seasonal

Cash me outside

If you follow me on instagram, you probably noticed I was spending A LOT of time out in our backyard this spring.

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As soon as the weather turned warm and things started turning green, I was out there every night. You may have even been sick of all the pictures and videos of our yard, usually with smoke pouring out of my charcoal grill and string lights hanging overhead. Sorry not sorry.

I grew up in cow and corn country in Upstate New York, so I was always outdoors in nice weather, and even though I live in Brooklyn now my love for the outdoors is just as strong. We were lucky enough to find an apartment with outdoor space years ago, but if you’ve been reading for a long while now, you’ll remember that the space out back was a little, well, rough around the edges when we first moved in.
A few years back I posted about the progress we’d made so far, which felt monumental at the time, but looking back at pictures seems pretty meager compared to how things look now. Up until that point we’d spent every Summer clearing out debris and weeds and sick unhealthy plants. It took a long time to get everything clean and tidy before we could even begin planting anything new or making the space livable and attractive.

That post was basically the beginning of when we were able to finally start planting, and since then things have changed quite a bit so I thought you might enjoy a little update.  I’ve planted plenty in the past few years, figured out what plants do well and which ones don’t, and added some fancy-pants new outdoor furniture to boot.

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I know I also mentioned this in my last gardening post too, but just to refresh your memory, we have a big evil mulberry tree out there that makes the yard a disgusting unusable mess for anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks out of every summer. The tree is too tall and the berries fall too far to make collecting them possible, so instead they just splatter into a juicy mulberry paste that attracts flies and ants and birds (and bird poo) and eventually turns moldy and stinky and awful. And guess what. We’re in the midst of berry season proper right now, so I haven’t been back there for a good three weeks. The photos in this post were taken a few weeks ago, just before it started.
Even when the tree isn’t dropping the got-damned berries, instead it’s shading most of the yard and sucking up all the moisture in the soil. As if the berries weren’t enough to deal with, that tree is the source of two little words that have made my life very difficult over the past few years.
Dry.
Shade.

It’s incredibly difficult to find plants that thrive in dry shade. Most shade plants are moisture lovers, and most drought-tolerant plants love lots of sunshine. So, after years of experimenting, I’ve basically learned that Hostas are my best friend if I want the yard to look green and lush. I know they’re kind of boring, but there are so many different colors and shapes and sizes available these days that even a yard filled with Hostas can look interesting and modern. I’d actually already figured this out before my last yard post, but at that point I’d only gotten around to planting few of them. These days they’re all over the place.

Bleeding Hearts and Coral Bells seem to do well back there too, so I’ve started mixing them in between the Hostas. There’s one little corner of the yard that gets a few hours of decent light, so I have some orange day lilies planted there, but they haven’t flowered yet and so far they just look like overgrown grass. Because I like to live dangerously, this spring I also decided to test the limits of the sunshine back there, and planted a sun-loving Forsythia against the fence. Fingers crossed!

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To mix in some color and texture, I like to fill pots with hardy annuals like wax begonias and I always do a few herbs in one of the big galvanized buckets we added a few years ago too. Sometimes they don’t get enough sun and don’t last the whole summer, but they’re nice while they last and so far they seem to be doing well this year.
Early in the spring I usually try some pansies too for some color and life while the hostas are just barely poking out of the ground, but they don’t really last once the weather turns hot and I’ll need to replace them with something else mid-summer. They looked great in the photo below, but they’re already starting to look pretty scraggly.

For the first time ever this year, I mulched a good portion of the beds to try to keep them moist and healthy during the hot dry spells we always seem to get in Brooklyn summers. Not only do I hope it’ll keep the plants happier, it also went a long way in making the yard feel so much more “finished” and attractive. We went with brown mulch so it doesn’t really “read” in photos all that well, but I promise it looks great in person, especially compared to bare dirt. Getting the heavy, wet, stinky bags of mulch out there meant carrying them all by hand through our apartment and out our bedroom window, and we needed about 30 bags for the area we mulched, but it was well worth the effort in the end and I really wish we’d done it sooner!

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When we first moved in there was an old swing in the yard, and a rotting old wooden table left by one of the previous tenants. We moved the swing into the back of the yard this spring, and the table has since fallen apart. I re-used the legs to build the red coffee table you’ll notice in some of these photos, but I don’t know how much longer that old wood will hold out. The paint is peeling pretty badly so I’m hoping new paint will protect it and help it last a few more years.
I just need to decide on a color…
Any suggestions?

Almost half of the yard space is covered in concrete and works as a patio area for us. When we first moved in I was disappointed that there wasn’t more space for planting, but now that I know how challenging it is to get plants to thrive in our dry shade conditions, I’m actually relieved that we have more space for entertaining and lounging.
That’s why we decided to make a pretty serious investment in outdoor furniture this year. Russell got me an outdoor sectional for my birthday, and it all kind of snowballed from there. Upgrading from the old two-seater swing made me suddenly realize how much more comfortable our outdoor space could be if we were willing to put the time and money into it, so I kind of went a little overboard with the online shopping. We’d gotten the dining table a few years ago but never really got around to finding chairs to go with it, so that was my next mission. Then came the throw pillows, and a deck box to store all the cushions and pillows in. Then we just stumbled on those black and grey club chairs one day and we had to have them! Luckily everything was (relatively) reasonably priced.
In case you’re interested, the sectional, dining chairs, and deck box are from Wayfair. Unfortunately the sectional and chairs don’t seem to be available right now. The outdoor throw pillows and big grey club chairs are from Target, and the dining table and lanterns are from Ikea.

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Things are looking a little more full and lush since I’ve taken these photos because we’ve had a lot of rain lately, so once the berries stop dropping I’ll get out there to clean up the mess and start barbecuing again! You’re more than welcome to live vicariously through my instagram stories, but my life really isn’t all that exciting so I’d suggest trying to find someone a little more interesting to follow!

Who knows, if things look different enough maybe I’ll give you another glimpse into our yard in another couple years.

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winter citrus salad with spiced pork chops

Why hello there friends! I’ve missed you!

winter citrus salad with seared pork chops | Brooklyn Homemaker

I know it’s been a long while since I shared anything with you here, and for that I’m sorry. This post has been a long time coming.

I have a little story for you.
I bought a journal the other day.
I had a journal when I was a teenager, but that was kept for reasons of pure juvenile vanity. This new journal is to be kept for a different purpose altogether.

Words like “overwhelmed”, “frightened”, and “anxious” can’t even begin to describe how I’ve been feeling for the past few months, so I’ve decided to keep a record of the things that are happening as they happen. I don’t want to forget how everything really came to pass if and when the “alternative facts” outweigh the real ones. It may be important some day.

Hold on to your butts folks, I’m about to do the thing that a food blogger is never ever supposed to do under any circumstances. I’m going to talk about politics.

GASP!

winter citrus salad with seared pork chops | Brooklyn Homemaker

Food bloggers are supposed to make light and bubbly conversation with their readers, detailing nostalgic stories from their childhoods, or relating amusing little anecdotes from daily life. We’re supposed to share our lives, but in a way that’s innocuous and easy to digest. The goal of a food blogger is to write mouth-watering recipes, amuse our readers, and hopefully grow our readership. Therefore, any subject that could be construed as polarizing is at odds with our aim to gain followers, and is usually off-limits. Under normal circumstances, we spend our days baking cakes and turning zucchini into spaghetti; we’re not “journalists”, nor are we policy experts or political science majors. That doesn’t mean however, that we don’t have opinions or principles, nor does it mean that our votes or our stakes in the management of our country count any less than anyone else’s.

I’ve been chewing away at all this in my head for the past few weeks and months, and in the end I’ve decided that some things are just too important to keep quiet about. If you find my views and convictions to be “offensive” and you decide not to keep reading my blog or cooking my recipes, I’ll just have to accept that. After all, we’re talking about pork chops and cupcakes here, while people’s lives, livelihoods, and lifestyles are on the line. If you’re a regular reader, you should at least know by now that I’m a man and I’m married to another man, so it should really be no surprise to you that I’m nervous about how our lives may be affected under a president who’s pandering to the most narrow-minded, prejudiced, and hateful among us.

winter citrus salad with seared pork chops | Brooklyn Homemaker

I realize that there are many people in the world who are thrilled with the outcome of the recent election, and are pleased as punch that campaign promises are being kept. If you’re one of those people, please understand that I’m speaking my mind today for a reason. I’m not just a “sore loser” or a “snowflake” as I’ve been called recently on social media. I’m speaking out because there’s so much at stake, and I fear the consequences of intolerant, inexperienced, irresponsible leadership.

Like it or not, we now have a man in power who cares more about money and his own ego than he cares about the country he’s pledged to lead. Say what you will about our last president, I know he wasn’t perfect, but he was a thoughtful man with integrity and grace, and a man who cared deeply about our country. Our current president is immature, irrational, erratic, and is easily influenced by those willing to stoke his ego or line his pockets. He’s proven that any billionaire willing to vocally praise him will be rewarded with a cabinet appointment, no matter how inexperienced and ill-suited they are to the job.

His closest adviser and Chief Strategist is an unapologetic racist and spokesperson for the alt-right (neo-nazi) movement, who once said in an interview, “I’m a Leninist. Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”
I mean, how terrifying is that? The president’s (alt-)right hand man, who knows more about politics and policy than he does himself, has proudly declared that he wants to destroy our country as we know it. With his mentorship, our president is actively working to divide our country against itself. Rich against poor, old against young, straight against gay, native-born citizen against immigrant, man against feminist, and white Christian against any and all other creeds and colors. He’s essentially waging a war against anyone in this country who isn’t a rich, straight, white, conservative, Christian, and it scares the crap out of the rest of us.

Since we’re on the subject of war by the way, his foreign policy decisions are irresponsible and ill-informed at best, and the disrespectful way he speaks with world leaders and long-time allies is downright dangerous. I don’t want to sound over-dramatic, but this man could be putting our lives and safety at serious risk.

winter citrus salad with seared pork chops | Brooklyn Homemaker

For me, the first days after the election were a mix of horror, depression, and cautious hope that maybe this man might not be as bad as he made himself out to be. Maybe he really was just trying to appeal to the worst in us because he knew it could work, but when it came to leadership, maybe he’d be… okay-ish? Of course, a lot has happened in a short time, and my worst fears have been recognized. He’s made it abundantly clear that things are going to be very, very scary for the next few years.

I have so many unanswered questions right now, and I lay awake at night thinking about how my life is in the hands of someone who doesn’t give a damn about anyone but himself and his rich white friends.
Will our marriage be deemed invalid or the federal marriage protections we enjoy reversed? Is it safe for us to ever consider having children? Will the quality of our (hypothetical) children’s education eventually be dependent on our income? Will I lose my healthcare? Will my family lose their (government) jobs? Will my neighbors be removed from their homes and deported? Will my friends become victims of harassment and violence? Will my taxes increase to pay for unnecessary and ineffective border security? Will the EPA be dissolved, climate change officially denied, and our environment and national parks destroyed for profit? Will we lose our freedom of the press under a man who can’t handle criticism or opposition? How far backward will be forced before we can move forward again, and how long will it take to repair the damage this man and his appointees can do over the next four years?

winter citrus salad with seared pork chops | Brooklyn Homemaker

Reading the news every day has become an exercise in masochism, but the one ray of hope is the knowledge that things don’t have to be like this, and this can’t last forever. To make sure these dark times end as quickly as possible, we must stand together, look past (or hopefully even celebrate) our differences, and be steadfast in our opposition to his attempts to divide and destroy us.

The people united will never be defeated.

In the months since the election, his popularity has plummeted and he’s become the least popular incoming president in the history of the gallup poll. His every move has been met with vocal criticism, nation-wide protests, and countless lawsuits; and frankly I couldn’t be more proud of the everyday citizens who’ve taken a stand. I’ve heard my whole life about how lazy and complacent my generation is, but when the shit hit the fan, we took to the streets with clever signs and knit hats, flooded our representatives in Washington with phone calls and postcards, organized resistance networks on social media, donated our hard-earned money to Black Lives Matter and the ACLU, and hosted fundraisers to benefit Planned ParenthoodCAIR, and the Water Protectors.

Ultimately, I know I’m not saying anything new here, and if you’ve been paying attention, I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know. I guess the real point I’m trying to make here is that we all have a voice, and in these unsettling times we can’t be afraid to use them, even if doing so might have some negative consequences.
We need to do everything in our power to show people with other points of view that policies designed to “protect traditional values” can have terrible negative consequences, and don’t just affect unknown hypothetical immigrants, feminists, people of color, or homosexuals. These policies directly affect the lives of their friends and neighbors, their baristas and hair stylists, their surgeons and teachers, and even their favorite food bloggers.

winter citrus salad with seared pork chops | Brooklyn Homemaker

Whew! I didn’t realize when I started writing this that I had SO MUCH to say, but I’ve been holding back for so long that I’ve had plenty of time to gather my thoughts. I’m sorry that I’ve basically ignored the recipe altogether through this post, but I promise I have just a few quick things to say about the yummy salad in these pretty pictures.

A few weeks ago Russell talked me into doing the Whole30 diet with him. I have to admit, it’s been really difficult and I’m totally over it and can’t wait for the end. I’ve been dreaming about chocolate chip cookies and pizza for weeks, but we’re in the final stretch now and I’m happy we did it. Oddly enough, as restrictive as this diet is, it’s been a sort of fun exercise in will power and self-discipline, and in a world that feels like it’s rapidly spinning out of control, having total control over something, anything, feels really refreshing. Having this much restriction has also deemed most restaurant food off-limits, and forced us into the kitchen multiple times a day, every day. While it certainly has felt like a chore at times, spending so much time in the kitchen has been strangely therapeutic. My kitchen feels like “home” to me, and cooking so often has brought some semblance of familiarity and normalcy back to my life, even if I’d really have preferred to drown my worries and sorrows in a thick slice of chocolate cake.

winter citrus salad with seared pork chops | Brooklyn Homemaker

I swung by my local butcher shop one day looking for pork chops, and when I spotted the gorgeous cara cara and blood oranges in their produce case, I instantly knew what I wanted to do. We’re friends with the butchers there, and the pork chops they gave me were very generous, huge even, but I actually think a smaller chop would have been better suited to this recipe. Mine were about a pound each, but I think 1/2 lb chops would be the way to go. If you’re not a huge pork fan, or can’t find good thick pork chops, you could also do the same spice rub on some boneless, skinless chicken breasts and they’d be amazing too.

Because Whole30 is so protein heavy, it’s important to make sure you eat LOTS of veggies with every meal, and to go for BIG, BOLD flavors as often as possible to avoid gustatory boredom.

This salad is definitely not lacking in big, bold flavors. The mix of citrus fruits add fresh biting acidity and bright sweetness; the pistachios are rich and buttery; the fennel fresh, sweet, earthy, and slightly anise-y; the arugula is peppery with a hint of bitterness; the pork perfectly spiced, wonderfully browned on the outside, and tender and juicy inside; and the dressing, with red wine vinegar and a hint of Dijon mustard, ties it all together perfectly.

winter citrus salad with seared pork chops | Brooklyn Homemaker

Winter Citrus Salad with Spiced Pork Chops

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Generous salt and pepper to taste
2 thick-cut, bone-in pork chops (about a half pound each)
2 teaspoons olive oil or butter
Arugula
mix of citrus fruit (I used 1 each of tangerine, blood, naval, and cara cara oranges)
a handful of thinly shaved slices of fennel bulb or stalks
1/4 cup roasted pistachios

Red Wine Vinaigrette:
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Lightly toast spices in a dry skillet until they smell fragrant. This should only take a few minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder (or coffee grinder *see note) along with salt and pepper. Grind into a fine powder. Sprinkle or rub all over both sides of your pork chops and let them rest at room temperature for about an hour. If you like, you can use this time to prepare the citrus or mix the dressing.

Preheat your oven to 400F and let a large cast iron skillet heat up with it.

Remove the skillet from the oven and add olive oil or butter. Place the skillet over a medium-high flame and sear the pork chops for about 3 minutes on one side. They’ll probably smoke a bit, so use your vent fan. Flip the chops and immediately transfer to the oven. Roast until the chops reach 135 to 140F at the thickest part of the chop. This should take between 5 and 10 minutes.

Remove from the skillet, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes while you assemble the rest of the salad.

Place enough arugula for 2 individual servings (how much you like is totally up to you) into salad bowls. Use a very sharp knife to cut the peel off of your citrus and slice them into thin discs. Top the arugula with the citrus discs, shaved fennel, and pistachios.

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a mason jar with a lid and shake shake shake to combine. Pour over the salads and toss to combine if desired.

Top with rested pork chops and enjoy!

 

*Cooks note: Only use a coffee grinder if you have a spare. Don’t use a grinder you use for coffee or your coffee will taste like ground cumin, fennel, & mustard. Alternatively you could use a mortar and pestle.

spicy gingerbread bundt cake with caramelized white chocolate ganache #bundtbakers

When it comes to being a food blogger, there’s a lot of pressure to come up with “original” recipes.

spicy gingerbread bundt with caramelized white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

Thing is, there ain’t much out there that ain’t been tried before. Odds are that any flavors you’re considering combining have probably already been combined before by someone else, somewhere else.

spicy gingerbread bundt with caramelized white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

When Laura from Baking in Pyjamas chose “winter wonderland” as our #bundtbakers theme this month, my very first thought was of a deep, dark, super spicy gingerbread bundt cake. There is nothing in the world that says winter holidays to me more than the combination of warm spices and molasses.

The problem? Everybody and their uncle is posting gingerbread cake recipes right now (and have been every December since the advent of the food blog). As much as I wanted to bake some dark, dense, spicy, & chewy gingerbread for myself, I decided that I should probably try to come up with something a bit more unique.

Life is hard sometimes you guys.

 spicy gingerbread bundt with caramelized white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

After a bit more brainstorming, I remembered the caramelized white chocolate I’d read about on my friend Lindsay’s ice cream blog, If the Spoon Fits.

Now, before you start with the whole “white chocolate is gross/too sweet/boring/stupid/not chocolate” comments, hear me out. When you take the time to slowly caramelize good white chocolate in the oven with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, it transforms into something completely new and exciting and magical. The sugars in the chocolate caramelize and the cocoa butter gets richer and deeper and almost butterscotch-y. While it still has the texture of white chocolate, the flavor is much closer to a rich and creamy salted caramel.

When Lindsay first posted about it I was a bit skeptical that white chocolate could really be THAT GOOD, but I made a mental note and filed it away for a rainy day. A winter wonderland themed bundt cake seemed like the perfect rainy day opportunity to bust it out.

caramelized white chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

I had faith in Lindsay that the flavor would be great, but I felt like I’d want a bit more texture and interest so I decided to add some nuts. Almonds, walnuts, or pecans would have been ideal choices for flavor and crunch, but I decided that roasted chestnuts would be sooooo much more winter wonderland-y.

Oddly enough, even though my Grandfather has two giant old chestnut trees in his yard, as best I can remember I’ve never actually eaten a chestnut and had no clue what they tasted like. I called my Grandmother to ask her about it, and she confirmed that even though they’re in the yard, she’d never attempted to eat or cook with them. I remember their spiky green outer shells littering the yard when I was a kid, but I think the squirrels always made away with most of the nuts inside. Maybe that’s why they never really made it into the house.

spicy gingerbread bundt with caramelized white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

So, not knowing what to expect, I went to the store and picked up a jar of expensive fancy pants French chestnut puree, along with a pound of whole chestnuts that I wanted to try to oven roast.

Oh lord what a mess.

Did you know that roasted chestnuts can explode if you don’t score the shell in the right place?
I wish I were joking.
After oven roasting them according to Martha’s instructions, I noticed that one of my chestnuts hadn’t opened at the score line. A few minutes after it came out of the oven, I poked the unopened chestnut with a knife. I’m not really sure why I did it, but it was definitely a mistake.
There was a loud POP like the sound of a sealed soda bottle being run over by a car (Is that a sound everyone knows, or is that just because I live in Brooklyn?). Anyways, the two halves of the shell went flying across the kitchen in opposite directions, one landing on my dish rack and the other on the floor in front of the refrigerator. The chestnut meat itself practically vaporized into a fine, hot, sticky chestnut dust that sprayed all over my kitchen; sticking to the oven, the walls, the side of the fridge, the counters, cabinets, and floor. A bit later I walked past the mirror and found chestnut dust covering my beard and stuck to my cheeks and forehead. Yesterday I was in the kitchen and happened to glance up and notice there was chestnut dust all over the ceiling.

After the initial shock of the whole thing, I just stood there laughing like crazy for a good 10 minutes before I cleaned up the mess. Luckily there were a few whole chestnuts left that I could use, so I peeled one open and tasted it.

Sooooo….

Ummmm….

Can anyone tell me why people like chestnuts? I was expecting something, oh, I don’t know, nutty?
But no. This thing was bland and flavorless while also being oddly sweet, with a soft, pasty, almost bready texture rather than the satisfying nutty crunch I was anticipating.

I eventually decided that I must just be missing something because I’m not used to them, so I wanted to forge ahead. Since the roasted chestnuts wouldn’t have the crunch and texture I was hoping for, I decided to just go for flavor and mix the chestnut puree into the cake batter instead.

Ugh. You guys. There are entire songs devoted to chestnuts this time of year. I just don’t get it.

The chestnut puree made the cake rubbery, dense, slightly bitter, and strangely grey-ish.
FML.

spicy gingerbread bundt with caramelized white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

A few days later I considered baking a new caramelized white chocolate cake with some crunchier, nuttier nuts, but ultimately my first cake was such a traumatic experience from start to finish that I couldn’t bring myself to try again.

After some soul searching, (Is it weird that my life is filled with so much bundt-related soul searching?) I decided to scrap the whole thing and go back to the gingerbread cake I’d wanted to make in the first place. Who cares if a bajillion other people have already made similar cakes? As long as I enjoy it and stand behind the recipe, why not?

Since I’d already gotten more white chocolate, and really was impressed with the caramel-y flavor, I decided to go ahead and use it to make a ganache glaze for the cake.

spicy gingerbread bundt with caramelized white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

After that first cake, it felt SO DAMNED GOOD to have this one turn out so well.

Having grown up with traditional spicy German Christmas cookies like pfeffernusse and lebkucken, I like my gingerbread super dark and spicy so I use lots of molasses and plenty of spice. I even like to use a touch of ground black pepper for a bit more heat, and along with the dried ginger I like to stir some little chewy chunks of crystallized ginger into the batter right at the end.

The caramelized white chocolate ganache takes some time to make, but it adds a lovely sweet, salty, caramel-y touch that perfectly compliments the rich, deep flavors of the cake.

If you like gingerbread, especially dark, dense, spicy, chewy, old-world gingerbread; you’re going to flip for this cake. It’s unbelievable right out of the oven, but the best part is that it even improves with age so it can (and should!) be made a day or two ahead. After a few days it seems even more tender, moist, and flavorful than it did when I first sliced it for these photos.

Please be sure to scroll down past the recipe to see all the other winter wonderland themed bundts the other #bundtbakers came up with this month!

spicy gingerbread bundt with caramelized white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

Spicy Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Caramelized White Chocolate Ganache

  • Servings: 12 to 16-ish
  • Print
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 tablespoons ground ginger (depending on how spicy you like it)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 10- to 12-cup bundt-style pan.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the molasses and water and set aside. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, oil, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition.

Add the flour mixture in three additions alternately with the molasses water, starting and ending with the flour. Add the chopped crystallized ginger with the last addition of flour, and mix just until smooth. Do not over-mix. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes, then turn the cake out onto the rack to cool completely. If desired, make the caramelized chocolate while the cake cools. Recipe below. 

I recommend baking this cake a day or two ahead. It improves with age! Cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

*note: It is totally normal and okay if this cake sinks a little bit in the center.

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Caramelized White Chocolate Ganache Glaze:
Adapted from David Lebovitz

8 oz good quality white chocolate (must have real cocoa butter)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup heavy cream

Optional decorations: white nonpareils, white dragees, white sixlets

Turn the oven down to 250F

If the white chocolate is in a block or bar, chop it into coarse pieces. Spread the white chocolate in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and heat for ten minutes.

Remove it from the oven, add the oil, and spread it out with a clean, dry spatula.

Continue to cook for and additional 30-60 minutes, stirring and spreading every 10 minutes. At some points it may look lumpy and chalky, but keep stirring and it will smooth out and caramelize. Once the chocolate reaches a deep golden brown, remove from the oven, scrape into a bowl or large measuring cup, and whisk in the salt and heavy cream until completely smooth and free of lumps.

Once the cake is completely cool drizzle the still slightly warm ganache over the cake and, if desired, top with optional decorations before it cools and sets.

spicy gingerbread bundt with caramelized white chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

These wonderful wintery bundts are definitely putting me in the Holiday spirit this year! Thank you Laura for choosing such a perfect theme for the month of December!

BundtBakers
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#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on the BundtBakers home page.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage

I can’t even believe that it’s almost Thanksgiving already.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

I swear it really just snuck up on me this year. Last year I had my entire meal planned months in advance, and because I wanted to share my whole menu with everyone here, I’d even tested, modified, written out, and photographed the recipes well before November even started.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

This year though, the Maxwell’s build-out and opening occupied most of my attention from summer well into the fall, and everything else in my life had to be put on the back burner. I’ve had some ideas stewing that I wanted to test out for my Thanksgiving spread this year, but I just never really found the time, even once Maxwell’s was open and I was able to re-focus my attention elsewhere.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

The funny thing is that I actually first attempted this recipe when I was trying to plan for my Thanksgiving spread last year. I knew that I’d want to make some significant changes to it, and I just had too many other recipes to focus on, so I decided to dog-ear the idea to come back to later.

Well, it’s later now.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

So, a couple weeks ago I started playing with it to fine tune my vision and streamline the steps. My first instinct was to caramelize the onions and fennel before mixing them in with the cream, but I actually found that by the time the whole thing baked for an hour an a half, the onions and fennel cooked down way too much and were almost indistinguishable. I also originally planned to peel the potatoes, or maybe just the sweet potatoes, but after trying the recipe both ways, peeling just seemed like an unnecessary extra step.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

With everything that goes into making an entire Thanksgiving dinner, I figured that everyone, including myself, would appreciate any unnecessary steps that I could eliminate. Enough effort goes into slicing everything with the mandoline and arranging the slices in tight circles, so as long as it still tastes great, why not make everything else super easy?

Speaking of slicing everything with a mandoline, please be careful when you’re slicing. Those pesky mandolines have bitten me a few times, but if you go slow and use a guard when you get toward the end of the potato, I promise that you can keep your fingertips intact. Another option to keep your fingers super safe would be to invest in a cut resistant glove. Whenever I’ve had any accidents with mandolines though, it’s been because I was going too fast or was distracted by something else in the kitchen. The blades are sharp and deserve your undivided attention, so please use caution! Unfortunately this recipe will be kind of difficult to perfect without one. Sorry friends!
I mean, if you have surgically precise knife skills, by all means please go ahead and just use a knife, but it’s really important that all the slices are the exact same thickness so everything cooks at the same time.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

Let me tell you friends, this recipe was worth the wait and the effort. Who could say no to tender, delicate, richly flavored potatoes with crunchy, crispy top edges? The mix of red, white, and sweet potatoes is wonderfully autumnal without being too sweet, and the onions and fennel caramelize in the oven and their flavors go from pungent and intense to rich, mellow, and slightly sweet. The mix of cheeses adds a salty, nutty richness, and the sage, thyme, and garlic make this dish the perfect side to serve with turkey or poultry.
Or maybe I should say turkey would be the perfect side to serve with this gratin, because these potatoes are sure to steal the Thanksgiving spotlight.

It doesn’t have to end at Thanksgiving though! This recipe would be an amazing addition to any fall or winter meal, be it a special occasion, or just a way to up the ante on your sunday dinner.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

In the recipe below, I say that this dish should yield 6 to 10 side-sized servings, but I want to mention that if you’re serving this at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, with a wide array of other foods, your yield should actually be higher because your portion sizes will be smaller. Although many of your guests may go back in for seconds, people tend to take smaller portions when there’s a lot on the table because they’re trying to fit 15 different things on one plate.

So, at a normal dinner with a main and a side or two, this should feed about 6 to 10 people, but at Thanksgiving I think this recipe should be enough for about 12 to 15. The more the merrier, right?

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

Red, White, & Sweet Potato Gratin with Fennel & Sage

  • Servings: 6 to 10 side-size servings
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Recipe adapted from Serious Eats

1 cup grated comte cheese (or other semi-firm nutty cheese like gruyere or emmental)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt (sounds like a lot, but this is a lot of potatoes)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1 lb red potatoes
1 lb white potatoes
1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes
1 large to 2 small fennel bulbs (about 1/2 to 3/4 lb)
2 small to medium onions (about 1/2 lb)
2 tablespoons butter, softened

Preheat oven to 400F and adjust rack to the middle of the oven.

Toss cheeses together in a medium bowl to combine. Transfer about 1/3 of the mixture to another bowl and set aside for later use. Back in the first bowl, add cream, salt, pepper, garlic, sage, & thyme; and stir or toss to combine. Set aside.

Using a mandoline slicer, slice all the potatoes, unpeeled, into 1/8 inch thick disks and place into a very large bowl.  The larger the bowl, the easier it will be to toss the potatoes with the cream without making a mess. Slice the onion(s) and fennel bulb(s) to the same thickness and add to the potatoes. Pour cream and cheese mixture over the potatoes and toss toss toss to completely coat each slice of potato with cream. Use your fingers to separate any potatoes that may have become stuck together, so that every single slice is coated in the cream mixture.

Butter the inside of a large casserole, or 12″ cast iron skillet *see note. Organize handfuls of potatoes into neat stacks, along with some slices of onions and fennel, and line them up in the casserole with their edges aligned vertically. Continue placing stacks of potatoes into the dish, working around the perimeter and into the center until all potatoes have been added. Potatoes should be tightly packed. If necessary, slice an additional potato, coat with the remaining cream mixture, and add to the casserole. Pour the remaining cream mixture evenly over the potatoes until the mixture comes about half way up the sides of the potato slices. You may not need all the liquid.

Cover dish tightly with a lid or aluminum foil and transfer to oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid/foil and bake for 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove from oven, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and return to oven to bake until deep golden brown and crisp on top, about 30 minutes longer. Remove from oven, let rest for at least 15 minutes, and serve.

*cooks note:
I used a braising pan that measures about 12″ across, so a 12″ cast iron skillet would perfectly as well. I also think a 9×13″ casserole should work great, but rather than arranging the potatoes in circles, just line them up lengthwise in three rows.