Category Archives: baking

Cherry Whiskey Apricot Crostata

Have I mentioned that I’m not a baker? Jam – I have down. Pickles – those too. The problem with being a preserver is that you get really good at putting things away and saving them for something special. We preservers thrive on delayed satisfaction. Then we end up with quarts of pickles and dozens of jars of jam that we need to use up. Of course, right about that time new exciting fruit comes into season and if you want to fill new jars you need to clear out old jars. A great way to use up the jam? Baking, of course. So I had to tackle one of the basics – pie dough.

A couple of weeks ago I discovered a great pâte brisée recipe. I made a spring tart – green garlic, last year’s put up roasted red peppers, and sharp cheddar cheese. I was surprised how great it turned out – rich and toothsome, with the right balance of sugar and salt. (Really? Me? I made this?!) Then when Shauna at Gluten Free Girl announced a pie party, I knew a sweet version couldn’t be that hard.

Cherry Apricot Crostata
One recipe pâte brisée
One half pint apricot amaretto jam (a little will be leftover)
One cup of sweet cherries
Half cup of Irish Whiskey
Two tablespoons of sugar

1. Make the pâte brisée, let chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight.
2. Macerate cherries in whiskey and sugar for as long as you can – they only get better – at least an hour. Once their macerating is up, cook them on medium heat until cooked down – you may need to mash them up a bit with your spoon. Strain, reserve whiskey liquid for cocktails (yum!)
3. Roll out to 1/8″ thick. Fill the middle with jam – leave a 1/2″ border around the edge free of jam. Top the jam with the cherries.
4. Fold in the crust over the jam a little, so there is about 1″ crust.
5. Bake for 45ish minutes until brown and bubbly. I had to turn my broiler on for a second because I was getting impatient. Serve a la mode.

1. Any kind of jam or fresh fruit will do, but this combination is really killer. I like the idea of using last season’s jam with this season’s fresh fruit.
2. Experiment with the crust – I have plans to add grade B maple syrup and honey to different versions.
3. Try Joel’s version with lard. I think there is pot pie in my future…

Spice Rack Challenge: Dill

April’s Spice Rack challenge was pretty perfect: Dill. I use dill quite a bit already – but only in a few standard recipes. I love Dill Pickles. So much that I put Dill Weed AND Dill Seed in them for an extra kick. My favorite way to grill salmon is with lemon and dill. [Cue shameless plug, don't forget to enter SK's Lemon Ladies Meyer Lemon Giveaway - ends tonight!] But despite all of that, I really am a scone addict. Sweet scones are great – I’ve been hooked on a proper cream tea since I visited the UK as a teenager. But there’s really something to be said about savory scones. Its a little unexpected – great with soup or as a stand in for dinner rolls.

There’s only one problem. Have I mentioned I am not a baker? I am the girl who seems to make great tasting chocolate chip cookies but their texture is all off. Consistency is not my strong suit – and you really need consistency for baking. But isn’t the Spice Rack Challenge all about going outside of your comfort zone? So scones it was.

White Cheddar and Dill Milk Scones
Adapted from Cheddar-Chive Scones on Epicurious and Local Kitchen’s Cheddar Parsley Scones
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup dried dill or 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
5 oz extra-sharp cheddar, coarsely grated (1 1/2 cups)
2 cups milk (1%)
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Mix all of the dry ingredients together. Add the dill and cheddar, and incorporate thoroughly. I used a stand mixer, but I’m sure that you could easily do this recipe by hand. Keep the mixer on low (or grab another pair of hands and have them mix) while you slowly pour in the two cups of milk and two of the tablespoons of butter to make a very wet dough. I bet if you used the cream called for in this recipe, you wouldn’t have to add butter, but I thought it might benefit from some additional fat as I was using 1% milk.

Roll out the dough onto a well floured surface – it will be very sticky. I had to dust the counter and the dough multiple times. Knead a bit and divide in half. Roll into two 7″ rounds. Cut into six slices and lay out on a baking sheet. Use a silpat or parchment paper to keep the dough from sticking. Brush once with melted butter (you will have some leftover.) Bake at 400° for anywhere from 15-25 minutes – watch until they turn golden brown. I also brushed the scones with the last bit of butter in the middle of baking.

I am really pleasantly surprised with how they came out. Some of the cheese came to the surface and crisped up. The dill came through but wasn’t terribly overpowering, either. I foresee lots more scones in my future.

1. Serve with a hot bowl of soup on a rainy day. We’ve certainly had our share of those here – “April showers…” and all that.
2. Stuff them. As soon as the first scone was cool enough to eat I sandwiched some ham and homemade mustard inside and it became lunch. Fantastic.
3. Cut them into smaller pieces to make mini scones for a potluck party.

Spice Rack Challenge: Cardamom

As you’ll see by the (late) date of this post, I’ve been suffering from a bit of cooking apathy lately. When the March Spice Rack Challenge was announced, I knew I didn’t immediately have anything up my sleeve, and I would actually have to cook a new recipe. I mean, I make homemade chai on a fairly regular basis – how hard could it be? Well then I went to Alaska, and then to Vermont, and long story short I haven’t had a weekend at home in four weeks! No time to cook + cooking apathy = shortage of timely posts.

So in search of a cardamom recipe, I first went to my delicious bookmarks. is an internet bookmarking site, one which I use to organize recipes I find by ingredient and type of cooking. Its a great resource when you’re stumped what to make – “I have this and this and this…” – and helps filter the vast collection of internet recipes I’ve stumbled across. Unfortunately, there was no deluge of cardamom-containing recipes there, so I headed over to Food Blog Search. I toyed with the idea of making Chai-Spiced Chocolate Chip Cookies (Chai Chocolate Cookies for less of a mouthful) but frankly that seemed kind of… erm… half-assed. Which, in truth, it was.

Luckily, The Kitchn came out with a recipe for a Yogurt Apple Cake. I know, I know, it contains no cardamom. But don’t you think cardamom and apples would be a lovely combination? I also modified the recipe because I didn’t want to go to the store again for yogurt or apples, and I did happen to have some canned shredded apples a la Mrs. Wheelbarrow and a bit of sour cream. I have two more jars of those apples destined for apple hand pies (this weekend maybe?) and figured I could use a jar for cake… who doesn’t like cake? Plus – a recipe that clears out some of my canning pantry? Done.

Sour Cream Cardamom Apple Cake
Adapted from The Kitchn’s Apple Yogurt Cake with a Cinnamon-Sugar Streak

1/4 cup sour cream
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup grade B maple syrup
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 pint shredded apples
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
Softened butter to grease the pan

Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease your cake pan with softened butter. Add a cookie sheet on a lower rack – this cake may spill over. Mine did. Ah, 20-20 hindsight.

Whisk together the yogurt, vegetable oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla (“wet ingredients”) in a large bowl. Add the jar of shredded apples. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom into another bowl. You can sift straight into the liquids bowl, but I find it easier to do it in a separate bowl, then incorporate the dry ingredients in thirds.

So, time to divulge my spice secrets. I get my spices from three main sources: Penzey’s (online/West Hartford), World Spice (online/when in Seattle), and the Latino section of the grocery store. Both Penzey’s and World Spice will grind your stuff to order. It’s one of those things, that you dont know what you’re missing until you smell them for yourself. On my recent trip to the Pacific NW, a visit to World Spice yielded the most amazing Vietnamese Cinnamon and Pimentón/Smoked Paprika. Worlds away from that grocery store cinnamon you bought forever ago. Spices lose their zip after about a year, so its best to buy in small amounts and replace often if you can. Even better – buy things like nutmeg and cardamom whole so that you can grind them yourself immediately before use. I found a secondhand coffee grinder at a thrift store a few years ago that has become a spice grinder. The Latino section of your local supermarket will have deals (read: its cheap) on certain things – I buy nutmeg, cloves, and occasionally onion powder there. I also have bought spices in bulk from natural foods stores like Whole Foods or a local co-op. Their higher turnover will almost always yield better quality than sealed jars sitting on the shelf since ancient times.

Left to right: World Spice, Penzey's (my labeled jar) and Badia. What are your spice sources?

Anyway, back to the cake. You can make a spiced swirl and separate the batter like the original recipe, but frankly I was lazy and just wanted some yummy cardamom apple goodness, stat.

The leftovers. There was no leftover cake.

The original recipe says to bake for 45 minutes. Mine was done about 40 minutes. Every oven is different – get an oven thermometer and be vigilant after half an hour. I am a big fan of the toothpick test.

1. Make it healthier. I cut the amount of sugar from the original recipe with maple syrup. Add less sugar, add more maple syrup, up to you. I don’t use agave nectar, but if that’s your thing I’m sure you could sub it in. I can see flax seeds, walnuts or pistachios as other healthy but delicious additions.
2. Add more apples. One jar of apples was good, but I think adding some larger fresh chunks of apple (Granny Smith?) would have added to the texture.
3. We served it with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (naturally) but it would be lovely with a glaze.
4. Don’t just eat it for dessert – it became my breakfast with some yogurt!