FLAKILY

as pastry should act

My family’s favorite (caramel) apple pie

  

There’s a deep dish caramel apple pie that my family loves. Ever since my sister requested apple pie on her birthday two years ago, I’ve made this apple pie semi-regularly. For those who have practice making caramel, this pie is a snap. For those who don’t, this pie is completely worth the effort of learning.

DEEP DISH CARAMEL APPLE PIE WITH STREUSEL

adapted from the November 1998 issue of Bon Appétit, via Epicurious

CRUST:

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2” pats and frozen
  • 4 tablespoons ice water

STREUSEL:

  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon (large pinch) salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

FILLING:

  • 3 pounds (approx. 8) golden delicious apples; peeled and cut into 3/4” slices
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Prepare the crust:
In a food processor or the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter, and combine (by using on/off turns with the food processor or the low setting of an electric mixer) until the largest pieces resemble coarse meal. Blend in the ice water a tablespoon at a time, until the dough begins to clump and hold together. Gather dough into a ball, flatten into a disk, and wrap in plastic. Chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Prepare the streusel:

In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Rub in bits of butter with your fingertips to form pea-sized clumps. Set in refrigerator until needed.

Prepare the filling:

In a large bowl, combine apple slices and flour. Toss to coat and set aside.

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, whisk sugar and 1/4 cup water until the sugar dissolves (this will usually happen just before the point of boiling). Brush down the sides as needed with a wet pastry brush, to prevent the sugar from crystallizing. Once the sugar has dissolved, leave the mixture alone and let it come to a boil.

As parts of the mixture start to darken, grasp the pan by the handle and give the whole thing a few gentle swirls as needed, thus mixing the dark parts in with the light parts. Brush down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush if needed. Once the syrup turns to a deep amber color, remove from heat and add three tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of water (it will bubble vigorously). Return to heat and stir until smooth.

Pour caramel over apples and toss to coat. Let stand ten minutes, tossing occasionally.

Assemble and bake the pie:

Heat oven to 375° F, with the rack in the lower third part of the oven.

On a floured surface (or between two sheets of parchment paper), roll out dough to a 14” round. Transfer round to a 9 1/2” deep dish pie pan with 1 3/4” sides. Spoon in the apple mixture. If any of the caramel has hardened, reheat it either in a pan on the stove or in the microwave, and pour it over the apples in the pie pan. Top with streusel and bake for about an hour and ten minutes, until the apples are tender and the streusel is golden.

Serve warm and a la mode.

The most ridiculous (and arguably best) blondies I have ever made

  

Last night, I made some crazy blondies. With leftover homemade marshmallows from rocky road candy and scotch kisses, butterscotch chips, mini chocolate chips, almonds, and a splash of bourbon, these blondies are downright ridiculous. And delicious. Just make sure to cut them small!

CRAZY BLONDIES

adapted from Smitten Kitchen, makes one 8”x8” or 7”x11” pan (cut up into 45 itty-bitty blondies)

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar (I used more like 3/4 cup packed, because I ran out.. and they were still plenty sweet!)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup homemade marshmallows, chopped into tiny (1/4-1/2”) cubes
  • 3/4 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup slivered roasted almonds
  • 2 teaspoons Kentucky bourbon

Butter and flour an 8”x8” or 7”x11” pan. Preheat the oven to 325° F.

Mix melted butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg and vanilla, stir until well combined. Add salt, stir well. Add flour and mix to combine. Stir in marshmallows, butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, almonds, and bourbon. Batter will be thick, like cookie dough (see picture above). Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. 

Bake 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick just comes out clean. Cool on rack before cutting.

Scotch kisses, made entirely from scratch

A little over six months ago, my sister asked me to make scotch kisses. And a little over one week ago, I finally made them for her birthday.

They were delicious. Better than the ones from the candy store, so I’ve heard. The recipe itself… it’s a long and sticky process, but it’s also completely worth it.

SCOTCH KISSES

adapted from Tasty Kitchen and Smitten Kitchen, makes 52 candies (with 40 marshmallows to spare)

  

MARSHMALLOWS:

  • approx. 1/4-1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 envelopes (1 1/2 tablespoons) unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water, divided
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

BUTTERSCOTCH:

  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cups light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

"Cook the marshmallows:

Oil the bottom and sides of a 7” x 11” x 2” rectangular metal baking pan, then dust with confectioners’ sugar.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer (or any large bowl, if you plan to use a handheld mixer), sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water. Let stand to soften, adding a bit more water if needed to moisten any dry parts. Set aside.

In a heavy 3-quart saucepan, whisk the granulated sugar, corn syrup, 1/4 cup cold water, and salt over low heat, until the sugar has dissolved (this usually happens toward the point of boiling). Once the sugar has dissolved, stop stirring and allow the mixture to boil. Brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush as needed, to prevent the sugar from crystallizing.

Clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan (being careful that it doesn’t touch the bottom), and cook the mixture until it reaches 240° F (about 12 minutes). Remove from heat and pour the sugar mixture over the gelatin mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on high until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume (about six minutes with a stand mixer or 10+ with a handheld).

In a small bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg white until it just holds stiff peaks. Add egg white and vanilla to sugar mixture, then beat until just combined. Pour mixture into a baking pan and smooth with a rubber spatula. (You’ll lose a fair bit of marshmallow to the beaters and spatula here). Sift 1/8 cup confectioners’ sugar evenly over the top. Chill, uncovered, until firm (at least three hours).

Run a thin knife around the edges of the pan, and invert onto a cutting board. Lifting one corner of the pan, loosen the marshmallow with your fingers. Once you get the corner loose, the rest should follow easily. With a large knife, cut half the marshmallow into 1/2” cubes or other bite-size pieces for scotch kisses. Set aside. Cut the other half of the marshmallow into 1” cubes, roll in confectioners’ sugar, and store in an airtight container to reserve for another use” (Flakily).

Cook the butterscotch:

In a deep, medium saucepan (because the butterscotch will bubble up quite a bit) over medium-low heat, combine heavy cream, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Stir with a rubber spatula, allowing mixture to boil (you may want to turn up the heat a bit after the sugar’s dissolved). Clip a candy thermometer, and continue to stir constantly, scraping down the sides of the pan as needed. (If your pan is on the shallower side, what you’ll really be doing here is stirring the mixture down to prevent it from boiling over). At 235° F, remove the pan from heat and let cool 5-10 minutes. 

Assemble and wrap the candies:

Cut the wax paper to size:I used an x-acto knife to cut a roll of wax paper lengthwise down either side. I then cut those long strips into thirds using scissors. Depending on your marshmallow size and the amount of butterscotch you use, this method may or may not work.

When the butterscotch is cool, it melts the marshmallows less. However, if it gets too cool it loses its pliability, so you’ll need to quickly heat it up several times during this process.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using two tablespoons, smear a bit of butterscotch over the inside of one spoon. Top with a marshmallow, then use the other spoon to drizzle butterscotch over the top and otherwise surround the marshmallow with it. Once it’s covered, use the free spoon the scrape the candy off the other spoon and drop it onto the parchment paper. Continue this process until all butterscotch has been used.

Once the candies have set a bit, use a metal spatula or butter knife to scrape the candy off the paper (you will lose a bit of butterscotch to the paper here). Place a candy in the center of a wax paper square, roll the paper around it in a cylinder, and gently twist the ends to seal.

Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. They’re super sticky, so you’ll end up eating them directly off the wax paper.. but they’re delicious! You can firm them up in a refrigerator if you like, but I’ve heard that this detracts from the flavor.

Rocky road candy

  

This may sound crazy, but I recently had my first experience with rocky road candy. And in case you were wondering… yes, it was life changing.

I’d tried rocky road ice cream once before as a child, but it happened to be during my “nuts do not belong in desserts, unless that dessert is a candy” phase, and I quickly wrote it off. What a shame no one ever told me that rocky road could be made in candy form!

Fast-forward about fifteen years: One Easter, my boyfriend’s family sent us a basket filled with treats from their local candy store and creamery, Shubert’s. I, being a devoted sugar-addict, of course had to try each and every kind of candy in the basket. I think we all know what happened next. I bit into a giant rocky road candy egg, and I was hooked. I wanted more rocky road! And while the idea of a 400+ mile drive to Shubert’s wasn’t completely unappealing, the idea of making my own version just seemed so much more… well, sane. And so, without further ado, may I present…

ROCKY ROAD CANDY

adapted from the December 2011 issue of Bon Appétit and Smitten Kitchen

  • 16 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used 60% cacao)

MARSHMALLOWS:

note: This recipe makes twice as many marshmallows as you need for this rocky road recipe. Reserve extra marshmallows for another use (such as the scotch kisses I’ll be posting about next!).

  • ~1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 envelopes (1 1/2 tablespoons) unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water, divided
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • small pinch (~1/8 teaspoon) of salt
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

CANDIED ALMONDS:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • water
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted almonds

Cook the marshmallows:

Oil the bottom and sides of a 7” x 11” x 2” rectangular metal baking pan, then dust with confectioners’ sugar.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer (or any large bowl, if you plan to use a handheld mixer), sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water. Let stand to soften, adding a bit more water if needed to moisten any dry parts. Set aside.

In a heavy 3-quart saucepan, whisk the granulated sugar, corn syrup, 1/4 cup cold water, and salt over low heat, until the sugar has dissolved (this usually happens toward the point of boiling). Once the sugar has dissolved, stop stirring and allow the mixture to boil. Brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush as needed, to prevent the sugar from crystallizing.

Clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan (being careful that it doesn’t touch the bottom), and cook the mixture until it reaches 240° F (about 12 minutes). Remove from heat and pour the sugar mixture over the gelatin mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on high until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume (about six minutes with a stand mixer or 10+ with a handheld).

In a small bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg white until it just holds stiff peaks. Add egg white and vanilla to sugar mixture, then beat until just combined. Pour mixture into a baking pan and smooth with a rubber spatula. (You’ll lose a fair bit of marshmallow to the beaters and spatula here). Sift 1/8 cup confectioners’ sugar evenly over the top. Chill, uncovered, until firm (at least three hours).

Run a thin knife around the edges of the pan, and invert onto a cutting board. Lifting one corner of the pan, loosen the marshmallow with your fingers. Once you get the corner loose, the rest should follow easily. With a large knife, cut half the marshmallow into bite-size pieces for rocky road, rolling each piece in confectioners’ sugar to coat. Set aside. Cut the other half of the marshmallow into 1” cubes, roll in confectioners’ sugar, and store in an airtight container to reserve for another use.

Candy the almonds:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine sugar with enough water to moisten. Whisk until the sugar dissolves, then stop whisking and bring the mixture to a boil. Brush down the sides as needed with a wet pastry brush. As you notice certain parts darkening more quickly than others, use the handle to lift the pan off the stove and gently swirl it. (Do NOT mix using a whisk or other tool!). Cook until dark amber, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and add a pat of butter, whisking until well combined. Add the almonds, and stir until well coated. Pour out onto baking sheet, spreading out to separate nuts. Once the nuts are cool enough to touch, use hands break up any large clumps. Set aside.

Assemble:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stir chocolate until melted. Pour about half the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper, spreading it out to a 7” x 11” rectangle. Sprinkle the almonds, then marshmallows, on top of the chocolate. Drizzle the last of the melted chocolate evenly over the marshmallows, spreading it with a spatula to cover them. Be careful not to melt too much of the marshmallow into the warm chocolate as you spread it.

If desired, set candy into 7” x 11” metal baking dish to retain shape. Chill until chocolate is set, about three hours. Transfer candy to cutting board, and cut into pieces with a heavy knife.

Store in refrigerator (to keep almonds fresh) up to one week, between layers of wax paper to absorb extra moisture.

The simplest, most versitile fruit galette

When I arrive somewhere with a galette, I’m often met with delight and awe. And while this is true of most any dessert, the fact is that when I arrive with a galette, I’m often met with greater awe than when I arrive with a pie. I find this a tad hilarious, because the truth is… when I arrive somewhere with a galette, it means I was feeling too lazy to bake a whole pie!

With only half the crust of a pie, and probably less than half as much fruit to cut, I find galettes to be one of the simplest (and most darling) desserts to prepare.

FRUIT GALETTE

simplified from Smitten Kitchen; makes one 8-9” galette

DOUGH:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • small pinch of salt (as much as you can grasp between thumb and tip of forefinger)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold (the colder the butter stays throughout the preparation process, the flakier the pastry will be)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Turbinado sugar

FILLING:

  • Berries and fruit (sliced thinly), washed (the galette pictured above is filled with 5-6 apricots and a pint of blackberries)
  • Sugar to taste (apricots may need extra sugar, as they become more tart with baking)

In an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large bowl if you plan on using an electric hand mixer), mix flour, sugar, and salt. Add half the butter, and cut in until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the rest of the butter, and cut in until mixture resembles coarse meal, with the largest pieces no bigger than peas.

With the mixer on, slowly add water until the dough just begins to hold together. Remove bowl from mixer, and knead with hands, adding water if dough is too dry. Roll into a ball, flatten into a disk, and wrap with saran wrap. Refrigerate dough 1 hour.

Prepare fruit filling by mixing fruit with sugar, and allowing to sit a moment while juices release. Preheat oven to 400° F.

On a floured surface, roll out dough to a 14” circle. Arrange fruit (skin side up) in a large O shape, about 2” from the edge of the dough. Once arranged in a circle, gently push fruit to one side to fan decoratively. Arrange fruit in another circle, allowing second layer to sit atop first (see picture). Add berries if desired. Fold and decoratively crimp edges of dough over fruit.

Brush dough with egg wash, then sprinkle entire tart with turbinado sugar. Bake 45 minutes until crust is browned and golden, rotating halfway. Let cool 15 minutes on pan, then transfer to rack to cool completely.

Chocolate chip cookies, plain and simple

  

A good friend (who, for the sake of this favor, shall remain nameless) recently asked me to help her make a good first impression. How, you might ask? Why, with chocolate chip cookies, of course!

A tried and true favorite, when it comes to chocolate chip cookies I’ve never felt the need to branch away from the old Nestlé Tollhouse recipe. Sure, I might throw in some bourbon and use chocolate far darker than Henri Nestlé ever intended, but when it comes right down to it, it’s just the same old recipe I’ve been using since I was twelve.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

just barely adapted from Nestlé Tollhouse, makes about 4 dozen cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups each packed light brown and granulated white sugar, for a total 1 1/2 cups sugar (feel free to change the ratio, depending on how much molasses you like!)
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • a pinch of salt (as much as you can grasp between thumb and forefinger)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon bourbon (optional)
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 6-9 ounces dark chocolate chips (I usually either chop up part of the pound-plus 67% cacao bar I keep on hand, or buy 60% cacao baking chips)

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl, if using an electric hand mixer), cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. (I often err on the side of caution and give it longer than I think it needs, to ensure that the sugar crystals thoroughly cut up the butter.) After the first minute, you’ll want to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula to ensure that all the butter is incorporated.

This is a good time to step away from the mixer and whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set this aside for later.

Return to mixer, scraping down sides and adding vanilla and any other extracts, liquors, or liqueurs. Blend well. Add the first egg, blend well to incorporate, then repeat with the second egg.

Gradually add in flour with the mixer on low (stir), allowing the dough to incorporate most of the flour before adding more. When finished, I often remove the bowl from the mixer, scrape down the sides, and give it a few stirs by hand. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Portion cookies onto a parchment lined baking sheet. (The portioner I used was about 3/4”-1” in diameter.. I’d guess a size 60 or 70.) Bake for 9-11 minutes, until golden.

DO AHEAD: Portion and freeze the dough to bake later! I generally freeze mine in a parchment-lined 9x13 cake pan, then transfer to a freezer bag once hardened. Thaw dough before baking.

Meyer lemon shortcakes: an instant classic

  

I promised you lemons. More than a month ago, my eyes lit up at the sight of Thomas Keller’s lemon meringue bars in ad hoc at home and I announced to anyone who would listen that I, yes I, would be making them in no time at all.

Yet here I am, and I must confess… I come empty-handed in terms of meringue. Sure I’ve been  making chocolate peanut butter cupcakes and apple galettes (the recipes for both are on Smitten Kitchen, and seriously, if you haven’t been there yet then you must leave and go there now. I promise I won’t be offended), but those things simply aren’t what I promised. So without further ado, may I present:

MEYER LEMON SHORTCAKES

adapted a bit from the March 2010 issue of Bon Appétit, serves 8

NOTE: Overall, this recipe calls for 3-4 large Meyer lemons. Zest and juice 2 of the lemons to yield 2 tablespoons lemon zest and 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice.

Do-ahead: Each of the components can (or must!) be prepared at least a day in advance

LEMON CURD:

  • 2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • small pinch of salt (between thumb and forefinger)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into pats

"MARMALADE":

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1-2 medium Meyer lemons, sliced as thinly as possible (should yield about 10-20)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • blueberries, raspberries, a blood orange, or a combination thereof

BISCUITS:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • large pinch of salt (between thumb and two fingers)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pats and chilled briefly in freezer
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons turbinado sugar

CREAM:

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • large pinch of sugar

Prepare the lemon curd:

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the eggs, yolks, sugar, 1/  lemon juice, zest, and salt. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture reaches desired thickness. Reduce heat if it begins to boil.

Strain lemon mixture into a bowl (to remove any bits of cooked egg), and bury the pats of butter inside. Once the butter has melted, whisk until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap, allowing wrap to rest directly on top of the curd (in other words, there should be no room for air between the lemon curd and the plastic wrap). Refrigerate overnight.

Leftover lemon curd should keep for about a week in the refrigerator.

Prepare the marmalade:

Either fold or cut a parchment round to fit inside a small saucepan. Set parchment round aside for later.

Over medium heat, whisk sugar and water in saucepan until sugar dissolves, brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush if you notice sugar crystals on the side of the pan. Once dissolved, stop whisking and allow the mixture to boil, brushing down the sides if needed.

Add the lemon slices and juice, then reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Cover with parchment round, pressing on it with a spoon to submerge the lemon slices. Allow to cook until rinds are translucent, soft, and palatable. Remove from heat, and use a fork to pull out lemon rinds onto a cutting board. Quarter rinds with a knife, then transfer to a small bowl. Add syrup as needed.

Just before serving, mix rinds with berries and, if desired, blood oranges. To prepare the blood oranges: Slice top and bottom off blood oranges, then work a knife down the sides of the orange to remove the peel in segments. Cut into the oranges around the piths to remove segments, and slice into thirds or quarters if desired.

The marmalade can be made up to two days in advance.

Prepare the biscuits:

If baking the biscuits now (as opposed to freezing them and baking them later), preheat oven to 375° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until thoroughly combined. Add lemon peel, whisk to blend. Add the pats of butter, and cut in with a pastry blender until even the largest pieces of butter resemble coarse meal (for those who don’t have a pastry blender on hand, this can also be achieved by using a butter knife in each hand).

Add 1 cup cream, and stir until the dough begins to clump together in a ball. Form dough into 8 round biscuits, each about an inch thick, placing them on a clean surface (if you plan on freezing them, you can just put them in the pan you will initially be freezing them in (I like to line this pan with parchment paper or wax paper, in case of sticking)).

Brush biscuits with heavy cream, then sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake until golden and test clean, about 20 minutes. (If freezing to bake later, add 3-4 minutes to the bake time.) Let cool about 5 minutes on baking sheet, then another 5-10 minutes on a cooling rack.

Cream can be whipped a few hours ahead of time, or while the biscuits are baking/cooling. I use very little sugar in mine

Assemble the shortcakes:

Slice biscuits horizontally, plating the bottom halves. Top each with a heaping tablespoonful of lemon curd, a spoonful of marmalade, and a dollop of whipped cream. Cover with top half of biscuit, and serve! (Although now that I think about it, this would be an excellent time for raspberry sauce, if you happen to have some leftover.. or if you have raspberries on hand, because it only takes a minute to make!)

Cafe au lait: cupcake style

  

A week ago, we celebrated little Bella’s sixth birthday. And while the dogs enjoyed several gluten-free treats of their own, we humans indulged in our own sort of treat: dense cake topped with a sweet coffee buttercream and dark chocolate shavings.

COFFEE CUPCAKES, ALL DRESSED UP

adapted from Amy Sedaris’ I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence; makes 12 full-size cupcakes or approximately 36 mini cupcakes (in a pan that yields 24/batch)

  

CAKE:

  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coffee liqueur
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • a pinch of salt (just as much as you can pinch between your thumb and forefinger)
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 plus 1/8 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line pan with baking cups if needed.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat well, at least several minutes, until fluffy. Add the egg and mix until well combined, scraping down the sides. Add liqueur and vanilla, then mix until combined.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the batter and mix until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Next add 1/2 of the milk, once again scraping down the sides and allowing it to become well incorporated before adding more flour. Do the same as you add half of the remaining flour mixture to the batter, then all of the remaining milk, and finally the last of the flour mixture. Once batter is well combined, divide among baking cups.

Bake 20 minutes for cupcakes or 14-15 minutes for mini cupcakes (at least, in a pan that yields 24), until toothpick tests clean.

QUICK BUTTERCREAM:

adapted a bit from Smitten Kitchen

  • 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip butter until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add 2 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar very slowly, just a few tablespoons at a time. If it becomes too dry, add milk. Once the frosting has reached the desired consistency, add the liqueur and whip until well combined.

Once cupcakes have cooled completely, frost with a round pastry tube, working in a circle from the outside in (starting too close to the edge, however, may cause frosting to ooze over the sides and make the frosting portion larger than the cake itself!). Top each cake with shaved chocolate and (although I didn’t think of this at the time) a chocolate curl, if you feel like being super cute.

Chocolate meringue kisses and (of course) more flan

Let me begin this by saying: I love meringue. From Italian to French and everything in-between, there’s nothing like the incredible white fluff that develops when clean, room-temperature egg whites are beaten with granulated sugar.

 

This particular recipe calls for caster sugar, but for those who (like myself) have yet to invest in such a product, granulated sugar can be ground up to a superfine consistency in a food processor. For those who are in a hurry and just want to try out their new star shaped pastry tube, one can simply sift the sugar through a fine sieve to get out any large granules and then continue on the delightful process of making meringue. Although I can’t resist eating them plain the moment they come out of the oven, I have a hunch they would be delicious with some berries and freshly whipped cream.

CHOCOLATE MERINGUE KISSES

adapted a bit from the December 2007 issue of Gourmet

  • egg whites, at room temperature (I used 1/2 cup, made up of two fresh egg whites and two others I had reserved in the freezer from a previous project). Using a fork, remove the chalazae
  • one pinch cream of tartar per egg white
  • two pinches of salt
  • 4 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar per egg white, divided in half
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder per egg white

Preheat the oven to 200° F. Line a cookie sheet (or sheets) with parchment paper (in my case, 4 eggs’ worth of meringue filled a full-size cookie sheet). Sift the cocoa powder and sugar into a small bowl; set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a copper bowl with a balloon whisk, à la Bo Friberg), beat the egg whites with cream of tartar. After letting the whites begin to fluff, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the salt while beating at medium-high speed. Continue to beat until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted from the bowl.

Add the other half of the sugar to the mixture very slowly. Very very slowly. Increase the mixer to high speed, and beat to stiff, glossy peaks.

Fold the cocoa mixture into the meringue by hand, being gentle yet firm with the mixture so as not to deflate it. Transfer the meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2” star-shaped pastry tube, and pipe onto prepared sheet. Bake for 2 hours, rotating halfway, until cookies are dry, crisp, and release easily from the parchment paper.

Turn off the oven, and let the meringues sit inside for another hour before transferring to cooling racks.

  

Another two of my obsessions are flan and coconuts. Ever since I realized just how easy it is to make flan, I haven’t been able to stop myself from making it at the drop of a hat (coconut milk flan requires just four ingredients, all of which I keep on hand already!). So I thought it was only fair that I share some of this flan-addiction with others.

COCONUT MILK FLAN

adapted from the Whole Foods website, fills 4 eight-ounce or 6 six-ounce ramekins

  • 1/2 cup sugar for the caramel, plus an additional 1/4 cup for the custard
  • 4 large eggs
  • 14 ounces canned coconut milk (my can came with 13.5 ounces, so I topped it off with some soymilk I had on hand. I’m sure it would have been just fine if I hadn’t though)
  • sea salt

Preheat oven to 350° F. In a small saucepan, cover 1/2 cup sugar with just enough water to wet all of it. Cook on medium heat, whisking until sugar dissolves (turns clear, usually right around the point of boiling). Once the sugar has dissolved, stop whisking. Using a pastry brush, brush down the sides of the pan with water to prevent any sugar on the sides from crystallizing. As the sugar begins to caramelize, hold the pan firmly by the handle and swirl gently to ensure even cooking.

In another saucepan, heat coconut milk with 1/4 cup sugar and a pinch of salt to a boil, whisking as the sugar dissolves. Meanwhile, whisk eggs in a medium bowl.

Once the caramel reaches the desired color, pour it into the ramekins, swirling the ramekins to cover the bottom and a bit of the sides with caramel (be careful and hold the ramekins from the top here, as they will quickly get hot!).

By this time, the coconut milk mixture will have reached a boil, and can be slowly tempered into the eggs. (Drizzle the hot milk into the eggs while whisking quickly. This allows the eggs to adjust to the temperature slowly, preventing them from cooking (and you from ending up with bits of cooked egg!). Eventually, you will be able pour the milk in faster, because the eggs have already become warm). Strain the mixture into a liquid measuring cup (for easy pouring into ramekins!) to get out any bits of cooked egg. Divide evenly among ramekins.

Place ramekins in a 9 x 13 cake pan (or something similar). Fill pan with water, to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover ramekins with foil to prevent a skin from forming over the tops. Transfer pan to oven, and bake 35-40 minutes, until the centers are set and barely jiggle. Let cool, then transfer to fridge.

Remove flan from refrigerator 1 hour before serving.

THINGS TO COME

Lemon season is one of my favorite times of the year. In its honor, I’m endeavoring to make Thomas Keller’s Lemon Bars with Meringue from ad hoc at home in the very near future.

Pineapple upside-down cake: a work in progress

  

This is my third try at making an upside-down cake, and the first one that didn’t bear a shocking resemblance to bread pudding. Afraid of overcooking the cakes, I’d pull them out when the toothpick first tested clean. After two failed cakes and a handful of successful mini-cakes, I can now say that an upside down cake is not necessarily finished cooking simply because a toothpick comes out clean. These cakes are dense, as they need to be to soak up all the liquid from the pan schmear and the pineapple. So your tester should not simply come out clean, but it should meet a bit of resistance from the denseness of the cake as you’re pushing it in.

PINEAPPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

very slightly adapted from Thomas Keller’s ad hoc at home, to be made in a 9” cake round, or six eight-ounce ramekins

PAN SCHMEAR:

(makes 1 1/4 cups, which is much more than the 1/2 cup you will need, but is also easily stored in the freezer for next time)

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon dark rum (Keller’s recipe calls for half this amount, but I simply couldn’t resist adding extra)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • kosher salt
  • 1 Gold pineapple (I used about 3/4 of mine)

CAKE:

  • 1 1/3 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon milk

Preheat oven to 350° F. Using the paddle attachment, combine butter, honey, rum, brown sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until smooth and well blended. Spread 1/3 cup of the schmear in the bottom of a cake pan (I divided 1/2 cup among 6 ramekins, and felt I could’ve used more given their height), then sprinkle lightly with salt.

Cut pineapple (slice off the top, cut away the peel, slice off the bottom, quarter it lengthwise, cut off the core from each segment, then slice pineapple segments crosswise 1/8” thick). Make a ring of pineapple around the outside of the pan, letting the curved side hug the edges of the pan. If making a 9” cake, make a second ring inside the first one, fanning pieces in the opposite direction.

Sift flour and baking powder, then set aside.

Using the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, scraping down the sides as needed, at least 3 minutes until light and creamy. (Really beat the you-know-what out of the batter, as you always should when creaming butter and sugar. This allows the sugar crystals to cut into the butter and make it fluffy and wonderful.)

Mix in the vanilla well, scraping down sides. Add the eggs one at a time, being sure to really beat the first egg in before adding the second one. At first, you’ll see chunks of butter floating in the egg, but if you turn the mixer up to high and just wait, it’ll become much smoother. Really, so long as we’re doing wet ingredients, don’t be afraid to beat the living daylights out of this batter. Once the eggs are incorporated, beat in the milk.

Next, add the flour mixture in 3 batches (though I’ll admit, personally I just poured the flour in slowly while the mixer was on low), scraping down the sides and beating until just combined. Pour the batter into the pan, and spread evenly. Bake 10 minutes, rotate pan to ensure proper browning, then bake an additional 10-15 minutes for ramekins or 20-25 minutes for a 9” cake. The tester should come out clean, and encounter a fair bit of resistance when pushing it in. If the cake does not resist the toothpick, it may well need more time.

Cool a 9” cake 20-30 minutes in pan, or 15-20 minutes in ramekins. To remove, run a sharp knife around the edge and invert onto a serving platter or plates. Serve warm.

Leftovers keep up to 2 days at room temperature.

This is delicious by itself, with the leftover whipped cream from the lava cake I made last week (I make mine very plain—just a tiny bit of sugar and no vanilla, because I love the flavor of cream), or with whatever else sounds enticing.

FLAN: A RECENT OBSESSION

In other news, I’ve been making flan regularly for no reason other than that I had never realized how simple it is! (And perhaps I’d forgotten a bit just how much I love custard). Thanks to the White Chocolate Flan recipe in The Art and Soul of Baking, flan experiments as of late have included infusing the milk with kaffir lime, with meyer lemon, and with simply using coconut milk in its place!

For coconut milk flan, I used a very simple recipe from the Whole Foods website. Sometime I’d like to try using coconut cream instead—and with any luck, there will be some incredibly smooth and creamy coconut milk custard in my near future.