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Peanut Butter and Julie

November 30, 2012

Chocolate Orange Pecan Kugelhopf


In my family, Christmas breakfast is just as important a meal as is Christmas dinner.  This could be because we aren't usually done unwrapping our gifts until just before it's time to eat dinner, so we rely on our morning meal to sustain us through the day (along with a healthy dose of snacking on my mom's Chex party mix, that is.)



Our gift opening marathon is not due to an abnormally large number of gifts piled under the tree and stacked up to the ceilingWe usually have what most people would consider to be a normal amount of gifts.  We just have an abnormal way of opening them. 



At some point during my teenage years my mom decided that having us tear down the stairs and tear through all of the gifts before 8 a.m. meant that the bulk of the day was spent with our new goodies as opposed to with our family. So, being the creative person that she is, she came up with a solution, which would become an annual tradition:

The Biederman Family Christmas Game



Every year the game would have a different theme, and we would always start playing it immediately after eating breakfast and opening stockings.  One year the game was "Christmas Pictionary," when the winner of each round would get to choose a gift to open.  My dad didn't like that one so much, as everything that he drew looked pretty much the same. I, on the other hand, loved it, maybe because I won most of the rounds.  Other years the game was "Christmas Charades", "Christmas Trivial Pursuit", or "Christmas Jumble." 

My mom made sure that the games were challenging, part of her scheme to keep us in the same room for as long as possible.  When friends and family would start to call to say "Merry Christmas" at what they thought was a "safe" and polite hour, we were barely one-third of the way through our presents (this was also due to the fact that my dad and brother would have to get up to make iced tea or get a snack every 10 minutes.)


Winning the games was a double edged sword.  If you won, you were allowed to select a present to open.  Of course this also meant that you would go through your presents first.  I would often throw the game and lose intentionally so that I would have presents left.  That's the only reason why I ever lost a round.


That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

The games always involve a ton of laughter, and they really do make Christmas morning extra special.  I can't wait to find out what this year's game is going to be (although I think we all know who will win it....) 



So, you can see why an extra hearty breakfast would come in handy in our family--sort of like a pre-game Christmas tailgate.  Just indoors.  And not held on the back of a vehicle.  OK, so maybe "tailgate" wasn't the best descriptor.  You know what I meant.

This kugelhopf recipe would be perfect to serve at your holiday breakfast or brunch, whether your day's activities involve a game of "Christmas Scattergories" or a walk with the family.  It will keep on the counter, wrapped, for a few days, but there is no way that it will last that long.

Kugelhopf, also spelled Kugelhupf, gugelhupf or kugelhoph, is a classic brioche-like yeast cake, which supposedly originated in Austria or in the Alsace region of France. Variations of the cake are also popular in Germany (where I first tried it), Switzerland, Poland, Croatia, and Hungary.  Instead of being a dessert cake, kugelhopf is traditionally served at breakfast or as an afternoon snack, much like the Italian panettone.  

It also makes a mean french toast or bread pudding......just putting that out there.

Although there are pans made specifically for kugelhopf, you can use either a Bundt or a tube pan, as I have done here.  Fillings range from booze-soaked fruit to nuts to chocolate, or a mixture of all three if you're feeling really wild.



Here are my extra tips for making this irresistible holiday sweet:

  • To make the optional glaze, mix 3 cups confectioner's sugar with 3-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice, enough to reach a consistency that is pourable but still thick.  Drizzle the glaze over the cooled kugelhopf and allow to set for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
  • For the two rising stages, if the dough has no doubled in size during the time indicated, just let it rest longer. Depending on the temperature of the dough and the yeast that you used, it might take a bit longer to rise.
  • When I need to set dough aside to rise in a warm place, I always turn the oven on to preheat for a few minutes and then turn it off before placing the dough inside.  This creates an ideally warm and draft-free area in which the dough can rise.
  • Feel free to experiment when making the filling.  Use different types of nuts or raisins in place of the cranberries.  You could also "marinate" a mixture of dried fruit in some Kirsch or Grand Marnier and use that in place of the chocolate.




Chocolate Orange Pecan Kugelhopf

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine

Printable Recipe

Serves 12-14


1 cup whole milk

12 tablespoons butter, cubed

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoons orange zest

2 teaspons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

One 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)

5 cups flour, divided

4 large eggs


1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

3/4 cup finely chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and butter to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the butter has almost melted.  Remove saucepanfrom  heat and stir in the sugar, orange zest, vanilla and salt.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and allow to cool a few minutes, until lukewarm.

Add the yeast and 2 cups of the flour, mixing on low speed until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Gradually beat in remaining 2-1/2 cups flour until combined.

With floured hands (because dough will be very sticky!) turn the dough out onto a generously floured work surface; gently knead until smooth, about 3 minutes. 

Transfer the dough to a buttered bowl, turning to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling: In a medium bowl, mix together brown sugar, pecans, chocolate, orange zest and butter.  Add cranberries, if using.

Punch down the dough and give it a quick knead.  On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 14 X 22-inch rectangle.  Sprinkle the filling over the top, leaving a 1-inch border.

Starting from a longer side, carefully roll up dough into a log.  Cut the log crosswise into 12 even slices.  Place the cut sides of 6 of the slices against the side of a buttered 10-inch tube pan. Place the remaining slices, cut sides pressed together, in a ring around the tube of the pan.  Cover with plastic and let rise until doubled, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.  Bake kugelhoff until browned on top and a cake tester inserted into the center emerges clean, 35-40 minutes.  Let cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes, then carefully unmold and cool completely.  Drizzle with an orange glaze (see tips, above), or dust with confectioners' sugar. 



November 15, 2012

Gingerbread Pear Pocket Pies




One of the cardinal rules of food blogging (or any blogging, for that matter) is:

Never start a post telling your readers, "I'm sorry that I haven't posted in a while, but I've been very busy."

Well, I don't know who had the authority to create this blogosphere no-no, but whoever you are, guess what?




1. I have been busy.

2. I am sorry that I haven't posted in a while.

3. I don't mind breaking a rule every now and then.





Were the all caps a bit too much?  A bit too in-your-face?  Sorry, I was feeling defensive.



The past few weeks in particular were way up there on the crazy scale.  I participated in the World Food Championships which, despite the fact that they were held in my hometown, managed to keep me occupied for the better part of a week.  When I wasn't competing, which took place right in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, I was running around town like a mad woman, sourcing ingredients, gathering equipment and helping friends who had traveled thousands of miles to participate in the cook-off.

By then end of the competition I felt like I had run two consecutive marathons or, as a friend put it, like I had been hit by a mack truck. 

I was fortunate enough to come in second in the World Burger Championships, which consisted of two rounds of competition. My Mojave Desert Cactus Burgers earned the top score in round 1 (woot!), but I was edged out by half a freakin' point in round 2, losing to a team of 3 guys from Utah.  They were really great guys, and their win was well deserved.  That said (and not to be snarky, but):

Team of 3 vs. Team of 1


That's all. On to the next topic.



This week has been equally cray-cray.  On Monday and Tuesday I drove back and forth to L.A.  Twice.  That's 1000+ miles total.  I can't really say much about why I took this journey, during which I became the Foursquare mayor of the Barstow Starbucks, but I can tell you that the reason was not so I could have some quality time alone in the car with my thoughts.

My treks could most likely amount to nothing, but they could also amount to something very cool, in a scary-cool-surreal sort of way.

Yes, you guessed it:  I am being considered for the starring role in the upcoming Jennifer Aniston biopic.  Really, I'm a dead ringer.  How could they not choose me?

Oh, and just a question for any Los Angelinos out there:  How on Earth do you people live in that city and not go absolutely insane from the traffic??

Seriously, I just about lost it as I started my final leg home, when it took me over 1-1/2 hours to go 50 miles on the freeway.  Good times. 


So now I finally get to focus on the upcoming activities for the next month: Hosting Thanksgiving for 10 people, finishing the editing for my first cookbook (and starting the content for my second one!), and of course everything associated with the holiday season, especially baking.

Show of hands: Who likes gingerbread?

That's what I thought.  ME. TOO.

No, scratch that.  I loooooooovvvveee gingerbread.  No offense to peppermint, eggnog and pumpkin, but gingerbread is easily my favorite holiday flavor.  I am one of those rare beings who could do without the pumpkin lattes--they just don't do it for me--but I will happily indulge in the gingerbread varietal (sans the whip) for a mid-afternoon treat.

So, I will try to turn the gingerbread flavor profile into just about anything that makes sense during the holidays: macarons, creme brulee, doughnuts, cupcakes, etc.  This year, I decided to try it with pie crust and then, since I have become somewhat of an expert on hand-held pies, I decided to make mini pocket pies (kind of like round Pop Tarts, but I don't want to mess with trademarks, so they are called "pocket pies.") 

The filling is simple spiced pears. Pears, the red headed step-children to apples, just never get the recognition they deserve during the holidays, but I love them.  The crust is a combination of a gingerbread cookie and a pie crust, and I couldn't stop picking at the finished product, which is always a good sign.

Hand to God: These are really good.

Serve these as part of a holiday breakfast or brunch, take them to a bake sale, or just have one with coffee for an afternoon break.


Here are my extra tips for making these hand-held holiday treats:
  • Select firm, not overly ripe pears that hold their shape when baked. Bartlett, Bosc and Anjou are all good choices.
  • Instead of making round pocket pies, feel free to experiment with other shapes, such as rectangles, squares or even hearts.
  • Once assembled, the pocket pies can be frozen for up to 1 month.  Freeze them for at least 30 minutes on a baking sheet, then transfer them to zip-top bags.  Bake directly from freezer per the instructions.
  • For another twist, turn these pies into pie pops.  Make the cut-outs 3-inch rounds, and press a wooden or paper lollipop stick into the bottom round before filling.  Fill with about 1 tablespoon filling and top with another round.  Bake 18-20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.


Gingerbread Pear Pocket Pies

Makes about 12 pies

Printable Recipe

Gingerbread Crust

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour         

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar       

2 tsp ground ginger 

1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon       

1/4 tsp ground cloves 

1/2 tsp salt      

1/8 tsp baking powder                       

14 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cubed   

1/4 cup cold buttermilk

2 large egg yolks           

2 tbsp dark molasses 

Pear Filling

2 tbsp  unsalted butter           

4 pears, peeled and diced         

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar       

1 tsp ground cinnamon       

1 tsp ground ginger 

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract 

3 tbsp all-purpose flour         

1/2 cup golden raisins or dried cranberries, optional  

Egg wash: 1 large egg mixed with 1 tbsp water

Sanding Sugar or Confectioner's sugar glaze


In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse flour, brown sugar ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt and baking powder to combine. Scatter the butter over the top of the flour and pulse several times until butter is the size of peas.

In a small bowl, combine buttermilk, egg yolks and molasses. Slowly add half of the buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, pulsing to combine.  Add more buttermilk, 1 tbsp at a time, pulsing after each addition until the dough begins to hold together in moist clumps.  

Transfer the dough to a large piece of plastic wrap and gently press into a disk. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Prepare the filling: In a medium skillet, melt butternover medium-high heat. Add the pears and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and lemon juice. Cook until the liquid has almost completely disappeared 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in vanilla.

Transfer the pears to a large bowl and toss with the flour. Stir in raisins/cranberries, if using. Set aside to cool completely.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.


Divide the dough into halves. On a generously floured surface, roll out 1 half to a thickness of slightly more than 1/16-inch (2 mm). Using a 3-1/2 or 4-inch cutter, cut into rounds and place on prepared baking sheets, spacing apart. Reroll scraps as necessary.

Brush surfaces of the rounds with egg wash. Place about 2 tbsp filling in the center of each round.   

On the floured surface, roll out the remaining dough.  Using a slightly larger cutter, cut out rounds, rerolling scraps, as necessary (using a larger cutter helps to cover the filling). Place the round on top of the filling, pressing edges together to seal. Crimp the edges with the tines of a fork and brush tops with egg wash.  If desired, sprinkle the tops of the rounds with sanding sugar.

Place the pocket pies on sheets in freezer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, place oven racks in upper and lower third positions and preheat oven to 375°F.

When you’re ready to bake, pierce the tops several times with the tip of a sharp knife. Bake in preheated oven for 18-22 minutes, switching positions of baking sheets halfway through, until pies are puffed and golden brown and filling is bubbling. If tops become too dark while baking, tent the sheets loosely with foil.

Let pies cool on sheets on wire racks for 10 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.



September 28, 2012

Spiced Apple Pull Apart Bread


We all learn something new everyday. You could discover that the walk to your mailbox is exactly 26 paces or that Oxy Clean will remove the worst red wine stain from your favorite white pants (long story). No, it's not always something mind-bogglingly enlightening, but that doesn't mean that your fun fact won't ever come in handy. Tuck that little nugget away for now.  You never know when there will be a lull in the conversation.

Here is what I learned this week, thanks in part to this glorious recipe:



1. Don't purchase Honeycrisp apples at Smith's grocery store, at least not early in the season. Like I said above, they're not all gems.  The chance that this little smidgen of wisdom will apply to you is slim, but if I can get through to at least one Smith's-shopping-apple-buyer out there, well, my work is done. 

I am crazy about Honeycrisps. From their hybrid tart-sweet taste to the crunchy sound they make when bitten, they are the perfect variety of apple.  The Smith's produce guys are clearly onto me. They know that I cannot pass up a neatly stacked display of shiny Honeycrisps, especially one that is positioned front and center as I walk through the sliding glass doors.

Here's the problem: Three Honeycrisp apples should not cost over $7.50. These were not magic apples. They were not Chanel apples. They weren't even organic apples.  Yes, they were each roughly the size of a softball, but still, no excuse. Am I missing something here?  Enlighten me, please.

I shall now purchase Honeycrisps elsewhere or suffer with some other varietal.



2. Some recipes are the culinary equivalent of "The Ugly Ducking." Let me explain. I've experienced this a few times. Have you ever been working through a recipe, following it diligently step by step (except for maybe a few insignificant alterations), when at some point you stop and think: There is no way that this thing is going to turn out right.?  Perhaps one of the components tastes odd. Maybe your creation looks like an ugly explosion on the counter top. Maybe you should just throw it away and start over.

Or maybe not.

I initially learned this lesson several years ago when I first attempted a traditional Swiss buttercream. For the majority of the mixing process, the stuff in the bowl looks nothing like buttercream. It's a clumpy curdled concoction just tempting you to throw in some confectioner's sugar (a big no-no in classic buttercreams) to smooth it out. But, after I pulled up a chair and allowed the mixer to do its thing for several minutes, the lumps magically transformed into a swan -- a beautiful silky buttercream.

The same applied with this recipe. As I assembled the final loaf per recipe instructions, I thought: The recipe writer clearly never tested this. These stacks of dough are such a droopy mess. But since I had almost gotten to the end of the recipe instructions, I decided to proceed the best that I could.

Thank God for that decision.  If you do make this, just trust me and forge ahead, even if the situation on your counter top says otherwise. The results are worth it.



3. Don't bake anything irresistible, especially Spiced Apple Pull Apart Bread, when Eric is out of town.  This was a stupid move on my part, knowing my will-power (or lack thereof in this case.) Cookies I can resist. Cake too. Ice cream--usually. But bread? Especially warm, super-squishy, slightly sweet bread swirled with spices and dotted with tart apples? Not a chance. In fact, I'm amazed that there is any left as I type this (boy, it looks good sitting there on the counter all but itself...)  I tried to keep my sampling to a reasonable minimum--a slice with breakfast and one with dinner, but those slices were probably just a tad on the thick side.  I couldn't even toss any to the dogs since Fenway is on a diet and it's impossible to slip some food to Cameron without Fenway noticing.



This is the bread that I made.  I can't take credit for the entire recipe, as I initially saw a version of it in the King Arthur Catalog that arrived a few weeks ago. I typically just flip through the catalog without tearing out any recipes, mostly because they tend to require one or more ingredients specific to K.A.  This one spoke to me though, as good bread usually does.  So, I made some changes based on my personal preferences and what I have in the pantry (these are listed below.)

I encourage you to give this recipe a try. With the amount of baking that I do, it is rare that I add a new recipe to my regular arsenal, but this one is going in there.  It's perfect for breakfast, brunch or a treat before bedtime, and it would make a killer french toast.




Here is a list of the ways that I changed the original recipe from the King Arthur catalog:

  • Instead of "thinly slicing" the apples for the filling, I opted to chop them.  I felt like slices might be too large.  As I mention above, I used Honeycrisp apples, but any sturdy tart apple would work well (i.e. Granny Smith.)
  • I added the allspice and the cardamom instead of just using cinnamon.  The more spices, the better!
  • During both rising stages, the King Arthur directions stated that the bread should double in size in about 1 hour.  In both cases, it took more like 1-1/2 to 2 hours in a warm space.  My yeast might have been the problem here, but allot for extra time, just in case.
  • When forming the loaf, K.A. directed to stack all six strips of dough on top of each other.  This would have been a huge mess, so I created two stacks of three strips instead (still messy, but better.)
  • Finally, K.A. listed one of their thickening products called Clear Jel in the ingredients.  I don't have this, so I used 2 tablespoons cornstarch instead -- worked beautifully!



Spiced Apple Pull Apart Bread

Printable Recipe

Makes 1 large loaf



2 tablespoons butter

3 medium apples (I used Honeycrisps), peeled, cored and chopped

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Dough

3 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 (1-ounce) package rapid rise or instant yeast (equal to 2-1/4 teaspoons)

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1/3 cup warm whole milk

1/4 cup warm water

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare the filling: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the apples; saute 1 minutes, until warmed through. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, salt and cornstarch to the pan; toss to combine. Cook the mixture until apples are softened and the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla then set mixture aside to cool completely.

Prepare the dough: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix flour, sugar, salt and yeast. In a medium bowl, whisk together butter, milk, water, eggs and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing on medium speed until well combined. Continue to mix, adding more water or flour in small amounts if necessary, until a smooth soft dough forms, 3 to 4 minutes more.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a large lightly buttered bowl.  Cover the bowl and set aside in a warm, draft-free area until the dough has doubled in size, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Generously butter a large loaf pan (I used a 10" X 5").

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll it to a 12" by 20" rectangle. Spread the cooled apple filling evenly over the surface of the dough.

Cut the dough crosswise into six even strips (about 3-1/2" by 12" each). Carefully stack the strips on top of each other in two stacks so that you have two stacks of three strips each (this part is kind of messy.) Cut each stack into four even pieces. Turn the pieces on edge and carefully place them in the loaf pan, one in front of the other, from one end of the pan to the other, squeezing tightly to fit.

Cover the pan and allow the loaf to rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

Bake the loaf for 30 minutes. Tent the top of the loaf with foil, then bake for 15 to 25 minutes more, until deep golden brown. Allow the pan to cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then carefully turn it out of the pan to cool completely.