30 March 2011

blue ribbon baker

One of the things that I love about cooking and baking is the creativity involved in mixing up flavors and cuisines based on what I have available right in front of me.  Being, as I stated in my introduction, a newlywed twenty-something living in Brooklyn and working as a librarian, I usually find myself scrounging around for extra money to spend on groceries, let alone specialty ingredients.  That's right, I'm a gourmand on a budget!  So when that desire to whip up something delicious gets me, I often have to work with what I've already got in the cabinets and fridge.  Thankfully, the cupboards are usually well stocked with staples, my creativity takes over and the result is something tasty.  It gets even better when my husband/sous chef gets involved... and that's where this magical story begins.

     I wanted to bake something delicious and fruity.  I decided on a coffee cake with a jar of sweet and sour cherries from the green market that I had sitting in the fridge.  The husbo suggested I add some almonds (he was going through an almond phase.)  So I grabbed a bag of raw almonds, ground them up, and mixed them into the batter.  Most delicious coffee cake ever!  We even tried it a few other times with apples and pecans, then with peaches and walnuts.  It's a great recipe for breakfast or brunch or tea time that has the added perk of being one you can mess around with based on ingredients you have at home.  And it's super easy to make.  How easy?  This easy:

1 stick (8tbsp) unsalted butter at room temp
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla (or any extract that goes with your fruit/nut combo)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup chopped nuts (we like almonds)
1 1/2 cups of seasonal fruit, diced (we like to use fresh, pitted cherries with the vanilla and almond!)
1. Preheat your oven to 350degrees. Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder and set it aside.
2. With an electric mixer, beat the butter, extract, brown sugar and white sugar until all ingredients are well-combined and appear light and fluffy. One at a time, add the eggs blending well after each one.
3. Slowly blend in the flour mixture. Use a low speed so as not to make a mess or overmix.
4. Gently stir in the nuts and fruit. Cherries and almonds are our favorite, but it also tastes great with peach/walnut or apple/pecan. Be creative and utilize your local green market!
5. Pour the batter into a nonstick 9" cake pan or a deep pie pan that has been buttered. Bake 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool about 10minutes. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve warm. 

  Low and behold, (my post-wedding go-to site) was sponsoring a Couples Who Cook contest.  So, me and my new husband entered with our delicious concoction calling it Super Seasonal Fruit and Nut Coffee Cake.  And we made it to the finals!  Then I made everyone in the world I know vote for us.  And we won the breakfast category!  But we didn't just win bragging rights, although trust me when I say I bragged the heck out of this win.  We won a KitchenAid mixer!!!  This was the one thing I hadn't put on our registry but really really wanted.  
     I immediately started dreaming up all the treats I would create with my new kitchen toy.  After what felt like years of waiting for my prize to come, it finally did just a couple of weeks ago.  Remember that scene from A Christmas Story when the father wins a "major award" in the form of a leg lamp?  This was just like that.  I started opening the giant package with such care before tearing into it, immediately plugging it in and then sat and admired it's pistachio green beauty for hours while my husband rolled his eyes.  By the next evening I was whipping up cakes and cookies and this beautiful machine has been in constant use ever since!
     So there you have it.  Creativity in the kitchen pays off!  Me and my "major award" are living, baking proof.

equal enthusiasm!

and just in case you think this is all some crazy story, this is us on the internet:

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