Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Easy Granola Bars

 Our first year in Austin, we were awakened one early Saturday morning to "Eye of the Tiger" blaring outside.  After about ten minutes when it didn't stop, we got dressed and went outside to find the source.  Much to our surprise, the music was accompanying the annual Austin marathon, and our house was just steps from mile 21!

That morning, Mr. Bread Maiden made the commitment to run the Austin marathon before we graduated.  And two years later, he did.

In the pocket of his running shorts, he packed the following granola bars.

Yes, this recipe really is that simple.  It's quick too.


1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups of any kind of flaked oats or grains (I like oats and maybe barley flakes)
1 cup dried fruit (raisins, figs, dates, currants, prunes, apricots, etc.)
2 cups nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, almonds, flax seeds)
1/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (optional)
1/4 cup shredded coconut (also optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and place a rack in the middle of the oven.  Butter a large glass baking dish.  Set aside.

2. Combine the honey, brown sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla extract in a small saucepan.  Heat over low heat until the brown sugar melts and it all mixes together.  Turn off the heat.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the oats, dried fruit, seeds and nuts, and chocolate and mix together with the paddle attachment.

4. With the stand mixer stirring the granola, pour in the honey-brown sugar mixture.  The mixer should encounter some resistance.

5. When everything is mixed up, use a spatula to thunk it onto the baking dish, then smooth it out so it's an even layer.  Take care to push it into the corners of the dish as well.

6.  Pop the dish into the oven and bake maybe 15-20 minutes until it's a light golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let it cool, then cut into squares, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze until you want to eat them.

The thing I like about this recipe is that it doesn't call for corn syrup.  Yes, the corn syrup gives granola bars that nice, chewy consistency.  But I'd rather use natural, not-really-processed ingredients, wouldn't you?  In any case, when we looked at the fancy goos and energy drinks touted to boost running performance, we were kinda grossed out.  These are much healthier, and you know every ingredient that went into these.  Because you made them yourself! 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick's Day

 What else could I possibly make today? 

Some of you might criticize my "inauthentic" choice to include orange zest, lemon extract, and even raisins in this bread.  To those people I say this: I'm German. 

We like our breads hearty, rich, and full of fruit, nuts, and other additions.  See: struan, aachen brot, mitsch brot, rye, kugelhopf, etc. etc. etc. 


Feel free to leave out any ingredients you deem extraneous.

Moving on.

My recipe comes from Ina Garten's book, "Barefoot Contessa at Home."  The original recipe is here.  I've made minor adjustments to the ingredients and the order of the directions.


4 cups all-purpose flour, plus one tablespoon for the raisins and a bit more
2-4 tablespoons sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 and 1/2 tsp salt
4 tablespoons (57 g) cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 3/4 cup cold buttermilk (or whole milk with 2 tbls white vinegar thrown in, then refrigerated for an hour)
1 large egg
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 splash lemon extract
1 cup dried currants or raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 375.  Measure the butter and put it into the freezer, if it isn't there already.  Put the raisins in a bowl and pour the tablespoon of flour over them.  Stir or bounce to coat the raisins.

2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.

3. Drop the butter into the flour mixture and stir until well-combined.

4. Pour the buttermilk (or milk and vinegar) into a measuring cup and add the egg, grated orange zest, and lemon extract.  Whisk.

 5. Add the buttermilk (or milk and vinegar) and stir on low until it just comes together.  Add the raisins.

6. Once it pulls together, sprinkle flour on your work surface, remove the dough from the bowl, and coat it with the flour.  Gently mold into a loaf.  You don't want to knead at all, because you don't want it to be tough.  You aren't looking for gluten formation.

7. Using a sharp knife, cut an X into the top of the loaf.  Then move the loaf to a parchment-lined baking sheet and put in the oven. 

You've got about 45-55 minutes for it to bake, so why don't you clean up the work space a little?

This is the worst.  That awful flour and dough mix left on the counter that only becomes worse when you try to clean it up with a wet sponge.

The solution?

Take your metal scraper and scrape all the little dough pieces first.

Then you can wipe off the counter with vinegar and a paper towel or sponge.  Done!

Now you have 43-53 minutes to admire your husband putting in the spring garden.  Hey sweetie!

8.  Once your soda bread is nicely browned and makes a thunk when you tap it, it's done.  Take it out and let it cool.

Serve as you see fit.  By itself, with butter, or my favorite condiment: honey.  Finish with a big, frosty glass of green beer.  Just kidding.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Crema chocolate cake

 I could've called this post "how to use up leftover sour cream, crema, yogurt, buttermilk, whipping cream, or milk." 

Because that's what I did.  But it could also be called "the best chocolate cake ever."  Because it's true.

I made this cake because a few months ago, two of my friends happened to have their birthdays on the same day. 

They also happen to be father and daughter. 

They also happened to be coming over to visit the Bread Maiden household that VERY DAY!  Of course I just had to make a cake, right?

Stop reading right here if you love overly-sweet cakes where the sugar literally hurts your teeth, or where the cake itself is merely a vehicle for the frosting.  This is not that cake.  This is a CHOCOLATE cake, with lots of real chocolate.   Because it's not crazy-sweet, it pairs nicely with any frosting you like.

And thus, being forewarned, we proceed forth to make Alton Brown's Devil's Food Cake.  The original recipe is here.


 1 cup boiling water
4 ounces (by weight) Dutch-process cocoa
10 1/2 ounces dark brown sugar
5 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
4 ounces cake flour or other low-gluten flour, like pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup vegetable oil
4 1/2 ounces sour cream, at room temperature
2 large whole eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

Oh, you say you don't have sour cream?  I also didn't, but had some crema, which is a condiment popular in some Latin American countries that I had bought to use in tacos.  According to wikipedia, crema is cream that has been "soured" with bacteria.  I figured it was close enough to the sour cream indicated in the recipe, since it has the same texture, nearly the same fat content, and similar acidity and "zip" as sour cream.  In it went.  If you want to use regular (whole fat) milk or cream instead, make sure to throw in a tablespoon of white vinegar and wait an hour for it to thicken it up.

1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9' round pan with olive oil or nonstick spray.  Now is the fun part.  Tear off a piece of parchment and place the pan on top of the parchment.  Trace around the pan and cut it out.  Now you have a perfect circle of parchment to line the bottom of your cake pan.  Now grease up the parchment paper as well.  Set aside. 

2.  Whisk the boiling water and cocoa powder together in a small bowl and set aside.

 3. Combine the sugar, flours, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

4. Whisk the oil, sour cream (or what have you), eggs and egg yolks together in a pourable vessel, like a measuring cup.

5.  Add the oil mixture to the cocoa and water mixture and slowly whisk to combine.


6.  With the mixer on low speed, add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture over 30 seconds. Continue to beat on low speed for another 30 seconds. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue to beat on low speed until the batter is smooth, 10 to 15 seconds.

7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cake springs back when pressed and reaches an internal temperature of 205 degrees F, 30 to 35 minutes.

8. Cool in the pan on a rack for 30 minutes, and then remove cake from the pan and cool completely before frosting, about 1 hour.

 I don't have a frosting recipe to recommend because I didn't make a great frosting this time around.  I didn't have enough powdered sugar and was too lazy to buy more, so I ground up some regular sugar in the food processor, which resulted in a crunchy frosting.  Not what I was looking for, but my friend (whose husband and daughter were the guests of honor that day) swore up and down it was delicious. 

Which is why I'm lucky to count her as a friend.