Lemon Ginger Pound Cake {ModBak}

It’s day five of Strawberry Week here at Of Cabbages & King Cakes. And today’s theme is a simple one — strawberries make everything better.

Case in point:

This is Lemon Ginger Pound Cake from the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge. In the recipe notes, Nick Malgieri states that this cake needs no accompaniment. And he’s right. It’s a great cake on its own. But with height-of-the-season strawberries and freshly whipped cream, it’s sublime.

This is the second recipe in the Cakes section of The Modern Baker. After starting this section with the delicious but fussy Perfect Pound Cake, I was looking forward to trying this simple, quick recipe. Other than grating lemon zest and ginger (I used pregrated ginger), this cake takes almost no time to throw together.

This cake is baked in a bundt pan, which is buttered, dusted with fine bread crumbs, and then sprayed with cooking spray. The bread crumbs seem like a strange addition, but they bake into the cake without a trace.

To mix the batter, I began by combining flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of my stand mixer. I added butter and beat it with the paddle attachment until it formed a heavy paste. Then I added the remaining ingredients: eggs, egg yolks, milk, lemon zest and juice, and ginger, and beat the batter until it was light and fluffy.

I scraped the batter into the prepared pan and smoothed the top.

I baked the pound cake at 325°F for about 50 minutes, until it was firm, golden, and baked throughout. After cooling the cake in the pan for five minutes, I turned it out onto a rack to finish cooling.

I dusted the top of the cake with powdered sugar and served it for dessert. The lemon and ginger combined to give this pound cake a wonderful flavor.

We ate it plain the first night and really enjoyed it. But when we topped it with strawberries and whipped cream the next evening, we realized we had really hit on something.

Check out the other Strawberry Week entries, starting with Monday’s Real Strawberry Shortcakes.

Man, I can’t wait until strawberry season next year.

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Spicy Hazelnut Biscotti {ModBak}

Today I present to you the first biscotti recipe in the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of the Modern Baker Challenge. Unlike the biscotti regina I made back in January, which was actually a cookie (biscotti is, after all, “cookie” in Italian), this is what I would consider a classic biscotti recipe. It’s twice-baked, very crunchy, and made for dunking in coffee or tea.

What makes these biscotti unique is the addition of lots of spices, including some that might surprise you — ginger, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, and black pepper. The dough also contains lots of hazelnuts, some of which are ground with the sugar, while the rest are chopped up and stirred into the dough. A bit of honey and orange zest round out the flavorings.

The dough came together very quickly, although it was a bit powdery after I initially mixed it up. I worked it on a floured board until it held together, then I formed it into a log, put it on a cookie sheet, and flattened the top. I baked the log at 350°F for 40 minutes, until it was firm and nicely browned.

I cooled the log on a rack for half an hour or so, then cut it into 1/2-inch slices. I put the biscotti back on the cookie sheet and returned them to the oven, this time at 325°F for about 20 minutes, until they were dry and firm.

The aroma of the spices filled the house like Christmas at grandma’s. They smelled so good, I couldn’t wait for them to cool before trying them. I brewed a cup of French roast coffee, grabbed two biscotti, and headed for the living room.

How do I describe these biscotti? Crunchy, sweet, spicy — all those things, but so much more. The combination of flavors is absolutely genius, perhaps Nick Malgieri’s finest work.

These would be a perfect for the holidays, when spicy treats are on everyone’s minds. But don’t wait until then to make them. They’re too good not to enjoy year-round.

Three-way Gingersnaps {ModBak}

The second recipe I signed up to blog for the Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti section of the Modern Baker Challenge is a modern twist on a classic: gingersnaps. What sets these cookies apart from their old-fashioned counterparts is the use of three kinds of ginger: powdered, fresh, and crystallized. Having just received an order from King Arthur Flour containing some deliciously spicy, finely diced candied ginger, I was ready to make these cookies.

Although there are quite a few ingredients in this recipe, like most cookies, the dough came together quickly. I mixed the dry ingredients, creamed butter and sugar, added egg, then mixed in the dry ingredients and minced and crystallized ginger. After that, it was just a matter of scooping the dough, rolling it into rounds, and dredging the dough balls in sugar.

I baked the cookies in a 325°F oven for about 15 minutes, which was the low range suggested in the recipe. I like my gingersnaps chewy, rather than crispy, so I took them out of the oven as soon as they were set.

These were easily the best gingersnaps I’ve ever tasted. The three types of ginger give them a strong, but not overpowering, ginger flavor. The candied ginger added a spicy, sweet note that really sent these cookies over the top. I loved them warm. I loved them cold. I ate them for dessert, breakfast, lunch, and everything in between.

I know we still have a lot of cookies left to make (this is my second out of 25 recipes in this section); but I will be making these cookies again before I move on. And probably a few more times along the way.

Cold Melon-berry Soup {FFwD}

Let’s put this right out front: I was the only one in the house looking forward to this week’s French Fridays with Dorie offering. As many recipes as I’ve tried, we’re just not cold soup people around here. Even though I’m usually with the rest of the family on this one, I actually thought this cold soup looked good. Maybe because it’s not so much a soup as fruit in pureéd fruit. It sounded light and refreshing — perfect for this time of year.

The star of this recipe is cantaloupe, and Dorie advises the chef to use a “dead-ripe” melon. This is a great time of year for melons, so I went to the store to get one. As someone who grew up in the Midwest and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, I know how to pick a melon. I looked for one without a lot of green beneath the webbing that was heavy for its size with a little give on the flesh and the stem end and that smelled deeply of fresh, ripe cantaloupe. I chose a melon that had all these qualities and was confident it would be ripe, juicy, and flavorful.

So imagine my surprise when I got home and cut into my cantaloupe only to see this:

No, that’s not a trick of light. The flesh of that melon is so pale it’s almost white. I tried a bite of it, and it had almost no flavor whatsoever. So, back to the store I went, anemic melon in hand. The lady at the service counter was very polite and apologetic, and we headed over to the produce department to see if we could get some help.

The young man stocking sweet corn looked like he couldn’t have been working there (or anywhere) for more than a few weeks, but he listened to my plight, walked over to the melon bin, looked at the melons for a moment, then picked one up, hefted it in his hand, and said, “I’ll be right back.” He disappeared into the backroom for a minute or two, then emerged with the cantaloupe he had chosen, cut in half and wrapped. I took it from him and looked at the flesh. He had chosen a beautiful melon.  So much for my years of experience. I had been shown up by a tattooed teenager, but I didn’t care. I now had the perfect cantaloupe in my possession.

Back in the kitchen, I unwrapped the melon halves, dug out the seeds, then cut one half into melon balls, which I put in a covered container and stuck in the fridge. I sliced the other half of  the melon, cut the flesh off the rind, and chopped it into large chunks. I put the melon pieces in the food processor and whirred it into a juicy orange pureé. I scraped the pureéd melon into a quart container and seasoned it with fresh lemon juice, sea salt, and freshly grated ginger. Then I tucked the pureé in the fridge with the melon balls.

A few hours later, when I was ready to serve the soup, I divided the melon pureé among four rocks glasses. Then I added melon balls to the glasses and topped the soup with sliced strawberries. Even without the mint garnish, which I forgot, the soup looked great.

I found the soup very refreshing. The natural sweetness of the melon balls and sliced strawberries was both tempered and heightened by the slightly savory pureé. The salt brought out the melon flavor, and the acid from the lime juice cut the sweetness just enough to make the soup seem like an appetizer rather than a dessert.

The girls weren’t so enthusiastic. J and M liked the fruit but thought the salt in the pureé detracted from the natural sweetness of the melon and berries. A didn’t like it at all. She brought her glass out to the kitchen, saw the container of leftover melon balls and asked if she could have them instead.

So, while I enjoyed this dish and would certainly eat it as a light, cool appetizer, I doubt if I’ll make it again just for myself. And other than this recipe, I’m still not entirely sold on cold soup.

Pumpkin Pecan Buttermilk Tart with Cinnamon Whipped Cream {ModBak}

The second recipe I signed up to post for the Sweet Tarts and Pies section of the Modern Baker Challenge was one I knew right away I would love. I’m a huge pumpkin pie fan. In my house we eat them year-round, and we always make at least two at a time — one for the day it’s made and the other for the next day, starting with breakfast. And if you need some left for, say, Thanksgiving dinner, you have to bake a few more. And no one makes them like my mom.

So I was excited to try Nick’s recipe to see how it would stack up to mom’s normal, back-of-the-can recipe. Having made the bourbon-scented pecan tart, which blew my old pecan pie recipe out of the water, I couldn’t wait to see what Nick would do with pumpkin pie.

Like most of the recipes in this section, this one starts with sweet tart dough. I’ve really come to love this pastry dough. It is so easy to work with, and the results are consistently delicious. Because of my family’s affection for pumpkin pie, I decided to make the full recipe. So I started with an 11-inch tart crust.

The tart filling came together very quickly. After whisking pumpkin pie filling and eggs together in a bowl, I added sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and buttermilk and mixed it all together. I poured the filling into the tart shell, then topped it with chopped pecans. The recipe said to sprinkle sugar on top, but I forgot. It didn’t seem to affect the final product, although I will definitely remember it next time so I can compare.

I baked the tart for 35 minutes at 350°F, until the crust was baked through and the filling was set.

I cooled the tart for about half an hour, then removed the sides and bottom of the pan and put the tart on a cutting board while I made the cinnamon whipped cream, which consisted of heavy cream, sugar, and cinnamon.

We ate a quick dinner of leftovers so we could have the tart for dessert. I served the tart with cinnamon whipped cream on the side, to the great delight of my family — and me.

So how did Nick’s pumpkin tart stack up to mom’s much-loved pie? Sorry, Mom. You lose this throwdown — big time. The tart was delicious — creamy, spicy, sweet, but not overly so. And the crunch of the pecans was a welcome addition, as was the cinnamon whipped cream.

This is definitely my new pumpkin tart recipe. And I have a feeling that, once I make it for Mom, it will be hers, too.

Speculoos {FFwD}

This week for French Fridays with Dorie I chose Speculoos — sweet, spicy, crispy cookies that beg to be dipped in coffee and are perfect for Christmas.

The dough is sweetened with granulated and brown sugars. The spiciness comes from ginger, cloves, and a healthy dose of cinnamon. After mixing the dough, I divided it in half and patted one piece into a rough circle, which I then rolled between two pieces of waxed paper.

I rolled out the other half of the dough and then put both sheets of dough into the refrigerator. The recipe says to chill the dough for at least three hours. I made the dough on Sunday and baked it on Tuesday. It held up well (the recipe says it will keep in the refrigerator for three days), although it did dry out a bit. I reread the recipe and noted that, while the recipe itself only mentions wrapping the dough in plastic wrap to freeze it, the sidebar says to wrap it if you’re going to keep it in the fridge for a few days, too. I also found that the waxed paper on top of and between the sheets of dough stuck to them a bit, and the dough had to be handled very gently as it had a tendency to crack.

Dorie uses a 1 1/4-inch round scalloped cutter to cut her Speculoos. The smallest cutter I had was 1 1/2 inches, which was still very small.

I cut out a pan of cookies and let my daughter cut out a few gingerbread people with the rest of the dough.

There is gingerbread dough in the fridge, and we will most likely bake and decorate Christmas cookies this weekend, so I didn’t bother gathering and rerolling the dough. One pan of Speculoos seemed like enough.

I baked the cookies in a 350°F oven for about 11 minutes, just a bit longer than the recipe says to bake them. They smelled really good baking, almost like a cinnamon-scented candle. I let the Speculoos cool for a few minutes before sampling them. They were delicious. The cinnamon flavor was prominent but not overpowering. You could easily change the taste of these cookies by altering the kind or amount of spices. Had I added more ginger and less cinnamon, they would have tasted like crisp gingerbread cookies.

These cookies are perfect for dunking in coffee or tea. And cut into small circles, they would be perfect for a holiday party.

I enjoyed making and eating these cookies, and only wish that I had rerolled the scraps of dough to make more of them.

Ginger Scones with Almond Topping {ModBak}

Ginger Scones with Almond Topping is another simple and delicious recipe from the Quick Breads section of The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri. These scones came together quickly and baked up in only 15 minutes.

The only ingredient that I didn’t already have in the cupboard was crystallized ginger. Nick warns against using grocery store ginger, as it tends to be dry and hard, whereas good candied ginger should be moist and tender. I was going to order ginger from King Arthur Flour, as their crystallized ginger receives rave reviews. However, I didn’t have anything else that I needed to order, and I didn’t want to wait for a shipment to get the ginger.

So, I went to the grocery store to buy candied ginger from the baking section. Sure, it was dry and rattled around in the jar. But I was impatient, so I bought it anyway. When I got home, I realized that the jar of crystallized ginger contained only two ounces, whereas the recipe called for four ounces. Again lacking in patience, I decided to forge ahead with what I had. I adjusted the recipe by adding just a bit more ground ginger.

As noted, the recipe came together quickly. I put the dry ingredients in the food processor, pulsed them a few times, added the cold butter, and pulsed again to mix everything together. Then I added the crystallized ginger, milk, and eggs and pulsed until the dough came together.

I dumped the dough out onto a Silpat, kneaded it a few times, then divided it into three pieces. After pressing each piece of dough into a disk, I cut each one into six wedges with a dough scraper. I placed the scones on a baking sheet, and topped each wedge with a mixture of egg white, almonds, cinnamon, and sugar.

I baked the scones at 400° F for about 15 minutes, until they were golden brown and firm to the touch.

Fortunately, Nick recommends eating these scones hot from the oven, because there is no chance I was going to let them cool. They were sweet, but not overpoweringly so, and were wonderful both plain and with a little smear of butter.