Every once in a while my habit of constantly tearing out and copying down recipes and stuffing them on shelves pays off in a big way. I was looking through a binder of recipes with lots of extra magazine pages stuck in and falling out when I came across this one. This Russian Apple Cake is simple and delicious. I set out my apples and followed the recipe; it was easy to make, with no special ingredients.
The recipe I used comes from Food and Wine magazine. I followed it exactly and it was totally apple-y delicious. My husband LOVED it. He loved the bright flavor of apples and lemon, he loved the not too sweet cake, and he loved the crunchy top. Click through for the recipe here. You'll need Granny Smith apples, one lemon, eggs, sugar and flour. That's about it - no butter, no oil, and no leavening agent except the eggs. You've just got to try it!
Yes, it's as good as it sounds! This cake recipe can be found on Orangette with lemon in place of the key limes. I just happened to have some key limes ready to be used up and a willing helper to juice them all, so we made it limey. Boy is this cake delicious! It has zest, greek yogurt, and coconut oil in it for flavor and moistness. On top it has coconut with a .... wait for it..... key lime syrup on top! YUM.
We had an afternoon and one day off for fall break. It was odd to realize that what I most wanted to do with that extra free time was to peel, chop, cook and can pears. A friend offered an abundance, and when someone offers free produce, I always accept it. Pears can sit around for a while without going bad, so I was able to leave them until I had time to work with them. I peeled hard little pears until my hands cramped.
Pears seem to be nostalgic for many people over the age of about 60. I say this because I don't know anyone younger who really likes pears. However, I know at least 5 older people who LOVE pears. I am personally working to change this and am proud to report that my eight year old son didn't just like these pears, he LOVED them!
The pear tree is easy to grow, requiring little to no maintenance, and no spraying. These trees grow tall and last for generations. They fruit prolifically. They are versatile and preserve really well. Even after they are cooked and canned, they have a wonderful succulent texture. Pears taste great with all kinds of seasonings from vanilla to cinnamon, ginger and cloves. No wonder our grandparents ate them a lot and remember them fondly. These were cooked in a light syrup with a whole vanilla bean and then canned to give away at Christmas.
Vanilla Pears in Light Syrup
Peel and chop as many pears as you can.
Make a light syrup in a large heavy pan with 2 1/4 cups sugar and 5 1/2 cups water. Bring to low boil, add one whole vanilla bean and all the pears you can fit. Put the lid on and let them cook while you prepare the water bath and jars for canning.
Sterilize the jars in boiling water. Using a funnel, fill each jar with pears. Press them down and remove air bubbles with a spoon and add more if they will fit. Ladle the hot syrup over the pears to cover them, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe the rims with a hot cloth to remove any spilled syrup and fit with fresh lids and rings. Process in boiling water for 20 minutes. Remove jars to cool. After 24 hours, remove the rings, label and date. If any jars did not seal, store in the refrigerator.
Any pears that are left over after you've filled your jars are to be enjoyed right away with your family or kept in the fridge for tomorrow. They make a light and yummy dessert.
Why did it never occur to me to try this before? I found a recipe for Spinach and Pecan salad in my recipe box. It's in my handwriting, but I have no memory of creating this index card with instructions for a yummy salad. The recipe calls for fresh spinach, but I used romaine lettuce, and you could really use any green you like.
It's so simple to caramelize some nuts in a skillet with butter and brown sugar. My only words of wisdom here are to make at least twice as much as you think you'll need because they are hard to resist. Toss the cooled pecans in a salad with some salty, funky blue cheese crumbles and thin slices of tart, crisp Granny Smith apples and sprinkle over some vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 cup pecan halves
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup grapes, optional
salad greens such as spinach or romaine lettuce
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon vinegar - I like balsamic
salt and pepper
- Melt butter in small skillet over low heat, add pecans and brown sugar. Cook, stirring constantly 2 to 3 minutes or until caramelized. Cool on wax paper.
Place salad in large serving bowl. Toss in pecans, apple, blue cheese and grapes. Add oil and vinegar, salt and pepper and toss gently to coat. Serve!
I have recently discovered the joys of cooking and baking with friends. After years of blogging quietly as an outlet for my enthusiasm, it's been a delightful surprise to find people who share my excitement for cookbooks, awesome pots, pans, lemon zesters and fresh eggs.
I recently spent a happy afternoon working on a new recipe with a friend. These tarts are a perfect summer treat. They have a crunchy, mildly sweet crust and are filled with cool vanilla bean pastry cream and topped with fresh berries. A light brush of jam glaze takes them over the top to fantastic! We rolled the dough and talked about cookbooks. We filled the pans with the dough and chilled them before blind baking the crust. (See more about blind baking here.) We let them cook and cool while we discussed the perfect front porch. We cracked and separated eggs and whisked and stirred and cooked the pastry cream. We strained it, set it to cool in the fridge and chatted some more about food, recipes, and etc... I was so pleased that the mini shells turned out. We used a cookie cutter to make little circles of dough and pressed them into a muffin tin. These were topped with paper muffin liners and put in the freezer to chill before baking. They came out perfect and were just the right size for the cutest little mini tarts.
We assembled the tarts after dinner, right before serving them. Just fill the shells with pastry cream, top with fruit and brush on a glaze of jam. So pretty, and just the right amount of crunch, creamy coolness, fruit and sweetness. Decadent, but not so much that you can't eat a little more.
Summer Fruit Tarts
The pastry cream can be made a day or two ahead of time if you wish. It will need several hours at a minimum to cool before serving. The recipe is the same for filling Cream Puffs - click here for details.
Sweet Pie Dough and Pastry Shell
recipe from Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques
dough for two 9" tarts
3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 sticks sweet butter (unsalted), cut into cubes and slightly softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 egg yolk
Place the flour on a work surface. Make a well in the center and add the remaining ingredients. Gather the dough, with a pastry scraper or your fingers, into a compact mass.
Place the dough close to you and, with the heel of your hand, take a mass about the size of a golf ball and 'smear' it about 10 inches forward. Keep your fingers pointed upwards. Repeat, smearing more and more of the dough forward, until it has all been processed. Gather the dough into a ball and repeat the operation once more. The two smearings (fraisage in French) help homogenize the ingredients, making a well blended dough.
Roll the dough to about 1/4 inch and fit into molds or pans. Refrigerate until ready to blind bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes or until light brown and fully cooked.
* note : I followed these instructions exactly and it was kind of fun. However, I think you could mix in a bowl with your hands and/or a spatula. Chill until ready to roll and use.
Wash and prepare the fruit you've chosen, making sure it is dry. Fill each tart shell with chilled pastry cream and arrange the fruit on top. Glaze with some good jam, warmed gently in the microwave and brushed on top. Serve as soon as possible.
In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Grandmas Around the world by Gabriele Galimberti is full of recipes, photographs and stories. This book shows women, grandmothers actually, in their kitchens with the ingredients for a dish they are proud to cook and share. The author is a photographer who planned a trip around the world. His grandmother was concerned about what he would eat on his trip. Who would cook for him? He assured her that there are grandmothers everywhere, and this project grew from there.
My favorite thing about this book is looking at the women with their kitchens behind them. Typically, the only pictures of kitchens I see are beautiful gorgeous perfect dreamy designer spaces in magazines and on the internet. This book reminded me that what makes a kitchen is not the fancy appliances or the perfectly displayed dishes with beautiful lighting. What makes a kitchen is the cook. These women are proud of the food they create and how it feeds the people they love. There are recipes for everything from coffee to caterpillars. This recipe from Switzerland is the one I chose to try one weekend.
The whole thing was a bit tricky. The crust is like a lemon scented cookie. It's so yummy, but it was difficult to work with because it was sticky and also dry and prone to crack. The filling is made from caramel and chopped walnuts, and I was a little uncertain when to stop cooking it. Too little time and the pie would ooze out all over the place when you cut it. Too much time on the heat and it would harden and become too sticky and stiff to eat. In the end it all turned out beautifully, and it was SO delicious. It was a little like baklava meets a southern pie. Very very sweet, but the lemon flavor in the crust made it nice. I liked eating it for breakfast. I'm not sharing the recipe because if you're interested you should take a look at the book.
A happy day for me starts with a clean kitchen so that I can pull out lots of recipes I've been stashing and try a few. Our county had spring break this week and I found some time to bake. This week I made Hazelnut Biscotti from O Magazine and this lemon tart.
The recipe is lazy because you chop up a whole lemon and blend it up with the other ingredients for the filling. There's no zesting, peeling or juicing. This gives a strong flavor with a nice bite. However, the crust took all day, so that didn't feel very lazy at all. You have to mix the dough, refrigerate, roll it out, freeze, blind bake it, and then let it cool before you fill it. The filling is very easy and bakes into a smooth and creamy custard. Click through for the recipe from Food and Wine magazine. Here are a few pictures from my baking day.
Biscotti with coffee on a lazy Sunday morning? Yes, please.
Saturday is 3.14.15 also known as pi day. I was unaware that there is also an official pie day each January, so I will be celebrating pie on pi day this year.
This was my first foray into the world of meringue topped pies. Even though it took me three days to complete, the pie was well worth the effort and I will be making many more meringues in the future. I made the crust and the custard one day and put them in the fridge. The next day was very busy and no pies were baked. The third day I baked the crust, filled it and then made the glorious meringue.
Meringue - Topped Cranberry Curd Tart (or pie)
recipe from Cooking Light
1 crust - already baked
1 (12 oz bag) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar, divided
3/4 cup water, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
3 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Combine cranberries, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water and 1/8 teaspoon salt in medium saucepan. Cook over medium high heat 10 minutes or until cranberries burst. Combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, cornstarch, and egg yolks in small bowl and stir with a whisk or fork until smooth. Gradually add 1 cup hot cranberry mixture to egg mixture, stirring constantly. Return egg mixture to pan and cook thermometer registers 160 degrees. Stir constantly.
Place food mill or sieve over large bowl and pour cranberry mixture through, pressing to extract all the liquid. Discard the solids and add 2 tablespoons butter. Stir and chill, or pour directly into the pre-baked crust and then chill.
For the meringue,preheat the broiler and place egg whites and 1/8 teaspoon salt in large bowl and begin mixing. Meanwhile, combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook without stirring until 238 degrees. Once the egg whites have reached the soft peaks stage and the syrup is super hot, gradually add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue mixing. Soon you will have glossy stiff meringue. Spread over the pie and broil until lightly browned.
Serve immediately or chill. The meringue made this pie wonderful. The filling is a shocking bright hot pink color, creamy with a slight tang. I'll be looking for more things to top with meringue, but I'm not sure I'll make the cranberry filling again. I could taste the flour and cornstarch and it made the flavor a bit dull. However, when combined with a flaky crust and fluffy topping it was totally delicious.
For Valentine's Day this year I looked for a new recipe that involved lemons and custard. I'm so proud of my lovely Meyer lemons growing quietly by a sunny window. This recipe for Lemon Pudding Cakes allowed me to use one of my (huge) lemons. The batter separates as the little cakes bake, leaving a custard like pudding on the bottom and a very soft cake on top. Here are a few photos of the process.
The batter is poured into ramekins, or jelly jars in my case, and baked in a water bath until the cakes are done. Baking in a water bath keeps the heat even and low for gentle cooking of delicate dishes. It's best to heat some water on the stove top as the oven preheats. When you're ready to bake, place the ramekins in a shallow pan and fill with batter. Now, open the oven and pull a rack out a little so the pan full of dishes can be placed in the oven as you pour in the hot water. This is much easier than filling on the counter, then transferring a hot pan of water and batter into the oven without sloshing.
These cakes turned out nicely. I love that they weren't too tricky to bake until done without drying out. My sweetie pies liked them too. Click through for the recipe.