Blitzkuchen

I think all of my childhood memories orbit around food.
*thinky face*
I’m not sure if this is good or bad. But Blitzkuchen (blitz-koo-chin) is one of my favorite memories. It means “Lightning Cake” in German because it’s so simple and so quick to make. Imagine something that crosses the bridge between a perfectly soft sugar cookie and a spongy pound cake, and there you have it.

When I was little, Mom would whip up this cake right in the middle of math (worst subject ever, even for this homeschool kid) and just when long division was becoming unbearable, it was ready. Vanilla and cinnamon would waft through the house, and I would know with certainty that I’d survive math after all. Lightning Cake to the rescue. I think the world needs a big pan of it.
Enjoy.

BLITZKUCHEN

1 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
2 cups flour

In a mixing bowl, melt butter and stir in sugar and vanilla.Add eggs, whipping each one into the butter and sugar until smooth. Add flour and blend completely. Pour into a well-greased cake pan, sprinkle the top generously with cinnamon and sugar, and bake at 400 degrees until an inserted knife comes out clean. About 20 minutes.

Cinnamon-Rum Ice Cream

It’s Sunday morning and after a cold rainy day yesterday and a very cool night, I’m caught somewhere between late summer and early fall. This is evidenced by several nectarines on my counter, quickly becoming over-ripe.
I’ve baked them into almost every muffin, cake, and pastry I can devise this week, so it seemed unwise to bake them into anything else this morning. (My waistline doth protest!)
But what if . . .

This is my favorite question, by the way. It’s how I begin every story and every new recipe.

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What if I let them stand on their own? Halve and pit, sprinkle with cinnamon and glaze with honey. Broil for a quick minute or two so they warm and singe. And then top with ice cream! What’s better than ice cream for breakfast?!
Unfortunately, Cotton Candy Ice Cream was the flavor of the week, according to my kids, and it is all I had in my freezer. Nasty.
Solution: make my own. But alas, I don’t have an ice cream maker.
Pffft. No worries. You don’t need one for this recipe.
Just a freezer, a blender, and a few hours.

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So from my late-summer-early-fall kitchen to yours: homemade Cinnamon-Rum Ice Cream, excellent over honey-glazed nectarines (or peaches).
This morning this is breakfast, but dessert is an excellent option as well.
Enjoy!

CINNAMON-RUM ICE CREAM

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2 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup white sugar
a dash cinnamon
a dash of ground cloves
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp rum extract (or a teaspoon or two of the real thing!)

In a blender, combine the ingredients and whirl until frothy, and the sugar has dissolved. Pour into a metal bread-pan and freeze for 4-5 hours at least, preferably overnight.

Nectarine Galette

Late summer. August. The season of purple cone flower and golden yarrow, cicada song, heat, and stone fruit. Peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots . . . the apples and pears are close behind, but for now it’s all about achingly sweet fruit that melts into pastry dough and oozes out of pie crust. Welcome to my favorite part of summer. This quote from Natalie Babbitt sums it up perfectly for me (though sadly, we are already past the first week in August).

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.” 
(from Tuck Everlasting)

I found  a crate of nectarines at the grocery this week. They were so ripe I could smell them almost as soon as I walked into the store. I prefer nectarines to peaches because I’m not overly fond of fuzzy peach skin. They are not quite as sweet as peaches, but nearly. And they meet this galette, saturated in brown sugar and cinnamon, the way the first week in August meets September. —A final sweet hurrah of summer.

NECTARINE AND BROWN SUGAR GALETTE

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BUTTERMILK PIE CRUST
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled and diced
1/4 cup chilled buttermilk

In a food processor, whirl the butter, flour, and salt until crumbly. Then, one teaspoon at a time, add the buttermilk until a dough forms. The trick here is not to overwork the dough or let it get warm. You don’t want the butter melting into the dough, but rather staying rather crumbled within it—those butter bits are what will make the dough flaky when it bakes.

FILLING
3 very ripe nectarines, sliced and pitted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup flour

In a bowl, gently combine the sliced fruit with the brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour. The flour will help thicken the juices and sugar as they galette bakes, but there will be extra juice in the bowl. You can leave this and discard it when you scoop the fruit onto the pastry.

Roll the pastry out between two pieces of parchment paper until you have a 1/4 inch thick circle about 12 inches in diameter. Remove the top sheet of paper and scoop the nectarines into the center of the rolled dough, leaving 2 1/2 inches around the outside edge free of fruit. Taking an edge of the dough, bring it up onto the fruit and press it gently. Bring the next edge, beside the one you just creased, up beside it and onto the fruit, gently pressing it onto itself. Go around the circle, pulling the dough up onto itself, one bit at a time until the whole thing is self contained in a sort of pastry-pocket. The beauty of a galette, is that you do not need a pie pan!

Slip the bottom layer of paper with the galette on top, onto a flat baking sheet and bake on 350-degree preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until golden brown across the top.
Allow to cool before serving.

rhubarb cake

I have this patch of rhubarb in my garden—the grandchild of a plant that has been growing at my house for more than thirty years, and it’s fantastically huge. In the height of summer it takes up a full 8-foot by 12-foot raised garden bed.
I love it.
I call it Gertrude.

It’s only the middle of May in Minnesota but I’ve already harvested two batches of rhubarb from Gertrude, and yesterday’s harvest was a whopper. I had to use a laundry basket to bring it all inside. A batch of rhubarb sauce ensued. Also this cake.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that baking is not more forte. I’m better with main dishes and soup. There’s just so much chemistry in baking and I’ve never been great with chemistry. But.
But. But. But.
This cake.
—Custard-like, loaded with fruit, and finished with a crisp sugared crust. The almond flavor adds a hint of something magic, and topped with a fresh dollop of whipped cream, it’s basically perfection.
Enjoy!

RHUBARB CAKE

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar-in-the-raw
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup flour
4 cups diced rhubarb

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. The larger grains of sugar give everything a different texture, but trust me, the end result is amazing. Add almond extract, salt, baking powder, and eggs. Mix well. Scrape down the sides of your bowl and add the flour. The batter should be thick, almost thicker than expected. No worries, the juice from the rhubarb will thin it out a bit. Add the rhubarb and mix again. It’s going to look like too much fruit for the cake. But not to worry. The eggs and flour will eventually hold everything together.

I have a deep 8x 12, casserole pan I use to bake this cake. It will overflow a standard 9 x 9 cake pan. If you have a 9 x 16 cake pan, that may work better. Grease the pan well and spread the batter evenly with a spatula.
Sprinkle sugar-in-the-raw generously over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and then turn the heat down and bake for another hour and a half (yes, that’s correct) at 325 degrees. Keep an eye on it and cover the cake with aluminum foil if it begins to brown too darkly over the top. After it had been in the oven for a total of two hours, give the pan a light shake. If the center is still jiggly, continue baking at 325 until it sets. (The “insert knife until it comes out clean” trick won’t work on this one because the finished cake has an almost custard-like texture).
Allow the cake to cool once it has finished baking.
Serve with whipped cream or ice cream!

carmelized sweet-potato and apple pie with sharp cheddar cheese in a rosemary-buttermilk crust

I’ve been making pie for three days straight trying to get this recipe right, you guys.

First there was the crust. Measurements were off, I overworked the dough and it went flat, too salty, etc . . .

Then once I got the crust right, the filling was wrong. I tried grading the sweet potatoes with the chopped apples but the texture was way off. Plus sweet potatoes are more dense than apples so they cook unevenly. Nasty.

But today, TODAY I GOT IT RIGHT.

 I am so excited about this pie.
It’s just a pie, I know, but in my dream world, when I open a pie shop and farmer’s market, this pie will be on the short and selective menu. That’s how good it is.

Close your eyes for a minute and I’ll take you there. . .

The glass door swings wide and a small brass bell jingles over your head as you cross the threshold. Someone across the room greets you with a smile—a wave maybe—and you instantly feel at home. Your people come here.

The floors are rough planks, comfortable and unpretentious, but the handful of tables are flung with white table cloths. Fresh. Like white linen on laundry day. Rustic chandeliers hang from the pressed-tin ceiling and the generous front windows spill sunshine across the spacious room.

But the smell of the place is what sticks with you. Baked goods. Like Grandma’s kitchen—or maybe your aunt’s. Fresh berry and fruit pies wait under the long glass counter and a chalkboard menu against one of the raw-brick walls assures you the variety isn’t lacking. Three stand out: Rhubarb and current pie with cardamon. Custard pear and raspberry. Caramelized Sweet-Potato Apple with Sharp Cheddar in a Rosemary-Buttermilk crust. You’ll have to think on it. Decisions are hard . . .

Every pie here is made from scratch, the crust mixed up with butter and buttermilk from local dairy farmer’s bounty. The fruit, herbs, and produce that fill the crusts are local and seasonal, and you wonder for a moment if maybe you can just live here. Eat pie forever. The oversized leather chairs in the corner windows would be fine. Add a book, a cup of coffee, and you’ll be just fine, thank you very much . . .
You decide on the Caramelized Sweet-Potato Apple with Sharp Cheddar in a Rosemary-Buttermilk crust. Almost like lunch, right? Pie for lunch. Totally legit. 

Okay. Open your eyes.
I promise to serve your pie warm when you arrive. 🙂 In the mean time, here’s the recipe so you can make your own.

Enjoy!

CARMELIZED SWEET-POTATO AND APPLE PIE WITH SHARP CHEDDAR CHEESE IN A ROSEMARY-BUTTERMILK CRUST

Let’s start with the crust. I used the Buttermilk Pie Crust recipe from my last post with the addition of:
1 teaspoon dried and crushed rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon savory herb blend (basil/oregano/onion/thyme)

Mix up two crusts and refrigerate while you work on the filling.

FILLING:
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
6 pie apples (Grannysmith work great!) peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
3-4 tablespoons flour
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Over medium-high heat, melt butter in a flat-bottom pan and brown sweet potatoes until they begin to soften. Add apples and cook, covered, for a couple minutes. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, and salt to the pan and mix until the spices and sugar are well incorporated. Remove pan from heat and transfer the filling to a large mixing bowl. Add flour and mix well until juices thicken. Set aside and allow to cool a bit.

Roll out the bottom crust and press it into your pie plate.
Add cheese to the slightly-cooled fruit, spice, and apple mixture and stir until ingredients are well-mixed. Fill the prepared bottom crust with the fruit and potatoes, roll out the top crust and fit it to the top of your pie. Press the top and bottom edges together and then crimp. Poke a hole in the top crust to vent, and sprinkle with paprika.
Bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned over the top.
Allow to cool a bit before cutting—this will help the juices re-incorporate into the filling.

Harry Potter and buttermilk pie crust

Ever notice how what you’re reading influences what you eat and cook, or what you WANT to eat and cook?

I finally started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to my two older kids this weekend, and oh my goodness. SO. MUCH. FUN. Only a couple chapters into the first book and they are already picking up on the challenges of making good choices, courage, the reality that adults don’t always get it right, that life isn’t fair, and that doing the right thing is always the right thing.

And the food . . . Rowling got it. I love how she details food.
Bags of stale crips.
A can of tomatoes on toast for breakfast.
Fried bacon.
A package of squishy sausages in Hagrid’s pocket.
Candy and sweets with so many odd names and flavors I can’t even remember them all at the moment. Except those jelly beans of all different flavors—because Jelly Belly, obviously, have jumped on that train.
I need to write about food in my own stories some more . . .

Today is about pie, though. Rowling’s description of the pies and tarts at the Hogwart’s feast got me itching to try a new pie crust recipe I’ve been thinking about. Plus I made butter again this weekend, so there is both icy cold buttermilk and fresh butter in my fridge waiting for experimentation.

Hope you had a great weekend, friends.
Here’s to good books and good food.
Enjoy!

BUTTERMILK PIE CRUST
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled and diced
1/4 cup chilled buttermilk

In a food processor, whirl the butter, flour, and salt until crumbly. Then, one teaspoon at a time, add the buttermilk until a dough forms. The trick here is not to overwork the dough or let it get warm. You don’t want the butter melting into the dough, but rather staying rather crumbled within it—those butter bits are what will make the dough flaky when it bakes.

Note: these measurements make a single crust, so you’ll need to double the recipe for a top and bottom crust.

I prefer using wax paper or parchment paper to roll out pasty dough because it means I don’t have to try and scrape it from my counter top or risk over-flouring it. Also, refrigerate whatever dough you aren’t currently working with.

Lay the bottom crust in the plate and add the filling of your choice (I’m going with apple, cheddar, and sweet-potato today).

Roll out the top crust as you did with the bottom, fit over top the pie, trim any excess around the edges and crimp.

Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown across the top and bubbling. About 40 minutes or so. Allow to cool before cutting so the juices can re-incorporate.

For a full tutorial on how I use wax paper and crimping, check out my earlier pie crust recipe tutorial. —Different recipe, same method. 🙂

Sour Cream and Buttermilk Banana Muffins with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

You know when you set out to do something super healthy in the kitchen and then it goes completely sideways? My mission: Greek Yogurt Banana Bread. The final outcome: Sour Cream and Buttermilk Banana Muffins (with chocolate chips) and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.

Oops.

Also, this brings up a very important question:
At what point does a muffin become a cupcake?
I would like an answer to this or I may not sleep tonight.

I can promise you though, every muffin/cupcake calorie accrued in these incredibly tasty healthy-turned-not-so-much treats earned me glowing smiles, shining eyes, and beaming praise from my people. So I’m going to say it was a successful mission. And hey, there are many different kinds of healthy. My heart was very healthy yesterday. Lots of hugs, sticky kisses, and frosting-bedecked cheeks to smooch. So it’s all good.

Enjoy!

SOUR CREAM AND BUTTERMILK BANANA MUFFINS WITH VANILLA BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

1 cup butter (2 sticks) softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk (make your own!)
2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips (white chocolate chips would be amazing too!)

In a large mixing bowl or using a stand mixer combine butter, vanilla, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, sour cream, and buttermilk. Blend until smooth and all of the ingredients are incorporated. Add flour and chocolate chips and blend again. Scoop batter into greased (but un-lined) muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown around the edges and across the tops. Roughly 15 minutes, but adjust time accordingly as every oven is a little different.

Remove muffins from baking tin and allow to cool. While they are cooling, you can mix up the frosting.

VANILLA BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

3/4 cup frosting
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups (or so) powdered/confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Soften butter and whip with vanilla. Add powered sugar using hand or stand mixer and adjust consistency of the frosting, alternating with cream and sugar, until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated and the frosting is to your liking.

Frost muffins/cupcakes generously and sprinkle with raw sugar crystals.