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Baked Treats

Baked Treats

Fresh Cranberry Bars

December 19, 2019

From the Oleson-family-owned O&H Danish Bakery, just north of Chicago in Racine, WI, these bars are easy-good. Third-generation baker Eric Oleson was happy to share the recipe which he says has been passed down in his family for close to 100 years. The slices put two good things together: the Danish penchant for butter, with Wisconsin’s bounty of fresh cranberries. The bars only appear at O&H during the Holiday season. “It’s kind of a traditional thing,” says Oleson, who likes to serve these very-moist bars chilled with a dollop of whipped cream.

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Baked Treats

Honey Cinnamon Graham Crackers

August 17, 2018

I love stories of positive change. With so much to be depressed about environmentally, it’s  encouraging to spend time with people like Harold Wilken of Janie’s Farm Organics and The Mill at Janie’s Farm in Ashkum, IL. One after another, land owners are coming to Harold with requests that he help them switch to organic farming. One after another, the acres in that bit of Illinois are returning to health, part of a growing grain revolution. And the certified organic grains Wilken and his farmers are stone-ground milling into whole kernel flours are full of living enzymes, germ, endosperm and bran. These flours make delicious breads like those featured at Hewn Bread in Evanston, IL, and got me thinking about a favorite treat of mine: Graham crackers. Continue Reading…

Baked Treats

Rhubarb Rosette Upside-Down Cake

April 12, 2018

Gorgeously colored from ruby to pinky-red with blushes of celery green that take on a satiny-sheen in the light, rhubarb is soooo pretty. It’s also delightfully odd. Super-tart rhubarb is actually a perennial vegetable, not a fruit, in spite of being called the “pie plant” in 19th century cookbooks. It comes in season in April peaks in June and if you’re lucky, hangs around in the home garden until September. It has a very distinct aroma—sharp, sort of vegetal funky—and if I had to put a color to the scent: red-brown. And although it very-much resembles celery (with its fleshy stalks and “strings,”) unlike celery, rhubarb cooks VERY quickly, and the strings entirely disappear, making it a lovely choice for topping this sweet-tart of an upside-down cake.   Continue Reading…

Baked Treats

Apple Almond Cheese Tart

September 2, 2017
Whatever craziness is going on, in my head or otherwise, baking grounds me. Last night, for example, at like 4 a.m., I gave up on sleep. Walked my bare feet over cold floorboards to the dark kitchen. Fumbling, I gathered sifter, bowls and pans, trying not to clatter. And, sigh: I measured. Sigh again: Sifted flour & sugar. Sigh: (the last! breathing better now) cut in the butter, tousled the two with fingertips ‘til wet-sand-like, added the almond meal, stirred the cream, whisked the filling. And last? Peeled the apples that smelled just the color of their green skins.
5:30 a.m. The light comes golden now, pushing west through house and kitchen, nice match for the scent of baked tart, coming from the oven. Waiting, I remember this tart from little, a thing I made for mom. Different kitchen, different goals, same spiral of apples and almond. Eat a little, dream a little, sleepy & warm…just enough. It’s all gonna be okay : ) Note: This recipe makes TWO tarts. Also, if you like it, you may want to try my Gooseberry Tart this summer–a simple way to showcase gooseberries, or whatever other berries you have on hand.

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Baked Treats

Gooseberry Tart

September 1, 2017

Wow, the things you learn when digging into etymology! Word geeks tell us that the “goose” in “gooseberry”, for example, likely came from France, where they call the little green globes, groseille à maquereau or, “mackerel berries”, because French chefs used to make a sauce of the berries to go with mackerel. A bit more ribald, Molly Oldfield, writing for the London Telegraph says “gooseberry bush” was 19th century slang for pubic hair, which led to the saying “born under a gooseberry bush.” Continue Reading…

Baked Treats

Chunky Monkey Muffins (Banana Double-Chocolate Chunk)

June 27, 2017

I love bananas, their shape, color, scent & taste…that they come wrapped in their own packaging & with a handle to boot. I always look for the shapeliest bunch, wait patiently for them to ripen and buy the exotic ones when I can find them. I even did an entire geek-research story on banana varieties once. But banana-love doesn’t mean those beautiful yellow bundles all get eaten when perfectly ripe. There are always, always, one or two left behind, their skins gone past freckled to bruisy black, poor bodies gone slack with waiting. But ugly as they are, I NEVER throw those holdovers away, and you shouldn’t either. Why? Because they are the secret to really good banana muffins. Continue Reading…

Baked Treats

Jam Tart (or, Best Basic Bar Cookies)

December 9, 2016

The bar cookie brings with it the promise of plenty, the memory of family gatherings where people talked long and laughingly and dessert was a reward for kids who cleaned their plates. With all the press about eating in season, it’s nice to remember that the humble bar cookie showcased that long before it was en vogue, featuring whatever came from the garden or farmstand. Fresh, first, and then from preserves that had been “put by.” Continue Reading…

Baked Treats

Coffee & Molasses Dream Bars

November 29, 2016

Richly flavored with molasses, strong coffee and a generous portion of ground cloves, these bars are one of my favorite holiday baking treats. They’re adapted from a recipe originally published 33 years ago in a community cookbook from Ladies Aid at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Milwaukee, WI. Slather the coffee icing on while the bars are still warm. Continue Reading…

Baked Treats

Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup Brownies with Chocolate Frosting

September 22, 2016

Nevadan Elizabeth Castle says she got this recipe from her 93-year-old aunt, Myrnie Dawson, of Princeton, IL. Elizabeth got so many compliments on the recipe, she was happy to share it. It really is a good find–the perfect balance between cakey/fudgey in a brownie. Note: Since publishing this, Hershey’s stopped marketing the syrup in the can! Head of Hershey’s kitchen told me to substitute 1 1/2 cups of the syrup (1 lb.) or, to use the new 1 lb. pouch, on Ebay. It appears the 1 lb. can is still available here: Mercato Happy baking! Continue Reading…