Any fellow cranberry junkies out there? (It’s okay to raise your hand, this is a safe space…!) If you love the sweet-tart nature of cranberries, you have to try these cranberry orange sables!
Consuming cranberries is my favorite way to maintain basic urinary health while boosting my immune system. Drinking a glass of unsweetened cranberry juice is like absorbing pure vitality; even the shocking taste is bracing, like taking a polar bear plunge or throwing back a shot of fresh ginger juice.
With every passing year, I place more and more cranberry sauce on my plate for Thanksgiving dinner. It becomes a welcome addition to turkey, bacon sprouts, creamy sweet potatoes…I pass it around my dish like a rumor, allowing it to shapeshift and add brightness to every decadent bite.
So this year, when I passed by the cranberries in the grocery store only to discover that they were on sale, I ended up celebrating this fact by buying a lot…as in, over five bags of fresh cranberries…
After making cranberry relish, I still had four bags of cranberries. These are destined to become a cranberry curd tart, cranberry simple syrup, cranberry apple handpies…anything left over will head straight to the freezer for mocktails.
An Ode to Cranberry Orange Sables
Before the holiday was up, I’d made cranberry cookies. The recipe is fresh-tasting, delightfully simple, and can all be combined in one large mixing bowl. (I don’t know about you, but during the holiday season I try to minimize the amount of unnecessary dishes I have to do.)
Once combined, the dough is shaped into a log, rolled in sugar, and placed in the fridge for at least two hours.
With these flavorful, sightly cookies, erring on the side of underbaking, rather than overbaking, is key.
In a food processor or blender, combine cranberries and 1/4 cup sugar and blend until the cranberries are fine and mostly uniform in size. Place in a large bowl.
Wipe out the blender or food processor, add walnuts, and cut until they resemble coarse meal. Add to the large bowl with the cranberries.
Wipe out the blender or food processor once more. Add the flour and remaining sugar, and pulse. Add the butter and pulse until you have very fine crumbs. Add to the bowl with walnuts and cranberries. Add orange zest, orange juice, and almond extract. Stir to combine.
Knead the dough until a ball comes together, adding orange juice as needed to moisten the dough. Form into a log about two inches in diameter, and roll in sugar if desired. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge between two hours and three days.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Cut cookies using a large knife to about 1/2" thickness. Place cookies on a baking sheet with at least 1" of space between them. Bake 13-15 minutes, being careful not to overbake.
Let cookies cool for 10 minutes on the warm baking sheet before removing and placing on a wire rack to continue to cool.
Save in an airtight container up to 4 days, or freeze, well-wrapped, for up to 3 months.
One of the best parts about buying a loaf of bread is knowing that whatever doesn’t make the cut for your sandwich or piece of toast has the potential to end up as bread pudding–whether sweet or savory bread pudding.
Bread pudding has never been the glamorous girl at the dance, but she’s got a heart of gold and can break it down with some funky moves. Perhaps criminally underrated, bread pudding really is an amazing vehicle for flavor.
This holiday season, I decided to make savory bread pudding in lieu of stuffing a bird. This decision was based on economical and food safety reasons; I happened to have stale bread which was moments from molding and, and am also a little wary of stuffing a bready sponge into the cavity of a bacteria-ridden carcass. (Edit: I have heard stuffing successfully crafted this way is unparalleled–maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to face it…)
Savory Bread Pudding Infused with Bay Leaf
Maybe you’ve heard of bay leaf ice cream, if you are an adventurous eater. If you have, bay flavored bread pudding might not be too far of a leap. Stick with me. Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb by sticking to tradition. Sometimes we must take bold leaps if we are to forge ahead. Right?
It’s delightfully simple: chop everything and put it in a bowl, make your custard, and let it soak for at least 15 minutes.
Butter a 9×5" bread pan and set aside. Place milk, salt, peppercorns, and bay leaves in a saucepan and heat over medium. When the mixture is just beginning to boil, turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
While the milk mixture is cooling, cut or rip bread into one inch chunks and place in a large mixing bowl. Cut leeks and add to the bowl.
When the milk is at room temp, whisk in the beaten eggs. Pour this mixture over the bread chunks and let sit 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour soaked bread chunks into the baking pan. Dot the surface of the bread mixture with small dabs of butter, and bake in the oven 20-30 minutes, until toasty and golden on top. Serve as a Thanksgiving side or with a dollop of creme fraiche.
Keyword bay, bay leaf, bread pudding, leftovers, savory, savory bay bread pudding, savory bread pudding, stale bread, stuffing, thanksgiving, thanksgiving sides, use what you have
This week, pie is all over the social media feeds. “To bake, or not to bake” seems to be a pertinent question this year–and for those who are paring down on the festivities, this question comes into even more glaring focus. I’ve seen suggestions for hand pies, or lemon bars, as supplicant solutions to the pie dilemma. While these tasty baked treats would be a welcome addition to any day of the year, they don’t exactly scream “special occasion.” Enter an alternative to the alternatives: Julia Child’s poached pear tart. With three distinct steps, a few hours of work, and a decorative topping as ornate as one has the patience to craft, this tart can be a real showstopper–and it tastes amazing~
Musky, nutty, creamy, and sweet: one forkful and you might even forget it’s the weirdest holiday season ever.
This recipe is a good exercise in some traditional culinary skills, and presents a good challenge to continue ones quarantined gastronomic exploits. If you’ve never tried a Julia Child recipe before, this is a great one to start with! So make it, and impress your loved ones. Or better yet, rope them into the process too. There are plenty of opportunities to sneak sweet bites in between steps…
Julia Child’s Poached Pear Tart
To begin with, I made the sugar crust and let it chill for an hour. As it firmed up in the fridge, I made the almond paste.
Julia instructs us to beat the eggs and sugar until very pale yellow and forming ribbons, about to this stage:
(I did deviate slightly from her directions as I added a pinch of salt to the mix as well, but this is a matter of personal preference.)
As the frangipane cooled, I pealed, stemmed, and cored the pears, then simmered in wine, lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar for 8 minutes.
By this stage, the dough is ready to be rolled out and baked, and the tart assembled. Traditionally, the pears are cut in thin slices widthwise and laid in a circular tart in concentric circles, maintaining the suggestion of their original pear shape. Since this year has been anything but traditional, I decided to mix things up a bit and change the shape from a circle to a rectangle, and lay the slices in a different pattern. My goal was to achieve a more even distribution of pear, so that every slice is guaranteed a generous portion of fruit.
1/4cupred currant jelly(or other preserves with mild flavor)
Whisk together dry ingredients. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or food processor until it resembles small, uniform crumbs. Add egg and vanilla until combined, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
On a floured surface, roll dough out to about 1/8th of an inch thick. Transfer dough to the tart pan, crimping or pressing the edges with a fork if desired.
Line tart with foil and fill with pie weights, or dried beans or rice. Bake 9-10 minutes, or until pastry is set and the top of the crust has begun to change from shiny in appearance to matte. Bake 7-10 minutes more, or until crust is lightly browned and cooked all the way through. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, taking care not to burn them. Blend in a food processor or blender until they are pulverized into small, homogenous chunks.
Whisk egg and egg yolk in a large mixing bowl until combined, then gradually add sugar, whisking as you do so. Mixture should grow paler and paler yellow, and grow shiny after about 3 minutes. Thin ribbons should form from the end of your whisk or electric beater when held about a foot above the bowl, about five minutes. Add flour and combine.
Heat milk in a medium saucepan on the stove until simmering. Add a few tablespoons to the egg mixture, and whisk to temper the milk into the eggs. Gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking as you do so. (Do not rush this process or you might end up with scrambled eggs!)
Place milk and egg mixture back in the saucepan over medium heat, whisking continuously 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add pulverized almonds, vanilla and almond extracts, and butter. Let cool completely, covering custard with buttered parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming.
Bring wine, lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon to a boil in a medium saucepan on the stove.
Peel, stem, and core the pears. Drop pears into the boiling wine and cook 8-10 minutes, until stained and seasoned, but still firm enough to retain their shape. Turn off the heat and let the pears steep for 20 minutes in the liquid, then place pears on a wire rack to drain.
Place the wine solution over high heat until it is at 230°F, then add jelly. Once the preserves have dissolved and the mixture coats the back of a spoon, remove from heat and let cool.
Brush the bottom of the baked tart shell with the reduced wine/jelly mixture. Fill shell with frangipane, and smooth with a spatula. Cut pears into 1/4 inch thick slices and arrange atop the frangipane. If desired, brush pears with more jelly mixture. Chill before serving.
Keeps up to 5 days in the fridge.
Keyword almond paste, autumn feel good, crumbs, crumbs on crumbs, crumbsoncrumbs, dessert ideas, fall feel good, feel good food plan, frangipane, fruit tart, holiday dessert, holiday tart, holidays, juila child’s pear tart, julia child, julia child’s poached pear tart, poached pear tart, poached pears, sugar crust, sweet treats, thanksgiving
I rarely come across a recipe that I don’t adapt in the kitchen. Few and far between are the chefs I trust implicitly enough to blindly follow a recipe for the first time. Dorie Greenspan is one of those chefs. If you’re looking for a unique, fall-flavored treat, you have to try Dorie Greenspan’s baked apples stuffed with candied ginger and dried apple chips!
My sister recently learned that she is intolerant to gluten. Rather than shower her in gluten-free approximations of traditional sweet treats, I decided to get a little creative (and a little seasonal) and see what the internet had to offer on the happenstantially-gluten-free-dessert front. (Thank you, internet, for always providing me with what I seek!)
The only modification I made to this recipe was the kind of apple I baked. Dorie recommends large baking apples (Rome Beauty, to be precise) but I had these smaller, Opal apples on hand which still tasted beautiful baked–I found the portion size for a smaller apple to be closer to what I could comfortably eat as well. (Sorry Dorie, for the slight deviation…)
Dorie Greenspan’s Baked Apples
Everything else about this recipe I followed to the letter, and was so pleased with the results. I’d never made baked apples (somehow!) and was frankly delighted with the whole process. Coring and stuffing the apples, basting them in high-quality pressed cider and butter, watching them puff and brown in the oven…the whole experience was part of the treat of eating them. To boot, this recipe is grain-free and refined-sugar-free, so flavorful, and feels so perfectly autumnal. The real sense of indulgence comes from the butter and whipped cream, which are beautifully complimented by the sharpness of the apple and the warmth of the candied ginger. I mean it when I tell you this recipe left a profound enough impression on me, it will probably become a yearly staple…and I’m sure I’ll make it again before fall is gone.
There was definitely a steep learning curve in terms of coring the apples without an apple core-er. I used this cheese knife to pierce concentrically around the core, then used a small spoon to scoop out the flesh I’d serrated–a labor intensive process, but so rewarding. These apples are cute as a button when they’re all hollowed out with little lids for the top!
Apple cider and honey go into the pie dish and the whole thing bakes for about an hour, until…
I basted the apples three times over the course of the hour, spooning buttery cider into the hollowed cavity and over the tops of the apples.
Dorie Greenspan’s Baked Apples
4 large apples or 6 medium ones
½ lemon, cut into wedges
¼ c dried apple rings, broken into small chunks
4 pieces of crystallized ginger
1/4 c raisins
2 teaspoons honey per apple, + 2 more tsp for basting liquid
3 Tbs butter
1 cup pressed apple cider
½ c heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 Tbs maple syrup
Dash of cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 and make sure a rack is centered in the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil, and place a 9” pie dish on top.
Cut a small cap off the top of each apple, and keep it close to its mate so they don’t get confused. Use a small paring knife or corer to remove the core from the apples. (Note: sometimes perforating the apple flesh with a fork or cheese knife makes for easier work.) Peel the topmost layer of apple skin underneath the cap of each apple and reserve. Rub the peeled and cored apple flesh with lemon and squeeze some juice into each opening.
In a small bowl, combine equal parts ginger, dried apple chunks, and raisins to make the filling. Press down into the opening of each apple, and drizzle 2 tsp honey into each apple. Cut the butter into as many chunks as you have apples, and place each pat over the top of the cavity. Pop the lid back on the apple, and don’t worry if it feels very full!
Pour cider into the pie dish and mix in 2 tsp honey, two lemon wedges, and reserved apple peelings. (Chef’s note: the honey won’t dissolve evenly into the cider at first, but don’t fret!)
Arrange the apples in the pie dish and bake.
Baste the apples occasionally with the liquid from the pie dish as they bake, at least three times. When you can poke them with a fork and meet minimal resistance, 50-70 minutes, they are done.
Let them cool for about 15 minutes as you prepare the whipped cream.
Add cream and maple syrup to a medium bowl with high walls, or a large bowl. Beat with an electric beater until fluffy and of desired texture, about 5 minutes.
When the apples have cooled slightly, top with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon.
These apples keep 2 days in the refrigerator and can be reheated in the microwave.
Are there things in your pantry that you tend to hoard? How about cans and dry goods that sit on the shelf for months at a time? This simple chickpea ricotta pasta is the perfect lazy weeknight dinner using those cheap dry goods that get us through the leaner times. While it is dead simple to make, it tastes anything but dull…so you will thank yourself for that can of chickpeas you bought a month ago!
For me, one of those pantry items I tend to hoard is pasta. It’s hard for me to say “no” to a new experience, especially one costing only a few bucks–so when I pass by a new shape or brand of imported pasta in the grocery store, it usually ends up in the cart.
When the pandemic first started, like many people, I stocked up on nonperishable foods. This, coupled with a frankly obsessive amount of time spent scrolling through the New York Times’ cooking app, yielded some fruitful results, alerting me to recipes that I will no doubt be riffing off of for years to come. This is one of those recipes.
This dish is simple, so if one makes too many substitutions in terms of ingredients, it’s essentially a new dish–that being said, it could be made gluten-free by subbing wheat-alternative noodles. I have yet to come across a vegan ricotta substitution out there, unless one were to spring for some vegan cream cheese and whip it up with a dash of sugar.
But if you are a full-time or even part-time dairy eater, I say go for it and eat the dang ricotta! It’s a truly remarkable, natural complement to pasta of any sort.
Simple Chickpea Ricotta Pasta
This recipe is great for an easy weeknight dinner, or for a meat-free meal. Makes for an excellent lunch, also.
Cook the pasta in heavily salted water until al dente. While that’s boiling, “bloom” the red pepper flakes along with a few cloves of garlic in a skillet with olive oil. Once the oil starts to change color and become fragrant, add drained chickpeas and sauté for a few minutes, until chickpeas are coated in spiced oil and warmed through.
Add cooked noodles, ricotta, some reserved pasta water, and a splash of quality olive oil to the pan and mix.
Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and torn basil, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Simple Chickpea Ricotta Pasta
8 oz pasta, or enough for two servings
3 Tbs olive oil for sauteeing, plus 1 Tbs for final assembly
½ tsp red pepper flakes
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 can chickpeas, drained
1/3 c ricotta cheese
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
½ small lemon, for final assembly
Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn, for final assembly
Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, 8-12 minutes. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water and drain.
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the first measurement of olive oil and red pepper flakes until the pepper has “bloomed” in the olive oil, about 2 minutes. (Oil should change color and become fragrant.) Add smashed garlic cloves and lower heat to medium, cooking just until they begin to lose their pearly white look, about 3 minutes. Add drained chickpeas and halved tomatoes and stir, coating everything in oil over heat for 3-5 minutes, or until the garlic has changed from white to translucent beige.
Change heat to low and add drained pasta, ricotta, a squeeze of the half lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Add remaining 1 Tbs olive oil and stir everything together.
Plate with torn basil leaves and serve immediately. Pairs excellent with a buttery white wine or plain bubbly water, whichever you prefer.
One of my favorite things in this world is enjoying a perfectly cooked beet. (Can I get a show of hands for all you beet lovers out there?) Over the years of cooking beets, I have come to love the messy endeavor of processing them, from staining my hands magenta to turning the bottom of my sink into a kind of Pollock painting. It doesn’t get much more wholesome and nourishing than this vital sesame beet salad!
If I were to ever create a manifesto, I think it would probably have to include a clause about the importance of avoiding overcooking one’s beets. (If this has ever happened to you, you have probably realized what a tragedy this is.)
Beets are humming with vitality, from their color to their natural sugars and minerals. They can be both refreshing and comforting, placed in both sweet and savory contexts. While I love each and every vegetable I’ve ever put into my mouth (except maybe turnips, which I am still learning to love), I have to say that I think beets may be my favorite.
In an effort to welcome in the cold weather and simultaneously give a nod to the last wave of summer, I dreamed up this recipe one morning over a warm cup of coffee. Simple, fresh ingredients, variety of texture and flavor, maximum nutrients. I’m pretty happy with this side dish–and, it paired wonderfully with the ginger miso glazed halibut I had for dinner.
Simple Sesame Beet Salad with Carrots and Scallions
The beets were trimmed, wrapped individually in foil, and placed in a shallow water bath, otherwise known as a “bain marie.”
While the beets were baking, I cut my carrots into matchsticks and soaked them in vinegar for a “quick pickle,” sliced my scallions, and toasted my sesame seeds.
The drained carrots were tossed into the beets crumbled feta cheese and the other add ins, and the whole thing was finished with a drizzle of sesame oil and a squeeze of lime.
Sesame Beet Salad (GF)
3 medium-sized beets
2 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
¼ c white wine vinegar
¼ c rice wine vinegar
2 tsp white sesame seeds, toasted
1 tsp black sesame seeds
1 oz feta cheese
3 scallions, sliced
2 Tbs sesame oil
Juice of ½ lime
Preheat oven to 450°F. Wash beets and trim both ends with a knife. Wrap each beet individually in foil and place in a baking dish with roughly two inches of water in it. Bake beets for an hour and 15 minutes or so, or until a fork can be inserted with minimal resistance the full length of the prong.
While beets are baking, place carrot matchsticks and both vinegars into a small bowl until the carrots are submerged. Leave them at least 30 minutes, but closer to an hour is ideal.
In a small pan over medium low heat, heat white sesame seeds until they just start to take on color and emit a pleasant odor, about 5 minutes. Mix warm toasted sesame seeds with black sesame seeds in another small bowl and set aside.
When beets have finished cooking, carefully unwrap them in the sink and run cold water over them until they are cool enough to handle. The skin should easily come off in your hands, but some will be more difficult to peel than others. Don’t be afraid to use a knife to cut off any stubborn bits.
Once cool, cut beets into strips about 1/4” thick and place in a medium bowl. Drain carrot strips and add to the bowl along with sesame seeds, sliced scallions, and crumbled feta cheese. Finish with sesame oil and lime juice. Pairs great with white fish for a full meal.
Think about it: when was the last time you had a really delicious clam chowder? Can you picture where you were when you ate it? What was the weather like? Who were you with? What was it about the flavors in the soup that worked for your palate? Did you make it from scratch or were you dining out? Perhaps your chowder memories are yet to be made…why not start with this take on Tom Douglas’ creamy seafood chowder?
While the word “chowder” becomes something of a catchall for a conceptual bracket of “soup,” there exist many specific styles of approaching this comforting dish. Wikipedia touches on eight or nine clearly delineated versions of “clam chowder,” each with its own personality; in 1939, just five years after clam chowder reached notoriety in the United States, Maine’s state legislature took its clam chowder identity so seriously, it was posed that the use of tomatoes in the stuff ought to be banned. (Fortunately for Mainers and tomato-lovers alike, this motion did not pass.)
But something that unifies even those variants of “chowder” which hang on the periphery is the fact that sitting down to eat a bowl is usually something of an event. Whether taking a boardwalk stroll and eating from a cardboard cup or settling in on a wintry night for an intimate meal, clam chowder marks a momentous moment. How often does one casually have clams in their fridge, after all?
Making this soup successfully is all about prep and timing.
First, the minced onion, carrot, celery, and fennel are sautéed in a modest amount of olive oil until they start to turn translucent and soft. Add garlic and bacon, cooking until the fat of the bacon becomes clear, but doesn’t brown. Add wine, tomato puree, fish stock, and potatoes and simmer…
When potatoes are just tender, stir in cream, herbs, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Rather than chopping thyme as Tom Douglas suggested, I tied a few sprigs in a bundle with the stems from my parsley leaves and dropped that in the pot.
Then the assembly line of seafood goes: clams, shrimp, cod, and crab, in that order, accompanied by handfuls of hearty spinach. Add an optional squeeze of lemon, garnish with fennel fronds and cream of some kind, if you like (I used about 1 Tbs creme fraiche) and eat with good company.
A Take on Tom Douglas’ Creamy Seafood Chowder
Author’s note: Tom advises us to heat the bowls before pouring the chowder in, and don’t forget the herbed scones!
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
½ bulb of fennel, cored and finely chopped
5 medium cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
1 cup thick cut bacon
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups canned tomato puree
5 cups ham hock stock or fish stock
¾ pound thin-skinned potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme or 4 large sprigs of thyme, tied in a bundle
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, or to taste
1 lb small steamer or baby clams, scrubbed and rinsed
1 lb large shrimp, shelled and deveined, with tails on
½ pound white fish fillets, such as halibut, cod, etc, cut into 1½ inch pieces
3 cooked king crab legs (1-1½ pounds), thawed if frozen, each leg cut into 3 sections crosswise and split in half lengthwise OR 1 previously cooked Dungeness crab, disassembled with meat reserved
Sour cream or crème fraiche (optional)
12 parsley scones and butter (optional)
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the fennel, onion, celery, and carrot and sauté until the vegetables start to turn translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and bacon and sauté a few more minutes, until bacon fat turns clear rather than white, but does not brown. Stir in tomato puree, wine, stock, and potatoes, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover the pot and cook until the potatoes are just tender, about 12 minutes.
Stir in the cream and herbs, season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Add the clams, cover the pot, and cook until they open, about 4 minutes. Season the shrimp and fish with salt and pepper, then add them to the pot, taking care the seafood is submerged as much as possible in the simmering liquid. Cover and simmer for 2 more minutes. Open the lid, stir in the spinach. Cover and continue to simmer for 1 minute. Add cooked crab meat, turn off the heat and let the pot sit, covered, for 5 minutes.
Remove the lid and check that the shrimp and fish are cooked through and that the crab is warm. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Using a slotted spoon and ladle, divide all the fish, shellfish, and chowder among 6 large shallow soup plates, discarding any clams that have not opened. Garnish with a squeeze of lemon, a spoonful of crème fraiche, yogurt, or sour cream, and/or fennel fronds.
Fall is decidedly here in the Pacific Northwest, but that hasn’t stopped folks from lining up in the rain to snatch up warm treats from the bakery. I find myself dreaming of what to bake even on my days off, which I suppose is further evidence that autumn has arrived. Savory baking endeavors have recently caught my eye, such as this recipe for lemon zest and herbed spelt scones.
This has prompted me to read through my cookbooks as I wonder how best to kick off the coming dark months of indulgent holiday festivities and great eating–but after procuring a fish head and trimmings from a wild-caught salmon fished within 20 miles of my house, I needn’t look any further for cooking inspiration.
Last night, I made Julia Child’s fish stock, simmering the fish remains gently for about an hour with a few select aromatics. As the stock grew into itself in the pot, I thought eagerly of the chowder that it is destined to become.
As the stock simmered on the stovetop gently, I leafed through a Tom Douglas cookbook (one of my favorite “big time” chefs) until my eye was caught by a savory scone recipe that he cultivated specifically to accompany a creamy seafood chowder.
After yesterday’s deluge, the crisp fall air gave way to a bright, sunny morning, and I knew today was the perfect day to tackle those scones.
Herbed Spelt Scones with Lemon Zest
I snipped my herbs and zested the lemon as sunshine poured in the window. There are few scents that bring me as much genuine pleasure as that of a freshly zested lemon.
The break in stormy weather provided such sweet relief today, I even made it out into the garden after shaping my scones to harvest some late flowers. Not a bad way to spend my day off, to tell the truth.
We’ll see if I can save some for chowder later…
Herbed Spelt Scones with Lemon Zest
Adapted from Tom Douglas’ recipe from “Tom’s Big Dinners”
Yields 12 scones
2 ½ c spelt flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp freshly cracked pepper
2 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
10 Tbs cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 ½ tsp lemon zest (about ½ lemon)
2 Tbs + 1 tsp snipped fresh chives
1/3 c freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
1 c buttermilk
Preheat oven to 400°F. Whisk flour, sugar, salt, pepper, baking powder and soda into a large bowl.
Once incorporated, cut butter into dough using a pastry cutter or your fingers until it appears coarse and sandy.
Stir in herbs and lemon zest.
Add buttermilk and gently mix using a rubber spatula, a wooden spoon, or your hands until dry ingredients are incorporated, being careful not to over mix. Dough should feel wet and slightly pillowy.
Dust a flat surface with more spelt flour. Divide the dough into two balls, transferring on ball to the floured surface. Flatten the ball into a flat disk, dusting the top with flour if necessary, until it is about ¾” thick.
Cut into 6 equal triangular pieces, then repeat with second dough ball. Bake 20-30 minutes. Enjoy with butter and a glass of herbed cucumber water.
Not to brag, but I’m pretty sure I got the last few peaches of the season from my local farm stand. After a little bit of dreaming about all the flavors that play nice with peaches, I arrived at this whiskey peach bread pudding recipe–an homage to summer’s end!
I showed up at the farm stand looking for the last of summer’s beautiful stone fruits, not quite ready to say goodbye to the sun just yet…I browsed the boxes of produce laid out under their red and white striped tent, snatching up some beautiful Italian plums and passing up the apples and pears. (There will be many weeks of apples and pears to come. Julia Child’s pear tart is on my mind, but that won’t feel right until mid-to-late November, at the soonest. For now, let me cling to summer like I’m clinging to my 20s.)
Thinking Yakima’s peaches were a thing of the past, I made my way to the checkout counter with my plums.
“You don’t happen to have any peaches, do you?”
The friendly young cowboy in the cream-colored hat and tight t-shirt shook his head no. I thought not, I confirmed in my head, Summer must really be over…
But peaches (and maybe summer, too) hadn’t given up on me yet! Another associate from the farm who was stocking pickled veggies of various assortments chimed in–
“We have about four or five left in that far box over there!”
It was true: tucked into the low corners of these deep boxes were a few perfectly imperfect seasonal stragglers.
Containing a whoop and a holler, I snatched up these sweet rays of sunshine and paid for my flavored fructose. Now, what to do with these oddballs…
After recently making a dang delicious plum pie, I decided pie should be out of the picture. I’d already made peach cobbler this season, so that didn’t quite feel appropriate either. Then, I remembered the about-to-mold bread I’d stuffed in the freezer last week. Bread pudding it is, I thought.
Whiskey Peach Bread Pudding
When I think peaches, I think cream, honey, vanilla, almond, and whiskey. Why not add a few friends to the bread pudding party?
I made ginger simple syrup, the whiskey custard, cut my beautiful peaches, and tore my thawed bread into chunks.
I soaked the bread and peach mixture in milky custard and applied some “secret surprise creme fraiche” to the middle of the pudding.
Baked, brushed with simple syrup for a little sheen, then baked some more:
Obviously I had to eat this with some less-than-secret creme fraiche too.
Whiskey Peach Bread Pudding
Note: In the past, I have made this pudding using sourdough bread with excellent results. Whole wheat or rye would also be delicious, but the simpler the bread, the more your peaches will stand out. I have also subbed oat milk for regular milk which worked beautifully. The orange zest and ginger syrup are optional, but they both contribute to the desired complexity of this dish. I enjoy cutting my peach chunks into a variety of shapes and sizes, but if you prefer a more uniform dish, feel free to cut them as close to identical as you like.
1 c water
1 c sugar
1” or 0.5 oz peeled ginger, cut into matchsticks
2 Tbs whiskey
Butter for baking dish
2 c whole milk or alternative milk
½ c sugar
½ tsp salt
1 vanilla bean, split down the middle with seeds scraped out, 1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or 1 tsp vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 large orange (optional)
4 Tbs whiskey
3 large eggs, beaten
6 c bread, torn into ragged chunks
2-3 c peaches (about 2 large peaches), skin on, cut into 1-2 inch chunks or slices
¼ c creme fraiche
Generously butter a bread pan and set aside.
Bring water, first measurement of sugar, and ginger matchsticks to a gentle boil. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until syrup has gained viscosity and ginger flavor. Stick a teaspoon into the syrup after 3 minutes; it should appear thicker than water and coat the spoon nicely. Keep boiling until syrup is of a similar consistency to maple syrup, but no more than 10 minutes. When syrup is of desired consistency, remove from heat and stir in first measurement of whiskey. Strain mixture into a jar or bowl using a fine sieve, chinois, or cheesecloth placed over a colander and let cool.
Place milk, sugar, and vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan over medium heat until it is at a bare simmer. Remove from heat and add optional orange zest, and salt. Set aside for 10 minutes, or until you can place your hands on the walls of the sauce pot without burning yourself. Add 4 Tbs whiskey and stir. When the mixture is tepid (or room temperature) to the touch, whisk in blended eggs.
Heat oven to 350°F. Place bread and peach chunks and slices into a large bowl. Pour milk mixture over the top and let soak 15-20 minutes, gently stirring after 10 minutes with a wooden spoon or your hands.
Spoon half of the bread and peach mixture into the prepared bread pan. Dab the surface of the mixture with creme fraiche in teaspoon-sized spoonfuls. Pour the rest of the bread over the top and bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven and brush the top with whisky-ginger syrup until the entire pudding is covered in glaze. Bake 10-20 minutes more, or until bread has started to take on a golden color and peaches on the surface of the pudding begin to blacken.
Let sit at least 30 minutes to cool before cutting and serving. Best with a dollop of yogurt, creme fraiche, or vanilla ice cream.
Another week passed at the bakery, full of trials, tribulations, and “firsts,” including my first time successfully completing macarons. This has been a bucket list item for me since I first saw an array of colorful macarons about a decade ago, and I bought one of those teeny tiny prosecco bottles from the grocery store to celebrate. Now, to make the perfect olive or walnut levain…but one day at a time! For now, champagne out of a mason jar and this celebratory spicy vegan chai pudding!
Assuredly you are aware, delightful reader, that it is pumpkin spice season. I mean, we are even working pumpkin spice into the patisserie. And I may or may not have started ordering pumpkin spice lattes as soon as they were available in my area. It’s a comforting taste, and we can all use a little comfort right now.
But, with great flavor comes great curiosity (or something like that) and I began to get a little more curious about chai spice.
I cobbled together a few recipes from various sources and created my own tip of the hat to this season: chai spice, vegan pudding (pumpkin not included).
I mean, if one can make spicy chocolate pudding, why not? What were rules made for, if not to break them??
Though I initially set out on this quest with sweet, sweet dairy in mind (I was envisioning an egg-yolky custard, rich and sweet, and so, so fattening–) I opened my fridge to behold two large containers of oat milk and a perilously full jar of coconut cream that I opened this week by mistake, thinking it was coconut milk. (This has proven to be a happy accident, however, as I have been adding a scoop of cream into my earl grey tea in the mornings.)
“So,” I thought, “can I apply myself here to use what I have and make a truly delicious vegan pudding?”
Spicy Vegan Chai Pudding from Scratch
Reader, if you want a healthy fat, low-sugar, guilt-free seasonal dessert, you’ve come to the right place.
First, I gathered my ingredients.
I toasted the spices and orange peel in a medium saucepan before adding oat milk, coconut cream, vanilla bean paste, and slices of peeled ginger, simmering this gently for about six minutes. The beauty of this recipe is, you can take the spice as far as you like. The longer you simmer, the spicier your pudding is going to be. I like ginger, like, a lot, so I stretched that flavor out as far as was palatable to me. It’s so important to taste as you go!
When the flavor tastes right to you, or just barely to the point of “omg, maybe this is too spicy,” drain the liquid into a medium sized bowl using a fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth draped inside a colander. (You are going to dilute the flavor a little bit with the second addition of liquid, so be bold with your flavor concentration!) Return liquid back into the pot, add cornstarch/oat milk solution, and whisk over medium heat, until mixture thickens.
Pour into ramekins or a medium bowl, cover in plastic wrap, and chill. And voila! Vegan, spicy, not-too-bad-for-you, on-theme dessert. Win.
Obviously, you can use whatever milk you like. And, the original recipe I riffed off of called for whole milk or half and half–so if you’d rather make your pudding with good, old-fashioned dairy: please, be my guest! Whether you prefer your dessert to be righteous or indulgent: chai spice is the great connector.
Spicy Chai Pudding (V, GF)
Note: This recipe could very easily be adapted to contain dairy by substituting whole milk or half and half for the oat milk and coconut cream. I also used honey to sweeten, but an equal trade of brown sugar would make this recipe fully vegan. Follow your gut!
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
6 cardamom pods
7 whole black peppercorns
6 whole cloves
1/8th tsp nutmeg, preferably freshly ground
1 1/2” strip of orange zest, with little to no white pith
1 ¾ c oat milk
4 Tbs coconut cream
1 whole vanilla bean, split lengthwise with seeds scraped, or 1 tsp vanilla paste
1” peeled ginger (roughly 0.5 oz), cut into matchsticks
½ c oat milk
3 Tbs cornstarch
½ c honey or brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
In a large liquid measuring cup or in a small bowl, combine first measurement of oat milk, coconut cream, vanilla, and sliced ginger.
In a medium sauce pot over medium heat, toast cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, peppercorns, and cloves, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally until spices have started releasing their odor and “dancing” around in the bottom of the pot, about 5 minutes. (Take care to turn your spices with a wooden spoon, smelling for anything burning, until cardamom pods appear toasted and cinnamon stick has darkened considerably.) After spices are sufficiently toasted, turn off the heat and add nutmeg followed by orange peel, stirring for 1 minute more. When orange peel has begun to sweat and shrivel, remove from the hot burner and let the pot cool for a few minutes.
While the pot is cooling, whisk together cornstarch and second measurement of oat milk in a small bowl until no lumps remain.
When you can put your fingers on the pot without burning yourself, add oat milk, coconut cream, vanilla, and ginger mixture into the toasted spices, followed by honey and salt. Place back over the hot burner and cook over medium heat until mixture is just below a simmer. (It should be steaming but no significant bubbles emanating from the bottom of the pot.) Stir consistently so the liquid does not form a skin or burn on the bottom of the pot.
When spiced oat milk mixture is at a bare simmer, cook, stirring constantly, for 5-8 minutes. Taste as you go: the longer the mixture simmers, the spicier the pudding will be. When pudding has reached desired spiciness, drain the contents of the pot into a medium bowl using a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth placed over a colander, discarding spices. Return the mixture back to the sauce pot over medium heat. When steaming, add the cornstarch and oat milk mixture, whisking constantly until pudding thickens and barely begins to boil, about 5 minutes.
Reduce heat to the lowest setting and stir 3 minutes more, or until pudding is of a desirable consistency.
Divide into ramekins or pour into a bowl, covering in plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled. When ready to serve, garnish with 1 tsp coconut cream and a modest shake of ground allspice or cinnamon. Best eaten within 24 hours.
Edit: If it pains you to throw away whole spices and several dollars worth of ginger, after steeping your spice blend in the milk of your choosing, consider candying the ginger matchsticks for a garnish and drying your spices on a piece of parchment paper for another use, such as adding to a mug of tea or making a hot toddy.