Sunday, October 30, 2011

Deep-Dish Pumpkin-Pecan Pie

When it comes to Thanksgiving dessert, I'm firmly in the pecan pie camp. And the pumpkin pie camp. And the lemon meringue and apple pie camp. A chocolate cream pie wouldn’t hurt, either – the 

more, the merrier, I say. When I am cooking for Thanksgiving, I always offer a selection of several different pie varieties. But cooking Thanksgiving dinner can be fairly stressful, so I am offering a

solution for the time-consuming multi-variety pie predicament: Deep-Dish Pumpkin-Peca Pie. With it, you get the creamy traditional pumpkin filling and just enough sweet, crunchy pecan

 topping to satisfy your pecan pie urge. The crust, possibly the most important part of a pie, is made with just enough shortening to make it flaky, and enough butter to give it a rich flavor, a happy

 compromise. The filling is a standard pumpkin pie filling, and since the pie is made in a deep-dish pan, there’s plenty of it. The topping is a simple mixture of pecans, brown sugar, Lyle’s Golden Syrup and vanilla, and bakes up into thin layer of sticky deliciousness. I might just eat this whole pie…

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Momofuku Milk Bar’s Incredible Chocolate-Chocolate Cookies

I generally don’t buy cookies – store- or bakery-bought ones almost always disappoint me, as homemade ones are so much better. Unless, of course, you are talking about cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar, where baking genius Christine Tosi whips up some pretty amazing treats. She has developed a 

cult following for her desserts – particularly her Crack Pie – and is now sharing her recipes in a new book. Momofuku Milk Bar (Clarkson Potter, 2011; $35) is a collection of recipes for the bakery’s favorite items, from savory to sweet. The book includes recipes for Momofuku classics such 

as the addictive Crack Pie, Compost Cookie, Cereal Milk Ice Cream and Kimchi and Blue Cheese Croissants. Christine Tosi’s road to baking fame began several years ago when Momofuku founder David Chang asked her to make a dessert for service at Ssäm Bar one night. 

Just like that, the pastry program at Momofuku was born, and Christina’s lighthearted desserts helped Ssäm Bar earn three stars from the New York Times and Ko two stars from the Michelin Guide. Soon enough, Christina and company opened their own bakery, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

One of my personal favorites among the Milk Bar repertoire is Tosi’s Chocolate-Chocolate Cookies, which are big, moist, really chocolaty and a bit salty. Like her Crack Pie, they are very addictive.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Citrus Olive Oil Cake

Having been to my share of olive oil tastings, I have come to appreciate the varying flavor characteristics of different extra-virgin olive oils, which can be as complex as the nuances in fine wines. They can range from peppery to pungent, or from bitter to fruity. 

Like wine, they can also be described as floral, grassy, rich, delicate, buttery, vegetal, or nutty. Choosing the right extra-virgin olive oil for a particular use is very important, especially when using it in a cake. To showcase one of my favorite olive oils, I decided to make a 

Citrus Olive Oil Cake, which uses 1½ cups of extra-virgin olive oil. I used a grassy, fresh-flavored oil, Galiga E Vetrice from O & Co, in my cake, which pairs well with citrus, but you may prefer a more fruity or floral oil, depending on your taste preference. The cake is 

very moist and subtly flavored, with a citrus endnote. The olive oil flavor in the finished cake is soft and buttery, not heavy-handed. The recipe was adapted from Team USA’s plated dessert entry at the 2010 World Pastry Competition, and I think it’s just lovely. I hope you do, too.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ohio Shaker Lemon Pie

I know it’s predictable and perhaps a little boring, but the fact is that The Joy of Cooking – the 1997 version, that is – is one of my favorite and most used cookbooks. You can find just about everything in it, the recipes always work (though there are a few 

typos here and there) and they are generally very good. Many of my good friends worked on this book, either contributing recipes or performing the mammoth task of copyediting it (kudos to copyediting genius Judith Sutton). One of my interns even worked 

on the book after leaving my dysfunctional nest at Chocolatier. Though there are plenty of good international recipes in The Joy, I find the American classics to be the best. Among them is the classic Ohio Lemon Pie, a.k.a. Shaker Lemon Pie. The Shakers are known 

for their wonderful pies (and furniture). Back in the day, lemons were considered to be a valuable commodity, so those thrifty Shakers figured out how to use the whole fruit in a pie. I love the frugality of this, and it reminds me of one of my favorite French 

desserts, Pradier’s Whole Lemon Tart, which he made for my cooking class during a demo one day, many years ago in Paris. But in Pradier’s version, the lemons are chucked whole, seeds and all,  into the food processor and transformed to a puree. In the Shaker pie, they are sliced thinly and macerated in sugar. Like Pradier’s tart, the Shaker Lemon Pie is not for the feint of heart. It’s got a serious lemon kick, which is why lemon fanatics love it so. Encased in a flaky-yet-buttery crust (my own recipe), this pie is downright irresistible. And you don’t have to be a Shaker from Ohio, either, to love it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Chocolate "Pan" Cake with Silky Chocolate Frosting and Cacao Nib and Almond Nougatine

There are times when a quick, no-fuss-no-muss chocolate cake is just the ticket. My version, what I like to call a Chocolate “Pan” Cake, is frosted and served right from the pan. You can’t get much

 simpler than that (unless you use a mix, and that’s obviously to be avoided at all costs). This cake is also quite versatile—you can either swirl the frosting on top with a spatula, for a down-home, simple 

look, or dress it up by piping on the frosting and topping it with some flashy-looking almond nougatine. The cake itself is a moist one; sour cream and butter make it so, and brown sugar gives it a 

complex, musky sweetness. I like to top it with a classic chocolate Swiss buttercream, which has a silky mouthfeel that is a perfect match for this moist, chocolaty cake. A chopped Cacao Nib and

Almond Nougatine adds a touch of bitterness and some contrasting crunch. If you find Swiss buttercream to be too complex, top it with the frosting of your choice--peanut butter frosting is delish—and simplify things by substituting cookie crumbs or toasted nuts for the nougatine.