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Archive for the ‘Sweet Treats’ Category

Yep, that's my new Kitchenaid Mixer in the background! I love her - her name is Lola.

Yep, that's my new Kitchenaid Mixer in the background! I love her - her name is Lola.

Well, the time has come. I can no longer deny that peach season is coming to an end. I’m sad about it, but all is not lost – you can make smoothies with those mealy peaches that you can’t bring yourself to snack on because it’s too depressing.

Aromatic Peach Smoothie

4 mealy peaches, peeled

1 cup goat yogurt

1 Tbsp orange flower water

1 tsp cardamom

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

milk or water to thin to desired consistency

  • Place first 6 ingredients in blender.
  • Blend.
  • Add enough milk or water to achieve desired consistency.
  • Drink fresh, or refrigerate overnight (it’s better the second day).

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IMG_1641I’ve been working on perfecting this apple pie since I was maybe 10 or 11 years old when I started baking pies. I like a LOT of fruit and very little added sweetness. I’m not a big fan of pastry crusts, so I usually make some sort of crumble crust, and the ingredients vary depending on the fruit I use. I used to use an oil pastry, but recently decided to switch to butter. This one was pretty good, but I still think it should be flakier, so I may have to update this post later as I play with the pastry. I hate soggy crust, so I always pre-bake my crusts to a nice golden brown.

I have found that the key to a really really delicious pie is the fruit you put into it. The best types of apples to use are either MacIntoshes (available on the West Coast), or Maccoons (available on the East Coast). If either of these are not available, you can use 4 tart and juicy ones like Granny Smiths or Pippins, and 3 Rome Beauties, which are always very mealy, so they absorb the juice from the tart juicy ones. I have found that this is the very best ratio for the most mind blowing apple pie. NEVER, EVER use Fujis. Fujis will fool you because they are so delicious to snack on, but they do NOT soften when you cook them, regardless of how long you cook them. It’s a disaster, so just don’t even try it.

Good Old Apple Pie

Pastry

10-inch glass pie pan

1.5 cups flour

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter

3 Tbsp cold water

  • Heat oven to 425.
  • In a medium bowl, mix flour and salt.
  • Cut in butter and mix with a fork or pastry cutter.
  • Add water, 1 Tbsp at a time, mixing between each.
  • Form dough into ball and roll out. (It helps to roll out between two sheets of wax paper.)
  • Place dough in pie pan, with pie weights placed on top. If you don’t have pie weights (I’ve never actually used them, but they seem like a good idea), then you can place a layer of foil on top of the crust, and then either dry beans or rice on top of that.
  • Bake for 12 minutes at 425.

FillingIMG_1623

7 cups apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (about 7 apples – either all MacIntosh/Maccoon or 4 Pippin/Granny Smith and 3 Rome Beauty)

1 Tbsp flour

1 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cardamom

1 Tbsp salted butter (dotted around the top of the filling, after you place it in the crust)

  • Thinly slice apples, and place in large bowl.
  • Sprinkle flour, sugar, and spices over apples, and mix to coat apples.
  • Arrange apples in crust. It will look like you have WAY too many apples, but they will shrink later so don’t worry.
  • Dot butter around the top of your stack of apples.

Crumble ToppingIMG_1626

1/2 cup salted butter, cold

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup flour

  • Mix butter and brown sugar with a fork.
  • Add flour, and mix with a fork or pastry cutter. Do NOT overmix. Only mix until everything is combined, just long enough to make the mixture crumbly without melting the butter.
  • Sprinkle crumb topping over apples. Since the apples will be stacked so high, you will have to place and guide the crumb topping with both hands so it stays on the apples and not your work surface.
  • Place pie in oven, with rack on bottom 1/3 of oven. Lay a piece of foil over the top of the pie, and place a cookie sheet or large piece of foil below the pie (the way you know it’s done is when the juices start to boil over).
  • Bake 50 minutes and then remove foil from top of pie.
  • Bake 10 more minutes, or until the juices start to bubble and boil over.
  • Best served warm with vanilla bean ice cream.

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100_1253While apricot picking last weekend, my cousin reminded me that my grandmother used to make apricot-pineapple jam. Inspired by this, I decided to make an apricot-pineapple crisp for yesterday’s ostrich eggstravaganza, and it was delightful! I had seen this recipe in Bon Appetit, and kind of used it as a guide. Here’s what I did:

Apricot Pineapple Crisp

Filling:

2 large chicken eggs

1/2 cup ricotta

1/2 cup cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Tbsp bourbon

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup all purpose flour

6 cups apricots, pitted and sliced

1/2 fresh pineapple, cleaned, cored, and cut into small chunks

1/4 cup dried tart cherries

1/8 cup brown sugar

  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Butter a large (9 x 13) glass or ceramic baking dish.
  • Place fruit, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup of flour in a large bowl; mix and then pour into baking dish.
  • In a smaller bowl, place eggs, ricotta, cream, vanilla, bourbon, and 1 Tbsp flour; whisk together.
  • Pour egg mixture over fruit in baking dish.
  • Make your topping, and follow the instructions below.

Topping:

1 cup all purpose flour

6 Tbsp (packed) golden brown sugar

1 tsp finely grated lemon peel

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup oats

1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Place dry ingredients (everything but butter and vanilla) in bowl and mix with a fork.
  • Add butter and vanilla; mix with a fork until crumbly.
  • Using your dominant hand (your right hand if you are right handed, and your left if you are left handed), sprinkle evenly on filling.
  • Place baking dish (with all contents) in oven, and bake for about an hour (until custard is set).
  • Cool for an hour or so, and serve warm with ICE CREAM!

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100_1209These hearty cookies seem to have magical powers. They kept my starving brother alive when he arrived in Spain with no cash and a broken ATM card. They were the only thing my cousin (the one who dubbed them “quarter pounders”) could keep down the day after his 21st birthday. They are magical and delicious, and I’ve been making these cookies since I was probably about 10 years old.

Quarter-Pounders

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats (NOT quick oats)

1 cup unsalted butter, partially melted

1.5 cups dark brown sugar

1/3 cup buttermilk

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (Guittard is best)

  1. Preaheat oven to 350
  2. Combine flour, salt, and oats in a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon (NOT a mixer), stir the mixture until it is of uniform consistency.
  3. Pour the butter over the top, and stir again until all butter is incorporated and dough is crumbly.
  4. Add the brown sugar, and stir again until all dough is of uniform (crumbly) consistency.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir with a fork to dissolve baking soda.
  6. Pour buttermilk mixture over dough, and stir again until dough is of uniform crumbly consistency.
  7. Add chocolate morsels and stir again.
  8. Using your 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop dough from bowl and form into a ball (as you would a hamburger patty), and then press flat, so they are about 3 inches wide and 3/4 inch thick.
  9. NOTE: The dough will feel very crumbly and awkward to work with. That’s just the way it goes. Do NOT try to fix the dough by adding more liquid ingredients. That will throw off the texture and make them cook unevenly.
  10. Place the “patties” on a cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.
  11. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
  12. Cool for about 2 minutes on the cookie sheets before transferring to rack.

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100_1183I was in a hurry and remembered reading this yummy looking recipe from Edible East Bay, but didn’t quite have what I needed to make them, or the time to make them. So I improvised:

2 cups white flour

2 Tbsp brown sugar

2.5 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

1 stick butter, unsalted, directly from the fridge, nuked for 30 seconds on high

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup frozen blackberries

evaporated cane juice

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and stir with a fork.
  3. Make a well in the center, and add the buttermilk.
  4. Gradually incorporate the buttermilk with the fork.
  5. Add the butter and stir.
  6. Add the blackberries (you could use frozen raspberries or blueberries, or a combination thereof) and stir.
  7. Spoon dough onto greased cookie sheets.
  8. Sprinkle evaporated cane juice or coarse sugar on top of scones.
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes until dough springs back when you poke it with your finger, and the scones are nice and golden brown. Check at 15 minutes to make sure nothing is burning.

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This weekend, I made two ganache-covered desserts because I am now obsessed with ganache. Why? Because it’s delicious, especially when you have extra and you dip fresh strawberries in it. The following recipe is what I made for my cooking group yesterday. Text was yanked from Epicurious, and the recipe is originally from Bon Appetit magazine. Definitely worth making again, but with a few modifications. It was DELICIOUS – a light yet chocolatey dessert, with a bit of tang and a delicious savoriness about it. My comments/modifications are in italics; the rest of the text is from Epicurious.

NOTES:

  • The dessert can be made and assembled up to 3 days in advance of your event.
  • The chiffon cake can be made in advance of assembly (like a day or so).
  • The meringues must be made the night before assembly.
  • The marmalade can be made far in advance (like a week).
  • Do NOT overlook the importance of parchment paper and nonstick cooking spray in the baking of the meringues, unless you have enough 9″ silicone cake pans to go around.
  • When using non stick spray for the merengues, note that they shrink, a lot. You may need to use an 8″ cake pan for the chiffon cake so that everything lines up properly, since that is how much the merengues shrink.
dacuoise

**Image stolen from Epicurious

A dacquoise is a French dessert made by layering nut-flavored meringues with whipped cream. In this version, cocoa nib meringues are layered with chocolate chiffon cake, mascarpone whipped cream, and blood orange marmalade, then covered in a rich chocolate glaze.

Blood Orange Marmalade:

2 cups sugar, divided

1 1/2 cups water, divided

1 blood orange or regular orange, thinly sliced with peel into rounds, seeded if necessary

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons Campari

  1. Combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and orange slices in heavy medium saucepan.
  2. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  3. Reduce heat to low; cook until orange peel is tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
  4. Pour into strainer set over medium bowl.
  5. Chop orange slices and reserve.
  6. Discard syrup (I could not bring myself to do this because it was tasty and pretty, so I added 1/2 cup of blueberry pomegranate juice and 1 cup sugar, and reduced to make a delicious fruity syrup for waffles, pancakes, etc.)
  7. Combine remaining 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, and lemon juice in another heavy medium saucepan.
  8. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  9. Add chopped orange.
  10. Reduce heat to low; cook until orange is very tender and rind is translucent, about 30 minutes longer.
  11. Mix in Campari.
  12. Transfer marmalade to small bowl and cool. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.

Meringues:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

3/4 cup cocoa nibs (about 2 1/2 to 3 ounces), finely ground in spice mill or small coffee grinder1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

3/4 cup egg whites (about 6 large)

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 cup sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. Line bottoms of two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides with parchment paper; spray parchment with nonstick spray. (I had two 9″ pans – a spring form, and a silicone one. The meringue baked in the silicone pan turned out perfect and required no parchment or nonstick spray. The one I baked in the springform pan, not so lucky. I got frustrated because I couldn’t spread the merengue onto the parchment, so I threw the parchment away since the pan is nonstick anyway. Then I ended up chipping it off of the pan and piecing it back together in the platter. I should have folded the parchment around the bottom part of the springform pan, and then fastened the wall of the springform pan around it.)
  3. Sift powdered sugar and cornstarch into medium bowl; whisk in ground cocoa nibs and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt.
  4. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in large bowl until thick and foamy. Adding 1 tablespoon sugar at a time, beat until stiff but not dry.
  5. Fold in cocoa nib mixture.
  6. Divide meringue between prepared pans, spreading evenly.
  7. Bake meringues 1 hour. Turn off heat. Keeping oven door closed, leave meringues in oven overnight to dry (meringues will deflate slightly).

Chocolate chiffon cake:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray Parchment paper!

1/2 cup sugar, divided

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/3 cup canola oil or other vegetable oil

2 large eggs, separated

2 tablespoons water

  1. Preheat oven to 325 Deg F.
  2. Line bottom of 9-inch-diameter (actually, use an 8″ pan to account for the shinkage of the merengues) cake pan with 2-inch-high sides with parchment paper; spray parchment with nonstick spray (nonstick spray unnecessary here).
  3. Combine 1/4 cup sugar and next 5 ingredients (all of the dry ingredients) in medium bowl; whisk to blend.
  4. Whisk 1/3 cup oil, egg yolks, and 2 tablespoons water in large bowl to blend. Stir in dry ingredients.
  5. Beat egg whites in another medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating until stiff but not dry.
  6. Fold whites into yolk mixture.
  7. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
  8. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack; cool completely; peel off parchment before assembly.
  9. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in foil; store at room temperature.

Mascarpone whipped cream:

1 1/4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream

1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese

1/4 cup powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Combine all ingredients in large bowl.
  2. Beat just until mixture holds soft peaks (do not overbeat or mixture will curdle).
  3. Cover and chill at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours.

Glaze:

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Place chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl. Combine heavy whipping cream, 3 tablespoons water, unsweetened cocoa powder, and light corn syrup in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until blended and just beginning to boil. Pour mixture over chopped chocolate; let stand 1 minute, then stir until smooth. Whisk in butter. Let glaze stand until thick enough to spread, 15 to 20 minutes.

THIS GLAZE SUCKED!!! I followed the directions EXACTLY (which we all know is unusual for me), and it separated. I had to throw it out, which was sad because there were good ingredients in there. Do NOT make this glaze. Make the following modified ganache from the double layer chocolate cake I made on Friday, which turns out silky smooth and beautiful and delicious every time:

1 pound fine-quality semisweet bittersweet chocolate such as Callebaut

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup (I was wondering if agave nectar might work, but didn’t want to screw up on and have to throw away another batch of ganache so I didn’t try it)

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

  1. Finely chop chocolate.
  2. In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted.
  4. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth.
  5. Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable (depending on chocolate used, it may be necessary to chill frosting to spreadable consistency – I used Scharffenberger and it became spreadable just fine at room temp – took about an hour or so)

Assembly

  1. Place 1 meringue on platter, flat side down; spread 1/2 cup glaze over.
  2. Refrigerate until chocolate is firmly set, about 30 minutes.
  3. Spread half of mascarpone cream (about 1 1/2 cups) over chilled chocolate.
  4. Refrigerate 10 minutes.
  5. Place cake layer on work surface; spread with 1/2 cup (a bit more would be better here) marmalade, then remaining mascarpone cream.
  6. Carefully place cake layer atop meringue on platter.
  7. Top assembled cake with second meringue, flat side up.
  8. Spread 1/3 of glaze over top and sides of cake in thin even layer.
  9. Refrigerate until coating sets, about 30 minutes.
  10. Heat remaining glaze in microwave just until pourable but not hot, 5 to 10 seconds. Carefully pour glaze over cake, spreading to coat evenly. Chill cake until glaze sets, at least 1 hour. DO AHEAD: Cake can be made 3 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and keep refrigerated.
  11. Cut cold cake into wedges. Serve with blood orange segments.

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100_1138After much research and several experiments, I believe I’ve perfected the ginger cookie – well, for my purposes, at least. My brother noted that they are really “zingy” with all those incarnations of ginger and other spices, so he decided they should be called “Jingers” (you know, like ginger, but zingier). What inspired me, a woman who once said, “if it doesn’t have chocolate in it, it’s not worth baking,” to work diligently to perfect this Jinger recipe? The answer is Dan. His favorite type of cookie is the ginger cookie, which I thought was really weird but since I love to feed people and want Dan to feel fulfilled in his culinary journey through life, I decided to start reading ginger cookie recipes and bastardizing them ALL!! (insert evil cackle here) I would cite my references, but I started reading recipes online a long time ago and just writing down the parts I liked, then I crossed out a bunch of stuff and changed it around as I made the first few batches. The most important person to credit here is Nancy, who told me I should use freshly grated ginger, so she’s kind of the main genius behind the deliciousness of the Jinger. Note that even my own mother, who has an aversion to ginger, loves these Jingers. And here is the recipe:

Jingers

3/4 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup dark molasses

1 Tbsp vanilla

1 egg (room temperature)

2 tsp baking soda

3 tsp freshly grated ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

1 tsp salt

2.5 cups flour

1 cup crystallized ginger, chopped

1/4 cup sugar (for coating the balls of dough, later)

  1. Cream together butter, sugar, and molasses.100_1125
  2. Add egg and vanilla and really give those guys a good hearty whipping with your wooden spoon. Or, if you’re using a stand mixer, just let it keep mixing as you grate your ginger.
  3. Add baking soda, freshly grated ginger (note, do not try to call these “Jingers” if you don’t use freshly grated ginger), cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Really whip those guys in.
  4. Slowly add the flour so it doesn’t make a big white cloud.
  5. When all flour is incorporated, mix thoroughly and then add the chopped crystallized ginger.
  6. REFRIGERATE dough for at least four hours. Note that this is an important step that, if skipped, will leave you with flat, skinny cookies.
  7. Preheat oven to 350100_1132
  8. Place sugar in a high sided bowl. (I like to use evaporated cane juice for this part because it adds a nice crystally crunchy texture to the outside of the Jingers.)
  9. Remove dough in about tablespoon sized scoops, roll each into a ball with your hands, and then toss around in sugar bowl to coat.
  10. Place sugar coated balls onto cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.
  11. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
  12. Cool for about a minute or so in cookie sheet before transferring to cooling rack.
  13. Enjoy with a nice cup of coffee or tea.

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