• Judith's Busy Day cake
    Breakfast,  Cakes

    Judith’s Busy Day Cake (AKA Dream Cake)

    The Danes call it “Dream Cake” (drømmekage). Leave it to Americans to define it not by its deliciousness but by how easy it is to make. Yet Busy Day Cake looks and tastes elegant, and would never let on that you threw it together between Zoom meetings. This velvety vanilla cake is so fluffy it would float away if it weren’t for the caramel coconut icing to keep it earthbound. America’s Busy Day Cake (also called things like “Lazy Daisy Cake”) has been passed down for generations, and this version comes from our college friend and baking inspiration Judith Schwartz Stalk. She remembers her mother Florence baking it in the early 1960’s when Judith…

  • Breakfast,  Desserts,  Egg dishes,  Pancakes,  Pastries

    Jennifer’s Dutch Babies

    If you like popovers, you’ll love these babies. These eggy, pie-shaped puffs need only a squirt of lemon juice, a shake of confectioner’s sugar, and some fresh fruit or jam to make a dramatic breakfast entrance. But “Dutch” Babies? Some say the name came from a corruption of “Deutsch,” since they resemble German pancakes. The Dutch also make Pannenkoeken with a similar batter, although they look more like crepes. Frankly, these are likely neither German nor Dutch. We contend that Dutch Babies are really Yorkshire Pudding in disguise. They’re sizzled in butter instead of meat drippings, and served for breakfast instead of with meat and gravy for dinner. If you wonder how a puffy…

  • Biscuits,  Breakfast,  Cookies,  Crackers,  Desserts,  Other,  Snacks,  Vegan

    Grahammies: Great Homemade Graham Crackers

    “How wacky,” you say. “You don’t make graham crackers, you make things with graham crackers—like s’mores and pie crusts. Why bother?” It’s no bother, and it’s totally worth it. A homemade graham cracker is like homemade pasta. Once you bite in, you can’t believe it could taste—and make you feel—that good. This recipe bakes up a graham cracker that’s crisp and sweet, with a toasted wheatiness and tang of molasses. Sure it’s familiar—you’ve had something like it before, from a box. But this is the real thing. This Boston Globe recipe lay dormant for 42 years in my recipe box. When I dug it out and gave it a whirl recently, it was like…

  • Breakfast,  Cakes,  Other,  Recipephany ingredient

    Thin and Crispy Rhode Island Johnny Cakes

    Rhode Islanders love their johnny cakes the way Southerners love hushpuppies. You won’t confuse johnny cakes with hushpuppies, though. Unlike those cornbread fritters, johnny cakes are thin, 100-percent corn meal pancakes passed down from the Narragansett tribe. A spoonful of corn meal mush gets griddled until it’s crispy outside yet still soft and creamy inside. There’s nothing but corn flavor through and through—except of course for the tang of the maple syrup it happily soaks up. Etymologists say johnny cakes evolved from journey cakes because early settlers packed them for trips. Seriously? These fragile cakes can break on the way from the stove to the table. I did learn that jonakin is an early…

  • Dad's Favorite Coffee Cake
    Breakfast,  Cakes,  Desserts

    “Dad’s Favorite Coffee Cake”

    If Do-It-Yourself were an Olympic sport, my father-in-law would have won gold. To Louis (everyone knew him as “Louie”), every chance to fix the unfixable was an opportunity to achieve a personal best. As a contractor, he could do everything. He was a wiring wizard and mechanical mastermind. To solve a problem, he would cobble together ingenious gadgets out of scraps from his garage. When he was in his 80s, he even developed a computer program for doing his taxes. So why was I surprised to hear that he baked? I suppose it’s because his wife Dorothy (everyone called her “Dick,” a nickname coined by her little brother) kept the household swimming in brownies,…

  • Appetizers,  Breads,  Breakfast,  Side Dishes,  Snacks,  Vegan

    Raegan’s No-Knead Focaccia

    My daughter-in-law Raegan Sales, creative vegetarian home cook and baker, generously offers yet more proof that some great breads just about make themselves. She started with something called “Ridiculously Easy Focaccia Bread” and—yes—made it even easier. And ridiculously delicious. With Raegan’s Focaccia, a bubbly wet dough bakes into a delightfully chewy golden-crusted flatbread. It owes its tender crumb and lovely flavor to hours of fermentation in the fridge and oodles of olive oil. About all we do is stir and stare, except when we get to poke our fingers into the squishy, oily dough. The payoff: warm, aromatic, hole-studded focaccia eager to get dunked into more olive oil or devoured on the spot. It…

  • Breakfast,  Cakes,  Desserts,  Snacks

    Things to Do With Cranberries: Cranberry Streusel Coffeecake

    If you’re like me, you bought two bags of cranberries before Thanksgiving because it said on the Ocean Spray package, “Buy two, freeze one.” Now what do you do with the one in the freezer? Cranberries keep a year or more in the freezer. So you can dip into your cranberry stash any time and make, for instance, this tasty Cranberry Streusel Coffee Cake. This breakfast/snack/dessert has it all: cranberry and its best friend, orange; your favorite sour dairy product (sour cream or yogurt or sour milk); the baker’s drug of choice, vanilla; and cinnamon and nuts. You can bake one large sheet cake or two 9” square cakes. In the Ocean Spray spirit,…

  • Breads,  Breakfast,  Cakes

    Muriel Brody’s Wheat Germ Banana Bread

    My mom died in August, just a month shy of turning 102. She was a success at more than just longevity. She became an art teacher rather than a journalist because her father thought it was a safer profession for women in the 1930s. And even though she’d never picked up a paintbrush until she entered Moore College of Art, her watercolors were as masterful as if she’d been born with the divine gift. She gave up teaching to serve as a Naval officer’s wife at a time when “entertaining” was serious business. Throwing dinner parties and organizing wives’ club luncheons were part of the job, and she had the poise and smarts to…

  • Breakfast,  Cakes,  Muffins,  Other,  Snacks

    Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffin Cake

    There was something about the loftiness, the berriness, and the sugary crustiness of Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins that hooked Boston in the 60s. Jordan Marsh (“Jahduns”) was Boston’s answer to Macy’s for more than 150 years, until Macy’s had the final answer and acquired it in 1996. It speaks to the power of a good snack that a sugar delivery system for tired shoppers has become a favorite memento of this late, great New England retailer. The muffin’s originator, Jordan’s baker John Pupek, kept his recipe a professional secret. This triggered Muffin Mystery Mania, when home bakers and restaurants alike set out to recreate the oversized, overstuffed muffin. For decades, the media and the…

  • Breads,  Breakfast

    No-Knead Portuguese Sweet Bread (Mazza Savada)

    Portuguese Sweet Bread shows up at Easter with dyed eggs poking out the top. Frankly, I think it looks better without them. The mahogany crust and soft, eggy interior make a luxurious slice, turning toast or sandwiches into a special occasion. With this easy no-knead recipephany, you can make this splendid bread on a whim. Just stir ingredients into a shaggy dough and let it sit overnight. Next day, form it into a ball, let it rise in the pan, and bake. That makes the hardest part remembering to start the night before. While my mom didn’t bake bread, she set aside this recipe for me back in the 90s. She found it in…

  • Pain de Mie, or Pullman Loaf
    Breads,  Breakfast,  Sandwich

    Pain de Mie, or Pullman Loaf

    Oh, those French bakers. They take great pains (no pun intended) to make slender baguettes with thick, shatteringly crisp crusts. And yet, as if to thumb their noses at the whole artisan baking thing, they also crank out rectangular sandwich loaves with virtually no crusts at all. Pain de mie (“bread of crumb”) is the anti-baguette. A baguette takes days to make and goes stale after three hours. Pain de mie takes about three hours to make and stays fresh for days. (Julia Child said it tastes even better after a day or two.) Enriched with milk, pain de mie delights with a fine, light crumb and holds its shape even when sliced thin…

  • Breakfast,  Cakes,  Desserts,  Snacks

    One Bowl Apple Cake

    If you’ve got two apples and some baking basics, you can make this jewel of an apple cake without even having to take out your mixer. Luxuriously moist and studded with soft apple chunks, this lightly spiced one-bowl wonder is as at home after a dinner party as it is at breakfast or snacktime. This cake’s versatility stems from its Jewish heritage. It purposely contains no dairy, so those who keep kosher can enjoy it any time, with meat or dairy meals. This recipephany comes from my earliest baking bible (Old Testament version), From Manna to Mousse. Born in 1969 as a plastic-spined fundraising cookbook produced by the Sisterhood of Congregation Beth El in…

  • Breakfast,  Egg dishes,  Pies,  Snacks,  Vegetables

    Zucchini Quiche

    Zucchini is to quiche as eggplant is to parmigiana. There is no higher calling for this elongated green summer squash than to be sautéed with onions, splashed with wine, tossed with herbs, then married with cheese and eggs into this savory pie. Not really a quiche, this recipephany has more of an Italian than French accent. A layer of toasted breadcrumbs replaces the pastry crust. Herbs you’d shake into a red sauce awaken the sweetness in the zucchini. And a secret ingredient—ginger—blends in so mysteriously that I dare you to pick it out of the crowd. The source of this recipephany is probably a long-gone culinary magazine. I play around with quantities, so please…

  • Breakfast,  Cakes,  Desserts,  Snacks

    Dick’s Brilliant Blueberry Bundt Coffee Cake

    My mother-in-law Dick was our very own “America’s Test Kitchen” well before Christopher Kimball. She was always experimenting, and couldn’t contain her enthusiasm over a new find. She called one day bubbling over with excitement. She told me about this light, fluffy blueberry coffee cake. She would mail me the recipe, and she just knew I’d like it. I’d heard she’d been looking for a blueberry coffee cake. Perhaps it was because her signature coffee cake (see Dick’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake) was chock full of nuts, which many people avoid. Or maybe it was just blueberry season. I’d had a favorite blueberry cake, but this replaced it in no time. All too often,…

  • Breads,  Breakfast

    Bake Yourself Happy with Claire’s Honey Whole Wheat Bread

    In his final “Kitchen Detective” newspaper column, Christopher Kimball signed off with some advice. He said that once you find a recipe that makes you happy, just stick with it. Don’t waste your time chasing down perfection. This sounded odd coming from a guy who built an empire on his own obsession with finding “The Best Recipes.” But even he could admit that, as the saying goes, better is the enemy of good. Since whole wheat sandwich bread is a character actor in a supporting role, a good loaf can range from dense to airy, dark to light, sweet to slightly bitter. There are plenty of recipes kicking around, and if you’ve found one…

  • Appetizers,  Asian,  Breakfast,  Chinese,  Snacks,  Vegan

    Caramelized Tofu Triangles: Simple Make-Ahead Appetizer

    Caramel-lacquered tofu triangles hit all the sweet, savory and salty notes that put guests in a good mood. The dark, shiny syrup sinks into the chewy triangles, so you can eat them with your fingers if you like. Since they keep well in the fridge, you can make them way ahead and bring them out any time, as you would a wedge of brie. They travel well, too. Carry them to a holiday party in a Ziploc bag and free yourself from having to retrieve your plate (or help with the clean-up) when it’s time for goodbyes. My daughter-in-law Raegan has made these for brunch, proving that they are as versatile as an eggy…

  • Breads,  Breakfast

    No-Knead Challah Sandwich Loaf, or How to Bake Yourself to Sleep

    It takes chutzpah for me to post a challah recipe. My niece Ariel (see Hugs and Cookies) is the one known for all manner of gorgeous eggy braids, coils and pull-apart rolls. She even uses special challah flour. While I’ve made competent challahs using a traditional recipe, this recipephany is remarkable because it produces the same rich taste and pillowy-soft texture without kneading. You stir it up using only a wooden spoon or (my preference) a dough whisk. What starts as a gloppy, blobby Jabba-the-Hutt mass turns smooth and elastic while it rises. It stops just short of braiding itself. I discovered this recipe recently after lying awake in the wee hours thinking of how…

  • Breads,  Breakfast,  Other

    Matt Murphy’s Irish Brown Bread

    If you’re looking for Irish Soda Bread—the slightly sweet scone-like raisin bread that is as much a part of St. Patrick’s Day as green beer—sorry, this isn’t it. This recipephany is for authentic Irish Brown Bread, the hearty whole-grain soda bread served on cutting boards alongside a crock of butter or ragged slices of cheddar. Well, at least at Matt Murphy’s Pub. Everyone in Ireland makes Irish Brown Bread. It’s a kind of national institution. I wish I could say I brought this recipe back from our trip there a couple of years ago. I had made it my mission to track down the best recipe. One woman rattled off the recipe from her…

  • Breads,  Breakfast,  Ingredient

    Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

    Cinnamonth continues with this recipephany for cinnamon-lover’s bread. With a swirl that leans toward gooey, it’s a warm morning greeting when toasted, and a fun twist with peanut butter and jam. If you’re like me and enjoy stirring up mounds of cinnamon and sugar to create a spice cloud you can inhale while you bake, this is for you. Just thinking about it gives me a tingling in my sinuses. When my daughter Claire gave me the recipe she got from Allrecipes, she said, “Use TONS of cinnamon.” She reasoned that if you’re in this for the cinnamon—and it is “cinnamon bread” after all—then the more you can taste the better the bread will…

  • Breakfast,  Jams and Condiments,  Recipes,  Technique,  Techniques & Ingredients

    Apple Butter, Pressure-Cooker Fast

    I’m declaring October “Cinnamonth,” and kicking it off with harvest-fresh apple butter. Smooth, cinnamon-spiked apple butter on soft challah was my equivalent of a jelly doughnut when I was growing up. So this year, besides our usual tart Cortlands for pie, we also picked Macouns and McIntoshes (which get mushy when cooked) to whip into apple butter. I’d never made it before, but applesauce is a cinch, so how difficult could it be? Turns out it’s easy, but shockingly time-consuming. Besides the cinnamon and other spices, complex flavors bloom from that mysterious process called caramelization. While applesauce cooks up in less than a half-hour, apple butter takes a whopping 3½ hours. This is a…

  • Breads,  Breakfast,  Desserts,  Pastries,  Snacks,  Technique

    Last Gasp of Summer: Blueberry Whole-Wheat Scones

    As part of September denial, I’ve been manically buying up fresh blueberries. The season is fast slipping away, and before you know it, blueberries will cost a dime apiece again. I’ve been making these sunny whole-grain blueberry scones for the past two weeks. They’re buttery, pastry-like and tender, with tangy berries that melt on the tongue and make me wonder what I ever saw in chewy raisins. While this is an amalgam of recipes, it is mostly a repurposing of Liz’s Whole-Wheat Oatmeal Buttermilk Blueberry Pancake recipephany. I’ve borrowed the key ingredients, the spices, and the technique of soaking oats in buttermilk to create a sweet mush without any hint of roughage (or as…

  • Breads,  Breakfast,  Desserts,  Pastries,  Technique

    Croissant Crazy

    I just tried this recipe and was thunderstruck. Here were high, flaky croissants, the kind I’d expect to pull out of a butter-stained bakery bag rather than right out of my oven. The French call it un coup de foudre—love at first sight—and I’ve fallen hard for this recipephany. My dreams of baking authentic croissants go way back to my advertising copywriting days at “The Pit.” (See “How to Fowl-Up a Chicken.”) In a desperate attempt to escape that basement sweatshop, I came within a gluten-strand of opening a bakery with a “Best-in-Boston” croissant baker who happened to live downstairs from us. In a moment of over-caffeinated inspiration, I named the prospective bakery Croissant…

  • Boston Brown Bread Muffins
    Breakfast,  Muffins,  Recipes

    Boston Brown Bread Muffins

    When I moved to Boston, New England was in the middle of its Muffin Era. Pewter Pot Muffin Houses had Colonial wenches serving up a couple dozen varieties which, according to the Harvard Crimson, all tasted pretty much the same except for the chocolate chip. Home bakers were obsessed with finding the “real” recipe for the legendary Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin sold in the department store’s dining room. It was a cakey mountain, topped with crusted sugar and bursting with perfectly distributed blueberries. I’ve tested several “original” recipes swearing to have come from such unimpeachable sources as the actual baker’s mechanic’s wife’s hairdresser, but was never convinced. The other Holy Grail was the moist,…

  • Breads,  Breakfast,  Desserts,  Snacks

    Dick’s Sticky Buns

    With the exception of our family tree trimming—when nostalgia and aesthetics collide as we unwrap ornaments and debate which deserve center stage—the sticky bun is my favorite Christmas tradition. The tradition goes like this. The week before Christmas, we bake these fluffy, high cinnamon rolls glazed with caramel and topped with pecans. On Christmas morning, the buns, wrapped in foil crinkled from storage in the freezer, warm in the oven. Meanwhile, the kids squirm and whine on the stair landing, as if restrained by Santa’s Invisible Fence, until buns and coffee are ready. Once out for all to grab, the sticky buns fuel the strenuous morning of gift opening and debris management. My late…

  • Poppy Seed Lemon Cake
    Breakfast,  Cakes,  Desserts,  Ingredient,  Recipephany ingredient

    Lemon Buttermilk Poppy Seed Cakes, and the Poppy Seed Predicament

    Poppy seeds and lemon adore each other, and prove it in these lovely mini loaves. You can feel the sparks fly in your mouth, with the teeny pop of the seeds and the puckery citrus. Tangy buttermilk, the one-two punch of lemon in the cake and the syrup, and the delicately nutty seeds create a sunny cake to boost your mood any time of day. Wrap a petite loaf in clear plastic, tie it up with some raffia, and it makes a luxuriously delicious gift. This recipephany, though, also has to do with how I solved the Poppy Seed Predicament. I’m not talking about how a slice of this will make you flunk a…