Lemon Pound Cake

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Recently, Millie and I made pound cake. Millie has a group she bakes with once a week. Each week one kid picks a recipe, and teaches everyone how to make it. This last Sunday the recipe was pound cake. I don’t think I’ve ever made pound cake. And I don’t think I was ever really crazy about pound cake. It seemed like an afterthought… “We don’t have dessert, but we do have this pound cake…”  But I have to admit, there is something homey and comforting about the idea of pound cake. And if ever we all need some comfort, it is now.

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Doesn’t this make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

So I became a bit obsessed with pound cake, and I started imagining a certain kind of pound cake…what I might do differently… this happens to me a lot. What I wanted was a dreamy, velvety pound cake with a pronounced lemon flavor. So I began to do some research, and found a recipe from Bon Appétit by Lauren Schaefer that looked like just the thing.

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My first attempt.

Although the cake was darn near perfection, both Millie and I agreed, the cake flavor, although yummy, needed a bit more lemon oomph, and I felt that the cake was almost, dare I say it, too fluffy? It is a pound cake after all. So I tweaked the recipe a teeny bit, doubling the amount of lemon zest for more lemon zinginess, reducing the amount of baking powder to reduce the fluffiness (forgive me), and adding a bit more salt, to enhance the overall flavor. The result was just what I was looking for. The cake has a velvety texture, great lemon flavor, and I got the quintessential volcano running along the top of the loaf, which didn’t happen with the original recipe.

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This cake is not an afterthought!

Lemon Pound Cake

(Adapted from Lauren Schaefer’s recipe)

  • 4 lemons
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 scant teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 6 Tablespoons (3 fluid ounces) whole milk at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (for the glaze)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Butter an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan. Line pan lengthwise with parchment paper, leaving a 2″ overhang on both sides.
  3. Using a Microplane (this is the fine grater that I normally use to grate Parmesan cheese), grate the zest of 4 lemons into your mixing bowl. Juice the lemons and set aside.
  4. Add 1 cup sugar and 1 cup room temperature unsalted butter to your mixing bowl, and cream together with the zest on high speed for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. If you are using a stand mixer, you might need less than 5 minutes.
  5. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well and scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary. Continue to beat for another minute or two until the mixture is fluffy.
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. If you want to go crazy, sift these ingredients together.
  7. Add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and combine on low speed just until the flour is incorporated.
  8. Add the milk and mix on low speed just until incorporated.
  9. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix on low speed, yep, you got it, just until the flour is incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, swipe around the edge of the bowl quickly once or twice, making sure that everything is uniform and well mixed. Do not over-mix!
  10. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and smooth the top with the rubber spatula.
  11. Place in preheated 350° oven on middle rack and bake for 45 to 55 minutes. I like to rotate the pan at about 25 minutes into the baking. Start to test for doneness (is that a word?) at 40 minutes by sticking a toothpick in the center. Mine takes about 50 minutes, but all ovens are different. Toothpick should come out clean when cake is ready… might have a crumb or two on it, but no wet batter.
  12. While cake is baking, make the glaze by mixing 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar with lemon juice until it reaches the consistency you like. Start with two tablespoons of lemon juice, and add little by little after that. Set glaze aside. Keep the remaining lemon juice handy.
  13. When cake is done, place the cake (still in its pan) on a cooling rack and let cool for ten minutes. After ten minutes, poke holes in the cake using a wooden skewer, and brush the cake top with the freshly squeezed lemon juice (NOT THE GLAZE). If you want more lemon zinginess, pull the cake out of the pan and brush the sides and bottom of the cake with more lemon juice, but do not turn the cake upside down. Place it back in its pan and let it cool completely.
  14. When cake is completely cool, drizzle or spoon glaze over the top. Let glaze set for at least ten minutes before serving. This cake is even better the next day, if you can wait that long.

Note: A nice variation of this cake is an orange fennel poppy seed cake. Use orange zest instead of lemon zest, and orange juice instead of lemon juice (I use one large navel orange). Add about 3 tablespoons poppy seeds and 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds to the dry ingredients.

Below I will include pictures of the process.

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Buttered pan with lengthwise strip of parchment paper.

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Zested lemons.

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Juice the lemons then strain the juice.

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Ready to add room temp butter and sugar to the zest.

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My helper :).

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After beating the butter, sugar and zest until fluffy.

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3 eggs at room temperature.

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After beating in eggs one at a time – until fluffy.

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Dry ingredients. Weighing your flour is best!

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After adding in half the dry ingredients.

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Add the milk.

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Then add the other half of the dry ingredients. Don’t over mix!

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Put batter in prepared pan.

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Smooth the top. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes.

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Tah-dah! Let cool in pan for ten minutes.

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After ten minutes, poke holes in cake with wooden skewer and brush top with lemon juice.

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My helper pulls out the cake and brushes sides and bottom of cake with juice as well.

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Put cake back on parchment and put back in pan to let cool completely.

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Getting ready to glaze… ignore the skewer.

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Remove cake from pan and parchment and glaze over cooling rack.

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Let glaze set for at least ten minutes before serving.

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Enjoy!

 

 

 

Posted in Comfort Food, Desserts, Fun in the kitchen! | 1 Comment

Challah

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This past weekend was Mother’s Day weekend, and there were so many things that made it perfect. First of all, it was warm… no, hot and sunny all weekend, which meant wearing shorts and t-shirts and having all the doors and windows open and hanging out on the deck. This just never happens in May in Seattle, so it was a gift!

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We dined al fresco.

And every year, Matthew, Mara, and Millie plant flowers for me that I can enjoy practically all year round. It’s the best gift ever.

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And we played “Farkle”, which is super fun. I love family game night.

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And the girls made beautiful cards for me. Notice the pop-up card in the middle is a replica of our kitchen, with cinnamon rolls cooling on the counter.

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I am a lucky mom.

We also watched “The New Legends of Monkey”, which is a new favorite show of ours. We did so many of our favorite things, and we did them together. It felt like the Best Mother’s Day Ever, because I got to spend it with my family. Oh, and one other reason it was the Best Mother’s Day Ever? I made the Best Challah Ever!!!

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Oh my!

On Sundays, Matthew makes french toast for brunch, and he uses Challah for it. Sometimes the stores and bakeries are out of it, so we have to go without. So for a long time now, making my own Challah has been on my list. But I have felt intimidated by it. I mean, the braiding…three-strand, four-strand… six-strand!! So I started out by experimenting with just the braiding part, using the white bread recipe that comes out so nicely.

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White bread with six-strand braids.

This bread came out so beautiful and delicious. But it was not Challah. My work was not yet done. I started doing research, and asking around for friends’ favorite recipes, and looking at a gazillion different blog posts, and checking on all of the Challah recipes in my favorite cookbooks. And I decided to try King Arthur’s Classic Challah.

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There are notes like this all over my kitchen…

The first time I made it, the dough was dense and dry, unlike any other bread dough I had worked with, and I had a hard time kneading it, but it was easy to work with for the braids. And the bread turned out nicely, although just a tad dense. I read all the reviews on the recipe, and a lot of reviewers complained about the dough being too dry, so I took their advice and tried adding more water the second time I made it.

Adding more water did make the dough easier to knead, but then made the braiding part very difficult. It was kind of a disaster, the dough being too soft, and the bread didn’t come out as well. So I went back to the recipe as it was. And watched King Arthur’s Isolation Baking Show with Jeffrey Hamelman, Certified Master Baker, and I quote him here “Challah dough should be a well developed, dry dough”… OHHHHHH!!!! So the dryness of the dough that reviewers were complaining about? It is supposed to be that way!

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It’s supposed to look like this!

So I made the recipe exactly as stated, and ended up with a beautiful, but a tad dense loaf. I weighed all of my ingredients, and even used fancy flour… uh oh. Maybe the fancy flour caused the denseness? So on Mother’s Day, I once again made Challah, but used King Arthur ‘s Unbleached All-Purpose flour. The result? Exactly what I was looking for!!! The dough was easy to work with, and the finished product was soft, slightly fluffy, but not overly so. It was feathery; that’s the only word I can come up with to describe it. Pure perfection.

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We all flipped out when we tried this one.

Here is something that I’ve known for a while now. Flour matters. Maybe that’s why I have at least eight different kinds of flour in my kitchen. While one flour will be magic for one recipe, it can completely ruin another. And here’s the bugger about it: there are differences (sometimes big ones) between all-purpose flours!!!! Yes, I have three different kinds of all-purpose flour right now. So if you are making a recipe that calls for all-purpose flour, and your friend made that recipe and had stellar results, and your results are less than stellar, it might be because of the flour! Of course, there are so many factors involved, but flour is a big one. So here is King Arthur’s Classic Challah recipe. I will include a picture tutorial at the bottom that will include all kinds of details that might be helpful. I have made both the six-strand braid and the four-strand braid.

 

King Arthur’s Classic Challah

(Original recipe here)

Makes two smaller loaves, or one large loaf.

Dough

  • 1/2 cup (113g) lukewarm water (around 100° or so)
  • 6 tablespoons (74g) vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup (85g) honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 cups (482g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast

Glaze

  • 1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water

To make the dough:

  1. Mix the water, oil, honey, and 2 eggs in a large bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and instant yeast.
  3. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon or Danish dough whisk until dough comes together; it will be dense and maybe a bit dry.
  4. Fold the dough in the bowl with a spatula or bowl scraper until dough is workable, then knead by hand in the bowl, rotating the dough after each fold. Continue to knead for about 8 minutes; dough will be smooth and firm.
  5. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for two hours.
  6. Transfer dough to work surface (can be dusted lightly with flour).
  7. Depending on what kind of braid you are doing, and how many loaves, divide dough into number of pieces you need. I like to make two smaller loaves, so I start by dividing in half, and then into smaller pieces.
  8. Braid loaf (or loaves) and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise for 90 minutes to two hours at room temperature. Loaves will be puffy and almost jiggly. Preheat oven to 375° near the end of the rise time and place rack in lower third of oven. You’ll want your oven to preheat for at least twenty minutes so there are no hot spots.
  9. At the end of the rise time, whisk together one egg and one tablespoon water and brush the glaze onto the risen loaves.
  10. Place baking sheet on a second baking sheet (I turned mine upside down) to keep the bottom of the loaves from burning, and place in lower third of preheated oven.
  11. After twenty minutes, check to see if the loaves are browned enough. At this point, place a sheet of aluminum foil lightly over the loaves to stop the bread from over-browning.
  12. Continue to bake for another 7 to 8 minutes more for two loaves, or 10 to 15 minutes more for one large loaf. Loaf will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, and instant-read thermometer will register 190°. Don’t over bake!
  13. Remove Challah from oven and let cool on rack.

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And now, some pictures with details!

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Mix lukewarm water, oil, honey, and eggs (I measure and weigh the water and oil).

I like to do all the mixing in a large, wide, shallow glass bowl, because it is easy to get my hand in there later for kneading. Everything stays in the bowl!

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Get your dry ingredients ready (weigh that flour!!!).

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Add dry ingredients all at once (flour, salt, and yeast).

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Stir to combine; dough will seem dry, and that’s okay.

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Now the dough is coming together.

I like to do all the mixing and kneading by hand. It gives me a better sense of the readiness of the dough. I don’t work too hard at it, just a gentle consistent kneading.

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Now I start to fold the dough over using this bowl scraper.

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The dough begins to firm up as gluten develops.

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Time to start kneading by hand.

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Keep going! 8 minutes! If dough sticks to the bowl, just use scraper or spatula to scrape it back into the dough ball.

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Dough will be strong and elastic. You might even suddenly notice the texture change in your hands.

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Ready to cover and let rise.

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After rising for two hours.

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Weigh the dough.

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Cut in half for two loaves. I find it easier to make two smaller loaves.

Notice that there is hardly any flour on the work surface. This is important, because you will not be able to successfully roll out the dough into ropes if the dough is sliding around in flour. The original recipe says to work on a lightly oiled surface, but that doesn’t work for me, so I just use a dry surface. The dough has enough oil in it that it doesn’t stick.

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Cover one half of dough. Divide the other half into six pieces. I weight them…

I find that pre-shaping the dough pieces before rolling into ropes makes the rolling out much easier, and the ropes have a very nice consistent shape. There are different ways to pre-shape, but I like this method best.

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Gently pat out the dough. Just slap it a few times.

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Fold top third over and press with fingers.

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Turn piece around and fold over the top third again, pressing with fingers.

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Now fold in half lengthwise and press the seam together.

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Cover the pre-shaped pieces and let rest while you work on the other half.

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Divide into six pieces…

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Pre-shape.

Now you are ready to go back to the first set of six that have been resting. Make room on your work space and get ready to roll ;-).

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Start by using one hand and rolling in the middle to desired thickness.

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Now switch to two hands and roll and move hands out as you go, lengthening the rope.

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Try to get your ropes to the same length, about 14 inches for smaller loaves.

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Once ropes are ready, sprinkle the ropes lightly with flour for easier braiding.

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Then roll each rope to coat lightly with the flour.

Now, I can’t believe I have pictures for all of this. It kind of makes my head spin, and I’m thinking it will make your head spin as well. Here is the video tutorial I found the most helpful for how to do a six-strand braid. Start watching at about 4 minutes into the video. If you watch from the beginning, you will see that she doesn’t pre-shape her pieces. You might think that is the easier way to go, but trust me. Pre-shaping makes the rolling out so much nicer, and the dough behaves much better. The end result is a beautiful rope without inconsistencies.

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Your set up. Heavy container keeps braid stable.

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Number the ropes (in your mind) from left to right. You’ll start with strands 5 and 6.

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5 goes all the way over, 6 goes in the middle.

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Now re-number the ropes (in your mind) and use strands 1 and 2.

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2 goes all the way over, and 1 goes in the middle.

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Renumber ropes (in your mind….).

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5 goes all the way over, 6 goes in the middle.

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Renumber….

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2 goes all the way over, 1 goes in the middle.

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5 goes all the way over, 6 goes in the middle.

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2 goes all the way over, 1 goes in the middle.

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5 goes all the way over, 6 goes in the middle.

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2 goes all the way over, 1 goes in the middle.

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5 goes all the way over, 6 goes in the middle.

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Whew!! Pinch the ends together!

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Now pinch top ends together.

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Braid is loose – that is good as it allows room to rise without distortion.

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Tuck pinched ends under and “plump” the loaf, in other words, do the opposite of stretching it out.

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Carefully place loaves on parchment lined baking sheet and re-plump.

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Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap.

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Top with a lightweight tea towel, just for good measure.

At this point, once you have set your loaves aside to rise, you’ll want to set your timer for 90 minutes. At the 90 minute mark, preheat your oven to 375°. It’s a good idea to preheat your oven for a good twenty to thirty minutes so it doesn’t have any hot spots. Now set your timer for another 30 minutes, so that your loaves will rise for a total of two hours.

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After two hours of rising – WOW.

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Mix egg with 1 Tbsp water and gently brush loaves with egg wash. Get into every crack and crevasse.

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Take baking sheet with loaves and set it on top of an upside down baking sheet.

Now you will place the loaves on the double baking sheets and set all of it in the lower third of your preheated oven. Let bake for twenty minutes.

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At the twenty minute mark they might look like this.

After twenty minutes, rotate the pan, and place a sheet of aluminum foil loosely over the tops of the loaves to stop them from over-browning. This is called “tenting”. Just set the foil lightly on top.

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Those loaves are so cute peeking out from under the foil.

Let the loaves bake for maybe another 7 to 8 minutes or so. To test for doneness, tap the bottom of the loaf and it should make a hollow sound.

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Place loaves on a cooling rack, and marvel at the result of your handiwork.

Making a four-strand braid is very similar to the six-strand braid, but just easier!

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Four strands! Number them from left to right.

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3 goes all the way over, 4 goes in the middle.

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2 goes all the way over, 1 goes in the middle.

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3 goes all the way over, 4 goes in the middle.

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2 goes all the way over, 1 goes in the middle.

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3 goes all the way over, 4 goes in the middle.

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2 goes all the way over, 1 goes in the middle.

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3 goes all the way over, 4 goes in the middle.

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Pinch ends, tuck under, and plump!

So, I did make the recipe with one very large loaf, and here it is.

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I got impatient, and didn’t let it rise long enough during the second rise, so if you are wanting to make one large loaf, please make sure to let it rise for the full two hours for both rises. You can even go a bit longer on the second rise, just to be sure to get a fluffy loaf. I did the six strand braid, rolling out the ropes to about 20 inches.

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I measure the strands.

I was worried it would be unwieldy, but it wasn’t. I just needed a bit more counter space.

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Getting ready.

And no, I’m not going to show you all the weaving….

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One big loaf…

And after rising…

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It’s big, but I could have let it rise even more!

Add egg wash.

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Oops. A little sloppy, but that’s okay.

And done!

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I will say though, I really like making two loaves. You don’t need as much counter space for braiding, you don’t need to worry about extra long rise time, and you have an extra loaf to give to a neighbor or save for french toast.

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On the left is the six-strand braid, and on the right is the four-strand braid.

I hope you have as much fun making this Challah as I do!

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Posted in Dairy-free, Fun in the kitchen!, Yeasty Things | Leave a comment

Beautiful Basic White Bread

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Last week I saw a beautiful post from King Arthur Flour about braided rolls. The pictures were stunning, and I really wanted to make something that was lovely like that. Making bread is a little bit of science and love and art, all wrapped into one. I think that’s why I am so crazy for it.

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Okay, so ours didn’t come out looking quite the same as the King Arthur ones, but they were still very beautiful, and SO delicious! I had Millie helping me in the kitchen, which made it that much more fun. In fact, she did most of the work!

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Aside from the King Arthur post about the braided rolls, there was also the recommended bread recipe, which is Walter Sands’ Basic White Bread . And there are three videos on YouTube called Bread 101 — basic white bread, on how to make Walter Sands’ recipe that were very helpful and detailed, and slow moving enough for Millie and I to glean much valuable information. We did everything by hand (no mixer), which gave us a better feel for the dough.

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Since we got information from so many different sources (all King Arthur), I thought it might be helpful to have all of it in one place, and share it with you, since it was not only fun and easy, it was a great success all around!

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The recipe calls for all-purpose flour, and we were very lucky to have all-purpose flour from our own local flour mill, Cairnspring Mills. They use the very best grains from local farms here in the Pacific Northwest to create some of the tastiest flour around. The specific one we used is the Edison T85 Organic All-Purpose Flour. I am extra excited about this, because this white bread really stands out from the rest, both from the fantastic recipe and all the detailed information from King Arthur Flour, and in no small part due to the specialty flour. Of course, King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour is a great flour to use as well, since, well, this recipe was created with King Arthur flour in mind! King Arthur has been my go-to favorite flour for years. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

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Walter Sands’ Basic White Bread

(Printed with permission from King Arthur Flour)

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar or honey
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (or 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast or active dry yeast)
  • 1/2 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk (*see note)
  • 2 Tablespoons soft butter or oil (I used salted butter)
  • 6 cups (1 pound, 11 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  1. Pour the warm water into a mixing bowl. Add and let dissolve the sugar or honey and then the yeast.
  2. When the yeast is has dissolved, add the butter in small pieces, 3 cups of flour, the dry milk, and salt. Mix together.
  3. Add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough is no longer wet and sticky – it should be tacky, like a post-it note – and starts to come together into a ball. Don’t add too much flour! You will most likely have some flour leftover. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead the dough gently for 3 to 4 minutes, until it begins to behave as if it belongs together. Cover and let the dough rest while you clean and grease the mixing bowl.
  4. Continue kneading for 3 or 4 more minutes, until the dough feels smooth and springy. To check for readiness, poke your knuckle into the dough. If it springs back, it is ready! Use up to 1/2 cup of the reserved flour, if necessary, to keep the dough from sticking to the kneading surface.
  5. Place the dough in the greased bowl, turn it over to coat both sides, and cover the bowl. Let it rise in a draft-free place until doubled, 1 to 2 hours (ours took 2 hours). When the dough is ready, divide it in half. Form into loaves (if you choose to make the braided rolls, see below) and place in greased 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ pans. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until the dough domes no more than an inch above the rim of the pans (ours didn’t get that tall).
  6. After the dough has been rising for 20 minutes, preheat the oven to 350°F. When the loaves are sufficiently risen, bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until nicely browned and the center of the loaves reads 190°F when measured with an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven and tip the breads out of their pans. Place on a rack to cool completely before slicing.

For braided rolls:

  1. If you would like to make braided rolls, divide the dough into four pieces. Cover and set aside three of the pieces. Divide one quarter into three pieces. You’ll want to prep each piece before rolling out for best results, and you can find out how to do that here. Now roll each prepped piece out to to a rope that is about twenty inches in length. If the dough starts to shrink back before you reach twenty inches, let the dough rest to relax the gluten, and roll out another piece, then come back to the first one and roll some more.
  2. Pinch one set of ends together and braid the ropes of dough. Pinch ends together when done braiding. Cut into six equal pieces with a sharp knife or bench scraper. Pinch ends and tuck underneath. Place braided rolls on parchment lined baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the dough. You will end up with two dozen small rolls… this will require two baking sheets. Cover rolls with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about an hour. Halfway through the rise time, preheat your oven to 350°.
  3. When rolls are done rising, bake for about 20 minutes, or until rolls are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

*Note: If you do not have powdered milk, you can replace some or all of the water with milk. King Arthur recommends heating the milk to a simmer, and then letting it cool to lukewarm before using.

**Note: We actually made one loaf and twelve rolls, which seemed a little easier at the time.

***Note: I would highly recommend watching the videos (they are short!) and reading the posts that I included links to before taking on this project . They are very informative, and for me, enlightening! Don’t skip the details!

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Posted in Fun in the kitchen!, Yeasty Things | 1 Comment

Homemade Pizza

We’ve been having pizza night once a week at our house lately. For a while I was buying the fresh pizza dough from Trader Joe’s, but I started to wonder why I wasn’t just making the pizza dough from scratch. I had tried making pizza dough a few times, but was never crazy about the results.

But then I found Bobby Flay’s recipe online, and I have been making pizza dough from scratch ever since… thank you Bobby!!!! I don’t have any tweaks or changes, because it is delicious just the way it is: crispy, chewy, light and airy… perfection! But maybe you want to see my pictures, and how I make it? I promise it’s really easy!

Pizza Dough

(From Bobby Flay on Food Network)

(Dough takes about 1.5 hours with very little hands on time.)

  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups bread flour (16 to 18 ounces or so), plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant dry yeast (1 packet)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Italian herbs (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (110°F)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil

For pizza toppings:

  • Favorite tomato sauce or pesto or olive oil
  • Shredded mozzarella or other favorite shredded cheeses
  • Thinly sliced veggies of choice
  • Pepperoni or other meats
  • Anything you like on pizza!

Starting with the dough:

  1. Combine 3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) bread flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and herbs (if using) in bowl of stand mixer. Give a stir with a whisk, then put bowl in stand mixer.
  2. With the mixer on slow speed, using dough hook, pour in the oil and warm water. Mix until dough comes together and becomes elastic and tacky, adding a little more flour little by little if dough is too sticky or wet.
  3. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead until dough is firm and smooth, only adding enough flour so that the dough doesn’t stick. You can use a bench scraper to move the dough around to discourage sticking (so that you don’t add too much flour). You will know when the dough is ready because it will be very firm, and when you poke a finger into the dough it will pop right back. Dough will be taut.
  4. Oil the inside of a clean bowl and place dough in bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or tea towel and set aside in a warm place in your kitchen for an hour. Dough should double in size.
  5. Turn dough out onto floured surface and cut into two pieces for two medium size pizzas, or you can cut into four for individual sized pizzas. Shape into balls and cover with a clean tea towel for ten minutes. At this time, preheat your oven to 475° and place pizza stone on middle rack if you are using one. After ten minutes of resting, your pizza dough is now ready to use!
  6. Roll out dough gently (don’t mash it down) with a rolling pin (or pat out with hands) to desired thickness on parchment paper. Let dough rest for five minutes (to relax the gluten) and then roll out thinner if you want a thinner crust. I like mine rolled out to be just a bit thicker than 1/4″. Slide parchment paper with rolled out dough onto a rimless cookie sheet.
  7. Top with your favorite tomato sauce or pesto, grated mozzarella or other cheeses, and favorite toppings. Place cookie sheet with prepared pizza on middle rack in preheated oven (or slide the pizza and parchment paper onto preheated baking stone if using) and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until crust is browned and cheese is golden and bubbly. Remove from oven and let rest for about five minutes before slicing.

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Rolled out nice and thin, but you can still see the bubbles that will make the dough light and airy.

Probably the best pizza I have ever made.

Individual pizzas are fun for the kids!

 

 

 

Posted in Comfort Food, Fun in the kitchen!, Yeasty Things | 4 Comments

Hot Cross Buns

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We are coming up on Easter, and my friend Clare asked me if I was going to make hot cross buns for Good Friday.

Clare and her clan, enjoying hot cross buns in their backyard, quarantine-style.

She said she had them growing up, made by her dad. I love that. I hadn’t really considered making hot cross buns because of the dried fruit, as half of my family is not keen on dried fruit. But I couldn’t resist the challenge. Plus, hot cross buns are so cute!

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Since I’ve never had a hot cross bun, I was going blindly into the whole thing, but I trust my friend Clare (she’s a Brit!), and she sent me a great recipe from a Delia Smith cookbook. There were a few things I had to tweak, since I didn’t have candied peel or currants. I chose to use a dried fruit combination from Trader Joe’s (don’t freak out; it’s what I had on hand) that has dried cherries, dried blueberries, dried cranberries, and golden raisins. Clare said it seemed wrong, but I did it anyway. She just used raisins in hers because she didn’t have currants or peel either. We both agreed that we would chop up our dried fruit so the pieces would be nice and small, like currants.

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A good substitution, in my opinion.

The recipe also called for “ground spice mix”. I asked Clare what that meant, and she said she uses a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice. Sounds good to me. I found a recipe for it on the food network – 1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, 3/4 teaspoon ginger. And then I threw in some allspice for good measure, and because Clare said so. I mixed it all up and put it in a tiny jar. My own ground spice mix.

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The recipe also calls for “caster sugar”, which can be replaced with “superfine” sugar, or just plain old granulated. Oddly enough, I happened to have superfine sugar in my cabinet. So other than a few changes, I followed the recipe pretty much word for word. The first time I made them, I chose to make deep cuts in the dough instead of dough crosses. So cute, and you can see the sugar glaze that I put on afterwards, which makes them sticky and sweet. They looked like this.

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But when I made them the second time, I decided that I wanted the actual crosses made of dough. Very easy really, just a paste of flour and water. I also decided not to use the sugar glaze, since the stickiness of them was not pleasing to certain family members. But I did like the shiny appearance, so I used an egg wash before popping them in the oven, and they came out golden brown and shiny, with the lovely white crosses. Matthew said they looked absolutely medieval. (And for the record, Matthew doesn’t like dried fruit, but he does like these, quite a bit.)

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I halved the recipe, which is why you only see six buns in all the pictures, but below I will include the whole recipe, which makes a dozen. And you might be glad you have a dozen.

Hot Cross Buns

(Adapted from Delia Smith’s recipe, makes one dozen buns)

  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) superfine or granulated sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 5 fluid ounces warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 1 level Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 3 2/3 cups (1 pound) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground spice mix (*see note)
  • 5 ounces raisins or other dried fruit, chopped (**see note)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 fluid ounces warmed milk (110° to 115°)
  • 1 egg, beaten (plus one more if you use an egg wash)
  • 2 ounces salted butter, melted (unsalted is fine too)

For Sugar Glaze:

  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

For the Dough Crosses:

  • Scant 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons water, more or less

To make the buns:

  1. In small bowl, mix warm water with 1 teaspoon sugar. Sprinkle yeast on top and set aside.
  2. In large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and spice mix. Add remaining sugar and dried fruit.
  3. Make well in the center of dry ingredients and add the yeast mixture, warm milk, 1 beaten egg, and melted butter. Mix until a dough forms, then knead it in the bowl until the edges of the bowl are clean. This only takes a minute or two.
  4. Cover bowl with tea towel, place in a warm place in your kitchen, and let dough rise for about an hour, or up to two hours. (Mine barely rose at all both times I only let the dough rise for an hour, but the end product was lovely anyway!)
  5. Knead dough briefly to bring back to original size, and cut into twelve equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a sharp knife, cut a small cross on top of each bun. Cover buns with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise for another 25 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat over to 425°.
  6. Shortly before the 25 minutes are up, if you want the little dough crosses, make a paste with 1 cup flour and 2 Tablespoons water, adding just enough water to bring the dough together. Add more water drop by drop until you have a workable dough. Cut into twelve pieces, and roll each one into a long rope and cut in half. You should have 24 strips.
  7. Place crossing strips on each bun (if using), cutting any excess. Press dough to adhere. If you would like to use an egg wash instead of the sugar glaze, brush each bun with beaten egg now.
  8. Place buns in preheated 425° oven on middle rack and bake for 15 minutes.
  9. If using sugar glaze, mix water and sugar in a small sauce pan over low heat until sugar is dissolved. When buns come out of the oven, glaze with sugar water while buns are still hot. (If you have used the egg wash, do not use the sugar glaze!)
  10. These buns are best while still warm from the oven, with butter. Enjoy!

*Note: Spice mix is a blend of 1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon allspice. This recipe makes more than you need, so store it in an airtight container for future use.

**Note: On Easter I made a full batch, substituting chopped semi-sweet chocolate chips for the dried fruit in half of the dough to appease my teenager, and they were delicious, if a bit unconventional. Spice bread and chocolate anyone? I still like the dried fruit version better, but wouldn’t turn my nose up at the chocolate ones. The moral of the story is: add whatever you like!

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Magic.

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Dry ingredients.

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Dough.

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They’re even cute unbaked!

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Crosses waiting to happen.

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One-a-penny…

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With egg wash.

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An old-world treat.

Happy Easter!

And just for fun…

My daughters and Clare’s sons, a long long time ago…

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fun in the kitchen!, Yeasty Things | Leave a comment

Buttery Yellow Cake

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Or should I call it Pandemic Yellow Cake? Why, oh why would I call this a Pandemic Yellow Cake? Because we are experiencing one of the strangest and scariest times the world has known since the influenza epidemic of 1918, and in the middle of it all, I am trying to make a decent yellow cake from scratch. It actually started years ago when I got the recipe from my friend Susan. She told me that she absolutely loved this recipe, but that the last few times she had made it, the cake had a dense line running through the middle of it, so it wasn’t the fluffy wonderful cake she remembered. I never got around to trying the recipe until last week, for Matthew’s birthday.

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Of course I made some changes right off the bat, which is not a good idea, but I was out of cake flour, so I substituted a combination of all-purpose flour with a bit of cornstarch, which you will find all over the internet as a fine substitute. I also decided to mess around with the egg configuration…. don’t ask me why. So the cake was good, but not great, and day two it was starting to be not as good, and really needed the ice cream to compensate for the denseness. The texture was a bit off, and the flavor too. But it still was a beautiful cake that tasted pretty darn good on Day #1.

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I thought I could let this go, but when I was out in search of flour yesterday, because all of the stores are sold out because everyone is baking while quaranting themselves, I spied a box of King Arthur cake flour on the shelves, and knew I had to have a second shot at this cake.

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Perfection.

I decided to only make half a cake, because, well, #quarantinefifteen.  And also, last week was Matthew’s birthday, and this Saturday is Mara’s birthday, and we really don’t need a cake in the middle of the birthdays, but half a cake for the halfway mark, yes. And this time I followed the recipe to a T, and resisted all urges that I had to tweak it. This recipe comes from America’s Test Kitchen, and, made following all the instructions, it is fantastic. The cake is tender, moist and velvety, and the edges have a slight crispness to them that is oh so delicious. And the flavor is buttery and just the right amount of sweet. For the best texture, enjoy this cake the day it is made. I will include little tips about what I did to make this cake a success.

Have your milk, eggs, and butter all at room temperature. Very important. Don’t skip this step!! If you are impatient like me, here is what I do to speed up the process. I turn on my oven to 350° and preheat it for FORTY-FIVE SECONDS. Then turn the oven off. Please read this carefully. You just want your oven to be a little warmer than your kitchen. I then put the milk and eggs and butter (cut into pieces) into the oven and leave them in there for an hour or so. Today it was an hour and a half and it seemed to be perfect. You want to take the chill off of everything. Imagine a hot summer day in your non-air-conditioned kitchen. That’s your oven that is TURNED OFF.

When you are ready to go, prepare your 9″cake pan: grease inside of pan with unsalted butter, put a round of parchment paper on the bottom, then grease the parchment paper. Now flour the inside of the pan and tap out the excess.

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I love my Fat Daddio pans!

Remove the milk, eggs, and butter from the oven (if you have used that technique to bring items to room temp, or if you are hiding them from your cats). Now preheat your empty oven to 350°.

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All at room temp.

Combine the cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk well.

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Beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl. I like to use an hand mixer so I have more control and can mix thoroughly and see what’s going on. Beat on med-high until the mixture is light in color and fluffy. The recipe says to beat for 3 to 6 minutes, but for me, I watched the mixture like a hawk, and when I noticed the texture change, I stopped. It took about 2 minutes. You don’t want to over beat the sugar and butter [sigh]. If you over beat, the butter gets too soft, which will make for a flatter, less fluffy cake. Who knew? When I say texture change, what I mean is that it goes from grainy to fluffy and incorporated. I never really paid that much attention until now. I think it makes a difference.

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Creamed butter and sugar.

Then add your eggs, one at time, beating just until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula between each addition.

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After the addition of the eggs.

Now add the vanilla to the room temp milk.

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Add 1/3 of the cake flour mixture to the butter/sugar/egg mixture and beat on low just until incorporated. Add half of the milk/vanilla combination and beat until incorporated. Continue with 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the other half of the milk/vanilla mixture, and end with the flour, always beating on low just to mix. Pour the batter into a prepared 9″ round cake pan and spread the top to fill the pan evenly.

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Batter is fluffy and beautiful!

Pick up your filled cake pan and hold it about 4 inches above your counter, and drop the pan one time. This will get rid of any larger air bubbles so the cake has a nice even crumb. Then spin the cake pan on the counter one time, like a spinning top. This creates centrifugal force and causes the cake batter to creep up the side of the pan, which makes for less of a dome shape when baking.

Place on middle rack in preheated 350° oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes (mine took 23 minutes). I always check sooner. At twenty-one minutes there was a teeny bit of sludge on the toothpick tester. At twenty-three minutes there were a few crumbs but no sludge. Perfect. Time to take out of the oven.

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Because you needed to know what this looks like….

Let cool in the pan on cooling rack for about fifteen minutes.

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Then remove from pan and cool completely before frosting.

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If you haven’t noticed from the pictures, I only made enough batter for one 9″ round cake. So it’s half the original recipe (I am including the full recipe below, so please don’t let the pictures confuse you as to amounts). And guess what I did to still make a fancy layer cake? I frosted the one cake, making it look beautiful, and putting wax paper around the edges to make for easy clean up.

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I then cut the cake in half using a very sharp knife.

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Then I stacked the two halves.

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Voilà! Layer cake!

Because everyone loves a festive layer cake!

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Yum!

Buttery Yellow Cake

(From America’s Test Kitchen – makes 2  9″ round cakes)

  • 2 3/4 cups (12.5 ounces) cake flour (I used King Arthur cake flour)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk, at room temperature

Chocolate Frosting:

(Adapted from the Hershey’s Cocoa chocolate frosting recipe)

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt or table salt
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Grease 2 9″ round cake pans with unsalted butter. Place round parchment on the bottom of pans. Grease parchment paper. Dust with flour and tap out the excess.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a large bowl, beat together the softened butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy – 2 to 3 minutes. Watch closely for change in texture and do not over beat.
  5. Beat in eggs one at a time just until incorporated, scraping down side of bowl with spatula between each addition.
  6. Add vanilla to room temperature milk.
  7. On low speed, beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/2 of milk/vanilla, then 1/3 of flour, then the other half of the milk. End with the last third of the flour, always mixing only enough to incorporate.
  8. Pour batter into prepared pans, smoothing to the edges of pans. One at a time, hold each pan about 4 inches above your counter and drop the pan to eliminate any large bubbles. Give each pan a spin to encourage the batter to creep up the sides a bit, to make less of a dome shape when baking.
  9. Place pans on middle rack of preheated 350° oven, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs on it. Start checking at 20 minutes. Do not over-bake!
  10. Remove from oven and cool in the pans on a cooling rack for about ten to fifteen minutes. Remove cakes from pans and let finish cooling on racks. Cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting:

  1. Place butter, cocoa, powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add one tablespoon of the milk. Mix on medium speed. Slowly drizzle in more milk, one tablespoon at a time, until you reach desired consistency.

Enjoy!

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A side note: This is an older recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. Over the years they have come up with all kinds of ways to improve on this cake. But this recipe is simple and not fussy, and the cake is lovely. If you want the cake to be a little fluffier, try whipping 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream to stiff peaks, and folding it into the batter just before pouring into the cake pans. If you want the cake to be a little more moist, replace 1/4 cup of the butter with 1/4 cup canola oil. If you want to add a bit of tang to the flavor, try replacing the milk with buttermilk, and adding 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to the dry ingredients, which should also add more height to the cake. But before you go messing around with this recipe, make it just as is with no changes. Let me know what you think.

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Posted in Desserts, Fun in the kitchen! | 2 Comments

Cardamom Cinnamon Buns

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I’d like to say that since our quarantine here at home, you know, due to the scary pandemic we are all facing, that I have buried myself in baking projects. But the truth is that I was already obsessed with baking and experimenting with yeast and all fun things in the kitchen, and so I continue in my normal fashion, which keeps me sane, and keeps my family happy.

I think this might be my favorite cinnamon roll recipe ever. For so many reasons. These are easy to make, they are cute and not giant, they are moist and tender, there is a good ratio of bun to filling, the cardamom adds a subtle and lovely twist to the flavor, and mostly, they are delicious!

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These take a little less than two hours to make from the very beginning to the end product. A lot of that time is the dough resting, not hands on, so it’s quick and easy. And because the recipe only makes 8 small buns, it is not an overwhelming or unwieldy project. You must try it!

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Close up… tender dough and lots of cinnamon-y layers.

Cardamom Cinnamon Buns

(Adapted from the Lars Swedish Pearl Sugar package recipe)

Dough:

  • 3/4 stick salted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup warm whole milk (100°)
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus a little more

Filling:

  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons salted butter, softened

Icing:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon whole milk
  • pinch sea salt
  • dash vanilla extract
  1. For the dough, in a medium bowl, combine melted butter, warm milk, and yeast. Stir until dissolved.
  2. Add sugar, salt, cardamom, and 1 1/2 cups flour. Stir until smooth and elastic. Cover with tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes. (Note: I have made these several times now, and my dough doesn’t seem to rise, but it does become very easy to work with. Okay by me.)
  3. Place dough on lightly floured surface and knead to form a soft dough. Roll out dough to form an 8″ by 12″ rectangle, with the short end facing you.
  4. For the filling, combine sugars and cinnamon. Spread softened butter evenly over dough using a spatula, and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugars.
  5. Roll up the dough, starting with the short end that is farthest from you. Roll the dough toward yourself, and then pinch seams to seal. Roll the log just a bit to even it out, patting the ends in so the log is the same thickness for the entire length.
  6. Slice into 8 equal pieces using a sharp knife.
  7. Arrange slices on greased baking sheet cut side down, 2 inches apart. Cover lightly with plastic wrap or tea towel and let buns rise for twenty minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 425° (do this after you have set the buns aside to rise).
  9. Bake buns on middle rack in 425° oven for 10 to 15 minutes (13 minutes is just right for mine).
  10. Remove from oven. Combine the powdered sugar, salt, vanilla, and milk, and drizzle over hot buns. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.
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Starting with melted butter, warm milk, and yeast (half a packet)

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Butter, milk, and yeast mixed together. Nothing exciting happening…

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Then you add the sugar, cardamom, salt, and flour.

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Stir until it is a little smoother and elastic. This is not quite there.

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That’s better. Smooth and elastic.

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Cover and place in a warm place to rest for 40 minutes.

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Dough rolled out and covered with softened butter.

Sprinkled evenly with cinnamon sugars.

Rolled evenly with pinched seam on the bottom.

Makes 8 rolls!

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On greased cookie tray, before being covered and resting for 20 minutes.

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Out of the oven!

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Add icing while rolls are still hot so the icing oozes between the layers.

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Yum!

 

 

Posted in Fun in the kitchen!, Yeasty Things | 3 Comments

Multigrain Sandwich Bread

I think it’s time for me to write about this fantastic bread. This recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen (sent to me by my neighbor Gage). I was looking for a soft multigrain bread that would work well for sandwiches — something I had not been able to accomplish thus far. Well, I was so pleasantly surprised by this bread! It tastes wonderful, it is soft, and it not only makes great sandwiches for sending to school, but it also makes fantastic toast and grilled cheese sandwiches!!

Multigrain Sandwich Bread

(Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

  • 1 1/4 cups 10-grain hot cereal mix (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 3 cups (13.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (6.75 ounces) whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp) instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 Tbsp table salt
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  1. Place cereal mix in bowl of stand mixer and pour boiling water over it. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until mixture cools to 100°… about an hour. Whisk flours together in separate bowl and set aside.
  2. Once cereal has cooled, add honey, butter, and yeast. Mix well. Attach bowl to stand mixer fitted with dough hook. On low speed, add flours 1/2 cup at a time and knead until dough forms a ball, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rest for 20 minutes. Add salt and knead on med-low speed until dough clears sides of bowl, 3 to 4 minutes. Add a bit more flour if dough does not clear sides. Continue to knead for 5 more minutes.
  3. Transfer dough to floured work surface and knead until dough forms a smooth, taut ball. Place dough in greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.
  4. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 375°. Grease 2  8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pans with vegetable oil or unsalted butter. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and pat into a 12″ x 9″ rectangle (I mark it out in the flour with my finger beforehand). Cut the dough in half cross-wise. With a short side facing you, starting at the farthest end, roll one dough piece into a log, keeping the roll taut by tucking it under itself as you go. Seal the loaf by pinching the seam together. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  5. Spread the oats on work surface in front of the loaves. Wet your hands with water, and lightly wet each loaf, then roll them in the oats to coat evenly. Place loaves seam side down in greased loaf pans, pressing gently into the corners. Cover lightly with plastic wrap or tea towel and let rise until almost doubled in size, 30 to 40 minutes. The dough should barely spring back when poked with a knuckle.
  6. Bake until the centers of the loaves register 200° on an instant read thermometer, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove loaves from pans and let cool completely on cooling rack before slicing… about three hours.

Here’s the hot cereal mix with the hot water.

Gonna add these things after melting the butter.

Add flour 1/2 cup at a time.

Getting bigger.

Getting even bigger!

This really helps for getting the size right!

I love the way this dough feels – soft and NOT sticky.

This dough is very easy to handle and work with.

Pinch pinch pinch!

Preparing to roll in oats. Lightly wet the loaves.

I like this part.

Not completely same size, but that’s okay.

After rising, but before baking.

Your house will smell so good!

Enjoy!

Posted in Fun in the kitchen!, Yeasty Things | 4 Comments

Thai Peanut Sauce

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Being all cooped up at home, I start to get cravings for food I can’t have (i.e., going out to a restaurant). Yesterday, I looked around my kitchen, and decided to make something adventurous, since going out was not an option. I remembered making a yummy peanut sauce to serve over vegetables a gazillion years ago, remembered that it was easy to make, and also remembered that I lost the recipe. So online I went. I found three different recipes that were basically all the same, with a tad more or less of this or that.

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Now, part of the beauty of this sauce is that it is so quick to make. I put on some water to boil fo pasta, put some butter in a saute pan over medium heat for veggies, and then got to making the peanut sauce. I may have already mentioned that I am in love with my immersion blender. It came with a tall cylindrical measuring cup that I almost gave away, but then for some reason changed my mind. OH MY am I glad I changed my mind. It is fabulous. I just put all the ingredients in the measuring cup, and blend with the immersion blender. Clean up is a snap. Here is what I’m talking about.

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Okay, back to what I was doing. Water on to boil, butter melting in a saute pan… I made the peanut sauce in less time than it took to boil water, and even had time to chop broccoli, carrots, and cilantro. Boiled the pasta, sautéed the veggies, and put it all together in about a half hour total. So not only delicious and healthy, but fast too!

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Thai Peanut Sauce

(Adapted from Minimalist Baker)

  • 1/2 cup creamy salted peanut butter (the kind with just peanuts and salt)
  • 2 (or more) Tablespoons soy sauce (start with less and add to taste)
  • 2 (or more) Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fresh ginger (optional – I use the frozen cubes from TJ’s)
  • Fresh cilantro and lime wedges for garnish
  • Chopped peanuts for garnish (optional)

In a blender or using an immersion blender, blend first six ingredients together, adjusting amounts to taste. Add water little by little until you get to the consistency you like. Use to drizzle over noodles and veggies or use as a dip. Don’t forget to garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedges; they really make this sauce stand out!

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Posted in Busy-day meals, Fun in the kitchen! | Leave a comment

Apple Pie

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These are difficult days here in Seattle and all around the world, and in a time of uncertainty, a little comfort food might be just the thing. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say they don’t like apple pie.

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I have been practicing making apple pie for a while now. I say practicing because so many times it just doesn’t come out right. Maybe the crust is too tough. Maybe the crust isn’t baked enough. Maybe the pie is soupy. Maybe the apples are too mushy or not soft enough. Maybe the filling is too sweet. Or too cinnamon-y. All that being said, my family is always happy when I make pie.

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The Joy of Cooking is once again my go-to cookbook for this recipe. It is simple and easy. The apples are lightly spiced with cinnamon, sugar, lemon, and a pinch of salt. You really taste the apples, and not a lot of other stuff. I have experimented with other recipes, but this is the one I come back to.

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And I really think a homemade crust is in order. As my friend Dan says, “The crust is part of the show”. So if that stresses you out, just use a store bought crust. But you might want to try this crust, or this one by Kenji López-Alt, which is my latest favorite. His crust is, dare I say it, fool proof? Every time I’ve made it and followed every single direction, it has come out wonderfully. I know I must write about it soon. If you choose to make your own crust, I would recommend making the dough the day before and chilling it in your fridge overnight; otherwise, this pie is an all day affair. Plus, the dough rolls out much nicer if it has chilled overnight.

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But let’s talk about apple pie. There were a couple of things I wanted to fix about this apple pie: the sometimes soupy filling, and sometimes top crust not baked enough. A funny thing happened last week. I had started to make a pie, and I put it in the oven and then realized I had to work. SO, I made a list of instructions and gave it to my daughter Emilia. When the timer goes off, reduce temperature to 350° and put the pie crust shield on the pie. And don’t take the pie out of the oven too soon!

Well, when I arrived in the kitchen an hour later, the pie was still in the oven (good!), and the pie crust shield was in place (also good!). But the oven was still at 425°!!!! I pulled the pie out – it looked rather dark, not burned on the top, but it smelled burned. As I suspected, the bottom was a bit burned, which imparted a slightly bitter flavor to the pie. Oddly though, two days later, when we were eating the last of this burned pie, I found it to be delicious, and not soupy, and crust pretty darn near perfect (aside from the burned part). So I decided to make a few changes to see if I could reproduce this pie, without burning it. Here it is.

Apple Pie

(Adapted from the Joy of Cooking)

  • 1 recipe flaky pastry dough
  • 5 medium-large apples (I use galas, with maybe a granny smith or envy thrown in)
  • Scant 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Heaping 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Hearty 1/8 teaspoon sea salt (table salt is fine)
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into teeny pieces (for topping the filling)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (for sprinkling – I use organic cane sugar)
  1. Roll out half of your dough into a 13″ round, and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan, trimming the overhanging dough to 3/4″ all the way around. I like to use a metal pie pan for best browning. Place in refrigerator. Roll the other half of the dough into a 12″ round for the top crust. Place it on a cookie tray and put in refrigerator. And for goodness’ sake, press those dough scraps together and save for later use!!!
  2. Peel apples, then core, and slice 1/4″ thick. Combine sliced apples with lemon juice and sugar and let rest for about twenty minutes to soften the apples slightly and release some of the juices.
  3. (Optional!!!) Pour off and save most of the juice from the apples. Place in skillet and bring to a slow boil and reduce by half. Pour into a bowl to cool. It will be syrup-y. This step will ensure your pie is not soupy.
  4. Add the flour, cinnamon and salt to the apple slices and combine well.
  5. Place apples in bottom pie crust and level gently with the back of a wooden spoon.
  6. If you have poured off some of the juice and have made a syrup with it, drizzle it over the apples now. Make sure it isn’t hot! Room temp is fine.
  7. Dot the top of the apples with the teeny pieces of butter.
  8. Brush the overhanging edge of the bottom crust with cold water: I do this with my fingers so that I only use a very small amount of water.
  9. Cover with the top crust. Pinch the two crusts all the way around with your fingers. Trim with scissors so overhang is 3/4″. Fold it under so that the folded edge is flush with the pie pan. Crimp the edge with a fork all the way around. Or if you want to get fancy you can flute the edges. See how to do this here.
  10. With a sharp knife, make decorative cuts in the top pastry to allow steam to escape during baking. Make sure the cuts are not too close to each other, because the crust can pull apart and tear during baking.
  11. Put pie in refrigerator for twenty to thirty minutes to set the pastry. Your crust is less likely to slump this way, so don’t skip this step!
  12. While pie is resting in the refrigerator, place a cookie sheet on rack in lower third of your oven, and also make sure there is a rack in the middle. Preheat oven to 425°. It’s a good idea to let your oven preheat for a solid twenty to thirty minutes so the temperature is stable for baking.
  13. Remove pie from refrigerator, sprinkle top with 2 teaspoons sugar, and place on the preheated cookie sheet in the lower third of oven. Bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, place foil shield or pie crust shield around edge of pie (optional to prevent over browning of edges) and move pie on cookie sheet to center wrack of oven. Turn oven down to 375° and bake for another 30 minutes, or until top crust is a deep golden brown and thick juices are bubbling through the vents.
  14. Remove pie from oven and let cool on cooling rack for 3 to 4 hours (I’m sorry), or overnight. Everyone says that pie is best the day it is made, so maybe have this be a morning project so you can enjoy it in the evening. But seriously, don’t cut into your masterpiece too soon, or you will have a sloppy pie on your hands. If you wait until the next day, you can reheat the pie in a 350° oven for about 15 minutes. It is also wonderful at room temperature. Enjoy!
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Cut the bottom crust. I use a pizza cutter. Save those scraps!

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Press crust into bottom and sides of pan.

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Top crust.

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Thinly slice the apples, then mix with sugar and lemon juice.

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Strain the juices after 20 minutes or so.

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Cooking down the strained juices only takes a few minutes.

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Just sprinkle the flour, salt, and cinnamon on top and mix in.

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Looking good!

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Level apple slices and drizzle syrup over the top.

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Cut teeny pieces of unsalted butter.

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Place butter on top of apples and lightly wet edges of crust with water.

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Top crust goes on and seal crusts together using fingers to pinch.

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Trim edges so they are even.

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Roll edges under.

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Crimping with a fork makes a sweet design.

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Steam vents can be as decorative as you like! But not too close to each other.

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Sprinkle sugar over chilled pie.

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Out of the oven!

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You must let this pie cool for at least three hours.

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Look at this stand-up pie!

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And of course it is yummy with vanilla ice cream :).

 

 

Posted in Comfort Food, Desserts, Fun in the kitchen! | 1 Comment