November 23, 2014

Cranberry Orange Loaf Cake

Thanksgiving is the time for pie: pumpkin pie, pecan pie, even s'mores pie.  But that doesn't mean pie should be the only thing on your table for dessert. I absolutely love cake, especially when it's Thanksgivingified with all the fall baking staples, namely cranberries and pecans with a pop of orange.

This cake definitely won't be a 5-tier showstopper with perfectly styled buttercream and cute little decorations straight from Pinterest. No, this is a dense (in a good way), sweet, moist loaf that will make all of your dreams come true. If you like poundcake, this is your new fall go-to dessert. To make it even better, it's covered with a cinnamon pecan streusel, which gets all nice and crunchy. Who doesn't love streusel? Why else would you order coffee cake?

Anyway, to make the streusel, combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon, then add some butter. I throw in some pecans for even more crunch. Streusel is pretty simple, but the one tip I have is to keep it cold while you make the cake batter. It's easier to crumble when cold, and it holds its shape better while baking.

The cake is also fairly simple. I use regular all-purpose flour; this isn't a particularly light and fluffy cake, so there's no need to use cake flour. There's buttermilk, too, because I think pretty much every cake could use some buttermilk.

I use a mixture of granulated and light brown sugar because the brown sugar adds a slight hint of molasses flavor and the granulated sugar is a great medium for more orange flavor. Orange juice would have too much of an impact on the batter's texture and acidity (which affects the baking soda) and orange zest only goes so far. To make the zest more flavorful, I rub it into the granulated sugar as soon as I zest it; the oils from the zest permeate the sugar and therefore the whole cake. Just massage the zest into the sugar until the sugar is a pale orange and very fragrant.

When the batter is done, I stir in some cranberries and pecans. Make sure you toast the pecans so you can actually taste them in the cake; just heat your oven up to 350 or so and pop them in until they are fragrant and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

I use fresh cranberries since they are available, but if you fall in love with this recipe (and you will) and want to make it year-round, dried cranberries could work, too, but they will obviously have a different texture. I've found that cranberries freeze exceptionally well, though, so stock up on a few bags now and throw them in your cakes in a few months (you don't even have to defrost them).

2 1/4 Cups Flour
1/2 Cup + 2 T Sugar
1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
Pinch Cinnamon
3 T Butter, Softened
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
2 T Orange Zest
1 Egg
1 Cup Buttermilk
1/3 Cup Oil
1 tsp Vanilla
1 Cup Cranberries
1 Cup Chopped Pecans, Toasted

Heat oven to 350ºF. Line a loaf pan with foil and grease.

Combine 1/4 cup flour, 2 T sugar, and cinnamon. Add the butter and mix until just combined. Stir in 1/2 cup pecans. Chill until firm.

Whisk the remaining flour, baking soda, and salt together. Rub the orange zest into the remaining sugar until fragrant. Whisk in the egg and brown sugar, then stir in the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Stir into the flour mixture until just combined. Gently fold in the cranberries and the remaining pecans.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the streusel. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until browned and cooked through.

Makes 1 Loaf
Recipe Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

November 19, 2014


In my opinion, you can't have Thanksgiving without cornbread. Really, every meal should have cornbread, but Thanksgiving definitely should. There are two types of cornbread lovers: those who like it a little dry, crumbly, and savory, and those who like it sweet, cakey, and moist. I fall into the latter category because I do love my buttery, sugary carbs.

I will admit that the savory cornbread works best for cornbread stuffing and other delicious dishes, but I absolutely must have a big plate of straight-up cornbread on my Thanksgiving table and it must be sweet.

Since cornbread originated in simpler times as a cheap and quick dish, this recipe is pretty simple. You have your dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking soda, and salt. The flour is just standard all-purpose flour, the cornmeal is medium-ground yellow cornmeal (although you can use white cornmeal and/or a coarser grain), and the sugar is plain granulated sugar.

The wet ingredients are equally basic: buttermilk (an absolute must), eggs, and lots of butter. You pretty much just whisk everything together and bake it all off, leaving you with moist, sweet cornbread in under 45 minutes.

As I said, cornbread is pretty simple; however, there are lots of ways to make it more interesting if eating what basically amounts to cake isn't your thing. You can make cornbread stuffing (perfect for Thanksgiving) or stir stuff into the batter, like cheese, jalapenos, bacon, or anything else you happen to have on hand.

You can also cook it in a skillet so you get brown, crispy edges or serve it with some honey butter (mix some softened butter and some honey together and eat it by the spoonful). Cornbread's simplicity makes it extremely versatile, and I'm happy to eat it with any meal.

12 T Butter, Melted
1 Cup Sugar
3 Eggs
1 1/2 Cups Buttermilk
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
1 1/2 Cups Yellow Cornmeal
1 1/2 Cups Flour
3/4 tsp Salt

Heat oven to 375F. Line a 9x13" pan with parchment and grease.

Combine the butter and sugar; add the eggs. Add the buttermilk and baking soda, then fold in the cornmeal, flour, and salt.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through.

Makes 24 Pieces
Recipe Adapted from

November 8, 2014

S'mores Pie

I never realized how beautiful Midwestern autumns are. The leaves are gorgeous, the air is crisp and chilly, and fall baking is just beginning. It makes me want a s'more, and based on which pages y'all are visiting most lately, it seems like you do, too. Unfortunately, it is getting a little too cold to go outside and roast marshmallows (but I'm still excited for the predicted snow next week!), which is why I had to find some alternatives. I've shared how you can make individual s'mores tartlets, but sometimes I just want a whole pie that's creamy and crackly and chocolatey that I can eat with a spoon while watching the snow fall. This that pie.

All s'mores have to have graham crackers. You can make your own or buy a pre-made one (I won't tell). If you do use my graham cracker recipe, roll out the dough to the same thickness, press it into a pie plate, prick it with a fork a few times, and bake until golden. I'm not sure what the timing is, but just let it bake until it's golden and a little crispy. If you use a pre-made one, you might notice that it's a little crumbly. To solve that problem, I use a pastry brush to spread a very thin layer of egg white on and bake it until it's crispy again, which only takes a few minutes. Doing so makes one clean, smooth surface that protects against crumbling and prevents moisture from the filling from seeping into the crust. However, make sure this is just a very thin layer (just enough to make it barely moist) because you don't want to end up with bits of cooked egg in your pie.

And trust me, you don't want any of this delicious filling going anywhere but in your mouth. It's like chocolate ganache meets fudge meets mousse meets heaven. You start by making a basic ganache with hot cream and good chocolate (sorry if I sound like Ina Garten but you really do want to use at least decent chocolate here) and then add an egg. It's that simple. The egg enhances the creaminess, gives it more structure, and makes it even more fudgy. It's too dense to be a mousse, but it has the same richness.

Finally, there's the marshmallow topping. If you're running low on time, you can plop a handful of packaged marshmallows on top and be done with it, but nothing compares to the crisp, crackly crust of broiled homemade marshmallow fluff. I'll warn you it does take some time to make and is definitely not easy to clean up, but it tastes so good. Start by blooming powdered gelatin in your mixing bowl (basically add some water to it so it becomes a semisolid mass instead of powder). Next, heat sugar, corn syrup, and water until it reaches 260F (the hard-ball stage, if you were wondering), then slowly pour it into the gelatin as you mix it on medium speed. If you have a stand mixer, now is the time to use it, because you have to beat this mixture for around 10 minutes until it gets really thick and fluffy. Stir in some vanilla for flavor then quickly spoon it onto the pie. It firms up fairly quickly, and you don't want it to get stuck in the bowl and not on your pie.

To serve the pie, I highly recommend broiling it for a few minutes to make the marshmallows brown and crispy, like a real s'more. You want to stick the pie on the rack closest to the broiler and only leave it in there for a few seconds until it's brown. Watch it closely the whole time so you don't burn it. When it's done, you'll have a crunchy crust, incredibly gooey marshmallow, fudgy chocolate filling, and a crisp crust. It's the perfect dessert, and it would definitely be welcome alongside pumpkin pie at your Thanksgiving table.

1 Graham Cracker Crust
1 Egg
1 Egg White
7 oz Chocolate Chips
1 Cup Cream
1 tsp Gelatin
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Corn Syrup
1/2 tsp Vanilla

Heat oven to 350F.

Beat the egg white with 1 T water. Brush gently onto the crust and bake for 5 minutes or until golden and crisp.

Place the chocolate chips in a large bowl. Bring the cream to a boil, then pour over the chocolate. Stir until smooth and cool slightly. Whisk in the egg.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the cooled crust. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until just set.

Place 1/4 cup cold water in the bowl of a stand mixer; add the gelatin.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, stirring until dissolved, then let stand on medium heat until it reaches 260F.

Whip the gelatin mixture on medium speed, then gradually pour in the syrup. Scrape down the bowl, then beat on high until thick, white, and tripled in volume. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Spoon immediately onto the cooled pie. Chill.

When ready to serve, heat the broiler. Transfer the pie to a baking sheet and broil until golden.

Makes 1 Pie
Recipe Courtesy Gourmet