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Blueberry Crumb Cake

It’s blueberry season and I have been eyeing a blueberry crumb cake recipe from Smitten Kitchen for a few weeks. I have bought blueberries at the farmers market or store every week, but never bit the bullet and made the cake. (Or, Brent ate them all, but I’m not here to play the blame game!)

 I walked into my pal Sarah’s (I think she is my #2 biggest fan?) baby shower, and there was the cake sitting on the counter! I started squawking and asking our gracious host: “TERESA! IS THAT THE SMITTEN KITCHEN BLUEBERRY CRUMB CAKE?!” Yes. It was. I ate it and it was so tasty I knew I’d be making it later that day to share with all of my pals at work.

And I did. And you should to. Here’s how.


 Blueberry Crumb Cake
serves 8-10 // recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients
Cake:
2 cups minus 1 tablespoon (i.e. 1 3/4 cups + 3 tablespoons or 240 grams) all-purpose flour* see note
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup, or 55 grams) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint (2 to 2 2/3 cups, 12 to 16 ounces, or 340 to 455 grams) fresh blueberries, clean and dry
1/2 cup milk, any kind
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Topping:
5 tablespoons (40 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup, 2 ounces or 55 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine
Pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS
1. Heat oven to 375°F. Wash and dry your blueberries… dry them super well!

2. Butter a 9-inch round baking pan (with at least 2″ sides) and dust it lightly with flour; line it with a round of parchment paper just on the bottom of the pan. (As a note, my pan was 9″ but only had a 1.5″ side, so I made Brent his own tiny cake. This worked fine, but the end result would look nicer if you used a pan with at least a 2″ side.)

3. Make the topping by mixing the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt, then cutting the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside. Note, this is going to seem too wet for a crumble topping. If you want add another teaspoon of flour, but if you don’t it turns out just as fine.

4. In a medium bowl, mix your dry ingredients: whisk flour, baking powder, and salt until combined. *Flour note: I used a 50/50 mix of all purpose flour and whole wheat flour the second time I made this and I prefer this method. Try it!

5. In a large bowl (or stand mixer), beat butter, sugar and zest of the lemon together until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined.

6. Beat in 1/3 of the dry ingredient mixture until just combined, followed by 1/2 the milk; repeat with remaining dry ingredients and milk, finishing with the dry mixture. The batter will be very stiff, and that’s ok!

7. Fold blueberries (carefully) into cake batter until evenly distributed.

8. Scoop cake batter into prepared pan and smooth so that it is flat. Add the topping. Bake in heated oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out batter-free.

 9. You can let the cake cool completely in the pan on a rack (I’d recommend this as I didn’t do it, or just cool it in the pan for 20 minutes before flipping it out onto a cooling rack, removing the parchment paper lining, and flipping it back onto a plate.

10. Be extra fancy and dust with confectioners’ sugar. I just used a fine mesh strainer and about 2 teaspoons of confectioners’ sugar and shook it on top. It made it look like I was an expert baker or that I bought it at a fancy bakery.

 I gave my co-workers a reason to eat cake in the morning, and they liked it so I think this will be something I make  again soon. Maybe my next excuse will be when Sarah has that baby in a few weeks. At least I won’t be the one sqwaking!

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Soft Pretzels

One weekend Brent sent me an email with the subject line: “To Try.” The only thing in the body of the email was a link to Alton Brown’s soft pretzel recipe.

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Clearly, I tried the recipe and it was delicious and pretty easy. And a reason for you to use the 90 pound stand mixer you likely got for your wedding, or got yourself as a gift for going to so many weddings.

Here’s what to do!

Homemade Soft Pretzels
serves 8  // recipe from Food Network/Alton Brown

Ingredients

Pretzel dough
1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4.5 cups all-purpose flour (22oz if you measure it out on your kitchen scale)
1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Other
Vegetable oil spray
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt

DIRECTIONS
1. In your barely used stand mixer, combine the 1.5 cups warm water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. (If you decide to use instant yeast like I did, you can skip the 5 minute wait time)

2. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and spray with some vegetable oil spray (like Pam). Set aside.

5. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope.

6. The semi-hard part! Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. I watched this video many times to try to copy Alton’s style. http://www.foodnetwork.com/videos/altons-homemade-soft-pretzels-0170183.embed.html

7. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

8. Get a large pot and bring 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil.

9. Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, one at a time, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. I let these dry on a cookie rack before returning them.

10. Once you have the pretzels on the parchment paper-lined pans, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the kosher salt (unless you have pretzel salt!).

11. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. I like to rotate the pan half way through cooking. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Not so hard and very delicious. I recently went to lunch with some co-workers and we ordered one pretzel for the table. It was not as tasty and it was $6. BOO!

So maybe you should e-mail this to your self with the subject line “to try” and make this for seven of your favorite co-workers.

Mixed Berry Crisp

This dessert is so easy, you can make it on a weeknight. Seriously.

I happened to make this yesterday, even though I had cooking grandiose Sunday cooking plans that got quickly derailed by watching an episode of Cutthroat Kitchen on Food Network while very hungry. After watching a burrito challenge and a pie challenge, I knew what was for dinner (burritos!) and that we had to make a dessert.

One of the contestants made a crisp instead of a pie (and didn’t have to pack his knives and go), and all I could think about for the next hour was getting my hands on some mixed berries and ice cream. So I did. Well, Brent did. Good thing we moved closer to Trader Joe’s!

The contestant on the show made some crazy concoction, but I found the simplest recipe that called for a bag of frozen berries and basic stuff you likely have in your cabinets and a few tablespoons of butter.20131027-210247.jpg

Mixed Berry Crisp
serves 4   //  recipe adapted from Bon Appetite 

Ingredients
1 12-ounce packages frozen mixed berries
1 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (I did this in a food processor)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Toss frozen berries and cornstarch in large bowl. Let stand until cornstarch dissolves, tossing occasionally, about 20 minutes.
3. Mix brown sugar, flour, oats, nuts, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt in large bowl.
4. Add chilled butter; using fingertips, blend butter into mixture until coarse crumbs form.
5. Place berries in a small pie pan or baking dish and top with the oat mixture. (You can also do four single serving ramekins) and place dish(es) on rimmed baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes (10 minutes if you are using single serving ramekins).
6. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking until crisp topping is golden brown and fruit filling is bubbling at edges, about 25-30 minutes longer.
7. Cool crisp at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature topped with scoop of vanilla ice cream.

20131027-210302.jpg I think this dish could be made a little bit better by adding a squeeze of lemon to the frozen fruit, but it was delicious as it was and I’m (not so) secretly looking forward to eating it again tomorrow. It’s a bunch of fruit and oatmeal, so it’s basically like eating a healthy breakfast-dessert. I’ll go with that.

Better than a Greek restaurant Spanakopita

I recently had spanakopita in a Greek restaurant, and I promise this version is better than anywhere I’ve ever had it. Except maybe in Greece. If you make this and know of a place that makes it better, let me know. I’ll be there tomorrow.

Better than a Greek restaurant Spanakopita: Ingredients
5 10oz boxes frozen chopped spinach (Birds Eye brand is best)
2 8oz bricks of Athenos feta cheese
1 16oz tub cottage cheese (2% milk or less)
1/2 tsp dill (I don’t like dill, so I don’t use it. Add it to the spinach mix if you want)
1 bunch of green onions, chopped
1 large white onion, diced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, unseasoned
1 sleeve/pack filo dough
1 tsp olive oil

A few hours ahead of making Directions:
1. If you buy phyllo dough frozen, thaw it out.
2. Unwrap the boxes of spinach, place in a bowl and thaw them out. When they are un-frozen, squeeze out the water in a colander.
3. Saute diced onion and green onions in some olive oil for 3-4 minutes, or until a little golden and set aside to cool.

When everything is unthawed/cooled Directions:
1. Pre-heat oven to 350°
2. In a large bowl, mix spinach, cottage cheese, bread crumbs and onions together. Crumble in the feta.
3. Pam a 14×9 glass baking dish .
4. Roll out the phyllo dough and place a sheet on the bottom of the pan. Spray each layer w/ Pam… or brush some olive oil/melted butter on each layer. Do this a 3-5 times to create a bottom layer.
5. Drop the spinach mix in the to the baking dish and spread/even out.
6. Add 5-7 layers of phyllo on top of the mixture, still Pam’ing/buttering each layer including the top.
7. Bake for 45mins-1 hour. If it looks dry, you can reduce the oven temp to about 300° after about 45mins.

Don’t let rolling out phyllo dough scare you, Youtube to the rescue here to teach you have to roll it out. I can’t say I really know how considering my Mom made this whole thing from start to finish. Thanks Mom!

This is best served with a greek salad… those I haven’t been able to make better than a Greek restaurant or Greece.