autumnal apple crisp

apple crisp

Nothing says autumn like apples, preferably baked with some warming spices and a bit of booze.  Here is a simple apple crisp recipe.

Slice about 8-10 apples into a large bowl; mix with a tablespoon of microplaned fresh ginger, a splash of maple syrup and a scant tablespoon of tapioca flour ~ then place into a buttered 9×13 pan.

In a saucepan, melt a stick of butter with 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup brandy, a squeeze of lemon, a good tablespoonful of cinnamon and several generous grates of fresh nutmeg.  Another great warming spice to add is a pinch of garam masala.  And if I’m using unsalted butter, I will add a pinch of salt.  Pour this mixture over the apples and toss well.

There are many good recipes for crumble topping out there, such as this one from the Barefoot Contessa ~ oats, brown sugar, flour and chunks of cold butter are the key ingredients.  Top the apples with crumble and bake at 350F for 45-55 minutes, until browned and bubbly. If it gets too brown too quickly place a tent of tin foil over the top, loosely so steam freely escapes.

Let sit for about a half-hour before digging in, and don’t forget the ice cream!

super-caramel pineapple upside down cake

pineapple upside down cakeThis is an easy and delicious recipe, almost a spice cake with lovely pineapple sweetness added in.  Great served with softened ice cream or whipped cream, or just by itself with a coffee for breakfast.

ingredients:

caramel topping:

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • about 8 pineapple slices

cake:

  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • small pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • a dozen or so grates fresh nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • splash brandy or rum

directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350F {preferably convection}
  • Generously butter a 9-inch layer cake pan; set aside
  • Make the caramel topping:  in a medium saucepan, melt the butter with the brown sugar; cook on medium-low heat 3 to 4 minutes, until it bubbles into a caramel; remove from heat as soon as possible
  • Pour mixture into bottom of the cake pan; insert the pineapple slices into caramel; set aside
  • In mixing bowl, beat the 2 sticks of butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes, scraping down bowl a few times
  • Add the sugar, one cup at a time, then beat on medium speed for 4 more minutes
  • Meanwhile, sift together the flours, baking soda, salt and spices onto a sheet of parchment
  • Turn mixer to low; add the eggs one at a time
  • Add half of the buttermilk, then half of the flour mixture; add remainder of buttermilk, then the extracts and brandy or rum
  • Add remainder of flour and mix for one minute, then use a spatula to gently fold a few times to be sure batter is combined; do not overmix
  • Pour over the caramel in cake pan, smoothing evenly and gently with spatula; tap pan gently against a countertop several times to release air bubbles
  • Set pan on a foil-lined baking sheet and place on the center rack of oven
  • Bake about one hour ~ cake should appear golden, center should bounce back when pressed with finger and toothpick should come out clean
  • Allow to cool for one minute, then place a serving plate over pan and carefully invert cake onto plate; tap bottom of pan all over before lifting up pan ~ if topping does not release completely, a repair job is easy enough
  • Dust with confectioner’s sugar or frost sides as desired

pineapple upside down cake

Moist, sweet and packed with heartwarming spices!  It would be great with frosted sides ~ maybe a cream cheese frosting for next time.

strawberry rhubarb pie

strawberry rhubarb pieI’m excited to say this was my first attempt at making the classic strawberry rhubarb pie.  I did a quick search online, found tons of great recipes so decided just to use the top results as guidelines: here, here and here.

After absorbing the basic idea, I jotted down some of my personal preferences.  Dark brown sugar is always better in my book; not a fan of flour or cornstarch in a pie so I used tapioca flour from Bob’s Red Mill; not sure how tart I wanted it to be regarding lemon juice.

Since the rhubarb I’d bought at the farmers’ market wasn’t a deep red I assumed it might be a bit too tart for half rhubarb and half strawberries.  So I went less on the rhubarb and held back on the lemon juice.  Maybe in a week or so there’ll be more ripe ones available and I’ll just have to make more pie.

I have a bunch of frozen pie shells ~ a great organic product by Wholly Wholesome ~ that need to be used up so that’s what I did here.  Once the freezer is cleaned out I will get out the food processor and whip up some dough from scratch.

ingredients:

  • one double-crust pie dough recipe of your choice
  • about 4 cups strawberries, halved or sliced
  • about 2 cups rhubarb, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • generous pinch cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • egg wash:  1 egg + splash milk, beaten

directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375F convection {400F regular}
  • Roll out the dough for bottom crust and transfer to a 9-inch pie plate
  • In a small bowl, combine the sugars, tapioca flour and cinnamon
  • Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of the sugar mixture into the bottom crust
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the strawberries, rhubarb, sugar mixture and lemon juice; toss well to coat
  • Pour the mixture into the pie shell and dot with the butter cubes
  • Roll out the top crust and carefully place over pie; trim edges of both crusts and crimp together, ensuring a good seal
  • Brush crust with the egg wash, then carefully cut several slits into top to allow steam to escape
  • Place on a lined baking sheet and bake on center rack for 20 minutes
  • Turn oven down to 325F convection {350F regular} and continue baking for another 30 minutes or so, until crust is golden and fruit is bubbling

strawberry-rhubarb pieYum!  Lots of oozing just like I imagined it would be ~ and such a pretty deep pink color.

I probably could have used a bit more tapioca but overall it came out really well, even with the slightly unripened rhubarb.  I can’t wait to bake another!

how ’bout a grunt for dessert?

blackberry gruntSome say a grunt is like a cobbler but brace yourself:  the first time I tasted this I almost fell over it was so good.  The dough is made with whipped cream and self-rising flour so it becomes a pillowy cloud of yumminess.

I was handed the recipe to make while working as a prep cook many years ago; the top of the printed out page said “James Beard’s Rhubarb Grunt”.  We were a new casual restaurant in need of a ‘wow’ dessert; this fit the bill both for the customers {so delicious} and for me the busy prep {simple, straight-forward directions}.

Years later I tried to find it online; lots of pages came up but never anything by James Beard.  So I’d like to credit the man who started it all, unfortunately with no link and I don’t know which of his cookbooks to mention…

Today I substituted marionberries for rhubarb since that’s what I had on hand.  So far I’ve used rhubarb, apricot, huckleberry, apple and peach and they all work well.

ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 pounds rhubarb, sliced {or berries or fruit of choice}
  • 3/4 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons sugar, separate
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream, whipped lightly

directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375F {or 350F convection}
  • Grease a 9-inch square brownie pan
  • Place the fruit evenly in the pan, then sprinkle with 3/4 cup of the sugar; toss to coat
  • Dot the surface of fruit with the butter cubes
  • Whip the cream, not too stiff
  • Sift the flour, the 3 tablespoons of sugar and the salt into a mixing bowl; gently stir in the whipped cream until it becomes a really sticky dough
  • Use a big spoon {and your finger} to scoop and drop the dough over the fruit; spread gently to cover as much as possible
  • Place pan on a lined baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes until lightly brown & bubbly

gruntYou can cut back a bit on the 3/4 cup sugar if you’re not using rhubarb, but the sugar is what makes the juice thicken.  It also works fine in any shallow pan or dish of comparable size.

I have eaten this warm with ice cream for dessert as well as cold with a cup of coffee first thing in the morning.  Either way it’s delicious, with a unique topping that I really love.

quest for the true pound cake

pound cakes

A few weeks ago I made my first pound cake.  It was not a success.

I’d gone to one of my standby baking websites, which stated their version of pound cake had a lighter and better texture than those in the days of yore.  I was instantly reminded of the horrid fruit cakes that are such a cliche:  dense as bricks and nearly as tasty.  I figured this was along those same lines.  So I made the cake.

What I found is when it comes to pound cake, the texture really should be heavy.  The dogs liked it and, with the help of some frozen-strawberries-and-brandy sauce, I liked it enough.  But true pound cake it was not.

So today I’m trying again.  And again, I’m going online to find a real pound cake recipe — a pound of this and a pound of that, should be easy enough.

Googling “real pound cake” and “old fashioned” pound cake pulled up a few winners, notably ehow’s Real Southern Pound Cake.  Since this recipe emphasized the “pound” of each ingredient, I used it as a guideline.  But, my next challenge:  how many cups is a pound of flour?  More googling, more ehow’s, and I finally settled on 3 cups…

ingredients:

  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2-1/4 cups white sugar
  • 9 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 cups flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract {optional, 1 teaspoon almond extract}
  • 1 teaspoon salt

directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter and flour two loaf pans and set aside
  • Cream together sugar and butter in your mixer on medium speed for 5 minutes, until fluffy.  Try to scrape down sides of bowl at least twice during this time
  • Set mixer to low speed and gently add eggs one at a time, waiting until each egg is incorporated before adding the next.  Batter might look a bit curdled, just keep going and again try to scrape down sides of bowl a couple of times during this step
  • After all eggs are blended in, add extract
  • Add flour one cup at a time, keeping mixer on low and scraping down only at the end
  • Give the batter one last mix on low speed for 30 seconds, then pour/spoon into loaf pans
  • Bake for 1 hour until tops are golden brown and loaf has a crack down the center.  Crack should remain moist but top should spring back to touch
  • Cool on rack for 10 minutes then remove from pans and set on rack with tea towel covering to cool completely before serving

pound cakes

Yum!

I used salted butter and omitted the salt, so I can’t vouch for whether a teaspoon is too much or just enough.

Added note:  if you bake two different shaped pans like I did, keep tabs on each of them independently.  The brownie type pan was done sooner.

I also feel that 3 cups of flour made the cake a bit too dry… perhaps 2-3/4 cups will do next time.

Enjoy!

sugar pie oh my!

sugar pieThere are lots of good pies out there, and where there are pies there are memories.  A friend of mine has been trying to replicate a childhood pie-memory for ages, and I think we finally found it:  the sugar pie!  Also known as the cream pie, it’s a simple {ridiculously simple} combination of sugar, cream and flour that’s divinely scrumptious.  We could also call it the finger pie ~ you’ll see why in the recipe ~ which makes making it even more fun!

ingredients:

  • 9-inch unbaked pastry shell
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 egg for egg wash
  • extra sugar & cinnamon and nutmeg for dusting

directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375F
  • Blend flour & sugar together in small bowl
  • Place the mixture into an unbaked 9-inch pastry shell
  • Pour heavy cream into shell with sugar/flour; stir with finger until blended
  • Dot with the unsalted butter that’s been cut into small cubes
  • Brush egg wash {one egg beaten with splash of water} over crust edge
  • Bake on lined baking sheet until boiling, at least 1 hour
  • Dust with sugar combined with small amounts of cinnamon and nutmeg
  • Cool on rack, then wrap in tin foil and refrigerate to allow flavors to meld

sugar pie

The result is nothing short of sweet perfection!    I recommend placing tin foil around the crust perimeter so it doesn’t burn.  When done and slightly cooled {and done bubbling} then sprinkle with the sugar/cinnamon/nutmeg combo.  Refrigerating overnight is ideal, but a few hours would be just fine.