Posts Tagged ‘Pioneer Woman


Suspend your disbelief: this prune cake’s actually really good


A steaming bowl of mashed prunes isn’t exactly an auspicious start to a cake. In fact, it can do the opposite of whetting the appetite.

Yet this prune cake with buttermilk icing from the Pioneer Woman’s really, really good. Like a mild spice cake without the annoying cloyingness you can get from too much molasses and/or brown sugar. The buttermilk icing gives the entire thing a caramelly finish.


I suppose if she called it dried plum cake, it wouldn’t sound that much better. Seriously, though, no matter your feelings for prunes, this is a cake worth trying if you’ve got some extra buttermilk in the fridge.

You can cut back on the sugar without hurting the taste (I cut back to 3/4 cup for the cake and 3/4 cup for the icing. I didn’t end up using all of the icing.). Provided you don’t over-mix the batter, you get a super fluffy, moist cake that will having you re-evaluating your preconceived notions of prunes.


Pioneer Woman’s strawberry oatmeal bars, a decidely unhealthy treat

Sifting through the user ratings on this strawberry oatmeal bar recipe, you might be misled into thinking that these are good for you. But take a closer look at the ingredients. Nearly 2 sticks of butter and a cup of sugar—that doesn’t even include the sugar in the preserves. While I clearly embrace sugar in my diet (a lot more than I should), these bars turned out too sweet even for me.

Pioneer Woman's strawberry-oatmeal bars

Tasty but not likely to be good for you, apart from the oats.

While it’s not a healthy recipe as-is, there are easy modifications that could make it more like a granola bar and less like a dessert: swapping out the white flour for whole-wheat pastry flour, maybe. Adding flaxseeds or nuts could also up the health ante. But this was my first time making them so I tried none of the above. I did, however, add a handful of toasted coconut flakes. I also substituted raspberry-apricot preserves, since I didn’t have any strawberry in the house.

Pioneer Woman’s show is compulsive viewing: partly because of her laid-back sense of humor, and partly because her family’s ranching lifestyle gives us a glimpse into a completely different world. But bear in mind that her recipes tend to be rich (and portioned for a small army) because (1) she’s got 4 kids, and (2) her family can afford to eat like that. They’re doing hard labor on a regular basis around the ranch. Meanwhile, many of us sit at a desk for at least 40 hours a week, and the likelihood we’re going to burn down a barn or round up cattle anytime soon is low. So I’ve made a mental note to bear that in mind when attempting her recipes, and adjust accordingly.


A test run of Pioneer Woman’s lemon-blueberry pancakes

Maybe a couple times a year, I’ll get a mad craving for pancakes. But it doesn’t strike often, because pancakes are like matzoh balls: eat too many, soon it feels like you’re packing a musket. [Aside: I usually go for the blueberry pancakes from Silver Diner. They’re good without being overly heavy.]

A food stylist once told me the secret to making pancakes look good in ads: dark corn syrup, which is gooey-er so it doesn't soak into the pancakes as quickly. (That's maple syrup pictured here.)

When I saw Pioneer Woman’s recipe for lemon-blueberry pancakes in People magazine (the Steve Jobs issue), I thought I’d give it a go. For one, I wanted to see if she of the wildly popular blog—now a Food Network show—knows what she’s doing in the kitchen.

Two, looking at the ingredients, these aren’t your run-of-the-mill starch bricks. The recipe calls for cake flour, which is lighter than all-purpose. The lemon juice doesn’t just add flavor, it creates a “buttermilk” for fluffier pancakes. Brilliant, because I hate buying buttermilk. I seldom end up using the whole container, and freezing it turns it into smeg. (Another fluffy-pancake secret is egg whites, like at Clinton St. Bakery. But do you really want to spend your Saturday morning separating eggs and whipping them?) I also liked that the recipe uses almost exactly 1 can of evaporated milk. Unlike the fresh kind, it lasts for eons.

Don't over-stir the batter or your pancakes could get tough.

Verdict: Worth adding to your recipe files. The brightness of the lemon, along with bursts of blueberries, make you feel like you’re eating a food-pyramid-approved version of the classic. Also, there’s just a few tablespoons of sugar in the batter to balance the lemon juice. So you’re in control as far as tweaking the sweetness later with your maple syrup.

Recipe notes:

  • Don’t buy cake flour: I substituted pastry flour for cake flour, because that’s what I had in the pantry. If you only have all-purpose flour, you can simulate cake flour by cutting it with corn starch.
  • Don’t overmix: The batter doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth. Otherwise, the pancakes could get tough. I mixed the ingredients by hand.
  • Fold gently: Be careful to fold in the blueberries gently as a last step, or you’ll get purple batter, along with battered blueberries.
  • Use frozen blueberries, if you can’t find fresh: By the time I made these pancakes last weekend, I couldn’t find fresh blueberries at prices I’d actually pay.
  • Zest as many lemons as you want: I used the zest of 2 lemons. Might even go with 3 next time.
  • Use a nonstick pan in addition to greasing the pan with a pat of butter.
  • Go small: Smaller pancakes = easier to flip and eat.