Breakfast Bite: Maple Chia Cherry Granola

DSC_0519You don’t have to spend a fortune on those little bags of artisanal granola you find at the market – it’s incredibly easy to make at home and customize to your liking!  When I was in Telluride last month, the hotel baked a fresh batch of chia seed-speckled granola every morning that was impossible to resist.  I came home determined to (a) make my own version, and (b) buy a home there.  I think my husband is relieved I’m focusing on the granola.DSC_0351DSC_0371DSC_0449Maple Chia Cherry Granola

makes approximately 9 cups

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup almonds*
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios*
  • 1 cup pecan halves*
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons canola or safflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons fleur de sel or kosher salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cherries**

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

  1. Place oats, coconut flakes, chia seeds, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a large bowl.  Roughly chop almonds, pistachios, and pecan halves and add to the bowl.  Stir to combine.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, oil, cinnamon, almond extract, and vanilla extract.  Pour over the oat mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.
  3. Spread mixture evenly on a large, parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until mixture is light golden, stirring every 10 minutes during baking time.
  4. Remove granola from oven and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or kosher salt.  Allow to cool.
  5. Stir gently, allowing some chunks to remain.  Add the dried cherries and stir to combine.

*Feel free to substitute with any variety of  nuts.  It’s a great way to use up those odds and ends in your freezer or pantry!

**I add the cherries at the end because I find them to be too tough if they are baked.  This also allows me to set aside a little granola before they are added for the non-dried-fruit-granola fans in the house.DSC_0493

The Weekend Kitchen: Apple Dumplings

DSC_0866Apple dumplings hold a special place in my heart.  My Grandmother Porter, of German descent and a product of the Depression Era, could not stand to waste a thing.  Her cooking was simple, hearty, and utterly delicious, and everything she made was from memory, learned no doubt from watching her mother and grandmother.  During her long stays with us she roasted chickens, creamed cabbage, made beef stroganoff, mashed lots of potatoes, and baked.  Baking was what she loved most.DSC_0891DSC_0939DSC_0924When she baked apple pie, bits of dough were often leftover.  Tossing them out would have been wasteful, so she cobbled these bits together, stretched them over a quickly peeled apple, and baked it alongside the pie.  This was a great treat because you didn’t have the unbearably long wait until after dinner to cut into the pie!  Apple dumplings were green lighted for after-school snacks, devoured just out of the oven.

Peeled and coated in lemon juice, cinnamon, sugar, and dark flecks of allspice.
Peeled and coated in lemon juice, zest, cinnamon, sugar, and dark flecks of allspice.

This is my version of apple dumplings, though I add butter to my crust which she never would have done (she used shortening only as shortening makes the most tender crust).  I love the combination because it delivers buttery-flaky goodness but remains tender from the addition of shortening.

Wrapped in dough blankets and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, waiting to go in the oven.
Wrapped in their dough blankets, waiting to go in the oven.

Apple Dumplings

makes 8

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup shortening, chilled and diced into small pieces
  • 11 tablespoons butter, chilled until very cold and diced into small pieces
  • 4-6 tablespoons ice water
  • 8 small apples (I used Cortland, Granny Smiths are great)
  • 1 lemon, zested then juiced
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 tablespoons butter, diced into 8 pieces
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  1. Butter a rectangular baking dish that generously fits 8 apples.  Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, add flour, sugar, salt, and pulse a few times until combined.  Add cold butter and shortening, pulsing until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Through the feed tube, add one tablespoon of ice water at a time, stopping immediately when dough comes together in a ball.
  3. Turn dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, flatten into a disc and thoroughly wrap in plastic.  Chill for at least one-half hour.
  4. While dough is chilling, add lemon juice to a large bowl.  Peel and core apples, tossing each in the lemon juice as soon as you’ve peeled it.  Sprinkle lemon zest over apples and stir to combine.
  5. Combine sugar, cinnamon, and allspice in a small bowl.  Set aside 2 tablespoons of mixture for sprinkling over pastry.
  6. Pour sugar mixture over apples, coating each one thoroughly including the centers.
  7. When dough is thoroughly chilled, remove from fridge and and roll out on a well floured surface, turning disc every few rolls to prevent sticking.  When dough has been rolled  into 1/8 to 1/4-inch thickness, cut 6-in diameter rounds until you have 8.  I used a 6-in diameter bowl and cut around it with a knife, but you can free form it.  This is rustic at its best!
  8. One at a time, place each apple in the center of a dough round and wrap.  Set in buttered baking dish.
  9. Press a square of diced butter into each hole.
  10. Using a pastry brush, brush each dough covered apple with the lightly beaten egg and sprinkle with reserved sugar mixture.
  11. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until crust is golden and apples are tender. DSC_0013

Maple Glazed Cream Puffs and Mini-Eclairs

DSC_0566 DSC_0569Let me set the record straight: I am NOT, by nature, a baker of fancy desserts.  Or overly involved desserts.  If you’d like any sort of crisp or pie, I can do that for you.  Cookies?  Coconut cakes?  Lemon bars?  I’ve got you covered.  But 30 layer crepe cakes?  Dyed, rolled and personalized heart cookies?  Homemade cream puffs and eclairs?  That train is driven by my daughter Hannah.

And Martha, of course.  Martha Stewart has, through her beautifully shot magazine and her PBS television series Martha Bakes, convinced my daughter that anything is easily achieved in the kitchen.  Our kitchen.  Admittedly Hannah and I watch the show together, but most of the time I would be content to simply observe the goings-on in Martha’s world of baking.  H wants to actually make it all.  Just yesterday morning, the first thing out of her mouth was, “Good morning Mommy.  Can we make cream puffs today?”  And because I’ve silently sworn to say no less often, cream puffs it was.

There were a few stumbles, a few tense moments, but we got messy and we laughed a lot.   We also agreed that the entire puff/eclair making process was much easier than anticipated, so you should seriously give it a shot.  The pate a choux dough was a snap with only 5 ingredients (butter, sugar, salt, flour, eggs), and if you aren’t interested in making pastry cream filling, you can throw in ice cream and top with chocolate or the maple glaze for profiteroles.  I say make the glaze – it was so good I could have bathed in it.

DSC_0577Thank you, H, for continually pushing me to try new things!  My world is brighter and much more delicious because of you.

Click here to check your local listings for the PBS series Martha Bakes.

Click here for the Maple Glazed Cream Puffs and Eclairs recipe.

Chocolate Hazelnut Crepe Cake + A Very Happy Birthday

DSC_0132Oh my, was this cake a labor of love!  My daughter Hannah requested a crepe cake for her birthday after seeing a picture of one on Pinterest (doesn’t she know 99.9% of pinned recipes are for viewing pleasure only?) and she asked that we make it together.  How hard could it be?  I thought to myself.  After all, we’d made crepes several times before.  All we needed to do was make a big batch (30 to be exact) along with some pastry creme and a little chocolate ganache.  Right?

DSC_0978DSC_0972  DSC_0987DSC_0984DSC_0033DSC_0025The original recipe (found here) comes from Martha Stewart Living and it is a recipe (cake) within a recipe (filling) within a recipe (glaze/ganache).  Our only modifications were that we:

  1. used plain crepes for our base (recipe here) rather than the chocolate crepes in the Martha recipe
  2. made half of the suggested amount of hazelnut filling as the Martha recipe made a whopping 8 cups
  3. substituted Nutella (slightly warmed in microwave to soften) for the hazelnut creme in the filling recipe, and
  4. decorated with 4 oz chopped hazelnuts (toasted in the oven at 350 for 5 minutes then cooled)

DSC_0060DSC_0064Did it take several hours?  Yes.  Was it worth it?  ABSOLUTELY.  The meringue based hazelnut filling was as fluffy as a cloud and the crunchy salty hazelnuts against the velvety chocolate ganache made for a heavenly match.  The best part was that I had Hannah all to myself for the afternoon, and she was so proud of what we created.  I had to laugh when I left the dinner table to fetch the cake and she asked me to please arrange her birthday candles in rainbow order.  The apple definitely does not fall far from the tree.

DSC_0121DSC_0106all photos via the aesthete and the dilettante

A Dessert First Kind of Day – Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

DSC_0038Both of my kids were having a crummy couple of days, so I surprised them by making dessert mid-week (something usually reserved for weekends) and having it ready for their after school snack as they walked in the door yesterday.  As my grandfather wisely once said, “Life is too short – we should have dessert first.”

DSC_0016Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp recipe found here.  Make it now before rhubarb is out of season!

photos via the aesthete and the dilettante

Good Morning, Sunshine! Have Some Coffee Cake

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Today marks the first day of spring, but here in the arctic tundra (also known as Chicago) we are waking up to temperatures in the low teens with wind chills hovering around zero. Whether you are anxiously waiting for your destination vacation or hunkering down at home for a stay-cation, I’ve created a warm citrusy coffeecake to distract you from the misery. Think of it as a little ray of sunshine on your plate.

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Orange Almond Coffee Cake

makes one 10-inch cake

  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice, divided
  • 2 navel oranges
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 1/4 cups almond meal
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour or gluten-free all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum only if using gluten-free flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or Cointreau (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Butter a 10-inch cast iron skillet.*
  2. Cut one orange into thin rounds. Peel the other orange with a vegetable peeler into long strips from top to bottom, avoiding the pith. Cut peeled strips into long, 1/8th-inch wide strips with a knife.
  3. Make a syrup by heating 3/4 cup of the sugar, 1/4 cup water, and 1/2 cup of the orange juice in a sauce pan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Bring mixture to a boil, add orange rounds, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add orange zest strips and continue to simmer until syrup has reduced by half and strips have softened, about 15 minutes more.
  4. While syrup is simmering, place sliced almonds on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 5-7 minutes or until light golden, stirring once halfway through toasting.
  5. Remove orange rounds and strips from syrup with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl. Carefully pour 1/2 cup of the syrup into a pyrex measuring cup. Discard any extra (or save for a cocktail).
  6. Add the 1/2 cup of syrup back to the sauce pan with the heat on medium-low and add two tablespoons butter, stirring until melted. Stir in the almond extract and the Grand Marnier or Cointreau and remove pan from heat.
  7. In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, almond meal, regular or gluten-free all purpose flour, xanthan gum (if using gluten-free flour), baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined.
  8. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, and the cooled syrup mixture until combined.
  9. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined.
  10. Add one cooked orange round (you can discard the extra rounds or save for another use) to the center of your prepared skillet or cake pan and scatter the zest strips and toasted almonds over the the bottom of the pan. Spoon cake batter (it will be thick) into pan and spread into an even layer.
  11. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. If cake begins to brown early (this happened at about 25 minutes for me) loosely cover with aluminum foil.
  12. While cake is baking, make a thin glaze by whisking the remaining 1/4 cup orange juice with 1 cup powdered sugar in a medium bowl until smooth.
  13. Let cake cool in pan for 5 minutes on a wire rack. Remove cake from pan (it will still be warm) by placing a wire rack over top of cake and flipping over. Set rack on a baking sheet.
  14. Poke holes in cake all over with a toothpick. Spoon glaze over warm cake, rubbing in gently with back of spoon, until top is covered and glaze has drizzled down the sides.

*Baking in cast iron creates a wonderful, crunchy cake exterior while allowing the inside to stay incredibly moist and tender. I didn’t try this in a traditional cake pan, but if I did, I would butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan and follow all of the steps as written, running a knife around the edge of cake before inverting it onto a cooling rack.

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recipe and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante

Breakfast Bite: Chocolate Chip Scones

chocolate chip scones

Chocolate Chip Scones

makes 10-12 scones

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose or gluten-free all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum only if using gluten-free flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream (plus 1 tablespoon extra for brushing tops)
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, xanthan gum (if using gf flour), sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Add butter pieces to the bowl and using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (there will be bits of different sized butter).
  3. Stir in cold cream just until combined.
  4. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Pour mixture onto a sheet of waxed paper that has been lightly dusted with flour, knead into a ball with hands lightly dusted in flour, and pat into a 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick disk (I did 1/2 inch because I like mine on the thinner side).  Quickly knead scraps into a ball, pat into disk and cut into more scones, repeating until dough is gone.
  6. Using a 2 1/2 to 3 inch biscuit cutter or drinking glass lightly dusted in flour, cut out scones and place two inches apart on a baking sheet lined in parchment paper.
  7. Brush tops with the heavy cream using a pastry brush or your finger tips, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar if desired.
  8. Bake until golden brown,  15-20 minutes.
  9. Cool scones on a wire rack.
  10. Serve warm!

recipe adapted from Art of Gluten-Free Baking

all photos via the aesthete and the dilettante