Category Archives: Breads

almond fig cake

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On a Thursday a few weeks ago, I came home and took a few pictures of the changing leaves.  Then, I came inside and made a cake.

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Not just a cake; this cake.  Figs are either past their prime or almost past their prime, depending on where you are, but I was able to scoop some up for cheap at my food co-op that day.  Generally I prefer green figs for eating- they’re firmer and not as sticky sweet as their purple or black counterparts.   But a girl in Wisconsin can’t say no to cheap figs, regardless of color, and I was determined to make a mostly-almond gluten-free cake, like a cross between the one I’d seen on Joy The Baker and like the many almond meal cakes on Rachel Eats. {Pssst, this one’s my favorite.}

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This was not my first attempt at an almond fig cake, and the first one was maddening.  Too much liquid up front due to bad math resulted in me whisking in more and more tapioca starch and almond meal in vain.  The cake was good, but it took over an hour to bake and the figs were too heavy for the batter- they sank like stones.  Soggy figs cooked inside a cake are not very good, and I ended up picking around the fruit and just eating the cake.

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Then, that Thursday, I found this pin.  What!  The cake I was looking for… almost.  Of course I couldn’t resist tweaking.  With the lengthening sun filling my kitchen with crisp fall sunlight, I poured a Campari Shandy, pulled out my discount figs, and got to work.  The result is gluten-free, Paleo but for the 1/4 cup sugar, and absolutely perfect if you prefer your cakes dense and flavorful and without a wisp of frosting in sight.

Almond Fig Cake
One 9-inch cake
By David Tanis

4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
140 grams almond meal
35 grams potato, arrowroot, or tapioca starch (I used potato)
1/4 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 almond extract
8 to 14 ripe figs, depending on the size of your figs and how many you want (I used 9, but the original calls for 12-14)

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a 9-inch tart, pie, or cake pan. In a small saucepan, brown the butter over medium heat.   Once the butter is browned, remove from heat and whisk in the honey.  Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the almond meal, starch, baking powder, cardamom, and salt.  In the saucepan, whisk the eggs and almond extract into the butter and honey mixture; then pour into the dry mix and stir until just combined.  Pour batter into the buttered pan.

Carefully wash and dry figs.  Remove the stems and cut the figs in half.  Arrange fig halves cut-side-up over the top of the batter.  Sprinkle the top of the figs and batter with the reserved 2 tablespoons sugar, and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out dry.  Cool before serving, if you can resist.

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Filed under Breads, Clean Eating, Desserts, Fall, Gluten-Free, Summer

Chicken tikka masala with gluten-free naan

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I married a man who doesn’t like flavorful food.

That’s maybe a little harsh.  He doesn’t like what he calls “ethnic food.”  What he’s referring to is any food that has specific/bold flavors.  No Chinese, no Thai, no Indian.  He likes American fare: burgers, meatloaf, potatoes and chips and cheese.  Basic tacos or enchiladas on flour tortillas and some stereotypical German foods make up the cultural boundaries of his palate.  He doesn’t even like wine.

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The woman behind the checkout counter at the grocery store last night couldn’t imagine.  She had identified the spice blend in the little self-serve baggie on sight- “Is this garam masala? I can tell just by looking at it, I cook with it that much!”  I told her it was for this chicken tikka masala that I was making this weekend, as my husband didn’t like it but he was gone.  “You married somebody who doesn’t like chicken tikka masala?!” she asked incredulously.  I sighed.

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I spent the last week in D.C., and without making a conscious effort, I ate things he wouldn’t have almost every night.  Lamb boti kabob and kachumbar, clam pizza, authentic Mexican, spicy kim chi, oysters on the half shell.  I drank way too much wine.

And as I waited in the airport on Friday afternoon, I had a serious hankering for butter chicken.  My blog feed included this chicken tikka masala recipe though, and despite it’s long list of ingredients and long marinating time, I decided that fate wanted me to tackle it on Saturday.  I didn’t go with the typical rice as a side; instead I had a small but flavorful mound of fresh fava beans, and I also experimented (barely) with gluten-free naan— and much to my surprise, it worked just fine.  My old stand-by naan recipe is AP flour + plain yogurt + a bit of salt and baking powder in a hot cast iron skillet, so I subbed in Trader Joe’s gluten-free all purpose flour.  While it probably won’t win any awards for World’s Best Naan, it was hot and chewy and good for soaking up the rich sauce.

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Chicken Tikka Masala
Serves 4
Adapted from Bon Appetit via The Bitten Word

This isn’t a particularly spicy chicken tikka masala.  If you like more heat, add additional pepper flakes, or use dried chiles de arbol instead. I also realize the addition of raisins is out of the ordinary, but I love the extra sweetness and chew.

6 garlic cloves, finely grated
3-4 inches of finely grated peeled ginger, about 4 teaspoons
4 teaspoons ground turmeric
4 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 cups whole-milk yogurt (not Greek)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise
3 tablespoons ghee
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup tomato paste
6 cardamom pods, opened up and seeds crushed, or approximately 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup raisins

Combine garlic, ginger, turmeric, garam masala, coriander, and cumin in a small bowl. Whisk together yogurt, salt, and half of spice mixture in a medium container with a lid; add chicken and turn to coat. Cover and chill 4-6 hours. Cover and chill remaining spice mixture.

An hour before you plan to eat, melt the ghee in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion, tomato paste, cardamom, and chiles and cook, stirring often, until tomato paste has darkened and onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add remaining half of spice mixture and cook, stirring often, until bottom of pot begins to brown, about 4 minutes.  Add tomatoes with juices, crushing them with your hands as you add them. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often and scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot.  Then add cream, water, raisins, and chopped cilantro. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 30-40 minutes.

While the sauce simmers, preheat your grill or broiler. If using the broiler, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack inside sheet.   Arrange chicken on rack in a single layer. Broil until chicken starts to blacken in spots (it may not be cooked through), about 10 minutes.  Flip and broil on the other side for 5 minutes.  If using a grill, preheat to medium high, between 400 and 500 degrees and grill for 6-8 minutes on each side, until it begins to blacken.  Again, it may not be cooked through, but that’s okay.  (I used the broiler method.)

Allow the chicken to cool for a few minutes.  Cut chicken into bite-size pieces, add to sauce, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, 8-10 minutes. Serve with rice and sprinkle with cilantro (both are optional).

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Gluten-free Naan
Adapted from Food.com

2 cups Trader Joe’s Gluten-free all purpose flour blend, or your favorite gluten-free flour blend
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)
Coconut oil for frying

Whisk together flour blend, salt, and baking powder.  Stir in yogurt, and then use hands to kneed together a bit.  The dough will be sticky and even paste-like, but don’t fret yet.  Heat 2-3 tablespoons coconut oil in a cast iron skillet on medium-high.  Preheat the pan for at least 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, split the dough into 8 equal pieces, and then roll or press each piece out between saran wrap.  Fry each piece for 3-4 minutes on each side.  Add additional coconut oil to the fan as frying.  Set each piece on a towel or paper towel to rest, and serve warm.

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Filed under Breads, Chicken, Gluten-Free, Main dishes

strawberry-rhubarb upside downer


I really wanted to tell you about the asparagus risotto I made this week.  It was creamy and subtle and deliciously spring-ish, while comforting enough for the chilly air that settles around us in the evenings.  But I can’t.  It would be irresponsible- nay, reprehensible– to allow you to go on living one more day of your life without hearing about this cake.

There are cakes for celebrations, and then there are cakes like this.  This is an everyday cake, padding around in day-old jeans and a faded t-shirt, perfect for coffee and a bit of freshly whipped cream.   But at the same time, this is a seriously awesome cake.  This is a make-this-when-your-mother-in-law-comes cake.  Even if it’s only in jeans, it’s impressive.  Sweet, sticky, and spicy. What more do you need?!


This is from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my home to yours, except she wrote it as a cranberry-nut cake.  She also included in the margins directions for a peach version, but I decided to springify.  I halved the cinnamon from the original recipe and added half a teaspoon of fresh cardamom- and WOW.  If you’ve got cardamom, break that bad boy out for this cake.  I don’t know if there’s anything I like more in spring than the combination of strawberries, rhubarb, and cardamom.

There’s also no salt in this cake.  That may dismay some and cheer others.  I will admit that I cheated and used salted butter for the “topping” and unsalted for the actual batter, because I had some stray salted laying around.  Don’t be afraid to add salt if you  know you like it in your cakes and muffins.


Strawberry-rhubarb upside downer
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: FMHTY

14 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons + 1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup chopped strawberries
1 cup chopped rhubarb
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350.  Put an 8×2 (or 9×2) round cake pan on a baking sheet (you WILL want the baking sheet!).

Melt 6 T of the butter and whisk in 6 T of the sugar. Stirring, bring up to a brief boil, then pour evenly into the bottom of the cake pan.  Sprinkle strawberries and rhubarb on top of the butter-sugar combination and press lightly to flatten.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the remaining 8 T (1/2 cup) of butter for 2-3 minutes until soft and creamy.  Add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cream well for 2-3 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each one and scraping the bowl down as needed.  Pour in the vanilla.  Turn the mixer down to low and add in half of the dry ingredients, only mixing until barely incorporated.  Mix in the milk.  Then mix in the remaining dry ingredients. Spoon the batter in the pan over the strawberries and rhubarb, and smooth the top down.

Bake on the baking sheet for 40-45 minutes, until a knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  With a knife, loosen the cake from the pan around the edges, but allow to sit for 20-30 minutes to let the cake soak up as much of the juice as it can.  While still warm, carefully turn out the cake onto a plate.

Serve thick slices with fresh whipped cream or ice cream, preferably while still a bit warm (or warmed up for 20 seconds in the microwave.  Enjoy!

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Filed under Breads, Breakfast, Desserts, Spring, Summer

Challah

It seems that all I’ve made lately is fried food and bread.  Not true.

Well… not completely true.

Okay, so it’s somewhat true.  ‘Tis the season, right?

I got this recipe from the wonderful Baking with Julia, written/compiled by the talented and famed Dorie Greenspan.  This book is amazing.  From the glossy photos to the incredibly detailed intros to each recipe, it’s 100% high-class.  Which is slightly overwhelming, honestly, until I make something like this challah and it is so fantastic, so melty in your mouth, with the eggy, buttery crust and the perfect amount of chewy in every bite… and then, all the overwhelming just slowly fades away and instead I’m left with a slightly-smug feeling of victory. Victory over challah.

It’s good. Really, really good. And it’s fun to say. There’s something endearing about watching a fully-grown, freckled white man say “Challah!” with his arms in the air, gripping a piece of warm buttered bread, as if shouting out “hollah” to his homies.

Just be sure to pinch and fold under your ends tightly, or else you end up with bread that’s beautiful on one end and has a claw on the other.  Challah claw!

*Note: this recipe makes two loaves, but can be halved pretty easily, which I’ve done a few times. However, I don’t recommend it, simply because the leftover loaf makes such delicious french toast a few days later! Store your leftover challah at room temperature in sealed plastic bags; it may start to taste stale after 2 days, but should keep for up to 5.

Challah
recipe by Lauren Groveman, from Baking with Julia

2 T butter, melted
1-1/2 T active dry yeast
1/2 c water (80 to 90F)
1/3 c sugar
1/2 c butter
1 c whole milk
1 T honey
2-1/2 t salt
4 large eggs + 1 for glaze
6-1/2 c bread or high-gluten flour

Brush a large mixing bowl with some of the melted butter; set aside the remainder.

Whisk the yeast and a pinch of the sugar into the warm water. Let rest until creamy, about 5 minutes.  Cut the 1/2 c of butter into small pieces; place in a saucepan with the milk and heat over medium-low until the butter in melted.  Add the remaining sugar, the honey, and salt, stirring to dissolve.  Pour into a large mixing bowl and let cool to 110 degrees or cooler, if necessary.

Add the creamy yeast and eggs, stirring with a heavy wooden spoon.  Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time, stirring vigorously with each addition;  stop adding flour when you have a dough that cleans the sides of the bowl and is difficult to stir. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (This can also be done with a heavy-duty mixer and dough hook.)

Form the dough into a ball and set inside the buttered mixing bowl. Brush the top and sides with a bit of the remaining melted butter, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume. (This took me about 90 minutes.) Then punch it down to deflate, recover, and let rise again until doubled, which should take less time than the first rise (45 to 60 minutes).

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Deflate the dough, cut it in half with a knife or bench scraper, and cover one piece of dough while working with the other.  Divide the first hunk into 3 equal pieces, and roll each into a rope that is about 16 inches long and slightly tapered at the ends. Lay them parallel on the baking sheet and begin braiding from the middle- braid one side and then the other, smooshing together the 3 pieces at the end and tightly folding them under.  Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Cover each loaf with a damp towel and let rise at room temperature, about 45 minutes or until nearly doubled. Preheat the over to 375.  Beat one large egg;  brush the tops of the loaves before putting them into the oven.  Bake for 20 minutes; remove from the oven and brush the exposed bread on the top with the remaining glaze.  Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the loaves are golden and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom with a spoon or your knuckles.  Let cool before slicing.

Optional: add 1 T. honey to the beat egg glaze for a sweeter challah; or any favorite herb for a savory twist.  We love stirring in a bit of minced garlic, oregano, basil, and thyme leaves, and using the leftover “stale” loaf to make buttered garlic bread a few days later.

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Cheddar Bay Biscuits

December. Time for multicolored lights, odd-shaped leftover pieces of wrapping paper, and high-calorie and delicious treats. Dear readers, these may not be as traditionally Christmas-y as frosted sugar cookies, but they are certainly as delicious and unhealthful. Skip the trip to Red Lobster and whip up a quick batch of these instead.

Cheddar Bay Biscuits
Adapted from Suzanne McMinn

2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 t sugar
1/2 t Old Bay seasoning
1/4 t salt
1/4 t ground cayenne pepper
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 c (8 T) butter, very cold
1 1/4 c grated cheddar cheese
1/3 c sour cream
1 c milk

Butter topping:
3 T butter
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t parsley
1/2 t  Old Bay seasoning

Preheat oven to 450. Mix together dry ingredients (thru garlic powder) in a large bowl. Grate the butter on the coarse holes, and then blend with the dry ingredients with a spoon. Stir in the cheddar cheese; combine the sour cream and milk, and then mix into dry ingredients just until moistened and doughy. Note: don’t be afraid to add a couple extra tablespoons of milk if you think the dough might be too dry.

Drop the biscuits in a greased 9×13 dish with a scoop or large spoons.  I generally make 3 x 4 biscuits, for a total of twelve, but for smaller biscuits you could try 4 x 5.

Melt the below topping ingredients together in a small saucepan. Lightly brush half of the topping over the unbaked biscuits. Bake for 20-30 minutes (more for larger biscuits, less time for smaller biscuits). Brush with remaining topping (may have to heat in the microwave for a few seconds to rewarm), and serve warm.

These keep at room temperature for 4-5 days in an airtight container and are excellent if slightly reheated.


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Filed under 30 min. or less, Breads, Side dishes

Beer Bread



Easiest. Bread. Ever.  And fast, too.  It keeps for 4-5 days and has staple ingredients. It’s easily customizable– use whatever kind of beer you want, and that’s the flavor that you’ll get in the bread.

The best part: absolutely delicious.

Basic Beer Bread
adapted from The Novice Chef

3 c. bread or AP flour
1 t. salt
3 T. sugar
1 T. baking powder
12 oz. beer
2 T. butter

Preheat oven to 375.  Grease a bread pan. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the beer, being careful not to foam over the edges of the bowl.  Let it sit for a minute, then carefully whisk into the dry ingredients.

Spoon the batter into your greased bread pan. Slice the butter into 3 or 4 equal pieces and arrange on top of the batter. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is firm when pressed down.  Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

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Filed under Breads, Fall, Winter

Sourdough pita bread

 

Ever done Amish Friendship Bread- those little ziploc baggies that you mush for days and then add milk, sugar, flour, and still somehow end up with 4 more baggies AND a loaf of bread?  I made a sourdough starter out of one of those baggies, and it’s fantastic. I have been feeding and baking it for a few months and we’re getting some awesome sourness.

However, I’m getting a little sick of plain sourdough loaves.  We’ve done hamburger and brat buns, and I wanted something more. Enter the pita.

I used this website for the recipe, but upon baking the first pita, I found the method wasn’t working for me. Instead, I grabbed my trusty Baking With Julia; that method worked well for me, and it’s the one I’ve included here.

If you don’t have a sourdough starter just laying around, no fears! You can make pita, too! It just won’t have that trademark “sourdough” flavor. It’s easy to make a starter using the recipe from Baking With Julia, as posted here by Emeril and FoodNetwork (follow the instructions from the beginning through the 30m-8h rest).

Sourdough Pita Bread

1 cup (approx. 7 oz.) sourdough starter
1 T. olive oil
1 t. salt
1/3 c. warm water
1 1/2 c. flour, any mix of white and wheat, plus extra

Combine starter, water, oil, and salt into the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until well-combined. Add the flour, tablespoon by tablespoon until the dough pulls away from the bowl sides.

Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed for 3-5 minutes, until the dough is stiff and sticky. Add flour by the tablespoon if the dough continues to stick to the sides of the bowl.  Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, rotate dough in the bowl so that all sides are covered in a thin layer of oil. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 2-3 hours.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 6 portions and roughly form each piece into a ball. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.  Roll each ball into rounds about 6 inches in diameter and 1/4 inches thick. If the dough resists rolling out, let it rest for 10 more minutes. Cover the rounds with a towel and let rest 15 minutes until puffy.

Preheat the griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and lightly oil the griddle. Bake 1 rolled-out circle at a time on the griddle, cooking for 15 to 20 seconds before turning the bread over gently. Cook for another minute or until big bubbles appear. Turn the bread again and cook until it balloons fully. Pressing a towel on those areas where bubbles have formed will push air into the flat areas. The breads should bake for no more than 3 minutes. Lightly brush the skillet with oil after every bread.  Pita is best the day it is made, but it can be wrapped airtight and frozen for 1 month.

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Filed under Breads, Clean Eating