Recipes for Desserts

Gift Guide: A Cake for Christmas

December 23, 2016

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Part sticky toffee pudding, part upside down cake, this glorious English confection comes together easily, requires no exotic ingredients- and is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Best of all, it fills your house with the warm mingled aroma of ginger, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon.

If you’re looking for the perfect dessert to take to a Christmas feast, look no farther.  This is easy to transport, and it keeps very well.

Should you want to make this a really impressive present, throw in a 10 inch pre-seasoned cast iron skillet.l8sk3_nYou can find them at most stores – or go right to the source, the Lodge Company.  I consider this particular skillet an essential kitchen tool; you can never have too many.

And now… The Perfect Christmas Cake

Sticky Upside Down Pear and Gingerbread Cake

Preheat the oven to 350.

Butter a 9 1/2 or 10 inch cake tin, then line the bottom with parchment paper.  (Alternatively, use a 10 inch cast iron skillet; if it’s well-seasoned you won’t need the parchment paper.)

Melt 2/3 of a stick of butter with 3/4 cup of brown sugar in a small pot until it turns into a creamy, caramel-colored glop.  Pour it into the cake tin and tip the pan to make the syrup evenly cover the bottom of the pan.

Peel 4 fat Bosc pears and cut off the tip and bottom end. (Do not core them; they’ll look so much better left to their own devices). Cut each pear in half and lay it in the pan, cut side down, with its tip pointing into the center of the pan. Set aside while you mix the gingerbread.

Put 1 and a half cups of all purpose flour into a small bowl.  Whisk in 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and a teaspoon of ground ginger. Grate in a bit of nutmeg. Add a pinch of ground clove.

In another bowl beat 2 eggs.  Stir in a cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup molasses or sorghum, 2/3 cups milk and a stick of melted butter. Grate in a small knob of fresh ginger.

Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix until comes together into a smooth batter.  Pour over the pears, smooth the top and bake for 45 to 50 minutes until a toothpick comes out fairly clean.

Set on a wire rack to cool for a few minutes, then run a knife around the edge.

Find a large plate or cake platter. Place a sturdy oven mitt on each hand. Set the plate on top of the cake, then turn the whole thing upside down as quickly as possible.  The cake should slide easily out of the pan, leaving the pears smiling up at you. 

Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

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Ginger, Apples, Lemon, Pepper – Baked into a Cake

October 26, 2016

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It’s a perfect applesauce day, and the kitchen has been perfumed with the good scent of apples slumping into sauce, sending out little hints of lemon and cinnamon.

With the sauce made, I couldn’t help myself; I used some of it to bake this cake. It’s a good keeper, and will make a find snack over the coming days when the light leaks out of the sky too early, slamming us into night before I’m really ready. Besides, there are days when I’d bake this cake for the pure pleasure of the aroma.

When I was working on My Kitchen Year, I decided to put all the recipes in classic form, just in case the publishers balked at the conversational tone at the last minute.  Happily, they didn’t; I much prefer the relaxed fashion of the recipes in the book. But for those who’d rather have marching orders, here they are.

Applesauce

4-6 apples, peeled and cored

1 teaspoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons water

1 stick of cinnamon

1 teaspoon sugar

Cook the apples with the lemon juice, water, cinnamon stick, and sugar in a medium saucepan, uncovered, until the apples are soft enough to mash with a fork, about 20 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and season with more sugar to taste.

Gingered Applesauce Cake Glazed with Caramel

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cups applesauce

1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan.
  2. Break two eggs into a large bowl. Whisk in the sugar and the brown sugar.  Add the grated ginger and the applesauce.  Whisk in the oil and vanilla and mix until it is smooth.
  3. Whisk the baking soda, salt, pepper, cinnamon and clove into the flour in a small bowl.  Mix this gently into the applesauce mixture.
  4. Pour the batter into a buttered and floured 12-cup bundt pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until it is set. 
  5. Cool the cake for 15 minutes on a rack before turning it out and allowing it to cool.  Make sure the cake is completely cool before glazing it. 

Glaze:

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

pinch salt

1 teaspoon vanilla.

Put the cream in a small heavy-bottomed pot. Whisk in the sugar, salt and corn syrup and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to boil for about 15 minutes, whisking every few minutes.

When the the glaze has come together into a smooth, thick caramel remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.

Put the cake, still on the rack, over a sheet of wax paper. Carefully pour the glaze over the cake.

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A Red Tart

September 25, 2016

fullsizerender-2Raspberry Tart for the End of Summer

Found raspberries at the farmers’ market yesterday, and of course I had to buy them.  They won’t be around much longer. Then I went home and baked them into this simple tart.

I love this tart because it’s extremely fruit-forward,  cradling the delicate flavor of the berries in a flaky crust and crumbled topping that is not too sweet. There’s nothing to get in the way of the pure, clean expression of the fruit.

As the tart bakes the aroma will fill your house with the scent of summer.  What a lovely thing to experience as we head into fall.

Pastry

Whisk a bit of salt into a cup and a quarter of all-purpose flour. Cut a stick of cold sweet butter into cubes and, using a pastry cutter or two knives, incorporate the butter into the flour. Dribble in a couple tablespoons of ice water and some vodka and stir gently with a fork just until the dough holds together. Add more liquid as needed, gather it into a ball, then press it down into a disc, wrap in wax paper and put the dough into the refrigerator to rest for at least an hour.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, allow it to sit at room temperature for a few minutes, then roll out on a lightly floured surface and fit into an 8 or 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Place in the freezer for 20 minutes or so.

Tart

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Remove the tart shell from the freezer and fill it with raspberries; it should take about 3 6-ounce packages. 

Melt a stick of butter and stir in 3/4 cups of sugar.  Toss in a bit of salt and a few drops of vanilla, then stir in between 3/4 and a cup of flour, until it is quite thick. Crumble this over the top of the tart.

Set the tart on the lowest shelf of the oven, and bake for ten minutes before turning the heat down to 375 and baking for about 50 minutes more, or until the top is golden.  Set on a rack to cool for about half an hour, then remove. 

Allow the tart to cool completely before serving.

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Good Morning Blues

September 10, 2016

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You know how some days you just can’t cook?  Yesterday was like that.

A friend dropped by for dinner, and I thought I’d make a quick pasta sauce with the many tomatoes I had on hand. That worked out well.  But when I went to the cupboard I discovered we had no long pasta. We always have something, but….  Ended up eating the sauce on macaroni, which was fine, but not nearly as satisfying as twirling spaghetti.

We had plenty of greens, so a big salad was easy. But what about dessert? I opened the freezer, found some blueberries, and decided to make a quick blueberry cake to use up the last of the buttermilk (another staple I almost always have on hand). This is a lovely little cake that works well at the end of dinner- and makes an equally delicious breakfast. I happily buttered the bundt tin, tossed the berries in flour, and began constructing the cake.

As I poured the batter into the tin I noticed it seemed rather thick. But I paid that no mind and put the cake into the oven. Five minutes later, as I was cleaning up, I suddenly understood what was wrong with the batter: the three eggs were still sitting, uncracked, on the counter. What to do?

I pulled the cake from the oven, scraped the warm batter into a bowl and added the eggs, stirring them in one by one.  It was a desperation move….but surely worth a try. Then, not even bothering to re-butter the pan, I poured the batter back in and stuck the cake back in the oven. And waited to see what would emerge.

To my utter amazement, the cake turned out beautifully.  Still, if you’re going to make this recipe, I’d recommend doing it in the conventional manner.

 

Blueberry Buttermilk Bundt

12 tablespoons softened butter (1 1/2 sticks)

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs

3 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cups buttermilk

grated rind of one lemon

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups frozen blueberries

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.

Toss the blueberries with a tablespoon or two of the flour.

Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer. Add the eggs, one by one; do not forget this step. Add the grated lemon peel and vanilla.

Mix the remaining dry ingredients and add to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk.  Mix in the blueberries.

Bake for about an hour, until a tester comes out clean.  Set on a rack for 15 minutes, then turn out of the pan and cool completely.

 

 

 

 

 

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Plum Perfection

August 22, 2016

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Prune plums are not my favorite fruit; they’re dull eaten out of hand.  And their appearance in the market means that summer is coming to an end.

Bake them into this torte, however, and they come into their own.  Because they’re firm, rather than juicy, they maintain their integrity, becoming soft little pillows of sweetness surrounded by cake. I don’t know a better coffee cake.

Plum Torte

1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

zest of one lemon

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

12 large or 20 small prune plums, pits removed, halved the long way

4 tablespoons brown sugar, divided

Heat an oven to 350 degrees

Prepare a 9” round cake pan.  (If you don’t have a commercial pan with high sides, best to use a larger pan, or a springform pan.) Butter the bottom and sides of the pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Butter the parchment paper and dust the whole pan with flour.

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy in a stand mixer for about 5 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time and thoroughly combine after each addition. If the batter appears curdled, do not worry, it is because the eggs may be cooler than the rest of the mixture, and the butter hardened when the eggs were added. The batter will become smooth with the addition of the flour..

Beat in the the buttermilk or yogurt and add the vanilla and lemon zest, medium speed

Whisk together the flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt, and add to the butter mixture until just combined.

Separate the halved plums into two equal piles.

Spoon half the batter into the pan and level the top with a small offset spatula.

Place the plums, cut side down on the batter, and sprinkle with the two tablespoons brown sugar.

Spoon the rest of the mixture over the plums, and place the rest of the plums on top cut side up. Sprinkle with the remaining brown sugar.

Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden.

Cool the cake on a rack for 5 minutes. The cake will pull away from the sides of the pan.

Run a knife around the edge of the cake. Invert onto a plate, peel away the paper, and invert again onto a serving plate.

Best served warm with billows of whipped cream – but delicious at any temperature.

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