Category Archives: Drinks

Basil-Nectarine Recipes!

Two recipes here:  Basil-Nectarine Lemonade and Easy Basil-Nectarine Cake.

Sometimes, in the hottest summers months, our Backstage Baker takes a break from baking (hence our summer hiatus from posting recipes.)  Also, James has been working out of town this summer on short but intense projects, with little time off.  Right now, he’s out in Red Bank, New Jersey at the Two River Theater, working on a production of Moliere’s “School for Wives” directed by Mark Wing-Davy.  (Check out the link here for more information.)

James has done several shows with Mark Wing-Davy:  The SkrikerTroilus and Cressida and now School for Wives.  During Troilus, A Shakespeare in the Park production one hot summer many years ago, the Tony award-winning actor Stephen Spinella was in the cast and shared the recipe for Basil Nectarine Lemonade. That drink became a summer favorite and inspired our Backstage Baker to grow basil on his balcony ever since.   It also served as the inspiration for the Basil-Nectarine Cake below.

Basil Lemonade

1 cup fresh basil
2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1 nectarine, sliced

Combine in sauce pan and simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. Strain.

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cup water

Add to strained basil mixture, stir and chill.

From there, you can see how James cobbled together the recipe below — even in a limited kitchen, you can’t stop a baker from baking.  After a trip to the local farmer’s market, James was inspired to make the following cake for his lucky cast:

Easy Nectarine Basil Cake

Ingredients:

3 eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar ( and more for sprinkling)
2 Tablespoons finely chopped basil leaves
1/2 cup butter melted (I may get daring and substitute olive oil next time)
6 medium nectarines cubed. I left the skin of for color
2 cups all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour mix (Bob’s Red Mill is a good one)
2 teaspoons baking soda

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, basil and melted butter. Add the cubed nectarines to mixture in bowl (coating as you go to keep them from turning brown.)

2. Mix together the baking soda and flour and add to the ingredients in the bowl. Mix well (best with a fork) until all of the flour is absorbed by the wet ingredients.

3. Pour mixture into one greased 9×13 pan or two 9″ round pans. Bake for approximately 55 minutes. At about 20 minutes into the baking, sprinkle additional sugar on the top for a crispier topping.

Easy Nectarine Basil Cake

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Egg Nog and Chocolate Babka – A Sublime Holiday Partnership

Babka

Now these next two recipes are from me, not our Backstage Baker, but he has given his seal of approval for both.  And, if I do say so myself, they really are a perfect treat for the holidays.   I made them both last Sunday and enjoyed them with my boys after we participated in a local Messiah sing-a-long.

I just have to digress and tell you about this Messiah.  On one level, I must confess, it was the most ear-cringingly bad rendition of this holiday classic that you are ever likely to hear.  The orchestra was chaotic, the singers were pitchy, and no one, it seemed, could count.  Handel must have been rolling over in his grave.

However, it was, conversely, also one of the most magical Messiahs I’ve ever experienced.  Everyone involved was in the same boat – all doing our very best to steer through the treacherous waters of a very sophisticated and difficult oratorio.  And we all had to approach it with the same sense of enthusiasm and willingness to fail in order to perform.   No one could judge anyone else because, well, no one knew their part perfectly.  My inner soprano, of course, sat next to my inner critic, and they tsk’d and humpf’d and shook their heads at the untold mistakes swirling about:  “If you’re going to be THIS bad, then don’t do it at all!” they cried.  However, we collectively refused to buy into negativity and pushed on regardless.   And every once in a while we all got it together and were rewarded with a glorious, perfect chord or three.  Like in the Hallelujah – everyone could belt that out and it was divine.  Those few moments of sublime partnership made the rest of it all worthwhile.  And, in the end, isn’t that what the holidays (and life) are all about?

Light Egg Nog

I love egg nog, but it’s often so heavy and fatty that I can’t eat anything else after a glass.   And who wants to miss eating all those delectable holidays treats?  So, I’ve experimented over the years with various “light” recipes that I’ve found in magazines and on the Internet, and this is what I’ve come up with.  My kids ask for it every year and now, they can even (mostly) make it themselves!

SBC Nog making

Ingredients:

2 cups milk
2 large strips orange or lemon zest
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp. vanilla extract)
2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch (dissolve it thoroughly in 1 tablespoon of warm water to avoid lumpy nog!)
White run or bourbon (optional.  Do not give liquored up nog to children.)
Ground nutmeg, for garnish (freshly grated if you have it!!)

Method:

1.  Combine 1 1/2 cups milk and citrus zest in a medium saucepan.  Split vanilla bean in half and scrape out seeds.  Add seeds and pod to pot and bring to a simmer.

2.  Meanwhile, whisk eggs, cornstarch and sugar in a medium bowl until pale yellow.

3.  Gradually pour hot milk mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly, then pour back into saucepan.  Place over medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes.

4.  Remove from heat and immediately stir in last 1/2 cup of milk to stop the cooking.  Sit bottom of pot into a large bowl with ice and water, stirring until cool.  Chill further in fridge until ready to serve.

5.  Removed zest strips and vanilla pod.  Spike with liquor, if desired and garnish with nutmeg.

Bread Machine Chocolate Babka (adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, 2009)

Ingredients:

For babka dough:

3/4 cup warm, 1% milk
6 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups bread flour
5 tbsp. butter, cut into pieces

For babka filling:
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
4 oz. mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped semi sweet chocolate bar)

Method:

1. Put all dough ingredients (in order listed above) into bread maker and set on “Dough” setting.  When dough is complete, remove from bread maker and stretch/roll/knead it out into a 16″ square.

2. Sprinkle filling over dough, leaving a 1/2″ border around the edges.

3. Roll up dough tightly, then twist, pinching seam and ends to seal. Fit dough into bread loaf pan that has been coated with cooking spray. Allow to rise for 45 minutes.

4. Bake in 350* oven for approximately 40 minutes (until brown on top and sounding hollow when rapped on bottom.)

5. Coo1 completely (or at least mostly) before slicing, otherwise it will fall apart!

NOTE:  I have split the dough into thirds and made mini-babkas in mini-loaf pans.  These make excellent holiday gifts!