I’ve been absent from this space for some time now and my apologies for that. But I’ve been hard at work on a new website that is up and running as of…TODAY! I’ve migrated all of my recipes and writing from “A Measured Memory” to the new site and although this blog will stay live for a few more months, I will be posting all new content at www.marthajmiller.com from now on.
So update your feeds and bookmarks and let’s get it on!
What a whirlwind! I had hoped to check back in sooner but the time has literally flown by. I promise you that my reasons for not posting have been good ones and I’m still spinning with the amount of “to dos” on my plate at the moment. Zach and I woke up one day last week and realized we had more laundry in our hamper than in our closets. Which is to say, that with our current schedules we’re feeling ahead of the game if we have clean underwear in the drawer and milk in the fridge.
With my 2 graduate classes this semester and his 1, we see each other for dinner only 1 night during the week. Our weekends come crashing down with piles of homework, a dog that needs a walk, and dust collecting on every surface. Don’t even get me started on the yard. We have what can only be described as the “Weed Mutiny of 2010” going on. Fortunately, Zach’s parents arrive next weekend to help us quiet that rebellion.
But thanks to the insanity and hard work, I’ve accomplished quite a bit. I’ve written a little over 30 pages for that “project” I’m working on, started a new job, and even landed one of my recipes in an actual cookbook!
A while back I entered my Chocolate Hand Pies recipe in a contest to be included in the forthcoming Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook from Andrews McMeel Publishing. My recipe, along with recipes from 99 other bloggers, was selected out of over 1,500 entries! I’m honored to say the least.
For those interested, the book comes out on 10/19 (that’s Tuesday!) and can be purchased from Amazon. However, there is talk from the publisher about organizing a “buying day” to push the book into Amazon’s Top 100 for the day which will result in Amazon offering a price discount – so you may want to wait. I’ll have more details on that date soon if you want to wait to purchase.
Ok, now on to the good stuff. I’ve been dieing to make this recipe since it first appeared on King Arthur Flour’s blog some time ago. I immediately respect a dessert that isn’t afraid to make a bold entrance and SLAB definitely accomplishes that. I also love that this recipe has all the makings of a traditional apple pie but presents them in a package that can serve a crowd and if necessary, be eaten by hand.
To make it my own, I added walnuts to the filling and tossed some bourbon into the glaze, because frankly, what is apple pie (or fall for that matter) without a nice drizzle (or dousing) of bourbon. For the crust, I used the recipe that the KA ladies used, found here. However I substituted 1/4 cup of buttermilk for the buttermilk powder and ended up using about 4 Tbs of ice water. Most double crust pie recipes should work for this recipe if you already have one you like.
Bourbon Apple Slab
Adapted from King Arthur Flour’s “Baking Banter”
For the slab
1 recipe, double pie crust (see note above for the recipe I used)
7-8 medium-sized Granny Smith apples, cored & sliced
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
2/3 cup sugar + 1 tsp cinnamon (mixed)
For the glaze
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tbs bourbon
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
2-3 Tbs milk (until you get a glaze/drizzly consistency)
1) Divide the pie dough into one larger piece and one smaller piece (about 60/40) – just eyeball it. Shape into rectangles, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill at least 30 minutes.
2) Remove the larger piece of chilled dough from the refrigerator and roll into a rectangle approximately 11 x 15. Transfer the crust to an ungreased 9 x 13 pan and patch up any holes. Push the dough up the sides of the pan slightly. Put the crust back in the fridge.
3) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel, core, and slice apples, set aside.
4) Remove the bottom crust from the fridge and spread bread crumbs and walnuts on the bottom crust. Top with the apples and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
5) Remove the smaller rectangle of dough from the fridge and roll it into a 9 x 13 rectangle. Gently place the top crust over the apples, some apples may peak through. Seal the edges of the two crusts, but there may be places where they won’t meet – that’s fine. Just before baking, slash it with a knife 6 or 8 times to allow steam to escape.
6) Bake 1 hr, cool completely.
7) To make the glaze, combine the first 5 ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Gradually add the milk until you get the right consistency. You want it a little thicker than a runny glaze but thinner than an actual icing. Drizzle over the slab and serve immediately (if you want a gooey glaze) or refrigerate for a firmer consistency.
Yes, I’m still here – alive and kicking.
I offer my sincerest apologies for the embarrassing absence and even more so because no, I don’t have a recipe for you today. But I did want to check in and say a few words. While I love holeing up in my kitchen all weekend to tinker and develop fodder for this space, as of late priorities have shifted in a different direction. Thanks in large part to the inspiration I found here over the past year in writing about food and life, and also to my wonderful graduate classes, I have begun work on a much larger project.
Though I may not post as frequently, I plan to keep this space open. I’m still in the kitchen with regularity and when I have the photographs and the worthwhile recipes to prove it, I will share them here.
In truth, I wish I had time for both but unless by some miracle I win the lottery, I am forced to pick one or the other. I figure it’s better to do one thing exceptionally, than two things just average.
This new project demands what tiny amount of time and energy I have outside of my full-time job/wife/home and dog owner “to do” lists. It begs for hours of research, road trips, and writing writing writing. Much like the blog, I’m working the long hours pro bono and covering all the incurred expenses. But I love every single moment of it and in my gut, I have a feeling that it might just be worth it.
And if not, I’ll rest easy knowing that I tried…really damn hard.
Like pretty much every food blogger, people ask me frequently how I manage to keep my health in check when so many sugary, buttery, and chocolate-y items emerge from my oven week after week. Afterall, my passion for baking and pastry is rooted in a sweet tooth so big Zach has taken to calling it a sweets mouth.
But after time spent working in a professional bakery I began to notice a shift in my hunger for sweets. The work was fun, but physically exhausting. Eight hours of quality control means a taste of this, a nibble of that, and a sliver here and there often hours before lunch arrives. By the end of the day my mind was so full of ideas and techniques that there was little room in my stomach for the fruits of my labor.
In those days, I would have willingly given a kidney in exchange for a salad.
Though I’m not in a bakery daily anymore, I find the attitude persists with the recipes I develop for this space. At a minimum I’m in the kitchen for 1 entire day (often 2) every weekend prepping, baking, and taste-testing and that doesn’t take into account the hours of advance research, the photographing, writing, tinkering, and posting all about sweets, sweets, sometimes bread, and more sweets.
It is truly a labor of love. One that started as a voracious appetite for desserts and has since been eclipsed by the sense of self I find in the kitchen and the joy in sending 95% of it out in plastic containers for others to consume. Perhaps this is what happens when a hobby becomes a job. As a wannabe career it’s a different animal altogether, but I don’t love it any less.
Now this isn’t all to say I’ve lost my sweets mouth completely. Far from it in fact. I probably enjoy my blog recipes more frequently than any nutritionist would like. But when the exhaustion peaks or my mind is overloaded with my sugary “to do” list, I know a big salad is in my future.
Okay fine, twist my arm. And the tiniest scoop of ice cream.
This recipe is adapted from a banana ice cream recipe by the ice cream master himself, David Lebovitz. I added good ‘ole Nilla wafers to the mix thanks to my nostalgic love for banana pudding. Finish it off with a dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of hot fudge sauce.
Banana Pudding Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop
3 (very ripe) medium bananas
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 Tb unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 Tb granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 tsps fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup Nilla wafers(or other vanilla wafer cookie), broken into medium-sized pieces
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the bananas and toss in a medium glass baking dish with the brown sugar and butter. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
2. Pour the warm bananas and all of their juices into a blender or food processor. Add the milk, granulated sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt and process until smooth. Transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid and chill in the refrigerator until very cold, preferably overnight.
3. Process in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions.* When the mixture reaches soft-serve consistency, transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid and gently fold in the Nilla wafers. Cover and freeze until set. Remove from the freezer 15 mins prior to serving to soften as this ice cream tends to freeze very solid.
*Note: While processing in an ice cream machine is preferred it is not mandatory with this recipe. The creamy texture of the bananas does a lot of the work for you. For those without a machine, simply place mixture in the freezer and give it a good whip/fluffing/stir every 15 minutes or so. The end result will not be as fluffy as with the machine, but will be perfectly convincing and just as delicious.
Thanks to both sets of parents and yours truly, Zach’s birthday present this year was a grill. After years and years of apartment dwelling that came with the customary ban on balcony grills, we’ve been itching to get our grill on for a long time. Now that’s not to say that we’ve spent the warm weather months totally deprived. We made many attempts over the years to be “grillers” but it’s always proved inconvenient and often, downright dangerous.
There was the time in college when we offered to cook his entire family dinner. We settled on something simple – foil packets stuffed with a mixture of chicken, vegetables, and marinade. I prepped the packets and Zach assumed the grilling role thanks to his wealth of experience flipping burgers at the student dining hall. With the packets on the grill, we plopped down to chat with his mom.
Five minutes in and the smoke started. Not regular grill smoke, but thick, black smoke spewing out of the lid. With Zach’s back to the door, I played it cool thinking, “Oh, it’ll burn off…” Then came the flames, angry and violently shooting skyward. My widened eyes and the flashes of light sent Zach running outside with water to extinguish the flames, save his family’s home, and utterly ruin my perfect little packets.
It’s a good thing his family likes Chinese food.
Prior to buying our current home we lived in an apartment community that came equipped with community gas grills in each courtyard. This seemed like a great idea until we realized we lived on the fourth floor with no elevator. Grilling required our best balancing feats as we climbed the stairs with food, platters and plates, tools, lighter, and a beer or glass of wine to pass the cooking time. A forgotten tool often sent Zach sprinting up four flights of stairs with me yelling, “Hurry! We have to turn the pork right now!!”
Then there were the grill pan nights. Along with many other claims, don’t believe the food television hype on grill pans. They are useless unless you cook in an open air kitchen or just so happen to have a commercial exhaust hood, a.k.a. none of us. The smoke sets off the fire alarm every time which, in our house is always accompanied by a frantic barking dog and Zach and I yelling at each other as we wave dish towels at the ceiling. Grill pan meet garbage can.
But this summer we wipe away all those bad grilling memories with a patio and a brand new Weber. Now if we could only get the DJ on my neighbor’s patio to take requests…
Lemon Poppy Seed Yogurt Cake
Adapted from Ina Garten
This week’s recipe is for those so committed to grilling that they even grill their desserts. Adapted from Ina Garten, I reduced the fat by using low-fat Greek yogurt and added poppy seeds since I love their nutty flavor. I suggest toasting a few slices on the grill to take it to the next level. For those of you who are grill-less, the cake is still wonderful at room temperature.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 large eggs
2 tsps grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a loaf pan (8.5 x 4.5 x 2) with non-stick spray. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet. With a spatula, fold in the vegetable oil until fully combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake 50-55 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
3. In a small saucepan, combine the lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar. Warm over low heat until sugar dissolves.
4. Remove cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Using a toothpick, gently poke small holes in the top of the cake and pour the lemon/sugar mixture over the top. Allow syrup to soak into the cake completely, then gently remove cake from the pan and cool completely.
5. At this point, the cake is wonderful as is. But I suggest cuting thick slices and grilling over med-low heat to toast gently. Serve warm cake with vanilla ice cream and fresh berries.
Chocolate Sheet Cake, a.k.a Texas Sheet Cake, is one of those desserts that I believed to be so ubiquitous and overdone, I questioned (momentarily) posting it here. But based on the oohs and aahs of intrigue that it elicited at a recent family gathering, it seems that one woman’s go-to dessert can be another’s revelation.
Chocolate Sheet Cake goes hand-in-hand with memories of my step-grandparents, Granny and Papa Roy. Granny’s sheet cake was as predictably familiar as the $2 bills Papa Roy gave us every Christmas. I made a beeline for it, right past the forks and plates, and chose instead to eat the dark, fudge-y squares by hand. Licking the icing off of your fingers is the best part anyway.
For a little girl whose definition of grandparents meant deceased or distant, Granny’s warm personality and wicked sense of humor was a breath of fresh air. She had fire-red hair, the kind of cackling laugh that warms a room, and her shaky hands made difficult work out of her smoking habit, but she managed. She had the odd yet endearing inability to pronounce soft “a’s” which meant my sister Ash would always be Aesh to her.
She told the best stories and my favorite: the dream in which she’s flying gloriously over a gorgeous field, reveling in the ability of flight. Then she watches as Papa Roy creeps out of the bushes, pulls out a shotgun, and shoots her out of the sky. To an outsider this story may seem to be a troubling metaphor for their marriage. But to those of us close to them and their quirky yet loving lifelong partnership, the story makes perfect, hilarious sense.
Sadly, Ash and I lost touch with Granny and Papa Roy many years ago. My dad and stepmother’s divorce left my adopted family with many pieces to pick up and sides to choose. We did our best to avoid sides all together until one Christmas, when the $2 bills never arrived.
Hurt manifests itself in different forms for everyone. We all deal with it in the best way we can and are forced to accept the unintended consequences. Fortunately for Ash and I, my mom was always our much-needed constant. Plus, she makes one hell of Chocolate Sheet Cake too.
This cake is a sure-fire dessert hit that’s low on labor. The ease in preparation coupled with its sheer size make it ideal for feeding the crowd that will descend on your backyard this Memorial Day weekend. It’s so rich it stands tall on its own but I’m sure a scoop of vanilla ice cream wouldn’t hurt.
As for the forks and plates? Purely optional.
Chocolate Sheet Cake
For the cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 Tbs best-quality cocoa (not Dutch process)
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
For the icing
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 Tbs milk
4 Tbs best-quality cocoa
1 lb (box) powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a rimmed cookie sheet or jelly roll pan (aprx. 11 x 17 inches) with nonstick spray.
2. To make the cake: combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large saucepan over medium heat bring butter, water, and cocoa to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, remove from the heat. Add the flour mixture to the warm cocoa mixture and whisk well to combine. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and soda and beat well. Pour on to the greased baking sheet, spread evenly, and bake 25-30 mins or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
3. While the cake bakes, make the icing. In a large saucepan, bring the butter, milk, and cocoa to a boil. Boil for 1 min and remove from the heat. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, stir vigorously until smooth. Fold in the pecans. Pour icing over the warm cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. Spread icing to the edges and let cool.
This week we’re taking a savory turn and this recipe is about as simple as they come. After last weekend’s cooking/baking/extended family Mother’s Day extravaganza, simple is about all I can master right now. And before you turn up your noses at the unsophisticated ingredients, do yourself a favor and make a batch. This mix beats the hell out of your pre-bagged Chex Mix.
So you’re a Cracker Jacks fan? Just hide a cheap prize in the bottom of the bowl, and you’ll never look at a box of that cloyingly sweet medley again.
Yes, this recipe is decidedly retro – in a good way. I count old cookbooks and yellow-ed newspaper clippings as some of my best sources of kitchen inspiration. Admittedly, I find plenty of recipes that should stay hidden in those pages for eternity. I’m looking at you Cheesy Surprise Log with your mayo, hard-boiled egg, and sauerkraut! <shudder>
But once you learn to look past the cooking holocaust that was the 1960’s and 1970’s and force yourself to relax your notions that good food needs to be complicated, there are some real gems to be found. Often the best part about old recipes is the challenge in updating them. Ditching the margarine, the canned pineapple, the corn syrup, the boxes of cake mix, or gelatin – and forcing myself to find a more wholesome work around can yield fantastic results.
The Popcorn Scramble recipe lives in my mom’s recipe binder and provides no clues as to where it comes from other than the “Fayetteville, Arkansas” printed at the bottom. A popular snack and homemade gift around the holidays, I grew up with the smell of the popcorn toasting in the oven and big roasting pans on the counter. It was impossible to walk through the kitchen without snagging a handful. To make the mix my own, I added a kick of cayenne. The balance of sweet, salty, and spice goes right year round with just about any array of appetizers and an ice-cold beer.
10 cups freshly popped popcorn, unsalted
3 cups rice cereal (ie: Rice Chex)
3 cups toasted oat cereal (ie: Cheerios)
2 cups roasted peanuts, lightly salted
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup HFCS-free light corn syrup*
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a very large roasting pan, combine the popcorn, cereals, and peanuts. Toss gently and set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the brown sugar and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over low heat (stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn) for 5 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat, stir in the baking soda, vanilla, and cayenne. Bake 1 hour; stirring every 15 mins. Allow to cool and store in an airtight container.
Yield: Aprx. 14 cups
*A Note on Corn Syrup: I avoid using corn syrup at all costs due to the widely known health and environmental issues related to HFCS. However, there are some recipes where its binding and texture properties are somewhat unavoidable. I suggest tracking down a natural HFCS-free corn syrup like this one to use when nothing else will suit. I plan to try this recipe substituting maple syrup in equal amounts as well and will report back OR chime in with your results!