Baking Chez Moi: Vanilla Brown Butter Weekend Cake

Well. This was an easy one. It required no special equipment, and I had all the required ingredients at home. Only butter (browned), eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, vanilla, rum and salt. Pretty easy, right? It was.

First thing was to brown the butter. Have you browned butter yet? You should. It makes everything better, and only takes a few minutes to produce. But the flavor? More interesting, nuttier, and basically WAAAAAAY better.IMG_3645

Then whisk the eggs and sugar together. Then the vanilla, rum and heavy cream.

I used some not-quite-finished homemade vanilla extract. I’m using rum, so I measured out two tablespoons of that, and fished out a bean and scraped out the seeds. The batter ended up flecked with little black dots of the vanilla. We all know that equals extra deliciousness!


I mixed in the flour and folded in the brown butter. And poured it into the pan. And voila! Cake!


The top portion of the cake came off with the aluminum foil that I used to keep it from browning very much. That’s the bit I got to taste. I’m delivering it tomorrow for the teacher luncheon hosted by third grade. I think I’ll quarter up some strawberries and macerate them overnight with some sugar to serve along side of it. And hopefully I’ll hear good reviews from the teachers.

If the way it smells while baking is any indication, this is a delicious cake!

Want to see what other bakers from Baking Chez Moi are making? Here’s the link to see how their Vanilla Weekend Cakes came out

tap, tap. is this thing on? and pumpkin bread

ok, I know I’ve been away from this blog for a long time. My last post was December, 2013. Having three children in school really threw me for a loop. The driving. The homework. The crying. Its not that I stopped cooking–I just stopped taking pictures of it and telling you about it.

I know that my absence has been noted. Even WordPress has changed things around.  I’ll have to get used to the new editor and remember how to put pictures into this post.

And so I bring you pumpkin bread.  We love the stuff. My son, Adam, eats two pumpkin muffins for breakfast EVERY morning. Yes, every morning. And I am more than happy to supply him with that breakfast. I like this recipe because it calls for oil and not butter. I like that because if I decide to make pumpkin bread RIGHT NOW, I can, and not have to wait for the butter to soften.

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The muffins (or loaves) freeze beautifully, so don’t worry that you can’t use several dozen muffins before they go bad. Stick ’em in the freezer and defrost as you need them. I take a few out at night and in the morning they look like they just came out of the oven.

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I hate it when I get batter on my muffin pans, and I also hate when the muffins aren’t all the same size. I finally figured out if I use two scoops of batter in each muffin cup. I use the same scooper that I use for scooping cookie batter. This is the scoop I use. It’s purple. They come in tons of sizes, and I found it in my local resturant supply store. The scooper is a life saver. Also that resturant supply store is a life saver–but that is a topic for a whole other post…

Pumpkin Bread
makes about 3 dozen muffins or 3 loaves

3 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
4 eggs
1 can pumpkin
3 cups flour (I use a mix of AP and White Whole Wheat)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup water or milk (or a combination)

Mix sugar, oil, applesauce, eggs and pumpkin together
In separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices
Add the dry ingredients into the wet in three additions, alternating with the milk.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes for muffins, or about 50 for loaves.

Good Snacking: Refrigerator Pickles

Way, way back in the winter, I met my friend Miel for lunch. She’s a delightfully wacky displaced New Yorker. And she is always doing interesting things. And this time she gave me a jar filled with her home-made refrigerator pickles.

I’d never had home-made pickles before. These are pretty low salt and low sugar. They have plenty of garlic and dill flavor, especially if they sit longer than the minimum. They take about 5 minutes to make, and need at least 4 days in the refrigerator before they’re ready to eat. Once my kids had some, they were begging me to make my own so that they could have a constant supply of pickles in the fridge.
sea salt
Untitled ready to go hang out in the fridge for a few days Untitled
older pickles in the front, new pickles in the back.

You don’t even need official ‘canning’ jars for this. You could easily use jars from tomato sauce or even peanut butter. Don’t let a small jar collection stand in your way. I don’t see why you couldn’t do this in rubbermaid containers.

Refrigerator Pickles
Makes about 3 quarts of pickles

pickling cucumbers (kirby) enough to fill 3 quart size jars. Quartered into spears
2 cloves garlic peeled and halved for each jar (or more, if you want a more pronounced garlic flavor)
2 dill sprigs or 2 teaspoons dill seed for each jar

3 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups vinegar
1 Tablespoon sea salt*
1 Tablespoon sugar

place dill and garlic in each jar, and then pack with your cucumber spears
Boil vinegar, salt and sugar together and then add the water (I use a big measuring cup, and fill it with water and lots of ice to 3 1/2 cups, it cools the brine down almost imeediately
Pour the cool brine into the jars, cover and put into the refrigerator
wait 4 days until they’re ready
the garlic flavor will intensify the longer the pickles sit.

*I can’t say for sure what kind of sea salt I’m using. I took a baggie of it from my inlaws vacation kitchen. Who needs a 5 lb container of sea salt? Its a coarse rock variety. definitely not flaky. Save the flaky stuff for something else, don’t use it here!

Tuesdays With Dorie: Savarin

This week’s assignment was to make a Savarin. A cake I’d never heard of. Brillat-Savarin famously said: “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” He also has a cheese named after him. Outside of that I had very little information, or the proper cake pan to make this cake in. I almost rigged up a round pan with an empty can of tomatoes in the center. But, luckily, my parents were coming for a visit and my mom agreed to bring a bunt pan for me to borrow. A traditional Savarin is baked in a smooth ring mold (like a shallow, metal, jello mold) mine would not be so traditional. But, it was fine, and I didn’t have to buy a piece of kitchen equipment that wasn’t going to be used again.
The batter for this cake is a runny yeast batter. Just water, yeast, a drop of sugar, an egg, butter, and flour….and not a lot. Only 3/4 of a cup. I had serious doubts that it would fill the bottom of the pan. It did–barely. It rose once in the bowl, and then again in the bundt pan.

I left the house to get Dorothy from school and my mom put it in the oven while I was out. It sank.
It was very concave. Not a whole lot of cake there. But we pressed on. Luckily it came out of the pan without any problem, and when we were ready to eat it, I soaked it with a vanilla simple syrup and a tiny bit of dark rum.
I skipped the whipped cream completely. David is lactose intolerant, and it was nice to have a practically fat free dessert. I filled the center with macerated strawberries, raspberries, and some chunked up mango.
The dessert got gobbled up, it was plain, but tasty. The fruit may have stolen the show.

For more tasty examples, visit the Tuesdays with Dorie page!

If you want to make a Savarin yourself, here is the recipe:


6 Tablespoons lukewarm water
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry east
1 teaspoon sugar
1 large egg at room temperature
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

soaking syrup
2 cups water
1 cup sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
dark rum
whipped cream

pour the warm water into a bowl and sprinkle over the yeast and sugar, stir and allow the yeast to ‘bloom’

add the egg and stir briefly, add the flour and mix well, for about 8 minutes (I did this by hand) and then add the butter. Mix until the butter is encorporated

cover the bowl and let rise in a warm place for about 15 minutes. it will rise, but not double.

Butter your pan (I used a bundt pan) and pour the batter in. Let rise for about 30 minutes

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes until golden brown.

remove from pan and let cool.

make syrup: combine water and sugar and let boil until sugar is dissolved

when you are ready to serve, soak the savarin completely with the syrup (you’ll have leftover syrup. save for iced coffee!) and sprinkle with a small amount of rum if desired.

Serve with macerated fruit and whipped cream!

Biscoff Oatmeal Cookies. Oh Yes. I Went There

So, back in April, David and Dorothy both participated in St. Anthony’s Triathalon. Its a huge event that pretty much shuts down most of our city for a few days. Dorothy ran the Meek and Mighty (for kids 7 and up) and David ran the full Olympic distance as he has for the last 10 years or so. In the bags that everyone got at registration we found these:
Two of them. One in each bag. I was actually mad about it. I had successfully kept this stuff out of my kitchen until late April. And now there were two jars to contend with! Have you tried it yet? Dude….it would be trouble to keep it around. I’d be sneaking spoonfuls at every chance I got.
But at least I read a few blogs, and some of these people have experimented with Biscoff Spread so that I didn’t have to do the work. Two Peas and Their Pod is a blog that I found recently and discovered that they have a recipe for Oatmeal/Biscoff cookies. Today was the day. I made two batches. It wasn’t dificult, I had all the ingredients in the house. I modified the recipe slightly by increasing the oatmeal and using white whole wheat flour instead of regular all purpose flour. I’ve been doing that in a lot of my baking lately. Sneaking in the healthier stuff. Right. Because this is a totally healthy recipe. Riiiiiight.
Biscoff Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
makes 45-50 cookies. depending on how much batter you eat

2 1/4 cups old fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour (I used white whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup biscoff spread
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix oatmeal, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl and set aside
Cream together the butter, biscoff spread and sugars
Add egg and vanilla and mix thoroughly
stir in flour and oatmeal mixture.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

preheat oven to 350
drop spoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes
let cool on pan for 5 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack.

try not to eat them all at once.

Tuesdays With Dorie: Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

I made this on a big baking and food day. I had been to my favorite blueberry farm to pick berries–I got 8 lbs. when I got home, I immediately threw together the dough for a batch of challah and then got to work on this cake.

It looked for baby cake pans, but couldn’t find any, so I decided to make it in my largest spring form pan–which is almost 11 inches across. And it worked out perfectly.

I made the caramel poured it into the bottom of the pan and then carefully laid the sliced rhubarb in concentric circles inside the pan. I set it aside and got to work on the cake.

The recipe makes sure tell the baker to cream the butter and sugar together for much longer than I normally would. Clearly, the next time I cream butter and sugar together, I’ll be doing it for much longer. I added the eggs and vanilla, and then I folded in the flour and sour cream. By the way, I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour in this recipe–you could NOT tell, but it did make me feel a little less guilty when I had a slice for breakfast.

I carefully put it in the pan over the caramel and rhubarb, and into the oven it went. Not difficult at all. About 50 minutes later, it came out of the oven and I upended it on a rack over a plate and then put it on my favorite cake plate.

i’ve never eaten anything with rhubarb before, and I’m sorry that it took 38 years for me to get my first taste. It was delicious. The cake was perfect, and the rhubarb gave a slightly tart flavor to the topping.
I know the next picture is blurry, but I had to put it in the post. When Dorothy heard that this was an ‘upside down’ cake, she turned it over, so the caramel was on the plate and only ate the cake. Foolish child–she left the best part behind! Not to worry, David and I were happy to finish it for her
UntitledThis recipe is hosted by When in Doubt, Leave it at 350, and also be sure to check out the Leave Your Link post at Tuesdays With Dorie. I know there will be lots of delicious examples from my fellow bakers.

Tuesdays With Dorie: Rustic Potato Bread

So, I made this bread a few days late. The post was ‘due’ on the last day of passover. So, I made it yesterday.

For such a beautiful loaf of bread, it was incredibly simple to bake. I wish I had read the instructions completely before getting started, because then I would have known that the dough starts out crumbly….like a pie crust….and then miracously comes together like a bread dough. I added a few tablespoons of water while it was still crumbly, and then ended up having to add extra flour while I was kneading it. No big deal. I don’t think it affected the flavor one bit. I halved the recipe and did the whole thing by hand. My mixer is much too big to bother with for only one loaf of bread. I didn’t mind, kneading it was my arm workout for the day–I couldn’t get to the gym since I was home with a sick child.

After two short rises, I ended up with this beautiful loaf of bread.
It was delicious plain, and with butter.
I’ll definitely be making this again. it was easy, delicious and impressive looking!

Check out the other loaves of potato bread that were produced this week at our Leave Your Link post. The recipe can be found at Dawn’s blog, Simply Sweet. While you’re there, make sure to look at the picture of the “high heeled shoe cupcakes” that she made. They’re stunning. She has the recipe for the bread, or you can find it on page 138 of Baking with Julia.

Power Balls

Now, don’t laugh at the name of this recipe. They really are balls of power. How could they not be? They’re filled with peanut butter, honey, oatmeal, ground flax seed, and dark chocolate. Balls of deliciousness might be more accurate.

I first tasted these at an event hosted by my running group, Tampa Bay Fit. We had a run at a park in Clearwater, and after, a potluck breakfast. one of the coaches brought these. And I HAD to have the recipe. I made them for the first time to let my Ragnar team taste them, because I planned to bring them to the race. But once my husband tasted them…well, they’ve been a staple in our house ever since.
The most important thing to remember when you’re making them is to wet your hands with a little water when forming the balls. It works like a charm. Nothing will stick to you.
They’re great for a quick, on the run breakfast, or a nutritious afternoon snack. Make them soon, and then go out and go for a run!

Power Balls
Adapted from Coach Sheila’s recipe
I’ve added metric measurements, so you can go ahead and take out your cooking scale if you have one. Then you only make one bowl and one fork dirty. My kind of cooking!

1 cup natural peanut butter–smooth (285 grams)
1 cup honey (350 grams)
3 cups oatmeal (old fashioned–NOT quick cooking or instant) (350 grams) (or if you’re going without nuts–420 grams–an extra 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup ground flax seed (60 grams)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional, see above)
1 3.5 or 4 oz bar good quality dark chocolate–chopped finely (or 1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips)

Mix the honey and peanut butter until smooth
Add the oats, flax seed, chocolate and nuts (if using) and stir until well mixed
Wet your hands with some water and form into balls of about 1 tablespoon in size. They don’t have to be exact. Re-wet your hands as necessary.
Refrigerate balls on a sheet pan overnight. When firm, put in a covered container and enjoy at will. Keeps practically indefinitely in the fridge, but they don’t last long in my house!
Makes about 45 balls

Baking with Julia: Gingerbread Baby Cakes

Can you believe, I’ve never made gingerbread before?

Not the little men, or cake. Never. I guess there’s a first time for everything–even the easy stuff
I halved the recipe because I was pretty sure that my crew of tasters might not be that thrilled with it. I ended up with a loaf and three tiny cakes baked in silicone cupcake cups. I should have done the whole batch that way–they turned out absolutely adorably.
I mixed up the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder, instant espresso, black pepper, and ginger. It felt like I was putting the kitchen sink in that bowl. Then the wet ingredients: butter, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, molasses and fresh ginger. Dry got folded into wet and into the oven it went.

My sous-chef, Adam was very excited to help me out with the mixing and pouring.
Adam mixing the dry ingredients
Adam pouring in the molasses. He was absolutely fascinated.
Adam painting cake release into the pan. Cake release is pretty awesome, and very easy to make yourself. Here’s a link to the recipe I used to make it.

Did you know that a little oil in the measuring cup helps molasses (or honey or anything else that’s very sticky) come right out of the measuring cup?
The pepper and ginger combined to make it a very spicy cake. It was dense and pretty good…though I have nothing to compare it to. The loaf went to school for the teachers, and I heard a few compliments.
Here’s one of the tiny cakes. I had to bring it outside to get a decent picture. Dark brown cake just doesn’t photograph that well in the dying light…
In case you want the recipe, you can find it at Karen’s blog, or in the book. As always, take a look at the Leave Your Link (LYL) post on the Tuesdays with Dorie blog.

A Newer, Better Pumpkin Bread Recipe?

And possibly healthier, too. Unbelievable, since I really felt like the Joy of Cooking pumpkin bread recipe wasn’t going to get any better. I already had a recipe that my kids like to eat, so why would I muck around with it. But you know what? They never even noticed. This one is easier because it doesn’t require me to defrost butter, so I can bake it at a moment’s notice.

We were at the playground with the kids several weeks ago and a friend mentioned that she had the ‘starbuks pumpkin bread recipe.’ I was intrigued, Starbuks makes darn good pumpkin bread. Later that day she read me the recipe over the phone. I was pretty excited because it could be made dairy free. I made it once as she had given it to me and then began to tweak. I replaced half the oil with applesauce and I used the spice measurements from the Joy of Cooking recipe. The orginal spices were not nearly aggressive enough. I like my pumpkin bread to wake me up with its spiciness. Once I did that I was happy.

Amd would you believe I don’t have a picture of the finished product? Its true. Life got in the way and the bread ended up in the freezer and we’ve been eating it, but I haven’t gotten around to photographing it. But trust me, This is good pumpkin bread.

Go. Grab the pumpkin from your pantry. Gather the spices and start baking.

Dairy Free Pumpkin Bread
Makes two loaves

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce
4 eggs
1 16 oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

3 cups flour (I mix all purpose and white whole wheat)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup water or milk

  • Preheat oven to 350, grease and flour (or use cake release) your pans
  • Mix the sugar, oil, applesauce, eggs, and pumpkin together in a large bowl
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together
  • Add dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture, alternating with the water or milk (flour, water, flour, water, flour)
  • Pour into prepared pans and bake for 50 minutes to one hour, until a toothpick comes out clean when tested.