Trumping the Tart

A tale of tasty trials

From Blase to Flambe

Pumpkin-cranberry-walnut-raisin-cinnamon-nutmeg loaf: a recipe of all things delicious.
We managed to eat this bread by 9pm, an hour improvement from the last TWD recipe. And a flavor improvement (simmer down, you whole-grain lovers). We took the advice from the TWD comments section and used dried cranberries instead of frozen. We also briefly debated adding chocolate chips instead of cranberry. I think I will need to start indulging my ‘add chocolate to everything’ side more often; pumpkin-chocolate sounds amazing. But our debate concluded with agreeing to stick to the recipe, as we now know where to find the canned pumpkin at the store and we are cultivating some solid bread-making skills. This bread will rise again.

However, I think a weird creativity seed was planted during our debate. After reading in the comments that this bread could possibly turn out bland, we thought we could fix that little issue. Still sticking to the recipe, maybe. Just add some cinnamon bourbon to our walnuts and set them on fire, good idea! Turns out that flambe is probably a better idea with items more plump and juicy, as they don’t burn.

We pulled out the fried walnuts and left in the other bourbon-shocked ones, still a little wet. No matter, our mixer likes wet, and with the wet pumpkin, it could churn away with much less agitation. It fluffed out a nice sticky dough mass that was still somehow easy to stretch and shape into two dough log rolls.

The bread baked for 40 min to reach the deep golden color in the recipe. It smelled like Thanksgiving-Christmas. We ate and, of course, assessed. It was a ‘good-tasting’ bread: moist, sweet-tart cranberries, and strangely quiet walnuts that lost their flambe excitement somewhere in the baking process. A good-tasting bread that will be great for breakfast.

See the swirl pattern?

Visit our host, Rebecca, for the recipe!


Wheat Loaves

We finally get to use that wheat flour! This week’s TWD took us down a healthier road and reminded us of our roots. Our first TWD was the White Loaves. We spent a few moments reminiscing, knowing now that we can make the call on a dead yeast batch and not waste precious minutes yelling at it. We know how to unscrew that stuck mixer bowl by cramming it under the cabinet and wrenching it against the wall. We know how to put away some delicious desserts.

Flashback to our white loaves

Anyways, back to the now. We left out the malt because no one wanted to hunt it down. That said, this city offers a plethora of beer brewing supply stores; if we could efficiently use a gallon of malt extract, perhaps to make 256 wheat loaves, we know where to go.

Wheat loaf making went without issues, other than the need to free the overgrown dough blob from the mixer and instead knead by hand.

Time to knead

Fingerprint test

The loaves baked for exactly 35 min and turned a lovely golden brown. Being so lovely, we of course sliced it immediately. It was also 10pm and with the bread aroma spread through the house, we did not want our pining for a slice to haunt our dreams. So good, warm and smooth with a tiny hint of honey. I hope our loaves make it to breakfast.

Close enough

Here’s the links for this week’s recipe hosts, Michele and Teresa.

For the Love of Butter! (Nectarine Upside-down Chiffon Cake)

I dream of a world where my “everyday” dessert would be a nectarine upside-down chiffon cake instead of a soft serve ice cream cone from McDonald’s drive thru. In this world, time would be  abundant and calories wouldn’t count. The last part would be important for how I baked this week’s challenge. You see, I decided to take a challenging but doable cake and add my own “spin” on it.

It all started famously. Almonds roasted perfectly! Beautiful mounds of sifted ingredients! Glorious cuts of nectarines (well..maybe not as ripe as we would have hoped)!

It was a beautiful start.

Then– we got to the point where we pulled the streusel out of the oven. It was “wet” (according to Jessica.) Sneakily (or due to a lack of attention) I had DOUBLED the butter in the streusel. Who adds more butter to any of Julia’s recipe’s? Two thumbs point to this girl. No problem, dust off and get back on that horse. I dash off to the store and Jessica remakes the streusel.

Attempt number one                                                              Attempt number two

Fast forward past the whipping of the eggs and folding of the batter

and we find ourselves at the end. This is the moment where I decided I need to live in a world where calories don’t count. Jessica pulled the cake out off the oven only to find a river of butter coming from the bottom of the spring form pan. Mortified, I look back at the recipe. Again I had DOUBLED the butter for the base. Instead of a half stick, I read half a cup and didn’t look back.

So here we sit 82 minutes later, waiting in anticipation of our butter laden nectarine upside-down chiffon cake. Because we live in a world where time and calories matter–we are hoping the cake hurries to bake and the excess butter gets steamed out. It will be rich and delicious for sure. A little extra butter can’t hurt, even in this world.

We shall see…..
* Side note: I was mistaken, a little extra butter did not help our cause. When we flipped the cake it ended up having excessive liquid which made the cake a touch soggy.  We ate and enjoyed it anyway!

Undertaking the Popover

So over the pop-ular vacation spots, Hannah and I popped over to Walla Walla, WA, last weekend. I think all that sunshine overpopped our brain cells, as we forgot all about the berry galette. It looked delicious, see here or here for the lovely recipe hosts’ posts.

Just a pop of Walla Walla flavor, then onto this week’s project:

Big reds here, ladies. 100+ wineries populate this valley.


Popovers. So simple, all you need is a blender. And a microwave. Our microwave died last week.

Here’s how to warm butter: not in a 400 deg oven.

Burnt and boiling. But save the scorching-hot glass, it melts the next batch of butter.

Aw, three eggs warmed slowly in three hands.

Forget the personal touch, we still have working hot water.

Still Life: Milk in Hot Water with Three Bubbles.

For lack of more ‘pop’ words, our eyes did pop over this easy recipe. We stuck everything in a blender and pureed away.

Star of the show, it deserves a large photo op.

Simply pour into the baking cups. We had tried to anchor a piece of parchment paper to the bottom of each cup to help the little poppers come out.

Pop-tastic, and pretty!

Sadly, some batter snuck under that parchment paper, resulting in popover cement at the bottom of the pan. No matter, there was plenty on the upper side.

Our insides were hollow with none of the doughy-ness we read about (because we’ve been going to the gym). We liked them hollow, good to fill with butter, honey, Nutella…an over pop-ulous party of possibilities 🙂

You have one for me, yes?

So delicious!

Goodbye July Pie

It was an event-packed summer weekend to say goodbye to July, with some late-night baking squeezed in. Our blog this week is therefore a photomontage.

The crust was delicious, very flaky. The filling was also wonderful, with just the right amount of lemon. If only we could figure out how to thicken it. No matter, it made a great fruit soup.

This pie was a fun little summer project and a great dessert to carry us into another hopefully-warm month!

A Story: Semolina Bread

Much like a cheap mystery novel where you read the beginning, scan the middle, and finish the end, is my story with the Semolina bread.

In the beginning: 

“It’s dead.”

“No, it can’t be–just give it time.”

“The water was hotter than a hot tub and it is still not foaming. I’m telling you, it…is…dead.”

Not trusting Jessica’s opinion, I remove myself from my window seat and peer into the metal bowl she is holding. The yeast is indeed dead.

“Doesn’t yeast have to eat? What if I sprinkle in some sugar? How about some salt?”

Before I could answer, Jessica grabs a pinch of sugar and tosses it into the bowl. We stare expectantly. Nothing.

“I don’t think that worked,” I say, “I can pick some more up at the store.”

Jessica crinkles her nose and with disgust stares back into the bowl. “Nah, I’ve got two more packets of yeast. Let’s just try those.”

And we do with various combinations. Did the yeast like salt? Nope. Sugar? Nope. Is it not hungry and just wants to be left alone? Nope.

“I’ll go buy new yeast,” Jessica sighs, admitting defeat.

Finally foaming!


“What can I do to help?”

“Let’s add more flour, the dough is pretty sticky”

Our new yeast was working as it was suppose to. Fourth time and a brand new packet was just the ticket. It had risen nicely and we were now in the dough forming stages. I added a couple tablespoons more flour and pulled the sticky dough from the bowl.

Beautiful semolina flour

Still sticky

“Ugh, good thing I don’t have any tactile defensiveness.” Showing my dough laden hands to Zuzu.

“What do you think Zuzu? Jump Zuzu! Jump!” I say after I notice her sudden attention to my food crusted hands. She jumps just high enough to get a lick of the dough. Being of particular taste, she has had her fill and walks away.

“Alright Jess–I’ve got to go meet up with a random guy I met on a (reputable) internet dating site. Hopefully I don’t end up dead like our little yeast friends.”

Rolling her eyes and giving me a placating smile, she goes back to finishing up this week’s baking challenge.

what happens when you put the camera in a fruit bowl

having Naan flashbacks


“How was your date?” Jess asks as I walk in the door at 11:00pm.  The house bursting with smells of fresh bread.

“Meh, I’m alive. I consider it a success. Wait a second did you bake the bread? I thought you were going to wait!”

“It is in the oven now. I didn’t want it to rise too much and get puffy like the naan. That was naan-sense.”

The timer goes off and we make our way to the kitchen. Jess pulls from the oven a beautiful little loaf of Semolina bread topped with golden sesame seeds. Not waiting for it to cool, we cut into the tough outer crust which protects its doughy insides.

This was story of tragic beginnings, soft middles, and crunching endings. Delicious.

Biscotti Detour

Bonjourno from Italy!

Alright, not really. As close as I will come today to an Italian escape is with my lovely cup of coffee, some delizioso biscotti, and the Italian calendar that hangs in our kitchen. But I will take a little biscotti detour any day. This baking assignment was timed perfectly with a movie we watched last night on cappuccino (The Perfect Cappuccino, for those inclined towards nerdy-fun documentaries). Once past the chatty intro, I was submerged into the world of coffee. And had to suppress a massive craving, at 10pm, for un caffe espresso.

Our baking duo simmered to a solo this week. Hannah is enjoying the wilds of Alaska. She promises to bring me back a cute baby bear, as Portland garbage pickup is now only every two weeks, and I forgot to take it out last week. Surely more coffee-biscotti retreats will awaken my memory.

Mt. Hood (placeholder for some Alaska pics from Hannah)

The biscotti baking, like a quiet Sunday evening, passed quickly and sweetly. Because I was enjoying my quiet Sunday, I avoided the grocery store and unearthed (almost literally) a bag of unopened pistachios from the bowels of the pantry. Though never opened, they were still stale. I roasted them in the oven, hoping to warmly coax out their nutty essence. The oven returned to me little pods of salt, but at least they looked like nuts.

Not sure about these little guys

After our Genoise faux pas last time, I read the TWD comments for this recipe ahead of time. The cocoa powder and instant coffee additions seemed like good pairings with my salty pseudo-nuts. (I also wished I had some dried cherries.)
Ingredients went in, two logs came out. I did omit the salt for this recipe, no explanation needed.

Coffee-chocolate experiment

No no, don’t eat yet

After slicing and baking again (on a cooling rack!), the biscotti was finished, and so was my french press. The biscotti fluffed and melted nicely into my cinnamon-sprinkled coffee. The salt pods did not attack; instead, I tasted faint chocolate and a hint (very small) of pistachio. I love that I have enough for at least a week of morning coffee time. Sorry Hannah, these may not survive until you return.

Get cozy, I only have one cooling rack.

Coffee and biscotti belong together, just like Sundays and detours, bears and garbage. And baking with friends 🙂 Next time, our baking duo resumes to try our luck at Semolina Bread.

Not quite Italy, but close enough.

Genoise faux pas

Our story begins on a bright day: three ladies in a strawberry field, eager to turn their fresh strawberries into spongy french cake. This week’s project with TWD, French Strawberry Cake, was like frolicking through a french meadow, let’s call it Genoise. Only we wore blindfolds, over-confident frolickers we are, and, well, crashed into a brick cake of a cow.

Baking weekend began with a hop over the river to Sauvie Island, where strawberry season is alive and well. We picked what appeared to be three pints, and what somehow multiplied into seven or eight. More for everyone! Strawberries are gluten-free and therefore edible to all in our household.

Bend those knees!

They multiply like rabbits

We returned home, whipped the eggs and sugar, and passed the specified 10-second ribbon drip test. Hannah and I took turns folding in the fine cake flour. All the while, our butter, melted approximately 15 min earlier, grew colder and colder. When it came time to fold some of the flour froth into the butter, the butter was a bit heavier and quite comfortable at the bottom of the bowl. We folded it anyways. Cue the cow.

solid butter = brick cake maker

Spongy cake baked and cooled in a 9-inch pan. An 8-inch pan would have been better. When it came time to slice our skinny biscuit of a cake into three layers, we realized our cake would only survive one cut. To pile on that strawberry filling (there’s lots of it!), we added a whipped cream border to contain the berry lake and allow us to frost the sides with no pink smears.

Armed and dangerous

Contain that lake

Rabbit trail:
I must share with you my favorite piping bag trick, for those of you that may not have seen this before, and are not eager to goo your hands. Place the icing (or whipped cream) on a sheet of plastic wrap. Fold both sides over the mound and press out the air. Pinch the folded edges of the wrap and do a jump-rope motion with both hands. This twists the ends tightly around the mound.
Put your plastic coupling in the piping bag. Thread one twisted plastic-wrap-end through the bag and cut off the plastic wrap that sticks out the tip. Then, attach the other half of the coupling and the piping tip. Takes mere seconds.
When you’re done piping, pull out the plastic wrap, and, hopefully, only the very tip is gooey.

Back to the main road:
We frosted and decorated our cake with a selection from our plethora of strawberries. Then, we got out the ice pick and chisel and…well, we should have…we tried to cut a slice. Hannah asked me several times if I had placed a cardboard round or maybe a brick at the bottom. No, no bricks were harmed in this process.

The top cake layer and filling tasted lovely: light, sweet, fluffy. We decided to just eat the top + filling and use the bottom in tomorrow’s frisbee golf outing.

Careful reflection has led us to believe that the bottom layer is hard because the butter was not well-incorporated. If, however, in reading our story, you discover another faux pas, or cow in the way, do let us know. We will try not to run blindfolded into the next one.


Brick or not, Zuzu is still a fan.

Champagne Supernova Naan-sense

This week with TWD is Oasis Naan. I can’t say it was my Wonderwall, but it was definitely tasty. I am ignoring your groaning and will naan-theless press on with a recap of this tasty trial.

According to instructions, we mixed the dough, stirring in the same direction, and then began to knead. The dough was supposed to become easy to handle (naan-adhesive, anyone?). Strangely, either Hannah has amazing dough-magnet hands or we were just too impatient. It is difficult to knead for 10 min. We balled the sticky mess into a loose amoeba and let it rest for 2 hrs. Well, 3.5 hrs, due to an impromptu dinner party complete with smores and the use of our new firepit. By the end of our evening, the dough was shoving itself against the plastic wrap, and it was too late to crank up our oven to 500 deg for a midnight sweathouse session. Naan-dough went into the fridge to calm down until the next day.

Calm down now

The next day, I had grand plans to awaken our home to a warm cloud of bread and cumin. Too bad I am not a morning person, and no threat of overfluffed dough can apparently change that. So at 5:30pm, after the dough had continued to slowly rise in the fridge for 18 hrs, I returned from work to bake. The dough was rolled, flattened, poked, and seasoned. It then enjoyed a Saharan vacation in our literally smoking oven.

Naan-dough apparently felt it had room to breathe. Or thought itself to be a proud, puffed-up dinner roll. Either way, it was still delicious with hummus. Next time, we will not be as naan-chalant with our dough rise time.

By now you shoulda, somehow, realized what you gotta do. We will try again, Oasis.

Sticky Bun Re-Cap

What can cure a blogging slump? Definitely 3 days in 90-degree sunshine. Thank you Vegas, for despite your light-show-on-amphetamines buzz, you provided my roommate and I with a much needed battery recharge.

We love vacations!

We actually did make the Pecan Sticky Buns along with the TWD group, but at the time did not want to smudge our keyboards with caramelized goo. These chewy-gooey rolls were delicious. Here’s a little photo history of our Sticky Bun journey. To summarize, the dough-butter-dough laminating wasn’t as tedious as we had expected. The overall process, however, was a solid 2 1/2 day effort. At least we have an extra sticky bun log for quicker satisfaction next time. Good things come to those who freeze 🙂

Let’s laminate

We keep the butter industry in business.

A springform pan works great. And how fun that they bake upside down.

It looks like a success!
(cookbook photo courtesy of Baking With Julia, 1996)

No excuse for delayed blogging, but a girl’s gotta eat.

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