twd: baking with julia: soda bread

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how was your st. patrick's day? did your neighborhood turn into a green-tinged frat party like mine? the gloriously summer-like weather brought out all kinds of leprechauns.

after downing more than my fair share of a pitcher of strawberry margaritas, i felt old in the best possible way heading home at about 8 pm to continue celebrations on the couch with ryan reynolds, a bottle of bubbles and the yogi.

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this soda bread came together in a snap for lunch the next day. 

never one to leave a perfectly delightful, four ingredient recipe alone, i added cheese.

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gloriously vibrantly orange sharp cheddar. i wish i could say it was of irish origins, but my corner grocery really just doesn't have that type of selection. all their irish cheddar was white.

and as far as we're at it, cheddar isn't really proper cheddar if it's from anywhere other than somerset england.

and their cheddar isn't usually orange anyway. you have to dye it to get it that bright.

but then, traditional soda bread isn't supposed to have cheddar cheese in it.

not even currants and caraway. that's totally american.

kind of like st. patrick's day.

wait, where was i?

non-irish cheddar. at least it lowered the bread's carbon footprint, right?

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anyway, i threw tradition to the winds, added orange cheddar for those lovely streaks and then a bit of caraway for a pop of anise flavor. i'd recommend the combination, but if i made this again i might be tempted to veer even further off the usual soda bread path and add onions and maybe even poppy seeds for crunch.

as an added bonus, i think the fat and moisture of the cheese helped the bread stay fresh a bit longer than advertised by the recipe, which promised the bread would go stale within hours.

i had some for breakfast and dinner the following day and it remained delightfully rich and dense, made even better by toasting to firm up the crumb. and then i finally pitched into the freezer to save myself from eating nothing but soda bread for the remainder of the week.

all in all, a winner of a st. patrick's day weekend.

for the recipe, and to see lots of other lovely blogs featuring this soda bread, visit tuesdays with dorie, my culinary mission, or chocolate moosey.

banana muffins

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usually, ripe bananas mean just one thing to me: chocolate chip banana bread.

it's the standby classic.  made it a million times.  have totally convinced myself that since it is a cooking light recipe and contains yogurt, it is healthy even when i add nearly an entire bag of chocolate chips.  MMMMMM.

but, sometimes you just need a muffin, you know?

this muffin is lighter, but somehow less virtuous than banana bread.  more purely banana.  but with butter. 

plus, it has that crispy muffin top you know you crave.  this is why you must bake and consume muffins on the same day. 

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and muffins take way way less time to bake.  a total win.

Banana Muffins

Not at all adapted from a Spilled Milk podcast

  • 10 ounces (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 7 ounces (1 cup) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table sat
  • 13 ounces mashed very ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
  • 3 ounces (1/3 cup) buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray. (I like Baker's Joy or another spray with flour in it.)

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Stir together the mashed banana, butter, egg, buttermilk, and vanilla in another bowl. (I like to mash the banana in a large bowl and then stir in the rest of the wet ingredients.) Add the dry ingredients and fold in gently until just combined.

Drop the batter into the muffin tin cups and bake until you get a nice brown ring around the edge of the each muffin top, about 22 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick. Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack and serve warm.

Yield: 12 muffins

italian prune plum cake

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we are back to the farmer's market this week.  i was seduced by a plum.  it's hardly my fault. 

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there are lots of pretty plums in the world.  the typical red Satsuma plums.  the little yellow and green plums. 

but the plums that got me were these.  italian prune plums.  so dark purple they are almost blue with a lovely ashy skin.  according to the internets, they aren't so good for eating out of hand, but better for baking.  especially on a stormy summer afternoon.  sold!

manchego liked them too.  or maybe it was the squirrel stealing our cherry tomatoes outside the window.

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just kidding.  the porch plants are so weak this year, the squirrel has given up on us.  i've given up on us.  on the plus side, since i've stopped watering the squash and tomatoes, i have SO MUCH MORE TIME.  war and peace kind of time.  plum cake kind of time.

sincere apologies to the dear friend who helped keep them alive during our vacation this year.  i started the summer with such hope.  there's always next year.

anyway, here are our ingredients.  it's a simple cake.  

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there are a lot of plum recipes out there.  tarts.  rustic crostatas and galettescrepes.  treats involving almond flour, pastry cream, spring-form pans.  sorbets for those uninclined to turn on the oven.  if you are feeling ambitious, i encourage you to try any of those yummy looking recipes.

me, i've been on a lazy streak lately. 

i googled until i found something super easy.  yet, something classic.  something blessed by not just the new york times and the spendid table, but also by an anonymous chowhound commenter

let's get started.  halve those plums.

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so pretty, the pale green center with the dusty purple skin.

i'll be honest – the pits were a little bit of a b*!@& to pry out of the plums.  we had words. 

once you've liberated your plum halves, let them hang out with the lemon juice and cinnamon.  then nestle them in the batter.  the batter is thick and sticky.

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the plums cook down and get jammy.  they stay a little tart, which is a nice foil against the cake, which is sweet but not too sweet.  not as sweet as the amount of sugar would lead you to believe.  and the cake has a nice light crumb.

the edges of the cake are a lovely chewy crust – and with a slightly gooey center, it's kind of like a really good brownie.  without the chocolate.  win some, lose some.

i slightly undercooked the cake.  don't be like me.  gooey is good – but the middle of my cake was inedible.  don't tell the cake police.  just bake your cake until it's done!

but the edges. 

crusty, chewy, just the right amount of gooey.

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see?  it's even like the cake is smiling.

Italian Prune Plum Cake

Basically as seen in: The New York Times and the Spendid Table, but also by an Anonymous Chowhound Commenter

  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 or 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 lemon, zest & juice
  • 7 Italian (prune or purple) plums
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon or more, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Halve and pit the plums.  Toss with 2 tablespoons of sugar, cinnamon and juice of one lemon.  Let the plums soak up the goodness.

Cream butter and 3/4 cup sugar.  Let it get good and fluffy.  Add flour and baking power and mix until just combined.  Add eggs, salt and lemon zest, and mix again until just combined.  Light touch! 

Scoop into a greased baking dish.  I used a 12x9ish baking pan.  Nestle in your plums, skin side down.  Don't be shy with that cinnamon.

Bake for about an hour or until the middle isn't gooey.  Let it get good and golden brown.  Cool, slice and serve with a little powdered sugar!

cherry crumble bars

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we are hitting that point of summer where i start to get into real trouble at the farmers market.  everything looks so good!  i want it all! 

it’s a double whammy when the sommelier goes out of town on the weekend.  there is no one to check the madness.  no one to question whether we really need TWO QUARTS of sour cherries.

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i mean, isn’t the answer to that always YES at the end of cherry season? 

but it didn’t stop at the cherries.  while you check out my haul, try to guess the number of humans i’ll be feeding this week.

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the answer?  me.  just me. 

dear sommelier: please come home.  yes, i miss you.  but also i bought a bunch of kale larger than a small child.

lordy. 

didja see rio lurking amidst the produce?  let’s see a close up.

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can haz fahmarz mahket! (hat tip jaime)

this is the point where she runs back and hides under the bed.

back to the cherries.  i bought a cherry pitter! 

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file that under other things i purchase when the sommelier is gone: excessive amounts of produce, single-use kitchen implements, shoes . . . .

let me tell you though, that cherry pitter is unbelievable.  so much fun.  i had purple fingers for so many years for no good reason.

i have many plans for these cherries.  luckily i bought TWO QUARTS.  the first round went into these:

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yeah, cherry crumble bars.  top notch.

sour cherries + lemon + butter + brown sugar + oaty crumbly goodness = winning.

plus, this recipe – itself a bastardization of several other recipes – is a great basis for all kinds of fruity, crumbly goodness.  i really liked the tartness of the sour cherries, but any other type of summer fruit would be good.  reduce the brown sugar and oats for a blueberry crumb bar like smitten kitchen’s original.  or swap the lemon for some ginger for a peachy crumble bar.  or add almonds and apricots!

 

Cherry Crumble Bars

adapted primarily from Smitten Kitchen

  • 1/2 cup white sugar (3 1/2 oz)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (3 3/4 oz)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (12 3/4 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces) cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 to 1 cup oats
  • 4 cups fresh sour cherrys – pitted and halved or not as you like it
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch

Preheat oven to 375.

Stir the sugars, flour, baking powder, salt and zest together.  Add butter and work into flour with a fork, pastry cutter or your fingers until mostly incorporated, then add egg and finish incorporating.  It should look kind of like coarse meal, but a little shaggier. 

Press half of mixture into bottom of a 13 by 9 in pan. Add oats to the remaining half for topping.

Mix cherries with lemon juice, 1/2 cup sugar and corn starch.  Pour over bottom crust. 

Sprinkle reserved oats mixture on top.  Bake for 30 to 45 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the cherries are bubbling.  It shouldn’t be too wiggly in the middle – it’ll firm up a bit.  But mine stayed a bit gooey.  Which I love.  But not everyone does, so just watch it, ok?

strawberry coconut scones

summer means strawberries, right?  check out these bad boys.

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i do have a confession.  i bought these strawberries at the tarjay.  and we are just on the wrong side of strawberry season.  they looked so red and yummy.  but check out the inside:

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yeah.  sadness.   but nothing that can't be solved by sugar and butter.  into scones they go!

scones are one of those baked goods that people have very particular feelings about.  and by that, i mean extreme animosity towards scones sold by certain omnipresent coffee shops with green signage.  i have no such prejudices against dessert masquerading as a breakfast item.  

these scones, however, may also cause some heart burn.  they aren't super flakey or biscuity.  although they have just the right hint of sweetness for proper breakfast food.  and they are profoundly cakey and soft in texture.  this, i think, is because they don't have buttermilk?  i really like me a tangy buttermilk scone.  i know you can make buttermilk out of regular milk.  but i didn't.  i just made these:

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what?  i forgot to mention my last minute brilliant idea to add coconut?  toasted coconut.  makes everything better.  let's get started.  lazy scones for subpar strawberries.  aren't you glad you kept scrolling?

chop your strawberries.  weigh your dry ingredients.

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add cold, cold butter (another victory . . . someday i'll remember to presoften butter, someday).  get your hands in there until it looks like this.

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then eggs, then milk (whole if you've got it!) and STRAWBERRIES.  don't they look so much better all chopped up?

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no, you can still tell.  sigh.

ah, but this is much better.

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and better.  milk wash action shot!

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coconut.  pre-toasted.

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yum.

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what are you talking about a missing scone?  there's no missing scone. just go make these already.

Strawberry Coconut Scones

Largely based on this recipe from Gourmet

  • 2 1/2 cup or 10 5/8 oz all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup or 1 3/4 oz white sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, chopped in largish chunks
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup whole milk, plus a little extra for the wash
  • 1 cup chopped strawberries
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut, give or take

Preheat your oven to 425°F.  If you don't have lovely silpat, grease up your baking sheet.

Whisk together your dry ingredients – flour through salt.  Add the butter and mix in with your fingers until it looks like coarse meal.  Stir in eggs and 1/4 cup milk until just combined, then carefully fold in strawberries. 

Flour your work surface.  If you want big scones, dump out all your dough.  If you're taking it to work, like I did, start with half the dough.  Knead lightly and shape into a round.  Use your rolling pin if you like thinner scone.  Cut into slices, like pie.  Or pizza!

Transfer your scones to the baking sheet.  Brush with milk.  Sprinkle with coconut!  Or turbinado sugar!  Whatever your heart desires.

Bake about 10-12 minutes for smaller scones, or closer to 15 for larger.  Eat warm with salted butter straight off the baking sheet.  Best the same day.