Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Recipe in Reverse

There are those who love recipes so much that they want to take something they like and then reverse engineer it for home use. I am not that person. But, I very much wanted to do that with this recipe. My friend Helen brought over some Five Seed Almond Bars from Trader Joe's for a snack one afternoon. They were marvelous. So much so because I felt certain that I could make them myself. So, I did what anyone else would have done, which is Google the title. Low and behold, a very talented "Lakata" had posted her version of the recipe.

Since then, I've made these a number of times. Some with great success, some with not so much glory. There's a trick to them, but not so much that you yourself couldn't do it. In fact, I encourage you to try these because they make an awesome snack for school.

Five Seed Almond Bars
Adapted from "Lakata," as published on Epicurious

Makes Three dozen

1 1/8 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup raisins
3/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup quick oatmeal (not instant)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 stick melted butter (4 oz.)
1 egg
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup plain flax seed oil (available in the health food section of Whole Foods)

1 cup of seed mix: flax, sesame, pumpkin, poppy and sunflower (1 oz. each seed, approximately 5 oz. total)
1/3 cup slivered, toasted almonds


Measure out the seeds and almonds in a small bowl and set aside. You will need to work with them quickly, so have them ready to go.

Put the first set of dry ingredients in a food processor and blend for 30 seconds, until the raisins are finely chopped. Add the liquid ingredients and process for about 30 seconds until the mixture forms a ball. Add the nut mixture and pulse the food processor a few times to lightly mix. This resulting mixture is very dense. Work quickly so you don't burn out the motor on your food processor.

Turn mixture out onto a jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper. Spread evenly using a wet spatula.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees in the oven after about six minutes. The bars will firm as they cool. Cut using a pizza wheel, and allow to cool a bit longer before removing from the pan. Store in an airtight storage container, or freeze.

Seeds and nuts set aside
Dry ingredients

Now wet

About to become brick mortar

I won't say what my six year old said this looks like. Wet the spatula to help spread. 

I cut mine with a pizza cutter, but really, any good knife will do. 

The perfect snack

Monday, February 20, 2012

We're gonna party 'cause it's your birthday....

Birthdays quickly follow the holidays around our house. As soon as I've taken the Christmas tree out of the house, we're planning birthday parties. Two years ago, I found a layout all about cupcakes in one of my favorite food magazines, "Eating Well." This publication, in case you haven't yet read it, develops recipes that emphasize flavor, fresh ingredients and preparations that suit a healthier lifestyle. In other words, you can have your cupcake and eat it too. 

For this particular party, we made the Raspberry Swirl Cupcakes, the Vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting, and the Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes. All are worthy additions to your baking repertoire. These taste real and frankly, they burst with flavor. I'm not going to win any fans at the bakery department of our local grocery store, but these are cupcakes you want to eat. Theirs, not so much. 



Active Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 3 Hours, including time for cooling and chilling


  • 2 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen (thawed and drained), plus 12 fresh berries for garnish (about 12 ounces total)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (see Note)
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk (see Tip)


  • 8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufch√Ętel), at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest


  1. To prepare cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. Puree 2 cups raspberries and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar in a blender or food processor until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, pressing with a rubber spatula to extract all the puree; discard seeds. Reserve 4 teaspoons of the puree for the frosting. Save the puree with the seeds for a smoothie or add to a batch of pancakes!
  3. Whisk whole-wheat flour, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Beat 3/4 cup granulated sugar and oil in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Beat in eggs, vanilla and 1 teaspoon lemon zest until well combined. With the mixer on low, alternately mix in the dry ingredients and buttermilk, starting and ending with dry ingredients and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, until just combined.
  5. Fill the prepared cups half full of batter. Place a scant tablespoon of raspberry puree on each cup (you may have some left over). Divide the remaining batter evenly among the cups. Use a wooden skewer or toothpick to swirl and fold the puree into the batter.
  6. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 22 to 24 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
  7. To prepare frosting: Meanwhile, beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest and the reserved 4 teaspoons raspberry puree with an electric mixer until smooth. Refrigerate the frosting until very cold, at least 2 hours. Spread the frosting on the cooled cupcakes and decorate with a raspberry on top, if desired.

  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate the frosting (Step 7) for up to 3 days. Store cooled cupcakes airtight at room temperature for up to 1 day.
  • Ingredient Note: Look for whole-wheat pastry flour in the natural-foods section of large supermarkets and natural-foods stores. Store in the freezer.
  • Tip: No buttermilk? You can make “sour milk” as a substitute: mix 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar to 1/2 cup nonfat milk, or use the powdered buttermilk available in the dried milk section of the grocery store. 

Birthday Boy #2 chose the chocolate frosted vanilla cupcake

Pureeing the raspberries

Filled the cupcakes with raspberry puree; almost ready to bake!

Chocolate frosting using flour as the base

Raspberry, chocolate and cream cheese frostings

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

On the way to the party!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

At first, I thought my window of opportunity to find Meyer Lemons had come and gone. I'd seen them in the store around Christmas, and then missed them for several weeks. They resurfaced, and I'm happy to say that I snagged some in my effort to make Marmalade this winter. Our teacher appreciation day is fast approaching, and with six teachers in all to appreciate, I thought this might be a nice gesture to give thanks.

  • Meyer Lemon Marmalade
  • Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

  • Ingredients: 

  • 6 Meyer lemons (1 1/2 pounds)
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups sugar

Kitchen string
Six half-pint Mason-type jars, sterilized with lids

Halve lemons crosswise and remove seeds. Tie seeds in a cheesecloth bag. Quarter each lemon half and thinly slice. Combine with bag of seeds and water in a 5-quart nonreactive heavy pot and let mixture stand, covered, at room temperature 24 hours.

Bring lemon mixture to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to 4 cups, about 45 minutes. Stir in sugar and boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, until a teaspoon of mixture dropped on a cold plate gels, about 15 minutes.

Ladle hot marmalade into jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of top. Wipe rims with dampened cloth and seal jars with lids.

Put jars in a water-bath canner or on a rack set in a deep pot. Add enough hot water to cover jars by 1 inch and bring to a boil. Boil jars, covered, 5 minutes and transfer with tongs to a rack. Cool jars completely. Keep jars out for 24 hours to confirm that the lids sealed properly in the water bath.

Ready to go!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I've Seen the Future and it Scares Me

Oatmeal Sandwich Bread

I first read about this recipe here on Molly Wizenberg's brilliant blog Orangette. She has a food sensibility I truly admire, with eloquent writing to make you really want to cook whatever it is she's making (to wit: fennel salad, roasted tomatoes, etc.) 

Molly makes some very good points in her adaptation of this recipe. First, is: stir your flours before measuring to fluff them up. Flour packs itself quite well, and good measurements are key to good baking. She also changed up the salt recommendation from the original recipe, going from Kosher salt to regular table salt. 

I started making this recipe out of curiosity, and continue because it's a fabulous recipe for someone starting out baking bread. I don't have a bread maker, and based on having borrowed the one my mother kept in the basement for years, I don't ever intend to. This recipe requires a stand mixer with a dough hook, and standard sized loaf pans. It is now an indispensable recipe in my repertoire. Having "eating" bread around ensures we get through the week with the sandwich bread I buy at the store. 

Two weeks ago, we invited friends over to help bake four loaves of bread. Monica's sons are interested in cooking, and wanted to know how they too can bake bread. And that's where I saw my future. Her boys are 14, 12, and 10, and they EAT. MASSIVE. QUANTITIES. OF. FOOD. Raw veggies, apples and pizza were on the lunch menu that day. Five pizzas. FIVE! My two boys have yet to hit that all-encompassing eating stage in their life, but when it comes, I know there isn't going to be a shopping cart big enough. Oy. 

Oatmeal Sandwich Bread
Adapted from Good to the Grain,, by Kim Boyce with Amy Scattergood, by way of Orangette

1 package (2 ¼ tsp.) active dry yeast
3 Tbsp. unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1 cup rolled oats (not instant oatmeal, or quick cooking oatmeal)
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 ¼ tsp. table salt, or to taste

Grease a large bowl and a loaf pan with butter or cooking spray.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 2 cups warm water, the yeast, and molasses. Stir briefly, and then allow the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes. Add the flours, oats, and butter, and stir to mix. The dough will look rough and shaggy. Cover with a towel, and let stand for 30 minutes. Wait until the next step to add the salt! [This rest allows the dry ingredients to absorb the liquids, making for a dough that’s easy to work with and even-crumbed.]

Attach the bowl and the bread hook to the mixer. Add the salt, and mix on medium speed for 6 minutes. The dough should come together around the hook and slap around the sides of the bowl without sticking. If the dough is sticking, add a tablespoon or two of bread flour, sprinkling it down between the dough and the sides of the bowl. [Alternatively, you can knead by hand for about 15 minutes, adding flour as needed.] The dough should be soft and supple and slightly sticky.

For the first rise, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it a few times. Put the dough into the greased bowl, cover with a towel, and leave it to rise for about 1 hour, or until it is doubled in size. To see if it’s ready, gently push a floured finger into it. If the dough springs back, it needs more time; if the dimple remains, it’s ready for the next step.

To shape the dough, scrape it onto a floured work surface. Press down on it, working it into a square shape, taking care to depress any bubbles. Fold the dough down from the top to the middle, then up from the bottom to the middle. Next, bring the newly formed top and bottom edges together, pinching the seam to seal. Pinch the sides together, and roll the shaped dough back and forth, plumping it so that it’s evenly formed and about the size of your pan. Place the dough in the pan with the seam side down, and press it gently into the corners of the pan.

For the second rise, cover the dough with a towel, and let it rest in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until the dough rises to half again its size. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.

When the dough has finished its second rise, bake for about 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The loaf is ready when the top crust and bottom crusts are nicely browned. To see if the bread is ready, give the top of the loaf a thump with your hand. If it sounds hollow, it’s ready; if not, give it another few minutes in the oven. Remove the finished loaf from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Resist the urge to cut in until it’s fully cooled, so that the crumb has time to set and the flavor can develop.

Note: This bread keeps beautifully at room temperature. Store in a plastic bag, though we often eat our bread so fast there's not much left to store. 

Yield: 1 loaf

First rise

One voluptuous loaf of bread in the making

Senan kneads from up high