Mango & Crystallized Ginger Quick Bread!


, , , , , , ,

I don’t know about you but I really like the small, yellow mangos.  Sometimes I’ve seen them called Champagne mangos.  They are smaller than the regular green/red mangos and they are always a bright yellow!  When I see them in the market I always pick them up because they are not always available.  We usually just eat them fresh but, I got a cute little book at a second hand store called Scones, Muffins, Tea Cakes and it has some really nice recipes in it.  I’ve made a few things out of it and they always turn out well.  In fact I think these scones came from the same book.

Anyway I was reading the book and various recipes caught my attention but the Mango and Crystallized Ginger Quick Bread was the one that sounded just right.

You can use any kind of mango you enjoy, make sure you have enough to make 1 cup of puree.  I used 4 of the yellow ones and I got over a cup.  Also it asks for 1/2 cup of crystallized ginger.  The stuff I had was powerful and I was worried it would be too much but it was PERFECT!  So if your ginger bites, don’t worry it won’t be overpowering.


  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh mango puree
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (3 oz) diced crystallized ginger

Preheat the oven to 350F . Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Puree the mango and set aside.  In a bowl beat the butter and sugar until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until creamy.  Add the mango puree.  The mixture will look separated but it will come back together so don’t worry!

It will come back together!

In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet and do not overmix.  Gently fold in the crystallized ginger. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for about an hour. The cake will be golden brown and feel firm if you press with your fingertips. Cool for 15 mins in the pan and then transfer to cooling rack.

The smells coming from the oven were heavenly.

This quick bread was so moist and delicious. There were plenty of ginger chunks throughout and their bite was gone!  I couldn’t really taste the mango as a definite flavor. I think it added moistness and the sweetness tempered the ginger. I took some to work and I’ve already been asked for the recipe. I will be making this one again!

Date Walnut Dacquoise


, , , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve been wanting to make this cake for awhile and decided I would make it for the Aspiring Bakers #18 Layers of Love challenge hosted by Sam over at Sweet Samsations.  She has such an inspiring blog with wonderful recipes and gorgeous pictures of said recipes!   The challenge is for a layer cake that must have at least three layers.  Cake is not my favorite dessert, I do enjoy it every so often but I haven’t baked one in a long time.  What to do?  I want to join the challenge but I don’t want to bake a traditional flour cake with overly sweet frosting.  Hmmmmm……

I recently found a Williams Sonoma cake book at a thrift store.  I can’t remember which recipe caught my eye, but all of them were classic recipes and I needed a good cake book to add to my collection. This is where the original idea for this dacquoise came from.  What is dacquoise?  It is usually almond or hazelnut meringue “cake” layered traditionally with buttercream or whipped cream.  This recipe called for toasted walnuts!  Why not?  I also didn’t want to use buttercream because again, I don’t really like it.  I can usually taste too much of the butter.

Then I remembered the caramel marscapone frosting I made for the Pierre Hermes Apricot Lime Financier Cake.  That was not too sweet, had a little burnt sugar taste and would go well with toasted walnuts.  As I was making it the thought of dates went through my head, their sweetness, the deep subtle flavor they would add,  why not?

The Recipe adapted from the Williams Sonoma Cakes, Cupcakes & Cheesecakes book.

  • 75 g plus 60 g walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 180 g sugar
  • 1 Tb cornstarch
  • 3 large egg whites (room tempurature)
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • about 1/4 cup chopped dates (I didn’t measure sorry)
  • Caramel marscapone frosting (find the Pierre Hermes recipe here)

Toast the walnuts in a 350 oven for about 10 minutes, and put 75 g in a food processor with 60 g of the sugar and the cornstarch. Process to a fine grind.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Draw three 8 inch circles onto the parchment in pencil. One 8 inch circle on one sheet and two on the other.  Make sure to turn the parchment over so the circles are visible but so you won’t get pencil transfered onto your meringue.  Preheat the oven to 250.  Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a mixer and mix on med until soft peak form.  Add in the remaining 120 g of sugar and continue beating until stiff, glossy peaks form.  Gently fold in the nut mixture. Divide the mixture onto the three circles. (you can pipe the circles if you want). Bake for 1 hour 20 mins until crisp and golden. Let cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, remove from parchment and then let cool on racks.

Meanwhile I made the caramel marscapone frosting.  This cake has to sit in the refrigerator overnight to let the meringues soften and my cake plate is too large to fit in the refrigerator with everything else in there.  I decided to cover a piece of cardboard with aluminum foil and transfer the cake to the fancy plate in the morning.  Bad idea, the cake stuck to the foil….because I put some frosting on the foil to anchor the meringue.

Frost the first meringue and sprinkle with the chopped dates. There’s no correct amount to use, whatever your taste likes.  I thought the amount I used was perfect, it added an unrecogniseable flavor that was not overpowering or oversweet.


Put the next meringue layer over this and frost, sprinkle this layer with some chopped, toasted walnuts.

Add the final meringue and frost the top and sides.  Press chopped walnuts on the sides of the cake and decorate with walnut halves on the top.  Cover and refrigeratove overnight.  Bring to room tempurature before serving.

The taste and texture are wonderful. It has a smooth creamyness with just a little crunch.  The carmel marscapone frosting has a slight bitter edge which is offset nicely by the sweetness of the dates and the toasted walnut flavor tops it off perfectly.

The foil not only made the cake stick to it, it also ripped and stuck to the piece I cut. I hope this qualifies as a layer cake!  If I find the time and, more importantly, the inspiration, I will try a completely different, more traditional layer cake and submit that as well.

Hot Cross Buns


, , , , , , , ,

When I found out the Fresh from the Oven challenge this month was Hot Cross Buns I was a bit delighted. I don’t recall ever eating one, in fact I didn’t really recall the nursery rhyme either, I just knew there was one.  There was a vague thought that something existed called a Hot Cross Bun and that it must have a long history, going way back in time. After all if there is a nursery rhyme about a food, it must be good and a pretty old recipe!  I was not disappointed, these are very good.  I’m eating one as I sit here typing.

They are a sweet bread but not too sweet. Not close to a muffin, more like a sweet roll.  They usually have spice in the batter and fruits, with a glaze over the top.  They also have a cross on the top and are traditionally served during Easter on Good Friday.  According to Wikipedia they may even pre-date Christ although the first recorded use of the term Hot Cross Bun was in 1733!!!!  I get to make something that’s been passed along since then, wow!

There were a few recipes out there so I read the ones I could find and decided I wanted to stay with a more traditional recipe…meaning no chocolate for now.  I love reading Chica Andaluza’s blog and she had just posted a Hot Cross buns recipe!  So I used hers with a few additions of my own.

Hot Cross Buns

  • 300 g milk
  • 50 g butter
  • 550 g flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 100 g sugar
  • 7 g yeast (I used instant)
  • 1 egg
  • 50 g dates
  • 50 g prunes
  • zest of 1 Meyer lemon and 1/4 ? grapefruit
  • 1 Tb mixed spices (I combined ginger, cardamon, all spice, clove, nutmeg & cinnamon)
  • 1 tsp anise seed
  • 1 tsp orange flower water

For the cross

4 Tb rice flour (you can use regular flour) and water until you reach a pipeable consistency.

For the Glaze

3 Tb apricot jam, 1 Tb orange marmelade

Traditionally raisins are used but I don’t really like them. I found chopped dates & plums (prunes) in the store so used them. I also had used anise seed and orange flower water in a Spanish cookie I recently made and loved the flavor they added so I decided to throw that in too!

My additions

Bring the milk to an almost boil, drop in the butter, cool to room tempurature and add in the tsp of orange flower water. In a mixer combine the flour, salt, yeast, spices, sugar and anise seed.  Add the milk mixture & the egg and mix on low for 4 minutes, then on med for about 6 minutes.  The dough will be sticky.  Turn it out onto a floured surface and flatten the dough and add the fruits & zest and knead until it is well combined.  You will want to add flour if necessary to stop it from sticking.  Put in a greased bowl and proof for an hour or until doubled in size.  I forgot to take a picture of this stage, sorry. Punch down the dough and divide into 24 pieces, shape into rounds & proof again for about an hour. (The amount you make depends on how large you want the buns to be, but remember they will grow a bit).

After the hour, preheat your oven to 375 F (200 C) and prepare the flour for the crosses.  I used rice flour becuase I wanted a crispier cross and I knew the flour makes a whiter color too.  Anyway add water to whatever flour you use until it is wet enough to pipe on the crosses.  I had read that you should slash the crosses first and pipe over the slash and I had read without slashing so I did some of each.

Pop them in the oven and let bake for 15-18 minutes.  They should be a golden brown.  Meanwhile heat up the jam for the glaze.  I’ve also read of people using golden syrup for the glaze. I think in the States we call golden syrup, light corn syrup? But I thought jam would be more flavorful.TaDa!!!

They were delightful to eat.  I took them to a friend’s for Easter dinner and they loved them, even the 9 year old!  I remember being a kid and not liking sweet bread with fruits in it. I think every culture has a version of this idea. In Greece it’s called a Tsoureki, in Italy a Panetone, I believe Mexico’s Day of the Dead bread, Pan de Muertos is a sweet bread too.  Check out Wikipedia on Hot Cross Buns it’s an interesting read.  In fact when I read this part “If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out perfectly. The hanging bun is replaced each year.”   I realized I might just have to hang one in the kitchen! Hmmmm, I wonder how Jason would feel about that?  And the dogs?! They would probably be jumping for it….nevermind….I’ll just eat them.

Diets and cake…a cautionary tale…or why my cake fell flat!


, , , , , , , , , ,

So……….I’ve been dieting. UGH.  All my life I’ve been able to eat whatever, and yes I am aware that I’ve been lucky that way. I’m not a skinny person by any means, just regular. But lately…well I’ll put this in the order I believe it should be in….1. I haven’t really exercised in about 3 years and 2. I’m getting older.  And I don’t like it.  About 3 years ago I stopped taking Tae Kwan Do or going to the gym, or going hiking and kinda stuck around home more….and possibly started baking more.  My sister thinks the weight gain is mostly due to age but I’m fighting against that.  So I’ve gained about 20 pounds if I’m being honest.  The first 10 were no big deal, this last 10 however are another story altogether!!!  I can see them! I can feel them in my clothes!  So diet it is.  Here is the problem, it’s not easy to change years of eating habits! I don’t eat badly, just probably too much for my current metabolism.  So I went low carb.  Thinking that way I can still eat sweets on the weekends!  Low carb all week, dessert on weekends. Logical eh?  A friend gave me fresh eggs from his chickens and pheasants. I can eat all I want of eggs on this damned diet.

Farm fresh eggs

Except after about a week and a half on this damned diet nothing seemed to be coming off.  I’m not going to starve myself (hardly) if it doesn’t even work.  Last night was my breaking point.  I found a recipe for Kasutera Cake (a Japanese sponge cake) and decided what the hell, it’s a small recipe, it’s not too sweet, I have matcha powder and it uses eggs!  I can eat eggs….green tea cake it is!

Lovely tea fragrance

Jason only chuckled, diet over already?  Well, no, just a break.  Besides a light, not too sweet little tea scented cake couldn’t really hurt that much right?

There are many Kasutera also known as Castella, recipes out there. I chose this one because I thought it would be small enough that I wouldn’t completely blow the damned diet.  You can make it in many flavors and  Matcha is a green tea powder that can be used to flavor many things including ice cream, cake etc.

Matcha Kasutera

  • 2 Tb milk
  • 2 Tb honey
  • 3/4 c flour
  • 1 Tb matcha
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 c sugar

Prepare a small 9 inch rectangular pan with parchment paper.  Combine the honey and the milk and warm it up. Sift together the flour & matcha powder in a bowl and set aside.  Whisk the eggs and slowly add the sugar, place this bowl over a simmering pot of water, (very low simmer) and continue to whisk (I used a hand mixer.) The mixture will grow in size, get thick and get very light colored, it takes at least 10 minutes.

The egg mix at the start.

You want to reach a point where the mixture is very thick and reaches what is called the “ribbon stage”. See the picture below, when you take the whips out, the mixture will form what look like ribbons on top and slowly melt back into the rest of the mixture.  If you’ve ever made Zabaglione, this is the stage you are looking for.

Ribbon stage

So far so good, right?  It sure seems to be going great.  Stir in the milk/honey mixture and preheat the oven to 360 F.  Sift the flour/matcha into the batter and fold with a spatula, you want to fold gently so that you keep the light fluffiness of the egg mixture. Pour the batter into the pan and tap lightly on the counter to get any big air bubbles out.  Bake for 10 minutes at 360 then reduce the temperature to 300 and bake a further 40 minutes.  If a toothpick inserted comes out clean, it’s done! Then remove from pan, cool and blah blah blah.

My cake was doing fine, it had risen and looked good.  When I checked it about 20 minutes after I had lowered the tempurature….disaster!  The middle had collapsed!  What in the world?  I started racking my brain, did I beat it too much/hard?  Oh I added food coloring paste at the end and it may not have blended that well, was that it?  Ugh, this is what happens when your stomach has no carbs and takes over in a panic demanding cake.  I did an internet search with the query “Why did my sponge cake collapse?”  The very first hint made me realize my mistake….I had opened the oven door when I reduced the tempurate, thinking that would help get rid of some of the heat.  WRONG MOVE.  I guess sending in a rush of cold air causes sponge cakes to collapse, unless it’s more than 3/4 of the way done.  I’ll never make that mistake again.  The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.  This may be an elementary mistake to all you sponge cake makers but I’ve never been a big fan of cake until I discovered sponge cakes.  When I was little we mostly had box cakes, or bought cakes with waaaaay too much super sweet frosting.  Here’s another example of one more thing I will conquer!  My next attempt will be a Pandan Chiffon cake, similar I believe to a sponge. So… I definitely won’t be opening the oven door.

Poor cake.

We let it cool a little bit and then cut a piece.  It tasted delicious with crispy edges.  Jason loved it and kept eating.  I told him I knew how to replicate this exact cake now!  I’ll just never be taking it anywhere!   Oh and when I got on the scale this morning I had lost two pounds!  It’s working!!!!!

Lazy weekend Cranberry scones with Orange Marmalade


, , , , , , , ,

After my croissant fiasco I wasn’t ready to try making them again…just yet.  I wanted something simple and easy.   Everyone is probably aware of my love of all things citrus especially now that they are in season.  It’s the rainy, dreary season up here in the Pacific Northwest and citrus reminds me of growing up in California.  Recently ChicaAndaluza posted her recipe for Orange Marmalade. I has asked her what type of oranges were typically used and I was bemoaning the lack of variety available at the supermarkets around here.  She said you could use any kind but that Seville oranges were the best option.  The other night I walked into my local neighborhood ethnic grocer and lo and behold….Seville bitter oranges!!!!!!

The link above will lead you to her recipe.  I halved her recipe because Jason said he doesn’t like orange marmalade so I would be the only one eating it (I should have known better).  I used 4 1/2 oranges, 1/2 a lemon, weighed it and almost doubled the sugar.  I wasn’t sure whether to cover the oranges while they were cooking so I left the lid off.  It seemed like too much water was lost so next time I’ll put the lid on and see what happens.  I added more water in the pulp boiling stage and cooked it for probably 15 minutes. I was worried that it would be too runny but it turned out beautifully!!!

It made much more than this.

Now what to make to eat this with?  I did not make bread this weekend, too lazy….I’ve got it cranberry/orange scones.  That will be perfect!

Cranberry Orange scones

  • 400 g ( 3 cups) flour
  • 80 g (1/3 c) sugar
  • 11 g (2 1/2 tsp) baking powder
  • 2 g (1/2 tsp) baking soda
  • 5 g (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 150 g (1 1/2 sticks) butter
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (more or less to suit your taste)
  • zest of one orange
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400.  I don’t usually have buttermilk on hand but there is a trick, add 1 tsp white vinegar to 1 cup milk and let it sit for about 10 minutes and you’ll get a substitute for buttermilk. This is what I usually do for scones, pancakes etc.  I’m sure real buttermilk is much better but I don’t use enough of it to justify buying a container.

Sift together, flour, sugar, baking powder & soda and salt.  Add the butter and rub it into the flour mix with your hands until it turns crumbly.  You can use a pasty cutter too but I prefer my hands!


Add the cranberries and orange zest.

Such pretty colors!

Pour in the buttermilk and combine until it’s all mixed together, do not overmix.  I know many people make the dough into one big circle and cut it into triangles or wedges but every time I try that the middle stays doughy.  So I just shape individual scones and bake them that way.  Either way put them on a silicone baking sheet or parchment.  (I love silicone sheets,  I have saved a ton in parchment paper since I got one.)  You can either leave them plain or paint them with cream, sprinkle them with sugar or even paint on an egg wash, it’s entirely up to you.  You can even glaze them when they are done if you like.

Bake them for 12-15 minutes depending on your oven.  If you want to glaze them you can combine powdered sugar with orange juice (or lemon, or lime etc) until it reaches the consistency you want and then pour the glaze on them.  You can also mix 1 Tb cream with 1/4 tsp cinnamon & 2 Tb sugar which you can brush on.   I had them plain with the orange marmalade.  So Delicious!YUM!

Oh!  And how did Jason like the marmalade you might ask?  He said “This is pretty good if you like orange marmalade” (which he said he didn’t) and then he proceeded to eat it on his next scone as well. 


Croissants 1 – A buttery mess!


, , ,

The Fresh from the Oven challenge this month is Croissants.  Brilliant, I thought. I’ve always wanted to make Croissants, I thought. How hard can it be, I thought…. Oh wow, for me, it was quite a mess!!!!!  BUT, I am determined to figure out where I went wrong and try again. I have some ideas of what went wrong but please, feel free to comment and give advice!

You can find the original recipe over at Lavender and Lovage. I will write it out next time, or the next, whichever time I’m successful!

It all started off so well……

A dough like any other?

I think my first mistake was to over-knead the dough.  I’ve since learned that croissant dough should not be over worked as the folding and rolling with the butter develops the gluten enough. Second mistake was using butter that was too cold (I think).

Things seemed to be going well up to this point.  Then it went downhill 😦  So sad.  Anyway, once I started rolling the layers together the hard butter in between started tearing through the dough and I ended up rolling butter.  As I got into the later layering I kept running into spots of pure butter.  The rolling pin was covered in butter, the countertop was covered in butter, I think there was butter in my hair, on my face, even in my belly button (joking but you get the point).

Butter poking through.

I’m not one to give up easily though. No, not me!  So I rolled, layered, rolled again, cut the dough into triangles, shaped them into croissants.  I was laughing like a mad woman throughout this fiasco, at this point there really was butter everywhere.  I had no idea what these would turn out like but DAMMIT I was going to make croissants!  Look at the picture below and you’ll notice that there are chunks of pure butter sticking out all over.

Look at all that butter everywhere!

So I baked them and some of them actually looked like croissants.  The taste wasn’t bad either….but they weren’t flaky, they were rather dense and kinda chewy…. but I will press on and I WILL make these again before the challenge is over and try to redeem myself!