Monday, January 18, 2016

Cardamom Bread My Grandmother's Way

When my grandmother passed away I was in to cooking but not bread baking so much and had never watched her make the sweet bread/coffee cake that I grew up eating at her house. So when my mom was going through her things and found the recipe for her Cardamon Bread and gave me a copy I was stoked and thought all I had to do was pop in the kitchen and get started!

NOT.....first I had to figure out how to convert the fresh cube of yeast into those little packets of dried yeast....hey this was before I even owned a computer so I actually had to go to the library!  But even then the bread just didn't turn out like Mormor's.  Then I had a bit of an Epiphany....I had never seen my grandmother EVER measure anything with a measuring cup...she would use her hand or a tea cup and I suddenly realized that's probably how she measured ingredients for the cardamom bread too!

OK so while making it again I just tried to remember the sweetness, and moistness and intensity of cardamom that Mormor's bread had and...YES after more sugar, more butter and more cardamom I had a moister dough that baked up JUST LIKE HER"S!!!!

I have made this many times since and have taken great care to convert the measuring by eyeball to actual standard measurements because I want my family to be able to enjoy Mormor's Swedish cardamom Bread for generations to come!

I want to share the how to video which I made at the Sears Kenmore Kitchen in Chicago with you as a tribute to the sweetest grandmother on earth!  Mormor you always made me feel special, loved and that I could do no wrong.  Thank you for being the bright spot in my childhood!

1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 packets quick rise yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water with a pinch of sugar
4 cups all purpose flour
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons cream
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon water

Heat milk on medium heat to scalding. (Do not boil) Stir in the butter and sugar until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour into a mixing bowl and cool to lukewarm. Mix in the large egg and then yeast mixture.
Blend in salt and 2 tablespoons cardamom. Add 2 cups of the flour. Then gradually add more flour until a soft dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn out onto a floured surface and knead dough for 7 to 10 minutes until smooth. I do this step in food processor with dough hook for 10 minutes. The dough should remain soft, so do not add too much flour.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap. Let rise for about 45 minutes to an hour; the dough should have doubled in size.
At  this point you will make simple braided bread. Punch down the dough, divide in half, and then divide each half into 3 equal parts. Roll the dough pieces into ropes, braid them, and tuck the ends under. This is the way my daughter Marina likes it best!
Cover lightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm area for about 40 minutes to an hour so the dough can have a second rising.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Whisk together the egg yolks and cream and brush over the dough. Bake for 25-30 minutes. After the first 15 minutes of baking, if the top is browned, tent with aluminum foil.
Remove from oven and let cool completely. Whisk together powdered sugar and water for the glaze Drizzle the glaze over the pastry.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Chocolate Cake and Friendships

#World Food Championships 2015 was for me one of those life changing events.  It caused me to take a really good look at myself, my life, friendships and my cooking!  Since all of those things are tied up into one not so tidy package...namely me....reevaluating one area certainly effects the others.

I have always believed the friendships I've made in the foodie community are much more important than any contest win!  But some things, I guess really a lot of little things, happened to make me realize it's OK to live this philosophy openly and that sometimes its necessary to put certain people and friendships in a less important place in my life; especially people who feel the contest win is everything and friendships take second place!

So emotionally I did say good-by to a couple of people with whom I thought I shared a special and good friendship. NO I didn't make a big deal out of it, I have just backed away both emotionally and physically.  It's really about making certain changes within myself; not about anyone else.

Anyway a most amazing thing happened.  I got to know and spend time with truly beautiful women that are a huge plus in my life and I hope I add to theirs too. The amazing, kind, gentle, talented and fun Donna Tillman Bardocz I have "known" since our RWOP days four/five years ago but we had never met in person, Rebecka Evans is another foodie friend who I spent time with in person for the first time ever and can't wait to see her again.  Oh and she is also grace under pressure; I acted as her sous chef....and she remained calm, collected and caring the entire time!  Mary Edwards is a hoot in real life and I could definitely hang with her at any time and hope I get to again soon! I have to mention again how grateful I am to have connected with Lori Cripe Mclain...she is the real deal!!! Merry Graham, our foodie community queen, is a consummate pro when it comes to contesting and as sweet inside as the cake I'm sharing with you today! 

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake is really super easy to's very dense and chocolaty...almost brownie like.  For the #WFC 2105 I topped each slice with whipped cream marbled with raspberry coulis....gorgeous but you can top it with a bit of ice cream instead or nothing at all...this cake stands alone!
Me...I'm standing up for true friendships!!!!  Oh and baking a lot of Ultimate Chocolate Cakes along the way!

Ultimate Chocolate Cake 
Just the moistest, richest chocolate tart you will ever have!
Yield: 1 Tart/ 8 slices
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Dark Chocolate 7 ounces
  • Powdered Sugar   1 1/2 cups
  • Butter 12 tablespoons or 1 1/2 sticks butter
  • Flour 3 Tablespoons 
  • 4 Eggs
  • Pinch of Salt
  •  Butter & Cocoa Powder for the baking dish
1.       Preheat oven to 335
2.       Chop Chocolate & melt over simmering water
3.       Add butter & sugar; mix together
4.       Add 1 egg & 3 yolks
5.       Add the flour
6.       Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff
7.       Gently fold into the chocolate mixture
8.       Butter and cocoa powder the baking pan
9.       Bake 45-50 minutes

 Don't forget this is the perfect dessert for Valentines Day!!!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

World Food Championship Cupcakes or My Foray into The 4th World Food Championships

WFC 2015 was the 4th year of this world wide amazing competition.  I had qualified and had planned on going in 2013 but cancer reared it big ugly head right into my family and there was NO way I could go.  My husband didn't want me to go and wasn't ready to accept publicly what changes his life was about to take so I begged off by saying I just couldn't afford it.  Mike McCloud, CEO of the #WFC even called personally to let me know the film production company had pegged me as one of the contestants to follow...damn that was hard to hear but NO REGRETS.... there was just no way I could leave.  So I thanked Mike for taking the time to call but told him I just couldn't afford the costs involved.

Fast forward two years and my husband is cancer free, has settled into his physical changes; they are HUGE and life changing so I'm really proud of him for choosing to live and participate no matter what!  And it seemed like the perfect way to celebrate kicking cancer's ass and to move forward embracing what is now our new normal.  So I made up my mind I would try my best to qualify again!  AND I did!

I qualified just 4 weeks prior to the start of the competition which didn't give me much time to prepare.  Tiny little fact:  I would be competing against teams who had months and months and even the entire year to prepare and many of these teams would be professional chefs and bakers.

I had to develop a cupcake for the required dish and then a dessert of my choice.  Cupcake would have to be turned in at the one hour mark and my signature dessert at the two hour mark.  I REALLY needed to work on a cupcake cause I'm not very experienced with cupcakes....why I don't know.  I just never made that many! So I experimented with cupcakes after work...oh yes I work for a non profit full time....experimented on the weekends and even in my sleep!  I delivered enough cupcakes to make all my friends gain weight!

I finally figured out the cupcake that I thought could compete against the big guns!  A Caramel Apple Cupcake with Rum Cinnamon Frosting!  Whohoo it's good.  I mean really, really good!

Next I had to find someone to be my sous team mate really!  Everyone works with at least one and some have up to four or five helpers!  So I contacted one of my foodie friends who lives just south of here and I had first met when I was hosting the Real Women of Philadelphia web site. I knew she was going and offered my help to her and asked if she would team with me.  The answer I got stunned me: "I'll  see" .....that's it!  That's all she said! She didn't even bother to make up an excuse.......Well never mind, obviously I had miss judged completely our "friendship".

That was my first realization that the food competition world in general is as nice as nice can be, but some people take it and themselves all VERY seriously, in fact way too seriously!'s about friendship; building, nurturing and cherishing TRUE FRIENDS...that's MY big win in all of this!

Here's where Karma jumped in and took over!  I contacted Lori Cripe McLain an online foodie friend who I had NEVER actually met and asked her if she would like my help and would she help me? She said YES right away and the rest is history!  We are now nicknamed the "two skinny chicks" and had more fun than anyone else there!  Lori is so good for me...she has a quick whit that kept me laughing, she has the same attitude about it being about so much more than a "win" and have I said yet I ADORE THIS WOMAN? Well I do and she placed in the top ten of the Recipe Category so went on to cook a second time trying to make it to the final table!  She is grace under pressure and the best home cook around!  One of the top ten in the world in fact!
Here we are together...This was taken just before I started making the Caramel Apple Cupcakes!

Anyway...that's just a snipped of the goings on at the World Food Championships 2015....I'll post more soon when I share my signature dish......

Caramel Apple Cupcakes with Rum Cinnamon Frosting TOP 20 IN THE WFC 2105
2 Cups sugar
2 Large eggs
½ cup melted butter
2 teaspoons caramel flavor
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 apples peeled and grated
Preheat oven to 350
Coat cupcake pans with nonstick spray or use cupcake liners (yield 24 cupcakes)
Using an electric mixer combine sugar, eggs, butter and caramel
In a separate bowl combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, salt
Mix dry ingredients into wet.  Do not over mix
Fold in apples
Fill cupcake liners ¾ full
Bake until cake springs bake about 15-20 minutes.
Remove and cool before frosting


1 Cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 egg white
 2 teaspoons rum extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup boiling water
With an electric mixer combine sugar, cream of tartar, egg white, rum extract and cinnamon.
Slowly pour boiling water into sugar and beat on high until stiff.

Fill piping bag with frosting and pipe onto cupcakes or frost with a spatula.

Instructional video: