Tag Archives: Baking

Bionic Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

I’ll probably regret this. I’ve got two six-week old newborns that are happily fed and snoozing away. I too should be sleeping. I shouldn’t be baking. I shouldn’t be blogging. However, fortune is on my side and she has come disguised as my mother.

This divine woman has given up a few months of her life in NYC to come and help me care for the two new additions to our family. Over the last few nights, with a little help from a breast pump, she has taken over the dreaded middle of the night wake up call and fed our two little darlings. This means for the first time in over a month, I have had a stretch of uninterrupted sleep (five hours is a lot these days!) and that makes me feel like the Bionic Woman!

Sleep is a precious thing.

With all that extra energy I wanted to do something I haven’t been able to do in a long while: spend some time in the kitchen. This whole new lifestyle has pumped up my cravings for cake. Probably not a good thing since I still have about 10 pregnancy pounds to shed. But, I gotta have my cake!

Stocked up in the fridge was a container of buttermilk and a basket of blueberries. That combination called for a Blueberry Buttermilk cake with a spiced pecan topping. A perfect way to make the transition from summer to autumn.

Blueberry Buttermilk Cake with Spiced Pecans

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter (at room temp)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°/180.

In a large bowl, cream 1/2 cup butter with the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir into butter mixture. Add buttermilk and mix; gently fold in blueberries.

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pecans. Pour half the cake batter into a greased 8-inch square baking pan. Sprinkle with half the brown sugar mixture and top with the remaining batter.

Combine the remaining brown sugar mixture with 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle over the top of the batter. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes.

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Berry Yogurt Loaf

Hooray, school’s out! Well, school has been out for a while, since February to be exact, when I went on maternity leave. There are a number of things I miss about being in the classroom with my kindergartens and one of them is cooking with the kids.

This is one of my favorite recipes to bake with children. Many seasons ago, when I was teaching 3 and 4 year olds in Milan, Italy, my British teaching assistant brought this recipe to class one morning. Since then, it has always had a cushy place in my classroom baking repertoire.

There are no fancy measuring cups or spoons, nor any lengthy instructions involved. It is however, very moist, tasty and my students have never turned down a slice. After demonstrating the recipe with the kids, they are able to independently bake it again without the help of an adult, except for the oven part of course. (It helps to illustrate the steps out for the kids on a large poster.)

Our alternative measuring cup

The children use the yogurt tub to measure all the ingredients for the loaf. They also use just one bowl to do all the mixing in. It’s a hassle free recipe, exactly the type of thing one wants when baking with a classroom full of children. The recipe is also easily adaptable. You can use different types of flavored yogurt and add other fruits as you like. It’s a win-win for all!



Berry Yogurt Loaf

150 grams (6 ounces?) of Berry Yogurt (one tub)
2 eggs
3 tubs of flour
2 tubs sugar
1 tub oil
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup of blueberries or any other kind of berries
zest of one lemon (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 180C/350 F

Prepare loaf pan with parchment paper or grease it.

In a large mixing bowl,
put the first 6 ingredients together,
with the oil going in last.
With a wooden spoon or spatula,
carefully stir the batter.
Gently fold in the berries and lemon zest.

Pour batter into loaf pan.
Bake for 50 minutes or until knife comes out clean.
Let cool on wire rack.
Add icing sugar on top, if you like.

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Maple Syrup Score

Last week, I came into a bit of good fortune, although it was somewhat bittersweet. Our friend Lindsey was coming to the end of her three-year stint in Prague. The greatest party planner in the world, Ms. Alli B., gathered up a few of her friends for a little surprise. We showed up at her apartment with some Thai take out and extra hands to help her out with the packing. In addition, we used the opportunity to celebrate her upcoming birthday a few weeks early.

Spread all around the apartment were the bounties of her years in Prague and of the exciting places she visited. Each piece told a story and highlighted a moment. Friends recounted events around some of the peculiar objects and narrated bits of Lindsey’s history as an ex-pat living in Prague. It was a simple, yet sincere and touching way of reaching closure. I believe not just for Lindsey, but for us, her friends as well. It is never easy to say good-bye to the friends we meet when living abroad. One never knows when you might cross paths again.

As we helped her sort out her goods, Lindsey was also getting rid of items in her pantry. At some point, she held up an unopened bottle of maple syrup and I immediately claimed it. Maple syrup is a highly prized ingredient here and it can cost a fortune. I was very happy to go home with it.

My parting gift...

It has been almost a week since Lindsey left. I have used the maple syrup a few times to top my pancakes with and for this recipe of Maple Syrup Scones. As I prepared the scones, I couldn’t help but think of Lindsey and her love for this sweet syrup. I never got to make these baked goods for her, but I think she would have liked them. We will miss her at our table, but she will never be forgotten.

Maple Syrup Scones (from the Rose Bakery cookbook:Breakfast, Lunch, Tea)

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 big tablespoon of baking powder
1 big tablespoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup of unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 tablespoons maple syrup
4 tablespoons milk or buttermilk
1 egg, beaten for glazing

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees F/ 200 C

In a large bowl, mix the flours, oats, baking powder,
sugar and salt.

Add the butter and rub it in with your fingers, until
it starts to look like breadcrumbs.

In another small bowl, combine the milk and syrup together.
Stir together.

Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture.
Then pour the liquid mixture in the well.
Begin with a fork to combine the dry and wet
ingredients together.
Then finish with your hands.
If the mixture is dry, add a few drops of milk.
If too wet, add some flour.
The dough should not be sticky and you should avoid
overworking it.
The dough should have a slight firm touch to it.

Dust your counter with some flour.
Then roll or pat out the dough to 1 1/3 inches thick.

Using a biscuit cutter, cut the scones out into rounds
and place them on a greased baking tray, so that they
almost touch.

Glaze the tops with the beaten egg.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.

Allow them to cool before breaking apart.

Serve warm with some jam, or more butter
and enjoy the smell of maple syrup floating
through your home!

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The Magic of Magdalenas

Magdalenas

My husband and I just celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary. When we met 6+1 years ago, we were both living in Washington,DC. We met two months after I relocated from the gorgeous land of Italy to the capital of the U.S. At the beginning of our relationship, I wasn’t exactly in the best state of mind. I was experiencing a bout of reverse culture shock. My reason for moving was work, but I moved to an unfamiliar city where I didn’t know a soul. I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, except that I had said “yes” to an excellent job offer. Although I tried to involve myself in a range of activities and meet new people, I remember feeling lonely and lost during those first few months.

That fall, I met the future Mr. Adventures, who moved to the States from Spain just three years before. Our paths crossed at a meet-up group for Italian conversation in a café at Dupont Circle. He says it took him 3 minutes to know. I was stubborn. Although I thought he was hot at first sight, the last thing I wanted back in the States was a boyfriend. I had plans to move back to Europe. But, he was cute, he was from Spain and we exchanged emails.

We hung out a few times and eventually I invited him over to my place for dinner. With my heart and soul still lingering across the pond in Italy, I barely did a thing with my new apartment. A few things were unpacked, mainly my kitchen ware and cookbooks and the only bits decorating my walls were photos of cherished moments of living in Italy. Stuffed in one of the corners of the apartment, were a stack of unopened boxes.

Interestingly enough, the few objects that were unpacked were items I had acquired during my frequent stays in Spain. Over the years, I took advantage of living a less than 2 hour flight away, to visit the Iberian peninsula and see my madrileña friend Laura. It was from her, her mother and friends that I learned a great deal about the food and culture. My favorite wine glasses are from Spain and they look nothing like the usual long stem tulip shaped ones we often see. These are just short, round glasses with a simple functional design that I adore.

When I served the wine in these glasses, the future Mr. Adventures was surprised to see them. After investigating my abode further, he was also amazed to see a Filipino-American girl with a cookbook from one of Spain’s popular TV chef celebrities: Karlos Arguiñano. Another funny discovery was when he found out that the reason I bought the book was for a particular recipe. He couldn’t believe it and felt like he was home.

Gracias Karlos!

When in Spain, one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast are magdalenas. I was introduced to this light spongy treat on my first trip to Madrid. That was more than 15 years ago. I arrived early in the morning and didn’t get much rest on the plane. To help combat the bad jet lag, mi amiga madrileña, Laura made a pot of strong coffee and to accompany it, she put out a small plate of these baked treats. Since then, I have been a devoted fan of magdalenas.

My husband believes that it was a sign. I believe that everything we experience in life leads up to something. I had no idea that 15 years ago when I tasted my first magdalena that it would end up having a role in my love story, but it did and here I am writing about it.

Don't be afraid to dunk it in your coffee! Que Bueno!

Magdalenas (adapted from La cocina de Karlos Arguinano)

4 eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup softened butter
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place muffin cups in your baking tin.
Beat the eggs with the sugar.
Keeping the mixer on, add the butter and oil.

In another bowl, sift the baking powder and flour together.
Pour the dry mixture into the wet mixture.
With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, gently mix the batter going in one direction.

Pour the batter halfway into the baking cups.
Sprinkle a pinch of sugar on top of each magdalena
and then place in the oven.
Bake for 15-18 minutes.

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Oatmeal Pecan Apricot Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Pecan Apricot Chocolate Chip Cookies. Say that three times. That’s a mouthful, isn’t?

How to describe this cookie?
-Light
-Airy
-Crispy
-Like granola (brother’s two cents)

I don’t even know what pushed me to bake this morning as the weather in Prague has reached some incredibly warm heights. In between the sweltering heat, there have been spectacular thunderstorms, including flashes of lightning and drops of hail. It’s supposed to be June, right?

For the past few days, the thought of a combination of oatmeal, pecans, apricot and chocolate has obsessively preoccupied my mind. I searched for some cookie recipes, but didn’t really find anything that fit the bill. I went back to my trusty Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, when in doubt that book always comes to the rescue!

I found a plain oatmeal cookie recipe and so I adapted it, not slightly, but a lot. The results were better than I expected. I love surprises!

Oatmeal Pecan Apricot Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup uncooked quick cooking oats
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 190 degrees
Grease cookie baking sheet

In a large bowl, cream both sugars with the butter.
Add egg.
Then vanilla.
Beat on medium speed.

In a separate bowl, combine oats, flour, baking soda
and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture.
With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, mix well.
Then fold in the apricots, pecans and chocolate pieces.

Drop by spoonfuls, keeping them 1 inch apart.
Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
Immediately remove from tray to wire rack to cool.

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Not Just Your Ordinary Banana Bread

Guys will eat just about anything. At least the guys in my household. Before leaving our home yesterday, I prepped a few ingredients that I planned to use later that evening for dinner. I chopped up some carrots, celery, scallions and put them together in a bowl with diced pineapples and tuna. I wrapped it up and placed it in the fridge. I also boiled up some elbow macaroni and left it, covered on the counter to drain.

The boys (this would be my husband and my brother) were busy upstairs painting shelves in preparation for the babies’ arrival. I planned to meet my friend, Ms. Alli B. and keep a good distance away from the fumes. I came home six hours later. The shelves were almost dry, the windows were all wide open and the bowl of ingredients I left sitting in the fridge was scaled down to half.

When I pulled it out to begin preparing the macaroni salad I had in mind for dinner, my husband said, “Oh, we ate some of that. It was a good salad.”

“What?” I said surprised as I looked down at the bowl.

“For lunch. I had some of the leftovers from take out and then I saw that and we had some,” he responded.

“You guys. This is for dinner!” I said shocked that they would just go in and eat whatever they saw. “I was going to use it for a Tuna Macaroni Salad.”

“Well, it was healthier this way,” my brother joins in.

I couldn’t believe they just ate it, plain and simple like it was and that they liked it. Chopped carrots, celery, scallions, diced pineapples and canned tuna. I managed to salvage the remains of what they kindly left behind and added the macaroni, mayo and home-made sweet relish. We ended up having it for dinner, but I was still suspended with disbelief. Amazed, in fact, that they thought that I had prepared those ingredients as a salad for them. My guys will eat anything.

The recipe I am posting today has nothing to do with my story, except that the boys gobbled this up too. It’s the recipe that introduced me to my all time favorite baking ingredient. If you have read the blog a few times, you would know what that means: buttermilk! This banana treat is not your ordinary banana bread recipe, it doesn’t even have a bread-like texture. The loaf tastes more like a cake. It’s sweet, moist and you can’t just have one piece. It is another recipe from the lovely Parisian café, Rose Bakery. Do go try this recipe and tell me how it goes…

Banana Cake (adapted from Breakfast, Lunch, Tea)

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/3 cups flour
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease a large loaf tin and line it with parchment paper.
Beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy.
Add eggs, one at a time and continue beating.
Mix in the bananas and buttermilk (and vanilla if using)

In another bowl, sift the baking soda, salt and flour together.
Then fold into the banana mixture, along with the pecans.
Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, combine and mix the ingredients well.

Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 45 minutes
or until your knife/fork comes out clean from the center.

Remove from oven and cool in tin before taking it out.

Enjoy with or without the guys around!

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Low Maintenance Birthday Cake

I am sure I’ve mentioned this before. I don’t like cleaning up the dishes, which is why when it comes to birthday cakes, I do adore this recipe. All the ingredients are placed and mixed into one bowl. Voila, easy peasy.

A few weeks ago, I interrupted my husband with a very important question. He was intensely curled up with Orhan Pamuk’s recent novel, The Museum of Innocence, when I said, “Can I ask you a question?” Sweet guy that he is, he paused to respond and gave me his full attention.

Here was the all important question: “What kind of cake would you like for your birthday?”

I was sure he was going to say something with strawberries, as he is a summer birthday boy and isn’t much into sweets. The first cake I ever baked for his special day was a Strawberry Shortcake and since then we have had other strawberry filled delights: Strawberry Mascarpone Cake, Strawberry Tiramisu, Strawberries with Chocolate Cake, just to name a few.

He looked up from his book and turned to me. With a thoughtful expression, he said “Mocha chocolate cake.”

I said, “Really?”

“Yes, that sounds good to me. I want something with mocha.”

Well, this was a first in our relationship.

Struck with disbelief, I asked once more “Really, nothing with strawberries?”

“Nah, mocha,” and he returned to reading his book.

No problem, I thought. Through many trials and tears, I have built up my confidence and relationship with mocha frosting. And I have, what I consider the best Devil’s Food Cake recipe. Why is it the best? Well, here are the two top reasons for me:

1) It contains buttermilk (my favorite ingredient for baking and it means you will get a moist cake!)
2) All ten ingredients are mixed together at the same time in one bowl.

It’s truly a low maintenance cake.

I quickly decided to make a devil’s food cake with mocha buttercream frosting. But then, the other day, mi amor throws a curveball at me. When discussing plans for his birthday, he says he really didn’t want a cake. He just wanted to go home and have some ice cream. I said, “Do you want me to make you an ice cream cake?”

“No, just plain ice cream,” he says.

I just couldn’t accept it. We couldn’t have a birthday without a birthday cake, especially since I already devised a plan for it. I was really looking forward to sinking my teeth into that moist chocolate cake and coffee frosting. So, this year we shall have both. We shall have ice cream and eat our cake too!

(Tip! Best if made a day in advance. The chocolate flavor will intensify!)

Devil’s Food Cake with Mocha Buttercream Frosting (adapted from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook)

Cake:
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
3 ounces or 3 squares of unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon double-action baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

Place all the ingredients into one large mixing bowl.
With mixer, begin at low-speed.
Stop constantly to mix batter with a rubber spatula
to make sure all the ingredients are well combined.
When the batter looks well mixed, increase the mixer
speed to high and beat for 5 minutes.

Divide the batter into the two pans.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the center
comes out clean with a toothpick or fork.
Cool pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.
Then remove from pans and let it cool
completely.

Mocha Buttercream Frosting

1 16 ounce package of confectioner’s sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa
1/3 cup hot coffee

In a large bowl, mix at medium speed.
Beat all the ingredients until very smooth, add a little more coffee is necessary.

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