Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread

I’m on the cranberry train this holiday season.  Here’s another recipe that does a great job of contrasting tart cranberries with spicy, sweet gingerbread.  The addition of molasses and maple syrup make this cake a little sticky and give the cake a shiny top.  Because this cake is a bit sweet,  a little goes a long way, and if you need to cut the sweetness a bit, it’s delicious served with whipped cream.   img_72481

Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread

Makes one 9 inch cake
(from New York Times Cooking)
My notes are in [  ] below.

Ingredients

2 cups (8 ounces; 266 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 stick (4 ounces; 113 grams) unsalted butter
cup (133 grams) dark brown sugar
½ cup (120 milliliters) whole milk
½ cup (120 milliliters) maple syrup
¼ cup (60 milliliters) molasses
1 ½ cups (185 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (5 grams) ground ginger
½ teaspoon (1 gram) ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon (3 grams) baking powder
½ teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt
¼ teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (14 grams) grated fresh ginger (from 1-inch piece) [I didn’t have fresh ginger so I left it out]

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350° degrees.
  2. Line a 9-inch square or round baking pan with parchment.  [Don’t skip this step as the cake is really sticky and will stick to the bottom of the pan after it’s baked.]
  3. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together cranberries, granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon water. Stir the cranberries over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and cranberries form a sauce that is syrupy and bubbling thickly, about 10 minutes. Aim to have about half the cranberries broken down, with the remainder more or less whole.
  4. In a separate saucepan, stir together the butter, brown sugar, milk, maple syrup and molasses over medium heat. Bring it to just barely a simmer and then remove it from the heat. Do not let it come to a boil, or the mixture may curdle.
  5. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, baking soda and black pepper. Beat in the butter-maple syrup mixture and then beat in the eggs. Stir in the ginger.
  6. Scrape the batter into the pan. Drop fat dollops of cranberry sauce onto the surface of the cake batter. Drag a long, slender knife through the batter in a swirly design, as if you are marbling a cake.
  7. Transfer the cake to the oven and bake it until the top is firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. [I baked mine for 45 minutes and it was almost overbaked, so keep an eye on it while it’s in the oven.]
  8. Transfer the pan to a wire baking rack, and let the cake cool completely before eating it.

Southwestern Squash and Black Bean Quiche with Cornbread Crust

The amount of time that it takes to make this Southwestern Squash and Black Bean Quiche with Cornbread Crust is about equivalent to how long the name of this dish is.  Between making the cornbread, roasting the squash and garlic, assembling the quiche, baking it, and the one hour recommended cooling time, it’s a beast to make (we’re talking several hours).  You have to be persistent, optimistic, and patient and have no where to be with several hours to spare; otherwise this recipe will kick your butt.  But the payoff from all that time and effort is pretty spectacular.  The quiche is incredibly flavorful and hearty and tastes a bit like the perfect marriage between chili and cornbread with a little extra je ne sais quois magic thrown in.  I really can’t rave enough about how totally delicious it is.  That said, I will most likely never make this again.

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Southwestern Squash and Black Bean Quiche with Cornbread Crust

Makes about 8 servings
(from Fine Cooking)
My notes are in [  ] below.

Ingredients

1 teaspoon olive oil; more for the pie plate
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
Kosher salt
8 ounce butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1-1/2 cups)
4 medium cloves garlic
1/2 recipe Sour Cream Cornbread, crumbled (about 3 cups; save the remaining cornbread for another use)
1-3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
3/4 cup canned low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
4 large eggs
6 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (about 2 cups)
2 medium scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)

Directions

[Before you even start with the directions below, it’s assumed that you’ve already baked and cooled your cornbread.]

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Grease a deep 9- or 10-inch pie plate (with a capacity of at least 6 cups) with olive oil. [Make sure you pie plate is deep enough.  Otherwise your quiche will spill out and all your hard work will be wasted.]
  3. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, lime zest, brown sugar, coriander, cumin, chipotle powder, and 1/4 tsp. salt.
  4. In a medium bowl, coat the squash with the olive oil. Add the spice mixture and toss to coat. Spread in a single layer in a small roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet. Wrap the garlic cloves in aluminum foil. Roast until just tender, about 20 minutes for the squash and 40 minutes for the garlic. Squeeze the garlic out of the skins into a small bowl and mash with a fork.
  5. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F.
  6. Put the crumbled cornbread in a medium bowl. Add 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk, and stir to combine. Press into the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate. Pierce the bottom several times with a fork. Bake until the crust is deep golden, about 15 minutes.
  7. In a small bowl, mash the beans and 1 tablespoon of water with a fork. Season to taste with salt, and spread in the bottom of the crust, using wet fingers to press down evenly. Place the pie plate on a baking sheet.
  8. Whisk the remaining 1-1/2 cups milk and the eggs in a large bowl. Fold in the roasted garlic, squash, cheese, scallions, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Pour into the crust.
  9. Bake until the top is browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cover the crust with aluminum foil or a pie shield if it starts getting dark.
  10. Cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Buttermilk Biscones (Biscuit crossed with a Scone)

I think my fellow biscuit lovers will agree that a good biscuit can be hard to come by.  All too often, I’ve been lured in by a restaurant’s promise of “world’s best biscuit” only to be disappointed when the biscuit shows up as a dense, dry, flavorless mound of bread.  But I’m here to tell you that there’s hope for biscuit bliss, and you can find it with these Buttermilk Biscones.  The recipe combines the best parts of a scone and a biscuit into a tender, flaky, light, and flavorful buttermilk biscuit.  And if you thought things couldn’t get any better, the recipe is also easy to make (no rolling and cutting the dough, and no mixer needed).

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Buttermilk Biscones

Make about 12-14 biscuits
(from The Back in the Day Cookbook)
My notes are in [   ] below.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising) [it’s worth it to use cake flour so your biscones will be light and airy]
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon herb mix (optional) [I had an Italian herb mix that I added for some additional flavor]
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, or as needed
1 egg, beaten with a pinch of fine seal salt, for egg wash
Sea salt/kosher salt for sprinkling

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat the over to 375°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and herb mix (if using), and whisk until completely incorporated.
  3. Add the  butter, and working quickly, cut it with a pastry lender.  You should have various-sized pieces of butter, from sandy patches to pea-sized chunks, and some larger bits as well.
  4. Gradually pour in the buttermilk and gently fold the ingredients until you have a soft dough and there are no bits of flour in the bottom of the bowl.  You should still see lumps of butter in the dough; these will give you lift and flaky biscones.  If the dough seems dry, you may need to add a little more buttermilk.  The dough should be moist and slightly sticky.
  5. Gently pat down the dough with your hands right in the bowl until it resembles a loaf of bread. Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour.
  6. Using a large ice cream scoop, scoop mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, arranging them about 1 1/2 inches apart so that the biscones have room to rise and puff up.  Lightly tap down on the tops of the biscones. [I didn’t tap down on my biscones because I like they a bit puffier.]
  7. Brush the tops and sides of the biscones liberally with the egg wash.  Sprinkle with kosher salt.
  8. Bake for 18 to 24 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through for even baking, until the biscones are lightly golden and fully baked.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

[Note:  These are best eaten the day they are made.  They’ll lose their light, airy texture as time passes.]

Delta Caramel Cake

Sigh… it’s been one of those baking days when nothing seems to turn out how I’d like it too.  I  took advantage of the extra hour from Daylight Savings by baking a super rich, delicious, chocolate stout cake, and the cake was out of the oven and cooling, all before 10am.  But disaster struck when I discovered that the cake was glued to my Bundt cake pan, and in my attempt to turned it out of the pan, it became a pile of crumbled chocolate cake rubble.  Unwilling to submit to cake failure, I turned to my second choice recipe to try, Delta Caramel Cake.  It’s basically a rich, tender yellow cake slathered with a thick caramel icing.  The cake was quick and easy to bake, but the caramel icing was another story.  I like to think of myself as a bit of a caramel making expert so I didn’t hesitate when I read in the recipe introduction that “it’s a labor of love to make”.  Sigh… I think it all started going downhill when I added the caramelized sugar to the evaporated milk mixture and everything got lumpy, no matter how much I stirred and coaxed it to meld together.  Still I forged ahead, unwilling to submit to two cake disasters in one day.  I picked out the especially big chunks of sugar from the icing and half heartedly frosted the cake.  I held my breath as I cut a small slice of cake to test it out (at this point, I wouldn’t have been surprised if this cake tasted terrible given the day’s baking mishaps), but to my relief and delight, this cake is so delicious that it has helped soothe my bruised baking ego.  I’m not posting the caramel icing recipe because I don’t trust it.  BUT this cake recipe makes one of the tastiest yellow cakes I’ve had, so it makes a great base for any of your favorite toppings, icings, frostings, etc.

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Delta Caramel Cake 

Makes one 2-layer 9-inch round cake, serves 12
(from Anne Byrn’s American Cake)

Ingredients

Shortening/butter and flour, or non stick baking spray for prepping the cake pans
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup whole milk, warmed

Directions

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Lightly grease and flour the bottom of two 9-inch round or square pans.  I like using a non stick baking spray with flour.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until the mixtures is combined and lightens in color, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and scraping down the bowl as needed.
  5. Mix in the vanilla extract, and set aside.
  6. In a medium size bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  7. Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Blend on low speed until just incorporated, about 1 minute more.
  8. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans.  Smooth out the top of the batter with a spatula.
  9. Bake the cake until it’s golden brown and the top springs back when lightly pressed with a finger, about 25-30 minutes.
  10. Remove the pans from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges of the pans, and turn out the cakes.  Then flip the cakes one more time so they can cool right side up.
  11. Since I’m not recommending the caramel icing recipe that I used, feel free to frost the cake however you want when the layers have cooled.

Cranberry Streusel Shortbread Bars

Overlooked, underappreciated, and not very appetizing looking, cranberries seem to linger on produce shelves, biding their time until the winter holiday season passes and they can be mercifully banished back to the land of long forgotten fruits.  Yet, when you cook cranberries with some sugar, spread the tart cranberry mixture over rich, buttery shortbread, and top everything off with a crunchy streusel, you will think about these Cranberry Streusel Shortbread Bars all year long.  Not only are these bars easy to make using basic ingredients, they also look bake shop worthy.  So, no excuses; get to baking!

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Cranberry Streusel Shortbread Bars

Makes approximately thirty-five 1 3/4-inch-square bars
(from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients

Crust and Streusel

10 1/2 ounces (1 cup plus 5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to just warm
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
2 large egg yolks
14 1/4 ounces (3 cups plus 3 tablespoons) unbleached all-purpose flour

Cranberry Topping

12 ounce bag fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over, rinsed, and drained (I prefer fresh)
1 cup granulated sugar

Directions

Crust

  1. Line a straight-sided 13×9-inch metal baking pan with foil, letting the ends create an overhanging edge for easy removal from the pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, 3/4 cup of sugar, and salt.
  3. Whisk in the egg yolks.
  4. Stir in the flour to make a stiff dough.
  5. Transfer about 2 cups of the dough to the prepared pan, and press the mixture evenly into the bottom. Prick the dough all over with a fork (this keeps the crust from bubbling up too much when it bakes).
  6. Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes (or freeze for 5 to 7 minutes), until the dough is firm.
  7. Position a rack near the center of the oven and another near the top. Heat the oven to 325°F.
  8. Bake the dough until the crust begins to set but does not brown at all on the edges (the center will not be firm yet), about 20 minutes. While the crust bakes, prepare the streusel and the topping.

Streusel

  1. With your fingers, combine the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar with the reserved dough until crumbly. The mixture should hold together when pressed, but readily break into smaller pieces.  Set aside.

Cranberry Topping

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the cranberries, sugar, and 1/4 cup water to a boil over high heat.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium high, and continue to boil until the liquid is reduced to a thick syrup, 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture cool 5 to 10 minutes—the syrup will continue to thicken as the mixture cools.

Assembling the Bars

  1. Spread the cranberry mixture evenly over the hot crust.
  2. Scatter the streusel over the cranberries (don’t crumble the streusel too much or the texture will be too sandy).
  3. Increase the oven temperature to 350°F and bake the bars near the top of the oven until the streusel is golden and set, about 25 minutes. (Baking these bars at the top of the oven helps the streusel brown faster without overbrowning the crust.)
  4. Place the pan on a metal rack to cool until the crust is completely firm, at least 1 hour. (For faster cooling, put the bars in the fridge once the pan is no longer piping hot.)
  5. When the bottom of the pan is cool, carefully lift the bars from the pan using the foil sides and transfer them to a cutting board.
  6. Separate the foil from the bars by sliding a spatula between them. Cut the bars into 1-3/4-inch squares.

Note:  Store the bars in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week (but the shortbread will soften quite a bit after the first three days).