Sunday, September 2, 2007

Missing in Action!

Sweet and Savory are on a bit of a hiatus, but you can find more from Mallow at Pietown. Come have a visit!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Plain Old Coffee Cake

Here on the West Coast we had the honor of a visit from Nina Roux recently. I made this cake for one of our gatherings. It was buttery and tasty, with a sweet (but not too sweet) crumb topping. I couldn't get a good photo, but if you are really itching for a glimpse, then scroll to the bottom for a mediocre picture.

The recipe came out of Martha's Baking Handbook, and the only modification I made was to use only half of the crumb topping. It was more than enough, and I can't imagine that you would even be able to find the cake if you had used the whole amount called for.

Classic Crumb Cake, from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

- 10 Tbsp butter at room temp
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/4 cups sour cream
- crumb topping

Crumb Topping (this is half of what was called for)

- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon (I will try more next time)
- 3/4 tsp coarse salt
- 1 3/4 sticks of room temp butter

Mix the dry ingredients first in a food processor, then add the butter in pieces until clumps form.

Oven to 350 degrees; grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
Mix dry ingredients in bowl and set aside.
Beat butter and sugar until fluffy (about 4 minutes.) Beat in eggs one at a time; add vanilla. Add sour cream and flour mixture, alternating. Spread batter into pan and then sprinkle crumb topping over batter. Bake for about 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for a little while, but this cake is great while still warm.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Whole Wheat Bread

As usual, I am baking way less since it is summertime. I imagine that will change once September rolls around, but in the meantime I did make a really tasty batch of bread. I am going to continue my lazy streak and simply say that I followed the recipe for Whole Wheat Bread in Baking Illustrated to the letter, and the results were fabulous. It called for all purpose flour, whole wheat graham flour, wheat germ, and rye flour. The bread was soft, it wasn't dry at all, and it didn't require an enormous effort to chew (I guess I had pretty low expectations, which is odd since I grew up with my grandma's amazing homemade whole wheat bread...?). The texture was actually pretty amazing, and I will definitely be coming back to this recipe.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Roasted Chickpeas with Cherry Couscous and Cucumber-Lime Raita

Nina Roux sent me this kick-ass cookbook for my birthday,The Flexitarian Table. The raita and chickpeas are the first things I have made from it, and they are both to be repeated soon. This is probably the best way I have ever eaten chickpeas - they are very nutty tasting. And the onions get nice and sweet during the roasting. I ended up altering the recipes a bit. For one thing, I didn't have some of the ingredients called for in the book (for example, I only had ground cumin - no cumin seeds.) I also have a very difficult time following recipes when I am cooking (baking is a different story), so there were no measuring spoons out when I made these.

Cucumber Lime Raita

- cucumber, seeded, peeled, and chopped
- dash of olive oil
- lime juice
- cumin
- coriander
- salt
- Greek yogurt (I had fat-free Greek yogurt, and honestly couldn't tell)
- black pepper

Combine all of the above ingredients, seasoning to taste.

Cherry Couscous

- couscous (I used Israeli-style)
- dried tart cherries
- salt
- butter

Cook couscous according to package instructions, but add cherries, salt, and butter to the water before it comes to a boil.

Roasted Chickpeas

- 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- olive oil
- lemon juice
- 2 bay leaves, broken in half
- cumin
- turmeric
- sweet paprika
- cayenne pepper
- fresh flat leaf parsley

Oven to 400 degrees. In an oven-proof skillet, place chickpeas, onion, oil, lemon juice, bay leaves, cumin, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, and a dash of salt. Stir over medium heat until sizzling, then transfer to oven for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Lemon Blueberry Bread

There has been a lot less baking going on around here lately because the weather was actually acting like summer. As a result I was spending way more time on my bike , and way less time in my kitchen. But last week, after the seventh straight day of rain, I found myself pulling out the butter, sugar, flour, and eggs again, and this bread is the result. (Luckily the sun returned today, and I just got back from a nice ride by the lake.)

Lemon Blueberry Bread

- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- zest of about 2 lemons
- 2 eggs
- 8 ounces yogurt (I happened to have fat-free Greek style at home and used that; it worked great)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups blueberries; I used frozen

Oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Mix first four ingredients together in medium bowl. In bowl of mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add lemon zest, then the eggs one at a time, and vanilla. Alternately add flour and yogurt, beginning and ending with flour. Mix in blueberries. Batter will be thick. Pour into pan and bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cover in foil part way through if cake appears to be browning too quickly. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on wire rack.

This bread (cake) is nice and lemony, slightly tart from the yogurt, and with the texture that I always hope for in a blueberry muffin. I used frozen wild blueberries, and they did the trick nicely. It keeps well for a day or two, but loses the slightly crunchy crust (my favorite part) that it has coming out of the oven.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Pillows A'Plenty

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I've decided that "Pillows" are my signature dish. I did some experimenting this Fourth of July, thinking I'd monitor reactions on the party guinea pigs. Well, that didn't work out because they all disappeared the moment I set them down! I'll take that as a good sign.

I experimented with my very first whole wheat pastry crust, and it's delicious. I prefer it with the savory pillows, but I think extra sugar on top would make a difference on the sweet.

These are really easy to make, and easy to experiment with. The fillings need some tweaking, I admit. As usual, I didn't find the EXACT ingredients I wanted; our little grocery store didn't have Greek feta, so I was forced to try Mexican feta, which is incredibly bland, and not feta like at all.

Also, the ricotta and sour cream blend was delicious, but wasn't as flavorful as I would have liked.

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But aren't they ADORABLE?!

Start with two batches of whole wheat pastry dough (one batch makes about 13 Pillows, so if its for a party, two batches will make enough for everyone.) I made each batch separately (rather than doubling the recipe, then splitting it) - but I'm sure it would work either way.

Whole Wheat Pastry Dough
7 Tabs butter (I used salted)
1 1/4 C. whole wheat pastry flour
1/8 tsp. salt
2-3 Tabs. ice water

Start with very cold butter (I stuck mine in the freezer for a while). Have your ice-water at the ready. Add flour and salt to a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add butter one Tab at a time, and pulse processor until the butter is incorporated, and crumbled into pea sized bits. Add ice water one Tab at a time, pulsing, until the dough starts combining and forming a ball.

Remove dough from processor, shape into a ball, then wrap in cellophane, and pat into a disc shape. Refrigerate for about a half an hour.

Prepare fillings.

Roll out flat until about 1/8 inch thickness. Using a cutter, cup, martini shaker, or whatever you have on hand, cut into discs about 4 inches in diameter. Each batch makes about 13 discs.

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Spinach and Feta Filling
2 cups frozen spinach (I used bag variety, but the packaged type would do)
1 1/2 cup feta cheese (give or take, separated)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook spinach in microwave (or stovetop) until tender. Drain, and squeeze out as much water as you can. Add 1 cup of feta cheese (setting aside 1/2 cup) to spinach, stirring together with a fork (not too blended).

Spinach Feta Pillows
1 egg white (beat gently with a fork)
1 Tab kosher or sea salt

Place a pinch of plain feta cheese in the upper half of a dough disc. Spoon about a tablespoon of spinach and feta mixture on top, then fold disc in half. Seal edge by dipping a fork into egg white, and pressing fork around the edges.
Once all pillows are assembled, brush the top of each with egg white, and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Blueberry Ricotta Filling
1-2 cups frozen blueberries
1/2 cup sugar (separated)
2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)

Place frozen blueberries in a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup sugar, until blueberries are coated. Combine ricotta and sour cream. Add half of blueberry mixture, and stir until combined, gently squeezing juice from berries.

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Blueberry Ricotta Pillows
1 egg white
1-2 Tab sugar

Taking one dough disc at a time, spoon a small amount of ricotta mixture into the upper half of the disc, then add about 1/2 Tab blueberries, then fold disc in half. Dip fork into egg white, and seal the edges as above. Pierce the top of each pillow a few times with a toothpick or skewer, brush the tops with egg white, then sprinkle sugar on top. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

Woolly Coconut-Lime Birthday Cake

This was my birthday cake. I had been craving lime and coconut, I think because I associate those flavors with trips to Mexico and summer was nowhere to be seen when my birthday rolled around a few weeks ago. This cake turned out to be exactly what I wanted, and I won't change a thing the next time I have an excuse to make it. The cream cheese frosting wasn't too sweet, and it was heaven with the lime curd (I was having an impossible time not eating spoonfuls of each while waiting for the crumb coat to chill.) The cake actually tasted of coconut too (just like the recipe promised) without any annoying coconut flakes in the batter itself. The half-toasted sweetened coconut smashed on the outside was actually WAY better than I was expecting. It was chewy-crunchy, which added a great contrast to the cake, but it also added a lot more flavor than I had anticipated.

(It is warm outside, my windows are open, I have wobbly-tired legs from a fifty mile bike ride today, and I am listening to Neil Diamond while I write this. Meow.)

I had searched high and low for a recipe that used coconut milk instead of "cream of coconut" (which I find a little scary - it contains several mystery ingredients), but I wasn't having much luck. I was surprised when I saw that the Cooks' Illustrated recipe even called for the stuff, but then they explained themselves (yay Cooks' Illustrated!). Apparently when they were testing recipes with coconut milk they had wildly varied results. With a little research they discovered that from can to can, coconut milk's fat content can vary as much as 33%. Hence, the cream of coconut.

Martha's Lime Curd, (slightly modified) from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

- 8 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp lime juice
- 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp lemon juice (I actually used more lime juice - I only had 1 lemon)
- zest of 2 limes
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 1/4 sticks cold butter, cut into pieces (10 Tbsp)(I used salted)

Put yolks, juice, zest and sugar in heavy saucepan. Whisk well to combine, then cook over medium-high heat, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon until mixture coats back of spoon and is 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer (about 8-12 minutes).

Remove from heat. Stir in salt. Add butter pieces gradually, stirring until mixed well. Press through sieve into bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing onto surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate at least one hour.

Coconut Cake, (modified slightly) from Baking Illustrated.

- 2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) cake flour (I used 9 ounce AP flour)
- 1 egg
- 5 egg whites
- 3/4 cream of coconut (Coco Lopez)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tsp coconut extract
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 sticks butter (12 Tbsp), softened but cool, cut into 12 pieces
- 2 cups packed sweetened shredded coconut

Oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

In a large measuring cup, mix egg and egg whites with a fork, then mix in cream of coconut, water, and extracts.

In bowl of mixer, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add butter one piece at a time, and mix until resembles coarse meal with no pieces bigger than a pea, about 2 - 2 1/2 minutes.

With mixer running, add a cup of the liquid mixture. Beat on med-high until fluffy, about 45 seconds. With mixer still running, add remaining liquid in steady stream over about 15 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat for another 15 seconds.

Divide batter between pans. Batter will be thick - spread with spatula. Bake for about 30 minutes, until toothpick is clean. Remove cakes, and toast coconut spread on baking sheet for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until half of coconut is golden, half is still white.

Cool cakes on wire racks, remove from pans after 10 minutes to finish cooling.

Ina Garten's Cream Cheese Frosting, (slightly modified) from the Barefoot Contessa at Home

- 1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
- 2 sticks butter at room temperature (I used salted)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 pound powdered sugar

Beat together everything except the sugar. When it is well combined, add the sugar, and beat until smooth.

Assemble and eat! (I put a thin coat of frosting on the bottom layer before the lime curd.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Almond Pillows

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What is a girl to do when she’s at home alone on a Saturday, too lazy to go to the store, and needing sugar like a cat needs it catnip (this is a profound need, if the cat is near enough to the nip to know it's there)? She scrounges through the cupboards, freezer, and cookbooks to see if there’s anything she can throw together. With sugar.

In the freezer? Frozen pie dough left over from Thanksgiving 2006 (basic Martha Stewart dough recipe). Also, some almond paste left over from Christmas Morning Bear Claws. What could a freezer and 6 or 7 months do to ruin these things? I decided not to answer the question, and to forge ahead.

I rolled the dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness, and cut it into circles with a cookie cutter. Then I put a small amount (about 1/2 Tab.) of the almond paste in the center, then folded the circles in half. I brushed the edges with egg whites, and used a fork to seal the deal. As a final touch, I brushed the tops with egg whites, and sprinkled with sugar, then baked them for about 25 minutes at 350 (or until golden brown).

While these DID taste a little like freezer (I ate them too fast to judge), I must say they were a wonderful invention. I have decided these are a staple, and perhaps a signature dish. I will make Pizza Pillows, Mexi-Pillows, Blueberry Pillows, Cinnamon Apple Pillows, Pumpkin Pillows, Pecan Pillows...need I go on?

Portuguese Prize!

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This recipe and post is simply a vehicle for me to show off a picture of one of my birthday gifts. In the background, that lovely blue and white ensemble you see is an oil, vinegar, salt and pepper set direct from Portugal.
I spent 4 months traveling through Europe about 10 years ago (ack! Where did the time go!?), and everywhere I went (mostly in Spain, Italy and Portugal) I saw beautiful hand made pottery. Pitchers, plates, bowls...and decanter sets like these. And because I was back-packing, it seemed unwise to purchase something this precious and breakable at the time. I have since kicked myself every single day. I returned to Italy a year later, and didn’t see anything like it again. I thought my chances of owning one of these sets were gone for good.
When Tennille ( started planning one of her adventures, she was dismayed by the costs of going to Europe. I suggested she look into Portugal, as it is a little off the beaten-track of the Continent goers. She followed my advice, took some amazing pictures, and brought me home this GORGEOUS decanter set that I covet. I think it officially is the “one thing I would grab” in case of fire. After the husband.
On the food side of things, I have taken to oven-roasting my vegetables. It’s SO easy, they’re so tasty, and it’s easy to have a colorful assortment of earthly delights to go with any main dish.

Oven-Roasted Vegetables

Assortment of peppers (red, green, yellow, orange)

Heat oven to 425.

Chop assorted vegetables into large chunks, and arrange on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Bake for about 25 minutes. Drizzle balsamic oil over the top, or sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and serve as a side or main dish!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cherry Blackbottom Cupcakes

After all my griping about the weather, I decided to celebrate the sunshine by taking my cupcakes outdoors for their class picture. It still isn't exactly summer here, but I have at least been able to go on a couple of long bike rides. This should somewhat compensate for the fact that I will be eating these cupcakes for dinner every night until they are gone (three per night, 12 in a batch means I'll be back to real food by Monday.)

These cupcakes land somewhere near World Peace Cookies on my top ten list. I love the combination of chocolate with the cherry and the cheesecake, and the texture is exactly what I want out of a cupcake, too. They are incredibly easy to make, and they keep well. Basically I have nothing bad to say about them. I used David Lebovitz's recipe for Black-Bottom Cupcakes from the Great Book of Chocolate, and made two tiny modifications (cherry jam and almond extract).

*I am in love with this jam, and am constantly seeking out new delivery methods (toast, sandwiched between graham crackers or cookies, by the spoonful when nothing else is available). That is how I ended up with cherry jam in my cupcakes.

Cherry Blackbottom Cupcakes

- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 5 Tbsp natural cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup water
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp white or cider vinegar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract


- 8 ounces room temp cream cheese
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 room temp egg
- 1/8 tsp almond extract
- 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
- cherry jam*

Oven to 350 degrees, line one standard muffin tin with cupcake papers.
Beat cream cheese, sugar, egg, and almond extract together. Mix in chocolate chips.
In large bowl, mix together dry cupcake ingredients. Make well in center and pour in wet ingredients. Stir together with wooden spoon. Distribute amongst cupcake papers. Next, distribute cream cheese mixture, about 1-2 Tbsp per cupcake. Finally, drop about a tsp of jam onto each cupcake.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until cupcakes are springy and tops are slightly golden.