Archive for the ‘Cakes, Pies, and Pastry’ Category

Apples on My Mind

Monday, September 11th, 2017

I have apples on the brain these days. They’re omnipresent on my road, brightening the neighborhood like Christmas ornaments on their trees. They’re also abundant this year at orchards again; new flavors seem to ripen every week. I eat at least one a day. I should be doing this because apples are healthy. I’m actually doing it just because I love them. My dog Cocoa smells the juice of recently picked apples whenever I bite into one and patiently (well, almost patiently) waits for a bite or two.

Apples will be my theme when I teach my next class at the Baker’s Pin next week. On the evening of Thursday, September 21, I’ll return to Northampton, Massachusetts, to create a whole meal with apples, from appetizer to dessert.

In fact, I recently devised one of the recipes below for that very class—my Apple Gruyère Pizza. When I made it on Mass Appeal last week, the pizza was completely consumed before the end of the hour-long show.

The swamp cake that follows is an applesauce cake I made years ago for the birthday of one of my favorite people in the world, my former roommate Alice from Dallas. Alice dubbed it “swamp cake” because of its tendency to swamp down in the middle. The swamping didn’t bother either of us; we just applied a little extra cream-cheese frosting in the swampy area.

If you know anyone in western Massachusetts who would like to join me at the Baker’s Pin, please tell him/her/them to register here. Slots are still open.

Enjoy the crunch, taste, and versatility of apples as we approach fall!

Apple Gruyère Pizza

If you want a lighter pizza or are serving vegetarians, brown the onion in extra-virgin olive oil instead of bacon fat. (Add a small amount of salt and pepper when you add the apple and garlic.) For vegetarians, omit the bacon on top; for light lovers, cut down on the bacon on top.

Ingredients:

6 slices of bacon
1 large onion (preferably sweet), thinly sliced
1 medium clove garlic, slivered
1 large apple, cut into thin chunks
1 medium pizza crust (about 1 pound)
extra-virgin olive oil as needed
2 cups (generous) grated Gruyère
chives to taste

Instructions:

A couple of hours before you are ready to make the pizza, take your pizza crust out of the refrigerator (if you are using a commercial crust; if your crust is homemade it won’t need cooling), place it on a greased baking sheet, and let it rest. After an hour and a half or so, preheat the oven to 475 degrees, lightly grease the baking sheet, and stretch the crust out on top. If you are paranoid like me, you may want to line the baking sheet with parchment, foil, or silicone.

In a large skillet fry the bacon. Remove it from the pan and place it on paper towels to drain. Set aside. Leave enough of the bacon fat in the pan to cover the bottom of the pan lightly. (You won’t need the rest of the bacon fat.) Toss in the onion slices, and cook them over low heat until they begin to caramelize (probably 20 minutes to 1/2 hour).

Throw in the garlic and the apple chunks and cook the mixture for another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Sprinkle most of the cheese on top of the pizza crust. Sprinkle the onion mixture on top (it won’t make a heavy topping), and top with the rest of the cheese. Bake the pizza until it looks done, 10 to 14 minutes.

While the pizza is baking, crumble the bacon and chop the chives.

When the pizza comes out of the oven, sprinkle the chives and bacon pieces on top. Let the pizza rest for a minute or two; then slice it. Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as an appetizer.

Swamp Cake

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
1/2 brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup applesauce (preferably homemade)
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 cup flour
1 cup raisins

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch-square pan.

Cream together the butter and the sugars. Add the applesauce. Beat well; then beat in the egg. Beat in the baking soda, salt, and spices. Stir in the flour, followed by the raisins.

Spoon the batter into the pan, and bake until the cake tests done, about 25 minutes. Cool and eat plain or frost. Serves 8.

And now, the videos:

Tinky Makes Apple Gruyère Pizza on Mass Appeal

 

Tinky Makes Swamp Cake on Mass Appeal

Measuring My Days in Peaches

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

Peaches Awaiting Purchase (and Consumption!) at Apex Orchards

Tuesday was National Eat a Peach Day, a day we were unable to celebrate last year in my neck of the woods. We had a very warm winter in 2016. The local peach trees got confused (as did the rest of us!) and started to blossom in February. A cold spell shut them down in a hurry and destroyed the year’s peach crop.

When August arrived, not a single local peach could be found at local stores and orchards. The dearth of peaches hit farms hard. It also made consumers like me realize how much we take for granted.

My summer is measured out by the arrival of different fruits—rhubarb, then strawberries, then raspberries, then blueberries, then peaches, and so forth. When one of these fails to appear in farm stands and in my kitchen, I’m thrown way off balance.

I missed those few weeks of peaches more than I can say last year. I know we’ll have other bad peach seasons, thanks to bad luck and climate change. So I am determined to make up for last year’s dearth by eating peaches pretty much constantly this year. Fortunately, we have a bumper crop of peaches in western Massachusetts in 2017 so I can feast on them to my heart’s content.

Of course, in addition to eating peaches, I cook with them! On Tuesday I appeared on Mass Appeal to show off a couple of simple recipes. My friends at Apex Orchards in Shelburne supplied glorious peaches for testing and cooking, and I thank them.

I tried peach chipotle sauce a few years ago. This recipe is simpler than the previous one. Really, if one has perfect peaches and a little chipotle (and, yes, sugar!), one doesn’t need to complicate the flavors.

And who doesn’t love a good shortcake? As I say in the video below, my family likes to eat only shortcake (either strawberry or peach) for supper once a year. This filling meal isn’t super healthy—but once a year, who the heck cares?

Whether you cook the fruit or not, don’t forget to EAT A PEACH!

Peach Chipotle Sauce

The combination of sweet and spicy in this recipe really pops. The sauce works well with pork or chicken—or over crackers with cream cheese.

Ingredients:

2 cups peach slices
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 pinch salt
1 to 2 canned chipotles in adobo sauce (plus a little of the sauce)
1 dab butter

Instructions:

In a nonreactive pot combine the fruit, a cup of the sugar, and the lemon juice. Let the mixture sit for an hour or so to allow the peaches to juice up.

Cook the peaches over low heat until tender. Add the remaining sugar, the salt, the chipotle, and the butter, and cook rapidly until thick, stirring frequently. Remove any foam you see. (There shouldn’t be too much, thanks to the butter.)

If you want jamlike consistency, the sauce will be ready when it sheets off a cold, stainless-steel spoon. If you don’t cook it that long, your sauce will just be a bit more liquid. (I like it slightly more liquid so I measure the sauce with an instant-read thermometer and turn off the heat when the thermometer reads about 215 degrees.) Really, you can’t go wrong.

Let the sauce cool for a few minutes; then pulverize it with a blender or immersion blender.

Refrigerate the sauce after it cools. Makes about 2 cups.

Peach Shortcake

Ingredients:

for the self-rising biscuits:

2 cups self-rising flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
a small amount of melted butter (optional)
coarse white sugar (optional)

for the filling:

4 cups peach slices (more if you can’t resist)
1/4 cup sugar (plus more to taste if your peaches are tart)
the juice of 1/2 lemon

for assembly:

sweetened whipped cream

Instructions:

Begin by making the biscuits. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Whisk together the flour and sugar. In a separate bowl (or a measuring cup!) combine the cream and the vanilla.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the cream mixture into the well, and gently stir until the mixture is combined, adding a little milk as needed to incorporate all the ingredients into the liquid.

Turn the dough onto a floured work surface, and sprinkle a little more flour on top. Fold the dough over several times; then pat it into a circle or rectangle that is about 1/2 inch thick.

Using a sharp biscuit cutter cut the dough into rounds, about 2 to 2-1/4 inches wide (or however wide you want them!). Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet (you may line the sheet with parchment or silicone if you’re paranoid about sticking). If you like, brush the tops of your biscuits with melted butter and sprinkle a little coarse sugar on top.

Bake the biscuits until they are golden brown (12 to 16 minutes). While they are baking combine the peaches, sugar, and lemon juice.

When you are ready to assemble your shortcakes, cut the biscuits in half horizontally. Decorate the bottom halves with the cooked filling followed by the strawberries; then dollop on whipped cream. Top with the biscuit tops.

Serves 6 to 8, depending on the size of your biscuits and the hunger of your guests.

And now the videos:

Tinky Makes Peach Chipotle Sauce on Mass Appeal

Tinky Makes Peach Shortcake on Mass Appeal

National Zucchini Day

Friday, August 11th, 2017

In some ways, I find food holidays just a tad too convenient. I have a sneaking suspicion—actually, in some cases I flat out KNOW—that many of them were organized by corporations or their minions to promote specific products. (Take that, National Oatmeal Month!)

And yet … I enjoying having an excuse to celebrate particular foods. So when I learned that Tuesday was National Zucchini Day, I roped in my friend Michael Collins of the Barrel Shop B&B to cook a little zucchini with me.

I have known Michael for 25 years or so. (Bless his heart, he says that I was just a small child when I first ventured into his former restaurant, the Green Emporium in Colrain, Massachusetts.) I have had fun over the years cooking, singing, eating, and talking with him and his partner Tony, an artist.

I hoped Michael would have a tasty, simple zucchini dish, and his stuffed zucchini didn’t disappoint. It featured a lovely combination of flavors, colors, and textures.

I celebrated the holiday with courgette chocolate cupcakes. I love the word “courgette,” the French term for “zucchini.” It sounds elegant and mysterious and helps counter the popular reputation of zucchini as overabundant and boring, a reputation to which I strongly object.

I topped my cupcakes with cream-cheese frosting. I could make a meal of these two dishes and hope you can, too!

Michael and I appeared together on Mass Appeal. Somehow the video of the cupcakes got lost on the internet, but you can see his zucchini boats by clicking on this link.

I’ll be back soon for National Eat a Peach Day…..

Michael’s Stuffed Zucchini

Ingredients:

4 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons Italian bread crumbs
3 tablespoons tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons Asiago cheese
6 Kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half
the juice of 1 lemon

Instructions:

Scoop out the centers of the zucchini. Chop the zucchini “meat” finely. Blend it with the onion, the garlic, the olive oil, the bread crumbs, the tomato paste, and the salt and pepper to make a paste.

Stuff the mixture into the zucchini shells. Cover with the cheese. Dot with the olives, and squeeze the lemon juice on top.

Bake until the zucchini boats are bubbly and brown, about 20 minutes. Serves 8 as a side dish.

Courgette Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients:

1-1/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup canola oil
7/8 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup grated zucchini (stem but do not pare first)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Sift together the flour and the cocoa. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, cream together the butter, oil, and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Blend in the vanilla, followed by the baking soda and salt; then add the flour/cocoa mixture mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in the zucchini.

Pour the batter into lined muffin cups. Bake until the cakes test done, about 25 minutes. Ice with your favorite frosting. Makes about 18 cupcakes.

A Jubilee of Cherries

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

One of my favorite seasons has arrived—and may go away very, very soon! Sour cherries are ripe here in Franklin County, Massachusetts.

This smaller, redder, tarter version of the conventional cherry is perfect for cooking. My mother used to make sour cherry soup. (I wish I had her recipe; I’m going to try to recreate it one of these days.) Sour cherries are great in pies, cobblers, cakes, and jams.

They hold their shape well when baked. And when one combines them with sugar (as I’m afraid one pretty much always does) they deliver a succulent sweet-and-tart flavor that gives extra dimension to anything one creates.

Ben Clark of Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield recently let me pick some of his sour cherries so I could experiment. Clarkdale isn’t open at this time of year, but it does sell its delectable cherries at the Greenfield Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings.

I ended up picking the cherries in the rain—but somehow the whole experience was still delightful!

According to Ben, cherries were one of the first crops his great-grandfather, Dr. Webster Clark, planted when he started growing fruit more than a century ago. (Clarkdale celebrated its centennial in 2015.) Today the farm harvests varieties the Clarks have been growing over the past decade.

Clarkdale harvests several hundred quarts of sour cherries a year. The varieties featured are Jubileum, Montmorency, and Balaton. I picked Montmorency cherries—sour but not too sour. The farm also produces six varieties of sweet cherries.

I even had a cherry hat to wear while picking, made by my cousin Kate!

The bad news is that the sour-cherry season is short. The good news is that that season is RIGHT NOW.

The tart cherries are worth embracing for that limited period of time. They don’t just taste good. They are good for those of us who consume them.

Sour cherries contain something called anthocyanins. Linked to the bright hue of the cherries, these substances can help the liver, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, fight arthritis, and improve circulation. Studies indicate sour cherries may even prevent cancer.

I asked Ben Clark how long his sour cherries last once picked. “If refrigerated with stems intact,” he explained, “they will last for a week or two with no detrimental effects. They can also be frozen for six to 12 months.”

Ben and his wife Lori love to cook with the cherries. They enjoyed cherry pie last week for Independence Day. They also make cherry jam and a cherry liqueur which I have just assembled. (I can’t report back on its flavor yet; it has to age for at least three months.)

I also made an appetizer, baking brie with sour-cherry jam and pecans. I had been longing to bake brie ever since a friend gave me a handsome brie baker from local potter Jeanne Douillard. The baker worked like a charm, and the combination of flavors and textures was a winner.

Finally, I prepared a cherry upside-down cake. This was more or less an accident! I had hoped to make a cherry torte based on a classic New York Times recipe. When my cherries slid ignominiously to the bottom of the torte, I took their descent as a hint that maybe I should try an upside-down cake.

Happy cherry season………

Sour Cherry Pecan Brie

Ingredients:

for the jam:

2 cups sour cherries, pitted
1-1/4 cups sugar (more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tiny pat butter

for the baked brie:

1 8-ounce round of brie
1/3 cup sour cherry jam (use the rest as a breakfast spread—yum!)
1/2 cup toasted pecans

Instructions:

First, make the jam. (This may be done days in advance as long as you store it in the refrigerator.) In a medium saucepan combine the cherries, 1 cup of the sugar, and the lemon juice. Let this mixture sit for an hour or so to juice up.

When the hour has elapsed heat the cherry mixture, stirring frequently. Once the cherries begin to soften, add the remaining sugar and the butter. Cook until the jam reaches a temperature of 218 degrees. Remove the jam from the heat and let it cool.

To make the baked brie preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the top rind off the brie, and place it in a lightly greased, shallow baking dish. Put the jam and pecans on top. Bake the brie until it gets oozy and warm. In my brie baker this took 25 minutes. I should think it would be done in 20 minutes in a thinner pan.

Serve with crackers. Serves 6 to 8.

Sour Cherry Upside-Down Cake

Ingredients:

for the topping:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 cups pitted sour cherries

for the cake:

1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1-3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

First make the topping (which goes on the bottom!).

Melt the butter in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet. Stir in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, until it melts and bubbles—3 to 4 minutes. Arrange the cherries on top.

For the cake cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Add the baking powder and salt. Stir in the flour alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in the vanilla, and pour the batter over the cherry mixture.

Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center (but not too far down; don’t hit the cherries!) comes out clean, about 40 minutes. If the cake is brown but not done before this happens, decrease the oven temperature and continue baking.

Allow the cake to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife, and invert the cake onto a serving plate held over the skillet. Turn upside-down. Remove pan.

Serve alone or with whipped cream. Serves 8.

And now the videos….

Tinky Makes Sour Cherry Pecan Brie

Tinky Makes Sour Cherry Upside-Down Cake

Strawberry Cream-Cheese Tart

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

I know I just posted here a few days ago. I hope you’re not getting sick of me! I thought readers might like to make this festive tart for the Fourth of July, however.

The recipe has a number of steps so technically it takes a lot of time. Most of the time is spent waiting for portions of the tart to cool, however, so it’s not hard. The only thing you have to bake is the crust—and that can be done early in the morning or late at night so you won’t heat up the house too much in this warm season.

And the tart is a definite showstopper. I tend to make it the day before I serve it.

Yes, you may use a store-bought pie crust, but this one isn’t hard. You may also use lemon juice instead of key lime.

As I point out in the video below, if you want to be particularly patriotic, you may put a few blueberries on top of the tart.

Happy Independence Day!

The Tart

Ingredients:

for the tart shell:

1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1-1/3 cups flour
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla

for the filling:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup key-lime juice

for the topping:

2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
2 tablespoons key-lime juice
4 tablespoons cold water
3-1/2 cups halved strawberries, divided

Instructions:

Begin with the crust. In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and the sugar until they are just blended. Add the flour and the salt, and stir until the mixture seems crumbly. (It will be dry.)

In a small bowl whisk together the egg yolk and the vanilla; drizzle this mixture over the flour mixture. Combine until the flour mixture is evenly moist; it will still be crumbly.

Grease a 9-inch tart pan. (You may use an 8-inch pie pan if you’d rather, but the tart is just beautiful.) Place the dough in the pan. Press it evenly over the bottom and up the sides of pan. Prick the bottom of the crust a bit to keep it from puffing up too much.

Put the crust in the freezer, uncovered, for 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes or until it is golden brown. Cool it completely before filling it.

To make the filling beat the cream cheese until it is soft and smooth; then beat in the condensed milk and the key-lime juice. Spoon this mixture over the cooled crust, and refrigerate for several hours before proceeding.

Finally, make the topping. In a heavy saucepan whisk together the cornstarch, the sugar, and the salt. Slowly whisk in the liquids. In a bowl, mash 1-1/2 cups of the berries. Add them to the cornstarch mixture. Let the mixture sit in the saucepan for 1 hour to juice up.

At the end of the hour bring the berry mixture to a boil, and boil it for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove it from the heat and let it sit until it reaches room temperature. Stir in the remaining uncooked berries.

Spoon the topping over the tart filling. Refrigerate the tart until you are ready to serve it. Garnish with additional strawberries and mint leaves if you wish. Serves 8.

And now the video….

Tinky Makes Strawberry Cream-Cheese Tart on Mass Appeal