Category Archives: Baking

30-day Photo Challenge, Day 5: From a high angle

Today was a busy (for me) Sunday filled with brunch and baking.  My friend Whit and I tackled not one, but two recipes from the Baked Explorations book, and Shawn was our cheerleader.  It was a whirlwind of dishes, dish towels, pots and pans, and 10.5 sticks of butter.

The results were quite lovely (albeit a little fall-like), and here is my day 5 “from a high angle” photo:

And just for kicks, a few extras.

Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake – delicious. Love bundt cakes. The burnt sugar shards on top are pretty good. Page 141 of the book.

Caramel Apple Cake (page 138 of the book). Super moist. First three layer cake I’ve ever made, and definitely one of the fussiest cakes I’ve made…ever. But I had fun frosting it, so I’m thinking I’ll need to start making more layer cakes.

Here’s the Flickr group.

Here’s White Peach Photography’s Day 5 photo.

Coming up tomorrow: from a low angle.

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Lemon Curd

I know that long ago, I promised a recipe for lemon curd. Because I had made it to go with scones, and it was really, really, really good.

But I got distracted by these and these.

And then there were tornados in Raleigh, and I felt very, very grateful that neither I nor anyone I know was seriously hurt.  One of my coworkers put together an art auction to help benefit those affected by the said tornado, and so I baked some goodies (like these brownies, this cake, and the aforementioned caramel rice crispy treats) to sell.

With all that plus a million other things, this post…just didn’t get written. And even when I started writing it, it sat in my “Drafts” folder for two weeks. But enough excuses.

The ingredients for lemon curd are simple: lemons (duh), eggs, butter, sugar.

First you zest and juice the three lemons (have I ever mentioned how much I love my zester? It’s amazing).

Add the sugar and lemon zest to a mixer with a paddle attachment, and mix on medium-low speed till the sugar and zest are mixed thoroughly.

Add the softened butter, and cream till light.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Then add the lemon juice and salt, and mix till blended.

This is where it gets funky.  Pour the mixture into a saucepan over medium heat.  It starts to kind of curdle as the butter starts to melt, and it’s a little bit weird looking (kind of matches the “curd” in the name).  But eventually, as the curd heats up slowly, it smooths out and starts to thicken.

I hooked up my instant read thermometer to the side of the pot with a clothespin (very fancy, I know) so I would know when the curd had reached the correct temperature (170 degrees).  You can also tell it’s done when you can drag your finger across the back of the spoon and it doesn’t fill in. But as soon as it reaches the right temperature, you take it off the heat.

Mine took a VERY long time to reach the right stage, and I think it’s because I had the heat on too low.  The original recipe says low heat, but I would recommend medium heat, unless you want to wait an HOUR for your curd to thicken.  Which you probably don’t want to do. Especially since you can’t just leave it for an hour…you have to pretty much stir it constantly.

Whenever you’ve reached that magical thickened stage, be it after 20 minutes or 60, you pour the curd through a mesh strainer to get rid of the lemon zest and any eggs that curdled (although this method of creaming the sugar and eggs together first helps prevent curdling – I didn’t have any) and make it super smooth.

I got about 2-1/3 cups of curd from this batch, which is a LOT of curd – a little bit goes a long way.  So feel free to halve this recipe.  It was also a tiny bit sweet for my taste – I’d like to try this with 1 cup of sugar, instead of the 1.5 called for.

Lemon Curd

Adapted from Ina Garten


  • 3 lemons
  • 1-1.5 cups sugar (to taste)
  • 1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Zest and juice the three lemons.
  2. Add the zest and sugar to a mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until the zest and sugar are mixed thoroughly.
  3. Add butter to the sugar mixture and cream till light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.
  5. Add lemon juice and salt and mix until combined.
  6. Pour mixture into a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat and cook till the mixture thickens and reaches a temperature of 170 degrees (right before a simmer).
  7. Pour through a fine mesh strainer to remove the zest any curdled eggs.
  8. Store in an airtight container for up to one week in the refrigerator.
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Blueberry Scones

I have a small confession: I was intimidated by scones.

I made the apple cheddar scones, but I just felt like I did something wrong and they didn’t turn out as well as they should have.

Store-bought scones can be good, but they can also be really dry.  So generally, I don’t eat that many of them (I’m more of a muffin person).  But I was determined to make a good scone.

The right recipe made all the difference.  These really turned out well – light, almost fluffy, just a hint of sweetness.  My only complaint is that these could have used more blueberries and maybe a touch more sugar.

{lemon curd also makes these better, but that’s a post for another day}

Simple enough ingredients – flour, sugar, salt, heavy cream, blueberries, vanilla, butter, egg, and baking powder.

Start by adding the dry ingredients to a food processor bowl – flour, sugar, baking powder, salt.  Pulse a few times to mix.  Then add the cold butter and pulse till combined into fine crumbs.  You can also do this with a pastry cutter or your hands, if you don’t have a food processor, but I always have great results with a food processor for things like this (pie crust, biscuits, etc.).  It’s just so easy!

Then, dump your flour/sugar mixture into a bowl and gently stir in the blueberries.  If you were just making plain scones, you could keep use the food processor to mix in the wet ingredients, but in this case, I didn’t want to smush up the blueberries.  It also would have been too hard to mix in the blueberries once the dough was mixed.

Mix the cream, beaten egg, and vanilla in a measuring cup, then pour into the dry ingredients.  Mix just till combined – be careful not to overmix!  Otherwise, your scones will be tough (so they say).  I’m always really paranoid about this, but I was careful and only mixed until almost all of the flour was incorporated.

It’s okay if a little bit of flour is unmixed, because the next thing you do is dump it out onto well-floured surface and knead it once or twice till everything is mixed in.  It will be a little sticky, but just put a little flour on your hands.  Then pat it into an approximately 7″ circle.

Then cut the circle into 8 wedges (try to make them a little more equally-sized than mine). You could also shape the dough into a rectangle and cut them into smaller mini scones.

Arrange the scones on a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet and brush with a little of the heavy cream.  I sprinkled them with a little raw sugar – it gives them a really nice, sweet crunch.  I just keep a box of raw sugar packets for things like this – I used less than one full packet to sprinkle over all 8.

Bake for 18-22 minutes till golden brown – mine were done after 20 minutes.  After they’ve cooled for a bit (just so you don’t burn your mouth – these are best warm and fresh from the oven), enjoy!

These were so good that I actually ate three of them in one day.  One to try it plain, one to try with the lemon curd (um…yum…post to come), and another because I had to take another ‘after’ photo, so I may as well just eat that last one and also to make sure that it still tastes good, right?  So yeah, I liked these and am now a scone-baker convert.  And I completely plan on trying those apple cheddar scones again.

Blueberry Scones

Adapted from Joy of Baking


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated white sugar (if you want a slightly sweeter scone, use 1/2 cup sugar)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt (or scant 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt)
  • 6 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1.5 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (or milk), plus more for brushing tops of scones
  • Approximately 1 teaspoon of turbinado sugar (for sprinkling on top of scones)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or silicon baking mat.
  2. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt to bowl of a food processor.  Pulse a few times to mix.
  3. Add butter to flour mixture and pulse 5-10 times until butter is incorporated and flour looks like coarse crumbs.
  4. Transfer flour/butter mixture to a large bowl and gently stir in the blueberries.
  5. Measure heavy cream into a measuring cup, add egg and vanilla, and use a fork (or small whisk) to combine.
  6. Add cream mixture to dry ingredients, and fold/stir just till the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet.
  7. Turn dough onto a liberally floured surface, and knead a few times until the dough comes together and all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  8. Pat into a circle about 7″ in diameter, and cut into eight wedges.
  9. Transfer to lined baking sheet and brush with a little cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  10. Bake for 18-22 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into scone comes out clean.  Check after 18 minutes, as baking time can vary depending on your oven.
  11. Transfer to cooling rack.
  12. Best eaten warm, but will keep for one or two days if tightly covered.

Oatmeal Buttermilk Muffins

Hold on to your hats, folks, because this is the second semi-healthy thing in a row I’m posting!

Actually, these are pretty healthy (the Orange Olive Oil cake…not so much), relative to most of the baked goods I make.  The texture of these muffins are yummy – a little bit chewy, moist, substantial, but not heavy.  They’re also really versatile, so you can put in whatever add-ins you want.  I added walnuts, and made two versions – some with black raspberry jam and some without.  The muffins aren’t very sweet, so the versions with jam baked in had just the right amount of contrast.

Oatmeal, buttermilk, brown sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla (I used vanilla bean paste, but you couldn’t really tell, so I’d use regular vanilla extract in the future), salt, egg, cinnamon, and the best ingredient: mashed banana.  The original recipe called for oil, but via The Sweets Life, I discovered that you can substitute a mashed banana.  Since I had an excess of browning bananas, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to try it out.  It worked out really well – you couldn’t taste the banana at all, and didn’t miss the fat either.  I would guess you could also use applesauce.

Add the buttermilk to the oats and let them soak for 15 minutes.  The oats soak up the buttermilk and it becomes a thick, soupy mixture.

Then add the banana, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla extract.  This looks pretty gross, but that’s sometimes how it is with baking.  Gross, then delicious.  Then you add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

Here is the point where you can add whatever mix-ins you want.  I used walnuts (I should have tossed them with a little flour first – they kind of sank in the muffins).  You could also use dried fruit, other nuts, or nothing at all.

I also had a moment of inspiration when I saw this jam in my counter.  It was a stocking stuffer from my mom this past Christmas, and it’s delicious.  It’s from a local place just south of the Pennsylvania border, and she always has some when I go home.

After I had scooped the batter into the muffin tins, I added half a teaspoon of jam to four of the muffins, just to see how it would turn out.  Then you bake them at 400 degrees for 16-18 minutes till a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out clean.

What I love most about these muffins is how high and rounded they bake up – I filled the tins pretty full, and they didn’t overflow at all.  They are just lovely, sturdy little muffins.

They also taste wonderful – great for breakfast or a snack with a cup of tea.

Oatmeal Buttermilk Muffins

Adapted from AllRecipes
Servings: 12

1 cup oats (not instant)
1 cup buttermilk (I used nonfat)*
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil OR one mashed, ripe banana
1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 cup walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup dried fruit (optional)
1/8 cup fruit jam (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Grease a 12-cup standard muffin tin.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together oatmeal and buttermilk. Let soak for 15 minutes.
  4. Add egg, brown sugar, oil/banana, and vanilla.  Stir to combine
  5. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt to wet ingredients and stir just till combined.
  6. Add any mix-ins you desire (aim for about 1 cup total) – stir just till combined (don’t overmix).
  7. Divide batter evenly between the muffin tins.
  8. At this point, you can add 1/2 teaspoon jam to the center of each muffin, if desired.  Push the jam down a bit into the center of the batter, but don’t submerge it completely.
  9. Bake on middle rack for 16-18 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until muffins test done.
  10. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.
  11. Store in airtight container for one to two days.

*If you don’t have buttermilk, use 1 tablespoon of white vinegar mixed with milk to make one cup.

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Babies, Book Club, and Bundt Cake

This past weekend was the annual Nawakwa Women’s Book Club Weekend. Our book this year was “The Good Earth”, by Pearl S. Buck. The book is amazing, if you haven’t read it. I never had to read it in high school, and I am really glad that I have read it now!

All the PREP girls were there, if only for Friday night. I got to meet Sophie for the first time, and she was tiny, adorable, perfect. Charlie was so much bigger than the first time I met him…and he was such a little flirt!

There were so many willing and eager arms waiting to take Sophie and Charlie off of their mamas’ hands.

Two loving sets of hands tucking a tired Charlie into his car seat.

Plus, as always, there was an abundance of food. This year, I made spinach & artichoke dip (a.k.a. The Dip), almond roca, and an orange olive oil bundt cake (from Baked Explorations).

The orange olive oil cake was delicious – it had a texture similar to pound cake, and although I expected a stronger olive oil taste, it really did not come through very much. The orange flavor was beautiful though. It is the type of cake that’s great for dessert, snack, or breakfast.

In my mind, it’s also not terribly unhealthy…there’s four eggs, but no butter!  And there’s yogurt!

Zest two oranges – mine ended up being about 1/8 cup. Mmmm…I love the scent of orange zest.

Then you separate the eggs and beat the yolks (save the whites for later). After the egg yolks are thick and pale, add the sugar slowly with the mixer on low. I wasn’t expecting this, but it becomes really thick – a grainy paste. After you add the orange zest, vanilla bean paste (or just plain old extract), yogurt, and olive oil, it loosens up. Then, you add the dry ingredients, and it is a pretty thick batter.

At this point, you set the batter aside and beat the egg whites till they form stiff peaks. I don’t know about you, but I’m always amazed at how egg whites work. Seriously, they start out as a liquid and then they triple in size and become a fluffy foam. So cool.

Then you begin the kind of hard work (ok, “hard” for someone who is not very strong): folding in the egg whites. You start with a small amount and fold it in gently, gently, gently. Then, you fold in the rest, still very gently, until they’re all incorporated. The batter becomes lighter, and the texture is more like what you’d expect from a cake batter.

You pour it in a bundt pan and put it in a 350 degree oven. It’s supposed to bake for 40-50 minutes, but mine probably took closer to 60 minutes. You rotate it once, halfway through baking. The smell wafting through my apartment was amazing, and the cake itself was really good.

Not too sweet, great texture. I didn’t use the powdered sugar because I transported it in the pan, but I think that would have added a really nice sweet touch. I want to try a grapefruit version of the cake as well.

This was definitely a time- and labor-intensive recipe. For everyday cakes, I’d probably try something a little easier (possibly this one from Smitten Kitchen), but for special events or get-togethers, this is perfect.

Orange Olive Oil Bundt Cake

From: Baked Explorations (page 36)
Yield: 1 10-inch bundt cake

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup plain yogurt (I used low-fat)
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly grated zest of 2 oranges (about 1/8 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1.5 teaspoon vanilla extract)
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting – optional


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 10-inch bundt pan – either with cooking spray or butter and dusted with flour.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk or sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a mixer with the paddle attachment (or just a regular old hand mixer), beat the egg yolks on medium speed until they are pale and thick.
  5. Turn mixer to low and slowly add the sugar until it is completely incorporated. You may have to increase the speed slightly as the mixture gets thicker. Scrape the bowl.
  6. Add the yogurt, olive oil, orange zest, and vanilla and mix on medium speed just till combined. Scrape the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated.
  7. Add the flour mixture in two parts, scraping the bowl after each addition. Mix just till incorporated. It will be quite thick.
  8. In another large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  9. Scoop about a cup of the egg whites into the batter and gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
  10. After about 30 seconds of folding, add the remaining egg whites and gently fold them in until they are almost completely combined.
  11. Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan and bake for 40-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Start checking for doneness after about 40 minutes – mine took close to 60. Rotate the pan halfway through the baking process.
  12. When it’s done, transfer cake (still in pan) to a rack to cool. Then, once cooled, turn onto a rack.
  13. Store tightly wrapped; cake will keep for a few days.
  14. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving (optional).
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