Rosemary Semolina Bread with Sea Salt from Seattle’s Macrina Bakery

Macrina's Bakery Rosemary-Olive Oil-Semolina Bread

Last Saturday I spotted a sample table in the wine section of Wegmans and made a beeline for it. When I arrived, a nice man asked me if I’d like to try a couple of wines with a slice of chocolate bread. I couldn’t think of a more fantastic idea at 10 in the morning. Yes please, I said. One of the wines, a grenache, was quite nice, and while the bread, a cake-like quick bread, was a little bland, I liked the idea of pairing wine with chocolate bread.

The folks at Wegmans were on to something. If the bread had been less sweet and textured more like a yeast-risen bread, could it possibly be topped with a cheese — maybe a soft, honey-infused chévre — and served with wine as a festive Valentine’s Day hors d’oeuvre?

Immediately reminded of Metropolitan Bakery’s chocolate and cherry bread, I set to work scouring the internet to see if anybody had taken a stab at recreating that loaf at home, an exercise I undertake every six months or so. That recipe, I’m afraid, is still under tight lock and key. It’s conspicuously absent from the cookbook, as well. For good reason, I imagine.

Without delving into too much detail, I combined a few recipes, slapped together a nice-looking dough, threw it in a hot oven, and waited anxiously while promising smells wafted from the oven. Unfortunately, the resulting loaf, although edible, was nothing worth sharing. It was good. I found myself eating slice after slice in fact, perhaps hoping each next slice might taste better, but each did not. Chocolate bread, I’m afraid, would not make it to this year’s Valentine’s Day table.

Alas, maybe forcing chocolate into a savory bread was weird anyway. It was time to get back to basics. Time to try a more natural combination of flavors. Time to break out the rosemary and sea salt and olive oil and share with you all a most delectable bread recipe, one I can say with the utmost confidence will not disappoint. I eat slice after slice of this bread not because I doubt its deliciousness but because I can’t hold myself back. Olive oil makes this bread super moist, but it’s the presence of semolina flour, an ingredient I am only just discovering, that gives this bread such a unique texture and flavor. The owner of Macrina Bakery, Leslie Mackie, to whom we can thank for this creation, says it best: “Semolina flour gives the bread a hearty texture but also a kind of creamy, almost corn-like flavor.” A salty, crusty exterior moreover makes the bread irresistible.

It’s perhaps not as dreamy as chocolate bread, but it’s far more delicious, and in the event that a romantic dinner for two materializes in my kitchen next Tuesday, it will make an appearance. Happy Almost Valentine’s Day Everyone.

Semolina flour is sometimes labeled as “pasta flour.”
Semolina Flour

Macrina's Bakery Rosemary-Olive Oil-Semolina Bread

Failed chocolate bread, rising:
chocolate bread, rising

Failed chocolate bread, baked:
chocolate bread, baked

Rosemary semolina bread mixed (left) and risen (right):
dough, just mixed (left) and risen (right)

shaping the loaf

loaf, ready for the oven

Macrina's Bakery Rosemary-Olive Oil-Semolina Bread

Rosemary Semolina Bread
Source: Bon Appetit via Seattle’s Macrina Bakery & Cafe
Yield = 1 very large round

1 3/4 cups warm water (105°F to 115°F), divided
1 tablespoon active dry yeast (measured from 2 envelopes)
2 1/4 cups (about) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
2 1/2 cups semolina flour (pasta flour)*
2 teaspoons fine-grained sea salt
Additional semolina flour
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, divided

1 teaspoon coarse-grained sea salt

1. Place 1 1/4 cups warm water in medium bowl; sprinkle yeast over and stir to blend. Let stand 5 minutes to soften. Whisk to dissolve yeast. Add 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour; whisk until smooth. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature (about 75°F) until bubbles form and yeast mixture has more than doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.

2. Whisk remaining 1/2 cup warm water, olive oil, and rosemary in large bowl to blend. Using rubber spatula, mix in semolina flour and 2 teaspoons fine-grained sea salt (dough will be very dry). Stir in yeast mixture. Work in 3/4 cup all purpose flour. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, adding more all purpose flour by tablespoonfuls if sticky. Let rest 5 minutes. Knead until dough springs back when pressed with thumb, about 8 minutes.

3. Lightly oil large bowl. Transfer dough to bowl; turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface. Flatten dough into 18×12-inch rectangle. Starting from 1 long side, roll tightly to form 2 1/2-inch-diameter, 20-inch-long log. With seam side down, shape log into ring, inserting 1 end into second end; smooth seam. (Note: As you can see from the photos, I did not make this shape. If I had, my ring would have been massive. I opted to just coil into one mass. Next time, however, I might even divide the dough in half and bake two simple boule-shaped loaves.)

4. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle sheet with additional semolina flour. Transfer dough ring to prepared sheet, reshaping as necessary to form smooth circle. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame seeds, pressing lightly to adhere. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let bread rise at room temperature until almost doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove plastic wrap from bread. Using sharp knife, cut 1/4-inch-deep slit all the way around top of loaf. Spray bread lightly with water. (I did not do this — I don’t own a spray bottle.) Sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame seeds and 1 teaspoon coarse-grained salt. Transfer to oven. Bake bread 15 minutes, spraying lightly with water every 5 minutes. (I did not do this either, again because I do not own a spray bottle.) Continue to bake without spraying until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 30 minutes longer. Transfer bread to rack and cool completely.

*Semolina flour is available at specialty foods stores, Italian markets, and some supermarkets.

Macrina's Bakery Rosemary-Olive Oil-Semolina Bread

rosemary semolina loaf

Coffeecake Muffins, Coffeehouse Style

coffeecake muffin

I like these muffin liners. I like that they can stand on their own, that I can fill one or twelve with batter, bake off as many or as few muffins as I like. I like their shape — that they create straight-sided panettone-style loaves. I like peeling away the paper from the baked muffin, unveiling the straight sides, and I like scraping with my teeth every last morsel left clinging to the bottom round. And I like — I love — that they remind me of my first few years of being in Philadelphia, when I lived just steps from Metropolitan Bakery, where I first discovered these liners wrapping so many delicious breakfast treats, namely millet muffins, my favorite.

As much as I like these pretty paper wrappings, I can assure you they are optional, merely for creating that coffeehouse baked-goods effect. I can assure you that I like what these pretty paper wrappings hold even more, especially when it’s in the form of these coffeecake muffins, a Cook’s Illustrated recipe that never fails to please.

A dear friend’s husband, a private chef, in fact, tipped me off about this recipe several years ago, and I have made it countless times since. With or without a pretty paper wrapping, these muffins, made with a cinnamon-pecan-brown sugar streusel mixed into a sour cream batter, capture the spirit of breakfast treat. It’s the weekend everybody! Woo-hoo! Brew some coffee. Make some muffins. Pretend you’re at your favorite café. You won’t be sorry you did.

coffeecake muffin

Don’t be tempted to fill these liners too high. The batter will overflow and burn on your oven floor. One scoop (standard-sized ice cream scoop) works just fine, and the batter will still climb above the tops of the liners.

Coffeecake Muffins
Source: Cooks Illustrated
Yield = 12

Notes from the Magazine: Be careful not to overprocess the batter in step 4. If you don’t have a food processor, first chop the nuts with a knife. Proceed with the recipe, mixing the ingredients in a large bowl with a wooden spoon or spatula, but use a wire whisk to work the butter into the dry ingredients in step 3.

My Notes: I made the batter the night before and baked off the muffins in the morning using these pretty coffeehouse-style muffin liners.

1/2 cup pecans (2 ounces)
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (1 3/4 ounces) (I used light brown sugar)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt (I used table salt as opposed to kosher)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick) + 1 tablespoon (optional, see step 3), cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.

2. Process nuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon in food processor until nuts are size of sesame seeds, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer mixture to medium bowl.

3. Return bowl and metal blade to food processor, add flour, granulated sugar, and salt and process until combined, about five 1-second pulses. Sprinkle the 1 stick of butter evenly over flour mixture and process until butter is oat-sized, about eight 1-second pulses. Remove 1 cup of flour-butter mixture and stir with fork into reserved brown sugar mixture until combined to make streusel. Set aside 3/4 cup of streusel for muffin batter and remaining portion for topping muffins. (Note: At this point I added an additional tablespoon of butter to the streusel topping because in the past I have found the streusel topping to be too sandy — not buttery and crumby enough if you know what I mean? See picture below with two ramekins.)

4. Add baking powder and baking soda to remaining flour mixture in food processor bowl and process until combined, about five 1-second pulses. Whisk together sour cream, egg, and vanilla; add to flour mixture. Process until batter is just moistened, about five 1-second pulses. Add 3/4 cup reserved streusel to flour mixture and process until streusel is just distributed throughout batter, about five 1-second pulses.

5. Divide batter among 12 muffin cups and sprinkle with streusel, pressing lightly so that streusel sinks slightly into batter. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out with several crumbs clinging to it, about 18 minutes (mine took more like 25 minutes, but start checking after 18 min), rotating pan from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffin tin on wire rack for 2 minutes. Using tip of paring knife, loosen muffins and gently transfer from tin to wire rack; cool for 5 minutes and serve warm.

Top ramekin: Crumb topping as made with original recipe. Bottom ramekin: Crumb topping made with an additional tablespoon of butter — the additional tablespoon of butter helped create a better-textured crumb in my opinion, but this step is optional. The muffins are delicious no matter what.

Tartine’s Currant Scones

Tartine's currant scone recipe

Hi Everyone. Just a quick post here. This morning for breakfast I made the Tartine scone recipe with currants, which is what the original recipe calls for. So delicious! I’ve only ever made it with blueberries before, which I love, but on this chilly November morning, the currants were lovely. I have a feeling I’ll be making these all fall. Have a great week!

Tartine’s Buttermilk Scones
Adapted from Tartine
Yield=8

Notes:

• Tartine’s recipe calls for Zante currants, which should be plumped in warm water for 10 minutes, then drained.

• I made a half recipe, but if you feel like making a whole recipe, follow this recipe. I have frozen the raw scone dough, too, and baked the scones after thawing the dough overnight in the fridge. Worked beautifully.

2 3/8 cup all-purpose flour (3/8 cup = 6 tablespoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/8 tsp. baking soda (a scant 1/2 teaspoon)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt (a heaping half teaspoon)
1/2 tsp. lemon zest, grated
1/2 cup + 1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter, very cold
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/8 cup zante currants

Topping
1.5 T. butter, melted
sugar for sprinkling such as demerara or turbinado (regular granulated is fine, too — this is optional, I omitted with the currant scones)

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add sugar, salt and lemon zest and stir to combine. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and scatter the cubes over the dry ingredients. Use a pastry blender or the back of a fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. When you are finished, the butter should be dispersed throughout the flour in pea-sized lumps (or bigger… mine always are).

3. Add the buttermilk all at once along with the currants and mix gently with a wooden spoon until the dough holds together. If the mixture seems dry, add a little bit more buttermilk.

4. Dust your work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it. If you’ve made the whole recipe, divide the dough into two even portions. Using your hands, pat each portion into a circular disk about 1 1/2 inches thick. (Or, if you’ve made the whole recipe and want to follow Tartine’s instructions, pat the dough into a rectangle about 18 inches long, 5 inches wide, and 1 1/2 inches thick). Brush the top with melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar (I was being lazy and omitted the sugar sprinkling). Cut each disk into 8 wedges (or 12 if you’ve made the rectangle).

5. Transfer the triangles to baking sheet. Bake until the tops of the scones are lightly browned, about 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately. (Mine were done at 25 minutes.)

Pumpkin Bread

cut loaf of pumpkin bread

Everyone and their mother has a recipe for pumpkin bread. This happens to be my mother’s recipe — not sure where it originates beyond her — and it is incredibly delicious. Made with oil not butter, the batter comes together in minutes. I mixed mine the night before baking, and used mini loaf pans because, well because, I think they’re cute, and I suppose because I’m getting excited for the impending homemade-gift-giving holiday season.

What else can I say here? Like many of you I suspect, I am consumed by all things pumpkin at the moment…can’t stop dreaming about pumpkin muffins, cheesecake, soup, lattes, fritters, gnocchi, gnudi, yadi yadi yadi. Tis the season! If you don’t have a recipe for pumpkin quick bread up your sleeve, this one is a winner. Happy fall!

pumpkin bread

pumpkin bread batter

pumpkin bread

Pumpkin Bread
Yield = 2 standard loaf pans or 5 mini loaf pans

Mini loaf pans can be purchased here.
Disposable loaf pans can be purchased here, too.

2 c. sugar
1 c. canola oil
4 eggs
16 oz. canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
3/4 cup water
3 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. table salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves (optional — I didn’t have any so didn’t use any)
1/2 tsp. nutmeg (or less — I used about 1/4 tsp.)
1/2 tsp. allspice (optional — I didn’t have any so didn’t use any)

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease loaf pans with butter or non-stick spray.

2. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat sugar and oil together until blended. Add eggs one at a time mixing after each addition. Add pumpkin purée and water and mix until blended.

3. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and allspice. Add to the mixer and mix only until just incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pans.

4. Bake for about an hour (if using standard loaf pans) but start checking for doneness after 45 minutes — the loaves are done when center springs back when touched. Note: When using the small pans, the loaves should be done in under 45 minutes. I started checking after 30 minutes, and the loaves were done after about 35 minutes (or maybe a minute or two longer…lost track of time.)

I love these disposable mini loaf pans, too. They are so pretty! Wonderful for gift giving. I actually baked the loaves in my mini pans before transferring them to the disposable pans — I was thinking this would be less messy —but…oopsidasies, the disposable pans are a wee bit smaller than my non-disposable pans. I kind of had to squeeze the baked loaf to get it to fit. It worked out fine, but next time I’d just as soon bake the loaf in the disposable pan. That’s what it’s for after all, right?

pumpkin bread as gift

pumpkin bread

Quintessential Coffee Cake

slice of quintessential coffee cake

Psssssssst. Do you have a sec? I hate to disturb you while you’re working but I’m having people over for breakfast this morning, and I’m serving them this. It’s delicious. It’s just a classic coffee cake, but boy is it hitting the spot. Seriously, on your next break, please stop by for a slice. Would love to have you join our little party.

I found the recipe by googling “best coffee cake ever,” which led me to discover The Pioneer Woman. She’s funny. She described the cake as a complete miracle. How could I resist making a complete miracle? I couldn’t, but I broke one of my rules in the process.

Rules, you ask? Yes. You see, I try hard to follow a recipe — a baked goods recipe at least — to the T first time around. I was doing well until I saw the word milk. And well, you all know about my inability to not substitute buttermilk for milk in a baked goods recipe. It’s a real problem. I’ll leave it at that. And then, to make matters worse, I got really lazy — didn’t want to separate the eggs or beat the whites until stiff peaks formed — and so I substituted in a whole egg. Yikes. I don’t think the Pioneer Woman would approve.

But the cake — oh the cake — it’s so delicious. Thank you Pioneer Woman for sharing such a keeper of a recipe. Everyone here is in total heaven. And readers, I encourage you to check out the PW’s original recipe. I’ve enclosed my lazy-man’s version below, but fully intend to make the original recipe one day.

Ok all of you, back to work. Promise I won’t disturb you again.

baked coffee cake

unbaked coffee cake

baked coffee cake

Classic Coffee Cake Ever
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Serves 6-8

Note: I made a half recipe and used a 9-inch square pyrex baking dish

FOR THE CAKE:
3/4 stick butter, softened
1 scant cup sugar (I used 7/8 cup, which is 3/4 cup + 2 T.)
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 + 1/8 cup buttermilk

FOR THE TOPPING:
3/4 stick butter, softened
3/8 cups flour
3/4 cup brown sugar (or less — see updated notes)
1 scant tablespoon cinnamon
3/4 cup almonds or pecans, chopped (optional — see updated notes)

Notes:
• Next time, I might not even add nuts on top. I think I might prefer it without.
• Next time, too, I might cut back a wee bit on the sugar in the topping.

Notes updated:
• Made this again without the nuts, and I prefer it this way. It just has more of that classic coffee cake taste to me. Husband prefers nuts, however — he’s only tried it with almonds but thinks he’d prefer pecans (such a picky husband these days… sike, my love, you’re not picky at all). I should note that I’m not a huge fan of nuts in baked goods, so if you like nuts, I say use them!
• I lightly filled a 3/4 cup measuring cup with brown sugar, which made the topping slightly less sweet, which I prefer.

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9-inch square pan (or the equivalent) with butter.

2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Add egg to butter and sugar mixture. Mix on low until combined. Add half of the dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated. Add all of the buttermilk. Mix until incorporated. Add remaining flour and whisk until just combined. Spread batter into prepared pan.

3. Meanwhile, make the topping: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Use a pastry cutter or your hands to mix everything nicely together. Spread topping over batter. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until no longer jiggly. Let cool on wire rack for 10 minutes before serving.

slice of coffee cake

Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake

Lemon-Blueberry Breakfast Cake

I swear buttermilk is magic. I’ve dwelled on this before. Buttermilk seems to turn everything to gold. Super-moist, super-delicious gold.

Anyway, I needed a simple, summery, breakfasty, cake-like-but-not-dessert-like recipe to make this morning. One of Ben’s friends had crashed here last night, and I thought it only appropriate to treat him to a proper breakfast. In other words, I was craving sugar and carbs. The truth is I’ve been craving sugar and carbs and a cake like this for months. But seriously, who doesn’t crave having a good, seasonal, berry cake recipe in their morning-treat repertoire?

Nobody. And I think I’ve found the recipe that fits the bill. On an old photocopied sheet of paper in my mother’s hand writing, I spotted a note: “Baby Boy’s Favorite.” Oh Baby Boy. Baby Boy is my younger brother, my parents’ favorite child, and one of the most satisfying people to cook for. If it was Baby Boy’s favorite cake, it would soon be mine, too. This cake is delectable! I think you’ll like it, too.

Lemon-Blueberry Breakfast Cake

mise en place

Lemon-Blueberry Breakfast Cake

Lemon-Blueberry Breakfast Cake

Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest or more — zest from 1 large lemon
  • 7/8 cup* + 1 tablespoon sugar**
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour (set aside 1/4 cup of this to toss with the blueberries)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • ½ cup buttermilk***

    * 7/8 cup = 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons

    ** This 1 tablespoon is for sprinkling on top

    *** To make homemade buttermilk, place 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup. Fill cup with milk until it reaches the 1-cup line. Let stand for five minutes. Use only 1/2 cup of the prepared mixture for the recipe.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cream butter with lemon zest and 7/8 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Meanwhile, toss the blueberries with ¼ cup of flour, then whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in the blueberries.
  4. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan (or something similar) with butter or coat with non-stick spray. Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle batter with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness. If necessary, return pan to oven for a couple of more minutes. (Note: Baking for as long as 10 minutes more might be necessary.) Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.
http://www.alexandracooks.com/2011/06/29/buttermilk-blueberry-breakfast-cake/

Cake with Anthropologie Oven Mitt... fave new kitchen accessory

Buttermilk Scones — Tartine Has Done It Again

I love a good scone. More than a muffin these days. Even a really good muffin, like this one, which I made last weekend. Such a good recipe. If you haven’t tried that one yet, add it to your to-make list.

Back to the scones. You might recall my obsession with Tartine? Its quiche, bread pudding and croque monsieur in particular. Oh its croque monsieur! Why is there no recipe for it in either of my Tartine cookbooks? Hmm, perhaps it’s best that I don’t know how to make that one anyway.

OK really, back to the scones. Buttery. Flaky. Crispy on top. Not too sweet. Lemony. Blueberry-y. Delicious. When you live hundreds of miles from Tartine, this recipe’s a good one to know.

And if you like this recipe, you’ll likely like this one and this one, too. I heart Tartine. So very much.

Blueberry Buttermilk Scones
Adapted from Tartine
Yield=12

Notes:

  • Tartine’s recipe calls for Zante currants, which should be plumped in warm water for 10 minutes, then drained.
  • I usually make a half recipe — 12 scones is a lot, and the dough gets unwieldy. If you can handle it, however, by all means go for it. I have frozen the raw scone dough, too, and baked the scones after thawing the dough overnight in the fridge. Worked beautifully.

4 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp. lemon zest, grated
1 cup + 1 T. unsalted butter, very cold
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 cups blueberries

Topping
3 T. butter
sugar for sprinkling such as demerara or turbinado (regular granulated is fine, too)

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add sugar, salt and lemon zest and stir to combine. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and scatter the cubes over the dry ingredients. Use a pastry blender or the back of a fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. When you are finished, the butter should be dispersed throughout the flour in pea-sized lumps (or bigger… mine always are).

3. Add the buttermilk all at once along with the blueberries and mix gently with a wooden spoon until the dough holds together. If the mixture seems dry, add a little bit more buttermilk.

4. Dust your work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it. If you’ve made the whole recipe, divide the dough into two even portions. Using your hands, pat each portion into a circular disk about 1 1/2 inches thick. (Or, if you’ve made the whole recipe and want to follow Tartine’s instructions, pat the dough into a rectangle about 18 inches long, 5 inches wide, and 1 1/2 inches thick). Brush the top with melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar. Cut each disk into 6 wedges (or 12 if you’ve made the rectangle).

5. Transfer the triangles to baking sheet. Bake until the tops of the scones are lightly browned, about 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Oatmeal Muffins

oatmeal muffins

My baby bro is really funny. Last month when he came to visit, I fixed him some breakfast, a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon and sliced banana, my favorite way to start the morning. I took a risk making him oatmeal — I knew that. I mean, it’s hard to compete with my mother who whips up plates of fried egg sandwiches on toasted homemade bread, slides them under her favorite child’s nose just minutes after he lounges into the kitchen mid-morning, not uttering a word but like some sort of magical magnet drawing cups of freshly brewed coffee and hot breakfast his way.

Oatmeal was a risk for sure. Even so, I expected a bit of a better reception. He took two bites, dipped his spoon in for a third, pushed it around a little bit, then scrunched up his face while nudging the bowl my direction and asked, “Will you eat it for me?” My baby bro is 25. I love him so much.

Well, like my mother, I feel this need to feed people — to make them happy with food — and when things don’t work out as planned, I feel disappointed. I felt a little depressed about the oatmeal. Next time he comes, I’m going to make him these muffins, my latest fix. I discovered this recipe in the November Bon Appetit’s RSVP section. They are delicious. After I made a batch of the batter, I baked off one a day in a paper-lined ramekin for about a week straight. What a treat!

I also made a teensy discovery. I didn’t have enough rolled oats for the recipe, so I substituted in steel cut oats for about half of the total. To my surprise, the steel cut oats added a nice crunch and reminded me of a favorite muffin I hadn’t thought about in years. Metropolitan Bakery in Philadelphia makes the most incredible millet muffins, and when I lived there, it was hard to pass by its doors without stopping in for one. I think I know which cookbook I need to add to my wishlist. A millet muffin sounds so good right now. Santa, I hope you’re reading.

unbaked muffins

Oatmeal Muffins
Inspired by this recipe in Bon Appetit
Original recipe hails from Tazzaria

Nonstick vegetable oil spray (or paper muffin liners, I like these)
2 1/3 cups quick-cooking cups (I have had success with all varieties of oats including using as much as a cup of steel cut oats)
1 cup whole wheat or white flour
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons natural oat bran (if you have it)
2 tablespoons wheat germ (if you have it)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup boiling water

Note: I made a batch of the muffin batter and baked off a muffin a day in a paper-lined ramekin. The batter tasted as good on day 8 as it did on day 1. It’s nice to know you can do this with muffin batter.

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 8 large muffin cups (1-cup capacity) or 18 standard muffin cups (1/3-cup capacity) with nonstick spray, or line them with paper muffin liners. (Note: I baked off these muffins in paper-lined ramekins. It worked beautifully.) Whisk oats and next 9 ingredients in large bowl. Add buttermilk, oil, egg, and vanilla; whisk to blend. Stir in 1/3 cup boiling water and let stand 5 minutes. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups.

2. Bake muffins until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 28 minutes for large muffins and 20 minutes for standard muffins. Cool 10 minutes. Turn muffins out onto rack; cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Baby bro with baby doll. She adores her uncle. It’s so cute.

oatmeal muffins

Rosemary Shortbread + Cute Parchment Paper Packages

Careful. These are addictive. They’ve got that sweet-salty dynamic, but also a hint of rosemary, a savory touch that might lead you to eat ten of them, as you would a cracker. Try not to do that.

Man these are so good. I’m never crazy about breaking out the food processor — so many parts to clean and all — but this machine makes this recipe effortless. It literally takes five minutes to prepare.

If you’re like me, you won’t want to share these with anyone, but they would make a wonderful gift. According to Melissa Clark’s NY Times article in December 2005, these shortbread cookies are her all-occasion go-to gift:

“A friend’s birthday? A box of shortbread cookies wrapped in colored tissue. A colleague’s dinner party? A hostess gift of a vintage tin filled with shortbreads. The holidays? Many, many bright-hued bags filled with shortbread and tied with ribbons.”

Yesterday, feeling inspired, I fashioned a little package out of parchment paper and cooking twine. Then I tucked two squares inside, made a cute little tag, and wrapped it all up. Later that day, I opened the package and ate the treats. As I said, I didn’t want to share these with anyone.

Mmmmm … shortbread. These treats would be perfect with a cup of tea in the afternoon, but are delightful any time of the day really. What’s more, they stay fresh for days though they’ll likely be gone before showing any signs of age. Holiday season is rapidly approaching — practice making these pouches now, and you’ll be golden come December.

I love parchment paper. Have you ever tried to tape it, however? Nothing sticks to it. To make this package, I improvised with a hole punch and some cooking twine. Just fold up a piece of parchment paper to the size of your liking, punch holes in the sides, thread any sort of ribbon or string through the holes and make knots on one side. Ta-da! With some cute ribbon, these packages could be really darling.

With this recipe, you just have to be careful not to over pulse the dough. This is about what it should look like:

The dough is still very crumbly when you pat it into the pan.

Rosemary Shortbread With Variations

Yield: One 8- or 9-inch shortbread, about 16 pieces
Source: Melissa Clark of the NY Times

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 scant tablespoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary (see photo above)
1 teaspoon plus 1 pinch kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted cold butter, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 1/2 tsp. honey

1. Heat oven to 325ºF. In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, rosemary and salt. Add butter and honey, and pulse to fine crumbs. Pulse a few more times until some crumbs start to come together, but don’t overprocess. Dough should not be smooth.

2. Press dough into an ungreased (or parchment paper-lined for easy removal) 8- or 9-inch-square baking pan. Prick dough all over with a fork. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes for 9-inch pan, 45 to 50 minutes for 8-inch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into squares, bars or wedges while still warm.

For variations of this recipe, see Melissa Clark’s article.

Opposite side of parchment paper package:

Nectarine Pizza with Fresh Basil and Reduced Balsamic

I ate this whole pizza tonight. All of it. By myself. Not one slice remains for me for my breakfast tomorrow. I tried to refrain. No dice. So, if you’re still in summer-bathing-suit mode, avert your eyes.

This combination is so good. I believe the original, a pie hailing from Paso Robles where the dear friend who introduced me to this creation had just vacationed, called for peaches, but nectarines are a fine substitute. I’ve used an herbed goat cheese here with some Parmigiano Reggiano but I think some fresh ricotta or buffalo mozzarella or mascarpone or all three would be a nice substitute (or addition?) for the goat cheese. The Parmigiano, I think, is a must.

Fresh basil or some sprigs of arugula sprinkled on the just-baked pizza is key. It needs that hit of freshness as well as that bite from the reduced balsamic. Yum yum yum yum yum. Just don’t burn your balsamic. I did. Twice. Oiy. It’s really annoying. Really try not to do that.

Gosh, I don’t know what else to say. This is delicious and summery and fun, and I think you should make it.

Nectarine Pizza with Fresh Basil and Reduced Balsamic

Each pizza serves 1-2 people

pizza dough (recipe below)

Toppings For 1 pizza:
olive oil for greasing
cheese: fresh ricotta, buffalo mozzarella, goat cheese, mascarpone, whatever you like
1 nectarine, sliced thinly, (not paper thin)
shavings of fresh Parmigianno Reggiano
fresh basil

Reduced balsamic:

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1. Place balsamic in a small sauté pan. Turn heat to medium high. Let simmer until reduced and noticeably thick — watch it like a hawk. If it burns, it’s ruined. There’s no salvaging burnt balsamic. Err on the side of under reduced. It reduces more than you expect as it’s cooling. Remove from heat.

Pizza Dough
Adapted from Todd English’s The Figs Table
Makes four 8- to 10-inch pizzas (Serves 1 to 2 people per pizza, dough freezes beautifully)

¼ cup whole wheat flour
3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 2/3 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons active-dry yeast
2 teaspoons olive oil

1. Place the flours and salt in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. (Or knead by hand. I have not had luck making this in the food processor — the engine starts smoking after about five minutes.) Combine the water, sugar and yeast in a small bowl and let sit for five minutes until the mixture bubbles slightly. Add the olive oil and stir. With the mixer on low, gradually add the oil-water mixture into the bowl. Knead until the dough is firm and smooth, under 10 minutes. The dough will be very wet and sort of difficult to work with. I liberally coat my hands with flour before attempting to remove it.

2. Divide the dough into four balls, about 7½ ounces each. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. (Be sure to oil the parchment paper.) Place two balls on a sheet. Lightly rub the balls with olive oil, then cover loosely with plastic wrap. The dough is very sticky and wet, so, be sure to coat the balls or the plastic with oil. Let the balls rise in a warm spot until they have doubled in bulk, about two hours.

Note: This dough freezes beautifully. After the initial rise, punch down the dough, wrap it in plastic and place in a Ziplock bag. Freeze for several months. When ready to use, let sit at room temperature for about an hour, then proceed with rolling/topping/baking.

3. To roll out the dough: Dab your fingers in flour and then place one ball on a generously floured work surface. Press down in the center with the tips of your fingers, spreading the dough with your hand. When the dough has doubled in width, use a floured rolling pin (or continue using floured hands if you are skilled at making pizzas) and roll out until it is very thin, like flatbread. The outer portion should be a little thicker than the inner portion. Note: If the dough is being very stubborn, let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes. In this time, the gluten will relax, and the dough will be much easier to work with.

Baking:

1. Preheat the oven to 500ºF. Line a sheetpan with parchment paper or grease lightly with olive oil. Place rolled out dough onto parchment paper or greased pan. Drizzle dough with a little olive oil and with your hand, rub it over the surface to coat evenly.

2. Cover the dough with a layer of cheese — mozzarella, goat cheese, ricotta mascarpone, whatever you wish. Arrange one layer of sliced nectarines or peaches on top of the cheese. Sprinkle the fruit layer with fresh Parmigiano Reggiano. Place pizza in your very hot oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until the crust is slightly brown and the cheese is melting.

3. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh basil or arugula. Drizzle with the reduced balsamic. Slice and serve. Yum.