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.