Tag Archives: baking

We Made It! | And…What the Heck is a Dutch Baby?!

30 Dec

YAY, it’s almost 2013! Which means, we’ve made it through the holiday season unscathed. I know…so dramatic. But in addition to the goodies & gifts we like to make around the holidays (granola, candy cane bark, sweet cards & gift tags, DIY all purpose cleaner (more about that in a future post!), broccoli shallot quiche, avocado coffee cake, the list goes on and on…) my Etsy shop, Opal & Ollie was bursting at the seams with holiday orders (I had over 100 Etsy orders in 1 month — not including the 2 local shops I had to keep stocked up!). So I feel like it’s totally acceptable to breathe a deep sigh of relief and reset after a few days off. Now on to organizing, cleaning & putting away our abundance of Christmas gifts (wheeeee!).

This morning, when Jess started flipping through cookbooks BEFORE we’d even had our morning coffee, I knew something was up. In typical Jess fashion, she was looking for the perfect compliment for a jar of Nutting Farm maple butter that I’d tucked in her stocking (from our excursion to Eat Boutique — which was amazing, by the way — where Jess met on of her fav bloggers in all the whole world, Joy the Baker). That perfect compliment came in the form of a dutch baby. What the H is a dutch baby, you ask?! Read on…

photo-8

We were first introduced to dutch babies at a small historic inn in rural Vermont where we spent the weekend attending the wedding festivities of our friends Lindsay and Jonathan. The inn keepers cooked meals for the guests so we headed to the dining room for breakfast one morning. Plates were placed in front of us with an odd looking berry-muffin-popover-like thing in the middle. This particular dutch baby was not my jam (you could tell it had been pre-made & heated) but none-the-less I was intrigued. So fast forward to this morning when Jess stumbled upon the Smitten Kitchen dutch baby recipe below. It’s a delicious breakfast treat that’s like a popover and a crepe/pancake had a baby (maybe that’s where the name comes from?!). They weren’t too sweet — just right topped with a dusting of powdered sugar & some maple butter (or in my case, maple syrup). Dutch babies are also called “german pancakes”. Somehow this makes more sense to me now.

Pros: It’s lighter than a pancake. It doesn’t require the baby sitting/tending that pancakes require — since you bake it in the oven. So I was able to enjoy coffee with Jess instead of stressing about when to flip the pancakes & then how to keep the first batch warm as the other batch cooked in the skillet. It’s also really delicious and paired perfectly with maple goodness and soy sausage patties.

Cons: Ours cooked a little too much on one side so one edge was a little dry — but nothing that a little extra maple butter or syrup couldn’t fix!

Recipe notes: We only had 3 eggs in the house so we made 1/2 the recipe. It worked out great. The tablespoons of butter that the recipe calls for is definitely for the batter (and doesn’t include what you use to grease the cake pan) — we thought that was a little confusing. You could totally make these in muffin tins for cute-sized individual portions.

mapledutch

Recipe credit: Smitten Kitchen

Dutch Babies/German Pancakes

Yield 2 9-inch pancakes.

4 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup flour, sifted
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons soft butter

Heat oven to 400°F. Butter two 9-inch cake pans well. Put eggs in blender container, cover and process at until light yellow in color. Remove cover and add remaining ingredients; process until smooth. Pour into prepared pans and bake 20 minutes; then reduce heat to 350°F and bake 10 minutes. Slide onto hot plates. Serve with lemon slices, powdered sugar and butter if you follow recipes to the letter, maple syrup if you’re me and maple butter if you’re Jess. It would be really yummy with fresh berries too.

Happy baby making! (Ha…) And happy almost 2013!

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Happy National Vanilla Cupcake Day! | Our Best Baking Discovery Yet…

10 Nov

We’ve been baking up a storm recently. Yes, even I (“maker”) am inserting myself smack dab in the middle of the confectioner’s sugar and flour melee! The dogs are thrilled. Ollie literally sat behind me in the kitchen, nose up, tongue out, licking the sweet air as I sifted 16 cups of confectioners sugar for buttercream frosting.

I inherited my mom’s endless search for a homemade vanilla/yellow cake that satisfied my picky palate. I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by home baked goods. The only thing my mom and grandmother ever made from a box was Jiffy cornbread. My dad is famous for his amazing breads and blueberry muffins…oh and his raspberry & peach jams. Lucky, yes…but I’ll never forget my first taste of yellow box cake at a friend’s birthday party. I begged & begged my mom for a box cake for the next several birthdays. She refused but spent lots of time researching cookbooks & experimenting with recipes trying to emulate that funkily delicious yellow box cake flavor. She even tried trickery — adding yellow food coloring to a sponge cake recipe — but I was not to be fooled!

Fortunately, our current searches for recipes have broadened immensely thanks to the interwebs. It’s how I stumbled upon, quite possibly, the best vanilla cake recipe I’ve ever made. I think my search is over! It’s been a long time coming & there were certainly false glimpses of hope. Like the time a friend shared a recipe online for the famous Party Favors (a local bakery) cupcakes. They’ve mastered the yellow cake from scratch. It’s honestly INSANELY good. Like so good, it was our wedding cake — plain & simple yellow cake with vanilla buttercream. The recipe can be found here, BUT I must warn you, it’s not worth your time. 1) I’m sure they didn’t share the actual recipe. 2) It doesn’t seem quite right — as is sometimes the case when bakers/cooks try to scale down BIG recipes for the home baker/cook. The recommended buttercream frosting recipe is amazing. I’ve also shared it below.

Ok. So on with it. The BESTEST vanilla or “yellow” cake we’ve ever baked. To think it was sitting under our noses on one of our favorite blogs, to boot! Mom…this one’s for you! xo

Cake recipe credit: Smitten Kitchen: Best Yellow Layer Cake

Best Yellow Cupcakes
Yield: ~ 20-22 cupcakes

Ingredients
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (480 grams) cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken

Steps
1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 cupcake tins with cupcake wrappers and set aside.

2) Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled…don’t panic…this is exactly how it should look). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.

3) Use an ice cream scoop, ladle or large cookie dough scoop to fill each cupcake wrapper about 2/3 full. Rap each pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean – 20 minutes. If your oven is a little wonky, like ours, rotate the cupcake tins after 14 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from tins & let cool completely on a wire rack.

Frosting recipe credit: Wilton’s Cupcake Fun (p. 101)

Silky Smooth Vanilla Buttercream

Ingredients
1 stick butter, softened

½ cup vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar (approx. 1 pound)
2 tablespoons milk

Steps
1) In a large bowl, beat (or “cream”) shortening and butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

2) Add vanilla, mix well.

3) Note: I hate sifting but trust me, you must. It’s important that you sift the confectioner’s sugar BEFORE you measure it (or you’ll end up adding too much sugar to your frosting & it will be a little too stiff/sweet). Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed; scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar is mixed in, frosting will appear dry. Add milk; beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.

4) Have fun decorating! As you can see, we love using pastry bags & decorative tips to add gobs of frosting. Oh, and when peanut butter buttercream is involved, Ollie is Head of QC (see photo below). 

ENJOY and happy Vanilla Cupcake Day! Wheeeee!

Making & Baking Our Way into Fall | Pics & Links

3 Sep

Oh hi! Here’s what we’ve been up to (a meaty post with pictures & links!)…

Savoring summer, time with Kate’s dad & the best lobstah roll ever (PJ’s Family Restaurant in Wellfleet).

Making pickles! Refrigerator style using this recipe and farm fresh pickling cukes from a farm near Jess’s home town. We added cloves of garlic & black whole peppercorns to each jar. We also made a spicy batch for our neighbor by tossing in a sliced jalapeno from our container garden (YAY!). We’ve been eating them on EVERYTHING (pictured below on turkey sandwiches).

Salivating over a new issue of Bon Appetit and celebrating awesome neighbors with this delightful coffee cake. Toss blueberries in panko breadcrumbs? SURE!

Here’s what the blueberry coffee cake looked like sliced (just before it got hand delivered to our favorite neighbors). This Instagram filter makes it look straight out of my mom’s 1970 Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.

Catching up on crafty gifts, part I! Long overdue wedding card/art piece for friends Emily & Chris. Those are heart shaped bits I cut out of their save-the-date & invitations. I love sewing paper.

Catching up on crafty gifts, part II! Finally getting around to finishing this advent calendar project for 2 very special little boys (yes, that’s 48 little fabric bags). Promised last year that I’d make these & we’d fill them with goodies each year…literally the gift that keeps on giving! The first time I stumbled across this project on Lansdowne Life, I obsessed over the adorable vintage looking fabric…to die for, right?!? Can’t wait to fill the bags with goodies & send them off. Oh & those pinking shears were an amazing vintage find at a little consignment shop on the Cape. 

Officially launching Opal & Ollie on Etsy. YAY! A selection of my etched glass mason jars are also available at Magpie in Davis Square & On Centre in Jamaica Plain.

Summer of Love | Picnic Recipes Galore

25 Jul

Summer is for harvesting garden goodies, hanging out outside — picnics, hammocks, BBQs & early morning outdoor bootcamp — cold brewed coffee, fizzy fruity delights, cooking with farm/our container garden fresh ingredients, crafty endeavors, new friends & romps with the pups. Phew…all that and we’re back in BlogLand with a vengeance!

We celebrated our first anniversary (and 7th year of togetherness!) over the weekend & it was filled with commissioned art (thanks to Nan Lawson, Flowers In May & the fact that paper is a traditional first anniversary gift), yummy food & sentimental goodness (Remember when I wanted a set of these ? Well, Jess surprised me with a vintage 1940’s set in mint condition. *swoon*).

custom illustration by Nan Lawson

custom anniversary illustration by Flowers in May

I had ambitious plans to surprise Jess with a romantic outdoor picnic — filled with smartly designed paper goods, mason jars upon mason jars, yummy food reminiscent of our wedding catering — spread on a handmade little blanket/quilt made out of fabric from our wedding. But I participated in ArtBeat as a craft vendor on Saturday & totally ran out of time (despite planning the picnic menu & starting projects months ahead of time).

my table at ArtBeat! Opal & Ollie Etsy shop opening in August! stay tuned…

So…the weather forecast wasn’t promising & I decided, the morning of, that we’d either eat inside or on the deck. Oh, and, I didn’t finish the blanket but I made really great progress & will finish it one night this weekend. We used an adorable picnic blanket as a tablecloth that our friends Cobi & Sarah gave us as a wedding shower gift. K.I.S.S., right?

Now on to the good stuff!

The menu (with links to recipes & my notes)…

Deviled eggs | Recipe: Mark Bittman (basically your traditional deviled egg recipe: hard boiled eggs, dijon mustard, mayo, S&P) | I topped each with a tiny bit of dill relish instead of paprika.

BLT corn salad lettuce wraps | Recipe: Joy the Baker | This charred corn salad was incredible. I used high quality bacon & oven roasted it. Charring corn in a small apartment kitchen over an open gas burner flame is amazingly fulfilling! I wondered if the corn would actually cook & it did…perfectly! It turned a darker yellow as the kernels crackled & blackened. Mess warning: the stovetop was eat-off-of-it clean before this endeavor & corn shrapnel was everywhere after 3 ears of corn were nicely charred. Well worth it though!

Best berry salad | Recipe: Our very own!

Chocolate yogurt snack cakes | Recipe: Smitten Kitchen | Ah-mazing! I added a teaspoon of espresso powder to the recipe to bring out the depth of chocolatey goodness & dusted the cooled cakes with a little bit of powdered sugar. I’d make them again in a heartbeat. Oh, I had trouble finding whole milk yogurt (weird because I remember seeing it years ago – before the shelves were overflowing with a million brands of Greek style yogurt) so I opted for 2% Swiss yogurt.

Coconut rice pudding with fresh mango | Recipe: Mark Bittman (traditional rice pudding from How to Cook Everything, see very bottom of this post for recipe) | I substituted light canned coconut milk for the cow’s milk. I also added a teaspoon of vanilla extract after the pudding finished cooking. I served it cold with diced fresh mango to mimic the flavors of Jess’s favorite mango sticky rice dessert from a local Thai restaurant.

Home-brewed Arnold Palmers | Recipe: Tyler Florence | The slushy & bright homemade lemonade makes this drink extra special. Definitely prepare this a few hours ahead of time as all of the components need to be nice & cold. Served up in a mason jar with tiny heart etched in the glass (by yours truly!).

mis en place: chocolate yogurt snack cakes

roasting corn!

the spread!

Arnold Palmer with a twist

Rice Pudding (Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything)

Ingredients:
2 cups water

1 cup long or short-grain rice (I used arborio)
dash salt
2 cups milk (I used canned light coconut milk)
3/4 cup sugar, or more to taste (3/4 cup was plenty for our taste)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom (I skipped the spices because I knew I wanted to top with mango)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Steps:
1. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan; stir in the rice and the salt. Cover & cook over low heat until almost all of the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

2. Uncover, pour in the milk, and cook, stirring frequently, until about 1/2 the milk is absorbed. Stir in the sugar and spices and continue to cook until the rice is very soft and the milk absorbed. About halfway through the cooking, taste and add more sugar if necessary. 
3. Spoon into custard cups and serve warm or cold, garnished with whipped cream. I served it topped with diced fresh mango. 

This keeps well for 2 days, or more, covered and refrigerated. Serves 8.

Picnic Food Pick | Hummus & Flatbread

7 Jul

This is a fairly simple & fast recipe that’s fun to make and take to a gathering any time of the year. But both the hummus & the flatbread will survive quite well sitting out on a picnic table in hot summer temps (unlike your gran’s famous potato salad!).

We brought this to our friends’ 4th of July BBQ (along with our appropriately patriotic berry salad & frozen chocolate dipped bananas on sticks). The hummus & flatbread made a perfect party platter with the simple addition of a bowl of baby carrots & disks of seedless cukes.

Hummus

Ingredients
2 cups chickpeas, rinsed & drained

1/3 cup tahini (can be found in most grocery stores in the “ethnic food” section)
1/4 cup lemon juice (I used 3 juicy lemons…I like my hummus lemony so I’m a little heavy handed with the lemon)
1 tsp salt
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 tbsp olive oil (I used olive oil our neighbor brought us from Italy!)

Steps
1. In a food processor, blend chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, salt & garlic until smooth.

2. With the food processor on, stream in the oil (through that little shoot in the top of the processor) & blend until well incorporated.
3. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Maker tip: If you cook a lot with garlic, I highly recommend investing in one of these stainless-steel babies. They squish, I mean press, the garlic perfectly every time, are super easy to clean (my favorite!) & save your wrists from wrestling with presses that pale in comparison.

Multigrain Flatbread

Ingredients
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

Steps
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Then in a large bowl, combine the flours, oil, baking soda & salt. Add enough buttermilk (I used it all) to make a stiff dough.

2. Knead dough for 30 seconds on a well-floured surface.
3. Return dough to bowl & cover with a damp paper towel/clean kitchen towel to prevent drying.
4. Roll 1/4 cup handfuls of dough into a ball & pat into a flat circle.
5. Using a rolling pin, flatten dough into 10 inch circles (mine were definitely NOT 10 inches — probably more like 8 but they were still nice & thin). Oh and they will not be perfect circles. That’s okay — we’re making something homemade so it’s nice if it looks rustic. That’s the beauty of it, people.

side note: my Uncle Bob made that amazingly beautiful cutting board!

6. Place the circles of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet or preheated pizza stone (I used the latter) & score each little round of dough to make little triangular pie slices. Scoring the dough isn’t as hard as it may sound — just use a really sharp knife & lightly drag it across the dough (be careful not to cut all the way through). See picture below.


7. Repeat steps 4-6 with the remaining dough.
8. Bake in a preheated 350 degree (F) oven for 8-10 minutes.
9. Cool on a wire rack briefly before breaking along scored lines.

I heaped the flatbread wedges in the center of a clean kitchen towel & tied the corners together for easy transportation on the tray of hummus & veggies. 

Happy dipping & eating!

Ollie Turns 3 | Pupcake Celebration!

3 Jun

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that as much as we love baking for humans, we also love baking for our pets. We also have a self-proclaimed insane tradition of buying our pups a balloon on their birthdays. Ollie is terrified of balloons and so…it was decided, we’d get him some pupcakes to celebrate his day instead.

There are a few local cupcakeries that also sell a pup friendly version of their sweet delights, but 1) we love baking 2) we had all of the ingredients in our pantry/refrigerator 3) it’s cheaper…but most important of all, 4) we know exactly what’s inside. And no mystery ingredients means no potential allergens (Stevie has a wicked intolerance to all things poultry). Yay!

Now onto the important stuff…

Pupcakes for Ollie

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour
rounded 1/4 cup whole oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup all natural organic creamy peanut butter (no sugar added!)
1/4 cup unsweetened organic apple sauce
1 cup shredded carrots (I finely chopped a couple of handfuls of baby carrots in the food processor)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup honey*
1 egg

*If you don’t want to add the sweetener, just substitute the same amount of the apple sauce. Dogs don’t need the extra sugar but we made these as a once in a blue moon treat so I sweetened them a bit with honey.

Steps 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees & spray a muffin pan with non-stick spray or line with paper liners.

2. With a whisk, mix the flour, oats, baking soda & cinnamon in a medium bowl.

Baker’s tip for measuring honey: Spray the measuring cup/spoon with a little bit of non-stick spray before pouring the honey into it. The honey will slide out — no messy honey fingers or lost sweetness.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients & mix well (I used a wooden spoon, but the same whisk you used in step 2, is fine).

4. Spoon the batter into the muffin pan, filling cups a generous 2/3’s full. (I got 8 pupcakes out of my batter.)

Baker’s tip for baking partially filled muffin pans: If your batter doesn’t fully fill all of the spots of the muffin pan, pour a little bit of water into each empty cup (not too high or it will be tricky to remove from the hot oven — 1/3 full or so). This will ensure even baking. Just remember to use extra caution when removing the pan from the hot oven!

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until a cake tester/toothpick comes out clean. (Our oven is a little unpredictable so I rotated the pan after 15 minutes to ensure even baking.)

Stevie loves to help!

6. Allow to cool completely on a wire cooling rack…and…let the celebration begin!

Very patient pups! (Sorry there are no action shots of them eating…they went completely & overwhelmingly crazy for these birthday treats.)

Notes

  • This recipe could easily be made gluten free for dogs with gluten/wheat allergies — just be sure that the oats you’re using are gluten free (Trader Joe’s Whole Oats are affordable & labeled gluten free).
  • Be creative when baking for your pup but always do your research to make sure your ingredients are dog safe! For example, while it might be tempting to add raisins to this recipe, please don’t. They can cause toxicity/death in dogs. Add a handful of fresh blueberries instead. YUM! Here’s a helpful list of people foods to avoid giving your pup (source: ASPCA). When in doubt, call your vet or leave it out.

A (long) Weekend in Pictures

29 May

Yippee for long weekends, birthdays, friends, family, cute pups, sweet surprises, more-than-a-day off with Jess, new green thumbs, adorable babies, inspiration, yummy sweets, homemade goodness, truly talented friends, vintage treats & …

…city gardening…

…new boston terrier art…<heart my bro & his wife!>…

…pretty flowers…

…vintage containers…moustaches all around…yummy homemade ginger syrup <how to here>…

…homemade *Sno Balls*…

…pooped <& very clean> pups…

…how’d I get so lucky?

xo

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