Happy Labor Day Weekend! The unofficial end of summer has arrived. You’d be hard-pressed to know that here though, given that it’s going to be sunny and in the upper 80s. We’re spending our weekend at “The Land” as we call it – in rural Amherst County. While we still have the last remnants of summer with us, here are some bright, summery muffins with summer favorite blueberries. These muffins come together pretty easily and are juicy and tart, not overly sweet. The perfect thing to have available for snacking over a long weekend!
Today marks my first full week of being home with the baby on maternity leave alone and Selim’s first week being back at work. I’m learning that neither is easy. Selim has to get up early, after having frequently interrupted sleep all night, go to work all day, and be separated from this little baby he loves so much. Me, I don’t have to do most of those things, but my life completely revolves around this little 8 pound dictator. We’re lucky though – from what we understand, she’s a really good baby. (Of course, we think she’s the best baby in the entire world…!)
But I wanted to celebrate our first week back at work/home alone and have been thinking about making this cake all week. We have some lovely summer blueberries and several lemons that have been staring at me from our kitchen all week. I got this recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Seasons & Suppers (as I’ve mentioned several other times on here… Other recipes of hers that we’ve tried & shared here: Prosciutto & Basil Topped Lemon Ricotta Pappardelle & Maple & Mustard Pork with Shallots). Every recipe from this blog looks amazing, partially due to her gorgeous photography, and every single one I’ve been has turned out wonderfully! The original recipe is just for lemon cake; I added the blueberries after thinking about the combination of lemon and blueberry for the past week. Most of the blueberries sunk to the bottom while baking, making this feel like halfway between a crumble and a cake at the end. It’s moist and flavorful; definitely a keeper even if it doesn’t exactly look like a cake in the end! Also, don’t be alarmed when your pour the liquid “sauce” over the cake batter at the end. It seems like a lot of liquid and maybe a bad idea and maybe you misread the recipe – don’t worry!
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 10 inch cast iron skillet (or a similarly-sized baking dish) with some extra butter.
In bowl of stand mixer, cream together the butter and 1/2 cup sugar. Once combined, add in the juice of 1/2 a lemon.
In a small bowl, lightly beat the 2 eggs together, then add them to the mixture. Follow this with the vanilla and milk.
Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add this into the mixture. Once combined, gently stir the blueberries in by hand.
Now, spoon the batter into the greased skillet and spread out evenly.
In another bowl, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar with the cornstarch. Place the remaining juice from the other 1 1/2 lemons in a measuring cup. Additionally, fill to the 1 1/4 cup mark with hot water. Whisk this in with the sugar and cornstarch mixture.
Once combined, gently pour over top of the batter and immediately place in the oven.
Selim’s father is one of our most loyal blog readers. He’s been telling us for years that we should try a twist on the traditional baklava that we usually make. Our baklava recipe is a fairly traditional Turkish one and incorporates tips from him. But he’s been suggesting that we try to make a Southern twist on baklava using pecans instead of more traditional nuts like walnuts or pistachios. We’ve thought this was a great idea, but just never have gotten around to doing it.
Lo and behold, we had our baby last week (she’s pretty awesome), and Selim’s father is in town from Texas to visit and meet her this week. Texans seem to love pecans, hence how we got to this point! Since he’s here, we decided to put him to work and today he and Selim gave Southern Baklava a whirl. The main difference, outside of the substitution of pecans, is the addition of cinnamon and maple syrup.
1 1/2 cups unsalted, clarified butter
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 cups + 2 tbsp sugar
1 cup maple syrup
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 cups pecans
~40 sheets of filo dough (usually 2 packages)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
(If you have clarified butter, melt the appropriate amount. If you only have regular butter, melt it in a saucepan and then skim off the foam and slowly pour the liquid into a bowl making sure to not transfer solid milk fats which are at the bottom.)
Prepare the syrup: combine cold water, 2 cups of sugar, the maple syrup, and whole cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan. Boil for 5 minutes, then lower heat to barely a simmer. Continue cooking for another 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, as the cinnamon sticks open up and the syrup thickens.
Stir in the lemon juice and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, combine pecans and 2 tbsp sugar in food processor. Process until “medium” ground – don’t let it get too fine.
Now brush the inside of a large cookie sheet with clarified butter.
Place a sheet of filo dough in the pan. Brush with more clarified butter. Continue in this pattern until you’ve placed half of the sheets (~20) of filo dough in the pan.
Now spread the pecan-sugar mixture onto the top layer of filo dough. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and then drizzle with more clarified butter.
Return to the pattern of layering dough and clarified butter until you use all of the rest of the filo dough sheets. Brush the top layer and the edges with clarified butter.
Take a very sharp knife and dip it into hot water. Slice down halfway through the height of the dough into the size and shape of baklava pieces you want at the end.
Bake for 25 minutes in the center of the oven.
Lower heat to 325 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes.
Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
Slice all the way through, along the lines you previously made.
Pour the syrup over top, along the cut lines.
For best results, let sit for a day before eating. This is hard to do and it’s still delicious if you eat it immediately. The longer the syrup soaks in, the better though!
Shout out to all the moms out there who have their kids duped into thinking the Rice Krispie treats they make them are such labors of love. (I’m trying to be you one day!) Best joke ever – Rice Krispie treats certainly are delicious, but SO EASY to make! (Don’t worry if you were fooled; I’m sure your mom would labor over a hot stove any day for you…) We adapted these for spring with bright colors, only varying from the original Rice Krispie Treat recipe a tad!
We’re bringing these treats to our work spring potluck lunch, but they’re perfect for any spring gathering or just to have around the house as you welcome spring with it’s beautiful flowers and warmer temperatures! Also, Easter is fast approaching and if you want an easy dessert, sure to please the adults and kids alike, here you go!
Rainbow Rice Krispie Treats
3 tbsp butter
4 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup spring colored (pink, green, yellow) mini marshmallows
4 cups Rice Krispies
2 cups Fruity Pebbles
Melt butter over low heat in a large pot.
Once the butter is melted, pour in the first 4 cups of marshmallows. Stir, still over low heat, coating the marshmallows with butter and continuing until they are completely melted.
Remove from heat and stir in the colorful marshmallows and cereals.
Grease a 9×13 glass pan. Pour the mixture in and press down (with a greased spatula or wax paper over your hand) until smooth.
Happy Mardi Gras (Carnival, Shrove Tuesday, etc)! Here in the US, we associate Mardi Gras with New Orleans’ celebrations alone. But this week I reminded myself that not everyone celebrates with beads, King Cake, Cajun food, and exposed breasts. So I looked into worldwide traditions, with the hopes of picking a different dish to make tonight. (I wanted a surprise for Selim when he came home from work, so I was looking for his favorite foods and flavors!) I learned so much – pretty much every country with healthy Catholic or Orthodox Christian traditions has their own celebrations. In my browsing, I decided I should definitely have been born in Cyprus. There, Carnival is a two week celebration – the first week is “Meat Week,” or Kreatini, which is the last week eating meat is allowed until Easter. The second of the weeks is “Cheese Week,” or Tyrini, which leads right up until Ash Wednesday. Cheese week!? A whole week for eating cheese?! How did I not know about this until now?
Tonight we made these Cypriot sweet fried cheese pastries called bourekia. (I’ve also seen the spelling pourrekia, I’m not sure the difference, other than just translation into the Latin alphabet?) To be truly authentic, they should have Cypriot anari cheese inside, but given that isn’t entirely readily available in the US, the internet assures me that unsalted ricotta is an acceptable substitute. The rosewater and cinnamon take the cheesy filling and make it sweeter and full of the flavors of the greater Middle East and Mediterranean. I’m still mildly terrified of frying things, despite our recent forays into frying (Southern Fried Chicken & Shrimp Beignets), but we jumped head-first into our first fried treat tonight! Good thing we have our Culinary Bucket List to keep motivating us.
I’m not going to lie, these were good, but not perfect. I’m happy enough with the result to share, but I need to work on the dough. I’m not 100% content with that. The filling however… Perfect! Sweet, but not overly sugary, with a delicious blend of flavors. The hint of rosewater is excellent!
Cypriot Carnival Bourekia
(Adapted from this publication from Toni Buxton & the Cyprus Tourism Organisation)
4 cups AP flour
1 cup neutral oil
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup cold water (+ more if needed)
1 1/2 cups unsalted ricotta cheese
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp rosewater
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Oil, for frying
Mix together the four, oil, and salt. Knead together, adding small bits of a cold water if needed to create a smooth dough ball.
Wrap and let sit for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, stir the cinnamon, sugar, and rosewater into the ricotta cheese.
After the 30 minutes, roll out the dough and cut out circles. Use the base of a glass to stamp them out. You want the dough to be fairly thin – mine were somewhere between 1/8th & 1/16th of an inch.
Spoon a small dollop of the cheese mixture into the center of each circle. Brush water on the edges of the dough circles and fold over into half-moons. Crimp edges together.
Heat the oil in a heavy, tall-sided pot to 365 degrees. Fry the bourekia in batches, taking care not to crowd the pot, for 3-4 minutes.
Remove them to a paper towel to drain and dry. Dust with powdered sugar prior to serving!
It’s well documented on this blog (and if you know me in real life…) that I don’t like/am mildly terrified of baking. But every fall, like clockwork, I feel the need to bake something with apples in it. It’s a personal rite of fall passage, along with my need to decorate with tiny gourds, take pictures of leaves changing, carve a pumpkin, and cook a batch of chili (see: Finally Fall Chili). Around here we’re a little desperate for fall’s arrival. We’ve had a few glorious days here and there, including a gorgeous weekend when we were in Charlottesville, but the days keep reverting back to a hot, humid, sunny, and mid-80s. So instead of being inspired by the fall weather for this dessert today, I’m hoping by making it, I’ll convince the fall gods to stick around for good here soon! And furthermore, October is not only National Apple Month, it’s National Dessert Month! So it’s only right that we celebrate, even though it doesn’t quite feel like fall yet.
The even better news about this baking attempt is that on the scale of baking things, galettes are definitely closer to a zero than a ten. So even I can’t screw it up! They’re not even supposed to look neat or perfect! Imperfection is perfection 🙂 Which is why I’m not sure why I’ve never made one before. Imperfection is my kind of baking.
Put the stick of butter in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to making the dough. Meanwhile, mix all of the dry dough ingredients together. When the butter is cold, use a grater to cut the butter into the mix. Add the vanilla and then stir the water in slowly until a dough forms. Knead a few times and form into ball. Then flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Slice the apples and place in a large bowl with all of the other filling ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until time to assemble the galette.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a silicone mat (or parchment paper) on a large cookie sheet.
Roll out the dough into a large circle on a floured surface. Arrange the apples in the center, keeping them as flat as possible and leaving a 2-3 inch border. Fold the edges over, pressing them down.
Bake for ~30 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
This is our last batch of end-of-the-rotation thank you treats. Why? Because this week we are completing our LASTclinical rotation!! We graduate in almost exactly ONE MONTH, on May 11th! We’re really looking forward to be gainfully employed adults again.
But don’t worry, we have one more delicious treat for this last month. These cookies are soft and almost cake-like, as is typical of Italian cookies made with ricotta, and full of bright citrus flavors. I think they’re just perfect for spring! Light and bright = spring, right? While Pinterest-ing, I kept coming across people saying how they usually “don’t like ricotta cookies because they’re boring.” Is that a thing? Who are you people who don’t like light, fluffy, cake-cookies? The whole point is that they TASTE good right??