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Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

There is nothing more “American” than apple pie… but when the leaves begin to turn and the air grows crisp every New Englander knows it is time for apple picking!  What is sad is the fact that this New England girl has never actually gone apple picking.  However, before I get evicted from the best place on earth, I do visit my local farm stands and orchards for all those wonderful varieties.  And for the donuts… oh, the apple cider donuts!

My Grandmother was the queen of apple pies.  Actually, she was queen of any pie really.  She was said to make two strawberry rhubarb pies… one for the dessert and one for her brother who would take his and hide it… eating it in secretive bliss without sharing a single crumb.  While she had some of the best fillings it was really her crust that was so wonderful.  Sadly, her recipe was never documented and was lost when she passed.  My guess is she used lard which would have been a standard in her era.

Now that I am living on the family land in the house where she was born… I felt it my mission to find a good crust recipe and perfect it.  There have been many recipes tried and many recipes rejected as just not “up to snuff”.  After all… I have some huge expectations to fill… or I might get haunted!  Finally, I have found a great recipe which I may eventually start to tinker with to make it my own but for now I wanted to share my find and my excitement.

Thanks to Ina Garten who published her Perfect Pie Crust recipe which yields two 10″ crusts.  I am also posting it below should the link ever fail…

Deep Dish Apple Pie! Crust from Ina Garten’s recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) ice water

Directions:

Dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough in half. Roll each piece on a well-floured board into a circle, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough to make sure it doesn’t stick to the board. Fold the dough in half, place in a pie pan, and unfold to fit the pan. Repeat with the top crust.

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I simply love banana bread.  I am also a fan of Nutella.  If you are not familiar with Nutella it is a hazelnut and cocoa spread which resembles chocolate peanut butter but better.  It found its start in Italy in the 1940’s when chocolate was rationed and was so expensive that an alternative was needed.  The hazelnuts, skim milk and a hit of cocoa was a huge hit and has been a breakfast staple under this name since the 1960’s.  For the full story go to www.nutellausa.com/history.

A while ago my nephew and I were trading recipes… he is an accomplished cook (and still a college student) so he collects recipes that he wants to try out.  This little beauty is one of them as we both love Nutella… and there was a great discussion of adding it to a simple vanilla ice cream but more on that later.

So, waiting until the hottest day of the year I decided now was the time to crank up the oven and get this baked…

What you need:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups mashed ripe banana
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 heaping cup Nutella

What to do:

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8×4-inch loaf pan with non-stick spray.  I use Pam for baking.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda & salt.

3. In a separate large bowl, beat sugar and butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, milk and vanilla. Beat until blended.

4. Slowly add flour mixture, beat at low-speed just until flour is incorporated (don’t over mix).

5. Spoon Nutella into a small dish and soften in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Add 1 cup of the banana bread batter to the Nutella and stir until blended well.

6. Spoon Nutella batter alternately with plain banana bread batter into the prepared pan. Swirl batters together with a knife.

7. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, it will seem a tiny bit undercooked but that’s what makes it good. Cool for at least 15 minutes in the pan, and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: Even after 60 minutes I attempted to turn this out onto a plate and it was very undercooked so back into the loaf pan and into the oven it went for an additional 15 minutes and then I turned off the oven and left it in there until cool… still moist but thankfully not undercooked!

Enjoy!!!

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During a recent visit to my local Crate & Barrel I found this little book of a New England favorite – Whoopie Pies.  These little beauties are found mainly on the East Coast and a childhood favorite of mine.  They now come in so many varieties it would make your head spin.  My recent post of North Meets South featured the Red Velvet Whoopie which started this whole adventure.  The mix was a little pricey and I figured I had most of the ingredients in the cupboard so why not find a few recipes that looked like fun and give them a whirl?  Well, be careful what you wish for… I have gained 5 pounds this week just from sampling the fruits of my labor!  What is so great about this book you may ask.  Well, it is organized as the cakes and the fillings which allows me to mix and match based on my taste and ingredients.

In addition to the book, I finally pulled the trigger and purchased a stand mixer.  Found a great deal and now have a pro series 6 Quart Kitchen Aid in Contour Silver w/ bowl lift feature.  With the equipment squared away I now had to choose a recipe.  Based on some input from friends I decided on the Pumpkin Whoopie.  It really is a Spiced Pumpkin based on the ingredients but it made up easily in the mixer.

I ended up lining some baking sheets with parchment paper and cooked the cakes this way… took longer than expected since spacing filled up the pan quickly and the authors recommended that you bake one sheet at a time.  While the cakes were baking I made the filling – cream cheese.  The recipe called for quite a bit of powdered sugar and if I were to make it again I might be tempted to play with the amounts to tone down the sweetness.  The cakes did not need all the extra sweetness, in my honest opinion.

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Often people are surprised when I tell them I made something from a mix.  I love to cook and bake but sometimes I like to try something that won’t take me all day to create.  Case in point… Red Velvet Whoopie Pies.  I saw this mix on the shelf at Stonewall Kitchen and thought this might be a fun idea for entertaining.  Then I realized I would have to freeform the cakes on a cookie sheet.  This caused me to pause the creative train as my OCD would not allow funky shaped Whoopie Pies.

Out shopping again with a friend (no surprise there) I found a Whoopie Pie pan.  This little beauty takes the batter and shapes them into lovely and perfect tops and bottoms!  Better yet… they are “fun sized” meaning you can have one and not feel guilty reaching for another!

With a guest coming over for dinner out during the work week… I had the perfect opportunity to use the mix as a time saver and planned to have dessert in.  I made up the mix during my lunch hour and quickly baked the two pans full.  Allowed them to cool and then stored them at room temperature in a large air tight container.  Just before my guest arrived I made up the filling and frosted the “pies”.  The mix said it would make 12 but it actually only made 11.   To make it a nice round number… I had a testing sample… so let’s say the mix made 10!

The response was positive and the Whoopie Pie Pan was a success so it will definitely get used again for a made from scratch recipe I found for Pumpkin Whoopies… stay tuned!

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This recipe was one I wrote down from somewhere… and I don’t remember where.  What attracted me to it was the chocolate and the Amaretto… some of my favorite recipes include alcohol!!  When I got an invite to my sister’s house for Easter and the invitation was extended to two of my dear friends… I figured I had to show up with something significant.  After a few conversations with said sister… I finally arrived at a cheesecake and I knew which recipe was going to be up to the task…

Crust:

  • 1 Cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
  • 1/4 Cup Cocoa
  • 2 Tsp Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Butter – melted

Filling:

  • 8 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate
  • 16 oz Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 Cup Sour Cream
  • 1/3 Cup Amaretto
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tsp Almond Extract

Topping:

  • 2 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 Cup Pirouettes – chopped

What to do:

Position rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat to 3oo degrees.  On a lower rack place a baker’s half sheet and fill with water.  This will help to make the oven a bit humid and keep the cheesecake from cracking badly during the cooking process.  Even if it does crack the topping I have outlined below covers a multitude of sins!  Grease a 10 inch spring form pan.  Make up the crust by mixing crumbs, cocoa and sugar in a bowl.  Mix in melted butter and spread into bottom of the pan.  If you like to put the crumbs up the sides of the pan a bit… you will need at least another 1/2 cup of crumbs and a bit more butter and cocoa.  Next make up the filling by melting the chocolate in a double boiler.  In a large bowl beat the cream cheese and sugar together.  Beat in the eggs one at a time and then stir in the sour cream, chocolate, amaretto, and extracts.  Pour mixture into spring form pan (over crust) and bake for 1 hour or until firm.  Turn off the oven and leave cake in the cooling oven for about 30 minutes.  Remove and let cool completely.  Remove spring form ring and put on plate.

For topping melt the chocolate and butter the same as above.  Coarsely chop the Pirouettes and spread over top of cheesecake.  Drizzle with the chocolate in a decorative manner.  Bon Appetit!

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Have you ever been to Solvang, CA?  Well I have but it was years ago.  When I went I was more interested in visiting the crafting and cross stitch stores than anything else but that was my craft at the time.  Well, this year for Christmas I received a wonderful treat… an Aebleskiver pan, mix and some raspberry jam.  All from Solvang restaurant!  It brought back some wonderful travel memories of a trip with Mom back in the 90’s.  So for the New Year I set out to try something altogether new!  But what, dear God, is Aebleskiver you ask?

Directly from the former owner of Solvang restaurant: “Aebleskiver are a delicacy, supposedly invented by some Dane back in history. They are like a waffle or a pancake formed like a tennis ball. The name makes people believe that there are slices of apples inside, which is correct— if you put apple slices inside! You see, everybody, including me, has their own favorite recipe and way of serving them, all depending from where in Denmark the recipe came from.”  To see more visit www.solvangrestaurant.com

Anyway, during my holiday I seasoned the cast iron pan by covering it with melted vegetable shortening and baking it for over an hour.  This will need to be repeated over the life of the pan but one seasoning should last years at the rate I make this desert!

With a seasoned pan and the mix combined with eggs and milk (and a friend coming over to help me consume them) I set off to make some Aebleskiver. 

According to the directions, you put a teaspoon of cooking oil in each of the wells of the heated (medium/ high heat) pan.  Wait a moment until oil is heated.  Then fill the wells to even with the batter and then as a crust forms… turn with a knitting needle.  (of course I have one on hand being an avid knitter) then serve with powdered sugar and raspberry jam. Voila!  The verdict from the two partaking people – a hit!

For those of you who don’t want to get the mix… here is a scratch recipe that was also included with my gift:

You will need:

  • 2 Cups Buttermilk
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2 tbsp Sugar
  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Soda
  • 4 tbsp Butter (melted)

What you do:

Separate the eggs.  Mix egg yolks and all other ingredients together at one time and beat until smooth.  Allow batter to set for 30 minutes to let baking powder work.  Beat the whites stiff and fold in before cooking. 

Happy New Year!!

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After several attempts at the crust (recipe to follow in next post) I think I have perfected Mom’s Apple Pie recipe.  This is a deep dish pie and it is important to experiment with the apple combinations to your own personal taste.  I like Cortland and McCoun in my pies… other people love Macintosh but I find them too juicy.  Another great combo is Gala and Granny Smith’s.  I would recommend purchasing a half sheet baker’s pan to put under the pie to catch the spillover… and I have been told by a reliable source that a pie that doesn’t boil over isn’t worth eating!

You will need:

  • One Deep Dish 9″ Pie Plate
  • One Half Sheet Baker’s Pan
  • 8 Medium Apples (mix of at least 2 varieties)
  • 2/3 Cup Sugar
  • 3 Tbsp All Purpose flour
  • Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 Tbsp Butter
  • Cinnamon to taste (approx 1 tsp)
  • Nutmeg to taste (dash)
  • 1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • One egg’s egg whites, whisked.

What to do:

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees with baker’s sheet on middle rack.  Roll out bottom crust and place in pie plate.  Peel, core and thinly slice all apples, place in a large bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice to keep apples from turning color.  In a smaller bowl mix sugar, flour, and salt together then pour over apples and mix to coat apples evenly.   Pour apples and any remaining coating into bottom crust.  Top with cinnamon and nutmeg and dot with small chunks of butter.  Roll out top crust, cover apples and trim edges of both crusts leaving 1/2 inch hang over.  Fold crusts under using water to seal edges and crimp crust edge using thumbs or fork.  Vent top crust using thin knife being careful not to make vents too large. Brush top crust with whipped egg whites.  Place in center of oven… on top of the now hot baker’s sheet which will catch any boil over.  Cook at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.  Reduce heat to 375 degrees and continue cooking for another 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown and apples are bubbling.  Check for desired level of tenderness in apples using a butter knife through the vents.  If not done, continue cooking/ checking in 10 minute intervals.  Remove from oven and cool to room temperature for 2-3 hours.  Enjoy alone, with vanilla ice cream, or a sharp cheddar cheese.

Tips:

  • To prevent the crust from burning or becoming too dark use a pie ring or tin foil around pie edge.
  • If using a juicy variety of apple add another Tbsp of flour sprinkled over filling.  Tapioca also works well.
  • An alternative to the full amount of sugar is using rum in the pie.  The alcohol burns off and the sweet sugar taste is left behind.
  • By slicing the apples thin you will reduce the cooking time.  Keeping them uniform will eliminate the crunchy bite which some do not like.
  • Experiment with the apple combinations and have fun with it.

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