I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Cheesy Vegetable Soda Bread

Cheesy Vegetable Soda Bread

We are moving (slowly, but surely. It was 99° here this week) toward soup and stew season. And when we get there, it’s always nice to serve a fresh loaf of bread alongside a bowl. I only breakout my yeast bread making skills on rare occasions, and certainly not on a busy weeknight. So a good, hearty quick bread recipe is a nice compromise. Simple Irish style Soda Bread is a uncomplicated way to have a fresh loaf on the table. And I always feel exceedingly accomplished when I serve homemade bread, no matter how easy it was to make!

Here, I add some vegetables and a dose of cheese, to really amp up the flavor and interest of this relatively simple loaf. Whole wheat bread adds a nice nuttiness and chew, with the all-purpose flour keeping the crumb light. Mayonnaise adds a little tang, and the rich flavors of Worcestershire sauce add a nice depth. Sometimes I add some chopped herbs to this as well, if I happen to have some around. I love this warm from the oven with a nice swipe of butter melting into the nooks and crannies. It’s also very good with an aged cheddar cheese, so it works alongside a cheese platter. And of course, it is perfect with a warm bowl of comforting soup.

Cheesy Vegetable Soda Bread
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Ingredients
  1. Cheesy Vegetable Soda Bread
  2. 1 cup whole wheat flour
  3. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  5. ¼ teaspoon salt
  6. ¼ cup butter, cold and cut into small pieces
  7. 4 ounces zucchini, grated
  8. 4 ounces carrot, grated
  9. 2 ounces grated parmesan cheese
  10. 1 egg
  11. 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  12. 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the flours, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumble. Add the zucchini, carrots and cheese and pulse to combine, then add the egg, mayonnaise and Worcestershire until you have a rough, shaggy dough.
  3. Turn the dough out onto the parchment paper lined baking sheet and use your clean, damp hands to shape it into a round about 2-inches thick. Use a sharp knife to cut a few slashes in the top of the bread – it looks pretty if you do it in a crisscross pattern.
  4. Bake the bread for 40 – 50 minutes until firm, golden and cook through. Serve warm slathered with good butter.
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Cherry Tomato Cobbler with Blue Cheese Drop Biscuits

Cherry Tomato Cobbler with Blue Cheese Drop BiscuitsRecipe ideas rattle around in my head for years sometimes. This is one of those. I liked the idea of a cobbler made with juicy summer tomatoes with a biscuit-like topping. I tried a version with sliced tomatoes and it wasn’t what I wanted, so I left the idea behind. At some point, I realized cherry tomatoes would be a better bet. So I looked around for recipes and ideas. Lots of them had rolled biscuits, which just seemed like more trouble for me than I wanted. So I filed the idea away again. When I returned to the concept, I knew I wanted to make something a little different than plain buttermilk biscuit, that would really add some interest to the tomatoes. I love tomato blue cheese soup, so I realized it could be a great combo. The tomato underlayer is simple so the tomatoes really shine, but the blue cheese biscuit topping soaks up those delicious juices with a tang all its own from the cheese and the buttermilk.

I think this dish has that elegant but homey feel I love. Make this in a nice oven to table dish and serve it right to the table. It makes a great main dish with a green salad, or as a side dish to grilled meats, and it works for brunch or dinner. I like to pick out a colorful selection of red, yellow and orange baby tomatoes in all shapes at the farmers market, but this is also lovely with a monochrome palate of simple reds.

Cherry Tomato Cobbler with Blue Cheese Drop Biscuits
Serves 8
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For the Tomatoes
  1. 1 Tablespoon butter
  2. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  3. 2 large onions, diced
  4. ½ cup white wine or vermouth
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leave
  7. 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  8. 2 pounds cherry tomatoes
  9. 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  10. salt and pepper to taste
  11. For the Biscuit Topping
  12. 2 ¼ cups soft wheat flour (like White Lily)
  13. 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  14. ¾ teaspoons baking soda
  15. ½ teaspoon salt
  16. 6 Tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  17. 8 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
  18. freshly ground black pepper
  19. 1 cup cold buttermilk
For the tomatoes
  1. Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat in an oven to table skillet or braiser. Add the diced onions and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Stir to coat the onions well and cook until they are soft and just beginning to brown. When the onions are brown at the edges, pour in the white wine and stir well, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, then uncover and cook until the wine is completely reduced. Add ½ cup of water and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and caramelized and the water is gone, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook one minute more. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar. Leave to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375. When the onions are cool, add the cherry tomatoes then sprinkle over the flour. Stir to combine the onions and tomatoes and coat everything with the flour. Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
For the Biscuit Topping
  1. While the tomatoes are cooking, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and generous grinds of black pepper together in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter pieces and rub it into the flour with your good clean hands until it is well distributed. Add the crumbled blue cheese and rub it into the mixture as well. Stir in the buttermilk until you have a soft, dough with no dry ingredients visible.
  2. Remove the tomatoes from the oven after their 25 minutes. Scoop the dough over the top of the tomatoes – I like to use a large ice cream scoop. Return the pan to the oven and cook a further 15- 18 minutes until the biscuits are firm and golden.
  3. Let the cobbler rest for about 10 minutes before serving warm.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Zucchini Lime Drizzle Cake

Zucchini Lime Drizzle Cake

Zucchini breads and cakes are a go to during the growing season, when there is always one left from your farmers market haul, or just too many growing in your garden. I like my zucchini bakes light and fresh, rather than dark and spiced, so with that one lingering zucchini on the counter, I returned to my recipe for Zucchini Lemon Gems to make a loaf cake. I’ve switched to lime for a little difference, and used rich olive oil and tangy Greek yogurt to make the cake moist and zippy.

I debated whether to call this a bread or a cake. It is a cake more in the sense of an English cake, served at tea, rather than the rich frosted confections we think of. But the crackly sweet glaze makes it a little richer than a zucchini bread. Without the glaze, you definitely have a simple bread, but I really think it adds a special touch. Serve this as snack (with iced tea in the summer of course) or for breakfast. But served with a scattering of fresh berries and some lightly sweetened whipped cream, it makes a creative summer dessert packed full of in season flavor.

Zucchini Lime Drizzle Cake
Serves 10
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For the Cake
  1. 2 eggs
  2. 1/2 cup olive oil
  3. 2/3 cup sugar
  4. 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  5. Zest of 1 medium limes
  6. 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  7. 1 cup finely grated zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
  8. 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  9. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  10. 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the glaze
  1. Zest of one medium lime
  2. 3 Tablespoons lime juice
  3. 5 Tablespoons granulated sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs then stir in the oil, sugar and yogurt until well blended. Add the lime juice and zest and the zucchini. Stir until blended, making sure the zucchini is evenly distributed. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and stir until just blended, with no streaks of flour left.
  3. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  4. While the cake is cooking, mix the sugar and lemon juice for the glaze in a small bowl. The sugar should not dissolve completely.
  5. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then poke holes all over the surface with a skewer or cake tester. Stir the glaze to blend, then spoon it over the cake while it is still hot. Leave the cake to cool and soak up the glaze, then run a thin knofe around the edges to loosen and remove from the pan.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Honey Raspberry Cake

Honey Raspberry CakeRaspberry season is short, and it’s a little hard to find locally grown berries around here. A farmer at the market once told me they were just too labor intensive for him to make much of a profit. When I find them grown here, I jump at the chance. I love to eat them over yogurt with a drizzle of honey, but with a real abundance I like to bake. So I translated that idea into a lovely cake that can be served for breakfast, or as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some sweetened whipped cream

What I particularly love about his cake is that it truly tastes of honey. And there is quite a bit of honey in it to make that happen. I often find baking with honey produces sweetness, but the flavor of the honey just sort of melds into the whole. Not so this cake – it has a very honey forward, with the lovely burst of raspberries throughout. The honey glaze puts the honey front and center again, so use a good, local harvested honey, one with a nice floral undertone if you can find it.

Honey Raspberry Cake
Serves 12
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For the Cake
  1. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  2. 2 cups honey
  3. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  4. zest from one lemon
  5. 6 large eggs
  6. 2 cups whole wheat flour
  7. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  8. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  9. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  10. 1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)
  11. 2 cups fresh raspberries
For the Glaze
  1. 2 Tablespoons honey
  2. 2 Tablespoons milk
  3. 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 10 –inch tube pan or a 12 – cup bundt pan with cooking spray (I like Baker’s Joy).
  2. Beat the butter and honey together in the bowl of a stand mixer at medium low until the mixture is smooth and pale in color, almost white, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture may look curdled- don’t worry, it will smooth out.
  3. Beat in the flours, baking soda and salt, one cup at a time, alternating with the yogurt, until the batter is smooth and thoroughly combined. Gently fold in 1 ½ cups of the raspberries using a spatula. Place several of the remaining berries in the bottom of the prepared pan, the spoon the batter over them. Spread the batter out evenly to fill the pan, then press the remaining raspberries into the top of the batter.
  4. Bale for 45 – 50 minutes until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan set on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving platter.
For the Glaze
  1. Beat the milk and honey together in a medium bowl, then add the confectioners’ sugar until you have a spoonable glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the cake, creating an even layer on the top with which attractively drips down the sides.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Strawberry Rosemary Muffins with Strawberry Rosemary Butter

Strawberry Rosemary Muffins with Strawberry Rosemary Butter

In the kitchen, excess is often the mother of invention and this recipe is a perfect example of that principle. I went overboard buying fresh strawberries, and decided to bake them into something delicious before the overflow went bad. I hadn’t made muffins in awhile, so that seemed like a good idea. As I gathered my ingredients, I found some rosemary left from another cooking project and though why not? After I baked up the muffins, I still had a few berries and a stalk of rosemary left, so I whipped up this delicious butter to go with the muffins.

These muffins are not too sweet and have a subtle whiff of rosemary. A sprinkle of rosemary sugar on the top gives a nice sugary-crackle. This butter is delicious on anything (think popovers or waffles), so you may find yourself making it for other uses.

Strawberry Rosemary Muffins with Strawberry Rosemary Butter
Yields 12
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For the Muffins
  1. ¾ cup granulated sugar
  2. ¼ cup loosely packed rosemary needles
  3. 2 eggs
  4. ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  5. ¾ cup buttermilk
  6. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  7. 2 ½ teas;oon baking powder
  8. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  9. ¼ teaspoon salt
  10. 1 cup diced strawberries
For the Butter
  1. ½ cups (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  2. 2 Tablespoons of rosemary sugar (leftover from the muffins)
  3. ¼ cup diced strawberries
For the Muffins
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. Place the sugar and rosemary in the bowl of a small food processor or blender and pulse until the rosemary is finely ground and blended with the sugar.
  3. Cark the eggs in a large mixing bowl, then whisk in the melted and cooled butter and the buttermilk until well combined. Stir in ½ cup of the rosemary sugar, then stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt just until combined and there are no dry ingredients visible. Fold in the diced strawberries.
  4. Divide the batter into the muffin cups (I like to use a ¼ cup cookie scoop). Sprinkle about ¼ teaspoon of the rosemary sugar over the top of each muffin, then bake for 20 – 30 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan.
For the Butter
  1. Cut the butter into pieces and place in the bowl of a small food processor. Ad the sugar and strawberries and blend until smooth. The butter can be covered and kept in the fridge for up to a week. Bring to room temperature before serving.
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Carrot Dill Biscuits with Cream Cheese Butter

Carrot and Dill Biscuits with Cream Cheese Butter

Carrot and cream cheese is a classic pairing that always makes an appearance around Easter. But the combination is usually in sweet recipes. I love a moist carrot cake with rich cream cheese icing, or a carrot cookie with a drizzle of cream cheese glaze. But I decided to turn that combo around, creating a savory interpretation perfect for an Easter brunch. And what Easter brunch would be complete without biscuits?

Cornmeal adds interest to the texture of these biscuits, and carrots contribute a hint of sweetness. Dill is such a perfect pairing with carrots I just had to add a dose to the recipe. The cream cheese butter is rich and flavorful and perfect with these biscuits, but they are also delicious with a smear of plain butter. Try these next to an Easter ham to make a very interesting sandwich combo.

Carrot Dill Biscuits with Cream Cheese Butter
Yields 12
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For the Biscuits
  1. 1 ¼ cup soft wheat flour (I like White Lily)
  2. ¾ cup yellow cornmeal
  3. 3 teaaspoons baking powder
  4. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  5. ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  6. 1 ½ Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  7. ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) cold butter, cut into small cubes
  8. ½ cup finely grated carrots (about 1 large carrot)
  9. ¾ cup whole milk
For the Cream Cheese Butter
  1. 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  2. 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  3. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  4. 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  5. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
For the Biscuits
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and pepper together in a large mixing bowl using a fork. Add the chopped dill and toss to distribute it evenly. Add the butter cubes, and using a pastry blender or your good clean hands, rub the butter into the flour mixture until you have a fine, sandy texture with a few pea size pieces of butter visible. Add the grated carrots and use your hands to toss them into the flour mixture so there are no clumps of carrot and everything is evenly distributed and coated with flour. Add the milk and stir with a spatula just until combined. Knead with your hands in the bowl a few times just to make sure all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
  3. Lightly flour a work surface or a pastry cloth and dump the biscuit dough on it. Pat the dough into a rectangle, fold it in half, turn it over and pat into a rectangle again. Do this three times, patting the dough into a ½-inch slab, then use a well-floured 2-inch biscuit cutter to cut biscuits. Place the biscuits vey close together, almost touching, on the prepared baking sheet. Gently fold and pat the scraps of dough and cut more biscuits.
  4. Bake the biscuits for 12 – 15 minutes until risen, puffed and lightly browned. If you like a burnished top to your biscuits, turn the broiler on for the last 1 – 2 minutes of baking.
  5. Makes at least 12 2-inch biscuits
For the Cream Cheese Butter
  1. Beat all the ingredients together in the bowl of a mixer until thoroughly combined and smooth. Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors meld. Bring to room temperature before serving. The cream cheese butter can be keep covered in the fridge for up to a week.
  2. Makes about 1 cup
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Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)

Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)I picked up a recipe card in a grocery store in London for a fruit and tea loaf. It sounded good, so I was looking for the ingredients. A lovely lady with a lilting Irish accent was helping me, but she told me that I’d be better off making a real barmbrack than using a product-promoting recipe card. I’d never heard of barmbrack, so she explained that it was a traditional treat her granny always made back in Ireland. She outlined the ingredients and steps in some detail and I took notes on the back of a Tube map I had in my purse, right there in the baking aisle at Waitrose. I never did make the recipe card bread, but when I got home to my own kitchen, I started a little research on barmbrack and developed my recipe in combination with her notes.

Here is what I learned. Barmbrack is traditionally served at Halloween, and sometimes little charms or a coin are baked into the loaf to predict various fortunes for those who get the charm in their slice. There is some dispute, as far as I can make out, as to whether a version made with yeast is the original or the batter bread came first. My grocery store guru never mentioned yeast, so I went with the simpler version. Most recipes I read and the ingredients she listed included candied peel and cherries, but I can only find those readily available during the Christmas, so I substituted dried sweet cherries and citrus zest and juice. The long soak in tea gives this bread a nice tannic finish and a subtle flavor. The bread is fruity but not overly sweet.

I offer this recipe in time for St. Patrick’s Day, even if that is not traditional, because it always reminds me of my Irish grocery pal (I like to imagine her name was something wonderful like Siobhan or Aoife) and the name is so musically Irish, especially with the Irish spelling báirín breac, which means “speckled bread.” And this dense, fruit studded, tea infused loaf is good at any time of year, spread with good Irish butter or with a slice of Irish cheddar.

Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. 2 black tea bags (Earl Gray or English Breakfast)
  2. ¾ cups black raisins
  3. ¾ cup golden raisins
  4. ½ cup currants
  5. ¼ cup dried sweet cherries
  6. 1 medium navel orange, zest and juice
  7. 1 medium lemon, zest and juice
  8. 1 egg
  9. ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  10. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  11. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  12. ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  13. ¼ teaspoon cloves
  14. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  15. ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  16. 2 Tablespoons buttermilk or milk
Instructions
  1. Brew 1 cup of tea with the two teabags. It should be strong tea. Toss the dried fruits together in a large bowl and cover with the tea and stir. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave the fruit to soak overnight, giving it a stir if you happen to remember.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a standard 9 by 5 loaf pan with cooking spray.
  3. Zest the orange and the lemon into the bowl of fruit and tea and stir to combine. Squeeze the orange, then the lemon to make ½ cup juice (more orange juice is a little sweeter than too much lemon). Add the juice to the bowl and stir, then crack in the egg and stir to combine. Add the brown sugar, flour, soda and spices and stir until the batter comes together. Add the buttermilk or milk. This is a thick batter, but make sure all the dry ingredients are mixed in with the wet. If you need too, you can add a little bit more buttermilk to pull things together.
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and press it out to an even layer. Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
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Morning Glory Coffee Cake

Morning Glory Coffee CakeI’ve always appreciated Morning Glory Muffins. They are a great morning treat, packed full of delicious ingredients that at least make you feel like you are starting the day right. I’ve made many versions over the years – it used to be a standard treat I took to new moms. It’s such a cheerful and hopeful name. My recipe kind of fell by the wayside though; I guess I just replaced it with other muffin and quick bread ideas. It came back to mind when I found myself with a can of crushed pineapple I accidently purchased and the other ingredients were on hand as well. I decided to turn my recipe into a Bundt cake simply because I have a pretty specialty Bundt pan I don’t use nearly enough.

I replace the usual oil in this recipe with unsweetened applesauce. Sure, that makes this slightly healthier, but I really like the extra hit of apple flavor. Make sure you buy unsweetened applesauce, not one packed with added sugar and flavors. I get those little snack cup sizes that I can keep in the pantry for all sorts of baking projects. You can vary the spice in this cake to your own tastes, adding a little allspice or clove, or going all cinnamon. As a morning treat, I think a light sprinkle of powdered sugar is just enough sweet, but you could make a simple glaze – even one using the juice drained from the can of crushed pineapple.

Morning Glory Coffee Cake
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. ¾ cups granulated sugar
  2. ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  3. 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  4. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  5. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  6. ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  7. ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  8. ½ teaspoon salt
  9. 1 cup grated carrots (from about 2 medium)
  10. 1 medium red apple, grated with the peel on
  11. 1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
  12. ½ cup sweetened shredded coconut
  13. ½ cup chopped pecans
  14. 2/3 cups unsweetened applesauce
  15. ½ cup buttermilk
  16. 3 eggs
  17. confectioners’ sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Spray an 11 – 12 cup Bundt pan with baking spray (I like Bakers’ Joy).
  2. Mix the sugars, flour, baking soda, spices and salt together in a large bowl. I like to use my good clean hands to break up any lumps of brown sugar. Add the carrot, apple, pineapple, coconut and pecans and stir to combine. Stir in the applesauce. Measure the buttermilk in a 2 – cup jug, then crack in the eggs and beat well. Add the buttermilk and eggs to the bowl and stir just until the batter is combined, making sure there is no dry mixture left.
  3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
  4. Sprinkle the top of the cake with confectioners’ sugar.
Notes
  1. If you would like a little extra hit of sweet, make a glaze with powdered sugar and buttermilk and drizzle over the cooled cake.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Strawberry Almond Morning Cake

Strawberry Almond Morning Cake

The strawberries are here! The strawberries are here! I anticipate strawberry season all year. I know you can buy strawberries every day now, but there is nothing like a fresh, seasonal, locally grown berry. So I wait. I may use some frozen berries during the out-of season-months, but I rarely buy the berries in the produce section. The farmers markets here start before strawberry season (the middle of April) starts, but things get exciting once the strawberries arrive. All this waiting makes the berries even sweeter, and as they fade, I look forward to the next berry harvest – blueberries and raspberries.

All this means I make the most of strawberry season while its here. I call this morning cake, because it makes a wonderful breakfast or brunch treat, not too sweet, but hearty and fresh with the burst of juicy berries. It has a lovely grainy, nutty texture from the almond meal that sets this apart from a typical coffee cake. The drizzle of creamy almond glaze ups the sweetness (you can certainly leave it off) and adds an extra hit of almond flavor. I am not, of course, saying this couldn’t be served as dessert with a scoop of ice cream or a pillow of whipped cream.

Strawberry Almond Morning Cake
Serves 9
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Ingredients
  1. For the Cake
  2. 1 pound strawberries
  3. ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter, softened
  4. 1 cup granulated sugar
  5. 2 eggs
  6. ½ teaspoon vanilla
  7. ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  8. 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  9. 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  10. ¾ teaspoon salt
  11. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  12. 1 3/4 cup ground almond meal
  13. ¼ cup heavy cream
  14. For the Drizzle
  15. 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  16. 4 – 5 Tablespoons heavy cream
  17. 1 teaspoon almond extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Hull the strawberries and reserve 5 or 6 pretty ones to top the cake. Dice the remaining berries into small pieces.
  3. Beat the butter and the sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and making sure the first is incorporated before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla and almond extract.
  4. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg together in a small bowl, then beat into the batter on low speed, scraping the bowl as needed. When the flour is fully incorporated, beat in the almond meal and cream just until combined.
  5. Spread half the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan. The batter will be thick, and I find it easiest to use lightly wet, clean hands to press it in an even layer. Sprinkle the diced berries over the batter in an even layer, pressing them lightly into the batter. Dollop the remaining batter over the top and use wet hands to press it in evenly over the top of the berries. Do your best to cover everything, but if a few little berries are poking out, it’s okay. Decorate the top of the batter with some strawberry halves if you’d like.
  6. Bake the cake for 45 – 55 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the top is firm and golden. Cool the cake completely.
For the Glaze
  1. Whisk the confectioner’s sugar cream and extract together in a small bowl until smooth and drizzle-able. Use a spoon to artistically drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake and leave to set.
  2. Slice into squares and serve.
Notes
  1. I like this cake even better the next day.
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Monte Cristo Casserole

Monte Cristo Casserole

I started a tradition when my nieces (and later my nephew) were very young. Every year at Christmas, I took them to lunch at a restaurant and then we went shopping for toys and food for all the folks who didn’t have as much at Christmas as we always have. When the girls were very little, I didn’t have much experience handling kids on my own, so I chose a popular chain restaurant where I knew we could all be comfortable. I wanted them to have fun, and I wanted to avoid any meltdowns. It became for many years “our place.” But another reason I chose that particular restaurant was selfish – they served a mean Monte Cristo. A giant hunk of fried deliciousness that I couldn’t finish in one sitting. It was a little Christmas present to myself. That chain went out of business years ago, and I have yet to find a Monte Cristo that equals theirs, though we have found a new “our place.”

A real Monte Cristo is a restaurant treat for me though. I simply am not assembling, battering and frying – I’ll leave that to the professionals. The classic combination of flavors, though, is downright good – turkey and ham and cheese encased in tender bread with that surprising sweet sprinkle of powdered sugar and a little dab of strawberry preserves. The idea lends itself wonderfully to the classic brunch casserole and here is my version. I like to keep it simple, with lots of ham and turkey and a lightly mustardy custard encasing it all. I generously sprinkle the top with a dusting of powdered sugar, which adds that lovely sweet edge and adds a touch of elegance, and serve place a nice bowl of good preserves next to it so each guest can dollop as much or as little as they like.

Monte Cristo Casserole makes a wonderful dish on a brunch buffet or for a family dinner. I served it to my extended family recently, and when I told them what it was, my nieces both said “oh, like that sandwich you like.” Memories made.

Monte Cristo Casserole
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 12 ounce loaf of Italian bread (soft crust)
  2. ¾ pound deli turkey, sliced about 1/8 inch thick
  3. ¾ pound deli smoked ham, sliced about 1/8 thick
  4. 10 ounces swiss cheese, grated
  5. 10 eggs
  6. 4 cups whole milk
  7. 3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  8. ½ teaspoon mustard powder
  9. 1 Tablespoon sugar
  10. salt to taste and generous grinds of black pepper
  11. powdered sugar for sprinkling
  12. strawberry jam for serving
Instructions
  1. Cut the bread into rough, bite-sized cubes and spread out on a baking sheet or tray. Leave to dry for a few hours (but not until crisp or hard).
  2. Spray a 13 by 9 inch backing dish thoroughly with cooking spray.
  3. Cut the turkey and ham into small pieces, then shuffle them through your fingers to separate them into a large bowl. Add the bread cubes and the cheese and toss to combine. Spread the bread mixture evenly in the prepared baking dish.
  4. Mix the eggs, milk, Dijon mustard, mustard powder, sugar, salt and pepper together in a large bowl and whisk thoroughly, or blend until smooth in a blender. Pour the milk mixture over the bread cubes slowly, making sure it is evenly covering the bread cubes. Push them down under the liquid if needed. Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
  5. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400°. Take the dish out of the fridge to take the chill off while the oven is heating. Cook the bread pudding, covered, for 50 minutes to an hour until it is set and puffed up.
  6. As soon as you remove the casserole from the oven, sprinkle a generous layer of powdered sugar through a sieve evenly over the top of the casserole. Serve warm with strawberry jam to spoon over each serving.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/