While this winter has been pretty brutal for most of the United States and huge portions of Canada, Seattle has been blessed with remarkable weather. Sure it’s been a bit drizzly every now and then, but when it’s sunny and blue skies in January and February, I can’t help but think how lucky I am. Earlier this month I saw people wearing shorts just blocks form where I live and just yesterday we hit a record high for March (70 degrees, which, for Seattle, is awfully warm for the time of year).
My one critique of this unusually lovely winter is that weather was rarely bad enough to really get in the mood for rib-sticking, hearty, comfort food. Sure I made some decadent and rich braises and argues, but for the most part I kept it pretty light and healthy. As Seattle is having yet another lovely day, I bring you an incredibly hearty and comforting chili recipe, that manages to not be too heavy. I could enjoy this in the middle of a blizzard, but would be perfectly content eating it on an impossibly sunny and warm day.
Chipotle and Adobo Chili
Adapted from Ellie Krieger
- Olive oil
- 1 lb ground beef (I used 85/15)
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (San Marzano are my favorite)
- 1 12-ounce beer (I used an ESB)
- 1-3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and minced (use to taste)
- 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from the can of chipotles (more or less to taste)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 15.5-ounce cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. Add ground beef, breaking up with a large spoon into small chunks, and brown, stirring infrequently, until the beef is nicely browned (about 8-10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Add the onion and pepper, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes. Add cumin and garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Stir in tomatoes, beer, chipotles and adobo sauce, oregano, and an additional sprinkling of salt and pepper. Reduce heat.
Simmer uncovered for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add rinsed beans and cook an additional 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve.
I like this served with sour cream, cheese, scallions, and avocado; perhaps with some chips, roll, or cornbread on the side. And of course beer.
I’m not a huge fan of the greeting card industry’s holiday Valentine’s Day, but any holiday that encourages me to eat excessive amounts of chocolate can’t be all bad. My recent, frequent, and increasingly difficult trips to the gym have been rather torturous, yet they’re obviously a necessity since I’ll be eating my weight in chocolate this week. I’m well on my way of setting a record for most chocolate consumed, and I owe part of that accomplishment to the 1.5 slices of this cake I had for lunch yesterday (followed by the 1.5 slices I had for dessert after dinner).
From the moment I saw this recipe from the NY Times, I was intrigued. I love the dense richness of a poundcake and was beyond fascinated with the thought of a slightly salty strussel on top (and bottom!). Needless to say I was beyond impressed with this recipe and there’s very little I would change (which is rare for me, I almost always tweak a recipe in some way).
If you’re looking for other chocolate ideas, here are my favorite chocolate recipe posts:
- Quadruple Chocolate Cookies
- Beatty’s Chocolate Cupcakes
- Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake
- Chocolate and Red Wine Cake
Chocolate Streusel Poundcake
From the NY Times
For the streusel:
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 ½ tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
- ⅓ cup semisweet chocolate chips
For the poundcake:
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- ½ cup whole milk
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, then line with parchment paper. Grease the parchment on the bottom of the loaf pan.
In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, or in the microwave, melt the chocolate for the cake, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool while you prepare the streusel.
Prepare the streusel: In a bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Using fingers, fork or a pastry blender, cut in the butter until it is evenly distributed and forms large, moist crumbs. Stir in the chocolate chips. Scatter half the streusel evenly into the bottom of the loaf pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until baked through.
Prepare the cake: In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat melted butter, both sugars and salt together until combined. Beat in egg, vanilla extract, yogurt, milk and melted chocolate. Fold in dry ingredients until just combined.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and top with remaining streusel. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of cake emerges with one or two crumbs, about 1 hour (start checking at 55 minutes, although could take up to 1 hour and 15 minutes). Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool completely before turning out and slicing.
Serve with whipped cream and/or fresh berries.
I think one of the most challenging quests I’ve conquered as a home cook has been finding a decent Mexican Rice recipe (or Spanish Rice recipe [anyone know what the difference between the two are?]). The first time I made Carnitas I made a Mexican Rice recipe so awful I would have preferred something from a box. The 6 or 7recipes I tried after that were all so sucky that I had almost given up. Far too often I made recipes that were mushy, had an abundance of unnecessary vegetables, greasy texture, and lacked any kick.
Thankfully, the wonderful people at America’s Test Kitchen must have read my mind (well, they must have predicted my predicament because this recipe came out a while ago) and published an impeccable recipe for Mexican Rice that manages to be packed with flavor and was in no way mushy or greasy. While this recipe was a bit fussy for a simple rice side dish, I promise it’s worth it.
- 2 medium ripe tomatoes (about 12 ounces) cored and quartered
- 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
- 3 medium jalapenos
- 2 cups long-grain white rice
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (you can use veggie broth to make this vegetarian/vegan)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Lime wedges for serving
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro (optional, if you’re a weirdo who likes cilantro)
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position in oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a food processor, pulse tomato and onion until smooth. You should have two cups (discard excess if you have more than 2 cups).
Remove the ribs and seeds from 2 of the jalapenos and finely mince; set aside. Finely mince the third jalapeno and set aside. The logic behind removing the seeds and ribs in 2 out of the 3 jalapenos is that the majority of the heat are in the seeds and ribs. If you’re really averse to heat, remove the seeds and ribs of all three.
Place the rice in a large, fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear, about a minute (this removes the starch and results in a non-mushy rice). Shake vigorously and remove all excess water.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or 12-inch oven proof sauté pan. Drop 3 or 4 grain of rice into the oil. You want the rice to sizzle, and if it does, the oil is sufficiently hot. Add remaining rice and stir frequently until lightly golden brown and mostly translucent (about 6 to 8 minutes).
Reduce heat to medium, add the garlic, and seeded minced jalapenos, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1.5 minutes. Stir in the pureed tomato mixture, chicken broth, tomato paste, and salt. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Cover the pan tightly and transfer to oven.
Bake 15 minutes and stir the rice. Cover and return to oven and bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.
Fluff with fork, stir in the third reserved jalapeno and optional cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.
There’s a local cupcake store in Seattle, Cupcake Royale, which has some of my favorite cupcakes. They have exceptional seasonal/monthly flavors and whether I’m enjoying a blueberry crumble cupcake in the middle of summer or a boozy eggnog cupcake in December, I’m always a happy customer.
My last trip to Cupcake Royale involved buying one or two (or like ten) cupcakes, one of which was practically life changing: a stout gingerbread cake. Beer, ginger, and cream cheese frosting are in the top 20 of my favorite things, and it was all I could do not to inhale this delicious cupcake. I immediately made it my goal in life to replicate this cupcake.
My results definitely weren’t a match in flavor as I ended up with something that packed a lot more heat from ginger and had a delightfully forceful taste of molasses, but I am in love with them. Definitely not for the faint of heart as the flavors are in no way subtle. They’re quite bold, in fact. So bold some may call the flavor overpowering. I, however, find them very nicely intense.
FYI, I used Dragonstooth Stout, a beer made in Seattle, that has a very intense coffee taste to it. If you’re really into stouts or porters, feel free to use your favorite! The most common and easily accessible one is Guinness.
Oh, and these stayed surprisingly moist for 3 days. Best when they’re freshly made; however, a day or two in advance would be fine if you’re short on time.
Gingerbread Stout Cupcakes
Adapted from David Lebovitz
- 4 ounces fresh ginger
- 1 cup mild molasses
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup stout or porter
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 24 capacity cupcake pan with 20-21 cupcake liners (recipe made 21 for me).
Peel, slice, and chop the ginger very fine with a knife (or use a grater)—or, pulse in a food processor until very fine (which is what I did, very easy). Mix together the molasses, sugar, and oil. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.
Bring the stout/porter to a boil in a saucepan, stir in the baking soda, and then mix the beer mixture into the molasses mixture. Stir in the ginger.
Gradually fold the dry ingredients into the batter. Add the eggs, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake pan(s) and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back lightly when pressed or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with only a one or two moist crumbs.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 8-oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups sifted powdered sugar
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a hand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed until slightly fluffy and well combined. Add in vanilla extract, mix slowly, and gradually add powdered sugar. Pipe on to cooled cupcakes.
I’ve spent a solid portion of the last 11.5 months looking for Christmas cookie ideas. Before the holiday season of 2013 had even ended, I was already dreaming up what kind of treats I could bake for the next year. While the White Chocolate & Cranberry Shortbread, Spiced Ginger Cookies, and Russian Tea Cakes I made last year are crowd favorites that I will be making again, I was eager to try out some new and different recipes.
There’s a substantial list of cookies and desserts I plan on trying out this year, one of them being biscotti. I’m not entirely sure where my desire to try biscotti came from since I don’t really like biscotti that much. They’re usually loaded with almond extract or almonds (neither of which I particularly enjoy) and what’s with the texture? I can rarely tell if they’re freshly baked or stale as they can get super dry and crumbly.
While I may not be rushing to order every biscotti I see at a café, this particular recipe has definitely made me a convert. Lightness from orange zest along with tartness from dried cranberries does an exceptional job of cutting sweetness from sugar. These are crumbly and crunchy, but still manage to be light, delicate, and somewhat soft. Goldilocks would be really happy with these. Not too sweet, not too tart, not to soft, not to crunchy. Win win!
These would be perfect alongside a cup of coffee any time of the year, but they seem to work especially well during the holidays. Best of all, they’re infinitely adaptable. Add half a cup of chopped pistachios for a lovely green and red combination. Or fold in some chunks of white chocolate. Or mix in toasted chopped pecans. Or even drizzle the finished product with melted white chocolate, as the recipe this is based off of specifies.
Cranberry and Orange Biscotti
Adapted from Epicurious
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- Zest of 1 orange
- 2 large eggs plus 1 egg white
- 1 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line a heavy large baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl; set aside. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or an electric hand mixer), beat sugar, orange zest, and butter for 2 minutes, or until slightly fluffy. Add one whole egg and mix until incorporated before adding the second egg. Reserve remaining egg white.
Gradually mix the flour mixture into the wet batter (add about 1/3 of the mixture at a time) and mix until just barely combined. Using a spatula, fold in cranberries by hand.
Divide dough in half, and place halves on prepared sheet tray. Using lightly floured hands, form each half into a loaf, approximately 1.5 inches high, 3 inches wide, and 7 or 8 inches long. Be sure to leave plenty of space in between, as they spread out a fair amount.
Whisk the remaining egg white until slightly frothy. Brush egg white mixture on top of each loaf. Bake for 35 minutes.
Leave loafs on the sheet pan and let cool for 30 minutes, or until mostly cooled. The cooling process helps from crumbling too much when you slice them for the second bake.
Once cooled, move loafs to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut logs, diagonally, into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Arrange slices cut sides up (or down, depending on how you look at it), on the baking sheet and return to oven. Bake 15 additional minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool on sheet pan. You want to leave these to cool on the sheet pan as they’re very tender, soft, and slightly crumbly when you first take them out of the oven. Leaving on the sheet pan to cool allows them to firm and crisp up.
Who out there has found a recipe, followed it to the letter, and thought part way through that it would be a total disaster?
When I made a no-knead roll (perfect for Thanksgiving) I was positive it was doomed to failure. The initial dough mixture resembled paste and was impossibly sticky. I was hoping to make a dinner roll that was flaky and delicate, but I was left with dough that was so sticky all I could do was messily plop it into a greased muffin tin. While I felt incredibly defeated, certain I had made one flop of a bread, I just tried to finish and make a roll that was at the very least edible.
I’m so incredibly happy I followed through with the recipe instead of tossing it, as I ended up with a roll so delicate, slightly crusty, buttery, and flaky it completely melted in my mouth. My initial misgivings about the recipe entirely disappeared as I enjoyed a roll, fresh out of the oven, which was one of best carbs I’ve had in months. Best of all, these rolls are great to make ahead, then freeze, then let defrost before serving.
Adapted from Pioneer Woman
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 9-10 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 packages (4 1/2 Tsp.) active dry yeast (be sure you don’t use the instant or rapid rise kind)
- 1 teaspoon (heaping) baking powder
- 1 teaspoon (scant) baking soda
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt (if using table salt, use 1 heaping tablespoon)
- 1 stick of unsalted butter
Pour 4 cups of milk into a large saucepan, stock pot, or Dutch oven. Add one cup of sugar and 1 cup of vegetable oil. Stir to combine, cooking over medium to medium-high heat, until simmering, but before reaching the boiling point. Remove from heat, and let mixture cool.
When mixture has cooled to approximately 100-105 degrees Fahrenheit, add 4 cups of flour and yeast. Stir to combine (I used a wooden spoon). Once mixture has partially come together (don’t worry, it will still look very clumpy), slowly mix in 4 more cups of flour (again, don’t worry, it will look like a disaster). Let rest in a warm spot, lightly covered with a lid or dish towel. Let rise for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, divide stick of butter in half. Use half of the butter to generously grease 24 muffin tins. Set aside the remaining half of butter.
Once dough has doubled in size (the top of the mixture will look poofy and slightly bubbly), vigorously stir in 1 additional cup of flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. At this point your dough may still be impossibly sticky. If so, slowly stir in additional flour, up to 1 cup more. The dough may still be very wet and sticky, but that’s okay.
Divide dough evenly between the muffin tins (you’ll want the dough to come close to coming level to the top of the muffin tin) (again, don’t worry if you have to messily plop the dough in, it will be lovely once it’s risen and baked), lightly cover with a dish towel or lightly greased saran wrap, and let rise for and additional hour, or until rolls have puffed.
Right before baking, melt remaining half stick of butter, and lightly brush over the top of the rolls.
Bake in a 400-degree oven until golden brown, about 17 to 20 minutes. Rotate the pans 10 minutes into baking.
Cranberry sauce has to be one of my favorite condiments. On Thanksgiving, a holiday full of delicious, but often rich food, the tartness of cranberries does a great job of cutting the heaviness of turkey, stuffing, gravy, and mashed potatoes. I’m still a bit obsessed with the lime and ginger cranberry sauce I made last year, but wanted to spice things up a bit this year.
The spiciness and savory aspect jalapeno and pepper bring to this cranberry sauce is most welcome at the dinner table. Extra bite and spice further enhances the cranberries’ ability to lighten up Thanksgiving dinner. Just enough sugar balances out the spice and tartness, but this is still a very bright and fresh tasting condiment. I promise this isn’t excessively spicy, but if you’re worried about too much heat feel free to reduce to just one jalapeno. And if spice really isn’t your thing at all, removing the pepper and jalapeno entirely results in a very pleasant traditional cranberry sauce.
Pepper and Orange Cranberry Sauce
- 1 red bell pepper
- 2 jalapenos
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 1 orange
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 16 oz cranberries, fresh or frozen (if using frozen, let defrost)
- Pinch of salt
Seed bell pepper and jalapenos; chop the pepper into a small dice and finely mince the jalapenos. Add to a large sauce pan, pour in water and sugar, cook over medium-high heat for approximately 8-10 minutes, until peppers have softened. Meanwhile, zest the orange, then juice the orange. Rinse the cranberries then pick through and discard any all white cranberries or mushy or shriveled cranberries.
Once peppers have softened, add the orange zest, orange juice, ginger, cranberries and salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes, or until most of the liquid has dissolved and the cranberries have mostly burst, with a few remaining whole. Let cool before serving.
This is a great make ahead recipe. If covered tightly and refrigerated it should stay for a minimum of two weeks.
Many of you may already know, but for anyone that doesn’t know, I am totally and madly in love with carbs. I want to marry carbs. I want to spend my life with carbs.
I cannot get enough of carbs. They’re probably my favorite food group and whether I’m chowing down on a crusty baguette, eating bowl after bowl of pasta, or enjoying each and every grain in a huge bowl of rice, I cannot resist carbs.
It should come as no surprise that my favorite part of Thanksgiving is stuffing (aka dressing). How could anyone not be crazy about a dish that celebrates bread? I would be completely okay with simply eating cubes of plain bread goodness, but I know most people like their stuffing/dressing to have a bit more substance.
This Mushroom and Leek stuffing is absolutely delicious. An abundance of mushrooms makes this a substantial and almost meaty dish, while leeks give a delicate onion flavor and pancetta gives a salty bite. You can’t go wrong with any form of stuffing/dressing, but I highly recommend this one.
Just a few notes:
- Stuffing deserves good bread! Cubes of generic, white bread are nowhere near as good as a loaf of rustic style bread. Treat yo self!
- Serving stuffing in a large casserole dish (or 9 x 13 dish) is probably the most common, but why not divide into individual ramekins?
- Feel free to cube bread into 1 inch pieces, but I like ripping the bread into comparable sizes. It looks more rustic and I think has superior texture than a cube.
Mushroom and Leek Stuffing
- 1 lb rustic bread
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/3 lb pancetta, chopped into a small dice
- 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, thoroughly rinsed and thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 lbs crimini mushrooms, chopped into quarters
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus additional for greasing pan(s)
- 1 tablespoon minced sage
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
- Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rip up a 1 lb loaf of rustic bread into approximately 1 inch pieces (you want about 8-10 cups). I don’t even bother removing the crust as I think leaving the crust adds a greater variety of texture. Spread bread pieces on a baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until nice and dry.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium to medium high heat. Add pancetta and cook for 8-10 minutes, until fat has rendered and pancetta is nice and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove pancetta and place into a large bowl.
In the same skillet used to cook pancetta (leaving the rendered fat from the pancetta), add prepped leeks, and cook for 8-10 minutes, until tender and lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the same bowl the pancetta is in.
In the same skillet, add in quartered mushrooms and butter. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until mushrooms are tender and have released any liquid. Add to the large bowl containing pancetta and leeks.
Once bread is done baking and is pale but very crispy, add to the large bowl of pancetta, leek, and mushrooms and stir in chicken broth, sage, and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well (and taste again for seasoning!). Crank up oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Using additional butter, lightly grease 8-10 individual ramekins (depends on how big yours are, mine are slightly larger than 1 cup), or one large casserole dish/9×13 pan. Divide stuffing between ramekins or pour in the stuffing mixture into casserole dish.
If using individual ramekins, bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes, or until top has crisped up. If baking in a large casserole dish, cover with aluminum foil, bake for 25 minutes, then remove foil and bake an additional 20-25 minutes.
While this butternut squash is comprised of incredibly simple ingredients, the taste manages to be quite intricate and rich. Roasted squash and apple create complex flavors while caramelizing onions and shallots mellow out typically harsh and intense ingredients. Besides some sage, salt and pepper, a bit of olive oil and butter, and a healthy amount of stock, there’s not much else to this recipe. A splash or two of heavy cream at the end can make this already velvety smooth and decadent soup a bit more indulgent, but it’s completely optional.
What I enjoy about this soup so much is the simplicity creates a perfectly balanced dish that’s delicious as is, but can be punched up in flavor, if desired. Seriously, this soup does not need any elaborate garnishments, but if you were so inclined, toasted pepitas would be a fantastic addition, as would some drops of hot sauce, drizzle of crème fraiche, chopped chives, salted cashews, or candied pecans.
Butternut Squash Soup
- 1 Butternut Squash (approximately 3.5 – 4 pounds)
- 1 apple
- 1 sweet onion
- 1 shallot
- Salt and Pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 8-10 fresh sage leaves
- 1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
Prep ingredients by peeling and seeding the butternut squash, coring the apple, and peeling the onion and shallot. Chop squash and apple into approximately 1-inch dice. Place on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30 – 40 minutes, or until tender and golden brown, stirring once or twice during the process.
Meanwhile, approximately 10 – 15 minutes into the cooking time of the squash, in a large saucepan or stockpot, melt butter over medium-low to medium heat, chop shallot and onion (medium dice) and sauté with butter until caramelized, about 15-20 minutes. Add chicken stock and sage leaves and bring to a simmer. Once squash and apples are done roasting, add to stockpot and cook for a few minutes.
Blend mixture in batches in a blender or food processor, or puree with an immersion blender. Simmer mixture for a few more minutes, just to ensure the flavors meld. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To make this richer and creamier than it already is, finish off by stirring in the heavy cream (optional).
I garnished with some sour cream thinned out with a bit of milk and a light sprinkling of cayenne.
Every now and then I overthink things. Deciding what to have for lunch is occasionally a three hour long process where I have to ask 20 people what I should have and by the time I’ve decided it’s practically dinnertime. Friends of mine all know they shouldn’t ask me what I want to do during a weekend, since my answer tends to be “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” While I can make important choices under pressure, in my day-to-day life I can sometimes be a bit indecisive.
Deciding on what to cook or bake can sometimes be a challenge as well. Do I go back to a favorite recipe I’ve made before that has exceptional results, or do I try something new and different? Yesterday when I couldn’t decide whether or not do something familiar or new, I decided to settle and I made a few revisions to a recipe I knew I loved.
Several years ago smitten kitchen posted a recipe involving browned butter, obscenely whipped eggs, and sweet pears juxtaposed against the bite of bittersweet chocolate. It was a cake that I loved to make and within 2 months of seeing the post for the first time I had made the recipe 5 or 6 times. I thought it was that good.
Now that the recipe is officially a go-to in my arsenal, I thought it might be time to update it a bit. Don’t get me wrong, the pear and chocolate combination is delicious, but considering Thanksgiving is just around the corner, I thought it might be appropriate to swap out the chocolate for fresh cranberries. Texturally, cranberries aren’t at all similar to chocolate, but taste wise the tart bite of the cranberries is a great substitute to the bitterness of chocolate. Despite the fact that fall spices are nowhere to be found in this recipe, a bite of it was quintessentially autumn, and I think this would be a perfect addition to Thanksgiving dinner, or any dinner for that matter.
If anyone is indecisive on what to make, I’ll help you with the decision…. make this!
Pear and Cranberry Cake
Adapted from smitten kitchen
- 2 tablespoons cornmeal (small grind)
- 1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder (yes, a tablespoon, that’s not a typo)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs, at room-temperature
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 pears, peeled, in a small dice
- 1 1/4 cup fresh cranberries, sorted and washed
- Powdered sugar and whipped cream for serving
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with cornmeal (you could also use plain breadcrumbs or flour), set aside.
Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip eggs on high until pale and very thick (beyond ribbon stage). This should take a minimum of 8 minutes using a stand mixer, 10+ using a hand mixer, and I would imagine a very, very long time if whisking by hand.
While the eggs are whipping, brown the butter by melting the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once butter has melted, it should start browning in approximately 4 minutes. Do not stir for the first few minutes, but once butter starts to bubble you’ll want to occasionally stir to ensure the solids don’t burn. You’ll know it’s done when it smells nutty and the white solids in the butter turn brown. Remove from burner but leave in a warm spot so butter doesn’t solidify.
Meanwhile, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl, set aside.
Add the sugar to the eggs and whip 2 more minutes, or until the mixture just starts to loosen. Reduce speed to the lowest setting, add one third of the flour mixture, half of the brown butter, a third of the flour, the remaining butter, and the rest of flour. Mix until barely combined, then lightly stir by hand with a spatula, to ensure all flour has been incorporated, being careful not to over mix.
Pour batter into prepared pan and lightly sprinkle the pears and cranberries on top.
Bake in preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean or with one or two tender crumbs.
Let cake cook completely, dust with powdered sugar (optional), and serve with whipped cream.
Due to the juiciness of the pears and cranberries, this cake is still moist on the second and third days, if it isn’t all eaten before then.
(As if by magic, the cake rises over the pears and cranberries that were on top prior to baking)