Category Archives: Breakfast

Olive Oil Orange Cake with an Almond Brown Butter Glaze

One of our goals is to share slices of life (and cake), recipes and dining experiences that one might not be able to otherwise experience for whatever reason – geography, income, trepidation about traveling, etc.

Today, Out of Abilene is taking you on another journey to New York City. Maialino is an awesome little trattoria at 2 Lexington Ave., which is about 1750 miles away from where I am right now. I’ve been jonesing for their olive oil orange cake, and I’ve lied to myself at least once a week for the past year, promising myself that I am going to recreate the experience.

Rich but subtle. Dense but not dry (in fact, it’s anything but). A crust on its top and outside walls. An interior so moist you wonder if it is injected with something or cooked with a pudding.

There is nothing I could think of that would be better with a glass of milk than a slice of this cake – unless it was perhaps a muffin-size version of it that would allow me to tell myself, “I’ll just have this one, and just this one is better than eating a whole slice.” Not to mention, a muffin gives me 360-degrees of crisp exterior.

Today, you can have both with a couple of different riffs on form (cake vs. muffin), long cook vs. short, high-temp cook and glazed or unglazed.

Whether you want olive oil muffins or cake, the recipe remains the same. Only the cook methods differ.

Whether you want olive oil muffins or cake, the recipe remains the same. Only the cook methods differ.

Maialino-inspired Olive Oil Orange Cake

  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2t kosher salt
  • 1/2t baking soda
  • 1/2t baking powder
  • 1 1/3cups extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 1/4cups whole milk
  • large eggs
  • 1 1/2T grated orange zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier

Out of Abilene Almond Brown Butter Glaze

  • 1/2 cup toasted almond slices
  • 3T butter
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
  • 3T milk
  • 1/4t almond extract
  1. Depending on which of my methods you are going to follow, either preheat your oven to 475° F or 350° F. The former I call the cornbread method (heat a skillet, cake pan – if it can take it, or muffin tins) until they are smoking hot and pour the room temperature batter in for a nice, crisp exterior crust. The latter temperature is just your normal pour it in the pan and bake. If you are cooking a cake, you need a 9″ cake pan that is at least two inches deep. If you are cooking muffins, you need two, 12-muffin standard trays.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together all of your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder)
  3. In a second bowl, mix together all of your wet ingredients (olive oil, eggs, milk, orange juice and zest and Grand Marnier. I let my wet ingredients come to room temperature.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and combine until just mixed. Your batter should be smooth with no lumps, but you don’t want to sit and run your mixer on high and over mix.
  5. If you are using the cornbread method, ten minutes before you are ready to bake your cake or muffins put your cast-iron skillet or muffin tins into your 475° F preheated oven. Let them sit five minutes. Remove. Place 1T vegetable shortening in the skillet or a dot of vegetable shortening in each muffin tin. Return to oven for five minutes at which point the shortening should be at its smoke point. Remove your skillet or tins from the oven and roll/rotate them around so that the shortening hits all of their inside surfaces. Immediately pour your batter into them (for muffin tins: 3/4 full). They should sizzle and you should see an outside crust start to form. Return to the oven. Cook them for 8 minutes at 475° F and then drop your oven temp to 350° F and continue cooking for 30 minutes for the cake or 15 minutes for the muffins (or until a cake pik comes out clean). Remove. Transfer to a rack and allow them to cool for 30 minutes before removing them from their pans and then allow them to come to room temperature (about 2 hours for the cake and about another 30 minutes for the muffins) before you either eat them with a glass of milk or glaze them.
  6. If you are using the less-complicated, pop-it-in-the-oven method, coat non-stick muffin pans or 9″ cake pan with a thin coating of olive oil, place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the cake pan, pour in your batter and bake at 350° F. The cake should take about 1 hour before a cake tester comes out clean. Muffins take approximately 30 minutes. Allow them to cool 30 minutes before removing from their pans. Remove. Place on a rack. Allow them to come to room temperature before serving or glazing (unless you have a cup of milk handy) – approx. 2 hours for cake and another 30 minutes for muffins.

For the glaze

  1. Toast your almonds in a skillet on medium-high heat. Some color is good, but be careful not to over toast. Reserve.
  2. Heat your butter in the same skillet at a medium-high heat until it begins to change color, swirl and continue to heat as it takes on a brown color, being careful to remove it from the heat before burning it. It should have a nutty smell. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. Add your butter to your confectioner’s sugar and mix.
  4. Add 2T whole milk. You should begin to get a paste. Add a third tablespoon and you should start to get a smooth paste that isn’t quite pourable.
  5. Reserve for glazing or….
  6. I heat the glaze for about 20 seconds in a microwave or until it is extremely pourable (significantly thinner than what you started with). Ladle it on top of your cake or muffins and then top with sliced almonds.

Next time:

How does a Whipped Moscarpone Basil topping sound?

Let us know what you think. Follow us here or at Out of Abilene on Facebook. Email Barton at

Bourbon and Biscuits (Mesquite-smoked buttermilk biscuits, that is)

I finally have a plausible explanation for having bourbon with my breakfast.

Our newest culinary departure is a Mesquite-smoked buttermilk biscuit, slathered with salted, sweet-cream butter and Maker’s Mark Mint Julep Jelly. It’s even better than it sounds – the kind of flavor combination that makes you rationalize having, “just one more” five or six times before witnessing the unbuckling of the belt, a Terror Squad and Fat Joe ‘lean back,’ and the always-popular, table etiquette-smashing migration of the hand to that spot between your stomach and the fabric of your sansabelt pants.

Heavenly comfort food. Damn the stinkeye my wife’s throwing at me just because her mom is having breakfast with us this morning. Don’t think I didn’t see her butter one up and drop it in her purse beside the table. (Reminds me of the time my cousin Scott, age 5, packed ice cream sandwiches in his suitcase before going home from grandma’s house, but that’s another story).

I don’t hold it against her. If I were at her table, I’d do the same thing – either eat my fill, which would be followed by the hand migration move, or drop a couple of these biscuits in the man purse I carry with me. Have I piqued your interest – in the food, not my table manners?

Homemade Maker's Mark Mint Julep Jelly. I've never slapped my momma, but I understand where the expression comes from.

Homemade Maker’s Mark Mint Julep Jelly. I’ve never slapped my momma, but I understand where the expression comes from.

Below, you will find some tips on making a really good buttermilk biscuit (smoked or unsmoked) and, if you are interested in the Maker’s Mark Mint Julep Jelly, you can come see us at Out of Abilene at the Abilene Farmer’s Market or contact me at

Mesquite-Smoked Buttermilk Biscuit

Ingredients (makes 8 good biscuits and four or so outliers – explained later)

2 cups mesquite-smoked flour (directions follow)

1t Kosher salt

1T Baking powder

1/4t baking soda

6T frozen unsalted sweet cream butter cut in 1/4 inch dice

1 cup Buttermilk

1. To smoke your flour – Preheat oven to 450 degrees. While it is heating, make a smoker out of a disposable roasting pan. To do this, make yourself a “bowl” of out tin foil that covers 2/3 of the pan. Pour three cups of flour in the bowl and smooth it out to a half-inch thick. Place a small stack of wood chips on the outside of the bowl in the remaining one-third of the pan. Cover whole thing tightly with tin foil and shove it in the oven to begin smoking. Here is where your preference and experimentation comes in. If you want just a hint of smoke (a little fragrance and perhaps a tinge of flavor for the most discerning/delicate palates), smoke your flour about 20 minutes, remove it (the top will have started to develop a crust), break it up, sift it and put it back in for another 20 minutes. If you want more pronounced smoke flavor, I have heard of folks going multiple hours. It depends on your palate (or your guests). Smell and taste. Reserve for whenever you decide to make your biscuits. I chill my flour.

2. When you are ready to make biscuits. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Grease a baking sheet or cast-iron skillet. 3. Sift (after smoking, there will be lots of small pieces that won’t go through a sifter – throw them out) two cups of flour. I smoke three cups because there is always a little lost to sifting and the need for to dust your work area/board.

3. Add your dry ingredients. Sift.

4. Add your butter. Do not touch it with your hands. Use either dough blades or forks to work it until you have a mixture that resembles ‘coarse meal’ or your flour-covered butter pieces are the size of small peas.

Mesquite smoked buttermilk biscuit.

Mesquite smoked buttermilk biscuit.

4.5 An explanation as to why we do it this way. If you want flaky biscuits, you want to still have small discernible chunks of unmelted butter when you cut out your biscuits. Making biscuits is much like making a pie dough or pate brisee – the less you work it, the better.

5. Pour your buttermilk into this mixture and work it until it just comes together (preferably with a fork, flat wisk, etc – the heat from your hands will melt that butter in a matter of a minute if you don’t watch what you are doing).

6. Put the dough on your lightly floured workstation and pat it out until you have a half-inch thick rectangle. Fold the ends in to meet in the center and quickly pat to a half-inch thick. Repeat once more. Form a one-inch thick rectangle. (You should be able to see small pieces of butter in your dough)

7. Press a biscuit cutter straight down into your dough. Do not press and twist. You should get 8-10 biscuits without recombining your dough. Recombine your dough and make another couple of biscuits (these won’t be as good).

If you want crisp bottoms and soft sides, make your biscuits like good Southerners make cornbread. Preheat your cast-iron skillet before setting them to bake.

If you want crisp bottoms and soft sides, make your biscuits like good Southerners make cornbread. Preheat your cast-iron skillet before setting them to bake.

8. If you want crisp bottoms and soft sides, put one tablespoon of vegetable shortening into the cast-iron skillet and preheat it right to the point that your oil is going to smoke. Roll the oil around the sides of the pan so that it is well-coated and discard any remaining oil. Arrange biscuits and bake in oven for 10-12 minutes.

9. If you want crisp sides, place your biscuits on a baking sheet about an inch apart and bake for 10-12 minutes.

10. If you get to the end of your baking, and your tops aren’t brown enough, change your oven over to broil and place on the top shelf for about a minute to brown further. (keep an eye on them as you can burn them quickly.

11. To reheat (they should disappear during the first sitting even if you are alone – especially if you are alone): five minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven.

To recap:

The secret to a great biscuit, like a pie crust, is all in the handling of the dough. Do not overwork it. Do not overbake it.

The frozen butter and the folding are going to give you the flakiness and layering.

Do not use a rolling pin like you see folks do in the movies. You will overwork your dough and the developed gluten will make your biscuits tough.

This is a purist issue, but press straight down when cutting your biscuits. Again, you are avoiding overworking the dough.

You want a crisp bottom? Make your biscuits by preheating a cast-iron skillet (the same way all good southerners make their cornbread).

Let me know how it worked out for you.

Have questions? Post them here or email me at

And, in the comments below: Where did you have the best biscuit of your life and how do you prefer it (butter, jelly, honey, etc.)