Monday, August 5, 2013

A Very Blue Cure for the Monday Blues

If you read my last post about malasadas, or if you are my friend and subjected to my self-indulgent facebook posts, you will know that I was on vacation last week.  It was a great week and, in truth, it was also good to come home.  There is something, however, about that first Monday back at work--the email waiting, the goings-on missed.  It's all rather dreary.

Wanting to resist the funk, and inspired by picture-perfect weather, we opted to finish the day with a little adventure.  Twenty minutes in the car with the windows down landed us at Grisamore Farms for u-pick blueberries.  We wandered the rows and basked in the sunshine and filled our big bowls with a good five pounds of dark, plump berries.  (We also picked up peaches and a huge bag of cucumbers for pickles.)

I'll make muffins this weekend.  If I'm ambitious and organized, I'll make some peach and blueberry preserves, too.  Tonight, however, it's all about the crumble.  I've done peach and blueberry crumble before.  I go back to Ina Garten's recipe because it's that good, but this time I went for one big pan and threw in some almonds for good measure. 

Here's how it goes:

Peach and Blueberry Crumble

For the fruit:
2 pounds firm, ripe peaches (6 to 8 peaches)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup fresh blueberries (1/2 pint)

For the crumble:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Immerse the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until their skins peel off easily. Place them immediately in cold water. Peel the peaches, slice them into thick wedges, and place them in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, granulated sugar, and flour. Toss well. Gently mix in the blueberries. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. Spoon the mixture into ramekins or custard cups.

For the topping, combine the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Rub the mixture with your fingertips until it's in big crumbles, then sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Place the ramekins on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the tops are browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Literate Baker notes: I'm always tempted to skip the dunking of the peaches into boiling water, but it makes them so easy to peel--it's worth it.  As before, I eliminated the cinnamon from the topping and added vanilla to the filling.  I also added about 3/4 cup of sliced almonds to the topping.  I baked it in a 9x13 dish (a little smaller would have been fine) for about 50 minutes.  Oh!  I almost forgot--two full cups of blueberries!

Honestly, as I sit here shoveling it in, there isn't anything more to say but...

Keep it sweet.

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Friday, August 2, 2013

Fried Dough for All

Let's be honest.  Who doesn't love fried dough?  Whether doughnut or beignet, state fair confection or sopapilla, it's good stuff.  This morning, I had the pleasure of experiencing fried dough in a new way.  I also had the pleasure of learning stuff.  For a food nerd, it really doesn't get much better.

Note the way the generous size fills a saucer.

I am currently on vacation in Provincetown.  Although it is known now primarily for its status as a gay mecca and artists' community, P-town has a long and fascinating history.  It was, for example the initial landing place of the Mayflower.  It also became home to a vibrant Portuguese community in the 1800s, primarily via Portuguese sailors hired to work on U.S. ships. 

That Portuguese community is still alive and well in the town, evidenced by the bustling Provincetown Portuguese Bakery.  Located right on Commercial Street, the bakery offers a variety of doughnuts and pastries.  It is famous, however, for the malasada.  Malasadas are doughnuts on steroids in all the right ways.  A rich yeast dough, fried until it reaches chewy/greasy nirvana, dusted in sugar.  Chewier than your average yeast doughnut, more tender than your average state fair fried dough.  Save my beloved beignet, this might just be my new favorite.

Note the sugary nooks and crannies.

Chewy yet tender inside.

The fact that the malasada is traditionally a Mardi Gras treat is total Literate Baker bonus.  Since it'll be a year before I'm here for my next one, I might just have to try making them at home.  In the meantime, I hope y'all are getting a little summertime rest and relaxation.  Take it easy and...

Keep it sweet.


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Friday, July 26, 2013

The Sweet Side of the Sour Cherry

Fresh, sour cherries are a thing of beauty.  They are also a bit of a rarity.  The "season" as it were is so fleeting that when you happen upon them at the farmer's market, you have no choice but to buy them because they won't be there the very next week.

If you are practicing restraint and not planning to make preserves, you content yourself with one quart.  This is just enough cherries to make a pie, or better yet, a crumble.

You will need to use or freeze your cherries within a few days.  Either way, you will need to pit them.  Alternately, you may have a girlfriend who will pit them while you are at work.  Having the latter, it is the method I recommend.



With requisite vanilla bean ice cream.

I cobbled (get it?  cobbled?)  a few recipes together and came up with this:

Sour Cherry Crumble

For Cherries:
4 cups pitted sour cherries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
pinch salt

For Topping:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
  •  Combine all ingredients for cherries and pour into a shallow 2 or 3-quart baking dish.
  •  Slice 1 tablespoon of butter onto top of cherries.
  • Combine remaining butter, brown sugar, and flour and mix until butter is the size of small peas.  Add oats and almonds and mix to combine.
  • Sprinkle topping over cherries and bake at 325 degrees for one hour and fifteen minutes or until top is golden and cherries are bubbly.
Literate Baker notes:  It was still vexingly hot when I made this, so I baked it in my toaster oven.  Not quite as evenly baked as a regular oven, but passable.

Literate Baker confessions:  This, like the blueberry cake, was good for breakfast.

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Pound of Inspiration

Once again, it's been a while since I've brought you any sweet somethings, nothings, or otherwise.  It's been a time around here--new job, crazy commutes, and moving.  In addition to having really no time to write, I've been thoroughly uninspired to bake.  It's been rather unsettling.

That changed a bit last weekend when we took a lovely stroll to the farmer's market.  That, however, is actually another post.  Which I'll write soon.  Promise.

Yesterday, I feel like the mojo truly returned.  I was taking a break from making curtains to cover some doorless kitchen cabinets, scrolling through my Facebook feed, and there it was--Alton Brown's Blueberry Pound Cake.

The curtain.
The cake.
The picture was pretty, the recipe simple, the ingredients on hand.  And, perhaps most importantly, the temperature is well below 90 for the first time in what feels like weeks.

The batter came together quickly and easily.  It really is important to beat the butter and sugar for a long time, them beat it again after adding the eggs.  It allows you to walk that deliciously fine line of rich and light.  

Butter and sugar the pan.

Whip the butter and sugar, and whip it some more.

Flour your berries.

Spread your batter.

Admire your handiwork.

From Mr. Brown's very own website:

Blueberry Pound Cake
Recipe Courtesy Alton Brown, 2013
Yield: 12 servings
This cake is a summer tradition in our house. Coating the pan with butter and sugar gives the cake a thick, crunchy crust.

8 ounces unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon for the pan
15 ounces (2 cups) sugar, plus 3 tablespoons for the pan
15 ounces (3 cups) all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4  large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 dry pint (10 ounces or about 2 cups) fresh blueberries
Strawberries, optional for serving
Whipped cream, optional for serving

Heat oven to 325˚F. Heavily coat a tube bundt pan 1 tablespoon butter and 3 tablespoons sugar

Whisk together 10 ounces (2 cups) all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Cream the remaining butter and sugar together in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. After all 4 eggs are in, add the vanilla extract and beat for 3 minutes until fluffy. Add the flour mixture to butter mixture and combine on low speed. Do not overbeat.

Combine the blueberries with the remaining 5 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour in ziptop bag and shake. Fold berry mixture into batter. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until probe thermometer comes out clean and registers 210˚F. Cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before depanning and cooling completely. Serve with strawberries and whipped cream.

Literate Baker notes:   I doubled the vanilla extract and also added a teaspoon of almond extract.  Blueberries love almond.  Lemon zest would be nice, too.  I served it with vanilla bean ice cream because I had it on hand.  Blueberries (as well as cakes and anyone of sound mind) love vanilla bean ice cream.

Literate Baker confessions:  We ate it for breakfast, too.

Here's hoping life has been treating you well.  I'm happy to have the old mixer back in action and happy to be back here.  Mostly, though, I'm happy to...

Keep it sweet.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Whatchmacallit? Fuggedaboutit!

My best baker gift this Christmas was the Bouchon Bakery cookbook.  You know... Thomas Keller, French Laundry, Bouchon Bakery?  Right.  Swoon.

Seriously.  This book is food porn.  The recipes are intense.  The photos are mesmerizing.  I'm going to have to make croissants from scratch now.  And maracons.  Soon.

This weekend, I wanted to give one of the recipes a whirl, but I did not want to go to the store.  I was seduced by Keller's riff on the rice krispies treat.  We all know how I feel about rice krispies treats.  Well, Keller adds a layer of caramel and then covers them in chocolate.  Whoa.

Wait.  That sounds sort of like... Those could almost be... That's right.  I speak of the Whatchamacallit, one of my favorite candy bars of all time.  All that's missing is a little peanut butter.  I wonder...

Oh yes, I did.  Oh yes, they were.  Oh, you know you want to.  Here's how:

Crispy Bit
2 T butter
4 cups marshmallows
4 cups rice cereal
1/2 cup peanut butter

Caramel (almost identical to Keller's Caramel Jam)
1/2 cup plus 1 T sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 T butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp. salt (fleur de sel if you have it)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

8 oz milk chocolate, melted
  1. Melt butter, marshmallows, and peanut butter over low heat until melted.  Stir in cereal.  Press into 8x8 pan sprayed with non-stick spray.
  2. Spread half of the chocolate over the cereal treats.  Place in refrigerator to set.
  3. Meanwhile, cook sugar and corn syrup over medium heat until melted an bubbling.  Swirl pot, but don't stir.  When sugar is a dark caramel color (with the faintest wisps of smoke), remove from heat and add butter, salt, cream, and vanilla.  Return to heat and stir until smooth.  Set aside to cool.
  4. Remove cereal treats from fridge and invert onto a piece of parchment paper.  Flip over and return to pan, chocolate side down and with the parchment paper.
  5. Pour caramel sauce over top of cereal treats.  Place in refrigerator until just starting to set.  Carefully spread remaining chocolate over the top.  Return to fridge until completely set. 
  6. Cut into 1x2-inch pieces.  Store at cool room temperature or in the fridge.

I know these sound complicated, but they're really quite easy.  You don't even have to turn on the oven!  The intensity of the homemade caramel really puts them over the top.  I promise they're worth it.

Keep it sweet.

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Reflective Baker

Happiest of new years to you, dear readers.  I shall address you as though you still exist.  Well, of course you exist.  Whether you still follow, subscribe to, or stumble upon The Literate Baker on occasion is another question entirely.  I'm an optimistic person, though, so choose to believe I'm not solely writing for myself.

I hope the last few months have been good to you.  Mine were marked by good food and good friends, some career soul searching, and lots and lots of writing (courtesy of a graduate writing course with the legendary Minnie Bruce Pratt).  All in all, I find myself happy and ready to embrace whatever 2013 tosses my way.

Although I'm avoiding resolutions specifically, I am attempting a renewed commitment to writing.  Naturally, that includes this blog.  What I'm still wondering, however, is the form that will take.  I'd given myself some rules with regard to this blog.  Silly, I know, but I wanted to be a professional.  I wanted to have a baking blog, not a personal reflection outlet.

Then, of course, I considered whether I should have multiple blogs.  And then I took a writing class where the point (for me at least) was to find ways of integrating my many, seemingly contradictory, selves.  Right.  Well then.

All I know for sure is that I want--no, need--to write more.  So here I am.  What that means and where we shall go remains to be seen.   I do hope you'll stick around.  I'll do my best to make it worth your while and...

Keep it sweet.

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