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Baked Treats

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. Couldn’t 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 measure. Sigh again: Sift flour & sugar. Sigh: (the last! I’m breathing better now) cut in the butter, tousle the two with fingertips ‘til wet-sand-like, add the almond meal, stir the cream, whisk the filling. And last? Peel the apples that smell just the color of their green skins.

The light comes golden now, pushing west through house and garden, matching 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. Make some. Eat some. And it’s all okay. Note: This recipe makes TWO tarts. Also, if you like this tart, you may also want to try my Gooseberry Tart–a simple way to showcase gooseberries, or whatever other berries you have on hand. Continue Reading…

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

The Original Chocolate Fudge Brownie (Palmer House)

September 8, 2016

The Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 was a chocolate-lovers dream: Boston-based chocolatier Walter M. Lowney brought the first American chocolate bars. America’s oldest chocolate maker, Walter Baker & Company, handed out samples and showed visitors how chocolate was made. And the Palmer House introduced the first chocolate brownie, because Bertha Palmer wanted a portable dessert that ladies could have in boxed lunches at the fair.

Unlike other brownie recipes which started appearing in 1904 and specified that butter and sugar were first creamed before being combined with a small amount of melted chocolate, the Palmer House brownie is made with more than a pound of melted chocolate and a pound of melted butter. The finished brownie is also glazed with apricot jelly.  A combination of chocolate fudge and brownie, crispy-chewy on the edges, ultra dense and chocolatey, we think it’s best served frozen, or very cold…otherwise, gooey things happen. (Not sure how this worked in a boxed lunch…) Chef Stephen Henry says for cleanest slices, freeze the brownies for three hours after glazing. Then cut, and serve while very firm and cold.

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