Ginger banana bread with cardamom crunch topping

January 12, 2012 § 36 Comments

Banana bread and I go way back.  Way.

It was “my thing” for a while, actually.

Growing up, my mother’s baking repertoire was very nearly purebred Norwegian, and concentrated solely on holidays.  The rest of the time the oven’s use was confined to roasts and braises.  If it wasn’t boller, birthday cake, or a Christmas cookie, it didn’t get baked at our house.

But, every now and then at a friend’s house I would be invited to have a bite of something wonderful for a snack.  A lace-thin slice of intensely moist, banana flavored, bread-cake, shot through with the little black squiggles that banana bread develops, and now and then with melting chocolatey chunks.  Best. Snack. Ever.  I was convinced of it.  I would dream of it often during the long, stark periods during which I had to do without.

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Spiced cinnamon sugar breakfast puffs

December 20, 2011 § 24 Comments

On the off chance that your holiday breakfast plan is not yet inscribed in stone; in case you aren’t already bound and determined to have a strata, or frittata, or sticky buns, or perhaps puffy pancakes or spoon bread; or maybe you’d like to just add some icing to your giant, decadent, multi-course holiday brunch cake; well then dear friends, may I venture a suggestion.

I actually feel a bit ashamed that I’ve been holding this recipe from you for so long.  It’s a recipe that may, in fact, deserve a little shouting from the rooftops.  And, it’s a recipe with a history, which means stories.

I didn’t know any of the stories when I first started baking the original version (this is a wholly different iteration, but we’ll get to that later), I just knew that I had the recipe copied down on an index card from my friend, and I had labeled it “breakfast puffs.”

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Warm custard spoon bread

December 13, 2011 § 12 Comments

Does’t that just sound like the food version of cuddling on the couch in front of a fire?  Warm custard spoon bread.  Every word there is like a friendly little squeeze.  Every word there says to me, “I am unbelievably amazingly delicious and decadent.  You should probably drop everything and make me right now.”

I don’t know why but I am an absolute sucker for foods that have the word spoon in their title.  (I am a sucker for warm, custard, and bread as well.  But, those are more standard enticements than you’d expect an eating utensil to be.)  It’s like a short hand for something being so ooey gooey, soft, and tender that you have to eat it with a spoon.  Like Nutella right from the jar.

I have been actively yearning for this dish for a year now.  At least I have whenever it has been brought to my attention.  Then, as with most other things that are actually important to me to remember (as opposed to random facts and other people’s schedules which stick in my mind with remarkable fortitude), I promptly forget about it as soon as I am not looking at the recipe.  I don’t know why this happens, but I know I’m not the only one who does this.  I’ve heard from all sorts of people that it can somehow take months or years for them to get around to making a dish that they desperately wanted to try upon seeing it.

Maybe it’s a built in mechanism to allow us the great pleasure afforded by deferred gratification.  Maybe people did experiments on us when we were little, telling us not to eat the marshmallow in front of us, and this is the strategy we developed to succeed.  Most likely we’re just scatterbrained by virtue of the way the information stimuli in our society are fed to us. « Read the rest of this entry »

Orange scented sticky buns with olive oil dough

November 26, 2011 § 35 Comments

Thanksgiving is over.  Sigh…

Now let’s turn up the “Jingle Bells” and start preparing for Christmas!!!

Okay, just kidding.  I’m not ready to start decking halls and listening to Christmas carols quite yet, no matter what the advertising industry wants me to do.  Though the twinkle lights that have been appearing on the trees in the squares, making them look as though a little fairy has flown through and sprinkled holiday cheer dust everywhere, are bringing me a great deal of joy (thank you fairy and/or city decorators!).

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“Em’s Buns

September 26, 2011 § 6 Comments


…They’re cheeky! (TM)”  That’s the name and slogan of my imaginary company. In my mind I even have caps and aprons with this printed on them, along with a little line drawing of a rotund bun speckled with sesame seeds. You see, when I threaten to drop out of my PhD program, (which happens at least once a week, if not more. The threats increase with the approach of each deadline and then subside after successfully achieving said deadline.  It’s kind of one of my ways of pretending like I’m rebellious, and of asserting my sense of autonomy – and the word on the street is almost every PhD student under the sun does something similar, well except for the part to follow) my plan for what I will do next is to start a bicycle-pulled food stand from which I will sell little stuffed buns as an afternoon snack from 2:30-5pm.  And, it’s my idea, so don’t steal it!! 🙂

The idea for afternoon buns was inspired by the buns they have at the St. John Hotel. I’ve never had their afternoon buns, but I read their description of them as “warm little buttock-like buns” and I thought it was the most hilarious and ingenious thing ever. Basically everything Fergus Henderson does is genius.

A little stuffed bun is exactly what I want as a snack in the afternoon every day. So, I decided I absolutely had start working on making them.

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Skolebrød + 2 years old!

August 24, 2011 § 34 Comments

5 & Spice is two years old (two years young?) today!  Admittedly, in the scheme of blogs, that’s not very old yet.  But, to be perfectly honest, when I first started writing, I’m pretty sure I expected that by the end of two years, I wouldn’t have anything left to say.  Instead, I feel like I keep having more to say, more that I’m excited about, more I want to share with you.

It’s like one of those conversations where, each time it starts trickling off and you think maybe it will end, instead a new and even more exciting topic comes up, and you keep talking, until finally you look up and notice that the sun is rising, you’ve been talking all night, and you can’t think of any other way you would rather have spent your time.

I’m not one of those people lucky enough to have discovered early on that they have a calling (to those of you who do, I am way jealous!), however, having stumbled into this little world of developing, photographing, and writing about recipes (okay, okay, and writing about my random thoughts and stories), it feels suspiciously close to one.  It’s more of a persistent beckoning, perhaps, than a “haloo-there” call.

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Simply (the best) raspberry muffins

July 20, 2011 § 16 Comments

Photo by James Ransom

This is the story of some muffins.  It’s a story I almost wasn’t going to tell you because these muffins disappeared almost as soon as they happened, leaving nary a crumb and certainly no trace of photographic evidence (that’s what morning and house guests will do to muffins, you see).  And it’s very rare I cook something twice, so if it’s gone, it’s gone.

Gone-ish.  Sometimes I jot down notes from the recipe.  Sometimes I share it.  And sometimes then, the dish reappears.  That’s what these muffins did.  They resurfaced, emblazoned with a badge of honor: “simply the best raspberry muffins.”

Photo by James Ransom

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Syrian Flat bread

June 5, 2011 § 11 Comments

Okay, I’m afraid this is going to have to be a short one.  Like, a really short one. Blink and you’ll miss it!  But anyways, I realized that when I was talking about my mushroom-falafels (or falafshrooms, if you prefer) I told you that I made a batch of homemade flatbread and then left you hanging.  And, well, friends don’t tell friends about supple, chewy fresh-from-the-oven flatbreads and then not share the recipe.  So, here it is!

It was partially inspired by a pita recipe, but then I remembered that, actually, I don’t like pitas as much as I like more tender, thicker enriched flatbreads, the style you might get at a Syrian restaurant for example.  So, I fiddled with the recipe to make these breads more like those.  With a little nod to naan, as well, since it’s my favorite flatbread.  These are fairly easy as far as bread goes, and worth rolling your sleeves up and grabbing the mixing bowl for.  Plus, you can make a bunch and freeze some (in freezer bags) to reheat later.  If you’re me this will turn out to be a mere two days later.  Oh well.  I’ll just have to make another batch soon. « Read the rest of this entry »

Strawberry buttermilk bread

May 26, 2011 § 20 Comments

I woke up yesterday morning and something felt funny. It felt different. At first I couldn’t put my finger on it, and then I suddenly realized that it was sunny. Sun! Glorious sun! We pretty much hadn’t seen the sun for two weeks, and I had really almost forgotten what it felt like to wake up to light coming trickling through the windows.

The world felt airy, fresh, benevolent.

And then I found myself in an amazing fleet of bicycles on my way into work. I love bike traffic jams! Even if I get stuck cycling behind someone who’s slower than me, it fills me with glee to see that people are making the choice to get out and ride to get to work instead of automatically choosing their cars.

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Jammy scones

May 10, 2011 § 4 Comments

Look!  Look!  I baked with spelt!  And it was so tasty.  This is probably not that exciting to anyone else.  Most of you can probably eat things like regular spelt, and barley, and oats and therefore don’t find yourself standing in the baking aisle of the grocery store absently gazing at the packages of whole grain flours (I might even have caressed a sack of teff, but we’re not going to talk about that), pining after their toothy, nutty flavors.  Oh, Bob’s Red Mill, King Arthur Flour, how you and your wide selections of grains move me!

Not that I dislike plain white flour.  Not at all.  I mean, it’s the stuff croissants and baguettes are made of!  But, sometimes both my taste buds and my nutrition-y conscience wish I could eat whole grains.  Luckily for them, during my last dreamy foray down the baking aisle I stumbled upon something magical, bags of sprouted whole wheat and whole spelt.  They’re selling sprouted grains now?!  Cool!  I snatched up a bag of the spelt, balked briefly at the price, put it down, and then picked it back up and put it into my cart anyway.

I eat a lot of sprouted grains in the form of the sprouted grain bread that you can get from the freezer in the natural section of the grocery store.  Now, while not overall too bad – especially as toast – this bread does have hints of cardboard in its flavor.  However, having some of my own sprouted grain to bake with seemed like it would open up all sorts of wondrous possibilities.  The most important among these possibilities being scones (though I’m also thinking now that a spelt banana bread would be delicious).  (Oh, and also (you know, while I’m using parentheticals and all), don’t worry if you don’t have sprouted spelt around, you can also use regular spelt flour or whole wheat pastry flour for these beauties.)

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