blueberry coffee cake

blueberry cornmeal slice

Brown sugar.  It’s cooler than plain white sugar.  Especially when it’s a topping for a cake.  When I see a baked concoction come out of the oven and there is a crumble of brown sugar on the top, it calls to me.  So when I saw this recipe, and the picture of this thick slice of spongy cake with a heavy dose of brown sugar topping, I had to make it.  Plus, who doesn’t love a good coffee cake?  Now my kids have discovered the marvels of brown sugar and its yumminess, so I decided to make this cake for them (and me!).  When they found out I was going to make it, they doubted my abilities, which is completely understandable.  They vividly remember, and continually point out to me and anyone within earshot, that my last dance with blueberries was my sad attempt at making simple blueberry muffins.  I took them out of the oven and then this wave of disappointment came over me.  They came out like green swirly blobs.   My kids just laughed and grabbed a Nutrigrain bar and went and watched iCarly.  Nothing new to them – it’s always an adventure when mommy bakes.  I guess I wasn’t supposed to dump the blueberries in and continually stir to combine.  Lesson learned.  But that didn’t happen this time.  My cake came out perfectly – minus the chunk of brown sugar I picked off the corner.

blueberry coffee cake (from Bon Appetit)

crumb topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 TB dark brown sugar (packed)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
3 TB chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4″ cubes

toasted pecans

Nonstick cooking spray
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 TB cornmeal
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup plus 3 TB sugar, divided
6 TB unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 TB cinnamon
2 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) blueberries
1 TB panko breadcrumbs


brown sugar

get started on the crumb topping:

Whisk flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in nuts. Add butter. Using your fingertips, work butter into dry ingredients until large, moist crumbs begin to form. Set topping aside.

blueberry cornmeal cake

get started on the cake:

Preheat oven to 350.  Coat an 8x8x2 pan with nonstick spray.  Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and set aside.  Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat 3/4 cup sugar and butter in a medium bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Beat in vanilla.  Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until mixture is pale and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes longer. With mixer at low-speed, add dry ingredients to bowl in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Pour half of batter into prepared pan and smooth top.  Whisk remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over batter in pan.  Spoon remaining batter over and smooth the top.
Toss the blueberries with panko in a small bowl.  Scatter evenly over batter.  Sprinkle crumb topping over blueberries.  Bake cake until top is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean about 55-65 minutes.  Let cool completely in pan.  Store airtight at room temperature.


almond thumbprints

boxed almond thumbprints

I always wanted to be that mother, the one who bakes a variety of cookies every Christmas – and box them up and give them to family and friends.  This meant, in my mind at least, that I needed to master Pignoli cookies since it’s one of the few sweets my husband likes.  I have tried to make these cookies twice before, and let’s just say that the results were underwhelming.  The first batch came out flat as a pancake, and yet my husband still complimented me on the “crispness” of them.  (He is so sweet to me).  The second time I tried them, I remember the bottoms being a lovely shade of brown-black and the tops remaining soft.  They made it to the garbage can with a quick jerk of the arm and a few not so nice words muttered.  So this year, I re-read the recipe and set it out again as a contender for the Christmas cookie baking marathon.  The recipe I have, had a note to not purchase Marzipan nor the almond paste in a tube because it is too crumbly.  Instead, it said to buy the almond paste in the can.  I was delighted when I scoured the shelves at the store, to find “almond” in the can, so I quickly grabbed two cans and threw them into the cart.
Back at home, I started the recipe, and when it was time to mix in the almond paste, I opened the can.  I soon realized that this goopy sugary mixture was not at all what I was supposed to be using.  I had purchased almond filling.  Good Lord, Erin.  Why do I even bother???
I reached for the iPad and googled the difference between the two.  The answer meant no Pignoli cookies again this year.  But because I am stubborn, I looked for a way to use this stuff in a cookie.  What I found online was apparently a type of Kolacky cookie recipe.  I was pretty pleased with the results actually.  I didn’t get to hand out boxes of cookies this year as my almond flub took the wind out of my baking sails….not that I had awesome baking skills, uh I mean sails, to begin with.

confectioners' sugar

almond thumbprint cookies (adapted from the recipe on

1/2  cup butter, softened
1  cup confectioners’ sugar
3  egg yolks
1  tsp. vanilla extract
1 can Solo almond filling
2 1/2  cups sifted flour

creamed butter and sugar

get started on the cookies:

Preheat the oven to 350.  Cream the butter and sugar.  Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well.  Add the vanilla extract.  Gradually add flour until just mixed together.  The dough will be stiff.  Roll dough into tablespoon size balls.  Place on greased baking sheet.  With your hand or a greased flat-bottomed glass, gently press ball to thickness of about a half an inch.    Make a thumbprint in the center of each cookie.  Fill the center of the cookie with about a teaspoon of the almond filling.   Bake for 15 minutes.

cookie ballsthumbprints

note:  this recipe made about 30 cookies, and yes, they are photographed in a box, but the box stayed on my counter – not given out as the gifts I had set out to do.

almond thumbprintcookies

cranberry chocolate chip blondies

plate of blondes

I’ve had some unexpected girl time this week with my daughter, and have really enjoyed it.  It isn’t that I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it…I’m not that cold.  I think because she is 9 now, we can communicate more than during the Dora years.  (Oh, and maybe because I’m not working right now is another reason for my enjoyment?)  She has been home from school due to the usual cold going around, and besides having a fever and a lovely new raspy voice, she has felt reasonably fine.  But that doesn’t keep her from getting bored, so we have put on all our favorite Victorious episodes, agreed that the iCarly kids are no longer kids, and watched a marathon of Clean House.  (I have a HGTV and Style networkee in training!).  She and I discussed all the important things in life.  I learned just how much Disney kids are recycled.  She pointed out how iCarly was on Drake and Josh, some blond girl on Ant Farm is Crazy Connie on Jessie and many more.  I also got to enjoy watching her make notes for Joy – our Elf on a Shelf who has been watching my kids for about a week.  (I was a little late to that game).  We painted toes, braided hair and rearranged her room.  And being house-bound, I was in the kitchen of course.  Chicken soup was made, braised turkey tacos were devoured, and so to top it off I wanted to make a sweet treat.  To be honest though, I wasn’t in the mood for anything difficult (remember my skills as a baker are not concrete).  So I scanned a few different brownie recipes and decided to make what I thought would be similar to my favorite indulgence of all time – soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies.  It is a blond brownie recipe that is a little healthier than most, so to counteract that – chocolate chips were added!  I also threw in some dried cranberries for color.  Oh who am I kidding!  I threw them in for the hell of it.  This recipe was super simple to mix together and came out just as I wanted them to.  I got the nod of yumminess from my daughter, and so I had to immediately put the foil over the pan to keep myself from finishing the pan…in one sitting.  Oh I’m finishing that pan though….

cranberry chocolate chip blondies (adapted from Cooking Light December 2008)

1  cup brown sugar, packed
1/4  cup butter, melted
1/4  cup egg substitute
2  tsp. vanilla extract
1  cup all-purpose flour
1/2  tsp. baking powder
1/8  tsp. salt
1/4  cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4  cup dried cranberries
Non-stick cooking spray

melted buttermixing in flour

get started on the brownies:

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl and stir with a whisk.  Add flour, baking powder and salt to butter mixture.  Stir just until moist.  Stir in chocolate chips and dried cranberries.  (Make sure you separate the cranberries so you don’t have large chunks).  Spread batter into a 8 inch square baking pan coated with non-stick cooking spray.  Bake at 350 for 22 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out almost clean.  Cool in pan on a wire rack.  Store covered for up to three days (if they last that long!).

cranberries on toppan of brownies

note:  I read somewhere that the ‘scooping method’ of flour is preferable to the ‘spoon into the cup and level method’.  I’m sure there is a slight effect using one method or the other…I don’t feel like researching that though.  I’ll save my time for the results!

blond brownies