Sunday, December 8, 2013

Cinnamon (boozy) raisin bread

"Necessity is the mother of invention," the saying goes. In my case, necessity usually comes in the form of needing to get rid of some ingredient that I've hoarded.

In this case, the culprit is raisins.

I'm not a huge fan of raisins; they tend to be tough and get stuck in teeth, so the only way I accept them is when they are cooked or baked so they are plump. I had been itching for awhile to try a cinnamon raisin bread sometime for the reputation of the glorious toast, and finally I decided to take the plunge!

This recipe from Dorie Greenspan's book does not disappoint! The dough is plush, soft, and stretchy. The crust is buttery and crisp, the raisins juicy, and the cinnamon gives it such a wonderful smell and flavor.

And yes, the toast was phenomenal! The peanut butter and marmalade sandwich made with this bread was probably the best PB&J I've ever eaten. I definitely will put all those raisins to good use with this bread.

Raisin Swirl Bread (adapted from Baking: From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan)


1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
pinch of sugar
1/4 cup of warm milk

1 cup warm milk
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 3/4 to 3 cups all-purpose flour

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl: 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 cup raisins (plumped up in warm water, juice or other warm liquid e.g. bourbon), 3 tablespoons softened and spreadable unsalted butter

Put the yeast, pinch of sugar, and 1/4 cup of warm milk in a bowl and let proof for a few minutes. The yeast should puff up considerably, or at least look hydrated and soft.

In a stand mixer, combine the milk, butter, and 1/4 cup sugar with the paddle attachment; mix for a minute or two. Add the salt, egg, vanilla. Add the yeast mixture and mix on medium-low speed for 1 minute. Turn off the mixer.

Add the whole wheat flour and 1 3/4 cups of the AP flour. Mix on low speed until all the flour is moistened and you have a sticky batter. Switch to the dough hook attachment and add 1 more cup of AP flour and beat the dough at increasing speeds to medium. If the dough is not coming off the sides of the bowl cleanly after a few minutes of mixing, keep adding flour 1-2 tablespoons at a time until it does (up to 1/4 cup flour). Keep kneading for 3 minutes, until the dough is smooth and slightly shiny (and if you know how to do it, until it passes medium gluten development level by windowpane test). Transfer the dough into a large greased bowl and cover. Let dough rise until it is doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. 

Deflate the dough and if it is too sticky/soft to roll out easily, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill in freezer for about 30 minutes. (If you need to stop, you can also refrigerate dough overnight at this point)

Generously butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the swirl. Roll the dough out to 12 x 18 inch rectangle, lightly dusting the work surface and dough surface with flour if needed. Smear 2 tablespoons of soft butter over the surface of the dough with your fingers. Evenly sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the entire surface and scatter the plumped raisins evenly. Using the short side of the dough, roll everything up in a tight roll and pinch the seam closed. Tuck the ends under the loaf and place the whole dough roll into your prepared buttered loaf pan, seam side down. Cover loosely and let dough rise until it comes a little above the edge of the pan, about 45 minutes or so.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. When dough is fully risen, use the remaining 1 tablespoon of softened butter to brush the top of the loaf (you can melt it first). Bake for about 20 minutes, and then bake another 25 minutes with a foil tent if the bread is getting too brown. The outside should be a nice deep brown and the bread should sound hollow when tapped. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then unmold the loaf and allow to cool upright on a wire rack until completely cool.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Recent baking endeavors (with links to recipes)


Michael's birthday request: British Meat Pie. I used bacon fat for the crust. Best. Crust. Ever.


Bake or Break always has the best recipes. This cream cheese and blueberry coffee cake was no exception.



Another Bake or Break recipe: Pecan Cake. Fabulous. I used Greek yogurt instead of buttermilk and the cake turned out delightfully springy in addition to moist and nutty. Chocolate frosting was optional but delicious.


I picked up some fresh figs from Trader Joe's and tried this fig and olive oil loaf cake from Tracy Shutterbean. It was dense, nutty, and delicious!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Philly Redux


Back in Philly! We visited in mid-August, and we had a blast, as usual! Lots of good food!


Bread from the Metropolitan Bakery, Wilbur bacon, cannelles from a small bakery stand in the farmer's market.




Visit to old-school Italian bakery Termini Brothers.


Yum, cannoli!


Picnic in the park: whitefish salad and crackers, a variety of sushi rolls, pizzelles from Termini's, and fruit from a local corner grocery.


Grilled cheese from the Valley Shepherd Creamery stand at the Reading Terminal Market.


And of course, pork sandwich from DiNic's!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Meat! It's what's for dinner!


Let me introduce Wilbur!! Over the summer, we heard about an opportunity to buy half a Berkshire hog through Shannon and David's farmshare company, and after much deliberation, we took it! We got about 100 lbs of meat, including lots of pork chops, loin roasts, shoulder roasts, a gigantic ham cut in two, over 10 lbs of bacon, 13 lbs of ground pork, 10 lbs of fatback for sausage making, and a fresh ham hock and shank. Of course we had to name our piggy, so after much deliberation, we settled on Wilbur! Yes we're a little morbid, but c'mon, Charlotte was the true hero of that book, not the whiny pig.


So far, we've made pork chops a couple different ways, pulled pork, bacon in many ways (in fried rice, stir fry, and normal breakfast style), and used ground pork in bolognese sauce. We have been not eaten this much pork since we moved back to the States, and we've never had such good chops and bacon!! The meat taste is just so rich and has great texture.

IMG_0346 the horizon is some grass-fed beef! We obviously filled up our little chest freezer with Wilbur (above) but we recently received a free chest freezer from someone I know at lab at the same time as hearing about the beef, so we have plenty of space now! Since we didn't think we could eat another 100 lbs ourselves (1/4 of a cow), luckily I found a labmate who is willing to split the order with me, so we'll be welcoming 50 lbs of ground beef and steaks from our cow, Angus! Stay tuned!


Saturday, September 14, 2013

So much food, so little time to post

Hey everyone, I apologize for the long silence, but rest assured that I'm still alive, eating, and even occasionally baking!

I'll try to do a roundup of recipes recently tried and a couple photos soon! Hope everyone's doing well, I think of you all and this space often.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sourdough biscuits


When you combine Gus, bacon fat, and caramelized onions, there can only be one outcome: triple happiness.

I needed to feed Gus this weekend, and feeling lazy to make bread, I decided to give these sourdough biscuits a try. I got the recipe from the King Arthur Flour catalog awhile back because they were very intriguing (cue in imaginary beard stroking). The sourdough starter is not used for leavening, it's just for flavor. Then to "kick it up a notch" (a la Emeril), I substituted most of the butter out with rendered bacon fat I've been saving in the freezer for biscuits one day. 

And finally that day had come!


These biscuits came out completely fabulous. Smoky bacon flavor, sweet caramelized onions, flaky/tender biscuit. There was a hint of sourdough flavor at the end, but nothing too overt. We just ate them straight, but they would be great as an accompaniment to soup or eggs as well!

You can find the recipe here: I used a 1/2 cup measure to measure out the bacon fat, and then added butter on top to reach the 1/2 cup volume called for. I chilled the butter/bacon fat before using. Also, the dough was sort of wet initially so I just lightly sprinkled both sides of the dough ball with flour before kneading and it was just right to bring it together. I patted the dough down into a rough square and just cut it into nine squares, rather than deal with round biscuit cutters and re-rolling dough.

I can feel my arteries clogging as I eat these, but hey, it's not every day you have a jar of bacon fat waiting for a higher purpose!


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Roomie Weekend: Pittsburgh Edition

Another year has come and gone, and we've once again convened to eat and chat our way through a weekend! We were pretty lazy as a group to take pictures this time (we were probably eating too fast), so the best one I have is the group picture shown above. We were exploring the Cathedral of Learning and found these cool fold down desks that were inlaid in the seat backs of these benches. I believe it was the Syrian room. 

So there was a quick rundown of our weekend:

Saturday morning--meet up at my apartment. Dara arrived earlier so we took a trip to La Gourmandine bakery in Lawrenceville to get a bunch of tasty French pastries

Saturday afternoon--we met up with some Pittsburgh friends and had a BBQ, including burgers, roasted veggies, salads, and brownies. 

Saturday evening--took a breather after returning from the BBQ, and then late evening we got takeout from Spice Island, a Burmese restaurant in Oakland. Pad Thai, mohinga (fish stew with noodles), mango pork stew, chicken noodle soup, tea leaf salad, and fried tofu salad!

Sunday morning-afternoon--we took a huge long walk to Squirrel Hill to eat at the new Everyday Noodles! We got an ox tail noodle soup, wonton noodle soup, minced pork noodles, and a tray of soup dumplings, and they were all fabulous! We took some yummy bubble tea to go as well. We continued our walk and checked out CMU and the Carnegie Library on the way home.

Sunday evening-- after a break, we drove out to Highland Park to eat at Teppanyaki Kyoto Restaurant. We had two types of okonomiyaki, the Japanese cabbage pancakes, and a couple of tasty appetizers. We finished off the evening with a trip to Tazzo D'Oro coffee shop.

Monday--We ate Gus-crumpets and rolls at home with some clotted cream and homemade jams for breakfast, and then after sending Jess off at the bus stop, Dara and I did a little bit of shopping and picked up a Primanti's sandwich and some cookies at the Strip District. At home, we shared the pastrami sandwich, and polished it off in no time! Then Dara was off too, and that concluded our epic Pittsburgh roomie weekend!

Until next time!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The first doctor


Welp, I'm back! The defense was March 6, and this past Thursday I finally turned in all my final documents and fees, so I am officially getting my PhD!! Woo!

I did some baking in the last few weeks, recipes to follow shortly.

Thank you for all your support and encouragement, and I am looking forward to my next phase of training and the resuming of baking/blogging here! Onward to doctor #2!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Short haitus and entering a new phase

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to post a quick note that I will unlikely be posting here or on the other blog for a bit of time, as I am trying to finish my thesis and defend in the next month or so. I have been baking on occasion (Gus must be fed, after all) but I have been returning to old tried and true recipes, so nothing new to report here.

I expect to have some more free time in March-April, although after that I return to medical school so I cannot predict whether I will be able to post with any regularity. However, I have a long term commitment to this blog and to you guys, so whenever I have the chance can make new and exciting baked goods, I'll be sure to share them with you!

Alrighty, see you on the other side!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mixed Berry Jam

This was one of the most popular gifts I made this holiday season, so to share the joy of the tart, not-too-sweet, deep antioxidant-packed power of this jam, here is the recipe below. I used all frozen berries for mine: 2/3 frozen blueberries (bought from Costco, wild blueberries from Maine), and 1/3 a mix of frozen berries from Trader Joe's (mix of regular blueberries, cherries, and raspberries). I'm sure fresh sweet berries would be fabulous as well. Enjoy!

Mixed Berry Jam (adapted from The Art of Preserving)

Makes 6-8 half-pint jars (total volume of 48-64 ounces)

3 lbs (12 cups) of berries (can be raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, in any ratio you want; frozen berries work great and are cheaper during off-season months)
3 cups (1.5 lbs) sugar (cannot decrease)
3/4 cup lemon juice
1 package pectin (you can find this at the store usually near the JELL-O/gelatin)

If canning, sterilize jars and canning lids/seals. You can do this by boiling in water for at least 5-10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large non-reactive saucepan, toss together the berries, sugar, and lemon juice. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until jam has thickened, about 15 minutes. Add package of pectin, stir to completely dissolve, bring back up to a boil for 1 minute. The jam should be very thick now.

Ladle the jam into jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at the top. Wipe the jar rims clean, place the seals, and tighten lids. If canning, place filled jars in boiling water bath and boil for 10 minutes. Once they come out, you should hear the lids pop as they create a vacuum and seal as they cool off. If they do not seal, you can follow the directions below.

If you are not able to can, or the cans processed above did not seal, you can store in fridge or freezer. Make sure to boil-sterilize the jars you wish to use to store the jam in before filling just to be safe, and then fill the jars, secure the lid, and store in fridge for up to 1 month, or in the freezer for up to 6 months. 

For complete information on how to home can safely, please go to this website for details: