Sour Cherry and Pistachio Crisp

July 11, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Posted in cobbler, crisps, shortcakes, sweet things | 9 Comments
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sour cherry and pistachio crisp

Cherry season is preciously short, and, where I live, it’s right now.  It’s probably nearing the end of the road for them, actually, as all things fruity seem to appearing and disappearing early this summer (due to the 60° winter we had, no doubt).  I’m going to the greenmarket tomorrow to find more tart red jewels before they go bye-bye till next year.

I’m deciding these days that I find crisps to be as satisfying as pie, but with a lot less effort.  Perhaps that makes them slightly more satisfying?  Sounds lazy, but prepping cherries is a labour of love as it is (and usually leads to a t-shirt covered in red speckles) so I’m happy not to also deal with the clean-up involved in making crust.  Soft fruit with a crispy topping of oats and brown sugar is hard to beat anyway.  I’m also digging this combination of sour cherries and pistachios, but some roughly chopped almonds would be a fine stand-in if you don’t have the pistachios on hand.

sour cherry and pistachio crisp

Sour Cherry and Pistachio Crisp- serves 8
adapted from marthastewart.com

Steph’s Notes:  I made a half recipe in a smaller baking dish.  It took less time to bake than the full recipe did, about 35 minutes in total, and I turned the oven down to 325°F for the last 10 minutes to keep my topping from getting too brown.

1 3/4 pounds pitted fresh or frozen sour cherries
1/2 cup chopped unsalted pistachios
1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 tsp baking powder
salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp packed light-brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp cornstarch (increase to 2 1/2 tsp if you like your filling a little more tight)
pinch of ground cinnamon

-Preheat oven to 375°F.  If using frozen cherries, spread them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Let stand at room temperature until cherries have thawed almost completely but still hold their shape, about 30 minutes.  Drain off any accumulated liquid.  If you are using fresh cherries, just stem and pit them and you are good to go.

-Whisk together the pistachios, flour, oats, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; set aside.  Put butter, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until creamy…this is not hard to do by hand with a wooden spoon, if you choose.  Stir pistachio mixture into butter mixture until just combined.  Work mixture through your fingers until it forms coarse crumbs ranging in size from small peas to gum balls.  Chill topping in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.  You can even make the topping the day before and hold it in the fridge.

-Stir together cherries, remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the cornstarch, cinnamon and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl.  Transfer cherry mixture to an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish. Sprinkle the chilled topping evenly over cherry mixture.  Bake until topping turns golden and juices are bubbling, 50 minutes to 1 hour, turning at the half-way point.  If you notice that your topping is browning too quickly, turn the heat down to 325°F for the remainder of the baking time.  Let cool on a wire rack 1 hour before serving.  A little ice cream on top is a fine idea.

Boozy Berry-Topped Tres Leches Cake

July 1, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 7 Comments
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boozy berry-topped tres leches

It’s kind of hard to fire up the oven in the middle of a heat wave, especially when you don’t have A/C in the kitchen.  But I’m willing to get started early in the day if I know that by the end of it I’ll have a piece of cool, chilled tres leches cake on my plate.  It pairs so well with seasonal fruit, that this really is a great summer cake, if you have a place to keep it cold.

I did another tres leches cake here before with a baking group.  I wasn’t crazy about that one…it was dense and heavy, for which I blamed the creamed butter mixing method.  I like this separated egg method much better.  It makes a cake that’s light and spongy and just sucks up all tres of the leches you pour on top.  I’m amazed that a cake can absorb such a ridiculously huge amount of liquid, but it does.

I made this with strawberries, which have now come and gone from the Greenmarket, but the raspberries and blueberries that are around now would be just as tasty…and very Fourth of July appropriate, I think.

Boozy Berry-Topped Tres Leches Cake- makes a 9×13-inch cake
adapted from a recipe in Fine Cooking, Issue 117 by Fany Gerson

Steph’s Notes:  If you don’t want the booze, just leave it out of the cake and topping for a “regular” tres leches.  Of course, you can leave off the fruit as well.  You can soak the cake in the milk mixture up to a day ahead and top it up to 2 hours ahead. 

for the cake
unsalted butter, softened, for the pan
4 1/2 oz (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup whole milk
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

for the soaking liquid
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch kosher salt
1 tbs gin, tequila, rum or orange liqueur

for the topping
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tbs gin, tequila, rum or orange liqueur
2 tbs confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 cups summer berries (one type or a mix)

Bake the cake:

-Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

-Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch Pyrex baking dish or a nonreactive metal pan.  Line the bottom of the baking dish or pan with parchment and lightly butter the parchment.

-Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

-Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a medium bowl and the yolks in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, beat the yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar on medium speed until the mixture is pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.  Add the milk and vanilla and beat until combined, 1 minute more.

-Clean and dry the beaters and then beat the egg whites, gradually increasing the speed to high, until they reach soft peaks, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a stream, continuing to beat on high, until you reach firm but not dry peaks, 1 to 2 minutes more.  Whisk a third of the dry ingredients into the yolk mixture until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in a third of the egg whites with a rubber spatula.  Fold in the remaining dry ingredients and egg whites, alternately, in two more batches each, until fully incorporated.

-Pour the batter into the prepared dish or pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.  Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack, remove the parchment, and let cool completely.

-Return the cake to the baking dish or pan (the cake will soak up more of the liquid if returned to the pan it was baked in), or invert it onto a rimmed platter.

Soak the cake: In a 2-quart saucepan, stir together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, and salt until the condensed milk is well blended.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring to avoid scorching, until it begins to bubble around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the booze and pour into a heatproof 4-cup measuring cup. With a toothpick, prick the cake to the bottom in 1/2-inch intervals. Pour the soaking liquid slowly over the cake, starting at the edges and pausing to let it soak in before adding more.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the cake is well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Top the cake: In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer on medium speed. When it begins to thicken, slowly add the booze, sugar and vanilla and continue to beat just until it holds firm peaks, 3 to 4 minutes (be careful not to over-beat). Spread the whipped cream all over the top of the cake. Spoon the berries over the whipped cream and serve.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: French Strawberry Cake

June 19, 2012 at 12:01 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 24 Comments
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french strawberry cake

Flo Braker‘s French Strawberry Cake is the perfect thing for right now, right here.  Strawberries are all over the NYC greenmarkets (and my CSA), so a summer strawberry cake of some sort was bound to be in order even if we hadn’t picked this for TWD

This is a lovely simple cake…no fancy buttercreams or anything.  Just some lightly sweetened whipped cream and mashed strawberries filling a whole egg sponge cake.  The cake is called a genoise in the book, but it’s the only genoise I’ve ever made that doesn’t heat the eggs in the process.  The recipe calls for making one tall cake and splitting it into three layers.  I made just a half recipe and I thought my little six-inch cake really only needed to be cut into two.  This type of sponge cake can be a little dry on its own, but the whipped cream and macerated berries add the moisture that is needed.  I think it became even tastier the second day.  I can see this being great with raspberry smoosh, too, if you are feeling more English than French (Victoria sponge, anyone)?.

french strawberry cake

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read  Sophia’s, Sophia’s Sweets and Allison’s Sleep Love Think Dine.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Rhubarb Cinnamon Polenta Cake

May 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 12 Comments
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rhubarb cinnamon polenta cake

May is a good time to be in New York City.  People are happy to be out and about.  It’s nice sleeping weather (our house doesn’t have A/C, so this is a big thing for me!).  And there’s finally more at the greenmarket than tired ol’ potatoes and apples.  About the same time I saw the first rhubarb here, my copy of Nigel Slater’s Tender, Volume 2 (called Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard in the US edition).  I knew he’d have some good rhubarby ideas for me…this guy has a London city garden that puts my weedy Brooklyn backyard to utter shame.  I’ll certainly never have a mini orchard like he does, but maybe one day I’ll have a couple of raised beds for a few homegrown herbs and things.  Until then, I’ll have to tote my seasonal fruit and veg home from the market.

Slater’s Rhubarb Cinnamon Polenta Cake would be just as good for breakfast as it is for dessert.  It’s made from more of a dough than a batter.  The cake is a little crunchy from the cornmeal and perfectly moist, but sturdy enough to support the layer of baked rhubarb that makes a pink stripe in the center.  I make a stove-top rhubarb compote a lot when it’s in season, but I kind of like the more hands-off baked method from this recipe, and I’d use it again even if it’s just for my morning granola.  The rhubarb more or less keeps its shape when handled this way and you get to pour off the gorgeously pink liquid it releases.  Even if I wasn’t going to serve it alongside the polenta cake, I wouldn’t think of pouring this down the drain.  Hello, homemade rhubarb sodas, cocktails, yogurt or ice cream drizzle…I could go on.

Rhubarb Cinnamon Polenta Cake- makes an 8-inch cake
adapted from Tender, Volume 2 by Nigel Slater

Note: Use a medium to coarse cornmeal/polenta for the best texture. The cake is fragile when warm, so it’s best to serve it cool, together with the reserved juices from the cooked rhubarb.

for the filling
500g rhubarb
50g sugar
4 tbsp water

for the cake
125g medium to coarse cornmeal/polenta
200g AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of ground cinnamon
150g sugar
grated zest of a small orange
150g butter
1 large egg
2-4 tbsp milk
1 tbsp demerara sugar

-Lightly butter am 8-inch (20-centimeter) loose-bottomed cake tin, preferably spring-form. Set the oven at  350°F (180°C/gas mark 4). Put in a baking sheet to get hot.

-While your oven is heating, trim the rhubarb, cut each stem into three or four pieces and put them in a baking dish. Scatter over the sugar, toss, and let everything sit until the oven is hot.  Sprinkle over the water and bake for about 30 minutes until the rhubarb is soft but still retains its shape.  Remove the fruit from the dish and put them in a colander to drain. Reserve the juice to serve with the cake.

-Put the cornmeal/polenta, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and caster sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Add the grated zest and the butter, cut into smallish pieces, then blitz for a few seconds till you have something that resembles breadcrumbs. (You could also do this by hand, rubbing the butter into the polenta with your fingertips as if making pastry.) Break the egg into a small bowl and mix with the milk, then blend into the crumble mix, either with the food processor or by hand. Take care not to over-mix: stop as soon as the ingredients and liquid have come together to form a soft, slightly stickydough. If it isn’t sticky, add a little more liquid.

-Press about two-thirds of the mixture into the cake tin, pushing it a couple of centimetres up the sides with a floured spoon. Place the drained rhubarb on top, leaving a small rim around the edge uncovered. Crumble lumps of the remaining polenta mixture over the fruit with your fingertips, and don’t worry if the rhubarb isn’t all covered. Scatter over the demerara sugar. Bake on the hot baking sheet for 45-50 minutes, then cool a little before attempting to remove from the tin. Serve in slices with the reserved rhubarb juice.  You can wrap leftovers in plastic and refrigerate for a couple of days…just bring back to room temperature before serving.

Maple-Roasted Apples with Candied Nuts

October 28, 2011 at 10:46 am | Posted in other sweet, sweet things | 3 Comments
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maple-roasted apples with candied nuts

I do bake all day at work, but when this time of year rolls around, I’m also more than happy to dial up the oven when I get home.  The kitchen is the coziest place in this old house on a chilly day (we really need to get our front windows replaced!).  When a new book called All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art by Molly Stevens found its way into my hands, I immediately began plotting out a Sunday roast-fest!

The book goes into great detail about how to perfectly roast meat and fish, the science behind it and how to get the most out of the technique, but there are also recipes for gorgeous roasted veggies and fruits.  Steven’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Capers and Lemony Browned Butter will for sure be on my Thanksgiving table, and maybe I’ll show you those later, but that I assume you are here for the sweet stuff.  My CSA has given me four bags of apples in two weeks, so I’m just searching out things to do with them.  Then my eyes hit this recipe for Maple-Roasted Apples with Candied Nuts, and I knew it would be the first one I’d try.  This has the same warm, sweet flavors of baked and stuffed apples, but they are so much easier to prepare…no tedious hollowing out or accidentally ripped skins.  Here, I followed the author’s suggestion to sever these apples warm over vanilla ice cream, but I can tell you that they are also great over waffles (that’s what I did with the leftovers) or pancakes, and I can’t think of a better topping for oatmeal.

Maple-Roasted Apples with Candied Nuts- makes 4 to 5 servings
adapted from All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art by Molly Stevens

Steph’s Note:  Prefer your apples with cinnamon or vanilla?  Feel free to switch out the nutmeg and ginger for whatever spices you’d like.

4 large tart, crisp apples (1 1/2 to 2 lbs), like Gravenstein, Cortland or Braeburn
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon maple syrup
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/
2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
salt to taste

3/4 cup nuts (any you like…I used walnuts and pecans)

-Position racks in the top and lower thirds of the oven and heat to 400°F (or 3754°F if you are using convection). Line a large heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet and a smaller sheet (like a quarter sheet tray) with foil, parchment or Silpats.

-Cut the apples into quarters (it’s up to you if you want to peel them first…the skin does look pretty and helps the pieces hold shape).  Remove the cores/seeds and cut the quarters into 1/2-inch cubes.  Pile the apples onto the larger baking sheet.  In a measuring cup or small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup maple syrup, 3 tablespoons melted butter and the nutmeg, ginger and a pinch of salt.  Pour the mixture over the apples, toss to combine and arrange in a loose single layer.

-Roast the apples on the bottom rack, tossing after 15 minutes and every ten minutes thereafter so they roast evenly, until soft and slightly caramelized, but not completely collapsed.  This took me 25 minutes here, but may take as long as 40 minutes.

-Meanwhile, pile the nuts on the smaller sheet and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 tablespoon melted butter and a pinch of salt.  Toss to coat and spread out in a single layer.  Roast on the top rack above the apples, stirring once or twice until they are toasty brown, about 10 minutes.  Let the nuts cool before serving, and they will become crisp.

-Serve the fruit warm as a topping for ice cream, oatmeal or whatever you choose, and drizzle any juices from the pan over top.  Scatter with candied nuts and serve.  If you are storing this, keep the fruit and juices in a covered container in the refrigerator, and reheat at 350°F for about 10-15 minutes to warm slightly.  Keep the nuts in a separate continued at room temperature.

Please note that the publisher, W.W. Norton, sent me a copy of this book…but I just bought another copy for a friend!

Apricot and Cinnamon Cake

August 19, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 3 Comments
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apricot and cinnamon cake

No big story here…some apricots that needed using up led me to rifle through my cookbook collection for inspiration.  I found this Apricot and Cinnamon Cake in Bill Granger’s Every Day.  When we lived in Sydney, visiting one of the bill’s restaurants was always a special treat, and I think he is a master of simple cakes and baked goods (and he makes the best pancakes!).

This is a cinnamon-spiced cake with halves of juicy apricots baked in.  A crumb topping with more cinnamon gives it a perfect morning coffee cake vibe, but if you add a scoop of ice cream, it suddenly seems more like dessert.  I used small apricots, but I think peaches or nectarines would be equally delicious (if they are large, they may need to be cut into thick slices, rather than simply halved, though).  This cake smells wonderful in the oven.

Apricot and Cinnamon Cake– makes one 8″ cake
adapted from Every Day by Bill Granger

Steph’s Notes:  The cinnamon is front and center in this cake.  If you’d rather have it little more subtly spiced, I’d suggest leaving the cinnamon amount as-is in the cake portion and reducing it by half in the topping.  If you don’t have self-raising flour to make the cake, you can use 140 grams of all-purpose flour combined with 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

for the cake:
140 g (5 oz) self-raising flour
1/2 t ground cinnamon
50 g (1 3/4 oz) sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 T milk (or 3 T Australian)
1 t vanilla extract
85 g (3 oz) unsalted butter, melted
350 g (12 oz) apricot halves

for the topping:
40 g (1 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1 t ground cinnamon
35 g (1 1/4 oz) sugar
pinch of salt

35 g (1 1/4 oz) unsalted butter, chilled and diced

-Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

-To the topping, put the flour, cinnamon, sugar and pinch of salt in a bowl. Rub the butter with your fingertips until crumbs form. Chill while you assemble the rest of the cake.

-Grease and line the base of an 8″ (20 cm) round springform pan.  (You can use a regular 8″ cake pan, greased and lined with parchment, instead, but you will need to flip the cake out and reinvert it if you want to serve it out of the pan.)

-Sift flour and cinnamon into a large bowl and stir in the sugar.

-Make a well in the center and pour in the egg, milk, vanilla and melted butter. Mix with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth, then spoon into the cake pan.

-Arrange the apricots, cut-side up, evenly over the batter and then press gently down. Scatter the topping evenly over the apricots.

-Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is light golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Leave on a rack to cool before removing from the pan.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Stonefruit Crumble

August 16, 2011 at 12:01 am | Posted in cobbler, crisps, shortcakes, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 11 Comments
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stonefruit crumble

This was supposed to be a Tropical Crumble with mangoes and bananas, but like I mentioned when I made jam, I have apricots and plums up the wazoo right now.  So this became a Stonefruit Crumble instead, with apricots and yellow plums (look, I kept the colors similar!), and a little red plum ice cream for good measure.  I tried to keep my version along the same lines as the original, flavoring the fruit with ginger and citrus, but since my fruits were small and soft, I didn’t pre-cook my filling before baking the crumble and I added a sprinkling of flour to the fruit mix to help thicken the juices.

Does anyone know if theree’s technically a difference between a crisp and a crumble??  Maybe there is, because my topping wasn’t as crunchy as I thought it would be.  It had pecans, brown sugar and butter (cut back from the original recipe by a couple of tablespoons), so it wasn’t bad, but it did just kind of meld into the smooshiness of the baked fruit.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Laws of the Kitchen, as it was Gaye’s turn to pick again.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Strawberry-Rhubarb Double Crisp

April 12, 2011 at 12:01 am | Posted in cobbler, crisps, shortcakes, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 53 Comments
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strawberry-rhubarb double crisp

We’re in that weird in-between time of year when there really isn’t any good fruit here.  The rhubarb has still not made its long-awaited (for me anyway) appearance at my Greenmarket, and the leftover apples just look like they’ve been banging around in storage for the last few months.  This Strawberry-Rhubarb Double Crisp is so tasty that I wanted to make it again this past week before TWD posting, filled with whatever, but I couldn’t find any fruit that really spoke to me.  Luckily, I do have a crisp to show you…one that I made at the end of last May, when the rhubarb was still around and the strawberries were red through and through.  The combination made for an intensely colored and flavored fruit filling.

If you’d like to know what the heck a “double crisp” is, it’s a crisp with a topping AND a crust…so that makes it double good.  In addition to the usual suspects like oats and nuts, this crisp mix has a gingery zip to it, which I king of dug, but if it’s not your thing, simply leave it out.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here on NPR’s site) or read Teapots and Cake Stands, as it was Sarah’s pick this week.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

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