Intrepid Food Exploration

Intrepid Food Exploration

New Jersey Crumb Buns

I’ve lived in Woodstock for a long time now, but deep down I’m still a Jersey girl. There are a lot of things that you can only find in the Garden State. The best tomatoes come from there. Springsteen, the sweetest blueberries and salt water taffy come from there. And then, there’s the crumb buns!
        Every weekend of my young life, my sister and I went to stay with our maternal grandparents. And every Sunday morning, we had crumb buns from the local bakery. They were the BEST! A thin, yeasty layer of cake topped with a lot of tender sweet crumbs that had a slight crunch on the top, all dusted generously with powdered sugar.
        Being young, I just assumed that they would always be a part of my life. But when I grew up and moved away, they were nowhere to be found. And I looked. Every time I passed a bakery, anywhere, I would stop and check it out. Were there any crumb buns that lived up to the ones of my childhood? Nope.
        Last week I was flipping through one of many of my food magazines, and a photo caught my eye. My crumb buns! They looked exactly like what I used to eat. I knew just from the picture that they would be “the ones.” And there they were. I found them! And now I can share them with you. Yum!

LESSONS Learned:
1. A stand mixer with a dough hook is the way to go for this recipe. And even though yeast can be intimidating, the mixer will do all the work for you. You’ll find they're pretty easy to make.
2. The reason you combine the yeast first with some warm milk and sugar is to make sure it’s active. You don’t want to go to all of this trouble and not have it rise.
3. You’ll find you’re going to make alot of crumb topping. This is not a mistake. Trust me, you’re going to happily use it all.

Janice Kollar is a former jingle singer, music arranger, and the pastry chef and owner of Peace, Love and Cupcakes in Woodstock. New York. She is the winner of two  Food Network competitions, The Best Cake in the Country and Re-wrapped. She c0-authored The Butch Bakery and is currently working on another cookbook. Follow her sweet and savory kitchen adventures on her blog, MyWoodstockKitchen.com.

Real New Jersey Crumb Buns

Makes 12 servings. Recipe slightly adapted from Cook’s Country Magazine, February 2017.

For the cake:

Crumb Buns

Crumb Buns

  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast, one ¼ ounce package
  • 2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, I like Heckers
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces and softened

For the crumb topping:

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 ¼ sticks (18 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups cake flour
  • confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Make the yeasted base:
        Adjust the oven rack to the middle of the oven. Generously butter a 9” x 13” baking dish.
        In a small bowl, heat ¼ cup of the milk to 100-105 degrees. Stir in the sugar and yeast. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.
        In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, add the flour, milk, sugar, egg and salt and yeast mixture. Mix on medium-low speed until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes. Keep the mixer running and add the butter one piece at a time, allowing each piece to be almost incorporated before adding the next.
        After all the butter has been added, turn up the mixer to medium- high and continue kneading until the dough forms a ball, and slaps against the side of the bowl, about 6-7 minutes. It will be soft, smooth and a little sticky. With a buttered spatula, scrape the dough into the buttered baking dish. Using your fingers press the dough out to the edges in one even layer. (You can flour your fingers if the dough is too sticky.) Cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for about one hour until slightly risen and puffy.

Make the crumb topping:
        While the dough rises, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
        In a medium-size bowl, combine the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add to the sugar mixture, stirring to combine. Add the flour and stir until the mixture forms a thick well-mixed dough. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the dough and let sit until ready to use.

Make the buns:
        Check the dough and press it back into the edges of the pan if needed. Break off ½” to 1” pieces of the crumb topping, and evenly scatter them all over the dough. There’s a lot, but that’s what we want.
        Bake until the crumbs are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. If you have thermometer, it should read about 215 degrees in the center.
        Cool completely. Cut into twelve 3” squares.



Chocolate Pound Cake

Full Disclosure, I was raised in California by a southern mom.  Many parts of our great country claim food as part of their culture.  For southerners it is part of their soul.  I could go on about numerous southern dishes.  However, my most vivid memory is of Aunt Rosie’s Chocolate Pound Cake.  I remember tasting it the first time.  I was probably around 5 years old.  We walked to Rosie’s after church for “dinner”.  I ate my meal particularly fast since I could see the cake, sitting there waiting for me.

It was a simple cake.  There were no decorations of fancy swirls in the icing. It was a round cake, made in a tube pan, with a chocolate glaze poured haphazardly over it.  IT LOOKED GOOD!

As a kid most sweets are devoured quickly.  I realized after the first bit that this cake required time and attention.  The cake was so dense and didn’t crumble like a regular cake.  The taste was sweet and stayed in my mouth long after I finished swallowing. The icing had a rough texture but at the same time it was smooth.  I noticed that it was a light brown cake, not dark like a devils food cake. I wanted more cake and I wanted to know more about this cake.

Several years ago, as my grandparents were preparing to move out of their home and after my great aunt had passed away, my mother asked if there was anything in particular I would want from either home. “YES! I want the recipes!”.

I had no idea that there would be so many old cookbooks, binders of handwritten recipes and a 12X12 box filled with scraps of paper of handwritten recipes, bank books with recipes scrawled on the back cover and a collection of newspaper and magazine recipes that I am sure the editor of Southern Living would kill to have.  These recipes made real the folklore of our family. Finally having these recipes offered me the opportunity to connect with my ancestors in a way I never could before.  The recipes that called for a “Granny’s hand full of sugar”, made me realize how petite my great grandmother was compared to the rest of us.  These recipes helped me to imagine Granny standing in the very kitchen that my Great Aunt Rosie made my favorite Chocolate Pound Cake.  Now I have the recipe and can stand in my kitchen share baking it with my daughters.

As I was making my way through all of these recipes one thing stood out to me, Pound Cake.  I knew that my family loved pound cake.  We ate it at almost every occasion and even for no occasion at all. It was always available at all of our homes.  You could walk into any aunts or cousins home and have a slice, at any time.   We had regular pound cake and chocolate pound cake.  We had pound cake plain and pound cake with whipped cream or frosting.  I quickly realized that, at least for our family, there were many, many ways to prepare pound cake. I started to wonder if there was one standard way to make pound cake and just what the history of this versatile cake was.

The first mention of “pound cake” comes in the 1700’s.  As you might suspect the name comes from the ingredients: a pound each of butter, sugar, flour and eggs.  This was intentional and practical, since most commoners didn’t read and conventional measuring tools hadn’t been created yet.  Most cooks had some sort of scale in their kitchens.

Later in the century there was evidence of changing pound cake recipes.  In the first American cookbook, there are two recipes for pound cake.  The first stays true to the original.  The second adds rose water and brandy.  They also separate the eggs, in the second.  This indicates they are looking for a way to lighten up the cake by beating the whites separately and then folding them in.  By 1891 Southerners are calling pound cake their own and by the 1900s we are using leaveners to lighten the cake.

What is it about a pound cake that is so intriguing and long lasting? At it’s most basic form it is an easy cake that anybody can bake. The humblest of no-reading servants to the most confident of chef have made this cake.  It probably started as a practical recipe.  Let’s face it a cake that is made of four pounds of ingredients is going to serve quite a few people for quite a few days.  The pound cake is a most versatile baked good that can be served at every meal from breakfast toast to and extravagant after dinner dessert.  Have you ever had a piece of pound cake toasted and slathered with butter or strawberry jam?  Magic!  My mouth is watering already.

 “If you’re afraid to use butter, use cream.” – Julia Child

Judi Leib has a long and varied history with food. Her mother loved to tell the story of discovering a two-year-old Judi standing on a chair in the kitchen with a dozen eggs in a cast iron pan and a pound of bacon on the floor. It was from that moment that her fate was sealed. From hostess, to General Manager, to chef, Judi has done it all in the food business. Follow her culinary adventures on her blog, The Lost Chef.

Rosie’s Chocolate Pound Cake

Ingredients for the cake: 

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup shortening (Crisco)
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups Flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions for the cake: 

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Cream together butter and shortening with sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, blending after each.
  3. Sift together all dry ingredients.  Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in thirds alternating with milk. Add vanilla.
  4. Bake in a floured and greased tube pan for 1 hour 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.


Ingredients for the frosting: 

  • 1/2 cup shortening or butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions for the frosting:

Stir all ingredients together over medium heat and dissolved, about 2 minutes.  If it is too thick add 1 teaspoon cream.

Coconut Ginger Rice

Coconut Ginger Rice with Lime. Rice steeped in rich, creamy coconut milk and water, with slices of ginger perfuming the liquid and finished off with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.  Just by the name of it, you’d think you’d could be somewhere lush dining poolside.  I came upon this recipe in a cookbook focusing on cooking with big, bold flavors nourishing the body, mind, and spirit. At the same time, a curious new term has been added to my lexicon, “culinary pharmacy,” describing the beneficial and healing properties of ingredients and spices.

The key ingredients in this recipe – coconut milk, ginger, lime and of course whole grain rice – all have anti-inflammatory properties and are also antimicrobial and antibacterial.  Foods labeled "healthy" or "clean" have a reputation as boring and a bit bland; however, when you have foods with pronounced flavors that play with the taste-buds in your mouth, you realize "healthy" is delicious and may even seem a bit decadent.

Serve this as a main with cumin roasted carrots and cauliflower or accompanying a delicate roasted white fish, such as a miso-glazed Cod or Halibut. This everyday recipe will make you want to break out your passport.

ButterFlourSugarSalt’s Cathy Lee Gruhn’s love affair of all things kitchen and food can be traced back to watching episodes Julia Child with her mother and being mesmerized by Gourmet magazine. This love affair was confirmed while in culinary school where she studied Pastry Arts.  Cathy’s career has included 25+ years in book publicity, specializing in cookbooks and lifestyle; working with names that include Nigella Lawson, Yotam Ottolenghi, Chef Michael Anthony, James Beard Award Winning Food Writer Michael Ruhlman, and many others.

ButterFlourSugarSalt.com is her virtual recipe box for both delicious sweet and savory food that isn’t fussy or overly complicated.  You can find ButterFlourSugarSalt on Facebook (@Butterfloursugarsalt ) and Instagram (butterfloursugarfloursalt).

Coconut Ginger Rice

The three main ingredients in this recipe make you feel like you’re on vacation.  In the coldest of days, this recipe will warm you up and on the sunny, warm days, you’ll feel carefree.  I found in making the recipe that I needed to keep the rice on low –simmer until all the liquid was absorbed and I saw small steam vents as it cooked in the pot. Serves 6

Coconut Ginger Rice

Coconut Ginger Rice


1 (15.5- ounce) can Coconut Milk

1 ¼ cups water

½ tsp. salt

1 to 1½ inches fresh Ginger, sliced into rounds

1 cup Brown Rice

1 tsp. fresh lime juice, plus zest of the lime (reserved)

¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro or mint

¼ cup chopped cashews or peanuts (optional)


  1. Rinse the rice in water until clear (optional)
  2. Press the pieces of ginger against the flat edge of a knife on a cutting board to release the flavor.
  3. In a pot, combine the coconut milk, water, pieces of ginger and salt and bring to a full boil over medium heat. Add the rice, stirring well.  Return the contents to a boil and lower the flame to low and cover tightly.  
  4. Simmer until the liquid is fully absorbed.  
  5. Take off the heat and remove the pieces of ginger.  Add the lime juice and cilantro (or mint) and “fluff” with a fork.  
  6. Spoon the rice into a bowl and sprinkle the lime zest on top and garnish with chopped nuts.
  7. The rice will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.