Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

I’ll be up front and say that this is a 90% copy of the Barefoot Contessa recipe. Ina Garten uses sour cream to add moisture to the recipe, but I kind of like the idea of utilizing buttermilk instead. I do this mostly because I hate copying recipes word for word instead of putting my own spin on things. But this recipe really is too good to mess with. Apple cake tatin is a wonderful dessert you can make with relatively little difficulty. The hardest part of this recipe is making the caramel suce in the beginning and this is something I’ve provided a video of for you. I encourage you strongly to try this recipe right now. You may never purchase a cake ever again.
Ingredients
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 apples, peeled and sliced into 12 pieces
  • 1c + 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp grate lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 c plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine 1 c sugar and 1/3 c water in a medium sized sauce pan. Heat over high heat until the sugar begins to caramelize to a medium auburn color.

Note: I pulled the caramel off a little too early, but you can see in the video how quickly the colors change. This is something that you have to watch and pull off at the right time.

2. Grease the cake pan with butter. Arrange the apples around the cake pan. Pour the caramelized sugar over the apples.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the butter and 3/4 c sugar. Cream together until the color turns a pale, fluffy yellow. Beat in 1 egg at a time. Then add the buttermilk, vanilla, lemon zest and beat until combined.

4. In a second bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Sift and pour in the bowl with the other ingredients. Mix on low speed until just combined.

5. Pour the cake batter over the apples. Bake in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes or until the cake has turned a golden brown color.

6. Take the cake out of the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Invert the cake pan on a plate and let sit for a minute or two. Lift the cake pan and allow gravity to do its job. If the cake sticks, shake it slightly to break the suction.

7. Serve warm.

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The one thing my blog has suffered from is a complete lack of desserts over the past year. I’m not too much of a dessert guy and don’t think of myself as a baker at all. A Baker is someone who is disciplined enough to check a recipe and follow it without really changing it too much. They are usually detail oriented and popular at the office when they bring their baked treats to the break room. This defines most of my personality void.

Here are some delicious cookies extracted from the Baker’s Chocolate test kitchen. Baker’s has been around for more than 230 years and they are a pantry staple for not only desserts, but I’ve also used their products in mole sauces which have turned out pretty good. This batch disappeared in about 10 hours.

Ingredients (makes about 2.5 dozen cookies)

  • 2 8 oz packages Baker’s Semi-sweet baking chocolate
  • 3/4c firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4c butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2c chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coarsely chop 1 package of backer chocolate. Set aside.

2. Microwave remaining chocolate in large microwaveable bowl on High for 1 minute. Stir and then heat again on high for an additional minute. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.

3. Add sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla to the bowl and stir until well blended. Add flour and baking powder. Mix well to combine.Stir in chopped chocolate pieces and walnuts.

Note: If omitting nuts, increase flour to 3/4c.

4. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto ungreased baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

5. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until cookings are puffed and shiny. Allow to cool for 1 minute on pans and then place cookies on cooling rack. Serve warm with a glass of milk.

I don’t know how this started, but when I was a little kid and well into my teens, my birthday was accompanied by two pineapple upside down cakes. The first was for my guests: friends, family, and anybody else who happened to swing by. The second was entirely for me. If I’m ever home for my birthday, my mom will still do this for me.

It may sound preposterous, but a pineapple upside down cake never lasts more than 24 hours in my house. I eat a piece or two for breakfast, a piece for lunch, a follow up for dinner, and something before bed because why would you ever leave one piece of cake for the next day?

This recipe changes the traditional butter-sugar syrup for a butter smear made from rich ingredients that completely transforms in the oven to form a crisp caramel like coating. You can also see by the photo above that I’m a bit ridiculous and have a pan that is designed for pineapple upside down cake.  Don’t judge. I bet you have some ridiculous things in your house too. I love this pan because I can make individual cakes, freeze some, and take them out whenever I feel like a treat. If you are not so inclined to own this pan, I’ve included instructions on how to make this cake in a 9 inch cake pan in the variation section at the bottom.

Ingredients (makes 6 cakes)

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 pineapple slices
  • 8 maraschino cherries
  • 1 1/3 c all purpose flour
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp rum
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place 1 stick of butter, brown sugar, honey, rum, and 1/4 tsp vanilla in a bowl. Blend until well combined. Smear 1/3 of the mixture into the cake pan.
        
Note: This recipe makes enough smear for 3 cakes. It will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks, or you can portion it into plastic wrap and freeze until you are ready to use.
2. Place 1 pineapple slice into each slot (arrange 8 slices if using a 9 inch cake pan) and
place a cherry in the center of the pineapple. Set aside while you make the cake batter.
3. Place the other stick of butter and granulated sugar in a mixer with a paddle attachment. Turn to low and combine the ingredients. Then turn the mixture up to medium and cream the ingredients for 3 minutes. 
     
4. Add the eggs, milk, and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. Mix to combine. Slowly add the flour to the mixture 1/3 c at a time. Add the baking powder and mix to combine all ingredients. The batter will be pretty thick. Distribute the batter into the cake pans and make your best attempt to level it out. While cooking, the butter in the batter will melt and the cake will even out, so just make you best effort.
     
5. Cook for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan to ensure proper browning. Cook for another 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
6. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Turn the cakes onto a cooling rack and let cool. Enjoy.
Nine Inch Cake Pan Instructions
Make the smear and spread 1/3 of the mixture on the bottom of the pan. Arrange the pineapple slices around the edge of the pan and place one slice in the middle. Prepare the cake batter as is.
Cook for 20 minutes and rotate. Then cook for another 20 minutes or until a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean.

Meringue, strawberries, and orange liqueur. Oh yeah.

The equivalent to this dessert in the US would be strawberry shortcake. The primary difference is we substitute the cake or biscuit with a homemade meringue cookie. Meringue is nothing more than egg whites and sugar that are dried in the oven slowly over a long period of time. What results is a crispy shell that is perfect to fill with macerated strawberries flavored with orange liqueur. The dessert can be made well ahead of time and assembled quickly when it is time to serve.

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs, whites only
  • 1 lb strawberries, sliced
  • 1 c heavy cream
  • 3/4 c tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp Grand Marnier or other orange flavored liqueur
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Place the strawberries in a bowl. Add 2 tbsp sugar and the Grand Marnier to the bowl and stir to combine. You can mash some of the strawberries with a fork for added texture. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.

2. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Place the egg whites in a bowl. With a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until you get medium-stiff peaks. Then, slowly add 1/2 c + 2 tbsp sugar while mixing the egg whites until glossy and stiff.

3. Place the meringue in a pastry bag and pipe spirals on a silicone mat covered sheet pan. Once you have a spiral, go back over the outer edge and make two more vertical layers. Place the sheet pan in the oven for 3 hours.

Note: If you do not have a pastry bag, you can also drop mounds of meringue onto the sheet pan and use the back of a spoon to make a well in the middle. If you do not have a silicone mat, place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of the sheet pan.

4. Take the meringue out of the oven. The cookies will immediately start to do their best imitations of Rice Krispies. If some of the cookies are still soft, don’t worry, they’ll harden quickly. Set on a cooling rack for at least one hour.

5. When ready to serve, place the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and two tbsp sugar in a bowl. Using a hand mixer, whip the cream until it has reached a desired consistency.

5. To serve, place a meringue cookie in the middle of a plate. Spoon some strawberries into the well and place a dollop of whipped cream on the side. Spoon some of the liquid from the strawberries around the cookie. Enjoy.

In the spirit of April Fools Day, I wanted to experiment with making food in disguise. The first part of this recipe was inspired from my favorite Top Chef contestant, Richard Blaise (correction, recently crowned winner of Top Chef All Stars, Richard Blaise). Although molecular gastronomy is way over my comfort zone as a home chef, and foie gras ice cream is well beyond anybody’s comfort zone, I can’t help but admire his passion for cooking and enjoyment of his profession. Besides, a 38 year old with a faux-hawk has to be commended.

As for more serious cuisine, cardamom custard is a traditional dessert from North Africa and other parts of the Persian Gulf. Cardamom is best when purchased in pods and ground fresh. If fresh spices aren’t available to you, you may want to check out The Spice House. They have everything and anything you would ever want to cook with. I cannot recommend a business more highly in regards to the quality of their products.

By the way, trust your eyes at step 6. You read it right the first time. Blow torch.

Ingredients

  • 1 large, fat banana
  • 1 orange
  • 1 1/4c whole milk
  • 2/3c granulated sugar
  • 12 green cardamom pods, bruised (cracked open, but not broken)
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves (or substitute 3 or 4 whole cloves)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • chocolate sauce (for garnish)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Start your custard by heating the milk, 1/3c sugar, cardamom and cloves in a small sauce pan over medium heat (a 5 on your dial). Continue to stir until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.


2. Place the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl. Strain the milk mixture to remove the whole cloves (if used) and the cardamom pods. While continuously whisking, pour milk mixture into egg yolks.


3. Pour egg-milk mixture into four oven proof ramekins. Place the ramekins into a baking dish large enough to hold the ramekins. Fill the pan with enough water to reach halfway up the ramekins. This will give the custard a luxurious, creamy texture.


4. Cook for 30 – 35 minutes in the oven. Remove and set on the counter to cool. If you wish, you can cover the cooled ramekins in the refrigerator with plastic wrap and chill overnight. This will allow the cardamom flavor to develop.


5. Before serving, preheat a flat top grill pan over high heat. Put the remaining sugar in a plate. Peel and slice an orange horizontally. Dip in sugar and grill for 5 minutes per side or until the sugar has caramelized. Set aside.

Note: I used a grill pan for the oranges and determined it wasn’t such a good idea afterwards. The sugar as you can see melts into the grooves the pan and never caramalizes onto the oranges. To remedy this, use a flat top grill pan, or a non stick saute pan.

 

Do not attempt step 6 unless under the supervision of an adult or are an adult. Using an open flame in the kitchen may result in a house fire.

Take all necessary precautions.

6. While the oranges are cooking, slice the banana into 1 inch thick slices “scallops”. Place the banana slices in a heavy pan. Pile 1/2 tsp sugar on top of the banana and spread to completely cover the top. With a blow torch, direct the flame over the sugar until it boils and caramelizes. The bananas should resemble seared sea scallops. Once cool (about 10 seconds), turn the bananas over and repeat with the other side.

Note: I use a blow torch here for two reasons: 1) a creme brulee torch is nice, but three times as expensive, relatively underpowered, and a unitasker. Why buy this when I already have a blow torch in the house? But more importantly, 2) you reach rock star status when you use a blow torch into the kitchen.

7. Build your dessert plate by brushing chocolate sauce on one side. Set the scallops on top of the sauce. Place the custard ramekin at the end of the chocolate sauce. Top the custard with the grilled orange slice.


I have long maintained a love affair with apple crisp. As I mentioned in the applesauce post, my family had an abundance of apples in the fall and apple crisp was just another family favorite. Whenever I see it on the dessert menu at a restaurant, I can’t help myself but order it. This had led me to some pretty awful crisps, as well as some magnificent meal enders.

For this recipe, I decided to update the classic by adding ginger to the apples. While not an in your face, stand out flavor, the ginger adds a playful undertone that comes out in one bite and disappears the next. I’ve also eliminated the use of nutrient lacking white sugar by using gala apples. Between the crumble and the natural sugars in the fruit, there is just enough sweetness. Apple pie bakers will tell you that macintosh or pink ladies would stand up better to the baking process, but following the rules of bakers has never really appealed to me.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 c instant oats
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 1/4 c unsalted butter
  • 4 gala apples, peeled and cut into slices
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger (about 1″ worth)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. I’ve been asked to demonstrate how the apple peeler/corer/slicer works. I will note this last time that I do not advocate for many unitasker kitchen gadgets, but this one makes me wish I had invented it. If you will not be using one of these to slice your apples, slice your apples in uniform thickness to ensure even cooking. Thicker slices will have more bite in the finished product than thin slices.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel about 1″ worth of the ginger and grate fine. Ginger is a wonderfully versatile ingredient that can be used in nearly all cuisine. If you have not played with ginger, it’ll cost you the better part of 50 cents for a reasonably sized piece. Like hot peppers, a little goes a long way.

2. After you peel, core, and slice the apples, place them in a bowl with the cinnamon and ginger. Place the mixture in the bottom of a 9 X 9 glass pan. Then proceed to make the topping.

3. Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a saucepan. If you choose to do this in the microwave, do be careful not to overheat the butter as it tends to explode and will make a mess of your microwave. Once melted, add the butter to a bowl with the brown sugar, flour, and oats. Mix with your hands until all the ingredients are combined to a delicious crumble.

4. Top the apples with the crumble mixture and place in the oven for 35 – 45 minutes or until golden brown on top and the apples are bubbling. Let cool on the stovetop for 10 minutes before cutting into. This is to give the syrup time to thicken. If you cut too early, it’ll bleed apple goodness.

5. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream, or my personal favorite, straight up with a fork. This will probably not last long in your house, so you may want to consider doubling the recipe.

Making it last

This recipe freezes well. If you find there is simply too much crisp (which is crazy to even ponder), let the crisp cool on the counter completely. Place in the freezer for 3 hours. After the crisp hardens, you can cut it into whatever sized portions you want. This is great for sending homemade desserts to school with your kids (let’s face it, it’s really for you). By the time they/you eat lunch, the crisp has thawed. I guarantee no kid/adult in their right mind would trade this.