All posts tagged: baking

Mountain strawberry shortcake recipe

One person’s invader is another person’s honored guest. A friend of mine wages war against the rangy “mountain strawberry” plant that creeps into her Colorado lawn every summer. Despite the cute little berries, she considers this native plant an invasive pest and she works hard to eradicate it from her garden. But last week, during my visit to Sun Valley, Idaho, my aunt Sandy delightedly pointed out the very same plant in her garden and rejoiced over the many miniature strawberries dotting the vines. “The French call these fraises des bois,” she gushed, “and they’re considered a real delicacy because of their concentrated flavor. One of my French friends couldn’t believe we had them growing wild on our patio!” That afternoon, Sandy’s gardener harvested a cup or two of the precious berries. I made Sandy’s “best-ever” shortcake recipe, and she whipped up her special version of fresh whipped cream (secret ingredient: sour cream). That night for dessert, we feasted on Mountain Strawberry Shortcake. Shortcake recipe (originally from Bon Appetit, July 2006): 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour 8 tablespoons sugar, divided 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 …

Why you should never trust (every) recipe

I’m psyched that a piece I wrote for Sunset magazine’s blog is now on the site! Titled “Why you can’t trust every recipe on the internet,” it’s a lighthearted look at a common problem — published recipes that may or may not work in a real kitchen — plus tips on what you can do about it. Though online recipes are proliferating faster than you can say “gluten-free cupcakes,” the resources for testing those recipes are drying up. As the LA Times asked in a recent article: “Is recipe testing a vanishing art?” I’m afraid the answer is yes. Needless to say, this can be frustrating and costly for the home cook, so I hope the blog gives you some useful guidelines in your own recipe adventures. And please leave a comment about recipe sites or publications that you particularly trust. I can say from experience that Delicious Living and Sunset are both excellent sources.

How to clean your oven naturally without toxins

It started with the chocolate souffles. No, that’s wrong. It started about 16 years ago when we moved into our house and I noticed that our oven could use a cleaning. Didn’t do it. During the years of family cooking and recipe testing, the oven’s entire interior eventually turned solid black (roast chicken is my favorite dinner). A couple of years ago, I noticed that every time I cooked something at 425 degrees or higher, the oven smoked fiercely, filling the house with gray haze and setting off the smoke alarms. Because I mostly roast foods during winter, opening the doors and windows in sub-freezing temperatures became problematic. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to clean it. I hate caustic chemical cleaners and, given the 1/8-inch-thick layer of black grime, it seemed impossible to clean without going nuclear. What about the self-cleaning function? According to our appliance repairman, employing that feature in old ovens like ours often makes the door seal shut — permanently. So it stayed black. And anyway, what’s a little smoke among friends when roast chicken is on the menu? But then, last week, I made …

Why I simply had to make this gluten-free orange cake

I am the first to admit that I am not a happy baker. Baking is too precise. All that measuring just so. Plus I don’t really like cake; I’m a fruit-pie girl. And don’t get me started on trying to figure out high-altitude adjustments. (Boulder stands at 5,300 feet above sea level — enough to make muffins cry.) But when I saw this January 2015 cover of Sunset magazine, I felt an irresistible urge. I had to make this Corn Flour and Orange Blossom Chiffon Cake. My “you’re not a baker” voice tried to talk me out of it. “Are you crazy? It’ll never work.