Thursday, January 31, 2013

gingerbread beer bundt cake; a winner!

it's a winner alright.  like everyone else, i love a good contest.  especially when i know i have the winning recipe.  isn't it funny how that winning recipe never wins anything?  maybe not so funny, but it doesn't stop me from trying.  and try i did when ran a best recipe with beer contest this month.  i knew i had the winning entry-who else would bake a cake with beer?  apparently, several entrants had the same idea.  but in the end, mine was the winner.  honestly, mind=blown.  one of the perks of the win, my cake got a glamour shot and a slide show which you can view on

one of my favorite ingredients goes into this cake; sorghum.  for those in the know, they understand why.  it is all the flavor of molasses without any of the bitter or the black color.  the syrup pressed from fresh sorghum canes is cooked slowly to reduce, clarify and concentrate the sugar as well as the flavor.   it is also a less refined product and is frequently made in amish and mennonite communities which can make it hard to find.  unless you live in the south, it is still pretty common here and we don't have to look very hard to find it.  try looking in amish or mennonite stores, farmer's markets or if you are lucky, the whole foods supermarket near you may carry it-they do in nashville.  
the syrup starts out as a bright green juice but by the time it is cooked, it is a rich amber shade.  it is never so dark that light cannot shine through it.  so my apologies to the folks at looks a lot like molasses in your photos!  looks like i am going to have to send you some southern love in the form of sorghum.

with my large collection of bundt pans, the hard part was choosing one.  

 spice cake with mustard, dos perros pale ale, chocolate glaze; nothing else needed exept a fork...

 the marbleized interior of the cake

for the complete recipe, visit  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

so many bakeries, so little time

when i visit new places, or even areas that i have been to before, i always look for bakeries.  big surprise isn't it?  not really if you know me-baking is what i do.  it always interests me to see the trends in other cities.  

atlanta is such a diverse "food" city.   if you take a good look in the showcases of bakeries all over the city, there won't be any shortage of well done sweets and pastries.  in my last post about atlanta, i featured the korean treasure, white windmill bakery and the award winning sublime donuts.  on that same trip, i ventured into some other bakeries around the city.

breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right?  for me, that first cup of coffee is what is most important.  pair it with a muffin and i am as happy as i can be.  my daughter and i walked to highland bakery from her midtown apartment and indulged ourselves with coffee and muffins.

on another morning, we found ourselves over in northwest atlanta at henri's bakery.  
 here we indulged ourselves in doughnuts and rugelach as well as coffee.

but no bakery tour of atlanta is complete without a trip to a cupcake shop.
we went to camicakes.  they were every bit as tasty as they look.  next time, i am walking to atlanta so that there is not a bit of guilt when i eat twice my weight in cakes and cookies and pastries and donuts and bread, to put in that request for time off so i can go back-sweetie are you ready?  your mother is coming back to visit!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

french apple tart: tuesdays with dorie

 as a person who bakes a lot of pies, i can honestly say that there isn't much you can do to improve an apple pie.  sure you can change the type of crust or add different things to it but in the end, you still have an apple pie and what more could you want?  chocolate may be my first choice in all other types of desserts and sweets but when it comes to pie, apple is always my favorite and a perfect choice for a cold and dreary winter day.

this week's tuesdays with dorie/baking with julia challenge is hosted by gaye of laws of the kitchen and the participants baked the french apple tart found on pages 379-381.  to view the full recipe, visit gaye's blog or be kind and buy a copy of the book, baking with julia; it is worth every penny!

the recipe makes a 9" tart which was just too much for two people.  first thing on the list was to make a quarter of the pie dough recipe.  lurking in a bowl in the dining room was a group of apples left from thanksgiving; embarrassing isn't it.  further inspections yielded a bag of fourelle pears (from the same holiday) living in the produce drawer in the fridge.  needless to say, i had plenty of fruit to make the recipe!
 the filling recipe is a little different.  the apples were peeled, cut into cubes and mixed with the other ingredients.  this mixture was spread out on a pan and roasted.  two things, my apples were old and didn't give off much juice and second, i forgot the bread crumbs.  neither caused problems-the filling mashed up nicely.

to keep it simple, i used mini pie pans rather than tart pans.  the quarter sized batch of pie dough made 4 pie shells.  i prebaked them all and froze two for another day.  my favorite baking trick is to use a coffee filter to line the pie shell and then use glass marbles for weights.

 the prebaked pie shells were filled with the mashed, roasted apples.

 the pears were peeled and sliced thin.

 then they were arranged around the top of the pie, brushed with a little melted coconut oil(rather than butter) and sprinkled with sugar.

hot from the oven, pie.  it was real tasty with some vanilla ice cream!!!  be sure to visit the tuesdays with dorie page to see how the rest of the bakers made out.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

pizza with onion confit; tuesdays with dorie/baking with julia

this week, the tuesdays with dorie challenge called for making a pizza topped with an onion confit.  sounds like dinner to me.  and it was, literally.  after a trip to the garden to pick some fresh lettuce and arugula, i made a big salad to accompany the pizza.  this was such an easy recipe that i think everyone should try it.  if you do not already have a copy of baking with julia, buy it, or head over to host paul's blog, the boy can bake to find the recipe.

the most time consuming part of the recipe was to cook the onions.
i used a combination of yellow onions, shallots and garlic to make my pizza.  and i say that singularly because the recipe can easily be halved-i only wanted one pizza.  however, according to the recipe, the extra piece of dough could have been frozen for another time.

the idea is to slowly cook the onions so that they caramelize as well as soften.

the recipe calls for thyme leaves or sprigs.  that is one of the best parts of having an herb garden.  it is so wonderful to walk out the door and clip fresh herbs as needed.  luckily, thyme is an evergreen and has leaves in winter.  

i picked the leaves off the stems and chopped them a little

the onions cook and take on lots of color.  then a combination of red wine and red wine vinegar is added to them.  at this time, it is important to keep the heat very low so that the onions have time to absorb the color and flavor of the wine.  they will continue to soften as well.

after about 35-40 minutes, my pan was nearly dry and the onions were a deep shade of red, cabernet sauvignon red to be exact.

the onions almost look like little strips of meat in this photo.  

the dough rises and is stretched or rolled out to a large circle that is about 1/4 inch thick.  the onions are spread over the top in an even layer.  at this time, you can add whatever else you like.  the recipe suggested kalamata olives or cheese but i decided to keep it simple and just use the onions.

the results, close to a classic pissaladiere, a tasty flat bread with onions; the perfect side for a salad.

be sure to check out the tuesdays with dorie page to see what the other participants came up with.  bake on friends, and happy new year to all!!!

Monday, January 7, 2013

ess eff oh...back to the bay

right before christmas, we had the pleasure of traveling to san francisco.  yes, you can read that as slightly sarcastic.  traveling at the holidays is stressful.  no matter how smoothly it goes, and our flights went very smoothly,  there is always a rushed atmosphere and a sense that no matter how many hours in the day, it will never be enough to get it all done.  even when you travel to a place in which you lived at one time, there is always a bit of confusion that comes from this not being home.  despite growing up in the big city (the new york city area for the husband and me) and having lived in san francisco, we have been in nashville now for nearly 18 years.  assimilating to the pace and the volume of traffic in san francisco served only to make it a little more stressful.  but then, we knew it would be.

so, why would we go?  why would we do that knowing that it wouldn't be the vacation of a lifetime?  it wasn't about us, it was all about the diva, our younger one.  it was her big day-she graduated from school and holiday or not, we were going to be there to watch her walk across the stage.  so, we landed in sfo, took the airport train (a rather boring monorail that promises nothing more than a ride around the airport-a rather large and impressive piece of real estate at that) to the rental car pick up center, found our ride and drove up to marin to our new temporary digs on the side of highway 101 in san rafael.

on our first morning, we went out in search of coffee.  luckily for us, san rafael does not have a shortage of coffee houses open at 8am on a sunday morning.  we parked on the street and walked to royal ground coffee on 4th street.

it was a nice start to a cold and wet morning.  it was actually colder and wetter in the bay area than it was in nashville.  we were not completely prepared for this since it is generally the reverse.  nothing like a cup of west coast dark roast and a sugary gingersnap to start the morning.

my husband-caught him by surprise.  

a quick call to the girls, they needed breakfast, had us moving again.  we went and picked them up at their grandparent's house and took them to breakfast.  my plans for the day included taking the ferry to san francisco to have brunch with a friend so we went to the ferry landing in larkspur.  in a nearby business center, there is a great little bakery, the rustic bakery.  we hung out here while the girls ate and i waited to board the ferry to san francisco.

the diva, the graduation girl.  even at 9am on a sunday morning, she still looks like she walked out of a photo shoot.  me, i was hoping for a nap and a miracle.

my girls and their dad.  cut them some slack, it was just 9am on a sunday morning and suddenly, mom was all camera happy...

it was just after i took this picture that they threatened me.  i stopped taking photos of them and began taking photos of their ham and cheese croissants.

i love the technique.  pull it apart into a million little shards...the black fingernails really sell the shot

but honestly, look at all of the layers.  that my friends is bakery porn!  croissant dough done right!!!

can you see the layers?  it had me longing for the chance to make a batch of dough and fold in the butter block and make the turns on the dough...then the coffee kicked in, dream over.

so flaky and perfect.

one last unsuspecting shot-luckily, they were unarmed.

it was at that moment that i realized behind the display, if one looked carefully, they could see into the kitchen.

if you look closely, you can see the baker in the black shirt making turns on the dough.  they are lucky to have a dough sheeter to do the work but that doesn't mean they don't have skill.  trust me, nothing destroys dough faster than someone who doesn't know how to work dough with a dough sheeter.  been there, done that, cleaned it up many was nice to see that they use homemade dough, made me realize just how different things are here in nashville as compared to the bay area.  out there, artisanal is old hat, the way most things are made, here, it is still a bit of a novelty.  i truly hope that novelty doesn't fade.  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

dogs and donuts; atlanta's finest

we may have donuts here in nashville, we even have the coveted krispy cremes(and no, i am not a fan-at all).  shipley do-nuts, fox's donut den-both fixtures in nashville and sadly still, none of our shops have ever been voted the best bakery in america.  big deal, right?  sublime doughnuts of atlanta was.  yes, a donut shop was voted best bakery in america by bake magazine, a trade magazine devoted to the professional bakery trade.  of course i had to stop in and see for myself.

first of all, it is in a little strip mall on 10th street in northwest atlanta.  it doesn't look like much, just your typical strip mall shop.  there is one showcase, it is behind the counter.  the employees are pleasant but you can see that even they aren't sure what the fuss is about-no ego's, no snobbiness, just a bunch of pleasant people selling doughnuts, really good doughnuts, completely made from scratch, rolled out and cut by hand everyday, doughnuts...

 that display case may not look like much but judging by the amount of people that came and went with boxes and bags, my guess is that the case doesn't stay full for long.  worth the trip in, even for this "not a big donut fan".

but a couple of girls cannot live on donuts alone, we could try but somehow, i am guessing that the sugar in them and the coffee consumed with them would be hazardous to anyone close by.  it was time for lunch; we headed straight for yeah! burger.  bon appetit magazine calls them one of the best burger spots in america.
we had the brats; they were the special of the month (okay, so this is a little late in posting-sorry!).  they were damn good brats-what's not to love about sauerkraut, brown mustard and a brat on a bun?  next time, i'm having the burger so i can see for myself just how good they are.

Friday, January 4, 2013

nobody living there calls it hotlanta

in 2011, my daughter packed up and moved to atlanta.  i am pretty sure the ink wasn't even dry on her college diploma.  there was no stopping her-not even the offer to live at home for a few months, rent free, to build a little nest egg.  nope, she was gone just as quickly as the party trash was hauled to the curb.  a year and a half later, she is still there, living the dream...the good part, i now have a place to stay when i want to go shopping at ikea.  

better still, atlanta has an incredible ethnic diversity that nashville doesn't.  now before you think i am wrong, keep in mind, i live off of nolensville road-it doesn't get much more ethnic in nashville than it does around here.  we have almost as many kurdish neighbors as we do american neighbors.  there are more middle eastern and latino grocery stores here than traditional american ones.  but even so, we do not have the selection that i find in atlanta.  a drive along the buford highway will make nolensville road seem as exciting as a loaf of sandwich bread.  

every trip i make to atlanta, i head straight for the buford highway and all of the korean supermarkets.  a favorite stop is h-mart.  this last time, we didn't shop for much but we did have lunch at one of the restaurants in the front of the store.  it was almost fast food like in appearance but then we had to wait for our lunch to cook.  

my bulgogi lunch plate came with soup, two kinds of kimchi and a ton of fried rice.  it was almost as good as a traditional barbecue restaurant-the only thing missing was the grill in the middle of the table.
the kid had a bowl of soup.  it came to the table at a full boil!

another place i must visit every time, white windmill bakery.  whether it is the full bakery cafe on buford highway or a trip over to megagarket to the in store bakery, i simply cannot come home without stopping there.  they sell the most amazing pastries and cakes and believe it or not, the breads are out of this world.  i love the large, fluffy loaves of cream bread and multi grain bread.  when sliced, only half will fit in a toaster; you have to cut the slices in half to toast them.  

 such beautiful cakes!

next trip, i am having nothing but cake-a slice out of as many as i can from that showcase!!!