Archive | January, 2012

Lemon Layer Coffee Cake

27 Jan

Well here’s the bad news: it’s still winter. But the good news is that This storm brought a snow day our way. I’m pretty sure I love snow days even more than my students–teachers like to sleep in too! And on a Friday? It couldn’t get any better. I guess winter does come with a few perks.

I continue to be obsessed with lemon. I’m taking any chance I get to double or even triple up on the flavor–in hopes of chasing away the grimness of a rainy winter day with bright citrus.

This coffee cake affords just that sort of opportunity: fresh zest in the dough, filling, and frosting. It is a beautiful and unique pastry, perfect for a special occasion–even if your occasion is just an unexpected three day weekend.

Lemon Layer Coffee Cake

Adapted from Radishes and Rhubarb

Printable Recipe


2 3/4 cups flour, divided

1/4 cup sugar

1 package yeast

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup milk

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup water

zest of 1 lemon

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups of flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. In a small saucepan combine milk and butter, heating on low until butter is just melted. Remove from heat and add water. Allow mixture to cool slightly and then add lemon zest and vanilla. Once the mixture has cooled, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until everything is moistened evenly. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition until just combined. Add the remaining flour and mix until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky.

Generously flour a work surface and turn the dough out. Knead the dough until it is no longer sticky, about one minute. Place the dough in a large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place and allow to rise 45-60 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Lemon Filling

3/4 cups sugar

zest of 2 lemons

zest of an orange

1/4 cup butter, melted

While the dough is rising, mix together the sugar and the zests. Set aside until ready for use.

Grease a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. Punch down the dough and turn out onto a floured work surface. Roll the dough into a 12″ x 20″ rectangle. Brush liberally with the melted butter. Cut the large rectangle into five 4″ x 12″ strips. Top each strip with about 2 tablespoons of the sugar and zest mixture and cut them lengthwise into five smaller rectangles, each about 2 1/2″ x 4″. Stack the small rectangles on top of each other and layer them into the prepared pan. Repeat until all the dough has been cut and stacked into the pan. Cover the pan lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise 30-50 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350.

Once the dough has risen a second time, bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes.

Cream Cheese Glaze

4 ounces cream cheese

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

Mix together the cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice into a glaze. Carefully remove the cake from the loaf pan and place on a wire rack. Pour on glaze, allowing it to run over the sides. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Maple Cinnamon Rice Pudding

23 Jan

Winter has me at the end of my rope. Here’s how I know: all I want to do is knit and listen to 90’s country music. It’s pretty grim.

I needed something to comfort, something that said to me: It’s completely natural to want to slowly work your way into a cable-knit cocoon while listening to Garth Brooks. It’s totally fine. Don’t worry.

This is a quick and simple recipe that uses ingredients already in your home (in case it happens to be pouring down freezing rain), but it’s rich and satisfying. I didn’t need to waste my final threads of sanity on any complicated cookery–it was a “stand-n-stir” kind of dessert. It’s so simple, in fact, that it makes even the prospect of at least 2 and a half more months of this season seem like something a person could live through.

Maple Cinnamon Rice Pudding

Printable Recipe

1 cup arborio rice

6 cups milk

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine rice, milk and maple syrup. Bring to a simmer, stirring often to prevent rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Simmer until the rice is tender, about 20-30 minutes. Once the rice is cooked, remove from heat and stir in cinnamon and vanilla. Let cool, pudding will thicken while it stands.

Lemon Loaf

17 Jan

We are in the middle of a deep freeze up here in the North. I’ve driven over a mountain and through the snow and slush and blizzards and freezing rain and I’m seriously craving spring.

Nothing says spring to me like lemons. I love every sort of citrus dessert there is, but lemon holds a special spot in my heart. I became smitten with loaf cakes working in the corporate coffee world–it’s a staple of the food case. Those cakes are packed with oil and preservatives but they are so tasty. Homemade could only be better, right?

These loaves are dense, moist, and are soaked in lemon syrup and topped with lemon glaze. Triple lemon–that’s enough lemon to beat away even the deepest of winter blues.

Lemon Loaf

Adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

Printable Recipe


3 cups flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 cup sugar

8 eggs

1/4 cup lemon zest (about 4 lemons)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

2 cups unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1/2 cup plain greek yogurt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Lemon Syrup

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

1/3 cup sugar

Lemon Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar

5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease two 9″x5″ loaf pans.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a food processor, mix sugar and eggs until well combined. With the mixer running, pour the melted butter down the feed tube until combined. Add the yogurt and vanilla extract and pulse a few more times to incorporate.

Pour the wet ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Add the flour mixture in three parts, stirring gently with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake for 25 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out with just a few crumbs on it. Let cool about 15 minutes and then carefully remove from pans and set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

In the meantime, heat the ingredients for the syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 3 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool slightly while you poke holes in the tops and sides of the loaves with a skewer. Brush on the syrup and allow it to soak into the loaves, until you’ve used it all up. Allow loaves to cool thoroughly.

In a large measuring cup, whisk together powdered sugar and lemon juice until the glaze is a pourable consistency. Pour the glaze over the loaves, allowing it to run over the sides.

Cinnamon Sugar Muffins

15 Jan

It was a good week in Spanish 2. The discovery of only grades of 90% and above on a grammar pop quiz made this señorita very happy. These results were cause for serious celebration and maybe even a reward. Naturally I turned to baking.

They did ask me to buy them something at the store, but they clearly have no idea who I am. Buy something at the store? Por favor. Their class is in the morning so I knew I would need to strike the right balance between a morning-time snack and something sweet and I knew it would have to be better than store-bought.

And then I happened across these beauties. They are muffins so they fit into my “breakfast food” requirement. And they are “frosted” in sugar, so they were definitely sweet enough for teenagers. As far as better than store-bought, you might just need to try them for yourself. But I can tell you they were quite well received in Room 205.

Cinnamon Sugar Muffins

Adapted from On Anna’s Plate

Printable Recipe

1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/3 cup sour cream

3/4 cup milk

1 1/2 cup sugar, divided

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spray or butter a muffin tin.

Mix flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, 3/4 cup sugar, egg, and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Bake muffins for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Once you pull the muffins out of the oven, start melting the butter. Put the remaining 3/4 cup sugar in a shallow bowl. Dip the tops of the still hot muffins into the melted butter and then into the sugar. Let cool completely.

Poppy Seed Cake

11 Jan

I’m not really sure what I was thinking when I decided I wanted to make this cake. Its seemed like a great idea when I happened across a photo of it and then it seemed like sort of a great idea when I saw the recipe in Lithuanian. And then breadcrumbs? Soo…I began to doubt.

But I had already committed myself to $7 worth of poppy seeds. I’ll be honest, there were moments of paralyzing baking fear: will this always smell like a bagel? But again, dear friends, I say to you carry on! No, you will not detect any breadcrumbs. No, your cake only looks dry right out of the oven. Yes, it will be sweet enough. Yes, you will be finding errant poppy seeds around your kitchen for at least a month. And no, it will not always smell like a bagel.

Poppy Seed Cake

Adapted from Išbandyti receptai

Printable Recipe

2 cups poppy seeds

2 1/2 cups boiling water

2 1/4 cups sugar, divided

9 eggs, separated

1 cup bread crumbs (I made my own in the food processor, but store bought works just as well.)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

4 1/4 cups heavy cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

a pinch of salt

Wash the poppy seeds in a colander lined with cheesecloth with cool water. Transfer the seeds to a heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let soak overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 10″-11″ springform pan. Drain the water from the poppy seeds using cheesecloth and transfer the seeds to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a chopping blade. Grind the seeds until they are a rough paste.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. In a separate bowl, mix the egg yolks and 1 3/4 cups sugar until the mixture is very pale. Gently stir in the poppy seed paste, bread crumbs, cinnamon, and salt to the egg yolks. Very carefully add in the egg whites, folding gently without deflating the egg whites until incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out dry.

While the cake is cooling, heat the heavy cream and 1 1/4 cups sugar in a medium saucepan over high heat until it reaches a boil. Let boil for about 10 minutes, stirring occassionally. Once the cream has taken on a golden-ish color, ladle out about two cups worth of the hot mixture and carefully spoon or pour it over the cake. Allow time for it to soak in completely. Repeat until all two cups have been absorbed.

Continue boiling the remaining cream and sugar mixture until it becomes a thick caramel. Be patient, this will take about 20 minutes more on high heat.

Once the cream has reached the right consistency (like condensed milk) and has a caramelly color, pour the caramel over the top of the cake. Cover and refrigerate (ideally) 6 hours or 4 if you just can’t wait any longer.

Red Velvet Brownies

8 Jan

I don’t know what makes red velvet so special, but it certainly is, and what better way to ring in the New Year than with a brownie that’s full of elegance and topped with the most insane amount of frosting. These brownies have the best proportion of frosting to brownie that I have ever seen. That’s what drew me to them in the first place–I never say no to frosting, especially delicious homemade cream cheese frosting! That, and the brownie itself is rich and moist with all the luxuriousness of red velvet. I can promise they won’t last long!

Adapted from une Gamine dans la Cuisine

Printable Recipe


4 oz. bittersweet chocolate

3/4 cup unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar, packed

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups flour

1 oz. red food coloring

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9″x9″ baking pan with parchment paper.

In a large heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally. As soon as the mixture is smooth, remove from heat and whisk in the sugars. After the sugar is dissovled, whisk in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour, food coloring, baking powder, vanilla, and salt and mix until the flour is just combined–no more than 50 strokes. (No tough brownies for us!) Pour the batter in to the prepared pan. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with just a few crumbs on it. Let cool completely before frosting.


12 oz. (a package and a half) cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3 cups powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and butter together until fluffy (about 2 minutes). Gradually add in powdered sugar until a thick frosting forms. Add in the salt and vanilla and beat on high speed until creamy. Spread frosting over cooled brownies.

(I told you they wouldn’t last!)