After many months of thinking, a month of actually doing it, the new blog is up and running. Please head on over to:
This site will remain open for about a year from now.
After many months of thinking, a month of actually doing it, the new blog is up and running. Please head on over to:
This site will remain open for about a year from now.
A few years ago, I started this website as I began my venture into the world of professional food. When this all started I moved from Providence, RI to Boston, MA. I moved into the top floor of an apartment building with a tiny galley kitchen that was also the only way to get to the windowless bathroom. I was going to school a few days a week, spending all day in checkered chef pants making some great friends and learning about all sorts of pastries and cooking techniques that I didn’t know about before. Towards the end of the intense 9-month course, I started a full time job at an amazing bakery that just opened up it’s second location in Cambridge, MA. Then I moved again, just outside of Cambridge to Somerville. A big kitchen and a roommate. I had to learn to balance living with another human being, waking up early and trying to come up with some recipes and photograph them with an iPhone in a poorly lit kitchen with an oven from the 70s that was rusting and falling apart. It wasn’t pretty. And slowly I started neglecting the website. Every so often, something would happen and I would add that. I got to meet a band because of cake. I made some drinks for Seattle’s best coffee. I figured out how to embed an instagram photo into the post.
All along, way back in the very begin I’ve had a goal. The reason I went back to school after years of working as a graphic designer was because I wanted background and experience that would one day help me to write & design cookbooks. I love cooking, I love sharing, I love talking all about food. Food has a very deep connection to every person. Food is life. But as my life fell into what I wanted it to be, I also found that I didn’t have time for the website. I’d be tired after standing all day and would just want to veg out in front of the tv. Or maybe get outside and go for a walk to admire the beauty of fall or go sledding on a snow day.
So I thought. And I thought. I wondered if this was something I really wanted to do? Was it worth the effort. And it is. However, I realized that what made it hard for me was the focus. I was strictly baking. Anything baked. Which is limiting. Whilst I do work in a bakery, my life isn’t strictly about baking. I cook dinner almost every night of the week: whether it be meat loaf or a quick pasta or even something braised for a few hours in the oven. I go out to eat and find myself bewildered and in awe of such delicious food and I just want to talk about it. I love a good cocktail and trying to come up with a new recipe with the plethora of poisons at my reach in my apartment. Oh, and did I mention? I moved into a fantastic new apartment in July. Gorgeous white counters and backsplash, skylights…it’s amazing and there’s beauty in every corner. So that’s when it hit me. I can’t move forward with Baker By Design because it constricts me. I started out as just a baker, but I’ve grown into more. My life is food. Everywhere. And so, it’s because of that realization that I figured a name change was in order. Something that tells more of a story, a story of my life with food. I have spent months and months thinking of ideas. Something not too serious. Something not too kitschy. A name that is broad, but not too broad. A name that defines me and my current life.
In all honesty, I have a name, but I’m not fully sure I’m 100% settled on it yet. But I like it. This website is more like a food diary. I have plans that fall in line with that, to make it more of an everyday blog.
So what exactly are my future plans?
I have a huge collection of cookbooks. I love them. The look, the feel, the smell. I want to feature them. Take a recipe from a book and make it. Tell you all about it. I have memories of food from growing up. I want to take them and make them my own. I want to show you that cooking isn’t complicated. That anybody can cook. That anybody can bake. So many people say to me that baking is hard. It’s not. It takes planning. I want to show you how. I want you to enjoy a cocktail with me every week. I want you to see what I’m making for dinner. I still want to share recipes with you that I’ve created. I want to dust off my graphic design skills and make some art for you. I want to use my brand, spankin’ new camera and take gorgeous food photos. Basically, this is the story of my life with food. And I want to share it all with you.
I hope that you stick around for the journey.
Remember a few weeks ago when I posted this recipe for Holiday Spiced Bourbon? Well, if you made it, now’s the time to make a drink with it. Actually, it’s better to let it sit a little longer, but you can at least get all the things you need to make this drink.
I went on a cruise back in August. On one of the days on the boat, my family and I took a mixology class. It was a lot of fun. And I even ended up taking a technique I learned in that class and using it almost every time I make a drink with fresh fruit now. Instead of just using juice, I use a whole piece of fruit. So if a recipe calls for lemon, I add a lemon wedge in. Then I muddle it. I realized that doing this in the glass, you’ll get all the oils from the skin into your drink and it will intensify the flavor.
When I got back, I would just chop up pieces of fruit, drop them in the glass, smash them all together, add in some other stuff, shake and strain. Deliciousness was always found.
This recipe make just one because sometimes after a long day of work, all you want to do is relax in front of the tree with a good movie and an even better cocktail. You’ll also see I added in a little extra regular bourbon. This is mostly because it helps make the spiced bourbon last a little longer. But you can easily make it all the spiced bourbon if you wish.
2 oz Holiday Spiced Bourbon
1 oz Bourbon
1 oz Maple Syrup
Cut your orange into quarters. Take one of those quarters and cut it in half. Plop those two small pieces in the bottom of your shaker. Store the rest of your orange pieces for an hour later when you want another one of these cocktails.
Take you muddler and smash the orange pieces in the shaker. Really get in there good. You want all the juice to come out and get the peels nicely smushed to let out all the oils.
Next, just measure in the spiced bourbon, bourbon and maple syrup right in with the orange wedges. Top with ice. Put the top on your shaker and give it a workout until it’s nicely chilled. Strain into a glass.
And now you can taste Christmas in a glass!
Everyone loves cookies. They’re everywhere. An entire aisle in the grocery store is devoted to them. There are always some displayed right in front of you at your coffee shop. There are entire chains devoted solely to these morsels of delight. They range in size, from itsy bitsy to giant. But really, why am I trying to convince you just how good cookies are? I mean, you obviously know because you’re human. It’s just a fact of life that cookies are amazing and delicious and one of life’s great joys.
This time of year, cookies are everywhere. There are cookie swaps, parties full of platters of cookies, gorgeously wrapped up little bags to give as gifts or even just some baked at home on a cold day to enjoy with a nice hot cup of cocoa. Most of the year I feel sort of blasé about cookies. You throw some butter and sugar together, add an egg or two, drop in some flour and throw it in the oven for 10 minutes. It’s not that magical. But during the holiday season, for some reason, it does become magical. Cookie making becomes fun to me. In fact, I can’t get enough. All I want to do is stay home from work (where I make cookies) and bake cookies. All kinds. Shortbreads, chocolate-y, tuiles, biscotti, macarons, bars, chewy, crunchy…the list goes on. It’s just that cookie making during the holiday season is a ton of fun. (That rhyme wasn’t done on purpose.)
Each cookie is a wonderful little way to bring the holiday spirit into my life. This is along with the decorations that are already up and the constant listening to Christmas music…especially the Muppets & John Denver album I grew up with…and of course, when I hear Miss Piggy, all I can think is of her on Muppet Babies proclaiming “Yippee Skippy!” But, in the words of Sophia Petrillo, I digress.
I am often a creature of habit. Not always. But sometimes. Which I guess isn’t often…anyways…I usually go with my go to of Snickerdoodles. A sugary dough rolled in even more sugar. They are light and airy and go amazingly well with coffee. But as much as I love them, I wanted to try something different this time.
And then, as I was scrounging around the cupboards for inspiration, there it was, staring me in the face: a jar of Skippy Peanut Butter. Ah, yes! Peanut Butter cookies!! What’s not to love? Smooth and creamy peanut butter whipped into a frenzied state with dark brown sugar and butter until it becomes fluffy as cotton. In every bite, you get a perfect balance of sweet and salty. And then to top it all off…a giant glass of ice cold milk. Or sometimes…SOMETIMES…I like to spread some jam on the underside of one cookie, smush another on top and eat that. Skip the bread and just get right to the good stuff. (Not that bread is bad. Bread is AMAZING!) As far as peanut butter goes, I grew up with Skippy. I continue to use Skippy. I will probably always use Skippy. To me, there is nothing better.
Of course, me being me, I had to take it one step further this time. It’s the holidays…so why not spruce it up even more and add caramel. But not just any caramel, brown butter caramel. It sounds fancy, but, honestly, it’s not. In fact, if making caramel scares you, then go the She-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named route and just buy some store-bought caramel and mix in the brown butter. But, I assure you, caramel is not hard. If you can turn on stove, stand and see, then you will be perfect at it.
Caramel is burned sugar. Brown butter is burned butter. Together they are sensational. Brown butter becomes nutty and rich. Caramel is sweet and intense. They complement each other nicely. And you can actually taste the brown butter. All too often, I find that using brown butter in a baked good that has yet to be baked, you end up losing the nuttiness.
Peanut butter is a very strong flavor. A little goes a long way. So you need a flavor that is equally as strong to help balance it out. That’s where the brown butter caramel comes in. For this recipe, I used half butter and vegetable shortening. This gives great flavor and creaminess to it all. However, if shortening isn’t your thing (what is WRONG with you!?), then just make it all butter (which would be 8 oz or 1 cup total).
4 oz unsalted butter at room temperature
3.25 oz vegetable shortening
15 oz dark brown sugar
2 medium eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10.25 oz Skippy smooth peanut butter
12 oz all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
8 oz unsalted butter
16 oz granulated sugar
2.5 oz water
4 oz heavy cream
mixer & paddle
scoop or spoon dipped in water
medium to large saucepan
In the bowl of a mixer, combine the first six ingredients. It’s that easy. Next, attach the paddle and start your engines. Just be sure to not start it at the highest speed. Otherwise you’ll have a mess that goes far beyond some bowls. Although maybe you REALLY want a nice brown stucco finish in your walls.
So as the peanut butter and butter and sugar and the rest of the gooey goodness mixes, weigh out the flour, baking soda and salt into a small bowl.
Once your mixture is a lightly pale brown and is fluffy and enticing looking, give the bowl and the paddle a nice scrape to gather up any bits of butter and shortening that decided that didn’t want to be team players. Give it a quick mix and then add in your measured out dry ingredients.
What I like to do, to prevent a cloud of flour rising up, is pulse the mixer a few times. Turn the speed to low and then off almost right away. Do this a handful of times until the flour is folded in a bit and then just let it mix all the way in.
Take your trusted friend the spatula and give that bowl one last scrape down. Get any flour your see mixed and folded in by hand. Take the bowl of dough, place it in your fridge and set a timer for 30 minutes. The dough is very soft, letting it set up in the cold temperature will help make it easier to scoop.
Thrown all your dishes in your dishwasher, preheat your oven to 350ºF and grab a glass. You have 30 minutes before your next step. Do something productive. As in, have a drink. Perhaps an Irish Coffee? Or something with bourbon. Have a seasonal drink. Anyways, just enjoy the calm before the scooping.
When you hear that beep (or ding or ringtone or whatever) it’s time to get up a little bit happier. Scoop out those cookies. I HIGHLY recommend using an ice cream scoop with a lever. This will make all your cookies exactly the same size. It’s a joy. However, a spoon that’s dipped in water will also work…just try to make them all the same size so they cook evenly. Drop the scooped dough onto parchment lined or silpat or even aluminium foil covered sheetpans.
Place said trays into oven and baker for 12 minutes. Of course, that’s my oven. 10-15 minutes is a good range. When you get right down to it, they don’t take long. Just be sure to rotate halfway through. You’re looking for the cookies to be slightly browned on the bottoms.
Once out of the oven, cool for a few minutes in the tray and then transfer cookies using a spatula to a wire rack to cool completely.
THE BROWN BUTTER CARAMEL:
On to the caramel. First, you’ll want to brown your butter. This is easy…and it smells fantastic. But, I’ll be up front, it’s not the best thing to clean up. However, it’s worth it.
Take your butter, cut it into small pieces and put it all in a small saucepan. Crank your heat all the way up. The butter will melt. And then it will bubble. And then it will pop. And then it will hiss. It might even spit. The butter will come across as angry. But think of it more as a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Because after this angry stage, it will calm down. You’ll look into the pot and see a delicious brown liquid with a whole bunch of brown bits on the bottom. Here’s what happened: the milk solids in the butter got all toasted (and burned) and then flavored the oils in the rest of the butter. It gives a great rich, nutty flavor to everything.
Once your butter has browned. Remove from the heat and pour it into a container or bowl of some sort (NOT plastic…a friend in culinary school learned that the hard (and hilarious) way). If you leave the butter in the pot, the heat will continue to cook it. And that could lead to unpleasant flavors.
Now, let’s turn our attention to the caramel. It seems a little scary, but it’s really not. Get everything situated and set up first. This will make your life easy. In your medium to large sized pot, add the water and sugar. Measure out the heavy cream and set that aside. Next, fill a glass with some water and stick the pastry brush in it. Lastly, grab a whisk and keep it nearby.
To begin, swirl the pan to combine the water and the sugar. You can stir if you want to right now. Turn the heat on high. Take your brush and wipe the insides of the pot to clean up any sugar left hanging on the sides. You want it to look clean, as if when you measured and stirred, you were soooo perfect that you got NOTHING on the sides.
So then you wait. The sugar and water will be gray. Then little tiny bubbles will appear. Soon they’ll get larger. Before you know it, everything will be bubbly away like mad. The sugar will be white. Be patient. This is not the time to check your email or catch up with a friend. It is a good time to have a sip of drink, however. You really want to be next to that pot. Not so much at the beginning, but towards the end, you really don’t want to walk away.
Once the sugar starts to caramelize, the color changes fast. A slight yellow tinge, leads to a full on tint, then amber and then it gets darker and darker. The trick with caramel sauce, is to not let it get too dark…which will result in burned caramel…which is not the best. It’s totally edible, but there’s a sort of metallic taste.
One trick I have, is once it’s starts to turn reddish brown, I swirl the contents of the pan. I’ll also turn the heat off. The heat that the pot gives off will be so strong that it will continue to cook the caramel. This way you can reach that perfect dark amber color that you want. If you take it off too early and you find it stops getting dark, just turn the heat on for a brief moment.
So now that you have the color you’re looking for, pour in your browned butter that you reserved. Whisk it in a bit. Next, add in the heavy cream. This is where a large pot comes in handy. Remember when the butter was browning and it sounded all angry? Well, once you add the cream, the caramel will do the same…on steriods. It will appear that it’s going to explode. The cold cream and the extremely hot sugar will bubble and rise up towards the top of the pot. If you’ve chosen wisely, you won’t have a problem. If you’ve chosen poorly (as in, too small of a pot), you will know and you’ll wish you had a maid.
Once you pour in the cream, whisk. Whisk like the wind. Whisk until it’s smooth. The steam will be hot. It will be scary. But remember, you’re going to reward yourself with an ice cold cocktail when you’re through. Fight for the drink. Whisk. Whisk. Whisk.
Grab that drink.
THE FINAL STEP:
Take a sheet pan and line it with parchment. Place a baking rack on top. Line up your cookies. Take a spoon and scoop out some warm/hot brown butter caramel. Dollop it over your cookie. Use the back of the spoon to help even it out. Let it drizzle down the sides. Repeat.
Alternatively, you can fill a piping bag or a squeeze bottle and drizzle stripes or patterns over the tops of the cookies. However, the caramel will be hot. So just be warned.
Let them cool and set up at room temperature.
Eat. Or package. And then eat.
A while back, I remember reading about Southern Comfort. For the life of me, I can’t remember why. I think it started off as some sort of joke and I then went online to learn a bit more. Anyways, the Southern Comfort that we all know today isn’t the same Southern Comfort it started out as.
According to Wikipedia*, the original recipe was to begin “with good-quality bourbon” and then add “an inch of vanilla bean, about a quarter of a lemon, half of a cinnamon stick, four cloves, a few cherries, and an orange bit or two. He would let this soak for days. And right when he was ready to finish, he would add his sweetener: he liked to use honey.”
I remember reading that and thinking, “Damn! That actually sounds pretty good!” So it got me thinking, I should do that. It’s such an easy thing to do, I’m not sure why I never thought of it before. All you do is buy some alcohol, add some spices (which I usually have on hand anyways) and then cover it, tuck it away someway dark and leave it alone (that’s the hard part). It’s very similar to how you can make your own vanilla extract (vodka, vanilla beans, cool & dark storage, 3 months).
One day, many months later, whilst perusing through odds and ends at HomeGoods (that store is like crack), I saw a really cool bottle. Suddenly, the idea of flavoring my bourbon came rushing back to me. It was the middle of summer, it was hot and disgusting out. I was dreaming of cold weather, autumn leaves, snow falling, hot apple cider, mornings off just hanging around in pajamas under piles of blankets and the oncoming Christmas season.
I grabbed the bottle, forked over $3 (seriously, I LOVE HomeGoods) and headed home. On the way back, I stopped at the store to grab a few provisions that I know I didn’t have. Which was just an orange.
WHAT YOU NEED
1 vanilla bean
2 cinnamon sticks
10 whole cloves
Enough bourbon to fill your chosen bottle
1 glass bottle/jar
Use the vegetable peeler to peel the rind of the orange. You just want the zest, long strips. Try to avoid the white pith as best you can. You only have to peel half the orange. Add the strips of zest to the bottle.
With the paring knife, run it down the length of the vanilla bean. Use the tip of the knife to help open up the pod and then run it down both sides, scraping up the vanilla seeds. It’s ok if you don’t get it all, they’re all going to end up in the same place. Place the seeds and vanilla bean into the bottle.
Lastly, tuck in the dry spices. Plop the cinnamon sticks and cloves into the bottle.
The final step is to top it top it all off with bourbon. Place the funnel (or make one out of aluminium foil) in the mouth of the jar/bottle. Pour the bourbon over all the goodies you’ve thrown in. Go as high up as you can. Close the lid and tuck the bottle out of sight.
The hard part will be waiting at least 1 month. However, if you do this early on (like…the middle of a muggy and miserable summer) then that wait will be easier because you’ll just wait for the cold weather to reach you…or harder cause it’s two joyous things. Whatever. Either way, you’ll have cool weather and delicious booze within months.
The longer the elixir sits, the better it will get. I would almost recommend making two bottles. Because once you start drinking it, you won’t be able to stop.
ABOUT THE BOTTLE: When I first made this, the bottle I had fit about 1 and half 40 ounce bottles of bourbon. Adjust the recipe to your bottle size. If you have a small bottle, add in less of the spices. A larger bottle, add more…obviously.
Do you know what holiday is coming up? It doesn’t involve turkey and it doesn’t involve veterans either. On Saturday, November 15, 2014, it’s National Bundt Cake Day! Isn’t that just the most amazing thing you’ve heard!? In celebration of this momentous day, I’ve concocted a bundt cake recipe that you can proudly bake on the holiest day for bundts.
In all honesty, I started out just wanting to use up some bananas that were in our freezer since August and a can of pumpkin puree that had been following me around from apartment to apartment for a couple years that was nearing expiration. I ended up making some Pumpkin Banana Bread with it, but when I came across the little known holiday, I felt that I should readjust. And by readjust, that just meant changing the pan, the time and putting the walnuts in a different place.
I, personally, find that banana bread can be a little bland and dry. It’s moist for a day and then goes downhill from there. Maybe I’ve just never experienced a great banana bread before. Adding sour cream or yogurt to baked goods helps keep them deliciously moist. I have never really bothered with the science aspect of it…I just know that it does after having recipes with and without it. I’m sure there’s something about the yogurt hugging the crumbs and keeping them all warm and cozy, where just adding in milk or cream is like putting a chocolate river in front of Augustus Gloop. It’s just inhaled and that’s it. That’s all just a hypothesis with no actual research done other than watching “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory”. So do with that what you want.
Anyways, I digress. Back to the cake. Think of this bundt as a sour cream coffee cake and pumpkin bread making sweet love (no pun intended) and becoming one to have all the traditional fall flavors you love with mouth watering irresistibility of a coffee cake.
Banana is a very strong flavor. When you add it to pretty much anything, it can easily over power. To avoid that, I made sure that there wasn’t a ton of banana. I also can’t stand it when you have banana bread but don’t get any actual bits of banana. It’s just pureed right in. To combat that, you mash the bananas just a bit and then fold them into the batter last. There’s less breakup and then you get chunks of banana mixed in to every bit of spiced pumpkin delightfulness.
At my first job out of school, we made a ton of coffee cakes in bundt pans. Similar to an upside down cake, you build it from the top up. A really beautiful trick I learned was to put nuts in the bottom of the pan and then fill it with batter. What happens is that the batter bakes up and around the nuts, but doesn’t cover it. When you flip it out of the pan, you have a crown of toasted nuts going around the top of your cake. It’s simply gorgeous. I thought I’d put that to use here.
To go that one, extra step, make an apple cider reduction. This is essentially a caramel made out of apple cider. It’s incredibly easy (just takes some patience). You can make it while the cake bakes. It will take about 1 hour, depending on your pot. The deeper the cider is (smaller pot,) the longer it will take. If you have too big of a pot, it will burn. Go with a medium sized pot.
While the reduction is still warm, drizzle it over the top of your bundt cake. It will give your glorious baked treat some shine, added sweetness and a little bit of spice. A real showstopper is what you’ll have.
8 oz unsalted butter, cubed
5.25 oz vanilla sugar*
5.25 oz dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon dark rum
15 oz all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (you can use pre ground, just add ¾ teaspoon)
⅛ teaspoon ground clove
⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
4.5 oz plain greek yogurt (I used Chobani)
15 oz can pumpkin puree (I used One Pie Pumpkin Puree)
1 cup mashed lightly banana (you want it chunky)
2 cup shelled walnuts
¼ cup dark brown sugar
⅛ cup vanilla sugar*
2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups apple cider (optional)
*I have a tendency to use vanilla sugar a lot in recipes. You can buy it already made at specialty stores and some groceries…or you can make your own. If you don’t have any, use granulated sugar (same weight). You can increase the amount of vanilla extract by a hair, but it’s not necessary. The vanilla sugar gives an extra essence, but isn’t required.
Mixer & paddle attachment
Baking Spray / Melted Butter
Spoon & hot water
First things first, let’s preheat the oven to 350ºF. Next, cream the butter, vanilla sugar and dark brown sugar together until pale and fluffy.
Whilst that’s whipping away, combine your wet ingredients. That would be the eggs, vanilla extract, molasses and rum. Just put them all in a cup or bowl. No need to whisk or stir. Set aside.
Right now would be a good time to stop your mixer, scrape down the sides and the bottom and let it mix again. You do not want clumps of butter. This will make holes. Unsightly holes in your cake would be a disaster. Or just sad.
The next step is to combine all of your dry ingredients. That’s going to be the flour through the orange zest. Measure it all into a bowl. Sift or whisk to get rid of any lumps. And, as usual, set it aside.
Now, go back to your mixer. Your butter and sugar should be a light and fluffy concoction that looks positively perfect. Stop the mixer. Scrape down the sides and bottom one more time. Mix again for just a few seconds. Now it’s time to add in those wet ingredients you set aside before.
Add in an egg and a little of the wets and let it mix. Then add another and let it mix. Repeat until it’s all in there. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Mix. Let it combine fully. While this is happening, prepare something else to set aside.
Peel the top off the yogurt, dump it into a bowl. Use your can opener to attack the can of pumpkin, carefully remove lid and scrape out the orange gloop inside into the same bowl as the yogurt. And, guess what? Set. It. Aside.
Back to the mixer. The batter should look smooth. No lumps. No clumps. No dry bits of anything. That means it’s time to add in everything else. Not all at once, but bit by bit. Start with the drys. Add about ⅓ in. Let it mix on low speed until it’s JUST combined. Stop the mixer. Add in half of the pumpkin yogurt combo. Mix and let it combine. Stop. Add in another third of the dry mix. Start the mixer. Stop the mixer. Add in the rest of the gloop. Mix. Stop. Add the rest of the dry.
Finally, mix in your mashed banana. This is the point I end up folding by hand. But you can use the mixer, just stop when dry flour disappears from view.
Set your batter aside.
In a medium sized bowl, combine the walnuts, sugars and cinnamon. Use your fingers and lightly crumble the walnuts and mix the entire bowl of deliciousness together at the same time.
Take your bundt pan. Spray the heck out of it with your baking spray…or just brush liberally with melted butter (one of these requires less tools and cleanup—you do the math).
Take half of your walnut mixture and sprinkle enough in to just cover the base of the pan. You want a nice wreath. Doesn’t have to be solid, not too thick, not too thin.
Grab a spatula and dollop half the batter in four heapings over the nuts.
To make your life very easy, take a cup, fill it with hot water and drop a spoon into it. You are going to use the back of the spoon to smooth out the batter. Spread it out evenly.
Next, sprinkle the rest of the walnut mixture over the batter.
Finally, repeat with the heapings and spoon smoothing with the rest of the batter.
Now, place it into the center of the oven and set a time for 30 minutes. That will be your cue to come back, rotate the cake and then cook for another 30-40 minutes. When the cake feels firm to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean, remove it from the oven to a wire rack to cool.
When you can handle the bundt cake without saying “Holy crap that’s hot!”, place a plate on the top and grab everything at once, say a quick prayer and flip it over. Carefully lift up the pan and your beautiful bundt with walnut wreath should be sparkling before you.
The last step, which is optional, is that apple cider reduction. Here’s how hard it is: grab a pot large enough to fit 4 cups of cider. Pour that cider into said pot. Turn the heat up. Walk away. If you want, you can throw a cinnamon stick in. Let it bubble away, uncovered until it’s reduced by well over half. Stir every now and then. If any gross foamy stuff makes its way to the top, take a spoon and skim it off. You may find that you need to adjust the heat every now and then because it will be as bubbly or even too bubbly at times. The whole process can take about an hour.
When it starts to coat the back of the spoon and is thick. Then it’s done. There should be about ½ to ¾ of a cup of the syrup. Remove from heat. Strain into a liquid measuring cup to remove any scum remnants. Pour over the top of the cake, using a spoon or spatula to help push it in a direction that will let it slowly drizzle down the sides.
Place some parchment in a sheet pan, a baking rack on top and the cake on top of that. This will help catch any drips of cider that make their way all the way to the bottom of the cake and slowly drip off into oblivion. If you make the syrup ahead of time, and it gets too firm to pour over, just nuke it in the microwave in 15 second intervals until it’s pourable and smooth once again.
When I originally made this recipe, as mentioned earlier, I was going for a plain ol’ quick bread. This recipe still works for that. Just divide the batter evenly between two 8-inch loaf pans. It took about 55 minutes total in a 350ºF oven for both loaves to bake. You can skip the part with sugar and walnut combination and just fold in some crushed walnuts with the bananas.
Every Autumn, there is one fruit that pretty much every person on Earth eats—the apple. It’s an institution. Each season, families, friends and couples all head out to their local apple orchard and grab a bushel of apples that they soon turn into an abundance of treats and family favorites like Apple Pie, Applesauce, Baked Apples, Apple Turnovers…just to name a few. And if you find yourself amidst a busy work schedule, just popping into the grocery store you can be overwhelmed by the mountains of those green and red beauties that greet you as soon as you walk in through the door.
Going through an entire season of Fall without anything apple related would be like having no turkey at Thanksgiving, no snow in Winter, no heat in the summer, no joy from listening to Dolly Parton. It’s just plain wrong.
However, it’s easy to see how much of the population can tire of these fall harvest mainstays. You’re told to have one every day so that you don’t need to visit your doctor. Feeling hungry? An apple will help suppress your appetite (which, btw, I don’t believe at all). Adam and Eve shared an apple and then all of a sudden leaves were in fashion.
This is why it’s time to do something exciting and different with the apple than the usual standby recipes we all have in our arsenals. And all that needs to be done is take another standby recipe and replace it’s main ingredient and you’re on your way to something new and exciting for the fall season.
The upside down cake. Most famously known for having rings of pineapple studded with maraschino cherries. To break it down to it’s simplest form: a sugary syrup is poured into a cake pan which slices of fruit are layered on top and all of that is then sealed in by a light and fluffy batter. The cake bakes for a while until the cake itself becomes a light and airy base for a darkly amber caramel that covers the fruit and protects it from the atrocities of the world. But unlike, let’s say a skunk since I can’t think of anything better at this time, it’s a wonderful protector that just adds to the flavor and helps to keep the cake moist. There’s also the thrill and panic of turning your cake over and hoping that it comes out in one pieces and looks as just gorgeous out of the oven as it look heading into the hot sauna you sent it into just an hour before. And then it does. And then the real hard part is determining how long you need to wait before slicing into the now right side up cake and rejoicing in all the effort you put in to it.
Bourbon. It’s my poison of choice. I love making a whiskey sour and replacing the sugar with maple syrup. So for me, the two go hand in hand. Adding apples just makes it all the more autumnal. The most time consuming aspect of this recipe is the apples. You need to peel them. You need to core them. You need to slice them. You need to arrange them into a pretty pattern since that will be your top. But if you’ve got yourself a great apple corer that slices as you go, then it will be a breeze.
8 oz maple syrup (I used Grade A)
2T bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark)
3 granny smith apples, peeled, cored & sliced into ¼-inch thick wedges
3 large eggs
6 oz buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon bourbon
11.75 oz all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 oz butter, cubed
10.25 oz dark brown sugar
Apple corer & slicer (or just a good, sharp knife)
Whisk and/or sifter
Stand mixer with paddle attachment or handheld mixer
10-inch round cake pan (9-inch works fine)
Butter or baking spray for cake pan
Preheat oven to 350ºF
MAKING THE SYRUP: Start by combining the maple syrup and bourbon in a small saucepan with a whisk. You don’t need to work up a sweat, just make sure it is all one liquid mass. Turn the heat on and bring the syrup up to a boil. Once that has been reached, turn the heat down to medium low and let the mixture bubble and reduce down. Keep an eye on it because it may start to foam and fizz up to the rim if it gets too hot. In the end, the mixture should be reduced to roughly ¾ cup. This can take anywhere from 10-15 minutes, but depending on the power of your burner, it may take more or less time. It will be thickened and still runny. Turn the heat off and leave it somewhere warm until you are ready to use it.
I use the time that the syrup is reducing down to peel, core and slice the apples. You can toss them in a little lemon juice to keep them from oxidizing, but since you’ll be baking them and they will brown in the oven, it’s not a necessary step.
MAKING THE CAKE BATTER: In a liquid measuring cup, lightly whisk together the egg, buttermilk, vanilla extract and bourbon and set aside.
In yet another instance of preparation, combine your dry ingredients together (all purpose flour through ground nutmeg) with a whisk or sifter in a bowl and set aside.
Now comes the fun. Combine the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of stand mixer (or a regular old bowl and a handheld mixer at the ready…you get the point). Attach the paddle and mix on low speed until roughly combined, then, turn up to high and let the butter and sugar get all pale and light and fluffy, this can take 3 to 5 minutes, depending the on the temperature of your butter. It should look smooth and have no chunks of butter of giant chunks of sugar. I find it useful to scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl and cream it again for 30 seconds to make sure it’s well combined.
When the butter and sugar have lost their dense looking selves behind and transformed into a whole new creature it’s time to start adding in everything you set aside. It really doesn’t matter what you start with, but I have a habit of always starting with the dry ingredients. Add about ⅓ of the mixture in. Mix on low speed until just combined, then add in about half of the liquid and mix on low till just combined. Then add in another ⅓ of the dry. Combine. Then the rest of the liquids. Combine.
When it comes to the last ⅓ of the dry, I like to take it off the mixer and fold it in by hand. This ensures that I won’t over mix it and get giant holes in the cake. So go ahead and fold in the rest of your dry ingredients until it’s all combined and no specks of flour remain (other than the ones on your clothes and recently cleaned floor).
ASSEMBLING THE CAKE: Grease your cake pan. Grease it really well. You want it to come out. So don’t skimp on this. Butter tastes great and greases well, but baking spray works just as great (and they have butter flavor) and it’s even easier. Either way, grease the dickens out of that cake pan.
Now, go ahead and pour in your warm, reduced syrup. Don’t just dump it in, pour it in and try to cover as much of the bottom of the cake pan as you can. You can swirl the pan around and use a spatula to help spread it afterwards, but this step will make it that much easier.
Next up comes the tedious—but well worth it—task of arranging the apple slices. When I made this, I fanned them out in circles, one large one around the edge and then a smaller circle inside. You can then go and fill in any gaps with extra apple slices when complete. But this is not a dictatorship. So feel free to arrange the apples however you like. Just keep in mind that these won’t be on the bottom when the cake is presented.
Once all your lovely slices of apple have been painstakingly arranged it’s time to spread the cake batter on top. Use a rubber spatula or a spoon to scoop out some of the batter and place on top of the apples. Take an offset spatula (or the backside of a spoon) and carefully spread the batter over the apples. If you add in too much batter, you’ll end up moving all your apples around that you so lovingly arranged. So add it in and smooth it out until you have a nice layer of batter on top of the apple slices. Then, go ahead and add the rest of the batter on top and evenly spread.
BAKING THE CAKE: Lovingly slide your cake into the center of the oven, set a timer for 45 minutes, implore a loved one to do the cleanup, make yourself a cocktail and wait for the timer to go off. After 45 minutes, rotate your cake in the oven and then set the timer for 30 minutes. Make another cocktail (if you haven’t finished your first one in 45 minutes, then you should seek professional help).
If you hear the timer go off, that means it’s time to check your cake. Insert a toothpick into the center and if it comes out dry, then it’s done! If it looks to have some batter on it, let it cook for another 10-15 minutes. Then try the toothpick trick again.
When your cake is ready to come out of the oven, it will be somewhat anti-climactic. It will look like a plain cake. But you’ll know the truth. Let the cake cool on a rack for about 20-30 minutes. You want it still warm, because the syrup will have turned into a caramel in the oven and if you let it get too cold, it will not be fun to take out.
So once it’s cooled a bit, now comes the moment of glory. Grab a paring knife and and run it around the edge of the cake and the inside of the pan. This will break up and crusty bits that will make flipping the cake out difficult. Take your cake plate or stand, or whatever vessel you plan to serve it on, and flip it upside down (everything is upside or right side on this cake!) over the top of the cake (what is soon to be the bottom). Carefully hold on to the plate and the cake pan. Quickly flip it over so that you are looking at the bottom of the cake pan. Now, gently wiggle it a bit to help loosen it and slowly pull it off.
If you are still standing from all your cocktails, you should have just revealed all of your hard work. A beautifully glazed apple upside down cake.
Serve. Enjoy. Drink again.
Lately, we’ve been eating a lot of sandwiches for dinner. All you need is some really good toasted bread, thinly sliced onion, creamy mayo, tangy pickles, juicy tomatoes, crisp romaine lettuce and some mouth wateringly delicious deli meat. When a sandwich just isn’t enough and we have some potatoes on hand, I like to whip up some potato salad…to which i add hardboiled eggs.
Use this quick recipe and they come out perfect every time.
Take 6 eggs and put them in a small pot. Cover with water. Bring it all to a boil, turn off the heat and start a timer for three minutes. When that timer goes off, take the eggs out of the water, drain the pot, put the eggs back in and let them rest for 2 minutes. Then pour cold water back into the pot over the eggs. Crack the ends of the eggs. One by one peel them. Then you’ve got eggs like this.