very least thought, “Wow… that could happen to me!” But we love it not just because it’s a fabulous blogger-makes-good story, but because it involves Julia. The unflappable and beloved Julia Child, she herself who is an example of the very same path most of us food bloggers have taken: non-cook morphs into cook (or baker) and writes about it. And then- success! However, with bloggers, if we’re lucky we get one one-thousandth (or one one-millionth) of the readers that over the years have bought, read and attempted to execute recipes from Julia’s books. Julia was a pioneer in many ways, and her life was fascinating. Her relationship with her husband Paul reminds me a lot of my relationship with Jay; he was un-endingly supportive and encouraging of her in all her exploits & possible craziness. Of course he & I are not quite Julia & Paul Child clones- I doubt Julia ever had a mohawk and Paul was certainly never a cop nor was he in a death metal band- but seriously. Jay has humored me in all of my blogging lunacy, and it can also be said that without him there might not even BE a blog. And without Paul, there would have been no Mastering the Art of French Cooking. So yes, at this point it may seem cliche to love her and be a big fan of hers, but I can’t deny that I spent a large portion of my childhood watching the show Julia had on PBS with Jacques Pépin: Cooking at Home (as well as watching The Galloping Gourmet, the Frugal Gourmet & Yan Can Cook… remember those dudes!?). I always loved Julia, even before I knew who she was & how important she was. And whenever we were at my aunt & uncle’s house for dinner, my Uncle Pat used to do a hilarious impression of her while he cooked.

Well, today would’ve been Julia Child’s 100th birthday.

Child was born Julia Carolyn McWilliams in Pasadena, California, the daughter of John McWilliams, Jr., a Princeton University graduate and prominent land manager, and his wife, the former Julia Carolyn (“Caro”) Weston, a paper-company heiress whose father, Byron Curtis Weston, served as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. The eldest[3] of three children, she had a brother, John III (1914–2002), and a sister, Dorothy Dean (1917–2006).[4]

Child attended Westridge School, Polytechnic School from fourth grade to ninth grade, then The Katherine Branson School in Ross, California, which was at the time a boarding school. At six feet, two inches (1.88 m) tall, Child played tennis, golf, and basketball as a child and continued to play sports while attending Smith College, from which she graduated in 1934 with a major in English.[1] A press release issued by Smith in 2004 states that her major was history.[5]

Following her graduation from college, Child moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter for the advertising department of upscale home-furnishing firm W. & J. Sloane. Returning to California in 1937, she spent the next four years writing for local publications, working in advertising, and volunteering with the Junior League of Pasadena[6].

Child repeatedly recalled her first meal in Rouen as a culinary revelation; once, she described the meal of oysters, sole meunière, and fine wine to The New York Times as “an opening up of the soul and spirit for me.” In Paris, she attended the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and later studied privately with Max Bugnard and other master chefs.[15] She joined the women’s cooking club Cercle des Gourmettes, through which she met Simone Beck, who was writing a French cookbook for Americans with her friend Louisette Bertholle. Beck proposed that Child work with them, to make the book appeal to Americans.

In 1951, Child, Beck, and Bertholle began to teach cooking to American women in Child’s Paris kitchen, calling their informal school L’école des trois gourmandes (The School of the Three Food Lovers). For the next decade, as the Childs moved around Europe and finally to Cambridge, Massachusetts, the three researched and repeatedly tested recipes. Child translated the French into English, making the recipes detailed, interesting, and practical.

In 1963, the Childs built a home near the Provence town of Plascassier in the hills above Cannes on property belonging to co-author Simone Beck and her husband, Jean Fischbacher. The Childs named it “La Pitchoune“, a Provençal word meaning “the little one” but over time the property was often affectionately referred to simply as “La Peetch”.[16]

PBS announced an interactive celebration called Cook For Julia about a month ago, and I really wanted to participate. So I popped ‘Julie & Julia’ in the DVD player, flipped through Mastering the Art of French Cooking and got to work! ‘Cause see, I was debating doing a version of Julia’s cherry clafoutis, just with “drunken cherries” instead. That’s when I decided (as I often do) to go against the grain. And not just recreate a Julia recipe as they suggested, because everyone will be doing that… but instead, I made Julia some birthday cupcakes. That is, after all, what I do best. Cupcakes. For people in my family, every year, they get a batch of birthday cupcakes, and Julia should get the family treatment. Not only that but what better ingredient to use in a birthday cupcake than alcohol? Or even better… alcohol-soaked fruit?

;

Remember my bourbon cherries? Well the one month waiting period is up! And those little bourbon cherries are ready (and in turn, the cherry-infused bourbon is ready, too, but that’s another post).

I was thinking, what can I make with this stuff? I mean… a drink is obvious. Using the bourbon to make a glaze is obvious. And to plop one of these cherries in a cold glass of Coke is obvious, too. But I wanted to do something a little different. And after all, Julia loved to cook with liquor, and she even put it in the food sometimes. *wink*

;

So I decided to make cupcakes with those drunken little cherries instead of using them in a clafoutis! By the way, if you remember a while back (on my birthday, actually) I mentioned that those vanilla cupcakes were my new favorite- well, this is them. They’re moist with a great vanilla flavor and they aren’t cornbread-y.

;

CHERRY-BOMB CUPCAKES FOR JULIA

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 12 brandy-infused cherries (stems, pits & all- you can also use regular fresh Bing cherries, but if you do, substitute 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract in the recipe with either Kirsch, brandy or bourbon)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir with a whisk lightly to incorporate. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the butter and sugar. Using the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy. Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Slowly add the vanilla (and/or Kirsch), milk and sour cream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually mix in the flour mixture.
  5. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full. Push a cherry into each, keeping stem end up. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.
  6. Let cool 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Cakes can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature overnight.

Make sure, before serving, to tell everyone they still have the pits in them! No broken teeth for Julia’s birthday, k? It’s easiest to eat these with a spoon, that way you can eat around the pits… which brings me to what I served them with…

;

I served them with a some whipped cream in a jar, ’cause it just seemed like the right thing to do. It seemed like a delicious, fun, offbeat kinda way of topping these off, and just the kinda thing Julia would’ve approved of. It’s really cool, actually, and if you keep shaking it, you’ll get butter. Which also seemed incredibly appropriate for Julia.

;

We all know that long before Paula Deen, Julia Child was the Queen of Butter.

;

;

All you have to do is take a clean, empty 8-oz. jar. Fill it with 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, 1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar and two drops of pure vanilla extract. Close the jar tightly and shake! Seriously. Shake it. For anywhere from 2-3 minutes, vigorously. If you keep going, like I said, you’ll get butter. Then you can refrigerate it, add a little salt and shmear it on some toast. But if you wanna keep it at the whipped cream, be sure to check it after 3 minutes of shaking.

It has an amazing fresh taste. If you like your whipped cream on the sweeter side, add 1 full teaspoon of sugar.

;

;

They’re definitely an adult cupcake, not for children. You can definitely taste the bourbon, however it’s not overwhelming or overpowering at all. It just gives the cake and the cherry an extra added oomph. And the whipped cream on the side is just perfection. And as a matter of fact, it’s excellent to make at a dinner or a party. It would be so much fun to have your guests help you make it! Make the cupcakes, set them out, and then fill the jar with the ingredients. Then just pass it around, letting each person shake it. Then… voilà! Fresh whipped cream! And of course serving the entire kit & kaboodle with a cocktail made from the cherry bourbon is a must. Taking a swig or two while baking is probably even more of a must.

So that’s the end of my little tribute. I hope it’s something Julia would’ve been proud of. I can’t help but think that she would be… although seeing how she wasn’t a fan of Julie Powell (and her sometimes irreverent attitude) I don’t know if she’d much like me or my little blog. But it doesn’t matter. Because I have nothing but the utmost love and respect for her and all she did to pave the way for food freaks like me to feel comfortable talking about our dinners with such passion, our desserts with such gusto and our butter with such adoration.

;

Regardless of how she would feel about me, Happy 100th Birthday, Julia!

;

I love you, and as evidenced by this celebration, I think we all still love you. Bon Appetit!

;

Follow more bloggers as they #cookforJulia at the Twitter hashtag!

Snackle Mouth part 2: frozen yogurt parfaits.


Remember my Snackle Mouth post from a few days ago?

I was so excited to use it to bake something, and I did (coffee cake), and it was glorious. But if I’m being 100% honest- that wasn’t my first idea.


See my first idea was to make some homemade frozen yogurt and top it with some Snackle Mouth granola nut clusters and some homemade conserves I made. You might remember them, one is cherry, cranberry, dark chocolate & almond and one is fig, plum and walnut. Kind of like “build your own ice cream sundae” time except more like “build your own healthier version of an ice cream sundae by using frozen yogurt” time. It’s also reminiscent of those famous fast food fruit/nut yogurt parfaits, except much healthier & homemade, obviously.


I wanted to do that because the Snackle Mouth arrived on a really hot day, and it was way too hot for me to face an oven. So I figured I’d use it to make yogurt parfaits. But then the weather changed, it got very cool and rainy, perfect baking weather. And so I decided to make the coffee cake first. However, it soon got pretty damn warm again, and frozen yogurt parfaits were back on the menu.

First things first… the fro-yo. I used a tried and true David Lebovitz recipe I’ve made before in my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment. It’s easy, delicious, and quick. Then, once that was made & ready, I put it in some Ball jars, alternating with some Snackle Mouth granola, and topped it off with some conserves. It was pretty awesome. We loved it. The most popular combination? The yogurt topped with the double C dark chocolate almond conserves and the peanut cranberry Snackle Mouth. Needless to say it was a success.


FROZEN YOGURT

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (24 ounces) strained yogurt (see below) or Greek-style yogurt *
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Directions:

  1. Mix together the yogurt, sugar, and vanilla (if using). Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Refrigerate 1 hour.
  2. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions (for mine, it’s just 20-30 minutes in the bowl being mixed by the “dasher”). For a firmer set, freeze for 20-30 minutes before serving.
  3. If you aren’t using Greek yogurt, you have to strain regular plain yogurt. To make 1 cup of strained yogurt, line a mesh strainer with a few layers of cheese cloth. then scrape 16 ounces or 2 cups of plain whole-milk yogurt into the cheesecloth. Gather the ends and fold them over the yogurt, then refrigerate for at least 6 hours. For the above recipe you’ll need to start with and strain 6 cups of yogurt.

I used Greek-style yogurt, I didn’t feel like going through the pain of straining regular yogurt. I also opted to use the vanilla, but that’s 100% optional. You can also add fresh fruits to the yogurt itself, if you wish, or add some jam or preserves or even lemon curd to it as it’s being mixed. I’m sure you could experiment by making all kinds of different flavored fro-yo if you want. And you can also use the granola with fresh fruit instead of conserves or preserved fruit.

...

The coolest thing about making yogurt parfaits in a jar is that if you don’t finish it, you can put the lid on and pop it in the freezer, and it’ll keep it’s fresh taste. Is there no end to how cool Mason jars are? Methinks not. I even used them to store the granola once I opened the packages so it would stay fresh.

Again, I tell you: go get yourself some Snackle Mouth. It isn’t available in stores (yet!) but you can get it at Abe’s Market.


OH! And Cupcake Rehab now is now print friendly! You asked for it, you got it. Directly below this, you’ll see a little printer icon and the words “Print Friendly.” Click on those and you’ll be brought to a printer friendly version of this post. Perfect for printing the recipes! There are plenty of options, i.e. print with photos or without, and it’s very easy to use, so get on it. Print out your favorite recipes from Cupcake Rehab with a few clicks! Now you can share this on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, Pinterest and you can print it, too. Do I give you options or what?

My new favorite thing: Snackle Mouth!

A few weeks ago, my friend & fellow blogger Xenia told me about Snackle Mouth. I had seen the pictures of it on her blog, and read her reviews of it, and I was intrigued. First off, I loved the packaging. Coolest granola packaging ever, for sure. And anytime you have bacon in anything, you win me over. So the fact they make a Bacon Maple granola? Insane. In a good way.

Snackle Mouth is a brand spankin’ new company:

Snackle Mouth® was given wings by one of the Founder’s, John Raptis. “Rapits” (his call name by virtue of the fact that there are 3 guys named “John” in the business) was really the main man. As a reformed real estate developer, he crafted a healthy, tasty, and simple granola nut snack with a high degree of clumpability. We define clumpability like so: a phenomenal flavor cluster, embodying superior taste, and made from the most simple natural and organic ingredients on the planet.

Raptis hit the lab to produce a snack with those basic snack components in mind. From his own kitchen he watched his son and friends constantly forage for food and he developed a recipe to make a snack that Moms would approve of for their children, thus, Snackle Mouth® was born.

So they may be new, but they’re pretty awesome, and they’ve got a lot going for them:

  • Combine All Natural and Organic Ingredients
  • Mix in the Best Nuts We Could Find
  • NO Refined Sugar, NO Trans-Fats, Low Glycemic
  • Cool new name, Snackle Mouth®
  • Most Fun Package Design on the Planet
  • End Result, Great Tasting Granola Nut Clusters

They’re made with naturally yummy things like fruit juice, organic dried fruit & nuts, brown rice syrup, oat bran and organic blue agave. So when James from Snackle Mouth offered to send me these goodies… you can imagine how excited I was. And am. I received a box with three varieties: the almond pecan maple, the almond berry and the peanut cranberry. See, I wasn’t lying about the awesome packaging.

After sampling each kind, I knew what I’d do first. It was really warm and kind of sticky out, so I decided to wait for a slightly cooler day to make something really awesome. In the meantime, I continued sampling.

But really… I wanted more than to just snack on it. I wanted a unique Snackle Mouth creation. So on a slightly cooler, much more overcast day, I came up with this.


And this, my friends is the pièce de résistance: a granola nut coffee cake- it’s the same principle as a coffee cake with a streusel crumb on top, except in my version there’s no streusel, just granola nut clusters. To be precise, Snackle Mouth Almond Pecan Maple granola nut clusters. Genius, right? I thought so. Except it was a little too dark. The inside stayed very moist and delicious, but the granola got a bit too caramelized. Which might have been a nice effect, especially had I been using the Bacon Maple granola. But I wasn’t, and I wanted something a little lighter and more… summery?

And it was good, trust me. Like I said, the first time the top did get a little dark, meaning the granola got a little dark too, but it didn’t deter anyone from eating it. It was still quite delicious nonetheless, and it was all gobbled up (pretty damn fast actually). But I went back to the drawing board, being the perfectionist that I am, & I came up with a revamped & better version. And that version used Almond Berry Snackle Mouth as the topping, and a cup of fresh blueberries were added into the batter before baking. It paired excellently with the berry variety of Snackle Mouth, since it’s made with blueberry juice. I made that for my father for Father’s Day (he’s a blueberry freak) and talk about a huge hit! He seriously loved it. On this one, I also smashed the granola with a hammer before using it for the topping. It came out much better, since it was in smaller pieces, obviously. You live, you learn. I had never made a coffee cake with a granola nut topping before!

So the first version was just an experiment. But the second version? Ohhh, the second version… it came out fantastical.

And now you get to reap the benefits of my trials & tribulations. Here’s the recipe for the best coffee cake ever.

BLUEBERRY COFFEE CAKE WITH ALMOND BERRY SNACKLE MOUTH GRANOLA NUT “STREUSEL”

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus two tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup plus two tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (or the berry of your choice)
  • 1 box Almond Berry Snackle Mouth granola nut clusters (or the flavor of your choice)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300° F and grease an 8″-inch square baking pan. Smash the granola with a hammer until it breaks into slightly smaller pieces. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a larger bowl, cream butter and sugars together until fluffy. Add egg, and beat until combined. Add vanilla extract to the milk in a glass measuring cup and alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the creamed butter mixture three times, starting with and ending with the flour.
  3. Mix the berries in gently, until thoroughly combined.
  4. Spread batter into prepared baking pan. Smooth it as evenly as possible, tapping the pan on the counter a few times if necessary. Sprinkle the granola on top, until the cake is pretty well covered.
  5. Bake 50-70 minutes (depending on your oven and what kind of pan you use: glass or metal), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool. Serve while slightly warm or at room temperature.


Perfection. My mother pronounced it the best coffee cake she ever had, and said it reminded her of one she used to eat as a child.

If you’re more health-conscious, try it using whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour). You could also use an agave sweetener instead of sugar, or applesauce instead of the egg. There’s tons of room to mess around with this recipe. Not to mention that if you use the Peanut Cranberry Snackle Mouth, you can use a cup of fresh cranberries in the batter, and it’d be absolutely amazing. 100% adaptable to any combination. The cake is baked at a lower temperature in a very slow oven to keep the granola in good shape; it’ll start to burn long before the cake is done, otherwise. And burnt granola isn’t what you want. If you aren’t using the granola, if you’re using regular streusel or making it plain, you could bake it at 350° F for 35-40 minutes with no problem. And I have to say, this is a really unique way to do a streusel without the hassle of making a streusel. Especially if you’re like me & your streusel-making is hit or miss. It’s fail proof and delicious, and it travels well. Great for picnics or to bring somewhere for a party or cook-out.

It’s very moist, with a perfect crumb… but it’s also a very dense cake; so just be aware that if you think you can eat that big slice, you probably can’t.

Trust me. I could barely get through one normal sized slice!


This isn’t the last you’ll see of Snackle Mouth around here. That’s all I’m sayin’… just keep your eyes peeled, if you catch my drift.

Thank you, Snackle Mouth, for letting me play with your food! Now everybody go buy some. You won’t be sorry. And of course, let’s not forget social media! Follow @SnackleMouth on Twitter and become a Snackle Mouth fan on Facebook, too!

Like a lemon to a lime, a lime to a lemon.

I don’t know if you remember, but I made another version of this pie back in December. That was the “winter” version; cranberries & cinnamon. This, however, is the summer version. Inspired by this.

Yes, sometimes I keep my lemons in a mortar & pestle…

And also inspired by MCA’s lyric in one of my favorite Beastie Boys’ songs, No Sleep ‘Till Brooklyn; “Like a lemon to a lime, a lime to a lemon, I sip the def ale with all the fine women.” As you probably know, MCA a.k.a. Adam Yauch passed away on May 4th. The Beastie Boys were always a favorite of mine, and they play a big role for me in the soundtrack of my life. I’ve got some awesome memories that match up with songs off more than just one of their albums, not to mention when I saw them back in 1998 it was one of the most fun concerts I’ve been to. Some of their songs are just sentimental favorites. I think that’s the one thing that is comforting about “famous” people passing, whether it’s John Lennon or Johnny Cash or Kurt Cobain or Mozart or Adam Yauch- the fact that they never really die. The music lives on in our memories and on records and CD’s and iTunes forever. As far as my computer is concerned, The Beatles are all alive & kicking, just like it’s 1965. But it made me really sad to hear MCA died for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that he was only 47 years old, and that he left a 14-year-old daughter. Fucking cancer. The older I get, the more I realize how young 47 is, and just how much cancer really bites the big one.

Anyway, I was listening to some Beastie Boys songs, I knew I was going to bake something up, then I heard that lyric & saw the bowl of lemons, and I got an idea. Plus, add the fact that I was going to make something for my dad, and he loves blueberries… I came up with this idea of altering the infamous crustless cranberry pie into a more summery dish. Whereas last time this pie was made with cranberries & cinnamon, blueberries & lemon zest are the two main players this time, along with the sliced almonds. You can add a bit of lemon extract just to boost the flavor, but it’s not 100% necessary (I didn’t). You could also add lime zest too, if you really like that particular lyric. Another option would to be to dollop some lemon curd on top of it over the streusel before baking. It’ll brown and bubble up and get all creamy warm, like a lemon custard. Or, you can swirl some lemon curd in it before baking, or just serve it with some lemon curd & cream. It’s not really a pie. It’s not just a cake. It’s more like a coffee cake, or cobbler. And so, a new version was born. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the Beastie Boys, but it’s just inspired by a lyric. It’s not like I wanted to create a literal interpretation of B-Boy Bouillabaisse. Although, shit. That would’ve been a great idea.

Like a lemon to a blueberry, a blueberry to a lemon, I eat the def pie with all the fine women.

Listen, I’m not a lyricist. I bake.

As you can see, streusel hates me. It always melts down into nothing. Oh well.

And just in case you’re wondering, I got that pie plate for a whopping $2.50 after Thanksgiving at Michael’s. I love the color (goes especially great with blueberries) & the large ruffle around the edge. I think collecting pie plates might be my new “thing.” I’ve only got three so far (this one, a pink one and one that was my mom’s that has a recipe for apple pie on it), but next on my list is a regular old Pyrex clear glass one. I’ve heard they’re the best for baking pies with a crust. Emile Henry makes some really nice decorative ones. Do you have a favorite pie plate?

Sorry, I got off-track there for a bit. Let’s get back to the goods.

MCA’S “LIKE A LEMON TO A BLUEBERRY” CRUSTLESS PIE (altered from the original cranberry-based recipe which was from All Recipes, also with alterations)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons set aside for topping
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole fresh blueberries (or whole frozen)
  • ½ cup sliced almonds, divided, half set aside for topping
  • ⅓ cup light brown sugar
  • zest of one whole lemon
  • ½ cup butter, melted, plus 2 tablespoons butter just softened, set aside for topping
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • drop of lemon extract (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° degrees F. Grease one 9″-inch pie pan (or 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish).
  2. Combine the 1 cup flour, white sugar, lemon zest and salt. Stir in the blueberries and half the almonds, and toss to coat. Stir in the ½ cup melted butter, beaten eggs, vanilla and lemon extracts. If you are using frozen berries, the mixture will be very thick. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the 2 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons softened butter & light brown sugar together to make a streusel-like topping. Sprinkle mixture on top of pie. Sprinkle remaining ¼ cup almonds on top of that, or arrange neatly if that’s your bag.
  4. Bake at 350° degrees F for 40 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean.

The coolest thing about this ‘pie’ is exactly the fact that it’s not really a pie. It’s called a ‘crustless pie’ but you can call it anything you want. It’s like a zombie-pie-cobbler-coffee-cake. It doesn’t even require a pie crust! But even cooler than that- you can eat it any time of day. Because of the fruit-y aspect & the nuts, you can eat a slice for breakfast just as easily as for dessert (with some whipped cream or ice cream). And depending on how you make it, you might make it more breakfast-y or more dessert-y. Use whole wheat flour or add some oats for a totally different spin. And another amazing thing? You can use any fruit or berries in it, any kind of nuts, any kind of extract and zest.

Some other ideas include:

  • Blackberries & raspberries with almonds
  • Chopped strawberries with lemon zest & sliced strawberries & almonds arranged on top before baking
  • Peach slices with vanilla beans & chopped pecans
  • Chopped pineapple with Macadamia nuts & orange zest
  • Cranberries with cinnamon, walnuts & steel cut oats
  • Mango with flaked coconut, coconut extract, lime zest & pine nuts
  • Dried cherries with dark & white chocolate chips & walnuts
  • Banana slices with chocolate chips
  • Raisins & golden raisins with cinnamon, nutmeg, chopped walnuts & steel cut oats- “Oatmeal cookie pie”
  • Chocolate chunks with chopped hazelnuts & marshmallows (minus the streusel)- “Rocky Road pie”

Of course, some of those aren’t 100% seasonally appropriate right now, but that’s up to you. You could even mix some marmalade in with the batter, then top it with some chopped or sliced nuts, then brush it with more marmalade right out of the oven (so it gets all melty like a glaze) and make a sort of marmalade-pie-cobbler-whatever. Honestly, it’s so easy, and it’s so easy to change it up that you can totally do anything with it. You can tinker with it ’till your hearts content. Plus, it’s basically the perfect last-minute picnic or barbecue dessert. It takes no time to make,  doesn’t even require a mixer, travels well & a trained monkey could do it. Or someone who’s been drinking some Brass Monkey. Whatever. It’s easy, trust me. Blast some Ill Communication and get on that shit!

Rest in peace, Adam.

“He who sees the end from the beginning of time
Looking forward through all the ages:
Is, was, and always shall be.”

“B-Boy Bouillabaisse (A Year And A Day),” Paul’s Boutique

“Double C” dark chocolate-almond conserves. And stuff.

I realized the other day that I never posted a photo of my new ‘do. Not sure how many of you care, really, but there might be another freak like me out there who’s interested in what a blogger’s hair looks like. It’s blonde now! Well the “long” part is. The “shaved” part is still my natural color, brown. After almost 2 full years of having not only the same hair color but my natural color, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I needed a change.

Stunning, I know.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. And speaking of what I’ve been up to, this is what I did on Superbowl Sunday.

Well, this & go to Trader Joe’s. I love Trader Joe’s. It’s a magical fairy land of fun & exciting things to eat & drink & I love it. Football? Not so much.

But anyway… those are cranberry, cherry dark chocolate-almond conserves. It’s a mouthful, I know (pun intended). But how else can I describe something made with dried cranberry, fresh cranberry, dried tart cherries, honey, sugar, lemon juice, sliced almonds & dark chocolate cocoa powder? It’s just naturally a long-winded item. But honestly, doesn’t it sound good? Yeah, I know it does. And it makes a fantasmagorical ice cream topping, rice pudding topping, a fancy oatmeal topping or even great just out of the jar with a spoon. Ooh, or on those mini-coffee cakes! Here it is on some Chobani vanilla Greek yogurt.

But what exactly is a conserve?

A conserve, or whole fruit jam,[5] is a jam made of fruit stewed in sugar.

Often the making of conserves can be trickier than making a standard jam, because the balance between cooking, or sometimes steeping in the hot sugar mixture for just enough time to allow the flavor to be extracted from the fruit,[6] and sugar to penetrate the fruit, and cooking too long that fruit will break down and liquefy. This process can also be achieved by spreading the dry sugar over raw fruit in layers, and leaving for several hours to steep into the fruit, then just heating the resulting mixture only to bring to the setting point.[5][7] As a result of this minimal cooking, some fruits are not particularly suitable for making into conserves, because they require cooking for longer periods to avoid issues such as tough skins.[6] Currants and gooseberries, and a number of plums are among these fruits.

Because of this shorter cooking period, not as much pectin will be released from the fruit, and as such, conserves (particularly home-made conserves) will sometimes be slightly softer set than some jams.[7]

An alternate definition holds that conserves are preserves made from a mixture of fruits and/or vegetables. Conserves may also include dried fruit or nuts.[8]

I like to think of it as preserves, but with nuts. That may not be scientifically accurate, but it does the job just fine when explaining it.

“DOUBLE C” (CHERRY & CRANBERRY) DARK CHOCOLATE-ALMOND CONSERVES

Makes around 5 4-oz. jars

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces tart dried cherries
  • 5 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 5 ounces dried sweetened cranberries
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sliced almonds

Directions:

  1. Sterilize jars & lids. Keep jars hot.
  2. Put cranberries & cherries in a saucepan & add water, sugar, honey & lemon juice. Heat on low, stirring, until sugar & lemon juice is dissolved. Add almonds & continue to cook, stirring occasionally until combined.
  3. Raise heat to medium-high and keep stirring to prevent scorching, until mixture thickens, fresh cranberries have popped open completely & dried fruits seem to be rehydrated.
  4. Add cocoa powder and continue cooking until mixture is thickened. Ladle into hot jars, leaving ½”-inch headspace. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Let cool, then check for seal.

You might notice when I’m canning I always have my jars on a towel. That’s because you should never put hot jars directly on a countertop or table; the change in temperature could cause the glass to shatter or crack, even slight cracks. And actually the worst can be really bad weakening of the glass which can cause future cracking or cracking during processing. The towel absorbs the shock better, and is of a more even temperature. Most countertops (like granite) & tables are much cooler than the jars, which is no good. So always have a tea towel or dish towel on your counter or surface for the jars to sit on (especially once they’re removed from the water-bath).

There are many other “canning basics” I’ve never gone into because, well, I’m not a master preserver. Nor is this a specifically canning-oriented blog. It’s mostly about baking; but yes I dabble in canning & also post stuff about cooking, etc. But I thought that maybe for some of you, this is the closest you get to reading a canning blog, so maybe I ought to give you a little background on water-bath canning basics. Water-bath canning is the most popular form of canning pickles, jams, jellies & both high-sugar/high-acidity food products at home. There are a lot of things you shouldn’t can this way, and that you need a pressure canner for, i.e. potatoes, beef/chicken/meats, stews, etc.  But since that’s out of my realm of expertise I’m going to stick to high-sugar/high-acid water-bath canning rules. Just bare bones, mind you. I can’t possibly go into temperatures & acidity & all that. I don’t have that kind of time, yo. For that I ask you travel on over here. But before that you can read these just to get an idea of what goes into a simple water-bath process, and maybe see if this is something you’re into.

  1. You must use canning jars if you want to “preserve” the food; meaning, if you’re making a jam & you’re going to put it in the fridge & eat it now, you can use a Tupperware or old spaghetti sauce jar no problem. If you want a shelf-stable product, you MUST use a jar specifically made for canning. Ball® & Kerr® are the most popular & cost-effective, Walmart sells some of their own brand too I believe, and for you fancy-pants out there, there’s Weck. Canning jars are specifically made to create a vacuum seal & can’t be substituted safely with anything else.
  2. You must have a deep pot. A lobster pot is what I use, but if you’re only planning on using tiny 4-oz. jars or the more shallow Collection Elite® 8-oz. jars (seen in the above photo of the conserves- it’s the large mouth jar to the right), then a deep pasta pot might work for you. Just remember: there must be one to two inches of water over the tops of the jars when they’re in the water. This is a must. You can’t just use a tiny little shallow pot that barely covers your jars.
  3. You must either have a canning rack or devise another method of keeping the jars off the bottom of the pot. Some people use dish towels folded up, some use a bunch of lid rings tied together, whatever. Buy it, steal it, DIY it if you want. Whatever works for you. Find a method that you like (or can afford) and go with it. As long as it keeps the jars from touching the bottom of the pot- you’re good. I like my plastic canning rack, but I don’t do large batch canning so it works for me.
  4. You need tongs with rubber or jar lifters. This may seem like it’s obvious, but I didn’t get any at first and then, when making my first batch of pickles I realized, “Holy shit these jars are fucking hot!” This isn’t an essential, meaning your jars won’t be ruined or inedible without it, but it certainly makes life easier. Who likes third degree burns? Not me.
  5. You need a candy thermometer. This isn’t really a must, necessarily, but I find it makes life a hell of a lot easier, specifically if you’re venturing into jellies & you especially need to know when it reaches that oh-so-important 220° F degrees. Because otherwise, you’ll end up with candy. Or syrup. Jams are more forgiving, as are preserves, but marmalades & jellies, at least I find, require a thermometer. The freezer test or frozen plate test isn’t reliable enough for me. You do not need this for making pickles or Giardiniere.
  6. You must have patience. Canning isn’t necessarily an instant-gratification process. You have to wait for things to set (you haven’t lived until you’ve waited a week for jelly to set, thinking the entire time those five jars might have been a waste of time, money & sweat), you have to wait for pickles to pickle, you have to wait for things to “gel” & cook, and you have to take the time to be careful about each process. At the same time, you must enjoy it. If not- don’t do it.
  7. Different things belong in different jars. Pickles (usually) go in pint or larger size jars. Jams & jellies usually go in half-pint or smaller. Yes, you can put bread & butter pickle slices in an 8-oz. jar & you can definitely put marmalade or jelly in a 16-oz. jar, but just remember: once you (or whoever you give it to) opens that jelly or jam, that’s A LOT to eat. You might end up forgetting it’s in the fridge & wasting it. I prefer smaller jars for the sweet stuff and larger jars for pickles or pickled veggies which not only are eaten more often, but last longer in the fridge. So think about that before you start & be prepared. The exception: peaches or fruit slices in syrup. For that, I’d use large jars.

Now keep in mind there is more that goes into it. Those are just the super basic basic basics of what you need to get started. I suggest you read the USDA’s website, get yourself the Ball® Blue Book Guide to Preserving & the Better Homes & Gardens book, You Can Can!; then thoroughly read through them. Between all of those things you’ll get an idea of the safety basics, must-haves & preparation, then I encourage you to peruse some sites like Hungry Tigress, Food in Jars & Punk Domestics to get an idea of what the possibilities are & what you can do. Then decide if it’s for you. It is not difficult, it’s not brain surgery, but there are definitely things you need to know before you start so you can do it safely.

Before you know it, you’ll be canning your brains out. Which sounds way dirtier than it really is.

Opium cakes.

Opium den images courtesy of Retronaut

Opium used to be the big drug back in the day. I guess it was the crystal meth of the time, around the turn of the century/1920′s. It contains something like 12% morphine, and codeine & hydrocodone are derivatives of the same family of drug- hence the name opiates. It’s serious stuff. Laudanum was made from opium & alcohol & was used to treat a variety of stomach ailments fairly regularly back then. But in modern times, all we know about it is what we read from an Edgar Allan Poe story or William S. Burrough’s novels, not to mention glib pop culture references. We all remember that Seinfeld episode where Elaine’s urine test comes back positive for opium because she ate a poppy seed bagel, right? I always thought such a thing couldn’t happen, unless you eat 1,000,000 poppy seed bagels in one day. But I was wrong: eating poppy seed muffins, cakes or bagels can indeed land you in a heap of trouble. As a matter of fact, back in January of 2005, Anahad O’Connor wrote in the New York Times Science section that “eating just two poppy seed bagels heavily coated with seeds can result in morphine in a person’s system for hours, leading a routine drug test to come back positive… [therefore] because of this possibility, the federal government recently raised the threshold for opiates in workplace testing to 2,000 nanograms a milliliter, up from 300.” And by that reasoning, this cake could possibly get you fired from your job or make you lose custody of your kids. It’s loaded with poppy seeds. Loaded. Both in the cake itself and on top.

Which is fine with me. I love me some poppy seeds. Poppy seed bagels are my favorite bagels ever. So when I was reading one of the (many, many, many, as you can see here) books I got for Christmas, Cake Ladies by Jodi Rhoden, and I saw this triple layer poppy seed cake with almond icing, I just had to make it. I never make cakes, as you probably know. This was an exception. It’s a huge cake: a pound of butter & a half-dozen eggs. But worth it. However… I ended up halving the recipe & making two dozen cupcakes instead. I know, I know.

But it just seemed so big. So many eggs, so much butter, etc. And it is big, because if half the recipe makes two dozen cupcakes, the whole recipe must make FOUR DOZEN. That is huge. And crazy. And ¼ cup of poppy seeds is a lot of poppy seeds. It’s a wonder I didn’t get high off it. As far as the taste goes, they were pretty unique, I have to say. Very different, but I loved them. Cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, poppy seeds, almond extract & the tang from the vinegar-milk combination; all very subtle but what flavor! A surprisingly delicious winter cupcake. Moist cake filled with tons of warming spices, albeit subtle like I said, and then some crunch from the seeds. I topped them with the almond buttercream from the book and then some little flowers made of almond slices with poppy seeds for centers. Really cute, I thought. Next time, however, I’d make little red poppies out of fondant. ‘Cause that’d be doubly cute.

Of course, I’m giving you the adapted cupcake version of the recipe that I made. For the full cake recipe, you’ll have to buy the book. Bwahahaha.

POPPY SEED CUPCAKES WITH ALMOND BUTTERCREAM ICING (adapted from a recipe by Lisa Goldstein of Celo, NC, from Cake Ladies by Jodi Rhoden)

Ingredients:

Cake:
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 cup milk at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of ground cardamom
  • ¼ cup poppy seeds
Icing:
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened, room temperature
  • 2 ½ – 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons half-and-half (plus more if needed)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites together with the cream of tartar on high speed, until soft peaks form. Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl of the stand mixer, this time fitted with the paddle, cream the butter, sugar and honey together until light and fluffy. While beating on low speed, add egg yolks, one at a time. Beat after each addition. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl, and beat again until the mixture is smooth, light and creamy.
  3. In a glass measuring cup, combine the milk, vinegar and almond extract. Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. Add that mixture to the creamed butter mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk mixture, and mixing lightly but thoroughly between each addition, until ingredients are just combined.
  5. Add the poppy seeds, folding them in by hand until combined. Quickly re-whisk the egg whites by hand if they’ve separated, then fold them into the batter gently, in three batches.
  6. Add cupcake liners to muffin tins and fill each with batter, around two-thirds full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in each cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool 10 minutes in tins, then remove to wire rack. Cool thoroughly before frosting.
  7. To make the icing, cream the butter and confectioner’s sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until it makes a thick paste. add and combine the vanilla & almond extracts. Then add the half-and-half, one tablespoon at a time, blending on low speed until fully incorporated.
  8. Add more if needed to achieve a creamy, fluffy consistency. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the paddle, bottom and sides of the bowl. Re-mix until no lumps remain.

Excuse the frosting job on the back left one; I was trying to find the best way of doing it

They came out really rustic-looking. So much so I almost wish I had one of those cake stands made of an old tree. They’d be so sweet on one of those. Dammit, I wish I had one now! I’m going to have to get my hands on some cut down trees & get Jay to start cuttin’ it up! He’s a big, handy fella. He can do it. Why buy when you can DIY!

If you’re looking for a unique recipe to try, this is it. It’d be fabulous as a triple layer cake, too, of course. And in case you’re wondering, I got a lot of cookbooks for Christmas, so you’ll be seeing a lot of recipes from them in the coming months. And I’m not into New Year’s resolutions so they’ll be loaded with butter & eggs & sugar. I’ve got to maintain my girlish figure somehow.

And if poppy seeds don’t interest you, later on this week there’ll be a post featuring a giveaway I’m doing together with Yoyo from Topstitch, so keep your eyes peeled.

Pie are squared, or 2πr.

Did you all have a Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa and/or Happy Hanukkah? I had an excellent holiday, & since Jay worked both Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, I got a third day of celebrating in yesterday on the 26th, filled with awesome gifts & copious amounts of food. And since our holiday celebration with Jay’s family has yet to be had, there’ll be yet another day of fun & gift-giving to come in January. Which is nice, it’s good to break up the monotony & boringness of January with an enjoyable event. Especially since once the hustle & bustle of the holidays & Christmas dies down, & I’m no longer being kept busy with that, I’ll feel the sadness of the losses I’ve experienced in 2011 far more poignantly once again. Ah. Such is life.

Photo: Mission Pie, San Francisco; credit: Dave Cook, Flickr

So back before Thanksgiving, when I found out what the plans were/whose house it would be at & I was figuring out what to make & bring, I had a plan. My plan was that I was going to make two pies, hence the title of the post. Why was I going to make two pies, you ask? Well, a few reasons. One- I had recently acquired two new pie plates; one gorgeous Lola-pink 9″ pie plate from my wonderful friend Brianne (who sells Longaberger, the makers of the aforementioned pie plate which is no longer available in pink) and another beautiful eggplant-colored pie plate from Michael’s that I got for an obscenely low price. So low I won’t even tell you because you’ll hate me. But you see, the pink pie plate was important. It was especially important that I show it off properly. I ordered this cute little basketweave pink pie plate back in like, May or June, and I waited for it until October 30th… patiently. It was limited edition, immediately retired, the shipment was delayed & it was back-ordered & whatever else. And then it finally came & Brianne ever-so-kindly delivered it to me during a time when she was a bit otherwise preoccupied (her new house in Connecticut that her, her husband, her 3-year-old & her almost 2 month old newborn baby had literally just moved into was slammed by the freak October snowstorm & lost power for days). So this plate was a major thing for me. The other pie plate is lovely, and is a gorgeous color with a fluted ruffly edge, but it doesn’t match Lola or my website, so it doesn’t have as much significance. Anything that matches Lola is a must with me. My kitchen is not a masculine place, hah. Plus, being it was part of their breast cancer initiative, Horizon of Hope, & my mom is a survivor, the pink color has double significance.

Reason two for the pie dramatics: I like pie- not really fruit pies, but chocolate, Shoo-fly or creamy ones; like coconut cream, chocolate cream, etc. Those are the kinda pies I can get diggity down with. Just me, a pie, a fork & some whipped cream. And reason three? Because I have a ton of pie recipes that I’ve never made. For example, Nigella Lawson’s Girdlebuster Pie. Tell me you aren’t intrigued by the title alone! And there are tons more, some of which are very traditional, some not so much, and others slightly too complicated for an everyday pie. But nonetheless, I had these two pretty little pie plates & I so desperately wanted to use them. That said, I had all intentions of making two pies for Thanksgiving. But alas I did not. And why not? Because this one pie that I tested out in the few days before turkey day was so simple yet so amazing I couldn’t bear to make another. What was it? Maple syrup pie. MAPLE. SYRUP. PIE. Read it again: maple syrup pie. Thanks to that book by Patty Pinner that it came from, my pie-making life was changed. Seriously. This pie made me rethink my non-pie-making self. It took no time at all and yet there it was, smelling all fantastic &… maple-y. Like a Shoo-fly pie but maple. I’ve made some things from the book before (namely a lemon ice cream that was so creamy & delicious it was like frozen lemony perfection) but this is just… so crazily simple & yet so delicious. I just don’t even know. But… *sigh* …unfortunately, the pie didn’t photograph well, and didn’t last very long either, admittedly. It did taste like sticky, sweet, gooey heaven on a plate.

However… it just didn’t look very good in pictures. Actually it looked downright awful; kinda poo-ish. And I used the eggplant colored pie plate, so it was all kind of dark. If you’re a blogger who takes pictures of food you know things like shoo-fly pie, pecan pie, chocolate frosting & chocolate cookies are the hardest things to photograph well. Especially in bad lighting, and my kitchen sadly has horrid lighting. And on top of that, like I said, it definitely didn’t last long enough for me to attempt another photo shoot in better light. So I was on to my next (& newer) plan: another pie. I didn’t know what kind, yet, but I just knew I’d have to use these pie plates for something photogenic & post-able!

And so Halloween came & went. Then I made the maple syrup pie, then Thanksgiving passed, & no more pie. Two batches of cupcakes instead. Then it started to inch closer to Christmas, and still no pie. Cupcakes, gingerbread cookies, brownies, etc… but I still hadn’t found the perfect pie. I kinda stopped looking for one in all the holiday hubbub. The pie plates looked more & more lonely every day. And then… crustless cranberry pie came into my life.

They say you find it when you’re not looking. Whatever “it” is.

See back before Christmas, Rosella, a friend of mine who I’ve known since freshman year of high school (which is far longer ago than I’d like to admit) had me & my mother over for coffee with her & her mom (& Rosella’s one year old baby, Giovanna). I know Rosella so long I remember when her niece was Giovanna’s age. I know her from back when we wore spike bracelets to school, when she dyed her hair green in her mom’s white bathroom sink & we “borrowed” her parents’ Infiniti to go joyriding a few too many times. I could mortify us both by posting a picture of us way back then but I won’t. And anyway, we’re talking about pie. So we all got together & Rosella served this crustless cranberry pie. Wow. SOLD. And I don’t even like cranberry. Forreals. Cranberry, almond, streusel… it was like a berry crumble-type thing. Like a coffee cake. Made in a pie plate. And it was so good. So that night I asked her for the recipe & she told me it was from AllRecipes.com! So I downloaded the app immediately. My faith in recipe websites has been restored.

CRUSTLESS CRANBERRY PIE (courtesy of Jean at All Recipes, with alterations)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons set aside for topping
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole fresh cranberries (or whole frozen)
  • ½ cup sliced almonds, divided, half set aside for topping
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup butter, melted, plus 2 tablespoons butter just softened, set aside for topping
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° degrees F. Grease one 9″-inch pie pan (or 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish).
  2. Combine the 1 cup flour, white sugar, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the cranberries and half the almonds, and toss to coat. Stir in the ½ cup melted butter, beaten eggs, vanilla and almond extracts. If you are using frozen cranberries, the mixture will be very thick. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the 2 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons softened butter, brown sugar & ¼ cup almonds together to make a streusel-like topping. Sprinkle mixture on top of pie.
  4. Bake at 350° degrees F for 40 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean.

This would be great with fresh blueberries in the summer, too. Or raspberries, or blackberries, or even chopped strawberries… with a bit of lemon zest. Totally adaptable. The original recipe calls for walnuts, but I took the advice of the commenters & went with almonds since that’s what Rosella did with her version, so if you prefer walnuts then that’s okay too. It’d probably be great in any capacity. I can even see it with a spoonful of fresh berry jam on it, or vanilla ice cream. Served warm or room temperature, with coffee, tea or cranberry ginger ale, it’s fantastic any way you like it. I scaled back the amount of cranberries from two cups to one, because I felt like one cup was just fine. Feel free to add the full two cups. But even if you don’t, and you end up with a practically full bag of cranberries, you can make tons of other neat cranberry stuff- amaretto cranberry sauce, pomegranate cranberry sauce, cranberry muffins (this recipe would work excellently in muffin form), cranberry bliss bars, etc. Or even make a second pie. I mean, this is a pie you can have for breakfast.

Photo: Lauretta Jean’s + Café Vélo, Portland; credit: Leela Cyd Ross

It’s true- I had it for breakfast, around 10 a.m., that day at Rosella’s mom’s house. It’s a dessert, it’s a breakfast, it’s a pie, it’s a cake. It’s everything. So really, where have you been all my life, crustless cranberry pie? The dish that made me like cranberries. Sorta. I’m still not big on them, but this pie definitely made me rethink my almost 30-year long cranberry strike. I made it for my “second Christmas” yesterday & it was a massive hit. And in my beautiful pink pie plate! Squee. Best of all? This one was extremely photogenic. And I’m no master pie-maker, I’m totally more a cake-girl than anything else, but because this is more like a coffee cake you don’t have to be a master pie-maker! No pesky crust, no bothersome filling. Easy as 1-2-3. You don’t even have to make it in a pie plate. But when you have such a pretty one like I do, why not?

Clearly the mathematical reference in the title is purely for satirical reasons. I failed math one semester in high school, it shames me to say. I got a whopping 35 on one of my math regents. I’m not bragging, and I am certainly not proud of it. I can’t help it though, I use the other side of my brain. I got a 90 on my History Regents, an 88 on Chemistry and a 92 on English. But you give me a math equation involving numbers & my mind shuts off. This doesn’t make baking difficult at all, though, because of a bevy of apps that provide me with the exact measurements & equivalents that I need, if I should need them (most of them I have memorized by now). I never thought I’d say it but my iPhone has made my life considerably easier, thank you Jay. So yes, I know the term 2πr, and that it means that the radius squared multiplied by pi (π) or 3.14 or 227, equals the circumference of a circle. However that’s where my knowledge ends. Don’t even ask about my problems with the Pythagorean Theorem. I was pretty decent at truth tables but linear pairs? Forget it. Yes, I pity my future children too; they will be seeking math homework help from the internet. Or iPad apps. But that’s okay, because they will be so insanely excellent in History & English they’ll really frighten you. As well as correct your grammar.

So really, I did make two pies. Just not at the same time, and nowhere near the same type. Pie(s) are squared.

Follow the trail.

With school being in full swing, I thought everyone could use something a bit easier to make, and what could possibly be easier than muffins? Muffins pretty much make themselves. Actually not really, because it’s hard for batter to mix itself… not to mention somewhat magical & Harry Potter-ish. But you know what I mean.

Back when my grandma passed away unexpectedly in July, we were inundated with beautiful cards & amazing e-mails & gorgeous flowers, etc. It was so wonderful to have people reach out that way. One of the things we received was a HUGE Harry & David gift basket sent by some high school friends of mine. I think my mother & I might have lived off of that basket for the first few days we had it. For dinner we’d have Moose Munch & butter toffee chocolates or strawberry licorice rope & yogurt pretzels. It was a heatwave, we were in a daze and we had absolutely no desire to eat let alone cook. But snack? Sure. A handful of popcorn & candy here & there got us through the days without crashing from low blood sugar.

Of course, there are always a few things left at the bottom of the basket. One of them was trail mix. Don’t get me wrong- there’s nothing wrong with trail mix. Especially not gourmet Honeybell Pecan Trail Mix. But let’s face it, when there are piles of delicious candy on top of it, what are you going to choose to eat first? Probably not the trail mix. Needless to say, in any gift basket, those are the things that are eaten first, but especially with us. We’re candy people. Chocolates always trump dried fruits around here.

So it was one really chilly night recently while I was watching History Detectives, when I saw the unopened baggie of trail mix & thought, “I bet that’d make a damn good muffin.”

,,,

It contains: Honey Bell pecans (pecans coated in a mixture of butter, sugar and oil of Tangelo [Honey Bell] flavoring), dried cranberries, raisins, almonds, pumpkin seeds and roasted cashews. A great fall breakfast muffin, right?

Not only that but it would use up that trail mix that was sitting there all lonely. All I did was I altered my favorite chocolate chip muffin recipe to include trail mix & some oats. Of course, I added considerably more trail mix than I did chocolate chips, then sprinkling the tops of the unbaked muffins with oats.

HONEYBELL PECAN TRAIL MIX MUFFINS

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup light-brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • ½ cup butter — melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs – beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 12 ounces trail mix (or less, depending on taste)
  • few tablespoons steel cut oats

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. and grease up twelve muffin cups or put liners in them (I prefer liners because it’s less messy that way).
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, stir together milk, eggs, butter, and vanilla until blended. Make a well in center of dry ingredients; add milk mixture and stir just to combine. Stir in trail mix. DON’T OVERMIX THE BATTER.
  3. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling them almost to the top; top each muffin with oats. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean.
  4. Remove muffin tin to wire rack; cool 5 minutes and remove from tins to finish cooling.

Now that school’s open again & everyone is busy, they’re fantastic to pack in a kid’s school lunch or to send them off with in the morning for a quick breakfast when you’re (or they’re) running late. Even as an after-school snack. You could add some peanut butter chips or white chocolate chips, maybe some yogurt covered raisins, or even regular chocolate chips to it, if the mixture doesn’t include them. Some shredded coconut or coconut flakes. Maybe substitute buttermilk for the regular milk? And of course, you can use any trail mix at all. Or even just a mix of whatever dried fruits/nuts you like. If you want to make them healthier, use whole wheat flour, substitute applesauce or coconut oil for the butter and use honey or agave nectar instead of sugar. Add some oat-bran, make a streusel topping- the possibilities are endless!

Eat one toasted with some fresh cream butter, homemade jam or marmalade, or just have it room temperature as a snack. I’m told they’re best warm out of the oven, though. However, since that little cold snap is over, & right now it’s about 100° degrees & humid as all get out in NY, I can’t imagine having the oven on to make more of these. This weekend, though, the baking is ON again. Get psyched.