Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Tropical Napoleons

May 20, 2014 at 5:51 pm | Posted in BWJ, groups, other sweet, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 13 Comments
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tropical napoleons

Charlotte Akoto’s recipe for Tropical Napoleons is in a section of the book called “Grand Pastries,” which seems to mean plated desserts.  I have to say that a lot of them look kinda dated to me, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still taste great.  This dessert, with layers of coconut and sesame meringue, fruit and rum whipped cream is really light, but so satisfying.  I wouldn’t turn down Eaton mess or a pavlova, so I knew I would like this one, too.

Despite its “grand” status, this recipe isn’t really that involved.  Whipped cream and sliced fruit are easy enough to prep.  If you don’t have a good selection of tropical fruit (I wish I could buy passion fruit in Brooklyn from any corner fruit guy like I could when we lived in Sydney), just go with straight-up berries.  Even the meringue is a simple one to make, and a quick stencil cut from a yogurt lid makes perfect meringue disks.  I baked my meringues on a Silpat and they took almost twice as long as the recipe said to get fully crisp.  If anything gives you trouble, it will be getting those meringues off your sheet pan after they’re baked– they’re meant to be really thin, which also makes them really brittle.  I only broke one before discovering that if I ran an offset spatula carefully around its outer edge before kind of pressing the spatula down into the Silpat and scooting it underneath the meringue, it would come off in one piece.  The meringues are sweet, so I cut back a bit on the sugar in the cream.

 For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.   There’s a video here of the episode.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll

 

Blood Orange Yogurt Loaf Cake

March 26, 2014 at 4:01 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 14 Comments
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blood orange yogurt loaf cake

It might technically be spring, but it sure doesn’t feel like it yet.  I’m still wearing a scarf inside, my down parka outside, and there was even talk of pulling snow boots out again last night.  Oh, bother.  A bright spot here, while I wait for spring to really show up, is that the citrus is still good.  I think we’re at the tail-end of the preciously short blood orange season.  Blood oranges are so sweet and vibrantly colored– I still feel surprised every time I cut one open.

I’ve made lots of yogurt cakes here (and even yogurt cupcakes, too).  They stay moist for days, feel less guilty than pound cakes and they’re a great match for citrus, so I looked around on-line to see if anyone had a good one using blood oranges. Most cakes that I saw seemed to resemble another one I’d made, Ina’s Lemon Yogurt Cake, swapping out the lemon zest and juice for blood orange.  At its core, so did this one but it has a few tweeks that set it apart for me.  Subbing some of the AP four with cornmeal gives the cake a more rustic taste and texture.  Swapping the plain vegetable oil for olive oil adds to its fruitiness.  Cutting out just a bit of the sugar and forgoing the powdered sugar glaze keeps it from being overly sweet. Don’t worry– a jewel toned blood orange juice soaking syrup drenches the top and seeps into the cake, so you still get enough of that sticky sweetness to call this dessert.

P.S.:  If you like cocktails, add a little vodka and a splash of simple syrup to blood orange juice, top it off with seltzer and ice, and you’ll have the most brilliantly colored drink you’ve ever seen.

Blood Orange Yogurt Loaf Cake-makes an 8 1/2″ x  4 1/4″ loaf cake
adapted from Ina Garten and foodonfifth.com

for the cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal,
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
zest of two blood oranges
1 cup yogurt (Greek or regular, but preferably not non-fat)
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup olive oil

for the soaking syrup
1/3 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice (from the two zested oranges)
2 tbsp. granulated sugar

-Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease an 8 1/2″ x  4 1/4″ loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

-In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, rub the 3/4 cup sugar and the blood orange zest together with your fingers until fragrant.  Whisk in the yogurt, eggs, vanilla and olive oil.  Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, switching to a spatula, if needed.  Mix until just fully combined.

-Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.  Start checking for doneness at 40 minutes.

-When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. While you’re waiting, make the soaking syrup by combining the 1/3 cup blood orange juice and remaining 2 tbsp sugar in a small pan.  Bring it up to the boil and simmer until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear, about a minute. Set aside.

-Carefully place the cake on a baking rack over a sheet pan. Use a skewer to poke holes in the top. While the cake is still warm and the syrup is hot, pour the syrup mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. (You can get all the syrup to absorb into the cake or reserve a little bit of it for drizzling over the cut slices, if you’d like).

-Cool completely before slicing.

 

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 | 14 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!

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: Fresh Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

May 7, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 16 Comments
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fresh rhubarb upside-down cake

Ummm…hello?  It’s been radio silent here on this blog for almost a month.  How embarrassing, but I just haven’t been baking much lately.  We went to the beach (and didn’t want to come back).  Then when we did come back, I was given what I can only assume was a punishment schedule at work for having taken (unpaid!) vacation time.  But, now I’m back in the game, and with rhubarb no less!

I tried really hard to find local rhubarb to make Johanne Killeen’s Fresh Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake.  I feel like it should be around these parts by now, but after striking out at three different farmers’ markets, I stopped wasting my time (and MetroCard swipes) and just got a few stalks from the grocery.

This recipe is intended to make several little baby cakes, but I just baked it off as one big mama in a cast iron skillet.  It wasn’t super goopy so it wasn’t too scary to flip out of the skillet.  Dark brown sugar gives this upside-down topping real character, and crème fraiche makes the cake batter extra tender.  I threw a splash of vanilla into the batter, too, which maybe wasn’t totally necessary since it wasn’t called for in the recipe…and since I had vanilla ice cream with it anyway…but whatevs.

I can see this also being a tasty base recipe for stone fruit or even mango upside-down cake.  For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Erin’s When in Doubt…Leave it at 350.  It’s also here.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: French Apple Tart

January 22, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 13 Comments
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French apple cake

I made Leslie Mackie’s French Apple Tart back in the fall, when I had heaps of pink-skinned apples from my CSA.   Good thinking, because the apples I’ve had lately haven’t been so great.  If the tart looks a little familiar, maybe that’s because it’s a sister to the Normandy Apple Tart we made in TWD 1.0 about a year ago.

This tart is easy to make, but it isn’t a quick throw-together.  Get prepared…you can do some of these things in advance.  You need pie dough, apple compote for the filling (this one’s made in the oven) and lots of thinly sliced apples to spiral on top.  It certainly is pretty, though, not to mention delicate and delicious.  Your friends will think it came from a pâtisserie.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Gaye’s Laws of The Kitchen.  It’s also here (and there’s even a video of Leslie and Julia making the tart together).  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

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