orange cornmeal pound cake with strawberries

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A few weeks ago, I started thinking about cornmeal, and the more I thought about cornmeal, the more I liked it. All of the great things about cornbread would be just as great in a scone or a cake, if maybe not a little better because of the addition of other flavors playing off the cornmeal. I started to think about the flavors that would like hanging around with cornmeal. Lemon? No. Lime? Maybe. Oh, but Orange? Most definitely!

Once I got that idea of cornmeal + orange into my head, I couldn’t get it out. I wanted to make cornmeal orange everything, but I decided that cornmeal would best meld into a wholesome, humble breakfast baked good, something that the crunchy, slightly gritty texture of cornmeal would shine. I also knew that there had to be another flavor in there somewhere to keep it from getting boring, and fruit was my best bet. So, I started with a batch of cornmeal orange waffles with blueberries.

However, something was really wrong with the waffle recipe I used. The blogger played them up as crunchy from the cornmeal, but they turned out mushy and soggy. The batter just had way to much liquid in it, and the cornmeal couldn’t form the gluten necessary to give the waffles some structure. I could have tried a different waffle recipe, but during this process I also remembered how much I hate cleaning our waffle maker. So, the waffles earned a no.

I decided the next best option was to go for a hearty muffin. Still caught up with blueberries, I made a sweet version of these with orange and blueberries. But, once again I was not satisfied. They were crumbly and slightly dry (basically too much cornmeal), and I didn’t add enough sugar to make them seem sweet enough for breakfast muffins. Also, I hate juicing fresh oranges.

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Then, I came to the answer: cake. I knew that a cornmeal cake would be a humble affair, so a loaf shape would be best. The  cornmeal makes for a slightly “rougher” cake, and I knew pound cake would love this quality, rather than rebel against it like a springy birthday cake. So, I turned to one of my favorite cookbooks for a pound cake recipe. I added orange zest to the batter and replaced some of the flour with yellow cornmeal. Then, I served it with fresh strawberries and softly whipped cream, because it was exactly the touch our cake needed.

And, it was delicious! (Finally) The pound cake has a hint of orange and a modest amount of cornmeal to ensure it stays tender, as cake should. Everything just pairs together really nicely to make a simple dessert.

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orange cornmeal pound cake with strawberries

recipe adapted from The Science of Good Cooking

Note: The butter should be soft enough to press into easily, but still be slightly firm and have a slight chill. This should take 20-30 minutes at room temperature if the butter is cut into chunks.

for the cake:

2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened (see note)

3 large eggs, at room temperature

3 large egg yolks, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon orange zest

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 1/4 cups cake flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

for the strawberries and cream:

1 cup of fresh strawberries

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 and butter and flour a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan. In a liquid measuring cup, beat together the eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla until combined. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the cake flour and cornmeal. Set aside. In another small bowl, rub the orange zest into the sugar until the orange zest has released it’s oils and the sugar has the texture of wet sand. Set aside.

Combine the butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium high speed until shiny, smooth and creamy. Add the sugar mixture and beat on medium high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, 5 to 8 minutes, scraping the bowl once. Bring the speed down to medium and slowly pour in the egg mixture, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and raise the speed to medium high. Beat until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

Gently fold the flour mixture into the butter and egg mixture. Scrape the bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure there are no flour pockets. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes before inverting the cake onto a wire rack. Cool completely.

Slice the strawberries thinly and combine with 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a small bowl. Set aside for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, whip the cream. Combine the cream, remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, and vanilla in a stand mixer. Whip with the whisk attachment until the cream holds soft peaks.

Serve the cake in thick slices with the macerated strawberries and their juice and a dollop of whipped cream.

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kale and cherry tomato tart

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I love to include tomatoes in my baked egg dishes. Unfortunately, this love has a sort of fatal flaw. When juicy, delicious sliced tomatoes are placed on top of an egg custard and baked, you get a mess. The juicy tomatoes let out even more liquid as they bake, creating puddles of juice in the egg custard.  Even when the eggs are fully set, the egg custard is runny and wet and the crust is soggy. Just think about that for a second. Wet egg custard is just really gross.

Luckily, there is a solution! When we use cherry tomatoes instead of sliced tomatoes, we don’t have gross wet egg custard. This is because the cherry tomatoes have less juice than their full sized counterparts and their skin acts as a little barrier keeping the juice from entering the custard. As the quiche bakes, the cherry tomatoes are contained. Their juices concentrate and the tomatoes get a little jammy, which is a very good thing.

The main body of the tart is a creamed kale and onion egg custard. I also used a mostly whole wheat pastry crust because it helps keep the tart on the wholesome side of things.

Have you noticed anything new? I hope so, because there has been an addition! A Honey Blossom has a new catering page, and I’m pretty excited. You should check it out!

kale and cherry tomato tart

crust adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook; filling is an original recipe

Note: Don’t pack the kale when measuring it.

for the whole wheat pastry:

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all purpose flour plus more for rolling

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick (8 tablespoons, 4 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon ice water (plus more if needed)

for the filling:

2 tablespoons olive oil or butter

1 small onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups finely chopped kale with tough rib removed (about 4 oz)

salt and pepper

1/2 cup heavy cream

4 eggs

1/4 cup whole milk

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1/4 cup finely minced parsley

3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

make the pastry:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, and salt. Add the butter. With a pastry blender or your fingers, work the butter into the flour until the butter is the size of peas. Stir in the water until the dough begins to hold together. You may need to use a little more water, a tablespoon at a time, because whole wheat flour is “thirstier” than all purpose, but do not add too much. Turn the dough out onto the counter top and knead gently about 5 times until the dough holds together well. Flatten into a disc and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured countertop, roll out your dough to a little over a 12 inch circle. Lift the dough over your rolling pin and place in a 9 inch tart pan. Press the dough into the edges and press the extra dough off the top. Prick the bottom with a fork. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up.

Line your crust with foil or parchment paper and fill with baking weights or beans. Bake the crust on a baking sheet for 15 minutes. Then, take the foil/parchment and weights out and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the edges are beginning to brown and the bottom looks done. The pie shell should still be warm when you add the filling. Turn down the oven to 325.

meanwhile, make the filling:

In a large skillet, heat the butter or olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 3 minutes more, until it is no longer raw. Season with salt and pepper. Add the kale and cook until it is tender, about 5 minutes. Pour in the cream (it will bubble up). Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the liquid has reduced and almost disappeared. The kale should just be coated in a thick sauce.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the kale mixture and the parmesan cheese. Pour the egg mixture into the warm pie shell. Arrange the cherry tomato halves in a concentric circle pattern on the top of the eggs. They should be sitting in the egg mixture but not submerged. Bake the quiche until the center is set and the edges of the custard are lightly brown, 45-55 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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chocolate brownie cookies with pecans

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There are so many great things about brownies. They are unparalleled in their chocolate flavor among other baked goods because you can use a lot of chocolate without the texture suffering (in fact, the chocolate creates the fudgey texture we’re going for). They’re are moist, rich, and super easy to throw together.

But don’t think that I love cookies any less. Cookies beat brownies in some areas, too. For instance, a brownie, while being delicious, is not the most pretty thing out there. Cookies, however, can look pretty darn glamorous (especially these, with their crackly top). Cookies are neatly portioned out and perfect size for dipping into milk. Also, they bake faster, which is nice because who likes to wait for 40 minutes for their treat to come out of the oven? More like, 15 minutes or less because that chocolate needs to be in my belly, pronto.

Instead of a cookie vs. brownie war, what about a compromise? If these cookies are a compromise, I need to be making compromises more often! These cookies are more like the best of both worlds! We take what we love about brownies and combine it with what we love about cookies to make something awesome.

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Chocolate Brownie Cookies with Pecans

Adapted from the Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups chocolate chips (I like a mixture of semisweet and bittersweet)

2 large eggs

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling on top after baking (optional)

1 cup pecans, toasted and cooled

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, melt the butter and 1 cup of the chocolate. You can do this in the microwave or in a double boiler. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, chop the pecans finely and whisk together the flour and baking powder in a small bowl.

Add the eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla to the melted chocolate and whisk until combined. Add the flour mixture and stir gently until just combined. Stir in the pecans and the remaining 1 cup of chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into a shallow dish like a pie plate. Freeze for 10 to 15 minutes, until the dough hardens and is scoop-able.

Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the cookie sheet. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes until the tops are dry and cracked. Sprinkle with sea salt, if desired. Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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raspberry swirled cheesecake tart

imageI finally got a tart pan for using a gift card I got for Christmas, and it has been love ever since. On the lengthy list of why I love my tart pan (after it’s removable bottom and lovely fluting) is that it allows me to make thinner versions of delicious things. Case in point: cheesecake. Did I want a cheesecake that filled an entire spring form pan, used 2 pounds of cream cheese, and could feed upwards of 20 people? No. I wanted a thin, petite, adorable cheesecake with half the batter and enough servings to feed my family and a few guests. I think this version is better, at least for me, because who honestly needs to feed 20+ people dessert?* More like I just wanted a nice slice of cheesecake after dinner. Plus, this version also solves another main problem keeping me from cheesecake: the pesky water bath. This version has no need for a water bath, which also means no need to line the pan with foil that always leaks.

This cheesecake reminds me why I love cheesecake. The chocolate crumb crust is delicious (why would we ever use graham crackers again?) and it’s rich but not too heavy. The raspberry swirls give it a bright freshness that really compliment the tanginess of the cream cheese. Plus, have you ever seen something so pretty? If you served this to guests, I’m sure you’d never hear the end of it because they’d be so impressed.

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Raspberry Swirled Cheesecake Tart

recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Note: In the picture, my tart is served with raspberry and chocolate sauce, but I actually like it better without the chocolate sauce – that way, the raspberry really gets to shine.

for the crust:

1 1/2 cups finely ground chocolate cookie crumbs

4 1/2 tablespoons  unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons sugar

pinch salt

for the raspberry swirl:

6 ounces raspberries (fresh or frozen, thawed so it can be pureed)

2 tablespoons  sugar

for the filling:

16 ounces softened cream cheese

3/4 cup granulated sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs, at room temperature

 Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together the cookie crumbs, butter, sugar, and salt. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9 inch round tart pan. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven until it is sett, about 10 minutes. Allow the crust to cool while you prepared the filling and swirl.

In a food processor or blender, puree the raspberries with the sugar until smooth. Press the puree through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl. Discard the seeds and set the raspberry sauce aside.

Beat  the cream cheese  in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the sugar in a slow stream and scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl frequently and mixing until just combined.

Pour half of the cream cheese mixture into the tart shell. Pour the raspberry puree into a piping bag  or a ziploc bag and snip off the end. Squeeze little droplets  of the raspberry sauce all over the surface of the cream cheese mixture. Then, pour the rest of the cream cheese mixture over the top. Smooth the top before squeezing more drops of the raspberry mixture over the top (You will have extra puree, which makes an excellent  sauce for serving). Using a toothpick, swirl the raspberry droplets artfully around the surface. Be careful not the scrape the crust while you swirl.

Carefully place the tart into the oven (it should still be on the baking sheet). Bake until the filling is set but just a little wobbly in the center, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and place on a wire rack. Cool to room temperature and then chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours before serving. Serve the tart in slices with extra raspberry sauce.

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whole wheat maple oat scones

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Spring is maple syrup season here in Wisconsin. I know two families who collect their own sap and boil it down to make maple syrup. The end product is delicious, and they have the fruits of their labor for pancakes for the rest of the year. It’s a pretty cool process to see.

First, you tromp around the woods, preferably in rain boots because spring in the woods can get pretty muddy, and collect the sap. There are buckets on all of the maples, hanging from spigots stuck in holes drilled in the bark. The sap that collects in the buckets is clear and cool. If a tree gives you a full bucket of sap, you must give it a hug as a thank you. The sap doesn’t taste like much, but if you really focus you can discern a faint sweetness and another aftertaste that can only be described as tasting like tree.

You pour the sap into larger containers and bring it back to the boiler. The boiler is a complicated thing with a lot of metal dividers that I don’t really understand. Basically, you pour sap in at one end and it moves its way through the chambers as it gets more and more concentrated. When it reaches the last chamber, it is maple syrup! What a transformation.

These scones celebrate maple syrup.  I love the idea that we are sweetening and flavoring our scones with something we got from trees! It’s even sweeter when you have kissed the tree that gave you the syrup.

These scones are very subtly sweetened, so a little maple glaze on top does wonders. With the oats and whole wheat flour inside, they have a nice heft and beautiful crumb that makes for a heartier treat. We don’t hold back on the butter, so they are rich and decadent while still remaining humble.

whole wheat maple oat scones

adapted from smitten kitchen

for the scones:

1 3/4 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting surface
1/2 cup (80 grams) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (35 grams) oats
5 teaspoons (1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons) baking powder
1 heaped tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Scant 3/4 cup (160 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup milk or buttermilk
1 egg, beaten (for glaze)

for the maple glaze:

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/2 cup powdered sugar

milk for thinning (as needed)

To make the scones:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, oats, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender or your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like coarse bread crumbs (we are going past the pea-sized stage common in pie crusts and biscuits). In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup and milk or buttermilk. Add to the dry ingredients and gently stir to incorporate. You may have to turn the dough out onto the counter top to get it all together. If you need to add more milk, you can, little by little, but the dough should not be sticky.

Pat the dough out until it is 1 1/4 inches tall. Cut the scones using a 2 inch circular cutter and place on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with beaten egg. Bake the scones until they have puffed up and are lightly golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the scones on a wire rack.

To finish the scones:

Whisk together the powdered sugar and maple syrup. If the glaze is too thick, add milk until it is thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle the scones with the maple glaze and allow the glaze to dry.

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