Mmmmm – matcha green tea and sweet adzuki bean paste – a flavor combination we love add a Japanese twist to an American classic. Just the thing with piping hot green tea after a cold morning of birding.
Matcha green tea powder and adzuki beans may not be in everyone’s pantry, but they are always in ours. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that this flavor combination makes a regular appearance in our kitchen. When a friend gave me a recipe for maple bars, I couldn’t help imagining them stuffed with sweet adzuki bean paste (directions to make the paste here), and changing up the frosting recipe to include the zip of spiced matcha tea along with maple syrup. I think the original maple bar recipe somehow reminded me of cinnamon rolls. I’d made a version of cinnamon rolls where the adzuki bean paste was spiraled into a dough which in turn was infused with matcha tea powder. That was delicious! So why not tinker around with this maple bars?
Today’s recipe initially started out with my friend’s successful recipe. Her dough recipe is deliciously flavored with cinnamon. After baking, I sliced the rolls in half and spread them generously with adzuki bean paste. I did change up her maple icing and made more of a donut glaze that I then flavored with matcha green tea powder and real maple syrup. (Thank you JW for sending us some real Pennsylvania maple syrup!)
Matcha powder is used to make high quality green tea. I enjoy baking with this flavorful ingredient – adding it to breads, cookies, cakes, and even custard dishes. If you are not convinced that I really do enjoy this ingredient, just search “matcha” in the search bar on our blog and look at all the lovely recipes. 😉 I’m happy to report that both adzuki beans and matcha green tea powder are easy to procure – even in remote places like Chignik Lake, Alaska – thanks to the Internet.
Adzuki Maple Bars with Matcha Maple Frosting
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter
- 4 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 4 1/2 tsp instant yeast
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 4 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups sweet adzuki bean paste
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup real maple syrup
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp matcha green tea powder
- Combine milk, butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan.
- Stir over medium heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat.
- Let milk mixture cool slightly. Mixture should cool to about 110 8° F, or cooler.
- Pour milk mixture into a large mixing bowl. Stir in yeast.
- Stir beaten eggs into mixture.
- Stir in flour, one cup at a time.
- The last 3/4 cup of flour will need to be kneaded in.
- Once flour is well incorporated and dough can remain in the shape of a ball, let rise in the mixing bowl for an hour covered with plastic in a warm place with no draft.
- Punch down dough and roll out to about a 1″ thickness.
- Cut dough into 16 rectangular pieces. Place bars on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another 30 minutes.
- Heat oven to 425° F. Remove plastic covering and bake bars for 8 – 10 minutes. Finished bars should be lightly browned.
- Let bars cool on wire rack for 15 minutes before icing.
- Make icing by mixing together icing ingredients and stirring until smooth.
- Cut bread bars in half, like a sandwich.
- Spread adzuki bean paste on lower half of bar.
- Take top half and dip it into matcha maple frosting.
- Place dipped top part of bread onto bottom which has been prepared with adzuki paste.
- Serve immediately or serve later the same day. Just make sure to cover them with plastic so they don’t dry out.
Lovely rich texture of ground almonds brightened by fresh, tart raspberry jam. Yes, sir, I’ll have another!
Linzertorte is not a new creation. I read that the first published recipes for this lovely dessert appeared in the early 1700’s. Sidestepping a culinary history lesson, I can happily report that you we love this torte. What makes ours a bit different is freezer jam – which is a magical concoction made from a mix of fresh berries, pectin and sugar without using heat. The result is a fresh, bright flavor, featuring the sweet, tart Pow of right-off-the-bushes raspberry taste. Click here to read more about freezer jam.
Freezer Jam Linzertorte
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- pinch salt
- 1 cup whole almonds
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 1/2 cups raspberry freezer jam
- Whisk together flour, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
- In a food processor, process almonds with confectioner’s sugar. Almonds should be finely ground.
- Pour butter into almond mixture and mix well.
- Add in egg yolks. Mix well.
- Add flour mixture to almond mixture and mix well.
- Separate about 1/3 of the dough. Flatten it into a disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate.
- Take remaining dough and press it into a greased, fluted tart pan. I used a springform pan and that worked well, too.
- Spread dough with jam. Place this part of torte into refrigerator.
- Take chilled dough and roll out into a circle about 1/4 inch thick.
- Using a fluted roller, cut the rolled dough into 6 strips.
- Criss-cross strips on top of torte.
- Press edges together to seal.
- Place torte in refrigerator while preheating oven.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
- Bake torte until crust is browned and jam is bubbling, about 45 minutes.
- Let cool on wire rack until torte is just warm. Remove torte from pan and move it to a serving plate.
- Dust top of Linzertorte with confectioners’ sugar to serve.
The look and smell of December – warm, spicy gingerbread cookies straight from the oven, or let them cool and frost them for a more traditional treat.
‘Tis the season for hot toddies and gingerbread cookies. Out in the Alaskan bush, we have to plan ahead for any special ingredients. Ginger, yes. Cloves, yes. Molasses? When stocking up our pantry, I was on the fence when it came to molasses. I really don’t like molasses. It’s not a flavor I would normally add to any of my creations. But it is very traditional in a couple of bread and cookie recipes. In Point Hope, we kept it as a pantry item and only used it once over three years. So, I opted against stocking it again here at “the Lake.”
Here it is December, and I have a hankering for gingerbread cookies, but I have no molasses… Throwing molasses to the wind, I altered a gingerbread cookie recipe by upping the ginger and using a combination of honey and pure maple syrup instead of the traditional molasses. The result? A flavorful, spicy cookie with enough “brownness” to satisfy the eye and a flavor to satisfy my December craving. After frosting these little babies and bringing them to my students, I was met with many compliments and requests for more. Who says elementary student palates don’t know what’s good? The adults who sampled the cookies concurred with my young tasters. I patted myself on the back for improving a long-standing recipe and also for avoiding an expedited shipment of molasses from the nearest grocery store – nearly 500 air miles away!
Improved Gingerbread Cookies
- 1/2 cut unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tbsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- pinch salt
- Royal icing (optional)
- Mix butter and sugars.
- Mix in honey and maple syrup.
- Mix in egg.
- Sift together flour, baking soda, spices and salt in a large bowl.
- Stir butter mixture into flour mixture.
- Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and form into two large disks.
- Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
- Cover baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Roll out dough of one disk between two sheets of waxed paper. Dough should be about 1/4 inch thick.
- Using cookie cutters, cut out figures. Use an offset spatula to move cookies to prepared baking sheet.
- Repeat with remaining dough.
- Gather up scraps and roll out and cut as with original dough.
- Bake cookies until lightly browned, about 6 minutes.
- Let the cookies cool on sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to finish cooling.
- Decorate cookies with Royal icing, if desired.
These sweet little cookies are common at Hanukkah, but filled with pecans and cranberries they will be welcomed at any Thanksgiving, Christmas or fall festivities table.
If you’ve been following our life off the beaten path, you know Jack and I love to read. The chilly, rainy days that encourage us to be inside only fuel our fires for reading. We read together almost every morning and most nights as well. We are in the midst of a tome of poetry for our morning sessions. The Top 500 Poems edited by William Harmon has been taking us on a poetic journey through the ages from Chaucer and Shakespeare to Ginsberg and Plath. In the evening, we are currently enjoying Truman Capote’s timeless classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In addition to our joint reading adventures, each of us is immersed in yet another read. My current book is excruciatingly nerdy – The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg. It contains details and procedures for doing things only a baking nerd would love to do – like making marzipan from scratch, for example. And, yes, that is on my goal list now.
‘Tis the season for making pies, so I’ve delved into the section on infallible pie crusts. The author didn’t claim infallibility, but I am certainly trying to find one that never fails. I would like to be known as “The Pope of Pie Crusts.” The author did say that “a mastery of dough making is critical to the success of a professional pastry kitchen.” My kitchen is not professional, but I would like my crusts to have the taste and texture like those of the professionals. One pie crust which caught my eye includes cream cheese as part of the primary fat.
However, before I take on the intimidating world of pie crust perfection, I thought I would inch toward it with a cookie called rugelach that uses a similar cream cheese dough. The cookie dough spirals around a tasty filling. They are lovely to look at and even lovelier to eat!
Bo uses apricots and walnuts as her filling. I adapted her published recipe to make the directions simpler, and I also swapped her choice of fruit and nuts for what I had in my Alaska pantry. The resulting cookie recipe makes it easy to substitute any dried fruit and nut for the cranberries and pecans I used.
Pecan Cranberry Rugelach
- 2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), room temperature
- 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup Craisins
- 1 cup pecans, chopped coarse
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1 egg, beaten
- Beat 2 sticks butter and cream cheese together with mixer.
- Add in flour by 1/2 cups.
- Divide dough into thirds. Form 3 discs. Wrap each disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Rehydrate Craisins. Place Craisins in pan with enough water to cover. Bring water to boil, then remove pan from heat and let Craisins cool.
- Drain Craisins.
- Combine pecans, sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Roll dough into 10-inch circles.
- Paint circles with melted butter.
- Sprinkle dough with pecan mixture.
- Evenly sprinkle with Craisins.
- With a pizza wheel, cut each circle into 12 even wedges.
- Roll the wedges from edge to center. Place cookies on prepared baking sheet.
- Paint all the cookies with beaten egg.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Finished rugelach will be golden when finished.
Perfectly round. Perfectly chewy. Perfect little breakfast breads. Why did I quit on you so quickly. my Darlings?
With success under my belt making sourdough bread, I found myself contemplating what other types of delicious baked goods I could make with my sourdough starter. A friend in the village lent me an old Alaskan recipe book with a huge collection of recipes that are truly Alaskan. Did you ever wonder how to cook up beaver meat? Or fireweed stalks? These are just a couple of the interesting recipes found in this volume. Of course, there was a substantial section on sourdough. I don’t know if many people realize this, but sourdough is a very Alaskan thing. In fact, you can find starters that date back to the Klondike gold rush! It was an easy thing for people of that time to keep fresh starter going. They only had to regularly feed it. Delicious pancakes and breads could then be whipped up in a snap.
Now that I have a healthy starter going (I actually have two, thanks to another friend), I started playing around with recipe ideas that would showcase this unique ingredient. In short order, an idea came to me from a recipe that I’d failed at several years ago…
I got into serious baking when we first came out to the Alaska bush. At that time, we decided to make as much of our food as we could from scratch, knowing that our local store would have limited supplies. We shipped out ingredients in bulk, like 50-pound bags of flour and sugar and 25-pound bags of rice and beans. It was lovely to have a year’s worth of ingredients in our pantry. Lately, I’ve been contemplating how my baking skills and confidence have grown since the days of bread machine loaves and basic chocolate chip cookies to what I turn out in our kitchen now: lattice-topped pies with homemade crusts and my own “Twix” bars in which every layer of the candy is crafted from scratch.
I can’t remember what about my first English muffins was so bad, but I do remember being quite frustrated and promptly turning my back on these little breads. Until now. I’m glad I came around. These round beauties came out better than store bought. They had that lovely sour tang to them, the chewiness that is the hallmark of good English muffins with the expected crunch of cornmeal on the outside. Of course, we split them with forks before serving them toasted with butter and homemade jam. We also use these muffins for tasty breakfast sandwiches of fried egg, salmon, and melting cheddar cheese. As it turns out, these tasty baked breads are actually pretty easy to make. Who knows what wrong I did to this recipe so many years ago.
Sourdough English Muffins
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees F)
- 1 tbsp active dry yeast
- 7 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- ½ cup nonfat dried milk
- ¼ unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp salt
- cornmeal, for coating
- Combine all of the dough ingredients (except cornmeal) in a large bowl.
- Mix and knead. Dough should be elastic and not too sticky.
- Place dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic and let rise for about 1 hour.
- Turn dough out on a lightly flour surface.
- Divide dough in half.
- Roll dough to about ½ inch thick. Cut into 3” rounds with cookie cutter. Or just cut dough into squares, using a knife.
- Re-roll and cut any remaining scraps.
- Repeat with remaining half of dough.
- Place rounds onto cornmeal-sprinkled baking sheets. Sprinkle with additional cornmeal.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let them rise for another hour.
- Preheat a large griddle over medium-low heat.
- Place as many muffins as you can (without crowding) on griddle.
- Cook muffins for 10 minutes on each side.
- Remove muffins from griddle and cool on a wire rack. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature for about 5 days. Freeze for longer storage.
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.
Bursting with the flavors and colors of the holidays, this lowbush cranberry cake makes a beautiful centerpiece for a fall table and, if there is any left, the breakfast table the next day!
Oh, these little red gems, these sour little beauties. They go straight from the freezer into a delicious batter and bake up into a cake you’ll want to share with friends.
Lowbush cranberries (as they are known here in Alaska) are our superstar fruit of fall and winter. Known as lingonberries elsewhere, these tart, tiny red berries grow close to the ground in cold, boggy habitat of northern climes. They taste similar to the cranberries we used to buy in the store, but they are so much better. As with many small, wild fruits, they are packed with more flavor than their mass-produced counterparts. And according to the University of Alaska, our lowbush cranberries contain more antioxidants due to clean air and long summertime sunlight hours. The berries are easy to pick and easy to clean and are widely available in our neck of the woods just around the time of the first frost. So far, we’ve made them into hot juice drinks and cranberry sauce. Now they are starring in this sumptuous upside down cake.
Lingonberry aka Lowbush Cranberry Upside Down Cake
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- 3 cups lowbush cranberries (or substitute store-bought cranberries)
- 1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
- ¼ cup corn meal
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted or browned
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp Penzeys powdered lemon zest (or zest of 1 lemon)
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup whole milk
- In a small saucepan, heat 4 tbsp unsalted butter and brown sugar.
- Stir constantly until butter and sugar are melted together and bubbling.
- Pour mixture into bottom of 9 inch cake pan. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
- Whisk together flour, corn meal, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk together melted butter, sugar, lemon zest, eggs, vanilla and milk.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry and whisk together until mixed.
- Pour cranberries evenly on top of butter mixture in the 9-inch pan.
- Pour batter evenly over cranberries.
- Bake cake in preheated oven for 50 minutes. Wooden pick inserted into center will be clean when cake is done.
- Let cake cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes.
- Run a knife around the circumference of cake. Invert on cake platter to serve.
- Serve warm.
Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz.
Cheesecakes for one – creamy vanilla with the tang of cream cheese. Top it with some favorite jam and Wow, this makes for a delicious, elegant dessert.
Out in the Alaska bush, I don’t usually stock cream cheese in my pantry. But during a recent visit to a neighboring village I happened across a two-pound block at the store. It doesn’t freeze very well, which makes for a perfect excuse to immediately create lots of baked items with this delicious ingredient. I’ve made these lovely little cheesecakes before using matcha green tea as the flavoring. This recipe is a perfect base in which to add in a variety of flavors. For this batch, I wanted to showcase my raspberry freezer jam, so I created a complementary vanilla-flavored cake.
Diminutive Vanilla Cheesecakes
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 1 package of cream cheese, 250 grams, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Line 8 standard-sized muffin tin cups with paper liners.
- In a medium bowl, mix together crust ingredients.
- Evenly divide crust mixture into lined muffin tin cups. Press down to form bottom of cheesecakes.
- Bake crusts for 5 minutes. Let cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk together filling ingredients. There should be no lumps and all ingredients should be mixed well.
- Divide filling evenly into paper lined cups.
- Bake cheesecakes until set, about 16 – 18 minutes. Centers should not jiggle.
- Refrigerate cheesecakes for 3 hours before serving.