Thursday, December 27, 2012

TWD Rewind: Buttermilk Crumb Muffins

   The few weeks before winter break are always crazy busy, and amidst all the Christmas cookie baking, I didn't have a chance to get to several of the latest Tuesdays with Dorie recipes. Here's one of the ones I missed: Buttermilk Crumb Muffins.
  These were chosen a few weeks ago. The ingredient list is simple, and so are these muffins; they have a classic, comfort-food flavor, which can be really nice sometimes. They have a great, tender crumb, and are perfect alongside a big cup of creamy coffee or tea.
 The recipe was hosted by Alisa at Easier than Pie - the recipe can be found on her blog. Enjoy!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Peppermint Bark Cookies

 Merry Christmas Eve! I hope you're all celebrating with your favorite people - I'm spending the holidays with my parents and our family friends from Brazil. It's always so much fun to play tourist in NYC at Christmas time!
  Whenever we spend Christmas away from family, I always send a few close relatives packages full of holiday goodies. This year, I needed a delicious cookie recipe, and I wanted something festive. I considered making peppermint bark instead of cookies (entirely mostly so that I had an excuse to crush a bunch of candy canes), but then I saw these.
 These cookies are made of a simple chocolate cookie dough (better yet? It's whole wheat!), with the addition of peppermint extract to make it more holiday-appropriate. The bottoms of the cookies are dipped in bittersweet chocolate, and the tops are spread with white chocolate before being sprinkled with crushed candy canes.
 They are every bit as delicious as they are adorable. The chocolates and peppermint come together to make a cookie that has all the classic flavor of peppermint bark with an added layer of cookie, and come on, when don't you want an added layer of cookie? The cookies I managed to pry out of my dad's cookie-loving hands were packaged and sent out, and I hope my family enjoys them as much as I did!
Packed up and ready to be shipped (along with some Cranberry Orange Loaves)
Peppermint Bark Cookies
(adapted from Annie's Eats)

For the cookies:
1 1/2  cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
12 tbsp. (6 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½  cups confectioners’ sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. peppermint extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
To finish:
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
10 oz. good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
Crushed candy canes or peppermint candies

To make the cookies, combine the flour, cocoa powder and salt in a small bowl; whisk to blend and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  Blend in the egg, peppermint extract, and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated and no streaks remain.  Form the dough into a disc, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 1-2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 325˚ F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out to about ¼-inch thickness.  Cut out desired shapes with cookie cutters and place cut outs on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes, just until set.  Let cool on the baking sheet about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Line baking sheets with wax or parchment paper.  Place the bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a few inches of simmering water.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  One a time, dip the bottom side of each cookie into the chocolate.  Use an offset spatula to scrape of the excess, leaving only a very thin layer of chocolate on the bottom of the cookie.  Place on the prepared baking sheets.  Transfer to the refrigerator to chill until the chocolate has set, about 15 minutes.
Repeat the melting process with the white chocolate in the double boiler set up.  Use an offset spatula to spread a layer of white chocolate on top of each cookie and sprinkle immediately with crushed candy cane pieces before the chocolate sets.  Transfer to the refrigerator to chill again just until set, about 15 minutes more.  Store in an airtight container.
  -makes about 20 cookies, depending on size

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Strawberry Santas

 Some of the absolute cutest things can be the simplest as well. Last weekend, my parents and I were going to a few different Christmas parties, and amidst preparations for the last week of school before break (always full of tests and projects), shopping for my friends and family's presents, and going to my last pottery class of the year (*sniff*), I needed to make something quick to take to one of the parties.
  These little Santas were perfect. Strawberries are cut and hollowed out, and then they are filled with a simple, sweet cream cheese. I also used the cream cheese to pipe little buttons and a top to Santa's hat! For the eyes, the original recipe seems to use some sort of little black seed; I used chocolate jimmies, but poppy seeds or black sesame seeds would work too.
  Besides being cute, these are shockingly delicious. The cream cheese and strawberries blend together to make a delicious, cheesecake-like party in your mouth. These were greatly enjoyed by everybody at the party, from the 1-year-old baby to his grandparents!
Strawberry Cream Cheese Santas
(I got the recipe from the Christmas Spirit facebook page)

1 lb large strawberries
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
                               chocolate jimmies (or other small decoration to use for eyes)

Rinse strawberries and cut around the top of the strawberry. Remove the top, (enough for a hat). Clean out the whole strawberry with a paring knife, if necessary (some of them are hollow already. Prep all of the strawberries and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Add cream cheese mix to a piping bag or zip-top bag with the corner snipped off. Fill the strawberries with cheesecake mixture.
Once strawberries are filled, top with the 'hats.' Decorate according to photo.
If not serving immediately, refrigerate until serving

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Apple Cider Caramels

 Around this time of year, kitchens are filled with Christmas cookies, pies, and mugs of hot chocolate. I always like to give homemade candy as gifts; it's something that nearly everybody likes, and it can be enjoyed a few weeks after it's made, once the cookies and pies are long forgotten. Not that it ever lasts that long...
 My favorite winter drink is spiced apple cider. A big, steamy mug of it is the perfect way to start a cool morning or snowy afternoon. These caramels take everything that's so wonderful about this cozy drink and pack it into a bite-sized square, easy to nestle into decorative tins for gift-giving or slip into your bag for an afternoon treat.
  These apple cider flavor in these comes from several cups of apple cider, which are reduced into a syrupy consistency and made into a creamy candy with a hint of salt that makes them oh-so-addicting. These caramels are just the way I like them - chewy enough to make you take a minute or two of silence to eat them! If you want a slightly less chewy caramel, just cook the mixture for a bit less time than the recipe calls for. Wrap them up in paper, pack them up and make all of your loved ones worship you, or just eat half the pan straight from the fridge. It's okay, I won't judge.
Apple Cider Caramels

4 cups (945 ml) apple cider
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, or less of a finer one
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
Neutral oil for the knife

Boil the apple cider in a 3- to- 4- quart saucepan over high heat until it is reduced to a dark, thick syrup, between 1/3 and 1/2 cup in volume. This should take about 35 to 40 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  Meanwhile, get your other ingredients in order, because you won’t have time to spare once the candy is cooking. Line the bottom and sides of an 8- inch straight- sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment. Set it aside. Stir the cinnamon and salt together in a small dish.
  Once you are finished reducing the apple cider, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter, sugars, and heavy cream. Return the pot to medium- high heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side, and let it boil until the thermometer reads 252 degrees, only about 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on it. (Don’t have a candy or deep- fry thermometer? Have a bowl of very cold water ready, and cook the caramel until a tiny spoonful dropped into the water becomes firm, chewy, and able to be plied into a ball.)
  Immediately remove caramel from heat, add the cinnamon- salt mixture, and give the caramel several stirs to distribute it evenly. Pour caramel into the prepared pan. Let it sit until cool and firm—about 2 hours, though it goes faster in the fridge. Once caramel is firm, use your parchment paper sling to transfer the block to a cutting board. Use a well- oiled knife, oiling it after each cut, to cut the caramel into 1-by-1-inch squares. Wrap each one in a 4-inch square of waxed paper, twisting the sides to close. Caramels will be somewhat on the soft side at room temperature (less chewy after sitting for a day), and chewy/firm from the fridge.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Layered Turtle Cheesecake

 Thanksgiving at my house always involves three desserts; usually, apple pie, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie. For the past couple of years, we've substituted one of these for cheesecake. Last year, it was a delicious pumpkin flavor, to take the place of pumpkin pie. This year, I wanted a substitute for pecan pie. After seeing so many variations of turtle cheesecake online, I went with this one, and I'm so glad I did.
  This cheesecake starts off with an oreo cookie crust, for which I used gluten-free oreo-like cookies for my mom. Then comes a layer of melted caramels mixed with pecans, then a thick, creamy cheesecake, another layer of the pecan caramel, and finally, a drizzle (or, in this case, festive holiday greeting) of chocolate. It all comes together to create an indulgent dessert that is perfect for any occasion, especially alongside a classic apple pie and maple pumpkin pie.
Layered Turtle Cheesecake 
(from Kraft

24 Oreo cookies (or any other cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookie), finely crushed (about 2 cups)

6 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

1 package (14 oz.) Kraft caramels (or a similar kind)
1/2 cup milk

1 cup chopped pecans

3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

3 eggs

2 oz.  semi-sweet chocolate

Mix oven to 325 F.
Mix together cookie crumbs and butter; press onto bottom and 2 inches up side of 9-inch springform pan.
Microwave caramels and milk in small microwaveable bowl on high for 3 minutes or until caramels are completely melted, stirring after each minute. Stir in nuts; pour half into crust. Refrigerate 10 minutes. Refrigerate remaining caramel mixture for later use.
Beat together cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over caramel layer in crust.
Bake 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until center is almost set. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim. Refrigerate 4 hours.
Microwave reserved caramel mixture 1 minute; stir. Pour over cheesecake. Melt chocolate as directed below; drizzle over cheesecake.

How to Pipe Chocolate
Place chocolate in a ziplock bag (or piping bag). Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Squeeze bag to melt chocolate. Snip off the tip of one of the bottom corners of the bag. Holding the top of the bag firmly, drizzle chocolate through opening in desired patterns on cheesecake. 
Reduce oven temperature to 300 F if using a dark nonstick springform pan.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Buttermilk Biscuits with Cinnamon Spiced Butter

 The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always the busiest of the year for me. If you take a look at food blogs on a regular basis, you will see that they are full of recipes for sky-high pies, indulgent holiday breakfasts, and, most importantly, Christmas cookies! Not to worry, there are plenty of those recipes to come on here, but today I want to take a break from all that and talk about biscuits.
  These biscuits are not tall and reminiscent of a certain doughboy's, but they are flaky and the perfect bite-sized side dish. Even better, their layers and little holes are ideal for filling up with a sweet and salty cinnamon butter. Most importantly, they are a wonderful accompaniment to a table of rich Thanksgiving foods, especially after having stood in the cold all morning with my little cousins at the parade!
Buttermilk Biscuits with Cinnamon Spiced Butter 
(slightly adapted from Food Network)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) very cold butter
3/4 cup buttermilk (or 3/4 cup milk plus a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice, allowed to sit together for a few minutes)
Cinnamon Spiced Butter (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.
Sift the dry ingredients together into a bowl.
Cut the butter into small pieces. Cut the butter into the dough with a pastry cutter or a fork until it looks like coarse sand. Add the buttermilk and continue to cut the dough together. 
Turn out onto a floured surface and gently bring together. Gently press the dough into a rectangle until it is between 1/2 and 3/4-inch thick.
Use a round cutter that has been floured to cut the biscuits. Place in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.
Remove biscuits from freezer and place on parchment paper on a baking sheet so they are touching each other. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve with spiced butter.

Cinnamon Spiced Butter

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) butter, softened

Mix dry ingredients together. Blend together with the butter until smooth. Refrigerate until serving.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Classic Apple Pie

 Apple pie. It's such a classic American dessert, and yet there are so many different versions of it. Syrupy, crumbly, sweet, tart, flaky, cinnamon-y, cheesy. How can there possibly be one greatest apple pie?
 It's not possible. I have made many apple pies throughout the years, and most have been very good - but many are filled with twists and turns that make them far from "homestyle." Sometimes you just need a classic apple pie, which is where this recipe comes in.
This is simple. It's thick and sweet and perfect after a big Thanksgiving meal. I forgot to put the cinnamon into the recipe, but instead sprinkled cinnnamon sugar over the warm pie. I was surprised that I didn't miss the cinnamon in the filling, but if you think it's necessary, feel free to throw in two teaspoons or so.
 This was enjoyed by everybody who had some from our buffet of holiday pies (more recipes coming soon!) and will definitely be made again whenever I want a taste of a classic fall dessert.
 Thank you to Nicole of Baking Bites for her wonderful pie giveaway, in which I won a great cookbook and the beautiful ceramic dish used for this pie.
Classic Apple Pie
(slightly adapted from Cannella Vita)

1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie (my new favorite is Smitten Kitchen's)
1/2 cup unsalted butter 
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar, divided 
1/2 cup brown sugar 
1/4 cup water 
8 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped  
2 teaspoons cinnamon 

Preheat oven to 425 F. Melt butter in a sauce pan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add 1/2 cup white sugar, brown sugar and water; bring to a boil. Reduce temperature, and simmer 5 minutes. If you want to put some cinnamon into the filling, now is the time to do so.

Meanwhile, place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not spill out of the pan. Cover with a lattice work crust (or just top with second crust and cut in steam holes). Seal together crust edges.

Bake 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, or until browned to your liking. Stir together the remaining 2 tablespoons white sugar and the cinnamon, and sprinkle over the pie. Let the pie sit for a few hours to thicken, or enjoy fresh from the oven and slightly runny ;)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Greek Yogurt Cinnamon Buns

 Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you're all enjoying a day filled with fun with your favorite people. In the midst of all the crazy, buttery pies all over the internet, I figured I should bring you this easy recipe for a treat that will feed a big family for breakfast. Greek yogurt cinnamon buns.
  That's right, you heard it. Greek yogurt. Cinnamon buns. In the same phrase. What is happening to the world??
 When you hear anything with the words "Greek yogurt," you might automatically think of "healthy." The truth is, while these are a bit better for you than the average cinnamon bun - they have whole wheat flour, too - they are far from healthy.
 I originally set out to make a big batch of indulgent pumpkin cinnamon buns, but it ended up not really working out when I realized that I only had part of the pumpkin for the recipe, and decided to throw in some Greek yogurt instead. It ended up working out kind of like the classic chocolate mayonnaise cake, where you don't taste the secret ingredient, but it makes everything more moist and delicious.
  If you want a recipe for an easy, rich breakfast for a crowd, these are perfect. And if you want to tell yourself that they are healthy as well, go for it. I won't mind.
Greek Yogurt Cinnamon Buns
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, to be divided
1/2 cup whole milk, warmed (but not over 116 degrees)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from 1 .25-ounce or 7 gram envelope yeast)
1 1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out
1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cups plain Greek yogurt
1 egg
Oil for coating rising bowl

3/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons milk
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Few drops vanilla extract

Make your dough: Melt your butter, and if you’re melting it in a little saucepan, you might as well brown it for extra flavor. Once the butter has melted, keep cooking it over medium heat for a few additional minutes. It will become hissy and sizzle a lot, then take on a nutty flavor as golden bits form at the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Combine your warmed milk and yeast in a small bowl and set aside. After five to seven minutes, it should be a bit foamy. If it’s not, you might have some bad yeast and should start again with a newer packet.
In the bottom of the bowl of an electric mixer combine flours, sugars, salt and spices. Add just 1/4 cup (or two-thirds of; leave the rest for assembly) of your melted/browned butter and stir to combine. Add yeast-milk mixture, Greek yogurt and egg and mix to combine. Switch mixer to a dough hook and run it for 5 minutes on low.
Scrape mixture into a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 1 hour in a warm place; it should just about double.
While it is rising, line the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans (8-inch round should work too, as does an 8-inch square) with parchment paper and butter the sides of the pan and the paper.

Assemble buns: Scoop dough onto a very well floured surface and flour the top of it well. With a rolling pin, roll the dough to an approximately 16×11-inch rectangle. Brush reserved melted/browned butter over dough. Stir together remaining filling ingredients and sprinkle mixture evenly over dough. Starting on a longer side, roll the dough into a tight spiral. This may be messy and leak out butter and sugar at the ends of the dough; that's okay.
Here’s how to cut cinnamon rolls without squishing their pretty spirals: With a sharp serrated knife, using absolutely no pressure whatsoever (only the weight of the blade should land on the dough) gently saw your log with a back-forth motion into approximately 16 1-inch sections. When a soft dough like this is rolled, it tends to grow longer, which means that you’ll have the option to either make more buns (say, 18 instead of 16) or just cut them a little larger (in generous inches).
Divide buns between two prepared pans. You can sprinkle any sugar that fell off onto the counter over them. Cover each pan with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes.
If you’re doing this ahead of time, you can now put them in the fridge overnight. In the morning, leave them out for an hour to warm up and finish rising.
15 minutes before you’re ready to bake them, heat the oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, you can make the glaze. Beat your cream cheese until it is light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Drizzle in milk until you get the consistency you’re looking for, either thick enough to ice or thin enough to drizzle.

Finish your buns: Remove the plastic and bake buns for 25 minutes, until puffed and golden and delicious-smelling. Transfer pans to wire cooling racks and drizzle/spread with cream cheese glaze (or leave plain if you're like my dad and don't like icing, in which case, we need to have a little conversation about life values and such).

- makes about 16 cinnamon buns

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Double Chocolate Greek Yogurt Muffins

As much as it may seem like it from reading this blog, I don't actually spend all day eating custard pies and cupcakes topped with small mountains of icing. Usually, my family and I have a bit of whatever it was I made, and my dad takes the rest of it to share with his co-workers. I have been baking a bit more than usual this week, since I had the whole week off from school (thank you, Hurricane Sandy! No, actually, I hope everyone is okay - I was lucky to not have been affected at all at home). Yesterday, I was flipping through recipes calling for cups of sugar and multiple sticks of butter when I realized that my dad wasn't going to work today, so whatever I baked, it would be in our house for the next couple of days. Enter these muffins.
 These are fairly healthy (as muffins go) - they have some sugar and a bit of oil, but their chocolatey taste comes from unsweetened cocoa powder (with a few chocolate chips thrown in - I used semisweet, but feel free to use your favorite kind), and I made them with half white whole wheat flour, which adds some heartiness without changing the texture. As a vegetarian, I'm always trying to get some extra protein in, and Greek yogurt is filled with it; these muffins are made moist and ever-so-slightly tangy from the rich, creamy yogurt.
  This is the perfect breakfast muffin, in my opinion - it is moist, pairs perfectly with a creamy cup of coffee, and tastes almost as indulgent as your favorite bakery's double chocolate muffin, but is healthy enough to be acceptable for a weekday morning.
 Double Chocolate Greek Yogurt Muffins
(adapted from Knead to Cook)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin, or line with paper liners.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and sugar. 
In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, vanilla and oil.  Stir the yogurt mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips.
Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Make sure that the toothpick isn't coming out dirty due to hitting a chocolate chip - you don't want to over-bake your muffins!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Streusel-Topped Pear & Plum Pie

 I'm happy to report that my family and I are all okay and safe from Hurricane Sandy- our power is still on and now we're just waiting for news on the subways (no school tomorrow?) and hoping everyone is okay!
On Sunday, when we heard that we would probably be stuck indoors for a few days, I knew some pie was needed. We had just been shopping for hurricane supplies, which included lots of fruit and butter for baking (and an obscene amount of ice cream, but that's completely unrelated), so we had plenty of pie ingredients. I wanted something that could be easily made gluten-free, was delicious, and incorporated somewhat fall-like flavors (other than pumpkin, please!). This pie was the perfect choice.
 It starts with a crisp pie crust - I used a leftover gluten-free galette crust from this galette, but feel free to use your favorite. Then comes a thick layer of chopped pears and plums, mixed with lots of delicious magic! Finally, the best part (in my opinion) gets crumbled on: the streusel topping! I love the "crumb" on crumb cake, and this is basically a layer of just that - I even used gluten-free all-purpose flour for my mom, and it was wonderful. This pie is perfect warm with a big scoop of ice cream, or at room temperature if the idea of taking the time to heat up pie and scoop ice cream is just too daunting (it's okay - I get it).
The three layers go perfectly together to create a delicious dessert that can be made in fall just as easily as in summer - if you can't find any of the fruits or don't like them, feel free to substitute your favorites. This would be delicious with apples for Thanksgiving as well, or with nectarines for the Fourth of July, or with any other fruit for any other day of the year...
Streusel-Topped Pear & Plum Pie
(from Oprah)

1 9" pie crust, chilled
1 1/3 cups plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided (I used gluten-free all-purpose flour and added about a teaspoon of xanthan gum)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup plus 3 Tbsp. granulated sugar, divided
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
3 ripe but firm pears, peeled, cored and sliced
3 plums, pitted and sliced

Place a baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat oven to 400 F. (Be sure to do this - I didn't, and had a smoke-filled kitchen as pie juice burned on the bottom of my oven!) Line a 9" pie pan with crust; set aside.
In a medium bowl, toss together 1 1/3 cups flour, butter, 3 Tbsp. granulated sugar, brown sugar, almonds, and 1/4 tsp. salt until mixture forms clumpy streusel bits; set aside.
In a large bowl, toss together pears, plums, remaining 2/3 cup granulated sugar, remaining 1/4 cup flour, and 1/4 tsp. salt until well coated.
Fill pie crust with fruit and scatter streusel evenly over the top.
Place pie on top rack of oven and bake 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 375 F. Continue baking until juices are bubbly and thickened, 45 to 60 minutes more. Set aside to let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pumpkin Dutch Baby

Waiting for Hurricane Sandy means that school is canceled for today, and most likely tomorrow. Living in New York City, nobody is quite used to being stuck at home, possibly soon without any power. I slept in this morning, and then, after browsing some of my favorite food blogs, could think of nothing but pumpkin pancakes.
Pancakes seemed like a lot of work for a stormy morning of watching movies and procrastinating on homework (I mean, I probably have until Wednesday to do it!). I have been seeing these "Dutch Babies" on food blogs for years, and they seem to be a giant, oven-baked pancake. I found a pumpkin version and got to work!
This pancake is moist, dense, and tastes exactly like pumpkin pie- probably helped by the fact that I used lots of pumpkin pie spice. It isn't very sweet on its own, and is actually pretty healthy, which makes it perfect for being topped with about a gallon of maple syrup! The spicy, pumpkin-y flavor is perfect for a chilly fall morning. If you anywhere but the East Coast, save this recipe for this weekend - although it's quick enough to easily be made on a weekday morning, too - and if you are on the East Coast, make this while we still have plenty of power, stay safe, and enjoy the day off!
Soak up that maple syrup!
Pumpkin Dutch Baby
(from Baking Bites)

2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/3 cup pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
pinch freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425 F.
Place ovenproof 6 or 8-inch frying pan (stainless steel or cast iron) in the oven to heat for about 5 minutes.
Whisk together all ingredients until smooth.
Remove pan from oven and spray with nonstick cooking spray or quickly brush with butter, then pour the batter into the hot pan and put it back in the oven.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the Dutch baby is golden brown.
Slide from the pan onto a large plate and serve immediately with lots of maple syrup.
     -Serves 1-2

Notes: For a Dutch baby in a 10-inch skillet, double the recipe and cook for 20-25 minutes. Feel free to substitute pumpkin pie spice for the spice combination called for above.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pumpkin Apple Streusel Cake

 Since I started baking six years ago, I have learned so much. I've learned that no, the bakers at Costco who pipe perfect buttercream flowers onto the big sheet cakes are not magical fairies, but yes, they have had hours of practice. I've learned that some supermarket staples are a hundred times better when made at home, like chocolate pudding, but that sometimes, like for a late night at home with friends, nothing beats the ease and classic taste of bake-n-break cookie dough. I've also learned that fall is simply the greatest season for sweet treats.
 The warm, spicy flavors of pumpkin, cranberries, apples, nuts, and cinnamon make me think of long afternoons sipping cider and morning walks in the crisp country air. Yesterday, I wanted a perfect fall recipe, but didn't even know where to start. I had a can of pumpkin and three big apples, so I figured a spicy cake was in the works.
 This recipe combines the best of all these fall flavors. A moist, spice-filled pumpkin cake, topped with a layer of apples sauteed in butter, sugar, and cinnamon (I used pumpkin pie spice for this step too, not just for the cake batter) which tastes exactly like apple pie filling and is oh-so-addicting, and finally a sweet, crunchy crumb topping. It is perfectly sweet and hearty, making it wonderful for an October Saturday night filled with  preparations for this so-called "Frankenstorm" (officially no school tomorrow!) - good luck to anybody on East coast, and enjoy what will hopefully be nothing more than a relaxing day off tomorrow.
 Pumpkin Apple Streusel Cake
(from Bon Appétit)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups diced peeled cored Granny Smith apples (about 4 large)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

11/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup (firmly packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup canned pure pumpkin
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs

Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples; sauté until apples begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add sugar and cinnamon and sauté until golden brown, about 3 minutes longer. Cool.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. 
Combine flour, brown sugar, butter, and salt in large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until mixture resembles coarse meal. Set aside 2/3 cup of mixture for topping. 
Beat pumpkin, sour cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, spice, and baking soda into remaining flour mixture, beating just until smooth. Beat in eggs. 
Transfer batter to pan. Scatter apples evenly over top. Sprinkle reserved topping over apples.
Bake cake until topping is golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Run a thin knife around the sides of the pan to loosen cake. Release pan sides from cake. Transfer cake to a platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

TWD: Bagels! (and Veggie Cream Cheese)

 I'm sorry. I'm sorry I've been gone for a week and a half. I'm sorry I haven't posted a new recipe in nearly three weeks. The kitchen being painted, our house's lack of heat due to a boiler switch, schoolwork, pottery classes, and various other shenanigans got in the way of baking these past couple of weeks. I actually made an okay gluten-free carrot cake last week, but it was kind of crumbly, and let's just say that the chocolate "glaze" resulted in a cracked, hard-as-rock layer of yuck. Overall, not a great culinary period of time...
 ...but. Last weekend, these bagels. Bagels have been on my to-bake list for years, and I never got around to making them. I was so excited when I saw that they had been chosen as last week's Tuesdays with Dorie! This week was actually a fifth Tuesday of the month, so we had a make-up week in case we wanted to go back and make something we missed. Perfect!
um, YUM!
 The dough was kneaded, left to rise, deflated, left to rise, shaped into doughnut shapes, boiled, baked, and left to cool. I made the quick Vegetable Cream Cheese from the book, using red bell peppers instead of radishes. The cream cheese was light and refreshing, as opposed to the heavy, buttery spreads that can sometimes be piled onto deli bagels.
Listen, dears. (I feel that as I'm writing about a recipe made on Julia Child's show, calling you dears is appropriate. 'Kay?) The thing is, I live in New York City. My hometown basically is the bagel capital of the world (Montreal, I don't even want to talk about this with you). I was skeptical that these could live up to the chewy perfection two dollars can get you on my corner.
I was wrong to doubt this recipe. These bagels are tender, golden-brown bites of delicious. They are like a very, very good New York deli bagel (although not quite so huge, which is a good thing). I am so glad I got to try out making this usually-store-bought staple at home, and I know I will be making bagels again in the future; that said, I'm not promising to never buy one again.
If you live near a great bagel place, give this recipe a try and compare the two results. Let me know what you find? If you don't live near a great bagel place, you must give this recipe a try, if only to understand what all the fuss is about. ;) The recipe, as always, can be found in Baking with Julia or on the host's blog, Heather's Bytes. Thanks for hosting, Heather!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


As of last week, this little blog of mine is four. I've never done this sort of "blog birthday" thing before, but my house is being painted this week, giving me limited access to the kitchen, so I thought, why not?
Over the past four years, this blog has had its moments of being neglected by me, but I'm happy to say that for over the past year, I've been able to carve out baking and blogging time every week. I find baking to be so relaxing and enjoyable - I love the feeling of pulling a sweet treat out of the oven and knowing I made it myself - and it brings smiles to people around me. This blog gives me a place to share my experiences in the kitchen: the ups and downs of becoming a better baker, and the yummy recipe at the end of each culinary story. Here are a few memorable moments:

My first post:
I made this Tropical Dulce de Leche Cake in October of 2008, based on an idea my mom had. You can see from both the photo and the writing how much this blog has evolved; no matter how much more "sophisticated" my treats have become, those first few posts are some of my favorites to look back on.

My favorite post:
Wow, this one's really hard. I think I would have to say my favorite would be this August, when I made Jacques Torres's Chocolate Chip Cookies. It isn't because they were the greatest baked goods I ever made; it's because of the whole process. They were made in my New York kitchen with chocolate my best friend brought me from France, the dough had to chill overnight before being baked (which, believe me, is not easy to let happen when there is a big bowl of cookie dough calling you from the fridge), and they were packed up and shared with my family in Brazil. I like to call them my triple-continent cookies ;)

My mom's favorite post:
I'm not totally sure. My guess would be that her favorite is these Brazilian Cheese Rolls. I like this post too, because it's the only tutorial I've ever done on here. These rolls, or "pão de queijo" in Portuguese, are the classic food of her hometown, and naturally gluten-free. Oh, and did I mention how delicious they are? Cheesy, chewy, perfection.

My dad's favorite post:
Without a doubt, this cherry pie. It's a classic recipe, made with tart cherries to contrast the sweet filling. This gets made all the time in our house- for Christmas, I gave him a "gift certificate" for unlimited cherry pie for a year!

My most popular post:
This one's funny. I would have expected it to be when I hosted Tuesdays with Dorie (I love being in Tuesdays with Dorie, by the way, and also enjoy baking along with the Daring Bakers when I can), but according to my page view counter, it is this Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Mousse Filling. Apparently you all are always searching for a raspberry mousse filling recipe? Well, it was a good cake...

Having a baking blog is a wonderful experience, and I've met some great fellow teenage bakers through the process. As always, I'm so very grateful to each and every person who takes time out of their day to read about my baking endeavors. Please take a minute to stop by and say hi, or ask a question!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

TWD: Pumpkin Raisin Loaves

 You might be thinking that the slabs of bread above don't look like the picture-perfect loaves so many bakers are turning out this week. What can I say- some recipes just get mixed up. This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was one time-consuming recipe, and it left me thoroughly confused by the time I finished my first slice, over 24 hours after starting the dough. This was due to two things:
1. I made a couple of changes. I'm not a huge fan of fresh cranberries, plus I couldn't find them, so I figured I would use dried instead. When I was making the bread, I wasn't feeling the whole walnuts thing (ugh, chopping was involved, plus I'd rather not have crunchy bits in my bread), but I wanted to keep it very fall-spirited, so I decided to leave out the walnuts and raisins and go with just the cranberries. Oh, and then I dumped in a bag of what I thought was dried cranberries but turned out to be raisins. And they were hard to mix in. Whoops... and with that, Pumpkin Raisin Bread was born.
 2. I kind of misread the recipe. I didn't realize just how small the three loaves were supposed to be- I thought they were just slightly smaller than the 9x5" loaf pans I have- so I decided to bake the dough in two big loaf pans. I thought they would come out big and perfect for sandwiches, like last month's whole wheat bread, so imagine my surprise when my bread didn't rise to fill the large pans. The loaves baked up nicely, though, despite the shape.
This bread isn't light and fluffy, nor is it savory enough to be paired with meat and cheeses. It is sweet and ever-so-slightly dense, which makes it perfect for a cool fall morning. My dad ate lots of it plain, but I enjoyed it slightly toasted with jam or butter and cinnamon sugar. So maybe it's not exactly the way it was meant to be, but hey, it's a winner in my book.
The recipe can be found in Baking with Julia or on the host's blog, Rebecca of This Bountiful Backyard.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Simple Chocolate Fondue

Late-night treat sessions with best friends are one of the greatest ways to spend a weekend night. Last night, I had two friends over for a night of takeout and romantic comedies (I know, crazy partying right there). At around 11, we decided to pause our movie and make this simple but delicious dessert.
 This chocolate fondue is one of the easiest yet most indulgent treats to make on whim. Cream, vanilla, and the chocolate of your choice are melted together to create this perfect dip for any sweet bite-sized snack. We used strawberries and mini marshmallows, and once we were out of those (although this doesn't look like all that much fondue, it is so rich that we only ended up eating about half of it, and trust me, we ate a lot of fondue), we tried dipping some frozen fruit, too.
 I actually have a fondue pan, but wasn't able to find it and didn't feel like searching the house at 11 o'clock, so I just made this in a saucepan. We ate it pretty quickly, so there was no need to keep it warm for a long time, but if you are serving this at a party where people will be eating it gradually, you may need to reheat it.
Chocolate fondue is the perfect late-night, date-night, family get-together, or hey, breakfast, indulgence, and this one is so simple, you can have it ready in five minutes. Enjoy!
 Simple Chocolate Fondue
(slightly adapted from Simply Recipes)

1 cup heavy cream
12 oz. chocolate of your choice, chopped, or chocolate chips (use good quality, as you will really be able to taste it)
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
bite-sized snacks for dipping, such as marshmallows or fresh fruit (frozen strawberries are good too!)

Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat.
Stir in the chocolate, salt, and vanilla. Stir over high heat until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is creamy. 
Pour into a bowl and serve with bite-sized snacks on wooden or metal skewers for dipping.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fluffy Double Chocolate Buttercream

 Although I don't think I've ever talked about it here, I kind of have my own "business." It's not huge or fancy, but I love making cakes for other people. My customers are mostly my parents friends, with a few of my own here and there. The reason I haven't mentioned it before is just that when I'm being payed to make a dessert for somebody's party, that's not exactly the best time to try out new recipes. Better to stick to the tested, old favorites.
swirly little swirls
 This weekend, I was hired to make a cake for a little boy's first birthday. Happy birthday Sam! I made my favorite moist yellow cake recipe, but the only request for frosting was to make it chocolatey. The recipe I usually use is this one, but I wanted something creamier and fluffier. And this little creation was born.
 This recipe is actually quite similar to the one I used to use- I basically just added some more chocolate and beat it for longer to make it so fluffy, I wanted to eat it straight out of the bowl. Somehow, those two little changes made quite the big difference. And by the way, that's not to say that I didn't eat a few spoonfuls out of the piping bag once I was done making those little swirls...
a cake for the family, and a cupcake for the birthday boy to smash :)
 The chocolate flavor really comes through, and this frosting is perfect for any flavor of cake you can think up. A spicy ginger cake for the holidays, tall, dark, chocolatey layers, or my favorite (and the birthday boy's parents'), classic yellow vanilla. This is so easy to spread, but still firm enough to pipe without a problem. I used a star tip for the swirls on the cake above, but feel free to decorate as you wish. Enjoy!
happy 1st birthday!

Fluffy Double Chocolate Buttercream
(adapted from Savory Sweet Life)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup dark chocolate, melted and cooled

Beat the butter with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. 
Beat in the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla extract, and salt. (At this point, I removed about 1/4 cup of frosting to use for the white letters.)
Add in the cocoa powder, and beat for about 3 minutes, until smooth and airy. Beat in the melted dark chocolate. Decorate as desired.
     -makes enough to generously frost and fill one 9" 2-layer cake

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall Spice Pumpkin Bread

 I'm back to new baking, and I'm loving it. I was so sick of endless breads and repeating the same recipes over and over, but yesterday I decided to get into all the fall baking. I recently realized that although I love it and tend to pay far too much for it at coffee shops, I've never made my own pumpkin bread. This had to be fixed!
Pumpkin bread is one of those "breads" that are really quickbreads, like banana bread- basically an excuse to eat cake for breakfast. Hey, I'm not complaining.
I went straight to this recipe on Allrecipes, which is basically the food blogger's go-to pumpkin bread- it has thousands of great reviews. Be warned, this makes a LOT of pumpkin bread. It's supposed to make three small-ish loaves, but I baked it all in one big tube pan, and ended up cutting slices in half. No matter how big the slices were, I was so glad I made this bread. It is delicious- so moist but fluffy at the same time, which is hard to do. Warm out of the oven, I thought it was a little bland, but after resting overnight, it was a whole different cake. It is full of fall spices and bursting with pumpkin flavor. The perfect way to get back into baking, and get into all my favorite delicious fall flavors. Enjoy!
Fall Spice Pumpkin Bread
(slightly adapted from Allrecipes)

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil 
2/3 cup water
3 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda 
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a large bundt pan, or two 9x5" loaf pans. 
In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans. 
Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.