Cranberry Buttermilk Biscuits

Why, hello again! I hope you are all having a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with lots of delicious food, family, and friends. This is the first year that I’m not going home for Thanksgiving, because with the silly quarter system schedule with Northwestern, I would have only had to come back here for one week between winter break and Thanksgiving, and figured I would save the money on airfare and try to get a bit of work done in my apartment.

It’s been quite awhile since I last posted, as you probably realized. Life has been a bit crazy the past months, with me starting my junior (?!?!) year at Northwestern, taking lots and lots of classes, and going to a plethora of music festivals over the summer. I was traveling a lot, going from Ottawa to Bowdoin to northern Quebec, and it was so, so wonderful. I had the opportunity to work with wonderful teachers from the US and Canada, and the musicians I met were all so inspirational, and I really grew as both a musician and a person.

I have to admit, I’m slightly embarrassed by how little I cook now that I have my own place at school. When I get home, I’m usually famished and am looking for something that I can eat without having to cook for more than 5 minutes. I’ve been eating lots of the marinated tofu and pre-cooked frozen brown rice from Trader Joe’s, although there have been a few nights where I ~splurge~ and make some fish. In addition, I don’t have the luxury of my mom‘s pantry, so my cooking and baking time has been limited. Thankfully, I’ve had some time to leisurely make some treats using one of my all time favorite ingredients- fresh cranberries. These biscuits are light and flaky, and an easy start to a day that is filled with lots of food.

Cranberry Buttermilk Biscuits: Makes 6 biscuits

Adapted from How Sweet Eats


  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 5/8 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3-1/2 cup fresh cranberries


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and soda, and the salt. Using your hands (or fork or pastry blender), add the cold butter and mix until it looks like coarse crumbles. Add the buttermilk and stir until just mixed. Fold in the cranberries.
  3. Scoop six even spoonfuls onto a baking sheet, about 1/4 cup each. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.


Obviously, these aren’t the only things I’ve eaten today…. (shh).

-Rayna 🙂


Cranberry Pear Pie

Good afternoon everybody! I hope the holiday season has been going well for all you guys. I’ve been home for almost a week at this point, thanks to Northwestern’s wonky schedule. I can’t believe that I’m already done with my first quarter of sophomore year, but I head back to school the day after New Year’s, so I’m trying to make the most out of the time that I’m back: relaxing, baking, practicing, and going into New York City a whole bunch. Chicago is great and all, but I really do miss the northeast while I’m at school. I already have my heart set on living/going to school in NYC after Northwestern, but I still have many years before that.

I have an overwhelming love for cranberries, specifically raw cranberries. I’ll eat them by the handful, and it amuses my mom to no end. She will specifically buy them for me in anticipation for my return, and in this case, it was Thanksgiving. Although I made this beautiful pie for dessert for my Thanksgiving meal, it would be a wonderful addition to any dessert potluck or get-together this holiday season. Between the thousands of cookies that are bound to be offered, this stunner is sure to stand out.

I’ll admit- I did cheat a bit and use frozen pie crust. Partly because I don’t really eat the pie crust anyway, and partly because I planned out my dessert baking poorly and didn’t have the hours for homemade pie crust to chill in the fridge. I loved the addition of pears- the extreme sweetness counteracted the especially tart raw cranberries, and it made a pretty darn good breakfast the day after too 🙂


Cranberry Pear Pie

From Williams Sonoma


  • 1 package Immaculate Baking pie crusts
  • 2.5 pounds pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1.5 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • Turbinado Sugar


  1. Fit one pie crust into a 9-inch baking dish and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Take the other pie crust and cut into strips, of either equal or varying widths. Place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. For the filling, in a medium pot, combine the pears, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Cover and cook until the pears are tender, but not mushy, approximately 15-20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
  5. Stir in the cranberries to the pear mixture and pour into the prepared baking dish.
  6. Take the strips of crust to create a lattice.
  7. Brush the lattice crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  8. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling begins to bubble, about 45 minutes- 1 hour, but begin checking the oven after 30 minutes.

It’s certainly nice to have an oven again!


Peanut Butter Mug Cake

Good afternoon guys! I hope your weekends have been as fun as mine has been so far. I have lots of studying to do, but I think I’m doing an okay job with balancing it all out. This week is midterm week for me, so I have exams in virtually all of my classes. After my first orchestra concert of the year on Saturday night, things will get much easier for me, until finals, that is!

I’ll be the first one to admit that I was a little bit wary of microwave cakes that take less than 7 minutes to make. Especially since at home I was fortunate enough to have access to high end kitchen equipment, I never bothered trying any of the mug cakes or other assorted microwaveable recipes. Clearly, that all changed once I got to college, where the most amount of cooking I could do was make ramen in my room, using the hot water from my coffee maker. Honestly, I can’t say I’m completely converted to the world of mug cakes, but for a lazy college student with no access to a kitchen, it’s great way to treat yourself.

I figured I would start out with a pretty simple flavor- peanut butter. The ingredients are similar to those of a normal cake, just scaled down greatly. I don’t have measuring cups in my room, so I did just eyeball most of the ingredients (I would probably use measuring cups if I had them, however). Now that I’ve broken my mug cake virginity, I can’t wait to try some other flavors and even branch out into savory microwaveable treats!

(Also- if anyone has photography tips for a poorly lit dorm room, please send them my way!)

Peanut Butter Mug Cake

Peanut Butter Mug Cake

Recipe from Kirbie’s Cravings


  • 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil


  1. In a large mug, combine all ingredients and mix until smooth. Microwave for 1:30 and check for doneness, then cook in :30 intervals until done (mine took around 2:15) Don’t overcook!

Who said dorm food had to be boring?

-Rayna 🙂

A Long Overdue Update

Well hellllllo there again! This has been a ridiculously long hiatus and I think it’s about time that I get into the swing of things again. Clearly, a plethora of things have occurred in the past year or so, so I’ll try to give you guys a quick rundown of what I’ve been up to. So to start things off, I am going to be an incoming sophomore (?!?!?) at Northwestern this year, which seems pretty crazy to me. I feel like it was just yesterday I was blogging about MSM Saturdays and gymnastics meets. I’m currently a duel-degree student majoring in anthropology and viola performance, which is pretty neat. It’s a five-year deal, so I can really squeeze out everything Northwestern has for me. I’m flying out tomorrow, and classes start again on Monday. Bring it on!!


That’s me and my stand partner/friend/roomie/violist Hannah last winter in front of Northwestern’s beautiful new music building that I’ll be practicing in this year. I get the best of both worlds because while we are sharing a suite, we each get our own rooms.


One of the highlights of this past year at school was being able to travel to Tighza, Morocco, with Hillel at Northwestern. We went during my spring break, and it was a really great experience. It was technically a service trip, but between the travel time getting there (about 11 hours each way), the 6 hour time difference, and the bizarre weather, (notice the snow?? They told us it was going to be in the mid 60s) we didn’t do a lot of community service. However, I met some wonderful people on the trip, and it was certainly unforgettable.


Now onto the fun stuff- how I’ve been spending my summers. Last summer, I went to Ottawa for the NAC-SMI program and the Castleman Quartet Program in Fredonia, New York. It was my second time in Ottawa, and it was just as fun as the first year. QP was quite a different experience, but the emphasis on chamber music was really wonderful, as it’s my favorite type of music to play. This summer, I was fortunate enough to spend 8 weeks in stunning Aspen, Colorado, for the Aspen Music Festival and School. The picture here is the pathway to the dorms, so clearly, I was not spoiled at all. I had truly an incredible time, meeting people from all over the country that are so so so talented. I was in the orchestra program there, and got to play some fantastic repertoire. I’ve been home for about 2 weeks since Aspen, but I still dream of the pure air and impeccable (not humid) weather.


That’s about it!! Here’s me and my mom at a Yankee game last week, enjoying every last moment of sunshine before I return to face my second Chicago winter. My plan for this coming year is to (obviously) be more active, but have this be a how-a-college-foodie-manages-in-dining-halls type of thing, showing you guys quick recipes I can make in my cozy dorm room and updating you on sophomore year shenanigans, which there are bound to be tons of.

Also- I don’t want you guys to think I’m not baking. I made this ~amazing~ recipe for Rosh Hashanah yesterday, and daydream about kneading dough. That’s normal…right?

Write soon!


Ozark Pudding Cake

Happy extremely belated New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. I’ve been too busy for words between midterms, trying to figure out travel arrangements for auditions, and practicing lots and lots. But, I finished my last midterm today, and now comes a much deserved 5 day weekend after a long first semester. I can’t wait for my last semester of high school!

While I love making things that I can whip up with the ingredients that I have, my favorite thing to do is to look up recipes and then being able to create something with more than just peanut butter, oatmeal and chocolate chips. Now I don’t mean having to ship stuff halfway across the world, but using what’s local and in season is one of my goals, which is why I love summer baking so much- lots of produce, lots of in season baking. Winter baking is a little harder, but I think this cake hits the nail on the head. (or, takes the cake 🙂

I have made a pudding cake in the past, but this one is a little bit different. It has the moistness almost like a clafoutis or a dutch baby, but stays together like a cake. The pears add a nice sweetness while the almonds create a great textural contrast to the otherwise soft cake. I would recommend adding the dried cranberries, but it’s up to you! Oh winter baking, how I love you…

-1Ozark Pudding Cake: From Vintage Cakes


  • 2 ripe but firm pears, peeled, quartered, and cored
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) sliced natural almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup (2.25 ounces) dried cranberries, optional


  1. Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 11 x 7 baking dish (a square pan will work too). Finely chop one of the pears and thinly slice the other. Sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, and salt into a bowl.
  2. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, blend the buter and sugar together on medium speed until the mixture resembles wet sand. Add the egg and vanilla and blend on medium-high speed until fluffy, around 5 minutes, Scrape down the bowl occasionally as needed. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the flour mixture all at once. Mix until just blended, the batter will be stiff.
  3. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chopped pear (set aside the sliced pears for the top), half the almonds and cranberries and stir until just blended. Dump the batter into the prepared dish and spread it in an even layer. Arrange the pear slices on top of the batter and sprinkle with the remaining almonds and the remaining teaspoon of sugar.
  4. Place the skillet in the middle of the oven and bake until the cake is golden in color and the center springs back when lightly touched, 38-40 minutes. Enjoy!

A quick cake to brighten up the dull and dreary winter. 🙂





Pomegranate Coconut Pumpkin Butter

Wow, is it nice to be back! I seriously missed blogging when I was insanely busy doing college applications, schoolwork, signing up for (one too many) extracurricular, and other high school stuff. While it’s all far from over, yesterday, I was able to record my tapes for pre-screening (the step before auditions), so now I can finally submit all of my applications and have that part of the process done with!

One of the crazier things that I’m doing this year is playing in 5 separate chamber ensembles. If you’re a musician, you can realize how much I actually signed myself up for, but even if you aren’t, that means that I’m rehearsing 7 hours a week without counting any orchestra or solo practice. What’s fun about it is that they are all different groups (as in the structure of the group), so it’s not like I’m playing 5 pieces all within the same category. For example, I’m in a flute quartet at MSM, which is the first time I’ve played chamber with a flute player. Not to mention, all of the music I’m playing is just spectacular, which can never get boring.

But that’s enough about me. It’s time to get to the real deal stuff- this pumpkin butter. I love fall baking (although by the amount I’ve been posting recently you can’t tell), but I didn’t want to have to worry about the mess that I tend to create when I bake. And, since the rule in my house is I have to clean up everything after I bake, I wanted to make something that would be delicious but at the same time save a lot of clean up time. So, I found this pumpkin butter over on Smitten Kitchen that I knew would fit the bill exactly. It’s a nice blend of spices that create the warm, fuzzy feeling that we all love about pumpkin baking, but I wanted to have more than just pumpkin puree heated up with some spices, so I added coconut milk and pomegranate juice. The pomegranate gives it enough of a bite that you get flavor as soon as you taste it, but the coconut milk makes it creamy, so as not to make the entire thing too acid. Really, you can add whatever flavors you want, but I like this variation.

rayna's pumpkin butterPomegranate Coconut Pumpkin Butter


  • 1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin puree, approx. 3 1/2 cups
  • 3/8 cup pomegranate juice
  • 3/8 cup coconut milk (I used Blue Diamond)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup vanilla coconut sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Juice of half a lemon


  1. Combine pumpkin, pomegranate juice, coconut milk,  spices, and sugar in a large saucepan; stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened. Stir frequently. Adjust spices to taste. Stir in lemon juice, or more to taste. Once cool, pumpkin butter can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge.

Sometimes a simple homemade butter can brighten up your early school mornings. More recipes coming soon!

-Rayna 🙂



Quick Update

Hey there everyone! It feels like I haven’t posted in forever…oh wait. I haven’t. Things have been absolutely insane around here between college applications, seating auditions, gymnastics, chamber groups (I’m in 5 this year. Yes, five separate groups.), teaching students, and about a billion other things. In my “spare time,” I’m either working on college applications, practicing, or seeing my grandparents. What was that you said about relaxing senior year?

While I don’t have a recipe here, that certainly doesn’t mean I haven’t been checking out what’s been going on here in the food blogger world. I’m currently saving a stockpile of recipes to bake when I can celebrate 1) finishing college applications 2) my birthday (which was September 25- I’m now a 17 year old baker/blogger/student!) and 3) baked goods are just always a good decision. So here’s a compilation of recipes that I hope I can get to in the coming weeks!

Bacon Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting and Bourbon Drizzle: How Sweet it Is

Chai Spiced Breakfast Buns: In Jennie’s Kitchen

Raisin-Walnut Pumpernickel Bread: Girl Versus Dough

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal Crumb Bars: Brown Eyed Baker

Almond Rosewater Baklava: Sift and Whisk

Caramel Pumpkin Ice Cream: Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body


Don;t worry, baked goods are coming soon! I can only resist fall baking for so long before I have to break out the pumpkin!

-Rayna 🙂

Carl’s Cinnamon Rolls

Happy March! These past few weeks have been incredibly busy with everything from the final gymnastics meets before states (only 9 days to go!) and various orchestra performances and even beginning to talk about college with my guidance counselor! It’s crazy, but I’m glad that I finally have some time to take a moment to update you on what’s been going on around my kitchen.

I guess my blog has inspired my chef mom to create her own cooking blog/ web-zine, which I will be featured on once a month! The website is and my posts will be underneath The Weiser Baker. While I hope that you all will check out her website to see my original recipes, you should really explore the whole thing. Seeing that I’m the person who got to try all of the recipes posted, I can tell you first hand that everything is absolutely delicious and not something to miss. But for now, back into the world of swirly cinnamon goodness.

My adventure into the world of yeast begins again after taking a brief hiatus to tell you about one of the most wonderful banana bread’s I’ve ever made. Obviously, after making some savory bread, I needed to venture back into sweets, and this recipe from King Arthur Flour was just perfect. I love a good loaf, but a warm cinnamon roll that is oozing with cream cheese icing sounds just incredible. Does anyone want to bring me one now?

Carl’s Cinnamon Rolls
(To make 20 rolls)


  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) water
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) milk
  • 4 3/4 cups (20 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (4 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) butter, melted


  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk
  • 3/4 cup (5 5/8 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons (5/8 ounce) ground cinnamon


  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt


Manual Method: Dissolve the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in the lukewarm water. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer, and mix until fairly smooth. Knead the dough, by hand for 10 minutes, or with your mixer equipped with the dough hook for 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth and supple. Turn the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise until puffy, 1 to 2 hours.

Bread Machine Method: Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine, program the machine for Dough or Manual, and press Start. Check the dough during the final 10 minutes of the kneading cycle, adding additional flour or water as needed to produce a smooth, supple dough. Allow the machine to complete its cycle.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface; divide it in half. Working with one piece at a time, pat and then roll the dough into an 18 x 24-inch rectangle.

Filling: Brush the dough with the butter, leaving a 1-inch bare edge along one long side. Combine the remaining filling ingredients — sugar, salt and cinnamon — and sprinkle them evenly over the dough.

Assembly: Starting with a long edge, roll the dough into a long log (not too tightly, or the centers of the rolls will pop up during baking). Make sure to finish up at the edge that isn’t brushed with milk or butter. Brush that edge with water and pull it up over the log, pinching to seal. Roll the log so it’s seam-side-down on your work surface.

Use a ruler to mark off 1 1/2-inch intervals, then use a serrated knife to gently cut 20 rolls; you may also loop dental floss around the log at each interval and pull, which gives you a nice, clean cut. Transfer the rolls to lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about 1-inch between each roll. These will fit on a full-sheet pan or two half-sheet pans.

Brush the sides of each roll with melted butter or vegetable oil, if desired; this makes the rolls easier to pull apart after they’re baked. Cover the rolls with lightly greased plastic wrap, and set them aside to rise until puffy but perhaps not doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Bake the rolls in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, reversing the pans midway through. They should be golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool slightly, as you prepare the frosting.

Frosting: Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Beat until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. The mixture should be of spreading consistency, like a soft butter cream frosting.

Using a metal spatula, frost the rolls while they’re warm. Remove them from the pan, and allow them to cool on a wire rack. Eat them soon, or freeze them, well wrapped, for later use. (If you’re going to freeze the rolls, it’s better not to frost them before freezing.)

To Reheat Rolls: Remove the rolls from the freezer, and allow them to thaw, in their wrapping, at room temperature. This will take 1 to 1 1/2 hours, more or less. Remove the wrapping, and bake the rolls in a preheated 350°F oven for about 7 minutes, or until they’re very hot. Remove them from the oven, and frost them. To reheat in the microwave, remove the rolls from their wrapping and microwave for no more than 30 seconds. Better still, heat them in a microwave set on defrost until they’re warm. Serve rolls immediately. Yield: 40 rolls.

Take your expectations for these, and double that by 20. Yeah, they’re that good.




A Quick Update

Happy almost Thanksgiving everyone! It’s been quite a few hectic weeks over here on the east coast, between Hurricane Sandy and concerts and school and everything else you could possibly think of. Thankfully, we all turned out okay from the storm and nothing of ours was flooded or toppled upon by a tree. We didn’t have power for 10 days and we were without cable for another few, but now everything is thankfully back in order.

I also had my first MSM concert of the season! This was an especially heart-warming concert due to some of the troubles that the orchestra and my conductor had during the process, and it was just amazing to play and see how much both he and the audience enjoyed it. It was my first concert being a part of the new orchestra and I’m happy to say that it was simply amazing. I remember listening to this orchestra while my brother was in it and thinking how incredible it would be to actually be a part of that orchestra. We played works by Bizet, Handel, Strauss and Mendelssohn. Needless to say, it was breath-taking.

But now to the food! Even though we had a week off from school because of the storm, I was not able to bake because of the lack of ovens and refrigeration (Somewhat warm eggs? No thanks.). Halloween feel directly in the middle of October Break, so I wasn’t even able to whip up a cute cookie or terrifying treat for you guys. Thankfully, we were still able to make it to CVS to pick up some candy! 😉 With Thanksgiving right around the corner though, I’ve been doing my research to find the best recipes possible to make for this weekend. I’m busy seeing my family from all over the northeast, so I better come prepared with desserts! Here’s what I’m planning to make.

Cranberry White Chocolate Scones from Steph’s Bite by Bite

Cranberry Maple Pecan Breakfast Cake from Kitchen Catharsis

Autumn Delight Cake from Sweetapolita

Maple Cheesecake with Roasted Pears from Martha Stewart

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Dulce de Leche from Martha Stewart

Nutmeg Maple Cream Pie from Smitten Kitchen

Doesn’t that sound like an all-star lineup? I can’t wait to make eat all of this! 🙂

What are your plans for the holidays?

-Rayna 🙂



Excuses, Excuses

Sorry for not updating recently! Not only have my OVENS been broken (only half of the heaters were working), but over here on the east coast, we had a visitor! Hurricane Irene was her name, so therefore, not only did pantry ingredients needed to be saved for an emergency, but I haven’t had power for 2 days, looking at 3.

However, just because I’m not able to bake doesn’t mean that I’m not looking for recipes! Here are some of the ones that caught my eye that will soon be made once this storm has passed!

Mini Twix Cheesecakes from Gingerbread Bagels

S’mores Cake from Steph’s Bite by Bite

Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops from Dorie’s Baking: My Home to Yours

and if I’m feeling adventerous,

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Mini S’mores Pies by Keep It Sweet

One of my long term goals is to bake through Dorie’s entire book, along with many other goals that include baking through every cookbook we have 🙂

That’s just a start of what I’ve bookmarked lately, but I’ll be sure to update you more on what I’ve bookmarked, because I bookmark more than I bake! I’ll be back with more delicious treats soon!

-Rayna 🙂