I am so very glad not to be a picky eater. There are foods I dislike, of course, but I’ll try pretty much anything once, and I often like it. In several cases, I have discovered a new flavor that has become an obsession. Brown butter was the first. Then came cardamom. I hadn’t heard of it until about three years ago, but now I’m kind of a sucker for it. I go out of my way to find it. I mix it into my coffee grounds to make cardamom coffee. If it’s on the dessert menu, I’m sold.
And if it’s in a recipe for a delicious-sounding quickbread, I’ll make that recipe three. times. before I even tell you about it. Shame on me.
Now, it must be said: cardamom is one of those spices that can very easily become overwhelming. Thankfully, this cake includes what I consider to be the perfect amount. It also contains one of my favorite baking ingredients: buttermilk. And, unlike many recipes that leave me with a partial container of buttermilk, which inevitably sits in the fridge until it spoils, this recipe uses exactly one pint. Beauteous.
Perhaps the best part about this cake is the two secret layers of cinnamon-brown sugar nestled inside.
Look at that cheeky cake. You could probably go your whole life thinking it was a regular ol’ Bundt cake, just like any other, until you cut out a slice and then… bam! Brown sugary goodness, all swirled up in every bite.
Talk about a pleasant surprise.
Now, I did make a few changes, mostly to adapt to the ingredients I had: I subbed half of the brown sugar for dark brown sugar, removed the walnuts from the filling, increased the amount of sugar swirl, and weighed all of the ingredients in grams. I would definitely recommend including some toasted walnuts in the sugar swirl, if you have them on hand!
With or without walnuts, this cake is good warm, cold, or toasted in the oven with a pat of butter on top. And it stays moist for at least three days, assuming you’re able to keep it around that long. Any way you slice it, it’s a keeper. Enjoy!
Cardamom Buttermilk Coffee Cake
adapted from Mollie Katzen’s recipe in this lovely cookbook, where she writes: ”Very Rich ~ Very Delicious”
Yield: two 9×5 loaf pans or one 10-inch Bundt pan. 24 slices, by my knife
1 lb (454 g) butter, softened
1 c. (170 g) light brown sugar
1 c. (170 g) dark brown sugar
2 tsp (10 g) vanilla extract
4 c (484 g) all-purpose flour
2 tsp (7 g) baking powder
2 1/2 tsp (14 g) baking soda
1/2 tsp (2 g) salt
1 Tbsp (5 g) powdered cardamom
2 c (467 g) buttermilk
1/2 c (90 g) brown sugar
1 Tbsp (5 g) cinnamon
1/c c walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350º. Butter a 10-inch Bundt pan and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.
3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture, 1/3 of it at a time, to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk. Stir just enough to blend after each addition.
4. Combine the sugar swirl ingredients in a separate bowl.
5. Spoon approximately 1/3 of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of the swirl mixture, then add another 1/3 of the batter. Cover with remaining swirl, then top with remaining batter. Lightly spread into place.
6. Bake approximately 1 1/4 hours, or until the cake springs back lightly when touched and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack. ”Cool at least 30 minutes more before wildly devouring.”
I’ve never been a big fan of cupcakes, and I’ve been especially annoyed by their lingering ubiquity these past few years. Let me tell you, friends, cupcakes have been on their way out for a long time now, and I wish they’d hurry up already. I just don’t think they’re very interesting.
But this particular cupcake recipe had such a tempting flavor combination that I was intrigued enough to give it a shot. I had also never made my own dulce de leche at home, so I couldn’t help myself. I’m just too curious.
The first time I made the cupcakes, I was content with the actual cupcake and very unhappy with the sticky frosting. Perhaps my homemade dulce was the culprit, but–despite its great flavor–the frosting was hard to work with and even harder to eat.
So the second time I made them, I moved the sticky frosting into the center of the cupcake and created a new cream cheese frosting to put on top. And voilà, just like that, a new cupcake was born.
As I note in the recipe below, you should be sure to fill your cupcakes slightly less than the unfrosted one you see above. I filled mine up to the top, and the weight of the cream cheese frosting was enough to induce an oozy dulce de leche hemorrhage, just in time for the photo shoot. Unsightly? Most definitely. Delicious? You bet.
The final result was a multi-flavor, multi-texture cupcake that was even better than I expected.
Homemade Dulce de Leche
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1. Place can in a large pot and cover completely with water. I covered mine with 3-4 inches of water to be sure it wouldn’t evaporate while I was gone, and it worked just fine.
2. Bring the water to a soft boil and boil the can for four hours, refilling the water as necessary.
3. Remove the can–which will be quite hot for a while–from the water. If you don’t use the dulce immediately, keep the can in the refrigerator, unopened, until you use it.
Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes with Dulce de Leche Filling and Cinnamon-Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Bake or Break; yields 20 cupcakes
For the cupcake:
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 c. milk
For the filling:
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
4.5 oz. dulce de leche
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
For the frosting:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cocoa powder. Set aside.
3. With an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla; mix until combined, being sure to scrape the bowl well. Alternately add the combined dries and the milk in three batches, beginning and ending with the dries. Mix just until combined each time.
4. Spoon the batter into paper-lined cupcake pans (I tried to bake a few without the papers, and the end result was not pretty.) Each one should be 2/3 full.
5. Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until the cake springs back to the touch.
6. Meanwhile, combine the filling ingredients in a medium bowl.
7. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese until there are no lumps. Then add the remaining frosting ingredients and beat until light and fluffy.
8. When the cupcakes are completely cool, use a paring knife to cut out a small cone in the center of each cupcake and spoon just a bit of filling into each cupcake. It should be slightly underfilled to avoid oozing. Then pipe the cream cheese frosting on top of the finished cupcake. I had just enough to frost them “Dairy Queen” style (see pictures for reference.) If you prefer a higher frosting-to-cupcake ratio, you may want to make more frosting.
9. Enjoy with reckless abandon!
A note: I used the cream cheese/dulce mix for the cupcake’s center simply because I was trying to use it up; if you want something a little firmer, you could mix the dulce de leche with just a pinch of salt and pipe it into the center as-is. The cupcake would probably be easier to eat. Let me know if you try it!
Laundry day is fun when you’re a culinary student. Okay, maybe “fun” isn’t the best word choice, but it can be entertaining. Going through my chef’s coats is like an adventure back in time, during which I look back fondly on the assorted stains I find on my once-white clothes: “Oh yeah, I remember when I made those peanut butter cookies… ooh, I had forgotten that I spilled that tomato sauce on my jacket during dinner… is that blackberry purée? I didn’t even use that this week!” (Bonus points for stains that defy explanation.)
The fun is over when I have to come up with magical methods to release those stains. Thankfully, there’s this product called OxiClean. I don’t know what’s in that stuff, but it cannot be legal. I’ve had coats covered with chocolate and red wine and God-knows-what, and with a little scrubbing and a lotta Oxi, bada bing, bada boom: clean, white jackets.
Besides the satisfaction of pulling a pristine white jacket out of the dryer, laundry day is also my favorite because while the Oxi is working its magic, I have lots of time on my hands to bake something exceptionally delicious. Some days, that means three back-to-back batches of scones as part of Recipe Testing 2012.
People, scones are hard. For some time now, I’ve been on a search for The Perfect Scone, something more akin to what I have eaten in England: not so eggy, not so sweet, and not so laden with vanilla extract that it tastes like a sugar cookie. Not a buttermilk biscuit. Something with a flaky texture, a lot of height, and just enough flavor that it is equally interesting to eat by itself as it is slathered with clotted cream and jam.
You see why this search has taken so long… sometimes I get picky. I like to think it’s what makes me a decent cook. Let me save you some time and share some things I have learned about scones:
There are different kinds of scones. Most of the possible differences are up to you–would you like dried fruit in your dough? Round scones or triangular? Egg wash? Milk wash? Sanding sugar on top? All of those things are up to you. The two main discrepancies between recipes I have seen are: (1) some have butter, and others do not, and (2) some have plain milk or cream as the liquid ingredient, and others use buttermilk or sour cream for more depth of flavor.
It is true what you’ve heard: it’s very important not to over-mix your dough, lest your scones be tough and unlovable. However, it is equally important not to under-work your dough, lest your scones be too tender to pick up and eat. Whatever you believe about baked goods, I think we can all agree that “edible” is a must. Hitting that perfect consistency is the key to an awesome scone.
Mostly, I have learned that there are different types of scones, and while I have yet to stumble upon the paragon I was searching for, most of them are pretty dang good. I like these scones because they hold their shape nicely and are fairly flavorful. I served them with clotted cream and jam, and I didn’t receive a single complaint. Most went back for seconds.
Is my search over? No. But in the meantime, nobody deserves to be scone-less, so I hope you’ll make these sometime. They’ll make your afternoon tea or Sunday brunch much tastier, I promise. Enjoy!
Pretty much directly from Smitten Kitchen, as adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. butter, chilled
1 c. heavy cream
1. Preheat the oven to 425º.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
3. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or a fork. Alternatively, use a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients.
4. Add all of the cream at once and mix the dough just until it starts to pull off the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead just until it comes together, being sure to incorporate any crumbly bits. Pat the dough into a disc no more than 1″ tall. Cut the disc into 8 equal wedges and place the wedges on a paper-lined baking sheet.
5. Bake at 425º for 12-15 minutes or until the scones are golden brown around the edges and bottom.
I recently received a request to write about pastry cream, which is one of my favorite baking & pastry basics. It requires a bit of whiskin’, but with a little TLC, it comes out perfectly every time. There are dozens of variations out there: you can use a different ratio of yolks and whole eggs to change the texture and flavor; more or less cornstarch to get a looser or firmer pastry cream; some call for milk rather than cream; some use a mixture of the two. Once you’re really a pastry cream expert, you can decide which recipe to use based on its application: are you filling a tartlet that will be consumed in one bite? Loose pastry cream ought to do. Are you going to fill a banana cream pie, which needs to be sliced and hold its shape? Better go with a firmer variation.
Whichever recipe you decide to tackle–and I’ve included a good basic recipe below–there are a few key steps that will help you turn out a non-starchy, lump-free pastry cream.
(1) Divide the sugar in the recipe in half. Half goes into the dairy that you are bringing to a boil (be sure to stir it so that it doesn’t burn.) The other half needs to be whisked together with your cornstarch, like so: nice and fine. You will probably create a cloud o’ cornstarch. Don’t panic! Also, don’t wear a black apron.
(2) Add just one egg (or yolk, depending on your recipe) at a time to the cornstarch/sugar mixture. Even though it will be impossibly thick at first, whisk it as best you can before adding the next egg. By gradually combining the eggs with the previously-whisked starch, you should have a nice lump-free cornstarch/egg mixture.
(3) Once your dairy has come to a boil, pour 2/3 of it very slowly into the cornstarch/egg mixture. Never stop whisking! If your bowl is moving around too much, you can always stabilize it with a wet towel.
(4) Place the remaining 1/3 of your dairy back on the heat and gradually whisk the cornstarch/egg/dairy mixture back into the pot. For carefree whisking (which will reduce the chance of scorching) I would recommend a slightly larger pot than you see below. Make sure you get in the corners, too!
(5) Over medium heat, while constantly whisking (do you see a theme here?), bring the pastry cream to a boil. As it boils, whisk the pastry cream until it no longer tastes starchy; I usually let it go for at least three minutes before I bother to taste it.
And that brings me to an important point: please do taste it. The pastry cream should not leave a chalky feeling in your mouth, even at the very end. Once that starchy mouthfeel is gone, you can take the pastry cream off the heat.
(6) Off the heat, add the butter, as well as any additional flavorings, such as vanilla extract. Once the butter has melted, stir it into the pastry cream until it’s well incorporated. You’re almost done!
(7) Pour the pastry cream into the desired container–for banana cream pie, you pour it right into the pie shell–and immediately cover it with plastic wrap touching the surface of the pastry cream. This will prevent the very worst pastry cream faux pas: a nasty film that forms on the top of the custard.
And voilà, you have perfect pastry cream, to use however your heart desires.
2 c. half & half
3/4 c. cream
6 oz. sugar, divided
1 3/4 oz. cornstarch
3 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1. Over high heat, bring the half & half, cream, and half of the sugar to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the cornstarch with the second half of the sugar. Gradually whisk in the eggs and the yolks until you have a nice, smooth egg mixture.
3. Once the cream mixture comes to a boil, gradually whisk 2/3 of the boiling liquid into the egg mixture.
4. Place the remaining 1/3 of the liquids back on the stove on medium heat. Gradually whisk the egg mixture back into the pot.
5. Continue to whisk until the mixture boils for at least three minutes and no longer tastes starchy. (Taste it!)
6. Off the heat, add the butter and vanilla. Once the butter melts, make sure it is mixed well.
7. Pour directly into the desired container and immediately cover with plastic wrap directly touching the surface of the cream.
Or, How to Turn Any Citrus Juice Into an Irresistibly Sweet-Yet-Tart, Albeit Somewhat Jiggly Substance
If I’m making curd sound less than tempting right now, it’s only because I secretly want it all to myself. Go ahead, make your claim that “curd” is an inherently unappealing word and that food shouldn’t jiggle that way. Meanwhile, I’ll be content to sit in the corner with my bowl of lime curd, thank you very much.
In the interest of full disclosure: if left to my own devices, I sometimes eat curd straight out of the bowl. I’m polite–I use a spoon instead of my fingers–but I’ll fight you over it.
And apparently, when you spoon it in the middle of a sugar-coated thumbprint cookie, lime curd even becomes delicious to people with a more socially acceptable capacity for citrus tang.
For these cookies, I used my family’s recipe for Russian Teacakes, shaped them into thumbprints, and rolled them in sugar before adding a dollop of fresh lime curd. Next time,I’d like to try to bake the curd right into the cookie. This is partially because I think it might work a little better and partially because I am incapable of leaving anything damn well alone.
People also like lime curd if you fill cupcakes with it. Especially if you fold even more curd into your buttercream, thusly creating lime curd buttercream.
I feel confident that you will find lots of applications for this curd (could I suggest eating it atop scones? On toast? Swirled into your yogurt? Really, the possibilities are endless.) And hey, if you want to swipe a little bit directly out of the bowl… I’m not judging.
A note about customizing this recipe: It is easily scaled up or down; keeping in mind that a little curd goes a long way, I’ve shared a small batch here. If you have an exceptionally tart citrus fruit, you may want to add a little bit more sugar, but I would recommend trying it this way first. Finally, if you are nervous about accidentally scrambling your eggs, you can make the curd in the top of a double boiler; it will take significantly longer, but it’s a more foolproof method for cooking your eggs without curdling them.
100 g lime juice [I have successfully used the juice of lemons, grapefruits, key limes, rangpur... you name it, it will probably make a delicious curd.]
100 g sugar, divided
100 g whole eggs
1. In a small pot over high heat, bring the lime juice and 50 g of the sugar to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 50 g of sugar with the eggs.
3. When the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low. Very slowly pour 2/3 of the boiling liquid into the eggs, whisking constantly so that you gradually raise the temperature of the eggs. Return the pot to the heat and add the egg mixture back into the pot, whisking constantly.
4. Whisk the curd constantly over medium-low heat just until it thickens. Remove the pot from the heat and pass the curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. This will ensure a smooth curd and remove any eggy lumps that may be hiding in there.
5. Cool the curd and store under refrigeration.