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Category: Baking with Andrea

Baking with Andrea: Marshmallows

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There was a period of time where every time I saw Theresa she was greeted with “taste/do/look at this, it will change your life!” I think she was always a little bit skeptical. Some of those things I’ve forgotten (obviously her skepticism was warranted in these few instances); some of them I still stand by (go see Brandi Carlile live in concert, it will change your life). But the one I think we both still 100% agree on is this: homemade marshmallows will change your life.

I don’t really remember why I decided to make them the first time, except that Molly said to. Theresa introduced you to Molly a couple weeks ago in her What’s For Dinner post. She really is one of our favorites. When she wrote about them she talked about how her then boyfriend (now husband) made them for her, and it was one of the things that tipped the scale pretty heavily in favor of marrying the guy. I’d probably marry the guy too if that’s what I came home to.

It’s hard to describe how good they are. How perfect they are just barely set, rolled in powdered sugar, so soft and velvety and squeezing just the right amount between your fingers before you pop them in your mouth… or what it’s like to have them melt into a perfect marshmallow cream down into your cup of hot chocolate… or, maybe best of all, toasted to golden perfection over a campfire where the sugar on the outside caramelizes and gets a little bit crunchy, barely holding in the melted center waiting to ooze out (just be careful, they get meltier than your grocery store marshmallow and fall off the stick if you don’t watch it). It’s a “you have to see/taste it to believe it” kind of situation. But once you have, you might never buy a bag of regular marshmallows again.

There’s a candy thermometer involved, but don’t let that deter you. These are really pretty simple. Let some gelatin dissolve in a mixer bowl while you cook some sugar and corn syrup together. Combine the sugar mixture to the gelatin and beat and beat and beat them, letting the mixer do most of the work of whipping them into billowy white peaks of marshmallow cream before pouring them into a pan to set. A stand mixer will give you the best results but I’ve used just a hand mixer before without a problem. Just be sure to keep mixing them for the full 15 minutes.

We’re giving these as gifts this year paired with little jars of hot chocolate. Feel free to do the same, or pick up some gourmet chocolates and graham crackers and wrap up a s’mores kit. Or just keep them all to yourself. Choose your own marshmallow adventure.

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HOMEMADE MARSHMALLOWS
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
• Nonstick vegetable oil spray

• 1 cup cold water

• 3 1/4 oz envelopes unflavored gelatin

• 2 cups sugar
• 
2/3 cup light corn syrup
• 
1/4 tsp salt
• 
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

• 1/4 cup potato starch

• 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Line a 9×13 baking dish with foil and coat the foil with nonstick spray.

Pour 1/2 cup of the cold water into the bowl of your mixer and sprinkle in the gelatin. Let it sit while you make the sugar mixture allowing the gelatin to absorb the water.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and remaining 1/2 cup of cold water in a medium saucepan. Over medium-low heat stir until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolved attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, increase the heat to bring the syrup to a boil. Boil without stirring until the syrup reaches 240ºF, about 8 minutes.

Using your whisk attachment, and with your mixer running at low speed, slowly pour the hot syrup into the gelatin mixture in a thin stream down the side of the bowl. Slowly increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, about 15 minutes (I usually just set a timer and let it go). Add the vanilla and beat another 30 seconds or so to incorporate.

Scrape the marshmallows into the prepared pan. Use a wet spatula to smooth the top. Let it sit out at room temperature for at least 4 hours, until marshmallows are firm.

Whisk together the powdered sugar and potato starch in a bowl. Dust a large cutting board with the powdered sugar mixture and turn the marshmallows out onto it. Dust the top of the marshmallow slab with some of the powdered sugar mixture, then cut into pieces (coat your knife in nonstick spray if it starts to get too sticky), tossing the pieces into the powdered sugar to coat each one. I generally cut about 48 marshmallows/pan, but adjust the size to your liking.

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This recipe lends itself to a certain amount of variation. Try playing with different flavors. I’ve exchanged the vanilla extract for coconut with delicious results. For the holiday season try trading the vanilla for 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract. It makes a perfect peppermint hot chocolate. Or cut them into different shapes using a cookie cutter coated with nonstick spray.

This year we did a cinnamon-sugar version. Before you toss the marshmallows in the powdered sugar, toss them in a cinnamon and granulated sugar (a teaspoon or two of cinnamon per cup of sugar, depending on how cinnamony you want them). I like the texture the bit of granulated sugar gives and the hint of spicy cinnamon. After you coat them with cinnamon/sugar, still toss them in the powdered sugar/potato starch as that will keep them from getting sticky.

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Baking with Andrea: Warm Vanilla Cider

warm vanilla cider

I know I’m probably in the minority here, but I’m not really a fan of spiced or mulled cider. I always feel like the spices overwhelm me and punch me in the face. No one likes a punch in the face. Especially when you’re settling into a cozy chair, fingers wrapped around a warm mug, breathing in the steam and expecting that first sip to warm your heart. But this here – this is a cider I can get behind, and I think you will too. It starts with good apple cider. Here we just used Trader Joe’s unfiltered apple juice, which was great, but my favorite is when there’s a jug of fresh cider from the farmer’s market. Then it adds some vanilla and nutmeg, giving off a perfectly subtle familiar warmth. And finally, some bourbon to finish it off. Perfection!

In spite of everything going on in the world, in spite of whatever might be going on in our lives, I wish you a moment or two like mine tonight: to sit in front of a fire with snow falling out the window. To take a deep breath. To be grateful. Maybe this will help.

Warm Vanilla Cider
Adapted from here marthastewart.com/warm-vanilla-cider

8 cups apple cider
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 whole nutmeg seeds
1 – 1½ vanilla beans, split and scraped (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
8(ish) oz bourbon

In a saucepan combine the apple cider, brown sugar, whole nutmeg seeds, and vanilla bean (both seeds and pods). Let it simmer gently for about 15 minutes. Divide the bourbon among 8 mugs, fill them with warm cider (discard the nutmeg seeds and vanilla bean pods), and enjoy!

warm vanilla cider

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Baking With Andrea: Wine-Stewed Prunes and Mascarpone

When we were in New York this fall there were (of course) no shortage of restaurants we wanted to try and it was tough to narrow down the list we’d made – places we’d read about, places friends had recommended, and the spots we stumbled upon as we explored the city. While we were there we celebrated Theresa and our dad’s birthdays and for a celebratory dinner they chose Frankie’s Sputino on the Lower East Side. We sampled each of crostini on the menu (comically taking bites and passing them to our left so everyone got to try) and shared plates of pasta and a bottle of wine, and then, since birthdays call for dessert, we topped the meal off with a plate of red wine prunes with mascarpone. I’ll admit, I was skeptical. Who chooses stewed prunes when there are things like ricotta cheesecake on the menu? But the decision was not mine to make, and I found it was a good thing it wasn’t. While I’m sure the cheesecake is incredible (everything we tried really was) and prettier to look at on a plate, I think it must pale in comparison to those prunes. The prunes were sweet and rich and oh so flavorful, and balanced perfectly with the smooth creamy flavor of the mascarpone. I think we would have taken turns licking the plate if we didn’t think it would be frowned upon.

A few weeks ago I started thinking again about those prunes and wondered if I couldn’t find a recipe that would perhaps come close. I was so surprised and thrilled to immediately find Frankie’s recipe – the exact one we’d drooled over that night in New York! I immediately emailed Theresa and my mom with a link to the recipe and lots of exclamation points and it was decided – perfect dessert for New Year’s Eve. It couldn’t be easier and I’m happy to say it transported us right back to that dimly lit Manhattan restaurant. It’s a short list of ingredients that just sits on the stove for a while. Make sure your wine is one you’d be happy drinking, and your mascarpone is of good quality. When there are so few ingredients they really shine through. And the best thing about making it at home? Once you’ve scraped up as much as you can with a spoon you can feel free to lick your plate. You’ll never look at prunes the same way again. I promise. Happy New Year!

Wine-Stewed Prunes and Mascarpone
Adapted from Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli

1 pound pitted prunes (about 40)
1¼ cups sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
2½ cups dry red wine
2 8-ounce containers mascarpone

Combine prunes, sugar, cinnamon and wine in a pot over medium-high heat. When mixture boils, reduce to simmer and cook 45 minutes, until liquid has turned to syrup.

Remove from heat, and rest at least 15 minutes. Spread a mound of mascarpone on each serving plate, top with 6 prunes and drizzle with syrup. Serve immediately. Or feel free to make the prunes in advance and then heat just a bit and assemble immediately before serving.

They say it makes 6 servings – but we’re stretching ours to 10 with no problem.

Baking with Andrea: Chocolate Cake with Raspberries

I think when Theresa and Elias asked if I’d do some baking here from time to time we all envisioned posts of cookies and cakes and delicious sweet things – in other words, dessert. And that just hasn’t happened. We got distracted somehow. But today we are remedying that. Today we have cake.

There’s something about a cake that just screams “celebration!” in a way that not much else does. We all have our favorite cake memories. The ones from birthdays or weddings or other celebrations – remembered just as much (or more) for the occasion they marked as for the cake itself – whether it was something sophisticated from your adulthood, or something frivolously decorated for your 5th birthday, or the first cake you baked yourself. I clearly remember the first cake I baked myself. I don’t remember how old I was…it must have been later in my elementary school years. Theresa and I decided we were going to make a cake and for the first time we weren’t going to make it from the box. In fact, we weren’t even going to use a recipe. We were going to make it up and we had it all built up in our heads. It would be chocolate and it would be fabulous! I remember the disappointment when our mom in her wisdom told us we couldn’t just make it up…when she told us we had to find a recipe in her well-worn Betty Crocker cookbook and start there. But the disappointment quickly dissipated as we measured and mixed and baked and frosted and I remember that first cake being a thing of real accomplishment and beauty. And while my baking skills have come a long way since then, unlike others’ early tales of baking and parents who had to pretend to eat and enjoy whatever came out of the oven, that cake really was good.

Lately, it doesn’t take much of a “celebration” for me to justify making a cake, but this cake in particular had purpose. This summer I have the privilege, really, the honor, of doing cakes for a couple different weddings. The first was for my cousin Mary, the second is for a the brother of a friend whose family has been close to a “second family” since I moved away from my Idaho home. Now I realize saying I’m making a “wedding cake” sounds spectacular – it conjures visions of towers and tiers and extravagance. But that’s not what we’re doing here.

Mary’s reception was laid-back picnic style and instead of a lavish wedding cake, she asked if I could make something small and simple…something just for the two of them to ceremonially cut and eat while the guests indulged in cupcakes. We were going for simplicity and deliciousness, decorated with sunflowers saved from the bridesmaid’s bouquets. For James, we’re still deciding on some details, but as we made a date to sit down and talk I made cake to “sample”. Let me tell you, when I opened up my carrier there were audible gasps…and there’s not much more rewarding than those gasps…that and people who ask for seconds – both of which happened that night. And this that I have here for you today, this is that cake. I only used half of it that night to make a small 6 inch cake, so the rest of it was just waiting to be assembled and shared this weekend.

I started with a favorite chocolate cake recipe and replaced the frosting with whipped cream and snuck some raspberries in between the layers. Using whipped cream for frosting has been my favorite thing this summer – and I’d suggest you make it yours as well. There is, of course, a place for heavier butter-based frostings, but whipped cream? Whipped cream is light and airy and when you’re done with one piece (for better or for worse) you really do feel like you could go back for seconds. It is a beautiful balance and it really couldn’t be easier.

The recipe as written below makes a 9″ layer cake. I used some smaller pans (similar to this one) and would suggest filling smaller pans about 2/3 of the way full if you go this route and just check for doneness a bit on the early side (half a recipe seems to fill a 6 inch pan perfectly). I used raspberries here, but feel free to use whatever you want. It’s delicious with strawberries, and I’m sure blueberries would be quite tasty as well.

The other great thing about this cake is that it’s made in one pan then sliced into layers. I, for one, hate trying to scoop batter into multiple pans and attempting to make them even. Slicing allows baking in one pan and eliminates domed tops on all the layers which require trimming and are difficult to stack. However, the larger the cake, the harder it is to slice even layers – the trick to this is dental floss. Carefully wrap it around the cake exactly where it needs to be cut, and slowly pull it tight. It makes for nice, even, clean cuts.

One last note: The recipe adds a syrup to coat the layers. This adds a bit of extra moisture and flavor to the cake. If you’re really trying to cut corners, you can leave this out. But it really doesn’t take much time and especially if you’re planning to make the cake ahead of time or have it last a couple days I’d do the extra step.

Now, today deserves some celebration, so go make cake!

Chocolate cake with raspberries and whipped cream
Adapted from Macrina Bakery’s Mom’s Chocolate Cake

For the cake:
2 eggs
¾ cup whole milk
1/3 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1¾ cups granulated sugar
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup dark cocoa powder, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ cup boiling water

For the syrup:
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water

Whipped cream:
3 cups heavy whipping cream
About 4 to 6 tablespoons granulated sugar

Raspberries:
1 pint fresh raspberries, rinsed
1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 325° F. Prepare a 9×3″ round cake pan or springform pan by spraying the inside of the pan with nonstick cooking spray or brush with oil. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, then spray the bottom of the pan (over the parchment) again.

Combine eggs, milk, canola oil, and vanilla in a medium bowl and mix well with a whisk. Set aside.

Whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients and using the whisk attachment, mix on medium speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Keep mixing as you add the boiling water in a slow stream, mixing just until the water is incorporated, about 30 seconds.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Place pan on center rack of the oven and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until cake is set in the center and skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare the syrup: Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stirring frequently, cook until sugar is dissolved and liquid is syrupy, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Prepare the raspberries: Combine raspberries with the sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.

Prepare the whipped cream: Pour the whipped cream into a bowl and with the whisk attachment of your stand mixer whip the cream until peaks begin to hold their shape. Add in the granulated sugar (to taste) and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. When I’m using whipped cream to frost a cake I whip it just a bit stiffer than I when I’m going to, say, dollop it on the top another dessert.

Invert the cooled cake to remove from the pan (or remove the sides if using a springform pan). Peel the parchment off. Carefully slice the cake into 3 equal layers. Place the bottom layer on a serving plate. Brush with a little syrup using a pastry brush. Place a layer of raspberries on top of the cake layer, then spread a generous layer of whipped cream over the berries. Place the middle layer on top and repeat with syrup, berries and whipped cream. Add the final cake layer and spread an even layer of whipped cream over the top and sides of the cake.

Cake should be stored in the refrigerator, but is best served at room temperature. Just take it out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.

Baking (or not) with Andrea: Guacamole

Theresa and I come from a family that loves our Mexican food. And as well as Elias fits in and has become one of the family, he still refuses to agree when we pick Mexican as the one type of food we’d eat forever if we were forced to choose. Our family favorite restaurant for any occasion (good, bad, or a Tuesday…it never takes much to justify a trip) is in Sandpoint, Idaho – the bigger small town about 30 miles away from the tiny town we grew up in. It’s called Jalapeños. We call it Hals. Each of us has a favorite dish – the one we order pretty much every time – and my dad is really the only “adventurer” who will branch out in the menu pretty regularly. And on the way home, even though we’re stuffed to the brim, we stop at Dubs – the burger joint at the edge of town that has the best dipped ice cream cones in the world. The whole ritual is a deep-rooted tradition. Somehow in Seattle we haven’t found the equivalent of Hals. Partly, I’m sure, due to the many incredible options we have where none of them have launched into the “must go for every occasion” category, and partly because Seattle doesn’t have anything with the same history of family tradition….nostalgia often trumps most things.

So it was only fitting when we were all together at the beach a couple weeks ago, celebrating spring and vacation and birthdays, that we did a night of Mexican food. Mom had taken a class and learned to make tamales along side a Cuban orange and onion salad. We lined up at the counter, with the windows overlooking the ocean, to stuff and roll tamales, to chop and slice and mix while Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers sang through the speakers about senoritas and cantinas (it was the best homage to South of the border we could find on our iPods). And, as is always essential to any Mexican meal, there were chips and salsa and margaritas with salt. And, of course, there was guacamole.

I’m happy any time there’s an avocado involved in pretty much anything, but this is my favorite way to have them. The recipe comes from a cookbook given to me by my aunt for Christmas a few years ago. The book caught her eye because it tells stories of Seattle and features local ingredients – and I don’t want to belittle that because it really is lovely – but it was this condiment alone that grabbed my attention and won me over. I immediately made it for a New Year’s Eve Party a week later and I haven’t stopped making it since. I still remember the first time I was served guacamole with lime – lime as a key flavor, not just as a hint in the background – it was a revelation! And this recipe has that same punch of lime flavor paired with creamy chunks of avocado and it’s all wrapped together and enveloped by those funny little tomatillos. Piled up high on a chip it almost makes the rest of the meal unnecessary.

Technically, this is Tom Douglas’ avocado-tomatillo salsa…but I call it guacamole, and I call it mine. And with Cinco de Mayo just around the corner, I think you should give it a try, and you just might end up claiming it as your own.

Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa
Taken from Tom Douglas’ “Tom’s Big Dinners: Big-Time Home Cooking for Family and Friends” (with my riff on his instructions)

1/2 lb tomatillos (about 8), husked and cut into quarters
1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 ripe avocados, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
salt and pepper

Process tomatillos in a food processor until coarsely pureed (not super smooth – there should be a bit of chunkiness and texture to it). Strain mixture and discard the liquid (puree doesn’t need to be completely dry – I put it in the strainer and press lightly with my hands to just enough to drain any excess moisture). Stir in the remaining ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 2 cups.

Everything but the avocados can be done the day before – just wait to add the avocados right before serving. This works (and I’ve done it many times – especially if I’m taking it somewhere) if you know you’ll be pressed for time, but it really is best made just before serving.

Baking with Andrea: Dutch Babies

It’s hard to go wrong with a pan of Dutch babies. Really hard. It’s a recipe that’s a favorite for it’s simplicity….for the way I know it by heart….the way I’ve made it more times than I can count and I still get excited about it…..the way it magically puffs into billowy perfection in the oven…..and the way it’s been the meal that has sustained so many of my favorite every-day parts of life and been shared with the very best of the people in my life.

Our family has some dear friends who spent the years of our childhood on the mission field in Mexico. As we supported them through letters and packages we also took a couple family road trips to visit them. There are so many things that stand out about these visits – making forts in the abandoned construction site, trips to the tortilla factory and the taco stand, celebrating birthdays and putting on productions…and Dutch babies. Shelley was amazing at making so much with what she had available in unpredictable Mexican grocery stores that wouldn’t make the American’s who had come to visit sick. And on one of those mornings, accompanied by orange juice squeezed fresh from the orange tree in their back yard she served us Dutch babies. And since that morning the recipe has traveled with me as my own.

They’ve played centerpiece at many a Sunday brunch with assorted friends, and countless breakfasts on my parents back deck on lazy summer mornings, not to mention the summer I made them the most as a midnight “snack” – that summer in college where my roommate and I would be up into the wee mornings and sometime after midnight one of us would inevitably suggest Dutch babies…20 minutes later we’d have the pan between us and we’d finish them off before finally dragging ourselves off to bed.





I’ve seen other recipes for these….recipes that dress them up and add things in or play with the proportions…but honestly, this is the way I love it. Sure, play with it if you want – add a splash of vanilla or some lemon zest to the batter…..sometimes I line the bottom of the pan with slices of fresh peaches or pears (after the butter is melted and before the batter is poured in). But for the first time, make them in their purest form garnished simply with some fresh-squeezed lemon juice and a sprinkling of powdered sugar – it’s hard to improve upon. And they really couldn’t be easier. All three ingredients go into the blender at once and after a quick zizz they pour directly into a hot pan and into the oven. You close the door and 20 minutes later open it to an extravagant puff! – the edges are golden and sometimes a little bit crispy, the middle cracked just a bit, and where the middle stays where you left it, the edges have leapt high. It’s a brilliant surprise every time.

And once you get past the making babies jokes, quietly snicker just once more with your eyes reverently closed as someone (probably your brother-in-law) gives thanks for these babies you’re about to eat.

Dutch Babies
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
4 eggs

Put the butter in the bottom of a pie plate or cast-iron skillet (8 or 9 inch pan) and place it in the oven to melt as the oven preheats to 425°.

Meanwhile – put the milk, flour and eggs in a blender and whizz to combine. Once the oven is heated and the butter in the pan melted carefully pour in the batter. Bake for 20 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve immediately!

To top them – you really can’t go wrong. Try some fresh lemon juice and powdered sugar, maybe with some fresh berries if you’ve got them. Berry sauce/syrup or maple syrup is delicious. A bit more decadently, you can never go wrong with lemon curd. Caramelized apples work brilliantly. Pretty much anything you like to put on a pancake (and more) is fair game!

Baking with Andrea: Savory Bread Pudding

With Thanksgiving fast approaching I thought that for this month’s post we should do something to celebrate just a bit and kick-off the holiday season. When it comes to food every family seems to have their favorites – especially when it comes to Thanksgiving. You probably couldn’t imagine sweet potatoes or stuffing any way other than the way your family does them, so I won’t even try to change your mind on those Thanksgiving dinner essentials. I know well enough to know I would be completely ignored. So instead, let’s talk breakfast. For the last couple years our mom has put Theresa and I in charge of Thanksgiving breakfast. It makes sense – she has the bigger meal to worry about and shouldn’t need to come up with a substantial breakfast for a house-full of guests on top of that. And I’d much rather be busy baking something delicious than risk being called on to help wrestle the raw turkey.

When we started thinking about the menu for this year’s breakfast I remembered this recipe for a savory bread pudding that I’d printed off months ago and put away for another time. The recipe comes from Macrina Bakery, which has remained my favorite Seattle bakery since I discovered it top of Queen Anne hill during college. Now, Seattle has no shortage of perfect little bakeries and coffee shops (if you know anything about Seattle at all you know this), and while others have weaseled their way into my heart here and there, Macrina is the one that remains consistently at the top of my list. Last weekend we decided to do a “trial run” just to make sure it was Thanksgiving-worthy. And oh my goodness! Family – get excited! The flavors were the perfect blend of sweet and savory with a bright tang from the cranberries. It screamed fall and holiday and warmth and comfort with a little bit of modern edge. It is a whole meal in one casserole dish with the bread, eggs, milk, and sausage all cooked right in, eliminating the need for too much in the way of side accompaniments. I think on Thanksgiving we’ll serve ours with a side of fruit salad, or a bowl of warm applesauce with some sliced oranges on the side to play off the orange zest and cinnamon in the pudding….and of course, plenty of good coffee. Delicious and satisfying in all of the very best ways!

The recipe takes some time – not that it’s really complicated, nor does it take more prep-time than your average meal, it just requires time for the bread to soak up the custard, then over an hour of baking time, then a good half hour for it all to sit and the custard to firm up. So just be prepared. If you’re also cooking Thanksgiving dinner (or just not wanting to get up quite so early) I’d suggest making it the day before and re-warming it in the oven the next morning. Or, take a cue from my mom and put someone else in charge of it. Happy Thanksgiving!

Savory Bread Pudding with Cranberries, Sausage and Chevre
From Macrina Bakery

2 cups whole milk
2 cups half and half
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp freshly grated orange zest
1 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh sage
3 egg yolks
2 eggs
4 cups oven-dried white bread cubes (about 3/4 loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes)
4 cups oven-dried dark bread cubes (about 3/4 loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes)
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
6 oz (about 4 links) pork sausage, fully cooked and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
6 oz goat cheese

Preheat oven to 325°F. Oil a 9-inch square baking pan.

Combine milk, half and half, brown sugar, cinnamon, orange zest, sage, egg yolks and eggs in a medium bowl. Whisk until thoroughly blended and set aside.

Place bread cubes in a large bowl and add cranberries, cooked sausage and melted butter. Toss until evenly distributed then transfer to the prepared baking pan. Pour milk mixture over the top, not quite filling the pan. Stir slightly with a wooden spoon (my pan was much too full to do so – if that is the case, don’t worry about it). Crumble goat cheese on top of bread cubes. Place a plate on top of the bread cubes to weigh them down and help absorb all of the moisture. Set aside for 20 minutes.

Remove the plate and wrap the baking pan tightly with aluminum foil. Poke 2 small vent holes in opposite corners of the foil. Place pan in the center of a large roasting pan, at least 2 inches deep, and place the roasting pan on center rack of oven. Pour hot water into the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the baking pan. (This water bath will help the bread pudding cook evenly.) Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, then carefully remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes to brown the top and set the custard. Lift the pudding out of the roasting pan and let cool for 20 to 30 minutes on a wire rack. Serve warm.

Wrapped in plastic wrap, this bread pudding will last for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. (Wait for the pudding to cool completely before wrapping it.) To refresh the pudding, simply wrap it in foil and warm it in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes.

Serves 9-12

A couple more notes:
I oven-dried the bread and cooked the sausage the day before. Basically, the bread just needs to be on the dry side so it can really soak up the custard mixture in the way the fresh bread wouldn’t be able to. I simply cubed the bread and threw it on a baking sheet in the oven at 300°F for about 15 minutes while I cooked the sausage. Give it a good stir a couple times throughout the baking time and just make sure you keep an eye on it – you just want it dried out a bit, you don’t want to end up with croutons! With this step done the day before I was able to just give myself about 20 minutes in the morning to throw it all together. After it was cooked we did try to cut into it before the recommended 20-30 minutes of setting time, and it was still runny, so as impatient as you might be to plate it up, wait it out – it will be worth your time to do so.

I think 6-8 is a more realistic estimate as to how many this recipe serves – especially when served as a breakfast or brunch main dish. We’ll have 8 of us for Thanksgiving breakfast and plan to increase the quantities to make a 9×13 pan of it. And as far as re-warming goes, it will take longer than the recommended 10 minutes if you’ve had it refrigerated – just check it frequently and let it stay in the oven until it is warm all the way through the middle.

Feel free to play with the ingredients as well! I used 1/2 cup less cranberries – some thought it was a perfect amount, others would have liked to see more. I think it would be delicious in spring with some fresh asparagus. Other fruits added in would also be quite tasty. I used oregano instead of sage, since it was what I had that was fresh. I also used Jimmy Dean sage sausage, which is my “go-to” when I need a breakfast meat. The sage worked nicely in the dish, and it resulted in crumbled sausage, rather than cut up links, which I prefer.

Baking with Andrea: Soft Pretzels

First of all…thank you Theresa and Elias for having me! And for your kind introduction last week welcoming me to your little space here! I’m thrilled to be able to pop in from time to time to share some of our favorite things.

Growing up, when we would take trips to Seattle to visit my mom’s family we often had to sit through lunches with my mom while she caught up with her friends. Some were better than others. Some knew what to do with two shy little girls, and others had boys who were completely overwhelming and scary to us. Sharleen had kids who were a little bit younger than Theresa and I. I remember her house always being immaculate and that every basket and drawer was labeled with it’s own big bold, laminated sign – learning tools in place show that everything had a place just as much as to help her children begin to recognize their letters and words. Their kids were a few years younger than we were, yet somehow seemed more responsible. I remember driving away from their house with my mom saying “Maybe I need to make you little buckets with cleaning supplies so you can clean the bathrooms just like Luke and Jane do” – Sharleen gave our mom ideas we never wanted her to have. But looking back, it’s forgivable when I consider the many brilliant ideas Sharleen had as well – perhaps the best being this pretzel recipe. I often forget that this is someone else’s recipe. It just seems as if it’s always been ours. In fact, I’d bet our family has made these pretzels far more often than their family has. You see, they’re the perfect accompaniment to a large pot soup or chili on a brisk fall day, perhaps after a trip to the pumpkin patch. They’re just as easy as they are delicious. And if walking the streets of Manhattan with a fresh pretzel from a street vendor in hand is not a possibility – throwing together a batch of these and pulling them fresh from the oven is a good consolation.

I know some people get intimidated the moment yeast is mentioned – but please don’t let that deter you! These really couldn’t be easier and are practically fool-proof. They take just a couple minutes to mix up in one bowl with one spoon, don’t need any rising time, and the only kneading involved is really just a bit of mixing with your hand to bring it all together in the end.

Soft Pretzels
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups flour
1 egg
coarse salt (e.g. Kosher salt or a coarse sea salt)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl dissolve yeast in water – I stir it gently then let it sit for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the sugar. With a spoon or rubber spatula stir in flour (don’t worry if it doesn’t all mix in – it will come together when you knead it). Turn dough onto a lightly floured board or countertop and knead the dough just until it all holds together and is fairly smooth. Cut off chunks of the dough and roll them into thick ropes about 6-8 inches long and about 1 inch in diameter. Twist the ropes into pretzel shapes and arrange them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Crack the egg into a small bowl and lightly beat it with a fork. Lightly brush the pretzels with egg and then sprinkle them with coarse salt. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes around 15 pretzels.

A couple more notes: To shape them we have always simply tied them in knots, rather than forming the traditional pretzel shape – it seems to work better. But feel free make yours any size/shape you prefer. These are best the day they’re made and usually we have no problem eating them all in one sitting, but if you have any leftover they tend to keep better unsealed – if they’re sealed the salt attracts liquid and makes them soggy on top. This recipe also doubles quite easily if you’re serving a crowd – four of us can polish off one batch with no problem what-so-ever!

Introducing…

Meet Andrea. Andrea is my only sister, best friend, and one of the finest bakers around. For several years now we have talked about some day opening a bakery. We have even chosen a location to open shop that we fondly refer to as “The Bakery”, even though it is just a rather oddly shaped house across the street from my apartment building where the renters tend to come and go. As we don’t have the means to open our own bakery just yet, we will continue to dream, and Andrea will continue to dazzle with cookies, birthday cakes and desserts. In addition to dessert, she can whip out a fine loaf of bread, has been experimenting with the re-creation of our Grandma Miller’s famous dinner rolls and makes a mean dinner.

Andrea has agreed to grace our blog every now and then with recipes and photos of her baking/cooking process. Get ready for some mouth-watering posts!