Friday, May 30, 2008

Apple Pie/Cake Identity Crisis

It’s an Apple Pie; it’s a Coffee Cake; it is breakfast/dessert in identity crisis. Nonetheless, me with my morbid sense of humor, thinks that it is delicious either way. If you yearning for an apple pie but don’t have the time or the inclination to mess about with a finicky pie crust, please enjoy. Plus you gotta love a recipe that requires a wooden spoon.

2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cap full vanilla extract (I am sorely saddened by recent purchase of Tahitian vanilla if given the choice, I would go for best quality pure bourbon vanilla extract. Unlike pearls and coffee, I think this one thing my beautiful fellow-Americans cannot do as well as us Continentals)
3/4 cup regular sugar-bowl sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (powder not soda)
½ a stick of ground cinnamon taking a slim down via the microplane
a good run of nutmeg along the microplane
1/4 teaspoon salt (be careful, too much salt is dreadful, I still have nightmares about a ruined soda bread)
2 to 3 pounds of gala apples before cleaning
a good sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar for the top

Crank your oven 375 F, and Pam spray or butter your baking vehicle of choice. I used a 10-inch tart pan but pie plate would make a lovely presentation also.

Peal, core, and slice your apples and put them in a bowl of water with half a lemon or a vitamin C tablet so they don’t oxidize. It doesn’t really matter, because you are going to bake them anyway, but I do this more out of habit then necessity. Also after the water has guarded your apples, and they are safely baking in your cake; you can microwave the bowl of lemon water on high for 2 minutes and with a paper towel, viola clean microwave. Waste not, want not: as my mother so aptly taught me.

In your mixer or just a plain ol’ bowl, add the rest of the ingredients all at once until well combined. Remove the bowl from the mixing stand, and get out your favorite wooden spoon. Take your apples and pat dry, or if you didn’t let them go for a swim just, throw them in. Coat the apples with batter. The batter is more apple the cake mix, as is the cake, so no worries.

Spread your batter into your prepared dish, until you have an almost even surface. The batter tastes lovely by the way. Now with great wild abandon sprinkle a few tablespoons of cinnamon sugar according to your taste. My iPod was on my classical playlist at the time, so mine was a little more reserved. However, if I was playing Pour Some Sugar on Me, I am sure we would have had a sweeter and darker crust.

Bake for 30 minutes or so until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the apples are soft.

This is truly an easy, fast, and delicious coffee cake. Please make it and bring it in to your office. Mine loved it.

As always, much love, many blessings, and happy baking.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Instant Brunch Classic... Orange Muffins filled with Strawberry Mascarpone

What do you get when you make a fluffy and delicious orange muffin and fill with strawberry mascarpone filling? Instant brunch classic! This is my way of making sure I will always have a place to brunch on Saturdays. Just kidding, but they are truly fabulous muffins and so much easier than you think. But like many things in life the key to good muffins is making sure to leave it out on the counter overnight... just kidding. The key to good muffins is planning, so the night before or a few hours before take everything out and let it come to the same temperature. Don’t worry nothing will spoil in 6 hours, how do you think they lived before chill boxes?

For the muffin… or the strawberry mascarpone delivery vehicle let's be honest

2 cups all-purpose flour (self-rising, no problem just don’t use in the extra baking powder)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon fine table salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, nice and soft

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus up to 1 tablespoon for topping the muffins

1/2 an orange’s freshly squeezed juices
1 teaspoon of pure orange extract (inexpensive and so worth it)
2 large eggs, at room temperature 1/2 cup milk (I use whole milk, cooking for others allows me to cook like a rock star… full fat, here I come, I don’t eat, just enjoy others)

Crank the oven to 375 F.

Spray or butter brush a 12-muffin tin.

Mix all the dry ingredients in separate bowl, or sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and let it hang out while you take care of the wets.
In my beloved Kitchenade, with the paddle or I creamed the butter, orange zest, and 2/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. I separated the eggs, whipped the whites and add the yolks, one at a time, until fully mixed. Then I gently folded the whites into the rest of the mixture to keep everything nice and fluffy. But you don’t have to do any of that really, just throw it all in, it will turn out fine, I promise.

Now comes the muffin mamba…ready.
1 part wet, meets 1 part dry… and mix… cha cha cha
Mix with half the milk and … and mix… cha cha cha
2 parts wet, meets 2 parts dry… and mix… cha cha cha
Mix with the rest of milk and … and mix… cha cha cha

So you don’t really have to do this but if you have some J. Lo or Cuba Joe handy it’s a lot of fun. Like I said, just throw it all in, it will bake up just fine.
Pour into your tin, I like to use liners, but bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool your muffins in the on a rack.

Strawberry mascarpone filling… yum.

While they are cooling, make the strawberry mascarpone this more a matter of taste then a recipe so please don’t be annoyed at my imprecision.

A hand full of berries cleaned and quartered
An entire container (8 oz.) of mascarpone cheese
½ cup of powdered sugar
A few swirls with honey

Add all of these yummies into food processor and send it for a blitz until full combined. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag with a sharp metal tip, I used a star shaped one but it didn’t matter. Push the tip into the muffin and squeeze until you feel or see the muffin grow with the filling. (Sounds kind of naughty… sorry mom) These will be funny for Halloween… alien muffins… ahhhh. Ok, I’m done. Then repeat… until all your muffins are filled. (he he he, still sounds kind of dirty.)

But they are awesome, please try them and feel free to get creative with the fillings and the flavors, I know I will. I hear I have switched some orange muffin haters… to lovers. Why you gotta be hater… when there is so much to love?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Kathleen Strawberries and Cream Pie

I have never liked the colloquialism “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” This trite insensitive statement has almost a patronizing effect, more so than a comforting one. Lemonade isn’t comforting; it doesn’t soothe you or make your belly feel nice and full. If someone is sad, do you hand them lemonade? Of course not, you might offer hot cocoa or a margarita, but lemonade not so much. So for my dear friend, who someone has spitefully spoiled her milk, I say, “When you have buttermilk, make strawberry pie.”

Before you minimize this screen and never return to my humble blog posting, let me tell you two things. 1) Buttermilk isn’t spoiled milk, it is cultured, you know artsy stuff. Just kidding, it is processed much like yogurt. 2) Oh, and for a custard this is a crazy easy pie, no whipping, separating, sifting. Just throw it all in, let take twirl and pour it out.

This Southern signature desert is a combination of a velvety pale yellow cream that is sweet but tart, a crunchy graham cracker crust, and I, just to be extravagant, unapologetically topple over dozens of sweet ripe strawberry slices besprinkled with powdered sugar. If you’re curious, I would call buttermilk custard the uglier and poorer, but friendlier, cousin of crème brulee minus the brulee. And might I add, the buttermilk, brown sugar, and the nutmeg belong together like the Motown Trio. “How sweet it is to be loved by you.”
Preheat your oven 375 F.

Billy Graham Cracker Crust

8 large graham crackers, I like the sugar and cinnamon ones
¼ cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
¼ cup of melted butter (that’s half a stick)
So yes you could blitz this in your food processor but I find it to be much more stress relieving to place the cookies in a ziptop bag and have it with a rolling pin, channel your inner heavy metal guitarist. Should you need some therapeutic incentive, please feel free to write your ex-boy/girlfriends name on the bag. Not that I have ever done that. Once the crackers are sufficiently pullverized add in the other ingredients to your food processor or your rehabilitation ziptop bag. Squig around a bit until you have the consistency of wet sand. (I can't wait to make this with my children. Not that I have children, and not that I am close to marriage, nonethess if you have children, please enjoy this process with them.) Press with your fingers into a pie or tart pan and throw into your hot 375 oven for 10 minutes.

Buttermilk Custard Center

2/3 cup of brown sugar
3 tablespoons of all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon of salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla
A good sprinkle of nutmeg freshly grated. The old recipe I had said an eighth of a teaspoon but I don’t measure nutmeg from the grater. Just run the aromatic bead against a micro plane for a few seconds.
1 tablespoon of melted butter
1 and ½ cup of buttermilk

Just measure and add all the ingredients in at once, no magical incantation or waiting for eggs to be fully incorporated. Mix until well combined, and pour into your pie shell. This recipe is much like people, a gestalt, what goes into the mixer as meek and modest ingredients lusciously billows out as a golden elixir that perfectly fills your freshly made crust. (Store bought is fine. To me, pie crust is like prayer, sure you can use one already fabricated by a person far far away but why when you can compose one from the heart.) Pop into the oven for 30 minutes at 350 F. Pull out the gilded cream when it is set but still a little wobbly, it is not a cake, it’s a custard.
Dress-up Time

Let the cream cool, and cut up some strawberries as you like. This is a matter of taste, there are some days when I absolutely refuse arrange anything out of principle, but as you like: strewn or arrange your strawberries and dust well with powdered sugar. The sugar will add a wonderful sweetness to pie as well as provide a beautiful glaze. Stawberry juice and sugar, nuff said.
Enjoy, the sooner the better.

The next time your friend is sad, please share with them this pie. I hope that you both have a happy day because of it.

Much love Kathleen, you’re awesome.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A little bit of sunshine for a rainy day... Lime Strawberry Muffins

So If I believed in the ancient Greek gods, I would guess Poseidon and Zephyr were pissed. This has been the most bizarre weather week I have ever seen for Alexandria. On Tuesday there was an earthquake and yesterday tornadoes. And it is true between the freakish nature tantrums and the torrential down pour; the dreary weather could soak down your spirits and sop up your heart. Nonetheless, with a happy tune and yummy treats all is well. To bring back a little bit of sunshine I adapted a recipe from Nigella's Lemon Raspberry Muffins to be a little more summer friendly. It is super fast and super easy, and your reward fresh, hot, sweet but not too sweet, summery, golden, muffins. Please enjoy and remember to smile...

Lime Strawberry Muffins

1 1/3 cup of flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 cup of sugar
zest and juice of 1 lime
just shy of 1 cup of milk
1/2 cup of mushed up strawberries
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of butter
1 egg

Crank up that ol' oven 400. Line your muffin tin muffin cups, I also like to spray with some non-stick cooking spray the muffin tops don't stick to the tin.

Pop the butter in the microwave and nuke it until melts. Leave it in there while it cools a bit.

In a largish bowl whist together all the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and the zest of the lime.

In a measuring cup with juice your lime, and fill with milk the rest of the way to the 1 cup mark. Add your strawberries and mash until feeling fully relieved of all upper back tension (to your discretion.)

In the bowl you melted the butter in add 1 egg and beat until combined.

Whisk the dry ingredients to aerate, quickly add the wet ingredients at once. You have to work quickly here just barely mix the ingredients until slightly damp but well combined. Spoon into the muffin cups (I use a ice cream scooper that makes perfectly rounded half moons and deposits them with a flick of a finger and the greatest of ease.)

Place in a hot oven for 15-20 minutes or until they are golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

Please enjoy your little bit of golden summer, much love, and happy baking.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Birthday Girl's Almond and Orange Pound Cake smothered with White Chocolate Frosting

Go, go, go, go

Go, go, go shawty

It's your birthday

We gon' party like it's yo birthday

We gon' eat cake like it's your birthday

So lucky me, I get to make a couple of birthday cakes, but this one is for the office. So we will call it a pre-birthday practice cake. So muse with me for a minute Almond and Orange Pound Cake smothered with White Chocolate Frosting, with Raspberry and Dark Chocolate and Almond Garnish.

You can make it too because “We don’t give a fudge it’s not your birthday.” Mom, don’t cringe it is just a joke. :)

For the decadent happy girl birthday-cake:

2 sticks organic unsalted butter, left out overnight

3 cups sugar bowl sugar

1 cup sour cream (full fat, full stop)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

6 eggs (I know, right as my good friend Meg would say)

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Now as Black Eyed Peas Says Pump It (oven) to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour your baking receptacle of choice and set aside.

In your electric mixer (Andy notice how I didn't call it sexy, although mine is), cream butter and sugar together until it is a light and airy consistency. You know the kind that you can’t stop licking. I used to keep the mixer on low, but I found the more faster the more better. So as my brother says, “drive it like you stole it.” Then hit the brakes and slow the mixers, add sour cream, in one glorious dollop of whitey-goodness. Add your eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Add extracts and stir to combine. Sift flour and baking soda together. Add to creamed mixture. Goo-goog the happy concoction into your prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Cool cake in pan until it is cool enough to handle, and then turn out onto a wire rack. Bench it until is completely cooled before frosting.

Yummyness, Frosting by any other name would still be so sweet.

6 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped

1 3/4 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup milk

4 ounces (8 tablespoons) butter

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

In a microwave safe bowl, add chopped chocolate. Now pulse your microwave, and by that I mean, heat for 30 seconds, stir, then put back in and heat for 30 seconds. When all the chocolate is melted but not quite yet smooth stir and let the residual heat melt the small bits the rest of the way. Don’t use white chocolate chips, they have stabilizers and pesky preservatives that mess with the melting and cooling process. In your electric mixer: beat up the milk and powdered sugar until the mixture is smooth. Little by little add butter, vanilla extract, and salt and continue to beat up until smooth and shiny.

With a rubber spatula, stir in the cooled white chocolate. (Side note, my little sister thinks that rubber spatulas are the neatest thing since they put the pocket in pita. For some reason she thinks they clean things better than a dishwasher. When she grows up there will be no sponges or soap in her kitchen sink, only lots of rubber spatulas) Finally, your sad, beaten-up, melted, yet delicious white chocolate frosting needs to chill for about 30 minutes in the refrige.

Spread goodness around a cooled cake and then you can lick the spoon. But only after you are done frosting the cake that other people will eat. You will notice, saliva, not on the ingredient list.

Then please wash the bowl, the whisk, the spoon, and even the blessed Rubber Spatula, with hot water and soap. (Shout out to the monkey.)

Much love, happy baking, and happy birthday, whenever yours is!