What I’m Baking: Cornmeal Pancakes

Pancakes w Butter

There’s a part of me that thinks I must have been an old Southern lady in a past life.  Despite growing up in Miami where Cuban food is the more typical comfort food, I have a deep and profound love for all Southern food.  I could eat grits with every meal.  Fried chicken and waffles is, in my opinion, the greatest food combination ever invented.  Just the thought of biscuits makes me happy and I’m obsessed with all things cornmeal.  I mean seriously obsessed.  I truly believe that cornmeal makes everything better.  Waffles?  Add some cornmeal!  Biscuits?  Make them cornmeal!  Shortbread?  Sure why not, throw some cornmeal in there!  Chocolate pudding?  Ummmmm…….maybe don’t add cornmeal to that one, but you get my point.

One of my favorite cornmeal dishes is Cornmeal Pancakes.  They are my go-to weekend breakfast, especially if people are in-town visiting or coming over for breakfast.  These pancakes are huge crowd pleasers.  I’m telling you people – it’s the cornmeal!  It’s magical stuff.  I went through a lot of recipes before finding the perfect one.  You would think that a great Cornmeal Pancake recipe would be easy to find, but I’m oddly picky about my pancakes.  Every recipe I found seemed to have some kind of problem.  The pancakes were either too thin or they weren’t cornmealey enough or they were too sweet.  I was about to give up hope until one day, while looking at The LA Times online, there it was…….the absolute perfect Cornmeal Pancake recipe.

This recipe is everything I could ever want in a pancake.  They’re thick, fluffy, and delicious with just the right amount of cornmeal.  Another testament to the greatness of this recipe is that I only made one very slight tweak to it.  I like my pancakes to be really cornmealey (shocker – I know), so I use half regular cornmeal and half coarsely ground cornmeal.  The coarse cornmeal adds a little bit of crunch to the texture and makes for a really great hearty pancake.  Pancake batter is one of those things that gets better the longer it rests.  The best thing is to make it the night before and let it rest in the fridge overnight.  I rarely have enough forethought to do that, but even just setting it aside for 30 minutes will make a difference.

These pancakes are phenomenal with a little butter and some maple syrup.  If you really want to up the awesome factor, fry up some turkey sausage to go on the side.  You really can’t get a much better breakfast than that!

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What I’m Baking: Oatmeal Raisin Biscoff Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Biscoff Cookies

I had a few requests for the Biscoff Cookie recipe I mentioned in Monday’s post, so I figured I would go ahead and share it with you guys.  The original cookie I made was a Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Biscoff, but after tasting them I decided I wanted to make them into a more classic Oatmeal Raisin Cookie.  I thought it would be a better flavor combination and, personally, I prefer raisins over chocolate chips in my oatmeal cookies.  I didn’t have any raisins on Monday hence the chocolate chips.  I tweaked the original recipe ever so slightly by adding in more Biscoff (because in my world you can never have too much Biscoff) and replaced the chocolate chips with rum soaked raisins and toasted walnuts.  After tasting the newly revamped cookie, I can tell you it’s even better than the original.  This one will definitely be going on The Earnest Baker menu.

A couple notes about the recipe.  Soaking the raisins in rum is an optional step, but if you have the time I highly suggest doing this.  It plumps up the raisins and makes them juicy and boozy and delicious.  Don’t worry, the cookies won’t taste like rum, but it will add a really lovely subtle note to the raisins and guarantees you won’t have dried out raisins in your cookies.  Toasting the walnuts is also an optional step, but I’m a firm believer in toasting nuts.  It brings out their flavor and it’s an easy touch that makes people feel like you went that extra mile (even though it’s ridiculously simple).  If you want to see the difference toasting makes, try toasting some nuts and comparing them to raw ones.  It will make you a believer.

My technique to make cookies is a little different.  In fact, I do some things that some people will specificially tell you not to do.  I’ve always made my cookies this way though and it’s how I get the exact texture and chewiness I like.  Oddly enough, when I got the Milk Bar cookbook I discovered Christina Tosi makes her cookies the same way.  I’ll go into detail about the technique in the recipe and have provided lots of pictures this time (yaay!).  Hope you guys enjoy the cookies as much as I do! I’ve already eaten two while writing this and am eyeing up a third……I’m writing them off as fuel for my 5 miler today (that makes it okay – right???).

I’m trying a new recipe style that goes into more details and provides more helpful tips and tricks.  Let me know what you guys think about it!

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The Running Slash Baking Correlation

Running

Aside from baking, my greatest passion is running.  At first, these two hobbies might seem like polar opposites, but they actually complement each other quite well.  Mostly because running allows me to eat all the stuff I bake and not feel so guilty about it, which is definitely a huge perk.  The funny thing is that I’ve found I’m not alone in my love of baking and running.  The more blogs I read, the more I discover that many avid bakers are also runners.  I’m not sure why this is…….maybe whatever part of the brain that’s tied to baking is also tied to running? Or maybe we’re all hopped up on sugar and have to run to get out our pent-up energy?

I guess when you really think about it, running and baking require a lot of the same traits in people.  They both require a lot of focus and dedication.  Both can attract some serious, Type A personalities (I may or may not be talking about myself……).  And both running and baking have a sort of meditative quality to them, but that could just be for me.  They are my go-to stress relievers.  During my grad school exams, I was baking and running like crazy.

Running has been my savior in a lot of ways.  It’s my chance to unplug from the world (except for my Garmin – I’m kind of anal about my splits) and clear my head.  Whenever I feel my mind racing or have a problem to solve, I go for a run.  Running is the perfect time to figure things out and come up with a game plan.  It allows you to zero in and focus on something without any distractions.  On a typical run I’m usually working out recipes in my head, coming up with topics to write about, or figuring out what my next move is for the business.  It’s kind of amazing how much you can accomplish while running.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I came up with the name for my business during a run.

Okay, that’s probably enough of my ramblings about the joys of running.  I’m starting to feel a little cultish.  I’d like to hear what you guys think about this.  Are any of you bakers also runners? If so, what’s your take on the running/baking correlation?  Maybe together we can get to the bottom of this mystery and write a book on it and then name a really cool new style of running and baking after ourselves…….I like to dream big.

Balancing the Fun with the Not So Fun

Choc Chip Cookies

Starting your own business requires a lot of focus and self-motivation, especially when you’re working out of your home.  I try to maintain a relatively normal work schedule Monday through Friday.  My goal is to be as productive as possible those days.  I can get a wee bit distracted and if I don’t have a schedule my days might look a little something like this: “Oh wow it’s actually warm outside? I should get a quick 4 mile run in.” Followed by, “I wonder what’s on TV……holy crap a Boy Meets World marathon?! I should probably watch that.” Which would inevitably lead to, “I wonder how production is going on the Boy Meets World spin-off…….I should Google that!”  As you can see, it’s really best for everyone if I keep myself on track.

At this point, I spend most of my days testing and researching recipes.  Unfortunately, today I was waiting on an ingredient to arrive from Amazon and didn’t have anything to test.  This meant I had to figure out another way to be productive.  There is something I have been putting off, but knew I had to do……the dreaded kitchen inventory.  Rooting around my cupboards is not my definition of a fun morning, but it was definitely necessary.  I have a ton of random baking supplies and have been meaning to do an inventory so I can see exactly what I have and exactly what I need to buy.  The upside of doing this means I’m totally justified in buying more baking supplies (yaaaaaay).  The downside is that I realized I HAVE to buy more baking supplies (stupid lack of income).  Turns out, I have some incredibly random supplies and am lacking some very basic ones.  For example, I have a deep dish tart pan, but no pie pan. How this happened, I have no idea.

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What I’m Baking: Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies

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Today is Valentine’s Day.  A holiday that, if I’m being honest, I’m not too keen on.  I have a hard time getting behind a holiday that puts pressure on couples to be super romantic and makes single people feel bad about their lack of a relationship.  I do, however, really enjoy the whole eating tons of chocolate part of the holiday.  That part I can get behind.  My boyfriend and I don’t exchange gifts or really do anything out of the ordinary for Valentine’s Day.  Although, maybe I could get him to watch the new episode of The Vampire Diaries with me tonight by playing the Valentine’s Day card……….interesting.  Anyways…..in the spirit of eating chocolate, I decided to be a good girlfriend and surprise my boyfriend with his favorite cookies, Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies.

These aren’t exactly the sexiest or fanciest cookies, but my boyfriend loves them.  I’d actually never had one before dating him and my first experiences with the cookie left a lot to be desired.  Most of the recipes I found were way too sweet (and that’s saying a lot coming from me) and the chocolate and peanut butter flavors got lost in the overabundance of sugar.  Since these are Boyfriend’s favorite cookies, I knew I’d have to figure out a way to create a No-Bake Cookie I could love.  I wanted something that downplayed the crazy sugar overload and let the other flavors shine through.

I found a great recipe in the book Baked Explorations that was almost exactly what I was looking for.  It contained chunky peanut butter, which added a nice texture to the cookie, and used dark cocoa powder.  The recipe was still a little sweet for my taste, so I dialed back on the sugar, added a little salt, and threw in some semi-sweet chocolate to up the chocolate quotient.  The end result was perfect.  It was a No-Bake cookie I could get on board with and, more importantly, my boyfriend loved them.

If you haven’t tried a No-Bake Cookie before or have had some bad experiences with them, I highly recommend giving this recipe a shot.  It made me a believer in them.  And if you need help justifying eating this cookie – I’m kind of a pro at that, so here you go……….oats have lots of fiber and are considered  a “superfood,” whole milk has calcium which some say helps burn belly fat, and peanut butter has protein.  I mean when you really think about, these cookies are pretty darn healthy.  Like I said, I can justify just about any dessert.  Hope you enjoy these cookies and Happy Chocolate Eating Day!!

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Geeking Out on Cookbooks

Cookbooks

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always read cookbooks.  And when I say read, I mean cover to cover as if it were a normal fiction book.  I’ve even been known to whip out a cookbook on an airplane to pass the time (you should try it – cookbooks are awesome plane reads).  I never thought this was a weird habit, but I’ve come across a few people in my life who thought it was a little strange.  In fact, my high-school college counselor thought this was such a “unique” trait that she made me write my college essay about how I read cookbooks for pleasure.  Honestly, I thought it was a super random topic and it wasn’t exactly the most thrilling essay, but I wasn’t going to argue.

I’ve always believed that anytime you are trying to do something, you should read up and research it as much as possible.  When I started running half-marathons, I read everything I could about the subject from training plans to nutrition guides.  I did the same thing when I started attempting to cook actual non-dessert food (cooking and baking are seriously two separate parts of the brain).  Maybe it’s the History Major in me, but I love doing research.  My favorite part of writing my dissertation was going to the National Archives and digging through all the documents…..I really am kind of a nerd, aren’t I?  I guess this is why I’ve always loved reading cookbooks.  It’s one of the best ways to perfect your baking.  They provide practical tips, new recipes to try out, and, if you’re lucky, they’ll provide inspiration for your own baking creations.

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Poll Time: Gluten-Free Baked Goods

Lately, I’ve had a lot of requests for gluten-free baked goods.  It turns out quite a few of my friends try to eat gluten-free most of the time, while only occasionally splurging.  I also know that a lot of you would like to see The Earnest Baker feature health conscious products.  As of right now, I do plan to offer a limited selection of gluten-free and vegan baked goods.  I have a few recipes in mind that just happen to be gluten-free and are actually some of my favorite desserts.  Most of them aren’t exactly health conscious, but in my opinion, are totally worth splurging on.

Here is where I need your guys’ help.  Since I only plan on offering a limited selection of gluten-free items, I want to make sure they’re what you’re looking for.  Do you want health conscious items that you can feel good about eating? Or do you want more splurge-worthy baked goods?  I’m a total sucker for polls, so I created one for you guys.  This is all about what you want, which you’ve got to admit is a pretty sweet deal (wow…totally didn’t mean for that to be a pun, but I’ll go with it).  Please take a moment to vote and also feel free to elaborate down in the comments section.  I’m stoked to hear what you guys think!

What I’m Baking: Vegan Banana Bread

Maybe it’s because I ate an insane amount of Sticky Buns last week, but for some reason, today I’m craving something a little healthy.  One of my favorite healthy snacks is a recipe for Vegan Banana Bread I came up with last year.  Banana Bread is a pretty great thing in general.  It’s super quick to make, infinitely adaptable, uses up old bananas that would otherwise go to waste, and tastes delicious – it really doesn’t get much better than that.

When I was in high-school, my Dad made a really great healthy Banana Bread.  It was one of my favorite treats and for a long time, I always used his recipe.  One day last year when I was on a rare health kick, I got a little bored and decided to overhaul my Dad’s recipe.  My goal was to create something with no dairy and no refined sugars and something that would provide some nutritional benefits.  I wasn’t kidding when I said I was on a health kick.  What I ended up creating was a super awesome, super delicious, and super healthy Banana Bread.

The bread is vegan (which I hope doesn’t scare you off this recipe!), has very little oil in it, and has a good amount of flax in it to provide some fiber and a nice dose of Omega 3 Fatty Acids.  There are a couple ingredients in the recipe that you might not have stocked in your kitchen, like spelt flour and coconut palm sugar.  Both of these can usually be found at your local grocery store, but just in case you can’t find them, I’ll also note the substitutions.

I hope you’ll give this Banana Bread a try and if you do end up making it – let me know how it turns out.  I always love getting your feedback!

(Pictures coming soon…..)

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Sticky Buns!

The past couple days, I’ve been in the kitchen testing Sticky Bun recipes.  I still have one more round of tweaking and testing to do, but I wanted to share with you guys the results so far.  On a side note, I’m still pretty new to the world of food photography, so I hope you’ll bear with me while I’m learning!

Sticky Bun Process

That work that goes into making awesome Sticky Buns.

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