Friday 23 July 2021

An Announcement and a Consolation Prize (Spoiler Alert: the Prize is Sourdough)

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Hi, friends! Yes, I'm still alive and no, I'm probably not going to start this blog back up – I just don't have time anymore, what with my full-time job, my budding freelance writing career, and the novel(s?) I'm trying to write while I continue to try to get my second memoir published. If you can believe it, that's only like 60% of what I have going on right now. 

But I'm not here to participate in the glorification of busy! To be honest, nobody should be as busy as I am. I wouldn't choose this life if there weren't so many things I can't resist getting involved in. What I am here to do is fill you in on a change in the FeedBurner tool that allowed some of you to get these new posts in your email inboxes. That feature is going away, so even if/when I do write the odd Linzers post you won't get an email about it after August 15th.

So what can you do about it? Well, you can check in here via the blog's homepage, but frankly I doubt I'll post again – maybe once a year or so, if at all. If you want to hear from me, and you weren't just in it for the recipes (which, fair enough if you were), you can subscribe to my newsletter: A Few Good Things. It's a lot about writing, a little about reading, and all about nontoxic positivity.

Saturday 22 December 2018

"They're hella good – double cranberry – write that": (Double) Cranberry Orange Buns for my Husband

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Friends! It is I, Anne, here for my annual Linzers post!

Yeah...I can't really believe I've only posted three times in the past three years...I'm sorry. The truth is, I've been all over the place, literally and figuratively: in 2017 I moved to Washington with my fiancé, was desperately lonely and unemployed for a few months, then started working at David's Bridal – at least up here, the brides were pretty great on the whole – and as the year turned I was exhausted all the time and really too poor to bake much and too uninspired to write much of anything. Then I got what I thought would be a great job – a writing job! – in May 2018, and the six months that I worked there were a blur of hideous overworkedness and even more exhaustion (and even less writing), combined with wedding planning and accompanying family drama.

In September we had our wedding – there's a pic below, because I can't resist – and I baked a boatload of cookies but didn't have the wherewithal to post. That said, I made three recipes and all were loved by the guests, so here they are: snickerdoodles, chocolate chip, and the surprise favorite, oatmeal raisin.

After the wedding, we had two weeks to pack before moving into the house we closed on four days before the wedding, and two weeks after the move we went to London to celebrate our marriage with friends there – see? I told you things have been nutso! Here's a pic from that trip, when we took the Overground in our wedding finery:

Then, two weeks after we got back from London, I went down to SF for a week for my nephew's bar mitzvah and my friend's baby shower. So it wasn't until mid-November that I had a moment to breathe and bake, and honestly with the exception of pumpkin pie I didn't have the energy to do much besides loaf (pun not intended, but definitely enjoyed) on the couch and watch Netflix between bursts of unpacking/painting/cleaning/home improvement.

But surely, if nothing else, Christmas calls for setting aside life upkeep for a minute and forcing some cheer into the everyday – as an example here's a bonus pic of our repainted mantle covered in holiday nonsense:

And in the name of said holiday cheer, I determined to bake something special for my husband (it still startles me that I actually have a husband). Now, this is a man who enjoys baked goods but will never, ever, choose room for dessert over more bites of meat – really, he'd rather have salt and vinegar chips/crisps than chocolate any day – which can be challenging for me, as a sweet tooth who relies on her partner to share in the enjoyment of/save her from indulgences. He does an admirable job, though, so this time around I really wanted to make something he would get genuinely excited about; as usual, Smitten Kitchen came through for me.

If he's not going to be eating something sour or savory, my husband will veer immediately toward the tart (no comment on my chastity, please), so when I saw these cranberry orange buns I knew he'd love them. To further tweak them in favor of his preferences, I doubled the cranberries (don't do this – while it was delicious, it caused a lot of extra juice, which led to the extra step of pouring it out and I think also made them take longer to cook) and halved the icing (I do recommend this, if you're not into super sweet stuff).

Anyway, as you probably gleaned from the title of this post, my husband loved the buns (again, no comment) – he even insisted on keeping all 12 for our household, instead of letting me give some away to neighbors! The highest of praise.

(Double) Cranberry-Orange (Breakfast) Buns
   from SK

AHP Note: Deb's recipe calls for the second rise to be in the fridge overnight. That sounded perfect when my husband and I were planning to drive to California on Thursday morning. But when we learned he would have to work Thursday we pushed our early nuclear-family Christmas celebration up by 12 hours and there went my overnight rise. I recommend following the original instructions, since I'm certainly no yeasted-dough expert and I'm not at all sure my buns wouldn't have been much tenderer given a slower second rise, but if you do find yourself pressed for time it worked for me to let them rise on the counter for about 90 minutes before baking.

Make your dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer (if you don't have a stand mixer, check the SK link for detailed instructions), combine:
     4 large egg yolks
     1 large whole egg
     1/4c (50g) granulated sugar
     6 Tbsp (85g) melted butter
     3/4c (175 ml) buttermilk
     3/4 of the finely grated zest of 1 orange (reserving the last 1/4 for the filling)

Add, stirring until evenly moistened:
     2c all-purpose flour
     1 packet (7g or 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant dry yeast (AKA Bread Machine or Rapid Rise yeast)
     1 1/4+ tsp coarse or kosher salt, to taste

Switch to dough hook and work in:
     3/4 c flour

Knead the mixture on low for 5 to 7 minutes, until dough is soft and moist but not sticky, then scrape dough onto the clean counter or a plate while you oil the mixer bowl – put dough back into bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temp until doubled – 2-2.5 hours.

When your dough has risen, make the filling. Melt and set aside:
     1 1/2 Tbsp (20g) butter

In a food processor or with a large, sharp knife, dice into 'coarse rubble' (Deb's exact words):
     1c (115g) fresh cranberries

Butter a 9x13 ceramic or glass baking dish and turn your dough out onto a clean, floured counter or large cutting board (if your counter is never clean enough, like mine). Do your best to roll it into an 18x12 rectangle (evidence of my consistent failure to roll out neat edges or tidy my work space is below) – the long side should be nearest to you. 

Brush the dough with your melted butter, then sprinkle on:
     1c (190g) packed light brown sugar

Add your cranberry rubble and the last of your orange zest.

Roll the dough tightly along the shorter edge, resulting in an 18"-long spiral log. Cut with a very sharp, serrated knife into 1 1/2-inch wide discs. Place the buns (there should be 12, but I got 13) in the prepared baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight (up to 16 hours).

Bake the buns. Allow buns to warm up to room temp for 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350F/175C. Bake until the buns are puffed and golden and a thermometer inserted into the dough reads 190F (for me, this meant the corner/edge buns were a little dry – but again that's probably down to the additional moisture from cranberry overload).

When buns are cooked, place pan on cooling rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Then whisk together and pour over the top (again, I halved these measurements):
     3 1/2 Tbsp (55 ml) strained orange juice
     2c (240g) powdered sugar

Serve and enjoy!

Friday 3 November 2017

A Life in Seasons (Real Ones!) and Apple Cider Caramels

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I was spurred to write this post by two things (the usual two): a big life change and a recipe I just had to share.

Thursday 15 September 2016

We Cooked Seafood By the Seashore – Sicilian Mussels and Rolled Sardines in Sicily

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When we were planning our epic European summer trip, my boyfriend and I chose to stay mostly in apartments – we did this partly because it was cheaper than staying in hotels and more private than staying in hostels (which we did in Naples, and that was a weird flashback to my twenties), but only partly.  The other reason we chose apartment living was, as ever, food-related: we wanted to be able to cook, ideally making use of local ingredients we wouldn't have access to at home.

So, given that information, you might be surprised to learn that we didn't cook in our own place once for the entire trip – not in Berlin, or Bologna (where we did cook in someone else's home), or Rome, or any of the other cities where we had access to our own kitchen.  Oh, sure, we made coffee, and ate cheeses and meats which we bought at markets and grocery stores, and drank wine...but we didn't actually cook a meal.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

My Bologna Has a First Name – Learning to Make Pasta the Bolognese Way with Taste of Italy

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Holy crap – it’s been a YEAR since I posted here.  I am so ashamed.  To be fair, the past year has been the busiest of my life so far: I started teaching middle school, jumping right in at the deep end with no previous full-time experience, and I was (as you’d probably have guessed) completely consumed.  Any time I had to myself was spent grading, answering parent and student emails, lesson planning, or maybe, if I got really lucky, zoning out in front of a crappy TV show with a bottle of wine and my concerned boyfriend.  Needless to say, I didn’t cook much, let alone photograph it.  Which is too bad, really, since my apartment was super cute and photogenic, and living off Goldfish all year left me unhealthy and heavier than usual by June…  


Anyway, excuses aside, I come back now to share just a smidgen of the bounty from my much-needed summer vacation!  My boyfriend and I saved up a few thousand dollars, freed ourselves from our responsibilities, and set off for Europe the week after school let out – we went to Berlin for a week, then took trains through Austria and all down through Italy, ending in Sicily, and then we hopped over to France for a few weeks to help a friend with her new baby.  It was a pretty epic 7.5-week journey (all of which is documented on my Instagram feed), and while we didn’t cook often, what we did cook was as epic as the trip itself.

Monday 3 August 2015

Cocktails or Cake – Why Not Both? Limoncello Birthday Cake with Campari Frosting

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Baking with KayMoWino in Napa

Remember when I made that adorable ha-cake for my friend's half birthday?  Well, luckily for me, despite generally preferring savory to sweet, K does love a good celebration cake, so when her full birthday rolled around this year she requested a cake that incorporated one of her favorite things: booze.  Specifically, Campari, which she fell in love with during a trip to Italy a couple years ago and which has been so well-loved as to have spawned its own hashtag.

Even better than suggesting (I won't go so far as to say demanding) a specific cake for her birthday, K suggested we bake it together, at my parents' house in the Napa Valley.  K is a food blogger too, although she focuses more on savory dishes and wine pairings, and while we've cooked together (we lived together for a while and we made some delicious dinners) we've never baked.  Plus, since she moved to Napa last year we get far too little bonding time, and this sounded like an excellent way to get some 'us' time (plus our assistant, but he's good at respecting our girl time).

Baking with KayMoWino in Napa

So without further ado, to the cake-baking!  Of course, we started with booze: Negronis (a classic Campari drink), natch, mixed by our handsome assistant (to whom also goes credit for all the photos herein and on Flickr).

Tuesday 2 June 2015

Another Win for Laziness: Chocolate Chip (Etc) Cookie Bars

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Chocolate chip cookie bars with Nutella

The first time, I made them because I needed something easy and transportable for a graduation party and I knew I wouldn't have time to wait for the butter in my freezer to soften, or to make multiple batches of drop cookies.  I googled 'melted butter cookie bars' and voila!  Bloggers to the rescue, as usual.

The recipe was super simple and I had all the ingredients, plus some pecans I thought would enhance the flavor of half the bars (we have a friend with a nut allergy so I wanted to leave half plain), and nobody was expecting cookies so the pressure was off.  I gave it a go and an hour later my companion and I were burning our fingers trying to 'test' the batch.

Once we were able to try a bite, we agreed: these things are good.  So good that I ate three that night, which is unusual for me – often when I bake something, no matter how tasty it is, I tire of it quickly and am obliged to convince someone else to eat the rest.  It's no coincidence that I favor tall boyfriends with hollow legs ;)

In this case, though, not only did I eat a bunch of the baked good in question but I also started thinking about making them again almost immediately upon leaving the party (I nearly brought home a couple bars but I stopped just short of embarrassing myself that much).  So when I was gifted two glass jars of Nutella from Italy and was antsy to use one as a wine glass, I knew exactly how to put the Nutella inside to good use.

Chocolate chip cookie bars with Nutella

The point is this: these bars are infinitely adaptable.  They were delicious with pecans, indulgent with Nutella, and likely would be even more toothsomely tasty with oats – that's my plan for next time!  In other words, make these.  As soon as humanly possible.

You're welcome.

Chocolate Chip (Etc) Cookie Bars
    Adapted for pecans/Nutella from Em's Bytes  
    (I doubled the recipe the first time and used an 8x13 pan – ain't nothin' wrong with twice the amount of this goodness)

Preheat oven to 350F/175C and grease an 8" pan, square or cake, whatever you have.

Mix together in a large bowl:
     1/2c (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
     1/4c sugar
     1/2c brown sugar

Beat in: 
     1 egg
     1 tsp vanilla

Add and stir until combined:
     1 c flour
     1 tsp baking powder
     1/4 tsp salt

Stir in:
     1c semi-sweet chocolate chips

     1c chopped pecans (optional – you can also place them on top of the dough once it's in the pan, if you fancy the look or want to limit their reach) 

Spread into prepared pan, pausing to top with blobs of Nutella if desired, and bake 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. (Side note: mine never got as golden as I'd like, but I'm glad I pulled the first batch out when I did anyway, as they were getting close to dry.  I suggest using the cake tester method if in doubt, and remembering that gooey cookies are always better than dry.)