Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I grew up with this coffee cake. My mom used to make it on Saturday mornings and I have the fondest memories every time I smell the vanilla and cinnamon wafting from the oven. I have a lot of recipes that have these very same ingredients in them but I can tell you every time when it's the coffee cake in the oven. Right now it's Sunday morning on the boat. A cloudy Sunday morning after a difficult late night and it just seemed the right comfort food to have for brunch. Enjoy.

Cake Batter:

1/2 cup butter 
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup  sour cream or plain yogurt


1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Cream the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. I don't have an electric mixer on board so I use a potato masher for this and it works great. Once it's mixed together I use a whisk to whip it till it's light and fluffy.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and walnuts together. Set aside.

Once you have the three bowls ready and your yogurt, you can begin to combine them. Mix half of the flour mixture into the egg/sugar mixture and stir well to combine.
It should look like very thick batter like the picture at the left.

Add half of the sour cream and stir till combined. Don't worry if the batter looks like it's going to start separating. This is normal.

Add the remaining flour and stir well and then add the remaining sour cream and stir again. It should look like normal cake batter, only thicker.

Spread half of the batter into the greased 9 x 13 pan. It will just barely cover the pan about 1/2" thick. Take half of the topping mixture and sprinkle evenly on top of the batter. Take the remaining batter and drop by spoonfuls onto the topping mixture in the pan. Carefully spread the batter to cover the topping mixture without mixing in the topping mixture. Take remaining half of the topping mixture and sprinkle it evenly over the second batter layer. Bake at 350° for 25-35 minutes depending on your boat's oven. The top should be golden brown.

Tool Tip:

The lowly potato masher is a liveaboard / cruiser's best friend. Use it to mix heavy cookie doughs, cold butter, any vegetable including, of course, the potato.  Best $2.79 you'll ever spend.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Homemade Thin Crust Pizza

I'm a sucker for a good thin crust pizza. The problem is the "good" part of that sentence. It's pretty hard to find anything exceptional in the land of pre-fab carboard box pizzas. That was until my daughter moved in with us more than a year ago. Along with her came her subscription to Cooks Illustrated, and the first and probably my favorite recipe, the one for the pizza crust. She practiced on us over a few months, perfecting the recipe into something you can only dream about. Crispy, delicate crust with a flavor to die for. So give it a try - it's worth it I promise, but don't expect to master it in one try.  It may take you a month or two of consistent attempts, but I promise your family will be grateful.

This recipe makes 3 large pizzas that will feed 4 adults and 3 very hungry kids. I generally cut it in half for the two of us and we have one largish medium one for dinner and one for lunch the next day. If you absolutely must you can substitute all-purpose flour for the bread flour, but you will not get the crispy crust. You need the high protein content of bread flour to get that crispy wonderfulness.


    1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
    1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) rapid-rise yeast
    1-1/4cups water at room temperature
    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    4 cups (20 ounces) bread flour , plus more for dusting work surfaces and hands
    1-1/2teaspoons salt
    Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray for oiling the bowl


Measure the warm water into a 2-cup measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes.

Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.

Combine the salt and half the flour in a deep bowl.

Add the liquid ingredients and use a wooden spoon to combine. Add the remaining flour, stirring until a cohesive mass forms.

Turn the dough only a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 7 to 8 minutes, using as little dusting flour as possible while kneading.

Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.Find a warm place to rise your dough. When we're at our house, I use one of those microwave heating pads and set it next to the dough inside the microwave. When we're on the boat I usually set it in the sun. The one most common error new yeast bakers do is to set their dough where there is a draft. A draft will cause the yeast not to raise.Let it rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Sorry about the blurry image. It is a boat, and it's on water with power boat wake.)

While the dough is rising, get your topping ingredients ready. We like bacon and pepperoni and parmesan so that's what you see here.

When you dough has nearly doubled in size, preheat your oven to 500°.

Use either a pizza stone or a few unglazed terra cotta tiles. Be sure that the tiles you get are lead-free.

Cut the dough into however many pizzas you want to make and begin to shape it.

Place the shaped dough on a square or round of parchment paper. Do not use anything else but parchment paper or you will not ever get a delicate crispy crust.  Trust me on this! Place the parchment paper on a pizza paddle or an inverted cookie sheet.

Add the sauce being careful not to use too much. Add your toppings, again not using too much as this will soften the crust. Slide the parchment paper off the paddle or cookie sheet directly onto the pizza stone or tiles.

Bake at500° for 6-8 minutes,  watching carefully as it will go from perfect to burned in less than 30 seconds. Use the paddle or cookie sheet to remove it from the oven.  Enjoy!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Aeropress coffee maker

I rarely pass on product information on a product that I haven't tried yet, but I'm entering a giveaway on for an Aeropress coffe maker and I wanted to tell you all about it because it looks fascinating!  One of my biggest gripes about French press coffee makers is the mess. It's hard to get the grounds out of the press when you're done and it requires a ton of water to clean. Brittany at assures me that this press is easy to use and cleans up in a flash with very little water. I trust her, but don't you think I should win it so I can be sure???

Photo courtesy of