It’s a springform….it’s a spatula….IT’S SUPERBAKER!!!

DSC04508

A superhero needs appropriate foot ware

I think in some strange parallel universe, I’ve become a superhero. Well, maybe not exactly a superhero. Whatever is sub of that. A semi-superhero? A demi-hero? Whatever it’s called, several times in the past month, good friends in mild to elevated degrees of culinary distress have summoned me to help save the day. Surely that’s the definition of hero, right? No, there wasn’t a giant rolling pin symbol projected into the night sky, nor red “bundt-phone” with a direct line to my oven. And other than a dishtowel thrown over my shoulder, I was cape less. But if a good friend calls with a houseful of guests in 4 hours and no dessert, or “Kaaa-rin” is called with mild urgency from the kitchen, SUPERBAKER springs into action.

When I’m invited to friends for dinner I’m not exactly planning on cooking.  But when it’s what you do, and everybody knows it, there’s no avoiding it.  I supposed it’s no different from being a plumber and asked to opine on a host’s leaky faucet. And my friends know as long as I’ve already been handed my glass of wine or cocktail, I’m happy to jump in when the need arises. After all, who doesn’t want to be a hero, and as one of the people eating, I’ve a vested interest in a tasty outcome.

Sure the cape of culinary superhero is a lofty mantle, but it’s one I was born to bear. My mother can make the best pan gravy you’ve ever had pretty much out of thin air. My brother can create delicious geographical phenomena and related topography from meatloaf. My dad could make a killer Sunday breakfast and clean out the refrigerator simultaneously. And of course, my grandmother was the Wonder Woman of potato salad. So if you need someone to run faster than a weeping meringue, leap tall souffles, or whip stiff egg whites with a single hand, look no further. It’s a springform….it’s a  spatula…IT’S SUPERBAKER!!!

  2014-08-04 13.52.24 2014-10-16 09.08.48

A few weeks ago, I was called into action when a dear friend needed a dessert for a Rosh Hashanah dinner she was hosting.  I immediately knew what I would make – an apple honey cake a friend had sent me from a favorite blog. But, it being fall in the land of orchards, my hostess in distress was tired of apples and pears, so my honey cake had to be free of both. Fear not kids! With SuperBaker on the job, the day would be saved! (Cue the dramatic music….)

Anyway, after a cup of coffee’s worth of time on the internet I found an intriguing version of the traditional holiday cake. It included a good hit of spice, some late season plums, and with a good glass of red wine in the mix too, how could it possibly be anything but wonderful. So here it is, courtesy of the New York Times and one of my culinary heroes, Melissa Clark.

Red Wine Honey Cake With Plums (Melissa Clark, NYT, 8/23/13)

Makes 10-12 servings

NOTE:  I didn’t make the plums as Clark describes in her original recipe. Instead I took about 2 cups of Damson plums, a few tablespoons of sugar (amount depends on the ripeness of the plums), a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a little pinch of cloves, and cooked it all over medium heat until the plums broke down and juices thickened a little. Serve the plum compote alongside the cake.

  • Grease or nonstick spray, for the pan
  • 300 grams all-purpose flour (2 1/2 cups), more for the pan
  • 10 grams baking powder (2 teaspoons)
  • 3 grams baking soda (1/2 teaspoon) 3 grams salt (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 2 grams cinnamon (1 1/2 teaspoons) 2 grams cardamom (1 teaspoon)
  • 2 grams ground ginger (1 teaspoon) 3 large eggs
  • 200 grams granulated sugar (1 cup) 1 1⁄4 cups olive oil
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons good quality honey, more to taste
  • 3⁄4 cup dry red wine
  • Plum compote to serve along with the cake (see NOTE above)

Place a rack in the middle of the oven; heat to 350 degrees. Generously grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan, including center tube.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. In another large bowl, whisk eggs well. Whisk in sugar, oil, 1 cup honey, the wine and the fresh ginger until well combined. Whisk in dry ingredients until smooth. (Ok, at this point you will likely get a little alarmed at the color of the batter. Yes, it’s sort of, well, armadillo grey. Don’t worry. I promise it will be gorgeous golden brown when it comes out of the oven. Trust me.)

Pour batter into pan and bake until springy to the touch and a cake tester comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes, then unmold the cake and let cool completely.

Recipe note: Measurements for dry ingredients are given by weight for greater accuracy. The equivalent measurements by volume are approximate.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!   :-)

The Last Pageant

DSC04185I was never destined to wear a sash and crown, and have lived most of my life comfortably with that knowledge. I came to this realization early in life, imprinted through a series of failed attempts to sit on a float and perfect my beauty queen wave. No, significant therapy dollars were not spent to help me overcome the trauma of this. Just one irrefutable fact. I simply did not fit the dress. Let me explain…

When I was a kid, every late summer/early fall, my family would go to a local biergarten park for a weekend of brew, brat, and oompah-fueled bacchanal known as Volksfest. Each year the festivities included a pageant of sorts, wherein that year’s Steuben Parade queen and her court of adorable mini princesses would be crowned. Until I came to my pageant epiphany, each year my hopes up would rise at the thought that one of those taffeta wrapped princesses would be me. Imagine a stage filled with a stream of little girls sashaying past a group of judges while some jaunty german ditty played. And there I was among them, ready to take my place on the throne. Then, as judge fingers pointed to the fortunate few, the rest of us would be handed a Kennedy half-dollar and shown the steps leading off stage.

Truth be told, I had two things going against me and my shot at a ride along Fifth Avenue  atop a crepe paper float. The most obvious was that my grandmother was one of the pageant judges, which upon my victory could open me up to ethical allegations that could haunt my Fifth Avenue float ride. But at 8 or 9 years old, that thought never entered my mind, nor prevented me from smiling my cutest smile, curtseying like a little Von Trapp, and batting my baby blues judge-ward. Yet despite stinkin’ cuteness, every year my Kennedy was dropped in my palm, and off the stage I’d go. Obviously there was another reason (not for nothing, but I was seriously cute). There had to be something sinister going on. Palms must have been greased. The fix had to be in. How was it possible that year after year, all I had was a collection of coins. Then I finally learned the truth. It wasn’t sinister goings on, it was sartorial. Turns out, all that princess taffeta came at a price, a discounted that price when all the dresses were one size. A size, it turns out, that wasn’t mine. In other words, no matter how cute a potential float-sitter, if the dress doesn’t fit, the judge can’t commit.

Why am I reliving this trauma now? After years, nay decades of swearing off pageants, I entered one last weekend. A pie pageant. Sure it was for a charity event with a cause most worthy, but the cash prize for the winner was enticement enough to block out my past taffeta-lessness and Kennedy coin flashbacks. It’s nice to know that in a constantly changing world, some things can be counted on. The sun rises each morning, the moon rises each night, and my pie didn’t fit the dress. Doesn’t matter. It raised about $40 for a great local charity, and tasted better than a bucket of Kennedys. :-)

imageYes, this is the recipe of the runner up pie, though I prefer to think of it as Birthday Pie, since a special birthday was the reason I came up with this recipe in the first place. It’s a tasty amalgam of my mom’s pie, my favorite pie crust, and the addition of caramelized apples added out of necessity to use up some pink ladies I had sitting around for a while. This is a tart apple pie, so if you are looking for high sweetness, this dress won’t fit you. ;-)

Birthday Apple Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

For the Caramelized Apples:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 ½ TBSP sugar
  • 1 lb sweet-tart apples (pink lady, honey crisp), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream

For the pie:

  • 5-6 large granny smith apples (about 2 lbs), peeled and cut into 1/4’’slices
  • 3-4 rounded TBSP of sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Zest of one lemon (about 1 TBSP)
  • 3 TBSP cold butter, cut into about 1/4 ” cubes

Make a double batch of pate brisee according the recipe. Divide the dough into two pieces, making one disk slightly larger than the other. Roll each crust out, one to fit a 9″ pie pan (I use pyrex, but metal pan or foil pan works fine too), and one slightly larger to use as the top. Chill the crust while you prepare the apples.

For the caramelized apples:

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat; sprinkle sugar over. Stir until sugar begins to melt, about 1 minute. Add apples. Sauté until apples are brown and tender and juices orm, about 10 minutes. Add cream and simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Cool 15 minutes before adding to bowl with raw apples.

For the pie:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel and core apples, cut into slices ¼” thick slices. Put sliced apples in large bowl, sprinkle with the sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest. Add caramelized apples, toss well and set aside.  Pile the apples into the chilled crust-lined pan and scatter the butter cubes over evenly. Cover with the second crust and crimp the edges. Cut 4 slits around center of top. If you have some extra dough, you can cut out some leaves and place decoratively on crust. Brush top with a little cream and sprinkle with sugar (brush just the center, not the edges.) Put pie on a cookie sheet (it makes it easier to move in and out of the oven and catches any drips). Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Let cool 20 minutes before serving.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!   :-)

Food Porn

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©cookinginmyheels.com

When I posted the picture of my birthday cake a few weeks ago, you may have noticed the little morsel bore a striking resemblance to a circa 70’s snack cake. The person I shared the diminutive pastry with certainly did. “You brought me a Ding Dong!” he exclaimed. Those with even a mildly furtive imagination can guess how the shtick surrounding my Ding Dong doppleganger went from there…

As we swapped cheeky comebacks, I began to realize something that never occurred to me when my fondness for the snack cake began in childhood. If you take a look at the collective group, mass marketed snack cakes are really quite suggestive in name. We may have just discovered the origins of FOOD PORN! Sure you can forgive a nine-year-old kid for being clueless about these things, but not a middle-aged CEO. Come on, you mean to tell me there wasn’t a mess of snickering and wink-winks as the marketing execs brainstormed tiny cake names?

What do you think we should call this chocolate hockey puck Don? How about the Ding Dong?” A smattering of snickering from around the conference table begins. “And you know what would go with my Ding Dong? A HO-HO!” I don’t want to even think about the Twinkie and Funny Bone process. They probably piped in cheesy 70’s guitar riffs as conveyor belts of mini cakes slinked down assembly lines. And I don’t think I’ll ever be able to walk down the supermarket snack cake aisle again and not think, bow chicka bow wow.

How do you follow all this with a recipe? With a reworking of a favorite snack cake of course (and get your mind out of the gutter…)  The Hostess cupcake is arguably one of the most well recognized treat of childhood. Chocolate cupcake, cream filling, ganache icing, and that white squiggle right down the middle. I’m a big fan of chocolate anything, but not overly fond of the hyper sweet cream filling of these babies, so I decided to swap it out and replace it with raspberry. In my book, chocolate & raspberry is a match made in confectionary heaven.

Raspberry Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 TSP vanilla
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 TSP baking soda
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1 sticks (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup raspberry jam
  • 1/4 cup fresh raspberries, or thawed frozen raspberries
  • 1 recipe chocolate ganache icing (see recipe below)
  • 1 pint of fresh raspberries for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with paper holders, or spray pan with baking spray. Whisk together boiling water and cocoa powder in a bowl until smooth, then whisk in milk and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in another bowl.

Beat together butter and sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in flour and cocoa mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture (batter may look curdled).

Divide batter among muffin tins, filling 2/3 of the way full. Bake until a tester comes out clean about 20 to 25 minutes total. Cool cupcakes in pans on racks 10 minutes, remove and cool completely.

Mash the raspberries into the jam until it is smooth and well incorporated. Put mixture into a pastry bag (or small ziploc baggy) fitted with a tip large enough for the jam to go through. When the cupcakes are completely cooled, push the pastry tip into the top of each cake, going about halfway down, and gently squeeze the pastry bag, filling each until the jam begins to come out the hole. Chill the filled cupcakes 20 minutes before icing.

Chocolate ganache icing

  • 1/3 cup plus 1 TBSP heavy cream
  • 1/2 TSP instant espresso powder or instant coffee granules
  • small pinch of salt
  • 1/2 TSP of unsalted butter
  • 6 oz (about 1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat all ingredients except the butter together in a double boiler or heat-proof bowl over simmering water until the chocolate is melted. Stir the mixture together until smooth. Add in the butter and stir vigorously until completely incorporated (this will give the ganache a nice shine).

To Assemble: Dip the tops of the cooled cupcakes into warm ganache and set on a rack or plate. Top each cupcake with a few raspberries, and chill until the ganache has set.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  :-)

Hoppy Hour

©cooking in my heels

©cooking in my heels

If you’ve been following along for a while, you know my grandmother has gotten a lot of ink on these cyberpages. To me she was Oma, but to those not swimming in her gene pool, she was Betty, or more likely Tante Betty.

Tante Betty fully believed in giving back to the community. As long as the community understood that Tante Betty was in charge. Meaning that if in the course of her volunteerism she felt something wasn’t being run well, she would run it. Think of her as a female version of the Desert Fox –her kids did. The organization she was most intimately involved with was an assisted living facility we called the ‘Altenheim’ (or Old Folks Home). Actually, both my grandparents were involved with the Altenheim. My grandfather sat on its Board of Directors, and Tante Betty sat at one time or another on pretty much every other committee there was. When it came to any major holiday party, celebration, or whatever, her potato salad was likely on the buffet, and she was there organizing and telling people what to do, whether they wanted her to or not.

The most consistent group she “managed” was the resident’s weekly hobby-hour, or as her German accent pronounced it, “Hoppy Hour”. The purpose of Hoppy Hour was not as you might assume, time set aside to fine tune your favorite hobby-esque activity. This hour of leisure craft had a very specific purpose –to create something wonderful that could be sold at the annual fundraising “Bat-Zaar” (think bazaar, but with teutonic accent.) Residents would gather Friday afternoons and Betty would set them to whatever task was scheduled that week. Countless crocheted potholders, a plethora of plastic mesh embroidered bookmarks, and baskets of felt holiday ornaments were churned out in the form of weekly hoppy hour product. It was Tante Betty’s benevolent factory. And if you didn’t do it correctly? Well, she would make sure you did, or redo it herself. All in the name of hoppy hour happiness. Martha Stewart had nothing on Tante Betty!

Why exactly am I relating all of this? It seems I have become my grandmother. Or to be precise, I have become Hoppy Hour. Once a month in the upstairs kitchen/party room of a lovely assisted living facility in my town, Tante’ Betty’s granddaughter teaches cooking class for an hour or so. A subset of residents, all Tantes in their own right, are my most enthusiastic students, and everyone (especially me) has a pretty great time. The only difference is, instead of adding valuable merchandise to the annual bat-zaar bin, we eat our projects at the end of class. I have a feeling Tante Betty would be just fine with that too.

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This past week my lovely students at Hawk’s Ridge were treated to a dish that took advantage of the wealth of tomatoes and basil available at the end of the summer.  To say this Roasted Cherry Tomato Tart is easy is understating it. Thaw out some store-bought puff pastry, grate some cheese, and toss halved cherry tomatoes in your favorite vinaigrette and you are pretty much there. A little thyme before it goes in the oven, a little basil after it comes out. That’s all there is to it, except for a glass of chilled white and a plate. Now that’s my kind of Hoppy!

photoRoasted Cherry Tomato Tart with Puff Pastry Crust

Makes 1 10″ round or 11″x8″ rectangle

Serves 6-8

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1-1/2 to 2 pints small cherry tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3-4 leaves fresh basil
  • 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper, plus more for sprinkling on tart
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 2-3 TBSP balsamic vinaigrette (homemade or your favorite brand)
  • 1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan, romano, asiago, or a combination

Preheat oven to 400F. Unfold the thawed puff pastry and roll out a little so it fits into your tart pan with a little overlap up the sides. Trim the overlap, and with a fork, dock or poke just the bottom of the dough all over. This will prevent the bottom from puffing. Chill in refrigerator until you are ready.

Halve the cherry tomatoes and toss in a medium bowl with salt, pepper, and vinaigrette. Take the crust out of the fridge and sprinkle over the cheese evenly over the bottom. Lay the cherry tomatoes, cut side up, over the tart in rows. Sprinkle over the leaves from two sprigs of thyme. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper over tart, and drizzle the honey.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until edges are golden brown and the tomatoes have wilted and are bubbling, rotating tart halfway through baking time. Let cool 5 minutes. Stack the basil leaves, roll together and cut in thin slices. Sprinkle over tart. Serve warm.

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You can make individual tartlets by cutting a sheet of puff pastry into 4 squares or circles, and score the dough 1/2″ from the edges to create a puffed crust.


<p style="text-align:left;”>If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com Thanks!  :-)

The Unofficial End of Summer…(Wahoo!)

IMG_1070There are those of you out there, probably many, who are saddened by the fact that this is the “final” weekend of the summer. Technically it’s not, but for most of you summer-lovin’ folks, after Monday things go back to normal. Kids go back to school, business moves back to business mode, and the flip flops give way to socks and shoes. And to that I say YIPEE!! (Well, not the flip flop part…I love flip flops, anytime.) I realize what I’m about to say equates to heresy in some minds, but I’m really glad this is the last weekend of the summer season.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the sun’s glow lasting into the night, the sounds of crickets, the blinking of fireflies, barbecues, cold beer, and sun dresses. But as of last summer, I live in a land where the seasons are split in two: Peak and Off. And the span between Memorial Day and Labor Day is most decidedly PEAK! If you live in a land like mine, you know exactly what I’m talking about. As soon as the calendar hits that last week in May, pa-POW! Your sleepy little burg becomes the place to be for anyone with vacation time. And you, local year-round inhabitant, the back seat is yours while those who have discovered just how swell it is to be, well, you, come in for a long weekend or a few weeks stretch. Five minutes to get your coffee and breakfast treat…gone. Park in front of the salon when it’s 3 minutes to your appointment? Nope. Walk in to restaurant and expect a table? Uh, do you have a reservation? Make a left turn out of that parking lot on Main Street? Sure. The day after Labor Day.

I have nothing against tourism or tourists, really. I used to live in a place where there was no “off” season, and trying to maneuver past a five-abreast fanny-packed family on your way to work was just part of the daily commute. The trade-off for being lucky enough to live in a place people liked to visit. And yes, like many of the locals, I earn my living partly due to the peak season fun of others. But as temperatures and wind speeds rise, and small town population quadruples into peak season vacation playland, it’s hard not to long for that first Tuesday in September.

So here’s to the last three day weekend of the season. Hope you had an awesome summer filled with family, friends and fun memories that you can look back on and enjoy all off season long. And in a spirit of gratitude, I say this with all the love and appreciation in the world: Please. Go home. ;-)

Feta and Oregano Stuffed Grilled Flat Bread with Basil Garlic Oil

Feta and Oregano Stuffed Grilled Flat Bread with Basil Garlic Oil

When it comes to summer, any recipe that involves not turning on the oven, well I’m all over that. Recently Melissa Clark shared a recipe for Grilled Stuffed Flat Bread in her column in the New York Times. Since I’ve been playing around with pizza on the grill for a while, I liked the option of a variation on that theme. This is a very adaptable recipe, so feel free to vary the stuffing. I’ve included the original with Feta and oregano, but I made one the other day with sun dried tomatoes, capers and olives that was great, and an egg, cheese and bacon one for breakfast was awfully tasty too. The key with the stuffing is not to overdo, and if the stuffing ingredients are warm (like the scrambled eggs), let them cool to room temp before stuffing bread. The dough also freezes really well, so make the full recipe, and stow a few in the freezer for another day.

Feta-Stuffed Grilled Flatbread

From Melissa Clark, NY Times

TOTAL TIME: 1 1/2 hours, plus rising time

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 3 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt, more as needed
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, more for brushing
  • 2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour, more as needed
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 cup grams crumbled feta cheese
Bacon, Egg and Cheese Stuffed Grilled Flatbread

Bacon, Egg and Cheese Stuffed Grilled Flatbread

In a small bowl, whisk together 2 cups warm water and the honey. Sprinkle yeast over warm water. Stir to dissolve. Gradually stir in whole-wheat flour. Stir about 1 minute. Let mixture rest, uncovered, 15 minutes.

Sprinkle salt over mixture. Stir in yogurt and 1 tablespoon oil. Stir in 2 cups all-purpose flour, then add more a little at a time, until dough is too stiff to comfortably stir. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle in additional flour as needed to yield a smooth and only very slightly sticky dough.
Let dough rise at room temperature in a lightly oiled bowl, loosely covered with a dish towel, until doubled in bulk, about 2 to 3 hours. Alternatively, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
In a blender or food processor, purée basil leaves, 1/2 cup oil, a large pinch of salt and the garlic. Scrape mixture into a bowl.
Divide dough into 8 equal portions. If you let your dough rise at room temperature, chill dough balls for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours (I’ve left these overnight and they were fine to form flatbreads right out of the fridge the next morning).
On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 dough ball to a 6-inch circle (keep remaining balls on a baking sheet loosely covered with a dish towel). Brush top of circle with basil oil and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon oregano and 2 tablespoons feta. Fold edges of dough over the center of the filling and press together to seal, so filling is no longer visible. Use hands or a rolling pin to reroll dough to a 6-inch circle. Repeat with remaining dough balls.
Brush both sides of dough rounds with olive oil and grill for 5 to 6 minutes, flipping halfway through, or until each side has grill marks. The bread is ready to be flipped when it begins to puff and bubble. Sprinkle with salt while hot and serve with remaining basil oil for dipping. Note: Measurements for dry ingredients are given by metric weight for greater accuracy. The equivalent measurements by volume are approximate.
YIELD
8 servings

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com Thanks!  :-)

Happy Officially Sanctioned Cake Day!

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© cooking in my heels

Think about it. There’s really only two days in a person’s life where it’s practically mandated that you eat cake. But only one of those is applicable to everyone. It’s really quite a democratic cake consuming situation. I mean, not everyone has had a wedding, but there isn’t one of you reading this who hasn’t had a birthday. Therefore, ipso facto, your birthday is an officially sanctioned (by the governing board of these types of things), CAKE DAY!

There are certain rules and regulations when it comes to your cake day. When the calendar rolls around to your turn, the laws of physics, thermodynamics, and sensible nutrition simply do not exist. In other words, your consumption of sanctioned confection has no calories. Seriously, not a single one. It’s like a miracle. Go ahead, look it up. And since there are no calories, feel free to consume slabs of the stuff for whatever meal you happen to be bellied up for. Cake for breakfast? SURE! Lunch? Well, yes. Dinner? Indeed. It’s the one day of year you are in the zone, so go for it.

You’re thinking “sure, that’s all just dandy Karin, but what if I wasn’t in a cake-accessible zone on my natal day?” No problem. A little-known loophole of the cake statute allows one postponement if for any reason you were unable to consume your officially sanctioned slab of butter/sugar/flour goodness on your birthday. Of course, significant paperwork must be filed, so you may as well eat while the eating is good. After all, it IS your birthday…

As it happens, today is MY cake day. And to that end…

 Dark Chocolate Mini Cakes with Chocolate Port Wine Glaze

Makes four 3″ Mini Cakes. These are very rich, so I often serve half per guest. (But if it happens to be MY birthday…oh yeah, I’m in for the whole thing)DSC07765

For the cake:

  • 1/2 cup water (room temp)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 TSP vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 TSP baking soda
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs

For the filling:
(Here I used an almond based filling, but apricot, raspberry or cherry jam work well too)

  • 5 TBSP Frangipane
  • 1 TBSP warm cream
  • 1 ounce melted bittersweet chocolate

For the Chocolate Port Glaze

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ TBSP butter, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp instant espresso powder
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup your Port wine (you could substitute a fruity red wine if you have no port)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray four 1-cup ramekins with cooking spray and line the bottom with a 3″ circle of parchment. Spray parchment.

In a mixer, cream the butter with the two sugars until fluffy. Add in the melted chocolate and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time until mixed. Don’t worry if it looks a little curdled. Mix together the warm water, milk and vanilla in a measuring cup and set aside.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, espresso powder and baking soda together. To the butter/sugar mixture, beat in flour/cocoa and water/milk mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Fill each prepared ramekin with 1/2 cup of the batter (you will have about 1 cup of extra batter once you are done. It freezes well so save for cupcakes or another two mini-cakes at another time). Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake until a tester comes out clean about 20 to 24 minutes total, rotating pan halfway through the baking time. Cool cakes in dishes 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge, invert onto the rack and cool completely.

While the cakes are cooking, make the filling and glaze:

To 5 TBSP frangipane, mix in 1 ounce melted chocolate and 1 TBSP warmed heavy cream. Set aside until the cakes are completely cool.

For the glaze: Melt the chocolate, butter, salt and espresso powder together in a bowl over a double boiler and whisk together until smooth. In a separate pan, bring the port to a boil. Once the chocolate mixture is completely melted, add in the powdered sugar and mix until completely combined. (It will get thicker but don’t worry ). Add in the hot wine and mix until fully combined and spreadable.

To assemble:

With a serrated knife, trim any domed top off the cakes so it is flat and even. Flip the cakes over so the bottom is now the top. Slice the cakes in half along the equator making two layers. Spread 1/4 of the frangipane mixture over the bottom layer and replace the top. Pour 1/4 of the glaze on the top of the cake, and with a spatula or butter knife, spread over the top so it begins to drip down the sides. Use spatula to spread the glaze over the sides, covering the cakes completely. Chill in the fridge for 30-45 minutes until the glaze is set.

To serve:  These are much better at room temperature than right out of the fridge (although, they are pretty freakin’ good then too.) Stick a candle in it, light ‘er up, sing “Happy Birthday to ME” and fully enjoy your officially sanctioned cake day!

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com Thanks!  :-)

Where the day takes you…

DSC07748I’ve had a bit more time on my hands lately, so after I take care of the daily necessities, I’ve been trying to practice going where the day takes me. Sounds swell, right? It can be, if you are able to do it. That’s where my problem lay. While the whole om-shanty-shanty-crunchy-granola-live-in-the-moment groove is all around me out here, actually doing it takes a true effort. It’s not because I’m still in Gotham gal mode, that go Go GO switch constantly on. I’ve been fairly successful turning that thing off since moving westward. And it’s not because I’ve a ton of other things to do. Oh I have things, in fact I’m staring at a list of them right now. And now I’m ignoring it.

So that just leaves, well, the control thing. The assertion many of us have that without oneself controlling the universe it would spin chaotically out of kilter, and then all hell would certainly shake loose. Oh yeah…that. You’d think I’d have learned by now that, barring the sudden manifestation of some fate-changing super power, I really don’t control much and things just happen. And in light of yet another recent reminder, to not leap at the chance for random fun is just stupid.

As it happens, I was presented with two leap-worthy experiences lately, so instead of over thinking them, I decided to leap. Of course you know what happened. A distinct lack of awkward exchanges, Florida retirement condo pitches, or chloroform, duct tape and hefty bags (hey, I’ve seen those Lifetime movies… it could happen.)  Nope, none of that, nor regrets that I didn’t get to that list. Just fun. Fun, new friends, and if I’m lucky, more opportunities to see where the day takes me.

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Originally, this recipe was going to include huckleberries, but that day went in a different, and far more interesting direction. So instead, it features the damson plums that I collected on my morning hike, and could easily be adapted to other stone fruit or berries.

Inspired by a day of random acts of fun – Plum Cake with Lime.

Serves 8-10

For the cake:

  • 3/4 cup almond meal (or finely ground almonds)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cup corn meal (medium to fine ground, not stone ground)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (4 oz.) butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 TBSP sugar
  • Zest and Juice of a large lime (a little less than 1/4 cup juice)

For the fruit:

  • A heaping cup of chopped damson plums, other stone fruit, or berries
  • 2-3 TBSP sugar (depending upon the sweetness of the fruit)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut a circle of parchment the size of the bottom of a 9″ cake pan or springform pan. Line the pan with the parchment, then spray paper and sides of pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

2014-08-04 14.23.12In a small bowl, toss the chopped plums (quarters is fine, doesn’t have to be finely chopped) with 2-3 TBSP of sugar and the cinnamon. Set aside for at least 20 minutes.

Whisk together the flours, baking soda and powder, salt and lime zest into a medium bowl. In another bowl, beat the eggs, then whisk in the sugar and lime juice. Add to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Pour over the melted butter and mix together until incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared pan. top with the plums and their accumulated juices. You don’t have to create a pattern, random is kind of the point of all of this, right?  Bake 30-40 minutes until a tester in center comes out clean. Let cool completely before removing from pan.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com Thanks!  :-)

Goodbye, to Pie…

DSC03647Well, not forever. Never forever. Just for now. To be completely crustless would be too cruel. That said, it’s definitely time to create a different menu, grateful of what was learned, and ready to put new knowledge to use in a less crusty environment.  Change, as they say, is good. Fitting too, considering this past week I celebrated the start of my second year of this westward exploration, and today is the third anniversary of cooking in my heels.  So like a ladle-bearing Lewis & Clark or saucepan-toting Sacagawea, I embark upon chapter two (and year four), eager and ready to climb new culinary cliffs and forge gastronomic gorges. Oy that was a mouthful…

All the corny historical references aside, since I’m no longer doing the professional pie thing, I thought I’d leave the dough rolling with a bang. Not one, but TWO of my favorite constructs of crust and filling. Neither of these recipes are mine, and that’s OK because I’ve learned over many years and many pies, you just don’t mess with perfection.  The first, a Twice-Baked Sour Cherry Pie, I discovered in the NY Times a few years ago, and first tried as the birthday “cake” for my mom (a cherry pie freak if ever there was one.) I love that instead of the usual lattice crust, you cut out circles or hearts or whatever floats your boat, and use that to create the top.

The second recipe is a Spiced Peach Pie with Lattice Crust I brought to a friend’s rooftop fireworks viewing Fourth of July bash in Chelsea several years ago. Here’s a tip for making the often frustrating lattice crust. Cut the strips out, and weave them on a piece of wax paper, pressing wherever crust meets crust. Pop the crust in the freezer just until it gets firm, then place the whole lattice on top of the pie. Let thaw a little, trim and crimp as usual. A whole lot less messy and frustrating!

For both of these recipes, I’ve included the crust they suggest, however when I make these, I use my own all-butter Pate Brisee recipe instead.

Oh, and what will I be doing instead of baking pies? Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be an interesting adventure, hopefully tasty, and you are welcome to come along… ;-)

Twice-Baked Sour Cherry Pie (NYT, June 18, 2010)

  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, more for rolling out dough
  • 3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 15 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons instant tapioca
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 pounds sour cherries (about 6 cups), rinsed and pitted
  • 1 tablespoon kirsch or brandy
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Demerara sugar, for sprinkling.

To make dough: in bowl of a food processor pulse together flour and salt just to combine. Add butter and pulse until chickpea-size pieces form. Add 3 to 6 tablespoons ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until mixture just comes together. Separate dough into 2 disks, one using 2/3 dough, the other using the remaining. Wrap disks in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour (and up to 3 days) before rolling out and baking.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place larger dough disk on a lightly floured surface and roll into a 12-inch circle, about 3/8-inch thick. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Line dough with foil and weigh it down with pie weights. Bake until crust is light golden brown, about 30 minutes.

While pie crust is baking, prepare filling. In bowl of a food processor, combine sugar, tapioca and cinnamon (use more tapioca if you prefer a thicker, more solid filling, and less if you like a looser, juicier filling). Run the motor until tapioca is finely ground. Place cherries in a bowl and add sugar and tapioca mixture. Drizzle in kirsch or brandy and toss gently to combine.

When pie crust is ready, transfer it to a wire rack to cool slightly and reduce heat to 375 degrees. Remove foil and weights. Scrape cherry filling into pie crust.

Place smaller disk of dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it 3/8-inch thick. Use a round cookie cutter (or several round cookie cutters of different sizes) to cut out circles of dough. Arrange circles on top of cherry filling in a pattern of your choice.

Brush top crust with cream and sprinkle generously with Demerara sugar. Bake until crust is dark golden brown and filling begins to bubble, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer pie to a wire rack to cool for at least 2 hours, allowing filling to set before serving.

Yield: 8 servings.

Spiced Peach Pie with Lattice Crust (Bon Appetit, July 2000)

Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Filling

  • 2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 pounds medium peaches

For crust:
Whisk first 5 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Add butter and shortening and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles very coarse meal. Mix in 4 tablespoons ice water. Mix in more water by tablespoonfuls if dough is dry, tossing until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball. Divide dough into 2 pieces, 1 slightly larger than the other. Flatten into disks; wrap and chill at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

For filling:
Mix sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and spices in large bowl. Bring medium saucepan of water to boil. Drop in 3 peaches at a time; blanch 1 minute. Transfer peaches to bowl of cold water. Using small sharp knife, peel 1 peach. Cut peach in half; discard pit and slice thinly. Stir peach slices into sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining peaches. Let filling stand until juices form, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll out larger dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13- to 14-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter deep-dish pie dish. Roll out smaller dough disk on lightly floured surface to 11-inch round. Using ruler as aid, cut dough into 1/2-inch-wide strips.

Spoon filling into dough-lined dish. Arrange some of dough strips atop pie, spacing 3/4 inch apart. Form lattice by arranging more dough strips at right angle to first strips, spacing 3/4 inch apart. Trim overhang of bottom crust and lattice strips to 3/4 inch. Fold under and crimp edge decoratively.

Bake pie until crust is golden and filling bubbles thickly, covering edge of crust with foil if browning too quickly, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Cool pie to room temperature before serving.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com Thanks!  :-)

What a long, strange trip it’s been…

A year ago this evening I was sitting in a hotel room in Boise Idaho, knowing that by the end of the following day, I’d be in my new home. The 365 days that followed were filled with uncertainty and fear, joy and melancholy, laughter, more than a few tears, new friends, new jobs, and the biggest challenge of my life.  And though I’m still uncertain, challenged, and occasionally melancholy and scared, I’m also optimistic. And grateful for the lovely friendships and beautiful sights along the way.

So before I embark on the next year and the new chapters in my odyssey, I wanted to stop and say thanks. Here’s to all of you who’ve made this year one worth remembering, and to all both west and east who’ve joined me on this long, strange and hopeful trip I’m on.  I raise my glass of Oregon wine and clink to all of you and to the start of my next page. You’re all welcome to come along for the ride.

photo 3

 

If you’d like to read about my westward journey, here’s some posts from last year’s grand ride:

 

 

The Crostata Chronicles

We now return to our continuing story of crostata creation….

I’ve been focusing on these ridiculously easy and adaptable morsels of buttery crust wonderfulness a lot lately, and I offer up no apologies. Nope, not a one. Let’s face it, there isn’t much better in this world than a swell piece of pie. Maybe chocolate….and bacon…and wine… OK, so there’s a lot of good stuff out there, but pie of any shape and in any language is still pretty high up on the swell meter. So, in our continuing saga of crostata (nee galette, nee pie) variations, I offer up the following three, which are sitting on my counter right now just waiting for us to dig in.

[For specific bake times, dough and frangipane recipes, check out last week's post]

photo 3Peach, Blueberry Frangipane: To last week’s blueberry frangipane variation, instead of all blueberries, do just a border, and then a circle of thin cut ripe peach in the center. Sprinkle the peach slices with about a teaspoon of sugar. Fold edges over, brush with cream, a sprinkle of sugar and bake.

 

photo 5Cherry Rhubarb: Instead of all rhubarb slices, do a border of pitted and halved black cherries, on a bed of ground almonds with a 1/2 teaspoon of tapioca and some strawberry rhubarb jam (or strawberry jam if that’s all you have). Generously sprinkle fruit with turbinado sugar, fold,

photo 4Cherry, Goat Cheese and Herbed Walnut: I use semolina crust for this one. Chop some walnuts together with a mix of herbs (I used basil, flat leaf parsley, and thyme). Put a layer of herbed nuts on the crust, then sprinkle some goat cheese on top. Add a layer of pitted halved cherries and top with some more herbed chopped walnuts. Fold edges, brush with egg wash, sprinkle a little salt and pepper on the crust, and bake.

My mom has been visiting me in OR for the past week, and her one request in the “what to do while visiting in OR” was to learn how to make pate brisee. The culinary karmic circle has gone a full 360. She took this video on how to fold the crust. The Ed Sullivanesque plate-spinning music is optional…

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com Thanks! :-)