Category Archives: Baking

Caramel Apple Spice Cake…Perfect for Fall!

Now that November has hit, I’m in full fall force! Halloween was great, filled with costumes, candy, and actual trick-or-treaters this year (in past years, we never had anyone).  The trees have been putting on a show for weeks, continually dropping lovely crunching leaves in the yard. And the weather, well, it hasn’t really cooperated for fall, but I’m hopeful it will get cold soon. So, thankfully, with fall comes fall food. My favorite, despite the overabundance of everything pumpkin, are the apples! A few weeks ago to celebrate some important family birthdays, I made a delicious caramel apple spice cake with brown sugar Swiss meringue buttercream, and yes, it was as good as it sounds!

This recipe was features in Martha Stewart Living many years ago, and as soon as I heard the title and saw the picture, I knew I had to have it. The cake is a dense spiced cake, perfect for fall, and the icing is amazing!

To start, heat 1/2 stick butter in a large saute pan over medium heat until lightly browned. Add to the butter 4 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and grated (about 2 lbs apples), 1/2 cup apple cider, and 1 cup sugar. Raise the heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook until liquid has evaporated, about 10 more minutes. Allow to cool.butterpeeled and coredgratedadd applescidersugargolden caramel applescoolingWhisk together 3 3/4 cups flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger. Set aside.flour and spicesmore spicesall combined

Beat 2 sticks butter that has been softened to room temperature. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar, and beat at medium high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed and add 4 eggs, 1 at a time. Beat after each addition. Add 1/4 cup flour mixture to the cooled apple mixture. With the mixer on low, add the remaining flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with 1/2 cup sour cream.  Fold in the apple mixture.more butterbeatingsugarbrown sugarcombinedeggsfloursour creammore flourapples

Divide the batter between 2 8×2 inch round cake pans that have been greased and floured. Bake at 350 degrees until golden and a toothpick comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Allow to cool completely before frosting.batterready for the ovenbakedTo make the buttercream, whisk 5 egg whites, 1 2/3 cups brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Heat and whisk the mixture for about 5 minutes until it reached 160 degrees. Remove from heat and beat the egg mixture on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium low and add 4 sticks room temperature butter (yes, I said 4 sticks), 2 tablespoons at a time. Beat for about 3-5 minutes after all butter has been added to make the frosting smooth. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to harden then beat the frosting to a spreadable consistency.seperating eggsready for the double-boiler160ready to be whippedwhippedeven more butterall addedfrostingfirst layersecond layer

The cake is delicious and the frosting is absolutely amazing. I know it has a lot of butter, but it’s a great splurge dessert! Happy fall!done

Delicious Peanut Butter Brownies

Last Sunday, we had dinner at a friend’s house. As is often the case, I was in charge of bringing the dessert. It was a busy weekend, so when Sunday came around, I knew exactly what I would make. They’re portable. They’re easy. And they’re absolutely delicious…peanut butter brownies.

You may remember, a while back I wrote about candy bar brownies, which are amazing. This is a little twist, taking them even further! For the peanut butter brownies, you need a batch of brownie batter. Feel free to make your own from scratch, or use a store-bought brownie mix. Either way, they’re so doctored up, they’ll be delicious.

To the brownie batter, fold in a 12 oz bag Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup miniatures, chopped. And I know, it may seem like a lot, but trust me, you want the whole bag! Pour the batter into a greased 13×9 inch pan and bake as you normally would. While the brownies are baking, we’re going to take the next step to put these over the top.Reese'schoppedready to foldbatterbakedThree words…peanut – butter – frosting! Yes, it’s amazing, and the perfect addition to these brownies. Beat 1 stick softened butter until creamy and smooth. Add 1 cup creamy peanut butter and thoroughly combine. Add 2 cups powdered sugar and mix until combined. If the frosting is too thick, add 1-2 tablespoons milk until the desired consistency is reached.butterpeanut butterpowdered sugarreadyOnce the brownies are cooked and cooled, cut into squares. Pipe each square with a big dollop of frosting. I just used a plastic bag with the corner cut, but feel free to be fancy.browniescutready for frostingdoneNeedless to say, these brownies are always a huge hit. They are perfect for the peanut butter addict, or, really, whoever had taste buds! 🙂 Enjoy!

Celebrate the 4th with Roasted Strawberry Sauce…and Ice Cream!

The 4th of July is a great time of year. Summer is in full swing, flowers are blooming, and the farmer’s market is overflowing with produce. To celebrate the holiday this year, I’m making roasted strawberry sauce served over creamy vanilla ice cream. It’s the perfect combination, and the cool ice cream is a welcome treat for the hot July weather.

The roasted strawberry sauce is easy, and it’s a great way to use up strawberries that might be turning past their prime. The strawberries cook down with brown sugar and create a sweet, ruby red, carmelly (I know, inventing words again) sauce that’s perfect with ice cream. And the best thing is, there are only 2 ingredients!

Take 3 cups strawberries that have been hulled and quartered. Spread them out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Trust me, the parchment will make clean up so easy! Top the strawberries with 1 cup brown sugar. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes until soft and syrupy.

strawberriesin baking sheetbrown sugarready for the ovensauce readysauceeasy clean upThat’s it! Pretty simple, and absolutely delicious. Drown some vanilla ice cream in this sauce and dig in. I hope you have an amazing 4th of July, and buckets full of ice cream! 🙂 Enjoy!

enjoy!

Crumb Cake at the Shore!

We spend a lot of time at the shore during the summer. I’m fortunate enough to have had grandparents that were incredibly insightful and built a shore house 40 years ago, before the property values soared. So, every year we head down as often as possible. Some friends will harass us that they won’t see us until Labor Day, but I think they’re just jealous! 🙂

When we’re down the shore with my niece and nephews, breakfast often includes crumb cake. My brother will head to Mallon’s in Avalon, NJ, before anyone wakes up. It’s this delicious crumbly cake with tons of cinnamon, brown sugar topping. It’s delicious! This weekend, we’re taking my 3 nephews to the shore, so I thought I’d attempt to make a homemade version for the boys!

In a small bowl, whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside.floursugarbaking powdersaltmixedIn a medium bowl, whisk 1 large egg, 1/2 cup milk, 2 tablespoons canola oil, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Once it’s mixed thoroughly, add the dry ingredients. Fold to combine.eggsmilkcanola oilvanillawhiskedadding flourbatterGrease and flour a 13×9 inch pan. Spread the batter evenly in the pan, then set aside.grease and flour the panready for the battercake layerIn the small bowl that you used for the flour mixture, add 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup light brown sugar, packed, and 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and whisk to combine. Add 1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled, and stir with a rubber spatula to create large crumbs. Sprinkle the crumbs over the batter. Bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. more flourbrown sugarcinnamonready for butterbuttermeltedadding buttercrumb toppingready for the ovenWhen the cake is done and cooled, dust the top with powdered sugar. Use a sifter or strainer to sprinkle the sugar all over. Slice and dig in!ready for powdered sugarI found this recipe from 2002 for “New York Crumb Cake.” It came from food.com, and it’s a delicious cake, very similar to Mallon’s. The best part is, there is more topping than cake! Enjoy!

A Sweet Treat…Kentucky Derby Pie!

The first Saturday in May means horse racing. At least that’s what I’ve come to find out. It’s the Kentucky Derby. While I’m not a big follower of horse racing, I do have an event to attend tonight to celebrate the race. So, if you’re going to bring something to a Kentucky Derby party, it might as well be Kentucky Derby pie!

Kentucky Derby Pie is essentially pecan pie with chocolate chips. With the addition of bourbon, it’s a sweet pie with a kick. I found this recipe in Southern Living. It’s an easy pie and bakes up beautifully.

This pie calls for a single pie crust. I used my standard pie crust recipe to make a 9 inch pie crust. Line a pie plate, with the crust, crimp the edges, and then scatter 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans and 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips on the unbaked crust.pie crustrolled outmeasuringpie crust readyadding pecansadding chocolate chipsPour 1 cup dark corn syrup, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, and 1/4 cup bourbon in a large saucepan. If you don’t have bourbon, you can just use any whiskey you might have on hand. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Stir constantly and boil for 3 minutes. Be careful, the mixture will bubble up a bit, but a large pan will hold everything. After 3 minutes, the sugars will be dissolved, then remove from heat and set aside.corn syrupsugarbrown sugarbourbonbeginning to boilIn a medium bowl, whisk 4 eggs. Add 2 teaspoons cornmeal, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 cup melted butter. Whisk everything to combine, then slowly add about 1/4 of the sugar mixture, whisking thoroughly so you don’t cook the eggs. Continue to add the rest of the mixture and whisk to combine. Carefully pour the filling over the nuts and chocolate chips. I do this right next to the oven, with the pie already on a sheet pan so it’s ready for the oven. Bake at 325 for 55 minutes, until set.eggscornmealvanillabuttercombiningcombinedready for the ovenTonight, grab your big straw hat, a mint julep, and this dessert, and enjoy the Derby!

Nothing Says Spring Like Strawberry Pie!

It’s been a long time coming, but I think it might finally be spring. Sure, the bulbs aren’t exactly bursting with blooms, but I do see some daffodil buds and tulip shoots. The crocuses are out, so that’s a start. And the trees sort of look like there is some growth…sort of?!?!? Anyway, I’ll take it. It’s spring. And nothing says spring more than strawberry pie.

I’ll admit strawberry pie is not you’re most common. Sure, there’s strawberry rhubarb, which I’m sure is quite delicious. However, strawberry, with its sweet, bright red filling, and buttery, flaky crust just says sunny skies to me. So, for Easter, it was the perfect addition to the table.

To start, I use my standard pie crust recipe. You may remember it from Thanksgiving. You want a top and bottom crust for this recipe. As a side note, I had the chance to roll out the dough on my new granite counter tops…WOW! What a difference. The cold, hard surface made it a breeze to roll out dough. Definitely a plus for the new kitchen!

Roll out the crust for the bottom about an inch larger than your pie plate. Spray a 9 inch pie plate with cooking spray and carefully line with the crust. Rest the crust lined pie plate in the refrigerator while you roll out the top crust. You want the top crust a little larger than the pie plate so you can create a seal and crimp.ready to rollrolled outready for fillingFor the filling, you’ll need 4 ½ cups fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters. In another bowl, combine 1 ¼ cups sugar, 4 tablespoons cornstarch, a pinch of salt, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Combine with the strawberries, and pour into the bottom crust. Dot with 4 tablespoons butter and cover with the top crust.slicingstrawberriessugar and spiceready for combiningready for piefilledTo seal and crimp, cut the edges, leaving about half an inch of overhang from the edge of the pie plate. Fold both crusts over the top so it creates a nice edge around the entire pie. Pinch the edges to crimp. You can do this in a decorative fashion; however, sometimes I just prefer the rustic look. Cut a few slits in the top for ventilation too.coveredcrimpedFor a shiny top, that also adds a delicious sweetness and crunch, cover the crust with 1 teaspoon ½ and ½ (or milk will do) and sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons sugar. It is my secret to a delicious crust, and I do it for all of my pies.making the crunchy toppingBake in a 425 degree oven for 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the juices are bubbling. I put the pie plate on a foil lined cookie sheet just to catch any overflow of the juices. And if the crust gets too dark, just cover with a piece of aluminum foil.ready for the oven

So, my next tip, don’t throw away that left over pie dough. Roll it out, brush with 1/2 and 1/2 or milk, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and cut into strips. Bake on a cookie sheet in the same oven for about 10 minutes until golden. These cinnamon-sugar treats are absolutely delicious, and it lets you see just how flaky and perfect you made that pie crust! It’s definitely the perfect snack for the cook.doughcinnamonsugarslicedbakedperfectionIf you’re looking for a pie to make, or just craving something sweet, or something fruity, give this one a try this spring or summer. It is absolutely delicious and just screams warm weather!

Baklava for Easter!

When I was younger, I can remember going to my Aunt Antoinette’s for Easter dinner. While I don’t remember most of what she served those days, I do remember what she had for dessert one year. She had a whole tray of delicious baklava. If you’re not familiar with baklava, it’s a delicious, sweet, sticky, nutty Greek dessert. From that first amazing bite, I was hooked!

A few years later, while perusing my latest Martha Stewart Living magazine, I was thrilled to see the recipe in April 1996. There was a story about a Greek Easter, and this was one of the desserts shown. I excitedly made the recipe and proudly brought it to my Aunt’s that year for Easter. Of course, it was a huge hit, and ever since then, this has been a go-to recipe for me. It’s not very difficult to make, but it’s so impressive to serve, not to mention delicious!recipeTo start, you’ll need 1 pound phyllo dough. Phyllo is a super thin pastry. It’s sold frozen, usually in 1 pound size boxes. It’s usually right next to the puffed pasties and other desserts. Allow the dough to defrost completely before using it, otherwise the paper-thin sheets will stick together. phylloYou’ll also need 3 cups finely chopped walnuts, almonds, or a mix of the two. I generally just purchase chopped nuts and throw them in the food processor for a few seconds. It easy, just be careful not to run the food processor too long or you’ll make nut butter. To the nut mixture, add 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon cloves.

walnutschoppedspicesThe other component you’ll need is butter. Melt 2 1/2 sticks butter. I know it’s a lot of butter, but it’s worth it. The butter will be the glue to hold all of those layers of pastry, nuts, and spices together.buttermeltedBrush a 13×9 glass baking dish with the melted butter. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo flat in the buttered dish. Brush that sheet with butter, then add another sheet of phyllo, and brush that sheet with butter. Keep doing this until you have 7 layers of phyllo and butter.readybrushinglayers

On top of the 7th layer, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the nut and spice mixture. Then top with another sheet of phyllo covered in butter. Top with another sheet of phyllo, and sprinkle another 2 tablespoons nuts and spices. Continue with phyllo, butter, phyllo, nuts, phyllo, butter, phyllo, nuts, until all of the nuts are used. Make sure you save 7 sheets of phyllo for the top. When the nuts run out, top with the 7 sheets with butter in between, similar to what you did to the bottom. Top the last sheet with butter.nuts and spicesdonealmost readyOnce the baklava has been assembled, score the top into diamonds. You only need to go 1/4 inch down, not all the way through. Bake the baklava at 350 degrees for 40 minutes until golden brown.scoredgoldenWhen the baklava is cooked, combine 2 cups sugar with 1 cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking for 3 minutes. Pour the syrup over the baklava and allow to cool completely. The baklava soaks up the syrup making it sweet, sticky, moist, and wonderful!sugarboilingpouringready to eatIf you’ve never had baklava, you need to give it a try. And it makes the perfect dessert for Easter! It’s what we’ll be having on Sunday. Happy Easter everyone!