There are many times in the kitchen when I want to put my own spin on things. And then there are times when you don’t mess with a classic. Think: Ottolenghi’s hummus. Jim Lahey’s bread. Ree Drummond’s Lasagna. Not surprisingly, many of my “don’t mess with it” recipes come from the geniuses at Cooks Illustrated. With their scientific approach to finding the best methods in the kitchen, their recipes are often instant classics. The Molasses-Spice Cookies featured in their 1999 cookbook, The Best Recipe, certainly falls into that category. (Side note: There is a new version of the cookbook aptly titled, The New Best Recipe. I don’t know if this particular cookie is featured in that edition.)…
Ahhhh, vacation. Yep, that is right, vacation. Much needed, well-deserved, greatly enjoyed. Don’t we all love going on vacation? Well, my in-laws have decided to “winter” in Arizona 5 months of the year, truly living the ultimate vacation. Unfortunately that means that they aren’t always available to celebrate my youngest child’s birthday on his actual birthday date (in February). No problem, he’s now old enough to understand that not having grandma and grandpa here on his birthday just means presents in the mail (so awesome) and another celebration at a later date (even more awesome). Who doesn’t love another celebration?…
My Grandma Dotty, whom I call Bestemor (the Norwegian word for Grandma), is the most amazing cook. I consider many of her recipes to be the tastes of my childhood. Her brown bread with raisins is one of my favorite things in the world. This recipe for Rhubarb Muffins comes from her as well, adapted from the muffins served for years at the drugstore cafe (yes, that was a thing!) in the sweet little town where she lives….
The winter months are not known for their abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. After the heavy meals of the holiday season, the arrival of the mid-winter citrus crop is always a welcome addition to my kitchen. A few weeks ago I bought a giant bag of fresh limes at Costco, and while a few wound up in gin and tonics, I was left with pounds of limes and a little inspiration. Enter: Lime Curd with a Hint of Vanilla. It’s an easy, creamy, bright and versatile treat that can be added to baked goods like tarts, cupcakes or scones, or simply eaten with a spoon (my preferred method!).
Lime curd is a careful meld of butter, sugar, citrus juice, and eggs. Gently heating the eggs in the presence of sugar allows them to stay creamy and light and keeps them from scrambling. If you’re into the science of cooking, check out this article in the LA Times (from 1998!). The beauty of a citrus curd is that its proportions are forgiving. I prefer a soft, slightly more tart version so I use whole eggs, less sugar, and a moderate amount of butter. If you want a sweeter and firmer version (for use in bars or pies, for example) you can simply increase the sugar and switch to egg yolks. The key to the recipe is really to take it low and slow and be sure to temper the eggs so they don’t scramble. Let it cool and then just try to keep from eating it all at once. It’s delicious on scones and really fantastic mixed into some vanilla Siggi’s yogurt in the morning. The curd will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week and freezes beautifully.
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup lime juice (approximately 2 large or 3-4 small limes)
- zest of 1 lime
- ¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
- Melt the butter in a non-reactive sauce pain over low heat.
- While the butter is melting, pulse together the sugar and lime zest in a food processor until combined.
- Add the lime juice, sugar and zest, to the pan with the butter and whisk until the sugar dissolves.
- Gently beat the eggs in a small bowl.
- Working one tablespoon at a time, add some of the lime juice mixture to the beaten eggs. Be sure to keep whisking so as not to scramble the eggs!
- Add the egg/juice mixture back to the sauce pain.
- over continued gentle heat, whisk the mixture constantly until a smooth curd begins to form, somewhere just below a simmer (and around 160-175 degrees).
- Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in the vanilla bean paste to taste.
Confession time: when a friend recently suggested making Cranberry Orange Rolls as a breakfast dish for our cabin weekend, I didn’t immediately jump at the idea. I mean, cranberries in January? I only seem to appreciate cranberries around Thanksgiving, and after that, well, I’m not usually thinking about those tart little fruits. We typically plan all of our meals for cabin weekends in advance, sharing recipes and making long lists of things we need for our cooking adventures. So a few days later when my friend texted to tell me she couldn’t find cranberries, I was secretly a little relieved. I was ready to hit up my recipe stash and find something I considered a more traditional winter staple – warm, doughy, and filled with cinnamon or maple, or even apples.
With my list in hand, I headed to my local co-op where, lo and behold, what did I find staring at me when I walked in? You guessed it, piles of fresh cranberries. Fresh organic cranberries. So I did what any good friend would do and I tucked away my old recipes and I bought those cranberries.
It turns out sometimes friends just know best, because after my first bite of these perfectly tart and sweet rolls, I knew I may have a new favorite breakfast dish. Traditional cinnamon rolls are great, but these jewel toned beauties are on a whole new level. The recipe, adapted from Deb Perelman’s amazing blog Smitten Kitchen, is a total keeper. Lesson number one: always trust your friends. Lesson number two: never count the cranberry out, it just may surprise you!
- 4 large egg yolks (we saved the whites for an egg bake we made the next day!)
- 1 large whole egg
- ¼ cup sugar
- 6 Tablespoons butter, melted
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- ¾ of the zest of one large orange (the other ¼ will be used for the filling)
- 3 and ¾ cups of all purpose flour
- 1 packet of instant (rapid rise) yeast
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- I cup light brown sugar
- ¼ of the zest of one large orange
- 1 and ½ Tablespoons of butter
- 3 and ½ Tablespoon of freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- Place egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, buttermilk and ¾ of the orange zest of one large orange into the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Whisk ingredients together until well combined.
- Add 2 cups of flour, yeast and salt to dough, stir until combined.
- Switch to the dough hook.
- Add remaining 1 and ¾ cups of flour and knead dough for 5-10 minutes.
- Scrape dough into a oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
- Allow to rise until doubled (approximately 2 and ½ hours).
- In a food processor, pulse the cranberries with the brown sugar and leftover orange zest (1/4 of total orange zest from large orange) until coarse. (you may need to scrape the sides of the food processor with a spatula until all of the cranberries are coarsely chopped).
- Melt the butter and set aside.
- Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish.
- Roll the dough out on a lightly floured countertop until it is a 18 inch by 12 inch rectangle.
- Brush the dough with the melted butter.
- Spread the cranberry-brown sugar-orange zest mixture over the dough.
- Roll the dough into a long log, being careful to keep the cranberry mixture inside the dough.
- Cut the log into sections, halving the log until you have 12 even sections.
- Carefully arrange the sections in the baking dish, with even spacing between them.
- Cover with plastic wrap and place baking dish into refrigerator (to rise overnight).
- The next morning take rolls out of the refrigerator and allow to warm to room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Bake rolls until golden, approximately 30 minutes.
- Whisk the orange juice with the powdered sugar until smooth.
- Spread the icing over the warm buns.
- Serve and enjoy!
In the midst of the busy holiday season, I count on recipes that can be made ahead in a quiet morning or two, and pulled out of the freezer for a fresh baked treat on (what seems like) a moment’s notice. This year, in particular, I have been searching for sweet treats and found a great option in these Chocolate Hazelnut Scones from Zoe Nathan and the Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe in Santa Monica. The brilliance of the scones lies in the fact that the recipe requires the unbaked dough to be frozen and then baked, so you don’t even feel like you’re cheating by making it ahead. I made a batch last week and another this morning, froze them, and then wrapped each scone in plastic wrap. On Christmas morning, they’ll need a quick 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven and that’s it. Serve them with a generous amount of whipped cream (which I prefer sweetened with a small amount of powdered sugar and a tiny bit of vanilla bean paste).