Thursday, November 23, 2023

Happy Thanksgiving!

 Wishing you, dear reader, a magnificent turkey day...and lots of turkey with all the trimmings.

One of the trimmings is often cranberry sauce. The tart and sweet condiment offsets the mild comfort food flavors of turkey, dressing, mashed and/or sweet potatoes and even the creaminess of the green bean casserole...all fairly traditional Thanksgiving foods.

I grew up with the jellied kind in the can and I still love that version, but this year I had a bag of fresh cranberries, an orange, a cinnamon stick and enough time to make my own sauce.

Because cranberries carry a lot of natural pectin, making a sauce that thickens up without additional gelatin is easy and fairly quick...about 15-20 minutes total. I looked at a number of recipes online, then crafted this one to suit myself. Besides the fresh cranberries and the orange, I used water, brown sugar, and bourbon. It's a great mixture!

Fresh Cranberry Sauce with Cinnamon, Brown Sugar and Bourbon
Serves 4-6

1 12-oz bag fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 cinnamon stick
zest of about 1/4 of an orange, zest cut into long strips
additional water as needed

In a saucepan, place the cranberries, brown sugar, water, bourbon, cinnamon stick, and orange zest strips. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat so that mixture simmers. Continue to cook, stirring every minute or so, until the berries begin to pop. Use a wooden spoon or similar tool to both stir the mixture and to push the berries up against the side of the pan to mash them a bit. Continue until most of the berries are mashed, stirring all the while. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and continue to stir and let the berries cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the mixture starts to get thick. Remove the cinnamon stick and the orange zest strips and discard them. Remove the sauce from the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add water, a tablespoon at a time until desired thickness. Put into a bowl or storage container, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Below is a photo of the sauce with our Thanksgiving meal. Not the best photo because it was taken with an overhead light, not sunlight, but it gives a sense of the meal...which was delicious!

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Babes Bake Shio Pan - Japanese Salt Bread

This month our wonderful Kitchen of the Month, Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories, treated us to a great recipe for beautiful rolls with a topping of sea salt or seeds. I really like this recipe because it only makes 6 rolls, although I suspect that you could easily double it to make 12. There are only two of us, so small quantity recipes work well.

The dough comes together easily, with cold water and cold milk making it easy even if you have forgotten to think about the dough until it's time to make it...oops. There is a small quantity of soft butter, too, but we had a butter dish on the counter, so there was enough soft butter there. You do need bread flour, but I always have some of that on hand.

One of the fun things about these rolls is that a matchstick of butter is rolled up in the fat end. Use the best butter you can find. I used some European butter I bought just for this recipe. It really makes the finished rolls luxurious. I didn't curve them much since I was trying to fit all of them on a 12-inch pizza pan.

The dough is easy to work with. I found that stretching the dough into a thin triangle for the shaping worked well if I grasped the tip and let the heavy part of the dough (the part that would be wide) hand down and let gravity do some of the stretching. When it was long enough, I put it on the floured work surface and stretched the bottom dough wide enough for the butter stick, plus a bit for sealing. Here the rolls are after being shaped, all ready for their rise before baking.

Because I wanted to bake these for the morning, I did everything up to and including the rise after shaping, then put the rolls in the fridge overnight. In the morning I let them warm up while the oven preheated. After they had warmed a puffed a tiny bit more, I brushed the tops with egg wash and added the sea salt topping. In my experience a water spray just doesn't hold the topping, plus the egg wash gives the rolls a nice shine and helps with browning. The bake itself is quick. By the way, I skipped the parchment paper, putting the rolls directly on the baking sheet. They did leak a bit of butter during the bake. It helped crisp up the bottoms of the rolls and soaked into the middle, plus it left a tunnel to be filled with jam, if desired. In this photo you can see the tunnel the melted butter left.

 If I were worried about that, I could let them rise a bit more before putting in the fridge, then bake them cold from the fridge.

These really are pretty simple little breads and worth the time it takes for the various steps. They are soft and very buttery! Thank you Karen for a recipe that will likely be used again over and over. 

Want to be a Buddy? Bake the bread, post about it, and send a photo, the URL and a short description of your bake to Karen by 11/29 to get a Buddy Badge and to be included in the round-up.

Do visit the other Babes sites to see their take on this lovely bread roll.

Shio Pan, Japanese Salt Bread
yield: 6 rolls


210 grams bread flour

10 grams granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

70 grams cold milk

70 grams cold water

7 grams softened unsalted butter

15 grams butter, melted, for brushing

7 grams softened unsalted butter

15 grams butter, melted, for brushing

60 grams butter, cut into 6 x 10 gram strips as pictured. 

Flaked sea salt for topping



Whisk together the bread flour, sugar, sea salt, and yeast in a medium bowl. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the milk and water.  With a wooden spoon or dough whisk stir in half the flour mixture until just combined. Add the softened butter in tiny bits and half the remaining flour. Use the dough hook to knead it or knead it in by hand. Add the remaining flour.

Knead the dough by hand (using pressing, stretching, and folding constantly) or by stand mixer for about five minutes, until smooth. The dough will be fairly sticky but don't add more flour unless your kitchen is super humid or the dough is too soft to handle. If adding additional flour, do so sparingly. 

Let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on your room temperature. 

Turn the dough out onto your floured work surface and form it into an 1/2 inch thick round disk. 

Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces with a bench scraper. If possible use a scale to make them close to the same number of grams.

Roll each piece of dough into a cone, pinching the seam, and let rest, covered with a tea towel, for 10 minutes. 

With your hands, press each to de-gas. Shape each into a very long, thin triangle using gravity or a rolling pin, or a combination. Lightly brush each triangle with melted butter. Place a 10 gram butter stick on the wide end and roll up the dough and form it into a crescent. Place it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Here is what the butter sticks look like. Each is pretty close to 10 grams. Your scale will get a workout with this recipe!

Repeat with the remaining dough. You will have six rolls. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise until puffy, about 45 minutes to an hour, in a warm spot. 

Heat your oven to 400 degrees F. 

Here are my rolls after being given an egg wash and sea salt on top after they rolls had warmed up after being removed from the fridge:

When ready to bake, spray the shaped rolls with water until they are shiny (or with egg wash as I did). Sprinkle each with a pinch or so of flaked sea salt or some seeds like sesame or poppy seeds. 

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until lightly golden on top and crispy and browned on the bottom. 

Transfer to a wire rack. 

These are best warm from the oven or within two hours. You can rewarm leftovers the same day to refresh them. Wrap and freeze additional leftovers for reheating in the oven the next day. 


Monday, November 13, 2023

Tea Bread To Share...Again

My last post was for a spicy, moist, delicious gingerbread that you can bake in smaller pans, which make it easy to share. As we start gearing up for the holidays, I hope to post some more sharable baked goods so that you can choose to bake a small goodie as a gift for friends, family and neighbors instead of spending money buying them something. People truly appreciate gifts that are long as they are also tasty.

This time the gift is for family members, but it works just as well for friends and neighbors. The batter for this yummy pumpkin chocolate chip bread was baked in four small loaf pans. Each little loaf will yield slices to go with a hot beverage like coffee, tea, or cocoa. Since the family members who will be receiving theses little pumpkin delights have a tradition of afternoon coffee with a little something sweet, I suspect the little loaves will be gone in no time!

This recipe goes together quickly. Be sure to divide the batter evenly between the pans and don't over-bake. I would suggest checking them at least 5 minutes before they are supposed to be done. Have some foil handy to cover them if the tops seem to be browning too quickly. 

Pumpkin Nut Bread…with Chocolate
Makes 1 loaf

                                                        Large Loaf

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup canned solid pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan or four small loaf pans. (I used a baking spray that includes flour.)

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl (both flours, soda and powder, spices).

Put the pumpkin, brown sugar, milk and eggs in a mixing bowl and mix until well blended.

Add the dry ingredients and begin to combine. Add the nuts and chocolate chips and mix just until all are well blended.

Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in preheated oven 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

If baking the four small loaf pans, divide the batter evenly between the pans and smooth the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in pan(s) five minutes, then turn out of pan(s) and cool top side up on a cooling rack.

Friday, November 03, 2023

Spicy Medicine Cake

I love the idea of food as medicine. Since I personally found that more turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and garlic, among other anti-inflammatory substances, helped tremendously in healing my gut, I know that those spices and allium can really help.

A dear neighbor of mine shattered her wrist on the soccer field, so when she had surgery to fix it, I made this dark, moist, spicy gingerbread to take to her that evening, to help with the healing process. She loved it so much that another small cake went to her the next day to keep those anti-inflammatories strong! We laughed about it being medicine, but there is an element of reality to that claim.

Even if you just want to enjoy this gingerbread as a simple dessert, it is worth making. There are three kinds of ginger in it; powdered ginger, fresh ginger, and candied ginger. The ginger is aided by cinnamon and the spiciness is enhanced with the addition of cloves, nutmeg and cardamom, all tied together with molasses and dark brown sugar. The secret ingredient?...stout. It adds a depth of flavor and slight bitterness so you know that this isn't any old's good for what ails you...or at least for zinging your taste buds. 

The recipe calls for baking this in a Bundt pan, but I have a pan that has four smaller Bundt cake wells and it takes just the same amount of batter. The advantage is that you end up with sharable cute cakes. The disadvantage is that all the tiny indentations that make up the patterns of those little cakes are the devil to wash completely clean! Use whatever pan you have that will hold the batter. The smaller cakes took less than 30 minutes to bake. The regular Bundt pan takes close to an hour, or maybe a little more, depending on the accuracy of your oven.

Triple Ginger Gingerbread
Adapted from
Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread
from Epicurious

1 Cup stout (like Guinness which is what I used)
1 Cup dark molasses
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 Cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 Tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
pinch ground cardamom
1 Tablespoon freshly grated fresh, peeled ginger root
1 Tablespoon finely diced moist candied ginger
3 large eggs
1 Cup packed dark brown sugar
1 Cup granulated sugar
3/4 Cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 10-inch (10-12 cups) Bundt pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Bring stout and molasses to a boil in a large saucepan and remove from heat. Whisk in baking soda, then cool to room temperature.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs and sugars and fresh ginger. Whisk in oil, then molasses mixture. Add to flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

Pour batter into Bundt pan and rap pan sharply on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake in the middle of the oven until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs adhering, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely.

Serve cake, dusted with confectioners' sugar, or serve with whipped cream.