Caramel Apple Cake

October 18, 2013

 

Caramel Apple Cake - Sweet and Savory KitchensCaramel Apple Cake - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

This is one of those things that I can’t believe I haven’t shared yet.  I make this almost every year, and it is one of my absolute favorite cakes.  For one, I love apples.  Secondly, who doesn’t like sweet and salty together?  That’s what this cake is…a rich, moist, apple cake, infused with a decadent salted caramel sauce.  This is an adaptation of my Granny’s recipe that Aunt Suzy gave me years ago, and you need to make it ASAP.

apple cake - sweet and savory kitchens

caramel glaze - sweet and savory kitchens

This is a pretty easy cake – peeling and chopping the apples is the most time consuming part.  Because it’s an oil cake, you don’t even have to get out the mixer…just whip it up by hand.  Make sure you give plenty of time before having to serve it, though, because you need to let it sit for 2 hours after it comes out of the oven so that the caramel sauce sinks down into the cake and makes it into yummy goodness.

Caramel Apple Cake

1 cup vegetable or canola oil

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

3 cups peeled, chopped apples

1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour, sifted

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp mace (or 1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg)

Have all ingredients at room temperature.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 10″ tube pan with removable bottom.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and mace in a medium bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla until completely combined and a little bit fluffy, about 30 seconds.  Gradually add dry ingredients, stirring carefully with a wooden spoon until completely combined.  Add apples and walnuts and stir until just combined.  Spoon into prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack, and prepare the caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce

1 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup salted butter

1/4 cup milk

Melt butter in saucepan.  When butter is melted, add sugar and milk and stir until combined.  Boil hard for 3 minutes, and immediately pour over the cake (make sure you don’t boil it for any longer than 3 minutes or you will end up with hard candy on top of your cake!  Still tastes good, but hard on the teeth).  Let the cake cool for 2 hours, then carefully remove from the pan by removing the center, inverting it onto a large flat plate, then invert it again to right side up onto your serving plate.  Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Sour Cherry Slab Pie

July 22, 2013

Sour Cherry Slab Pie - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…
My family has a farm that dates back to the mid-1800’s. We call it “the Big House.” It is pretty big, and one of my aunts lives in it now. It is one of my favorite places on earth.  There are two Montmorency cherry trees there that were planted in 1967 for my Aunt Gigi’s birthday, and this year we just happened to be down in central Illinois when the cherries were ready to be picked!

cherry picking

cherry pickingWe got just enough cherries before the kids started going bonkers (Stella seriously needed a nap).  I always make pie with the cherries, and this year I really wanted something different.  While browsing Smitten Kitchen (I really used a lot of her recipes this week!), I came across this one.  OMG I will be making this again!!!  You really should try it before this very short cherry season is over! (It might already be…it’s taken me way too long to get around to writing this).

Cherries(Yes his shorts are backwards…oops!  Four-year-olds still sometimes have a little trouble getting dressed.  🙂 )

Sour cherry slab pie

 

Sour cherry slab pie - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

 

Sour Cherry Slab Pie

from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/2 recipes flaky butter pie dough, divided, patted into thick rectangles, wrapped in plastic and chilled for at least an hour in the fridge

6 cups sour cherries, pitted (fresh or frozen will work; if frozen, defrost and drain first)
3/4 to 1 1/4 cups of sugar (depending on how tart your cherries are.  I used 1 cup.)
1/4 cup cornstarch
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch or two of salt
2 tablespoons heavy cream or one egg, beaten with a tablespoon of water

Glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk or water or 1 tablespoon water plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375°. In a large bowl, combine cherries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt. Stir to combine; set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the larger piece of dough into an 18-by-12-inch rectangle.

Transfer to a 15-by-10-by-1-inch rimmed baking sheet, (pastry will hang over sides of pan). Pour cherry mixture into lined baking sheet; set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out remaining piece of dough into a 16-by-11-inch rectangle. Drape over filling. Bring bottom pastry up and over top pastry. Pinch edges to seal. Using a fork, prick top crust all over. Brush with heavy cream or egg wash.

Bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 40 to 55 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack until just warm to the touch, about 45 minutes.

In a medium bowl, stir together confectioners’ sugar and milk, water or lemon juice (or combination thereof) until desired glaze consistency is achieved. Use a spoon to drizzle over top. Serve warm or room temperature.

 

Easy Strawberry Tart

June 26, 2013

Easy Strawberry Tart - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

This was the weekend of getting stuff done.  Actually, every weekend needs to be the weekend of getting stuff done, but somehow that doesn’t happen.  If I haven’t mentioned it before, my husband and I (more my husband, less me) are remodeling our house.  FOREVER remodeling our house.  Right now we’re re-doing our upstairs bedrooms…all three of them.  It’s going slowly, as usual.  Since it’s summer, we’re also trying to make our outdoor spaces more livable so that we go out there more often.  I always feel like we spend more time at Home Depot and Menard’s than we do actually doing any work…but that might just be because I really don’t like those places very much.

IMG_8164

This weekend I got the front yard looking pretty great…mulched, weeded, re-planted a bunch of stuff.  And meanwhile, in the backyard, Jason painted the wicker furniture that I found in the alley a while back.  I love finds like that!  Now all it needs are some cushions and we’re on our way to some outdoor living!

IMG_8167

 

So complicated baking projects were out of the question…but I had two quarts of strawberries that I needed to do something with ASAP.  I saw this recipe on Martha Stewart’s website last week, and thought it would be the perfect quick dessert to use up most of the strawberries with.  I love tarts, but making the pastry cream can be so time consuming and tedious.  This was a great alternative, and who doesn’t like a dessert with cream cheese??  It reminds me of a dessert my Aunt Gigi always made for summer gatherings, especially the Fourth of July, strawberry pizza.  It’s the same idea, with a shortbread-type crust, cream cheese topping and fresh strawberries.  This is even better I think, though, because it has about twice the amount of cream cheese filling…yum!

Easy Strawberry Tart

adapted from Everyday Food

1 bar (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for handling dough
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 to 2 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved
1/4 cup seedless red currant jelly or apple jelly
1/4 teaspoon salt

Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, blend flour, butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt until moist crumbs form (this may take up to 1 minute). Transfer dough to a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom. With floured fingers, press dough evenly into pan and up sides. Dip a dry-measuring cup in flour, and use it to press dough firmly into bottom and against sides of pan. Freeze crust until firm, 10 to 15 minutes. Using a fork, prick crust all over. Bake until golden, 25 to 30 minutes, pressing down gently once or twice with a spoon during baking if crust puffs up. Cool completely in pan.

Make the filling: In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until smooth; spread mixture evenly in bottom of baked crust (still in tart pan). Starting from outside edge, arrange strawberry halves, stemmed side down, in tight concentric circles on cream cheese. Microwave jelly in a small bowl until liquified, about 30 seconds (keep a close eye so it doesn’t boil). Gently brush strawberries with jelly; let set at least 20 minutes. Chill in pan at least 1 hour (and up to 6 hours); remove from pan just before serving.

Strawberry Shortcake

June 24, 2013

Strawberry Shortcake - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

We’re kind of into strawberries around here. And I’ve been buying them like crazy this year, as usual, even though they’re not that great (all the rain around here made them kind of tasteless). Usually at my house we just eat them fresh with yogurt, or just, well, fresh. But since they don’t have a lot of flavor this year, I’ve been making desserts out of them (add lots of sugar and voila, they taste better!), like strawberry pie, and this amazing strawberry shortcake.

The strawberry shortcake I grew up on was basically a buttermilk biscuit recipe with a little more sugar in it. My husband grew up on angel food cake as the cake part. Both good, but this is so, so much better. The shortcake is so delicious that I’ve been just eating the leftovers plain-ahem-for breakfast. And the recipe is super easy since it’s done in the food processor. I was stressed because I didn’t start making it until after dinner, but it was no problem!

If you don’t have a food processor, you can still make this recipe! But first….you should really invest in a food processor. It’s one of my most-used kitchen tools! Mine is a Cuisinart from the early 90’s that I got from my mom. (She hates to cook, but when I was a kid thought for a minute that she might like it and took a bunch of cooking classes and stocked our kitchen with fancy tools. Lucky for me, I have most of that stuff now.) Anyway, it’s a fantastic machine and if you can find a used one at a garage sale or something, it will most likely work great! But anyway, I’m guessing you’re not going to run out and buy a food processor for this recipe, so in the meantime…I’ll give you instructions below.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

A while back we posted another recipe for Strawberry Shortcake. We might call it the shortcut shortcake because the “cake” is Joy of Cooking cream scones, which have only 4 main ingredients with heavy cream filling in for the butter and eggs. From looking at Margaux’s recipe, these will be much richer and probably more classically “shortcake” as we Americans would think of it for this dessert. I’m going to have to try this once we get strawberries up here in Minnesota. Our winter lasted into mid-May so we are waaaaaaaay behind! Hey, Margaux, how about we make these for breakfast at Wimbledon?

Strawberry Shortcake
adapted from Everyday Food

the shortcake

1/2 cup sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a food processor, pulse flour, baking powder, sugar, and the salt until combined. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal but with some pea-size bits of butter remaining, 10 to 12 times. In a medium bowl, whisk together cream and the eggs; pour over flour mixture, and pulse until some large clumps begin to form, 25 to 30 times.

If using a pastry cutter instead of a food processor: cut the butter into the dry ingredients in a large bowl using a pastry cutter until the mixture is a coarse meal, with some small chunks of butter. Whisk together the cream and eggs, pour into the butter and flour, and using a wooden spoon (or your hands, which is easier), mix together the mixture until large clumps form. Do not overmix.

Using a half-cup measuring cup, gently pack dough, invert, and then tap out onto a baking sheet. Repeat to form 8 biscuits. Bake until lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes.

The strawberries:

Hull and quarter about 6 cups of strawberries. Mix them in a large bowl with about 1/2 cup of sugar. Let is sit for at least an hour, until they get nice and juicy.

The whipped cream:

Beat 1 1/2 cups whipping cream with 2 tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla until soft peaks form.

Assembly:

When shortcake has completely cooled, you can carefully cut them in half lengthwise with a serrated bread knife. Add strawberries and whipped cream and serve!

Best Chocolate Cake - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

I can’t believe I haven’t posted about this cake yet. I have made this cake more than any other…well, besides the old family stand-by. But this cake is SO GOOD. It has a really nice cocoa flavor, not super deep-rich chocolate, so it’s great for all palates. And the frosting is so fluffy and buttery, it just melts in your mouth. I’ve made this cake for numerous birthdays, get-togethers, and just because we want cake. It’s not super difficult, as far as cake recipes go. If you’re looking for a good, old-fashioned, super moist and chocolatey cake recipe, this is IT.

World's Best Chocolate Cake - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

IMG_0255

My mom gave me the recipe several years ago, in an article cut out of her local newspaper. It was literally called the “World’s Best Chocolate Cake” (I did not give it this ridiculous name). I don’t remember the specifics of the article…someone won a cake contest, or a cake connoisseur happened upon it at a dinner at a friend’s, or something along those lines. I tried to find the original article, to no avail, so I can’t tell you the real story. All I can remember is that the writer thought this cake was the best he had ever had, and I had to see for myself. It’s pretty darn good.

Best Chocolate Cake - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

World's Best Chocolate Cake - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

TIPS AND TRICKS:

There’s a few things that I’ve learned after making this cake numerous times.
flour and cocoa

For one, and this goes for most cakes I make, when sifting the dry ingredients, I use the following method: I cut two pieces of waxed paper, and set them side by side on the counter. I first sift the flour onto the first piece of paper, then put the sifter on the other paper and measure out the flour, putting it back into the sifter. Then I place the rest of the dry ingredients in the sifter with the flour and sift them all together onto the second piece of waxed paper. Then I just set that aside until I need to add it to the batter. It’s pretty easy to add it, just carefully picking up the paper at each edge, creating kind of a funnel, and slowly pour it into the mixer. Save your waxed paper for later…you can use one to sift your powdered sugar onto, and the other for my trick below.

batter

chocolate cake batter

Secondly, don’t be alarmed when the batter looks curdled after you add the water and vanilla. It will smooth back out after the addition of flour and buttermilk. No worries.

preparing to frost

Third. When preparing to frost the cake, cut up one of the pieces of waxed paper and slide them under the first layer. It takes four strips, make sure the plate is completely covered. Then when you’re frosting the cake, the frosting isn’t getting on your serving plate. When you’re done frosting, carefully slide the strips out from under the cake and voila! Clean plate.

World’s Best Chocolate Cake

The Cake:

Have all your ingredients at room temperature. Line two 9″ round cake pans with parchment paper and spray with baking spray with flour (or butter and flour the pans). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa and salt, and set aside. Cream the butter in a bowl with an electric mixer (or use a stand mixer-my recommendation). Gradually add the sugar, and beat at medium speed for one minute, until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute after each egg. Gradually add the water and vanilla on low speed, and then beat on medium for one minute more. With the mixer on low speed, add one third of the flour mixture, and beat on low until completely combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add half of the buttermilk, beat on low, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then beat on low until completely combined again. Alternate the flour and buttermilk in this fashion, ending with the last third of flour mixture. Pour into pans, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on racks for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans and cool on rack until completely cooled.

The frosting:

1 six oz. package high quality semisweet chocolate chips, or semisweet chocolate chopped up (3/4 cup)
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup butter
2 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
Bowl of ice

Combine chocolate chips, whipping cream and butter in double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring constantly until smooth (I use a large mixing bowl set on top of a medium saucepan…less to clean up). Remove from heat and add powdered sugar. Set the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice, and using an electric hand mixer, beat on high speed until the frosting holds its shape, about 10 minutes. Make sure you take it out of the bowl of ice immediately, so that the bottom of the frosting doesn’t freeze.

add powdered sugar to frosting

making frosting

chocolate frosting

World's Best Chocolate Cake

Whole Wheat Sweet Potato BananaBread by Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

My dad is the family cook. You can find him in the kitchen most of the time, especially when my brothers were teenagers…I remember him telling me once that he is constantly cooking something; the minute something is done, the vultures descend and gobble it up, and he just starts cooking the next thing. I probably learned the most about cooking from Dad.

Dad

He even comes to our house and cooks (nice boarded-up window in the background, huh?  The pane just fell out one day and smashed everywhere.  It’s fixed now.)

Dad

Like any good cook, he likes to test things over and over and perfect them.  The first thing that I remember him doing this with was pumpkin pie.  We ate pumpkin pie for months (well, it was probably weeks, but in my child-mind we were eating pie every night for a year), which is no problem for me because I love pumpkin pie, until he got his own recipe just right.  Another time we were having all different kinds of stovetop macaroni and cheese…also no problem for me!  This winter he’s been doing quick breads…you can pretty much always find a loaf somewhere in his kitchen right now.  This one really stood out for me.
Whole Wheat Sweet Potato BananaBread by Sweet and Savory Kitchens

I love the texture and earthy flavor the whole wheat gives to this bread.  It’s super moist and dense from the sweet potato and banana, and because of the oil you can refrigerate it without losing any of it’s texture.  It’s really great plain, for breakfast or a snack, and extra super good drizzled with cream cheese glaze for a dessert.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I hadn’t had this before Margaux made and posted it, but I love banana bread and thought the addition of sweet potato would be just that much better.  I made it this morning and both Randy and I loved it!  It’s not too sweet and, as Margaux has noted, has a great texture.  It’s silky and the whole wheat flour gives a slight crunch.  Delish!  I will definitely put this in regular rotation for the occasional Sunday morning treat.

Whole Wheat Sweet Potato BananaBread by Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Whole Wheat Sweet Potato BananaBread by Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Banana Bread

1 cup white flour, sifted
1 cup whole wheat flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 small sweet potato, mashed
1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease and flour (or use baking spray with flour) 9×5″ loaf pan (or two mini loaf pans like I used).

Sift together flours, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a small bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, banana, sweet potato, yogurt, sugars and vanilla until completely combined. Add the oil and butter and mix until completely combined. Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Fold in the chopped walnuts with a rubber spatula. Pour batter into prepared pan(s), bake for 45-55 minutes (I start checking at 45 minutes and kind of babysit it. It gets really dark and crispy on top, check it with a toothpick inserted in the center.) Place on cooling rack for 10 minutes, remove from pan and cool on rack completely.

AS Cook’s Notes: I used a 9×4 pan and it took 60 minutes in my oven.  I also did not pre-sift the flours before sifting with other dry ingredients.  I thought I would try this because it seems sifting is not found in many recipes these days, even though this defies everything I learned in 4H and from Mom/Granny. 🙂 I learned recently from the Julia Child cookbook I just got that sifting isn’t necessary with today’s flours.  I used pecans and added currants, which are standard additions in my banana bread recipe.

Cream Cheese Glaze

2 oz. cream cheese, softened
1-2 tablespoons milk
1 cup sifted powdered sugar

Beat the ingredients on medium-high speed with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add more milk if needed to desired consistency. Drizzle over cooled bread.

Any extra glaze can be stored in the freezer until next time you make the bread, or to use on something else. Or you can put way more glaze on your bread than I did! 🙂

Grapefruit Chiffon cake with dark chocolate glaze by Sweet and Savory Kitchens

snow day

Margaux says…

Snow day + uneaten grapefruits = cake.

Grapefruit Chiffon Cake with Dark Chocolate Glaze

Actually, add in there that I kind of owe my husband, Jason, a cake for catering to my whims and painting our daughter’s room in multi-color chevron stripes, which was NOT an easy task.  It looks great, though!  So he deserves a cake.  (I’ll take any excuse, right?)

chevron

Stella

Uneaten grapefruits because of Desi.  I bought a big bag of them because they were one of the few fruits left on the fast diminishing list of things he deems edible. Then three grapefruits into the bag he scratched grapefruits off the list.  So, being the only person working her way through this giant bag, I got tired of grapefruit, too and needed to do something else with them.  So I juiced and zested them and starting looking for ideas.  (PS. zesting grapefruits makes your house smell AMAZING.  I felt like I was in a tropical paradise in the middle of a gross Chicago winter.)

grapefruit zest

This is actually a recipe I’ve been wanting to make for a couple years, gotten from the New York Times Magazine, for a yuzu chiffon cake.  But I needed a recipe for grapefruit, and part of the reason why I haven’t made this cake yet is because who the heck has yuzus?  Well, at the bottom of the recipe it says you can substitue Meyer lemons for the yuzus.  But Wikipedia says that the closest thing to a yuzu is a grapefruit.  So I’m going with Wikipedia.  And whether that’s true or not, the cake turned out DELICIOUS.  (Of course, it helps that the chocolate glaze is like rich dark chocolate pudding smothered all over the cake.  YUM.)  For the rest of my grapefruit juice, I’m going to make a grapefruit pound cake from Smitten Kitchen.  Can’t wait.

beaten egg whites

grapefruit chiffon cake

So I took advantage of the fact that Jason stayed home from work today to do the dishes (again) and make a cake KID FREE before he disappeared upstairs to work a little.  Can I add that I am so sick of doing dishes??

grapefruit chiffon cake with dark chocolate glaze by sweet and savory kitchens

You will need a tube pan for this, with a removable bottom (like an angel food cake pan). It won’t work in a regular cake pan because it will fall in the middle.

Grapefruit Chiffon Cake with Dark Chocolate Glaze

For the cake:

1¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour

¼ cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 cup fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, squeezed

1 tbsp grapefruit zest

1½ cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

7 eggs, separated

¼ cup oil

¾ cup plain yogurt

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

For the glaze:

1/2 cup unsalted butter

½ cup milk

½ cup sugar

½ cup unsweetened, nonalkalized cocoa powder

½ teaspoon salt.

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Have ready a 9 or 10″ tube pan. Sift flour, cornstarch and baking powder at least 5 times. Add yuzu zest, sugar and salt and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks, strained grapefruit juice and oil. Add to flour mixture. Using a spatula, add yogurt and stir until smooth. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Quickly and gently fold 1/4 of the egg whites into batter until you no longer see streaks of white, then fold in the rest until no streaks remain. Pour into prepared tube pan. Bake for 55 minutes, until cake springs back when lightly pressed. Let cool in pan set on a baking rack for 2 hours.

2. Meanwhile, make the glaze. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add milk, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk until incorporated. Once it reaches a low boil, whisk gently for 1 minute and remove from heat. Let come to room temperature.

3. Twenty minutes before frosting the cake, put the ganache in the refrigerator until firm (I didn’t do this, but my kitchen is very chilly). Gently remove cake from pan. Pour the ganache over the cake, covering the top and drizzling it over the sides and in the center.

grapefruit chiffon cake with dark chocolate glaze by sweet and savory kitchens

Meyer Lemon Bars

February 27, 2013

Sweet and Savory Kitchens Meyer Lemon Bars

Margaux says…

I am always looking for recipes using egg yolks or egg whites, to use up whichever I have sitting in my fridge, begging to be made into something. Like I need another sweet sitting on my counter…this time of year it’s birthday after birthday in my family, so I’m on a cake baking spree from the beginning of January until late February. But, no matter, these lemon bars were a nice break for us in our parade of cakes. I love Meyer lemon season, and try to make things with them as often as possible, including savory things with preserved lemons in them like this and this. Oh, and this.  I also usually make a batch of the preserved lemons to have on hand for the year.

Sweet and Savory Kitchens Meyer Lemon Bars

Meyer Lemon Bars

Make sure you keep a close eye on the crust while it’s baking…I would recommend starting to check it at about 22 minutes.  The first time I made these, I just set the timer at 25 minutes and didn’t pay attention and they got rather brown.  Still yummy…but much better when they’re golden!  These can easily be made with regular lemons, and would probably be very good with limes as well.

Shortbread Crust

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more to sprinkle on the finished bars
pinch of salt
8 Tbls unsalted butter, still cool and cut into 8 pieces
Cover a 9-inch square cake pan with two sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil or parchment paper, perpendicular to each other. Spray with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
Put the flour, powdered sugar and salt in a food processor and process briefly, about 2 seconds. Add the butter pieces and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds, then process until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second pulses. Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared cake pan and press firmly with your fingers into an even layer over the entire pan bottom. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the crust until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Set aside.
Meyer Lemon Filling
7 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 cup + 2 Tbls sugar
2/3 cup meyer lemon juice (from about 4-5 medium lemons)
finely grated zest from the lemons
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 Tbls unsalted butter, cut in to 4 pieces
3 Tbls heavy cream
In a medium saucepan whisk together the egg yolks and whole eggs until combined. Add the sugar, meyer lemon juice, zest and salt until well combined, about 30 seconds.
Add the butter pieces and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the curd thickens to a thin sauce-like consistency (about 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer), about 6 minutes.
Immediately pour the curd through a fine-mesh steel strainer set over a medium bowl. Stir in the heavy cream and then pour the curd into the warm crust.
Bake until the filling is shiny and opaque and the center 3 inches jiggle slightly when shaken, about 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 45 minutes. Remove the bars from the pan and transfer to a cutting board to cut into squares.  Use a sifter to sift powdered sugar onto the top.  I’d recommend doing a couple of layers of the powdered sugar, because the bottom layers will just melt into the lemon curd (as you see mine has done in the photo).  I actually prefer them without the powdered sugar at all, but put a small amount of it on there for Jason’s sake.  🙂

S’mores Cupcakes

February 8, 2013

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Margaux says…

I got this idea from a pin on Pinterest, where I get most of my baking ideas lately. The recipe that I found was a little more complicated than I was wanting to deal with, so I simplified it by using a one-bowl chocolate cake. The cupcakes were a hit…some even said they were the best I’ve ever made. Yay! I’ve made them twice in the last two months already.

This cake recipe is one of my old stand-bys. I’ve been meaning to post it for ages, but I’m always rushed when I make it, so never take the time to take any photos. This is an updated version of the original that I’ve been baking since I was in college, the original being a recipe from my “Betty Crocker” cookbook, which was my first cookbook. The original recipe just uses chocolate chips, and in a pinch I still do that for ease, thrift and to save time. Also, with the original recipe, you just mix the cake directly in the pan…but I find that its actually easier to mix in a bowl. It’s a great recipe to throw together when you have surprise company coming, or if you suddenly find yourself needing something sweet to eat. I always store excess frosting in the freezer, and use it to top the cake (I’ve used everything from leftover chocolate frosting to leftover orange-cream cheese frosting), or if it’s just a last minute thing that I’ve thrown together, I leave it in the pan and top with powdered sugar. Both ways are delicious. Lastly, the reason I put this recipe in the vegan category is because of the cake…it’s completely vegan (just make sure you’re using vegan chocolate-very easy to find!), and is really great just topped with powdered sugar as a vegan treat. Another way I’ve made it for vegan friends also is by baking it into cupcakes (without the graham cracker crust it makes about 12 cupcakes), and frosting with vegan whipped cream.

S’mores Cupcakes

Graham Cracker Crust

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (you can buy them in the baking aisle)
1 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt butter, and stir in with graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a small bowl. Line 20 muffin cups with paper liners, and place 1 tablespoon of graham cracker mixture in each cup, pressing down with a small flat-bottomed cup. Bake for about 5 minutes, until base hardens. Set aside and make cake batter.

Chocolate Cake *see note below

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (3 1/2 ounces)

Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add water, oil and vanilla, and whisk until incorporated completely. Add chocolate and stir until just incorporated. Fill prepared cupcake papers 3/4 full with batter. Should stretch to make about 20 cupcakes. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out clean of cake batter (it may have a little melted chocolate on it, and that’s ok). Allow to cool for 10 minutes on cooling rack, and then remove the cupcakes from the pan and cool completely.

Marshmallow Frosting (or 7-minute frosting)

6 large egg whites**
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Place egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and set over medium saucepan of barely simmering water (you can put it in a double boiler, but then you have to transfer it to a mixer bowl, and this way is much easier). Stir the mixture with a whisk, cooking until the sugar has completely melted, about 5-10 minutes. Transfer to the mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Mix on medium-high speed, adding the vanilla while mixing, for about 7 minutes.

To pipe the frosting: Place pastry bag with tip cut off (or ziplock bag with one corner cut off) in a large glass and fold the sides of the pastry bag over the sides of the glass (if you shop at Trader Joe’s and use their coffee, I’ve found that their coffee containers work perfectly for this!). Fill bag with frosting and pipe onto cupcakes. If you have a kitchen torch, AWESOME! Use it to “toast the marshmallow.” Otherwise, you can do what I did and just sprinkle some extra graham cracker crumbs on top. Voila! S’mores!

*Note about cake: to make a plain chocolate snack cake, prepare an 8×8 square pan or a 9″ round pan by spraying with baking spray with flour, pour batter into pan and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. You can either leave it in the pan and allow to cool completely, then just serve from the pan, or you can cool on rack in pan for 10 minutes, then invert it onto the rack and allow to cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar for a simple weeknight dessert, or frost with about a cup of whatever frosting you’d like.

**Note about egg whites: I’m always looking for things to do with my egg yolks, and vice-versa.  You can store yolks in the fridge for up to two days, covered with water.  You can store whites in the fridge for up to 4 days, or freeze them for a year!  Anyway, here’s an idea for your yolks: meyer lemon bars...I made them, and they’re fantastic!!

 

Classic 2-Crust Apple Pie

December 1, 2012

Aunt Suzy says . . . . 

In our recent Dutch Apple Pie post, Margaux mentioned how shocked we were that we had not shared even one apple pie recipe.  Shocked because we love apple pie and make it regularly in the fall!  So we both got in gear and baked our families’ classic apple pie.  Note that I used the plural of family – when we dug into the apple pie recipes used by Margaux’s Grandma Major and Granny Teegarden (my Mom), they were basically the same recipe.  Any slight variations have to do with ingredient quantities and method.  In both cases, this is a regular vs. deep dish pie, and is elegant in its simplicity. Margaux and I make it somewhat differently, so we will describe both approaches.  So Margaux?  Serve with ice cream or not?  I like the pie plain – no ice or whipped cream – with a strong cup of coffee.

Margaux says . . .

I usually like my pie just straight up…no ice cream!  I’m a big sweets eater, though, so I do usually get a scoop of ice cream, too, and just eat it separately.  🙂  I make apple pie probably more than any other dessert, other than maybe brownies.  I usually use Jonathan apples, but if I can’t find them I prefer Golden Delicious (recommended in Joy of Cooking), Macintosh or Rome.  I never use Granny Smith because they become mushy when baked.  One time I read in a Cook’s Illustrated article that it’s best to use a few different varieties, one tart, one sweet, etc…which I did once and it was great.  But usually I’m making an apple pie because I need to do something with the bag of apples I bought that are going to go bad soon, so that’s not possible!

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

Depending on how many people you are serving you might want to make 2 pies.  In our house, apple pie goes fast because we eat it for dessert and, best of all, for breakfast!

Ingredients

Dough for a 2-crust pie – here’s Margaux’s favorite recipe

6-7 medium baking apples – Jonathan is our favorite variety

a little lemon juice, optional

2/3 -1 cup sugar

2-3 tablespoons flour, depending on how juicy the apples are

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons butter

Additional sugar for dusting the top crust

Aunt Suzy/Granny Teegarden’s Method

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Separate the dough for the crust into two equal balls.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or more).  Remove one ball from the fridge and roll out into a circle. Line a 9-inch pie plate with the dough, patting into place.

Peel, core, quarter and slice the apples to 1/4-1/2-inch thickness.  Place directly into the dough-lined pie plate.  Occasionally add a few sprinkles of lemon juice to prevent the apples from turning brown.

You’ll know you’ve added enough sliced apples when they form a rounded mound that is somewhat higher than the sides of the pie plate.  Next sprinkle the sugar evenly over the apples.  Continue by adding the  flour, then the salt and cinnamon.  Lastly, cut the butter into chunks and place on top of everything.  Don’t forget the butter!!  (Although if you forget, you can poke the chunks through the top-crust vents, something I know well from experience!)

Roll out the other half of the dough to a circle.  Place on top of the apples.  Fold the top and bottom crust together and lightly press onto the rim of the pie plate.  Crimp or flute the edges to seal the crusts.  Cut vents into the top crust in a pattern of your choice and sprinkle with sugar. Bake on a rack in the middle of the oven at 425 for 15 minutes.  Turn the heat down to 350 and bake another 30-40 minutes until the filling is bubbling.  You might want to line the bottom of the oven with foil in case the filling spills over.  Remove from the oven.  I like pie room temp, so I cool completely on a rack.  If you like it warm, cool to desired temperature.

COOK’S NOTES: Most apple pie recipes instruct you to toss the apples with the dry ingredients and then turn into the pie crust and top with the butter.  I have done that, but I like this way better because it’s easier with one less bowl to wash and no noticeable difference in results. Plus you always know exactly how many apples to use – you just stop when the pie plate is full.  I tend to like things less sweet so always use 2/3 cup sugar or less. Last tip – don’t forget the salt in the crust nor in the pie filling.  I made two pies recently, the first with not enough salt and it was bland!

Margaux/Grandma Major’s Method

My ingredients are almost exactly the same…I use 6 cups of sliced apples (about 2 1/2 lbs) and 3/4 cups sugar.  I mix the apples, sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt together in a bowl before I roll out the pie dough.  I let the apple mixture sit while I’m rolling out the crust, stirring it every once in awhile.  Next I pour the apple mixture into the prepared crust, dot with the butter and close with the top crust, and sprinkle with 2 tbsp sugar.  I bake the pie at 425 for 30 minutes, turn down the oven to 350 and bake another 30-45 minutes, until the apples feel just tender when speared with a fork.  I usually need to cover the outer edge with my pie crust cover, which can also be done with foil, when I turn the oven down to 350.