Everyone’s grandma has a specialty cake. Like many out there, my grandma’s specialty cake came from a box. Her specialty cake was the Betty Crocker marble cake. Yes, it’s true. It came straight up from a box. There was no doctored version, it was just the regular recipe made with love. We loved it, of course. Give us a piece of that cake with some ice cold milk and we were happy and quiet for a while. We’ve spent many Saturdays eating that cake, so when I think of marble cake today, it’s really nostalgic for me.
As amazing as that cake was when I was a kid, I think we can do better now. I’m not a huge boxed cake mix fan to be honest. I mean, I’m all for boxed cake in a pinch. I’m no snob here. But, when I have the time and the ingredients, I’d much rather have a made from scratch cake. The challenge is making a good homemade marble cake. Many have tried, but it presents more challenges than you’d think.
Smoothies are like the *it* thing right now. Smoothie shops are popping up on every corner in every shopping plaza across the country. A smoothie is such a wonderful concept. Fruit, milk, a thickener, and delicious flavorings. Blend it all together and you get your healthy, yet flavorful drink. You also get your natural vitamins for the day. It sure as heck beats shoving broccoli down your throat. As you guys know, smoothies come in many different flavors and they’re incredibly easy to make. A lot of times, you can just blend up what you have on hand and voila, you have a smoothie! In my case, I have lots and lots of berries on hand at the moment. So, I figured it’s my perfect chance to share my version of a triple-berry smoothie.
Cinnamon rolls are one of the most popular brunch items across this country and for good reason. When done right, they’re light, fluffy, gooey and perfectly full of cinnamon flavor. A couple of months ago, I finally shared my version of a traditional overnight yeasted cinnamon roll, which you can find here.
A great yeasted cinnamon roll is and should be the standard. But, let’s face it. Sometimes we’re just not in the mood to go through the yeast process. It takes a lot of time and a lot of patience. Sometimes we just want to get our fix without the hassle. And sometimes, like more recently, we’re just out of the ingredients required to make traditional cinnamon rolls. That’s where this amazing cake comes in. It’s a light, fluffy and moist cake. That’s first and foremost. We utilize the reverse-creaming method, which yields a wonderfully light and tender cake. Along with it being amazingly moist and fluffy, it’s absolutely delicious. It’s full of cinnamon flavor, the sides get gooey and it’s topped with homemade cream cheese frosting. It actually tastes like a cinnamon roll! It’s pretty trippy actually. For way less work, we’re able to get full-on cinnamon roll flavor. This recipe is definitely a keeper.
Pound cake gets a bad wrap. There are some crazies out there that think it’s bland, dense and not worth the effort. Well crazies, you’re dead wrong. Pound cake is SO worth the effort…when done right. What do I mean by “done right?” Well, it’s pretty simple. We need a tons of fat in the form of butter, sour cream and cream cheese. Why? Because fat is flavor! This fat also provides moisture to our cake. We need great flavor and I can promise you that is what you get here. There’s tanginess from the buttermilk, lemon, cream cheese and sour cream. There’s great warm flavors from the molasses, cinnamon and brown sugar. Lastly, we need great texture. For a pound cake, it should be a bit dense, yet still have some lightness and moisture to the cake. We also get wonderful texture from our streusel topping. Trust me pound cake haters, this pound cake is one you’ll want to try.
It’s my favorite time of the year. Those who know me, know that I Fall is my season bar none. Though Fall officially started a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that I’ve yet to post any Fall-related recipes. Well, that changes today. I’m sharing my version of a beloved fall staple. Cinnamon rolls! Now, there are tons of recipes out there for cinnamon rolls. But, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. If I’m going to make a cinnamon roll, it’s going to have to hit all the marks. So, what makes a great cinnamon roll? In my opinion, it should be soft, tall, fluffy, golden, full of flavor and topped with a delicious glaze. I didn’t want to share a cinnamon roll recipe until I feel like I nailed all those points. After much research and testing, I believe I’ve arrived at the pinnacle of cinnamon roll goodness. I’m happy to share it with you!
I’m just going to say it for everybody. “Casserole” doesn’t sound appetizing. The word just has a bad connotation attached to it in the food world. You can blame things like Tuna casserole and other crazy concussions for that. However, I’m here to break that stigma. There are plenty of delicious casserole dishes out there. Lasanaga, baked ziti, and baked macaroni and cheese are great examples of amazing “casserole” dishes. Well, let me introduce one more to add to that list…French Toast Casserole. Yes, you read that right. French Toast Casserole. I love this dish so much! There’s no need to soak the bread overnight. There’s no need to stand over an oven and slave away flipping the bread at precisely the right moment. Nope, this dish allows you to put everything in one casserole dish, bake it off and you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. This version of french toast casserole is called “berries and cream french toast casserole.” For good reason too. We have berries and cream cheese in the casserole. Then, we top it off with more berries and some whipped cream. Once you take a bite of your warm french toast, you’ll think you died and went to heaven. It will take you to another dimension. I’m tellin’ you.
If you know me, you know biscuits have always been my kryptonite. I shared a recipe for two-ingredient biscuits many months ago. It’s a wonderful recipe, but it’s made with sour cream only. There is no shortening or butter in them. There is no buttermilk in them. So, as wonderful as it is, it’s certainly not traditional. I’m going to be sharing a real traditional southern recipe within the next few months, but this is also a great recipe to have in your repertoire. Not exactly what you’re southern grandmother would make, but still delicious nonetheless. I love these biscuits. They’ve become my go-to, because it takes the stress out of biscuit making. It produces light, tall, fluffy biscuits that would make your grandma proud.
There a few golden rules to remember when making biscuits:
Okay, so the first key with biscuits is to begin with cold tools and ingredients and to keep them cool throughout the process.
The second key is when you cut the biscuit out, you should NOT twist. Just go straight down and up.
The third key is that a fluffy biscuit is produced with a cake pan that allows you to put the biscuits close together. If you want a crispier exterior, use a bigger pan or a baking sheet. That way the air can circulate around the biscuits, which will give them the crispier exterior.
Don’t overwork the dough. That means don’t over-mix or overwork the dough.
Now that we have those out of the way, let’s get started:
First, you want to cut the shortening and butter into 1/2″ and 1/4″ pieces. Wrap them well and freeze them for about an hour.
Sift together the dry ingredients and place them in a wide, but shallow bowl. Place that bowl in the fridge for about an hour.
Butter your 8″ cake pan really well. I’m using an 8″ cake pan because it will yield soft and fluffy biscuits. If you want crispier biscuits, use a baking sheet or a 9 or 10″ cake pan. This will allow the air to circulate so that the exterior will be crispy.
After the tools and ingredients have been in the fridge and freezer for about an hour, take the dry ingredients and fats out of the fridge. Begin by tossing the butter pads in the flour until well coated. Smash each piece between your thumb and index finger until each piece is done. Repeat this process with the shortening. The ending mixture should look like well crumbled feta. Place this mixture in the fridge for about five minutes.
After five minutes, remove the bowl from the fridge. Use a rubber spatula to form a well in the middle of the mixture. Add cold buttermilk into the well. It will overflow. That’s okay. Mix until just moistened. Don’t over-mix!
Use a rubber spatula, that should have been in the fridge for a while, to pour this mixture onto a lightly floured surface. I use a silicone mat, but you can use a marble slab or a wooden cutting board. I don’t recommend plastic. It will stick way too much at that point. Lightly flour the top. Using well-floured hands, pat out into a round. Use a well-floured dough cutter to fold the dough in thirds. Pat into a round and fold into thirds again from the other side. Pat into a round and do this step one more time. Pat into a round.
Use a well-floured 2 1/2″ round cutter to cut the biscuits out. Cut as close as possible starting at the edge. Do an down and up motion to cut out the biscuits. Do Not TWIST! This will prevent the biscuits from rising, so make sure to avoid twisting.
Use a mini spatula to move the biscuits to your prepared pan. Place in the fridge for five minutes.
Take out of the fridge and dab the tops with melted butter.
Bake at 425°F for 10-14 minutes until golden brown. Out of the oven dab the tops with melted butter.
After dabbing the tops with butter, remove the biscuits from the pan by turning the pan over onto a plate or surface. Serve warm!
See how I do it:
- 2 cups White Lily flour + more for flouring surface and dough
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup chilled butter, cut into 1/4" pieces
- 1/4 cup chilled shortening, cut into 1/2" pieces
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Softened or melted unsalted butter for brushing.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Prepare your cake pan, pizza pan or ovenproof skillet. Butter the pan liberally.
Sift together the salt, baking powder and two cups of flour in a bowl. The bowl should be wide and not too deep.
Scatter the 1/4" size chilled butter over the flour and work in by rubbing fingers with fat and flour, like a snapping motion. Continue doing this until they are medium-sized round pieces, like well-crumbled feta cheese.
Do the same with the 1/2" size shortening pieces.
Shake the bowl occasionally to allow the larger pieces of fat to show themselves, so you can rub them out.
After this, place the bowl in the fridge for about five minutes.
Take the bowl out of the fridge and make a deep well in the center of the flour with the back of your hand. Pour 3/4 cup of buttermilk into the well and reserve 1/4 cup of buttermilk to the side.
Stire with a rubber spatula, using broad circular strokes to quickly pull the flour into the milk.
Mix until JUST combined. The dry ingredients should be moistened and the dough should begin to pull away from sides of the bowl. If there is some flour remaining on the bottom or sides of the bowl, stir in one to four tablespoons of the reserved 1/4 cup buttermilk. Just enough until the dough is shaggy and wettish. If it becomes too wet, add a bit more flour when shaping the dough.
Lightly sprinkle board or other clean surface with the reserved flour. Turn the dough out and sprinkle the top lightly with flour. With floured hands, fold the dough in half and pat dough out into 1/3 to 1/2" thick round, being mindful of the amount of flour your using. Flour, if needed, and fold again in half. If the dough is still clumply, repeat folding procedure.
With well-floured hands, pat dough out into 1/2" thick round for normal biscuit, 3/4" for tall biscuit and 1" for giant biscuits.
Brush off any visible flour from top and sides of biscuit. For each biscuit, dip a 2 1/2" round cutter into reserved flour and cut out the biscuits. MAKE SURE YOU DON"T TWIST THE CUTTER. Go up and down, don't twist. Start cutting out at the outer edge and cut very close together.
Scraps may be combined to make additional biscuits, but they'll be tougher than the first batch.
Use a metal spatula or scrapers to move biscuits to your prepared pan. Bake on the top rack for about 10-14 minutes or until lightly golden brown. After six minutes in oven, rotate pan then continue baking for about four to eight minutes.
When biscuits are finished and right out of the oven, brush the tops with the softened or melted butter.
Turn the biscuits out upside down on a plate and enjoy hot.
Biscuits are best fresh and day of. No exceptions. Sorry. Use unsalted butter. If you only have salted butter, decrease the salt in the recipe to 1/4 teaspoon. Keep everything cold throughout the process.
Last week, I promised you another easy recipe using leftover and/or stale bread. Well, here it is!
Bread pudding is a staple comfort dish. It’s incredibly easy to make. It’s versatile. You can easily transform the basic recipe into chocolate bread puddings or berry bread puddings and much more. They look beautiful and you have so many choices of toppings. If you serve these at your next brunch, your guests will be so impressed. I guarantee it. This is one of my absolute favorite ways to use leftover and stale bread.
For the bread, the key is using stale bread. As long as it’s slightly stale, you’ll be able to use it. If your bread isn’t stale yet, you can freeze it for a few days or bake it at 100°F for a few minutes. Both are great ways to slightly dry out the bread. I love using brioche buns that are typically leftover after using them for burgers. I’d definitely suggest using leftover brioche or croissants. They are great in bread puddings, because they’re already sweet and buttery. However, you can use any type of stale bread. I cut two sets of buns into medium sized cubes and set them in a bowl to the side. It comes out to a bit more than a cup and a half. The more the better. You can always freeze any leftovers for next time.
In a separate bowl, pour in the milk, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and whisk until well combined.
Butter the inside of the ramekins really well. Make sure to get the corners.
Place a large handful of the bread cubes into the ramekin. It should flow over the top of the ramekin. Once you feel satisfied with the amount, you can pour half the custard over the bread. Be careful…it’s a messy job! As you pour, make sure to get all the cubes some moisture. Also, as you pour, the cubes will sink, which will allow you to add the extra cubes on hand. Repeat with the second ramekin.
Place the ramekins on a sheet tray to prevent a mess with possible dripping. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350°F for 35-40 minutes. If you poke the custard with a pairing knife or bamboo skewer and it comes out with only a few moist crumbs, you know the custard is cooked perfectly. Not overcooked and dry, but not undercooked.
Let the bread puddings cool for about ten minutes. Serve warm with the topping of your choice! You can serve with ice cream, whipped cream made with Cream chargers at discount prices, cinnamon, powdered sugar or maple syrup. I do a combination of things, because…why not? In just under an hour, you have a delectable brunch dish that was beyond easy to make. Stale bread never tasted so good. Except when they’re croutons.
See how I do it:
- 1 1/2 cups stale bread, preferably brioche, but any stale bread will do
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- small pinch of salt
- unsalted butter for buttering the ramekins
Dice the bread into medium cubes, set aside in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Whisk until well combined. The custard is now done. Pour this mixture into a measuring cup. Place a handful of bread cubes into a well buttered ramekin. It should come up over the top of the ramekin. Pour half the custard mixture over the bread cubes. You should make sure each cube has a bit of moisture. It will sink slightly and as it does, you can add a few more bread cubes to the top. Pour more custard over those few. Do the same to the second ramekin. Place both ramekins on top of a sheet tray in a preheated 350°F oven, cover with aluminium foil and bake for 35-40 minutes. Another way to test doneness is to poke the custard with a bamboo skewer or pairing knife, if it comes out with a few moist crumbs, it's baked perfectly. Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack. Let them cool for about ten minutes. Serve warm with the topping you'd like. (maple syrup, ice cream, whipped cream, powdered sugar, cinnamon, etc. all good options)
Brioche and croissants are great options for bread pudding, but you can use any type of bread, if it's stale. You can dry out bread in a low heat oven for a few minutes or in a freezer for a couple of days. Serve warm. You can freeze the baked mini bread puddings for about a month, wrapped well. Reheat in the oven.
Brunch is by far my favorite meal. I love breakfast. I love lunch. So, of course, I’d love the combination. The foods typically served at brunch are awesome as well. Eggs, pancakes, waffles…what’s not to love. Another breakfast pastry that is typical brunch fare are scones. Admission, I’ve never had or made scones before. But, I figure, they’re flaky and flavorful, so why not try them out. They didn’t disappoint. The texture was fluffy and flaky, but crispy on the outside. Flavor was delicious with the vanilla maple glaze. It was so good and so worth the minimal effort.
Preheat your oven to 450°F. Combine the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor.
Grate the cold unsalted butter into large chunks. Place the butter in the freezer on a plate for about five minutes.
Place the frozen butter into the food processor and pulse about 10 times. The mixture will appear very lumpy and the flour will still be very visible.
Pour this mixture into a bowl.
Zest in one lemon and pour in the cold buttermilk. Dab the berries dry and dump them in.
Gently begin to fold the dough until it becomes just moistened. Pour it out onto a lightly floured surface.
Begin to gently pat the dough into a circle. Use a bench scraper to cut in half twice to give you four wedges or triangles. Use the bench scraper to move the wedges onto a lightly greased baking sheet covered with parchment or a silicone mat.
Place all the wedges onto the baking sheet about 1″ or more apart. Combine the cinnamon and milk in a small bowl. Brush on the cinnamon mixture onto the top of each wedge.
Place the pan in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 400°F and bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
Once out of the oven, move each scone to a wire rack. You can either dust them with confectioners sugar at that point or work on the glaze.
For my glaze, use a hand or stand mixer to combine the butter and cream cheese. Beat until fluffy for about 3-4 minutes. Add in the vanilla, salt, maple syrup, confectioners sugar and cinnamon-milk. Mix until combined. If too thick, add more milk. If too thin, add more sugar. Taste and adjust until it’s as sweet as you’d like. You can also use your favorite glaze ontop if you’d like.
Drizzle the scone with a spoon or with a pastry bag. Enjoy while warm!
Move to a warm plate and enjoy!
See how I do it:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/8 teaspoon salt
- zest from one lemon
- 6 tablespoons, frozen, grated unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1/8 cup berries
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1/8 cup confectioners sugar (may need more to thicken)
- 1/8 cup cinnamon milk mixture (may need more to loosen)
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Combine the dry ingredients and the grated frozen butter in the food processor. Pulse about ten times.
Pour out into a bowl. Zest in one lemon.
Pour in cold buttermilk.
Dab the berries dry with a paper towel before adding them to the dough mixture.
Gently fold in everything until just moistened.
Pour out the dough onto a lightly floured surface.
Gently pat into a circle and cut into two halves so you get four wedges.
Use a bench scraper to move the wedges to a lightly greased baking sheet.
Combine the milk and cinnamon.
Use a pastry brush to brush on the cinnamon milk mixture ontop of the scones.
Place the pan in the oven and turn it down to 400°F. Bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
Remove to a wire rack and glaze or dust with confectioners sugar.
For the glaze, just combine all the ingredients with a hand or stand mixer until it's a runny glaze consistency. Add more confectioners sugar or milk depending on taste or consistency.
Enjoy while warm!
Best when warm, the day they're baked. Store in a wrapped plastic container in the fridge or freeze. Re-heat in a microwave or oven.