Fall Harvest Granola

This Fall I’ve decided to only shop at thrift stores. It’s cheap, and you never know what you’ll end up coming home with. Plus, most thrift stores usually benefit a good cause.

There are some really great stores to explore in D.C., but over the weekend John and I were able to hit up Goodwill and Martha’s Outfitters. We came home will some real gems (and a couple turds).

I swiped up any black sweaters I could find because that’s my uniform at work, and John bought an ill-fitting suit (it was only $8). I also picked up some dishes and other photo props because my goal is to set up a home photo studio like this. John bought a Super Nintendo because he’s a boy.

At Goodwill, John spotted a vintage wet bar and we both had visions of setting it up in the living room and having sophisticated Mad Men-style cocktails served from it. We came home without it, but later that afternoon, John went back, bought it and hauled it home with a friend.

Well, it looks terrible. What looked vintage-y in the store, just looks old and banged-up in our place. The proportions are all wrong for the room and really, how often do we make cocktails or have any bottles of liquor to store in it? It’s still in our house but I’m trying to convince John that we should just sell it on Craigslist for a profit.

Between all the thrift store trips, I made a big batch of this granola. I love making things that are just basic recipes and have endless possibilities for variations. This Fall Harvest version is full of dried figs, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and toasted pecans. The cinnamon brings it all together for a yummy fall breakfast since it is not quite cold enough to make a pot of oatmeal. I’ve also heard that peanut butter and granola sandwiches are good, but I have yet to try it. (Disclaimer: I heard this from my BFF who puts green beans in her lasagna and makes her enchiladas in a bowl).

This recipe makes quite a bit but it is easy to put half in a tupperware and share with your neighbor (or culinarily-creative BFF).

Fall Harvest Granola

adapted slightly from A Cozy Kitchen

Note: I’m thinking of making another version which will have apricots, banana chips, and coconut with hints of vanilla and crunchy almonds.

3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (the green ones, also called pepitas)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt (less if using table salt)
1/4 teaspoon cardamon
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup agave syrup (other sweeteners will work but I like the neutral flavor of agave)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (or more if you like)
1/2 cup dried digs, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 325° F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine oats, pecans, pumpkin seeds, brown sugar and spices.  Toss to mix it all up.
  3. Add the olive oil and agave and stir to coat everything.
  4. Spread on a baking pan in an even layer and bake for about 35-45 minutes until nice and toasty.  Stir every 5-10 minutes, especially towards the end of baking.  Be careful not to burn the nuts!
  5. Let it cool completely on the pan and stir it around a few time.  It will get crunchier as it cools.

Finished with school!

I’m done!  Well not technically, because I have to complete an online course before I get my diploma, but let’s just ignore that fact and pretend I’m done with school!

This last quarter was definitely the most fun.  My favorite class by far was the Display Cakes class.  Here is a collage of all the cakes I made.  Each week we had to make a cake starting with 1-tier, then 2-tier, then 3-tier, and finally we made a 6-tier cake in groups of three.

I can feel that this is the season for baking for me.  I have more free time, and I love autumn produce.  I’m trying to talk John into going apple picking sometime soon.  Have y’all ever done that?  I hear that there are usually donuts involved with apple picking.

I ‘ve already made a couple things I want to share with you and I would love to remake some of my favorite recipes from school (eclairs, chocolate bread, tiramisu, and truffles, to name a few).

Hope everyone is having a great week and enjoying football season!

 

Fried Peach Pies

This summer has been intense.  We hunkered down in our basement through some blistering heat waves, and I’ve been powering through a tough school and work schedule.

Last week, however, was my birthday, so John, Motu and I got out of the city for the weekend.  We spent a couple days at a house on the Shenandoah River.  Canoeing, swimming and grilling was just what my body and spirit needed to get me through my last month of school.

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to cooler nights and not being scared to turn on the oven.  Until then, I’m going to eat my fill of juicy Virginia peaches and fry things instead of bake them!

I made these pies twice in one week because I gave too many of the first batch away and needed more for myself.  I really enjoyed the jalapeño jelly in the filling and cayenne pepper in the coating, but feel free to leave them out if you’re trying to please children or aren’t a fan of spicy-sweet combos.

Fried Peach Pies

from Fine Cooking

Dough:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and put in freezer until ready to use
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Filling:

2 large peaches (firm-ripe is best), peeled, pitted and diced into small cubes
1/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
1 1/2 tablespoons jalapeno jelly
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of cayenne

Coating:

1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

peanut or canola oil, for frying

  1. Put flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add the milk and lemon juice and pulse until dough starts to come together.  Don’t over mix.
  2. Turn dough out onto work surface and gather it into a rectangle and flatten slightly.  Wrap the dough in plastic and refridgerate until cold, about 2 hours (or up to 3 days).
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.  On lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thick.  Cut 12 4-inch circles out of the dough.  If necessary, gather scraps and re-roll.  Place dough circles on prepared baking sheet and refridgerate while you make the filling.
  4. Prepare a ice bath by filling a bowl half-way with ice and water and placing a smaller bowl on the ice water.
  5. In a saucepan, combine peaches with 1/3 cup of sugar, the lemon juice, and salt.  Cook over medium heat until peaches have softened and released their juices.
  6. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch with 1 tablespoon cold water and add the slurry to the peaches.  Continue cooking until thickened. Add hot pepper jelly, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and pinch of cayenne.  Remove from heat and stir to blend.  Transfer mixture to ice bath bowl and stir occasionally until cool.
  7. Assemble the pies by brushing the edge of each dough round with water and place a tablespoon of filling in the center.  Fold the pies up like a taco and pinch the edges to seal.  Place on baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes or up to 24 hours before frying.
  8. To fry the pies, combine the 1 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne in a shallow bowl and reserve.  Fill a 10-inch cast iron skillet with 1/2 inch of oil.  Heat oil to 365°F and fry pies in small batches until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side.  Be careful the bottoms don’t burn.  Remove pies to a paper-towel-lines baking sheet and let then drain until cool enough to handle.  Dredge in the cinnamon sugar. Pick one up and eat it.

Buckwheat Strawberry Shortcakes

I have that jittery anxious feeling in my stomach today. I used to get it the night before summer camp or exciting school field trips. I have it today because I’m starting my last 1o weeks of classes in a few hours.

I think this quarter is going to be the quarter when I learn the most.  I’m taking three classes: Advanced Patisserie and Display Cakes; Chocolates, Confections and Showpieces; and Food Styling.  Although I’m going to miss the bag of bread I used to bring home every week, I’m looking forward to using more of my creativity and artistic skills to make beautiful, delicious things.

Ok, I’m writing too much!  I have to pack up my knife kit and get on the Metro.  But before I do, let me say something about these shortcakes.  They are so, so good.  The biscuits are made with heavy cream so they’re soft and rich.  The buckwheat gives them a nutty, earthy flavor that the sweet, juicy strawberries balance perfectly.  And don’t you dare skip the whipped cream.

Buckwheat Strawberry Shortcakes

from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich

Shortcakes

1 cup, plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup, plus 2 Tablespoons buckwheat flour
1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing

Filling

2-3 pints strawberries, washed, dried, hulled, and sliced
Sugar to taste
1 1/4 cup heavy cream (although since I didn’t eat the whole batch at once, I just whipped cream as I needed it)

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Make a well in the center and pour cream into it. Use a rubber spatula to push the dry ingredients into the cream, with a folding motion, just until the dry ingredients are moistened. The dough will look shaggy.
  3. Gather the dough into a ball and turn out onto a floured surface. Knead once or twice just until loose pieces of dough come together. Pat dough into a 6×6 inch square.  Trim edges with a sharp knife and a firm downward motion (this helps the biscuits rise more).  Cut into 9 smaller squares.
  4. Place them 1 inch apart on baking sheet and brush with cream and sprinkle with sugar.
  5. Bake biscuits until they are golden brown, 12-15 minutes.  Remove from sheet and cool on wire rack.
  6. While biscuits are baking, whip cream in a chilled bowl (sweeten slightly if desired with granulated or powdered sugar) and reserve in refrigerator. If it separates a little, just whisk gently before serving.
  7. Sweeten sliced berries if desired.
  8. To assemble, slice each shortcake in half and place bottom half on a plate.  Spoon a generous amount of berries making sure everyone gets some juice.  Plop some whipped cream on top of berries and place top half of biscuit on the cream.  This dessert is so beautiful and fresh tasting!  You will love it.

Raspberry Lemon Pound Cake

Happy holiday weekend everyone!  I’m super excited to be in Washington, DC, for the Fourth of July this year because the fireworks display is supposed to be amazing.  Our house is only a couple of blocks from the national mall, and we’re scheming about how to get our upstairs neighbors to let us up on the roof.  Last time we got up there a shower curtain rod was ripped out of the wall.

I gave them half of this pound cake and am planning on baking more bribes for them this weekend.  In my opinion, this cake is tasty enough to make up for a minor house repair.

I have kept my promise of lighter baked goods with this cake.  It is made with fat-free yogurt and lots of berries.  You can tell it’s lighter because it makes a good breakfast and doesn’t weigh you down like a traditional pound cake would.

Raspberry Lemon Pound Cake

adapted heavily from Weight Watchers (sorry again, no link to the original)

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
10 Tblsp unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 egg whites
2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
12 oz fat-free lemon flavored yogurt
1/2 cup milk (I used 2%)
2 cups frozen raspberries

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Coat a 12 cup tube pan with cooking spray and dust with flour.
  2. Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.  Whisk to combine and set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl with paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth.  Gradually add the sugar and beat until light in color and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Gently beat the eggs and egg whites together in a small bowl and slowly add to the butter mixture.  I do this by pouring a little bit in, mixing until combined and scraping the bowl if needed.  I usually do it in about 4 additions. Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla extract.
  5. In the same bowl the eggs were in, mix the yogurt with the milk.
  6. Add the four mixture alternately with the yogurt, beginning and ending with the flour mix. Very gently, fold in the raspberries.
  7. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until thin knife or wooden toothpick comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes.  Cool cake in pan on wire rack for at least 10 minutes.  To get the cake to come out, you will need to loosen the edges with a knife, especially around the center tube.  Invert cake onto wire rack and cool completely.

Almond Cloud Cookies

Well, the inevitable has happened, and it’s my Cake and Bread classes’ fault.  I gained 10 pounds.  I’m not usually that concerned about my weight (my giant sweet tooth is more persuasive than my vanity), but I recognize that if I’m going to happily and successfully complete my journey toward becoming a pastry chef, I’ll need to keep my health a priority.  Tight chef’s pant aren’t comfortable no matter how many people say they’re like pajama pants.

So while I get myself to the gym more often, I hope y’all don’t mind a few lighter recipes on the blog this summer.  It won’t be bad, I promise.  No diet soda cakes, or weird fat-free ingredients used, just lots of fresh fruit and smaller slices of cake!

Don’t think of these cookies as diet food. Think of them as French Macarons without the filling, or surprise your gluten-sensitive friends with these delicious gluten-free cookies!  They’re crunchy on the outside and a bit chewy on the inside from the almond flour.  The secret ingredient is the cinnamon.  I never would have thought about adding cinnamon to merginue cookies, but the spice is so delicious with the intense sweetness that meringue cookies can have.

Almond Cloud Cookies

adapted from Weight Watchers (sorry I can’t link to the original recipe)

3 egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup almond meal

  1. Preheat over to 250°.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper or spray lightly with non-stick spray.
  2. Beat whites, salt and cinnamon to a soft foam.
  3. Add sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold in almond meal.
  4. Pipe or spoon batter into 1-inch mounds or rosettes.
  5. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until firm and dry to the touch.  Let cool on sheet and then gently lift off the pan.

Rhubarb Cream Cheese Pie with Strawberries

I just got back from an incredible trip to New York with John and my parents.  Our reason for traveling there was to see my brother graduate from college.  I, however, had a secret mission to visit as many bakeries as possible.

My brother successfully walked across the stage, and I successfully stuffed my face with baked goods.  We went to bakeries all over the city.  If there was a baguette or a biscuit in the window of a shop between Brooklyn and the Bronx, I was there.  I tried bread sticks, cookies, croissants, pies and muffins.  Ironically, I found my favorite place on the same block as my brother’s apartment in Williamsburg.

The Blue Stove is a vintage-y coffee shop and bakery that specializes in pies.  I was in the city for four days and visited this place three times.  They had rich bacon and caramelized onion quiche, creative little hand pies filled with pears and blue cheese and big blueberry muffins.  I ended up buying three pies because they make them in a mini size, and who can resist bringing one of those home with your coffee.

Before we left on this trip I made my first pie of the summer.  I had been drooling over all the rhubarb recipes I was seeing and couldn’t wait to decide on one when I finally found some of the bright pink stalks at the farmers’ market.

The chunky rhubarb filling is a delicious surprise under the creamy cheese custard, and the fresh strawberries on top are a must.  I think the pie is best served chilled, which is perfect for the steamy days ahead.

Rhubarb Cream Cheese Pie with Strawberries

from Rustic Fruit Desserts

1 9″ pie crust, prebaked and cooled

Rhubarb Filling

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and thinly sliced

Custard

12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Topping

2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced or halved or whatever you want
confectioners sugar for dusting

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl and add the rhubarb.  Toss until evenly coated.
  3. Spoon rhubarb mixture into pie crust and bake for 15 minutes, remove pie from oven and turn temperature down to 350°F.
  4. Meanwhile, make the custard by beating the cream cheese and sugar in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  5. Beat the eggs slightly in a small bowl and add them a little at a time to the cream cheese.  Beat until smooth after each addition and scrape sides of bowl often.  Stir in the vanilla and salt.
  6. Pour the custard  into the pie and spread evenly over the rhubarb. Return pie to oven and bake 25-30 minutes.  Custard will puff up and still be slightly wobbly in the center.  Cool to room temperature on wire rack.
  7. Pie can be served at room temperature or chilled until ready.  Top with the sliced strawberries and dust with confectioners sugar just before serving.