Tag Archives: baking

Else’s Saffron Bread

Saffron Bread tastefood Swedish Saffron Bread (Lussekatter)

I have been making saffron bread with my Danish husband since we first met and lived in Geneva, Switzerland.  It’s a charming and delicious tradition passed down from his mother, Else, which celebrates the festival of light during the dark winter solstice, Swedish-style, by forming billowy saffron scented breads into various shapes (lussekatter) and buns. In those early years, before our children were born and since my husband and I lived far from our own families, we made a point of inviting friends who had children, since this holiday isn’t complete without the help of little fingers assisting in shaping and nibbling the dough. While the bread rose, we would take a long walk in the vineyards beneath the Jura mountains overlooking Lake Geneva, before returning to form and bake the breads, which we would enjoy with  a glass of glogg or tea before the fire. Later, we had our own children to help, but we continued to invite our friends to join making Else’s saffron bread, even as we moved from country to country in Europe. No matter where we lived, this was a lovely holiday celebration enjoyed by everyone, no matter their nationality, impossible not to share with our extended family of friends.

This year, we are a half empty nest, with our oldest away at college. We continue the tradition, once again inviting friends of my daughter to help. After all, the more hands the merrier. Needless to say, we’ll also be making an extra batch of Else’s saffron bread when our son arrives home next week – but we couldn’t wait until then.

Else’s Saffron Bread
Makes about 24 buns

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar plus ⅔ cup
⅔ cup unsalted European-style butter, softened
2 cups whole milk
1 envelope dry yeast (.6 ounce fresh yeast cake)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 to 7 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins, plus extra for garnish
1 large egg, lightly beaten

In a small porcelain mortar or bowl, crush the saffron and a pinch of sugar with a pestle or spoon until finely ground.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then add the milk and heat over medium-low heat until warm to the touch, but not hot. Place the yeast in a large bowl, the add 1/4 cup warm milk. Let stand until the yeast dissolves, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining milk and the saffron, then add the ⅔ cup sugar and the salt. Stir once or twice to blend.

Add 6 cups flour to the bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to blend. Add the 1/2 cup raisins. The dough should be sticky but not overly wet – if necessary add a little flour. Knead the dough until it pulls away from the bowl and is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes, sprinkling with a little extra flour if too sticky. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and place in a warm draft-free spot, such as the oven with the pilot light on. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch the dough down and let stand at room temperature for about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough into shapes by grabbing a small handful and, with light hands, rolling out into a ½-inch thick rope. Shape the rope into an “S” shape, or braid 2 ropes together. Place the shapes on a baking trays lined with parchment paper.

Lightly brush the breads with the egg and garnish the folds and corners with a few raisins. Bake in the oven until puffed and golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly on wire racks. Serve warm with butter.

Orange Cardamom Cake with Almonds and Gran Marnier

Orange almond cake tastefood

Copenhagen at Christmas – I wish I were there. It’s a magical time and place, awash in twinkling lights and candlelit coziness, full of festivities and traditional celebrations. This time last year, I was there – researching an article for this month’s issue of Marin Magazine. So, while I won’t be in Copenhagen for a Nordic Christmas this year, I can read my words and let them transport me for a vicarious moment. And then I’ll make some gløgg to fill the house with the scent of orange and spice to enjoy with this luscious cake while we decorate our tree.

Orange Cardamom Cake with Almonds and Gran Marnier

This light and moist cake will carry you through the holidays. Redolent with orange, cardamom, and almonds, and slightly spiked with Gran Marnier, it’s delicious for tea  and dessert. The sea salt is optional in the glaze, but if you lean that way, go for it. The flavors of the cake will develop while it cools. Store the cake at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Cake:
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest, from an untreated orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup almond meal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon salt

Glaze:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon Gran Marnier or Cointreau
Pinch of sea salt

Optionals:
Powdered sugar
Whipped cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan lined with parchment.
2. Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until light in color. Add the olive oil, orange juice, zest, vanilla and almond extract and stir to blend.
3. Combine the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the wet ingredients, stirring to blend without over mixing. Pour into the prepared pan.
4. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes clean, about 4o minutes.
5. While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze. Combine the sugar and  orange juice in a small saucepan. Simmer until the sugar dissolves and the liquid reduces slightly to a syrupy consistency, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the Gran Marnier and sea salt and simmer 1 minute, stirring frequently.
6. Transfer the cake from the oven to a wire rack. Brush the top with the glaze and cool 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan, then brush the cake on the sides with the glaze. Cool completely.
7. Serve dusted with confectioners sugar and/or a dollop whipped cream. If desired, add a tablespoon of the (thoroughly cooled) glaze to the cream while whipping. .

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

oatmeal raisin tastefood.jpg
This recipe is the closest I have come to my idea of a perfect oatmeal raisin cookie. It’s packed with oats and raisins with just a little flour to bind it all together, along with a blast of wheat germ for nutty crunch. The result is a crisp and chewy cookie that’s wholesome and rich at once. There is no white sugar in this recipe – only brown sugar which creates a deep caramel sweetness which dissolves in the mouth with every bite.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Refrigerating the cookies before baking will ensure a thicker, chewier cookie. Makes about 30 (2-inch) cookies.

1 3/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 1/2 cups raisins

Whisk the sugar, butter, egg and vanilla together in a large bowl until smooth. Mix the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl. Stir the flour into the butter and sugar and thoroughly combine. Stir in the oats and wheat germ. Add the raisins. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Drop rounded tablespoons of the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, leaving 2 inches between each cookie. Bake until the cookies are set in the middle and golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

Raspberry Almond Streusel Bars

raspberry bars tastefood
Raspberry Almond Streusel Bars

I made this recipe recently for a contest sponsored by Attune Foods. We were challenged to create a recipe using whole wheat flour and one of Attunes Foods’ healthy whole grain cereals. I didn’t win the contest, but I feel like I won anyway, because these bars were a huge hit and this recipe is a keeper. The streusel does double duty as the crust, and sandwiches  an intense raspberry filling. The whole wheat flour and wheat flake and flax cereal nudge these bars into the kind-of-sort-of healthy department. Oh, who am I kidding…but healthy or indulgent, these bars should be on your to-do list as we embark upon the holiday season.

Raspberry Almond Bars
Old-fashioned oats may be substituted for the cereal. Makes 16 bars.

Crust and Topping:
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup almond meal
½ cup Uncle Sam Original Cereal (or old fashioned oats)
½ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract

Filling:
1 cup high quality raspberry preserves, such as Bon Maman
6 ounces fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon raspberry liqueur, such as Chambord (optional)

1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds

Heat the oven to 375°F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 opposite sides. Butter the parchment.

Combine the flours, almond meal, cereal, sugars, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor. Pulse to combine and finely chop the cereal, about 10 times. Add the butter and extracts. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, 10 to 12 times. Transfer 2 cups of the mixture to a bowl to reserve for topping. Press the remaining mixture firmly and evenly into the pan. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Place the preserves, raspberries and liqueur in a bowl. Mix with a fork to combine, lightly mashing the whole raspberries but leaving large pieces intact. Spread the raspberries over the crust. Add the almonds to the reserved topping, then sprinkle the topping over the filling.

Bake until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan and cut in 2-inch squares. Serve at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Apple Raisin Pecan Crisp

apple raisin crisp tastefood

Apple Raisin Pecan Crisp with Calvados Cream ~ 

It’s October, and in my book, that means it’s time for apple crisp. When it comes to a good recipe, I follow the popular adage: If it’s not broken, then don’t fix it. A fruit crisp should contain seasonal fruit at it’s peak in flavor, enhanced with a dusting of sugar and spice. The topping should be crisp, crumbly and not cloyingly sweet, allowing the natural sugar of the fruit to shine through. As for the garnish, I prefer the lightness of whipped cream to rich ice cream. I barely sweeten it so it won’t compete with the crisp,  and I always fortify it with a nip of spirits dictated by the fruit of choice.

Apple Raisin Pecan Crisp with Calvados Cream

Serves 8

Topping:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled, cut in pieces
1/2 cup pecans (optional)

Filling:
8 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut in 3/4-inch chunks
1 cup raisins
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Calvados Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Calvados Brandy

For the topping: Combine the flour, sugars, cinnamon, cardamom and salt in bowl of a food processor. Briefly pulse once or twice to combine. Add the pecans and pulse a few times to break them up in large pieces. Add the butter and pulse until the topping resembles coarse meal. (Topping may be made up to one day in advance. Cover and refrigerate until use).

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Combine the apples and raisins in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Transfer fruit to a 9-by-13 inch gratin dish or 8 (3/4 cup) ramekins.  Cover evenly with the topping. Bake in the oven until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbling, about 50 minutes for 1 large dish or 40 minutes for ramekins. Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with Calvados Cream.

For the Calvados Cream:
Beat cream in the bowl of electric mixer until whisk traces are visible in the cream. Add the sugar and Calvados. Continue to beat until soft peaks form.

Fig and Raspberry Cake

Fig cake tastefood

It’s a virtual baking weekend, since it’s simply too hot to turn on the oven.
Instead I’ll dream about this Fig and Raspberry Upside Down Cake and share the recipe with you from the TasteFood archives.

Upside-down baking is  irresistable to me, whether it’s in the form of a tarte tatin or a cake. The common denominator is a gorgeous, gooey caramelized bottom, which, once inverted, becomes the top. Nestled in the sticky caramel goodness are chunks of seasonal fruit, which release their juice and perfume the pastry, while studding the topping like jewels in a crown.

The other winning quality of upside-down desserts is that they are generously flexible with the seasons. In the fall, pears and apples are the fruit of choice. In the summer, stone fruit, figs and berries display their wonders. Mix and match to your taste. It’s impossible to go wrong.

Fig and Raspberry Upside-Down Cake

Semolina adds a beautiful golden hue and a little crumble to the cake.

Serves 10-12

1/2 cup plus 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
8 large figs, halved lengthwise
3 ounces raspberries
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup semolina
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment and butter the parchment. Tightly wrap the bottom of the pan with foil.
Melt the 1/2 cup butter and the light brown sugar together in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking to combine. Pour into the springform pan. Arrange the figs, cut side down in a circular pattern in the sugar. Fill in the gaps with the raspberries.
Beat the 1 cup butter and the granulated sugar in a mixer with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the buttermilk, lemon zest, and vanilla. Whisk the flour, semolina, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the batter, mixing just to combine. Pour over the fruit and smooth with a spatula. Bake in the oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes then invert onto a plate. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Pear, Plum and Blueberry Crisp with Walnut Streusel

Plum Pear Blueberry Crisp

~
Nothing says summer better than a fruit crisp which effortlessly absorbs the season’s bounty. Let the market dictate your choice of fruit. Then fold the ripest gems – winey plums, tender pears, juicy blueberries – into your well loved and slightly worn ceramic dishes. Sprinkle with a little sugar and spice and crown it with a nutty streusel topping.

Plums Market

For this fruit crisp, I let the St. Helena farmers’ market do the talking.

Pears market

and ended up with this:

Pear, Plum and Blueberry Crisp with Walnut Streusel
and Armagnac Whipped Cream 

Serves 8 to 10

Streusel:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped

Armagnac Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Armagnac

Filling:
1 pint blueberries, divided
6 ripe but not too soft pears, such as Bartlett or Anjou, cut in 1-inch chunks
6 plums, pitted, cut in 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Prepare the streusel:
In a large bowl, whisk together all the ingredients except the butter and walnuts. Add butter and work into the topping with your fingertips until the it resembles coarse meal. Stir in the walnuts. Cover and refrigerate until use.

Prepare the whipped cream:
Beat cream in bowl of electric mixer with a wire whisk until thickened. Add sugar and armagnac. Continue to beat until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until use. (May be made up to 4 hours in advance.)

Prepare the crumble:
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C) Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.
Place half of the blueberries and the remaining filling ingredients in a large bowl. Gently stir to combine. Pour into the baking dish. Scatter the remaining blueberries over the filling. Spoon the streusel evenly over the top. Bake in the oven until the crisp is bubbly, the pears are soft, and the topping is golden brown, about 50 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

Strawberry Buttermilk Cake

strawberry cake plate tf

~ Simple Strawberry Buttermilk Cake ~

More strawberries, you say? You bet. I become greedy at this time of year when spring produce is cluttering up the market shelves. A rotation of asparagus, peas and strawberries passes through our kitchen to the table on a daily basis. You would think we would tire of all of this goodness, but it never seems the case. It also helps to have a variety of recipes to choose from to change things up a bit. While nothing beats fresh strawberries with a little cream, put a few aside to make this simple cake. It’s light, gently sweetened, and generously studded with more strawberries than you know what to do with. Actually, I don’t mean that – we all know what to do with strawberries. Just be sure to save some to make this cake.

strawberry cake tastefood

Strawberry Cake

I halved my jumbo sized strawberries in the pictured cake, but recommend quartering them if very large, so they will begin to break down while baking, making a luscious juicy mess.  Adapted from Martha Stewart.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, divided
1 pound strawberries, halved – or quartered if very large

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Butter a 10-inch (25 cm)  pie or tart pan (I used a 9 inch extra-deep pie pan). Butter the pan.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl. Combine butter and 3/4 cup sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, buttermilk, vanilla and 1 teaspoon lemon zest on medium speed. Add flour and mix to combine without over-mixing. Spread batter in the prepared dish. Arrange strawberries, cut-side down, on top of the batter, gently pressing to partially submerge. Squeeze in as many strawberries as possible. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake in oven until top is light golden and a knife inserted in the cake comes clean, about 1 hour. Cool in plate on a rack. Before serving, sprinkle 1 teaspoon lemon zest over the cake. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Accompany with whipped cream.

If you like this, you might enjoy these recipes:
Strawberry Oatmeal Bars from My Baking Addiction
Strawberry Lemonade from Laylita’s Recipes
Strawberries and Cream Quinoa Breakfast from Family Fresh Cooking

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies with Almonds and Sea Salt

Dark Chocolate Cookies TasteFood

Dark Chocolate Crinkle Cookies with Almonds and Sea Salt

Sometimes when life hands you lemons….you make chocolate. In this case, deeply dark, intensely rich Swiss chocolate in the form of a cookie.  While I can’t speak for you, I can do with some chocolate therapy right now, and this cookie is just the antidote. In fact, it’s hard to find a more chocolate-y cookie. Nearly 1 pound of melted dark chocolate is reconfigured in an airy yet rich cookie with a crackly exterior and gooey center, all thanks to 4 billowy eggs and just a little bit of flour. The lemonade will have to wait for another day.

Dark Chocolate Cookie Plate TasteFood

Dark Chocolate Crinkle Cookies with Almonds and Sea Salt

My chocolate mantra applies to this recipe: Choose the best quality dark (70-72%) chocolate you can lay your hands on.

Makes approximately 30 (2-inch) cookies.

14 ounces (400 g) dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds
Sea salt

Melt chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat.
Beat eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until thick and very pale in color, 3 to 4 minutes. Add chocolate and vanilla. Mix to combine.
Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Add to chocolate and stir to combine without overmixing. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 325° F (170° C). Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop heaping tablespoons of the cookie batter onto parchment, leaving 2 inches between cookies. Sprinkle each cookie with a few almonds and a pinch of sea salt flakes. Bake in oven until tops crack and cookies are set, 13 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer parchment to wire racks to cool. Allow cookies to cool completely before removing from parchment (they will stick if they are still warm).

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Strawberries and Cream

flourless chocolate cake tastefoodStrawberries, Cream, Chocolate…

Or, more precisely, a wedge of luscious silky-rich chocolate cake with billows of  airy cream and sun-kissed strawberries. Parse it as you may, emphasize it as you must, this is one dessert that will please chocoholics and fruity fiends alike.

I made this cake for a crowd last weekend, and it easily served 12 with a few slices to spare. A tiny sliver goes a long way – or maybe not, depending on your inclination. Choose the best quality dark chocolate you can lay your hands on, because it makes all the difference. The gently sugared cream and naturally sweetened strawberries perfectly round out and balance the chocolatey richness, which, naturally,  helps you eat more.

flourless chocolate cake tastefoodThere was, I promise, a bounty of strawberries when I served this cake, but the berry eaters in the group devoured them before I could use the harvest as a photo prop.

Glazed Flourless Chocolate Cake
slightly adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe

Serves 12.

Cake:
12 ounces dark high quality chocolate (70-72%)
3/4 cup unsalted butter
6 large eggs, separated
12 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Glaze:
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
4 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped, plus extra for grating

Whipped cream
Strawberries

Heat oven to 350° F (180 C). Butter a 9-inch diameter springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the parchment. Sprinkle with unsweetened cocoa powder and tap out the excess. Wrap the outside of the pan with foil to prevent leakage.

Combine chocolate and butter in a double boiler or heat-proof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir frequently until melted and smooth. Remove from heat.

Beat egg yolks and 6 tablespoons sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until light and thick, about 3 minutes. Transfer eggs to a large bowl; thoroughly clean and dry mixing bowl and whisk attachment.

Fold the melted chocolate into the egg yolks. Stir in the vanilla. In the clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 6 tablespoons sugar until medium-firm peaks form. Fold the whites into the chocolate in 3 additions. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake until top is slightly puffed and cracked and a knife inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on a wire rack.

While the cake is cooling, prepare the glaze. Heat cream and syrup in a small saucepan just until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth.

Gently press down on the top of the cake to even thickness. Remove pan side. Invert cake onto a plate. Remove and discard parchment. Pour the glaze over the center of the cake. Spread the glaze over the top and down the sides of the cake, using a flat icing spatula to smooth the glaze. Sprinkle with grated chocolate. Chill in refrigerator until firm, about 10 minutes. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

More chocolate? If you insist…
Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Muffins from Brown Eyed Baker
Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from TasteFood
Chocolate Custard Cake from White on Rice Couple
Rich Chocolate Brownies from TasteFood