Plum and Nectarine Crisp With Cinammon Shortbread Topping

Baking | July 10, 2010 | By

Stone Fruit Crisp Recipe

When it comes to pies, I’m more of a crisp fan.  I think of crisp’s as the lazy-person’s pie.  So when I got a hold of some stone fruit I thought making a crisp would make a great excuse to photograph.

Photographing this nectarine and plum crisp was really fun.  I’m experimenting with more prop styling and I just happen to have come home from the thrift store with some new props when I decided to bake the crisp—great excuse indeed!

Plum and Nectarine Crisp With Cinnamon Shortbread Topping

For Topping:

1 cup cold Butter
1 cup Sugar
1 1/4 cups Flour
1 tablespoon Ground Cinammon
1/8 teaspoon salt

Add all ingredients to a stand mixer and mix until just combined. The mixture should be crumbly.

For Filling:

2 Nectarines, sliced into 1 inch slices
4 Plums, sliced into 1 inch slices
Juice of 1 Orange
1/2 cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
Pinch of salt

Mix all filling ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Place filling in the bottom of a pyrx pie plate or square casserole dish. Take topping and crumble on top of crisp until completely covered. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours, or until the top is golden brown.

Better Bread In 3 Easy Steps

Baking | December 10, 2009 | By

Bread Baking Tips

Bread Baking Tips

Now that the weather is cold I’m back to baking bread! There really is nothing better than the smell of bread on cold Sunday afternoon. I’ve been attempting to tweak my favorite bread recipe to increase the flavor and texture and I’ve come up with these three bread baking tips that I think dramatically improved the quality of my bread.

Bread Baking Tip #1 – Increase Flavor With A Long, Cold Rise

I have a couple of different bread recipes that I use as my fall backs, and all of them benefit in flavor by allowing the dough to rise in a cool place for a longer period of time. The NY Times no-knead bread recipe is the prime example of how a long rise can add immense flavor.

The long rise allows the yeast to develop into a complex combination of smells and flavors. The cold temperature slows down the yeast’s digestion of the sugars in the flour, again creating more complex flavors. I often let the dough rise for a few hours and then place the dough (covered in a bowl) in the refrigerator to continue to rise. The next day remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature before shaping it for the final rise.

Finally, to add even more flavor, I sometimes replace the bread flour with small amounts of whole wheat flour….about 1/4 cup. The whole wheat adds a nutty richness to the flavor of the bread.

Bread Baking Tip #2 – Bake In A Covered Dutch Oven For Better Crust

Baking in a covered cast iron dutch oven has many advantages to baking directly in the oven or on an oven stone. To create a thick, crunchy crust the loaf needs to have steam in the beginning of the baking. The hot temperature allows the inside of the bread bake while the steam insures the outside of the bread (the crust) doesn’t over-bake. After the first half of baking is complete, the steam must be released to allow the crust to harden. Professional baking ovens have built in steamers that inject and remove steam whenever necessary, but regular ol’ home ovens usually don’t have this feature.

Baking in a covered dutch oven (or Le Creuset if you’re lucky!)traps the steam created from the water in the dough and also creates an extremely hot surrounding. To bake in a dutch oven, simply pre-heat the oven with the dutch oven inside of it for a minimum of 45 minutes. When ready to bake, remove the cover from the dutch oven and carefully drop the dough inside of it. Replace the cover and bake for half the baking time at which point you will remove the cover (allowing the steam to escape)and continue baking for the remainder of the recommended time.

If you don’t have a cast iron dutch oven a pyrex round container with a cover will also work.

Bread Baking Tip #3 – Use Extremely Hot Temperature For Crustier Crust

I always bake my bread for the first 10 minutes at 500 degrees regardless of what the recipe states. This insures that the crust blisters and sets. After the 10 minutes I lower the temperature to the recommend one and continue to bake.

I also usually over bake for about 15 minutes. The longer baking time ensures that the crust turns a rich caramel brown which means that the crust has successfully baked. A light brown crust will not be flaky and crunchy, but rather soft and chewy…nothing wrong with soft and chewy, but a classic artisan hearth loaf has a crunchy crust, and this tends to be the hardest thing to re-create in a home kitchen.

So those are my three tips. They’ve worked for me and hopefully they will work for you. Do any of you have any bread baking tips to share?

How To Bake Bread On Your Outdoor Grill

Baking, BBQ | July 20, 2009 | By

Something happens when Summer hits that makes me CRAZY about baking. As soon as the Los Angeles heat starts rising, I get this wild itch to bake. I don’t know why. It’s my life’s enigma.

The thing that sucks is that we live in a tiny cottage-apartment in Silver Lake, and let me tell you, it’s hot here. Our tiny apartment bakes in the Summer sun…..which means our apartment is even more hot with the oven turned on. What to do?

Bake on the grill, of course! I mean why not, right? I started this little experiment with the New York Times No-Knead Bread because the bread is baked in a cast iron dutch oven. This would be perfect to just pop on the grill I thought.

More on how this little experiment turned out in second part of post..

Total Success….Sorta

The bread that emerged, was indeed delicious. But a few things I learned along the way will make an even tastier bread the next time.

Below are the steps I took to bake bread on my outdoor grill:

Dutch Oven

I used my cast iron Kitchenaide dutch oven per the NY Times directions for the no-knead bread. The dutch oven retains heat and also allows steam from the water in the dough to help form the crust.

If your grill is big enough to accommodate the dutch oven with the lid on, then you’re pretty much done. My grill is really small, so I had to take the grill off and place my pizza stone directly on the gas burners.

I was concerned about the bottom of the dutch oven getting too much heat and burning the bottom of the bread which turned out to be a legitimate concern because the bottom did indeed, burn. Not much, but I did have to cut that bit off. Again, if your grill is big enough to place the dutch oven directly on the grill and still be able to close the lid, you’re set.

My solution for next time? I think I’m going to try placing an un-glazed terracata saucer on the inside of the dutch oven. That way there is one more layer separating the heat from the bread.

Oven Thermometer

It’s important to have an oven thermometer to have accurate temperatures. My grill already has one built in, so this was easy for me.

Pre-Heat The Dutch Oven

This is CRUCIAL. Follow the NY Times instructions and pre-heat the dutch oven for 30-45 mins before adding the bread. The hot dutch oven is what helps to form the crust on the bread

That’s about it. It really was simple. Again, the benefit of doing this is that you can have fresh baked bread without heating up your kitchen, which is a HUGE plus for me. Anyone have different methods of baking bread on the grill? I’d love to hear about it.

Best Blueberry Muffins

Baking | June 18, 2009 | By


I’m making these tonight.  I’m totally intrigued by the blueberry compote that allegedly make these the very best blueberry muffins.  I love me some blueberry muffins, so I can be a tough customer.  I’ll let you know how these turn out.

The Bitten Word: Best Blueberry Muffins

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Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Baking | May 24, 2009 | By

coconut cupcakes

The Ultimate Cupcake!

Michael is a huge coconut fan. He just LOVES anything made with coconut. I decided to make him a special treat by making these delicious coconut cupcakes.

These cupcakes are all about the frosting. It’s amazing. Almond extract is the secret ingredient!

Barefoot Contessa Coconut Cupcakes in second part of post…


* 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
* 2 cups sugar
* 5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
* 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
* 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
* 3 cups flour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1 cup buttermilk
* 14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut

For the frosting:

* 1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
* 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
* 1 1/2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.

Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.