Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Another Blog Birthday

2006 seems like a really, really long time ago. That was the October when I began posting on this blog. If you had asked me at the time, I'm sure I wouldn't have expected to still be posting. 

Still, it has become over time what a blog is sort of expected to be, a place not only for writing and posting recipes and joining groups with similar interests, but a place that tracks the seasons, that records life events and, perhaps most unexpectedly from my perspective, a place that allows me to revisit the past and re-experience what I was feeling then as I read the older posts. 

 You, dear reader, have been the reason that it stays interesting and meaningful to me. You comment or at least stop by. Sometimes you don't comment but I hear from you other ways and I know that, for whatever reason, this blog is a place where you see what I am up to. 

 At the moment, we are not doing any projects, nor contemplating any, which is the first time since Sweetie retired. I'm still enjoying my watercolor and acrylic pieces, still having fun with friends and with my P.E.O. work, and still, most of the time, finding pleasure in cooking and baking new-to-me things. 

 Let's enjoy the coming year together! 

 P.S. You get extra points if you know what the photo means.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Muffins with Quince and Pecans

When I realized that I still had poached quince in the fridge and that it needed to be used, I went to various cookbooks and then to the index for this blog. It's easy to access the Index...just click on the photo of the table set with a rust tablecloth. It's on the right in the web view of the blog.

In the section with the oldest recipes I found Playful Banana Muffins and, after reading the recipe, I decided that this recipe, which had already had a big makeover, would get another makeover...this time with quince!

This is a lovely muffin. It's moist from the fruit, laced with chopped pecans and small pieces of quince, fragrant with the quince and orange zest and vanilla, and it has a nice crumb. I'm so glad that I made this recipe. It makes a full 12 muffins, plus a small loaf pan's worth of deliciousness. One of these muffins and a cup of tea go really well together.

No quince? You can substitute ripe pear and it will work just fine. Peel and core the pear, making sure to also remove the stem parts. Dice the fruit and make sure you have 2 cups worth. Pears range in size so much that you will probably need about 6. The same is true for the quince...about 5-6 will work. I boiled mine for about 10 minutes to soften the skin, peeled and cored them, then poached at a simmer in water which also had 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cinnamon stick and two whole cloves. Be sure to drain and then chill the poached quince.

I do hope you make these muffins with either quince or pears for a celebration of fall bounty!

Quince Pecan Muffins
Based very loosely on Raisin Bran muffins in the King Arthur Flour Bakers Companion

2 cups poached quince, diced small (about 1/2-inch)
1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin and a mini-loaf pan by spraying with baking spray or by greasing and flouring them. Set aside.

Check the quince for liquid. If necessary, dry with paper towels. Set aside.

In a large mixing owl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, brown sugar, molasses, vanilla and orange zest. Add the quince and pecans and stir to combine.

In another bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and oats.

Quickly, with as few strokes as possible, us a large spoon, wooden spoon, or large flexible spatula to mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, just until combined.

Fill prepared muffin cups with the mixture, filling each cup almost to the top. Pour the rest of the batter into the prepared mini-loaf pan, using a spatula to clean the bowl of batter.

Bake in preheated oven for 14-18 minutes for the muffins, or until they spring back when pressed lightly in the middle, and for about 25 minutes for the mini-loaf pan quince bread, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove when ready from the oven. Cool on a wire rack 5 minutes, then turn out of the pans and let cool until ready to serve, or serve at once. If desired, serve with butter, cream cheese, or apricot jam.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Pumpkin Swirl Cake Decadence

Do you ever see a new recipe that you just know you have to try, as soon as possible? I do more often than you might think. A short while ago I saw this recipe from King Arthur Baking and knew that I had to make it soon, while pumpkin season is here. 

This is a lovely, moist, fragrant marble cake. The original recipe was for a cake made in a loaf pan, even a decorative loaf pan with pumpkins design on top. I needed a sheet cake for a luncheon I was going to, so I tripled the recipe and made it in two 9x13-inch pans. Then I truly made it decadent by topping the cakes with Lori's Cream Cheese Icing, which is the best cream cheese frosting you ever had.

The cake is a vanilla cake, but partway through the making of the batter, you divide the batter into two, then add pumpkin and pumpkin spice to one half and sour cream to the other half. Batter is dolloped into the pans alternately, then you swirl it with a skewer or chopstick. That way each piece has some dreamy vanilla-sour cream cake and some fragrant pumpkin cake. It is impressive looking and made quite a hit with the women who were at the luncheon. Of course I decorated the cakes with seasonal sprinkles and candy corn, but you can use whatever decorations you like.

If you'd like the recipe for just the loaf pan size cake, you can find it HERE on the King Arthur Baking site. The recipe below is for two 9x13-inch cakes plus enough Cream Cheese Icing to frost each of those cakes, plus a bit more for decoration if you like...or for putting between pumpkin cookies or between graham get the idea!

Pumpkin Swirl Cake
Makes two 9x13-inch cakes
Recipe from King Arthur Baking

6 eggs
3 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups vegetable oil
3 tablespoons vanilla
6 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
6 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
6 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (See Note at bottom)
1 1/2 cups sour cream

Grease and flour two 9x13-inch baking pans...with at least 2-inch sides. Set aside

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat eggs and sugar until smooth. Add oil gradually, beating continuously. Stir in the vanilla, baking powder and salt. Gently mix in the flour, scraping sides and beaters as needed, until completely mixed. Batter will be stiff.

Transfer half of the batter  to another bowl...about 3 cups...and mix in the pumpkin puree and the pumpkin spice. Set aside.

To the vanilla batter, add the sour cream and beat to incorporate. Scrape down sides and beaters if needed and mix a bit more.

In the prepared pans, dollop about 1/4 cup one batter, then 1/4 cup the other batter and continue doing that to create a checkerboard effect in the pan. Repeat with the other pan. Once all of the batter is in the pans, use a skewer or chopstick to swirl figure eights across the checkerboard pattern. Only a few are needed...resist doing too many or you will lose the separation of the batters that makes the cake so lovely.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until cake springs back when center is pushed gently. Tester inserted will come out clean. Cool on wire racks 5 minutes, then turn out of the pans, or, if preferred, leave in the pan and serve from the pan once frosted and decorated.

Note: No pumpkin pie spice? Make your own:
5 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 

Let cool completely before icing. Use your favorite buttercream or the following Cream Cheese Icing.

Lori's Cream Cheese Icing
Makes enough for two 9x13-inch cakes, plus extra for decoration or another use

2 sticks butter, softened
24 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
4-6 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter, cream cheese, sour cream and vanilla together until fluffy. Gradually mix in powder sugar. Towards the end, add 1/4 cup at a time until you reach you desired texture and taste.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Rolling with the Babes


Now that it's fall, the menu changes around here. There is less grilled food and more meals that are comfort foods, like stews and braises and soups. A great accompaniment to those kinds of dishes are bread rolls. Especially with stews and braises, the roll can be torn into pieces and those pieces used to capture the delicious stew gravy and braise juices at the bottom of the bowl or the edges of the plate.

The Bread Baking Babes are right in line with that seasonal change. This month our Kitchen of the Month is Cathy of Bread Experience and our challenge is to bake Sigteboller, Danish Salty Rye Rolls.

As usual, I’m making  changes to the recipe. Turns out that I don’t have any rye flour, although I really thought that I did. Instead I’m using barley flour, plus a small amount of Irish whole meal wheat flour, and a couple teaspoons of ground flax seed.

It’s seems odd to dip the bottoms of the rolls in rolled oats when there aren’t any in the rolls themselves, but I did follow that part. I used some French fleur de sel for the salt part on top, which I applied after scoring the tops.

I added a couple of tablespoons of water to the polish since I used yeast, not sourdough starter. I bake bread so rarely that it doesn’t make sense to have a starter going.

If you decide to bake these lovely rolls, and want to be a Buddy, e-mail Cathy and include a photo, your URL, and a short description of your bake experience. She needs that by Oct 30 to include it in the roundup.

Be sure to visit the other Babes websites to see their fun with Sigteboller!

These rolls are delicious- especially the tops with the extra salt. I like the chewy texture. Next time will probably skip the rolled oats - they didn’t seem to add much.

Sigteboller, Danish Salty Rye Rolls

Makes 8-9 rolls (70grams each)


24 grams rye flour

40 grams all-purpose flour 

64 ml water

10 grams (1 teaspoon) sourdough starter or a pinch of yeast

Final dough. 

96 grams rye flour

160 grams all-purpose flour 

175-200 ml lukewarm water

3 grams instant yeast

6 grams sea salt

12 grams dark molasses 

Topping: Rolled oats, sea salt 

Mix the polish

The evening before you plan to bake the rolls, combine the flours, water, and yeast in a medium mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly to combine and allow to restart warm room temperature for 14-16 hours, or overnight. It should expand and have bubbles.

Mix the dough 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large mixing bowl, add the rye flour, all-purpose flour, water, and poolish to the bowl.Mix on low until there are no dry bits of flour. Allow the dough to rest for 45 minutes (autolyse). Note: Start with 150 ml of water and add in additional water gradually, as needed.

Add the yeast, salt, and molasses. Mix until thoroughly incorporated. Sprinkle in additional water if necessary to distribute evenly.

Cover the bowl, and let dough rise in a warm place for 45 minutes. Gently punch the dough down to release the air. Form into a round and place back in the bowl. Let the dough rest an additional 45 minutes.

After the dough has risen during the 45 minutes, punch it down to release the air.Divide the dough into 8-9 equal portions, about 70 grams each. Shape each portion into a ball

Press the bottom (seam side) into a plate of rolled oats, then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Cover the baking sheet with a kitchen towel and let the rolls rise another 40-50 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Just before baking use a sharp knife to cut an x-shape, about 1/4 to 1/2-inch deep on top of each roll. Sprinkle coarse Kosher salt over the rope, for flavor and to be decorative. You can also use caraway seeds or sunflower seeds 

Bake the rolls in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Once the rolls are baked, allow them to cool on the baking sheet. Enjoy warm with butter.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Using Fall Fruits and Nuts

 After our recent days of Indian Summer - three days in a row of temperatures in the mid to upper 90s!...we dropped 30 degrees day before yesterday and also had rain...and then more rain yesterday afternoon. Not a downpour, but soaking mist with short runs of medium raindrops. The good news is that it should be enough to keep autumn forest fires at bay for another week or two. The bad news is that it isn't enough to help the water table. The other good news is that it cooled things down enough for baking!

Fall fruits are some of my favorites. Pears are mellow and juicy, the fragrant quince at the foot of the driveway turn from fuzzy to golden and shiny, and the persimmons are just beginning to turn colors on their way to a deep orange. Walnuts and pecans also are harvested in the fall. This year the squirrels and crows have gotten almost all of the walnuts, but I haven't had time to shell them anyway, so that's fine. The walnuts and pecans in this recipe are from Costco. The pears are from in town, carefully ripened in a brown paper bag. I still have some of all of them, so who knows what recipes will show up her in the next little while?

The honey is a very special harvest. It came from the hives of some friends of Sweeties...he went to middle school and high school with one of the friends and they hadn't seen each other in a very long time, but we had a great lunch with them. The honey is full flavored and so delicious! I'm sure that this tart would not have been nearly as wonderful without this special honey.

I started with a recipe from almost the beginning of my blogging time, way back in February of 2007. The recipe for a Nut Mosaic Tart comes from Sunset magazine from 1983. I even got a comment at some point from someone who had lost the recipe and had been delighted to find it again.

As you know if you have been following this blog, I often take a recipe and play with it. This time I took the tart recipe and reduced the nuts but added poached and peeled Bosc pear and poached and peeled pineapple quince. I used a pre-made refrigerated pie crust in the tart pan, tucking the excess into the tart and pushing the doubled sides into the tart pan curves. Then I ran a rolling pin over the top to cut off any excess dough and neaten the top. That's all it took to have a tart shell ready to fill.

The most time-consuming part is poaching, peeling, and chilling the fruit. Be sure to pat off excess liquid with a towel or paper towel before chilling. I didn't do that with the pear and so the pear nearly fell apart plus it made the filling just a bit liquid where the pear was.

The taste of this tart is amazing! All of the elements go so well together. It is fragrant with the quince, honey and orange zest, plus the roasting nuts while baking. I does need to chill a bit before serving, but once you do you will be so glad that you made this delicious Harvest Mosaic Fruit and Nut Tart!

Harvest Mosaic Fruit and Nut Tart
Adapted from a Sunset Magazine recipe from around 1983

1  9-inch tart pan lined with pie dough

1 large Bosc pear, ripe, poached until tender, peeled, cored, tossed with lemon juice and chilled in an airtight container for at least 4 hours. 
2-3 large quince, ripe, poached until tender, peeled, cored, tossed with lemon juice and chilled in an airtight container for at least 4 hours

1 cup walnuts, chopped roughly
1/2 cup pecans, whole
3 eggs
1 cup honey
½ teaspoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup butter or margarine, melted
Sweetened whipped cream (optional)

Press pie pastry evenly over the bottom and sides of an 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. 

Arrange slices of poached pear and quince, alternating, with small end in the middle and larger end of each slice toward the side. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine eggs, honey, orange peel, vanilla, and melted butter; beat well until blended. Stir in nuts. Pour over fruit into pastry-lined tart pan. If needed, move the nuts around with a fork to scatter them evenly around and over the fruit. 

Bake on the bottom rack of a 350 degree F oven until the top is golden brown all over, about 40 minutes.

Let cool on a wire rack. Remove pan sides. Offer wedges with whipped cream, if desired. Makes 10-12 servings.

Friday, October 06, 2023

Pancakes and Strawberries

You would think that since it is October that the strawberries would not be local, but you would be wrong. Our highway farm stand plants different varieties so that it can sell strawberries from spring through late fall. I like the ones that we are getting now...not too huge, but very flavorful.

It's been ages since I made pancakes, but I decided to make them from scratch, based on a recipe in the classic Joy of Cooking. For a change I have buttermilk in the fridge. I bought it for the cake that I never made due to illness, but it is still delicious and adds a wonderful tang to these pancakes.

You can, obviously, top your pancakes with anything you like, so don't turn away from this recipe if strawberries are out of season where you live. Sautéed apples are a good substitution for this time of year in the northern hemisphere. 


Based on recipe in Joy of Cooking

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
2 eggs, room temperature
3 tablespoons butter, melted, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/4 cup milk, room temperature

Sift together the two flours, salt, sugar and baking powder.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs. Add the melted butter, buttermilk and milk and whisk to combine.

Add the buttermilk/egg mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk just to blend.

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Grease lightly with butter. Pan is ready when a water drop sizzles when dropped onto the pan. Add batter when pan is ready and let cook undisturbed until small bubbles form around the edges of the pancake. Turn and cook until golden brown. If necessary, adjust heat a bit higher or lower if pancakes are burning before being cooked or are dry in the center.

Serve at once with desired toppings such as butter, maple syrup, and/or fruit. I love mine with sliced strawberries.