Sunday, October 22, 2017

Applesauce Cake with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Pecans

Fall is my favorite time of the year and, having moved to Florida, this is when I miss the Northeast most – the turning of the leaves, the crisp bite in the air, pumpkin-flavored everything and the abundance of apples at the farmers’ market. We still get a decent selection of apples here, but they’re not exactly local, and there’s nowhere

near the variety. But I remain inspired by my memories, and continue to bake up a storm with harvest flavors throughout the season. Currently I’m on an apple kick, as you may have noticed. Here’s one of my favorite fall recipes, a simple, homespun cake made with applesauce (use your own or a good organic jarred one) and 

flavored with fall spices – cinnamon, cloves and ginger. I use turbinado instead of white sugar in the cake, and this gives it a slightly coarser texture and a complex flavor with a just a hint of molasses. But it’s the topping that takes the cake – a silky cream cheese and maple frosting and lots of crunchy, sugar-coated pecans. Make

sure to use a pure maple extract -- not that horrible artificial maple "flavoring" that's so frequently used in maple desserts. You can find it in better supermarkets (Whole Foods has it) or on Amazon. For an extra hit of maple, drizzle each slice with a little Grade A pure maple syrup right before serving.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Budino di Mele e Pane (Apple Bread Pudding)

Jim Lahey, the genius baker behind Sullivan Street Bakery who popularized the no-knead artisan bread technique, has a new and eagerly awaited book out, and it’s a great one. The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook (W.W. Norton, 2017; $35) written with Maya Joseph, focuses on the sourdough side of bread (both no-knead and 

knead-y). He begins with the fundamentals of making a natural starter, and offers a few ways of doing this. He then moves smartly onto the “biga”, the doughy pre-ferment that is the leavening of many of Lahey’s sourdough breads. The actual bread recipes include artisan standards such as Pane Toscano, Ciabatta, Pane Pugliese, as 

well as more intriguing breads such as Lahey’s Hamilton Buns (yes, inspired by the musical), No-Knead, Naturally Leavened Brioche (I must give this a go), and Truccio Saré (a whole wheat sourdough with a blackish crust). And then there are newer versions of Lahey’s pizzas – Pizza Bianca, Capicola, Mele e Finocchio (Apple and 

Fennel), and even Carota (Carrot) and Asparagus. A chapter called “Breakfast at the Bakery” features recipes such as Panini d’Uovo (egg sandwiches), Bran and Blackberry Muffins, Cardamom Cinnamon Buns and Bomboloni (Italian doughnuts). There’s even a chapter on slow-roasted savory dishes, such as Pasilla 

Agresivo (Chili!), Pasta al Forno, and the exiting sounding Punta di Petto di Tè (Brisket Braised in Black Tea). A chapter on Sandwiches, Salads and Condiments is followed by my favorite, Dolci. This includes a panoply of baked goods, from Flourless Triple Chocolate Cookies to Pinolata (Pine Nut Tart) to Lahey’s coveted recipe for panettone. But of all the wondrous recipes in this book, it was the Budino di Mele e Pane (Apple Bread Pudding) that snared me. Jim Lahey says that it took 20 years to perfect it, and I believe him. It is sublime. Use some crusty, homemade bread that’s past its prime – it will make all the difference. I substituted Honeycrisp apples for the Braeburns and served it slightly warm with sweetened whipped cream. Oh my.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Cream Cheese-Strawberry Ripple Ice Cream Sandwiches

There is something very decadent, yet surprisingly refreshing, about the combination of cheesecake and strawberries. It makes for a wonderful summertime dessert, particularly when it’s in ice cream form. Only thing better would be an ice cream sandwich, with homemade Graham Cracker Cookies (or “bickies”, as the Brits

 would say). It’s like a portable strawberry-topped cheesecake – a really cold one. So here’s my version of this humidity busting treat. (I say ‘my’ version, but credit for the ice cream goes to the very talented Dana Cree, whose book Hello, My Name is Ice Cream is a MUST BUY. Seriously.) Feel free to use your own favorite cookies in place of the graham cracker ones -- vanilla or almond cookies would be a great choice, too, or even oatmeal cookies. Hope you’re having a wonderful summer! xo

Monday, May 22, 2017

Lemon Crème Fraiche Pound Cake

Pound cake is one of the easiest cakes to make, but to make a truly good pound cake requires just the right recipe. When I came across a recipe for a lemon pound cake in Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito’s cookbook Baked: New Frontiers in Baking (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2008), I was intrigued by the fact that had melted butter

in it – and lots of it, as well as sour cream to make it moist. Most pound cake recipes rely on the process of creaming the butter and sugar together for several minutes to create the air bubbles that give the cake its structure (along with a little modern help from leaveners). This recipe relies on eggs and leaveners alone. So I tried Matt and

Renato’s recipe and I thought it was excellent – very moist and very lemony (important for the lemon lovers among us). Then I decided to tinker around with the recipe, changing the ingredient proportions slightly, changing the mixing process, cutting the sugar a bit, and substituting crème fraiche for the sour cream for extra richness. The resulting cake is equally good (not necessarily better): a simple Bundt cake with lots of tangy lemon flour and a moist crumb the color of sunshine. Another pound cake recipe for the ever-growing repertoire.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Buttercrunch Toffee Chunk Ice Cream

After a five month vacation from blogging, I was inspired to post today by a new book by my super-talented colleague, pastry chef Dana Cree. I am convinced that Dana’s new book, Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream: The Art and Science of the Scoop (Clarkson Potter, 2017), is destined to be a classic on the subject of frozen desserts. 

It covers lots of science (but not so much that you begin to nod off), information that is key in creating frozen desserts with the ideal flavor and texture. For example, Dana tells us how to make proteins (eggs, milk) work for your ice cream, how the amount of sugar in your base affects your ice cream’s texture, and how stabilizers 

(bad reputation aside) work to assure textural perfection. And then there are the recipes – ice cream (custard as well as eggless Philadelphia style), sherbet, frozen yogurt and a panoply of add-ins, including Cookie Butter Bits, Pretzel Toffee Chunks, Gooey Butter Cake (!), and Creamy Caramel Ribbon. Makes me want to drop what I’m doing, race to the kitchen, and make every blessed recipe in this incredible new book. Thank you, Dana (I think!). Here’s her recipe for a Philadelphia Style Vanilla Ice Cream with Buttercrunch Toffee Chunks added. I ate half of the batch in two sittings – research, you know.