Wednesday, June 30, 2010

White Wheat Challah with Raisins

Well, this feels rather lazy. I’ve taken my own recipe, swapped out some of the flour for white wheat, and acted as if this is something new. But look: the pictures are different! I made one large loaf instead of two mini-loaves. You can’t pretend as if this doesn’t add visual interest.

What’s more, I added raisins. Raisins. Plump, juicy, organic raisins. Surely you cannot fail to be moved by the raisins. Have you a heart of stone?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pumpernickel Rye Bread with Raisins

Did you know that pumpernickel bread gets its dark color from cocoa powder? I didn’t – I presumed it had to do with the flour or the caraway seeds. Since regular rye isn’t dark, it should hardly have shocked me that cocoa was behind the pumpernickel hue we know and cherish.

Since we’ve cleared up that mystery, let’s talk pumpernickel. Despite the inclusion of cocoa powder, it tastes nothing like chocolate. Maybe you love it; maybe you hate it. I love it, but I like my breads thick, grainy, and dense. If you like your breads soft, airy, and light, then this is probably not the loaf for you, and you’ve probably never cared for pumpernickel to begin with.

If you like pumpernickel, then you’ll be sure to like this homemade version even more. Unlike store-bought loaves, this one got even more flavorful the longer it sat on my counter and maintained a soft, moist crumb for longer than most bread. It could be the summer humidity, but I’m going to attribute it to inherent pumpernickel goodness.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Edward Lear

I’m in a bit of a nonsense mood and in the humor for nonsense poetry. “The Owl and the Pussycat” is among my favorite nonsense poems, though I feel the terminology does injustice to such a well-wrought little piece of verse. I used to read the lovely, Jan Brett-illustrated The Owl and the Pussycat to my little brother when he was a baby. It was my favorite of his picture books.

Edward Lear himself suffered from severe and debilitating episodes of epilepsy and was prone to lifelong periods of intense depression that he deemed “the morbids.” During his lifetime, he was primarily known as a travel artist (despite partial blindness) and all-around eccentric fellow. Despite this, he remains the only author I know who wrote a paean to inter-species love now considered appropriate literature for young children. But you’ll understand why if you know the poem, or if you read it following the cut.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Raspberry Dark Chocolate Ice Cream

Husband was kind enough to buy me an ice cream maker for my birthday. A more cynical person might wonder if this were an entirely disinterested purchase, but I had placed it on my amazon wishlist and lobbied hard for its purchase, so I’m willing to let him off the hook.

The nice thing about homemade ice cream is that it’s actually kind of hard to screw up. For example, I enjoy the richness that tempered egg yolks lend to ice cream. Unfortunately, for my first batch, I tried to use frozen egg yolks leftover from my recent angel food cake that were insufficiently thawed. Instead of incorporating neatly into my milk and cream mixture, yolk bits floated to the surface in ugly yellow clumps. I strained them out, and no one was the wiser – though I’m sure you’ll understand that I want to try again before sharing the first ice cream recipe (which was peanut butter chocolate swirl) with the world. The strained product was still ridiculously tasty.

This time, I used fresh eggs, and let me just say that it made a difference.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread with Crystallized Ginger

As is usual this time of year, I keep finding myself besieged with over-ripe bananas. Each week, I tell myself that if I buy a blend of ripe and green bananas, I’ll be able to make them last without another trip to the store. It doesn’t work. During the latter half of each week, I inevitably wind up buying fresh bananas because I can’t abide the thought of squeezing banana mush, in lieu of the usual slices, onto my breakfast cereal. And no, I’m not about to give up my cereal with bananas, at least not for so long as bananas remain readily and cheaply available. This may not be much longer, according to Banana, as they are increasingly victim to some hideous blight, but I can’t think about that. I won’t think about it. It makes me sad.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Angel Food Cake

So I had a birthday last week, and while I’m sure I could wheedle the husband into baking or buying me a cake, such entreaties would deprive me of the opportunity to make my own. When given the chance, I always prefer to have the control over my cake that baking it myself provides.

I decided to bake myself an Angel Food Cake. This wasn’t prompted by health and/or caloric concerns – I genuinely adore angel food cake and prefer it to most frosted and layer cakes.

None of my cookbooks seemed to have a recipe for this fluffy concoction, so I used google to find a recipe. And frankly, there isn’t much variation. Angel Food Cake seems is the rare baked good about the preparation of which something like consensus has been achieved. Some recipes use slightly more or less sugar (I used less), and some use slightly more or less cake flour (again, I used less). The basic setup, however, does not vary from recipe to recipe.

I’d never tried to bake an Angel Food Cake before. Because I like the kind that you get at the store or can make from a box so much, I was hoping that a homemade version would be revolutionary – the ne plus ultra of Angel Food Cake. Doubleplusgood Angel Food Cake.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

After my recent homage to Robert Browning, it seems only fair to give props to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. During their lifetimes, she was by far the more noted poet; his renown grew only after her death. She is most remembered for Sonnets from the Portuguese and, of course, the ubiquitous “How Do I Love Thee?” sonnet therein. They’re nice if formal love poetry is what you’re after – and we all have those moods, right? – but I think her lesser-known poetry is more interesting.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies -- Nut Butter Version

I know I’ve already posted white chocolate chip and macadamia cookies on this blog -- and posted them fairly recently at that.  Variations are good, right?  And I think this recipe is a slight improvement on the original, though it remains highly recommended if you don't have easy access to the almond butter the depicted version demands.

This particular batch of cookies was earmarked for the husband of a friend who graduated from nursing school. The challenge inherent in this baking task is that these friends live on the west coast, whereas I hang out on the eastern seaboard. I find that cookies that incorporate nut butter tend to stay soft and fresh-tasting longer than ones made with an all-butter base. Since these had to get to California, I thought it best to take advantage of all the tricks in my cookie repertoire to assure long shelf life.