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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Memorial Day Desserts

Happy Tuesday! Somewhere between moving to a bigger apartment, unpacking, finishing the school year - this blog was suddenly buried under the work! But now I'm back and ready for Memorial Day (if only the warm weather would stay for the pool openings)! I hope you've got your menu planned (or almost) and are ready to fire up the grill! Here are a few desserts to add to the end of your meal.

Twist on a classic summery dish...
Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes
Food Network Kitchens

Ingredients
For the shortcakes:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3 ounces milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Raw or turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
For the toppings:
  • 1 quart strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered if large (about 3 cups) if large
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Directions
  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Make the shortcakes: Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture until sandy. Add the chocolate. Whisk 1 egg, the cream and vanilla in a glass measuring cup; stir into the flour mixture with a fork to make a shaggy dough (there will be some dry bits). Turn out onto a lightly floured surface; pat flat until 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut into 6 rounds with a knife or cookie cutter, using the scraps for the last cake.
  2. Place the rounds on the baking sheet; freeze for 20 minutes. Beat the remaining egg; brush onto the cakes and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake until firm, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, make the toppings: Toss half of the strawberries with half of the sugar in a bowl; set aside. Place the other half of each in a saucepan; cook over medium-low heat, mashing with a fork to make a thick puree, about 10 minutes. Cool completely. Whip the cream with a mixer until medium peaks form; swirl in the strawberry puree.
  4. Split the shortcakes in half. Layer some of the strawberry cream and reserved fruit on the bottoms; cover with the shortcake tops. Finish with more strawberry cream and the remaining berries.

To please the little ones...
Skewered Strawberry & Marshmallow S'mores
Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, The Gardener and the Grill

Ingredients
  • 12 medium-sized strawberries
  • 8 large marshmallows
  • 8 slices French baguette
  • Olive oil, for brushing
  • One (4-ounce) bar dark chocolate, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
Directions
  1. Prepare a medium-hot fire on one side of your grill.
  2. Thread the strawberries and marshmallows alternately on 4 skewers (if using wooden skewers, pre-soak them). Lightly brush the slices of bread with olive oil.
  3. Place the skewers directly over the fire and grill for about 4 or 5 minutes until the marshmallows have browned.
  4. At the same time, grill one side of the bread. Turn the slices over and move to the indirect side of the grill. Place a piece of chocolate on each slice and sprinkle with a pinch of coarse salt. Remove from the grill when the chocolate is soft but still holds its shape.
  5. Serve the skewers with the grilled bread for a grown-up version of s'mores.

Change em up...
Apricot Blondies
Daniel Orr

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup dried apricot halves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup white-chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup salted roasted almonds, chopped
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter an 8-inch square metal baking pan. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper.
  2. In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter with the brown sugar and vanilla at medium speed until creamy. Beat in the egg until smooth. At low speed, beat in the apricots, chocolate chips and almonds, then beat in the dry ingredients.
  3. Using a spatula, scrape the dough into the prepared pan, pressing it into an even layer. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 45 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let cool completely. Cut into 2-inch squares.

Happy baking!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Appreciating Mama on Her Day

Happy Tuesday! Mother's Day is fast approaching, and whether you're appreciating someone special or you are that Mama yourself, here are a few recipes to let her know how you feel.

Let her eat cake...
Walnut Cake with Apricot Preserves
Sarah Copeland

Ingredients
  • Unsalted butter and all-purpose flour, for greasing and dusting the pan
  • 3 1/2 cups walnuts (about 10 ounces)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves
  • Confectioners' sugar for dusting
  • Whipped cream and sliced peaches, for serving
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan. In a food processor, pulse the walnuts with a pinch of the sugar until very finely ground. Add the baking powder and pulse to combine.
  2. In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the egg whites at high speed until soft peaks form.
  3. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar at medium-high speed until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. At low speed, beat in the walnuts, just to combine.
  4. Stir one-third of the egg whites into the batter. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining beaten whites in 2 batches, until no streaks remain.
  5. Scrape the batter into the pan and bake for 40 minutes, until golden and springy. Transfer to a rack and let cool in the pan. Run the tip of a knife around the cake and unmold it.
  6. Using a serrated knife, split the cake horizontally. Set the bottom layer on a cake plate and spread with the apricot preserves. Replace the top layer and dust with confectioners' sugar. Cut into wedges and serve with whipped cream and sliced peaches.

Dessert for breakfast...
Dark Chocolate Waffles
Mast Brothers Chocolate

Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at least 70% cacao), finely chopped
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • Unsalted butter and warm pure maple syrup (for serving)
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 250°F. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add egg yolks, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Blend with a fork, then gradually incorporate dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.
  2. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat egg whites in a small bowl until soft peaks form. Working in 2 batches, fold egg whites into batter just until combined. Fold in chocolate.
  3. Heat a waffle iron until very hot; lightly coat with nonstick spray. Working in batches, cook waffles until cooked through. Transfer to a wire rack set inside a baking sheet, cover loosely with foil, and keep warm in oven until ready to serve.
  4. Serve waffles with butter and syrup.
DO AHEAD: Batter with egg whites can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.


When she just wants an extra spoon...
Rhubarb Ice Cream with a Caramel Swirl
Melissa Clark

Ingredients
  • 1 and 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 and 3/4 cup plus 6 tablespoonsgranulated sugar
  • Pinch fine sea salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sour cream
  • ¾ pound rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • ½ cup heavy cream
Directions
  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, whisk together the milk, 3/4 cup sugar, the salt, the vanilla bean seeds and its pod. Simmer gently until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and steep 30 minutes. Discard the vanilla pod and return mixture to a bare simmer.
  2. Place the yolks in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in hot milk mixture. Scrape the custard back into the pot and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Whisk in sour cream. Chill at least 3 hours or overnight.
  3. In a saucepan, combine the rhubarb with 1 cup sugar. Simmer until rhubarb is just tender and has begun releasing its juices, but has not started to fall apart, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer rhubarb to a bowl. Continue to simmer the juices until syrupy, 5 to 10 minutes more. Pour the syrup over the rhubarb. Cool completely.
  4. In a clean, dry and preferably nonstick skillet, sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over medium heat. When it begins to melt and lightly color, sprinkle in 2 more tablespoons and start swirling pan to help evenly distribute sugar. Add the final 2 tablespoons and cook, swirling pan until all the sugar has melted. Let cook, swirling occasionally, until the sugar syrup caramelizes and turns dark brown. Pour in the heavy cream and 2 tablespoons water (stand back; it may splatter). Simmer, stirring with a heatproof rubber spatula until smooth. Cool completely.
  5. Pour the custard base into an ice cream machine and churn. Add rhubarb compote for the last minute of churning.
  6. Scrape a quarter of the caramel into the bottom of a freezer-proof quart container. Top with a quarter of the ice cream. Repeat layering until all of the caramel and ice cream has been used, ending with the ice cream. Freeze until firm for at least 2 hours and up to 1 week.

Happy baking!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pink Isn't a Girl Color

Happy Tuesday everyone! In my quest for delicious recipes this week, I started thinking about things I've been eating lately. Do you know what stands out? Strawberries! I don't know what's happening but I hope it doesn't stop! They've been sweet and plump and extra delicious, especially this time of year. So today's recipes are all based around those juicy fruits!

Colors for days...
Flourless Pistachio Cake with Strawberry Meringue
Anna Stockwell

Ingredients
Cake:
  • Vegetable oil, for cake pan
  • 1 1/2 cups shelled unsalted pistachios (8 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Meringue Topping:
  • 1 1/3 cups freeze-dried strawberries (1.2-ounce package)
  • 5 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup almond flour (4 ounces)
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch
  • 9-inch springform pan
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly brush a 9-inch springform pan with oil and line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Brush parchment with oil and set pan aside.
  2. In a food processor, pulse pistachios with 1/4 cup sugar until finely ground (avoid overgrinding); set aside.
  3. In two large bowls, separate eggs into yolks and whites, discarding the sixth egg white. Add 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla, salt, and cardamom to bowl with egg yolks and beat using an electric mixer until thick and pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Set egg yolk mixture aside and thoroughly clean and dry the beaters.
  4. Add a pinch of salt to the bowl with the egg whites and beat using an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
  5. Add half of the whipped egg whites and all of the ground pistachios to the egg yolk mixture and fold until combined. Add the remaining egg whites and fold until batter is just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Bake until beginning to brown and just barely set, 20–25 minutes.
  6. While the cake is baking, make the meringue topping: In a food processor, process strawberries into a fine powder; set aside 1 Tbsp. strawberry powder for garnish and transfer remainder to a medium bowl. Whisk in almond flour and potato starch.
  7. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and vinegar until soft peaks form, then gradually beat in the sugar and and continue to whip until meringue is stiff and glossy and all the sugar has dissolved, 7–8 minutes. Gently fold almond mixture into meringue until just combined.
  8. Remove cake from oven. Using an offset spatula or table knife, spread meringue mixture evenly over hot cake, starting from the outside and working your way into the center. Return cake to oven and bake until meringue is lightly browned and crisp, 25–30 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool, and immediately run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Release and remove the side of the springform pan. Let cake cool at least 30 minutes before decorating.
  9. To decorate the cake, place the reserved strawberry powder in a fine-mesh sieve and dust over cake as desired.Do ahead: Cake can be made up to one day before serving: cool to room temperature, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and store at room temperature.
Notes: Look for freeze-dried strawberries in the dried fruit aisle of your local health-food or specialty food store. If you don't have superfine sugar, you can make your own by pulverizing granulated sugar in a food processor.


New take on the usual...
Strawberry Tiramisu
Giada de Laurentiis

Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 cups strawberry preserves
  • 1/3 cup plus 4 tablespoons Cointreau or other orange liqueur
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 pound mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups chilled whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 52 (about) crisp ladyfingers (boudoirs or Savoiardi)
  • 1 1/2 pounds strawberries, divided
Directions
  1. Whisk preserves, 1/3 cup Cointreau, and orange juice in 2-cup measuring cup. Place mascarpone cheese and 2 tablespoons Cointreau in large bowl; fold just to blend. Using electric mixer, beat cream, sugar, vanilla, and remaining 2 tablespoons Cointreau in another large bowl to soft peaks. Stir 1/4 of whipped cream mixture into mascarpone mixture to lighten. Fold in remaining whipped cream.
  2. Hull and slice half of strawberries. Spread 1/2 cup preserve mixture over bottom of 3-quart oblong serving dish or a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Arrange enough ladyfingers over strawberry mixture to cover bottom of dish. Spoon 3/4 cup preserve mixture over ladyfingers, then spread 2 1/2 cups mascarpone mixture over. Arrange 2 cups sliced strawberries over mascarpone mixture. Repeat layering with remaining lady fingers, preserve mixture, and mascarpone mixture. Cover with plastic and chill at least 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Slice remaining strawberries. Arrange over tiramasù and serve.
*Italian cream cheese available at supermarkets and at Italian markets.



With a dollop of cream...
Country Cake with Strawberries and Whipped Cream
Ina Garten

Ingredients
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan. In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the cornstarch, baking soda and salt.
  2. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add the 3/4 cup of sugar and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the sour cream, the orange and lemon zests and 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla and beat until blended. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until smooth.
  3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes, or until golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool for 15 minutes before turning it out onto the rack to cool completely.
  4. Beat the cream with the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla until soft peaks form.
  5. Slice the cake in half horizontally. Spread most of the whipped cream over the cut side of the bottom cake half. Layer most of the sliced strawberries on top. Replace the top half of the cake and garnish with the remaining whipped cream and strawberries. make ahead The cake can be frozen for up to 1 month. Let it cool completely before wrapping in plastic and then foil. The assembled cake can be prepared up to 2 hours ahead.
Make Ahead: The cake can be frozen for up to 1 month. Let it cool completely before wrapping in plastic and then foil. The assembled cake can be prepared up to 2 hours ahead.


Happy baking!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cheesecake: The More the Merrier

Happy Thursday! Cheesecake, oddly enough, has been a topic of conversation around the water cooler lately. It got me thinking; did you know there are perhaps a billion and one ways to make a cheesecake? Let's explore a few today, shall we?

The original...
Creamy Cream Cheese Cheesecake
Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients
For the crust:
  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
For the cheesecake:
  • 2 pounds (four 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups sour cream or heavy cream, or a combination of the two
Directions
To make the crust:
  1. Butter a 9-inch springform pan—choose one that has sides that are 2 3/4 inches high (if the sides are lower, you will have cheesecake batter leftover)—and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil; put the pan on a baking sheet.
  2. Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. (I do this with my fingers.) Turn the ingredients into the buttered springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Don't worry if the sides are not perfectly even or if the crumbs reach above or below the midway mark on the sides—this doesn't have to be a precision job. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.
  3. Center a rack in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F and place the springform on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
To make the cheesecake:
  1. Put a kettle of water on to boil.
  2. Working in a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft and lives up to the creamy part of its name, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition—you want a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the sour cream and/or heavy cream.
  3. Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in the roaster pan.
  4. Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter will reach the brim of the pan. (If you have a pan with lower sides and have leftover batter, you can bake the batter in a buttered ramekin or small soufflé mold.) Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
  5. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven's heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.
  6. After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster—be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil—remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
  7. When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours, although overnight would be better.

Cheesecake for the non-cheese eater
Raw, Vegan Strawberry Vanilla Cheesecake
Gena Hamshaw

Ingredients
For the crust:
  • 1 1/2 cups raw almonds
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 2 cups pitted medjool dates
For the filling:
  • 3 cups cashews
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut in half, seeds scraped out for use, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1 cup strawberries
Directions
  1. Soak the cashews in water overnight or for three or more hours. Drain them of water and set aside.
  2. Place the almonds and sea salt in a food processor and grind roughly. Add the dates and process until the mixture is uniform and sticks together when you squeeze a bit in the palm your hand. Press mixture evenly onto the bottom of a 9" springform pan.
  3. Use a high speed blender or food processor (high speed blender is preferable) to blend all filling ingredients except for the strawberries thoroughly, until silky smooth. If you're working with a processor, you may need to stop often to scrape it down.
  4. Pour just more than half of the filling mixture into the springform pan. Use an inverted spatula to smooth it over. Transfer to the fridge for thirty minutes or more to let this layer set.
  5. Blend the strawberries into the remaining filling mixture. Set it aside in a bowl while the first layer is setting. Once the first layer has been in the fridge for thirty minutes or longer, spread the strawberry layer over the plain vanilla layer. Transfer whole cheesecake to the fridge and let it sit for two hours or longer before slicing and serving.

For your inner Italian...
Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake
Marcella Giamundo

Ingredients
Pastry:
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup cold solid vegetable shortening, divided into 3 pieces
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons milk
Filling:
  • 1 1/2 pounds ricotta (3 cups)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons anise liqueur
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
Directions
  1. In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt and pulse several times. Add the shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the eggs and milk and pulse until lightly moistened. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times until smooth. Form the dough into 2 disks, 1 slightly larger than the other. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes or for up to 3 days.
  2. In a food processor, combine the ricotta, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, anise liqueur and vanilla and process until smooth.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°. On a lightly floured work surface or between sheets of plastic, roll out the larger disk of dough to a 13-inch round. Line a 10-by-1 1/2-inch pie plate with it. Patch any cracks. Spoon in the filling. Roll out the remaining disk of dough to an 11-inch round. Brush the pastry pie rim with water and set the round on top. Press the edges together to seal. Trim the overhanging dough and crimp decoratively. Make 3 small slashes in the top and brush with the egg wash. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden; cover with foil if it browns too quickly. Let cool on a rack to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled.
MAKE AHEAD: The cheesecake can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.


Happy baking!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Caramel, Three Ways

Happy Thursday everyone! If you've missed recipe updates, I'm back after a short break post-Passover/Easter weekend. Have you checked out my Facebook page recently? You'll find the latest updates/photos posted there. Or maybe here as well:




So today I was thinking about what I wanted to talk about, and after doing some browsing and recipe-ogling, I started thinking about the many ways to make caramel. I've got 3 ideas for you - from easier to harder - on using homemade caramel in a variety of ways.

A little easier to manage...
Molten Caramel Cakes
Chuck Hughes

Ingredients
  • 2 cups/500ml chopped white chocolate
  • 1/4 cup/60ml butter, plus more for the ramekins
  • 2 cups/500ml store-bought dulce de leche
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup/60ml sugar
  • 1 cup/250ml all-purpose flour
  • Maldon sea salt, for sprinkling on top
Directions
  1. Melt the white chocolate with the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the dulce de leche and stir until incorporated. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  3. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until the mixture is pale and has doubled in volume. Gradually add the white chocolate mixture, and then the flour. Take your time to avoid lumps.
  4. Divide the batter among 6 ramekins. Bake until the cakes are golden brown and the centers are still soft, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Just a bit more difficult, but you can do it!
Bourbon-Sea Salt Caramels
Bon Appetit, December 2013

Ingredients
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
Special equipment:A candy thermometer

Directions
  1. Lightly coat an 8x8" baking pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2" overhang on 2 sides; spray parchment.
  2. Bring sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture turns a deep amber color, 8–10 minutes.
  3. Remove pan from heat and whisk in sweetened condensed milk and butter (mixture will bubble vigorously) until smooth. Fit pan with thermometer and return to medium-low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until thermometer registers 240°F. Remove from heat and whisk in bourbon and kosher salt. Pour into prepared pan; let cool. Sprinkle caramel with sea salt, cut into 3/4" pieces, and wrap individually in parchment paper.
DO AHEAD: Caramels can be made 2 weeks ahead. Store wrapped tightly in plastic in airtight container at room temperature.



Hardest of the 3, but you can make your own caramel! (I've posted the "how to" in the past.)
Ricotta Caramel Custards
Erica De Mane

Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 pounds fresh whole milk ricotta
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon light rum
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange-flower water
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375° and position a rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup of the sugar with the water and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar. Using a wet pastry brush, wash down any sugar crystals from the side of the pan. Continue to boil the sugar syrup, without stirring, until a golden amber caramel forms, 6 to 8 minutes.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and dip the bottom of the pan in a bowl of cool water to stop the cooking. Immediately pour the hot caramel into eight 4-ounce ramekins; swirl to evenly coat the bottoms with caramel. Set the ramekins in a roasting pan.
  4. In a food processor, combine the ricotta with the whole egg, egg yolks, cream, rum, vanilla, orange-flower water, orange zest and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Process until smooth. Pour the mixture into the ramekins. Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough hot water into the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
  5. Bake the ricotta custards for about 45 minutes or until golden brown on top and set around the edges but still slightly soft in the center. Transfer the ramekins to a rack and let cool. Cover and refrigerate the custards overnight.
  6. To unmold, run a small knife around each custard, place a dessert plate on top and invert, giving the ramekin a little shake. If the custard sticks, briefly dip the bottom of the ramekin in hot water and invert again.

Happy baking!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Easter Desserts: Less Than a Week to Go!

Happy Tuesday everyone! In the final Easter countdown, you still have time to make a fabulous dessert for your holiday brunch (or something memorable to bring to a party - sure to get you invited back next year!). Be warned - these recipes might also lead to more spring-like temperatures and flowers in bloom (one can hope, anyway...).

Lemons...
Meyer Lemon Bars
Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand, The Kitchn Cookbook

Ingredients
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 tbsp powdered sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt plus more
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 to 2 tsp ice water
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp Meyer lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9" x 13" baking pan and line it with parchment paper, leaving 1" of overhang on the two long sides.
  2. In a food processor, pulse 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, and salt. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add ice water 1 tsp at a time if mixture is too dry. Press dough into bottom of prepared pan, pressing snugly against the inside edges.
  3. Bake crust for 20-25 minutes, or until golden. Set pan on a wire rack to cool slightly. Reduce oven temperature to 300°.
  4. Whisk together eggs and granulated sugar until well combined and pale in color. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, remaining 1/4 cup flour, and a pinch of salt. Pour topping over warm crust. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until set.
  5. Set pan on a rack to cool. Remove squares by lifting parchment. Cut into bars. Dust with remaining 3 tbsp powdered sugar.

Strawberries...
Strawberry Cream Puffs
Ed Jiloca

Ingredients
Cream Puffs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 large eggs
Pastry Cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • GLAZE
  • 1/4 cup strawberry preserves
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
Strawberries with Tarragon
  • 2 pints strawberries, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400° and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, bring the water, salt, sugar and butter to a boil. Add the flour all at once, remove from the heat and stir until a smooth ball forms. Transfer the dough to a bowl and let cool for 1 minute. Using an electric mixer, beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions, until smooth.
  2. Scoop the dough onto the baking sheet in 8 mounds. Using a lightly moistened finger, smooth the tops. Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 250° and bake for 15 minutes longer, until the puffs are lightly golden. Let cool completely.
  3. In a saucepan, bring the milk, salt, vanilla bean and seeds to a boil. In a bowl, whisk the sugar, cornstarch and eggs. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the hot milk. Whisk the mixture into the remaining milk in the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until very thick and bubbling, about 4 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the butter. Strain the pastry cream into a bowl, place a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
  4. In a small saucepan, combine the strawberry preserves with the water and bring to a simmer. Whisk vigorously to break up the fruit. Strain the mixture into a medium bowl. Add the confectioners' sugar and whisk until smooth.
  5. In a medium bowl, toss the strawberries with the sugar, vanilla seeds and tarragon.
  6. Split the cream puffs horizontally and gently pull out any soft dough from the centers. Spoon the pastry cream into the puffs, top with some strawberry slices and replace the tops of the puffs. Spoon some of the glaze on top and refrigerate until set, about 10 minutes. Serve.


Mmmm...cake...
Victoria Sponge Cake
Saveur

Ingredients
  • 3⁄4 lb. plus 1 tbsp. salted European-style high-fat butter, 
  • softened
  • 3 cups plus 1 tbsp. self-rising cake flour
  • 1 1⁄2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1⁄4 cups double Devon cream
  • 3⁄4 cup high-quality strawberry jam
  • Confectioners' sugar
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 360º. Grease two 2"-deep 8" round cake pans with 1/2 tbsp. butter each. Dust each with 1/2 tbsp. flour; set aside.
  2. Beat remaining butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed for 5 minutes. Add granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Combine eggs and 6 tbsp. water in another bowl. Add half the egg mixture and half the flour to butter–sugar mixture. Beat well for 1–2 minutes. Add remaining egg mixture and flour; beat batter for 5 minutes.
  3. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 35–40 minutes. Invert cakes onto a rack, remove pans, and let cool completely.
  4. Beat cream in a medium bowl until stiff. Put 1 cake layer on a cake plate, spread top with half the jam, then cover jam with the cream. Spread top of remaining cake layer with remaining jam and place it, jam side down, on top of cream. Dust cake with confectioners' sugar.

Happy baking!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Fruit-Filled Easter Desserts

Happy Tuesday everyone! As I promised, last week was devoted to Passover and this week is Easter week. Today's recipes aren't your typical lemon pies and carrot cakes, but they'll win over your holiday table nonetheless. Check out what you can do with spring FRUIT!

Blackberry and Apple Cake
Saveur

Ingredients
  • ¾ cup softened unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
  • 1½ lbs. fresh blackberries (about 6 cups)
  • 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 3 granny smith apples, cored, peeled, and quartered
  • ⅓ cup apple brandy, such as calvados
  • 2½ cups cake flour
  • 2¼ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. fine salt
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. superfine sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • Crème fraîche, for garnish (optional)
Directions
  1. Heat oven to 350°. Grease a 9" springform pan with butter. Line bottom of pan with a parchment paper circle; grease paper. Wrap outside of pan with foil to prevent drips; set aside. In a small bowl, toss 2 cups blackberries with brown sugar; set aside to let macerate.
  2. Meanwhile, cut each apple quarter into ⅛" slices; toss with apple brandy in a bowl; set aside. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl; set aside. In another bowl, stir together milk, vanilla, and lemon zest; set aside. Using a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 15 seconds after each addition. Reduce mixer speed to low. Alternately add flour and milk mixtures in thirds, beginning and ending with flour, until just incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and gently fold in the apple–calvados mixture.
  3. Transfer batter to the prepared pan; spread evenly. Scatter remaining blackberries over top of batter. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Let cake cool in pan on a rack for 30 minutes; unmold, then cool completely. Mash macerated blackberries through a sieve into a bowl; discard seeds. Serve cake slices drizzled with the blackberry juice and dollops of crème fraîche (if using).


Apricot-and-Basil Shortbread Tart
Roy Shvartzapel

Ingredients
Pastry Cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed basil leaves with stems
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pastry
  • 1 large hard-boiled egg yolk
  • 1 stick plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Topping
  • 6 apricots (1 1/4 pounds), halved
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup apricot jam, melted
Directions
  1. In a saucepan, combine 3/4 cup of the milk with the sugar and basil; bring to a simmer. Remove the milk from the heat and let stand for 15 minutes. Remove the basil and squeeze any milk back into the pan; discard the basil.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup of milk with the yolks and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly whisk the egg yolk mixture into the warm milk; bring to a simmer over moderate heat, whisking constantly until very thick, 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until melted. Scrape the cream into a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate until chilled, 2 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray a 14-by-4 1/2-inch rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom with nonstick cooking spray. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the hard-boiled egg yolk with the butter and sugar at medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the flour, potato starch and salt and beat at low speed until just combined. Using lightly floured hands, press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the side of the tart pan. Refrigerate the crust for 30 minutes, or until chilled.
  4. Bake the crust for about 25 minutes, until golden. Transfer the crust to a rack and let stand until cooled, about 1 hour.
  5. Increase the oven temperature to 450°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the apricot halves cut side up on the paper and sprinkle all over with the sugar. Roast for about 20 minutes, until the apricots are tender and lightly browned. Let the apricots stand until completely cooled, about 30 minutes.
  6. Unmold the crust and transfer it to a serving plate. Using a small offset spatula, spread the cream evenly in the crust. Arrange the apricots on the cream, cut sides down, and brush with the melted jam. Cut the tart crosswise into strips and serve at once.
Notes: To make a 9-inch round tart, press the dough into a 9-inch round fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Use 10 apricots and 1/4 cup of sugar for sprinkling. Double the pastry cream. Bake for 40 minutes.


Rhubarb Frangipane Pie
Allison Kave

Ingredients
Frangipane Filling
  • 2/3 cup (75 g) slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/3 cup (65 g) sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick/85 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Rhubarb Filling
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds (680 g) fresh rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces (about 3 cups; remove any tough strings)
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Egg wash or milk, for glaze
  • Raw sugar, for garnish
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the dough into an 11-inch (28-cm) circle about 1/8 to 1/4 inch (3 to 6 mm) thick. Line a 9-inch (23-cm) pie plate with the dough, and trim the overhang to 1 inch (2.5 cm). Refrigerate the crust until ready to bake.
  2. Make the frangipane filling: In a food processor, grind the almonds and sugar until they are sandy. Add the butter, then the egg, flour, and vanilla and mix until smooth.
  3. Make the rhubarb filling: In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the rhubarb and orange zest and toss to coat.
  4. Spread the frangipane over the bottom crust. Pile the rhubarb filling on top. Brush the pie shell edges with egg wash or milk.
  5. Roll out the other half of the pie crust into an 11-inch (28-cm) circle. Lay the dough over the surface of the pie. Trim the edges and tuck the dough inward or outward, pressing and rolling the bottom and top crust edges together. Crimp them into a decorative edge, brush with egg wash or milk, and sprinkle raw sugar over the top. Cut vents into the top crust to allow steam to escape.
  6. Put the pie on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, rotating once halfway through. Lower the temperature to 350°F (175°C) and bake for 30 to 40 minutes more, until the crust is golden and the filling is set (you'll see thick juices bubbling out when it's ready). Remove the pie to cool completely on a wire rack, at least 1 hour.
  7. This pie can be refrigerated for up to 1 week, covered in plastic wrap. Let it come to room temperature before serving, or warm it in a low oven. It can be kept frozen for up to 2 months: Cover it in plastic wrap, then in foil, and let it come to room temperature before serving.

Happy baking!