Crisp Rosemary Crackers

It’s finally beginning to feel like real summer here!  And when it’s summer, my eating habits change a bit.  I eat later dinners each night (think 8:30-9:00 pm), dine on fresh Hermiston Watermelons, and make huge veggie salads for lunch.  I’m not sure if these habits are because of the season, or as a result of habit from growing up on the hot side of the state, where true summers actually exist!

Lately too, I’ve been craving crispy, savory crackers and yesterday had a snack-lunch of crackers, hummus, and fresh vegetables.  There might have been a couple slices of salami thrown in there too, but, ahem, we ate it!  The rosemary and black pepper give a small hint of uniqueness to these little rounds, but even so, they pair nicely with a variety of other foods!  (Think cheese board, if you’re fond of eating cheese).

Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

Crispy Rosemary Crackers, adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

3/4 cups gf flour mixture
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour (about 8 oz. of gf flour all-together)
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil plus more for brushing
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450°F.  Place a baking sheet on the middle rack to preheat.

Stir together the flour, minced rosemary if using, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in center, then add water and oil and gradually stir into flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms.

Knead the dough gently in the bowl.  It should be compact but not stiff.

Divide the dough into 3 pieces and roll out 1 piece (keep remaining pieces covered with a towel) on a sheet of parchment paper into a 10-inch round.  Cut into cracker rounds with 3-inch round cookie cutter.  Remove excess cracker dough from rounds on the parchment, so the crackers won’t have to be picked up and moved.  Gently score the top of each cracker with a knife with a design of your choosing, if desired.

Then lightly brush the top of each cracker with additional oil and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper, if desired.  Slide round (still on parchment) onto preheated baking sheet and bake until pale golden and browned in spots, about 10 minutes. Once baked, transfer parchment to a rack to cool.  Continue this process with remaining cracker dough on fresh parchment.

Armenian Nutmeg Cake for a Fabulous Spring Tea Party

I grew up not far from a spectacular place. My mom used to take me to visit the nursery as far back as I could remember. In my memory, the sun was always shining, the flowers were always in bloom, and a spectacular family lived in the house   separated by a wooden fence.  I liked to think the house was a real-life version of the secret garden, hiding behind the fence enclosed with vines.  One day when I was small, one of the little girls from that house and nursery offered me a piece of her zebra stripe gum, and a lifelong friendship was formed.

The other little girl that lived in the house had a fondness for tea parties.  She collected cups, and like many little girls are wont to do, had parties with stuffed animals and held mock weddings pretending she was marrying the neighbor boy.  Or that’s how I remember it.

These two special people are still my friends to this day, and happily enough, have each in their own way helped me to celebrate and prepare for a real wedding–my own.  Even though K is thousands of miles away, S stepped in with the tea and hats, photos, and friends.  And A, a third friend, brought out her fabulous party and people coordinating abilities.  It was a special time in the garden, with the sun shining and the flowers blooming.  The only difference from my childhood memories was there was real tea served, more friends to celebrate  beyond the stuffed animals, and the wedding this time around is really happening!

Now the cake–which is perfect for afternoon tea, was the April Daring Bakers Challenge recipe.  The Daring Bakers’ April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.  While it may seem as if this is just a standard spice cake, it really is special, with the crumbly crust and sweet hint of spice, not overpowering despite the amount added.  To top it off, I made this cake both gluten and dairy free, though you can certainly substitute the butter and wheat flour back in!

Tea Party photos are credit to my dear friend Shannon at FotoNovella.

Armenian Nutmeg Cake, makes one 6-inch cake
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 tsp. baking soda
5 oz. whole-grain gf flour mix* (about 1 cup)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
4 oz. brown sugar (a bit over 1/2 a cup)
2 oz. coconut oil (1/4 cup)
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
toasted sesame seeds
1/2 an egg (I broke an egg, whisked, and separated half by weight.  I mixed the other half into fried rice for dinner!)
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Whisk the baking soda into the milk.  Set aside.
  • Put the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, and the brown sugar into your food processor. Pulse until uniformly mixed.
  • Spoon in the coconut oil, breaking into small pieces as you do so.  Pulse until uniformly mixed into tan-colored crumbs.
  • Pour HALF of the crumbs into your cake pan. Press out a crust using your fingers and knuckles.
  • Pour the egg into the food processor with the rest of the crumbs still in it.  Add the nutmeg to this addition.  Pulse until well-incorporated.
  • Pour in the milk and baking soda mixture. Continue to mix until a slightly lumpy tan batter is formed.
  • Pour the batter over the crust in your cake pan pan.
  • Using a small bit of sesame seeds in your hands, gently sprinkle over the batter until it’s covered to your desired amount.
  • Bake in a preheated moderate oven for 35-40 minutes. It’s ready when the top is golden brown, and when it passes the toothpick test.
  • Cool the cake in the pan, and then dig in.  It’s amazing with a nice cup of tea, I’m telling you!
*A big batch of my gf whole-grain flour mix consists of the following:
2oo grams brown rice flour
200 grams millet flour
200 grams sorghum flour
100 grams gluten-free oat flour
150 grams cornstarch
150 grams white rice flour
  • Sift all the flours together.  Use 1 cup for this recipe and save the remaining for other uses.

Through the Long Days of Winter–Grapefruit Yogurt Cake

While I’ve spied a few crocuses and daffodils making their way from the wintry soil in my regular jaunts around the neighborhood lately, winter seems to have settled deep within my bones.  I feel a persistent chill, and I hover over my cup of tea, mostly because it is a thing of comfort–of warmth.

Perhaps it is not only the cold weather, but the feeling of isolation after moving to a new place, or the thoughtful hours of reflection I’ve pondered as this season of Lent has begun.  In these hours I feel as if spring will never come.

But things are not all as dreary as they sometimes seem.  The sun has been shining lately, through peaks in the clouds and rain, and wind.  And winter has one or two perks–A bounty of delicious citrus is to be found and I’m eating it up as if it’s going out of style–which to be fair, it is.  At least until next year.

Though my go-to citrus fruits are fresh oranges, I couldn’t help but load up on the many pretty pink grapefruit each time I’ve gone to the store.  And since the Daring Bakers have asked for a quick bread/muffin this month, I decided to use up my bounty and satisfy a particular craving in designing this recipe.  For me, this is mostly a sweet reserved for the end of the day.  But since these cakes are hardly sweet–and a bit tart in that way grapefruit always is, with my favorite oaty texture–you can choose to eat them as a breakfast muffin or an afternoon snack or whenever the fancy strikes.  I experimented several times with the recipe in both a loaf cake/quick bread and a muffin form.  Bake in a loaf pan for a moister texture, and in a muffin tin for a more bready feel.

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

Give this cake a try if you’re suffering through the long days of winter as I am–with the rain pouring down against the windows, and a cup of black tea in hand.  If you’re longing for a bit of cheer and something spunky to get you through until spring shows itself again–bake your way through a grapefruit or two–cozy yourself next to the oven, and smile because we’re nearly through.

Grapefruit Yogurt Cake
4 oz. (about 1 cup) Amy’s All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Blend  (or all-purpose flour)
4 oz. (about 1 cup) GF old-fashioned oat flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
zest from about 1/2-3/4 of a large grapefruit
2 eggs
4 oz. (1/2 cup) cup plain non-fat yogurt
4 oz. (1/2 cup) grapefruit juice (about one whole grapefruit)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Whizz 4 oz. of oats in a food processor and mix them and the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  • Combine butter and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with electric mixer for 3-4 minutes until fluffy.  Add in grapefruit zest and eggs, one at a time.  Mix well after each egg addition.
  • In a small measuring cup mix yogurt and grapefruit juice.
  • Add half of flour mixture to egg and butter mixture.  Stir just until combined.  Add one-third of yogurt mixture to this and stir.  Add half of remaining flour mixture and stir until combined, add half of remaining yogurt, and continue to add these two until they’re all combined together.
  • Pour into 9×5 loaf pan or muffin tin and bake 45-50 minutes for loaf pan, 20-25 for muffins.