Moist and not overly sweet, lemon poppy seed cake is a quick way to brighten up a cold winter day.
This afternoon, the sunshine poured through the living room window, filling our third floor apartment with warmth and the illusion that it wasn’t as cold as it actually is outside. But no mistake, we’re still deep in winter’s grip here in Ulaanbaatar. Today, the temperature soared to a chilly high of 17 degrees F – a bit warmer than it’s been the past several days. Snug inside our apartment, we fantasized about spring while we sat in the sunbeams enjoying warm pieces of moist lemon poppyseed cake with freshly brewed cups of tea.
Lemon Poppy Seed Drizzle Cake
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp poppy seeds
- 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
- 2 tsp almond extract
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Grease two regular-sized loaf pans.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, poppy seeds, sugar, and lemon zest.
- Stir in oil, eggs, yogurt, almond extract, and lemon juice.
- Pour batter into prepared pans.
- Bake for 50 – 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.
- Mix together drizzle ingredients.
- Prick cake many times with tines of a fork while warm.
- Brush drizzle on top of cake allowing the drizzle to settle into the cake.
An inspiring breakfast: topped with a dollop of sour cream, this apple-filled pancake is like a mile-high crepe, as delicious as it is beautiful .
Morning rituals. Jack and I start every day with a hearty breakfast. This important meal is usually accompanied with a big mug of coffee or tea and a selection of a few poems, which, lucky for me, are read to me by my favorite reader. A day that starts with healthy fuel for the body and sustenance for the mind is likely to be positive and fruitful (wink).
Our breakfast menus traditionally include items like nourishing hot cereals, egg dishes, or something freshly baked. This morning’s menu came straight from the only baking recipe book I have with me here in Mongolia, The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book. If you are only going to have one recipe book, I highly recommend this one. It includes many foundational recipes for breads and desserts which can be easily modified or experimented with. I followed the German Apple Pancake recipe to the T. It came out perfectly. I am already dreaming of this mile-high pancake with farm fresh pears featuring galangal as the centerpiece spice.
German Apple Pancake
- 5 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar (plus 1 tsp)
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- pinch salt
- 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 large apples, cored and cut into wedges 1/4 inch thick (6 mm). I used Fuji apples.
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp confectioners’ sugar (optional)
- 1/4 cup crème fraîche. I used 20% fat yogurt.
- Using a blender, or a stick blender, mix eggs, vanilla, and 1/2 cup sugar for about 5 seconds.
- Add flour, baking powder and salt. Blend for an additional 10 seconds. Set mixture aside.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
- Place a 10-inch (25 cm) ovenproof, nonstick frying pan over medium heat and add butter.
- When the butter is heated, add apples and sauté until softened, about 4-5 minutes.
- Sprinkle apples with cinnamon and remaining 1 tsp of sugar. Stir over heat until apples are evenly covered with cinnamon and sugar.
- Move the apples so that they are evenly spread in the pan.
- Pour batter over top of apples.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until bottom is firm, about 8 minutes. You will notice the edges are set.
- Transfer pan to oven and bake until the top of the pancake is firm, about 10 minutes.
- Remove pan from oven. Invert a flat plate over frying pan and flip the pancake onto the plate.
- Cut the pancake into 4 wedges and transfer wedges to individual plates. Dust each portion with confectioners’ sugar. Place a dollop of crème fraîche on each wedge and serve immediately.
- This pancake may inspire someone to read you poetry after they are finished eating their breakfast!
A slice of moist cake stuffed with blueberries and topped with crunchy streusel makes for a great start to any day.
Jack says muffins are cake. Whether you use fresh or frozen blueberries, a batch of these muffins is easy to whip up anytime. They’re a favorite with fried eggs and fresh fruit for a tasty, satisfying brunch. Today, I made the recipe again, but in a 9-inch springform pan for a lovely snack to go with afternoon tea. A warm slice of this cake with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream would be an indulgent way to end a dinner – and an absolutely wrong way to begin your day!
Streusel-Topped Blueberry Muffins
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup plain yogurt
- 1 cup fresh blueberries or thawed frozen blueberries
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin tin or line with muffin liners.
- Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.
- Mix oil, egg and yogurt in a medium bowl.
- Stir oil mixture into flour mixture until just mixed.
- Fold in blueberries.
- Fill muffin cups right to the top.
- Mix together streusel topping ingredients.
- Place even amounts of topping on each muffin.
- Bake for 20 minutes in a preheated oven. A wooden stick inserted into center of muffin will come out clean when muffins are done.
Makes 12 streusel-topped blueberry muffins.
Bacon? Smoked salmon? Leaks? Mushrooms? Smoked cheese? Pick your ingredients and bake them into this deliciously fluffy frittata.
We love our weekends – time to cook a special breakfast or brunch and linger over it with a second cup of coffee and a good book of poetry. Adaptable to a wide range of ingredients, frittatas are among our favorite weekend breakfasts.
One key to turning out a great frittata is to use the right pan. We’ve been using Swiss Diamond nonstick cookware for years and are big fans. Sunny-side up, scrambled, or easy over, eggs slow-cooked over low heat in these pans are a revelation. And although the word frittata has its etymological roots in the Italian friggere, which means “fried,” we usually bake ours. Sautéing vegetables before they go into the egg mixture brings out their sweetness, drives off excess moisture and allows for a richer balance of flavors. And the key to a super fluffy frittata? Separate out the yolks and whip the whites into fluffy peaks, then fold them into whatever mixture of egg yolks, cheese, meat and vegetables you’ve prepared. Here’s how we made ours this morning.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 8″ nonstick, oven-safe frying pan with lid. Swiss Diamond pans have heavy bottoms and non-stick cooking surfaces that are perfect for this, and they’re oven safe.
- 2 strips thick bacon
- 1/3 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped coarse
- 1/3 cup onion, chopped coarse
- 1/3 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped coarse
- 1 clove garlic, chopped coarse
- 1 tablespoon butter + 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (for sautéing vegetables)
- 2 tbsp white wine, sherry or mirin
- 1 tablespoon olive (for frittata pan)
- 1 cup shredded cheese such as smoked gouda
- 4 eggs
- smoked sea salt (or regular sea salt)
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground chili pepper, separated into equal portions. We used Penzeys Southwest Seasoning which is a blend of sweet ancho, oregano, cayenne pepper, cumin, chipotle pepper and cilantro.
- Caviar (optional)
- Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C)
- Cut bacon into small pieces. In a medium-sized pan, fry over medium heat till edges are crisp. Drain on paper towels.
- Wipe excess bacon grease from pan. Add butter and olive oil. Heat over medium till just sizzling. Add onions and sauté for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Add white wine, bell peppers, sea salt, black pepper and ground pepper, stirring occasionally. If necessary, turn heat up slightly to drive off excess liquid. Cook till onions turn translucent. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl to cool slightly (so that when added to the egg yolks, they don’t cook them).
- Separate egg yolks and whites into two sufficiently large bowls.
- Use a blender or whisk attachment to whip egg whites to fluffy peaks. Set aside.
- To the egg yolks, add vegetables, bacon, shredded cheese, remaining ground pepper, and additional salt and black pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly.
- Gently fold egg whites into egg yolk mixture.
- Add olive oil to 8″ frying pan. Pour mixture into pan. Cover with lid and place into preheated oven. Check in 15 minutes. Expect total cooking time to be about 25 minutes.
- Garnish with caviar and serve hot.
We enjoyed our frittata with sautéed mushroom caps, summer squash, big mugs of coffee and Czeslaw Misosz’s poetry anthology, A Book of Luminous Things.
“Mongolian” scones, a lighter and fluffier version of their English cousin, are quick to make and a delicious start to our day in the coldest capital in the world, Ulaanbaatar.
We are part of a foodie network in Ulaanbaatar (UB) where one of the most common questions is, “Can you get ______ ingredient here?” Although UB is a thriving city of over a million inhabitants, Mongolia is still a developing country where certain items can be difficult to come by. Heavy whipping cream is one example. When we finally tracked some down, the price tag was the equivalent of 28 US dollars for a one liter container. The cost and inconvenience associated with certain items has been fostering invention as we experiment with substitutions to our recipes.
Our “Mongolian” scones are our answer to the question, “What can I substitute for heavy cream in scones?” The answer is yogurt, which is inexpensive and readily available in Ulaanbaatar’s grocery stores. The result is a lighter, less crumbly scone.
For this version, we used a large cookie scoop, overfilled, to create mounded scones. It is typical to create scones in a disc shape and to then cut them into wedges. The mounded shape allowed a nice rise and more crunchy surface area in one perfectly portioned breakfast scone to accompany our Mongolian eggs and delicious, thick-sliced Mongolian bacon.
A large cookie scoop portioned this dough into sixteen scones. An ice cream scoop would work well for slightly larger scones.
Mongolian Scones with Cranberry and Pecans
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 packed brown sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp dried orange peel, or fresh orange zest
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled and diced
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 small eggs (Mongolian stores typically carry smaller eggs than are sold in America)
- 3/4 cup plain yogurt
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
- Cover baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Stir flour, brown sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, salt and orange peel together in a large bowl.
- Stir cranberries and pecans into the flour mixture.
- In a small bowl, whisk granulated sugar and eggs together. Mix in yogurt.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry.
- Stir ingredients until fully incorporated with a rubber spatula. Dough will be very sticky.
- Scoop out generous cookie scoops (2 tbsp or more) of dough and drop mounds on baking sheet.
- Bake for 15 minutes, until scones are golden brown.
- Enjoy fresh out of the oven with a fried egg and a slice of bacon.
Cloudberry jam swirled into these buttery scones creates an attractive twist on a breakfast, brunch or snack-time favorite.
With our date for departing Point Hope set for less than four weeks from now, we still have several jars of cloudberry jam on hand. I went to bed last contemplating creative ways to use this luscious pantry item and woke this morning inspired: Why not roll the scone dough jelly roll-style?
Since traditional scones dough is not very sweet, it lends itself to the savory or the sweet depending on what is mixed into it. This recipe would work nicely with any type of jam or savory spread.
Swirled Cloudberry Jam Scones
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- pinch salt
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) frozen unsalted butter
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup unflavored yogurt
- cold water
- 3/4 cup cloudberry jam
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Grate frozen butter into flour mixture. Stir well.
- Whisk together eggs and yogurt.
- Pour yogurt mixture into flour mixture and knead together. Mixture will be sticky.
- Add cold water to mixture while kneading, a tablespoon at a time, until dough comes together.
- Turn dough onto lightly floured surface.
- Roll dough into a rectangle. Dough should be about 1/2 inch thick.
- Spread jam onto rectangle, avoiding edges.
- Roll dough up jelly roll-style.
- Cut log into 3/4 inch pieces.
- Place cut scones onto parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
- Let cool a few minutes before serving.
- Serve with lemon curd and a freshly brewed cup of coffee.
A delicious way to use the unusable, banana mochi bread has the moistness and flavor of banana and the dense, rich texture of mochi cake. Slathered with cream cheese this is a delicious afternoon snack.
Guided by a philosophy of not wanting to waste anything, we are sometimes the recipients of fruit past its prime. This week boxes of bananas arrived for snacks for our students at Tikigaq School in Point Hope, Alaska. Unfortunately, many had frozen on the plane on the way up. Most people will not eat thawed-out, blackened bananas. And then there are people like us.
The obvious response to these bananas was banana bread. I have a tried and true fruit bread recipe which I’ve used for bananas, blueberries, cloudberries, and pears. But this is the time of year to be a bit more creative in order to use up pantry items. With this in mind, I give you mochi banana bread. Mochi is a Japanese creation which uses sweet rice flour to make a dense, rich, but not-too-sweet dessert. With previous success baking a chocolate mochi cake, I wanted to give bananas a try.
The results of this experiment were a sugary-crisp crust enclosing the nicely dense banana bread I was going for. Blog worth! (Of course, we only publish the good stuff!)
Banana Mochi Bread
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cup mochiko (sweet rice flour)
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch salt
- 1 1/2 cups smashed overripe bananas (about 6)
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (substituting applesauce will lighten the bread)
- 1 tsp Penzeys double strength vanilla extract (or 2 tsp regular vanilla extract)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix dry ingredients.
- In bowl of stand mixer, mix together all wet ingredients until thoroughly mixed.
- Stir dry ingredients into wet. Mix until just incorporated.
- Pour batter into loaf pan.
- Bake for 55 – 60 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.
- Cool loaf pan on wire rack until it can be handled. Then remove loaf from pan and continue cooling on wire rack.