Celebrity Bartender….Who, Me? Craft Cocktail Recipes

Celebrity Bartender….Who, Me? Craft Cocktail Recipes

Create your own custom craft cocktails with these easy seasonal infused simple syrups, suitable for happy hours of one or more.  Click to skip to the recipe

easy simple syrup infusion recipe for cocktails

My BFF and I were asked to be “celebrity bartenders” at a meet and greet for pals and neighbors. We were invited to create our favorite cocktail.

This was a bit daunting, as we both prefer wine. However, we rose to the occasion. BFF infused vodka with fresh pineapple and cherries. A shot of this topped with club soda and garnished with the vodka soaked fruit turn out to be a quite the “Ridge Refresher”!

I decided to take a page from the Golden Age of Cocktails (the period between 1860 and Prohibition when most cocktails were invented) and update a few of the classics.

To do this, I focused on simple syrup. Simple syrup is the traditional sweetener in cocktails. You can buy simple syrup in a bottle and keep it in the fridge, or you can make it yourself by combining equal parts sugar and water and boiling until the sugar dissolves. Voila! Simple Syrup!!

The star of my cocktails was my Old Fashion made with a really, really good bourbon, a dash or two of bitters, and a splash of blood orange and sage-infused simple syrup.

Everything was placed into an ice-filled cocktail shaker, and then mixed for several seconds. The liquid was strained into a rocks glass over a huge cube of ice. The drink was garnished with bourbon-marinated fresh cherries and strips of candied blood orange. Yup, it was good!

Here are a few other ideas for simple syrups and their use. Bottoms Up!!

Easy Infused Simple Syrups

Makes: 1 cup of simple syrup

Time: 5 minutes to assemble and several hours to infuse

Ingredients

Blood Orange-Sage Simple Syrup:

1 cup granulated sugar

Juice from 4 blood oranges

1 bunch sage leaves

1 cinnamon stick

Blueberry-Thyme Simple Syrup:

1 cup granulated sugar

1 pint blueberries

1 bunch thyme leaves

Meyer Lemon-Lavender Simple Syrup:

1 cup granulated sugar

Juice from 4 Meyer lemons

1 bunch lavender

Lime-Lime Spearmint Simple Syrup:

1 cup granulated sugar

Juice from 4 limes

1 bunch lime spearmint leaves

Veal Sinatra
Veal Sinatra
Veal Sinatra
Veal Sinatra

For each syrup, place 1 cup sugar into a deep pot with a lid. Pour in 1 cup water. Add the fruit (and in the case of the juices, add in a couple of the squeezed peels) and the herbs and spices. Bring the mixture to a boil to let the sugar dissolve. Put the lid on the pot and reduce the heat to let the syrup simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the syrup sit on top of the stove for several hours. 

Pour the syrup through a fine-mesh colander and into a jar with a seal. Refrigerate for up to several weeks.

Things to Note:

These syrups are perfect for cocktails and mocktails. Use the blood orange-sage syrup to create a super Old Fashion or Manhattan cocktail. Blueberry-thyme updates a traditional Gin Fizz. And lime-lime spearmint takes your next Margarita to new heights!

You can also use simple syrups to sweeten cold drinks like lemonade and iced tea. The Meyer-Lemon Simple syrup is terrific in pink lemonade! 

Another Thing to Note:

You can also use these syrups to sweeten cakes. Poke holes into a pound cake, douse in syrup, and see what comes out!! You can also mix them into your sorbet or ice cream recipes.

Make it My Way:

Anything and everything go into your simple syrup. Don’t stop with these combinations. Create your own!!

Last Thing to Note:

If you want to add a garnish to your drink, try candying the citrus peel. Before you squeeze, use a vegetable peeler to cut thin strips from the peel. Take these strips, place them in a pot and cover them with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and repeat this boiling procedure two more times. You are doing this to soften the peel while retaining the color. Next, place the strips into the pot and add 1 cup sugar and two cups water. Bring this mixture to a boil and reduce for about 30 minutes.

There will be some liquid left in the pan, but not much. Cool to room temperature. Transfer the strips from the pot to a wire rack placed over a piece of parchment paper. Let the strips dry overnight, the longer the better!

At this point, you can douse the strips in sugar again if you like and eat them like candy. But I use them as they are to garnish the drink. Sooooo good!!

Mother’s Day Best Recipes: Make Together Ideas!

Mother’s Day Best Recipes: Make Together Ideas!

It’s Mother’s Day, and I have just the (fool-proof!) plan for your at-home celebrations. These dishes don’t skimp on thoughtful details but are quick and easy to prepare with all of the kiddos!

No matter what they call you (or how many times they shout your name), when they call for mom, they are calling out of need.

“Mom, where’s this…”
“Mom, can you believe she did that?”
“Mom, tell him to stop touching me!!!”
“Mom, I can’t find……………..”

Well, on this one Sunday in May, we Moms don’t need to have all of the answers.

In fact, it may be the only day of the year when you can reply, “Ask your father,” without ending your marriage in the process.

Let me help get your Mother’s Day morning (or noon or Saturday before!) inspired with a few of my favorite recipes that are easy enough to prepare, absolutely perfect to share, and will definitely show your care.

Ask your family to whip these up or make it a group activity!

When Life Gives You Lemons….. Make Lemon Curd!

When life gives you lemons…..Make lemon curd! You can spread lemon curd on your English muffin, swirl it in the center of a pound cake, whip it into a mousse, transform it into ice cream or make lemon curd parfaits for a light, airy, and bright spring dessert.

Read on

Breakfast Skillet with Glazed Eggs

Here’s my make-it-at-home version of breakfast pizza that’s easily prepared, and tastes just like the one from the market. It’s just a little slice of breakfast heaven!

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Camp Greystone Famous Opening-Day Scones

This is the recipe for the famous Camp Greystone opening day scones. The campers are greeted with these on the first day of camp. The parents are given some to take on the trip home and then hustled out the door. It’s a camp tradition that has met with success for generations, and one I am always excited to recreate with my granddaughter.

 

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Chilled Strawberry Soup for Hot Days

Say, “Hello” to DOUGHNUT Muffins! Get everyone into the act when making these delicious treats. My grandson Sammy LOVES donuts and has got in on the fun: Little ones can brush the warm butter and sprinkle the toppings and the older kids can stir the ingredients together and wash up the bowls! 

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What to Feed Your April Fool? How About Dinner for Breakfast?

There are so many savory breakfast classics, but this one is something special.  In Spain, it’s just a tapa, but in my house, it can be breakfast, brunch, and even dinner! Try this potato torte and pair it with sangria for an authentic experience. 😉

Read On

Put the Lime in the Coconut: Lazy Summer Biscotti

Put the Lime in the Coconut: Lazy Summer Biscotti

Take a tried and true biscotti recipe and switch things around to create a tantalizing summer treat, perfect for lazy Summer days that call for lemonade and lounging.  Click to skip to the recipe

Lime Coconut Biscotti

 

Do you remember that song by Harry Nilsson?

 

“Brother bought a coconut, he bought it for a dime

His sister had another one she paid it for the lime

She put the lime in the coconut, she drank ‘em bot’ up….”

 

Well, in these lazy days of summer, that song started whirling around in my head and hello….. a cookie was born. Now, you might think this a bit strange, but if you’ve been around me long enough, you’ll know that strange is the inspiration for much of my food!

I love biscotti as a mid-afternoon snack. I make myself a latte and dip the cookie right in the cup. But, on a warm summer day, sometimes a latte can be a bit much. So, I settle for an ice coffee or lemonade.

These drinks do not lend themselves to appropriate dipping.

So, I decided to summer-up my traditional biscotti.

I added a bit of cornmeal to the flour to give it an earthier flavor. Fresh lime juice, zest, and thyme bring in the Italian flavors that I associate with summer.

And then….Well, coconut is so tropical that I just had to throw some into the mix. Toasted pine nuts complement all the other flavors while adding richness and voila…a crisp, fully-flavored biscotti was born.

This is just another example of how you can take a tried and true recipe and switch things around to fit your mood. Give these biscotti a try and let’s see what you think.

“Put the lime in the coconut and call me in the morning…. woo….”

Lime Coconut Biscotti

These biscuit-like cookies are crisp, crunchy, and full of Italian flavors. They are the perfect afternoon snack with a glass of chilled lemonade or even better…. how about as a late-night snack with a flute of limoncello!

Ingredients

For cookies:

3 ounces pine nuts, about ½ cup

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Zest of 2 limes, about 2 tablespoons

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup cornmeal

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, 1 stick

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Juice of 2 limes, about 3 tablespoons, divided


For glaze:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon half and half

1 teaspoon vanilla

Yields:   3 dozen biscuit cookies

Time:   60-minute cuisine

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Toast the pine nuts in a shallow skillet over medium heat until just golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Keep your eye on the pine nuts as once they are fragrant, they go from perfect to burnt in a nanosecond.

Place the granulated sugar, coconut flakes, lime zest, and thyme into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.

Use an electric mixer to combine the butter with the flavored sugar. Mix in the eggs, vanilla, and two tablespoons of the lime juice. Stir in the flour. Add the pine nuts. Divide the dough into two halves, cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Form each portion of dough into a log about 3-inches wide and 10 to 12-inches long. Place these onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake until the logs are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove the dough from the oven and cool for at least 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°. When cooled, use a serrated knife to cut each log into ½-inch slices and lay cut-side-up on the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet back into the oven and bake until the cookies are dry and just crisp, about another 30 minutes.

Whisk together the confectioner’s sugar, remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice, half-and-half, and vanilla until smooth. When the cookies have cooled, drizzle each one with the glaze.

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries (and Murder Hornets)

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries (and Murder Hornets)

From the pandemic to “Tiger King”, 2020 has been crazy.  I invite you to turn off the news and turn on your oven to make my BEST very berry cherry pie recipe and get back to the simple pleasures this summer.   Click to skip to the recipe

Bowl of cherries

 

Think about all of the crazy things that have happened in the first six months of 2020.

In a Super Bowl commercial, Mr. Peanut (Planters Nut’s mascot for, oh, maybe forever….) died. Prince Harry and his bride decided not to be royalty anymore while Hollywood royals, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson contracted COVID-19 and were quarantined in Australia. The rest of the world decided to lockdown as well and the audience for Netflix’s “Tiger King” was born. The Boy Scouts went broke. Murder Hornets swarmed Washington state. The Pentagon released UFO photographs, and no one even batted an eye.

Life is just a bowl of cherries….Right?

Well, it is if you are a fruit pie lover. That is, if you are a cherry and berry fruit pie lover.

Everyone needs a little break once in a while and mine came this week when I discovered a huge bag of dark red cherries in the produce section of the grocery store. I brought them home and pondered their delivery.

Will it be cherry ice cream, cherry chutney, cherry jam, cherry cobbler, or, hey, what about cherry pie?!

I did cheat by using one of the several refrigerated pie crusts that I had in the fridge. I’ve always had a bit of a problem getting the crust to hold the filling. Sometimes it’s just too soggy on the bottom. So, I thought I’d use a prepared crust and concentrate on the filling. Most recipes call for frozen cherries. These exude a lot of liquid when you simmer them, mostly from being frozen.

In order to use fresh cherries, I had to add liquid. Normally just a bit of water would do. But I happened to have a bit of berry sauce leftover and thought, well, why the heck not! I’m sure the murder hornets won’t mind.

Then I added a touch of vanilla. Something about cherry coke and vanilla coke just kind of enter my brain, and, well….BEST CHERRY PIE FILLING EVER!

The berry puree is easy and it’s the perfect thing to do with fruit that is getting a bit too ripe. This step is not as time-consuming as you might think and is definitely worth the effort.

In place of turning on the evening news this week, why not turn on your oven instead and make this yummy dessert? 

After all, life is just a bowl of cherries!

Very Berry Cherry Pie

Remember having a Vanilla Coke on a warm summer’s day? Well, take that memory and turn it into a summer fruit pie. Yes.…I did just that!

Ingredients

8 cups fresh pitted cherries

½ cup berry puree (see note)

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling

¼ cup corn starch

1 teaspoon vanilla

Refrigerated pie crust for two-crust pie

2 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes

2 tablespoons half and half

Serves:   6-8 people

Time:   20-minute cuisine plus baking

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Place the cherries into a saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the cherries begin to exude their juices, about five minutes. Stir in the berry puree and continue cooking until the cherries begin to breakdown, about 5 minutes more.

Mix together the sugar and the cornstarch. Stir this into the cherries. Stir in the vanilla. Stir and continue to cook until the cherries are sticky and slurpy, about 5 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Roll out one crust and fit into the bottom of a pie plate. Pour the cooled cherry filling into the pie crust. Dot with butter. Roll out the top crust and fit over the filling. Crimp together the edges and cut slits in the top. Brush the top crust with half and half and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake until the pie is golden brown, and cherry filling peaks through the top crust, about 45 to 50 minutes.

Make-Ahead Berry Puree:

Place 4 cups berries and ½ cup granulated sugar into a deep saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat. Cook the berries until they break down and are soft and mushy. Cool to room temperature. Place a colander or fine sieve into a larger bowl. Push the berries through the colander, using a wooden spoon or potato masher. You want most of the pulp and seeds to stay in the colander. Transfer the puree in the bowl to a small pitcher.

The BEST Lemon Cake Recipe and Berries, Cherries, and Pies (Oh My!)

The BEST Lemon Cake Recipe and Berries, Cherries, and Pies (Oh My!)

Spring means berries and cherries and all the delicious baking that goes with it! Even if you can’t go to the farm, let the farm come to you by way of your local grocer and get ready to cherry and berry. Click to skip to the recipe

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

 

When I think of Spring, I think about berry pickin’. When I was little, my grandparents had a huge garden. (They also raised pigs and chickens… but that’s another story.) In the garden we picked ripe strawberries from vines for Gram when asked.

We usually ate more than we turned over for Gram’s famous berry pies as was evidenced by our stained (and somewhat guilty) smiles.

At the end of Gram and Gramp’s long, dirt drive was a hedge of berry bushes. I think they were huckleberries, but they could have been blackberries. I remember my brother and sister and I would pick the berries and thread them onto long straws and then eat them like an ear of corn. Yumm! Many of these didn’t make it to the pies, either.

Luckily, Gram had nine grandchildren, and even given our full bellies, pies were baked!

Today, I love to take my grandkids to a strawberry patch at this time of year, but, in this climate of social distancing, the patches are devoid of pickers, yet abundant in berries. I recently bought a box of over-sized deeply red, ripe, strawberries from my grocery store. The handwritten sign told me that they came from a local farm, not but five miles away.

Which leads me to my berry recipes! The first is not a recipe. It’s a “just a little extra’ to your everyday standard.

I’m talking about blueberry pancakes with blueberry syrup.

Blueberry Pancakes with Berry Sauce

easy blueberry pancakes with blueberry sauce

I add a dash of vanilla and a sprinkle of cinnamon to my standard boxed pancake batter. Then I substitute melted butter for vegetable oil. This creates rich batter for your cakes.

I reserve about twenty blueberries from a pint. The rest I place into a deep saucepan. Pour maple syrup over the berries and simmer on low until the berries break down. Be careful, the berry syrup can bubble up if you’re not watching. Turn off the heat so that the syrup cools down a bit.

Make the pancakes as you normally would, but place a few of the reserved berries onto each one before you flip it over. Stack the blueberry pancakes on a plate. Top with a dollop of butter and ladle warm berry syrup over the top. The cakes absorb the berrieness from inside and out! It’s a treat.

As you might imagine, I can find myself with a bunch of leftover berries. These, I freeze and use to make smoothies and sauces. My lemon cake is the perfect foil for an easy berry sauce.

Glazed Lemon Cake With Very Berry Sauce

Serves:

Time:

A crowd

30-Minute Cuisine, Plus 1 Hour Baking

Ingredients

This lemony cake with berry sauce is just puckerable enough to make it into the lip smackin’ category.

For cake:

1 ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¾ cup butter, 1 ½ sticks, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

¼ cup sour cream

Zest from 2 lemons, about 2 tablespoons

Juice from 2 lemons, about ¼ cup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For glaze:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Juice from 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons

1 tablespoon cream

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

For berries:

4 cups assorted berries (I used frozen left-over berries)

½ cup granulated sugar

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly coat a 9” x 5” loaf pan with vegetable oil spray. Fit a piece of parchment paper into the pan with some of the sheets overlapping so that you can use the paper to remove the cake after baking. Then spray the paper.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Use an electric mixer to combine the butter and 1 cup sugar until creamy and smooth. Stir in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the lemon zest and juice from 2 lemons, sour cream, and vanilla. Add the flour about ½ cup at a time, until the batter is just mixed together. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 to 60 minutes. Cool the pan on the rack for 30 minutes, then transfer the cake from the pan to the rack to cool completely.

While the cake cools, stir together the confectioners’ sugar, juice from 1 lemon, cream, and vanilla. The glaze will be thick, but pourable. Place the cake onto your serving platter. Pour the glaze over top.

Place the berries and ½ cup sugar into a deep saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat. Cook the berries until they break down and are soft and mushy. Cool to room temperature. Place a colander into a larger bowl. Push the berries through the colander, using the potato masher. You want most of the pulp and seeds to stay in the colander. Transfer what’s left in the bowl to a small pitcher.

Drizzle the sauce onto a plate. Top with a slice of cake and a few extra berries for garnish.

Best Cherry Tart Recipe

I have a thing with cherries. I love cherry pie, cherry jam, cherry chutney. Just eating freshly pitted cherries with grandson, Ben, is a blast. He loves the pitting!

On the flip side, I deeply dislike canned cherry pie filling; Don’t get me started!

So, I came up with a way to satisfy my cherry pie craving, using fresh cherries and time-saving refrigerated puff pastry dough. It’s easy and delish!

Serves:

Time:

Makes about 20 palm-sized tarts

30-Minute Cuisine

Ingredients

These little tarts are best warm from the oven. You can make them and freeze them and bake them off when you’re ready for a treat!

For cherry filling:

2 pints fresh cherries, pitted about 3 cups

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

Zest from 1 lemon, about 1 tablespoon

Juice from 2 lemons, about ¼ cup

For pies:

1 (13.5-ounce) refrigerated package puff pastry dough

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon coarse sugar (I used raspberry flavored coarse sugar)

Mini Cherry Tarts

Place the cherries into a deep saucepan. Add the sugar and splash in about 2 tablespoons of water. Heat the cherries over medium heat until they begin to breakdown and the sugar dissolves, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Stir together the cornstarch, lemon zest and juice until smooth and pour into the pot. Continue simmering until the cherries begin to bubble up the sides of the pan. Use a potato masher to mush together the cherries in the syrupy sauce. Continue simmering until the mixture resembles fruit jam. Remove the pot from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Place the dough onto your floured board or work surface. Roll out the dough to a rectangle about 15” x 18” and about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut the dough into four equal strips, horizontally and 5 equal pieces, vertically. You will end up with about 20 squares.

Preheat the oven to 425°. Place a colander into a larger bowl. Pour the cherries through the colander, using the potato masher to squeeze out as much of the juice as possible. Place a tablespoon of cherry filling on each square of dough. Fold the dough over and seal with the tines of a fork. I folded mine into triangles, but rectangles or squares are fine too! Place each tart onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush each tart with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake until the tarts are puffed and golden, about 15 to 18 minutes.

Fall Dreams of Chocolatey Pumpkin Bread…

Fall Dreams of Chocolatey Pumpkin Bread…

This is breaking news! Did you know the pumpkin puree you got at the grocery store is NOT pumpkin? Apparently, it is a combination of all types of squash. WHO KNEW? I feel betrayed, lied-to, conspired against! Well, not really. The canned stuff is still pretty good, and has been a staple for all my pumpkin treats for as long as I can remember.

Now, you can make your own puree, from your very own pumpkins, but this seems just a little bit too over-the top for me.

So…. BRING IT ON, SQUASH… I can take it! Let’s open a can of puree and dive right in, shall we? I CANNOT WAIT, as home baked bread is a real holiday treat for me! I remember my early days in the catering business. Our signature corporate holiday baskets included at least one mini-loaf of pumpkin quick bread.

We baked hundreds of these each season. But I also love yeast bread, especially when it is laced with a bit of sweetness. I’ve told you the story of Sammy’s favorite “Sammy Bread”, a loaf of sour dough bread, sweetened with cinnamon-sugar and frosted with a sugary glaze. We look forward to placing a loaf in our basket every week from the Farmer’s Market.

I recreated it at home, with a can of fake pumpkin puree, wink wink.  It’s SO YUMMY, toasted and slathered with butter, or battered and fried ala French toast. Use leftovers to create a toasted crouton for your bowl of ice cream, or as the lead ingredient in custardy pumpkin bread pudding.

But first, make this bread – it’s a recipe born of two cravings: pumpkin bread and cinnamon bread, married together in the sweetest fall recipe you could possibly imagine.

Pumpkin Bread

With Hazelnuts and Chocolate

Yield 1 loaf, about 12 slices

2 ½ hours before you can eat the bread!

 

¼ cup maple syrup, room temperature

2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast

2 ¼ cups bread flour

1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour

1 cup hazelnuts, chopped

1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup pumpkin puree

Pour the maple syrup into a measuring cup. Sprinkle with yeast. Add I cup warm water. Allow the yeast to bloom (foam) about 10 to 15 minutes.

Whisk together the flours, nuts, chocolate, spices and salt in a large bowl.

Place the pumpkin into a bowl. Whisk in the bloomed yeast. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Use a spatula to bring the dough together. Sprinkle your work surface with a generous amount of flour. Pour (the sticky) dough onto the flour and knead the dough until it comes together, and no flour shows through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Place the dough into a bowl coated with vegetable oil spray. Cover with plastic wrap and move to a warm place to rise for 1 hour. I use the warming drawer on the proof setting for this.

After an hour, remove the dough from its cozy hide-out and use a spatula to fold the dough onto itself while your turn the bowl, about 8 to 10 turns. Cover again with plastic and move the bowl back to the warm place to rise for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Coat an 8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½-inch with vegetable oil spray. Use a spatula to transfer the (still pretty sticky) dough to the loaf pan. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 31 to 40 minutes.