Archive for October, 2013

Pipe Dream #229: To Suss Out Every Lingering Thing – Dimply Plum Cake

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This is not an extremely embarrassing story, but it is a “pain-of-my-heart” story. I’ve never shared before, so please keep this to yourself. I feel that it will be cathartic for me to share one of my more anguished high school experiences. This experience has probably shaped the woman I have become more than last week’s lunch breaks.

One of the worst food times I ever had was with a stone fruit. I brought a plum to Pier One to eat on my lunch break. It was plum season, and I was looking forward to it.

Bite, chew…?

And then I looked down and saw that what looked like a perfectly beautiful plum on the outside was rotted, brown and mealy on the inside.

(There is a Lady Wisdom/Lady Folly reference here; I know it.)

And in the privacy of the back room, I flipped out and spit chunks of plum everywhere while making “Mwlah ah ah” type sounds. And then I suffered disappointment because my reality failed to live up to my expectations. It was dramatic, but have you come to expect something different from me?

(Unless you text me, and think that I seem really boring and flat and non dramatic. Because I’ve gotten worse/lazier at texting since I’ve aged and can’t be bothered to try wit when I’m trying to correct my autocorrect. T9, why don’t you exist anymore?? Your death is my bane.)

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Ok, now that that is all out on the table, while I am waiting for the magical results of that cathartic typing, I would like to take another moment to say that this cake is not for plums like that.

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It is for beautiful, rich, colorful plums with no deceit in them.

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plum cake 4

You are welcome. And please…No one knows this story but you. Please keep it to yourself.


A Small Dimply Plum Cake

Adapted from Serious Eats

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1large egg
2 tablespoons flavorless oil, such as canola oil
grated zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 plums, halved and pitted

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the inside with flour, and tap out the excess.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom.

Working with a mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until it’s soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes, then add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each egg goes in. Still working on medium speed, beat in the oil, zest and vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until they are just incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the four plums halves cut side up in the batter, jiggling the plums a tad just so they settle.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the plums and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool.

This cake keeps at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Pipe Dream #228: To Deliver the Shockers – Pecan Brioche Sticky Buns

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I think the first thing I ever baked on my own was a brioche loaf from Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris in  middle school. I remember being a little surprised that my mum was so incredulous that the bread turned out (how hard can this whole bread thing be??), but given her tenuous relationship with yeast doughs of all kinds, I shouldn’t be shocked that she was shocked, I guess.

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Anyway, the bread turned out beautifully, and I was pleased. Brioche has a really tender, rich crumb, that–NEXT BIG SHOCKER–comes from an exorbitant amount of butter and eggs. LOW FAT WHO NEEDS IT.

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It’s fall time aka cinnamon roll time, and I have been wanting to eat a good sticky bun for forever. Seriously, when was the last time you had a great pre-packaged sticky bun. Obv, warm from the oven is of the essence. When I saw that this recipe was for a brioche sticky bun, I was sold and promptly ditched all plans for the weekend to set aside the necessary rise time/recovery time that it takes to make cinnamon rolls.

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sticky buns 1

Worth it. Even though I thought that the dough didn’t rise enough. They still turned out fine, but I keep wanting to retry the recipe to see if I can get the dough the really puff up.

The recipe is originally from Flour Bakery, but I actually saw it posted on the Salty Tart Bakery blog. Salty Tart is this sweet Minneapolis bakery. It’s all organic-y. I tried this little brioche rolled filled with cream and rolled in sugar, once. All I can say is, clearly, Salty Tart knows brioche.

Next time, I think I’ll reduce the amount of “goo” the recipe calls for by a quarter or a third. It was real sweet, and I think they might be just as moist with a little less?



Pecan Sticky Buns

Adapted slightly from the Flour Bakery recipe via Salty Tart’s blog

For the dough:

2 1/2 cups (350 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
2 1/4 cups (340 grams) bread flour
1 1/2 packages (3 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (82 grams) white sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup cold water
5 eggs

1 3/8 cups (2 3/4 sticks; 310 grams) butter, at room temperature, cut into 10 to 12 pieces (I didn’t have quite enough butter and used about 5 tablespoons of shortening to make up for it)

Using a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flours, yeast, sugar, salt, water and eggs. Beat on low speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until all the ingredients are combined. Stop the mixer occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients. Once the dough has come together, beat on low speed for another 3 to 4 minutes. The dough will be very stiff and dry.

With the mixer on low speed, add the butter, 1 piece at a time, mixing after each addition until it disappears into the dough. Continue mixing on low speed for about 10 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. It is important for all the butter to be thoroughly mixed into the dough.

Once the butter is completely incorporated, turn up the speed to medium and beat until the dough becomes sticky, soft, and somewhat shiny, another 15 minutes. It will take some time to come together. It will look shaggy and questionable at the start and then eventually it will turn smooth and silky. Turn the speed to medium-high and beat for about 1 minute. You should hear the dough make a slap-slap-slap sound as it hits the sides of the bowl. Test the dough by pulling at it; it should stretch a bit and have a little give. If it seems wet and loose and more like a batter than a dough, add a few tablespoons of flour and mix until it comes together. If it breaks off into pieces when you pull at it, continue to mix on medium speed for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until it develops more strength and stretches when you grab it. It is ready when you can gather it all together and pick it up in 1 piece.

Put the dough in a large bowl or plastic container and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of the dough. Let the dough proof (that is, grow and develop flavor) in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to overnight. You can wrap the dough tightly and freeze for up to one week.

For the caramel pecan goo:

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks; 170 grams, 6 ounces) butter
1 1/2 cups (345 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup (110 grams) honey
1/3 cup (80 grams) half and half or heavy cream
1/3 cup (80 grams) water
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar and cook, stirring until the butter and sugar are combined. Remove from the heat and whisk in the honey, cream, water, and salt. Let cool to room temperature. This should take about 30 minutes, but if you’re in a hurry, you can whisk it in an ice bath until cool. You should have about 3 cups. The mixture can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

To assemble the rolls:

1/4 cup (55 grams) light brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (100 grams) pecan halves, toasted and chopped

Divide the dough in half. Use half for this recipe and reserve the other half for another use.

On a floured work surface, roll out the brioche into rectangle about 12 by 16 inches and 1/4-inch thick. It will have the consistency of cold, damp Play-Doh and should be fairly easy to roll. Position the rectangle so a short side is facing you.

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and half of the pecans. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Starting from the short side farthest from you and working your way down, roll up the rectangle like a jelly roll. Try to roll tightly, so you have a nice round spiral. Trim off about 1/4- inch from each end of the roll to make them even.

Use a serrated knife to cut the roll into 8 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2-inches wide. (At this point, the unbaked buns can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week. When ready to bake, thaw them, still wrapped, in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, then proceed as directed.)

Pour the goo into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, covering the bottom evenly. Sprinkle the remaining pecans evenly over the surface. Arrange the buns, evenly spaced, in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm spot to proof until the dough is puffy, pillowy, and soft and the buns are touching-almost tripled in size, about 2 hours.

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 350 degrees F.

Bake until golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool in the dish on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes. One at a time, invert the buns onto a serving platter, and spoon any extra goo and pecans from the bottom of the dish over the top.

The buns are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, and then warmed in a 325 degree F oven for 10 to 12 minutes before serving.

Pipe Dream #227: To Ditch the Valley Girl Voice – Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

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It was just me and sess home, and six cupcakes between us. Half-batched as a tester recipe/sweets fix.

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Halfway through her second, she was all like, “These are the best cupcakes everrrrr.”

And I was all like, “Really? These are actually pretty dry and flavorless. They look nothing like the other better blogger’s pics.”

And she was all like, “Well. The frosting.”

And I was all like, “I know, right?”

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In conclusion of our valley girl conversation of the afternoon, I would like to say that the cupcake recipe is a bust, the cherry on the top of my life-is-less-than-perfect-no-it’s-not-a-healthy-reaction-or-cake-recipe baking weekend. This is likely because I used the cheapest cocoa powder I could find, added too much lemon juice to my makeshift buttermilk and then overfilled the liners. They could be good, guys. They could be.

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But on the other hand, the white chocolate buttercream was fab. Ultra-sweet and silky. Perfect for ruffly practice piping.

Other short valley girl side story: This last winter I was at a church dinner party with a bunch of people I didn’t know. One couple had young-ish kids, and they were cute. At some point in the evening, I must have spoken aloud, and it took about three seconds for the 8-year-old boy sitting next to me to repeat what I said. Except he said it in a valley girl voice. As in, he was mocking my voice, because, apparently, I sound like a valley girl. We all know that kids say the darndest things because kids be honest.

Please say this is not my voice. I want to be taken seriously in life about 50 percent of the time.

Like, totally!


ruffle cakes 6

Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

Adapted slightly from Sally’s Baking Addiction

For the cupcakes:

1/2 cup (1 stick or 115 grams) unsalted butter
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (45 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
3/4 cup (94 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk (I made my own with whole milk and lemon juice)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup cupcake/muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each time and being careful not to scorch the chocolate. Stir until smooth and set aside to slightly cool.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together until thoroughly combined. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and brown sugar together until smooth. Add the cooled butter/chocolate and whisk until smooth. Add half of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk. Repeat until everything is added. Stir until just combined; do not overmix. The batter will be very thick.

Divide the batter between the 12 liners in the cupcake pan. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the white chocolate buttercream:

6 ounces (170 grams) white chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup (230 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups (240 grams) confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup (60 ml) half and half, heavy cream or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt

In a medium bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for one minute. Switch the mixer to low speed and slowly add the confectioners’ sugar. Quickly stir the cooled white chocolate so that it is smooth and add to the butter/sugar mixture. Switch the mixer to medium speed and beat for two minutes until combined and creamy. Add the cream, vanilla extract, and salt. Beat for one minute until combined. Frost cupcakes.

Pipe Dream #226: To Keep Your Bread Fresh – Spiced Zucchini Bread + A Poor Poem

zucchini bread 2

When you bake as much as I do, it’s pretty much essential to have a freezer.

Freezers come in handy during the baking process. Sometimes I cheat and try to force butter to firm up after melting or to cool cupcakes faster so I can frost them. Flash freezing certain cookie doughs or biscuits or pastries prior to baking will help them keep keep their shape. Freezing bars and cake layers make them easier to slice cleanly and evenly.

Freezers make sharing easier. Rather than eating a whole pan of brownies, I can pop them in the freezer and take one out whenever I want. Just warm it up in the micro, and it’s like, instant warm, fresh brownie. Or if I bake something on a Friday that I want to share with co-workers on a Monday, I can freeze the final product and defrost later. Or if I have company coming over, I can grab some pre-shaped cookie dough balls from the deep freeze, add a few minutes to the baking time and have fresh-baked cookies in 15 minutes.

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A few freezer tips, in case you’ve never used one of these babies before:

  1. Make sure you always shut the freezer door. Otherwise you will find a thick layer of ice on your goods the next time you open the door. And you will not want to wear it. But you may want to eat it. It’s like perfectly clean snow conveniently located in your kitchen. Of course, I never ate the frost that collected in my freezer when I was a kid.
  2. Make sure to seal your bakes well before freezing. For baked cake layers, I double wrap them in plastic wrap and put them in Ziplocs before freezing. Remove as much air as possible from anything you’re wrapping, and try to use air tight containers. Sometimes I’ll even seal the edges of plastic tupperware dishes with masking tape. No freezer burn, please.
  3. Make sure not to freeze for too long. While freezing will significantly extend the shelf life of many baked goods, some things will only freeze for so long. Unbaked yeast breads, for example. Sometimes if I freeze them too long, they won’t rise properly. Also, the texture of certain finished products will change after a freeze and defrost. You may not get that perfectly crackly crust that you would have had if it had been fresh-baked.

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Quick breads were made to be popped out of the freezer for those cold, lazy mornings when you have a crowd to feed and all you want is  five more minutes with your feet not touching the ice cold floor. Hopefully this post will save your footses.

Frugal life tip: don’t chuck your overgrown zucchinis! This bread made use of one of those massive summer zucchinis that it is too woody to be cooked, which happens to  make it the perfect consistency for baking.

zucchini bread 1

And now, a rhyming list, also known as a poor poem:

Quick breads snifftable, I will swoon out

Quick breads giftable, I will wrap up

Quick breads rifftable, I will wax on

Hey, I only promised to keep your bread fresh, not your cultural prowess.

You’re welcome,


Spiced Zucchini Bread

Adapted from Food & Wine

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I ground mine fresh, so I guessed on this)
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 medium zucchini (about 7 ounces), finely shredded
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with vegetable spray. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cardamom. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar, oil, zucchini and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir gently with a spatula until the flour is just incorporated. Stir in the sour cream. At this point, you could also stir in a cup of chocolate chips or toasted pecans, if you were so inclined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 50 minutes until the top is browned and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. If the loaf browns too quickly during baking, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a rack to cool completely. These loaves freeze well, so I doubled the batch and wrapped one loaf tightly in plastic wrap to defrost as needed.

Favorite Shots: Matchy Savories

steak dinner fav

Savory steak dinner from a more foreign side of life. Sometimes life can be matchy-matchy, but not usually. Foreign salty, foreign matchy. I’ll take it.


Pipe Dream #225: To Sell SUPER PREMIUM – Oreo Cookies?

oreo cookies 4

Oreo Cookies? My first recipe with a punctuation mark. These are not one of those recipes for copycat Oreo cookies that you can find all over the Internet. Ho no. Instead, these are all the consistency of a real good chocolate chip cookie + the flavor of an Oreo – the cream filling of an Oreo. Win? Maybe. In my opinion, they were just a good foil for some SUPER PREMIUM pistachio gelato.

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oreo cookies 2

Sidenote: If you would ever like my dad to buy something from you/support your missions trip, just tattoo the words SUPER PREMIUM or GOURMET across your forehead. You’ll have an easy time of it.

Am I allowed to volunteer information like that?

I don’t know. Welp.

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I found these to be best the day they were baked. (Trick of the trade: scoop out balls of dough and freeze them so that you can bake a few cookies whenever you need them. Just add a minute or two to the bake time to account for their frozen state.) Even though I sealed them in a bag after I baked them, they were a bit harder on Day 2 (ahem, breakfast). Not crunchy, exactly, but not soft-baked breaking either.

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I tried a bunch of tricks with these, with more patience than I normally have for cookies. First, I baked them from their frozen freezing fryzing state, which made them stay a little thicker, and then I even let them cool completely on the baking sheet instead of a wire rack. I can’t remember where I heard about the baking sheet trick, but it feels kind of counter-intuitive to me. Like, wouldn’t the cookies bake more on the sheet? Good thing I have a few more with which to test this theory.

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3…1…2…1…2…testing…1…2…YEP…YEP…1…2…1…1,


Oreo Cookies

Barely adapted from Kirbie’s Cravings

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (16 tablespoons, 2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
13 Oreo cookies

In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Blend in the dry ingredients until dough is formed. Add the Oreos directly into batter and beat on medium high speed until Oreos are crushed and blended into dough. Roll dough into balls about 1 1/2 inch in diameter (I used a 2-tablespoon  cookie scoop), and put the dough in the freezer to chill for at least 30 minutes.

When ready to bake the cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Place onto lined cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.

Bake about 11-12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden around the edges. You may have to bake them a little longer if the dough is frozen. Cool on the baking sheet and store in an airtight container.

Pipe Dream #224: To Be the Awkardest – S’mores Butter Cake Cookies

butter cookie

Just let me tell you about this butter cookie first. Except I won’t tell you anything, because what if she grows up and doesn’t want her whole life on social media and then hates me forever? I would hate that forever. So you can just bug out on cuteness for a second. Here are the cookies I made for her and the fam one day:

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These cookies are a riff on a classic gooey butter cake. Less authentic butter cakes are made with cake mix these days, which is what I used for these cookies, but there are from-scratch butter cakes that would knock off yer socks with a yeast dough bottom and gooey filling. I tried one a while back. Not my best attempt, but I’m too scared to make another one because of the name. So.

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Plus, I spazzed when I saw these on another blog because they are s’mores-themed. S’mores-flavored, whateva. Like you haven’t had enough of this nonsense already.

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The key is to “cut in” the marshmallow cream. Don’t mix it too much. You want it to be like the swirls of marshmallow in that Kemps chocolate ice cream. You know the one.

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Final verdict? They were ok. The cookies were gooey, especially straight warm from the oven (no complaints thur), but they tasted less like cake batter and more like saccharine fake-cake. Like Twinkies, or something. I haven’t had a Twinkie maybe in my whole life, but I imagine they taste like these.

P.S. Every time I say something is “ok,” you know it is probably, like, actually really fine, and anyone would eat it at a potluck. I’m just trying to differentiate the truly exceptional from the garden-variety. Are you reaping what I’m sowing? Harvesting what I’m planting? Picking what I’m growing? Awkwardest, sorry.

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Sew awkward, can’t help it,


S’mores Butter Cake Cookies

Adapted from Something Swanky

9 ounces (1/2 package) yellow cake mix
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, softened
1/2 egg (about 1 ounce of a beaten egg)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars, chopped

2 1/2 graham cracker sheets (about 3/4 cup), chopped

heaping 1/2 cup marshmallow cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth, then beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the cake mix until well combined. Fold in the  in the chopped Hershey Bars and graham crackers with a large rubber spatula. Scoop the marshmallow cream onto the dough. Cut in the cream with the spatula, taking care not to mix it in too thoroughly, and leaving big patches of cream throughout. Scoop heaping tablespoonfuls of dough on to a baking sheet. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until the top is set, but the center is still gooey. Let rest on pan for five minutes before removing to wire rack to cool. Makes about 16 cookies.

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