TWD: Finnish Pulla

This week our recipe was a holiday treat!   A lovely loaf of cardamom-scented bread – not too buttery or eggy.  Some shaped their loaves into a festive wreath tied with a bow; I opted for small braided loaves – perfect for gift-giving!

The dough mixed up fairly easily and rather than knead it myself – I used my KA for most of the process.  I used I wooden spoon until I had added four cups of flour, then used my mixer as I added by tablespoon to get the right consistency.  While the recipe called for seeds from cardamom pods, I don’t have a spice mill or a mortar and pestle, so I paid the premium for ground cardamom.  I used a teaspoon of the ground and I think it scented the bread nicely without being too overpowering.  With the dough hook on my KA, I kneaded the bread on medium speed for ten minutes – never leaving the room as my mixer tends to be mobile at higher speeds.  The dough truly came out satiny and lovely.  I appreciated the short length of the two rises – it made it easy to make the bread in one leisurely morning or afternoon. 

I oiled a large piece of parchment paper and my hands for shaping the breads.  No stickiness at all!  After the second rise, I brushed my breads with an egg wash and sprinkled slivered almonds and a pretty gray crystal sugar on top.  The breads looked pretty and tasted good – just a hint of sweetness and spice.  I will definitely make these again for the holidays!  For the full recipe and beautiful pictures and directions, please visit, our host, Erin’s blog.

finished finnish pulla


Tuesdays with Dorie: Gingerbread Baby Cakes

If you are looking for a unique gingerbread recipe with adult flavors – look no further.  This complex taste offers notes of coffee, molasses, and cocoa with the snap of ginger.  Find the recipe at  This is a recipe that begs to be tweaked!  With the Tuesday chatter ringing in my ears, I made some adjustments to the recipe.  Finding myself without espresso powder, I substituted cocoa powder as suggested by another baker.  This definitely made the cake less gingery and gave a stronger taste of cocoa.  The other advice I got from the chatter was to cut back on the molasses.  The recipe calls for 2 cups – I used one and it was more than enough.  I substituted 1/2 c. of maple syrup and a 1/2 cup of strong coffee (make sure you fold from the bottom of the bowl to incorporate the coffee evenly throughout the mixture.  I also fudged on the pepper – a teaspoon seemed like a bit much – I gave it a few grinds of the pepper mill and left it at that.

I baked it as a larger cake for a party this weekend.  I plan to serve it with some whipped cream to make it more kid-friendly.  I made a real baby cake to sample – my husband and I enjoyed the complexity of the flavors and the girls thought it was awesome.  I’m not sure that I got the right combination of flavors – ginger should be a bit stronger I think.  I probably could have done without the coffee altogether or at least dialed it back substantially.  Maybe a 1/4 c. of coffee and 3/4 c. of maple syrup…despite the brown sugar and the maple syrup the cake itself was not overtly sweet.

I liked this recipe well enough to play with the flavors a bit in the future to find the perfect gingerbread!

Tuesdays with Dorie: “Butt”ermilk Crumb Muffins



These muffins were quick, easy, and delicious – though somewhat depressed.  How is it that everything I bake deflates, crinkles, puckers, or recedes?

I follow directions, I swear that I do, but my muffins resembled navels – all innies it’s true!

It’s unnatural I say

How they overflowed and refused to budge from their tins

So I sliced the tops off, mutilating the delicate crumb

I don’t why but my bread always looks dumb

If anyone has a word of advice, maybe this is a muffin I will attempt twice!

A baker most expert at can be found

With the recipe for the tastiest muffins around.



Tuesdays with Dorie: Chocolate Cherry Burnt Biscotti

The original recipe was a hazelnut biscotti, but as I am not a hazelnut fan, I opted to go rogue, deciding on a chocolate cherry version with cocoa, cherry kirsch, almond extract, and dried cherries as substitutions. Other bakers suggested swapping out something of the flour for cocoa powder.  I did this – using a third of a cup of cocoa, but the dough was so sticky that I ended up adding back most of the flour I’d replaced just to manage the dough.

I wondered if the dough was sticky because of the cocoa or if the original recipe was just as difficult to work with.  I guess that’s an argument for making the recipe as is the first time around and improvising on round two.

I discovered a good trick for rolling out the logs – flour a piece of plastic wrap, plunk down half the dough, then wrap and roll.  The recipe said the logs were supposed to be about twelve inches in length – mine didn’t quite make it.

During the first baking, I made a fatal error.  I smelled the scorching of cocoa, but was afraid to take it out early, by about five minutes.  Should have gone ahead and done it because the biscotti was bitter as a result and nothing could be done to fix it.  I could have maybe tried some powdered sugar on the edges to sweeten it a bit, but they really weren’t salvageable.  I think the texture was good (I went ahead with the second baking), but I will definitely read other bakers’ posts before attempting this one again.

If you want to try the original recipe,  please visit


Tuesdays with Dorie: French Strawberry Cake and Imperfect Genoise

No photos this time.  It just wasn’t pretty here in the Ragland kitchen.  Since we had just driven in from D.C. on Sunday, I opted for a Father’s Day do-over on Monday and planned a menu of herbed pork tenderloin, rice pilaf, and tarragon roasted asparagus, and of course, a French Strawberry Cake.

With my trusty helper, Olivia, in the kitchen to assist.  We attempted the Perfect Genoise – the foundation of our dessert.  Dorie Greenspan writes that genoise is the first cake batter mastered by a French patissier.  Clearly, I would have been stuck in genoise school for some time.  Just the directions for the Genoise amounted to two pages (Baking with Julia is a BIG book!)

This unleavened cake (no baking soda or powder) is just eggs, sugar, flour, and melted butter.  You beat the eggs and sugar together until the mixture triples in size – a light, airy froth.  I spent a good 7-8 minutes using the whisk attachment in my KA mixer.  I think I didn’t use a high enough speed at first, so I increased it to “6” and it started to fill with air.

I wish I had seen my compadres posts about sifting the flour into the mixing bowl.  As I I tipped my waxed paper cone of twice-sifted flour, I asked my assistant for help.  Unwittingly, she dumped the contents in their entirety into my light airy mixture. The flour was supposed to be added in three additions.   I could feel the air being sucked out of my batter, though I attempted to fold – but as I folded I kept finding more and more pockets of flour, as well as a nice pile at the bottom of my mixing bowl.

All I could do was move forward, so I did, pouring the batter into my prepared pan and hoping for the best. Ollie and I watched through the oven window as our cake refused to rise – deflating our hopes and our dessert.

I only made 2/3 of the strawberries and whipped cream frosting – it wouldn’t take much to frost our one layer – standing at barely 1/2″ (I don’t think I am exaggerating…)  Dense and eggy, I went ahead and added some of the strawberry liquid to what would be more aptly named, strawberry shortcake.

We ate it all, but it wasn’t the light dessert I had hoped for.

If this is something you would like to try, see or for the recipe.

TWD: Oasis Naan

Intimidated by the calories and the time-consuming nature of the Sticky Pecan Buns last month, I sat out the last Tuesday with Dorie.  I am happy to say that this afternoon I was back in full force and eager to make Oasis Naan.  I planned an Indian meal for tonight so that I could serve the naan in lieu of rice – a chicken, onion, and potato curry with Trader Joe’s curry simmer sauce and a can of light coconut milk.

The recipe called for stirring the flour and water (with yeast)  in one direction.  When trying to blend flour and water, that’s trickier than it sounds.  I had hoped to break out my new food processor or take my KA out of the corral for this recipe, but what it called for was brute strength.  I managed to get the 3 cups of flour and water blended, only to have it become a sticky mess as I added the rest of the flour cup by cup.  I turned it out onto my flour-y  countertop and spent the next 10 minutes as instructed (kneading vigorously)!!!

The dough became smooth and elastic as I worked it, and finally I placed the ball in a well-oiled bowl.  Covered with plastic wrap, the dough doubled in size over the next two hours.   Possessing neither a pizza stone nor quarry tiles, I opted to invert a baking sheet as the recipe suggests,  placing it on the oven rack.  While waiting for the oven to reach 500 degrees, I prepared the dough for baking.  Dividing the dough evenly into eight balls, and with rolling pin in hand, I rolled out 4 dough circles with the help of my daughter Olivia.  She particularly enjoyed pricking the naan allover with the fork.  I chopped some scallions for adornment and put some cumin in a shaker with a top of wire mesh.  Using this, we could just “dust” the naan with cumin and not blacken it!

a ball of dough in an oiled bowl

Our first batch the dough seemed too dense – the circles weren’t thin enough and I had forgotten to wet the center of the circle before pricking it with the fork.  We spent a bit more time rolling out our second batch, and the water seemed to thin the dough a bit and made the pricking easier.  We skipped the scallions on this batch and just dusted them with salt and cumin.  They definitely looked more authentic!

Golden Naan

I was surprised by how much the kids liked it – they are both taking it to school for snack tomorrow.  I am hoping that our second attempt was better than our first – I will try the second batch tomorrow and see if it was “airier” than the first.  I could see snacking with this bread and some hummus.  While it is delicious, I don’t know if I’ll make it again.  I will be interested to hear about the texture of other bakers’ breads…

If you want to try to make Oasis Naan yourself, visit one of our hosts for the recipe:


Looking forward to Fresh Strawberry Cake in a couple of weeks!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Hungarian Shortbread

Tuesdays with Dorie?  More like Wednesday!  I was surprised late Monday night to receive the LYL post – I had written down Hungarian Shortbread for May 8 and Sticky Pecan Rolls for May 22.  I had glanced over both upcoming recipes, so I knew shortbread was the “easy” one for the month.  However, I proceeded to jam it into a day where I’d already run four miles, taken a yoga class, and finished knitting a pair of barrista mitts I’d been working on since January.
Somehow nothing about this baking project was easy – maybe because it was sandwiched between getting back from Charlotte Yarn and school pickup.  I had just enough butter, but not enough sugar – a novice mistake to start baking without checking to be sure I had all the ingredients.  So, with a bowl of room temp butter already fluffed in my Kitchen Aid, I ran to my friend Jean’s for a cup of sugar.

I always find it tricky to add ingredients to the mixer – even if I stop to raise the paddle, it’s so covered with goo that I can barely add the egg yolks or my dry ingredients.  In my rush, I forgot to lock the stand and a cloud of flour fell down upon me as I clicked the mixer on low.  Dusting the flour off my shoes, I continued until all the ingredients were blended seamlessly.  My ball of mostly butter, sugar, and flour turned out easily onto the counter. I split it in half and rolled each into a ball and wrapped it in plastic  for the freezer.

The next part you won’t see coming.  After half an hour in the freezer to harden, you grate the ball of dough into a 9 x 13 baking pan.  It seemed easy at first, until the dough started to warm in my hand and my nice little grated flakes became flying dough balls.  I pressed the dough gently into the pan and its corners, then spread a cup of raspberry jam over top.  The recipe calls for you to make your own rhubarb jam, but as I am not a fan or rhubarb, I opted for a store-bought shortcut.   I could only hope the second ball would be easy to grate – but it really wasn’t.  How is this the “easy” recipe of the month?  I guess because to make the sticky pecan rolls you have to make brioche dough (which is it’s own multi-page recipe!!!!) and then add a bunch of steps (and butter) to that – we’re talking pages of instructions!  But back to the shortbread…

Without a second to spare, I put the shortbread in the oven, and took it out about 40 minutes later and ran out the door to pick up my kiddos.  It was golden brown and smelled wonderful.  By the time we got home, it was just cool enough to cut.  On a lark, I calculated the points plus values (Weight Watchers) and determined it to be 7 points per mini square.   I cut it into 32 squares – the recipe suggested cutting it into 12 or 24.  While delicious, I will take my calories elsewhere.  Something chocolate-y or maybe those sticky buns…

Granted, when most people think shortbread, they think the hard as a rock Walker’s biscuits from the store.  This Hungarian version is much softer, lighter in texture, if shortbread can be light.  If you love shortbread, I would recommend it, but you’ll need some muscle to make these.   I’d prefer chaturangas to grating dough.

Stay tuned for the pecan rolls – they are one of my favorites, so I may just have to give over an entire day to try to make them.  If you want to try this shortbread recipe, visit one of our hosts to see it posted.  Check out my barrista mitts!