Archive for the ‘breakfast recipes’ Category

There’s something about the word cake.  I love that word.  When I hear “cake,” I may appear composed on the outside, but inside I have a response more akin to a werewolf.  At first, I think, calmly, Cake.  Then, in a singsong voice, Mmmmmmmm, cake!  Left unchecked, it devolves into a primal growl, Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake!!  I don’t think I grow long fingernails and tufts of fur, but do (cake) werewolves ever really know?

The werewolf response is reserved for my ideal cake: tall, fluffy, tender, moist, with a thick layer of frosting or pudding in the middle, and another layer of frosting on top.  Boston Cream pie.  Tall and creamy Hummingbird cake.  Chocolate Blackout cake.

Tea cakes are so dainty, they don’t qualify.  That’s why I’ve relegated them to breakfast, where they’re perfect.  This Swedish visiting cake deserves a prize for it’s many lovely tea cake qualities.  First, it’s so easy to make, you can fit it in even on a busy morning.  I made this while getting my kids ready for preschool (which is saying something during “Teacher Appreciation Week,” where I have to cajole the kids into making six, count ’em, six homemade cards).  The cake is baked in a cast iron skillet and the results are delicious: lemony, almond-y, lightly crisp on the outside, soft and tender on the inside.  This is my favorite tea cake from Dorie’s cookbook, hands down.  And I assure you, when I eat tea cake, I’m very ladylike.  🙂

Thanks to Nancy of The Dogs Eat the Crumbs for selecting Swedish Visiting Cake.  You can find the recipe on her site or on page 197 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.

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All of the St. Patrick’s day celebrations last week got me thinking about Ireland.  I did my study abroad at the School of Irish Studies in Dublin, and it’s hard to believe, in retrospect, how many extraordinary experiences were packed into that semester.  The Chieftains visited our class to discuss Irish music and play a few songs.  Seamus Heaney visited our class to read and discuss his poetry.  We studied James Joyce’s Ulysses and then tracked Leopold Bloom’s progress throughout Dublin.  We all took a ferry to Wales, hitchhiked (for the first and last time), bought cable-knit sweaters in the Aran Islands, visited Yeats’ tower, and generally basked in the glow of the Emerald Isle.

All this, plus the rollicking pubs (our favorite was called The Foggy Dew);  live Irish music every night; fresh, hot sugar donuts near the O’Connell bridge; tea and pastries at Bewley’s; crispy fish and chips, sprinkled with vinegar, served in newspaper; Harp and Guinness.

At the end of the semester, we left Dublin to spend two weeks on the west coast of Ireland, in a town called Balleyvaughan.  The students all stayed together in thatched-roof cottages and we were to make our own dinners every evening.  You might expect this arrangement called for Ramen noodles or spaghetti with ketchup, but you’d be wrong.  My roommate, born in Belgium, had an incredible talent for cooking and she whipped up first-rate dinners at our little cottage just about every night.

She owned a sweet little Irish cookbook and of all the recipes she tried, griddle bread stands out in my memory.  And yet, I’m well aware that this memory is now twenty years old.  Those two weeks on the west coast of Ireland were defined by long nights of live Irish music, many rounds of Guinness, and even more rounds of “The Wild Rover (No, Nay, Never)” sung at the top of our lungs all the way back home through the lush green fields.  My roommate may have been a top-notch chef, but she was also very clumsy, and I recall several prolonged late-night adventures untangling her from barbed-wire fence or scraping cow flop off her shins, but that’s another story.  At that time, this breakfast was a revelation: slathered with fresh Irish butter and jam, it was hearty, quick, and delicious.  Twenty years later, I had to find out: would it stand the test of time?

Oh, man.  It’s exactly as I remember.

Irish griddle bread is a little less fluffy than a biscuit, not quite as crumbly as a scone, and, unlike biscuits and scones, it requires no technique whatsoever.  There’s no chilling, rolling, or shaping the dough with a feathery touch.  You just mix together the ingredients and fry it in a cast iron skillet.  Nothing could be simpler.  Eaten warm from the pan, spread thick with good butter and jam, it’s absolutely delicious.

Irish griddle bread

Adapted from The Irish Country Kitchen

* 2 cups flour
* a pinch of salt
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1½ tablespoons sugar
* 1½ tablespoon melted butter
* ¾ milk
* 1 beaten egg

Lightly grease a heavy cast iron pan.

Sieve flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl; add in the sugar. Add butter, milk and eggs to the dry ingredients and mix well. Heat the greased pan and cook the bread for 7-8 minutes on each side over low to moderate heat. Divide into 6 triangular shapes and serve hot with plenty of butter, jam and honey.

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In the dead of winter, when the days are short and the sun slants low on the horizon, I occasionally yearn for a taste of summer — just a little reminder that summer is coming, despite appearances to the contrary.  I won’t go so far as, say, gazpacho (out-of-season tomatoes are a baaaaaaaaaad thing).  But I need a change from root vegetables, stews, and braises.

This weekend, we had a big snow storm in North Carolina.  We’ve been snowed in for three days and they just announced that school is cancelled tomorrow as well.  Despite all the snow, or maybe because of it, I wanted to bring a little ray of Tuscan sunshine inside the house.

This lemon olive oil cake was perfect.  It’s light, tender, lemony, with a hint of olive oil.  The cake offers almost endless variations for those who love to mix and match flavors: add savory herbs (thyme, lavender), sweet spices (nutmeg, cloves, cardamom), tangy citrus (orange juice, lime zest), ground nuts (almonds, hazelnuts), liqueurs (Grand Marnier, Amaretto), whatever you like to make it your own.  Like Tuscany itself, the cake is light, glowing, soothing, beautifully understated.

Apparently, olive oil cakes have caught on like wildfire at veddy fency coffee shops, and now I know why.  Pour yourself an espresso and give this one a try.

Lemon Olive Oil Cake

Adapted from The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco

Makes one 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf

Unsalted butter, softened, for the pan

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons whole milk [1% is fine, too]

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon Demerara sugar

Good quality lemon olive oil, for drizzling [or substitute a confectioner’s sugar/lemon juice glaze, or let the crunchy sugar topping stand alone]

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Generously butter an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Fill a medium saucepan with 2 inches of water and bring it to a simmer.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, granulated sugar, and lemon zest.  Set the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water and whisk until the mixture is warm to the touch, about 2 minutes.  Transfer the bowl to an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium speed until the mixture thickens, is pale yellow, and forms ribbons when the whisk is lifted, 5 to 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another bowl, whisk together the extra-virgin olive oil, milk, and lemon juice.  When the egg mixture has thickened, slowly drizzle in the oil mixture with the machine running.  Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture, and mix just to combine.  Drizzle in the butter and mix just to combine.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the Demerara sugar.  Bake, rotating the pan once after 40 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden, the center bounces back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.  [Keep an eye on the cake as it cooks.  Mine was done after 35 minutes.]  Unmold the cake from the loaf pan and let it cool completely on a wire rack.  Serve at room temperature or toasted, with slices drizzled with lemon olive oil, if desired.

The cake is best eaten the day it is baked but can be kept at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.

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I made an executive decision this year on our Halloween pumpkins.  Instead of buying carving pumpkins (note the helpful use of the word “carving” in the name), I assured my family that they’d be much happier with pie pumpkins.  Sure, they’re a bit smaller.  Yes, they may take a bit more work to carve.  But we can eat them!  Think of the salty roasted pumpkin seeds and the baked pumpkin that will keep us flush with pies, breads, and pancakes for weeks!  My daughter’s preschool field trip to a pumpkin patch provided us with two lovely pie pumpkins, and that clinched it.  Let’s carve some pumpkins!  Fun family activity!

My husband laid out some newspaper, selected a sharp knife, and prepared to carve.  He applied some pressure near the pumpkin’s stem, and then some more.  The knife didn’t budge.  We tried a heavier, sharper knife.  No luck.  I briefly ponder the fact that pie pumpkins are good for baking precisely because they have a very thick layer of flesh: soft and tender when baked, but seemingly impenetrable by human hands when fresh.  After an alarming series of violent stabs in and around the exterior of the pumpkin, my husband abruptly stood up and marched into the garage.

As I gently explained to my kids that maybe it would be better to paint the pumpkins this year, Dave rounded the corner with his power drill.  My kids let out squeals of delight.  Now this was some good family fun.  Who knew a power drill could create such perfectly-sculpted facial features?  As tiny flecks of pumpkin flesh flew through the air, our little gathering would never be mistaken for a traditional holiday ritual, but my kids were giddy at the opportunity to take turns holding the drill.  And after all that, I got my baked pumpkin.

Much of the drilled pumpkin was used in this holiday bundt cake with maple glaze.  Dorie calls this an “all-in-one” holiday bundt cake because it includes so many classic holiday ingredients: pumpkin, spice, cranberries, apples, nuts.  It’s all there.  This is a lovely bundt cake, full of flavor, but I have one little complaint.  Because it calls for butter instead of oil, a choice that prioritizes flavor over texture, the cake was a tiny bit dry.  For me, having a soft, moist cake is more important than the extra dose of buttery goodness (though I adore buttery goodness), so next time I would substitute oil and/or applesauce for some of the butter.  For the same reason, I also wish I’d used fresh cranberries instead of dried.  The cake would have been great with those little gems of plump, juicy flavor (instead of the relatively dry, chewy texture of dried cranberries).  All in all, the elements are in place for a great holiday bundt cake, but it’s worth playing around with a few ingredients to make it your own.

Thanks to Britin of The Nitty Britty for choosing this all-in-one holiday bundt cake with maple glaze.  You can find the recipe on her site or on pp. 186-187 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.

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Sometimes you wake up and it’s a cinnamon roll morning.  And when you’re in that frame of mind, the yeasted dough, with it’s achingly long rise, is not an option.  No, you have to have cinnamon rolls in the next 30 minutes.  This is the recipe for you, and it is not courtesy of the Pillsbury dough boy.  These cinnamon rolls are delicious and they come together as quickly as you can make a batch of biscuits.  I was afraid they would be vastly inferior than their rich, brioche-based cousins — too craggy, crumbly, or dry.  Not at all.  These are sweet, tender, gooey, and fast.  The recipe is loosely based on a quick biscuit recipe from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics and an amazing cinnamon sugar filling and creamy glaze from The 150 Best American Recipes. For me, it’s the perfect quick cinnamon roll recipe.  Ready, set, bake!

Quick Cinnamon Buns from Heaven

Yield: 9 cinnamon rolls

Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Filling

* 3 tablespoons butter, melted
* 1/4 cup brown sugar
* 2 teaspoons cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
* 1/2 cup golden raisins or currants (optional)

Biscuit Dough

* 2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour (use low-protein flour, like White Lily or Red Band)
* 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup buttermilk
* 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Creamy glaze

* 3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
* 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
* 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
* 2-4 tablespoons hot water

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. For the filling: In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.  In another small bowl, melt butter.  Set aside.

3. For the dough: In a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Add 1 cup cream and 1/2 cup buttermilk, and stir until the dough forms a ball, about 1 minute. With your hands, fold the dough over a few times in the bowl, until the dough is smooth.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Lightly flour your hands, and pat the dough into a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle, about 9 X 13 inches. Brush the surface of the dough with the 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar topping.  top the cinnamon sugar with the raisins, if you’re using them.

5. Starting from the long side, roll the dough into a cylinder. Slice into 9 equal rounds. Place the rounds, cut side down, into an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish or a pie plate. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the biscuits are lightly browned.

6. To make the glaze:  In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla.  Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time until you have a spreadable glaze.  (This makes a lot of glaze, so cut back if  you like it less sweet.)  Spread the glaze over the buns and serve warm.

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This summer in Maine, I went to a Portland restaurant for brunch and ordered their house made cinnamon and sugar pop tart.  It was so delicious, I’ve been searching for a homemade pop tart recipe ever since.

Now, I hear cottage cheese and I think, “Oh, please.  Give me something I can work with here.”  Cottage cheese brings to mind stark deprivation diets and my grandmother’s second husband, Isaac.  A quirky guy, he wore Birkenstocks and Buddy Holly glasses, and I remember him always with a tub of cottage cheese in his hand and bits of dried cottage cheese in his beard. No way could a recipe with cottage cheese in the title rival something as self-consciously playful as a pop tart.

But as soon as these little pufflets came out of the oven, I could see they were going to be tender, sweet, and fruity.  I added some glaze,  sprinkles, and took a bite.  Yup, these are pop tarts all right (minus the cardboard texture, high fructose corn syrup, and scary preservatives of the store-bought original, naturally).

I loved hearing my 4-year-old running through the house saying, “Can I please have another raspberry pufflet?”  So perhaps I’ll just call these ‘house made raspberry pufflets.’  Whatever the name, try these for breakfast.  You won’t be disappointed.

A word about the dough.  It comes together easily in the food processor, but it’s finicky and sticky.  If you pack it into a 1-gallon freezer bag and roll it out to the edges before chilling, it keeps a perfect square shape.  Still, if the dough gets too soft, warm, and hard to roll, put it back into the refrigerator to firm it up a bit more.

Thanks to Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes for choosing these cottage cheese pufflets.  Find the recipe on her site or on pp. 148-149 of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours.

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All I needed was an apple and a jar of applesauce.  Trips to the grocery store don’t get any easier than that.  Dash in, grab, go.  But as I approached the produce section, I could feel that creeping sense of dread.  Here we go again.

Organic vs. conventional.  The question sits there, forcing me to reveal my moral fiber.  I fidget.  I look at the ground.  I weigh the price difference in my head.  I think of that article that says apples are the worst offenders when it comes to pesticides.  I think of my children biting into the apple.  I ponder my husband’s rollback at work (in case you haven’t heard of that one, it’s the opposite of a raise).  I recall scenes from Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  And I’m paralyzed.

I don’t have the same problem with meat.  I’m a recovered vegetarian.  It’s a condition that I have to manage, a bit like diabetes or alcoholism.  I still can’t stare at a whole chicken for too long before putting it in to roast.  I don’t eat anything too rare.  And I definitely can’t watch my dad drop lobsters into the pot.

When it comes to meat, I made a decision to buy organic or grass-fed or free range or whatever needed to happen to ensure that the animal wasn’t raised in a hell hole.  But I haven’t codified my attitude toward produce in the same way, and so I become a freak sideshow.  “Look, mommy, they have a living statue in Trader Joe’s!”  (At least if I spray painted my face silver and threw a hat down on the ground, I could earn enough change to afford the organic apples.  Now there’s a virtuous cycle.)

With a name like “applesauce bars,” I’m likely to choose organic.  The bars sound so wholesome, precisely the kind of thing you tuck into little Susie’s lunchbox.  And I suppose this implies that my favorite Apple Rum Raisin bread, fallen creature that it is with 1/2 cup of rum in the batter, deserves conventional apples?  This is not a tenable moral philosophy, and it’s fair to say The NY Times’ Randy Cohen, a.k.a. the Ethicist, will not be calling me for a consult anytime soon.

As for these bars, you could make them with one of Snow White’s poisoned apples and they would taste great.  The bars are soft, tender, with flavors of apple, spice, and a sweet brown sugar glaze.  I expected them to have a firmer texture, something my kids could carry around in one hand and eat without it falling apart.  But they’re tender like a piece of cake, which is lovely, albeit best eaten with a fork, or standing directly over the pan (my preferred method).

Thanks to Karen of Something Sweet for selecting these applesauce bars.  You can find the recipe on her site or on pp. 117-118 of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours.

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Nancy of The Dogs Eat the Crumbs has long been one of my favorite Tuesdays with Dorie bloggers.  She’s smart, creative, funny, and her recipe reviews are always spot on.  Last month she celebrated her one year blogiversary and as part of the festivities she gave away a pair of vintage one pound loaf pans.  And I won!

Nancy recommended all kinds of wonderful recipes worthy of my shiny new pans, but one stood out: maple blackberry coffee cake.  I’m spending the summer in Maine, where the blackberries aren’t ready yet, but we are in prime wild blueberry season.  Once Nancy told me the pans were in the mail, I gathered all my ingredients in anticipation.  The package showed up, and I was chopping, mincing, and mixing the batter within minutes.

And let me tell you another thing about Nancy.  She’s reliable.  If she says a recipe is good, well, get in the kitchen and start cooking.  This coffee cake is splendid.  If you’re used to playing around with a coffee cake by substituting yogurt for sour cream or swapping almonds for pecans, or (go wild!) adding a vigorous grating of orange zest, well, get ready for this.

The recipe calls for maple syrup, berries (blueberries, huckleberries, blackberries, cranberries, or whatever you like), rolled oats, lemon zest, almonds, rosemary, and thyme.  The combination is complex, sweet, savory, and sublime.  A recipe worthy of my gorgeous new pans.


Thank you, Nancy, for such a wonderful gift.  I’ll think of you every time I bake with these, and I expect that will be just about every week.

Maple Blueberry Coffee Cake Recipe

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

I used Nancy’s 1-pound loaf pan (size 10 1/4″ x 3 5/8″), but you could use an 8 or 9-inch cake or pie pan.  Just check as it’s baking as the cooking time will vary.  I’m not a fan of whole wheat flour (I know, I know….), so I substituted all-purpose unbleached flour.  If you have real maple syrup, by all means, use it in the cake and the topping.  If you have the fake stuff, use light brown sugar instead.

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour [I used all-purpose unbleached flour]
3 tablespoons rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup maple syrup, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
zest of one lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/3 cups fresh wild blueberries (or other berries), well picked over

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour [I used all-purpose flour]
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut 1/4-inch cubes
1/3 cup maple sugar (or brown sugar)
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 cup chopped pecans or almonds

special equipment: a 1-pound loaf pan

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees, rack in the middle. Butter a 1-pound loaf pan, and line with parchment paper. Alternately, you could just butter and flour the pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, thyme, and rosemary. Set aside. In a separate large bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer or by hand – until light and fluffy. Drizzle in the maple syrup and beat until well incorporated, scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple times along the way. Beat in the egg, lemon zest, and vanilla extract, scraping the sides again. Add half of the flour, stir just a bit, now add a splash of the buttermilk, stir again, but not too much. Add the rest of the flour and stir a bit, and now the rest of the buttermilk. Stir until everything barely comes together and then very gently fold in one cup of the blueberries. Scrape the batter evenly into the prepared pan and set aside.

To make the streusel topping, place the flour, butter, maple sugar, thyme and almonds in a food processor and pulse 20-30 times or until the topping is a bit beyond sandy/crumbly. It should be moist-looking – on its way to being slightly doughy. Crumble 2/3 of it over the cake batter, sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup blueberries on top of that, and then add the last of the crumble. Barely pat in place with your fingertips.

Place the coffee cake in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool for five minutes and then remove it from the pan to cool on a rack (this way the cake won’t steam in the pan as it’s cooling).

Serves 12 – 16 modest slices.

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“What can I bring?”  Such a simple question, but so fraught for us “high executive functioning”  (read: perfectionist and/or controlling) types.  What we bring to someone’s dinner party or backyard barbecue or children’s birthday celebration reflects a personal philosophy, whether we intend it to or not.

The Hickory Farms cheese ball vs. local goat cheese with lavender honey; a case of Bud Light vs. a six-pack of seasonal micro-brew; a store-bought sheet cake vs. oat bran and flax seed cupcakes with probiotic yogurt icing.  These offerings reveal a little bit about who we are, how we were raised, even our politics.

There’s a very funny scene at the beginning of Allison Pearson’s novel, I Don’t Know How She Does It, where the main character has been asked to bring “appropriate festive refreshments” to her daughter’s school Christmas party.  Fearful of being labeled the “Mummy Who Didn’t Make an Effort,” she smashes store-bought mince pies with a rolling pin in an attempt to pass them off as homemade.

At least she’s pragmatic.  My problem is I fall in love with a particular recipe and pragmatism flies out the window.  This spring, for example, I was tasked with making dessert for a dinner party that included three families, all with children under the age of five.  I chose a vanilla custard tart, with a graham cracker crust, layered with strawberries on top.  I’m not exactly sure what I thought my strawberry custard tart (with a fluted crust, no less) would say about me.  Probably something like, “I know we’re all sleep-deprived and juice-stained and our ‘dinner party’ will be punctuated by interrupted conversations, spills, falls, and the occasional crying jag, but we can still attain some level of meaningful adult interaction through this magnificent dessert.”

But I failed to consider the heat wave.  95 degrees + transporting a custard tart across town in the back of my car = formerly artful spiral of sliced strawberries now half-submerged and drowning in liquified custard.  It was pitiful.

Or there’s my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe with a crumb so tender it falls apart with even a hint of rough handling.  Why do I keep bringing these to 4-year-olds’ birthday parties?  The kids either lick off all the frosting and leave the gorgeous cupcake untouched.  Or they dig into the cupcake and leave a wreckage of crumbs all across the table and floor.  Like I said, not practical.

And so, the banana bundt cake offers form and function: a lovely flavor, a firm texture that means the cake can be carried around without leaving a Hansel and Gretel trail of crumbs, and a pretty lemon glaze.  It’s better the second day, so you don’t have to rush around baking at the last minute.  And the lemon glaze firms up, so you can wrap and transport without smushing the icing.

If you’re looking for an easy, tasty, practical dessert that travels well, this is it.  But if you’re at all like me, we both know there will be many more episodes with a fallen souffle or a capsized three-layer cake.  New recipes will come along — less tidy and sensible, more ambitious and sprawling — and I’ll be off in a new direction.

Thanks to Mary of The Food Librarian for choosing this classic banana bundt cake.  You can find the recipe on her site or on page 190 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.

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I resented this brioche.  Never having made brioche before, I didn’t realize it was so needy.  Measure, mix, knead, rest.  Sure, fine.  That’s the deal with homemade bread.  But this required sustained attention that left me trudging back and forth to the kitchen every half hour, muttering to myself, “This better be good.”

Once the brioche dough comes together, the weary chef must punch it down every half hour, for over two hours.  When it finally gives up and stops rising, it sits overnight in the refrigerator.  And the dough is very sticky, like a big bowl of paste.  This makes it difficult to shape and activates that little inner voice that says, “you may very well be doing this all wrong.”

Here’s the thing.  I’ve got two kids under the age of 5.  On the one hand, you might ask, what do you have going on after 8:00 pm anyway?  The kids are in bed.  Go punch down the dough and be quiet about it.

But that’s just it.  It’s 8:00.  The kids are in bed.  My responsibilities for fulfilling other people’s (or bread dough’s) needs is done. But this dough demanded that I come back into the kitchen and slap it around.

And yet.  It’s worth every punch, slap, and curse.  The bread is heavenly — so light and so rich at the same time.  The recipe calls for plums, but the apricots looked much better at the store, so that’s what I used.

The next morning, after the dough sat overnight, there was still more work to do.  My 4-year-old, Sofia, was able to help.  The dough had miraculously transformed from the consistency of hot tar into a lovely soft dough that could be handled with ease.  Sofia happily buttered the tart pan and pushed the dough into its corners, while I chopped almonds and sliced apricots.

Enter my husband, Dave.  Always ready to lend a hand, especially when we’re in the final stages of a Dorie Greenspan recipe, he offered to bake the tart.  It’s not at all common for Dave to handle the baking, but my brother was visiting and we wanted to go for an early-morning run together.  I left with a little wave, and reminded him to check on the brioche after 15 minutes, just to be sure it doesn’t get too dark.  “Got it!” he said, cheerily.

Meanwhile, he turned to the various other tasks that awaited him.  We had visitors coming, so he washed sheets, moved a bed from one room to the next, set out towels, all while managing our two kids on his own.  The brioche got lost in the shuffle.


When I got back from the run, he was distraught, sure that he’d ruined the brioche.  He looked miserable and announced that it was burned.

I took one look and said, “It’s not burned.  It’s deeply caramelized.”

Parenting teaches you a few things.  I’ve been trying to get my 4-year-old and my 2-year-old to share the same bedroom.  Sometimes it works, and they lie there like perfect angels, so sweet and tender it makes you want to cry.  Other times, my daughter turns on the light and capers around the room in her little brother’s diapers while he jumps up and down in his crib and watches the evening’s entertainment with undisguised glee.  When I expressed my discouragement about this to my mom, she said: “They’re not misbehaving.  They’re bonding.”

So keep an eye on that brioche, but rest assured that even if you let it go too far, the deeply caramelized edges are delicious.

Thank you to Denise of Chez Us for selecting this week’s recipe.  You can find it on her blog or on pp. 54-55 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.

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