Brown Sugar Carrot Bread with Almonds

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By Alaina Sullivan

Impatient bakers love a good quick bread – the no-yeast, no-hassle loaf that teeters between bread and dessert. Typically a touch sweet, with a crumb more cakelike than its yeast-risen breads, quick bread is an easy solution for bakers who don’t feel like waiting.

This version is a variation on the master recipe for Fruit (or Vegetable)-and-Nut Bread from How to Cook Everything. Of the endless possibilities (think Banana-Walnut, Cranberry-Pecan, Zucchini-Sunflower, Pumpkin Ginger with Hazelnuts…) the one that struck me was a Brown Sugar Carrot Bread with Almonds. The shredded carrots ensure moisture, while the slivered almonds lend a consistent crunch. A combination of grains (all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour and wheat bran) yields a denser, heartier loaf, and brown sugar brings the right touch of molasses sweetness, while orange zest brightens the whole thing.

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Posted in Baking, Recipes

Pumpkin Crème Brûlee

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By Alaina Sullivan

All it really takes is some mascarpone and a quick whisk to transform pumpkin puree into a rich crème brûlee. Brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and allspice are folded into the smooth mixture, giving it a flavor somewhere in between grandma’s brown sugar sweet potatoes and crustless pumpkin pie.

Dividing the mixture into small ramekins is recommended (this stuff is rich!); then sprinkle each with a thick layer of brown sugar. After a few minutes under the broiler the tops emerge bubbling, with that delicious scent of burnt sugar. If you wait a few minutes, the surface will harden slightly, allowing for the best part of crème brûlee: cracking the crust. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Pumpkin Crème Brûlee

Turn on the broiler and put the rack about four inches from the heat. With an electrix mixer or whisk, beat together a small can of pumpkin, eight ounces mascarpone, and a quarter cup of brown sugar; add a half teaspoon each of cinnamon and ginger and a pinch each of allspice and salt. Spread evenly into an ovenproof baking dish or ramekins and sprinkle the top with a thick layer of brown sugar. Broil for a few minutes, until the sugar melts, forming a crust. Serve immediately.

 

Posted in Baking

The Minimalist: Apple “Pizza” (or Tart)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m not wild about apple pie. If that makes me a bad American, so be it.

Of all the ways you can combine cooked apples, butter, flour and so on, pie is not nearly the best. I prefer either a nice crispy crumble topping made with oats, or this free-form apple tart. It is essentially an apple pizza, but uses a short dough, meaning it contains plenty of butter. It comes together very easily in the food processor.

Once you roll the dough out — into a thin circle or whatever other shape you choose (or your rolling pin chooses for you) — you have to address this question: how precious do you want this thing to be? If you have much more patience than I do you might start an elegant spiral of apple slices in the middle of the crust and loop it gracefully around until it reaches the edges. If you’re like me, you’ll randomly scatter the apples until you don’t see dough anymore. Call it rustic — I actually think it ends up looking just as nice, but maybe that’s equally un-American.

The last straw? Cut it with a pizza wheel.

Get the recipe here.

Posted in American, Baking

Roasted Nuts (So Easy, So Good)

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Makes: 4 to 6 servings

Time: 15 minutes

These are a revelation, so far from canned mixed nuts that you may have trouble believing it; and they’re almost no work at all. I suggest relying heavily on pecans or walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and cashews, with a sprinkling of anything else handy.  Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

2 cups (about 1 pound) mixed unsalted shelled nuts

2 tablespoons peanut oil or melted butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 450°F. Toss the nuts in a bowl with the oil or butter and some salt and pepper. Put on a baking sheet and roast, shaking occasionally, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool before serving; they will crisp as they cool.

Spiced Buttered Nuts. Real bar food: Add 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of any spice mixture, like chili or curry powder, to the mix. If roasting, toss the nuts with the spice at the beginning. If sautéing, add it to the butter or oil as it heats.

 

Posted in Baking, Recipes

Blueberry Cobbler

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Makes: 6 to 8 servings
Time: About 1 hour

My friend John Willoughby found this recipe in a southern boardinghouse nearly 20 years ago. It’s become my go-to cobbler recipe, because it’s essentially perfect. I love this with blueberries, but you can make it with any fruit you like.

Cobbler dough is somewhere between a biscuit and a cookie: fluffy, a bit flaky, buttery, and at least slightly sweet. The key is not overmixing the dough; get it so that it’s just combined, barely holding together, then drop it onto the filling in mounds, leaving space for steam to escape from the cooking fruit. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in American, Baking

Blueberry Pudding Cake

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Makes: At least 6 servings

Time: About 1 1/4 hours, plus time to cool

This is just how it sounds: soft and gooey, with a cakey crust. It’s homey and comforting, especially with whipped cream. Try making it with other fruit, too. Recipe from How to Cook Everything. Continue reading

Posted in Baking

Fast French Bread or Rolls

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Makes: 3 or 4 baguettes, 1 boule, or 12 to 16 rolls

Time: About 2 hours, largely unattended

This bread can be made by hand or with an electric mixer, but the food processor is the tool of choice and will save you tons of time. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Coconut and Brown Rice Pudding

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By Freya Bellin

It is difficult to be patient with the aroma of coconut milk slowly simmering in the oven, but patience is both required and rewarded by this rice pudding. I love the idea of using brown rice in this recipe. It’s healthier, for one, and adds a nuttiness and texture that you can’t get from white rice. The coconut milk makes the pudding rich, a little exotic, and much more flavorful than regular milk would. I used light coconut milk, which is pretty drastically lower in fat than the regular kind, and it was still quite rich. The single cinnamon stick I used made a huge flavor impact, proving that a little seasoning can go a long way.

Watching the pudding cook, it looked like soup for most of the cook time, and then seemingly suddenly looked more like rice, so don’t be discouraged if it seems to be taking a while for the rice to absorb the liquid. I couldn’t resist eating some straight out of the oven, and while it does thicken up nicely when it cools, I enjoyed it most while warm, with raisins tossed in at the end. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook. Continue reading

Posted in Baking

Coconut Macaroons

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Makes: About 2 dozen

Time: About 45 minutes, plus time to chill

1 cup sugar

3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut

3 egg whites, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch salt

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with a rubber spatula or your hands.

2. Use a non-stick baking sheet, or line a baking sheet with parchment paper. To make the pyramids, wet your hands and scoop out a rounded tablespoon of the mixture into the palm of one hand. Using your other hand, press in gently on both sides of the mixture, bringing the macaroon to a point. Continue pressing with your thumb and forefinger on both sides until you have an even shape. For cubes, start as you would for the pyramids, then gently press equally on all sides, turning the macaroon to square off each side. You can use a butter knife to gently smooth the sides of the pyramids and cubes if you like. For balls, roll the mixture between your palms gently until round.

3. Place each macaroon about an inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake until light brown, about 15 minutes. Remove the baking sheet and cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before eating. These keep well in a covered container for up to 3 days.

 

Posted in Baking

Challah!

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Makes: 1 large loaf

Time: At least 3 hours, largely unattended

The traditional Sabbath bread of European Jews is rich, eggy, and very, very tender.  There is enough dough to make a festive braided loaf, which is easy to make and fun to shape. However, unless you have a large food processor (one with at least an 11-cup workbowl), you will have to make this by hand or with a standing mixer. Leftover Challah makes excellent French toast or can be used in bread pudding. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in Baking, Middle Eastern