Nutty

Two years ago my sister showed up at Mother’s Day or Thanksgiving or Christmas – one of them – with a bag full of these spicy, sweet, salty nuts. They have a strange crack-like power on everyone who tries them. I decided to make a batch for our favorite aunt out in Long Island who takes our girl for a beach adventure every summer. In fact she’ll take any girls – all girls seem to be welcome. Boys too maybe. She’s good like that. She deserves some nuts.

This is the Smitten Kitchen recipe, quadrupled. Cause that’s how I roll.

4 Cups Nuts (any nut will do. Except the nut you’re married to), 1 egg white, 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar, 1/2 Cup White Sugar, 2 tsp Cinnamon, 2 tsp Salt, 2 tbs Cayenne Pepper, 3 tbs water.

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Combine the sugars, cayenne pepper, salt and cinnamon. Whisk the egg white with the water until frothy. Add egg whites to the nuts and coat evenly. Add the sugar and toss. 

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Spread evenly in one layer on parchment paper and bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before packaging. I made a batch of these last week to take to a picnic and found this cute candy bowl. The plan was to give the host of the picnic the nuts and bowl, but when he offered it back at the end of the night, I took it. I couldn’t help it. It’s so cute. The first batch of nuts I made were pecans, almonds, and walnuts. The clear winner taste wise in our house is the pecans – so that’s what I made today.

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Carrot Cake 101

A couple of years ago I was gifted a fantastic cookbook called “Flour”. It is based on a bakery in Boston called Flour Bakery (duh). I love this book. I’ve made many of the recipes. I even went and found the bakery in Boston. Like all pilgrimages, there was a little bit of let-down (what? you aren’t impressed that I have your cookbook and love it? I’m not the first person to come in and want to chat about it?) – but in the end I felt validated. Croissants have a way of validating me.
My two go-to recipes are the banana bread and the carrot cake.
My two biggest fails from the book are the granola bar cookies and the chocolate almond dacquoise. That’s another story.

I made the carrot cake this weekend. Try it. People will hug you for it.

As always – here’s the recipe and the visual. You know I like pictures.

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Notice I added raisins. My man likes raisins. What can I say.

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Sift the flour, baking soda and powder, salt and cinnamon. My “sifter” is a strainer that I warped in the dish washer. Just an fyi.
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Cream the oil, sugar and eggs. 

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Add your carrots. Please don’t use the pre-shredded ones. They are covered in some sort of nuclear coating so they don’t stick together. But that coating also make it impossible for them to soften in the cake. So go old school and shred by hand. 
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Add vanilla. This is a homemade bottle my little bitty sister gave me a while ago. I keep adding store bought vanilla and trying to extend the life. Poor me. If only SOMEONE would make me more. Anyhoo.

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Add raisins if you want to or if you’re maritally committed to.
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Combine the dry and wet ingredients.

Divide amongst your pans. If you are are suspicious of non-stick pans like I am – add some non-stick spray. Otherwise, be normal and healthy and skip this step. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes .
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I forgot to add pecans to the ingredients photo. So sorry. These very very important. Toast a cup and let cool.
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Then using a highly evolved Ziploc bag/bottom of a plastic bowl method – pound them into pieces.
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Make the frosting by creaming butter, powdered sugar, vanilla (poor poor me) and cream cheese together in an empty kitchen, better to do multiple tastings.
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Frost between layers and frost. You only have to make the top look pretty. 
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Take the pecans and use them like Spanx all around the cake. They push and tuck all the unruly bits into place. You have a tight, toned and together cake. 
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Refrigerate for an hour before serving and then sit back and accept all the love. 

Awkward.

That moment after you lay everything out to make Christmas cookies and you think to yourself… I coulda been watching a cheesy holiday movie. Sigh.

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Faux Baking

It’s not really faux.
You do turn an oven on.
Our wonderful neighbors make this every year and I promptly stole the recipe.
Actually it’s more of a trick than a recipe.
But it’s so good and it’s so easy.
Here’s what you need 3 ingredients:
Small pretzels, Hershey kisses, and M&Ms.

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Preheat your oven to 175. See, told you it was baking.
Then spread your pretzels out on a sheet and put a kiss on top.

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Bake for 4 minutes and take out.
Add an M&M and smush down. Smushing is a technical baking term. Let them cool and done!

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Trust me, your people will be happy. Your people will love you. More. Finally.

Chocolate It’s Bananas! Bread Pudding

I told you guys I had too many bananas.  Ok – after this we’ll be banana free for a bit.  Hope you try this and hope you forgive me for not retyping the ingredients.  (Recipe can be found in the Flour Bakery Cookbook – again).  This is the first time I made this recipe but I’m a chocolate pudding risk taker.

 

Cube the bread and put in a wide, shallow pan.  I used a loaf of day old bread from the local bakery but any old bread would do.

 

In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar and baking soda.

 

 

Heat the half&half to scalding but not to a boil.  So basically a thin skin will start forming but no bubbles.  Although I saw a couple of bubbles but nobody’s perfect.  If you are perfect, you’ll start heating the half&half before cubing the bread and whipping the egg mixture, being 100% efficient with your time.  Or you can be like me and wait by the stove staring down the liquid as if you’re eyes had super scalding power.

Anyhoo – once it’s at the scalding hot stage – pour it onto the chocolate chips – which you’ve combined in yet another bowl.  I promise you, this is the last “another” bowl you’ll need.

 

Start stirring slowing after pouring and you’ll see the chips magically dissolve leaving a big fat pot of chocolate half&half.  You can just stop here and have that for desert if you’d like.  No one will know.

 

Once the chocolate has fully dissolved, slowly, carefully, pour the egg mixture in – all the while whisking as you go (and then try taking a picture at the same time. I’m just sayin’).

If the odds are in your favor and you don’t have chocolate egg curdles – pour the mixture onto the cubes of bread.  The book calls for pouring the liquid through a sieve first but I pretended not to read that part.

Then add the bananas.  You can either slice the bananas in or in my case, squeeze the overripe goop onto the pan and mix in.  Tasty.

Then into a 300 degree oven for a 1.5 hours.

 

Once done – add your choice of topping – chocolate sauce, whipped cream, ice cream…. take a wild guess what I picked.

It’s Bananas! Bread

If you open my freezer at any given hour in any given day in any given week you’ll find over ripe, frozen bananas.  I haven’t thrown a banana out in years.  Just so you know that I’m not talking about a yellow banana with some brown spots…here’s what I speak of….

 

I have been trying banana bread recipes for years – sometimes they rock, sometimes not so much.  Last Christmas I was given a fantastic cookbook called Flour (thank you Ty!).  The author owns a bakery by the same name in Boston.  I’ve never been to heaven, but I’m guessing it tastes like their chocolate croissants (that recipe is in the book too but it’s actually easier and faster to fly to Boston and eat one there).  I digress.  You only need 3 bananas for the bread but I had close to 20 frozen (i’m bananas too) so I decided to double the recipe (i could have tripled it but then that would really be bananas – sorry). As with everything I cook – I tweaked a bit from the book.  We like to go heavy on the cinnamon and vanilla in our house so I doubled that amount, I didn’t have walnuts so I used pecans, I didn’t have any creme fraiche so I used sour cream and I threw in some chocolate chips at the end for the hell of it.  Here’s what you need for the bread….

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (or if you’re me, 1 tablespoon)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup canola oil

3 very very very ripe bananas

2 tablespoons creme fraiche (or sour cream if you’re not fancy)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (1 tablespoon for us!)

3/4 cup nuts

First you’ll need to sift all the dry ingredients (flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda)

Then in a bowl whip together the eggs and sugar (is it throwing you off that the pictures show twice the amount of stuff listed? no? good.)

 

Then whip that baby on medium speed for at least 5 minutes (if you are doing by hand it’ll be closer to 10 – which will explain why I chose to NOT do this by hand). Once it’s nice and fluffy – turn the mixer or your hand on low and slowly add the oil.  Mash up the bananas and roughly chop the pecans (or your choice o’ nuts).  I put mine in a ziploc and wack them with a mallet.  It does the job and releases stress.

   

Put the banana mush into the wet ingredients and then combine with the dry

 

Stir just enough to mix together

At this point in the recipe I remembered to preheat the oven to 325.  Feel free to do that in the beginning if you want to do things the right way.  Pour into your desired cookware.  Since I was making enough to feed a village I used 5 mini loaf pans.  Disposable, foil pans that don’t need to be buttered – not good for the environment but oh-so-good for the lazy baker.

For laughs – I did a couple of loaves with semi-sweet chips, two others with just pecans, and one with both.

  

 

Then it goes into your nicely preheated oven for an hour.  Yep – a whole hour.  Don’t be tempted to take it out early or else you’ll have some extra goo in the middle of the loaf.  Goo.  That’s a professional baking word.  These need to rest for another hour after they come out.

And, truth be told, they taste much better on day 2.

That’s 9:47 am on a Sunday in case you were curious.  At 10:47, when these babies were done, so was I.

I didn’t do another productive thing all day! Wasn’t this enough?

and this

Cake for breakfast

 You know those families that have dinner every night at 6?  That has never been us.  My husband walks in the door at 7:30pm on most nights – if we’re lucky.  When the kids were younger we lived even further from his job.  He’d leave at 6am and walk in the door at 9pm.  If someone had a birthday during the week – cake for breakfast was the only way to celebrate.  Since then we’ve done it whether we needed to or not.

I guess the other option would have been to not have cake at all – but that’s just crazy.  What are we, savages?

ps – that shirt fit him the night before this picture was taken.  Also – she requested the store bought cake – I swear.

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