May 19, 2015

Sweet Grammy - Blonde Brownie Recipe

the world is moving and she is right there with it

my grammy

Grammy's Blonde Brownies

My Grammy

Genevieve Charlotte  1918 – 2012

A generation is swept away with the fallen leaves on a chill breeze
No longer there to pass the time to
Share their wisdom, their view of a world that now travels at hyper-speed,
Sit with confusion and pain
Melancholy and fatigue,
Mondays are for washing and hanging clothes on the line
Tuesdays are for hair and shopping
Wednesdays are for lunch with the ladies at the diner
Saturday is for mowing
Sunday is for baking and family,
Famous for banana bread and blonde brownies,
Lover of ice cream,
Bestow smiles on the young
Hold a daughter's hand ever so tightly,
Hang on to this place, this time,
Hold sway at the kitchen table with coffee and english muffins,
Fret over a husbands misgivings and whereabouts
"Hon, what are you doing now!"
“Oh, hon!” with a small foot stamp and clenched hands,
Tackle the lawn with a fierce gusto
Take down screens and put up storm windows
Take down storm windows and put up screens
Close the windows when it rains,
Struck by lightning as a girl
Hard times and displacement,
Plant spring flowers with a great granddaughter
Lover of flowers and houseplants
Johnny jump-ups reseed every year, planted by her son when he was 5,
Look with delight at a babies and toddlers
Laugh with innocence at silly jokes
Ready for a hand of Old Maid
Busy grandchildren with coloring books and crayons,
Summer blueberry muffins
Store more "junk" in the attic,
Married for 74 years,
Poppy walked from New York to Connecticut to court Grammy,
Bent back and bent fingers,
Express frustration at your own elderly mother
Tipsy with a secret glass of wine
Wearing Emeraude perfume
Long hallway past the
Dark and quiet bedroom where Poppy slept into the afternoon due to his late hours playing cards or going to the casino,
Listening, always listening, listening for what is next, listening to stories of loved ones, listening to the radio, listening to know where loveds are and what they are doing,
Drinking black coffee, always
Until her final years when she switched to green tea,
Telling her troubles to the weeping cherry tree,
Bearing her arthiritis pain with nobility
Being ready to go when the "good lord is ready to take me"
Frustration exhalation of whfff,
Washing the dishes, drying the dishes,
Making sure everyone is set,
A cookie for each hand
Reading mystery stories
Loving cardinals
Feeding the birds, squirrels and chipmunks,

I began this post  2 years ago and couldn’t find the right words, so I thought, but after re-reading, I thought it was like a poem.  My grandmother was a kind hearted special lady.  She lived a full life surrounded by her family – she was the glue that kept us together.  She baked blonde brownies, often and it seemed like she always had a batch ready in her rectangle Tupperware container on her dining room table.  I am certain she liked to make blonde brownies because they are so easy to make.  She sometimes liked to add coconut flakes and orange peel granules.

Grammy’s Blonde Brownies

Blonde Brownies

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter or margarine
2 tablespoons hot water, if using margarine
2 cups light brown sugar         
2 eggs                     
2 teaspoons vanilla
12 ounces chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 °F.
Melt butter or margarine.
In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.
In large bowl, combine melted butter and brown sugar.
If using margarine add the hot water.
Blend in eggs and vanilla.
Add flour mixture gradually, mixing well.
Spread in 13"x 9” greased or parchment lined baking pan.
Sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts, if using.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Cool in pan and cut into squares.

at work


Christmas 1979 - Gram at her stove

grammy at the stove

Every evening, Gram read the paper with her ever present cup of black coffee

Grammy and Poppy taking a trip

Grammy's Blonde Brownies
The last batch of brownies I received from Grandmother.
my last conversation with my grammy

February 27, 2015

Flavorful Apple Cake

flavorful apple cake

apple cake

This cake is an extraordinary apple cake – upon first bite, your palate shouts ‘apples’ then the flavor mellows to a deep apple and cinnamon spiciness.  If you make this apple cake, your family or friends will wonder how you infused the deep apple flavor in this cake.  They may say it tastes like apple pie but wonder at the tender cake crumb and the lack of apple chunks.  They may wonder if you used artificial flavorings but dismiss the notion after a second bite as the flavor is so real - it is like biting into an apple.    They may wonder if a Calvados or apple brandy was used but then notice the lack of a liquor zing.  This cake will keep people guessing.  This is not your ordinary applesauce spice cake where applesauce adds moisture and can even replace the fat but not much flavor.  The main event in this cake is the apples with a tender and just moist enough crumb.

The secret is cooking the apples in a low temperature oven until soft enough to puree then return the pureed apples to the oven to evaporate even more liquid and intensify the apple flavor.  Use a tart, flavorful apple but the best apples to use are the ones that have been long forgotten in the back of your vegetable crisper and are too soft to eat out of hand and may even have a slight ferment smell.  

I frosted my cake with a thin layer of smooth whipped cream frosting (recipe below) or a simple sifting of 1 tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar is another option.  I halved the recipe featured in the photos, and made a single 9-inch round cake.

Flavorful Apple Cake
2 9-inch round cakes or 1 9-inch Bundt pan

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ¾ sticks of  butter or 14 tablespoons, at room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ cups apple puree (recipe below-prepare ahead of time)

Preheat your oven to 350 F.
Butter and flour pan(s) and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, all-spice, nutmeg and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed.  
Add eggs, one at a time, making sure each one is fully incorporated before adding the next.
Add the apple puree and beat until fully incorporated.
Gradually add flour mixture and mix on the lowest speed.
Transfer batter into prepared pan (s) and smooth.
Bake for 50 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for 15 minutes.
Turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Apple Puree
4-5 pounds tart apples

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Peel, core and cut apples into large pieces.
Place on a 13 by 9 inch glass baking dish. 
Bake for 1 hour or until soft. 
Stir halfway through add up to a ¼ cup of water if the apples are drying out.
Drop temperature 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Puree baked apples in a blender; Cuisinart (or use an immersion blender) and puree until smooth.
Return the apple puree back into the glass baking dish and spread evenly.
Bake, stirring and smoothing two or three times during the baking cycle to prevent a crust from forming on top.
Bake for 50-60 minutes. 
If there is too much moisture remove the foil halfway through, just make sure it doesn’t dry out completely.
You are making a dry applesauce that is thick and soft.
If it is too dry add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water at the puree stage.

Recipe adapted from Café Fernando

Smooth Whipped Cream Frosting

1 cup heavy cream
3-5 tablespoons granulated sugar (add more or less sugar to your preference)
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

Chill your bowl and whisk of your stand mixer, in the freezer or refrigerator 15 minutes prior to mixing.
Add the cream to a mixer with the whisk attachment and set to a low speed*.
Add the sugar and vanilla to the mixture slowly.
Whisk for around 10 to 15 minutes, until the mixture begins to ripple.
Turn the mixer off and finish whisking by hand, until the mixture starts to stiffen and sticks to the whisk.
Be careful not to whisk too hard or the frosting will become clumpy.

*This method of mixing your whip cream produces a thick, smooth and stable whipped cream that will not breakdown and become runny.  The low speed forms small air bubbles that create a stable structure in the cream.  Whipping cream fast creates large unstable air bubbles that collapse and run.   

flavorful apple cake


tender cake crumb


December 31, 2014

Pumpkin Shortbread Cookies


pumpkin shortbread cookies with penuche icing

I love baking with pumpkin puree especially during the Fall and Winter season.  Pumpkin Spice Drops are one my favorite cookies but I was in ready for a crunchy cookie packed with the spicy pumpkin cookie flavors.  These shortbread cookies do the trick with their spicy snap. They are especially delicious topped with Penuche Icing.

Pumpkin Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen

½ cup butter, 113g
cup powdered sugar, 34g
1 cup flour, 135g
teaspoon salt
½ cup decadent pumpkin butter, 135g (see recipe below)
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
teaspoon ground cloves
teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix the pumpkin butter and powdered sugar.
Add cool brown butter and vanilla and mix to fully incorporated. 
Whisk together flour, salt and spices in a small bowl.
Add dry ingredients to the wet and mix well.
Roll into log and wrap in plastic wrap, parchment, or waxed paper.
Freeze for 10-15 minutes or refrigerate until ready to bake.
Roll dough out to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick between parchment.
Use a cutter of your choice to cut out cookies. 
Roll scraps and repeat process.
Place cookies on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
Remove cookies and let cool on rack.
Glaze cookies, if desired.

Recipe Adapted from 

tea time

Pumpkin Butter Stove Top Method
Makes about 2 cups

1 large can pumpkin puree, 29 ounces
1 3/4 cups brown sugar

Mix pumpkin puree and brown sugar in a large pan set to medium high heat.
Stir every 2 minutes or as needed.
After 20 minutes, turn heat to medium low and stir more frequently.
The pumpkin butter is ready when it has turned a deep orange-brown color and been reduced by about 40%.
Let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Recipe Adapted from

Pumpkin Butter Crock Pot Method
Makes about 2 cups

2 15 ounce cans or 1 large can of pumpkin puree
1 ¾ cup packed brown sugar

Mix sugar and puree together in crock pot.
Cook on low for 6 hours until thickened.


Penuche Icing
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

4 tablespoons, 1/2 stick of butter
1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup light cream or evaporated milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or 1 teaspoon rum

In a double boiler over simmering water stir until smooth butter, brown sugar, salt and cream.
Remove from heat and beat in powdered sugar and vanilla or rum until icing is smooth and spreadable.
Ice cookies cooled cookies by spooning a tablespoon of icing in the middle of each cookie and spread slightly. 

The icing will run over the edges if spread too close to the edges.


December 30, 2014

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Yogurt Muffins

whole wheat pumpkin muffins


When muffins came on the scene in the 1980's, everyone was crazy about them. People said goodbye to donuts and cheese danish in favor of the healthy muffin.  Despite the fact that nearly every summer Sunday of much of my childhood was punctuated by my Grammy’s Wonderful BlueberryMuffins, muffins were new, exciting, healthy, and fast. They were a wonderful way to eat something that was like cake but not as decadent and seemingly healthy.  Muffins started showing up at coffee shops and bakeries in the common variety of blueberry and cornmeal but bakers were experimenting with new flavor combinations to entice consumers. The favorite muffins were lemon poppy seed, oat bran, carrot and cream cheese and banana chip. 

These whole wheat pumpkin yogurt muffins truly are healthy, they are lightly sweetened and loaded with nutrition.  These were filling and delicious and easy for my teenagers to take and eat on their way to school.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Yogurt Muffins
Makes around 1 dozen

1 ¼  cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup flax seed meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin purée
6 ounces plain yogurt (Greek or regular)
½ cup brown sugar or coconut sugar
3 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons canola oil or oil of your choice
2 tablespoons green pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 375°F
Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, flax seed meal, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin, yogurt, brown sugar, molasses and oil. Stir flour mixture into pumpkin mixture just until combined.
Spoon the batter into muffin cups, filling each almost full.
Sprinkle tops with pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.
Bake until tops are browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of each muffin comes out with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it, about 25 minutes.
Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and serve, or transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container up to 2 days or freeze.

Recipe adapted from Whole Foods




October 24, 2014

Ten Bean Soup with Kale Chips



Soup satisfies on every level, especially this Ten Bean Soup – the savory aroma fills the house, the flavor warms the soul, the temperature soothes, it looks beautiful, the texture of the various beans and vegetables is satisfying and the best sound is the ladle filling a soup bowl.  I never found inspiration in the packages of bean soup mix.  As I searched out my favorite lentil, I would give a passing glance until I started shopping the bulk bins at Sprouts.  I saw the gorgeous bean mixture which is more than 10 beans, and, often offers different varieties.  After controlling my urge to dive my hand deep down into the dried beans, I thought I just have to try to make this into a soup.  The flavor is a traditional vegetable soup with loads of beans.  The best part about this recipe is you use your crock pot and cook the soup all day long!

Ten Bean Soup
Serves 4-6

1-3 cups of a ten bean or multi bean mixture
4 stalks of celery, cut into a 1-inch dice
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes or 2 big vine tomatoes
1 green bell pepper
1 small or ½ big red or white onion
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley or a small bunch of fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth or water
Salt to taste

Rinse the beans picking over for small stones.
Soak them in water overnight around 12 hours in a large bowl.
Drain the water and rinse.
Chop all the vegetables to 1 inch pieces.
Place all the ingredients, i.e. the beans, vegetables, spices, salt and stock in a crock pot. Let it cook slow and nice for the next 10 hours on low.

Sometimes, I use the high setting if I don’t soak my beans for the full 12 hours.  I have cooked the soup for the full 10 hours with an 8 hour bean soak and still end up with some of the beans not as soft as I would have liked. 


Kale Chips  

Tear washed and dried kale into medium to small pieces.
Toss with olive oil until well coated.
Toss with salt and pepper, of your choice.

Fry in a small pan on the stove top if you are doing a small amount.
Large amount - bake in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, turning at least once, and check frequently as they can go black quickly.



Golden Glow

July 19, 2014

Light and Airy Cheesecake


birthday cheesecake


Cheesecake – a divine cake – how many times have I reminisced over, thought about, and made cheesecake - at least 5 documented here on this blog.  I love cheesecake and I am always willing to try a new version of cheesecake for different flavor profiles to textures.  This time I wanted a light and airy cheesecake that was tall, creamy and so light that it defied its principal ingredient, cream cheese.  This cheesecake not only met my requirements but exceeded them.  It is light and airy but maintains the classic flavor of cheesecake.

If light and creamy doesn't inspire, you may be interested in my other versions of cheesecake:

Light and Creamy Cream Cheese Cheesecake
16 servings,

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter, melted

Butter a 9-inch spring form pan and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil.
Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl (I crush in the food processor).
Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. Empty the ingredients into the buttered spring form pan and pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan using a flat bottomed measuring cup going about halfway up the sides.
Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.
Center a rack in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F and place the spring form on a baking sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes.
Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

2 pounds (four 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups heavy cream

Put a kettle of water on to boil.
Working in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft and creamy about 4 minutes.
With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light.
Beat in the vanilla.
Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition to aerate batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the heavy cream.

Put the foil-wrapped spring form pan in a roaster pan.
Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the spring form pan. The batter will reach the brim of the pan.
Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the spring form pan.
Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven's heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon.
Let the cheesecake stand in the water bath for another hour.
Remove pan from oven without upsetting water too much.
Remove foil carefully.
Place cheesecake on wire rack until at room temperature.
Cover the top loosely with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 5 hours.

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan,


fern fringe


July 7, 2014

Soft Pretzels

soft pretzels

soft pretzels with mustard and red pepper hummus

I fell in love with soft pretzels when I was a teenager and saw and smelled the warm and salty pretzels being sold by vendors on the streets of New York City.  Between the drive to the train station and riding the train into the city I was always a little motion sick and the smell of the pretzels as we exited Grand Central was wonderful.  This was when New York street food was mainly hot dogs, pretzels, knishes, chestnuts, and falafel.  It was an instant love affair.  I could not wait to eat those salty treats.  I had a particular craving for salt and bread as a teenager as I could not get enough soft pretzels.  I started a tradition of making soft pretzels on the last day of school with my kids that fell away as they have grown into teenagers but my daughter no longer will let me forget and now we make them together around the last day of school.  She loves these treats especially with mustard and hummus.

Soft Pretzels

1½ cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4 ½ cups (22 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Coarse salt for sprinkling

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.
Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined.
Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in a large pot or Dutch oven.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope.
Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel.
Place onto the parchment-lined sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, (I boil two at a time) for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula.

Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture.
Sprinkle with the salt.
Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes.
Rotate pans in oven halfway through baking. 
Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Adapted from Alton Brown

ace and I made pretzels
My daughter making pretzels
2006-7-11 ace
Enjoying a pretzel on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
passing clouds

June 21, 2014

Sugar Cookies

sugar cookies

sugar cookies

Sugar cookies are beautiful with their delicate flavor, sweet crispness and their ability to take on any shape you can imagine.  I marvel at the holy trinity of flour, butter and sugar and all the wonderful things that can be created with such a simple base.  The sugar cookie is the ultimate example of simplicity.  A few ingredients mixed together to create a cookie that can be delicate and elegant or playful and commonplace.  Whether you dress your sugar cookie up with icing or glaze in fancy designs or simply sprinkle them with sugar, the sugar cookie warms the heart.

I use a lovely glaze that stays flexible while firming up and does not impart the same dry quality of royal icing.  This icing stands up to the dam and flood method of icing the sugar cookies (see below).

Sugar Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen depending on cookie size

1 cup butter, softened
1 cups white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light in color.
Add egg, milk and vanilla and beat to combine.
With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and beat until mixture pulls away from bowl.
Divide dough in half, pat into disk and wrap in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight
Preheat oven to 375 °F
Roll out dough on surface lightly dusted with powdered sugar and roll to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
I roll my dough out on parchment paper.  I sprinkle the powdered sugar on the paper and add more to the top of the dough then I cover the top of the disk with a wide piece of plastic wrap and roll to the desired thickness.  I avoid adding extra ingredients to the dough this way whether it is flour or powdered sugar.
Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter.
Remove excess dough and re roll chilling the dough as needed.
Note:  I re-roll all of my dough regardless of how “tough” the last roll is.  I change the shape of the cookie cutter so I know which cookies are best for dipping into tea.
Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake for 6 to 9 minutes until the edges are just beginning to brown. 
I always err on the side of under done for a tender cookie.
Let the cookies cool on the pan for 1 to 2 minutes then move to cooling racks.

Sugar Cookie Glaze

5 cups confectioners' sugar
½ cup milk
½ cup light corn syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla and almond extract or flavor as desired

In a mixing bowl, mix the sugar and milk first.
Add corn syrup just until combined.
Divide to flavor.
Add paste color if desired.
Important to always add the same amount of corn syrup as you added milk.
Move a portion of glaze to another bowl and add more powdered sugar until thick enough to pipe a dam of icing around the edge of the sugar cookie.
Fill piping bag set up with a coupler and #4 or 5 round tip.
Let the piped dam set then flood the cookie with the thinner glaze.
Note: I use a spoon unless the work is finer and a piping bag is required.
Decorate as desired with sanding sugar, sprinkles etc. 

Icing may be layered on top as long as the icing sets before a new layer is added.

Adapted from Toba Garrett

sugar cookies with glaze type icing

yellow rose of texas

church doors