cornmeal molasses pancakes

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I’m not sure what made these pancakes so perfect – was it the combination of ingredients, with the crunch of cornmeal and depth of molasses, or was it being cooked in a cast-iron skillet? I’ve had a cast-iron skillet for almost a year, and I would say that I use it occasionally, but not often.

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The main reason I don’t use it more is because, no matter what anyone says, washing a pan by hand, without soap, is not as easy as throwing it in the dishwasher. But the cast-iron undoubtedly forms a better crust on food, from meat to, yes, pancakes, so there are times when it is absolutely worth the extra cleaning step.

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I was a little worried about these pancakes though. There’s no sugar in the batter except for molasses. That couldn’t possibly be sweet enough, right?

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It actually was, with a distinct but not overwhelming bitter molasses flavor. And of course I added more sugar in the form of maple syrup on top anyway. The result was perfect pancakes, with a crisply browned exterior and tender middle, all thanks to just the right combination of ingredients – or just the right skillet choice.

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One year ago: Salted Herbed Roast Turkey
Two years ago: Green Chile Mayonnaise
Three years ago: Wheat Berries with Caramelized Onions, Feta, and Lentils
Four years ago: Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake

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Cornmeal Molasses Pancakes (adapted from recipezaar via Joy the Baker)

Serves 2

If you don’t keep buttermilk around, my favorite substitution is a mixture of plain yogurt and milk; for this recipe, use ¾ cup milk and ½ cup yogurt. You can also use regular milk, adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to the wet ingredients.

1 cup (4.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ cup yellow or blue cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1¼ cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon dark molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for cooking the pancakes

1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the egg until thoroughly combined, then add the buttermilk, molasses, vanilla, and oil. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk gently until the batter is mostly mixed but still contains small lumps. Let the batter rest while the pan heats, at least 5 minutes.

2. Heat a non-stick skillet or a griddle over medium heat. Add a few drops of oil and spread it over the bottom of the pan. Using a ¼ cup measure, pour the pancake batter onto the hot griddle. When the pancakes are golden brown, after about 2-3 minutes, flip to cook the other side another 2-3 minutes. Keep warm in oven heated to 200 degrees.

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strawberry poptarts

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I like to keep track of things. This is why I have a website showcasing new recipes. But I also have calendars (printed out and filled in with pencil, old school) logging all the workouts I’ve done for years, a list updated daily of which projects I spend time on at work, and a color-coded Google Calendar that I check and update several times a day.

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This apparently wasn’t enough for me, so I’ve recently started tracking some new things – indulgences. Desserts, alcohol, restaurant meals, snacking on ingredients while making dinner – those are the biggies for me. I set goals for the month, and they are generous, and I don’t get bent out of shape if I miss them (and I always go over on both alcohol and desserts), but having it laid out in front of me in a spreadsheet does help my self-control sometimes. Is munching on this cucumber, even if it’s dipped in dressing, really worth having to log a day of ingredient snacking?

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There are loopholes though. Shortcake, obviously that’s dessert. But scones are breakfast, so I don’t need to record those, even if they do contain just as much butter and sugar as shortcake. Cupcakes, dessert; muffins, breakfast. Poptarts are breakfast, right?

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That might be a stretch, even by my standards. Yes, there is jam involved, but a spoonful of jam is squeezed between two sheets of buttery delicious pie crust. And that’s all there is to it, unless you add icing. But once you add icing, any hope of calling this anything but a treat of the most indulgent manner is lost. It went on the list as dessert, and it was worth every mark on the spreadsheet.

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One year ago: Banh Mi (I absolutely love this recipe)
Two years ago: Taco Pasta Salad
Three years ago: Twice Baked Potato Cups
Four years ago: Banana and Peanut Butter Stuffed French Toast

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Strawberry Pop-Tarts (adapted from King Arthur Flour via Smitten Kitchen)

Makes 9 (although I made 10 out of a half recipe)

My dough was too crumbly with just one egg, so I also used part of the egg used for the egg wash.

I used the icing because I wanted my tarts to be as traditional as possible, but, it turns out, royal icing on pie just isn’t that good. It’s pretty, but I don’t recommend it for the best flavor.

I replaced a quarter of the flour with whole wheat pastry flour.

2 cups (8½ ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
¾ cup (8 ounces) strawberry jam

Egg wash:
1 large egg

½ cup (2 ounces) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon meringue powder
1 tablespoon water

1. For the dough: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until it is cut into pea-sized pieces. Add the egg and milk and pulse until the dough looks crumbly but stays together when pinched. Turn the dough out onto a work surface or shallow bowl, forming it into a ball and kneading a few times. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a rectangle, about 3 by 5 inches. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap; chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

2. Meanwhile, make the filling: In a small saucepan, stir together the cornstarch and water. Mix in the jam. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat; simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; cool completely before using.

3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll one portion of the dough to ⅛-inch thick, slightly larger than a 9 by 12-inch rectangle. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Trim each portion of dough into a 9 by 12-inch rectangle. Cut each piece of dough into thirds both lengthwise and crosswise, forming a total of 18 3 by 4-inch rectangles.

4. Beat the additional egg with a pinch of salt and brush it over the entire surface of half of the dough. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each egg-brushed rectangle, keeping a bare ½-inch perimeter around the jam. Place a second rectangle of dough on top of the jam, using your fingertips to press firmly around the pocket of filling, sealing the dough well on all sides. Press the tines of a fork all around the edge of the rectangle. Repeat with remaining rectangles of dough to form 9 tarts.

5. Transfer the tarts to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Prick the top of each tart multiple times with a fork to allow steam to escape. Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes (or freeze for 15 minutes), while you heat your oven to 350 degrees.

6. Bake the tarts for 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re light golden brown. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes before icing.

7. In a small bowl, beat the powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water with a hand mixer until soft peaks form. Dribble over the tarts. Let set at least 20 minutes for the icing to set.

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bacon mushroom breakfast skillet

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I’m pretty sure there was a time, not even that long ago, when I would make complicated breakfasts every weekend morning. (Well, every weekend morning that I wasn’t baking scones straight from the freezer.) I vaguely remember asking myself, while surrounded by dirty dishes, why I did this to myself. But the next weekend I’d be back in the same place, always unable to resist a shiny new recipe.

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Probably I’ll swing around to that phase again, but for now, I’m loving simple breakfasts – things that only briefly keep me away from drinking coffee while mindlessly surfing the internet. Even these quick meals are a lot more complicated than the yogurt and frozen berries I spend five minutes blending together every morning before work, so they’re still a treat.

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In this case, it’s a simple matter of cooking bacon and mushrooms, topping them with eggs (poached, fried, your choice; I chose fried because it’s easier), mixing in some spinach just until it softens, and if you want to get fancy, you can add a slice of toast.  I love the earthiness of the mushrooms and spinach combined with bacon, and getting in a serving of vegetables for breakfast is a great way to start the day.  But what makes me the happiest is that I get all that in well under half an hour, so I can get on with the rest of my weekend, whether than means working out, relaxing in the backyard, or spending all day messing up the kitchen with other projects.

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One year ago: Thai Grilled Beef Salad
Two years ago: Basic Pancakes
Three years ago: Brioche
Four years ago: Salad with Herbed Baked Goat Cheese

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Bacon Mushroom Breakfast Skillet (adapted from Tyler Florence Family Meal via Joy the Baker)

I did not wilt the spinach for the pictures, but I should have.

Serves 4

4 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
2 cup (8 ounces) cremini or button mushrooms, halved or quartered if large
1 cup oyster mushrooms, coarsely chopped
6 to 8 eggs
ground black pepper
2 cups spinach leaves

1. In a medium skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.

2. Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet.  Add the mushrooms, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown, 8-10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat about 1 tablespoon of bacon fat to a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the eggs (I crack them into small dishes first), season with salt and pepper, cover the pan, and cook until the whites are set and the yolks are soft (or however you like your eggs), about 5-7 minutes.

4. When the eggs are ready, add the spinach and the cooked bacon to the mushrooms. Cook, stirring constantly, until the bacon is warm and the spinach just wilts, about a minute.  Serve, with the eggs, immediately.

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I’ve been raving about migas since the first time I made them, several months ago. They’re such a perfect breakfast for me that I’ve had them almost every weekend since. Somewhere along the way, after I talked my brother into making them, he pointed out that they’re basically just scrambled eggs.

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Which is true, and in a way, sums up what it is I love about them – their simplicity. Scrambled eggs is not a complicated breakfast, so that must mean that migas are also not a complicated breakfast. And beyond that, it’s healthy and filling and flexible.

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The recipe I’ve given here is one of my favorite ways to make it, and the simplest way I like it. First, I bake lightly oiled corn tortillas until browned. I tried frying them once, but since baking results in crisp tortillas every bit as good as those that are fried, but is healthier, I’m sticking with that. However, it’s not uncommon that I’ll use the crumbs at the bottom of the tortilla chip bag either, when they’re too small to dip in salsa but there’s too many to throw away.

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The other ingredients I consider crucial to migas are chiles and cheese. I use roasted and peeled Hatch green chiles, but any chile you like would be fine. I suspect that while beans are a common side, adding them to the migas themselves isn’t traditional, but the sweetness they add to the dish is too good to skip.

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In addition to these standards, I’ve also added chorizo (shown here), spaghetti squash, and random unlabeled spicy tomato stuff I found in the freezer (probably meant for this dish, but who can be sure). It’s not a dish that requires precision or even consistency. Every single time I’ve made it, it’s been different, but it always been delicious – and easy.

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One year ago: Greek Yogurt Dill Dip
Two years ago: Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad
Three years ago: White Cake (comparison of 3 recipes)
Four years ago: Danish Braids (for the Daring Bakers)

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Migas (adapted from Homesick Texan)

4 servings

When I add chorizo, I brown it before adding the cooking the onion, replacing the oil with the fat rendered from the sausage. When I’ve added pre-cooked leftover squash, I add it with the beans and tortillas.  I often add the salsa with the beans too, although the texture of the finished isn’t as firm as when it’s added as a garnish.

8 corn tortillas
8 eggs
4 ounces chopped green chiles
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 (15-ounce) can black or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 ounces (½ cup) shredded cheddar, Monterey jack, or pepper jack

1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Arrange an oven-safe cooling rack on a baking sheet. Light spray both sides of the tortillas with nonstick spray; lay them in a single layer on the cooling rack and bake, flipping once, for 12-16 minutes, until browned and crisp. Break into bite-sizes pieces.

2. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, ¼ teaspoon salt, and green chiles with a whisk until large bubbles start to form around the edges of the bowl.

3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt; sauté, stirring occasionally, until just browned around the edges, 5-8 minutes. Pour in the egg mixture and cook without stirring for about a minute, then drag a spatula through the eggs a few times to lightly stir them. Let the eggs set for approximately 30 seconds, then stir again. Add the tortilla pieces, beans, and cheese. Cook and stir the eggs until set. Serve immediately, topping each portion with salsa and cilantro.

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roasted rhubarb jam

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One of the things I’m trying to do with my rhubarb surplus this year is not mix it with strawberries. (Please disregard this statement when my next post is strawberry rhubarb pie.) It isn’t that I have anything against strawberries and rhubarb together. Those two are often paired up for reasons beyond their aligned seasons. Sweet strawberries are a natural match for sour rhubarb.

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But now that I’m starting to realize how much I enjoy rhubarb for its own merit, I want to use it more often by itself. Mixing it into batter for muffins was a good start, but a simple mostly-hands-off jam is an even more direct way to enjoy rhubarb. All it takes is cutting it up, mixing it with sugar, and giving it a few stirs while the oven softens and sweetens the stalks.

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I used a spatula to mash up the roasted rhubarb, but if you wanted something smoother, you could puree it in a food processor or press it through a food mill. The chunky version would go wonderfully with tart plain yogurt, especially with some crunchy granola on top. And I can guarantee that it makes the perfect topping for brown rice pudding – along with some sliced strawberries, of course.

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One year ago: Grapefruit Honey Yogurt Scones
Two years ago: Croissants (Martha Stewart’s recipe)
Three years ago: Rhubarb Scones
Four years ago: La Palette’s Strawberry Tart

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Roasted Rhubarb Jam (from hogwash)

2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
Pinch salt

Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a 9-by-13-inch dish, mix the ingredients. Bake them, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is soft enough to mash into a spread, about 1½ hours.

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brown rice pudding

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I’ve taken to eating pudding for breakfast. It was Deb’s idea, and it’s a very good one. After all, if we regularly heat one whole grain with milk to make oatmeal, why not do the same with rice? Somehow, oatmeal feels like winter food. Rice pudding seems lighter, more appropriate for warm temperatures and topping with strawberries.

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This might seem obvious at first – you usually eat oatmeal warm and pudding cold. Except so far, I’ve been eating the rice pudding warm, so it’s more like rice porridge I suppose. But if I was organized enough, I think making it the night before and chilling it would not only save time in the morning, but make a great cool breakfast for the 100+ degree days we’ve been having around here.

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Eating dessert for breakfast isn’t anything new – who hasn’t indulged in a slice of leftover cake with their morning coffee? But that isn’t what this is about. By using brown rice instead of white and reducing the sugar, rice pudding is actually full of fiber and protein instead of empty calories. Rice pudding has never been my favorite dessert, but it’s starting to become one of my favorite breakfasts.

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One year ago: Brown Sugar Blueberry Plain Cake
Two years ago: Tender Shortcakes
Three years ago: Cappuccino Muffins
Four years ago: Baba Ghanoush, Falafel, and Hummus

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Brown Rice Pudding
(adapted from Joy the Baker)

Serves 4 to 6

This is a basic recipe that you can add all sorts of goodies to, from dried fruit and nuts to spices or a swirl of jam.

If you plan to serve this for dessert instead of breakfast, double both the sugar and the honey.

1 cup brown rice, rinsed
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon honey
½ vanilla bean, split open (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add the rice and salt; reduce the heat to medium and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Drain the rice in a strainer and return it to the pot, off the heat. Cover tightly and let set for 10 minutes.

2. Add the milk, sugar, honey, and vanilla bean to the pot with the rice. (If you’re using vanilla extract, add it just before serving.) Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the milk is reduced and the rice is creamy, about 30 minutes. If you’re using vanilla extract, stir it in now. If you’re planning to eat the pudding warm, serve it now. If you’re planning to eat it cold, transfer it to serving dishes to chill.

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pear almond danishes and lemon ricotta danishes

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I went through a baking drought early this year that lasted a few weeks, maybe a month. I couldn’t explain it, but I just wasn’t interested in baking for the first time in years. I was kind of worried – how long would this last? When would my drive to bake come back?

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Oh it’s back. It crept back in, but it’s in full force now. The last few weeks, in particular, I’ve taken on some ambitious projects. It started with these danishes, made for a brunch potluck that was in the evening after work. The very next day, I stayed up until midnight flooding sugar cookies with royal icing. A week after that, I made two batches of fancy cupcakes for a bridal shower. I breathed a sigh of relief when that was over, but mixed up another batch of sugar cookie dough just one day later. I’ll decorate those sugar cookies this week, plus make a double batch of tiramisu for my friend’s rehearsal dinner on Friday.

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Baking projects that are for an event in the evening after work are particularly complicated, especially if the event is toward the end of the week instead of shortly after the weekend. It requires careful balancing of chilling time, lunch hours, and evening schedules. Of course it’s worth it when you’re sitting around with your friends, drinking bellinis and eating eggs Benedict and buttery, flaky danishes on Thursday evening after work. Not just worth it, but so enjoyable that I did it again a week later with cupcakes, and a week after that I’m sure it will be something else. My baking obsession is back.

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One year ago: Chocolate Pots de Creme
Two years ago: Toasted Coconut Custard Tart
Three years ago: Lemon Cream Cheese Bars
Four years ago: Raspberry Bars

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Danishes (adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)

I made 18 danishes from this batch of dough, and they were about 3-inches on a side after baking. Bigger danishes are probably easier to work with; many of mine unfolded when the dough expanded during baking, particularly the square shape with the corners folding in.

½ cup warm milk
2 teaspoons instant yeast
10 ounces (about 2 cups) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 batch of filling (recipes follow)
egg wash (1 egg mixed with ⅛ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon water)

1. In a small measuring cup, stir the yeast into the milk. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add 2 tablespoons of butter; mix until evenly combined. Pour in the yeast and milk; mix until the dough starts to look shaggy. Switch to the dough hook; add the egg and knead until the dough just starts to look smooth, 2-3 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

2. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch by 8-inch rectangle, about ¼ inch thick. Distribute the softened butter over two-thirds of the dough, leaving a short end free of butter. Fold the non-buttered third over the middle, then fold the last third over the middle, like folding a letter. Pinch the edges to seal. Roll the dough out to a 12-by-8-inch rectangle again, then fold it in thirds again. Rewrap the dough in plastic wrap; chill 1 hour.

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(see here for an explanation of the creases on the dough)

3. After the dough has chilled, roll it out and fold it in thirds twice more, then chill another hour, and roll and fold twice more. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight. (This is a good point to freeze the dough too; thaw in the refrigerator overnight.)

4. Roll the dough out to a 12-by-18-inch rectangle about ⅛-inch thick. If the dough becomes too elastic and springs back, cover it and place it in the refrigerator for at least ten minutes, then try rolling again. Be patient; the rolling and chilling could take up to an hour. Cut 12 to 18 squares (see note).

5. For pinwheels: Cut from each corner halfway to the center of each square. Dab about ¼ teaspoon of filling into the center of each square, then fold every other corner toward the center, pressing to seal. Top with one (for smaller danishes) to two (for the larger size) tablespoons of filling.

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For squares with folded corners: Spoon one (for smaller danishes) to two (for the larger size) tablespoons of filling into the center of each square. Fold each corner to the middle of the dough; press to seal.

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6. Transfer the danishes to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Cover and either chill overnight or set aside to rise. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. When the danish dough is about doubled in height and is starting to look puffy, brush the danishes with the egg wash. Bake one baking sheet at a time until the danishes are golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack; let the danishes cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring them to cooling racks to cool to room temperature. Serve within a day.

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Cheese Danish Filling

Makes enough for 1 batch of danishes

1 cup ricotta cheese
6 tablespoons (2.6 ounces) sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Combine all ingredients. Chill.

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Pear Almond Danish Filling (rewritten from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)

Makes enough for 1 batch of danishes

⅔ cup slivered almonds, toasted and cooled completely
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup (3.5 ounces) sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 large egg
2 pears, peeled, cored, diced finely
¼ cup lemon juice

1. In a food processor, grind the almonds, flour, ½ cup sugar, and salt; add the butter and egg; chill.

2. Heat the pears, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the pears caramelize, 8-10 minutes. Chill.

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strawberry buttermilk cake

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I woke up yesterday wanting cake. Not wanting to eat cake, so much, although that part is nice, but wanting to watch butter and sugar swirl in the mixer bowl and gradually turn into a smooth batter. This despite plans to make Danish dough, two Danish fillings, fajitas, grapefruit cookies (which didn’t happen because I’d gotten my mixer fix with the cake), and a batch of Tartine country bread dough to freeze (which didn’t happen because I ran out of flour). No one said anything about being practical.

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I started poking around the internet for recipes, and chose this one because it uses buttermilk, which I have right now, and it wasn’t loaded with butter, which is always nice when you’re planning to eat cake for breakfast. I did not have any fresh berries, but I always keep strawberries in the freezer for our weekday smoothies. And it didn’t require an hour in the oven; key on a government holiday that included sleeping in.

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The cake was everything I’d been craving. The most important part of the craving was my favorite mixing method of beating butter and sugar until fluffy, whipping in an egg and vanilla, and alternating the additions of buttermilk and dry ingredients. But cake for breakfast doesn’t hurt either.

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One year ago: Eggplant Rollatini
Two years ago: Pasta with Baked Ricotta and Sweet Tomato Sauce
Three years ago: Vegetarian Chili
Four years ago: Salmon Cakes, Flaky Biscuits, Hashed Brussels Sprouts

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Berry Buttermilk Cake (rewritten but not changed from Gourmet via Smitten Kitchen)

Serves 6

Two things: The original recipe calls for fresh raspberries, which are probably a better choice than the (frozen) strawberries I used. Strawberries are juicier than other berries, so my cake was a little wetter than is probably ideal. I also thought it was too sweet, which could be because strawberries aren’t as tart as raspberries, but still, next time I’ll only use ½ cup of sugar.

1 cup (4.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ stick unsalted butter, room temperature
⅔ cup (4.67 ounces) plus 1½ tablespoons sugar, divided
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
½ cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup (5 ounces) fresh raspberries (or other berries)

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a medium bowl using a hand mixer), beat the butter, sugar, and lemon zest (if using) on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, beating until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low; add one-third of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk. Continue alternating the dry ingredients and buttermilk, ending with the dry ingredients.

3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Scatter the berries evenly over the top, then sprinkle with the remaining 1½ tablespoons sugar. Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack; cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and cool another 10-15 minutes before serving.

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steel cut oatmeal with maple sauteed apples

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On a holiday, who wants cold cereal and milk for breakfast? No, something special is in order for the morning of Thanksgiving, but with a day of feasting ahead, it’s nice to get a somewhat healthy start. And with a day of cooking ahead, breakfast can’t be too complicated.

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Steel-cut oatmeal fits the bill perfectly. Because steel-cut oats take the better part of an hour to cook, you’re probably saving it for weekends already. The oatmeal itself is healthy, but the caramelized apples make it a treat without overdoing the decadence first thing in the morning.

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Steel-cut oatmeal isn’t mushy like oatmeal made from rolled oats is. The larger chunks of groats never completely soften, so it’s almost like eating tapioca pudding for breakfast – if tapioca pudding was packed full of fiber. It tastes nutty and slightly sweet on its own, especially after being toasted, but slices of browned apples make this oatmeal just right for a holiday – without being so decadent that it can’t be enjoyed any weekend.

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One year ago: Shredded Beef Tacos
Two years ago: Pumpkin Mushroom Soup
Three years ago: Decorated Sugar Cookies

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Steel-Cut Oatmeal (from Cooks Illustrated)

Serves 4

3 cups water
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup steel-cut oats
¼ teaspoon table salt

1. Bring the water and milk to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat until just beginning to foam; add the oats and toast, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until golden and fragrant with a butterscotch-like aroma, 1½ to 2 minutes.

2. Stir the toasted oats into the simmering liquid, reduce the heat to medium-low; simmer gently, until the mixture thickens and resembles gravy, about 20 minutes. Add the salt and stir lightly with the spoon handle. Continue simmering, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon handle, until the oats absorb almost all of the liquid and the oatmeal is thick and creamy, with a pudding-like consistency, about 7 to 10 minutes. Off the heat, let the oatmeal stand uncovered for 5 minutes. Serve immediately with maple sautéed apples.

Maple Sautéed Apples (slightly adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious)

2 tablespoons (¼ stick) unsalted butter
3 large firm apples (about 1½ pounds), peeled, cored, cut into ½-inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon plus ½ cup pure maple syrup
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the apples and 1 tablespoon maple syrup; sauté until the apples are tender, about 5 minutes. Mix in the remaining ½ cup maple syrup and cinnamon; simmer until slightly reduced, about 1 minute.

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honey nut scones

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I made these for the first time almost three years ago, in the beginning of my scone phase, which has now become a scone way of life. While it is undeniably convenient to keep a stash of unbaked scones in the freezer that just need to be popped in the oven, my favorite part of scones is how easy they are to eat, not just to bake. A warm scone, a cup of coffee, and a food magazine make for a perfect weekend morning.

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I’m under no illusions that a smidgen of whole wheat flour in place of white makes these scones healthy; instead, the whole grains, plus the use of honey as the only sweetener, provides a wonderful earthiness to the scones, making them the ideal vehicle for jam or apple butter.  These are so good they might not even require a food magazine to make a perfect weekend morning – but the coffee is non-negotiable.

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Jeannette chose these scones for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted.  The only change I made was to double the salt, since I like my baked treats saltier than Dorie usually recommends.

Two years ago: Sandwich Rolls
Three years ago: Phyllo Triangles with crawfish and mushroom fillings

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