To engineer a breakfast cake is, well, something of a challenge. Not a horrible or punishing one, mind you, but demanding enough and requiring the following: to be mindful of the type and amount of sugar, the seasoning agents, and the technique involved–all wrapped around the reason for serving cake in the a.m. (Like I actually need a reason.)
This morning ginger cake, made from a favorite (read: simple) way to put together a batter (the beloved whisk-and-stir), beams the aroma of spice and molasses as it cools in the baking pan. Buttermilk and oil keep it moist, and diced uncrystallized candied ginger adds chewy sparks of flavor.
The cake has been assigned a permanent rotation place in my log of baking-to-have-on-hand-for-coffee. That’s how good it is.
Occasionally, I’m in the mood for something bready, a little sweet, and I want it now. So, it’s one of those sluggish, rainy, lets-go-to-a-movie days–but leaving the cozy kitchen is, ultimately, not part of the plan. Who wants to leave, when I’m itching to get my hands into dough?
Here’s the outcome–a scone-like dough, formed into a plump oval, sprinkled with sugar, and baked. To keep it interesting, a mixture of moist (dried) currants tossed with coarsely grated orange rind was added to brighten and accent it all, creating a deluxe treat to have for breakfast or with a cup of tea later on.
Even if you’re a Project Baker (and in love with recipes that take two or three days to complete), this goody is made to enjoy quickly and simply. Bake on. And bac-on.
Ugh (sorry). Oh, how I dislike the term but love the idea of having a jar of favorite ingredients, hand-selected and mixed to order, for crunching and chewing as the craving hits.
While a full range of ingredients is available to craft the blend, I’m partial to combining a few select components, then moving on to another set of items the next time.
Up right now: Bands of coconut (lightly toasted), odd-shaped pieces of bittersweet chocolate, dried tart cherries, roasted cacao nibs, banana chips, raw cashews. In a finger-full dip, you get a tasty ruffle of many tastes and textures. Munch away. What fun. (And I’m already working on the next batch.)
If your ideal loaf is rugged and based on several flours, developed in the time it takes to preheat the oven, and can be chunked up and spread with butter during the cool-down time, here’s one you’ll be able to wrap your spatula around.
Don’t expect a flighty bread, demure and cushy. This number’s a tidy mix of whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, oat flour, and buckwheat flour, leavened, lightly sugared, buttered up, then merged into a dough with a blend of buttermilk and a beaten egg. Once baked, warm pieces are prime for smears of softened butter or preserves, or a nut butter–such as cashew or almond.
Do you have your ingredients measured and mixing bowls out yet?
On February 27th, I can have any breakfast I want. Likewise this is the case on any other day of the week (the cook that prepares it decides on it!), and what’s in the bowl or on the plate is usually dictated by mood and preference, but especially in anticipation of the day of my birth, I plan for it well in advance (months, really). Chocolate is my bestest flavor. Thus, a pastry or bread dappled with chocolate somewhere inside or outside routinely pushes away, say, something with fruit or nuts (actually, it pushes away everything). Or anything bacon could rule supreme. Or a hot bowl of goodness could be simmering on the front burner.
This year, I was thinking 1.) Chocolate oatmeal with candied bacon, 2.) Oatmeal with cocoa-sugar-dusted glazed bacon, 3.) Oatmeal with chocolate nibs, or 4.) Some convoluted combination of all three.
So, knowing a chocolate cake, bowl of chocolate puddin’, and/or pan full of bar cookies (chocolate) may be waiting in the wings for later on, an oatmeal number of some sort was destined to be The 2013 Official Breakfast Dish of the Pink Baker. From sweet to savory, the a.m. dish was re-envisioned. A smoked paprika-touched and cheddar-tinged bowl of creamy steel cut oats, topped with bacon, is proposing a toast to the year ahead. Truthfully, I am fantasizing having a few bittersweet chocolate biscotti for my breakfast dessert, but in the meantime, this will have to do.
In the rear-view mirror of my baking, I work backward before moving forward.
Formulas and concepts, developed first in my mind and then in my kitchen, are forever being updated and reconfigured–beginning with those I constructed in the early years, further on, and including those modernized to this date and time.
More bananas, ready to be mashed, sit waiting for me to add them to a batter or dough. Honestly, I don’t know where they came from. Okay, untruth. Bananas are so easy to have on hand, and who doesn’t love a banana something? Okay, another untruth. One or two highly placed professionals with whom I have worked banned any and everything which included them. Very sad.
Now, moving on to this gem of a sweet/savory/cake/bread. It’s a raging affair, a detour from a favorite treat, upgraded with fragments of crisp maple syrup-brushed bacon. Sweet meets savory.
I’m always exploring the notion of cornbread–it’s one of my personal baking whimsies. And while I own several cast iron pans just for accepting that pour of golden batter, sometimes a plain 8-inch square baking pan is substituted for the cast iron pan. I have no explanation for the swap. The result? A perfectly wonderful quick bread pulls from the oven in this homey piece of equipment.
The cornbread you have here is a daily delight–meaning that it’s an everyday kind of bread, not really a treat but a staple. My notion of a staple is something always craved and prepared on-the-side while a salad dressing is whisked, a vegetable is trimmed, or pot of soup is simmering. You get the idea, I’m sure.
If you have the dry ingredients on hand, plus eggs and milk, you have the makings for one warm and consoling pan of bread. The quiet whisking and stirring of a gently gritty batter is therapy for the psyche.
A bread that’s like cake.
A cake that’s like bread.
Combine crushed ripe bananas, a touch of yogurt (or sour cream), plus eggs, sugar, melted butter, vanilla extract, and the requisite leavened flour mixture, spoon into a round pan, and you have, in a few stirs, one supremely easy and delectable everyday kind of treat.
This Relax-People-Baking-is-Fun recipe has been crafted to take the oh-no! out of this branch of cooking. Even better, the batter can embrace the addition of chocolate chips (regulation-size or baby), chopped nuts, itt-bitty seeds, or a topping of crunchy banana chips. But having this confection plain–with a cup of tea or coffee, or glass of almond “milk”–is just so fine with me. Go forth, and mash.
Linked together, the words seem rather antediluvian, but the dessert itself never fails to please. The range of aromas during the oven sojourn can be spicy, fruity, or both, depending on the stuffing, sweetening, and liquid ingredients figuring in a particular recipe. A cored apple’s middle becomes a blank canvas-indentation for all kinds of dried fruit (and nuts, if you like)–cranberries, tart cherries, apricots, currants, golden raisins, goji berries, and such all have their place.
Home-style and seriously soothing, a warm baked apple can be served on its own with a spoonful of the syrupy pan juice, or dolloped with vanilla-scented yogurt or whipped cream. Dig in, please.
What a charmer this bread is–threaded with pumpkin seeds (and sunflower seeds), a batter lush with pumpkin and spices and baked to a sweet-scented conclusion is made to order for serving at breakfast, brunch, or with afternoon coffee (as well, not to be overlooked as a pick-up snack–eat plain or slather slices with jam). The batter for the whisked-and-stirred mixture is smoothed into a plain round pan and pulled from the oven about 40 minutes later, all tender and slightly puffed. A lacy web of seeds forms a random pattern in each slice. Moist, dried currants or dried cranberries (1/2 cup of either) may replace the seeds, if you like.
This everyday kind of bread, tenderly dense and flavorful, is likely to have a permanent place in your seasonal baking file.