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May…

… Brought one of the most interesting pies on the list this year. Green tomato mincemeat pie is from Moosewood, and is really worth your time. That said, it doesn’t take much time to put this one together. I love that in the instructions, you’re told that it’s going to be uneven, “giving the pie an unpretentious, down-home look.” As you will see, I absolutely nailed that part.

For this unpretentious pie, you need to make a pie crust first:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 3-4 tbsp ice water
  • Zest of one orange

Personally, I like to make crusts by hand. You can do this in a mixer if you prefer. Combine the flour, salt, orange peel, and sugar in a large bowl. Work in chunks of butter with your fingers until you have a mixture roughly like corn meal. Sprinkle the ice water over and push into the dough from the sides to the middle to make a ball that holds its shape. Move the ball to your counter and cut it in half. Place one half on top of the other and press down. Repeat this process 3-4 times until the water is fully incorporated (can’t you just hear Mary Berry saying “the laaaaairs, the layers”). Put in the fridge while you get everything else together.

  • For the rest of the pie, you need:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped green tomatoes (about 3)
  • 2 1/2 cups peeled and chopped green apples (about 3)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • Freshly grated peel of one lemon
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1/4 cup flour

Do not panic! Yes, it’s a lot of cloves. But somehow it works. Try it, you’ll like it. Heat the oven to 375°. Bring the water and salt to a full boil and add the tomatoes. Blanch for 3 minutes; the water should come back to a boil. Drain and put them in a big bowl. Add the apples, lemon juice, pecans, raisins, sugar, spices, and lemon peel. Drizzle the molasses over everything and mix to combine. Sprinkle the flour over everything and toss lightly so everything has a dusting of flour. You should get about 6 cups of filling-it’s a lot!

Roll out the gorgeous pie dough to about 3 inches wider than your pie pan; drape the dough over your rolling pin and transfer it to the pan. Pour in the filling and gently fold your extra dough over said filling. This is where it gets rustic, people-you’ll have some filling peeking out, and it’s just not the prettiest thing you’ll make this year. Bake on a baking sheet for 45-55 minutes, until bubbly and golden. Let rest for an hour before chowing down.

Unpretentious both in and out of the pan! But, it is a darn good pie. No. It does not taste one bit like a tomato. If you like apple pie, you will love this. If you’re just too afraid to do it, feel free to add less tomato and substitute more apple. However, I recommend going all in. Why not?

*sc

April…

….brings our long awaited staycation! I don’t care that I sound like a nerd, but guys-we have been waiting for this all.year.long. And a productive staycation we are having! I chose what *I think* will be one of my most challenging pies for the year for April, and conveniently saved it for the week where I have nothing to do but bake. Solid choice, self. As the author of this recipe tells you straight out of the gate, this pie is a marathon. And add some other choice words, if you’d like. However, every single component of Christina Tosi’s candy bar pie from her Milk Bar cookbook is perfect and well worth your time. Speaking of, please make yourself a to-do list before doing this. I’ll walk you through the “schedule” I used, but if you go by the cookbook, you will be navigating at least 6 recipes scattered throughout the book. A roadmap is always helpful.

Let’s start with the chocolate crumb:

  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted

Heat your oven to 300°. Mix the dry ingredients using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer just until combined. Stick with a low speed so you don’t make a mess. Add the butter, still on low, until small crumbs form. Spread these out on a pan lined with Silpat and bake for 20 minutes. Break the crumbles up every once in awhile; it’s done when the mixture is slightly moist. Toss the crumbles into the freezer to cool completely.

Once cooled, blast the crumbles in the food processor until they are similar to sand without any clusters left. Use your hands to mix in the sugar and salt, then the butter. Knead the mixture until it forms a ball, and add a tablespoon more melted butter if needed. Press the crust into a ten inch pie tin-you should have an even bottom and sides. The bottom of a measuring cup can be helpful to achieve this. Pop the crust into the fridge and move on.

While the crust is chillin’, make some teeth-cracking brittle. You need:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanuts

No really, that’s it! Line a sheet pan with Silpat. Sadly, parchment will not do the job here. Make a dry caramel by heating the sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium-high. When it starts to melt, stir with a spatula to keep things moving and melting evenly. Cook/stir until it is dark amber. Immediately pull it from the heat and stir in the nuts with the spatula. We are now moving at the speed of light to evenly coat the nuts and pour everything as thinly as possible onto the prepared pan before things get hard as a rock. Let it cool completely, then grind it well in the food processor so no one actually breaks a dental process when enjoying the delicious stuff.

Ok! Time for a wet caramel! You need:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup glucose (Amazon or your specialty baking store have it)
  • 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (yes, another 1/2 cup)

Combine the first 1/2 cup cream, butter, vanilla, and salt in a bowl.

Make some caramel again! Heat the sugar and glucose in a heavy saucepan over medium-high. When the sugar starts to melt, use your spatula to move it around constantly and cook evenly until deep amber. While you’re at it, bloom the gelatin by sprinkling the powder very evenly over 2 tbsp cold water. Let soften for 3-5 minutes.

When your caramel is a lovely amber color, get it off the heat. Slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup heavy cream (slowly slowly! Don’t burn yourself!)-it will bubble up quickly. When the steam clears, whisk the mixture until smooth. If it’s lumpy at all, put it back on the heat and whisk until smooth. When your mixture is smooth as silk, whisk in the gelatin until dissolved. Then, pour everything through a fine strainer into the mixture you made earlier with the butter. Let everything sit, untouched, for 2 minutes. Then, whisk slowly to avoid splashes until everything is smooth and homogenous. Pour into the crust you made and let it set for at least 4 hours; you can also leave it overnight.

Now for the most challenging part, which I admittedly did not nail: nougat. You need:

  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp water
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 recipe for peanut brittle
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Yes, 2 different measures of the same ingredients again. Combine the first measures of sugar and water in a little pan until they look like wet sand. Use another small pan to do the same with the second measures.

Put both pans on the stove to heat. The first measure should be over medium and cook to 239F°; the second goes over low in the meantime. Also! Start whipping the egg white with the whisk attachment until you get soft peaks. In ideal land, you get soft peaks when the sugar reaches 239F°. Try to adjust mixer speed and heat accordingly. If this doesn’t work perfectly for you, rest assured that what happens is your nougat just doesn’t set. It tastes amazing, but oozes even when frozen. Also. Make sure you measure in the correct conversion; I only went to 115°F… When it was supposed to be 115°C. These things do add up…

Anyway. Once you reach 239F°, carefully pour the sugar into the egg whites on low speed (pour down the side of the bowl to avoid burning and flinging). When everything is added, bump back to to medium-high and get your second sugar mixture to 248°F. Add it to the whipping egg white, just like you already did, and beat until the white is cooled to room temperature.

Mix the peanut butter, brittle, and salt. Try not to eat it yet.

When the egg white mixture is room temp, fold it into the peanut butter mixture. Hopefully it’s been 4 hours and your caramel crust is set. Grab that pup from the fridge and spread the glorious nougat over the caramel in a smooth, even layer. Back to the fridge for an hour.

We are so close! The easiest part is a chocolate glaze made in your microwave.

  • 1 1/2 oz 55% chocolate
  • 1 1/2 oz white chocolate
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil

Combine everything in a bowl you would safely put in your microwave and gently heat in 30 second intervals until melted and shiny. Do stir between each blast. Also toast 8 mini pretzels while you’re at it. Go with the recommended 300°; the broiler will fry them instantly!

We made it! Grab the pie from the fridge and paint a thin layer of chocolate all over the top. Spread the pretzels around so that each slice (8 total) gets one. I did this horribly. Paint the rest of the chocolate over the pretzels to seal. Back to the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up. Voila!

Best pie of the year, even if the nougat wasn’t set. Christina Tosi is a genius, and that’s really all I can say.

Just make it. This is a glorious recipe that will bring delight to anyone with common sense.

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March…

… Feels like ages ago. I decided to go with one of the more adventurous pies on the list this year, a recipe from the genius David Lebovitz. As I say with any recipe of his, please do yourself a favor and get any of his books. This one comes from Ready for Dessert. You might turn up your nose at the idea, but don’t knock lime-marshmallow pie until you’ve made it. Bonus: making marshmallow and graham crackers is a lot of fun-why would you not make this stuff from scratch if you can?

For the graham cracker crust, you need:

  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 5 tbsp butter (you know which type), cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp sugar

For the filing:

  • 1/2 cup lime juice (real stuff, no bottled here)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs and 2 egg yolks
  • 6 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
  • Zest of two limes

For the marshmallow topping:

  • 1 envelope plain gelatin
  • 1/4 cup and 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Heat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment or Silpat. Graciously butter a 9×13.

Combine the wheat flour and crust spices on low in the stand mixer. Add 5 tbsp cold butter and mix on medium until the butter pieces are tiny, like grains of rice. Mix in the honey until you get a smooth mixture.

Put the dough on your prepared sheet and form a circle about 1/8 inch thick. Bake until golden and firm, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

Process your graham cracker to fine crumbs using the food processor or a rolling pin and plastic baggie combo. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of pulverized cracker and treat yourself to the rest.

Add two tbsp sugar and 3 tbsp melted butter to the crumbs and combine until everything is moist. Pat into bottom and halfway up the sides of a greased pie pan. Bake the crust just until set, 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Combine the lime juice, sugar, pinch of salt, all of mentioned eggs, 6 tbsp butter, and the lime zest in a saucepan (go with nonreactive, as we’re dealing with limes). Cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring the whole time. Don’t boil it-the edges should just barely bubble. Pour the mixture through a fine strainer into the crust, and bake until barely set (8 minutes). Take the pie out of the oven, put the rack in the upper third, and crank it to 450. Put the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

Grab a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water. Let it soften for 5 minutes; this is never an attractive process. Attach a thermometer to a saucepan and heat 1/3 cup water, the corn syrup, and 1/2 cup sugar over medium-high until it reaches 210°. When it does, start whipping the egg whites. When they are frothy and the syrup reaches 245°, pump the speed to high and slowly pour in the sugar mixture (Keep it away from the beater! You will get burned! And your precious syrup will get flung on the edges of the bowl and won’t get incorporated.). Scoop the beautiful gelatin mixture into the warm saucepan you just emptied, and stir until the gelatin melts. Keep the mixer running and slowly add the melted gelatin. Add the vanilla and beat until the mixture is room temp, 5-10 more minutes. You just made marshmallows!Spread the marshmallow over the filing, peaking and swooping as you wish. Bake until golden, 2-4 minutes.

Do it. Make it. It’s a delicious take on a key lime pie. Need I say more?

Also, please don’t add green food coloring. It’s just not necessary.

*sc

February…

… Means I’m going to make something chocolate. It’s my favorite, and it’s my birthday, so there. I went with ATK’s best chocolate tart, and wow, they are NOT lying. This one is stellar.

For chocolate amazingness, you need:

Crust:

1 egg yolk

2 tbsp heavy cream

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into half inch pieces

Filling:

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp instant espresso powder

9 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into thin slices and softened

2 eggs, room temp and lightly beaten

Glaze:

3 tbsp heavy cream

1 tbsp light corn syrup

2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

1 tbsp hot water

One note before we get to the good stuff, in case I haven’t already mentioned it. Guys, at this point, can we just assume that when a recipe calls for butter, we’re talking unsalted. Just put away your salted butter when you bake. You don’t want or need it.

Start with the glorious crust. If it has almonds or almond flour, you know it’s going to be delicious. MAKE SURE YOU TOAST THEM. You’re cheating yourself if you don’t. Beat the egg yolk and cream. In a food processor, grind the nuts until they are fine. Add the flour and salt, and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over your new mix, and pulse until you have a coarse mixture. Keep the motor running, and add the egg mixture. Let it run until a ball of dough forms, all by itself. Put the dough on piece of cling wrap and press into a 6 inch disc. Seal tightly and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Roll the dough out between two pieces of cling wrap until they are about 11 inches wide. You can keep putting it back in the fridge to firm up if it gets too soft to work with. When you have the correct size, place the dough on a baking sheet and back to the fridge for 15 minutes.

Heat the oven (rack in the middle) to 375. Spray a tart pan (you want one with a removable bottom-it’s easy and you just look so cool when revealing your finished product). Put the tart pan upside down (yes, the bottom will fall down) on the dough that is still on a baking sheet. Press down to cut the dough, then pick everything up and flip it over gently. Get rid of the baking sheet and peel away the plastic (hold onto it, though). Roll over the pan with a rolling pin to trim the scraps, and gently guide and press the dough to form to the pan. Keep your scraps, and roll them into little ropes of various lengths. Use these to line the edges of the pan and press together. Grab your reserved plastic and cover the crust. Use a measuring cup to even out the sides of the dough, and trim any extra from the top. Pop the crust into the freezer for about 20 minutes, until firm.

Once firm, put the crust on a baking sheet. Spray a 12 inch piece of aluminum and press, sprayed side down, onto the crust. Add 2 cups of pie weights or dried beans and bake until dry and lightly golden, 25 minutes. You do want to rotate the pan about halfway through. Take off the weights and foil, and keep baking until nicely golden and the smell of glory fills the kitchen, 8-10 more minutes. Let cool completely in the baking sheet.

Phew, now make a filling. Change the oven to 250. Bring the cream, espresso powder, and salt to a simmer over medium, and stir a bit to break down the powder. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and pour the warm cream mixture over. Let it stand for about 5 minutes, until the chocolate is soft. Whisk together very slowly (we don’t want air in there!) until smooth. Add your butter and gently whisk to completely mix. Now here’s where we go the extra mile: pour the beaten eggs through a fine strainer and whisk slowly until glossy and smooth. This takes time, people. Little ribbons of egg running and you’ll think you’re going to stir forever. Never fear. This ensures a totally smooth, luxurious filling. Seriously, strain that egg. Pour your beautiful mixture into the golden crust and shake gently to evenly distribute. Pop any bubbles with a toothpick-you strained the eggs, finish strong. Bake on a sheet until the outside is just set and these barely-there cracks appear on top, 30-35 minutes. The filing should still wiggle. A lot. Refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours.

Final touch! The glaze. About 30 minutes before you are ready to glaze, fetch the tart from the fridge (we’re making a tart, I had to say fetch… We fancy). Bring the cream and corn syrup to a simmer and stir a few times to mix. Get the pan off the heat, add your chocolate, and cover for 5 minutes. Whisk gently (again, air is not your friend) until smooth, then whisk in the hot water until you have a smooth and shiny glaze that is easy to pour. Now here’s the other trick that I didn’t nail. Work really quickly to pour the glaze on the center of the tart, and instantly begin tilting the tart all around to distribute the glaze as evenly to the edges as you can. Don’t use a spatula, it just marks everything and doesn’t spread. I didn’t move quickly enough, so I had a lovely bump on my glaze. Alas, it was fine-just keep in mind that it sets very quickly! Pop any bubbles that appear, and cool completely.

Now it’s time to be a boss and take away the outer tart ring. Use a thin knife to loosen, if needed. Voila!

Trying to describe this tart wouldn’t do it justice. You simply need to go and make it. If your are quarantined and have the supplies in your kitchen, this is a great use of your time. Stay safe! Stay in! Make and eat pie!

*sc

January…

… Means an awful lot this year! To name a few things…

  • New decade! Repeat of the roaring twenties?
  • New challenge! TWELVE PIES.
  • New connection! http://www.studiolnl.com is live!

I feel the first two items are self-explanatory. DM me if this is false. However, the third point could use a few details.

In real life, I practice as a speech-language pathologist. This actually covers many areas-not just helping kids who don’t have their S’s and R’s yet (be honest, that’s all you knew about SLP’s). In fact, I actually work with adults, and here are a few things I specialize in treating:

  • Word finding difficulty
  • Memory loss
  • Voice disorders
  • Trouble swallowing

Surprised? Confused? You are not alone! Until the services of an SLP are needed, most people are unaware of the job’s skill set. All that said, this year I opened a studio where I offer voice lessons in addition to various consultation services. In my professional practice, I’ve realized that sometimes altered diets are a long-term commitment. If you are living at home, not a facility, this can be difficult to manage! So, I decided to add a component to SingingChef to try and help such individuals and their families make meals that taste great and are safe to eat. So! Not only is this the year of making pies, it’s about learning how to cook different textures in ways that are still appealing.

That’s a lot of information/housekeeping. Let’s get to the fun stuff: the first pie of the year! It’s from Rachael Ray’s November issue of Every Day from last year, and I’m not going to lie. While I was making it, I was not convinced it was going to turn out. So, if you like this blog for its crummy photos, you will be disappointed in this post, as I decided not to take many step-by-steps along the way. However! I was beyond wrong! This poached pear pie is absolutely delicious and you need to make it. Ready, assemble!

Crust:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. ice water
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • Filling:
  • 1 bottle Zinfandel (fruity red wine)
  • 1 1/4 cups plus 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 3 lb. firm but ripe pears—peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • Flour, for rolling out the crusts
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 egg, beaten until blended
  • Whipped cream, for topping
  • Make the filling the night before. Combine the wine, one cup sugar, fennel, and peppercorns. Stir well to dissolve the sugar, and bring to a boil. Add the pears, then return to a boil. Knock the heat back to a simmer and let the pears go until tender, 10-15 minutes. Stir every so often. Then, transfer the pears to a bowl (brush off any spices) and strain the syrup into a large bowl. Let everything cool to room temp, then return the pears to the syrup, cover, and refrigerate for 12 hours.
  • Use your food processor to pulse the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and pulse a couple of times until small pieces form. Don’t forget to keep your butter very cold until you add it, or it will melt and you will not have a flaky result.
  • In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and ice water. Pour mixture over the flour and pulse until bigger clumps form. Dump the mixture onto your counter and knead very slightly just to bring it together. Divide the dough in half, and roll each half into a ball. Flatten slightly into a disc, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and into the fridge for at least an hour!
  • Flour the counter and roll out a disc of pastry (keep the other in the fridge!) into a 12 inch round. Fit it into a 9 inch pie dish, and crimp the edges as desired (I have a LONG way to go, here).
  • Cut the remaining disc into a nine inch circle and use cookie cutters to create a pattern. Move to a baking sheet, cover both crusts with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about an hour.
  • Heat the oven to 400. Strain the pears from the cooking liquid. Whisk together the cornstarch and 1/4 cup liquid from the pears. Save the rest for cocktails, etc.-it’s delicious! Add this mixture to the pears and toss to coat. Add all of this mixture to the pie dish, then top with the decorative crust. Fear not-it doesn’t look like much filling! But it actually will fill the pie completely while baking. Brush thoroughly with the egg, then sprinkle with 1tbsp sugar. Bake until the filling bubbles and the crust is golden, about an hour. Do turn the pie halfway through for even cooking, and tent of it browns too quickly. Cool, then top with whipped cream, and enjoy!

This pie is just lovely. Somehow, there is no soggy bottom, and as I said, the filling did somehow expand. It’s sweet and deep with flavors from the spices, all in a flaky, buttery crust.

It’s going to be a good year.

*sc

December…

… Is the last cake of the year and heck, the decade! And what a year it’s been. But more of that later. The final cake of this resolution was a roll cake of sorts from none other than my favorite baking magazine, Bake from Scratch. If you love to bake, do yourself a favor and subscribe. I was introduced to the company/editor when we went to the Charleston Wine and Food Festival this year (seriously, move that the TOP of your life list), and it is a delightful and inspiring publication. Anyway, all that aside, the last cake of the year is a gingerbread buche de Noel, and is a lovely cake indeed.

For the cake:

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves

Heat the oven to 350. Spray a baking sheet (they recommend 18×13, rimmed) with cooking spray, then line with parchment and spray again.

Melt the butter over medium in a saucepan. Take it off the heat and add the molasses, fresh ginger, and vanilla.

Use a whisk to mix the eggs, brown sugar, and egg yolk in the bowl of a stand mixer. Put the bowl over a pot of simmering water (yes it’s awkward, grab an oven mitts) and whisk constantly until your thermometer reads 110 degrees. Hook the bowl up in your stand mixer and beat at high speed with the whisk attachment until the mixture is thick and 3 times its original size.

Put about one cup of the egg mixture in a bowl and fold in the warm butter concoction you made.

Sift together the flour, cornstarch, ground ginger, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and cloves. Gently fold the dry ingredients in two additions into the remaining egg mixture using a balloon whisk (air is crucial in this recipe to give the cake some rise). Stir only enough to combine. Fold in the butter mixture, then spread onto the prepared pan. An offset spatula is helpful. Bake until the cake pulls away from the edges, about 12 minutes. Let cool all the way.

Make some molasses syrup. You need:

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp molasses

Bring sugar and when to a boil over medium-high, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Take it off the heat and mix in the molasses. Let cool completely.

While you’re at it, let’s make brown sugar buttercream:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups unsalted butter (cubed, softened)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Whisk together the egg whites and sugars. Put this bowl over a pot of simmering water and cook (whisk the whole time) until a thermometer reads 155.

Transfer mixture to the stand mixer with the whisk attachment and beat at high speed until the bowl is cool when you touch it. Add the butter, 2 tbsp at a time, until all is well combined. Beat in the vanilla and salt.

May as well make your bark!

  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate
  • 2 cups white chocolate

Melt the chocolates separately over a pot of simmering water.

Draw a 14×5 inch rectangle on 2 pieces of parchment. Turn parchment over and place on two baking sheets.

Using a food safe brush (I used an unused makeup brush), paint need dark chocolate as desired in each rectangle. Refrigerate until set, about 5 minutes.

Pour half of the melted chocolate on each rectangle and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Refrigerate until set, about 10 minutes. Cut into small rectangles.

Cut the cake into 4 rectangles (we actually didn’t do this right… But it was fine!). Make sure to cut all the way through, including the parchment. Remove from the pan.

Brush each piece with molasses syrup, then spread about 2/3 cup icing on each rectangle.

Roll up a rectangle in jelly roll style. Place on the center of your cake plate/serving device and remove the parchment. Wrap a second piece of cake tightly around the first, and repeat with your remaining pieces to create a spiral. Remove the parchment as you go. If needed, trim the final edge with a serrated knife to make it flush with the outer edge of the cake.

Eh….”flush”.

Spread the rest of the buttercream on the outside of the cake. Spread little bits of buttercream that poke through the top (don’t add extra).

Add the bark pieces vertically to the cake, pressing slightly to adhere. Pieces should overlap. Cover your masterpiece and refrigerate at least 2 hours in order to set, then let stand at room temperature for an hour before serving.

Tada! What a piece to look at, right? And the taste is lovely and gingery. It’s a nice change from the typical Christmas Yule log. It’s the end of the year and holiday season, but why not try it as a seasonal winter cake?

What a delicious year it’s been! A couple things learned…

  • Baking with two cats is… Challenging.
  • Having a reliable oven makes a difference!
  • Better baking gear=better product
  • Why buy salted butter anymore?! NO.
  • Baking=good motivation to work out.
  • A stand mixer really is a baker’s best friend.
  • Tennis cake=ridiculously fun.
  • Always stock extra butter.
  • I just love to bake.

Join me in 2020 for a year of pies!

*sc

November…

… Was a while back, yes. But cake 11 is finally here for the posting! Because I’ve seen it on The Great British Baking Show so many times, I decided to go with Mary Berry’s classic Victoria Sponge. And classic, it is.

For this traditional cake, you need:

  • 4 eggs
  • 225g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling (check Fresh Market)
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 225g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • Quality jam of your choice
  • Whipped cream (please make it yourself!)

Bakers, you have 2 hours to complete your signature challenge.

Let’s start by preheating the oven to 350. Grease 2 8 inch cake pans and line with parchment. Then, crack the eggs into a large bowl. Add your flour, sugar, baking powder, and softened butter, and mix just until will combined.

I used my stand mixer. And for the first time in 11 cakes, flour went flying everywhere. Maybe do it by hand, just for safe keeping…

Don’t over-mix, or your car will be tough and crumbly. The batter should drape off a spoon; it’s ok if it looks a bit curdled-sometimes eggs, sugar, and flour look a little… Unpleasant.

Pour even amounts of batter into your prepared cake tins. Smooth out any peaks and level the surface better than I did.

Bake on the middle rack of your oven for 25 minutes. After about 20 minutes, look through the door to check them (don’t open the door, as they will fall!). You’re looking for golden-brown cakes that have shrunk a bit from the sides of the pan. They should spring back easily when lightly pressed. When you’re there, get the pans out of the oven and cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn them out to cool completely on a rack. If you want a totally smooth cake, put a towel over the rack first.

When the cakes have cooled, place the less attractive of the two upside down on you serving vessel. Spread a layer of jam on top. I really should have done this cake earlier in the year so berries would be readily available to make homemade jam. Lesson learned.

Pipe whipped cream on top of the jelly in a pattern of your choice.

Place the remaining layer right side up, then dust with caster sugar.


See what I mean about the towel? I didn’t really mind the stripes, though. Also. Buttercream would be a welcome change to plain whipped cream. This is a good cake, but honestly, it wasn’t particularly special. Especially after 10 other cakes that have been quite exciting to make and eat. Alas, cake is cake, and not a scrap went to waste.

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October…

… Brought a world of delicious chocolate cupcakes into our home. And two cats who are apparently coco for cuckoopoops (does anyone remember 30 Rock?) Read on to find out about a triple chocolate threat from America’s Test Kitchen. It’s a three-parter (obviously), where you make ganache, then a perfect chocolate cupcake, and top it with chocolate frosting.

Let’s start with ganache. You need:.

  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp confectioners’ sugar

Combine ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 20-30 seconds, until warm to the touch. Whisk until smooth, then refrigerate until chilled. Don’t leave it in there for more than 30 minutes, or a chocolate brick ye shall have.

For fudgy, deep chocolate cupcakes that don’t crumble in your hand, you need:

  • 3 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee
  • 3/4 cup bread flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Put the oven rack in the middle and set the oven at good old 350. Line a muffin tin with liners. Also, set out 12 tbsp unsalted butter to soften for your frosting. Then, let’s actually cook! Combine the cocoa and chopped chocolate in a bowl, then pour the hot coffee over. Whisk until smooth. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes, until completely cool.

Meanwhile, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together.

In another bowl, combine the eggs, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Whisk into the cooled cocoa mixture until smooth.

Pour even amounts of batter into the muffin cups. Place a slightly rounded tsp of ganache on top of each cupcake.

Bake until set and barely firm to the touch, about 17-19 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes to a rack and let cool completely.

While in cooling land, make your final component: frosting. You need:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • A pinch of salt
  • 12 tbsp softened unsalted butter, cut 12 pieces
  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate (chopped, then melted and cooled)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix the sugar, egg whites, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer, then place the bowl over a pot of simmering water. I mean, use your double boiler if you want, but why wash another pot? Whisk the mixture gently and constantly until it reaches 150 degrees and is slightly thickened/foamy.

Beat the mixture using the whisk attachment on medium until it looks like shaving cream and is a bit cooled. Add the butter, one piece at a time, until very smooth and creamy. Don’t worry when it goes through a phase where the mixture looks chunky/curdled; it will work out. When all the butter is incorporated, add the cooled chocolate and vanilla, and mix to combine. Bump the speed up to medium-high, and beat until light and fluffy (about 30 more seconds). Scrape down the bowl as needed.

Once everything has set and cooled, dollop 2-3 tbsp of frosting onto each cupcake and spread with an offset spatula.

Devour.

These are definitely one of my favorites this year. Rich, yet somehow not too sweet. Even my vanilla-loving husband thought they were excellent. Stock up on some quality bittersweet chocolate, and enjoy!

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September…

… Leads us to cake 9!

As far as recipes go, the cake is actually a repeat of the mermaid cake I did much earlier this year. However, the challenge of the resolution is all about trying different techniques, and this one was for another form of icing: hombre. I still have a long way to go in terms of achieving smooth finishes, but it was still an overall success.

For the cake, you need:

  • 14 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, room temp
  • 4 egg whites, room temp

Heat the oven to 350. Grease the sides and bottom of 2 9×2 inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with parchment and grease the parchment, while you’re at it.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cream the butter, vanilla, and 1 cup sugar. Start with the mixer on low to combine, then bump it up to medium high and go until the mixture is light and fluffy. Turn the speed back to low to lessen the mess, and beat in half the flour, then half the milk. Repeat once more with the other halves of the flour and milk. Increase the speed again to medium-high and go until the mixture is smooth and glossy, about a minute.

Beat those egg whites on medium-high (make sure your bowl and beaters are clean) until nice and foamy. Slowly add the leftover 1/3 cup of sugar and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. Fold half of these into the batter, then fold in the rest. Divide evenly between your 2 prepared pans.

Bake until lightly browned, the cakes begin to shrink from the sides, and the trusty tester comes out clean (25-35 minutes). Cool in the pans set on a rack for 15 minutes, then loosen edges and turn out onto the rack to cool completely. And don’t forget to peel off the parchment!

While cooling, make some heart-stopping buttercream. Also known as buttercream. You need:

  • 4 sticks unsalted butter (yup, that much)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 milk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla

Beat the butter and salt on medium-high until smooth and fluffy. Turn it down to low, and beat in the sugar 1 cup at a time. When incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and beat in the remaining 4 cups. Go until fluffy, then beat in the milk and vanilla until smooth.

Let’s assemble! Level the cakes with a serrated knife. Then, cut the cakes in half to make a total of four layers. It helps to hold the serrated knife horizontally against the middle of the cake and just turn it on a turntable to score it, then you can just cut the cake all the way through using that line as a guide. Spread 2/3 cup frosting on one of the cakes with an offset spatula, then top with another layer. Repeat with the remaining layers, but turn the top layer upside down for a smooth finish. Spread a thin layer of icing over the entire cake-your crumb coat, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remember, doesn’t have to be pretty at this point.

Cover just the top with more plain frosting. Then, divide the icing among 3 bowls. Using your color of choice, tint a dark and light shade, leaving the third bowl white. Use an offset spatula and spread the dark frosting around the bottom of the cake. Repeat with the lighter shade, then finish with the white on top. Use a bench scraper or offset spatula to smooth the frosting together, spinning on a turntable as you go.

As I was saying, I still need to work toward totally smooth icing. However, the effect and, more importantly, the taste were there. Oh darn. An excuse to keep practicing…

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August…

… = you guessed it, cake 8! Since the end of summer and strawberry season is upon us, I decided to end summer with a classic fruity throwback-the chiffon cake. I’ve never eaten one (to my knowledge) and certainly never made one, but they are pretty much a snap. Break out your Pink Ladies jacket, and let’s get baking.

For a “Pretty in Pink” Chiffon Cake from Moosewood, you need:

  • 1 1/2 cups white flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 7 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 strained pureed strawberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp grated lemon peel

I would start by pureeing your chosen berries in the blender or food processor, then pressing them through a fine strainer.

Get the oven going to 325, and grease/flour a tube pan. If you’re unfamiliar, a tube pan is basically an angel food cake pan. You could probably use a Bundt, but it might be difficult to turn the cake out with all the nooks and crannies.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the egg yolks and oil, but don’t mix.

In your stand mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and confectioners’ sugar, and beat until very stiff. However, stop before the whites get dry and flaky.

Beat the egg and flour mixture you made earlier, then slowly add the strawberry puree, lemon juice/peel and beat until just blended. It will look… Interesting.

Gently fold in a small amount of the egg whites into the glowing pink batter. Then, over the course of 5-6 additions, fold this batter into your bowl with the egg whites. It should look light and bubbly; visible remaining egg whites are encouraged.

Slowly pour the batter into your pan and bake for 25 minutes. Then, bump up the heat to 350 and bake another 20-25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. The cake should rise nicely, and its crazy pink hue will lessen considerably.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to cool to the touch. When it has done so, let it cool completely on your serving plate.

Meantime, make some easy sauce.

Combine two cups sliced strawberries, 1 tbsp lemon juice (I ended up using lime in the sauce-delicious), and as much sugar as you like (less is more…) in a bowl. Let it sit at room temp for at least half an hour while the cake cools.

Slice up your cake and top with whipped cream and strawberry sauce.

Nostalgia aside, this definitely tops the strawberry shortcake I grew up with that used those premade, tiny, gummy cakes. For an end of summer treat, it’s hard to go wrong with strawberries and cake that is light as air thanks to all those egg whites- gumminess be gone! Buy yourself a dozen eggs and get cracking (and make a giant omelet, while you’re at it).

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