May 14, 2010

Apple-Frangipane Galette

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Quick, guys! Make this galette before all the lovely warm-weather fruits really start parading into the markets, inspiring you and making apples seem a lot like my Mom Wardrobe, which is to say sad, hapless and completely boring. (It’s a problem, people. I don’t know what happened, really. But I can tell you that you will wrestle this pilly old cardigan from my cold, dead torso. I may dress in a manner that is as insipid as apples in May, but I am sort of in denial about the whole thing. I try to think of my clothes as the sort of shiny, happy green apples that still seem relevant, even as strawberries and rhubarb seem to be the order of the day. Lie to me.)

The good news about this Apple Frangipane Galette (because there’s really no good news side to the wardrobe thing, naturally) is that the apples really are just a jumping off point. Any fruity pie filling that you love and would normally put in a pie or tart (except strawberries, too much water) will probably work here. The magic, my friends, is in the frangipane.

I love me some frangipane, always have. It’s the irresistibly dreamy almond pastry cream that’s made with almond paste, the filling of so many decadent pastries and cakes. But until now, I’d never turned one out in my own kitchen. And now that I know I can make it in mass quantities in just minutes in the food processor, I may keep a jar on my bathroom vanity. Eating it will make you feel that pretty, I promise.

The frangipane is the secret weapon that turns something familiar into a next-level thing. When hidden beneath some fanned-out sweet-tart apples, it sort of bakes into the crust and melds with the fruit and adds a stealth layer of flavor that you just don’t expect when you’re faced with something as rustic and familiar as apples enveloped in pastry. I flippin’ love stuff like that. It makes new recipes worth trying, even those that seem like something you’ve had before.

And that brings me to the source of this recipe. It’s from the Great Lebovitz‘s latest recipe collection Ready for Dessert. I was so excited when my copy finally reached my doorstep, and my family was sort of relieved, too–perhaps I would then stop suctioning myself to the front window, practically licking the glass, in hot anticipation of the delivery. I started flipping and bookmarking as soon as I opened the box and this galette was in the oven less than two hours later. I may look a little out of touch in this pilly old cardigan, but I’m sure that’s got to be a new baking record.

Apple-Frangipane Galette
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert

Lebovitz’s headnotes indicate that you shouldn’t need to sugar the apples at all unless they are extremely tart; in that case you should sweeten to taste. I used Granny Smiths that definitely weren’t the most tart I’d ever had, so I skipped the sugar, but in the end wished I’d sweetened them just a bit. I might also add just a dash of cinnamon next time too–it was delicious without it, but I missed the flavor combination. Also, I used Demerara sugar for sprinkling and loved the toasty flavor and crunch, so I’m recommending it here, but you can use granulated or other coarse sugar that you like. As always with pastry-making, make sure your ingredients are as cold as possible before using.

Serves 8

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and chilled
6 tablespoons ice water

For the frangipane:

4 ounces almond paste, crumbled
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon rum, kirsch or Calvados (optional)

For assembly:

6 medium apples (3 pounds), peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons granulated, Demerara or other coarse-crystal sugar

First, make the crust. In the bowl of a food processor (or in a mixing bowl with a pastry blender, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), mix together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter pieces and mix until the butter is the size of peas. Add the ice water all at once and mix just until the dough begins to come together. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

To make the frangipane, place the almond paste, sugar, flour and almond extract in the bowl of a food processor or electric mixer. Mix until the almond paste is in fine, uniform pieces. Add the butter and mix until very well-blended, then add the egg and the liqueur, if using. Mix until the frangipane is smooth (there may be a few tiny unmixed pieces of almond paste, and that’s fine–they’ll disappear during baking).

When you’re ready to bake the galette, position an oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

To assemble the galette, lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough out into a circle about 14 inches in diameter. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet. Spread the frangipane in an even layer over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Arrange the apples over the frangipane, either scattering them in an even layer, or arranging them in concentric circles. Fold the un-frangipaned edge of the dough over the apples. Brush the crust and filling with the melted butter. Scatter half the sugar over the crust and the remainder over the apples. Bake until the apples are tender and the crust has browned, about 1 hour. Slide the galette (still on the parchment) onto a wire rack to cool a bit. Serve warm or at room temperature, ideally the day it’s baked.

May 10, 2010

Chocolate Mint Squares

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I really hope all y’all had a fabulous Mother’s Day. For me, it began with sleeping in until the heavenly hour of 8:30 a.m. and then waking up to a lovely gift of a seriously great cookbook and a pop-up card from Little C that was scrawled about with crayon and played a weepy version of “You Are My Sunshine” when opened. And because girlfriend can’t even let a commercial jingle pass without shaking a tail feather, I was also gifted an impromptu, twirling, giggly interpretive dance to the musical card and in no time was all what–there’s something in my eye, OKAY? Too much.

Since I was in a teary, slobbering pile before I’d even gotten half my coffee down, the husband (who deems a gift a true success when it makes the recipient tear up with sentimentality) obviously did an awesome job with the Mothers’ Day planning this year. Well played, indeed. Good thing I’d already made a pan of Chocolate Mint Squares that I was pretty sure he would inhale and declare awesome (I was correct).

You may remember me saying something recently about being in my Maida period. And if you try this recipe, I am sure I won’t be alone in this obsession. The base for these fudgy, minty, all around heavenly bars is similar to Maida’s legendary brownie recipe, the cellophane-wrapped ones she is known for toting around in her purse at all times and giving to whomever she happens to see. If that doesn’t make you fall in love with this woman, then you are an iceberg. The end.

But then you take her amazing brownies, spread them with a thin, but powerful, intensely minty buttercream frosting and a slick of bitter chocolate and the whole thing will blow you away. It’s like a brownie meeting a York Peppermint Pattie. Bliss, I tell you. The balance here is so strikingly delicious. At first, I thought it might all be too much–and make no mistake, these are indeed rich–but the ratio of fudgy brownie to creamy mint layer is so spot on, and with a shiny capping of crackly bitter chocolate (totally unsweetened, mind you, not bittersweet), they’re a taste and textural dream.

And even better, since the husband basically lost his ever-loving mind over these things, I’m feeling pretty confident that I now have a golden ticket the next time I lose my scruples or somesuch. Actually, with this recipe in my repertoire, I may have insured really excellent Mother’s Day gifts for my entire future. Boo-ya!

Chocolate Mint Squares
Adapted from Maida Heatter’s Great Book of Cookies

Don’t chill the brownies for too long after the mint layer is added–five minutes is all you need, just so the frosting isn’t totally soft. If it’s too cold, the bitter chocolate glaze will set before you can get it all spread evenly. These brownies are at their most awesome served chilled, or even frozen.

Makes 20

For the brownie layer:

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter
2 eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour (I stirred the flour well, then spooned into the cup and leveled)

For the mint layer:

2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

For the bitter chocolate glaze:

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon butter

Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan with nonstick spray, and line it with two perpendicular strips of parchment paper (leave a bit of overhang on all sides), then lightly spray the parchment, too.

Being by making the brownie layer. Melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave, about 45 seconds on high. Stir until smooth and set aside to cool slightly.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs on medium speed until light and foamy. Beat in the sugar, salt and vanilla. Add the chocolate mixture and beat on low just to combine. Stir in the flour by hand just until smooth. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before icing with the mint frosting.

To make the mint frosting, beat together the butter, confectioners’ sugar, 1 tablespoon of heavy cream and the peppermint extract. Add more cream, a few drops at a time, until the frosting is thick but easily spreadable. Spread the icing evenly in a thin layer over the brownies. Chill in the refrigerator for just five minutes, until the very surface is set.

Prepare the glaze by melting together the unsweetened chocolate and butter in a small bowl in the microwave, just about 30 seconds on high. Stir until smooth and pour the hot glaze over the mint layer, tilting the pan to coax it into place, and using an offset spatula if necessary. It will be a very, very thin layer.

Refrigerate until the glaze is set, at least 30 minutes. Use the parchment handles to lift the brownie slab from the pan to a cutting board, and cut into squares. Chill the cut squares for a few hours until the glaze sets completely. Keep any leftovers in the fridge, tightly covered.

May 7, 2010

Raspberry-Pistachio Brown Butter Cake

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When one gets the crazy idea to become a mother, people come out of the woodwork with tales of joy and woe and generally way, way too much information. Everyone has an opinion, everyone seems to give unsolicited advice. I definitely found this to be the case while expecting Little C, and it made me all stabby on more than one occasion. But on the plus side, a few of those nuggets of wisdom did manage to cling to my already deteriorating memory, and by the time the tiny being who had set up camp in my body for the better part of a year became an outside baby, I felt pretty ready for this motherhood thing. After all, millions had gone into it before me and millions more have chosen to do it multiple times, God bless ‘em. It couldn’t be altogether impossible, right? Right?

Well, it’s true–it’s certainly not impossible, though some days, especially early on, it absolutely felt that way. Never before had I ever had such an odd sensation, like laboriously wading through space, as though underwater, for weeks (months) on end. The long hours that my husband was at work and I was home alone with a strange newborn creature who was colicky, nursing on demand every 45 minutes and who refused to sleep at all, trying to keep her fed and clean and content on very little sleep myself were some of the most trying moments of my life. And I was more than a little depressed about the whole thing. Not. Awesome.

I’ve heard it said that you’re given the sort of child that you need in order to learn something from the experience. True. Even the very wee infant Baby C, so tiny and fragile, and yet so generally relentless, knocked my self-centered, poor time-managing behind so far down my personal totem pole, it took the better part of two years to even consider what I might like to do with the remainder of my life, outside of being a mother. This is something I’ve just started to mull in the past couple of months. And guys, it’s freaking me out.

Arriving at this point after so much time completely consumed with the day-to-day tasks of raising my baby has been sort of mind-blowing. I think about the next steps to move forward with personal goals and making long-held dreams come true and returning to projects I started before Little C, and I shake with anticipation, the thrill of doing something just for myself, and an incredible amount of fear. Because what if it’s too much? What if I drop the ball at home? Can I manage to shift focus without changing my priorities? And I feel such intense guilt, just thinking about focusing on something other than my family, before I’ve even done anything at all. I am convinced this is some kind of biological thing, because it’s a weight so heavy that it’s enough to hold a mother down in her nest, so that she’ll never go anywhere or see anything that might take her focus away from her brood. It’s a weight that is equal parts welcomed and wonderful, crazymaking and suffocating. The random well-wishers with all their fancy advice in the grocery checkout line never threw that one out at me while I was expecting. Would’ve been nice, randoms. Thanks.

But I keep returning to these ideas that I have brewing, these new opportunities I can create for myself, and think that maybe in the end, it would be about more than just me. If I can accomplish certain things on my Bucket List, even if they take me away from home here and there, I’m able to cross off the first thing on that list, which is to Be the Best Mother I Can Be. And I’m pretty sure part of that job description is to live by example. To show my little girl that anything worth having is worth working for, and that following dreams should be a lifelong journey. That the journey to realizing those dreams might slow down or get interrupted sometimes, but it should never stop altogether, no matter what circumstances come up. Even if those circumstances involve raising a beautiful, smart, funny, perfect baby girl who brings me more joy, more fulfillment on a level that I just can’t explain. The grocery store randoms did tell me about this bit, but I never could have imagined the depth of this love.

It’s a big deal, being a mother. I try to play it down sometimes to childless friends or other people I meet or even to my own mother, maybe to make it seem like I’ve Got This or to hide my own insecurities, but it’s a big, Biden-expletive deal. It’s why strangers feel like they can share war stories with pregnant people in grocery stores, why there’s a million blogs and books on motherhood, why we have our very own holiday and why you should make a beautiful, rustic, flavorful Raspberry-Pistachio Brown Butter Cake for every mother you know, and then invite them for tea this Mothers’ Day. It’s so good, I made one for myself.

Raspberry-Pistachio Brown Butter Cake
Adapted from The Craft of Baking

To make 1 cup of pistachio flour, grind 1 cup unsalted pistachios with 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour in a food processor or clean coffee grinder until fine. Note that this recipe uses kosher salt, so for regular salt, halve the amount. The Demerara sugar is for sprinkling over the batter, and makes for the most delicious, slightly caramelized, crunchy layer that really makes this cake–so don’t skip it.

Serves 8-10

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for the pan
2 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup pistachio flour (see note)
3/4 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
7 large egg whites
1 cup fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons Demerara sugar

In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt and cook the butter over medium heat until it is browned and smells nutty, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, pistachio flour, cake flour, and salt. Whisk in the egg whites to combine. In a slow and steady stream, gradually whisk in the browned butter. Cover and chill the batter until thickened, about 1 hour (or up to 1 week ahead).

When you’re ready to bake, position an oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the berries evenly over the top, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edge. Sprinkle the Demerara sugar generously and evenly over the batter. Bake until the edges of the cake are golden and the cake springs back slightly when touched, about 35-40 minutes (I needed more time here, about 45 minutes).

Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes before removing the ring from the tart pan and letting it cool completely, or serve slightly warm. This cake is best eaten the day it is made, but can be wrapped tightly and stored for up to 2 days.

May 4, 2010

Monster Cookies

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So guys. If you’re ever in the market for what to gift someone who does something epic for you–say, take your child off your hands for two nights so that you and your husband can go up to Napa for the weekend, do some socially acceptable binge drinking under the guise of “wine tasting”, and not have to pack a dozen ever-loving sippy cups (it was lovely, by the way, thank you)–then I have a suggestion for you.

Give Monster Cookies. These Monster Cookies, specifically. Actually, maybe have a nice bottle of wine on hand as a backup. Because unless you can bake these Monster Cookies and give them away in record time, they likely will make it into your face before you can gift them. With a mise en place like this, you’ll probably guess you’re totally in for it.

Oats. Chocolate chips. Peanut butter (the good, junky supermarket kind). And…wait for it…REESE’S PIECES. Because I am a peanut butter freak and swapped out the M&Ms for more peanut butter in a crunchy candy shell. Can’t say I was wrong with that call, people. Not for a second.

As with all recipes with which I become completely obsessed, there’s a twist here. These aren’t your typical mix-up-the-dough-plop-it-and-go (hey, rhyme!) kind of cookie. The magic happens with an excrutiating five hour rest of the dough in the refrigerator, during which the dough firms up and the oats become tender and plump with peanut buttery bliss. There’s no other way to get there than with lots of patience and having someone you trust chain you to something heavy.

The other thing I found totally fascinating and am now finding a way to work it into a bunch of the recipes in my regular rotation is the tiniest dab of corn syrup in the dough. With just 1/4 teaspoon in the mix you may be tempted to skip it, but the headnote warns you not to, and because I will do pretty much whatever those Baked boys tell me to, I listened. And though they don’t say why it’s so vital, I’ll venture a guess and say that the tiny bit of corn syrup here supports the irresistibly chewy quality of this cookie (like, days after they are baked) and really helps with the browning of this cookie which is largely composed of peanut butter and oatmeal, two ingredients that don’t brown all that well unless you burn ‘em, which would be undelicious. But these bake up so beautifully golden, you might just shed a tear.

You may try to give all these cookies away to a deserving party. You may try to have just one with a short glass of milk. But you will be depriving yourself the beauty of such a go-big-or-go-home cookie. My advice, because I care about you: save at least a half dozen for yourself, eat them two-by-two and go for the biggest milk glass you’ve got. You’re welcome.

Monster Cookies
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

Now. The original recipe uses these amounts for a 3 dozen cookie yield, and that’s got to be a typo. I got 3 dozen when I halved the recipe (lightly beat one egg and measure out half for half an egg) and I even used the 2-tablespoon size scoop suggested in the recipe, so who knows? I’m calling it a cool 6 dozen with these amounts below.

Also, most monster cookie recipes use M&Ms, but like I said, I used Reese’s Pieces and am never going back. The result was fantastic.

Makes 6 dozen cookies

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick-cooking)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups creamy peanut butter (I like Skippy or Jif for baking)
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup (6 ounces) Reese’s Pieces

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and oats until well-blended.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth and pale in color, at least 2 minutes. Beat in the sugars on low speed until just incorporated.

Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl as necessary. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and beat just until combined. Add the peanut butter and beat on low just until smooth. Add the dry ingredients on low speed in three additions until the dough is well-blended. Fold in the chocolate chips and Reese’s Pieces by hand. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for at least 5 hours.

When you’re ready to bake, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Scoop the dough into 2-tablespoon size balls using a small ice cream scoop, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake until the cookies just begin to brown, about 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking. Cool on the pans for 8 to 10 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Apr 29, 2010

Marion Cunningham’s Raised Waffles

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Oh, my God, you guys. Guess what I’m doing this weekend? Going away, with just the husband. Like, away from this house while Little C frolicks here with her visiting Gramma. During this weekend, I will be in a magical land called Napa wherein my towels, sheets and dishes will be washed by other people. I will also be eating only at restaurants (one extra fancy) and drinking lots of delicious alcohol in the name of “wine tasting”. I am so pumped. Please don’t hate me. I mean, I’d hate me, if it wasn’t…me.

Know what I did last weekend? I did laundry. And cleaned. And went to Fairyland. And made and cleaned up after about 100 meals. All well and good. But I’m thinking that even if there is a massive natural disaster, this Napa weekend will totally top last weekend. Except for the waffles I made on Sunday. They were ethereal, transcendent, these waffles. So even if you won’t be getting away for the weekend, whipping up a batch of these waffles will transport you, if only for breakfast time.

I give you Marion Cunningham’s storied Raised Waffles, people. And I mean the culinary goddess Marion Cunningham, not the mom from Happy Days. And someday I’ll tell you how many years I lived not realizing they were two separate people.

But ohhhh, these waffles. So light, so crisp, so not at all sweet as to perfect balance with a good dose of maple syrup. The yeast flavor is so unexpectedly delicious, like the best parts of waffles and brioche having a baby.

And the very best part is you start the batter the night before. All you have to do in the a.m. is whisk in some eggs and baking soda–super easy, even with just one with one eye open and one tiny person clinging to your PJ pants. Who will not be accompanying us this weekend as we eat lots of beautiful food and imbibe in one of the most gorgeous places in the planet. Okay, now I’m just sort of bragging.

Marion Cunningham’s Raised Waffles
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible

There are a few blog posts out there that have less than raves about this recipe, but for me, I found my experience with them to be completely awesome and I’ll pass along what worked for me. First, follow the instructions to the letter. Don’t short the rise time on the counter–start these the night before or pick another waffle recipe if you can’t. The magic of these waffles is because of a long, overnight rise for crazy lightness and tons of flavor.

Know that these waffles do have a yeasty flavor and are not sweet at all, so don’t expect an Eggo. Also, I found a lot of people online complaining about how rich with butter these waffles were, so for fun, I cut the butter down to 5 tablespoons instead of a whole stick. They turned out beautifully. It also seems that those who have a Belgian-style waffle iron don’t have as much success–mine is a standard waffle iron, the kind with lots of little squares rather than a few larger wells. Make a full batch; the waffles freeze and reheat in the toaster beautifully.

Serves 6 to 8

1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups warm milk ((I think anything but skim would be fine here)
1/2 cup melted butter (I cut this amount down to 5 tablespoons, no problem)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

In the biggest mixing bowl you own (the batter will rise to double its original volume) sprinkle in the yeast over the warm water. Let stand to dissolve for 10 minutes. Add the milk, butter, salt, sugar, and flour and stir to blend. Give it a blast with a handheld mixer on a low speed for just a moment to really smooth it out–you don’t want any lumps. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature.

The next morning, just before cooking the waffles, whisk in the eggs and the baking soda–the batter will be very thin. Depending on the size of your waffle iron, pour about 1/3 to 1/2 cup batter onto the hot iron (use a light hand at first and check your progress–this waffle batter expands rather impressively. Bake until golden and crisp. This batter will keep for several days in the refrigerator.

Apr 25, 2010

Classic Whoopie Pies

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The time has come. Completely ridiculous words have begun to take over our household. And I’m not just talking about Little C’s streaming toddler babble (“Hi! Hello? Apple? Mamadadababy! Toes! No?”). I’m talking about the random words that her parents haphazardly stick into sentences in place of more, shall we say, inflammatory terms, in the hopes of avoiding crass truck driver-parroting by said toddler. Like the day I informed my husband that I’d “scrubbed the–pajamas outta the shower”. A new low of parental dorkery, friends.

The day is fast approaching when I won’t be able to say that I really hate something because it’s basically stupid, and instead I’ll say that I “don’t like it very much” and it’s “silly”. If I ever get to using the word “whoopee” in The Newlywed Game sense, someone please send me out to pasture. Unless, of course, we’re talking about these totally kick-ass Whoopie Pies, in which case no language will be barred, I don’t care what sweet, impressionable, jeans-clinging tiny person is in my midst.

After meeting the greatness that is Rose Levy Beranbaum a couple weeks ago and getting a shiny new copy of her Heavenly Cakes book (just announced as IACP’s Cookbook of the Year, hooray!) signed and in my hot little hands, I started flipping and bookmarking that very night. And the recipes are, of course, at an insane level of creative genius. Most of them are, in a word, complex. So until Little C starts preschool, I’m probably going to stick to a few of the simpler recipes in this book, like these Whoopie Pies–rich, dense, deeply chocolatey cakey cookies sandwiching the most silky, perfect vanilla buttercream I’ve ever had. To die for, basically.

But because we’re friends, I’ll tell you that as far as Whoopie Pies go, the process to make them isn’t the simplest of all the recipes out there. This is RLB we’re talking about, after all. However, I will also say that they are totally, completely worth it, thank God. The cake part of the recipe actually comes together fairly quickly, and the double hit of dark chocolate makes for the kind of fudgy batter that you’ll want to spoon right from the bowl.

And the buttercream filling? Oh mah gah. This filling is one of Rose’s signature “mousseline” buttercreams, and it does not disappoint. And in her new book, she’s made the process a bit simpler for those of us who don’t have eight hands. Hooray!

The combination is nothing short of heavenly. With a tall, cold glass of milk, you’re really going to need to watch your language.

Whoopie Pies
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Rose’s Heavenly Cakes

The original recipe stated that it would create 6 filled pies, but I easily got 8 out of my batches of batter and filling. The recipe also called for bringing the sugar syrup all the way to firm ball stage (248-250 degrees) before removing it from the heat, and the first time I followed this instruction, the syrup had cooled and mostly soldered itself to the measuring cup before I could get it into the meringue. I found that bringing it to a warm soft ball stage instead (238) worked much better and the end result was still great.

There are a lot of steps here, which I’ve condensed quite a bit from the original recipe. Read it carefully before you begin and try to choreograph the process in your head in the way that will work best for you before you begin.

If you don’t own smaller ice cream scoops, this recipe would be the perfect excuse to go buy a 2 tablespoon scoop–it makes portioning out the batter and filling evenly a breeze.

Makes 8 whoopie pies

For the cakes:

1 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (60-62% cacao–I used Ghiradelli bittersweet chips and it was fine)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cool room temperature
1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour (sift first, then measure)
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

For the filling:

1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 tablespoon water
1 large egg white, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoons cream of tartar
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at cool room temperature, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted confectioners’ sugar

Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees. Line two unrimmed baking sheets (or invert two rimmed half-sheet pans) with parchment paper or silicone baking mats, or spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water or in a microwave at 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds. Let cool until the chocolate is no longer warm to the touch, but still fluid.

While the chocolate is cooling, place the brown sugar, egg, oil and butter in the bowl of an eletrci mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat at medium speed for about 5 minutes–the mixture will become smooth and paler in color. Reduce the speed to low and stir in the melted chocolate.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture in three additions on low speed, alternating with the buttermilk, beating just until each addition begins to disappear into the batter, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With a 1-ounce (2 tablespoons) ice cream scoop, portion the batter onto the sheets, 8 evenly spaced mounds per sheet.

Bake one sheet at a time, rotating halfway through baking, until the centers spring back when lightly touched, about 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on the sheet on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes before transferring the cakes to the rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container until ready to fill.

To make the filling, begin by making the sugar syrup. Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, cook until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is bubbling. Reduce the heat to low and move on to making the meringue (if you’re using an electric range, remove the pan from the heat completely).

In a mixing bowl with a handheld mixer, beat the egg white on high speed until foamy with tiny, relatively uniform bubbles. Add the cream of tartar and beat until stiff peaks form when the beaters are lifted.

Return to the sugar syrup and increase the heat to high. Boil until the syrup reaches 238-240 degrees. To make pouring easier, transfer the syrup to a heatproof measuring cup if you wish.

Beat the syrup into the meringue in a thin, steady stream, aiming away from the beaters so that the syrup doesn’t just spin onto the sides of the bowl. Beat until the outside of the bowl no longer feels hot, about 3 minutes. Beat in 1 tablespoon of the butter and the vanilla extract or paste. Refrigerate for 10 minutes while you make the finishing cream for the filling.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter and confectioners’ sugar. Beat on high for 2 minutes or until the mixture is very light in texture and color, almost white. Lower the speed to medium and beat in all the meringue until the buttercream is smooth, about 10 seconds or so.

To assemble, sandwich generous 2-tablespoon mounds of the filling between the cakes, and press down lightly so that the cream reaches the edges of the pies. Serve at room temperature and store any leftovers refrigerated in an airtight container, allowing them to come to room temperature again before serving.

Apr 23, 2010

Spring Vegetable Quiche

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Since I told you about my favorite pie crust the other day, I thought, hey, why not throw out a little recipe that is as easy as all get out, illustrating the glory of said crust? Now, I know you might be looking at the photo above and seeing bits of green and what appears to be a savory quiche, and you may be a bit puzzled by the whole thing. Where’s the sugar, man?! And to throw you off a little more, look! Pictures of vegetables! Wheeee!

About now, perhaps you’re checking the URL and making sure you’ve landed on the right blog. Or wondering if I’ve really, finally gone off the deep end. Which, honestly, I nearly do, about three times per week at least. But make no mistake—you’re in the right place, my darlings. I’m all thinking outside the box and seeing the forest for the trees or whatever and throwing savory at you. And I feel fantastic about it. This Spring Vegetable Quiche will make your weekend brunch, I can promise you that.

There’s really no better time to whip up a dish like this, guys. It’s insanely simple to throw together and it’s bursting with fresh, bright, green spring bounty. Fabulous crust aside, it’s a tangle of melting leeks and tender-crisp bits of asparagus, all nestled in a delicate, creamy bed of golden egg custard. With a little pile of lightly dressed greens and a chilly glass of Sauv Blanc on the side, you might just spaz out from gastronomical pleasure and maniacal happiness. It may make you do something crazy, like post the recipe on your granulated sugar-fueled baking blog. I can’t be held responsible.

Spring Vegetable Quiche
Adapted from Martha Stewart

As long as you keep the general amounts the same, you can swap out all sorts of vegetables here. I think adding some little sweet spring peas to the mix would be excellent. Scattering the cheese across the bottom of the crust rather than mixing it into the custard will help keep the crust from being soggy. To make this recipe even easier, you can forgo the scratch crust for a store-bought one. I won’t tell anyone.

Serves 6-8

1 pie crust, placed in a 9-inch glass pie plate, crimped and well-chilled
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, well-washed, halved and sliced thin
1 pound green asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (keep the tips intact)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

Position a rack to the lowest level of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks and asparagus and season generously with salt and pepper. Saute just until the colors brighten and the vegetable just begin to soften, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and nutmeg.

Place the chilled pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet. Scatter the cheese over the bottom of the pie shell. Place the vegetables in an even layer over the cheese. Pour the custard over all. Bake until the center of the quiche is just set, about 50-60 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking. Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving. To store leftovers, let the quiche cool completely before covering tightly and refrigerating for up to 1 day. Reheat at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.


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