Open Jars: Granola and Fruit Studded Pancakes

granola pancakes

A couple times a month, I make Sunday morning pancakes. I take my pancakes seriously and spent my childhood studying the art of the flapjack at my father’s elbow (he’s a former short order cook who spent years developing his own from-scratch pancake mix which you can find here). While I love pancakes simply for what they are (how does one describe the soul of a pancake?), I also look at them as platform for finishing off open jars of homemade stuff.

Take this last Sunday for example. I whisked together eggs, milk, a drizzle of grapeseed oil, a splash of vanilla extract and several scoops of my version of my dad’s mix. I greased and heated my perfectly seasoned, only used for pancakes griddle (I told you I’m no pancake lightweight) and made my dollops of batter. While the first side cooked, I sprinkled a bit of granola into the raw side. A little extra care went into the flipping, so as not to dislodge the granola. When they were done, my pancakes were studded with crisp bits and softened raisins.

empty jar, pancake, kindle

This is such a good way to fancy up your pancakes without putting a whole lot of extra work into them. I’ve also done this with sliced bananas, chopped pecans or dried cranberries. It also works with canned fruit like peaches, pears and plums. They can’t be too moist, just drain them a bit and chop them fine. The fruit caramelizes when you flip the cakes to cook the second side, which tastes just wonderful in the finished product.

There are just a couple things to know you cook toppings into your pancakes. The first is that you need to use a light hand when sprinkling them in. Overwhelm the cake with add-ins and your disturb its structural integrity. Spread sparingly and evenly. The second is something I alluded to above. You’ve got to take care when flipping the cakes so that you don’t end up scattering the additional bits across your stove top.

Though I’ve flipped many a cake in my day, I never take the skill for granted. You’ll need to access your meditative center during the frenzy of breakfast making, at least just for a moment. Slide the spatula under the cake (make sure to have a solid grasp on the handle) and lift. Center it back over the space where it needs to land. Take a deep breath and empty your head of any nagging worries. Finally, flip with confidence, following through with your wrist. Success!

Finally, once all your pancakes are cooked, spread them with jam (though my husband can’t be swayed from a puddle of real maple syrup) and dig in.

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Homemade Crème Fraiche

homemade crème fraiche

A week or so ago, I posted a link to this Serious Eats post about making homemade creme fraiche on the Food in Jars Facebook page. The response was quick and fevered. People were amazed at how easy and simple it was to do something like this at home.

Here’s the funny thing. This is something I’ve been doing at home for years now but it’s never occurred to me that it would make a good subject for a blog post because it’s so incredibly simple. Truly, it’s nothing more than combining some heavy cream with a generous glug of buttermilk in a jar or bowl. Give it a brief stir to combine and then leave it out on the counter (uncovered) while you sleep.

I tend to let my creme fraiche do its thing on the counter for about 24 hours before I move it to the fridge, but the length of time you let it culture depends entirely how thick you want it to be and the intensity of the tang you’re hoping to achieve (longer equals more tang). When you’re done, take a moment to marvel at the alchemy of it. It never fails to feel a little bit like magic to me.

If your kitchen is dusty or you have pets who might be interested in a jar of cream on your counter top, stretch a bit of cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar and secure it with a rubber band. The good bacteria that you’ve introduced with the buttermilk needs to be able to breathe in order to transform the cream.

homemade crème fraiche

For those of you who like more specific measurements, I use approximately three tablespoons of buttermilk for every pint of cream (though truly, I don’t measure. Who needs to clean another spoon?). I do try to use local, grass-fed cream when I can find it, as the flavor is even better. However, if you can’t find similarly pedigreed cream, don’t let that be a deterrent to giving it a try.

If you’ve never tried creme fraiche before, it’s similar to sour cream, though it’s typically got a higher percentage of butterfat. It’s also got a more complex flavor than the sour creams we can buy at the grocery store. It’s amazing stirred into soups or dolloped on top of cut fruit or berries.

Amanda Hesser frequently suggests stirring it into a bit of freshly whipped cream for lightness and nuance (though in many situations it can be substituted for the whipped cream entirely). I like it on top of flourless chocolate tort as it works well to cut the richness of the cake.

Have you tried to make creme fraiche at home before? How do you like to use it?

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Open Jars: Granola Cookies

cookies from above

I have made a lot of granola in the last month (a mighty understatement). I was testing recipes for the book and even after giving large containers of it away, I still had enough granola on my kitchen shelves to supply a small restaurant through a busy weekend brunch service, three or four times over. Though Scott and I both embrace a breakfast of granola topped yogurt, there more that we could handle in a reasonable about of time. Steps had to be taken before all that home toasted granola went fusty and stale.

granola cookies

While flipping through Baking on Saturday afternoon in search of Dorie’s cream scones, another recipe caught my attention. Called Granola Grabbers, it is essentially a heartier-than-average oatmeal cookie, made with granola as the primary ingredient. I stuck a magazine subscription card in to serve as reminder to come back and take a closer look. After all, I had a bounty of granola in need of transformation.

granola cookie dough

Last night found me standing in the kitchen wanting to make something for all of you. I’ve been feeling a little bit lost in the face of late winter. I know citrus is the thing this time of year, but somehow I can’t summon the energy to chop lemons for marmalade right now. So instead of putting something in a jar, I took the remains of a batch of granola (it’s a dried cranberry and orange-scented thing that will be in the book) and made cookies inspired by those granola grabbers.

granola cookies

Though I restrained myself from healthy-ing up the cream scones I posted about on Monday, I wasn’t able to keep from making a few adjustments here. I replaced some of the dairy butter with apple butter (another open jar finished off!), cut the sugar by half (and they’re still quite sweet) and used whole wheat pastry flour in place of the all-purpose. I also added some cinnamon and nutmeg that weren’t in the original recipe, to help bolster the fading flavors of my aging granola.

granola cookies

Having made this recipe as a basic cookie, I think I’ll try it as a bar next time. They are so dense and crumbly (but in a good way) that I think I’d like to be able to grab a smaller bit than these hefty cookies allow. That said, I am not at all unhappy to have them in my cookie jar. In fact, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t bring one or two along to work today, to nibble after lunch (plus, I could use something homemade after my cafeteria salad).

Oh, there’s one more thing you should know before you tackle this one yourself. Dorie’s original recipe asks that you use granola without added fruit. Her very valid concern is that the fruit in store-bought granola can be very dry. However, my homemade granola included plump, moist dried cranberries and lots of slivered almonds. Because of that, I used four cups of granola and omitted the additional cranberries and almonds. I know that granola will vary, so I’ve included her original proportions here. Feel free to use your best judgment when you make these for yourself.

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Dorie Greenspan’s Cream Scones

cream scones, unbaked

This weekend, two of my dearest friends were in town. Cindy came from Washington, D.C. and Ingrid came in from Texas, for a pre-wedding weekend prior to Ingrid’s big day in April. We gathered some other area friends together and threw Ingrid a small shower on Saturday afternoon. We gathered a variety of meats, cheeses and fruit from the Italian Market in South Philadelphia, so that Cindy could build one of her signature platters of delicious things. Una brought a lovely carrot cake to share. There was champagne and cucumber-scented water. And I made a batch of these scones, mostly as an excuse for eating jam.

cream scones, baked

Typically when I bake, I do my best to tweak the recipe I’m working with in order to make the final product a bit more virtuous. I’ll often substitute whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose or try to reduce the amount of fat a bit. However, there are certain occasions in life that deserve indulgent baked goods, unadulterated by whole grain flours and blessed with the amount of butter that god (or Dorie Greenspan) intended. I believe that chatty, afternoon wedding showers are just that sort of event.

This scone recipe comes from Dorie’s book Baking: From My Home to Yours. Another friend made these scones for my shower (they somehow just seem to fit the occasion) and since have become a dependable recipe for those times when I need something that is quick, simple and so delightful when drizzled with jam.

The only change I’ve made from Dorie’s original recipe is I’ve omitted the currants that she called for, to make them even more of a blank slate (all the better to receive any flavor of jam).

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Elemaris XL Winners

Goodness, you guys sure like your water. I was totally floored by how many of you were excited about the Elemaris giveaway! With the help of, I’ve selected our five winners.

Congratulations to Traci, Emily, Jill, Dominique and Kari! I’ll be emailing soon.

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Pear Vanilla Jam

pear vanilla jam

Despite the fact that I’ve now made this jam twice in as many weeks, I don’t have any pretty progress shots of it. I made it once with a class and another time for a video shoot, so there just weren’t any moments to snap a few images. However, it tastes so good that I didn’t want to deprive you all of the opportunity to make it just because I wasn’t able to make time for photography.

This is truly a transformative jam for vanilla lovers. Flavor-wise, pears are fairly retiring, so they provide a perfect platform for the vanilla to shine. What’s more, when cooked, the pears take on a translucent, golden-y hue that allows all those vanilla bean flecks to show their stuff.

pear vanilla jam on toast

Last Saturday night, we had a party to celebrate my husband’s 34th birthday. As in traditional in our little family of two, we put together a board of eight cheeses for our guests. I pulled out a couple of jars of jam to serve as accompaniment, but it was this one that got all the love. Paired with a runny triple creme, people were speechless with the goodness of it. Because I’m a girl who loves to share, I gave all the other jars away as late night party favors and now I’m totally out (I finished off the jar you see above yesterday). I may have to make another batch, so you may see those pictures yet.

Note: Often I’ll tell you that you can substitute vanilla extract for the more pricey beans. However, I do not recommend it in this recipe. Splurge a little and get the two beans. They are a vital ingredient in this recipe and I just don’t think you’ll be happy with the outcome should you make a substitution.

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