Dugan-ish Coffee Cake

[image: slice of coffee cake]

Happy birthday to my mom! She requested I make a coffee cake that she remembered from her childhood. She said the Dugan’s Man used to come around the house selling breads and cakes, and her father’s favorite was a coffee cake with cinnamon, almond paste, and raisins. She rarely got to eat it because it was her dad’s and You Do Not Touch Carl’s Stuff.

She found this recipe on Simply Recipes, thought it looked right, and asked me to make it. I did, and it turned out really, really well. So well, in fact, that I’m considering making it again this weekend. (It’s really good.)

My mom says it’s almost exactly like the coffee cake she remembers from the Dugan Man. So: Dugan-ish Coffee Cake.

For more information about the Dugan Brothers’ Bakery:
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1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup butter (half a stick)
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 package yeast (2 1/4 tsp) dissolved in 2 Tbsp warm water
2 cups AP flour, plus extra
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp kosher salt
vegetable oil

1 Tbsp butter, melted
2 Tbsp brown sugar, packed
1/2 Tbsp granulated white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
dash of table salt
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup slivered almonds
2 Tbsp almond paste (like 30 grams by weight. ish)50 grams of almond paste (it tastes better with more)

Egg wash:
1 large egg yolk
1 Tbsp whole milk

Sugar glaze:
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 Tbsp water
dash of table salt

Scald the milk (heat in a pot over medium heat until steaming but not boiling) and take off the heat, then stir in the butter, sugar, and cardamom. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer (or a mixing bowl if kneading by hand). Stir in the yeast mixture and egg by hand, then add in the salt.

Add one cup of flour to the bowl. Attach the dough hook and turn the mixer on low. Once incorporated, gradually add the second cup. Turn the mixer up to medium speed. Add more flour if necessary. You want the dough to pull away from the sides of the mixer, but keep the dough soft. (I added another 1/4 cup flour to mine.) Run the mixer for 5 minutes, or knead by hand for 5-7 minutes.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place for an hour or until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface dusted with flour. Press dough out into an 8-inch by 16-inch rectangle. (If it fights you, let it relax for 5 minutes and give it another go.)

Brush the dough with the melted butter, leaving a half-inch border around the edges. Mix together the sugars and cinnamon with a dash of table salt, then spread evenly over the dough. Sprinkle the raisins and almonds evenly over the dough. Either tear the almond paste into little bits and distribute them evenly or roll the paste out into a very, very thin sheet and drape over the dough.

Starting at the back, slowly and carefully roll the long end up towards you. Flatten the seam on the bottom as well as you can, then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Shape the tube into a ring and work the ends together.

Using kitchen shears, cut the dough most of the way through at about 1-inch increments on a slant. Pull each piece out or into the circle, alternating. It will look (vaguely) like a wreath.

Cover with plastic wrap and place back in your proofing spot for a half hour.

Heat the oven to 350. Whisk the egg and milk together, then brush over the dough. Bake for 30 minutes.

Carefully remove to a rack and let cool completely. Whisk together powdered sugar, water, and a dash of table salt to make a glaze. (Add more water or powdered sugar if the glaze is too thick or thin.) Drizzle over cooled pastry in zig-zags.

Serve in sliced with a smear of softened butter (and maybe an extra sprinkle of salt if you’re me).

Made a cinnamon/raisin/almond coffee cake for my mom's birthday. Gotta let it cool before I can glaze it.

A photo posted by sarah (@braisinhussy) on

Victory Spinach

[image: baked spinach]
[image: baked spinach]

This past weekend, I basically begged an invitation from Lydia for something, ANYTHING, to keep my mind off tomorrow’s election. She very kindly invited me over for dinner on Sunday. She and her husband were making miso-marinated flat iron steak, so she asked me to bring a side. I decided on spinach, because creamed spinach is one of the classic sides at old school steakhouses. I didn’t end up using a cream-based recipe, but this was a really pleasant surprise. Using frozen spinach made it much easier. I squished the defrosted spinach in a colander using my hands to get out all the liquid. Wrapping it all in a black kitchen towel and wringing it out would also work (my dad’s recommendation) (otherwise you’ll dye the towel green).

There’s no reason behind the recipe name. I’m just hopeful for tomorrow.


2 lbs frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
4 Tbsp butter, divided (2+1+1)
1 1/2 Tbsp AP flour
1/2 tsp table salt
pepper, to taste
2/3 cup stock
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp assorted chopped herbs (thyme, basil, oregano, parsley—whatever’s lying around) or 1/2 tsp dried Italian herb mix

Butter a 9×9 baking dish (or use nonstick spray) and heat the oven to 375.

In a large saucepan or pot, melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium-high heat. When foaming, add spinach. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the residual moisture from the spinach has evaporated. You can tell when this happens by when the spinach starts to stick (if you’re using not a nonstick pan) or by the sound of the sizzle—it will start to sound noticeably different.

Sprinkle the flour on top and turn the heat to low. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly (in a trickle) stir in the stock. Once added, simmer for 1 minute and stir in an additional 1 Tbsp of butter. If you think the mixture seems too thick, add up to an additional 1/3 cup stock. Stir in salt and add pepper to taste (I put in like 8 grinds).

Transfer the spinach from the pan to the baking dish. Carefully mix in 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. In the now-empty pan, melt the remaining 1 Tbsp butter. Add the panko breadcrumbs and herbs. Stir until just barely toasted. Sprinkle on top of the spinach along with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 375 until heated through and browned on top, about 30-35 minutes.

This Tomato Is an Asshole

So I’m out in the garden today, taking a bunch of stuff apart because hi it’s November, and what do I see? What do I see on a tomato plant that has done nothing, NOTHING since I planted it back in April???

[image: this is the worst tomato]
[image: this is the worst tomato]


Black From Tula is one of the largest black tomatoes at 4 to 5″ in diameter and weighing up to 12 ounces. The flattened fruit has a rich, salty, smoky flavor. This rare Russian heirloom sets fruit in hot weather.


oh I am so pissed off at this goddamn tomato

Halloween as a Gorilla Princess

[image: halloween 1984-ish]
[image: halloween 1985-ish]

I hope everyone had a nice Halloween. As I mentioned earlier, I did not dress up this year, so here is a throwback to my 1980s childhood. My brother, on the right, made a stellar cardboard robot. I was just planning on being a generic princess (dig that tin foil crown!), but at some point my dad picked up a gorilla mask and I latched onto it. Gorilla Princess was born.

We lived in Massachusetts at the time, so Halloween night was COLD. I’m probably wearing snowpants under that dress, and my brother’s wearing a winter coat and giant mittens. A costume that involved some level of head covering was a good idea, so the mask helped to keep me warm. But what I had not considered was that it would severely impede my ability to eat candy along our route. I had to make the choice: awesome mask or candy. In a move that eventually paralleled my cosplaying attitude, I chose to make the candy sacrifice rather than jeopardize The Look.

This hot dog is over Halloween. #OFFICIALLY

A photo posted by sarah (@braisinhussy) on

2016 was a quieter Halloween. Last night I went over to the Corgi Sisters’ house and helped hand out candy to the legions of trick-or-treaters who came by. (I think there may have been a dozen in all.) Their poor dog was Seriously Not Into It. But she looked cute!

Fudgey Brownies

[image: brownie]
[image: brownie]

These are very sweet and very fudgey. Also they make kind of a hell of a mess. I don’t know if the original writer (I think this was from the Chicago Tribune, but I just have a really old photocopy a family friend passed along) thought that pulsing chocolate chips and sugar in a food processor would remain entirely contained, because a fine mist of choco-sugar coated the countertop after I was finished.

Nonstick spray
8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup white sugar
3/4 cup butter (room temperature)
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 rounded tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped walnut pieces, toasted
4 oz. white chocolate chips

Prepare a 9-inch square baking dish with nonstick spray and turn the oven to 325.

Place the semisweet chocolate chips and sugar in a food processor and pulse 8-10 times to combine, then turn on and keep running until the chocolate is the same consistency as the sugar (about 30 seconds).

Add the butter, eggs, and vanilla to the food processor. Mix for a minute, scraping down sides as necessary. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix to combine.

Add the walnuts and white chocolate chips and pulse until barely incorporated (3-5 pulses).

Transfer the batter to the prepared baking dish. Bake until tester inserted in center comes out with moist but not wet crumbs, 45-55 minutes. Cool in the pan, then chill until firm, about 4 hours. Cut into small squares (they’re intensely chocolatey, a small amount is enough) and serve.

Lupicia Momo Oolong Super Grade

[image: bag o' tea]
[image: bag o’ tea]

Tonight I thought I’d dive into one of my favorite teas. This is Lupicia’s Momo Oolong Super Grade, which is apparently their #1 best seller. I’m hardly surprised. This tea is great. The peach flavor is pronounced, and it is sweet enough on its own to enjoy without any additional sweetening.

[stock image from lupicia's website]
[stock image from lupicia’s website]

It’s a pretty tea to just look at, with the rose petals. The leaves are tightly twisted, and when set in to steep, they expand beautifully. Depending on my tea mood, I might use teabags instead of my teapot. But one tea I would never use the bags for is the Momo Oolong. The leaves need the space. They’re pretty large once fully expanded.

[image: pot o'tea]
[image: pot o’tea]

This is kind of a splurgey tea. It’s $13 for a 50 gram bag of leaves (don’t bother with the bagged version), but it is definitely worth it. You can get more than one steep out of the leaves per drinking session. I usually go for two or three pots with the same spoonful of leaves.

It’s a nice late afternoon or evening tea, since oolong has a lower caffeine amount than black tea. It’s not entirely absent though, so maybe stick to a morning brew if you’re particularly sensitive.

And as for food options, my old roommate Zed used to occasionally enjoy the spent tea leaves with rice. Like this but more basic.

My Shameful Lack of Sewing in 2016

Halloween is in two days, and I’m not dressing up. Usually my excuse is “I’m a cosplayer, I do enough with costumes the rest of the year!” but this year that’s not true. I’m just lazy.

I made one costume earlier this year (Madoka Kaname from Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which I just realized I haven’t added to my cosplay page at ACP yet) and wore one other (Athena Cykes from Ace Attorney, which I made in 2014—it’s remarkable I still can squeeze into it). I didn’t end up going to San Diego Comic-Con this year, which cut my cosplaying opportunities in half. Hopefully I’ll do better next year. We’ve got some things in the early planning stages…

Besides that one costume, my sewing adventurers this year have been mainly in the field of fixing holes and shortening pants. But I do still enjoy sewing! Even though we delayed the group by a year, Madoka’s costume took a lot out of me. And it’s not at 100% completion yet! There are wings and more gewgaws to add. Assuming I ever get it done, it’ll be completely ridiculous. And quite possibly impossible to wear and/or move around in.


Made a nectarine-peach shrub for an upcoming Ladies' Afternoon with @trufflewantssnacks. SO PINK.

A photo posted by sarah (@braisinhussy) on

Shrubs were a passing fancy of mine this summer. Shrubs are an old-style drink mixer, made with fruit and sugar and vinegar. This particular one I made with nectarines and peaches. I can’t remember how we mixed it, maybe with gin? Or some kind of sparkling wine? Bitters were involved, I think.

And I don’t remember the proportions I used in the shrub, so no recipe. But ooh, this cranberry-black pepper shrub looks like it might be nice for the holidays.

Drinkin’ Wine

When I start a glass of wine, I see it through to the end. There was a house wine we had in Cosenza, Italy, that seriously tasted like gasoline. I finished it. We were given some apertif in Prague that was like drinking a pine tree. I took the shot. Tonight, I had a wine I could not drink.

I was making my way through a flight of Italian white wines.

Drinking my new favorite from @roccafiore!

A photo posted by sarah (@braisinhussy) on

Not this one, unfortunately. (This is my current favorite Italian white wine. It’s amazing. I will never be able to buy it in the U.S.)

Actually, the flight overall was sort of a failure as far as my palate went.

2015 Montetondo Garganega Frizzante (Verona): this was like soda, it’d be refreshing on a hot summer day, but there wasn’t a lot of there there
2015 de Tarczal Pinot Bianco (Trentino): this one sucked all the moisture out of my mouth
2009 Vigna del Malina Pinot Grigio (Venezia Giulia): CHRIST THIS WAS AWFUL. I took a sip, said “GAH,” and then took a second sip because I’m an optimist but NOPE. I was like “can you please pour this out and get me a fresh glass and also some water and maybe you should check if this wine has turned or something because seriously it is FOUL”
2015 Poggio al Tesoro ‘Solosole’ Vermentino (Toscana): this could have been fine, but by this point my ability to taste things was totally shot

Afterwards I was talking with some of the patrons and staff, and I mentioned I hadn’t really been feeling my flight, so they opened up a bottle of something much, much nicer and gave me a glass for free. I guess the half hour and two or three more glasses of water had helped reset my tongue, because this was nice and honey and acid and just such a relief after that Pinot Grigio. Big ups to the bartender for good customer service.

much nicer wine
much nicer wine

So not my most successful night at the wine bar. Didn’t find any new must-haves, but I had a pleasant evening talking to folks and (eventually) drinking a nice glass.

Hollow Heart Vegetable

I am reading up on ong choy, or “hollow heart vegetable.” I went out to a Malaysian restaurant with Lydia and her husband tonight. I have leftovers of these greens which I’m planning to eat tomorrow for breakfast with a fried egg on top. I appreciate the usefulness of a “Class A Noxious Weed” as a food product. Waste not want not!

(I wonder if single people eat this dish on Valentine’s Day. If we don’t, I think we should.)