Monday, November 7, 2016

Apple Pie Quick Cinnamon Rolls

Piles of orange and red leaves.  Beautiful, moody light.  Scarves, jackets and boots.  Sipping hot, mulled wine on a German sidewalk.  The scent of wood-burning fireplaces in the air. 


I'm totally missing the change of the seasons.  Not that I don't appreciate the warmth that comes with living in a Mediterranean country, I'm SO not complaining about that.  But after spending the past three years where the fall was practically perfect I find myself longing for quiet Sunday afternoons kicking my way through the red and orange leaves around the lake in town.  There's not much visible change marking the seasons here except the ripening of the oranges and lemons in my yard.  Beautiful and tasty in it's own right, but not quite what I picture fall to look like.

But I'm making up for the lack of fall in my life by baking up all of the apples.  Like all of them in all of Athens.  Every single time I pass the fruit and veggie stand I stop and pick up a half dozen.  It's helping a little.  This particular recipe definitely makes things feel a bit more autumnal.  It's apple pie without all of the fuss of making a pie crust.  Oh, and no yeast!  This is not a two day, overnight sort of cinnamon roll.  But don't let that fool you into thinking that these are inferior in any way.  because they're so totally not.  They're soft and tender, with a sweet buttery center full of all things fall.  The scent will make all your troubles float away on warm spiced cloud.  It's really the best.

Apple Pie Quick Cinnamon Rolls
Makes 16 rolls.  Recipe only slightly adapted from In Jennie's Kitchen.
For the printable recipe, click here

 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tbs butter, melted
2 medium apples, cut into eighths and sliced thinly

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
7 tbs butter, melted and cooled, divided

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbs milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

Mix the filling ingredients, except the apples, in a small bowl and set aside.

Make the dough by whisking together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, stir the buttermilk and 4 tablespoons of the butter together.  Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until it forms a shaggy dough.  Knead the dough with your hands a few times and then divide the dough into two equal portions.

On a lightly floured surface roll or gently press each ball of dough into a rectangle measuring rough 12 x 8 inches.  Spread the filling mixture evenly over the two rectangles leaving a 1/4 inch border around the edges.  Gently press the filling mixture into the dough.  Spread the apple slices over the filling mixture.  Roll up each rectangle of dough into a log starting from the 12 inch sides.  Pinch the ends closed.  Cut each log into 8 equal pieces.

Brush 1 tablespoon of the remaining melted butter on the insides of an 11 x 8 inch baking dish.  Place the cinnamon rolls cut side up into the baking dish.  Brush the rest of the butter over the rolls and then bake for 20 minutes.  The tops will be golden and the filling bubbling up from the insides.  Let the cinnamon rolls cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, stir together the icing ingredients in a small bowl.

Drizzle the tops of the cinnamon rolls with the icing.  Serve the rolls warm.  They will keep for up to three days covered with foil on the counter.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Walnut Orange Olive Oil Cake with Greek Yogurt Buttercream

Normal.  It's funny word, I think.  So are the words routine and comfortable.  Not funny like make-you-laugh funny, obviously, but I think you know what I mean.  When you give it some time to really mull those words over you realize that you probably don't actually know what they mean.  And that your definitions is definitely not the same as the ones of the person right next to you.

 When I was younger comfort and routine meant having lots of friends and family around.  Knowing all the places and faces around me.  Knowing exactly what was expected of me and how I was to behave, think, act.  It was simple.  And for most people that doesn't change.  They stay close to home and family.  They find a life they love and not much changes from day to day.  That's what normal means.

These days my life feels anything but that.  No normal.  No routine.  No constants except for the friends afar.  It will eventually settle and my surroundings will feel more like home.  But right now it's the complete opposite.  And here's the thing- I'm the kind of person who's first instinct is to crave the comfortable.  I could easily cocoon myself in my house with my familiar belongings and routines and be perfectly okay with that.

Mostly.  There's still always a little nagging voice in the back of my head that tries to push me out of this comfort zone.  I just had a milestone birthday.  You know that big one every girl in the first half of her life dreads.  But I'm coming to realize that maybe it's not such a bad thing after all.  I might have learned a thing or two over the last 40 years (oops, let that one slip, didn't I?).  And with that smidge of wisdom comes that knowledge that I need to listen to that little nagging voice.  Because if I stretch a bit beyond what I feel comfortable with, I usually find out something new about myself.  And then my comfort zone gets just a little bit wider.  Which is pretty awesome.  All those new experiences make for a life that is so much richer.

So maybe normal for me ought to mean that there is no normal.  My life is certainly trying to tell me something along those lines.  Maybe in the next 40 years I'll learn how to embrace and enjoy the chaos.  Or perhaps it won't take quite that long.

Walnut Orange Olive Oil Cake with Greek Yogurt Buttercream

Makes one 9-inch cake, 8-10 servings.  Recipes adapted from Pots & Pans and Potlicker.
For the printable recipe, click here.

This is not a formal, layered birthday cake.  It's more simple but definitely more sophisticated.   I decided that I would treat myself and make this my first baking project in my new Greek kitchen.  And since I'm in Greece, what better way to celebrate than with some distinctly Greek flavors? The cake is a light olive oil and walnut based sponge with the added addition of orange zest and some white wine (fancy!).  It's not at all heavy or weighed down by the addition of the nuts.  Whipping the egg whites to make a sponge makes all the difference.  And the frosting is not all that different from a cream cheese frosting, I simply used Greek yogurt and honey to add a bit of tart and sweet ultra creaminess.  I really, really love the frosting.  Oh and you must use full fat yogurt for this recipe.  Lowfat just will not work or have the same flavor or feel as the full fat version.

For the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
4 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar, separated
zest of 1 medium orange
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs dry white wine, such as pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc

figs and an orange for garnish

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly oil a 9 inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment.

In a food processor, blend the flour and walnuts until the walnuts are finely ground into the flour.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar on medium until the mixture has thickened and the color has paled.  Add in the orange zest and beat for just a moment.  Slowly add the olive oil while the machine is on and beat until the mixture thickens.  Stir in the wine.  Beat in the flour mixture on low just until incorporated.

In a separate very clean bowl, beat the egg whites with a whisk until the reach soft peaks.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and whip until the peaks are stiff and glossy.

Using a spatula, scoop about 1/3 of the egg whites into the rest of the cake batter.  Gently stir until the egg whites are just mixed into the batter (your goal is to lighten the cake batter so that the rest of the egg whites are easier to incorporate).  Add the rest of the whites to the bowl and fold in with the spatula.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 40-45 minutes.  The cake will be golden and a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean (you can also check that the center of the cake is springy when lightly pressed with your finger).  Cool the cake for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack.  Then loosen the edges with a knife and turn the cake out onto the rack to cool completely.

While the cake is cooling, make the buttercream.

For the buttercream:
1/2 cup softened butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup full fat Greek yogurt
2 tsp honey
2 cups powdered sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment place the butter, yogurt and honey.  Beat on medium speed until they are light and fluffy.  Add the powdered sugar in batches, beating on low between each addition.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat the buttercream for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy.

When the cake is cool spread the buttercream over the top.  Garnish with quartered figs and orange slices, if desired.  The cake will keep stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Blueberry Peach Jam

Standing in sandy soil with the baby asleep on my shoulder and alongside my boys and mom, I was faced with rows upon rows of bushes dripping with ripe blueberries.  Not just any blueberries, but Jersey ones.  The best kind, in my opinion.  Huge, deep blue and just perfectly sweet.  And the ones that I remember from my own childhood which tips the scale in their favor every time.

We're armed with baskets and containers, a refreshed knowledge of what a ripe blueberry looks like (don't pick the green or red ones, boys!) and an eye to the pending rain storm in the sky.  Let the picking commence.

Berry picking is something we started doing as a family when we lived in Washington.  The absolute best blackberries grow in the Pacific Northwest and every year the hubs and I would head down Whidbey Island to Greenbank Farm and pick as much as we could.  There were always tons of people so you had to get a bit ruthless about your picking if you wanted the biggest and ripest berries.  As we've added family members and moved on from Washington, the berries have changed (it was mostly strawberries in California and Germany) but it's still something I try to do at least once each summer.

We happy to be lucky enough to be staying with my parents for a while this summer while in between homes (and countries!).  So there was really not even a second thought when it came to choosing the berry picking.  Blueberries.  And of course with a couple of enthusiastic kids and an almost as eager mom and grandmother "just a quick trip because we have a bigger one planned next weekend!" turns into more blueberries than anyone intended.  That's always the way it works, isn't it?

Not a problem!  I have big plans for them. It started with jam that I couldn't help but throw in a few perfectly ripe farmstand peaches into.  Then there was a galette that didn't last 10 minutes out of the oven.  I think next up I'm going to take a  page from Marissa McLellan's new book, Naturally Sweet Food in Jars, and jar a whole bunch in a fragrant honey syrup.

But first, the jam that almost started a fight between my sister and her husband over licking the spoon.  That's how good it is!

Blueberry Peach Jam
Makes 3 pints or 5-6 half pints.  Recipe adapted from Love and Olive Oil.
For the printable recipe, click here

This a a jam that just screams summer to me.  Yes, of course, you could use frozen fruit.  But blueberries and peaches at their best make it special.  Their seasons overlap and if you time it just right you will have an amazing jam.  I tend to favor looser jams that aren't set super tightly, so I leave out pectin or any other thickeners.  Just watch the jam carefully as it cooks.  A few minutes too long and you'll go from perfect to jam that tastes a bit like a bad cough drop- overly sweet and slightly burnt tasting.  You're looking for the foam on top to subside and the bubbles to go from large ones just around the edge to small bubbles on the whole surface.  I didn't bother doing the whole water bath canning operation for this jam because I gave half to my sister and the rest is almost already gone at our house.  I could honestly just sit and eat it with a spoon right from the jar.   But if you do decide you'd like to keep some for the winter, simply process your jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Oh, and if you follow the link for Love and Olive Oil above, Lindsay has made some really awesome printable labels for your jars.

2 lbs peaches, about 5 large
3 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and any stems removed
1 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)

Peel, pit and chop the peaches finely.  Place the peaches and blueberries into a large, wide bottomed sauce pan.  If you'd prefer your jam to have a smoother consistency, use a potato masher to lightly mash the fruit.  Stir in the sugar and lemon juice.

Place the saucepan over a medium high heat.  Cook, stirring frequently until the blueberries have burst and the peaches are soft.  The bubbles on the surface of the jam will go from large and only around the edges to small, tight bubbles all over.  Ladle the jam into jars and let cool.  Refrigerate.  The refrigerated jars will last for several weeks.