Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Change is good

Hello, again, friends! I didn't mean to be away so long...but like anything else, blogging is a habit, and if you get out of the habit, every day it's more difficult to get back into it.

But here I am! And while I've been away, I've been thinking about making some changes to the site. The first is location. Blogger has been a great host so far, but for a couple of reasons (some of which I may reveal later...), I think it's a good time to move to Wordpress. If this means nothing to you, don't worry! All you need to know is that Home Baked has a new web address, and I would be thrilled if you'll follow me over there. I'll leave the existing pages over here at Blogger for a while, but all new posts will be at the new site: Never fear, the old posts are there, too, so once you make the switch, you'll still be able to search for old recipes.

The other change I've been contemplating is the focus of this blog. While I began strictly as a food blog, I've found the tight focus a little confining. I'd like to expand a little to encompass more of the "home" and not just the "baked"! We've got lots of DIY projects happening, projects with the kiddos, and family stuff to do around the neighborhood. I'll still bring you the best new recipes we find, as well as other food-related topics that sound interesting. I'm excited, and hope that with a wider range of topics, I'll be more inspired to post and you'll be more inspired to comment!

So don't forget--click on the link above, and check out Home Baked's new home. It's cleaner, more organized, and should be a great place to share all the things that make our house a home.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fruit crumble

I like to bake cakes, but what I really like to eat is pie. And though I'd be the first to tell you that pie Isn't That Hard to Make, sometimes (just about any evening during a hot and sticky summer) you just want dessert with the smallest amount of effort possible. This is it. You don't need any special equipment, you don't need to wait until the ingredients are the perfect temperature. Just chop, mix, bake and eat. Come to think of it, this crumble is the perfect recipe for a vacation, when you're cooking in an unfamiliar and perhaps poorly equipped kitchen. It's also perfect when you have an eager helper whose enthusiasm eclipses his coordination. It's a great stand-in for pie because the crumble has the quality of short pastry rather than the fluffiness of a biscuit topping. One evening I threw it together with some overripe peaches just as we were getting dinner on the table, and it was ready by the time the plates were cleared.

The recipe comes from Jamie Oliver, the Naked Chef, and it's everything that's best about his recipes. It highlights fresh ingredients, it's simple, and it accommodates variation and experimentation. It's just a formula, and you plug in the variables. (Pardon my unlikely math analogies.) Try it--you can't go wrong.

As you can see, my helper and I used strawberries and rhubarb, and brown sugar on the fruit. I almost always substitute half the flour with oats. I've used whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour. Some fruits might welcome a bit of lemon juice or zest, or maybe a bit of ginger or cinnamon.

Fruit Crumble
from Jamie Oliver

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, cut into small chunks
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt

1 lb. fruit, washed and prepared
3 T. sugar

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix up the crumble ingredients however you like--in a food processor, a mixer, with a spoon, or--my favorite--just rub the mixture between your fingers until the butter is evenly distributed. Put the fruit into a shallow ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the sugar. Spread the crumble over the fruit. (I like to squeeze the dough into little clumps, but that's just me.) Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and the fruit is bubbly.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream or yogurt (and call it breakfast).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

After school brownie muffins: The Recipe

A commenter noticed that I never posted a recipe for these muffins that I posted about way back when I started this blog (not so long ago, really). When I started, I wasn't sure I was going to include a recipe in every post. But let's face it, that's what I want when I see something that looks good--gimme the recipe so I can try it for myself! So, without further ado, I'm sending you back to the original post, now new and improved, recipe included. Click on the link below!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sponge roll with chocolate glaze

Here's a cake I hadn't tried before, but will definitely make again. Looks so fancy and complicated, but it comes together very quickly. (A little hint: even if your squabbling "helpers" distract you and you forget to add the flour to the sponge cake batter, the final result will still be edible. Next time decline "help" until the decorating stage.) The sponge cake is really just a vehicle for the filling, something to spread the chocolate on. I've got some other flavor combinations swimming about in my brain...lemon sponge with berry jam and whipped cream, something with peaches and pecans....

Anyhow, there are a lot of directions here, but don't be discouraged. Just read them through a couple of times beforehand. It's actually quite a simple procedure once you try it. The kids helped with the decorating and it still turned out pretty professional looking, so you can do it, too! (Chocolate and powdered sugar look good in any form, right?)

Sponge cake:

1/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs, separated
3 Tbsp. sifted all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
confectioner's sugar

Chocolate glaze:

6 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
3 Tbsp. prepared coffee
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. rum
1 cup chocolate shavings (use a swivel vegetable peeler to shave curls off a bar of chocolate--any kind but unsweetened--work over a piece of wax paper and refrigerate the shavings until ready to use)
confectioner's sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a jelly-roll pan (mine is 17"x11") with foil and grease it well with butter or baking spray.

With an electric mixer, beat 3 Tbsp. of sugar (reserve 1 Tbsp.) with the egg yolks at high speed until they are cream colored (about 5 minutes).  Add the flour and beat on low, just until incorporated.

In a second bowl, with clean beaters (or the whisk attachment on a stand mixer), beat the egg whites and pinch of salt until they begin to thicken. Add the reserved tablespoon of sugar, and beat until the whites hold their shape, but are not yet stiff and dry.

Fold one-third of the whites into the yolk mixture, then another third, and then the final third. Do not mix more than necessary. Quickly and gently spread the batter into the jelly-roll pan and smooth it into the corners. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly pressed with your finger.

Remove the cake from the oven and immediately sift confectioners sugar generously over the surface of the cake. Cover the cake with a long piece of wax paper, and then cover the wax paper with a cookie sheet. Holding them firmly together, flip the jelly-roll pan over onto the cookie sheet. Remove the pan and peel the foil off the bottom of the cake. Then roll the warm cake and the wax paper tightly together from the narrow end. Let the cake roll stand on the cookie sheet until cool.

While the cake is baking and cooling, make the glaze. Melt the chocolates and the coffee in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until smooth. Add the butter and stir until it is melted and completely incorporated. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum. Let it cool to room temperature.

When the cake is cool, put the pan of glaze into a larger bowl of ice water and stir constantly until it thickens slightly. Reserve 1/3 cup of glaze for the top of the cake. Unroll the sponge and spread the glaze evenly to the edges of three sides of the cake; leave an inch or so unfrosted on one narrow end. Reroll the cake (without the wax paper inside this time!), and then spread the reserved glaze over the top and sides with a small spatula. Sprinkle the chocolate shavings over the glaze (you will have to gently press them into the sides), and then refrigerate the roll for 30 minutes, or until the glaze is firm.

Remove roll from the refrigerator, transfer to a serving platter, and sift confectioner's sugar generously over the top. Serve at room temperature, birthday candles optional.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blueberry pie

It was Father's Day, and the father of my children had wisely packed up his library book and taken the oldest two to the pool, while I stayed home with He-Who-Will-Not-Nap. It was humid and cloudy, and 80-some degrees, both in and outside the house. The air conditioning had died. And there I was in the kitchen, with all the windows open and the oven set to 400 degrees, baking a blueberry pie.

Despite the heat, there's something to be said for listening to the cardinals and sparrows calling from the backyard while rolling out a pie crust, as if time has stood still for fifty years or so. I could hear lawnmowers buzzing and a baby crying in the distance. My baby doesn't cry like that anymore--time does rush on. He was singing from his bed, with wooden trains, teddy bears, books and an assortment of dollhouse furniture scattered about him. And then he crept down the stairs, finally appearing in the kitchen to announce, "I waked up! And I need a snack."

That evening we celebrated with grilled steak, creamed spinach, and blueberry pie with ice cream. We ate our pie outside on the patio to catch the breeze. Mmmmm...summer. You're not going to get such a pie in any other season. The blueberries were juicy and jammy all at once, the crust buttery and flaky, but sturdy enough to stand up to the warm fruit filling.

I must confess to a small revelation: cutting the butter into the flour by hand (with a pastry blender) is infinitely superior to mixing it in the food processor. I seem to overmix in the food processor, and lose the flaky pockets of butter that you get from mixing more slowly with the pastry blender.

I first made this discovery a month or so ago, when I made a quiche for a weeknight dinner. The crust was puffed and layered, reminiscent of puff pastry, but without all the work. I hadn't done anything complicated or magical. I used cold butter, ice water, unbleached flour and a pinch of salt. I chilled the dough for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out. No time in the freezer, no vinegar or vodka or shortening in the recipe. Maybe you have more restraint than I do with the pulse button on the food processor. If not, try it by hand. I figure the time I spend mixing is saved by not having to wash all the nooks and crannies in the Cuisinart bowl!

Blueberry pie

2 pints fresh blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon peel

All-butter pie crust (but abandon your food processor and mix it by hand!)
heavy cream

Prepare pie crust and chill the disks of dough for at least 30 minutes. Rinse and drain blueberries, then combine with sugar, flour, lemon juice and lemon peel. Crush a few blueberries with the back of a spoon and mix with the rest of the berries. Let stand for about 15 minutes.

Place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat to 400 degrees. Roll out the chilled dough into two 12-inch rounds. Transfer one to a 9-inch glass pie dish. Spoon the filling into the crust. Cut the second round into 1/2-inch wide strips and arrange in a lattice on top of the filling. Press the strips into the edges of the bottom crust, trim the overhanging dough, and crimp the edges decoratively. Brush the crust lightly with heavy cream. Sprinkle on a little sparkling sugar, if desired.

Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes. Cover the the edge of the crust with aluminum foil or a pie crust shield. Bake another 15-20 minutes, until the filling is bubbling in the center and the crust is golden on top and bottom. Cool pie on rack at least 2 hours. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

What dessert says summer to you?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Farmer's Market Blueberry Muffins

Saturday morning we packed up the kids and went to our first farmer's market of the summer. I think it might have been the first time in eight years that we did not take a stroller. Another milestone. We came home with a bag of multi-colored fingerling potatoes, two big bunches of asparagus (some of which turned into this salad), and a pint of blueberries. After sampling a few (not a sour one in the bunch), I used the whole box in my favorite blueberry muffin recipe on Sunday morning.

The muffin batter is really just a means to bind the blueberries together, topped with a buttery crumb topping. These are not sturdy muffins that would survive a child's backpack; these are delicate and tender, best still warm from the oven and borne gently to the breakfast table in a basket. (I bet Dad wouldn't mind them, along with a cup of coffee and a handmade card, on his tray for Father's Day breakfast in bed.) Frozen berries will not do. Save this recipe for the best fresh blueberries you can find.

Blueberry muffins
adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup light cream or half-n-half
1 large egg
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
2 cups fresh blueberries

2 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1/3 cup flour
3 Tbsp. sugar

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease 12 muffin cups.

Melt butter in microwave or in a saucepan over low heat. Whisk in milk, egg and vanilla until well combined.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add liquid mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in the blueberries. Scoop the batter into the muffin cups.

Combine the topping ingredients in a small bowl and rub together with your fingertips until it begins to crumble and clump together. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the muffin batter.

Bake until golden and crisp, and a wooden pick comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges of each muffin and carefully remove from the cups. Serve warm.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Chocolate chip cookies: classic for a reason

I've never met a chocolate chip cookie I couldn't eat. One little circle that satisfies all your carb/sugar/chocolate cravings in a single bite. I do have preferences, though. I like them chewy and crispy. I prefer all butter. I love nuts, but haven't indulged lately, what with kid allergies and dislikes. (Perhaps I should rethink my strategy: add nuts, and the cookies would be mine...all mine....) My current favorite standard recipe is this one from (you guessed it) Smitten Kitchen. But on Sunday I received this:

So the first recipe I tried was the one for chocolate chip cookies, made with 100% whole wheat flour. It lends a subtle nuttiness, without screaming, "I'm healthy!" These definitely hit that crispy/chewy balance, and everyone loved their giant size. I made a couple adaptations to the recipe to fit my pantry (no quick runs to the store during nap time!), substituting light brown sugar for the dark, and semi-sweet chocolate chips for the bittersweet chunks. The result was excellent, but now I'm curious to taste the difference. Better quality chocolate can only be better, and I suspect that the dark brown sugar may lend a touch more moistness and depth of flavor. Today I was at the market, and made sure to pick up the missing ingredients. I guess I'll have to make them again and report back, if I don't get distracted by all the other fascinating recipes in this book. In the meantime, here's the straight-from-the-pantry version, because when you need cookies, there's no time to run to the store.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted slightly from Good to the Grain

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
8 oz. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment or Silpat. Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl.  Add the butter and sugars to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on low with the paddle attachment, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Mix in the vanilla.  Add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl and blend on low just until combined. Scrape down the sides again, and add the chocolate chips. Mix on low for a few seconds more, then scrape the bowl one last time, making sure the chips are evenly distributed.

Scoop mounds of dough about 3 Tbsp. in size on the the baking sheet, 6 cookies to a sheet.  Bake for about 18 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through.  Remove the cookies and cool briefly on a wire rack. These are best the first day, but will keep in an airtight container for 3 days.

Wonderful note from the cookbook author:  Don't chill this dough and then try to scoop it--it's too difficult. If you don't have time to bake the entire batch, scoop all the cookies and chill the extra balls of dough in a sealed container in the refrigerator. They'll keep for a week.