Cocktail Recipes, Spirits, and Local Bars

Baking with Booze: Celebrate Spring Break Like a Grown-up

Baking with Booze: Celebrate Spring Break Like a Grown-up

This time some years ago you were probably flying off to some semi-exotic location like Panama City Beach, Florida, or South Padre Island, Texas, with the rest of the collegiate community to experience the rite of passage known as Spring Break. At this point in your life it’s probably inappropriate (or at least inconvenient) to jet away for a week and do irreparable damage to your liver, so why not bake with booze instead of drinking it?

Click here to see Baking with Booze: Celebrate Spring Break Like a Grown-up (Slideshow)

You can purchase alcohol-soaked foods of all kinds (pickles, whipped cream, and cupcakes, to name a few), but it’s way more fun to make things like spiked ice cream sandwiches and alcoholic Oreos yourself.

Adding alcohol to desserts is an easy way to augment flavor without changing an entire recipe. A splash of coffee liqueur to chocolate cake will bring out the cocoa flavor, and a bit of coconut liqueur will enhance the coconutty essence of coconut cream pie. It’s like adding flavor extracts to your baked goods using supplies you already have in your liquor cabinet.

Mixing desserts with alcohol is not a new trend. Baba au rhum, or rum baba, a French yeast cake soaked in a sugary rum syrup, became popular in the mid-nineteenth century. Fruit cakes were originally soaked in liquor — like brandy — as a preservative; it keeps the cakes shelf-stable for years.

The preservative effect of liquor on fruitcake is just one example of how alcohol can aid bakers. Alcohol has legitimate purposes in the kitchen that go beyond flavoring. Unflavored vodka is sometimes touted as the secret to the perfect pie crust.

While this doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t drink the alcohol of your choice in a cocktail as well, we recommend not baking while intoxicated to avoid burns (of skin, dessert, and home). Add a little booze to cakes, cookies, frosting, and syrups for adults-only desserts that guests will love.

Amartha-Walnut Cookies with Brandy

These cookies are made with amaranth flour and rolled in whole amaranth seed for a crunchy, nutty cookie. Similar to quinoa, amaranth is a protein-packed seed indigenous to South America.

Bourbon Bread Pudding

Use leftover, slightly stale brioche bread for a New Orleans-style bread pudding and soak up the rich flavors of butter, brown sugar, bourbon, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Julie Ruggirello is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @TDMRecipeEditor.


Ready to bake sourdough? Here are recipes to begin.

Sourdough baking: it captures the imagination like no other form of recipe. There's a particular kind of magic to watching a sourdough starter come alive, with the power to raise dough and create a flavorful, tangy loaf.

The perfect sourdough bread is the holy grail for bakers: crusty on the outside, with a generous open crumb, and a hearty, fermented flavor. No other loaf is as compelling, or creates so much curiosity, as sourdough baked at home.

We know you're fascinated, in love with, scared of, and compelled to try sourdough. You ask us about this subject more than any other, and we have a lot of information to share with you. Our sourdough guide, for one. And our posts on making your own starter and maintaining your starter are two of the most heavily visited on our website.

In the Spring issue of Sift, we take a comprehensive look at baking with sourdough, from how to know when your starter is ready to bake with (stay tuned for an upcoming post on this one) to a full range of recipes for all skill levels. Join us as we show you some inspirational ways to tap into this wondrous, taste-making leavener.

Rustic Sourdough

Let's start with the basics. Rustic Sourdough is a yeast-assisted loaf that can be made with starter only, if you have the time. Either way, it bakes up to a crusty, tangy loaf that's great for sandwiches, and serves as a tasty base for any kind of tartine you'd care to build on top.

Fig and Walnut Sourdough

A bit of tang, a bit of crunch, a burst of sweetness. Fig and Walnut Sourdough is a Sunday-go-to-meeting sort of bread, wonderful for leisurely Sunday breakfasts, on a cheese board, or as a treat for company.

Onion and Bay Loaf

All the comforting flavors of a well-made bechamel come to life in this soft, alluring sandwich bread. After steeping diced onions and bay leaves in milk, ripe sourdough starter joins the party. The recipe makes a generous loaf, and the dough is also excellent for unforgettable dinner rolls.

Rye Levain Pumpernickel (Sourdough Pumpernickel)

There are many ways to capitalize on the flavorful qualities of rye. This loaf is nicely balanced between tangy and slightly sweet, with a tender crumb. It makes excellent sandwiches, or shines by itself simply toasted, with some melted cheese on top.

Sourdough Honey Quinoa Bread

A nubby loaf that makes amazing protein-packed whole grain sandwiches. Try your first slice toasted with a little butter and jam, to get to know its wholesome character. Then branch out to satisfying sandwich delights.

Rustic Olive Rolls

Crusty on the outside, studded with chunks of briny, rich olives, these rolls have plenty of personality to match robust sandwich fillings or cheese. When cut smaller, they're terrific in the dinner roll basket.

Once you've made friends with sourdough baking, you'll find it will be the beginning of many a great meal.

Come celebrate spring with us, and pick up your copy of Sift (if you haven't yet). It only gets more delicious from here.

And be sure to visit our sourdough guide for more in-depth information about creating, maintaining, and baking with sourdough.


Be better than Betty Crocker: How to make your own baking mixes like a pro

In the 1950s, it was said that when an elderly woman died, the "flour and shortening" business lost a customer, while when a young woman married, the cake-mix industry gained one. In short, two constituencies: those who baked and those who faked. Today, there's an audience that falls somewhere in the middle and proves the value of a different kind of mix - the kind that is versatile, ready to go and additive-free. The kind you make yourself.

Here's what convinced me: I received a recent email touting "the first and only baking mix brand in the category to sustainably source clean, regenerative and socially-aware organic ingredients." How preposterous, I thought, that those who are so deeply invested in the quality and origin of their ingredients would be baking cake from a box.

Then I remembered my neighbors, who regularly receive boxes full of premeasured and diced ingredients. They use them to "cook" dinner. These same people also like to go to the farmers market to appreciate, and maybe purchase, what is locally grown. While this, too, might strike one as amusing or contradictory, my dive into the modern cake-mix market reveals that, for many - especially millennials - this state of affairs is normal.

The cake-mix category comprises dry, ready-made bases for a gamut of baked goods. Those created expressly for cakes were introduced in the early 1930s, if not before that, but didn't hit it big until Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines and Pillsbury got in on the action in the late '40s and early '50s. "The very marketable premise behind cake mixes was, and still is, the ability to have fresh, 'homemade' cake with very little time and effort," Susan Marks wrote in "Finding Betty Crocker" (Simon & Schuster, 2005). The flour, shortening, powdered eggs, sugar and select flavorings had all been calibrated along with leavening agents, which, to this day, remain a concern because who knows whether they have lost their pep. A consumer need only add liquid.

Apparently, this premise was too easy and made the whole thing less appealing. Business psychologists - perhaps the original market researchers - determined that leaving out the dried eggs and having users crack fresh ones into the mixing bowl would solve the problem. The theory, Marks explains, was that this would give them "a sense of creative contribution," because "baking a cake was an act of love on the woman's part" and "a baking mix that only needed water cheapened that love."

Using fresh eggs undoubtedly improved the finished product, which might be the real reason that changing the formula seems to have led to the rise of the box mix. Over time, the recipe was altered and consumers were instructed to stir in oil along with the water and eggs. A task that could require up to a dozen separate ingredients could be accomplished with only four.

Sold in supermarkets, these boxed units became the de facto choice for American households. They were not a source of pride. In the '80s, when I was growing up, you did not try to pass off the Duncan Hines cupcakes you baked for your kid's birthday as homemade. But you didn't brag about having taken a shortcut, either. Convenience won the day.

Things have changed. An overview of the market from 2010 to 2020, generated by the market research firm Mintel, predicts the total sales of baking mixes in the United States will dip from $4 billion to $3.6 billion "as consumers opt for fresher, less processed alternatives." Cake-mix sales, specifically, are at $650 million and expected to drop to $460 million over the next three years. The loss in sales correlates with a broad change in attitude. A younger generation of potential bakers cares about "transparency," a concept that extends to what they put in their pantries and on their plates, and about the experiential aspect of cooking. Millennials are, as per that study, "more apt to say they use baking mixes because they enjoy baking than they are to use them for their convenience." In other words, shame is a nonstarter.

"Consumers are looking to bake 'from scratch,' " says Billy Roberts, a senior food and drink analyst at Mintel. Armed with a "greater degree of personal disposable income" and more confidence, they are going to bakeries, and, because of television shows such as "The Great British Bake Off," wanting to experiment in their own ovens. At the same time, they prioritize ingredients, rejecting anything artificial or unrecognizable, and seek out specialty products they cannot find in local grocery stores. When something is presented as higher in quality, they tend to perceive it as a more healthful option, he says.

Their problem with traditional cake mixes is unrelated to the idea of their being seen as an inauthentic form of baking it has to do with the assumption that they are full of fake materials. Unsurprisingly, the one area of growth in this sector is in specialty brands that cater to dietary concerns or promote "better" ingredients. This would explain why, last summer, King Arthur Flour brought out a line of "clean label" Essential Goodness mixes or, the year prior, Pillsbury unveiled its Purely Simple products, and would account for that email I scoffed at.

Then there is Foodstirs, launched by Greg Fleishman, Galit Laibow and actor Sarah Michelle Gellar in 2015. "There is nothing like Foodstirs on the planet in terms of that purity and what we call 'clean ingredients,' " Fleishman said, throwing out all the appropriate jargon in a recent interview. The Santa Monica, California-hubbed brand's mixes are organic and do not contain genetically modified components. They include biodynamic sugar and "identity-preserved heirloom flour."

Foodstirs' founders also talked about the significance of spending meaningful time with their children, and baking as a way to do that. The brand offers a subscription service with regularly delivered baking sets for more interactive projects such as the heavily decorated Ombré Pancake and the Darling Daisy Cookie Bouquet.

Foodstirs' existence led me to ponder other ways competitors might innovate, or pivot. How would you think outside the mix box . . . while staying in it? Sisters Arielle and Agathe Assouline-Lichten introduced Red Velvet NYC a year and a half ago. The meal-kit company distinguishes itself from the likes of Blue Apron by focusing solely on dessert, and from would-be competitors with its inclusion of perishable goods. Others, Agathe said, "send half-baked items. So they'll send a pie mold, or some type of crust. . . . We don't do any of that. We are vehemently against mixes. We want people to do everything. For me, homemade is homemade. That means no cheating." The majority of kits are for novices, but there are some recipes geared to more-practiced bakers and others that fall somewhere in between. Core products such as best-selling Celebration Cupcakes are joined by seasonal options. Like Foodstirs, Red Velvet NYC allows customers to order kits piecemeal or, serially, through a subscription. So far, it ships to 28 states.

I made some of those cupcakes. They were perfectly acceptable, although Foodstirs' rendition was notably better. Yet I enjoyed the Red Velvet NYC user experience more. That said, packages of dry goods could be more clearly labeled, especially when the same type of flour or sugar is used twice in one recipe. The vials of vanilla extract and nickel-bag-size portions of baking powder were a bit off-putting as well. Listing the amounts of ingredients to be used would better serve educational purposes.

If the intention is to instruct and engage the home baker, DIY mixes seem like a more progressive tool. Toward that end, I discovered food writer and stylist Caroline Wright's "Cake Magic!" (Workman, 2016) - a cookbook that, per its subtitle, lets you "Mix & Match Your Way to 100 Amazing Combinations." The author came up with a basic Cake Magic! mix that could be adapted for an array of layer cakes, each executed in a single bowl. Wright tacked on recipes for syrups, frostings and toppings, and provided copious examples of how to put those together. "I wanted to do a very simple baking technique that could really put the power and creativity in the hands of the baker," she told me via a phone interview.

Here's the upshot of my research: I wanted mixes with more versatility. Ideally, you could whisk a large quantity of dry ingredients together to create a base that could be applied to multiple styles of cake, and beyond. Then, whenever you felt like baking, you would have them at your fingertips.

No mix can do everything - or, it can't do everything well. But three of them could get you far. So I asked Abigail Johnson Dodge, author of "The Everyday Baker" (Taunton Press, 2015), to create one white mix, one chocolate and one cornmeal option that could go savory or sweet. She dug right in, making scones, upside-down cakes, loaf cakes, pancakes, muffins and corn bread. Once Dodge was satisfied with a mix, she sent the basic recipe my way, and I built from there.

To our great surprise, we have become attached to these mixes and are now preoccupied with ideas for those that do not yet exist - but could. (A brownie mix is at the top of our list those that incorporate nut flours are another interest. Do we dare consider yeast?) Submitted for your approval: the formulas for the three mixes Dodge created, with information on substitutions and mix-ins, plus a few next-level recipes that may inspire you to take them in new directions.

Once you compose these dry mixes from scratch, I doubt you will want to give Betty, Duncan or the rest of their kind another look. A DIY baking mix makes for a thoughtful gift, too. You can put it in a box - a beautifully wrapped one.

Druckman is the author of "Stir, Sizzle, Bake: Recipes for Your Cast-Iron Skillet."

Big Batch Dry Mix

Makes 10 1/2 cups 1 cup equals 4 3/4 ounces

This plain, versatile mix can be used to make cakes, cupcakes, muffins, scones and pancakes.

Spelt flour is preferred here it can be replaced with whole-wheat flour, or the mix can be made using 100 percent unbleached all-purpose flour.

Created by cookbook author Abigail Johnson Dodge. Stir mix well before using. Mix can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 months.

Ingredients

5 cups (22 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

4 cups (18 ounces) spelt flour or whole-wheat flour (see headnote)

1 1/3 cups (9 1/3 ounces) granulated sugar

4 tablespoons (1 3/4 ounces/ 50 grams) baking powder

2 teaspoons (1/2 ounce/15 grams) table salt

Whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large container with a tight-fitting lid (15- to 16-cup capacity), until thoroughly incorporated. Seal, label and store at room temperature until ready to use.

Nutrition | Per cup (using whole-wheat flour): 500 calories, 13 g protein, 111 g carbohydrates, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 550 mg sodium, 7 g dietary fiber, 27 g sugar

Big Batch Cornmeal Dry Mix

Makes 9 cups 1 cup equals 5 ounces

Cornmeal can go sweet or savory, and there's no use in creating an all-purpose mix with it if you're not going to account for both. With this mix, you can make old-fashioned blueberry muffins or skillet corn bread. But don't stop there: Apply it to a peach upside-down cake or sophisticated olive oil cake. Serve syrup-coated cornmeal pancakes for breakfast, or their smoked salmon-topped counterparts as hors d'oeuvres.

Created by cookbook author Abigail Johnson Dodge. Stir mix well before using. Mix can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 months.

Ingredients

4 cups (18 ounces) finely ground cornmeal

4 cups (18 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

2/3 cup (4 5/8 ounces) granulated sugar

3 1/2 tablespoons (42 grams) baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons (10 grams) table salt

Combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large container with a tight-fitting lid (15- to 16-cup capacity), until thoroughly incorporated. Seal, label and store at room temperature until ready to use.

Nutrition | Per cup: 470 calories, 10 g protein, 101 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 450 mg sodium, 11 g dietary fiber, 15 g sugar

Big Batch Chocolate Dry Mix

Makes 11 cups 1 cup equals 4 1/2 ounces

Everyone needs a chocolate layer cake at the ready for those special celebratory moments. That's what this one's for, and with just some water and oil, and an egg, it's pretty much frosting-ready. It's so much better than anything you could have bought in a box. Muffins, scones and cupcakes, of course, are all doable as well.

Created by cookbook author Abigail Johnson Dodge. Stir mix well before using. Mix can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 months.

Ingredients

4 cups (18 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

3 1/3 cups (15 ounces) whole-wheat flour (may substitute spelt flour)

2 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/3 cups (9 3/8 ounces) granulated sugar

4 tablespoons (1 3/4 ounces/50 grams) baking powder

2 teaspoons (1/2 ounce/15 grams) table salt

Combine the flours, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large container (15- to 16-cup capacity). Whisk until very well blended, making sure to get into the corners and bottom of the container. Cover, label and stow at room temperature until ready to use.

Nutrition | Per cup: 470 calories, 14 g protein, 98 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 500 mg sodium, 9 g dietary fiber, 25 g sugar

Blackberry Cake With a Kick

8 to 10 servings (makes one 9-inch round single layer cake)

This simple cake showcases fruit that's sweet-tart and perhaps undeservedly underrated, with a little grown-up mischief from black pepper, homey comfort from dark brown sugar and richness from creme fraiche.

From cookbook author and food writer Charlotte Druckman.

Ingredients

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan

2 1/2 cups (11 7/8 ounces) Big Batch Dry Mix (stir well before using)

1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) packed dark brown sugar

3/4 to 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups (6 ounces) blackberries (large ones halved)

1/2 cup rolled oats, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use a little butter to grease a 9-inch round cake pan, then flour it, shaking out any excess.

Whisk together the Big Batch Dry Mix, brown sugar and pepper (to taste) in a mixing bowl, until well incorporated.

Use a fork to whisk together the milk, creme fraiche, eggs and vanilla extract in a large liquid measuring cup until well blended. Pour over the dry mixture, along with the melted butter, and whisk with the fork to form a slightly lumpy batter.

Use a flexible spatula to gently fold in the berries, then use the spatula to spread the batter evenly in the pan. Scatter the oats over the top. Bake (middle rack) until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 15 to 20 minutes, then run a round-edged knife around the edges to loosen the cake, then invert onto the rack and lift off the pan. Turn the cake right-side-up and let cool completely.

Nutrition | Per serving (based on 10): 330 calories, 6 g protein, 40 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 9 g sugar

Fully Loaded Chocolate Muffins

Sometimes, it's okay to break the rules and add a few extra chocolate chips to your muffins. These might remind some of the Chunky candy bars of old, because they combine that chocolatey goodness with nuts and dried fruit. Spices - cinnamon, and just the tiniest bit of cayenne - take them beyond the vending machine.

MAKE AHEAD: The dried cherries need to be rehydrated for 30 minutes. The muffins are best served the same day they are made, but they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

From cookbook author and food writer Charlotte Druckman.

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups (8 3/8 ounces) Big Batch Chocolate Dry Mix (stir well before using)

1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)

1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup toasted skinned hazelnuts, chopped (see NOTE)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 9 wells of a standard-size muffin pan with paper or foil baking cup liners, or grease them with cooking oil spray.

Meanwhile, place the dried cherries in a small bowl and cover with warm water let sit for 30 minutes, then drain.

Whisk together the Big Batch Chocolate Dry Mix, sugar, salt and the cayenne pepper, if using, until well incorporated.

Pour the buttermilk into a large liquid measuring cup, then add the egg, egg yolk, vanilla extract and oil use a fork to whisk together until well incorporated. Pour over the dry ingredients, then add the chocolate chunks, plumped dried cherries and hazelnuts use a flexible spatula to gently fold to form a barely blended batter that's a bit lumpy.

Divide evenly among the muffin cups or wells. Bake (middle rack) until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 19 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, then dislodge the muffins and place them directly on the rack to cool completely.

NOTE: To toast the hazelnuts, spread them on rimmed baking sheet and bake for 4 to 5 minutes, until fragrant and golden brown. Cool completely before using.

Nutrition | Per muffin: 340 calories, 5 g protein, 45 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 27 g sugar

Maple-Cashew Scones

The combination of maple, cashews and spelt here is especially winning, but if you used whole-wheat flour in your dry mix base, you wouldn't be disappointed with the results. An alternative name for these would be Pancakes Scones, because they were inspired by and taste like pancakes they even spread a bit more than typical scones.

From cookbook author and food writer Charlotte Druckman.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups (12 ounces) Big Batch Dry Mix (stir well before using)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

Up to 3/4 teaspoon spices (optional see NOTES)

1/2 cup toasted, unsalted cashews, coarsely chopped (see NOTES)

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Flour, for the work surface

Flaked sea salt, for sprinkling (about 2/3 teaspoon)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

Combine the Big Batch Dry Mix, cold butter pieces and spices, if using, in a mixing bowl. Use two knives or a pastry blender to work the butter and flour into pea-size pieces (this step can be done in a food processor, pulsing as needed, then transfer to the mixing bowl). Stir in the cashews and toss to distribute evenly.

Pour 1/3 cup of the buttermilk into a large liquid measuring cup, then add the 1/3 cup of maple syrup and the vanilla extract use a fork to whisk until well incorporated. Pour over the dry mixture use a flexible spatula to stir and form a moist dough with some floury bits showing. If the dough isn't coming together or seems dry, add more buttermilk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach the desired consistency.

Lightly flour a work surface. Transfer the dough there and gently knead a few times until the dough is evenly moist and just holds together. Be careful not to overwork the dough or the scones will be dense.

Gently pat and shape the dough into a 6-inch disk. Use a large knife to cut the dough into 8 equal wedges. Transfer them to the baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.

Whisk together the egg, the remaining tablespoon of maple syrup and the heavy cream in a bowl, then use the mixture to liberally brush the tops of each scone. Sprinkle them with the flaked salt.

Bake (middle rack) until the tops are lightly browned and the tops spring back when gently pressed, 16 to 18 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the scones cool, about 15 minutes, before serving or storing.

NOTES: For spices, you can use ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves, freshly grated nutmeg, ground cardamom or espresso powder.

To toast the cashews, spread them on a baking sheet bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned. Cool completely before using.

Nutrition | Per scone (using 1/2 cup buttermilk): 350 calories, 6 g protein, 47 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 190 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 17 g sugar

Bread-n-Butter Pickle Corn Bread

As this rendition proves, the addition of chopped pickles is one of the better things to happen to this American staple. Working cottage cheese, Sriracha and - the real trick - some reserved pickle juice into the batter might just land this in the baking canon.

From cookbook author and food writer Charlotte Druckman.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) Big Batch Cornmeal Dry Mix (stir well before using)

1 1/2 teaspoons table salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup cottage cheese, preferably full fat

1 cup drained bread-and-butter pickles, coarsely chopped, plus 1 tablespoon of their pickle juice (from the jar)

2 tablespoons Sriracha (may substitute hot sauce of your choice)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted melted butter, plus 1 teaspoon for the skillet

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Preheat a 9-inch cast-iron skillet on the stove on low heat, gradually increasing the heat to medium.

Combine the Big Batch Cornmeal Dry Mix, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.

Use a fork to whisk together the buttermilk, cottage cheese, eggs, the tablespoon of pickle juice and the Sriracha in a large liquid measuring cup until well blended. Pour over the dry ingredients along with the 8 tablespoons of melted butter, the chopped pickles, chives and dill use a flexible spatula to stir and form a lumpy batter.

Melt the remaining teaspoon of butter in the hot skillet, tilting to coat. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake (middle rack) until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Run a round-edged knife around the edges to loosen the bread, then invert onto the rack and lift off the pan. Let cool completely before serving. (The bread can also be served directly out of the skillet.)

Nutrition | Per serving (based on 12): 210 calories, 5 g protein, 25 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 55 mg cholesterol, 590 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar

Three-Step Basic Cake

To make a basic single-layer cake (8-inch square or 9-inch round) or loaf cake (8 1/2-by-4 1/2 inches), use a fork to whisk together 2 1/2 cups Big Batch Dry Mix, 1/3 cup granulated sugar or packed light or dark brown sugar and up to 2 teaspoons spices in a mixing bowl.

Whisk together 1 cup buttermilk, unsweetened coconut milk, water or a fruit puree, 2 large eggs, up to 1 1/2 tablespoons flavorings, 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, 8 tablespoons unsalted melted butter in a liquid measuring cup, then pour over the dry mixture, along with up to 1 1/2 cups of add-ins. Stir to form a lumpy batter. Pour into a greased/floured pan, scatter pre-bake toppings over the surface (optional).

Bake in a 375-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes (square or round) or 55 to 60 minutes (loaf), until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 to 20 minutes on a wire rack before removing from the pan to cool completely.

To make a two-layer cake, double the recipe and bake in two pans.

Three-Step Basic Corn Bread (Sweet)

To make an 8-inch square or loaf (8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches), use a fork to whisk together 2 1/2 cups Big Batch Cornmeal Dry Mix, 1/3 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar or packed light or dark brown sugar and up to 1 teaspoon spices in a mixing bowl.

Whisk together 1 cup buttermilk, unsweetened coconut milk or a fruit puree, 2 large eggs, up to 1 1/2 tablespoons flavorings and 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup, then pour over the dry mixture, along with 8 tablespoons unsalted melted butter and up to 1 cup of add-ins (optional). Gently fold until well blended, then pour into the greased/floured pan.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes (square) or 50 to 55 minutes (loaf). Cool on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes in the pan, then dislodge to cool completely.

Three-Step Basic Chocolate Cake

To make a basic single-layer cake (9-inch round), whisk together 1 3/4 cups Big Batch Chocolate Dry Mix, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, up to 3/4 teaspoon spices (optional) and 1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (optional) in a mixing bowl.

Add 3/4 cup water, 1/2 cup oil, 1 large egg and 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract and whisk to form a smooth batter. Pour into a greased/floured 9-inch round layer cake pan and tap it gently on the counter to release some of the batter's air bubbles.

Bake in a 375-degree oven for 39 to 41 minutes (square or round) until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes, then invert to dislodge and turn right side up on the rack to cool completely.

To make a two-layer cake, double the recipe and bake in two pans. To make 12 cupcakes, bake in a 375-degree oven for 17 to 19 minutes.

Extras for the Big Batch Dry Mixes

These are some of the swaps and add-ins that can be used with basic recipes that use one of the three DIY Big Batch dry mixes:

Neutral-flavored oils such as vegetable, corn, canola, grapeseed or refined coconut oil

Extra-virgin olive oil or unrefined coconut oil

Freshly grated lemon or orange zest

Freshly grated peeled ginger root

GROUND SPICES

Poppy, caraway, fennel or anise seeds

Diced crystallized ginger

Whole berries (halved or quartered, if large)

Chopped chocolate or chips

Lightly packed, coarsely shredded zucchini (avoid the center seeds, wrap in paper towels and squeeze out liquid)

Lightly packed/finely shredded carrot

Coarsely chopped dried fruit, plumped in hot water and drained

Shredded sweetened coconut/toasted coconut

Chopped scallions (for savory cornmeal batters)

Shredded or crumbled cheese (for savory cornmeal batters)

PRE-BAKE TOPPINGS (up to two per baked good)

2 tablespoons coarse sanding sugar

1/2 cup sliced or chopped almonds, walnuts, pecans and/or hazelnuts

1 medium tomato, thinly sliced and drained on paper towels (for savory cornmeal batters)


36 Fruity and Floral Cakes Made For Spring Party Season

Spring party season is the perfect excuse to whip up one&mdashor more&mdashof these sweet treats. Whether you&rsquore planning a baby shower, celebrating Mother&rsquos Day, or simply toasting to the season, these versatile spring cakes make the most of all your favorite seasonal flavors. From strawberries to blueberries, from bright citrus to perfume-packed florals, these stunning bakes are sure to impress any spring party crowd.

For a truly Southern take on spring, enjoy a recipe inspired by our favorite warm-weather beverages, like Sweet Tea Bundt Cake or Strawberry-Lemonade Cake. Few aromas say spring quite like coconut, and you can find it here too, in a recipe that infuses coconut in a classic Southern pound cake or a Coconut-Carrot Cake meant for a crowd. If you prefer a bite-size spring cake, bake the Heavenly Angel Food Cake, or slice into the Lemon-Yogurt Crumb Cake. Spring is the season when flowers bud, and these cake recipes capture the sweetness of the new season.


Celebrate Spring With These Easy Party Appetizers

We’re finally in the home stretch of what has seemed like the longest winter in history. Temperatures are starting to rise and we’re slowly emerging from our hibernation chambers, which can only mean one thing: it’s party time! After the brutal weather we’ve endured over the past few months, there’s a lot of celebrating to do. Whether you actually have something to celebrate or you just feel like throwing a party for the hell of it, here are some yummy appetizers to help make your first spring party of the season a success.

Fontina-Stuffed, Bacon-Wrapped Dates

Recipe: Browneyedbaker.com Prepare 3-4 dates per person

Fresh dates (can substitute figs)
Fontina cheese, cut to fit inside the dates
Bacon, cut into 3? pieces

1) Preheat broiler and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2) Slit the dates open, keeping the bottom in tact. Place a piece of cheese inside each date. Wrap bacon around the stuffed date, overlapping the ends on the bottom.

3) Broil for approximately 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on them so they dont burn!

*Tip: To make sure the bacon gets crispy enough, use thinly sliced pieces or substitute bacon for prosciutto.

Meatballs With Ouzo and Mint (Keftedes in Greek)

Recipe: Marthastewart.com Makes 50, Serves 6 to 8

2 slices day-old white bread, crusts removed
3 tablespoons ouzo
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
1 pound ground beef (85 percent lean)
1 large egg, plus 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 lemon

1) Tear bread into bite-size pieces, and place in a small bowl. Add ouzo. Let stand for 10 minutes to soak. Squeeze excess liquid from bread. Transfer bread to a medium bowl. Cook onion in 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until soft, about 6 minutes. Add onion to bowl with bread.

2) Add ground beef to bowl, and break up with your hands. Stir in egg and yolks, capers, garlic, mint, oregano, and salt. Season with pepper. Knead mixture until well combined, then use a spoon to stir until smooth. With moistened hands, shape mixture into 1-inch meatballs, and place on a tray. Cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

3) Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, and cook meatballs in batches, about 12 at a time, turning until evenly browned, about 5 minutes. Add fresh oil as needed for each batch. (While you work, keep cooked meatballs warm on a rimmed baking sheet in a 200-degree oven.) Finely grate lemon over meatballs, and serve warm. Stuffed Mushrooms

Recipe: Giada De Laurentiis, Foodnetwork.com Makes 28 mushrooms

Ingredients:
1/2 cup Italian-style dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
28 large (2 1/2-inch-diameter) white mushrooms, stemmed

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2) Stir the bread crumbs, Pecorino Romano, garlic, parsley, mint, salt and pepper, to taste, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium bowl to blend.

3) Drizzle a heavy large baking sheet with about 1 tablespoon olive oil, to coat. Spoon the filling into the mushroom cavities and arrange on the baking sheet, cavity side up. Drizzle remaining oil over the filling in each mushroom. Bake until the mushrooms are tender and the filling is heated through and golden on top, about 25 minutes. Serve.

Smoked Chicken and Spinach Filo Triangles

1 tsp olive oil
8 oz (225g) fresh spinach, washed, tough stems removed
4 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
4 oz (115g) smoked chicken
1 1/3 cup crme frache or heavy cream
1 tbsp chopped tarragon
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
cup toasted pine nuts
Freshly ground black pepper
4 thawed frozen filo sheets
4 tbsp butter, melted
cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1) Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the spinach, cover, and cook about 5 minutes, until tender. Drain well and let cool. Pulse the spinach, scallions, smoked chicken, crme frache, tarragon, mustard, and lemon zest in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Stir in the pine nuts and season with pepper.

2) Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Place 1 filo sheet on the work surface, with the short side running horizontally. Cover the remaining filo with a damp paper towel to prevent drying. Brush the filo sheet with melted butter. Top with a second sheet and brush again with butter. Cut the filo pastry into three 4in (10cm) strips. Place a heaping spoonful of the chicken mixture about in (13mm) below the top of a strip. Fold the right corner of the strip diagonally to the left to form a triangle that covers the filling. Fold the triangle with the filling down, and repeat folding down and over until you reach the end of the strip. Brush with butter and place on the baking sheet. Repeat with the other 3 strips, then with 2 more filo sheets and the remaining filling. Sprinkle with the Parmesan.

3) Transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot or warm.

Mini Zucchini and Goat Cheese Tarts

Recipe: Bonappetit.com Makes 6 servings

1 refrigerated pie crust (half of 15-ounce package)
2 1/2 pounds 1-inch-diameter zucchini, cut into 1/16- to 1/8-inch-thick rounds
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for drizzling
2 teaspoons chopped fresh lemon thyme or regular thyme
3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1) Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place pie crust on floured work surface. Using 1 1/2- to 1 3/4-inch cookie cutter or biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut out 24 rounds transfer to prepared sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Place in freezer until dough is firm, about 30 minutes. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover keep frozen.

2) Toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Let stand 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Place zucchini in another medium bowl toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and thyme. Sprinkle zucchini with pepper.

3) Preheat oven to 400F. Spread goat cheese generously over each frozen dough round. Fold 3 to 4 zucchini slices in half and place in concentric circle atop 1 dough round, creating flower-like pattern. Repeat with remaining zucchini and dough (reserve any remaining zucchini for another use). Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake until crusts are light golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to platter. Drizzle lightly with additional olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

White Bean Dip With Herbs

Recipe: Foodandwine.com Makes about 3 cups

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped sage
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
Two 19-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained (Any canned white beans can be used in place of the cannellini)
2 tablespoons water
Salt
Cayenne pepper
Pita chips, for serving

1) In a medium skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the garlic, sage and rosemary and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until fragrant and the garlic is just beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Add the beans and toss to coat.

2) Transfer the cannellini beans to a food processor. Add the water, season with salt and cayenne and process to a fairly smooth puree. Transfer the dip to a small serving bowl, drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil on top and serve with pita chips.

*Tip: Drizzling a high-quality olive oil over this dip will add depth and complexity, but stick with a less-expensive supermarket brand when sauting the garlic and herbs in Step 1.


20 Delicious Rhubarb Desserts for Spring

With its brightly hued, pinkish-red stalks, rhubarb is one of the most eye-catching veggies at the farmers' market (or grocery, if you're lucky enough to live near a store that stocks this unusual vegetable). On its own, rhubarb has a rather tart flavor, but sweetening it with sugar and/or pairing with various fruits (often strawberries) yields an irresistible flavor profile that's perfect for sweet-tart desserts. From traditional Rhubarb Pie and Strawberry Rhubarb Cobber, to more creative twists, such as Bluebarb Pie Ice Cream Sundaes and Rhubarb Cardamom Galette, this collection of rhubarb desserts showcases all the wonderful ways this colorful springtime veggie can satisfy a sweet tooth.


31 Ideas for Things to This March:

1. Go fly a kite: March is a very windy month and kite flying is such a fun activity that the whole family can enjoy, just remember it can still be very cold so bundle up!
2. Start planning your backyard garden: before you know it it will be time to start planting flowers, vegetables, and fruits right now is the perfect time to coordinate what would be perfect to grow for your region and space availability.
3. Learn a new cooking style: hearty foods a great and comforting in the winter but it is so fun to try new foods and cooking styles, have a go at using more raw vegetables and herbs in your meals to add some zest that is complimentary of a spring palate.
4. Spring clean your home: taking a day to go through your home to give it a little extra attention is a great way to transition from one season to another. Check out my helpful tips to make your spring cleaning a success!
5. Have a pancake: March 5th is Shrove Tuesday or Carnival, it is the last day before a fast for those who observe Lent. Looking for a yummy pancake recipe? Try my Delicious Vegan Gluten-Free Buckwheat Pancakes.
6. Dance: dancing is such a great way to shake off winter blues, it is as simple as putting some music on and going for it, it’s also much easier nowadays to put on a YouTube video and learn a new dance routine or style!
7. Learn a sport: warmer days are on the way my friends and recreational sports are so fun and good for you, I grew up playing softball and love the memories I made, and it makes me so happy to just go in the backyard and throw a ball with my kids! It is never too late to start a sport or pick it back up.
8. Celebrate International Women’s Day: tell the women in your life they are amazing, have an IWD party at work, attend a women’s networking event, donate to your local women’s shelter – there are so many great ways to celebrate this day.
9. Visit a Sugar Bush: seeing how that lovely maple syrup is made is a really fun experience, especially if you get the opportunity to pour it over pancakes too!
10. Change your clocks: daylight saving time starts on March 10th so remember that clocks move forward by an hour!


Marchpane Cookies

​ Makes about 2 dozen small cookies

Ingredients

  • ​ 2 cups ground almonds
  • ½ cup icing or confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ cup of rose sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of rose water
  • Splash of rose syrup

Directions

  1. ​ Preheat the oven to 300°F. In a large bowl, stir the ground almonds and sugar (s) until thoroughly combined.
  2. ​ Add rose water, syrup or both, one tablespoon at a time, until you have a smooth, moist play dough consistency.
  3. ​ Dust a cutting board or large piece of parchment paper with a bit of confectioner’ sugar, then place your “dough” on top.
  4. Roll out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Cut into shapes.
  5. ​ Transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake the Marchpane approx. 15 minutes or until it is just starting to brown.
  6. Cool and serve.
  7. (If you want a more moist marzipan-like confection – skip the baking and eat as is!)​

(For more on the hidden history of the rose and a recipe for divinely feminine cupcakes click here)


Doritos-style popovers

Makes: 6 large or 12 small

You can make the popovers a day or two ahead. To reheat, place them on a wire rack over a baking sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven for 6-8 minutes until hot and crisp. The recipe also doubles fine if you are feeding a crowd. If you are a bigger fan of Cool Ranch Doritos than Original, you can brush the tops of the hot popovers with a light coating of melted butter and sprinkle with ranch powder, or serve with a ranch butter made by mixing a packet of ranch dressing powder into a stick of softened unsalted butter. Look for tomato powder and cheddar cheese powder at some spice shops and online.

2 cups milk, 2% or whole milk (just not skim)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons cheddar cheese powder

1 tablespoon tomato powder

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening

1. Whisk eggs until light and foamy in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in milk and butter until incorporated.

2. Combine flour, cheese powder and seasonings in a large bowl. Whisk the milk mixture into the flour mixture until no lumps remain. Transfer batter to a large measuring cup, cover with plastic and let rest at room temperature, 1 hour. (Alternatively, batter can be refrigerated for 1 day. Bring fully to room temperature before proceeding with baking, at least 4 hours.)

3. Heat oven to 450 with the rack in the lower-middle. Generously smear shortening on the inside of a 6-cups large or 12-cups small popover pan lightly dust the cups with flour, shaking and tapping to remove any excess. If you don’t have a popover pan, you can use a muffin tin they just won’t “pop” quite as tall, but they will still be delicious.

4. Whisk the batter vigorously to make sure it is fully combined pour into popover pan, filling each cup to about ½ inch from the top. (Don’t overfill you might have a small amount of batter left over.) Bake without opening the oven door until fairly well popped and just beginning to brown, 20-25 minutes, but start checking at 15 minutes. Decrease the oven temperature to 300 degrees without opening the oven door bake until popovers are golden brown all over, 35 to 40 minutes more.

5. Open the oven door using a small skewer or the tip of a paring knife, poke a small hole in the top of each popover. Turn the pan if they are not coloring evenly. Close the door bake until deep golden brown, 5-10 minutes longer. Remove from the oven rest the popover pan on a wire rack. Poke each popover again with a skewer or knife let cool, 2-3 minutes. Turn out popovers. Serve hot with the spread or filling of your choice.

Nutrition information per serving (for 6 popovers): 314 calories, 11 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 117 mg cholesterol, 40 g carbohydrates, 5 g sugar, 13 g protein, 571 mg sodium, 2 g fiber


Colorful Baby Spinach Salad

For the Dressing
½ cup olive oil
½ cup red wine vinegar
Kosher salt to taste
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Place ingredients in a jar or container with a lid. Shake until the ingredients are well combined. The dressing can be made three days in advance. Shake well before pouring it on the salad.

For the Salad
1½ cups whole pecans
10-ounce package cherry tomatoes, preferably in various colors
4 clementines
16-ounce box baby spinach

In a toaster oven or oven, roast the pecans at 350 degrees for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Check the pecans after a minute as they burn easily. Cool to room temperature and reserve. These can be made three days ahead if kept in a sealed container.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.

Peel the clementines, break them into sections and remove the pith. If the spinach is bought triple washed, it doesn’t need to washed again. If not, rinse the spinach under cold water and dry it in a salad spinner. These three ingredients can be layered with paper towels and placed in a plastic bag a day in advance.

Before the seder begins, place the bagged ingredients in a large salad bowl. When ready to serve, add the pecans and the salad dressing. Toss until well combined.

Cornish Hens | Photo by Getty Images Plus


  1. Bring water to a boil, then remove from heat. Add tea bags, cover and let steep for 15 minutes. Remove tea bags and discard.
  2. Add sugar and baking soda. Stir until sugar dissolves
  3. Add Chambord and vodka. Stir and let cool.
  4. Pour over ice into highball glasses
  5. Optional: garnish with your favorite fresh fruits and herbs

No matter how you celebrate spring’s return, we hope these cocktails bring a little sunshine to the party. Did you give one of these a try? Snap a pic and tag us on social @partyrentalltd so we can see your creations!


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