Tuesday, January 31, 2017


I am delighted to report that I have discovered a basic coffeecake recipe. It's easy to make and has no funky ingredients unless you count the buttermilk. It's good warm or at room temperature. You can make the streusel topping at night and then, the next morning, make the batter and put the cake in the oven. Jump in the shower, get dressed, and, when you're ready for work, you can take the coffeecake with you and be a hero at work or by dropping it off at your kids' school for the hard-working staff there. Or do what I did—take it to church for the post-service potluck and fellowship.

Streusel  Coffeecake
Serves 12

Cinnamon Streusel

3 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Dash salt
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¾ cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Cake Batter

½ cup butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup buttermilk at room temperature

1. Butter 12x7.5-inch glass baking pan and heat oven to 325°F.
2. In medium-sized bowl, prepare streusel by blending cinnamon and salt into softened butter.
3. Stir in flour, then brown sugar, and then nuts. Use hands if desired.
4. In large bowl, prepare cake batter by creaming butter. Then add granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
5. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed.
6. Beat in baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla.
7. Hand-stir flour mixture into creamed mixture in three batches, alternating with half of buttermilk. Do not over-stir.
8. Spread half of batter in prepared pan. Evenly top with half of streusel. Carefully spread remaining batter over strewn streusel. Then sprinkle remaining streusel on top.
9. Bake for about 45 minutes or until cake is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

10. Cool cake on a rack for 15 to 20 minutes before cutting and serving.

Friday, November 25, 2016


I discovered this recipe in the November 2016 issue of Sunset magazine on Thanksgiving Eve. Made the bacon bites the next morning to take to a Thanksgiving meal where they were a hit, served as an appetizer. They are a cinch to make, so this is a good recipe for beginning cooks. Just make sure to line those baking sheets with foil and be sure that you use rimmed baking sheets.

Brown-Sugar Bacon Bites
Serves 4

20 thick slices of smoked bacon, about 30 ounces,
cut into 2-inch pieces

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon freshly ground fennel seed

  1. 1.  Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil. This step is essential to avoid great difficulty cleaning pans.

  2. 2.  Set wire rack in each pan. Then arrange 2-inch bacon pieces on racks in single layer.

  3. 3.  Mix together brown sugar, black pepper, and ground fennel.
  4. 4.  Sprinkle brown-sugar mixture over bacon.

  5. 5.  Bake in 400°F. oven until bacon is crisp, about 30 minutes, rotating pans after 15 minutes.

  6. 6.  Let bacon cool to room temperature so that sugar will harden.

  7. 7.  Arrange pieces in airy heap in several small bowls. Serve as appetizer. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


The worst aspect of this recipe may be that it is scaled to only make eight muffins. However, the recipe can be doubled easily, and I recommend that you do double it if you are baking for more than one.

I make a single batch for just myself. Typically, I eat three muffins the first day and finish the batch over the next couple of days. I eat the muffins warm or at room temperature. I eat them without butter or jam. However, I have eaten them with a slice of Cheddar cheese.

This is a good recipe for kids to try and, if they like the results, to add to their personal cookbook of recipes kept in a binder.

Wendy’s  Bran  Muffins
Makes 8

1 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a medium-sized bowl, stir together bran, all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. 
2. Add walnuts and stir.
3. In a small bowl, beat egg.
4. Add buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract to beaten egg; beat well.
5. Make well in dry ingredients and pour combined wet ingredients into well.
6. Stir gently only enough to moisten dry ingredients.
7. Divide batter evenly among eight greased or paper-lined regular-sized muffin tins.
8. Bake in 375°F. oven for 12 to 14 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

NOTE: To go fancy, add a half walnut to the top of each uncooked muffin.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


Homemade vanilla extract can be made with different types of vanilla beans and different types of alcohol. However, when you're making your first batch, it's nice to have everything spelled out for you. That's what I try to do here.

Decanted in bottles of 2, 4, or 8 ounces, labeled, with a ribbon or twine around the neck of the bottle, homemade vanilla extract makes a fine gift for the bakers you love.

Vanilla  Extract
Makes 3 cups

16 Grade B Madagascar vanilla beans (I paid $16 for Grade A)
750 milliliters Wild Turkey 101 bourbon whiskey (I paid $20)

1. Uncork bourbon. Pour out an ounce or two of bourbon and place in small jar.
2. Use dull knife to flatten and smooth out beans.
3. Split beans lengthwise, leaving an inch uncut at one end.
4. Insert beans into neck of bourbon bottle.
5. Replace cork and shake. Push down vanilla beans with a chopstick if necessary.
6. Add enough of the reserved bourbon to cover vanilla beans.
7. Place bourbon bottle and reserved jar of bourbon in cool, dark place
8. For four to six months, shake bourbon bottle every day or two, adding reserved bourbon as necessary to keep vanilla beans covered. If reserved bourbon runs out, any bourbon may be used to top off the bottle.
9. Vanilla extract can be decanted into smaller bottles, using a funnel. Vanilla beans can be removed if desired. Vanilla extract can be filtered through a coffee filter to remove vanilla seeds.

NOTE: Madagascar vanilla beans give a classic, robust flavor. Tahitian vanilla beans give a subtly fruity and floral flavor. Mexican vanilla beans give a smooth and somewhat spicy flavor.

Vanilla beans can be ordered on amazon.com. Beanilla Trading Company is another source; their beans are distributed by Spice Jungle.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


Whole-milk ricotta is my new favorite baking ingredient. It makes for such moist baked goods. This is a glazed cake, baked in a loaf pan. Enjoy!

Lemon  Ricotta  Cake
Serves 10

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 regular or Meyer lemons (zest and juice)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta at room temperature
2 tablespoons half-and-half
1 cup powdered sugar

1. Butter 8 ½­inch by 4 ½­inch loaf pan. Then line it with parchment paper, letting paper overhang on long sides and leaving short sides without paper.
2. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In large bowl, combine granulated sugar and lemon zest from lemons. Use your clean fingers to rub zest into sugar until the sugar is texture of wet sand.
4. Add ¼ cup of freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice and stir.
5. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Then whisk in cooled butter and vanilla.
6. In small bowl or 2-cup measuring cup, combine ricotta and half-and-half. Stir until smooth.
7. To egg mixture, gently stir in one-third of dry ingredients just until combined. Stir in half of ricotta mixture. Repeat, ending with dry ingredients and never overstirring.
8. Pour cake batter into prepared pan and bake in middle of 350°F. oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until cake tests done.
9. Let cake cool 10 minutes before running a knife around its edges and then using parchment paper as handles to lift cake out pan. Allow cake to cool on wire rack.
10. When cake is cooled, make glaze by sifting powdered sugar into medium-sized bowl.
11. Whisk in 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, to make thick glaze that is pourable.

12. Pour glaze over cooled cake, allowing glaze to dribble down sides of cake. Serve thick slices, perhaps with a few fresh berries on the side.
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