May 31, 2009

Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

Wow. I am so happy with how this bread turned out that I can confidently say it is one of the best yeast breads I've made so far. The taste is phenomenal (although I am biased towards cinnamon-y raisin-y things) and bread itself is thick, chewy and not at all dry. Furthermore, this was one of the best bread doughs I've worked with. It didn't stick to the countertop or my hands AT ALL so there was no need to keep adding excess flour.

I really don't think I have any complaints to make here. Although it was a bit difficult for me to knead in the raisins and the walnuts, I think it's generally just a difficult thing to do by hand. After some trial and error, I found the "spread and roll" method to work best: I would spread a layer of raisins (or walnuts) across the flattened dough and then roll the dough up into a log and repeat as many times as necessary until everything was incorporated.

Another great thing is that I think this is a wonderful base recipe. What I mean by that is that I think you could eliminate the cinnamon, raisins and walnuts all together and have a great tasting whole wheat bread. You could also use different nuts, seeds and spices in place of the walnuts, raisins and cinnamon. And, on top of all that, it was super easy and not too time consuming to make (as far as bread goes). Right now I'm imagining using it to make some decadent french toast or even... bread pudding!? This one is definitely a keeper.

Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread
Adapted from ZestyCook
*One of the things that wasn't in the original recipe that you should be sure to do is soak the raisins (or any dried fruit) in warm water for at least 30 minutes before adding them to the dough. Doing this plumps them up and prevents them from hardening or drying out when the bread is baked. To see the original click on the ZestyCook link. As always, my changes are incorporated into the recipe below.


1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
3/4 cup raisins, soaked
2 cups lukewarm water (105° to 115°), plus more for soaking raisins
2 Tbs. honey
2 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 - 2 cups flour [I used unbleached bread flour]
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped [I could take or leave these]

In a large mixing bowl, stir together honey and 1/2 cup of the lukewarm water. Add yeast and stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water. Add whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups of white flour (I used unbleached bread flour), cinnamon and salt. Stir until well combined. Add enough of remaining white flour until dough leaves sides of bowl (I added a scant 1/4 cup extra).

In a small bowl add raisins and enough warm water to cover and soak for at least 30 minutes. Sprinkle flour on a flat dry surface. Turn dough onto the surface and knead 5 to 10 minutes, adding more flour if necessary, until dough is smooth and elastic. Don’t make the dough too dry. Lightly oil a large mixing bowl. Place dough in bowl and turn to coat. Cover with damp cloth and set aside in warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Place a piece of parchment paper on a large baking sheet.

Punch dough down and turn on to floured surface. Knead raisins and walnuts into dough. Shape (round, long, square,) into 1 large loaf and place on prepared baking sheet [I made one small roll and put the rest into a loaf pan, but I think it would all fit in a pan]. Cover with damp cloth and let rise until almost doubled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Using a spray bottle spray loaf with water (I didn't do this and it still turned out well). Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and bake 30 minutes or until nicely browned. Cool on rack before slicing.

May 27, 2009

Vegetables with Pasta

Meals for one is something I find there aren't enough of in cookbooks and food magazines. A lot of the time, I am just cooking for one and I don't really want to have leftovers because chances are, I won't be very excited to eat them-- especially not for a week straight. Also, I don't know about you, but I find it tough to cook for one. Half a cup of penne pasta in a pot of boiling water looks like next to nothing, but I can assure you this meal was very filling and that whole yellow bowl was filled to the brim (I forgot to take a picture before I dug in).

So here, I offer you a healthy meal for one called "Vegetables and Pasta" because too often I find that "Pasta with Vegetables" turns out to be mostly pasta with five or so pieces of broccoli. I wanted this dish to be vegetable heavy and pasta light to make it more nutrient dense but also because the vegetables are usually my favorite part anyway. Many of the ingredients I used are inspired by a similar dish my friend Pamela used to make quite frequently for dinner in college. It always looked and smelled delicious, but for some reason, I never cooked pasta all that much.

The small amount of goat cheese in it adds just a touch of creaminess, but not enough to make the dish heavy by any means, while the bright citrus flavor from the juice and zest of the lemon make this much more of a summer ragĂș than a cheesy winter comfort food. I enjoyed it quite a bit and then wondered why I didn't make it more often at school.

Vegetables with Pasta
Serves 1

1/2 cup whole wheat penne
1/4 medium vidalia onion, finely chopped
3/4 large zucchini, quartered and chopped
juice and zest of half a small lemon
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
pinch or two of salt to taste
~ 1 tablespoon goat cheese
1- 2 tablespoons reserved pasta water
parmesianno-reggiano to grate over top

Boil salted water for the pasta and in the meantime chop all vegetables. Drain the pasta after it's cooked, reserving some pasta water, and return the now empty pasta pot to the stove. Thinly coat the bottom of the pot with olive oil and let heat for a few seconds. Add the chopped onions and cook for a minute or two before adding the zucchini. Add the lemon juice and zest and after two or so more minutes, add the tomatoes and salt. Cook until the tomatoes have slightly broken down (about a minute) and add the pasta back into the pot. Next add the goat cheese and reserved pasta water and mix until cheese is melted and pasta and vegetables are coated. Pour into serving bowl and garnish with grated parmesan cheese.

May 25, 2009

Quick and Easy Whole Wheat Bread

I know Whole Wheat Bread isn't the most interesting recipe to feature after a two and a half week hiatus, but I'm taking it slow...?  Truthfully though, I haven't really been on a cooking hiatus.  I've been cooking from time to time during these past few weeks, but nothing interesting or blog-worthy at that.  Mostly I've been too busy graduating, celebrating, packing, moving, unpacking, and working, well, sort of working, to do anything over here.

But, I think I'm back now.  As my summer plans (or lack thereof) begin to take shape (or unravel...) I am much less busy than I would like to be, which probably means I will try and keep myself busy by cooking.

I made this bread yesterday because I'm almost out of store-bought bread and lets face it, the homemade stuff just tastes better.  I wanted a recipe with little fuss, time commitment, and no need for a last minute trip to the store.  This recipe fit the bill.  There were no complications, no annoyances, no sticky hands and no problems.  Well, there was the minor problem that the oven in my boyfriend's apartment doesn't tell you when it's reached the desired temperature, but that's no fault of the recipe, rather a ridiculous oversight in oven design (did I mention it also has no timer and no oven light?).  However, despite oven inadequacies, this bread turned out to be a perfectly simple, slightly dense and blissfully nutty loaf just right for everyday.

Rancho La Puerta Whole Wheat Bread

Adapted from The Rancho La Puerta Cookbook: 175 Bold Vegetarian Recipes from America’s Premier Fitness Spa, via Orangette*

1/8 cup honey
1 pkg active dry yeast
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup unbleached bread flour
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour, plus more as needed
1 tsp salt**

In a mixing bowl, combine 1 3/4 cups tepid water, the honey, yeast, and oil. Stir and set aside for 5 or 6 minutes, until mixture bubbles and foams. In the meantime, spray one 8- by 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

Add the flour, a cup or so at a time, and the optional salt, mixing with your hands or a wooden spoon until the dough comes together and forms a manageable ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until your hands come clean when lifted from the dough and the dough is smooth and elastic. [To test if the dough is well kneaded, insert a clean thumb into the dough, and count to 5. If your thumb comes out clean, the dough is kneaded properly, and you don’t need to add any more flour.]

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Shape dough into a loaf and place in pan. Cover with dish towel, and set aside in a warm, draft-free place for 40 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled in size.

Bake bread on the center rack of the oven for about 40 minutes, until crust is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom. Cool completely on wire rack before slicing.

* I halved the recipe found on Orangette and used part white bread flour for a lighter, less dense bread
** original recipe calls for no salt

May 5, 2009

Coffee Cake with Cinnamon and Chocolate

I made this coffee cake once before in a rush to bring something to a potluck dinner.  I was so rushed I didn't take any pictures and this time I must say, I've hardly done any better.  I made it again in a tired rush the night before my last day interning for the display department at Anthropologie- but, at least this time, I got one picture.

There are a lot of great things about this cake- it's simple, endlessly adaptable and delicious, but of course, there are also a few faults.  It has one of the thickest batters I've ever worked with so the idea of "swirling" the cinnamon sugar mixture into the batter, or even layering it, as some of the reviewers suggested, was near impossible.  As you can see from the photograph, my cake has anything but a neat swirl.  Also, making it did dirty a lot of bowls.

But back to its good points.  As I said, it's very adaptable.  The last time I made it I used 2% greek yogurt instead of light sour cream (the original recipe calls for regular sour cream) and that worked just as well but resulted in a slightly drier crumb.  I also think a cinnamon apple version with chopped Granny Smith apples coated in the cinnamon sugar mixture (with no chocolate chips or cocoa) would be wonderful.

Coffee Cake Kotnuik

Adapted from Gourmet

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buckwheat or whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 cup light sour cream or 2% greek yogurt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 handful of chocolate chips


In a bowl whisk together the flours, the baking powder, and a pinch of salt and in another bowl stir together the sour cream and the baking soda. In a large bowl cream together the butter and 1 cup of the granulated sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, and beat in the vanilla. 

Stir in the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream mixture and stir the batter until it is combined well. Pour the batter into a buttered 10-inch round cake pan [I used an 8x8 brownie pan because it was all I had and it worked in there but I do think the bigger pan that is called for would work better]. In a small bowl stir together the remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar, the brown sugar, cinnamon, cocoa powder and chocolate chips and swirl the mixture into the batter. 

Bake the cake in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean, transfer it to a rack, and let it cool.

May 1, 2009

Blueberry Buckwheat Cake

I've had my eye on this cake for quite some time now and finally found a reason to make it (although you don't really need a reason). I found the recipe on Orangette and could immediately relate to a recent obsession with blueberry buckwheat pancakes. Luckily, this cake tastes quite like them.

I ended up making the cake for a potluck brunch and it really is perfect brunch food. It's subtly sweet with an almost overly moist (if that's possible) crumb, a hint of nuttiness from the buckwheat, a lightly buttery scent and a bright color and flavor from the blueberries.

One thing I would suggest is not pairing this cake with anything too sweet or salty. Its flavor is so simple that having, say, a bite of a gooey chocolate brownie beforehand will cause you to loose a lot of subtleties that this cake has to offer... not that I know from experience or anything...

This cake was originally a bundt cake but since I don't have a bundt pan here at school, I (unintentionally and unevenly) separated the batter into two loaf pans. I also added more blueberries (1 1/2 cups) because you can never really have too many.

As mentioned, the cake was super moist so I think the recipe could be tweaked a bit by adding either less butter, substituting skim milk for part of the buttermilk or reducing the amount of buttermilk. Also, this made a lot of cake so if you don't have a large brunch party to feed, perhaps halving the recipe and doing it in a loaf pan would be more appropriate.

Blueberry Buckwheat Cake
Adapted from Orangette

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ cup light brown sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
4 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
6 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup honey
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and set a rack to the middle position. Grease and flour a standard-size (10- to 12-cup) Bundt pan, and set it aside. [I used 2 loaf pans]

In a large mixing bowl, combine the buckwheat flour, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, salt, and baking powder, and whisk to mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs to break them up; then add the buttermilk and whisk to mix well. Add the butter, honey, and vanilla, and whisk well. Don’t worry if the honey hardens a bit in the cool liquid; keep stirring, and it will dissolve. Likewise, if the melted butter cools into little shards, don’t fret. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ones, and stir just to combine. If the melted butter has clumped, whisk very briefly but vigorously to smooth the batter. Do not overmix.

Pour 1/3 of the batter into the prepared pan. Scatter about half of the blueberries [I would flour the blueberries before adding them as some of mine sunk to the bottom] over the top. Add another 1/3 of the batter, and top with the remaining blueberries. Top with the remaining batter. Bake the cake for 25-30 minutes [mine took closer to 35- 40 minutes in the 2 loaf pans], until the cake rises, pulls away from the edges of the pan, and springs back when pressed gently. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before unmolding onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Note: This cake is even better after it sits for a day or so, which means great leftovers. Wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature, it will keep for up to four days. It also freezes well.