Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cinnamon Raisin Baked Oatmeal

I’m sure you’ve noticed that this winter has no interest in ending. My part of the world hasn’t had quite the inundation of snow that the East Coast has endured, but the cold cold COLD seems to have settled into my bones and taken up long-term residence. A few shakings from a box of cereal served with cold milk just isn’t going to get me going in the morning, I’m afraid. I was thinking fondly, instead, of this delicious baked oatmeal from back in apple season. I make breakfast (for around 100 people) at work and one of our occasional hot cereals on the winter menu is a similar baked oatmeal without the apples. I decided to see if I could combine the two ideas and make something warm and hearty for a weekend breakfast.

This recipe with raisins and walnuts is really a simplification of the version with apples, since it’s pared down to just the oatmeal, nuts and dried fruit. I used the same proportion of oatmeal, eggs and milk, and just added extra raisins and walnuts to take the place of the apples and dried cranberries. I also increased the cinnamon (and left out the nutmeg) and added a bit of additional sweetener in the form of maple syrup.

The resulting warm and comforting breakfast dish is still not very sweet, so if you like it sweeter, you could serve it with maple syrup. I stole another idea from the work recipe and served mine with warm milk poured over it, which is a very fine addition. The baked oatmeal has a texture of more like a slightly moist and crumbly cake than a bowl of oatmeal, so the additional liquid is nice. I’m sure the baked oatmeal with apples would also be well-accompanied by warm milk.

This recipe makes a whole 8-inch square pan of baked oatmeal, so it will serve me warm and cozy breakfasts for a few days (it heats up well in the microwave). I certainly hope that a little warmth from the inside does some good in getting through this tough winter in one piece rather than shattering into many. Keep warm, friends!

Cinnamon Raisin Baked Oatmeal

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup chopped walnuts
¾ cup raisins
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
warm milk for serving if desired

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray or grease as desired.

2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, baking powder, salt, walnuts, and raisins. Toss together to combine.

3. In a medium-size bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the milk, brown sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla and whisk together until smooth. Whisk in the cinnamon.

4. Pour the egg mixture over the oat mixture and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared baking dish.

5. Bake at 325 F for 35-40 minutes or firm and the top is brown. Serve with warm milk if desired. (I recommend!)

Makes 6-8 servings.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Crispy Light Wheat Waffles

There’s a really great light and crispy waffle recipe from Fine Cooking magazine that I love. It was published in The Best AmericanRecipes 2002-2003, which is where I found it about 10 years ago. It makes delicious waffles with a gently crispy texture. They require a bit of extra time and result in some extra dish washing since they contain a (as in one, single) beaten egg white. I, however, have always found it worth that time and effort.

I’ve also always thought the recipe looked like a good starting point for all kinds of variations (such as this good one from a few years ago). This time I took a cue from some of my recent baking excursions and replaced some of the white flour with whole wheat flour. Again, exchanging about a third of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat seemed like a safe place to start, and this worked well. What worked even better, at least as far as new flavors in a familiar recipe are concerned, was to add cinnamon as well.

The combination of the slight nuttiness of that little bit of wheat flour and a decent dose of cinnamon is a really winner. Of course, I also added some more sugar, though there’s still not a lot in the recipe, which I think makes the cinnamon come through even more. The whole wheat flour did nothing to diminish the lovely crisp texture of these waffles, which gets a boost from a few minutes in a warm oven. I highly recommend not skipping this step for maximum loveliness.

I liked this version of my favorite waffle recipe so much that I think it’s going to achieve status as the new favorite. I hope that doesn’t stop me from trying other variations. I think other whole grain flours could work (and be delicious) in place of the whole wheat and other warm spices, such as nutmeg, cloves, or blends like Pumpkin Pie Spice or chai spice would be good, too. I also think that this recipe could be easily doubled. So many waffles to try, so few weekends off!

Crispy Light Wheat and Cinnamon Waffles

½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon fine salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg, separated
¼ cup canola or other neutral oil
¾ cup buttermilk
¼ cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat a waffle iron. Preheat oven to 250 F. Place a cooling rack on a rack in the oven.

2. In a medium-size bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cornstarch, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Whisk or sift together to combine well. Set aside.

3. In another medium-size bowl, combine the egg yolk and oil. Beat together until well-combined. Add the buttermilk, milk and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Set aside.

4. In a small bowl, beat the egg white to firm peaks with an electric mixer. Set aside.

5. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the flour mixture and stir until all of the dry ingredients are moist. Fold in the beaten egg white, taking care to keep it light and puffy. Stir just until the white is evenly distributed.

6. Spray the heated waffle iron with cooking spray or brush it with butter or oil. Pour a portion of batter (the sized will depend on the size of your waffle iron) onto the iron and bake according to manufacturer’s instructions.

7. Remove the baked waffle from the iron and place on the rack in the preheated oven. Repeat with the remaining batter. The waffles will not only stay warm, but will also crisp in the oven. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

Makes about 4 waffles.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cherry Almond Scones

I’ve wanted to try a dried cherry and almond version of these Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Scones since I bombed an attempt to make them with fresh cherries last summer. I’m happy to say that using the delicious dried cherries I picked up on a mini vacation to Door County, WI last year was a much better idea. Besides, dried cherries are available year-round making them a better choice for out of season baking.

My original idea was to talk about making a basic scone recipe that I could vary as I chose, but, then, I realized that if I’m really working on such a thing, I’ve been working backwards. To have such a narrative make any sense at all, I should start with basic cream or buttermilk scones and show you how adding this or that has made my life wonderful. I didn’t do that. I made the Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Scones two years ago because they looked good. Then I decided to make a cherry-almond version without the oatmeal. Not a particularly fascinating story.

These scones are good, though. Dried cherries and chopped almonds are a delicious combination and I enhanced their shared performance with some almond extract, too. The scones are a bit softer than the oatmeal version, simply because I used all-purpose flour without, she said guiltily, any whole grain additions. The buttermilk contributes to this fluffiness as well.

These scones are not very sweet on their own, but I drizzled a bit of a buttermilk glaze over them. I think I’ve become obsessed with glaze since making this cake, and just couldn’t go without it. You, of course, don’t need to use it and could sprinkle some coarse sugar over the scones before baking for a bit of enhancement, or go without the additional sweetness altogether.

I cut these tea-time treats into heart shapes (aaawww…) with a cookie cutter. Actually with two different cookie cutters making some 3-inch and some 2-inch hearts for Valentine’s Day. You can cut them into whatever shape you want, although baking time might vary if you make them much larger or smaller than I have here. For me, I find them good enough that I should have made them even smaller, so I could have several at a time without quite so much calorie guilt.

Cherry Almond Scones
Both the glaze and the coarse sugar sprinkle are optional for these scones. Feel free to swap in other dried fruit and nuts to suit your taste.

for the scones:
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon fine salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
½ cup chopped almonds
½ cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ cup dried cherries
Coarse sugar for sprinkling, optional (do not use if using the glaze)

for the optional glaze:
½ cup sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pulse a few times to combine well.

3. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is distributed in pea-size lumps. Add the almonds and pulse just until they are evenly distributed.

4. Add the buttermilk and almond extract and process just until the dough starts to come together. Add the cherries and pulse a few times to distribute them.

5. Turn out the dough on a floured surface. Gently knead the dough to bring it together. Form the dough into a disc about 1inch thick. Cut out the dough with 3-inch or 2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutters (I made some of each) or cut the dough into 8 to 12 circles, squares, or triangles if you prefer.

6. Transfer the cut dough to the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired and you are not planning to glaze the baked scones. Bake at 350 F for 20-25minutes or until the scones are gently brown on top and golden brown on the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

7. Cool the scones completely, if not using the glaze, or enjoy them slightly warm. If using the optional glaze, set the cooling rack with the scones on top of a baking sheet or a sheet of parchment paper. Cool until they are just warm to the touch.

8. To make the glaze, place the powdered sugar in a small bowl. Whisk in the 2 tablespoons buttermilk and ¼ teaspoon almond extract. Spoon or brush evenly over slightly warm scones. You should have just enough glaze to pour about a teaspoon over each scone. Allow to cool long enough for the glaze to set. The glaze will remain slightly sticky.

Makes about 12 three-inch heart-shaped scones.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Light Wheat Baguettes

I’ve been using enough whole grain flour in baking over the last few years that the taste of anything made with all white flour stands out as unique, sometimes even blandly so. Other times, like in the case of a good white bread, it tastes almost indulgent, like cake. (Of course then there’s actual cake, and I haven’t quite felt the need to put whole grain flours in all of those. We each have our weaknesses.)

And so, even after the deliciousness of these Multigrain Baguettes that I first tried about a million years ago, I never really got around to making a whole-grain-touched baguette my go-to version. But, you know, I actually started feeling kind of guilty about not putting at least some whole wheat flour in this Baguette recipe, at least to see how it would work.

It works out nicely, as it turns out. In fact, I think I love it! I wanted this loaf to be slightly crusty, but soft on the inside, not a sandwich bread, but a sort of side loaf to accompany pasta dishes, soups, and big salads, and to make into crostini or just garlic bread when a day old or more. Since my usual sandwich loaf, does well with one-third of the flour being whole wheat flour, that’s the ratio I tried for the baguettes. No big surprise, I suppose, but it really does work well in the baguettes, too.

These loaves behave quite similarly to their all-white cousins at meal time, and I didn’t even really notice an increase in coarseness or dryness over the white loaves when they became “leftovers.” The wheat flavor, which I like very much, is gently present and reminds you that there’s at least a tad bit of whole grain in there after all. Since this 2-white-to-1-whole ratio works so well here (and in the multigrain version), I think you could replace the whole wheat with barley, oat or rye flour if you like. You’ll neither have to give up on whole grains nor on your side of baguette. At least I don’t plan to. Besides, that extra pinch of healthiness leaves room for butter, right?

Light Wheat Baguettes

I use a special pan to bake long loaves, one that is shaped like two (or three) cradles side by side. You could bake your loaves on a sheet pan.

2 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 envelope, if you buy it that way)
1 ¼ cups warm water (100 to 110 F), divided
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour, divided
1 teaspoon salt
egg wash (beaten egg mixed with a little water or milk, optional, but nice)

1. Combine the yeast and ¼ cup water in the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer (or in another large bowl). Let the yeast mixture stand about 5 minutes or until the yeast appears foamy.

2. Add the remaining water, the whole wheat flour and 1 cup bread flour to the yeast mixture. Stir, using the paddle attachment if using a mixer, until a soft, batter-like dough forms. Cover with a towel and let stand 30 minutes.

3. Sprinkle the salt over the rested batter, which should have nearly doubled in volume. Add ½ cup of the remaining bread flour and mix together using the dough hook for the mixer. Continue kneading in as much of the remaining flour as you can to create a smooth, elastic dough. The final result will be a slightly tacky dough, and should take about 10 minutes of kneading.

4. Remove the dough from the bowl and shape into a ball. Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place the dough ball in it. Spray the top of the dough and place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the dough. Cover the bowl with a towel. Let rise about 1 hour, or until double in size.

5. Gently deflate the risen dough. Reform into a new ball. Cover with the towel and let rest about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a baking sheet or baguette baking pan by spraying with nonstick cooking spray, or lining with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Preheat the oven to 450 F.

6. Divide the dough into 2 or 3 equal pieces. Working with one portion at a time, roll each portion on a floured surface into a long, narrow loaf. Place the loaves on the prepared pan. Cover with the towel and let rise 20 minutes. The loaves will not double in size.

7. Uncover the dough and slash in several places along the length of each loaf with a sharp knife, being careful not to deflate the dough as you do so. Brush each loaf with egg wash if desired. Bake at 450 F for 20 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 10-15 servings.

Other recipes like this one: Baguette, Multigrain Baguette

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Orange Pound Cake

Just about the time I made, and was greatly enjoying, this orange pound cake, I was also perusing some really great baking books. You know the kind I mean: the ones written by meticulous genius bakers who seem to have figured out some sort of Platonic ideal of cake-making. And then took it up one more level. The ones picturing beautiful confections with perfect crumb and impossibly creamy and daringly photogenic frostings, fillings, glazes and ganaches. The ones we humbler bakers are almost afraid to even leaf through lest we smudge the glossy pages with our greasy, floury fingers.

My orange pound cake threatened to develop an inferiority complex in the shadow of these confectionary giants. I, very briefly, wondered if it would look silly to post such delicious simplicity. I take it as a sign of my own personal growth, however, that I got over that right quick. Delicious wins every time. As does anything I can actually get done in the time I have.

The beauty of most desserts that call themselves “pound cake” is that they really aren’t fussy. They go together quickly, feature basic ingredients, and hold up well. Often, like this one, they are baked in a loaf pan, which allows you to slice them like bread into slabs or slivers as you choose.

The orange-ness in this particular cake does demand a little bit of extra work in the form of zesting and juicing oranges. In fact all of the liquid in this cake is freshly-squeezed orange juice. The zest, however, is what really gives a satisfying kick of orange flavor to the cake. You need lots of it to accomplish this, and I recommend using a microplane grater to remove the zest from the oranges in fine, fine shreds, leaving the white pith behind. I think you could make this cake with other citrus fruits, too, and hope to test it (some day) with lemons and limes.

This cake is really, really delicious, a true celebration of citrus season. It is glazed while still warm with more orange juice and powdered sugar, a concoction that soaks into the cake a bit, but also forms kind of a protective barrier around it, keeping it moist if well-wrapped for several days.

I may not be quite ready for big, fancy creations or multi-step processes leading to confectionary perfection. I’m pretty much always ready for cake, however, and I’m really happy this one is in my winter baking repertoire. Be it ever so humble, there’s no cake like (relatively quick and easy) pound cake!

Glazed Orange Pound Cake
Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine

I highly recommend removing the zest from the oranges before juicing them. It’s sooooo much easier!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon, plus a pinch fine salt, divided
6 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from 3-4 medium-size oranges), divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest (from 3-4 medium-size oranges)
1 ¼ cups sifted powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Trace the bottom of a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan onto parchment  paper. Cut out the shape and set aside. Spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray or grease it with butter. Place the parchment cut-out on the bottom of the pan and spray or grease that as well.

2. Set aside ¼ cup of the orange juice. Combine the flour, baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt. Whisk together to combine. Set aside.

3. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. (Or in another large bowl if using a hand-held mixer.) Add the sugar and beat on medium-high speed until very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula.

5. Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat at medium speed until well combined. Add ½ of the ¾ cup orange juice and beat until well-combined. Repeat this procedure, scraping down the bowl as needed. Beat in the remaining 1/3 flour mixture. Beat in the vanilla extract and orange zest.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 F for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out free of wet batter.

7. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and place upright on the cooling rack. Place the cooling rack in a rimmed baking sheet or on a sheet of parchment paper (something to catch the glaze that might drip off the cake.)

8. To make the glaze, place the powdered sugar and pinch of salt in a small bowl. Whisk the remaining ¼ cup orange juice into the powdered sugar mixture until completely smooth. Poke the top of the warm cake all over with a toothpick. Brush the glaze over the top and sides of the cake, giving it a little time to soak in if it seems to be pooling too much on top of the cake. Cool completely before slicing and serving.

Makes 8-10 servings. The cake keeps for a few days at room temperature if well-wrapped.