cafela: (nutmeg)
It's the height of peach season here in Georgia, and I've had several peaches sitting on my counter, waiting to be used ever since I bought them at the local farmer's market. A few days ago, I went ahead and peeled, pitted, and sliced them, then mixed them in a bowl with sugar and lemon juice. It took me awhile to decide whether I should do a cobbler, or a cake, or any of the other myriad things you can do with peaches. Finally, I decided to keep it simple and just make a pie. Now, you can always make your own pie crust, but I had some puff pastry dough taking up space in my freezer, so I decided to cheat and use that for my crust. Normal pie dough works and will taste just fine, but it doesn't rise to quite the heights that puff pastry will, so just keep that in mind if you use a different dough.

Also, while I love Georgia peaches, the peaches that are truly the best come from Chilton County, Alabama, so if you can get your hands on those, they are amazing. And any peaches will work for this pie--really, any fruit ought to be fine. I have some fresh blueberries from my mom's backyard that might get turned into a similar pie once this one has been eaten.




Georgia Peach Pie
3-5 peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced (about 2 cups, maybe less)
2 tb brown sugar
2 tb white sugar
1 tb lemon juice
2 tb butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pie crust/dough for one pie (I used 1 puff pastry sheet)

Prep your peaches a day before if you can--peel, pit, and slice them, then toss them in a bowl with 2 tb brown sugar, 1 tb white sugar, and the lemon juice. You don't have to prep them a day ahead, but I prefer to.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Put your pie dough onto your pie pan; don't cut the excess off unless you just want to.

Drain excess juice/liquid from the bowl the peaches are in. Spoon peaches into the pie pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tb of white sugar, the cinnamon, and the nutmeg over the peaches. Cut up the butter into tiny cubes, and place them around the top of the pie.

Fold the excess pie dough/edges over the fruit. Place pie into the oven, cook for about 20 minutes (check on it at 15) until the pie crust is golden brown.

Serve with vanilla ice cream if you have it.
cafela: (chocolate)
A few weeks ago, I made Homemade Twinkies, and that got me to thinking--what about other homemade versions of that kind of snack cake? One of my husband's favorites is Hostess cupcakes, so after I looked through a few recipes, I gave it a try.

It's actually a super easy recipe for what it is. All you really need is a solid chocolate cupcake recipe that you like, essentially the same inner creme recipe used for the Twinkies, and some chocolate ganache. And a little patience when it comes to those well-known curlicues that grace the top of the cupcakes.

I'll confess: after making enough cupcakes with curlicues for blog picture-purposes, I stopped doing them. I did not have the patience (plus the plastic bag I was using to pipe the icing burst open) to do more than five like that. There was no difference in taste between the ones that had the curlicues and the ones that didn't, so only do them if you want the look.




Homemade Hostess Cupcakes
Ingredients:
1 batch chocolate cupcakes (approx. 24)

For the filling
1/4 tsp salt
1 tb hot water
7oz marshmallow fluff
1 1/2 sticks butter (12 oz)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Extra powdered sugar (to thicken remaining filling to pipe curlicues)

Chocolate Ganache
1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (Hershey's special dark or Ghiradelli are perfect)
1/4 c cream
1 tb butter

First, bake your cupcakes--use whatever your favorite chocolate cake recipe is, so long as it's sturdy enough to hold frosting on top (a box mix is fine). Let them cool. While they cool, make your filling.

Start by dissolving the salt into the hot water; set aside and let cool. Mix all the other ingredients together until fluffy, then add the salt water and beat another couple of minutes. The filling should be *almost* the consistency of frosting, but not as stiff.



Once the cupcakes are cool and the filling is prepped, scoop the filling into the appropriate device (injector or decorator bag). To get the filling into the cupcake, jab the injector or the decorating tip into the cupcake as shown in the picture, and squeeze the filling in. Don't put too much, or the cupcake could bust. If you're planning to make the curlicues, set aside about 1/3 c of the filling to use to make them.



Now you get to make the ganache, which is SUPER easy. I don't get why everyone freaks out about making it, but it does taste amazing. All you do is dump all the ingredients into a shallow pan, and whisk them slowly over low heat until everything melts together. Don't rush it, or you will burn it, and don't add any more cream or butter after you start, or it could thicken and become awful. If you keep it low and slow, everything should melt into a delicious swirl of smooth chocolately awesomeness. When it does, take it off the heat.



Now you can dip the tops of the cupcakes into the ganache. I used a small icing spatula to smooth the top out, very much the same way you smooth icing--the only trick is once the ganache cools, it's harder to work with, so try to smooth it out somewhat quickly. They should end up looking something like the pictures below:



Now, you can stop at this point, and you will have delicious cupcakes. But if you want the curlicues, take that filling that you set aside, and thicken it with more powdered sugar. I honestly don't remember how much, but at least a few tablespoons. Get it stiff enough to pipe. Then you just draw the curlicues on, which may take a little trial and error.

And that's all there is to it!

cafela: (alice in wonderland)
As everyone knows, Hostess went bankrupt. There was a rush on Twinkies. Fortunately for me, I've actually never been a huge fan of Twinkies. Growing up, we were more of a Little Debbie house, so I prefer oatmeal creme pies and Swiss cake rolls (though I haven't had any in ages). Still, all these Twinkie recipes kept popping up on Pinterest and various recipe blogs.

It was easy to avoid the siren call of the Twinkie for awhile simply because the canoe pans you bake them in were sold out everywhere. The pans did eventually show up on Amazon at a relatively cheap price, so it was then that I pounced. I'm glad I did, because this semi-homemade recipe is pretty amazing, and not full of preservatives like regular Twinkies. I'm not saying this is a "healthy" recipe, mind you, just that it's slightly better for you than the original. So do pace yourself.



Homemade Twinkies*
Ingredients:
For the cake part
1 box yellow cake mix + ingredients on the back of the box
2 tb vegetable oil
1 egg

For the filling
1/4 tsp salt
1 tb hot water
7oz marshmallow fluff
1 1/2 sticks butter (12 oz)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

*Recipe adapted from several found online.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the cake mix, plus ingredients called for on the back of the box, plus the oil and the egg until well mixed. Spoon into pan, cook until done. If you have canoe pans, you only want to fill it the cavity about half full; it will rise plenty. Keep the leftover batter in the fridge while each batch cooks. It should take about 10 minutes for the cakes in the canoe pan to cook. Check with a toothpick in the center; when it comes out clean, it's done. Remove and let cool. You should get about 3 batches.




Once all the batches have cooked and are cooling, it's time to make the filling!

Start by dissolving the salt into the hot water; set aside and let cool. Mix all the other ingredients together until fluffy, then add the salt water and beat another couple of minutes. The filling should be *almost* the consistency of frosting, but not as stiff.



The canoe pan comes with a "filling injector" that's kind of a pain to use (super messy), but it will do if you don't have other decorating tips. If you do have other decorating tips, use those. Either way, scoop the filling into the appropriate device (injector or decorator bag). To get the filling into the twinkie, jab the injector or the decorating tip into the cake, and squeeze the filling in. Don't put too much, or the twinkie will bust.

Then you can enjoy your delicious homemade Twinkies! They taste best on the 1st and 2nd day after they're made.



Note: If you don't have the special canoe pan, you can bake these as cupcakes and it will be mostly the same. Instead of filling with the filling, you can simply swap out the 1/3 cup powdered sugar for about 32 oz of powdered sugar plus an extra 1/2 stick of butter and make a marshmallow buttercream to pipe on top.


cafela: (nutmeg)
It's the holidays, and I like to bake treats for my coworkers to share on the last day before the break--ah, the joys of working in academia; we might not make much money, but we do get Christmas break!

Anyway, this year I came upon this tutorial for making apple pies shaped like roses on Pinterest, and decided I had to attempt it. I figured, worst case scenario, it doesn't work and I end up with a normal apple pie. I wanted to make some individual mini-pies for coworkers that had gifted me little presents, and one larger pie to share with everyone. So that's what I did.



The trick to the roses is that the first one is rough, and you don't want to use crisp or long apples because they break more easily. So when you buy your apples, buy short, squat ones, not tallish ones. Unless you are amazing at cutting thin slices, you'll need a mandolin slicer to get them thin enough. Also, you kind of need to hold the rose in your hand until you're done with it, so it's hard to do one that's the size of an entire normal-sized pie. It could be done, though, it would just take more work. I recommend starting with smaller, mini-pies/tarts first.



Rosy Apple Pie

Ingredients:

2-3 red apples, not too crisp

2 tb lemon juice*

4 tb sugar*

1 tsp cinnamon*

3/4 tsp nutmeg*

**You need a mandolin-style slicer**

pie crust (whatever pie crust recipe you prefer; refrigerated dough is fine)

*I eyeballed these when I added them, so this is a guesstimate--add what seems to be right for the amount of apples you have.



Go ahead and put your pie crust in your pan (or in your mini pans). Next, wash and core your apples. Do NOT peel them! You want the red contrast of the peel so that the rose shape stands out.

To core your apples, slice them so that you get a square core. Go here to see what I mean. Stop once you reach the part where the core is removed. From that point, you'll need a mandolin to slice your apples. Very thin slices are key to being able to make the rose. Once you have your apples sliced with the mandolin, you're ready for the next step.



Dump the slices into a bowl, and add the rest of the ingredients; mix them in with your hands (to help prevent breaking the slices. Now, you get to make the rose! Start with one slice curved in on itself, forming a kind of tight circle. Then add another slice to sort of "close" that slice. Keep adding slices around and around, building by overlapping the slices you just added.



It will be tricky the first time. My second rose turned out a lot better than the first. Be sure to have good look at the first tutorial I linked to, because she has great step-by-step pictures. When you've got the rose big enough, set it into the pie pan, and add a few more slices at the edges as needed. Repeat until you've made all the pies you want to make. This recipe should net you about 4 mini pies or one large pie.





Now, keep in mind that if you messed up a bunch of your slices, it's no big deal--use them to create an edge around the rose (you'll see that's what I did with my larger pie). If you can't get the rose at all, you can still make a great apple pie by layering the slices flat in the pan, or even just dumping them in haphazardly.



Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden. Cool for about 10 minutes, then serve!


cafela: (Default)
I've been wanting to make this dessert for ages. While my husband and I were on our honeymoon in St. Martin (yay, French Caribbean), we got to try a lot of awesome food, including a variation on this dish. It's a surprisingly easy and simple dish, and before trying it, I never would have thought that pears and chocolate would make such a good pair (pun intended). But, oh, it is delicious.



Poires Belle Hélène

Ingredients:

2-4 pears, peeled (I used Bosc pears)

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup water

4 or 5 oz chocolate in pieces(I used Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips--affordable but good quality, and you need quality chocolate for this sauce. Check the ingredients and make sure that chocolate/cocoa/cacao is the first ingredient, and you should be good to go.)

2 tb butter

vanilla ice cream

a deep pot with a lid (needs to be deep enough for the pears to sit upright)


Peel your pears. Leave the stem for decoration (you will not be able to pick them up by the stem after they've poached). In a deep pot, mix the sugar and water while on medium heat, stirring until the sugar melts. Once it melts, place your pears inside, and get the water to a low boil. Cover, and let poach for 20 minutes.



After the 20 minutes is up, remove your pears and let them cool to room temperature. I used tongs to remove them and keep them whole. If you're serving them a day or two later, put them in the fridge, but be sure to let them return to room temperature before coating them with chocolate, because the pears won't be as good cold. I let mine cool, then placed them in dessert dishes.



While they cool, you should turn the stove to high and reduce the remaining liquid to about half what it was, so you get a pear-flavored syrup of sorts. If you're serving the pears the next day, reserve this liquid to make your chocolate sauce.

Just before you're ready to serve the pears, dump your chocolate into the warm syrup. Do not boil! At most have the heat on medium low, but low is probably better.



Stir until the chocolate is mostly melted. Add the butter, stir it in. Now, spoon the chocolate sauce over the pears.



Add ice cream, dig in! In retrospect, it might be better to have scooped the ice cream first, put the pear on top, and then covered in chocolate sauce; either way, it ended up delicious!

cafela: (Default)
I was first introduced to this pastry/cookie via the vending machine on the first floor of CIDEF in Angers, France. CIDEF was part of the university where I spent my first semester abroad in France, and while on the campus, if my friends and I weren't in class or hanging out in our program director's office, we were often near the vending machines, catching a quick snack before going back to class.

The madeleines from the machine were okay. Not great, but not bad. Better than the dry ones you can get at Starbucks. At the time, they were one of the better snacks on offer, and definitely one of the more filling. At some point, I bought some from a pastry shop, and was surprised that they were even tastier than I thought they'd be. Freshness makes all the difference!

The great thing about madeleines is that they're really easy to make. The real trick is having a madeleine pan so that you get them in the proper shape. But even if you don't have a madeleine pan, you could still make them in mini muffin or even regular muffin tins. Amazon has some affordable madeleine pans. For the recipe below, I got about 24 madeleines, so I had to use my pan 2 times. Luckily, they bake very quickly. :)

Another issue with madeleines is the hump. Some claim that the hump is the sign of a good madeleine; others say madeleines with no humps are the marker of a good chef. All I know is that if you want the hump, fill the mold to the top of the edge. If you don't, fill the mold about 2/3 full.



Madeleines

Ingredients:

2 eggs (at room temperature!)

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

grated zest of one lemon

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp lemon extract*

1/2 tsp almond extract*

5 tb unsalted butter, melted and cooled

*If you don't have one or either of these, just use more vanilla.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease your madeleine pan, even if it's non-stick.

Relative temperatures are important in this recipe if you want your madeleines to come out crisp and light. Start by combining your dry ingredients(flour, baking powder, salt) in a bowl. Next, beat the eggs and sugar together at medium-high speed until they're thick and pale (about 2-4 minutes in a stand mixer).



Now, add the zest and the vanilla and other extracts. Beat until mixed in (maybe 15 seconds?). Next the fun part--folding in the dry ingredients! This is the only onerous part of madeleines; you want to be careful to fold in the dry ingredients (about a third of the dry stuff at a time) and not just mix it in, because you want to keep the lightness and volume that the whipped eggs are giving you. So just take your time, and once you have all the dry ingredients folded in, you then fold in the melted butter. Don't be dumb like I was once, and forget to fold in the butter at the end.

Most recipes I've seen for madeleines say that you should chill the batter for about 3 hours (up to 24 hours) before baking. I somehow didn't see that step in all the recipes I consulted, and went ahead and made them. They turned out fine. So if you're in a hurry, you can skip that step, though after filling the molds, you will want to put the remaining batter in the fridge to chill while each batch bakes.



Let each batch bake for somewhere between 6-12 minutes. Look for the edges to turn golden brown. You'll have to keep an eye on it for your first batch, because the time is going to depend on how hot your oven gets and the size of your madeleine molds. Mine are usually done within 7 minutes, but most recipes I've seen said 12 minutes.

When you get your madeleines out, toss them in sugar (powdered or regular both work). They're at their best when they're still warm from the oven, so be sure to taste-test/quality control at least one. ;) Serve within 48 hours. They go great with coffee, tea, as dessert, or as breakfast!

April 2014

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