Savor The Earth

eat tastier, eat greener, eat cheaper

Happy Birthday! May 14, 2010

Filed under: cookies/brownies,dessert,easy — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:07 pm

this image will have to suffce for now

Welcome to Savor the Earth’s one-year anniversary—two days late!  An untimely modem failure befell our household (when’s a broken internet ever not untimely?), and I tried to snail this post along to bring you another delicious dessert recipe, but alas, my connectivity wouldn’t allow it.  We’re back online again (and badder than ever, of course) so now this tasty treat’s comin’ at ya!

The folks at Maranatha have come out with a couple of new all-natural products:  a dark chocolate peanut spread and a dark chocolate almond spread.  Inspired by Italy’s famous Nutella, that smooth gianduja’d spread of chocolate and hazelnuts, these chocolaty nut butters contain no hydrogenated fats and no artificial anything.  I’ve only tried the peanut version so far (work perk!) and I found it deeply cocoa’d, well-burnished with roasty goober depth.  A little much for me straight outta the jar, but then again, I’m not even a Nutella kinda gal.

I smelled potential and adapted a recipe from for these crumbly bar cookies.  Rather irresistible, the pan was banished to the laundry room, lest I show up at work sans samples!

These scrumptious sweets helped keep my mind off my disconnect.  In fact, my mind/belly became so disconnected that I forgot to take a photo before we ate all the bars.  Sorry!

CRUMBLIN’ CRUMBLEBARS makes one 9” X 13” panful

  • 242 grams (2 cups) organic all-purpose flour.  Whole Foods usually offers the best value with their 365 brand in the 5-pound bag.
  • 160 grams (just over 1¾ cups) organic quick oats.  I stocked up with sale prices on bulk oats at Newflower Market last week.  Their regular prices on bulk oats are fair, too.
  • 270 grams (1 1/3 cups, packed) organic light brown sugar.  Central Market’s own brand in the 1½ pound bag typically sells for less than other brands.
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder.  I use Rumford, aluminum-free and non-GMO.
  • ¼ teaspoon salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • 2 sticks organic butter, melted. Organic Valley makes about the best standard butter around.  Today’s the last day for Natural Grocers incredible sale on OV 1-pound blocks for $3.99.  Stock up!
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 13-ounce jar Maranatha all-natural dark chocolate peanut (or almond) spread, no cooler than room temperature.  Available at Central Market for $ 4.29.  I haven’t looked elsewhere yet.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9” X 13” baking pan with aluminum foil.  I do this by fitting the foil to the outside of the pan (upside down) and before placing the foil inside the pan.

Thoroughly combine the first 5 ingredients (flour through the salt).  Stir the vanilla into the butter and stir the butter into the dry ingredients until well distributed.  Reserve 1½ cups of this mixture for the topping and spread the rest onto the bottom of the lined pan.  Gently press the crumbs down so no foil shows through.

Dollop the chocolate spread all over the base and carefully spread it out to the edges.  The sticky stuff will grab the crumbly bottom and give you a little bit of a hard time, à la La Brea, but spacing out your dollops helps minimize this.  Evenly crumble the reserved topping all over the surface.

Bake on a center rack in the oven for about 25 minutes, until the crumbles are golden brown and firm.

Here’s the challenge.  You’ve got to let this pan of temptation cool off for at least 1¼ hours!  Go walk the dog, do some chores, take a nap, whatever will keep you away from that molten mass of messy mmm.

When the time’s up, lift the whole piece out of the pan using the foil.  Cut into serving size bars (how big a serving’s up to you!) preferably with a bench scraper, or you can use a large chef’s knife.

Enjoy! Happy birthday to my blog.  Happy birthday to my blog…


My Crème Brûlée Brings All the Boys to the Yard April 19, 2010

Filed under: dessert,easy — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 9:15 am

Couchbound during the first trimester of my second pregnancy, I watched my now favorite movie, Top Hat, over and over.  Funny—verging on naughty—and appeasing, the film showcases Fred Astaire‘s irresistible charms as he sings and dances to woo his consort Ginger Rogers.  (Sylphid Rogers nearly made me puke— over-stuffed with Thanksgiving provisions and fuel as I was—the first time I saw the opening scene of Gold Diggers of 1933, when she sang “We’re in the Money” in pig-Latin.  Do NOT watch that number with an overly full belly topped-off with scullery lube!

“No Strings (I’m Fancy Free),” the first song in Top Hat, brings to mind more carefree times, say, before you had children.  Remember that summer you stayed at the lake almost every weekend?  Jamaican jerk turkey thighs, wild salmon, grilled steak, summer veggies, pasta salad and watermelon.  How did you ever have time to make dessert?  You probably whooped up a simple ice box cake.  Because it must be made 2 days ahead and comes together very quickly, an ice box cake saves you plenty of time for marinating your meats and cutting your vegetables.  Plus it’s delicious!  Who besides Austin Farm to Table 😉 and my own kindergartner doesn’t love whoop cream—and chocolate cookies?

If you find yourself in the neighborhood of low-price champs Natural Grocers, pick up a quart of Iowan Farmers’ Creamery whipping cream for only $5.79.  You’ll be creamed up for two sets of cool desserts:  the easy, easy Ice Box Cake and a seductive Crème Brûlée.  Can’t beat butterfat!

ice ice cakey

ICE BOX CAKE serves 6-8

  • scant pint of heavy or whipping cream, organic or local.  Look for Organic Valley (organic) and Promised Land (Texas) at the usual stores or the non-homogenized, low-heat pasteurized Farmers’ Creamery brand at Natural Grocers.
  • 1 Tablepoon turbinado sugar.  I buy this in bulk and we go through a lot of it—for iced coffee and ice tea.  I bring an old 3# peanut butter jar and have the staff tare the weight for me.
  • 1 Tablespoon instant espresso powder.  Medaglia d’Oro is the standard.
  • 2 Tablespoons Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
  • about 54 Salem Baking Company “Artisan Chocolate Blend” Moravian Cookies.  That’s a little more than one box.  These labor-saving cookies aren’t cheap—at $4.99 a box (Central Market price) they’re a treat.  They are all natural and trans fat-free, however, unlike Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers.

Combine the cream and the next 3 ingredients in a large mixer bowl.  Chill (the cream) while you count out your cookies.  You can use cookies that are broken in half.  I save any smaller broken pieces in the freezer for topping ice cream, making cookie crumb crusts or just eating with whoop cream for nearly instant emergency desserts.

Line a 1½-quart dish with two crisscrossed overhanging lengths of plastic wrap.  I use an old Pyrex baking dish approximately 8¼” X 6½”.  With a cold beater or whisk, whip your cream to firm peaks.  Please don’t overbeat the cream.  Keep it smooth.  Place a generous one-half of the whipped cream into the lined container, spreading it to the edges.  Insert the cookies upright into the cream.  For my dish I configure the cookies in three very slightly overlapping rows of 18 cookies each.  Scrape the rest of the cream into the dish to top the cookies and spread the cream evenly to the edges.

Rap the container gently on the counter top a couple of times to settle the cream, then wrap the cake snugly with the plastic wrap.  I like to turn the cake out at this point and replace it upside down into the dish, but that’s just being persnickety.  I’m sure the components will even themselves out if left alone.

Let the cake sit in the fridge for 2 days.  The cookies absorb the cream’s liquid and turn cakelike, leaving you with thin layers of chocolate bound and filled by a thick and flavorful whoop cream.

Now get onto your wakeboard and go!

I don’t remember who sang that milkshake tune, not that I even knew who the artist was when the song first came out.  But I do remember the mint chocolate chip shakes I used to get at Mad Dog’s a couple decades ago, and that reminds me about Central Market’s in-store coupon for free CM Organics ice cream pints (including their mint chocolate chip flavor, which kept our kids in good spirits on a recent drive to Rockne) when you buy a package of CM’s $4.99 frozen filled pastas (not organic, but all natural and handy).  We love the pumpkin variety, unfamiliarly accented with the bitter almond sweetness of amaretti cookies in the filling.  Tossed with fruity olive oil (or butter), grated pecorino romano and plenty of freshly cracked black pepper, these mezze lune rise to the occasion, quick to wax into a delicious dinner.

If you’re wondering where to put another pint of honest cream (onto your hips, of course, but let’s get gustatorial first), try a rich dish of crème brûlée.  Local egg yolks, organic sugar and real vanilla set your custard into a densely creamy bed onto which you burn a sweet, crackling taffeta of turbinado.  Light it up!

burnt cream

fire it up!

CRÈME BRÛLÉE FOR THE FAMILY makes about 6 servings

  • 1 pint organic or local heavy or whipping cream, see above for selections
  • 6 or 7 local egg yolks.  I like to weigh these out, in which case I go for about 120 grams.
  • 1/3 cup organic sugar.  Costco offers the best deal on Wholesome Sweeteners 10# bag.  Otherwise, check your bulk departments and Central Market and Whole Foods store brands.
  • small pinch of salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • ½ vanilla bean (best), or ½ Tablespoon vanilla bean paste (next best and easier), or ½ Tablespoon great vanilla extract (most convenient).  Nielsen-Massey brews full-flavored vanilla products, including paste and organic extract, and packages fragrant, supple vanilla beans.
  • 2 Tablespoons turbinado sugar, see above recipe

Special equipment:  household or kitchen torch

If you’re using a vanilla bean, split it down the middle with a sharp paring knife and scrape the seeds into 1 cup of the cream in a small saucepan.  Add the bean, 1/3 cup sugar and salt and set the pan on the stove over medium heat.  Bring the cream just to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Remove the pan from the burner, cover and let the cream steep for 15 minutes before removing the vanilla bean (rinse the pod well, let it dry and repurpose it, tucked into a bottle of homemade vanilla extract or a jar of sugar.)  If you’re using vanilla bean paste or extract, just stir the flavoring into 1 cup of the cream.

Preheat your oven to 300°.  Lay a washcloth on the bottom of a large (at least 11″ diameter) baking dish.  Heat up a quart of water to pipin’ hot.  I use a 1-quart glass measure and heat the water in the microwave.

Combine the remaining cup of cream with the yolks and whisk gently to blend well.  Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into the pan of cream, whisking it in as you go to distribute the heat.  Set an 8″ round baking dish into the larger pan on top of the washcloth. I use a Pyrex cake pan.  They’re cheap even when new but you can usually find all manner of Pyrex goods (and other bakeware) at the thrift stores. Pour the custard into the smaller baking dish.

Set the whole bain-marie into the oven on a middle rack.  Carefully pour the hot water into the larger pan to come up to about 2/3 the height of the custard dish.  Bake.  When the custard looks set, check its temperature with an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of the puddin’.  You’re looking for 170° to 175° F.  Start checking at about 35 minutes.

When the crème tests done, carefully remove the 8″ dish from the water bath and set it on a cooling rack to cool for a couple hours.  Once it reaches room temperature, place the dish in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours, overnight is fine.

When you’re ready to fire it up, blot any condensation on the surface of the crème with a paper towel and evenly sprinkle the turbinado sugar all over it.  Light your torch and move the flame across the surface of the custard to melt and caramelize the sugar.  Let the fire lick it good, up close and personal, to quickly brown the turbinado.  Place the crème in the fridge, uncovered, to chill for 30-45 minutes before serving.  Eat right away, before the sweet crackling crust softens.  Although it will still taste delicious later, you’ll lose the dramatic contrasting crunch.  Then you can enjoy it as crème caramel!


Be Fruitful and Popsicle April 18, 2010

Filed under: blueberries,dessert,easy,locavore,sunset valley farmers market,thrift — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 7:05 pm

why yes, I did run out of time to put the sticks in

Spying an incredible deal at the SFC Farmers Market at Sunset Valley this past Saturday,  I snatched up eight baskets of locally-grown, chemical -free strawberries for only $2 a pint from Flint Rock Hill.  These fraises were priced to move and had to be processed very soon.  I remembered that big bag of organic blueberries from Costco still hogging up freezer space (I don’t think my cooking/eating style suits warehouse shopping).  And on a couple of recent warm-day walks home from school with the kindergartner, I recalled our refreshing Cantaloupe Popsicles that we enjoyed all season long last year, rewards for the brutal 20 minute Death Valley trek home.  So, popsicles it be!

I loosely followed my cantaloupe popsicle recipe, without the benefit of lemons or limes, replacing the Amaretto with Frangelico, adding Texas orange zest and playing around with varying proportions of strawberries to blueberries.  Local honey is a must!

We’re well stocked with frozen novelties for now.  Even on a cool spring day like today, a cold fruity treat revives the family.


Natural Grocers and Yogurt Pie April 13, 2010

Filed under: dessert,easy,Natural Grocers,pie,thrift — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:54 pm

slice o' savings

I’ve been wanting to check out Natural Grocers (3901 Guadalupe) for a good while now.  I see their insert in the Austin Chronicle and always marvel at the hot deals they offer, but their store isn’t anywhere near my neighborhood or on my usual paths.  Recently, however, I enjoyed a satisfyingly saturating cooking class at the north Central Market (work perk/requirement)—Chef Clay Paschal’s “South Texas Sunday Dinner”—and found myself close enough finally to check out this relatively new store.

Inconveniently, python-Mopac constricted me for 50 minutes on the trip north, so I only had about 10 minutes to tackle the store.  I made out like a bandit, anyways, as their flyer specials, and even many of their everyday prices, hovered at rock bottom.  The only cashier stationed at the time of my visit was very friendly, and I found myself in line behind just one other customer, so the transaction went quickly.  Besides Natural Grocers’ sales, I noticed that their regular prices on many Organic Valley products were lower than all the other stores I frequent.  I discovered a new (to me) brand of organic dairy products out of Iowa, Farmers’ Creamery, which produces a non-homogenized, low-heat pasteurized whipping cream!  At Natural Grocers, the quart bottle costs only $5.79.  I think I’ll drink a glass!

Natural Grocers current sales flyer includes such great deals as organic bananas for 69¢ a pound (all the bananas were green-green when I shopped), Organic Valley butter $3.99 a pound (for bakers, a sweet enough price to perhaps warrant the drive north), Tom’s of Maine toothpaste 5.2 oz. and 6 oz. $3.95 (I only found non-fluoridated varieties on the shelf), Maranatha no-stir peanut butter, creamy (organic) or crunchy (natural), 16 oz. jar $2.49, Crown Prince skinless & boneless canned sardines 3.75 oz. $1.89 (check out the current issue of Eating Well magazine for their endorsement of sardines, plus recipes), and Organic Prairie frozen ground turkey, 12 oz. for $3.99.

a pie of a deal!

Natural Grocers is offering these deal through May 15 (Hey!  I think somebody I know has a birthday that day).  I hope to find another tasty excuse to venture north before then, so I can take advantage of serious savings on products that I enjoy. Maybe Chef Clay will bake more yummy buttermilk pies, the inspiration for this Tyler Pudding Pie-inflected yogurt pie.

YOGURT PIE makes one 9″ pie

  • 1 unbaked 9″ pie crust, homemade or organic.  Right now Wholly Wholesome frozen organic pie shells (regular or whole wheat) are on sale at Newflower Market $2.99 for a 2-pack.
  • 1 stick organic butter, melted and slightly cooled.  I love Organic ValleyClick for a coupon. Remember Natural Grocers sale at only $3.99 for a pound!
  • ½ cup homemade or organic full-fat yogurt, room temperature.  I make mine with either Swede Farm Dairy or Wateroak Farm goat milk.  Click for instructions on making your own.
  • 100 grams (½ cup) turbinado sugar. I buy this in bulk.  Remember to bring your own container and have the staff tare the weight for you.
  • scant ½ teaspoon salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • ½ Tablespoon (1½ teaspoons) vanilla extract
  • 3 local eggs, room temperature
  • 50 grams (¼ cup) organic all-purpose flour.  Costco has recently started selling an organic all-purpose flour from Utah for about $11 for two 10# bags.  Other than the warehouse bargain, Whole Foods 365 brand usually offers the best deal on a 5# bag.
  • ½ Tablespoon (1½ teaspoons) organic cornmeal.  I use Arrowhead Mills.
  • 250 grams (1¼ cups) organic sugar.  Costco does it again with their bargain-priced Wholesome Sweeteners 10# bag for $7.77.  If you don’t do the warehouse and you didn’t stock up on Central Market’s sweet organic sugar sale last month, check out your local bulk department for reasonable deals.
  • whole nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425°.  If you have a baking stone, place it on the lowest rack and heat it up also.  Prick the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork and place it on the preheated stone.  Bake for 6 minutes.  Check the crust and gently press down any puffy areas with a wooden spoon.  Bake for another 4 minutes, until browning in spots.  Place crust on a cooling rack and turn oven down to 350°.

While crust is baking, stir turbinado and salt into the yogurt and let sit to dissolve.  Gently stir eggs together with a fork.  Don’t whip air into them, just break up the yolks and whites.  Stir the eggs into the yogurt.  Use a wooden spoon or flexible spatula, not a whisk.  Try not to incorporate air into the mixture.  Stir in the butter.

Whisk together the flour, cornmeal and sugar.  Gently stir the dry ingredients into the yogurt mixture.  Place the pie crust on a baking sheet and pour the filling into the crust.  Grate nutmeg over the top and place the pie, still on the baking sheet, onto the baking stone (or just on the rack if you have no stone).  Bake for about 40 minutes, until set and lightly browned.

This pie is delicious warm.  Enjoy!


Crummy Top—Strictly Streusel April 2, 2010

Filed under: breakfast,cake,dessert,easy,locavore — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 10:06 am

slice o' streusel

I’ve been putting our locally-grown, freshly ground Richardson Farms whole wheat flour through its paces lately.  Here’s a quick cake composed of a slightly dense and chewy spongecake layer blanketed with an unreasonable heap of sweet, cinnamon-y crumbles.  More streusel than substrate, crumb bums will appreciate this easy, tweedy whole grain goodie.  For streusel fans only!

TEXAS MUFFIN TOP CAKE makes one 9″ round


  • 1 stick organic butter, melted.  I love Organic ValleyClick for a coupon.
  • 4 3/8 ounces organic light brown sugar.  Central Market’s brand usually costs less.
  • 5¼ ounces Richardson Farms whole wheat flour.  Sifting out the bran is optional.
  • ¼ teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.  I used my homemade Christmas gift from SouthAustinFoodie Adventures.  Check out her foodie fun this week on the Anthony Bourdain trail.
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • zest of one Texas orange, optional


  • 2 local eggs
  • 200 grams turbinado sugar.  I buy this in bulk at Central Market.  Bring your own container and a staff member can tare the weight for you.  We go through a lot of this—we always have homemade lemonade on hand—so I buy about three pounds at a time.
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 121 grams Richardson Farms whole wheat flour, most of the bran sifted out.
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder.  I use Rumford, aluminun-free and non-GMO.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup boiling water

Preheat your oven to 350°.  You can melt the butter in the oven while it’s heating up.  Combine the remaining streusel ingredients and stir them into the melted butter.  Line a 9″ X 2″ round pan with a piece of waxed paper or parchment (I use If You Care brand) and butter the bottom, but not the sides.

Combine the eggs, turdinado sugar and salt in a mixer bowl and begin whipping (with the whip attachment if using your stand mixer, which I recommend) at low speed.  Gradually increase the speed to medium-high.  You’re starting the eggs and sugar out slowly to give the sugar a chance to dissolve.  It won’t liquefy completely, however.  Meanwhile, whisk together the flour and baking powder.  Get your water heating up.  I use the microwave.  It’s fast and energy efficient.

When the eggs look very light and fluffy and fall back into the bowl in ribbons that take a moment to dissolve when the beater is lifted, gently add the flour and quickly whisk it in.  Pour in the boiling water and quickly and gently whisk it in to achieve a smooth batter.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan right away.  Working quickly, squeeze handfuls of streusel into clumps and distribute them in chunks over the batter, moving from the outside to the center.  You don’t want the middle of the cake to be too heavily laden with topping so be more generous around the perimeter.

Bake for about 35 minutes, until the cake portion tests done in the center.  The lava-like batter will erupt magmaticaly, creating a sweetly fissured surface.  Never mind the cratered face, she’s tastes like a beauty!


Beany Rolls March 14, 2010

Filed under: beans,bread,bread machine,dessert,easy,thrift — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:23 pm

glazy days

Roll Out

Taking advantage of sales and utilizing leftover potato cooking water, I baked up a batch of sweet and puffy cinnamon rolls.  The surprise ingredient?  Eden Foods organic canned aduki beans.  Why not?  In Asia aduki beans (also called adzuki or azuki) frequently show up in sweets.  From Chinese moon cakes to Japanese ice cream and Thai shaved ice, aduki beans make life a little sweeter.  Or a lot sweeter, as in the case of these here buxom buns.

You’ll be happy to know that Eden Foods canned beans (on sale now at Whole Foods, four 15-ounce cans for $7) are at this time the only beans canned commercially in BPA-free cans.  With a great many varieties from which to choose, including harder to find legumes such as black-eyed peas, black soy beans and the adukis, you’ll be beanin’ with joy!

The aduki beans make this dough tender, moist and light.

BUXOM BEANY CINNAMON BUNS makes 12 large buns

  • 1½ cups potato cooking water.  Newflower Market’s selling organic russets at $2.50 for a 5-pound bag through March 17.  Get spudsy!
  • 2 Tablespoons organic or local butter.  Organic Valley is my favorite all purpose butter.  Click for a coupon.
  • 1 generous cup well-drained aduki beans.  I used Eden Foods brand.  You can use home-cooked.
  • 1½ teaspoons salt.  Use a scant measure if your potato water was salted.  Mine almost always is.
  • 2 teaspoons turbinado sugar.  I buy this in bulk at Central Market.  I bring my own container and have the staff tare the weight for me.
  • 500 grams unbleached bread flour.  I like King Arthur brand.  Whole Foods usually has the best price on the 5-pound bag.
  • 2 Tablespoons organic quick oats.  Buy this in your favorite bulk department.  I stock up during sales and store it in the freezer if I’m not working through it quickly.
  • 1 Tablespoon organic or local whole wheat flour.  I love Richardson Farms locally grown, freshly-ground flour.
  • 1½ teaspoons instant yeast (bread machine or rapid rise).  NOT active dry.
  • 4 Tablespoons softened butter.  Organic Valley Pasture butter is especially tasty here.  You’ll find it on sale at Whole Foods for $3.39 right now.  Lucky Layla (available at Central Market) and Way Back When (available at our farmers markets and from Greenling) are Texas options for high-butterfat, lightly salted beurre.
  • 206 (1 cup) grams organic light brown sugar.  Central Market’s brand is on sale now at $2.50 for a 1½ pound bag.
  • 2½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • pinch of salt if you’re using unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1½ ounces (3 Tablespoons) organic cream cheese, softened.  CM’s brand is usually the best buy.
  • 3 Tablespoons yogurt.  I make my own from local goat milk.  Click to read how.  I like Swede Farm Dairy and Wateroak Farm, both at the farmers market in Sunset Valley.
  • 174 grams organic powered sugar.  CM again, with a sale price of $2.50 for a 1½ pound bag.  I don’t bother to sift for this glaze.  I’m too rushed (distracted?  lazy?).
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

I use my bread machine’s dough cycle to mix up the dough and give it a first rise.  For my appliance I add the ingredients in the order listed.  Your machine’s instructions may vary.  You can mix the dough by hand or with a stand mixer, too.  Combine the dry ingredients with the yeast before mixing in the rest.  Knead until you have a smooth and bouncy dough.  Let rise for about 2 hours at coolish room temperature.

Meanwhile line a 9″ X 13″ baking pan with aluminum foil.  I turn the pan upside down and drape the foil to the outside of the pan before putting the foil on the inside.  Butter the foil very well.

With floured hands pat the dough into a rectangle on a floured surface.  I love non-stick silicone rolling mats for bread work.  Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to approximately 12″ X 16″.  Spread the surface of the dough with the softened butter to within ½ inch of the edges.  Combine the brown sugar and spices (including salt, if using) and spread all over the buttered surface, patting it in a bit.  Starting with a long edge, roll the dough up jelly-roll style into a tight log.  Using a sharp chef’s knife or bench knife, cut the dough log into 12 equal pieces, one at a time, placing them into the prepared pan as you cut.

Loosely cover the pan of buns with a piece of plastic wrap—I reuse plastic bags that I’ve washed in the (clothes) washing machine (yes, you can!), cutting them open for greater surface area.  Let the buns rise for about 1¼ hours, until puffy and well-risen.  Gently brush with the melted butter before baking in a preheated 350º oven for about 35 minutes.  The rolls should be browned and test done when a middle bun is poked in the dough with a bamboo skewer.

Using the foil as a sling,  lift the rolls out of the pan and place them on a cooling rack.  Let them rest for 5 minutes while you whisk together the glaze ingredients (cream cheese through the vanilla).  After 5 minutes, drizzle the glaze over the rolls, separating them first if desired.

Eat warm.


Texas Cookie Cookin’ February 28, 2010

Filed under: cookies/brownies,dessert,easy,locavore — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:47 pm

Texas cookies

Now that I’ve discovered the technique of sifting most of the bran out of Richardson Farms locally grown, fresh-ground whole wheat flour (see Texas Bread) I’m really on a roll.  Or a cookie.  Here’s a crunchy, buttery Texas cookie filled with local pecans.  Easier than pie, a batch bakes up ’bout as fast as you can eat ’em.  Tell your sweet tooth to go local!


  • 8 ounces (about 1 2/3 cup) sifted Richardson Farms flour (most of the bran removed)
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder, sieved.  I use Rumford, aluminum-free and non-GMO.
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda, sieved
  • 6 ounces local or organic butter, cut up.  Organic Valley‘s my standard.  Click for a coupon. Look for Lucky Layla (that’ll make a very rich cookie!) at Central Market or Way Back When at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market and Elevated Artisanal at the Austin Farmers Market.
  • zest of one well-scrubbed Texas orange (optional)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • 152 grams (¾ cup) organic brown sugar.  CM’s brand sells for $2.99 for a 1½ pound bag.
  • 150 grams (¾ cup) organic sugar.  Costco has cornered the market on Wholesome Sweeteners 10-pound bag for only $7.77.  Otherwise, CM’s 2-pound bag still sells for $2.99.
  • 1 local egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.  I like Nielsen-Massey.
  • 1 Tablespoon organic apple cider vinegar.  Whole Foods 365 brand usually sells for the best price.  I buy the big ole quart bottle.
  • 2 2/3 cups Texas pecan pieces.  At the downtown farmers market, Star J Farms sells a 3-pound bag of sweet nuts for $22.

Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Cream the butter with the next four ingredients (including optional zest) until well blended.  Beat in the egg, vanilla and vinegar.  Stir in the flour mixture and pecans until well-mixed.

Drop dough by 2-Tablespoonfuls (a spring-loaded scoop works great here) onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet (I use If You Care brand), spacing cookies about 3″ apart.  Bake for about 14 minutes, rotating cookie sheets halfway through baking, until browning around the edges.  Cool on pans on cooling rack for 5 minutes.  Place cookies on racks to finish cooling.


Little Cake February 11, 2010

Filed under: cake,cookies/brownies,dessert,easy,fast — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 12:49 pm

"Here Fluffy!"

sweet stack!

Here’s a little fancy cake that pulls together quickly, once you have all the components.  These constituents can vary, depending on what you have on hand and need to use up, or your whimsy.  And most components can be made well ahead of time.  A three-layered dainty, sized just right for the family and maybe a guest or two (yeah right, like I’ve been having company to dinner in the last two years.  Or has it been six?  Do cookouts count?), this petite gâteau (not to be confused with le petit gâteau) plays your palate big time, with light layers of whole grain sponge cake moistened by a refreshing syrup, and contrasting/complementary filling and frosting.  Your funny valentine might appreciate a sweet slice!

For using up odds and ends of leftover fillings, glazes, etc. (the “leftover layers” version below was filled with the last of some buttercream whipped with the three tablespoons or so of leftover chocolate èclair glaze), or for simply spreading and stacking with preserves from the pantry—and maybe frosting with whoop cream, this is your go-to gateau.

WHOLE GRAIN SPONGE CAKE makes one 4″ X 7″ loaf-shaped assemblage,  about 2″ to 3″ high

  • 3 local eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • 100 grams (½ cup) organic sugar.  Central Market’s brand sells for $2.99 for a two-pound bag.
  • ¼ teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons local or organic butter, melted and cooled a bit.  I love Organic Valley Click for a coupon.
  • 48 grams organic whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder, sieved.  I prefer Rumsford, non-GMO and aluminum-free.

Preheat the oven to 350º and line an 11″ X 7″ baking pan (the old-fashioned brownie pan size) with a thin nonstick liner (I don’t recommend a Silpat style liner here) or a piece of parchment paper.

Combine the eggs, salt, sugar and extract and whip at high speed for about five minutes.  A stand mixer is very handy here.  While the eggs foam and lighten, whisk together the flour and baking powder.  When the eggs have maximized in volume and form ribbons that disappear after a couple seconds or so when the whip attachment is lifted, be ready to fold.  Lightly sprinkle a third of the flour mixture onto the eggs and quickly and gently fold it in with a large whisk.  Repeat twice.  Whisk a cup or so (just eyeball it) of the batter into the butter before folding the butter mixture into the rest of the batter.

Fill the baking pan right away, smoothing and leveling it with a small offset spatula or just a spoon.  Bake for about 12 minutes, until lightly browned and the center barely springs back when gently pressed with your finger.

Place the pan on a rack and let it cool completely.  This cake is small and light so that won’t take too long.

Unmold the cooled cake onto plate or cutting mat.  Using a sharp knife, actually I like to use a finely serrated steak knife, cut the layer crosswise into three slabs, each about 3½” wide (by about 6½” long).  The top crust of the cake will be sticky, which is great fun for your fingers, so lay the bottom layer onto your serving dish top side down.  Brush with a little soaking syrup (see below) and spread with about ½ cup of filling.  For the middle layer, brush one side (either side) of the cake piece with syrup and stack that piece on top of the filling, syrup side down.  Now brush the top of that layer with more syrup.  I use about 2 Tablespoons of syrup per side.  Some folks like a juicier cake and some folks like a drier cake, so go with your gut.  Top with another ½ cup of filling, and the last cake layer, brushed with syrup on the sticky side first and set syrup side down.  Brush the top of the cake with syrup and frost the whole thing—you can use a different component .  Or just frost the top—in which case I’d keep it the same as the rest of the filling.  (Or maybe not.)

leftover layers

Here’s a simple formula for a


  • ¼ cup organic agave nectar.  Madhava brand’s on special at Central Market right now.
  • 6 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons water

Stir together til well mixed.  You can flavor your syrup with liqueurs or liquor—Amaretto, Frangelico and dark rum are my favorites, or a small amount of compatibly flavored extract.  This recipe should moisten your little cake sufficiently.

The “Fluffy” cake pictured above was filled with crème patissière (already on hand) and frosted with a maple Italian meringue—the Bonus!

Beware of hygroscopic high jinks.  Make meringue on a clear (low humidity) day.  The bluer the sky, the better.

Excess frosting can be formed into “kisses” (with or without chopped toasted Texas pecans folded in) and baked in a low oven (250º) until set.  Use a pastry bag, a spring-loaded scoop or two spoons to dollop your meringue onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet (I like If You Care brand unbleached parchment paper.)

MAPLE ITALIAN MERINGUE FROSTING: enough to generously frost your small cake, plus extra for kisses

  • 2 local egg whites
  • 1 Tablespoon organic sugar
  • ½ cup organic  maple syrup, preferably grade B.  Whole Foods 365 brand is often the best buy.

Pour the maple syrup into a small saucepan, ideally nonstick or enameled.  Bring to a boil on medium heat and clip on a candy thermometer to start measuring the temperature of the syrup.  When the bubbling brew reaches 230º (we’re talkin’ Fahrenheit here), begin to whip your egg whites on low-medium speed.  Once again your stand mixer will perform honorably .

When the egg whites look foamy, add the sugar and raise the mixer speed to medium.  Check on the syrup temperature.  When the boiling syrup reaches 238º it’ll be ready to add to your egg whites and you’ll want your egg whites to have reached the firm peak stage by then.  You can adjust the mixer speed to help synchronize the processes.  Be careful not to overwhip the whites to the “dry” curdled stage.  Slow ’em down if you need to.  When syrup and whites are ready to unite, slowly pour the syrup into the mixer bowl in a steady stream, whipping on medium as you do so.  Avoid pouring the syrup directly onto the beater.

The meringue will expand as you add the hot syrup.  Continue to whip the mixture for at least 5 minutes after you’ve added all the syrup, allowing the meringue to cool to room temperature.  Use right away to frost your cake.


Be My Valentine February 10, 2010

Filed under: cookies/brownies,dessert — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:00 pm

my hearts belong to you

kiss and a hug

For the kindergartner’s classroom Sweetheart’s day celebration I figured I’d bake up some edible valentines for my young heartthrob to proffer—heart-shaped cookies tagged with each student’s name.  This whole grain recipe, not too sweet and crisply perfect for glazing, delivers the bright sparkle of Texas citrus with orange and/or lemon zest shaved off in-season fruit.  Glazed or not, monogrammed or not, will you be mine?

WHOLE WHEAT CUTOUT COOKIES makes about 60 2-inch cookies

  • 4 ½ ounces (a generous 1 cup) organic all-purpose flour.  Whole Foods 365 brand in the 5-pound bag generally sells for the lowest price.
  • 4 ½ ounces (1 cup) organic or local whole wheat flour—I love Richardson Farms locally-grown freshly ground whole grain flour, available at Sunset Valley Farmers Market.
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder, sieved.  I use Rumford, non-GMO and aluminum-free.
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) organic butter, softened.  I love Organic ValleyClick for a coupon.
  • 75  grams (3/8 cup) organic sugar.  Central Market’s brand costs $2.99 for a two-pound bag.
  • ½ teaspoon salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • 1 teaspoons fresh zest from a Texas orange and/or lemon
  • 1 local egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Whisk together flours and baking powder.  Cream the butter with the sugar, salt and zest.  Mix in the flour—I like the stand mixer for this dough.  It’s very dry at this point.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until well blended and the dough masses together.  Rest the dough in the refrigerator, covered, overnight.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it soften up at room temperature for awhile.  A couple of hours may not be too long if the kitchen’s cool.

Preheat oven to 350º.

Roll out dough to about 1/8″ thickness on a sheet of parchment paper sized to fit your baking sheet.  I like to lay a cut open plastic bag on top of the dough to protect the rolling pin from sticking.  Cut out approximately 2″ cookies,( I chose hearts this time, of course) spacing the cuts fairly close all over the surface of the dough.  Remove the dough surrounding the cookies and place the parchment onto your baking sheet.  Bake for 5 minutes, give the cookie sheet a 180º spin and bake for about 5 more minutes.  The cookies should be beginning to brown and will feel set when pressed lightly with your fingertip.

Place the parchment paper with cookies on a cooling rack.  Let cookies cool for a minute before removing from parchment and cooling completely on the rack.  Glaze when cool.

Patch together any leftover dough scraps, reroll and cut out and bake the remaining cookies.

glazy day


  • 115 grams (1 cup) organic powdered sugar.  Central Market’s brand is usually the best buy.
  • 3 to 4 teaspoons local or organic milk.  I like Swede Farm Dairy and Wateroak Farm‘s goat’s milk.  Way Back When is selling their local cow’s milk at our farmers markets.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons organic agave nectar.  Madhava brand’s 23.5 ounce container (light or dark) is on sale at Central Market for only $5.49.

Stir sugar, milk and vanilla together until smooth.  Stir in agave.  Tint with food coloring if desired.  Whole Foods sells India Tree natural colors (not cheap!).  Glaze cookies right away.  I usually use a small clean paintbrush or a small icing spatula.  Let dry before monogramming.


I Do D’éclair February 4, 2010

Filed under: dessert — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 2:43 pm

baked choux

my d'éclairation

Finally!  That’s right, I finally got a chance to pipe out some éclairs to inject with that crème patissière I whooped up recently.  Pâte à choux, the medium of éclairs, cream puffs (mmm, religieuses), gougères (check out Austin food blogger Fête & Feast’s clever Caprese sliders), Paris-Brest and gâteau St.-Honoré, is actually easy to prepare and sublimes quickly from assembled ingredients to oven-ready forms.  For bakers subject to interruption, however, an untimely break in the process can wreak stalemate, so I postponed production until I could wrangle a reliable block of kitchen time.

There is room for a recess after the initial paste is cooked on the stove top, as it must cool for about 10 minutes before adding the eggs, and the formed dough can even rest overnight if necessary before baking.  But once you boil your liquid you must add all the flour and continuously stir the mixture for a minute or so to cook the starch.  And once you have added your eggs you should move right on to piping (Although Rose Levy Beranbaum affirms that you can store the dough airtight overnight and rebeat before using the next day, it’s sticky stuff.  I prefer to proceed in one pass).  The actual baking takes a while because the dough needs time to dry sufficiently to provide a soft crunch.  So, when watching a little one (or two), you need to know that you can reach certain points in the procedure and complete the operation before the sun goes down.  Hence the delay here at my house.

Enrobed with a simple chocolate glaze, these cream-filled ingots transport me back to the City by the Bay, remembering my favorite bakery there, the bustling Tartine.

PATE A CHOUX makes one dozen 4″ éclairs

  • 2 ½ ounces (¾ cup) organic whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 1/8 ounces (½ cup) bread flour, preferably organic
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) organic butter.  I love Organic ValleyClick for a coupon.
  • ½ teaspoon organic sugar.  Central Market’s brand in the 2-pound bag sells for $2.99.
  • ¼ teaspoon salt.  I like Real Salt.  I buy this in bulk at Whole Foods and bring my own container.
  • ¾ cup local eggs.  I like to use only one or two whole eggs and the rest egg whites.  A high ratio of whites yields a crispier pastry.

Whisk together the flours and set aside.  Combine the water, butter, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan (a 2½ to 3-quart size suffices and I like a nonstick or enameled interior) and bring to a full boil over high heat.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously.  Return the pan to the stovetop and cook over medium heat, stirring continuously for about a minute.  Remove the pan from the heat, give the dough a few more stirs and let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes, until it is no longer hot enough to scramble your eggs (no hotter than 140º if you’re employing a thermometer— but I don’t bother).

You can now mix the dough in your saucepan if you wish, I prefer my stand mixer.  Beranbaum swears by the food processor, but I have yet to try that out.  Gradually add the eggs and beat them in very well.  Eventually the mixture will become fluffy.  You may not need every last drop of your eggs, so hold back on the last couple of tablespoons and add only enough to yield a smooth and shiny, soft (pipeable) dough, thick enough to hold its shape.

Secure a sheet of parchment paper (I like If You Care brand, available at Central Market and Whole Foods) onto a baking sheet (my 13″ X 16½” REMA brand thrift store score, insulated, is perfect) with small dabs of dough on the corners.  Use a pencil and a ruler to mark two 4″ wide rows lengthwise along the paper, leaving a 2″ parting in the middle and about 1″ borders along the top and bottom.

Fill a medium-sized pastry bag, fitted with a ¾” tube (I love to use a star-cut tip, Ateco # 829—technically measuring in at 11/16″) with the pâte à choux and pipe out 12 4-inch lengths, six per row.  You can fashion any excess dough into a couple or more 1¼” or so cream puff shapes in the middle of the lineup for lagniappes.  With a wet fingertip, smooth down any kewpie tails at attention.

Place the baking sheet into a preheated 300º oven.  Raise the heat to 450º and bake for about 15 minutes, until the pastry has puffed and browned.  Reduce the heat back down to 300º and continue to bake for another 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and using a very sharp paring knife, quickly slice a slit in the side of each éclair to allow steam to escape and further dry and crisp the pastry.  Return the panful of puffs to the turned-off oven, prop the door ajar and let them continue drying for another half hour, or longer if convenient.

Filled pastries soften, so I prefer to inject only as many éclairs as we will eat right away.  For this size batch make double the recipe of Crème Patissière. Fit a pastry bag with a ¼” diameter round tip, preferably the Bismarck tip.  Poke the tip into the pastry in three spots, through the side slits or into the bottoms, and pipe in the pastry cream.

Glaze the filled éclairs with this simple chocolate icing:


  • ¼ cup organic or local heavy cream.  Organic Valley and Promised Land are available in our grocery stores and Way Back When brings their dairy-doings to the farmers markets.
  • 1 ½ teaspoons organic agave nectar.  Central Market’s own brand is usually the best buy.
  • 3 ounces organic semisweet/bittersweet chocolate, chopped.  I love Green & Black’s brand.

Heat the cream and agave nectar to a simmer—you can do this nearly effortlessly in the microwave—and stir in the chocolate until smooth.  Cool at room temperature until you have a spreadable glaze.  Cool it just a shade more, stirring well, and you can thicken the icing to a pipeable consistency and use a pastry bag and basketweave tip to apply the glaze.  Wilton tip #1D will cloak the ‘clairs in two strokes.

Don’t be discouraged by lack of pastry bags and tips.  You can use spoons to form the dough and also to fill the éclairs.  Just cut off the top third of the baked pastry and spoon in the cream.  Replace the “lid” and spread the chocolate glaze on top with a butter knife or small icing spatula.

Eat ’em up while they’re fresh.  You can store unfilled pastries well-wrapped in the freezer, to fill later.  Refresh the choux in the toaster oven at 350º until heated through and crisped.  Cool before filling and glazing.