Stonefruit and Almond Upside-Down Cake

September 15, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 7 Comments
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stonefruit upside-down cake

Fall is in the air and I couldn’t be more excited!  I like summer in theory (long days, trips to the beach, bottles of chilled rosé), but in practice, we don’t have A/C, so I just feel uncomfortable and lazy most of the time.  Not to mention sweaty.  I will miss the summer fruit for sure, but luckily I can still get peaches and plums for another couple of weeks.  Even though I have avoided turning on the oven for most of the past two months, now is a great time to get baking.

I’m quite fond of upside-down cakes, and don’t mind experimenting with them.  Fruit cooked in caramel goo…ain’t nothing wrong with that.  And they’re pretty, too.  We know an upside-down cake is really all about the caramelized fruit, but the cakey part shouldn’t be neglected either (trust me).  This cake has the right balance of sturdiness and softness.  Almond meal and a bit of barley flour help with that texture, and also give it some real flavor (as in we’re not just relying on the fruit).  It’s equally delicious made with peaches, nectarines or plums.  I’ve had it all three ways…maybe next summer I’ll do a combo?  Unless we have company, it takes the two of us four nights to go through an 8-inch cake, and I didn’t feel like this one suffered at all.  (I stored the cakes wrapped in the fridge and brought slices to room temperature as we wanted them).

Don’t you just love how plum skins look like jewels when cooked down?

stonefruit upside-down cake

Stonefruit and Almond Upside-Down Cake– makes an 8-inch cake

Steph’s Notes:  If you don’t have pre-ground almond meal, grind an equal amount of whole almonds, along with 2 tablespoons of the all-purpose flour, in the food processor until fine.  You can replace the barley flour with an equal amount of all-purpose flour, if you wish.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more to grease pan
1 cup sugar
3-4 medium peaches, plums or nectarines, pitted and cut into 6 wedges each
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup barley flour
1/3 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

-Preheat the oven to 350° F and lightly butter an 8-inch round cake pan (preferably not a springform one).

-To make the topping, put 1/2 cup of the sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a medium skillet over medium heat. It should look like wet sand. Wash down any sugar crystals on the sides of the skillet with a wet pastry brush.  Cook the sugar until it becomes a deep golden brown caramel. This will happen quickly, so don’t walk away. Add 1 tablespoon butter and whisk it in until smooth. Be careful, as the caramel will bubble a bit when the butter goes in.

-Pour the caramel into the bottom of the prepared cake pan and tilt to coat. Arrange the fruit wedges snugly in the bottom of the pan in a single layer, cutting to fit if needed.  It doesn’t matter if the caramel sets up while you are doing this.

-Combine the flours, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.

-Beat the remaining 5 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup sugar (a scant 1/2 cup if you like it less sweet, like I do) in a large bowl with a mixer (or in a stand mixer with the paddle) on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until just incorporated.

-Spread the batter evenly over the fruit and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

-Transfer to a rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Invert onto a plate and let cool completely before serving.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Blueberry Muffins

September 3, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in breakfast things, groups, muffins & quick breads, tuesdays with dorie | 13 Comments
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IMG_4627_edited-1 copy

Yesterday was the first Labor Day in many years where I myself did not have to labor.  Any holiday is typically an extra busy, extra intense day for those who work in the food biz.  It was sort of odd then that I chose to celebrate by getting up a little early to make Rick Katz’s Blueberry Muffins for breakfast.  Baked goods for breakfast are a bit of a treat around here, as they should be, I guess.  Not only are they an indulgence, but OMG, the wait for prep, baking and cool down is almost too much!

Really, though, blueberry muffins are no big deal (they’re not like sticky buns, or anything), and I’ve made them here before.  This particular recipe is unusual in that it uses cake flour and calls for creaming the butter and sugar (instead of the “muffin-method’s” usual melted butter or oil).  The results are more like little tea cakes than sturdy coffee shop muffins.  They aren’t too sweet and they are loaded with the last-of-season blueberries.  They look sort of dainty and unassuming from the outside, but inside they are basically blueberry jam!

IMG_4638_edited-2

We’re going without hosts now for TWD, so for the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Johnnycake Cobbler

August 20, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in cobbler, crisps, shortcakes, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 24 Comments
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johnnycake cobbler

I made Johanne Killeen’s Johnnycake Cobbler twice, both times with peaches and red currants.  The first time, I thought the biscuit layer was too thick and the fruit was getting lost underneath all that cornmeal topping.  So I tried again, reducing the topping ingredients by a third.  Now the cobbler to fruit ratio was in much better proportion.  Even with less biscuit on top, in order to get it cooked through, I still had to bake the cobbler for several minutes longer than the recipe stated.

I should warn you that the johnnycake topping uses lots of cream.  Like lots.  I just couldn’t do it– both times, I used a combo of milk and sour cream to replace it (essentially making a higher fat buttermilk-type liquid).  I’m sure it was less rich than the original, but at least I could justify having a little scoop of ice cream alongside.

I’ve been seeing plums at the market, so I’ll probably be giving this a third try soon!

peaches and red currants, about to be cobbled

We’re going without hosts now for TWD, so for the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. There’s also a video of Nancy and Johanne making the cobbler together.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Eastern Mediterranean Pizzas (& Pitas)

August 6, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Posted in groups, savory things, tuesdays with dorie, yeast breads | 9 Comments
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eastern mediteranean pizza

Lord knows I’m not above making a pita pizza from time to time, but usually it’s out of sheer convenience (and sometimes out of desperation).  Before Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s Eastern Mediterranean Pizzas, I certainly wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of making my own pita dough for one.  Not that it was a hard dough to make or anything, but like any yeast bread, it does take time.

The topping for these pizzas is lamb (although I used ground turkey) sautéed with onions and garlic, tomatoes and pine nuts.  Mine wound up a little on the dry side, probably because I used cherry tomatoes, which didn’t give off much juice.  I tried to jazz up my finished pizza with some feta and chopped scallions, but if I make it again, I’ll make sure the topping has just a touch of sauciness to coat the meat.

The bread dough has a fair amount of whole wheat flour in it, which gives it a slightly nutty taste.  The recipe calls for baking individual pizzas, but I made a double-sized one instead and baked it on my pizza stone.

Since I had to make pita dough before I could make the base of my pizza, I went ahead and made some actual pita breads with it as well.  And then we had warm pita and hummus snack.  I was quite pleased that my pitas puffed enough to get a pocket– my husband initially didn’t believe that I made these, as I always get my pitas at the great Damascus Bakery here in Brooklyn.  The next morning, I took my last homemade pita, opened its pocket, and made a fried egg sandwich out of it.  Tasty!

pitas

We’re going without hosts now for TWD, so for the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. There’s also a video of Jeffery and Naomi making the dough and pizzas with Julia.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Gooseberry Jam

July 23, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Posted in breakfast things, jams & preserves, sweet things | 7 Comments
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gooseberry jam

In honour of the Royal Baby, I’ve whipped up something that I think of as very British– gooseberry jam.  Gooseberries are high in pectin, so they’re ideal for jamming.  Also, when my CSA gave them to me last weekend, I really couldn’t think of anything else to do with them.

I had just two half-pints of gooseberries, so I weighed what I had and scaled down the recipe below accordingly.  Even though I had a mix of red and green berries, the jam took on a brilliant rosy color as it bubbled away.  My little batch cooked quickly, and gave me a pint of jam plus a smidge extra (that’s what’s left in the pot).  A raw gooseberry packs a tart punch, but this jam has a great sweet-tart balance and just a hint of vanilla.  Maybe I’ll fold it into whipped cream for a fool or a trifle.  That is, if we don’t eat it all on our morning crumpets.

Did you know that “gooseberry” is British slang for what we call “third wheel”?  Interesting.

Gooseberry Jam– makes about four 1/2-pint jars
adapted from The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant

Steph’s Notes:  This is a pretty small batch of jam– small enough that I personally would just store the jars in the fridge and not bother to water bath process them.  You can certainly process them to extend shelf life, though, if you choose.  New boxes of Ball jars come with instructions on how to do this, or you can find great tutorials online (like this one).

If you have trouble telling if your jam is done, you can pop a small plate into the freezer to chill.  Spoon a teaspoon of the  fruit mixture onto the cold plate and allow to set for 30 seconds. Tip the plate 45 degrees to one side; jam should be a soft gel that moves slightly.  If mixture is liquid and runs quickly down the plate, return the jam to the heat and cook, stirring constantly, 2-5 minutes longer; then repeat the test.

907 g (about 6 cups) whole gooseberries, topped and tailed
282 g (about 1 2/3 cups) sugar
14 g (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) lemon juice
1 vanilla bean (seeds only)

-In a heavy-bottomed pot, combine the gooseberries, sugar and lemon juice.  Cover with the lid and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Remove the lid once the mixture is simmering and stir in the vanilla bean seeds.  Continue to cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, for about 15 minutes.  Skim off any scum that rises to the surface of the jam during the cooking process.

-You’ll notice some changes in the fruit mixture as it reaches gelling stage.  These changes are subtle, but as the jam starts to set, you’ll feel your spoon “drag” on the bottom of the pot when you stir, and the boiling bubbles will slow (similar to candy making).   Also, when you hold your spoon up, the liquid will run off the side of it in thick, heavy drops.  If you are uncertain, use the cold plate test described in the above notes.

-Spoon or funnel the jam into four clean 1/2-pint jars (even though I don’t water-bath process small batches of jam, I still like to carefully pour boiling water over the jars, lids, funnel and metal spoon before using them, or have them fresh from the dishwasher), leaving about 1/4 inch of space at the top.  Close the jars and let the jam cool to room temperature.  Store the jam in the refrigerator for several months.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Summer Vegetable Tart

July 16, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in groups, other savory, savory things, tuesdays with dorie, veggies | 14 Comments
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summer vegetable tart

Gale Gand’s Summer Vegetable Tart at first sounded so promising.  My CSA is throwing all kinds of vegetables my way, and it can be a challenge (a fun challenge) to get them taken care of before the next week’s batch takes over my fridge.  I was kind of surprised, then, to see that the “summer vegetables” in the recipe are just garlic, onions, red peppers and mushrooms.  Those are more like “whenever vegetables,” so I took some creative license and added zucchini and summer squash to the mix.

The tart is simple enough– the shell is just layers of butter-brushed phyllo baked till golden.  The veggies are sautéed separately and then loaded into the baked shell along with some cheese.  That’s it, all done and ready to serve.  It’s okay.  It certainly isn’t bad, just a little dull, even though I tried to pep mine up with some hot pepper flakes and fresh parsley.  The phyllo shell gets soggy in a hurry, and because the filling is never baked, it stays loose and messy.  I prefer the Cheese and Tomato Galette we did last month, and I think a riff on that will be my next attempt at a summer veggie tart.

We’re going without hosts now for TWD, so for the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Watermelon Agua Fresca

July 11, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Posted in around NYC, drinks | 7 Comments
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watermelon agua fresca

I quit my job a couple of weeks ago.  Actually I quit my job in February, but somehow they convinced me to stay through June.  Hmmm…how’d that happen?  Over those last five months at work, I was sooooo looking forward to some free time.  I had grand plans for sprucing up things around the house, maybe taking piano lessons or going on a couple of trips.  To tell ya the truth, though, I haven’t accomplished much.

It’s hard to motivate for big cleaning projects or to concentrate on EveryGoodBoyDoesFine when it’s so freakin’ hot in the house…and also when you have a contracting crew remodeling a bathroom and making crazy noise and more mess everyday.  I do have a some short trips lined up, but none have happened yet, and one already had to be cancelled (boo to that–I’d already bought the plane ticket).  When I go on my daily errands, I’ve been taking long walks to keep myself out of the stuffy house.  My prize for today’s cruise around Brooklyn is that I walked right past Ethan Hawke on the sidewalk–OMG, so cute!

I’ve been looking for creative ways to cool down that don’t just involve going to the movies or eating ridiculous amounts of ice cream.  My obsession for all things Mexican led me to agua fresca…the drink, not my neighbor’s pretty awesome above-ground pool.  I took a big watermelon that was taking up too much space in the fridge and turned it into the most refreshing, pink, fruity, fizzy, ice-cold drink.  Yes, I will be doing a lot of agua fresca-ing this summer.  Yes, that is a verb.

watermelon agua fresca

Watermelon Agua Fresca- makes 4-6 drinks

Steph’s Notes:  I don’t see why this wouldn’t work with other types of melon, too.   

2 lbs of watermelon cubes, seeds mostly picked out (this is the weight after trimming the rind and cubing)
juice of half a lime (or more to taste)
pinch of salt
granulated sugar or simple syrup to taste
cold seltzer water (or still water if you’d rather)
ice

-Put the melon chunks in a blender with the juice of half a lime and a pinch of salt.  Whiz till liquid.  Taste and see if it needs another squeeze of lime and/or if it needs to be sweeter.  Add sugar or simple syrup accordingly– if it needs any added sweetener at all, it probably won’t be more than a couple of spoonsful.  Re-blend to combine.

-Strain the juice into a bowl, pitcher or 1-quart measuring cup, pressing gently to get as much juice liquid as possible while removing the pulp (unless you’d prefer to leave it in).  Chill the juice for at least an hour.

-When you’re ready to assemble your drinks, fill a glass little more than half full with juice.  Top off with seltzer and ice.

*If you plan to serve the entire batch in one go, you can top off the full amount of juice with water and ice directly in a pitcher just before pouring.  But if you assemble the drinks on a glass-by-glass basis, extra juice will keep for a couple of days in the fridge.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Baked Yogurt Tart

July 2, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 14 Comments
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baked yogurt tart

Leslie Mackie ‘s Baked Yogurt Tart was one that I was rooting for in this month’s recipe nominations.  The combination of fruit and yogurt in a pie crust sounded pretty good to me!

Instead of using berries for my tart, I pitted some of the sweet cherries I got from my CSA.  I see now that I could have squeezed lots more cherries in there…I’ll keep that in mind when I make this again (which may be for this weekend’s BBQ with the in-laws).  Also, I left the chopped almonds off my tart and added in a little almond extract instead.

The recipe says to bake it till brown on top.  Mine took the full baking time but was nowhere near golden brown afterwards.  I didn’t want to overbake it and since I could tell the custard was set, I just went ahead and took it out.  When cut, this tart held its shape and reminded me of a cheesecake.  I actually thought the filling could be a tad softer– I’m not sure if it was the thick Greek yogurt I used, or if the amount of flour used to thicken the filling could be reduced a bit (3/4 cup is a lot of flour!).  I may fiddle with a couple of things next time I make this, but, all in all, it’s a tasty spin on a summer fruit tart.

baked yogurt tart

We’re going without hosts now for TWD, so for the recipe see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here, and there’s a video, too).   Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Roasted Strawberries

June 25, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Posted in jams & preserves, other sweet, sweet things | 13 Comments
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roasted strawberries

I’m not too crazy about strawberries in baked goods.  Baked strawberries turn pale and sad.  Roasted strawberries, on the other hand, are vibrant and intense.  We’ve been roasting strawberries at work over the last couple weeks (it’s actually a great way to save berries that are on the verge, so to speak, or were never that great to begin with), and I thought I’d take the concept home with me.

This is a super easy process that you can multiply or fiddle with.  Strawberries and a sprinkle sugar are all that’s needed, but I added a dash of cassis to mine as well.  A fairly hot oven does its magic, and in about half an hour you have a tray of deep red, syrup coated jewels.

Stir these into your morning yogurt or use them as a topping for ice cream (buttermilk ice cream would be even more amazing topped with these, as would vanilla malted).  And mixed in with fresh strawberries in a shortcake–forget about it.

roasted strawberries

Roasted Strawberries

Steph’s Note:  This is more of a process than a recipe.  Adjust amounts depending on your quantity of berries.  Although I probably wouldn’t bother to fire up the oven on a hot day for less than a quart of strawberries, this will multiply no problem.   

a quart of strawberries (bigger ones halved or quartered, tiny ones left whole)
a couple spoons of sugar (white, raw or vanilla are all good)
 optional splash of flavoring (like vanilla, balsamic vinegar, cassis or Grand Marnier)

-Preheat your oven to 400°F.

-Put the strawberries on a sheet tray, or in a cake pan or a small metal roaster.  Use something where they fit in a single layer, but don’t have too much extra empty space where juices will just burn.  Sprinkle over the sugar…you only need enough to lightly coat them, as the sweetness will intensify as they roast.

-Roast for about 15 minutes, and then give the berries a gentle stir to coat them with the liquid they’ve released.  Continue to roast until the strawberries are deeply red and the juice is syrupy, almost beginning to caramelize.  This will probably take another 15-20 minutes.  Add in your splash of flavoring.  Done….you can store them in the fridge for a several days.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Cheese and Tomato Galette

June 18, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in groups, other savory, savory things, tuesdays with dorie, veggies | 21 Comments
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cheese and tomato galette

Flo Braker’s Cheese and Tomato Galette uses the same cornmeal and sour cream dough as the Crunchy Summer Fruit Galette we did last summer.  The dough was still as sticky as I remembered, but I rolled and formed it directly on the parchment I used for baking, so I didn’t tear my hair out. 

The recipe specifies the filling as tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and jack, but you can play around with the herbs and melting cheeses.  You can see I used dill in lieu of basil, and while I did have mozz in here, I used a more flavorful washed rind cow cheese instead of Monterey jack.  Also, I sprinkled a little s&p on the tomatoes because I like them seasoned. When I turned my galette in the oven, I noticed the tomatoes had given off some liquid.  I just tipped it out with a spoon so it wouldn’t make my tart watery.

I split this with my husband– it’s little.  With a salad and a glass of wine, it was a nice summery dinner.  I have an extra round of dough in the freezer, so I’ll make this one again.

cheese and tomato galette

We’re going without hosts now for TWD, so for the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan, or look around…it’s out there.   Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

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