There’s nothing like a good crumb cake to make a brunch special. Who doesn’t like crumb cake? Apparently lots of folks. It’s not that they don’t like crumb cake, it’s that they don’t really know what it is. Turns out, crumb cake is a regional dish, particular to the East Coast / New England area. Here’s a little blurb on it from The Food Maven. It has roots in Northern and Central Europe, possibly Poland or Germany (it is a streusel topping, after all). Plus when you think of a Dutch Apple Pie, you think about its streusel crumb topping. The Dutch are from Northern Central Europe, right?
Getting back to the regional cuisine bit– remember your American history from high school? The Germans and the Dutch had a lot of influence in the area (New Amsterdam was the name of New York before it became New York). So when they came here, they brought their food traditions. Although it’s weird that it remains a New England thing. The Germans, Dutch, and Scandinavians did immigrate to other parts of the country, like the MidWest and Great Lakes region. For example, there is a lot of Finnish culture in the upper peninsula of Michigan, which now makes me crave some Nisu (It’s a Finnish bread that’s flavored with cardamom and I was able to track some down on my last trip to Houghton-Hancock. There’s also a great seafood restaurant up there, BTW. Of course, I could just be a sucker for all-you-can-eat fish.). But I digress…
I know right now you’re asking, “how is a crumb cake different from a coffee cake?” Well, let me tell you. It all has to deal with the amount of streusel on the top. Coffee cakes might have just a little bit of the streusel. But the topping could take up a majority of the cake in a crumb cake. And the topping is the best part! Well, the rest of the cake is tasty, too.
And that’s a whole bunch of Cultural Nuggets for ya! A couple of notes before you start: this recipe has both baking soda and baking powder. The baking soda is there to help neutralize the acid in the sour cream. This recipe also uses blueberries, but you can use any kind of berry. I’ve also see recipes for rhubarb crumb cakes and apple crumb cakes. There’s also some that just use jam. And now for the recipe. It should make one 10-inch cake. Here’s what you’ll need:
For the topping:
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1/4 c. brown sugar
- 1 t. cinnamon
- 1/4 t. galangal (if you don’t have it available, just omit or use a little bit of nutmeg)
- 1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 stick melted butter
Combine the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Pour the melted butter over the top and mix with a spoon to form large crumbles. Set aside.
For the cake:
- 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
- 1 t. baking powder
- 1/2 t. baking soda
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1 stick butter, room temperature
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. honey
- 1 t. vanilla
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- 2/3 c. sour cream
- 1 pt. fresh blueberries
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray the pan with cooking spray and line with a parchment round. Set aside. Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and honey. Mix for about 5 minutes to make sure everything is well incorporated. Add vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream. Stir to combine.
3. On low speed, gradually add flour and mix until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries. Spoon batter into the pan and level it off. Evenly top with the streusel.
4. Bake for 45 -60 minutes until center is done. Let cool completely.
So here’s one recipe where you can use the Pate Brisee. Now remember, that recipe makes enough for a double crust pie, so all you will need is half of that for this one. Or, you could make two different Galettes cuz they won’t last long 🙂
A “galette” might sound super fancy, but it’s really not. Essentially, it’s pie for people who really don’t want to be bothered with making a pie. You don’t even need a pie pan! Just put in a mound of filling in the center and just fold up the edges to make the sides. Very rustic.
So, this particular recipe is for a sweet free-form tart, but there are also savory types. I do have a recipe for a Mushroom Galette using different types of wild mushrooms, a nice stilton, leeks, caramelized onions, and some thyme. I’ll post that at a later date.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1/2 Pate Brisee recipe
- 1 pt. raspberries (I used 1/2 red and 1/2 golden)
- 1 c. rhubarb, cut into about 1/2 in. pieces (about the size of the raspberries)
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 2 T. cornstarch
- pinch of salt
- egg wash (1 egg whisked with 2 T. milk or heavy cream)
- sanding sugar
1. Preheat oven to 375. Place raspberries and rhubarb in a medium-sized bowl. In a separate bowl, blend together the sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Gently fold in the sugar mixture into the fruit. Let stand for 15 – 20 minutes; if it sits too long, the rhubarb could get too mushy.
2. Roll out the half of the Pate Brisee to about a 12-in round. Pour the fruit into the center of the crust, leaving about 1 1/2 in border. Gently fold up the sides to form pleats; you can pinch them to seal. Brush the crust with the egg wash and dust with the sanding sugar.
3. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the crust is golden. Let cool slightly. Slice and serve with maybe a slightly sweetened whipped cream with some lemon zest. Vanilla ice cream is also a good accompaniment and maybe a sprig of mint.
I know I was planning on making some posts about mother’s day brunch ideas, but life happens. So hopefully better late than never. So this is a simple pate brisee recipe for both sweet and savory pies (I will be using this crust recipe for a Raspberry Rhubarb Tart that I will be making and posting later). You can add maybe about 1 tablespoon of sugar to the dough for just a little added touch of sweetness if you are making a fruit tart or apple pie. If you are making a more savory pie, just omit the sugar.
My recipe uses both butter and shortening to get that combination of flakiness and tenderness. You can keep this in the refrigerator for a couple of days, or in the freezer for a month or two. Since you can freeze it, you might as well make a couple of batches so you can whip up pies and tarts with no problem. If you do freeze it, thaw it out in the refrigerator overnight to use the next day. It’s important that all the ingredients are cold; you could even put the mixing bowl and processor blade in the freezer to chill them. This should be enough for one 9-in double crust pie. Here’s what you need:
- 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 t. salt
- 1 T. granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 sticks cold butter, cubed
- 4 T. shortening
- 1/3 c. ice water, give or take a couple of tablespoons
1. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor (you can do this by hand if you wish). Pulse for a couple of seconds to combine the dry ingredients. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until mixture forms a course meal.
2. While pulsing, drizzle water over the dough until it just comes together. The dough must not be wet or sticky. Press the dough out into a disk and wrap it in some plastic wrap or wax paper. Let rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour so the dough can relax.
It’s spring and I again have an unbelievable craving for fiddleheads. I haven’t had any since I lived in Maine which was several years ago. There they weren’t as “odd” an ingredient cuz I could just drive up to the Hannaford up the road and get them. It might be a cultural phenomenon, which I think is due to the large French influence in the area (Quebec is just north of Maine), and I have found several rustic French recipes that use them, usually from Northern France. That region is a lot more similar in climate to Maine and Quebec so that could explain the regional popularity of them; similar climate, similar flora. It’s that whole work-with-what-the-land-gives-you kind of thing. I am not a horticultural anthropologist, so who knows if it’s true, but it makes sense to me.
Apparently these all come from the ostrich fern. For those who don’t know, fiddleheads are the immature shoot from the fern. Now do not go and just start harvesting some ferns from your backyard. Some ferns are toxic to eat at any developmental stage and if you don’t know what you are doing you could be making a big mistake. Which is why I just try to scour the markets for them. I did find them once at a market in downtown Ann Arbor, but they were not in good condition. The season for them is very very short keep an eye out for them. That’s probably why there are a lot of pickling recipes out there. The University of Maine does have a page of info that you should check out.
It’s hard to describe the taste. I’d say it’s a cross between asparagus and mushroom. Not like a button mushroom, but more earthy from like a woodland mushroom or morel. It’s a very delicate flavor, which could be easily overpowered. So recipes tend to be fairly simple with few ingredients.
Now to prep them, you have to thoroughly clean them. Since these are hand harvested, I imagine that there isn’t some gigantic mechanical produce cleaning machine to process them. You’ll have to bear with me (or is it “bare”?) because it has been some time since I’ve made this. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 lb. fiddleheads
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 2 T. butter
- 2 T. grapeseed oil (or some other neutral tasting oil)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- fresh dill, to taste
1. Melt the butter in a saute pan with the oil over medium heat.
2. Add the shallot and cook until tender and opaque, about 2 minutes. Throw in the garlic and saute until the garlic perfumes the dish, maybe 1 minute.
3. Add the fiddleheads and cook for about 3-5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper and toss. Cook for another 3-5 minutes until tender.
4. Sprinkle on your fresh dill and serve.
Again, it has been a long time since I made this so the timing might be a little off. I still am having some difficulty finding some fiddleheads here. But I am trying to encourage folks to try something that they might not consider. Expanding your horizons can be delicious!
Just in time for Easter! I always thought that having carrot cake around Easter was a little weird. I guess it’s cuz of the whole Easter Bunny thing and bunnies liking carrots (I read somewhere that they actually prefer lettuces and stuff like that, but can you imagine “lettuce cake”?).
So here’s your cultural nugget for today. There have been some carrot recipes traced back to around the 1oth century from the Middle East. Those dishes eventually made their way to Europe from trade and wars and stuff like that. Now what we think of carrot cake today probably stems from medieval Europe. Back then, sweetners were expensive and not readily available so they used carrots in desserts and cakes and puddings.
The recipe that I use is a little different in that I use both butter and vegetable oil. That way you can get the moisture that the oil provides plus, the flavor from the butter. I frost it with an orange cream cheese frosting and some cardamom scented butterfly carrots. This recipe makes 3 8-inch cakes or 2 9-inch cakes. The pic above is using the 9-inch cakes. Here we go…
For the cake:
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- 1c. whole wheat flour
- 1/3 c. cornstarch
- 2 t. baking soda
- 1 t. cinnamon (I like Vietnamese cinnamon, but use what you have available)
- 1 t. galangal (use ground ginger if you don’t have any)
- 1/2 t. nutmeg
- 1 c. light brown sugar
- 1 c. honey
- 1 stick room temperature butter
- 1/2 c. vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs
- 1 T. vanilla
- 3 c. grated carrots
- 1 1/2 c. chopped pecans (plus more for the outside of the cake)
Note — You can replace the honey with regular granulated sugar. If you do, just omit the cornstarch. When possible, I try to limit overly processed ingredients in my recipes, hence the whole wheat flour and the honey. It’s a small step, but it’s healthier for you.
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degress. Butter your pans and line with a parchement round.
2. Sift together the flours, cornstarch, baking soda, and spices. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a mixer, mix together the honey and the brown sugar until the mixture is uniform and well blended. Add the butter and combine. Then add the oil and mix through.
4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add your vanilla to the butter mixture and combine.
5. Add your dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture all at once and mix until just smooth. Stir in the carrots and the nuts. Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake for 25-35 minutes until the center is set and springy. Cool completely on racks before unmolding. While the cake is baking and cooling, you can make the frosting.
For the frosting:
- 2 sticks butter
- 2 8 oz. packages cream cheese
- 2 lbs. confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- 2 t. vanilla
- zest of one orange
Mix together the butter and cream cheese until well blended. Gradually add the sugar. Then add the vanilla and mix. Finally add the orange zest. You can prepare this ahead of time and refrigerate up to 2 days in advance. Just let it come to room temperature before you use it. I recommend that you taste frosting before you add the zest and then after (maybe just let it sit for a few minutes to incorporate the flavors). That way you can really see how one ingredient can really change the flavor of something. You will have extra frosting so be careful how you store the remainder — I almost thought the frosting was leftover mashed potatoes. That would have been an interesting dinner!
Since it’s warming up outside, I’ve been thinking about fresh fruit and baking. One of the best ways to incorporate the two is with an upside down cake! When most folks think about upside down cakes, pineapples and maraschino cherries come to mind. But you can have any variety of fruits in the cake. That’s when I came up with this recipe for the Caribbean Upside Down Cake (besides, there were a bunch of grapefruits just hanging out in the kitchen).
The name for this recipe comes from the two highlighted ingredients — grapefruit and coconut (and rum, too!). Coconut is grown throughout the tropics (some say it is native to Asia, others say South America), and the origins of the grapefruit with which we are most familiar can be traced to Barbados or Jamaica. But they can be further traced back to pomelo seeds brought to the Caribbean in the 1700s from Southeast Asia. And there is your cultural nugget of knowledge for today (I need to come up with a better phrase than that!). I am not a food historian, so if anything is incorrect, let me know and I can further research it.
Anyhoo, for the recipe. I like the juxtaposition of the sweetness of the caramel, and the flavor of the grapefruit. Now you can use any yellow cake recipe that you like. Please do not make it from a box! I’ll include the whole thing for you! This recipe makes 3 8-inch cakes. You could switch it up and make 2 9-inch cakes, or even make cupcakes. Just make sure the cake is set in the middle and a tester comes out clean. This works best with the ingredients at room temperature.
For the topping:
- 3 grapefruits
- 2 sticks of butter
- 2 c. brown sugar
- 1 t. vanilla
- 3 T. dark rum
- 1/2 t. salt
For the cake:
- 3 c. flour
- 1 T. baking powder
- 1 t. salt
- 2 sticks butter
- 1 3/4 c. sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 t. vanilla
- 1 1/4 c. milk
- 3/4 c. shredded coconut
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray the cake pans with cooking spray and line with a parchment round. Spray the round as well.
2. Prepare the topping. Cream together the butter and sugar in a mixer for about 3 minutes. Add the salt and combine. Gradually add the rum and vanilla. Spread equal parts of the topping into the bottom of each cake round.
3. Peel and supreme the grapefruits (here’s a link that shows you how with lots of pics). Arrange the segments in an attractive way in the cake pans on top of the butter mixture; you could try concentric circles or anything that you might like. Try different things and see what you prefer.
4. Sift the dry ingredients together. Set aside.
5. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar. Mix well for about 5 minutes in a mixer on medium speed. Add the vanilla and combine. Now add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
6. Now alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk to the butter, mixing after each addition and starting and ending with the flour. So add 1/3 of the flour to the butter and mix to combine. Add 1/2 of the milk and combine. Then add 1/3 of the flour and mix, 1/2 of the milk and mix, and now the last of the flour. Do not over mix. Fold in the coconut with a spatula.
7. Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans and smooth the tops. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes until the cakes are set in the middle and a tester comes out clean. You may need to rotate the cakes halfway through to evenly bake, depending on how your oven bakes.
8. Cool on a rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to release it. Invert a serving plate on top of the cake pan. Turn it upside down so that the cake pan is on top, turning it away from you so you don’t spill on yourself. The cake should release easily thanks to the parchment. Remove the parchment before serving.
I froze the other two cakes, so that I can have some cake for the next couple of months or so. Now the caramel sauce is a little more liquid than other upside down cake recipes. This is due to how the grapefruit is prepared. I did find another recipe for a Grapefruit Upside-Down Cake on Martha’s website where she used the whole segments of grapefruit with the membrane intact. Haven’t tried it, but I’m curious how the topping differs.
Since it’s Passover / Easter time, I thought that it would be a good idea to post a recipe that could be served at the seder or other family get-together during the holiday. Now this is specifically for Passover, but of course can be used at Easter brunch. I just specifically decided to list this because of the dietary requirements for the Passover holiday.
My understanding of Passover isn’t as in-depth as it probably should be. Being a non-Jew, memories of this holiday for me usually involve huge baskets filled with candy with some weird gigantic pastel rabbit hopping about. But at Passover, any kind of leavening or chametz is forbidden. This Jewish tradition commemorates when Pharoah released the Jews from slavery back in the day. They knew they had to hurry and get out of Dodge, so they could not even wait for the bread to rise — hence the whole unleavened tradition. Pharoah did eventually have a change of heart and went after the Jews, but that didn’t really go well for him. If you would like a visual accounting of what happened, just watch The Ten Commandments. I’m sure it will be on TV sometime in the coming weeks.
Now this isn’t limited to cakes or breads, but applies to alcoholic beverages for the most part (I wonder about potato vodka). I think that this is all about fermentation and yeast. So I don’t know how chemical leavening (baking soda, baking powder) factors into this.
Anyhoo, let’s get to the recipe. This is a flourless Chocolate Torte, so it should be fine for Passover. Here’s what you need:
- 1 lb. chopped chocolate (dark or bittersweet)
- 3/4 c. butter, diced
- 2/3 c. water
- 1/3 c. sugar
- 7 whole eggs
- 9 in. round pan
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and coat your pan with cooking spray.
2. Place the chocolate and butter in a medium-sized heat-proof bowl.
3. Combine the water and the sugar and bring to a boil, making sure the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate & butter mixture. Stir with a spoon until melted and smooth (you could use a whisk to combine, but I think that would incorporate too much air into the cake).
4. Whisk the eggs to combine. Add a small portion of the chocolate to the whisked eggs to help temper them. Then gradually mix in the eggs to the remaining chocolate.
5. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake in water bath halfway up the side of the pan for about 45 – 50 minutes, until the center is set. Cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator. Cool in the fridge for 2-3 hours or overnight.
To plate, you’ll have to warm the cake up to get it to release. You could do this by placing it in a water bath (kinda like you did when you baked it) for a few minutes. It should release when inverted onto a serving plate after tapping it out.
Here’s a recipe that I found at Penzey’s. It’s very simple and has some good flavor. Here’s the ingredients:
- 1 stick of butter, melted
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 c. sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1/2 c. flour
- 2 c. milk
- 3 c. shredded coconut
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Pour into an ungreased 9 in. pie plate. Bake for about 35 – 45 minutes until browned. Let cool. Run a thin knife around the rim of the pie plate to help release before cutting
According to the recipe, this makes its own crust so do not put it in a pie crust. When I made it, there was a crust that was formed, but it was not as pronounced as I thought it would be. The pie did fall apart somewhat, so I’m trying to adjust the amount of flour and eggs in it. I did add the zest of an orange which completely changed the end product. I loved it, but it was a little intense so maybe half that amount would be enough. You could also try mixing in some slivered almonds or something along those lines to just add a different texture, if you like that kind of thing