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.