Rank lists are in, 20 days until Match Day! That’s all I’m going to say about that — you can go ahead and read more about it if you like.
I want to share with you one of my oldest, trustiest recipes. These scones redefine the way you think about scones. Most people hear the word and imagine a softball-sized chunk of dry, crumbly carbs that are hardly worth the extra coffee you need to drink to choke them down. No, these are totally different: they’re small, flaky, buttery, and so worth the 30 minutes it takes to make them. They are the perfect way to get a house full of people to appreciate you, and all you have to do is hit the snooze button 3 fewer times.
These guys originally call for an egg wash to make them very pretty to photograph, but in my experience a batch does not last 25 minutes out of the oven, so who cares what they look like. Save your egg for something useful, like dropped in a bowel of ramen or baked into a cake or fried on a burger or one of the other 9274857 amazing things we as humans have figured out we can do with unfertilized chicken ova.
recipe: cream scones
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries, blueberries, currants, or mini chocolate chips
6 Tbsp cold butter
2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup heavy cream, plus another 2 Tbsp
- Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in your fruit of choice (or chocolate). Grab a pastry blender and cut the butter into the dry mixture, until the butter pieces are about the size of peas.
- In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 3/4 cup heavy cream. Pour into the flour mixture and toss with a fork to combine.
- Knead gently and briefly to bring the dough together in two equal portions. Shape each into 4-5″ rounds and slice into 6 triangles for a total of 12 scones. Arrange on the baking sheet, with equal spacing between each scone.
- In the bowl that held the egg yolk mixture, add a couple more tablespoons of cream and stir to pick up any extra yolk. Brush this mixture over each scone, then sprinkle some sugar over the tops. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are golden or the scones no longer look/feel raw. Let cool for a couple minutes before enjoying warm.
After so many failed attempts at making yeast-risen bread in college, I was convinced I just didn’t have that magic touch. Home-baked bread was a thing of legends, and people who could throw together beautifully crusty, golden loaves were all-powerful sorcerers as far as I was concerned. I labeled myself as “yeast-challenged” and shrugged off all urgings to try again for a long time.
I attempted babka a little while ago, the pain of multiple failures now distant enough to forget. The thing never rose, of course, and ended up tasting a lot like someone painted a cardboard box with chocolate and sugar. Crazy-frustrated, I turned to the internet and spent an entire afternoon reading about yeast. Tuuuurns out a little understanding can go a long way — a week later I kvelling all over my gorgeous new challah-baby.
Everyone likes their challah a little different… which I guess is a much blander way of saying that everyone likes their challah as close to their grandmother’s version as possible. My family’s chewy, sweet, dunk-it-in-tomato-soup challah comes out to play every year at Rosh Hashanah, but it’s a circular behemoth that isn’t too practical in my tiny kitchen. I’ve scaled it down and altered it a bit so it works better as a stand-alone bread, but you’re doing it wrong if you don’t use at least some of it for french toast and grilled cheese.
(that extra egg wash makes a biiig difference)
adapted from my grandmother’s recipe, with help from alexandra’s kitchen
1 package active dry yeast
1 tsp white sugar
1 cup warm water
4 to 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp water
- Proof yeast by combining with sugar and warm water in a small bowl. Let rest for 10 minutes, until foamy.
- In a large bowl, measure out 1 cup flour. Pour in proofed yeast mixture and stir until smooth, then cover with a towel and let rest in a warm spot for 45 minutes.
- Add to the sponge the oil, honey, 2 eggs, salt, and cinnamon, and mix well. Stir in 3 cups flour until the dough is a sticky mass. Turn onto a floured surface and knead well for about 10 minutes, adding more flour as you go to prevent sticking. The dough should be smooth.
- Take a clean large bowl (maybe have your
kitchen elf boyfriend wash the bowl you used before?) and drop a bit of canola oil to lightly grease it, then add the dough ball and turn over to coat. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour. Punch down the dough, add a few drops of oil to coat, and let rise again for another hour.
- Divide the dough into 4 equal segments, giving them a good squeeze to get the big air bubbles out. Roll each of the segments into a tapered rope, roughly 16″ in length. Braid however you want, but I like this method the best.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F, stack two baking sheets on top of each other (this prevents the bottom from burning), and line with parchment. Place the braid on the parchment and whisk together the remaining egg and water. Brush the challah with the egg wash and let rise on top of the preheating oven for 30 minutes. Repeat the egg wash and place the challah in the oven. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the challah is golden and beautiful.
Know what the best part of dating a pescatarian is? When you hike a 4600-foot mountain together, camp on the shores of a lake, spend the evening stargazing from a split log three feet above the water’s surface, practically fall down the mountain in the morning because your legs don’t work, and then order the Adirondacker for breakfast at the General Store…
…he gives you his bacon.
My friends, it doesn’t get much better than that.
He’s still cavorting around the mountains for a little while, so I’m here baking myself my 107% favorite quiche. The crust is baked with pancetta and will give you superpowers. Like the ability to finish off an entire 9-inch quiche by yourself.
Recipe: caprese quiche with pancetta crust
- 4 oz pancetta/bacon, cut into small pieces
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 7 tbsp butter, cold
- 2 tbsp cold water
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
- 6 oz low-moisture mozzarella
- 3 small plum tomatoes
- 5 eggs
- 1 1/4 cup whole milk
- salt & pepper
- Fry pancetta in a pan until fat is rendered. In a large mixing bowl, cut butter into the flour using a pastry blender (or however you like to do it). Add pancetta (with all the rendered fat!) to the mixture and toss with a fork. Add one or two tbsp of cold water and toss again with a fork, until dough comes together. Shape into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap, and let chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Chop basil and mozzarella into 1/2-inch pieces. Slice the ends off the tomatoes and squeeze the seeds out (this will lower the moisture content of the tomatoes and keep the quiche from getting too soggy). Then chop two of the tomatoes into 1/2-inch pieces and toss with basil and cheese. Slice the remaining tomato thinly and set aside.
- Take the dough and place between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll it out to 10 inches across, then remove the top piece of parchment paper. Place a 9-inch pie plate lip-down on the crust, then flip the two together so the crust is resting in the dish. Remove the second piece of parchment, and press the crust into the bottom and sides of the dish. You can crimp the edges or just tuck the overhanging edge underneath itself. Poke the crust with a fork a few times and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Remove crust from the oven and pour the basil, cheese, and tomatoes into it, making sure to distribute everything evenly. Mix eggs and milk together and add a healthy pinch of salt and pepper, then pour over the quiche filling. Top with the remaining tomato slices and an extra sprinkle of black pepper.
- Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until the center of the quiche is set (I usually test by tapping it with a wooden spoon — as long as it isn’t wet/oozy, it’s done). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before slicing.
I tend to like my foods inside of other foods. Fruit salad in a watermelon, soup in a bread bowl, cocktails in a coconut, chocolate mousse in an adorable tiny chocolate cup with accompanying chocolate saucer and spoonlet. Maybe that’s why I’ll always choose pie over cake. I love being able to open up my food and find a delicious surprise inside!
This flavor combination was inspired by my neighborhood donut shop, Dough Loco, which likes to put weird things on top of their awesome yeasty donuts. Go there. But first maybe make this pie.
Recipe: bluebarb rosemary lime pie
For the pie crust:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup butter, cold and cut into cubes
- 9-12 tbsp ice water
For the filling:
- 4 cups rhubarb (this was 2 1/2 monster stalks for me)
- 2 cups blueberries
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
- 4 tbsp tapioca flour
- 1 tsp lime zest
- 1 tsp rosemary (last minute addition, so I used dried)
- 1 egg, beaten
- In a large bowl, combine flour with sugar and salt. Cut butter into flour using a pastry blender until butter is the size of small peas.
- Add water to mixture by the tablespoon and toss together with a fork, until dough comes together. Gather into two separate balls, flatten into disks, and wrap with plastic wrap. Store in refrigerator while preparing filling.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut the rhubarb into 1/2-inch pieces and add to a large bowl with blueberries. Toss with sugar, tapioca, lime zest, and rosemary.
- Roll out one disk of pie dough into a round large enough to drape over the sides of a 9-inch pie dish with a 1/2-inch overhang. I prefer to do this between two sheets of parchment, for less mess and easy transfer to the pie dish.
- Fill the pie with the fruit mixture after giving it another toss to distribute the juices. Roll out the other disk of dough and lay it over the top of the pie. Crimp the edges together and cut vents into the top crust. Brush the pie with the beaten egg and sprinkle some sugar on top.
- Place the pie on a foil-lined baking sheet in the middle of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower temperature to 350°F and bake for another hour. Remove from oven and let cool completely before serving.
It’s no secret (to those who know me, anyway) that I’m a math & science person at heart. Numbers speak to me, process comforts me, and exactness is a standard I treasure. I think that’s how I got into baking in the first place — it’s all math and science. Precise quantities and timing and chemical reactions. I’ve always felt comfortable with a reliable recipe, as it gives me confidence that I’ll be able to replicate the outcome (assuming my oven isn’t a total pile of poo that day). It’s a recent development that I’ve ventured into cooking, into playing with flavors, and into just… winging it. It’s part of this long-term project I have to loosen up more as a person, and has been accompanied by immersing myself in the arts, and talking about my feelings, and sometimes being late to parties, and wearing mismatched socks, and dripping egg yolk down the front of my newest blouse…
So, the other day, I was making banana bread, which is kind of an old stand-by “I am making this SOLELY for the purpose of not having my kitchen smell like rotting food” project. I had my own recipe, but I apparently hadn’t had any coffee or meth or ATP that day so halfway through I realized I had been arbitrarily pulling ingredient quantities from like three different recipes. All of which made different numbers of loaves.
A few minutes of winging it and about an hour of baking time later, I had the best damn banana bread I had ever tasted. And then I made it two more times and it was still the best. So… here you go. A loaf of personal-development banana bread.
Here’s to having NO IDEA what you’re doing sometimes.
Recipe: nutella banana bread
- 5 very ripe bananas
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup nutella
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line a loaf pan with parchment.
- In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Do it with your hands. It’s fun.
- Whisk in butter, eggs, and brown sugar.
- In a separate bowl, mix together baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour. Add to wet mixture and mix until incorporated.
- Pour batter into prepared pan. Drop nutella on top of the batter and swirl with a knife to distribute it a little more evenly across the top and to marble it a little into the batter.
- Bake for about 1 hour, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean (or, only covered in nutella).
I don’t want to always sound like a grumpy fart on my shiny new blog, but it just so happens that I made this thing in the midst of a fairly grumpy, farty time in my life. C’est la vie.
I mentioned the januaries earlier, which constitute a phenomenon I fairly predictably experience every year, for one reason or another (or, perhaps more simply, for no reason at all). The sun shines a little less brightly (that’s science), my stresses accumulate and weigh on me daily (that’s partly mostly my fault), and I indulge in copious amounts of carb-binging and sleeping (that’s hibernation). Recognizing and confronting this sort of… dysthymia? has helped me better deal with it in recent years, and frequently exercising my “life effing rules!” muscle has allowed me to drift through the januaries with a more balanced (if slightly reclusive) calm, rather than wild emotional flailing.
I can sometimes defend my affect by citing awful things that tend to happen to me during the winter months. This season has, perhaps, reached an all-time low on the “jesus christ that sounds miserable” scale, but I’m okay. Life has given me enough awesome for me to know that I’ll get through this. When I start to forget that, I can just break out a pint of my favorite ice cream or whip up a batch of these cookies. Because seriously: if you’ve got ice cream on your chin, or a cookie in your mouth, life can’t be all that bad.
Here’s to enjoying yourself.
And to the magical combination that is butter, sugar, and chocolate.
And to eating your feelings.
C’est la vie.
Recipe: chocolate chip cookies
Note: I like my cookies chewy, with crispy edges. And loaded with chocolate. There is a time for flat, greasy, cracker-cookies; this is not that time.
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold-ish
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (I used dark)
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/4 cup flour (I used half whole wheat, half all-purpose)
- 1 bag semisweet chocolate chips
- Preheat your oven to 325°F and line a cookie sheet with parchment. Pizza stone works well, too.
- In a medium bowl (or stand mixer), cream butter and sugars together until smooth, 3-5 minutes.
- Mix in egg and vanilla.
- Add baking soda, salt, and flour and mix on low until fully incorporated.
- Dump in the whole bag of chips because, you know, feelings. Fold them in.
- Chill the dough in the bowl for at least an hour. Spend this time on the couch, watching something cathartic, with an alcoholic beverage in hand.
- Scoop tablespoon-sized (or larger) balls of dough onto baking surface, leaving at least 2 inches between each one.
- Bake for roughly 18-20 minutes, until cookies are golden. Let cool on a wire rack before stuffing your face.
Makes ~25 cookies.
You know that weird, repetitive situation when you tell people you like to cook? It’s borne out of a discussion of what you do for a living (“I’m a medical student”), where you’re going with it (“I’d like to practice OB/Gyn”), and what that involves (“long hours, lots of bodily fluids, and my handy-dandy speculum”), and then you’re desperate to change the subject so you can actually start to make friends. Conversation turns (or, more accurately, catapults) to your hobbies.
“I like to cook,” you say. “Oh! How relateable and interesting!” says your new friend. “What’s your signature dish?”
I hate this question.
I’ve been cooking somewhat seriously for several years, and baking for even longer. I cook for myself, for my roommates, for my family, for random birthdays, for anonymous potlucks, for romantic picnics, and sometimes for no good reason whatsoever. I have spices falling onto my head whenever I open my cabinets, more pyrex than I know what to do with, and roughly 12 different flours living in my freezer. I get updates from 50 food blogs on my RSS feed and always have a dinner plan. Truth is, there is so much food out there that I want to make that I’m not sure I’ll get to most of it before I hit menopause. And now I’m supposed to come up with one dish that, among the whacked out culinary creativity I’ve discovered through Google Reader (RIP), I can label as “my signature”? Dude, I’m 25. I am NOT there yet.
In an effort to humor the question, though, I’ll usually respond with something I’ve made many times, or something I’ll make for tons of different occasions. This butternut squash lasagna is one of those. It’s made appearances at all the above scenarios, and does a good job of deluding people into thinking you know what you’re doing.
Recipe: butternut squash lasagna
For the filling:
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 large zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/3 cup vegetable broth (or water, if you fail at grocery shopping like I do)
- 3 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
For the béchamel:
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 5 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 4 cups milk
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
For the rest:
- 1 ball fresh salted mozzarella, grated
- 10 oz log goat cheese, crumbled
- 3 oz (1 cup) fontina, grated
- 12 lasagna sheets, whatever kind you like, uncooked
- Pre-heat oven to 425°F and grab a 9×13″ baking dish. Toss cheeses together in a bowl and try not to eat all the mozzarella.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Throw in garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Add squash, zucchini, salt, pepper, and liquid, and cook (stirring occasionally) until squash is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in chopped sage, and set aside.
- In a 3-quart heavy saucepan, melt the butter and cook the garlic over low-medium heat for 1 minute. Add flour and whisk continuously for 2 minutes, then slowly add milk and don’t. stop. whisking. Once milk is all in and there are no chunks of cooked flour, add bay leaf, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil, whisking all the while. Reduce heat and let simmer, whisking occasionally, until it thickens, about 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and remove from heat.
- Ladle the béchamel into the baking dish so it coats the bottom in a thin layer. Lay down three lasagna sheets with spaces left in between (like the letter E), then ladle another 2/3 cup of béchamel on top. Spread on a third of the squash filling, and then scatter with 2/3 cup of cheese.
- Continue: pasta sheets, béchamel, squash, cheese. Pasta sheets, béchamel, squash, cheese.
- Lay the final 3 pasta sheets on top, then spread the rest of the sauce and the rest of the cheese on top.
- Butter one side of a sheet of aluminum foil and tightly cover the baking dish with it (butter side down, dummy). Bake the lasagna in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, until the top is golden and wonderful. Remove from oven and let stand 20 minutes before serving.