Special Guests

Here’s a special post from some guest bakers.  A cousin sent me this video of her daughters.  I knew they loved to bake but was blown away by the complexity of their recipes and their independence in the kitchen.  These girls are super inspiring and ambitious bakers.  I hope you enjoy watching them as much as I did.

Since most of us are stuck at home this week, it’s a good time to bake and cook!  Here’s the link to one of my most favorite blogs.  The author lives in Paris and his recipes are ALWAYS good.  I also love reading about what life is like in his city.  There’s something for everyone in his latest post – sweets, main dishes, soups, vegan and vegetarian dishes… it’s a great list.   Just click the link to enjoy:

Stay at home recipes by David Lebovitz

Light Wheat Bread

I love to bake bread.  If you’ve never tried making bread at home, it’s not as hard as you might think.  Yeast is magical and creating a rich and fragrant loaf is so satisfying.  This is a soft sandwich style wheat bread.  It has 1/3 whole wheat flour to 2/3 white flour, which is a reliable ratio for most bread recipes.  Whole wheat flour requires more hydration and patience to yield a soft and light texture, but with these proportions you’ll get good results.  The addition of milk and butter also tenderize the wheat but could be left out for a dairy free bread.  I used my stand mixer and dough hook for this recipe and it was very easy.

Light Wheat Bread

recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

2 1/2 cups unbleached flour ( I use King Arthur All Purpose Flour)

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons powdered milk

1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

1 1/4 cups water at room temperature

  • Stir together the flours, sugar, salt, powdered milk and yeast in a large mixing bowl.  Add the butter and water, stirring until the mixture forms a ball.  If needed, add a little more water until the dough is soft and supple.  It’s better for the mixture to be a little bit too wet than too dry.
  • Knead for 10 minutes by hand or 6 minutes in a mixer.  Coat the dough with oil and cover the bowl to let it rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until doubled in size.

  • Tip the dough onto a floured surface and press out into a rectangle.  Form into a loaf by rolling and pressing the dough into a log, then sealing the ends and tucking under.  It is important to shape the dough so that it will rise evenly without any odd lumps.  If you have never worked with shaping bread before, here’s a video from King Arthur Flour to help you get started.  
  • Place the dough in a greased bread pan and mist the top of the loaf with water and cover very loosely so that it won’t stick as it rises.  Proof for about 90 minutes, or until the dough crests above the lip of the pan.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, rotate the pan and continue baking for 15 to 30 minutes.  The bread should be golden brown and register 190 degrees in the center.  Remove bread from the pan immediately and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing or eating.


  • Enjoy with lots of butter!


Apple Sharlotka

This recipe is so good that I’m posting it even though my pictures aren’t perfect.  It’s like no other apple cake I’ve experienced.  The emphasis is on the apples with just enough airy cake batter to envelope them and bring out their best features.  The cake is light and soft with a crisp top, and the apples are soft and succulent.  I LOVE the almond flavoring with the apples, it’s perfect.

Apple Sharlotka (Russian Apple Cake)

recipe from Food and Wine magazine by Matt Danko Click through for the original recipe and a video!

4 Granny Smith apples ( I used Yellow Delicious this time) – peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp all purpose flour

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

pinch of salt

3 large eggs

1/2 tsp pure almond extract

confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

  • Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease the bottom and side of an 8-inch springform pan.
  • In a large bowl, toss the apples with the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the sugar and let stand for 15 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the flour with the cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the almond extract and the remaining 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar at medium-high speed until thick and pale yellow and a ribbon forms when the beaters are lifted, 8 to 10 minutes. Gently fold in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.

  • Spread the apples in the prepared pan in an even layer, then pour the batter evenly over them. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow the batter to sink in a little.
  • Bake the sharlotka for about 1 hour, until it is golden and crisp on top and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack and let rest for 15 minutes. Unmold and transfer to a serving platter. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm.



Fruit and Oatmeal Bars

When I bake for my son, I’m always thinking of how I can boost the nutrition and also create something that feels like a delicious treat.  These fruit bars are sweet and rich and pack a decent amount of nutrition too.  There are some oats, whole wheat flour, and  almond meal and egg for protein as well as fruit!  This is good enough for breakfast and sweet enough for dessert.  I also love the simplicity of a recipe that does not require a separate mixture for the crust and topping.

Fruit and Oatmeal Bars

1 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup almond flour

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 stick butter – cut into cubes

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1 Tablespoon cold water

For the filling:

3/4 cups fruit preserves

1/2 cup fruit

1/2 lemon or lime, juiced

Preheat the oven to 375 and prepare 8 inch square pan for baking.

Mix 3/4 cup oats, all the flour, sugar, and salt.  Add the butter and mix with a pastry cutter, fork, or by squeezing with the fingertips.  Work this mixture until the butter is evenly distributed.  Mix the egg, water and vanilla in a small bowl, then add to the dry ingredients and mix until it will stick together in clumps and everything is moistened.  Divide this mixture in half.

Press half the dough into the pan, making it as even as possible.  Bake this crust for 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the remaining 1/4 cup oats to the remaining dough.  Stir together the fruit, preserves and lemon juice in a separate bowl.

Remove the crust from the oven and spread the fruit mixture on top.  Pinch the remaining dough between your hands in clumps to flatten it out and place all over the fruit filling.

Place in 375 degree oven and turn down to 350.  Bake for 18-20 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

I used blueberries and strawberry jam.  These bars are super yummy, or as my husband would say, freakin’ good!!

Blueberry Frangipane Tart

I really believe that if you’re going to become excellent at anything, from baking to baseball, you’ve got to be willing to try new things and make some mistakes.  My success and confidence in the kitchen has come from years of practice and experience and yes, I’ve had my share of failures.  As Einstein said, ‘anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.’  This is how we learn.

I had wonderful blueberries.  I had pie crust already made.  I knew it would be tricky to combine them with frangipane in a tart the way I wanted to, but decided to proceed nonetheless.  Frangipane is a sweet filling made from almonds, butter and eggs, and it’s one of my favorite treats.  It must be baked, and it really needs to be exposed to the heat (not buried deep in a pie) in order to puff up and brown a little.  I did everything right in this recipe, almost.  I made sure to blind bake my crust.

I didn’t cover the frangipane completely with blueberries.  I baked until bubbly in the center.  However,…. it needed 5 more minutes!  The edges were perfect with crisp and flaky crust, but the center was not.

If I make this again, I think I’ll put the frangipane on top of the blueberries and let the berries peek through instead of vice – versa.  At any rate, my husband LOVED this tart and said the amount of sweetness was just right.  Served with lightly sweetened whipped cream, it really was good despite it’s imperfection.

Blueberry Frangipane Tart

Adapted from The New York Times Cooking

1 pie crust –  Here’s an old post with a recipe you can use.

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

1/2 cup ground almonds (almond flour)

2 teaspoons all purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 stick butter

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

  • Roll out the dough, chill and blind bake.  For more information about blind baking click here.
  • Mix the almond flour, all purpose flour, sugar, almond extract, egg and butter really well.  Spread into the pre-baked shell.
  • Place the blueberries on top, making sure to leave some frangipane filling peaking through.
  • Bake at 375 F for 35 to 40 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven.  If the crust becomes too dark around the edges, cover with a ring of foil and continue baking.
  • Allow to cool at least an hour before slicing.
  • YUM!

Here’s an old post about the first time I made a Pear Frangipane Tart.