Walnut Pumpkin Bread

Need to put this on the holiday baking list!


Creamy, sweetened homemade ricotta cheese makes for a lighter, healthier delicious alternative to cream cheese in this cheesecake-like tart. In this version, slices of pears have been brushed with peach preserves prior to baking.

I was surprised how easy it was to make a ricotta-style cheese at home. My first batch of ricotta went into Jack’s moose cannelloni. A second batch was split between blintzes and a pear and ricotta tart. Infused with vanilla, the beaten egg and ricotta base was smooth, creamy and light. The sliced pears were brushed with a vanilla peach jam which added another subtle layer of flavor.

Pear and Ricotta Tart


  • pie crust
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 d’Anjou pears, halved, cored and sliced
  • 1 heaping tbsp of peach preserves


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Press pie dough into a 9-inch springform…

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San Francisco Sourdough Bread

Well, tonight I had leftovers from lunch, so I decided to make sourdough bread for my trip to Taylor Tx and  Southkake Tx this weekend. 

1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup lukewarm water
7-8 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon yeast (because I like a lighter bread)

Mix starter water and 1/2 flour, sugar and salt together and let air in a warm place covered with a towel for about 1 1/2 hours, then add remaining flour, kneading until smooth and elastic.  Let sit 1 1/2 hours to double in size.  Punch down dough and knead into loaf shape of your choice.  Cover with towel let rise 1 1/2 hours.  Bake in 400* oven with a hot pan of water pm the bottom rack for 20 minutes.  Brush with water/cornstarch (1 tbspn corn starch and 1 cup boiling water mixed together and then cooled) mixture and bake for another 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before cutting.


Sour Cherry Muffins

June 3rd, day 2 of “A Muffin A Day”.  Today’s muffin – Sour Cherry Muffins.

I took my inspiration for this muffin from the Williams-Sonoma Muffin cookbook.

I have heard a lot about substituting honey for sugar in recipes, but have never tried it before, so today, for this recipe, I decided to do a little research to understand how to do the substitution, and give it a try.  I would say, I think it was a success.

Since honey is sweeter than sugar, you need to use 25% less honey in recipes, and add about 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (to neutralize the acidity of the honey).  I also noted in my research that if you are more than 2 cups of sugar, you should reduce the amount of honey by 33%.

The recipe in the cookbook included a coconut streusel; but I don’t like coconut, so instead I just sprinkled the muffins with a bit of granulated sugar before popping them in the oven.

In addition to substituting honey for the sugar, I also added about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, next time I would probably leave it out. They will be just as good with or without it.

Using honey instead of sugar gives the muffins an interesting flavor, I like it, but then I love honey.  🙂

The recipe calls for straining the cherries, and letting them “dry out” a bit, next time I would just scoop them from the container and leave a bit of the “sauce/filling” as I think that would add more cherry flavor to them.

Here is my version of the recipe, as I made them today.

Sour Cherry Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup honey (substituted for the 1/2 cup sugar in the original recipe)

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 large eggs

1 cup milk (I used 1%)

can/jar of tart red cherry pie filling, drained, and tried on paper towels

Preheat oven to 350* (If using sugar, temp is 375* )

line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cupcake/muffin liners

Stir together all dry ingredients

in a separate bowl, stir together all wet ingredients, except cherries

Make well in dry ingredients and add wet ingredients.  Mix until well incorporated and smooth.

Spoon batter into each muffin tin, only filling 1/3 of the way.  Add several cherries to each muffin, then spoon a little more batter over cherries, add a few more cherries and spoon batter over them, so that muffin tins are filled to the top.  Sprinkle with a bit of granulated sugar, or raw sugar if you prefer the larger grains.

Bake until golden, dry, and springy to the touch, 20 – 25 minutes.  cool 10 minutes on a wire rack, remove muffins and cool completely on wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12 muffins.

Cherry Almond Focaccia Bread

I came across a recipe for “Sweet Bread” in a recent Bon Appettit’ magazine and decided to give making the various recipes that they had listed along with the base recipe a try.  One of them was Cherry-Almond Focaccia Bread.

It turned out pretty good, even though I bought the wrong type of cherries (tart cherry pie filling rather than just canned sour cherries).  It did cut down on the work I needed to do for the recipe, since I didn’t need to make the cherry sauce, but instead just used the filling “sauce”.  It turned out yummy!

So, the following is MY version of the recipe (shortened by using the pie filling tart cherries…)

Cherry – Almond Focaccia

Master Sweet Dough (See separate post for this recipe)

3 Tbsp EVOO

2 cups drained pitted tart cherry pie filling (one can is plenty)

3/4 cups sliced almonds (with or without skins)

Punch down dough, coat a large rimmed baking sheet with 1 tbsp oil. Press dough evenly into pan, leaving 1 1/2 inch border.  Loosely cover with plastic wrap or kitchen towel, let rise in warm, draft free place until puffed and doubled in size (45 – 50 min).

Arrange rack in middle of oven, and preheat to 400*.

Using fingertips, press dimples all over dough surface.  Drizzle dough with remaining 2 tbsp oil. Scatter cherries over dough, pressing gently into dough.  Drizzle/spread filling sauce/syrup over dough, allowing to pool into nooks and crannies.  Sprinkle all over with almonds.

Let rise until dough is doubled in size (15 – 20 min).

Bake until focaccia is golden brown. 20 – 25 min. Let cool in pan on wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temp.

Master Sweet Dough

I came across this recipe in a Bon Appettit magazine.  It is used for several different recipes, and I am going to add to those they provided using this as the base, with some of my own ideas in the future.

Master Sweet Dough

2/3 cup milk (I used 1%)

5 Tbsp sugar divided

1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast

2 large eggs, room temp

2 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1″ pieces, plus 1/2 tbsp melted (or cooking spray)

heat milk over medium heat or in microwave until 110 – 115*

Transfer to 2 cup measuring cup, stir in 1 tbsp sugar. Sprinkle with yeast and whisk to blend.  Let sit until yeast is foamy. Add eggs and whisk until smooth.

Combine remaining 4 tbsp sugar, flour and salt in a standing mixer bowl fitted w a dough hook.  Add milk mixture.  With mixer running, add butter 1 tbsp at a time, blending well between additions.  Mix on Medium speed for 1 minute.  Kneed on medium – high speed until dough is soft and silky, about 5 minutes.

Brush medium bowl with some melted butter (or spray with cooking spray), place dough in bowl and brush with remaining butter (or use cooking spray).  Cover with plastic wrap.  let dough rise in a warm draft free place until doubhled in size (1  1/2 hours or so).

DO AHEAD: can make dough a day ahead of time.  Cover with plastic and chill dough.  remove from fridge and let rise 2 – 2 1/2 hours) until doubled. Proceed with your sweet dough baking recipe.


This dough is used in several different recipes that I will be posting in the near future.

Banana Muffins

A couple years ago I started a “30 days of muffins”, but never finished.

I think I am going to give it another try.  Starting June 2nd with Banana Muffins.

I have a muffins recipe book from Williams-Sonoma that I bought many years ago.  It has a lot of great muffin, coffee cake and bread recipes in it, but I hardly use it.  So (once again) I am going to attempt to make a recipe a day out of this book.  I know there are a few that I will not be interested in making, so up front I’m admitting that I will not make every recipe in the book, but I my goal is to make most of them.

Of course, I never follow a recipe “to the tee”… so some changes will inevitably be made from the version in the book.

Oh, and there are a couple of weekends this month that I will be out of town.  One camping with friends at the Guadelupe River in Texas (So maybe I will double up and make some extras to share with the group that is going…we will see how ambitious I am), and another weekend that I am going to Dallas to visit relatives (I may take the book with me and make muffins for the family up there too, again, no commitments on my end…)  🙂

Here are the banana muffins I made on June 2nd.

Banana Nut Muffins

1 1/2 cups allpurpose flour ( since I used 3 bananas, I wasn’t particular about measuring perfect 1 1/2 cups flour – in fact, I know I used a bit more – just scooped the flour into the measuring cup with a bit more – didn’t level it off)

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup crushed/chopped pecans ( I take my meat mallot, put the nuts in a plastic baggie, and pound away until the pieces are about the size I want)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon course kosher salt (recipe calls for regular salt)

1/2 cup olive oil (you can use any oil you have on hand. I like using olive oil, or grapeseed oil)

1 large egg

3 bananas (I love fruity muffins!)

3 tablespoons buttermilk

Preheat oven to 357*F  (190*C).  Grease a dozen standard muffin cups, or line them with cupcake liners.  I use the liners – so much easier!

Mix together all the dry ingredients in one bowl (including the nuts).

Mix together all the wet ingredients in one bowl.

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together until well combined.

Spoon batter into muffin cups, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes.  Muffins are done when toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool in tin, on cooling rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from tin and cool a bit more.  Serve warm, or at room temperature.

These muffins freeze well.  Let cool completely, put in freezer bag and freeze.  Allow to thaw to room temp. before serving.

Makes 10 – 12 muffins.

Memorial Day Breakfast

Happy Memorial Day to all of our brave veterans and soldiers.  A friend of mine posted a note on FB yesterday about his dad’s experience on WWII.  I was humbled.  And what followed was even more humbling, as friends of his also posted notes about their fathers who faught in the same battle.  God bless and keep all of our troops safe.

Sorry I have been MIA on the blogging.  I’ve been taking pictures of my cooking and baking…just haven’t found the time to sit down and post.

Yesterday I made homemade honey vanilla ice cream. It called for 6 WTG yolks, so I had 6 egg whites that need to be used.

This morning I used 1/2 of them plus one whole egg for breakfast.

Scrambled eggs, topped with what I had left from the best marinara sauce in town from Joe’s 5 Star Pizzeria (I posted about them a whole back).  A slice of tart cherry ficassa bread that I made from A recipe out of Bon Appetit’ and fresh fruit, including a peach I picked yesterday from my tree in the backyard. 

A great start to a beautiful Memorial Day on Houston.