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This has not been a great week for my blog, let’s be honest. Between cooking a bunch of random food that wasn’t particularly photogenic, to cooking an extremely photogenic cobbler and NOT TAKING A PICTURE, I have failed as food blogger extraordinaire. I do have a sweet and sour chicken post I’ll be putting up later, but really what I want to talk about right now is that dessert.

Because the buttermilk biscuits I used as the topping for a pretty basic strawberry rhubarb cobbler were so amazing, I am going to post the recipe here and you are just going to have to imagine how cute they were (cut into a flower cookie cutter shape) on top of the vibrant red fruit. I had a few extras which I baked and ate with butter and cherry preserves and boy, let me tell you, I will be doing that again, and soon. Biscuits are delicious. Cinnamon-cardamom biscuits are divine.

Cinnamon-Cardamom Buttermilk Biscuits
Makes 6 – 8 biscuits

2 c. all purpose flour
2 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cardamom
1/2 t. cinnamon
10 T. (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus 1 T. melted butter for brushing over tops
2/3 c. plus 1 T. chilled buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375°F. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cardamom into large bowl. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually add buttermilk, tossing with fork until large moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball. Pat out to about 3/4″ – 1″ thick and using a cookie cutter, cut into 6 – 8 biscuits. (Alternately you can just divide into balls and pat into rounds, if you do not want to cut them into shapes.

Place on a baking sheet and brush with melted butter (you can also use heavy cream), sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake biscuits until tester inserted into center comes out dry, about 20 minutes. Transfer biscuits to rack and cool to lukewarm.

Note: If you are using these for the top of a cobbler, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for 40 – 45 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling.

almondraspberrybread

So, I had these two sad bananas on my table for days and days. I kept telling myself I would make them into a banana bread, and kept putting it off. Then they were completely black and I was afraid to unpeel them. So, since I had just bought poppyseeds for the bagels, I decided a poppyseed bread was in order. I honestly don’t know why I don’t make more things with almond extract because it is SO GOOD. I modified this bread from a recipe I found on the Kitchen Sink, and decided I would feel better about making this bread somehow if it contained fruit. However, I do think this came out more like a dessert bread than a “healthy” bread — not that the ingredients are more indulgent than most quick breads, but it just seems more dessert-like with the almond flavor.

Also, I only took one picture because I was baking so many things all day that I just couldn’t take as many process pictures as I’d like. Flour on my hands and whatnot. Trust me, this bread is delicious.

Almond Poppy Seed Bread

3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
1/2 c. + 2 T. buttermilk
3/4 c. sour cream or greek yogurt
1 T. almond extract
2 c. all-purpose or white whole wheat flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 T. poppy seeds
1 c. raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan.

In a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (OK, so mine didn’t turn out really light and fluffy — and my bread didn’t suffer for it, so don’t sweat this step if it isn’t “fluffy”). Add the egg whites, buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt, and almond extract to the butter-sugar mixture and beat until combined.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Slowly add the whisked dry ingredients and stir gently with a spatula. When the mixture is almost combined, add the poppy seeds and raspberries. Stir gently until the wet and dry ingredients have just combined and the poppy seeds and raspberries are distributed throughout the batter. Try not to mash the raspberries.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and use a rubber spatula or spoon to smooth the top. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, or until the top of the loaf is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

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I wanted to make this rhubarb tart to go with my dinner on Saturday night, but by the time I got to the farmer’s market, the rhubarb was long gone. So I decided to sub out citrus for the rhubarb — grapefruit, oranges, and blood oranges. Instead of making a pastry crust, I also decided to take the easy way out and use packaged puff pastry! Amazing stuff, really. This is one product I can absolutely get behind buying instead of making.

Smitten Kitchen had a blood orange tart recipe that included a salted caramel sauce, which I decided to make as well. Holy moly that stuff is good, and would pretty much be amazing on anything.

I ended up making the tart for a trivia night party on Sunday instead, so I didn’t get any fabulous pictures (although I think the deliciousness is conveyed anyway). I didn’t want to be that asshole at the party setting up my tripod and trying to find natural light. Yuck. So anyway, if you want to impress someone, and you don’t want to spend a billion hours making some complicated dessert, make this. You will look so fancy, and everyone’s taste buds will be pleased.

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It’s been a hectic week, and I realize my post about these cookies is overdue, given that I made them on Sunday! Rest assured, it has nothing to do with any inadequicies in the cookies themselves. They were quite delicious, and far superior to my previously posted oatmeal cookie recipe (sorry Mark Bittman). While those were cakey, somewhat flavorless, and a little dry (yum), these cookies were crispy, airy, and studded with buttery white chocolate. Yum for real! The recipe came courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, and while my cookies were larger and flatter than her rendition (I think I pressed down on them a bit too much before baking), they were still quite good.

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It’s a little weird posting about something I made and even finished off the last of the leftovers from days ago, but I’ve been neglecting the results of my rice pudding craving fulfillment exercise. Also it’s another recipe I can cross off that list of recipes I pathetically had not gotten around to making that week that I was being really lazy, also known as last week! Part of the reason I haven’t posted is because I ate it before taking a picture and then took a crappy picture of the leftovers, so it was a little less appetizing looking. But trust me, even when it’s cold from the fridge and a little congealed, it’s yummy.

As I mentioned before, I could eat my weight in dried cherries, so this rice pudding recipe was right up my alley. I made a couple of small modifications, as indicated in the recipe below. Original from Epicurious here.

Dried Cherry Rice Pudding

1 c. water
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. long-grain white rice
3 c. 2% fat milk (1% or whole would also be fine)
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1 t. vanilla
1/8 t. ground cardamom
1/8 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. dried tart cherries

Bring water with salt to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan and stir in rice. Cover pan and reduce heat to low, then cook until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Stir in milk and sugar and cook over very low heat, covered, until mixture resembles a thick soup, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Whisk together egg, egg whites, vanilla, cardamom, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Whisk about 1 cup hot rice mixture into egg mixture, then stir mixture into remaining rice. Cook over low heat (do not let boil), whisking constantly, until an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F, 1 to 2 minutes (I did not use a thermometer because I’m not all that paranoid about raw eggs). Remove from heat and stir in raisins and cherries.

Transfer pudding to a 2-quart dish or 6 (8-ounce) ramekins and chill, its surface covered with wax paper, until cool but not cold, 1 to 2 hours.

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Forgive me Alice Waters, for I have sinned.

I used blueberries in March. And nectarines. And a whole bunch of other stuff in my panzanella salad that is not in season. I’m sorry! I just couldn’t take it anymore. And what do I get for buying nectarines in March? Crappy nectarines. FINE. I learned my lesson.

Except that (almost) every fruit can be saved. Just as I boiled my strawberries to make strawberry tea, I saved these sad nectarines that were hard as a rock one day and then wrinkly like a sharpei the next. I baked them into a crisp. And, just to clarify, the bad out of season nectarines caused me to buy out of season blueberries to go with them in a crisp.

I looked to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything for a fruit crisp topping, but I’m not gonna lie, I’ve made this same crisp topping many times before in many variations, learned from my dad. Another thing to draw attention to is that I made a small baby casserole dish of this – not sure of the dimensions but probably 4 x 4 or so. I had 3 1/2 cups of fruit, so you could easily double both parts of this recipe and do it in a full-size 8 or 9-inch square casserole. And, of course, you should have vanilla ice cream on hand. It’s just not the same without it. I could never be a vegan.

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This cake is worth it for the smell. I have to confess, I can’t remember the last time I made an actual cake. Pies, yes. Quick breads, yes. Cakes? Somehow they just seem like so much work (they’re not). I don’t have a muffin / cupcake tin either (for shame!) so I don’t make cupcakes, although according to…everyone…they’re the “it” thing. Anyway, I’m getting off topic. The smell! The smell of vanilla and lemon just permeates the room while this cake is baking. And it’s amazing.

I love that this cake has a glaze and not icing, too. It’s more like poundcake style, although not so dense. My problem with cakes usually has something to do with the icing – too much, too dense, too sweet. It’s always something. But this has just a simple powdered sugar and lemon juice glaze. If I weren’t full of cake already, just writing about it would make me eat another slice.

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Tonight I was also experimenting with my new table tripod for my camera. I’m attempting to step it up in the photography department without investing a bajillion dollars in an SLR camera that I won’t know how to use properly anyway. So far, I’m pleased with the results, but there’s much work to be done.

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I needed something sweet last night. NEEDED. All I had was a pitiful scoop of vanilla ice cream and an almost overripe pear and banana. A tablespoon of butter, some brown sugar, a splash of dark rum and a pinch of salt sauteed with the fruit and served with the ice cream did the trick. It didn’t look pretty, but if you ever need to figure out a way to use fruit that’s too soft to eat as-is, I recommend trying this or some variation of it. Fruity creamy soupy heaven.

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I have to thank Melissa for this recipe idea. Seriously, I am obsessed with peanut butter, so what could be better than peanut butter and banana in frozen ball form? You could dip these in chocolate for something even more decadent but I like that they’re these little protein bombs and actually not that sweet. I think Elvis would have loved them.

Frozen Peanut Butter Balls

1 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
1/3 cup crushed pretzels
1 T. cocoa powder
1 T. brown sugar
1 banana, mashed

Combine all ingredients well. Roll into balls about 1″ in diameter (should make about 12) and freeze, then devour!

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OK, so I didn’t have beads, there wasn’t much debauchery, and I didn’t make King Cake (with a plastic baby inside). But I did make gumbo (by myself! for the first time!) and cornbread and caramel rum banana bread pudding (Bananas Foster originated in New Orleans, and this is basically the bread pudding form of it) and had a few people over and my Brooklyn New Orleans night was a success! I’m going to have to do this in stages and have another one where I can invite all the people who didn’t fit into my apartment the first time around.

Damn, gumbo is a lot of work. First I had to track down the ingredients. Smoked Andouille was nowhere to be found (Whole Foods had fresh, but that wouldn’t cut it) so I had to settle for Chicken Smoked Andouille sausage from Trader Joe’s, which was at least the right spices and texture. It was actually pretty delicious. Then I had to track down gumbo filé (ground sassafras…which sounds like a made up thing but it’s not – it’s a tree and the filé is made from the dried ground leaves). Luckily for me, I had the internet to tell me that “Two for the Pot”, a local Brooklyn Heights tea and spices store, had it. In bulk, no less!

I used an Emeril Lagasse recipe which I figured was at least fairly authentic. It involved the classic “holy trinity” (green bell peppers, onions and celery) and I slaved over my roux for at least half an hour. It probably could have gotten even a little darker, but it was the color of milk chocolate when I just couldn’t stand to stir anymore, which isn’t too far off. I added in quite a bit more cayenne pepper than the recipe called for, because it just didn’t have that kick (really Emeril? You didn’t kick it up a notch this time!). And it was amazing, if labor intensive. There’s a reason it’s an iconic dish.

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To go along with the gumbo I had rice (of course) and two skillet cornbreads – one with scallions and one without, served with honey cinnamon butter and jalapeno cilantro butter. For munchies I made crudite, with a simple (slightly spicy) yogurt sauce. Dessert was bread pudding (made with challah, YUM) with rum, bananas, and caramel sauce. Recipes and links to recipes after the jump.

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