Showing posts with label rum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rum. Show all posts

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fresh Strawberries Fill a Rolling Pin Cookie

Back when I was in college, my boyfriend's mom would sometimes interrupt our study time with something home baked. She was an excellent cook and baker, so I looked forward to the interruption. Besides, we were usually pouring over thick history books about 'Westward Expansion' or something and it was nice to take a break from that.

One time she had baked a lovely cookie that had a cherry baked in the middle. The cookie was crisp around the edges, soft in the middle and then you bit into the juicy cherry in the center...memorable! I didn't have much time for baking at that point in my life, so I never asked for the recipe. Wish I had.

Sweetie came home a couple of days ago with three pint baskets of gorgeous strawberries...the first of our local ones. They are not as sweet, nor as juicy as the ones that come later, in May especially, but they are still delicious. I decided that I wanted to make a cookie similar to the one I remembered so well, but with thinly sliced strawberries in the middle.

After looking in lots and lots of cookbooks it became clear that her cookies were not the usual kind at all. It didn't help that I wanted to include almonds and  maybe some lemon curd. Long story short, I started with an unusual spice cookie recipe and went on my own merry way. Although this dough isn't difficult to work with, you will give your rolling pin a workout by the time you are done.

One of the unusual things about this recipe is that it takes brown sugar, dark corn syrup and butter and boils them together for 2 minutes. Another unusual thing is that there are no eggs. I enjoyed figuring out how to change the recipe by eliminating the spices and adding vanilla extract. It already had the ground almonds and almond extract I wanted and some rum that mostly cooked off.

You could probably make these by wrapping some of the dough around a whole strawberry, but I wanted a cookie version of hand pies. I used a large cutter for starters, 4-5 slices of strawberry for each cookie and about 1/2 teaspoon of purchased Meyer lemon curd. I sealed between the top and bottom cookie with egg wash, then pressed down all around with a fork to seal it even better, cut a slit in the top, brushed egg wash over the whole cookie and sprinkled the middle with sparkling sugar. These cookies were so large that you really only needed one, but they smelled so great while baking that it was hard not to eat more than that.

In the end, it worked out to be just what I had in mind. The outer edges and bottom of the cookie were crispy, the inner cookie soft, but chewy with a true almond flavor, and the strawberries barely cooked, soft and juicy and fragrant and there was just a hint of citrus.

Next time I might try it with granulated sugar instead of the brown sugar for a more delicate cookie flavor but otherwise I'm very happy with this experiment. Since the strawberry season is just starting I'm sure I'll make 'em again, especially since they are perfect for taking on a picnic.

Fresh Strawberry Filled Rolling Pin CookiesBased on 'Swedish Spice Cookies' in Maida Heatter's Brand-New Book of Great CookiesMakes 10 filled 3" cookies

2/3 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 oz. (scant 1 1/4 cups) blanched almonds
2 cups unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dark rum
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
about 1/4 cup prepared lemon curd
6-8 fresh strawberries, washed, dried, hulled, and thinly sliced
egg wash of 1 egg beaten lightly with 1 tablespoon water
about 1 tablespoon sanding sugar

Place the corn syrup, sugar, and butter in a saucepan. Place over moderate heat and stir occasionally until mixture comes to a boil. Let boil for about 2 minutes. Then set aside to cool to tepid.

Place the almonds in a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade. If desired, you can lightly toast the almonds in the middle of a 350 degree F oven for 10 - 12 minutes and then let cool before putting into the food processor. I made my cookies with untoasted almonds.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Place 1/4 cup of the mixture in the food processor with the almonds. Process the nuts and flour mixture for about 30 seconds, until fine. Add to the dry ingredient mixture in the bowl. Stir with a spoon to combine.

When the sugar/butter mixture has cooled to tepid, add the rum, the almond extract and the vanilla and stir to combine. Add this mixture to the flour/nut mixture in the bowl then stir or beat with the mixer until a dough forms.

Spread out three 12-inch lengths of plastic warp or wax paper, and place about one-third of the dough on each piece. Fold the sides of the wrap over the dough, flatten each piece slightly, and refrigerate the packet for an hour or more, and up to a week if you wish. If it has been refrigerated for more than an hour, it will be too firm to roll out; it should stand at room temperature for about a half hour or more, until it can be rolled out.

When you are ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator long enough ahead of time so that it can be rolled out. Flour a pastry cloth and a rolling pin. Adjust two racks to divide your oven into thirds and preheat to 375 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with baking parchment, foil with the shiny side up, or silicon baking mats.

To roll out the dough, unwrap on piece of the dough and place it on the floured cloth. Roll out the dough carefully until it is very thin and even all over. Try for about 1/8 inch thick. During rolling, turn the dough and re-flour cloth and pin as necessary.

To make large cookies as I did, cut with 3-inch round cutters. I was able to get about 5 rounds from the first rolling out of one piece of dough, but this dough is easy to reform into a ball and then re-roll for more rounds. Once you have gotten some more rounds from the first piece, add what is left to the second piece, continue rolling out the dough and cutting out rounds and repeat with the scraps and the third piece. I used the final scraps to make a small plain cookie...this dough is too yummy to waste any.

Place half the rounds on the prepared sheets. Place 1/2 teaspoon lemon curd on each in the center and spread out, leaving at least 1/4 inch border plain. Place 4-5 strawberry slices in the center over the curd. Brush the egg wash around the plain border and top with another cookie dough round. Press gently around the border to seal, then seal fully by pressing with the tines of a fork. Use a sharp knife to make a slit in the center. Repeat until you have about 10 filled cookies. Brush egg wash over the tops of each, then sprinkle the centers lightly with sanding sugar.

Bake the prepared cookies for 5 minutes in the preheated oven, then switch the pans, top to bottom and bottom to top, plus have the side of the sheet that was toward the back of the oven face toward the front. (This is probably not necessary if you have a true convection oven.) Bake for another 5 minutes, then check to see if cookies are golden brown. If not, bake another minute or two.

Remove from oven to a cooling rack for 2-3 minutes, then use a spatula to lift the cookies onto the cooling rack itself. Let cookies cool before eating or storing. Centers will get softer if cookies are not eaten the same day. Store, covered, in the refrigerator...if there are any left. I warn you, they smell irresistibly good while baking.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Baby It's Cold Outside


Although we haven't had snow or sleet we sure have had frost and chilly nights. We're not talking about below zero or even single digit temperatures, so I'm not complaining, but I can tell you that when we came home last night from a long drive to visit Natasha and her family we were chilled by the time we settled in front of the fire (or, in the case of our daughter, chatting on the phone to her sweetie).

Time for a warming drink. Time for Hot Buttered Rum! This recipe is one I've had for over 40 years but have not made for a long time. I'd actually forgotten about it until we were talking about hot drinks the other day and K mentioned that she had enjoyed a hot buttered rum drink while out with friends. I didn't write down the name of the person who gave me the recipe, but I think it was a college friend. I've no idea where she got the recipe from, but it is a keeper.

One of the lovely things about this is that you make up the butter/sugar/spice mixture ahead of time. It really does go together quickly, especially if you already have some water boiling for tea or coffee or some other purpose. Making the butter mixture takes a little longer, but not much.

If I were a true mixologist I'd try to figure out some garnish to make it more interesting to look at. Maybe next time I'll add a cinnamon stick. There is bound to be a next time. The butter mixture keeps at least three months. (I suspect it might keep even longer if stored at the back of the fridge...I have vague memories of using the mixture one time after it sat for about 8 months back there. Maybe that's when I stopped making it!)

Two Minute Hot Buttered Rum
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 lb dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cream the butter until it's fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the brown sugar. Sprinkle the spices over the mixture and mix another minute to thoroughly combine.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

To make each serving: In a heatproof glass or mug place 1 tablespoon of the mixture. Add 1 and a 1/2 oz. rum and boiling water to fill the glass or mug. Stir and serve.

See how easy that is?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rum and Raisins Love Bananas

Sometimes there are ingredients hanging around the kitchen that need to be used up and my feeling is along the lines of mending a hem before it unravels more or picking the flowering tops off the basil to keep them growing...a task that is undoubtedly worthy but not particularly inspiring. Turning left over salad into soup falls into this area in my opinion.

Other times the ingredients are the kind you hope for...left over bread that will eventually be turned into stuffing or bread pudding, the end of a chunk of Parmesan that gives a great flavor to some soup, or one of my favorites...ripe bananas. A really ripe banana has golden yellow skin with dark brown spots. If all the skin is brown you may have gone too far, but it will still make some great banana bread.

That's what I did last week...made banana bread. The three medium bananas I used looked a bit like giraffes necks...the blotches of brown were pretty big but the skin was still golden, too. I used a recipe from one of my favorite baking books, Marion Cunningham's The Fannie Farmer Baking Book. This one is almost scone-like in texture and is less sweet than some but it has the benefit of raisins soaked in rum...the perfect complement to bananas.

About the only thing to know about this recipe is that the pan sizes are on the small size so plan accordingly. You can find the dimensions right under the recipe title. It also helps to remember that this kind of quick bread does best with minimal mixing of the batter once the dry ingredients are added.

Do give this bread a try when you find yourself with an overabundance of bananas...and some rum and raisins in the pantry.

Rum-Raisin Banana Bread
Makes two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch loaves

1 cup raisins
6 tablespoons rum
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick or 1/2 cup) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup milk
1 cup ripe banana (about 2 large or 3 medium bananas)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Note: I used 1/2 cup regular raisins and 1/2 cup golden raisins.

Stir the raisins and rum together and let stand for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours, stirring occasionally. You can soak the raisins in the rum the night before and they will be plump and moist.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two loaf pans.

Stir and toss together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir together the butter, sugar, eggs, milk, mashed banana, walnuts, and the raisins and their rum. Add the mixed dry ingredients and stir just until the batter is thoroughly blended. Over mixing causes the bread to become dry and tough.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pans. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from the oven, let cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. I find it hard to wait until the loaves are completely cool. Slightly warm banana bread is hard to beat.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cake Slice Bakes Last Cake from Cake Keepers

The Cake Slice Bakers have been baking for a while from Lauren Chattman's Cake Keeper Cakes cookbook, mostly with good to great results. Now we are getting to the end of this cookbook and thinking about the next one.

The August recipe that was chosen by the group is Hungarian Coffee Cake, a type of Monkey Bread. Balls of muffin-like dough are rolled in cinnamon-sugar and put into a Bundt cake pan, interlaced with walnuts, raisins, (and in my case shredded Gravenstein apples). August is Gravenstein apple time, and the apple flavor goes so well with cinnamon and raisins and walnuts that it seemed like a match made in gustatory heaven.

As I often do, I made some changes to the recipe. My raisins were a bit dry so I soaked them in 1/4 cup warm rum for 15 minutes. I saved the rum I drained off the raisins and added it to the butter/brown sugar mixture...why waste good rum? The cake batter seemed bland so I added 2 tablespoons of sugar, about 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and I added a beaten egg to the buttermilk. I also used my food processor to make the cake dough, which worked well since the butter was totally frozen. I had planned to make this cake earlier in the week and had left the butter in the freezer, already cut into small pieces.

The resulting cake was delicious! Everyone wanted seconds. I loved the way the topping shone and it was a sweet counterpoint to the less sweet cake. Because of the added egg, the cake was moist and similar to a muffin instead of being like a scone. I loved the flavor combo of walnuts/apple/rum-raisin/cinnamon, like a hint of autumn in summer.

If I make this again I'll probably bake it in two loaf pans instead of the Bundt pan. That way I can freeze on loaf for later enjoyment.

Do visit the other Cake Slice Bakers to see their versions of this cake that makes your home smell like cinnamon buns. The recipe below includes the changes I made. Come back at this time next month for a surprise!

XO Elle

Hungarian Coffee Cake
(a variation of a recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled (unsalted is called for but I used salted and it was great)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
rum drained from raisins (see below)

Whisk together the melted butter, light brown sugar and rum. Set aside.

1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup rum
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup shredded tart apple

Combine raisins and rum in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave at full power 15 seconds. Set aside for 15 minutes, then drain, reserving the liquid to add to the topping mixture (see above).

In a zip-lock bag combine the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the cinnamon. Set aside.

Cut the 9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) into small pieces and put into a bowl, then into the freezer while doing the next steps of the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a nonstick 12 cup Bundt pan and set aside.

Place the flour, the 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar still left, the baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg in the bowl of a large food processor or electric mixer. Use knife blade in food processor or whisk attachment in electric mixer to combine the dry ingredients.

Add the chilled butter pieces to the dry ingredients. In the food processor pulse to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. In the electric mixer mix on low speed until the mixture resembles coarse meal. For both, add the buttermilk and the egg.

In the food processor pulse to blend the liquid and dry ingredients into a dough, stopping when dough comes together. In the electric mixer bowl, stir the liquid into the dry ingredients until a dough forms.

Scoop up small balls of dough (I used my fingers and sort of pinched off pieces the size of a walnut). Place the dough balls into the bag with the cinnamon sugar mixture and shake the bag to coat the balls.

Placed the coated balls into the prepared pan, sprinkling the walnuts, raisins and apple shreds over them as you go. Once all the dough balls, nuts, raisins, apple shreds and any leftover cinnamon-sugar mixture have gone into the pan, pour the melted butter mixture over it all. Rotate the pan briskly to settle the topping.

Bake until the cake is firm and well risen and the caramel is melted, about 35 - 40 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert onto a serving platter and serve immediately. Store uneaten cake (if any) in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for 1 day.

Sunday, April 03, 2011


We have reached the time of transition between winter and spring, and not a day too soon. When we first moved here spring was generally something that started up in February and really got going in March with the apple blossoms finishing things up in early April.

The last four or five years it seems like the rainy season last longer and the warming up takes place much closer to the timetable I remember as a child on the East Coast. The fruit trees still seem to follow the old schedule, so we have finished seeing the almond blossoms in February, plums in March and we are now seeing the pear, quince and apple blossoms.

Everything else, like the tulips and other bulbs have been much slower so they are just now hitting their peak. As you might have guessed from my gushing on about the garden and growing things, my attention has turned to those topics, too. Now that it isn't raining everyday I've been able to do some weeding, some soil preparation, and a bit of pruning.

Indoors I've gotten the seedlings going with hopes to plant them out in mid-April.

Food is still making its way to the table of course, but being creative in the kitchen has taken a back seat to other pursuits.

I did make up some festive 'brownies-in-a-jar" for a fundraiser which was fun. If you want to do the same...perhaps for and adult's Easter basket or for a hostess gift? the URL for how to make the jar of ingredients and also the recipe for baking up the brownies is HERE. There are lots of variations, too. Love mint and chocolate? Just add some chopped up peppermint patties instead of all or part of the chocolate chips. That's just an example...lots more are at the referenced post.

The other recent creative flight of fancy was taking my favorite bread pudding recipe and making a rum-raisin and bannana version. Here is where the transition part comes in because bread pudding is a cosy, winter type of dish and the additions are also easily found in winter most places...but the flavors speak of palm trees and balmy breezes and wicked drinks with paper parasols, the sort of place that almost shouts 'spring break'. This is not the most photogenic of dishes but you get a moist pudding soaked bread, soft and mellow bannanas, raisins spiked with rum, some walnuts for crunch, and nicly browned bready crust on top, too.

Banana Bread Pudding with Rum Raisins

Variation on a recipe from 1971, from a Fredicksburg, Maryland friend

4 cups dry bread cubes
1/4 cup rum
1/4 cup raisins
3 cups milk, scalded
1 tablespoon butter
4 slightly beaten eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 sliced ripe, peeled bananas
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Place the rum and raisins in a microwave safe dish. Cook in the microwave 1 minute at high power. Set aside until cool.
2) Melt the butter in the milk. Add a little of the milk to the beaten eggs, then add eggs to rest of milk. Stir in the brown sugar, salt, and vanilla. Mix to combine.
3) Put the bread cubes in a large bowl. Pour the egg/sugar/milk mixture over, stir gently, and let sit 15 minutes.
4) Butter a large baking pan. A deep one will give a softer center, a shallower one will give more crispy crust. Gently stir banana slices, rum/raisin mixture and chopped walnuts into bread mixture and pour into baking pan.
5) Bake in a pan of hot water until firm, about 1 hour. Serve warm.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A Royal Almond Cake for New Years

King Cake, or Galette des Rois is a traditional sweet eaten in Paris for the feast of Ephiphany, Janury 6th, but also is eaten for most of January as too much of a good thing is, indeed, wonderful. I decided to make mine for New Years Eve since there would be Champagne and enough people to make it worth baking.

This recipe is from the Tartlette blog if I remember correctly, so I thank Helene for it. It is not her fault that mine was less than stellar...if you read through you will find the unusual thing that happened to me.

Happy New Year y'all!

Galette des Rois

- 500 grams (17 2/3 ounces) all-butter puff pastry, thawed if frozen
For the crème d'amande:
- 125 grams (9 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 125 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
- 110 grams (1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons) almond meal (= finely ground almonds - see notes at end)
- 8 grams (1 tablespoon) corn starch
- 2 large eggs
- 1 drop almond extract
- 1 tablespoon rum

For the eggwash:
- 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water

- 1 porcelain trinket or dried bean
- a paper crown

Serves 6 to 8.

1. Prepare the crème d'amande.
Beat the butter until creamy, but avoid incorporating air into it. In a bowl, combine the sugar, almonds, hazelnuts, corn starch, and salt. Stir with a whisk to remove any lump. Add to the creamed butter and mix until smooth. Add the almond extract and orange flower water, then the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.

2. Roll out the puff pastry.
Divide the puff pastry in 2 equal pieces, and roll each one out to form a rough circle a little larger than 30 cm (12 inches) in diameter. Use a sharp knife and an upturned plate of the right dimension to cut a neat 30-cm (12-inch) circle out of one, and a slightly larger one with the other, adding, say, 6 mm (1/4 inch) all around the edge of the plate.

3. Assemble the galette.
Place the smaller of the two circles on a piece of parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk with a tablespoon water (or milk, if you have it handy) until smooth. Using a pastry brush, brush the outer rim of the dough lightly with the eggwash by a width of about 2.5 cm (1 inch). Make sure not to wet the actual edge of the dough, or it will impede its rise.
Pour the crème d'amande in the center and spread it out inside the eggwash ring with a spatula.

Place a porcelain fève, a dried bean, or the trinket of your choice in the crème d'amande -- not in the center but closer to an edge, or your knife will keep running into it when you divide the galette. And if it is an elongated shape, make sure to orient it straight toward the center of the galette, again, to minimize the possibility of you hitting it with your knife. Press it down gently to bury it.

Transfer the second round of dough precisely on top of the first, smooth it out gently over the crème d'amande to remove any air pocket, and press it down all around the sides to seal.

4. Score the galette.
Using the back of the tip of your knife (i.e. the dull side), draw a decorative pattern on top of the galette: a diamond-shaped grid, optionally with double or triple lines, a flower pattern. I chose to make a sun pattern ...sort of like parentheses around the cake... you start from the center and draw an arc to reach the edge of the galette in a single, smooth gesture, exercising just enough pressure to score the dough without piercing it. You then turn the galette ever so slightly, draw a similar arc nested in the first one, and repeat until the entire galette is scored.

Brush the top of the galette lightly with the eggwash: again, make sure it doesn't drip over the edges, or the eggwash will seal the layers of the puff pastry in this spot and it won't develop as well. Let it rest a minute then brush it lightly again with the eggwash.

Using the tip of your knife, pierce holes in the top dough in the center.
Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet or a tart pan with a removable bottom, and refrigerate for 1 hour. (Alternatively, you can place the galette in the freezer at this point, on the baking sheet or pan, and bake it the next day. Although I haven't tried it, I'm sure you could prepare it up to a week or so in advance: once the galette is thoroughly frozen, transfer it to a tightly sealed bag to avoid freezer burn.)

5. Bake the galette.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F); if the galette was in the freezer, take it out while the oven preheats. Insert the galette in the middle of the oven and bake for 30 minutes (35 if it was frozen), until puffy and golden brown.
Place on a rack to cool completely (it will settle as it cools) and serve at room temperature. (Some people prefer it slightly warm, so they reheat it slightly in a warm oven before serving.)

The traditional pairing is with Champagne or hard cider. We had Champagne for toasting the New Year, so this cake went well with the Champagne. It would have been even better if I hadn't turned off the oven by mistake when I put the cake in. One of the joys of baking in a strange (to me) kitchen with a new and completely unknown stove! I also didn't put it on parchment paper (nor foil) and put it on a baking sheet without a rim, so the filling melted and spilt on the oven bottom, causing lots of smoke. My brother-in-law took a video of me and his daughter fanning the smoke out the window...she with a kitchen towel, me with a paper grocery sack...called it the new areobics! Once the oven was hot again, along with the smoke, the cake rose some and browned on top but it was far from the puffy, flaky pastry that I had been anticipating. I had used some of the left over filling and scraps of puff pastry to make little scrap cakes. They actually became puffy and flaky and were quite good.

Cut the galette into servings...we cut it into 9 pieces...and be sure to mention that there is a bean or other feve in one of the servings so that they will know what to expect. If your guests are unfamiliar with the tradition I think it makes it even more fun for them to look for the fève which may be hiding in their slice.

It helps if they know to look. Our winner wasn't in the room when the slices were passed around and said that if we had used a whole almond as she sometimes did when making the New Orleans version that she would have eaten it and never mentioned no one would have known who to crown as king or queen! Good thing it was a kidney bean which seemed odd to her.

Whoever finds it is king/queen for the day, receives a paper crown. My older sister was our queen for the night and looked lovely in the gold paper crown I created from cardboard and wrapping paper. Hopefully I'll have photos later in January (now added). I didn't want to wait until I was home because the offical day to do this cake, the Epiphany, is in just a few days (January 6th).

Note: You can also grind your own almonds to make almond flour or meal and that's what I did. I used sliced almonds and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a food processor and it worked well.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Apple Cake with a French Flair

Apples are one of the joys of the fall. Sweet or tart, crisp and juicy, red, green, yellow and pink, apples might just be the perfect food. They can be eaten out of hand without any preparation except being washed or you can make any number of dishes with them.

As my contribution to the Thanksgiving feast at a family dinner I chose to make Marie Helene’s Apple Cake. To serve the large group I doubled the recipe and baked it in a well-buttered 9-inch springform pan instead of in the 8-inch one called for in the recipe.

This a very French cake…simple but elegant for a dinner party. This apple cake is moist and mellow and not too sweet. It’s rich with butter and hauntingly fragrant with rum, vanilla and apple scents as well as that of butter. When you cut a wedge to serve, you can see the tender filling and the layers of apple chunks or slices. It really doesn’t need anything added but some cinnamon ice cream was suggested by Dorie Greenspan. The recipe came from her book, Around My French Table, which I borrowed from the library. I may have to ask Santa to buy it for a Christmas present…it is another winner, just like Baking: from my home to yours, a true masterpiece by Dorie Greenspan.

Hope you and all those you love had a great Thanksgiving if you celebrate that feast…or a fine fall day if you don’t. Either way, you might want to try this lovely, barely sweet cake the next time you feel in the mood for an apple dessert. Sweetie usually isn’t thrilled with apple dishes but he loved this cake! I used Fuji, Pink Lady, Honey crisp, and Braeburn apples.

The original recipe is given first. It serves 8. To make the larger cake, use the amounts listed at the end of the recipe, the larger spring form pan, and bake longer….for 80-90 minutes. After 50 minutes of baking in the center of the oven, I put the larger cake on the next lower rack, laid a sheet of foil on top, very loosely, and continued to bake it, checking at 65 minutes, 75 minutes, 85 minutes and finally seeing that it was done at 90 minutes. Your oven may vary, so checking it often (inserting thin knife to see if it comes out clean)is a good idea. You don't want to over cook the cake. Bon Appétit!

Marie Helene’s Apple Cake
From Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 large apples (different kinds if possible)
2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons dark rum
½ teaspoon vanilla
8 tablespoons (1 stick)melted & cooled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place oven rack in center. Generously butter an 8-inch round spring form pan. Place a Silpat mat or piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and put the spring form pan on it. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.

Peel the apples. Cut them in half. Use a melon baller to remove the seed area and a sharp knife to remove the rest of the cores. Cut the apples into 1 -2 inch chunks, or use a food processor or knife to slice thinly. Set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk the eggs until foamy. Pour in the sugar 3-4 tablespoons at a time and whisk a minute or so to blend. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. Whisk in half the flour mixture and, when it is incorporated, half the melted butter. When that is incorporated, whisk in the rest of the flour mixture, followed by the rest of the butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter. Switch to a rubber or silicon spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it’s coated with batter. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and move it around a bit with the spatula so that it’s evenish.

Bake for 50 – 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean. The cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.

Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and slowly and carefully remove the sides of the pan. Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the spring form pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled., then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.

Makes 8 servings. The cake can be served warm or at room temperature. Served with a spoonful of cinnamon ice cream is one suggestion, but it is lovely by itself.

The cake will keep for about 2 days at room temperature. Leave the cake on its plate and just press a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper against the cut surfaces.

Ingredients for the larger cake:
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 large apples
4 large eggs
1.5 cups sugar
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons rum
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 sticks butter, melted & cooled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place oven rack in center. Generously butter a 9-inch spring form pan. I lined the whole inside of the pan with heavy duty foil, snipping off any foil that came over the top of the pan, then I used the back of a spoon to smooth the foil as much as possible before generously buttering all of the foil. Place a Silpat mat or piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and put the spring form pan on it. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.

Peel the apples. Cut them in half. Use a melon baller to remove the seed area and a sharp knife to remove the rest of the cores. Cut the apples into 1 -2 inch chunks, or use a food processor or knife to slice thinly. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs until foamy. Pour in the sugar 3-4 tablespoons at a time and whisk a minute or so to blend. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. Whisk in half the flour mixture and, when it is incorporated, half the melted butter. When that is incorporated, whisk in the rest of the flour mixture, followed by the rest of the butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter. Switch to a rubber or silicon spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it’s coated with batter. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and move it around a bit with the spatula so that it’s evenish.

Bake for 80 - 90 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean (Check starting at about 70 - 75 minutes and keep checking for doneness). The cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.

Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and slowly and carefully remove the sides of the pan. Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the spring form pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled., then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.

Double recipe serves about 14. The cake can be served warm or at room temperature. Served with a spoonful of cinnamon ice cream is one suggestion, but it is lovely by itself.

The cake will keep for about 2 days at room temperature. Leave the cake on its plate and just press a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper against the cut surfaces.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


These gems are not the sparkly kind...they are the eating kind, and sweet eating at that. There is something very appealing about a small treat. That is one of the reasons why cupcakes are so popular as well as scones, donuts, and muffins.

Recently I made a batter specifically to make a small cake called a gem. In old cookbooks I've seen recipes for jems and they are usually for muffins but with creamed butter instead of melted butter or oil. Sometimes they were just made with a regular cake batter. I don't think that modern books even recognize gems as a different little cake, but they are so cute that they should be.

Last fall we had a grand birthday celebration in the small town of Benecia near Vallejo. While wandering in a shop that had antiques combined with newer items, I found a genuine gem pan! The storekeeper said it had been her grandmothers pan. Not sure if that was something she said to sell it or not, but it was well used (and had to be cleaned quite a bit before I could use it) and there is an inscription that says Ekco Chicago Patent Pend. I got pretty excited when I saw the pan because I had read about gems but had never seen a gem pan! I love the little ribs up the sides and the small round indentation at the top. I think the cups hold a little less than a muffin cup does (although I haven't measured it).

Since I only have the one pan with six gems, I baked the rest of the batter in 4 small loaf pans. One was enjoyed by Sweetie and Straight Shooter and the other three traveled to Seattle with me as gifts for my friends and daughter.

It's been a while since I've baked a Dorie Greenspan recipe, but, as usual, it is perfect and worked really well for the gems and little loaves. This is a hot milk cake recipe which has been enriched with coconut and lime for a tropical flavor.

I added an extra dollop of fun by doing a warm coconut glaze which went on the gems and loaves while they were still warm and after I had poked them well with a toothpick to allow the glaze to seep into the cakes. You really taste the coconut that way and the cakes stay moist and delicious!

Coconut Gems
Based on Coconut Tea Cake in Dorie Greenspan's Baking:from my home to yours

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk, stirred well before measuring
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter at room temperature
the juice of one lime
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
the zest from one lime
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons dark rum
3/4 cup shredded coconut

For Glaze:
1/3 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk, stirred well before measuring
2 tablespoons rum
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour the gem pan and four small loaf pans (or use a 10 - 12 cup Bundt pan instead).

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.

Pour the coconut milk into a small saucepan, add the butter and heat over gentle heat until the milk is hot and the butter is melted. Remove from the heat, let cool a few minutes and add the lime juice and stir to combine. Keep the mixture warm.
Put the sugar into a large mixing bowl and, using your clean fingers, rub the lime zest into the sugar until well combined. Using a whisk attachment on an electric mixer (or muscle power and a hand whisk) beat the eggs and sugar and medium-high speed until pale, thick and almost doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and the rum. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed and stopping just when the flour disappears.

Keeping the mixer on low, add the coconut, mixing only until it is blended, then steadily add the hot milk and butter. When the mixture is smooth, stop mixing and give the batter a couple of turns with a rubber spatula, just to make certain that all ingredients are incorporated. Pour the batter into the pans, filling them about 3/4 full.

Bake in the preheated oven about 20-25 minutes for the gems and about 1/2 hour for the small loaves. Test by pressing center with a finger...if cake springs back it is done. For full size Bundt pan bake for about an hour or until cake is golden brown and tests done.

Transfer cakes to a rack and cool five minutes. While cakes are cooling prepare the glaze:
In a small saucepan warm the coconut milk over low heat. When warm, add the rum and the corn syrup and whisk to combine.

Once cakes have cooled about five minutes, place pan with gems in it on a rack with a pan under it to catch drips. Place the small loaves, still in their pans, on the rack, too. Use a toothpick or small skewer to poke holes into the cakes about every inch. Slowly pour the glaze over each, using more of the glaze for the loaves than the gems. I used a 1/3 cup measuring cup for pouring so that I could pour a small amount at a time. Use all the glaze and let cakes sit for 10 minutes.

Unmold the gems and loaves. Leave gems with the small indentation side up and take the small loaves and turn them upright. Let all the cakes cool completely, then serve. Leftovers can be stored airtight for four days at room temperature. Otherwise freeze leftovers...although it is unlikely you will have any!
No photos of the small loaves...guess I was so excited about giving them away that I neglected to take photos...baaaad blogger :) These were baked at night, too, so the lighting is terrible, hence poor photos, but good enough to see that these are yummy little treats.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Banana Bread in the Land of St. Honore'

The Christmas ornaments and stockings are in the attic and the swag with red lights that hung on the porch has joined the tree stand in storage. Before the last bit of Christmas cheer tiptoes away, join me for a seasonal tale in the Land of St. Honore', where baking is a birthright.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, in the Land of St. Honore’, the hall clock struck 2 in the wee hours of the morning. As the refrigerator door swung open, it illuminated the elfin features of Mitzi, one of Santa’s helpers. She checked to see that the old dog hadn’t been awakened by the light, but he was still asleep by the couch in the glow of the Christmas tree lights.

It was Little Christmas or Epiphany, January 6th, and Mitzi was homesick. On Christmas night she had been with Santa on the sleigh with her own sack of goodies...for Santa. He was fighting off a cold and her job was to provide chicken soup from the Thermos, nasal spray as needed, and large white handkerchiefs for his drippy nose.

Unfortunately at one stop Nature called. How she wished that female elves could wiz anywhere like the guys. Since she couldn’t she had left the sleigh to find a bathroom. Santa didn’t realize she was gone and had left for the next stop. She was lucky that there was a nice hall closet where she could curl up with the coats and mufflers to sleep.

At first she didn’t mind being stranded. The people in the house didn’t miss oranges and apples, nor yogurt or mini carrots. She ate while they slept and slept under the bed in the spare room while they were awake.

There were also plenty of gingerbread cookies at hand. She had managed to avoid the after Christmas clean up at the North Pole and now felt very rested. The problem was how to let Santa know where she was so he could come get her.

One thing that Santa loved was banana bread. Mrs. Claus rarely made it because she was trying to keep his weight in check. Mitzi decided to bake some to lure Santa to her hideaway.

First she took some eggs from the fridge and some leftover eggnog…Santa loved eggnog, too. Then she warmed some rum and soaked dried cranberries in it. Then she found the softened butter on the counter and sugars in the pantry. By standing on the counter top she was able to find, measure out and combine flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda, and some nutmeg…the latter to set off the seasonal eggnog flavor.

Once the oven was preheated and she had found a bread pan, she whisked together the butter, sugars, egg, some vanilla, and the eggnog. Next she stirred in some grody old brown skinned soft bananas that she had peeled and smooshed. Then she added the dry ingredients and mixed ‘em up, threw in the cranberries and the rum they were soaking in, and added a handful of chopped walnuts from the ‘fridge. Once well stirred the batter smelled great!

Into the bread pan it went and the pan into the oven. She played some jacks while the bread baked. Once the bread was out of the oven and it had cooled just a little bit, she cut two slices and wrapped them carefully in paper towels.

Then she took the rest of the fresh bread over to the fireplace. It was cold since no fire had been lit that day. Softly she blew across the loaf of bread and the fragrance was caught and went up the chimney. In an amazingly short time she heard the bells jingling on the reindeer harness.

Santa had indeed smelled her banana bread and come to get her! She put the loaf back on the counter for the family who had provided for her for the twelve night, grabbed the slices in the paper towel and was at the hearth just in time to see Santa’s hand reaching out for her from the chimney. Once they were in the sleigh and on their way back to the North Pole, he tried her luscious Eggnog Rum Cranberry Banana Bread. Hohohohoho! It was sure good.

Eggnog Rum Cranberry Banana Bread

¼ cup dark rum, warmed slightly
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup butter, softened
¼ cup dark brown sugar, packed
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
¼ cup eggnog
½ teaspoon vanilla
3 bananas
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup chopped walnuts

In small bowl combine the warm rum and the dried cranberries. Set aside to soak while you prepare the bread batter.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs , one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the eggnog and vanilla and combine. The mixture may look curdled. That is OK. Stir in the bananas. Add the dry ingredients all at once and stir just until combined. Add the cranberries and their soaking liquid and the walnuts and stir until just combined.

Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour. Test for doneness with a toothpick in center. When done, toothpick comes out clean or with a few crumbs on it. Cool well. Store overnight before cutting...if you can wait that long…a certain elf couldn’t. A serrated knife makes cutting easier.

Makes one loaf.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Very Berry Mother's Day

As we celebrate Mothers' Day, we venture once again to the Land of St. Honore':

Once upon a time in the land of St. Honore’, far off in the woods of the west country, lived a woodcutter and his wife. At Yuletide the goodwife had surprised her husband by baking a delicious Yule Log for the woodcutter. Now that spring has arrived, it’s time to surprise the goodwife herself.

While the woodcutter and his wife searched the woods for morels and fern fiddleheads to make a spring pasta dish, their daughter returned home and gathered her bowls and spoons and flour and sugar and eggs and butter and began to bake something wonderful for her mom.

First she made a flat layer of a cake like a sponge…called a genoise. She sifted the flour mixture, then folded it into the beaten eggs and sugar mixture. Spread in the prepared sheet cake pan it was pretty impressive looking. Into the preheated oven it went.

While it was baking she made a delicious rum flavored buttercream, whisking an egg white-sugar mixture over simmering water until hot, then beating it and adding softened butter a little at a time, then some rum for flavor....yummy!

She also made a berry ice cream filling. She diced some strawberries and halved some fat blueberries, put them in a pot with a little water and a bit of sugar and brought them to a boil. Then she placed the mixture in a shallow pan and put it in the freezer to cool. Once cooled, she softened some raspberry – vanilla swirl frozen yogurt and mixed in the berry mixture. That mixture then went back in the freezer to firm up just a bit.

Once the cake had cooled enough to handle, she laid it on parchment and brushed it with more rum, then fanned it with a sheet cake pan to get rid of some of the alcohol.

Then she took the frozen berry mixture out of the freezer & stirred it enough so it was spreadable, then spread it over the cake and rolled it up like a jelly roll. The roll was quickly wrapped in a length of heavy duty foil. An overnight chilling made it firm enough so that she could work the magic she had in mind to surprise her mom.

She cut off the ends straight across showing the swirl of light cake and darker purplish berry frozen yogurt mixture. Then she frosted the outside of the roll with the rum buttercream and decorated the roll with fresh flowers from the garden outside the cottage. When she served it up after the pasta dinner, her mom was so surprised and pleased…what an excellent Mothers’ Day gift!

On each serving the daughter spooned some extra, uncooked, blueberries and strawberry slices. The woodcutter even added some stawerry jam to his serving.

What a decadent and delicious dessert and perfect for spring! The goodwife was wonderfully surprised by the cake, impressed with her daughter’s baking skills and kindness in making it. It was a very nice ending to a nice weekend.

Wishing all mothers a happy Mothers’ Day, especially if you will be with your child/children. Extending a hug to mothers whose children are far from home, ill, or claimed by death, to those who would be mothers but have not yet been able to, and to children who are not able to be with their mothers today, for whatever reason. Remember the love you share with your mother, grandmother, child, foster child, adopted child, child of your desire. Love never dies but lives in our hearts always.
Do remember that although the food is real, this story, and all the stories in the Land of St. Honore’, are pure fiction. My own daughter has many talents, but, as far as I know, baking a genoise is not one of them. She lavishes such love on me throughout the year that, although I miss her since she is not here today, I know that whenever she flies in from the north that we will have a great time and I feel very loved and appreciated each day.

The recipe is at the end of this post if you wish to make this springtime dessert, too.

The Genoise and Buttercream recipes are the same, or only slightly varied, as the recipes used for the Yule Log from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert) (see link at beginning of story). The berry filling is my own creation.

Cake should be stored in the freezer, tightly wrapped. Leftovers should be frozen, but only for a day or two more, at the most. Best eaten the day it is made.

Berry Good Ice Cream Cake Roll
Serves 12

The Genoise
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
¼ cup cornstarch

one (1) 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).

4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.

5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.

6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.

9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream and the berry filling.

10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Rum Buttercream
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons rum

1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Measure the liquor and beat into the buttercream. (You will only use half of this buttercream, but it keeps well in the fridge for at least a week…surely you can figure out another use?)

Berry Ice Cream Filling
½ cup fresh blueberries. If large, slice in half
1 cup diced strawberries, tops removed
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon water

In a small pot place all the ingredients, stir to mix, cove, then bring to a boil. Uncover and boil one minute. Remove from heat an cool to room temperature.
Take one pint of frozen yogurt or ice cream (I used raspberry – vanilla swirl frozen yogurt) and soften it. Mix with the cooled berry mixture, then place in a shallow pan and freeze to firm it up a bit. Stir after 10 minutes to keep it smooth.

Putting It all together:
Take a sharp knife and run it around the edges of the cake pan. Turn the cake out on a clean work surface and peel off the parchment paper. Turn the cake back over, so the top is facing up. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the cake with another tablespoon of rum (optional), then fan with a cake pan to evaporate some of the alcohol.

Stir the berry filling to a spreadable consistency, then spread it evenly over the cake. Roll up as tightly as possible, then wrap well in a length of heavy duty foil. Seal the ends by twisting them. Place the cake roll in the freezer at least 4 hours or overnight to firm up.

Remove from freezer and unwrap. Slice off the ends, exposing the swirled cake and filling. Place the roll on the serving platter and frost with half the buttercream, swirling the buttercream in a decorative way. Reserve the second half of the buttercream for another use.

Decorate with more berries or fresh flowers. Serve each slice with additional mixed berries for garnish.