Du pain et plus de pain et seulement le pain

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Mon amie et moi avons visité l’Italie l’été dernier, et nous l’avons adorée! Alors, nous avons décidé que nous aimons le pain! Tout le pain! Nous faisons le pain tout le temps, et maintenant, nous avons un magasin de pain. Beaucoup de gens l’aime et notre pain est toujours très réussi. Notre magasin s’appelle “Du pain et plus de pain et seulement le pain”. Nous sommes très connus pour nos baguettes. C’est notre pain préféré. C’est très amusant de cuisiner!  Une classique!

Les ingrédients:

4 tasses de farine
3 tsp (c.à.c) de levure boulangère
2 tsp (c.à.c) de sel
1 1/4 tasses d’eau chaude
Un peu d’huile d’olive

Les étapes:

1. Mettez la farine, la levure boulangère et le sel dans un grand bol. Mélangez rapidement avec une cuillère.

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2. Dans une tasse, ajoutez l’eau chaude (1 minute dans le micro-onde devrait marcher).

3. Ajoutez l’eau chaude au mélange de farine et travaillez le tout avec vos mains. Quand la pâte commence à faire une forme (comme un cercle), versez le tout sur la table.

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4. Travaillant avec les mains, pétrissez la pâte pour 10 minutes. Mettes la pâte dans un saladier pendant 1 heure pour reposer.

5. La pâte devrait être gonflée; frappez-la pour faire échapper le gaz de la levure. Diviser la pâte en quelques morceaux afin de modeler de petites cercle.

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6. Faites un baguettes avec la pâte. Pliez les deux “coins” de ce cercle pour faire un triangle. Roulez le bas du triangle pour faire la forme d’une baguette, comme un cylindre.

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7. Mettez les baguettes sur une plaque à four. Laissez reposer la pâte pendant 30 minutes, puis mettes-les dans un four chaud (475F) pendant 30 minutes (à peu près).

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Bon appétit ! 🙂


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Lemon Ginger Scones

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Well, it seems like time has gotten away from me.  Skittered,  Scattered. Slunk.
You know what hasn’t seemed to disappear, however ?
The heat.
The past, oh I don’t know, week or so has been hot and humid in my neck of the woods.  Every morning, walking to work (after the car and train ride, I might add), I am just covered in an unhappy film of dog day perfume: perspiration.  In such oppressive heat and humidity, nobody wants to cook.  In my house, we’ve been creating cold salads, grilling often, and even toasting breakfast outside in an effort to keep the oven dormant and cold.

Yes, I am using the heat as an excuse for my miserable updating skills.  As a result, in celebration of this lovely, cool evening, I’m adding a fabulous morning treat otherwise entitled “Lemon Ginger Scones.”  Around here, we don’t have a lot of entertainment…trees, birds, boats, testing pontoons in a pool…maybe not that last one, but the novelty of going to the General Store for breakfast never seems to wear off.  What to order ?  Scones.  Scones scones scones scones.  And a cappuccino (if you’re me; others prefer americanos).  In any case, it dawned on me that while I will always love the 2 mile trek down the road, making my own scones is also an option.

Therefore, when my mom showed up with a bag of candied ginger, we were off to the races.  These scones are aromatic and spicy with an almost-authentic texture thanks to the use of plain yogurt.  You cannot make these without real, candied ginger.  It will not taste the same.  Go on, take a risk and purchase this odd ingredient because its presence adds fabulous bursts of flavor in every bite of scone.  It also pairs fantastically with coffee, a fried egg, and perhaps some cheesy grits.

Ingredients :

2 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp lemon zest + the juice of a lemon
1/2 tsp lemon extract (if you are lemon fans)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, frozen and chopped
4 1/2 oz candied ginger (about 2/3 cup), chopped into small chunks
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup plain yogurt

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Using a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flour, sugar and barking powder.  Pulse on low to incorporate.  If you don’t have a food processing machine, it’s okay – just use a spoon to mix together these three ingredients.

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Add the lemon zest, butter, lemon juice and extract.  Pulse on and off, until the mixture is pale yellow and crumbly – you should be able to press it between your fingers and it will make a loose ball. If  you are without a mixer, just knead the butter in with your hands – the heat from your fingers will render the butter easier to work with, but be sure to begin with VERY COLD BUTTER.  If it warms up too much, it will change the texture of the scone and the consistency of the batter.

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Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the ginger.  In a small bowl, combine the yogurt and the cream, stirring to make a smooth mixture.  Make a well in the ingredients; pour the dairy into the flour combo and stir with a spoon or your hands – whatever you prefer.  I like to get messy in the kitchen, so I’ll use my natural appendages to mix, but don’t hesitate to use a little tool here and there.

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Turn the dough out onto a floured surface.  Roll out until it’s about 3/4 of an inch thick.  Cut into rounds – just as I did for the strawberry shortcakes, I used a glass to make nice circles to great effect.  Place into a greased baking sheet, spaced about 1 inch apart from each other.

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Brush the tops with cream, drizzle with some raw sugar if you so desire, and bake for about 14 minutes or until just beginning to brown.

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Devour with a hot cup of coffee and a beautiful summer morning.  Bon appétit !

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Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Goat Cheese and Figs

[^that title is quite the mouthful, but any other description escapes me.]

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It has come to my attention that my blog has turned into a bakery.  I love bakeries.  Bakeries are great places, full of fun smells, bright colors, and lots of flour.

But you can’t really live off of bakeries.  Eating only bread and cookies doesn’t really get one very far.  So, in an effort to change things up a bit, here’s a savory dish I discovered while perusing Epicurious, that fabulous anthology of recipes that has yet to fail me.

A common complaint from the familial peanut gallery lies in the abundance of chicken dishes that grace the kitchen table.  We seem to eat only chicken with the occasional night of RED MEAT (ooooooo).  Indeed, we are still a carnivorous household despite a lot of societal pressures to go vegetarian.  When these grumbles arise, I often suggest pork…the “other white meat.”  I’ve always liked pork; my family, however, never got on the hog wagon and it’s a battle to convince madre to purchase a tenderloin.

This go around, I seem to have worn down the ranks and upon pitching my recipe suggestion, the parents ran off to purchase fresh figs, a first for us, and a nice pork tenderloin for grilling.  Something about the combination of sweet from the figs and honey to the savory from the goat cheese, pork, and aromatic rosemary must have piqued the interest of a few finicky Froths.  This recipe is probably the easiest recipe around for summer as you just need a grill to make it a reality.  Oil up the figs and meat, place on grill, cook, cut, drizzle with honey, and eat….rather like this.


One (1 to 1 1/4 pounds) pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons olive oil
Fine kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
12 small ripe figs
Goat cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary (I only had dried…oh well !)

Crank up the grill and get it very hot.  For this, I enlisted my dad, as he is known as the grillmaster of the house.  It’s also nice to shoo him outside every once in awhile…but shh, don’t tell him.  Back in the kitchen, bush the tenderloin with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Bring out to the grill when ready.

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Rinse the figs and pat dry. Pierce the figs through the middle with a metal skewer – do not peel.  Lightly brush the figs with olive oil and season with a little coarse salt.

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Place the pork tenderloin directly over the fire. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side (the center-cut pork loin filet for 5 to 7 minutes per side), turning a quarter turn at a time, until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 140°F for medium and the meat is juicy and slightly pink in the center.  (This is what the original recipe says – we cooked it longer). If you have a nice cut of meat and you know it is FRESH FRESH FRESH and from a happy hog, I’d say follow the directions and embrace a pinker meat.

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At the same time, place the skewered figs over the fire, turning several times and cooking for about 5 to 6 minutes until they are heated through. When they’re caramelized and soft, remove the skewers from the heat and keep warm.  I just poked them and when they were squishy and smelled like slightly burnt sugar, we placed them on a platter.

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Let the pork rest for about 5 minutes, and then cut on the diagonal into 1- to 2-inch-thick slices.  Unless you’re impatient…

To serve, alternate between pieces of pork and goat cheese, with the figs on the side.  Drizzle a liberal amount of honey over the platter (believe me, you won’t regret this decision to be generous with this honeybee glory) and top with a few shakes of dried rosemary.

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For dinner, we served it with quinoa and arugula salad.  All the elements worked nicely together: the pork, fig, and goat cheese combination is sweet and is therefore nicely contrasted by the bitter and peppery arugula.  Quinoa, as a side, adds texture and serves as a palate for the softer components of the dish.   All in all, a fabulous meal.

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Bon appétit !

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Strawberry Shortcakes


While at school, I happened to have coffee with a professor (on multiple occasions, as she always manages to put a smile on my face and a spring in my step regardless of pre-existing grumbles).  As we plowed through a myriad of different conversation topics, we fell upon cooking.  In a wonderfully kind and enormously appreciated gesture, this professor [knowingly] enabled my procrastination abilities and handed me a tote bag full of old Cook’s Illustrated magazines, sticky-noted with suggestions and recipes that she uses for her family.

Needless to say, I was in heaven.  (Still am, actually…definitely a good example of the imperfect tense in French – not only an emotion, but a state that began in the past and continues to the present.  Merci à vous, chère prof extraordinaire !)

Cook’s Illustrated is a fantastic review of recipes published after immense scrutiny.  As a result, the recipes that make the cut are polished and often foulproof.  Furthermore, the pages include scientific reasons why certain ingredients fail and other succeed – handy to note if ever one needs to do a little ingredient switcheroo.

Bref, upon hitting these “lazy” summer months, I’ve been reading through these Cooks Illustrated like it’s my job…which it isn’t…but that’s alright !  In so doing, I’ve copied multiple recipes including this fabulous strawberry shortcake concoction from the 1997 May/June issue.  I’ve made shortcakes before, but they never have quite the proper consistency.  This go-around, I was pleased to discover a nice, scone-like shortcake that was so easy to make, the dessert was ready in under an hour (20 minute prep, 20 minute cook/cool).  For a family that loves spontaneous sweets morning, noon, and night, a quick fix is a popular one.

June is strawberry time in MA, and we’ve been nibbling on native berries that are small but incredibly sweet.  Whip up (or roll out) some shortcakes while this fruit is still in season !

Topping :

3 pints strawberries (Mash 1 pint, quarter the other two)
6 tbsp sugar (optional !  If those strawberries are really fresh, just add 1-2 tbsp)
Squeeze of lemon if desired.

Wash the berries and pat them dry.  The recipe divides them by pints, but I just did it by handful – one handful of mashed berries to two handfuls of intact berries.  I don’t have a way to measure a pint in the kitchen, so I rely on my eyeballs.  Mash the berries with a fork – they don’t need to be beaten into a pulp, just macerated enough to release some of the juices and make a faux (well, fausse) sauce.

For the “intact” berries, hull and quarter them.  Hulling is very easy – pull back the stem, run the knife around the center of the berry, making a cone shape, then pull it out and discard.






Cut the berry into quarters, put in a bowl with the sugar (as little or as much as you prefer – I didn’t need much due to the freshness of the berries).

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A little lemon juice is pleasant as well, as is Grand Marnier liqueur. Let this sit while you prepare the shortcakes.

Shortcakes :

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp sugar; 2 tbsp for sprinkling (5 total)
1 stick butter, frozen
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cups + 1 tbsp half and half
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 425F.  In a medium bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and 3 tbsp sugar.  Mix together to evenly distribute the ingredients.  Set aside.


Grab that stick of FROZEN butter.  Using a large cheese grater, grate the butter onto a plate (or directly into the dry ingredients, if you are strong enough to do so.  I am a weakling and cannot grate while holing our [broken] grater).  I put a plate or a paper towel on top of the counter and therefore grate straight up and down rather then on an angle.  I found it was easier to do it this way, if not simply for the well-being of my whisk-worn wrists.  Toss the butter curls into the flour mixture.

If you don’t have a grate, fear not !  Simply cut the butter into small, workable pieces and mix them into the flour mixture.

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Using your hands, work the butter into the flour until it forms large clumps and resembles cornmeal…or almond flour.  You should be able to squish the dough between your fingers and it will momentarily keep its shape.


Mix the beaten egg with half and half; pour it into the flour mixture.  I made a hole in the dry ingredients and emptied the egg combo into the center of the flour, then mixed with a fork.  Stir until large clumps form.

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Turn mixture our onto a floured work surface and lightly knead until it comes together – this shouldn’t take long nor a lot of flour – it’s a sticky, soft, loose dough.  Just make sure the countertop is nicely floured and you shouldn’t have any problems.


Pat dough into a 9-by-6” rectangle (well, that’s rather fussy, isn’t it ?) that is 3/4 inches thick. I would just estimate a nice rectangle that is about the thickness of your pinkie nail.  The cakes will rise in the oven, but not excessively, so keep that in mind when you are patting out the dough.  Cut the dough into 6 rounds (or more, depending on how thick or thin you made your dough).  I used a glass as my “cookie cutter” and it worked perfectly.  Place over the dough, press, turn, and lift – works like a charm.

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Place 1 inch apart on a large baking sheet.  Brush the tops with eggs whites and sprinkle with remaining sugar – if you have turbinado sugar, or raw sugar, I think that would be excellent.

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Bake until golden brown – probably about 12-15 minutes in a hot oven.  Upon removal, let the cakes cool until warm, about 10 minutes.

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To serve, split each cake cross-wise and plop a hearty spoonful of vanilla ice cream in the center.  Spoon berries over ice cream and maybe a little whipped cream, and serve on a back porch on a warm sumer night !


Bon appétit ! 🙂

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Mousse au Frangelico


I was sitting in the kitchen, contemplating the world (as usual) and of course, attempting to make une décision très importante:  what to have for dessert. Crise existentielle de la journée, as one might say.  Alone, with a kitchen just begging to be used, and a sibling returning soon home from her long day over at the Eric Carle Museum…I felt the pressure.  What to do, what to do.

Hm.  I didn’t have any chocolate chips.
Nor enough oatmeal to make oatmeal scotchies.
Not in the mood for pie.

I could make brownies.  But I don’t want those either.

Then I started thinking…what about mousse ?  It was a beautiful day, mousse doesn’t sound hard, and it’s definitely soemthing new. With a bit of luck, sibling called, saying she would happily pick up some ingredients at a local market before coming home.   With her purchasing whipping cream and some native strawberries (for ’tis the season, so they say), I set about crafting some mousse.

I didn’t want chocolate mousse – too rich and I didn’t have the right chocolate for it.  I thought abotu what goes with cream and ended up with…frangelico !  Frangelico is a lovely hazelnut liqueur that is best served (in my humble opinion) with cold cream.  Best friends with the exotic Kahlua and the reliable Bailey’s, Frangelico is another one of those dessert-type liqueurs that comes in an immediately identifiable bottle and possessing an unforgettable flavor.  It’s refreshing and delicious and just sounded fabulous with strawberries and a little chocolate garnish.  When I googled my concept, however, nothing came up.


I’ve never made mousse and apparently, the world hasn’t made frangelico mousse – all I located were chocolate-based recettes.  As a result, I made up my dessert and lucky for me, it turned out splendidly.  Light and creamy from both egg whites and whipped cream, the mousse was a great summer treat and the strawberries, being native, tiny, and adorable (I know a souris who would have loved them) added an excellent tartness to the dish.  I served mine in chocolate cups, but you definitely don’t need to do that – the mousse is delicious as a solo act.

NOTE:  MOUSSE REQUIRES THE USE OF RAW EGGS.  PLEASE USE THE FRESHEST EGGS AVAILABLE TO MAKE THIS DESSERT IN ORDER TO AVOID GETTING SICK.  If you buy pasteurized eggs, which apparently exist, make sure the whites are whippable, as some pasteurized eggs lose the ability to whip due to protein denaturation.

For the mousse :

3 FRESH eggs
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar + 2 tbsp (one for whipping cream, one for egg whites)
3-4 tbsp Frangelico (I did it by taste but I would guess it was about this much)

Start by separating the eggs.  Put the yolks in a large bowl and set the whites aside for the time being.  Grab a whisk and roll up your sleeves – mousse requires some serious mixing skills.  Add the 1/2 cup sugar, butter, and vanilla to the yolks.  Whisk until they thicken and lighten in color (this step is also known as ribboning the eggs – it makes sure the sugar is well distributed throughout the yolks).  Add the frangelico, stir, and taste.  The yolk won’t hurt you – be bold and taste it !  You should be able to taste a burst of hazelnut and a tiny bite of alcohol, but not much.  If you want more, be my guest and get those yolks a little silly !




In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Add 1 tbsp of sugar and beat again to incorporate, staying at the soft peaks stage.  Set aside.


In YET ANOTHER bowl, whip the cream until thick and looks like a swirly mountain range.  I used the trusty Sunbeam beater to do this because I didn’t want to whisk by hand and I’d already used BOTH electric mixing bowls.  Kitchen drama.  Add the 1 tbsp sugar, mix again to incorporate, and grab a spatula.



This next bit is a little delicate.  Start by adding the whipped cream to the yolk mixture.  Using a spatula, fold the cream in carefully – we are trying to increase the volume of the combination.  Don’t over mix – it’s okay if it’s not all incorporated because…


…we are going to fold AGAIN !  Once all the whipped cream has been added, spoon in the egg whites and continue folding.  When complete, the entire concoction should be very airy, large, and a pale yellow color.  Cover your container and let chill until set – probably a good 4 hours.



Naturally, we weren’t that patient and ate ours before it had entirely chilled and the sky did not open up nor did the earth quake, so if you are like my sibling and I (two antsy filles with a stubborn sweet tooth), go ahead and indulge early.


Serve in chocolate cups with chopped strawberries OR on it’s own in a little ramekin OR with a vanilla wafer OR eat it straight out of the bowl.  Bon appétit ! 🙂

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Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal Bars


We used to have a rhubarb plant growing in the garden and I remember eating a lot of strawberry rhubarb pies as a child.  Rhubarb is this funny looking little (well, large and leafy, actually) plant that greatly resembles celery…except it’s red and fairly bitter.  My mom LOVES it stewed with a little sugar and perhaps some brightly colored fruits we call strawberries.

[Side note: I feel like I talk about my mother a lot…it would seem that she greatly influences my cooking.  Pity she doesn’t read my blog.  Mom, hello ?  You there ?

I hear the crickets, too.  Oh well – I suppose she doesn’t need to read my blog because she gets the real deal…part of the benefits of living with your family.  They eat your treats (and you don’t feel awkward eating EVERYTHING)].

In any case, to continue my original train of thought, my mom loves rhubarb and therefore purchased a bunch from the farmstand a few days ago.  Today, upon leaving me alone in the house and looking at the rainy weather, said, “Liz, please do something about this rhubarb and these strawberries I got from TJs.  I have pie crust in the freezer if you don’t want to bother making some, but I really don’t want this rhubarb kicking around the kitchen anymore.”  Yes everyone, the rhubarb is now my problem and I have to “do something about it.”  Sigh.  Such a burden.

I knew she wanted a pie.  Or if she didn’t want it, she was thinking about it. Alas, I’m not a huge pie person…unless it’s a cream pie, a tart, or Eva’s Shoofly Pie, which I have yet to make but for which I purchased more molasses about a week ago.  What to do…what to do…

I know !  What about little squares ?  Like raspberry or lemon squares but with a strawberry rhubarb filling ?  I like this idea.  I like it a lot.  Upon making this epic decision, I set about creating this dessert.  For the crumb, I used the same recipe as the one found on my raspberry squares recipe with a few minor changes due to a lack of ingredients…

Just in time for June, strawberries, and the season of rhubarb, here’s a quick dessert that should convert rhubarb skeptics into believers.  [Hear that, mom ?]  🙂

3 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces – I used about 5 medium stalks
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries, quartered (you can ALWAYS add more – I only had about 2 cups worth)
1/2 lemon, squeezed and zested
1/2 cup sugar + 1 tbsp (tasting margin)
2 Tbsp cornstarch

Throw the rhubarb, strawberries, zest and lemon juice in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Rhubarb contains a fair amount of water (as do strawberries) so you don’t need to add any other liquid.



Stir frequently to keep the fruit from sticking to the bottom. Cook until the fruit is tender – the strawberries will start to breakdown and the rhubarb should be intact but easy to puncture or pull apart.IMG_9832

In another bowl, combine the cornstarch and the sugar, mixing together to combine.  The cornstarch acts as a thickener so that your compote won’t run later when placed between the cookie layers.  The little starch molecules swell and expand when placed in contact with liquid, making a pasty consistency.  I used two healthy tablespoons, so if you increase your fruit amount, don’t be afraid to add more cornstarch.  Let it boil until quite thick.  Set aside to cool.


Oatmeal crumble :

3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs
1-2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups oatmeal

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Take out a large rectangular pan – I’m not sure what the dimensions of mine were…but probably 9×13 as that’s standard.  You have two options – either serve theses bars like a crumble and just grease the pan – which is delicious – or line it with wax paper to allow for easy removal and cutting.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until nice and creamy.  If you are using a whisk – have at that lard !


Add the sugar and cream again until the mixture begins to lighten in color.  NOTE:  I did not have 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar in my pantry.  I used about 3/4 cup dark brown sugar (all that I had) and then added abotu 1/4 cup of white sugar and a nice blob of molasses.  In total, the measuring cup contained about 1 1/4 cups worth of sweetness.  If you are in a pinch, mixing white sugar and molasses will essentially get you brown sugar, but I find the sweetness to be more concentrated so I just use less of the new combination.


In a separate bowl, combine the flour and the baking soda.  I think a dash of some spice nice as well, perhaps a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves would be tasty.  Add the flour slowly (to avoid flour clouds !) and mix well.

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Add 2 cups of oatmeal to the mixture and stir.  My little mixer took on a rather grumpy tone adn refused to properly incorporate the oats, so I just mixed them by hand with a spatula and a spoon.  The batter should be fairly crumble but still like a cookie.  Press about 2/3 of batter into the bottom of the pan, working from the middle out.  Be sure to keep the layer an even thickness all the way out to the edges so the cook times aren’t wonky.  Top this mixture with the compote made earlier.  Again, spread evenly !  Use that spatula responsibly.


Add the final cup of oats to the remaining batter and mix until very crumbly.  Sprinkle this overtop the pan and don’t be afraid to use your fingers.  Getting dirty in the kitchen…it happens.  All the time.  The upside ?  You get to nibble the dough.  Who doesn’t love oatmeal cookie dough ?  Win-win situation, if you ask me.


Bake until the top is golden brown – as you can see in the photo below, the color doesn’t change much, so you have to watch this one in the oven.  I cooked mine for about 20 minutes.


Let the bars cool before cutting, or else you’ll just end up with a big gooey mess.  I suggest serving them warm with ice cream, but they are just as fabulous on their own with a cup of tea.  Happy June and bon appétit !  🙂

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Little Apricot Cakes


When I was little (yes, quite literally much shorter than I am now), my mom always took me grocery shopping. As we would peruse Idylwilde Farms, I was often fixated by the candied fruit section.  I, of course, thought they were so pretty that they had to taste good.  One time, we purchased such apricots.

I ate one…

…and was pretty disappointed by the rest.  As a result, I lived a good portion of my life in opposition to apricots.  I’d only really eaten the dried and sugared variety, and the idea that fresh apricots existed never crossed my mind.

Until, that is, I went to France during the early summer years ago.  Apricots are everywhere and they don’t cost nearly as much abroad as in dear old New England.  Though hesitant to try, a friend of mine picked up the golden yellow fruit, peeled it into two deliciously orange and fleshy slices, and handed me one saying, “Essaie, goûte-le !” otherwise stated as TRY IT.

How could I not like it ?  The flavor bursts from the slightly furry skin, which adds a nice texture to a very soft and somewhat gooey interior.  It’s sweet and tart and easy to eat – you just place both thumbs where the step peeks out, press in and pull apart.  Perfect for a picnic.  As a result of this obsession started later in life, my mom sometimes buys fresh apricots (she claims to have always loved them.  I give myself some credit, however, since these fresh fruits had never shown up in the fruit bowl previously) and we race to finish them.  After indulging in a whole box of them from Trader Joe’s (at a very fair price, I might add), I decided to cook with them, stumbling upon this recipe for “little apricot cakes” in Bon Appétit (June 2013).  The recipe itself seemed great, but as a “true” apricot lover, I felt there wouldn’t be enough apricot implicated in the dessert’s design.  What to do, what to do…

When in doubt, make a sauce !  So I’ve paired these little cakes with a warm apricot compote and vanilla ice cream.  Think of it as…apricot shortcake !  Trust me, it was delicious and so easy to make, you might as well be blindfolded.

Welcome to the beginning of your apricot obsession.

Ingredients :

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch nutmeg
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg + 1 yolk (I had one kicking around in the fridge to use up)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
3 apricots, halved, pitted, cut into wedges
2 tbsp sugar (raw suggested, I used regular)

Directions :

Line one standard muffin tin with cupcake liners (or grease liberally with butter – it’s your call).  This recipe will make 12 and only 12 cakes, so no need to neglect a space/fill with water.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and nutmeg.  Whisk together to combine, then set aside.


Beat butter and sugar in another medium bowl until light and creamy.  The butter should form lovely little floufs when lifted from the bowl.


Add egg, yolk, and vanilla, mixing until smooth.  A little word to the wise – sometimes, a cold egg from the fridge will cause the lovely, smooth butter to stiffen and stubbornly refuse to mix.  As a general rule, it’s best to let all ingredients come to room temperature before combining…however sometimes (read: often) I’m lazy and don’t think that far ahead.  FEAR NOT if this happens to you !  The solution ?  Microwave your milk for about 30 seconds, giving it a shot of heat.  This will re-warm the butter and make him much more cooperative.  Seductive, no ?


Moving right long, with mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with milk.  Bon Appétit asks that you begin and end with the dry ingredients – which chemically makes sense due to the baking powder – however I often ignore this advice and see no adverse side effects.  Just add both at the same time and mix well.  Scrape down the sides and mix one more time.


Divide batter among muffin cups (cups will not be full) and smooth tops. Top with apricot slices and sprinkle with sugar.



Bake until cakes are golden and a tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, 20–25 minutes.  Don’t fret if it looks a little runny around the apricots; the fruits release liquid during cooking that give the illusion of uncooked batter.  Use a tester to be sure of doneness, but just don’t be alarmed if the apricot makes the top a little…soft.


Transfer cakes to a wire rack and let them cool slightly before serving.

Apricot sauce :

5 apricots, pitted and quartered (keep the skin on)
1/2 cup water
2 1/2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp cointreau
1 tbsp triple sec
Dash of ginger and nutmeg

In a small saucepan, mix the apricots, water, and sugar and set over medium heat.  Let the mixture come to a boil, stirring occasionally.  The apricots will breakdown as they cook; the softer they became, the more I mixed in an effort to separate as much fruit from the skins as possible.  Also – I enjoy the texture the skin offers and I find that in apricots, about 90% of the flavor comes from the skin.  If you would prefer a smoother texture in your sauce, it is easy to fish out the skins after cooking.



Once the fruit has broken down and you have a fairly thick sauce going, add the liqueurs, stirring after each addition.  Sprinkle the nutmeg and ginger over top – just a quick pinch for a little kick – and taste the sauce.  I cooked out most of the alcohol, looking rather for a little balance of orange flavors.  Naturally, if you want to leave a little bite in the sauce, let the sauce cool before adding a drip more cointreau.  The heat forces the alcohol to evaporate, allowing the softer orange flavors to remain in the sauce (which is what I preferred).


To serve, I recommend cutting the cake in half, plopping a generous dollop of vanilla ice cream between the halves and smothering in warm apricot compote.  Nothing says June more than this “healthy” and bright dessert.


As they say, bon appétit !

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Onion Oregano Bread


While at school, I think I earned the reputation of being the breadmaker.  For various events, I was always bringing (or offering to bring) homemade bread, simply because it’s something that 1) I miss a lot when at school and 2) I truly enjoy making.  Yes, it takes a long time.  I am aware of no-knead recipes and shortcuts, but I think the best part about bread is the process itself: MANUAL LABOR.  ELBOW GREASE.  Those are just whiny words for KINESTHETIC THERAPY.  (See, when I put it like that, the ordeal adopts a medical sound.  I could probably open a bakery an employ anyone who needs to vent frustrations and just have them knead my bread all.day.long.  Brilliant business model, no ?)

In any case, while home for winter break, I noted this recipe for Onion Oregano bread (from Bon Appétit, 2005) thinking it sounded tasty and would use two ingredients rarely lacking in my pantry: oregano and onions.  The original calls for fresh oregano but I used dried to great effect.  However, as summer is upon us, those with access to an herb garden should go pick a nice handful of oregano to use with this recipe – the flavor will be fresher, more intense, and a nice compliment to a grilled meal.

I left mine in a hot oven for a smidge too long, as the color is very dark.  Ideally, you want to lower the temperature of the oven just as the outside begins to brown so that you don’t have a charred crust and a doughy interior.  Lucky for me, the inside was perfectly cooked – just the outside was a little too dark for my liking.

Ingredients :

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups warm water (105-115F)
1 envelope active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1 tsp sugar or honey
4 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp sa;t
1/4 cup chopped, fresh oregano
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp H2O
Directions :

Heat the olive oil in a heavy, small skillet over medium heat.  Add the chopped onion, sautéing until translucent.  This will only take about 5 minutes, but you are welcome to cook them longer.  I love caramelized onions, and I think this bread would be great if it called for an entire cup of onion, caramelized.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and let cool.




In another bowl, pour 1 1/2 cups warm water.  In order to warm the liquid properly, I measure it then microwave it for about 45 seconds.  Then, I stick my index finger in the water.  If I burn myself, it’s too hot and must cool.  If the temperature is pleasantly warm – it’s go time.  If it’s still just lukewarm, microwave it again (in smaller increments).  Of course, if you possess a kitchen thermometer, then just use that.  🙂  The water has to be a comfortable temperature for a few reasons, the most important of whihc being that yeast will die if the water is too hot.  You will become a yeast killer if you throw these little dormant bacteria into water above a certain temperature.  If you murder the yeast, their revenge will be sweet – your bread will not rise.  However, if you find a good temperature, the little yeasties wake up and, like any organism, begin to feed.  This is why to the water mixture, you add 2 1/2 tsp of sugar or honey – that is the nourishment we, the baker, provide for the yeast, the workhorse of the breadmaking operation.  Once you’ve combined the water and sugar, and stirred until dissolved, add your yeast and stir a bit.  Then, let the mixture sit and watch what happens:  the yeast begin to eat and release waste.  That waste ?  It’s what makes bread rise.  Might be a little strange to think about, but breadmaking relies on yeast farts.  If you smell the measuring cup while it’s proofing – a word the might as well be missing the “r” as poofing is a more accurate term – you’ll notice a distinct odor.  That’s the combination of air and alcohol made by the yeast as they devour the sugar we gave them.

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But this is just the beginning.  While that yeast is enjoying itself, mix together 4 cups of flour and the 2 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl.  Stir in the onions and any oil remaining in the pan – there should be a little and if there isn’t, I’d add a slug of oil to the dough.  Grab your poofy yeast, give it a quick stir, and pour it into the flour mixture.  Add oregano and mix well.

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Knead briefly in bowl, just until everything comes together, then turn out onto a well floured surface (this is what the remaining 1/2 cup flour is for).  Knead until dough it smooth and elastic, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls as necessary to keep dough from sticking – about 10 minutes of kneading.  Kneading is essential to bread because it allows for the creation of gluten networks.  Gluten, found in flour, is responsible for creating the structure of bread.  Kneading rearranges the proteins in gluten (glutenin and gliaden – fancy little things), creating a setup that traps the gas released by the yeast, allowing bread to rise and contributing to its fluffy texture when baking.  There used to be a hysterical youtube video about this but I can’t find it anymore…it actually animated gluten.

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In any case, once you’ve kneaded the bread to a silky consistency, shape it into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl.  Let rise, covered for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.  (I usually went to class while bread was rising.  Made the time go by faster.)

Once risen, punch it down.  Ka-pow !  Turn out onto work surface (again) and divide into two even lumps.  Working with these, first stretch them into a circle.  Fold the top two corners down, making a triangle shape.  Roll the tip of the triangle towards you until the bread resembles a baguette shape. Roll to finish the seam.  Place both loaves on a well oiled cookie sheet, cover with a towel and let rise again until just about doubled in size – it should take about 45 minutes.  During this time, preheat the oven to 450F and add a bainmarie if you feel like it (essentially fill a brownie pan with a low level of water and place in the oven while it preheats.  It will create steam and crisp the outside of the bread).

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Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg and water mixture. Using a serrated knife, make three or four quick cuts in the  top of the loaves – this will help when the bread expands.

Bake the bread for 10 minutes at this high temperature before reducing to 350F.  Bake until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped, about 30 minutes.


Cut and serve with dinner (or butter) and enjoy !  Bon appétit 🙂

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The Speculatoor

I feel like that's a jaunty pretzel. IMG_9576

With the close of the month of May comes the beginning of every student’s favorite season: summer.  I neglected my blog through second semester (whoops) due to far too many other preoccupations (such as essays, readings, homework, and those dratted friends I love so much…) but scratchbatch is back in action for the summer !  🙂  As I’m bidding farewell to my school work for a small window of time (trading it in for francophone whippersnappers – oui, je suis “prof” en été), I figured a cupcake would be a nice transition piece.

As many of my fellow library-goers know, when I’m studying late at night…my weakness is chocolate covered pretzels and Speculoos spread. (If you don’t know what Speculoos is, you might want to check it out…this cupcake might as well be called the “Belgian Wonder” as it uses two ingredients Belgium seems to understand best: chocolate, and this spread made from spice cookies).  Sometimes together, sometimes apart.  But truly, those are my go-to nibble foods.  With a cappuccino.  Naturally, crunching away helps my productivity.  It does.  Really.  Kat knows exactly what I’m talking about. Meow.

In any case, what does this have to do with cupcakes ?  Given my love for this combination, I had the notion that perhaps these flavors would make a nice cupcake. (Baked and Wired, this is where you start paying attention – this cupcake is for YOU.  It says “Sell me !  I would be best friends with the Tessita and you know it !”  Cupcakes are rarely wrong about these things, so I suggest you listen up).  The Speculatoor consists of a moist vanilla cupcake filled with speculoos and pretzel topped with a thick, chocolate satin ganache. Yes, it tastes just like the real mccoy from this fabulous bakery.  No, I didn’t have to bribe the bakers…I just sort of made it up.  Every once in awhile you get lucky.

An easy cupcake to craft, it takes a bit of patience, but the end result is really quite decadent and delicious – worthy of D.C.

Vanilla Cupcakes:

1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup plain yogurt (or sour cream)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Dash of nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon

Directions : Preheat the oven to 350F and line one muffin tin – this recipe will make twelve cupcakes.  Double it for 24.


In a small container, mix together the yogurt, milk and vanilla.  Whisk together to incorporate and set aside.  This will be added in tandem with the flour a little later.  Why ?  Because we want the milk to react with the baking powder at the right moment in time – just before heading into the oven for the optimum rising reaction.


In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, spices, and baking powder.  Stir well to evenly incorporate the leavening agent.  Set aside.


In yet another container, cream the butter until nice and light.  Add the sugar slowly, again beating until fluffy. From here, add the eggs and mix until smooth.  I might add that bringing all the ingredients to room temperature make the mixing process easier BUT FEAR NOT if you didn’t realize this was helpful: you can always wrap a warm towel around the mixing bowl and all will incorporate sans problème.

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To the butter mixture, add the flour and the yogurt combinations; start with the dry and alternate between the two.  Mix until uniform and then pour into cupcake pan, being careful not to overfill the tray.

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Cook for about 20 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed.  Let cool before moving on to the next step.

Speculoos filling

3 heaping tablespoons of Trader Joe’s cookie butter
2 tbsp butter, softened
Some pretzels, crushed
A few turns of coarse salt
2 tbsp cream or milk
2 tbsp confectioners’ sugar

Directions : Place the speculoos and butter into a small container and whip.  The mixture should lighten slightly in color.

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Add the cream and the confectioners’ sugar, whipping again.  Add the salt. Take about 2/3 of the smooth mixture and transfer to another container.


Into this, stir in the crumbled pretzel bits.  I like to taste along the way – I was looking for a center that would be sweet at the start, but upon chewing would yield a little burst of salt.  If you prefer just smooth and sweet, skip the pretzel step.


When the cupcakes are cool, use your finger (or a 1/2 tsp) to create a little hole in the center of each cupcake.  Spoon in the crunchy speculoos-pretzel mixture.  Top with a little covering of the smooth speculoos concoction and set aside.

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Chocolate Satin Ganache

1/2 cup light cream (or half and half)
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar (I would use less but I like VERY.DARK.CHOCOLATE.)
3 tbsp butter, chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla

I think this is the best chocolate frosting I’ve ever made.  It is really easy to make and will definitely become a staple in my cookbook.

Directions : Pour the cream into a small saucepan and let come to a light boil. In another bowl, place the chopped chocolate.  I used Bakers unsweetened chocolate squares, 4 of them, but I think using a higher quality chocolate would yield an even better product.  That said, I wasn’t disappointed by my pantry’s standby.  The hot cream will melt the chocolate; whisk to combine.  Add the butter and mix together.  Again, the combined heat should be enough to melt the butter.  Whisk in the powdered sugar and vanilla last, stirring until just combined.  Let cool.  I placed mine in the freezer to cool faster…impatient little cook that I am.


When cooled and thickened, break out your hand mixer (I have a trusty old Sunbeam) and whip until nice and spreadable.  The mixer might groan a bit but this step is crucial.

Spoon into a pastry bag and swirl onto the cupcakes !  I topped mine with chocolate drizzled pretzels, but there’s no need to be fancy about it.

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Enjoy with a cup of tea (or hot milk) !  Bon appétit 🙂

Categories: English | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Grandy’s Vidalia Onion Pie

Onion tart bis

Recipe cards are funny little things.  Passed on from generation to generation, it’s always surprising to me just how sturdy these pieces of paper can be.  My grandmother houses a multitude of these recipes, jotted down in different handwritings, that catalogue dishes spanning decades…some delicious, and others a little strange.  This one, however, falls into the delicious category.  Rather like a quiche, this “onion pie” is a quick and easy fix, can stand in for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and is delicious cold.

Golden delicious !

I made a few changes from the recipe on the card:  I added paprika and cayenne (a few shakes) instead of tabasco sauce, as I didn’t have any (my college kitchen is limited).  I also used course grain Dijon mustard instead of dried mustard (again, because I didn’t have any…it’s not an ingredient I use often…) and the taste was fantastic.  The little mustard seeds give bursts of flavor to the filling, so I actually wouldn’t make it any other way.

Directions :

Though the instructions are noted on the card, I didn’t follow them exactly (sorry Grandy !) because microwaving onions sounded…strange.  I might explode them.  My microwave is also not particularly clean, so I decided to just make the entire apartment weep and chop up 5 medium onions.


That’s right.

All five onions, one small apartment = a very weepy lady.  When people came in to visit, I had to explain why it seemed like I had tragedy on my mind.

Chop chop chop.

In any case, I chopped the onions and placed them in a pan with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  I cooked them until translucent – about 10 minutes given the size of my pan.

Tears of joy, I swear !

While those were sautéing, I mixed together the eggs, sour cream, and spices in a large mixing bowl.

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Once the onions were nicely clear (and  no longer making me sob), I poured them into the mix and stirred again.  Once everything was nicely incorporated, I dumped the contents of the bowl into the prepared pie crust.  You can feel free to make your own crust, but I cheated this time and used Trader Joe’s pie crust (which you press into a pan and score before adding your fillings).

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Smother the top of the pie with cheese – believe me, it’s worth it – and place in the oven.  Cook until the top is a nice golden brown or until the egg has set – it shouldn’t be too wobbly upon removal from the oven.


I brought this to a meeting and it was promptly devoured…so don’t leave this “hot commodity” around or it might not be there when you return !  Trust your grandmother to have recipes that no one can refuse.

Bon appétit ! 🙂



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