Tag : fruit
Tag : fruit
previous monthly muffins
It’s cherry season, y’all!!
I’m still working through about a pound of black cherries that I bought a week ago, even after making 48 ounces of cherry jam and many, many batches of these muffins. Half of my shirts are stained from pitting the cherries, I almost ruined a kitchen towel crushing the pits (to get the kernels out for the jam), and I’m bursting with roasty, toasty, hazelnutty goodness.
Hazelnut is one among my favorite flavors, but as much as I love it, hazelnut will never surpass almond. What’s more, almond is a more traditional companion for dark cherries. In fact, the kernels inside the cherry pits taste and smell like almond (and my cherry jam has heaps of Amaretto and Cognac.)
That being said, I used almond in my blackberry almond muffins, and I wanted to venture a little outside my comfort zone. Meaning, I wanted to buy hazelnuts for the first time.
I had actually found a bag of whole hazelnuts at my grocery store a month ago and I couldn’t resist buying them and storing them in the freezer. When I decided on this recipe, it was the perfect opportunity to start digging into the bag of nuts (and an excuse to buy Frangelico.)
The sweetness and tartness of the cherries is naturally complemented by the Kirschwasser, a German black cherry liqueur (the name means “cherry water”), and it pairs well with the sweet nuttiness of the hazelnuts (which are accented with the Frangelico, an Italian hazelnut liqueur.) You can swap out Cognac, another popular cherry companion, for either of the other flavors, but I recommend keeping the Frangelico for an extra hazelnut boost in the muffin batter. Lightly toasting the hazelnuts really intensifies their flavor. When using raw nuts in pastries, I almost always toast them first.
black cherry hazelnut muffins with kirsch and frangelico
based on my whole wheat rhubarb muffins
4 oz hazelnuts
4 oz all-purpose flour
4 oz whole wheat flour
3 oz almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
5 oz granulated sugar
4 oz canola oil
7 oz milk
1 tsp Kirschwasser (black cherry liqueur; can also substitute Cognac or Amaretto)
1 tsp Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur; can make the same substitutions as above, but the Frangelico is strongly suggested for more hazelnut flavor)
8 oz dark cherries, pitted and cut in half (pitting cherries and olives is easy with the right tool!)
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin pan with paper muffin liners.
Place the hazelnuts in a single layer in a small skillet or on a baking sheet, and toast them lightly on the stove or in the oven for about 5 – 7 minutes, shaking them around occasionally, until they start to brown a little bit and you can smell them.
Transfer the toasted hazelnuts to a cutting board and let them cool while you prepare the rest of the batter.
In a small bowl, combine the all-purpose, whole wheat, and almond flours, and the salt and baking powder.
When the hazelnuts have cooled down, coarsely chop them. They don’t need to be too small, but they should be smaller than a whole hazelnut. Cutting them in half is fine. Add the chopped toasted hazelnuts to a bowl with the pitted and halved cherries.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, oil, milk, Kirschwasser, and Frangelico.
Add the dry mixture to the wet and quickly mix together. Mix in the cherries and hazelnuts.
Using a cookie scoop or large spoon, divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups and bake 30 – 35 minutes, until the tops spring back when pressed down lightly in the center or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Let the muffins cool for a few minutes in the pan, then transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling.
Muffins last up to 48 hours wrapped individually in plastic. If they start to go a little stale, you can microwave them for about 15 seconds.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love almond (and also hazelnut, for that matter.) Whenever I go out for coffee, I always ask for an iced (soy) almond latte, or hazelnut if they don’t have almond. Almond is, without a doubt, one of my top 10 favorite flavors (also: cardamom, blackberry, lemon.) During the holidays, I like to treat myself to fancy marzipan candies.
And I don’t share. (That’s totally a lie. I share almost everything.)
And then there’s lemon, another one of my Top 10 Favorite Foods. I published another lemon cake a couple months ago, a layered sponge cake with honey and lemon. I’m actually, surprisingly, not a big cake person usually. It used to be that the only cake I liked was lemon cake (like birthday cake but lemon-flavored). As much as I love sweets, my sweet tooth isn’t always the sweetest: sometimes I need bitter or sour, and lemon always provides the perfect amount of tartness. No matter how much sugar you add to something lemon-flavored, that bit of brightness will always balance it out, in my opinion.
Orange, however, is a different story.
This cake is one that I’ve been wanting to master and publish for probably a year now. I wanted something light and almond-y, something kind of snack-y that would go well in the morning with coffee, or after dinner…with coffee…or really any time of day…with coffee. The thing about this cake that makes it both difficult and easy to learn at the same time is that it’s a common Italian cake: there are hundreds and thousands of recipes online, from Italian and Italian-American sources (not all great sources), but at the same time, they’re all family recipes, which tend not to translate well when transmitted to other families. But one of the great baking mottos is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”: find a recipe that works for you or that you can adapt and then stick with that.
We all know what it’s like to learn to cook from our families. I’ve only just started moving away from strict recipes and measurements, but when I tried making my mom’s special pot roast for my dad’s birthday last year, I was indescribably frustrated by her “recipe” that had no measurements (“Oh, I don’t know. I just add stuff and hope the pot doesn’t boil over. You just cook it until it’s done cooking.”)
As with the sponge cake, I tried pulling from a few different recipes and adapting the flavors as I went. I had a lot more success initially than I did with the lemon-honey cake: almond is far easier to incorporate than honey. The question then was, what exactly was I looking for?
What I ended up with was perfect: a single-layer cake, with enough moisture from the ricotta cheese without actually tasting like cheese (one batch did taste like cheese) and just the right amount of the ricotta texture, plus some richness from the butter and almond meal, nuttiness from the almond extract, almond meal, and toasted sliced almonds, and tartness from the lemon. Light, but rich, sweet, but tart, nutty, and even kind of refreshing. I experimented with adding in chopped almonds but I actually prefer that the cake itself not have anything inside (the sliced almonds on top are heaven, though.) I couldn’t decide if I needed something more for a topping, so I played with glaze (meh), powdered sugar (not bad), whipped cream (eh), and fruit compote (a nice, bright counterpoint to the sweetness and nuttiness of the cake.) I settled on the sliced almonds and macerated berries.
The cake itself is best cold and it lasts for a while in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic.
lemon almond ricotta cake
adapted from Bon Appetit, raspberry ricotta cake
makes one 9″ cake or two 6″ cakes
Note: Using 3 whole eggs made the cake slightly wetter than I wanted, but splitting eggs evenly is difficult. I normally prefer, if I need to split an egg, to separate the white and the yolk (it’s just simpler.) One whole egg is 1.8 oz on average, and 2 parts white to 1 part yolk. Two yolks, then, is about 1.2 oz. Another reason I prefer to separate the eggs and use the yolks instead of the white is that the whites can be aged or frozen for a really long time, and used in a ton of other recipes. Yolks don’t last as long. Plus, yolks are richer than whites. Finally, because this recipe fills two 6″ cake pans, and I use an even number of whole eggs and egg yolks, it’s easier to make a half recipe (I always use half recipes for testing.) If you haven’t figured this out already, you’ll see in my recipes that I’m obsessed with evenly-measured ingredients that can easily be divided in half.
~1/2 c sliced almonds, for topping
4 oz all-purpose flour
2 oz almond flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
7 oz granulated sugar
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
12 oz ricotta cheese
zest and juice of 2 large lemons (not baby lemons)
1/2 tsp almond extract
4 oz unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Serving suggestion: macerated seasonal fruits*, plus your favorite coffee or wine
Macerating basically means softening fruit with sugar and acid. It’s a common first step in making jams and compotes, but it can even be as simple as dusting fresh fruit with sugar right before serving. The sugar, which is hydrophilic, draws out some of the water from the fruit, making the fruit softer and then dissolves into the water to form a fruit syrup. If you let the fruit macerate for at least a few hours (like at least 3 hours), you’ll have plenty of syrup and very soft fruit. You could simmer or boil the mixture for a few minutes to thicken it into a compote, or serve as is.
For an extra kick, add a splash of your favorite liqueur (Amaretto might be too much to serve with this cake, but limoncello-macerated strawberries is a great combination.)
Macerating is something you can start ahead of time. In fact, so is the cake: make the cake and combine the fruit mixture the day before so you don’t have to do any work the day you’re serving everything.
Make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C. Grease a 9″ or two 6″ cake pans and line the bottom with a parchment circle (How To Make a Parchment Circle.)
Using a skillet on the stove or a clean baking sheet and the oven, lightly toast the almond slices for about 2 – 5 minutes, until they brown a bit, tossing them occasionally to prevent burning. You don’t need any oil for this. Pour the toasted almond slices into a bowl and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, and egg yolks vigorously until the mixture starts to turn a little paler and fluffier. You’re not really making a sponge, but you do want a bit of air in the batter.
Add the ricotta, lemon zest, lemon juice, and almond extract and whisk until smooth and fully combined.
Fold the dry ingredients into the wet batter, and once the batter is fully combined, whisk in the melted and cooled butter. I find it easier to incorporate melted butter at the end to prevent the butter from chilling or breaking.
Scrape the batter evenly into the cake pans, scatter the tops with the toasted almond slices, and bake for about 50 – 60 minutes (regardless of the width.)
The cake will be a little bit wetter than you’re used to with other cakes, muffins, or cupcakes, but it will still feel springy and foamy. For this cake, the best indicators of doneness will be the edges and the color: the edges of the cake should pull away completely from the sides of the cake pans (there shouldn’t be any of the top outer edge of the cake still touching the pan), and the surface of the cake will be golden brown.
Remove the cake(s) from the oven and let cool in the pans for about 5 minutes. Gently run a flat knife or offset spatula around the sides of the cake to make sure it’s loosened from the sides of the pan. Place a flat, wide plate over the top of the pan and invert the cake pan so that cake falls out onto the plate, then place a cooling rack on top of the cake and invert the cake back onto the cooling rack, so the almond-topped surface is right-side up. Repeat with the other cake (if you made two small ones.)
Make sure you peel off the parchment round before cutting and eating the cakes.
La bella mandorla!
previous monthly muffins
In my experience, rye flour is one of those gourmet flours that you can find occasionally and only in small, expensive bags. This is fine: I don’t make rye bread very often (of all the bread I’ve ever made, rye has been the most difficult…so we’re on a break like Ross and Rachel.)
A couple months ago, however, when I went to get one of those small bags of rye flour (to try and make some pumpernickel), the only bag I could find was 5 pounds. For anyone not familiar with buying flour or sugar, the biggest bag of regular (all-purpose) flour you can find at the grocery store is 5 pounds, and the average small bag is about 2 pounds. For most of the less common flours, the average is 1 pound. Because I don’t use those flours very often, 1 pound can last a few months.
That means 5 pounds would have lasted a year…but North Carolina summers are a special kind of beast. I went to make these blueberry rye muffins a few weeks ago, and as I opened the bag of wheat flour (that had already been opened but then folded and clipped to seal it), I noticed something moving inside. It was almost as if the flour itself was moving.
It was ants. There were ants all over the inside of the bag…and the 5-pound bag of rye flour…and all of my rice flour…and my almond flour…every single bag of flour that had been open, no matter how well it was sealed, was crawling with ants. There were no ants anywhere else in the pantry (and believe me, I checked thoroughly), except inside my precious bags of flour.
Throwing all of that flour away was like ripping off my own arm and throwing it in the trash.
But enough about ants. Now, the flour shelf in the pantry is full of sealable plastic containers.
By the way, these muffins are amazing. The rye and whole wheat go together well, blueberries pair with any kind of spice, and the spice mixture is like a little bit of autumn in the middle of summer. It’s weird, but it works.
rye spiced blueberry streusel muffins
makes 1 dozen
based on my gluten-free blueberry buttermilk muffins
Note: The streusel can be prepared ahead and either frozen or refrigerated, unbaked, until ready to use. It’s best to chill the streusel for at least 10 – 15 minutes before using, so it’ll bake without melting.
spiced whole wheat streusel
1.5 oz whole wheat flour
1.5 oz brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1.5 oz unsalted butter
spiced rye muffins
7 oz all-purpose flour
3.5 oz rye flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp anise
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
4 oz vegetable oil or butter, melted and cooled
7 oz milk or buttermilk
5 oz granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 c (6 oz) blueberries, fresh or frozen
make the streusel
In a small food processor, combine everything except the butter and pulse a few times to combine. Alternately, you can whisk the ingredients together in a large bowl.
Chop the butter into small pieces (at least 6 pieces, no more than a tablespoon each), and add to the dry mixture.
If using a food processor: Pulse the butter and the dry mixture together (stopping and starting) until it forms coarse crumbs. Once it looks sandy and chunky, it’s done. If you pulse too long, you might start forming a dough, which you’ll have to break up again.
If using a bowl: Use a pastry blender, combine the butter and dry mixture until it forms coarse crumbs.
Transfer the streusel mix to a sealable container and chill or freeze until ready to use. You can bake streusel straight from the freezer.
make the muffins
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin pan with paper muffin liners.
In a small bowl, combine flours, baking powder, salt, and spices.
In a larger bowl, whisk together oil/butter, milk, eggs, sugar, and vanilla until uniform.
Quickly combine the dry mixture into the wet ingredients and add the blueberries. There may be a few small lumps of flour, but most of the dry mixture should be wet. You don’t need to mix the batter too much.
Using a spoon or cookie scoop, divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups and sprinkle a liberal amount of streusel on top.
Bake the muffins for about 30 – 35 minutes until they spring back when pressed lightly in the middle, or a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Lavender, like rose, is one of those flavors that people generally don’t enjoy. Some people are okay with it, some love it, and some just cannot stand to eat anything lavender-flavored.
I used to be one of those people. I remember making soap for Christmas when I was younger, and it was always lavender-scented. I’m not sure I even liked the scent back then, but, just like most other people, because my first experiences with lavender were in soaps and perfumes, when I first started eating lavender-flavored things, I could only think of eating soaps and perfumes.
My favorite coffeeshop started experimenting with lavender simple syrup a few years ago, and I was curious to try it in a latte. At first, it was one of the most disgusting things I’d ever tasted.
But now, maybe three years later, I actually enjoy the taste. A lot of lavender can be overpowering, and lavender just by itself is too much, but when combined with the right flavors, it’s perfect. Raspberry is one of those flavors. (So is blackberry: I just recently attempted lavender-blackberry jam and it might be one of my top ten favorite flavor combinations now.)
When I think of lavender now, I think of sweet, warm flavors like vanilla or almond. With these muffins, you get tart, fruity raspberries, fragrant, floral lavender, and warm vanilla. The flavor is almost creamy (I know, I cringe at that word but it’s the most appropriate so I’ll suck it up if you will.) The lavender blends into the raspberry flavor seamlessly, so it isn’t soap-y, medicine-y, or perfume-y, and the vanilla is a nice sweet balance to the fruit and the flower.
raspberry, lavender, and vanilla bean muffins
makes 1 dozen
8 oz all-purpose flour
2 oz whole wheat flour
1 tsp lavender buds
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
5 oz sugar
7 oz milk
4 oz vegetable oil or melted butter
1 vanilla bean or 1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste
6 oz fresh or frozen raspberries
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin pan with paper muffin liners.
In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, lavender buds, baking powder, and salt.
If using a whole vanilla bean pod, then split the pot open lengthwise with the tip of a paring knife. Using the blunt side of the tip of the knife (the spine), scrape the seeds out of the pod and add to the granulated sugar in a large bowl. Save the vanilla bean pod in a plastic bag and store it in a cool, dry place.
Add the eggs, milk, and vegetable oil to the vanilla bean seeds and sugar and whisk to combine (if using vanilla bean paste, add it to the mixture at this point.)
Quickly combine the dry ingredients into the wet, and when the batter is almost fully combined, fold in the raspberries.
Use a large scoop or spoon to evenly scoop the batter into the muffin pans. Bake the muffins for 25 – 30 minutes until they spring back when lightly pressed down in the middle, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
previous summer muffins
I know blackberries aren’t technically in season yet, but think of this recipe as a preview: by the time blackberries are perfect for the picking, you’ll already have a recipe for them!
And, spoiler alert, another one on the way.
I don’t remember when I started realizing how much I love blackberries, but when I fell for them, I fell hard. They are, by far, my favorite berry. Don’t get me wrong, I love all berries and everything related to berries (except strawberry milk and strawberry ice cream: major blegh.) But blackberries are a league of their own.
One day, I’m going to write a cookbook dedicated to blackberries. But actually, I just came up with that idea and it’s a damn good idea, so I’m totally serious.
My goal with this recipe was to get another good summer recipe using fruit, but because I already have blackberry almond muffins, I wanted to go in a different direction. I believe you can’t go wrong with a good whole wheat muffin, and the honey came to me when I was working on my lemon-honey sponge cake. At first, I added a bunch of spices to the muffins, but it was too much, so I omitted them entirely. The honey itself is at once sweet and acidic, but I add lemon zest for a bright balance to the sweetness of the honey.
I’m discovering that blackberries play well with a lot of other ingredients, and that’s exciting.
blackberry honey whole wheat muffins
adapted from my blackberry almond muffins
makes 1 dozen
4 oz all-purpose flour
8 oz whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 oz honey
zest of 1 baby lemon or 1/2 of one large lemon
6 oz milk
4 oz unsalted butter, melted, or canola oil
9 oz blackberries
Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C, and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder, and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, honey, lemon zest, and milk, until homogeneous. If using vegetable oil, whisk it in with these ingredients. If using butter, mix everything else first.
Whisk in the melted butter.
Quickly dump the dry ingredients into the wet and mix together. Fold in the blackberries.
Scoop the batter into the muffin pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes. The muffins will feel springy when you push gently in the center with a finger. You can also test with a wooden toothpick: insert the toothpick into the center of the muffin and it should come out clean.
Remove the muffins from the oven and let them cool for about 5 minutes in the pan. Transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling.
You can keep the muffins up to 48 hours wrapped individually in plastic. Let them cool down completely before wrapping.
Smell ya later, honeys,
Sometime between last April, when I published the earl grey layer cake with turmeric frosting, and last month, I fell in love with cakes again. Just like I publish a new pie recipe every November, I decided I wanted to publish a new cake recipe every spring, and I’ve been filling up pages of my cooking notebook with spring (and non-spring) cake ideas for weeks. Matcha chiffon cake is at the top of the list, y’all, so keep an eye out for that.
For months, I’d been wanting to do something with lemon, honey, and/or other flavors. I played around with Italian almond ricotta cake (still in progress but will definitely be showing up sooner or later), and contemplated buying mini bundt pans to make mini honey bundt cakes (still hasn’t happened, but we’ll see.) I googled “lemon cake,” “honey cake,” “best spring cakes,” and even “white cake” and “yellow cake” for inspiration, and in March I tried out a few recipes. There doesn’t seem to be a lot in the way of lemon-honey cake online, and all the “honey cakes” I found were spiced and dense, and not really what I had in mind. The recipes I tried the first two times were Frankenstein monsters of other recipes (mostly of my earl grey cake recipe), and they were not working. No matter how I adjusted the amount of fat, liquid, lemon, and flavor, the batter always broke and the texture just wasn’t right.
As always when I get stuck on a pastry thing, I asked one of the pastry chefs at work for advice: How does she recommend incorporating both honey and lemon into a cake that’s light, fluffy, and spring-themed?
Sponge cake. She recommended sponge cake, and I tried to think through everything else she’s taught me about cake, and I realized, I honestly had no idea what a sponge cake was. At the same time as I was working on this, I was hooked on the show, “Zumbo’s Just Desserts,” and in the first season, one of the contestants talks about her mother’s sponge cake recipe.
What is this sponge cake people talking about?
Clearly sponge cakes aren’t the most popular cake in the States.
I changed course and researched different types of sponge cake, the difference between sponges and other cakes, types of cakes in general, and best sponges for layering.
Turns out cake is pretty complex, y’all.
But, I’m a fan of making things super simple, and just like with my lemon curd (which features in this cake recipe), I’m about to make cakes super frickin’ simple and blow some minds.
In general, cakes can be categorized as one of two types (with some cakes straddling the line): Sponge and Butter.
A sponge cake is made with an egg sponge base: eggs, whole or separated, are whipped up with sugar and the other ingredients. The eggs foam up like meringue (in some recipes, it actually is meringue.) There is usually very little starch added, and in some cases, very little fat. Angel food cake, for example, has zero fat, and dacquoise has no starch. Genoise, on the other hand, has a small amount of flour and butter, and uses whole eggs, so there’s fat from the yolks.
A butter cake is what most of us in the States are used to: softened butter is beaten with sugar (“creamed“), and then the other ingredients are beaten in, slowly and one at a time to keep the batter emulsified. The base of the cake batter is the sugar-butter mixture, which increases in volume just like an egg sponge. However, most butter cake recipes involve adding the eggs directly to the batter without foaming them up. This is where we find birthday cakes and yellow cakes.
In the sponge family, we have such cakes as: swiss roll, ladyfingers/savoy sponge, flourless chocolate cakes, tortes, financiers, madeleines, sacher tortes, and of course genoise, dacquoise, and angel food.
On the other, fattier side: pound cake, common chocolate cakes, white cake, yellow cake, carrot cake, red velvet cake, and devil’s food cake.
And straddling the divide: chiffon (a sponge with vegetable oil.)
At first, I was overwhelmed trying to understand what exactly a sponge is, what the types of cakes were, and the differences from one cake to another, but when I started reading about sponges versus butter cakes, the information all felt more accessible.
From there, I decided on a genoise/genoese sponge flavored with lemon zest, doused with honey simple syrup, and layered up with mascarpone and lemon curd.
Genoise, an Italian sponge cake (from Genoa), uses whole eggs, unseparated, for the sponge, and contains some flour and butter. The fat makes the finished cake just sturdy enough that you can slice and layer it, but the air in the sponge allows for dousing with whatever flavored syrup you want (hashtag, booze.) As the name implies, the cake is a sponge, meaning it sucks up whatever liquid you add to it. The cake itself is light and lean (not fatty), so a lot of the flavor comes from the dousing liquid and the other components of the layer cake.
My trouble with the earliest attempts was that I wanted to add lemon zest and juice for that flavor, but the juice was too much liquid, and I couldn’t add enough honey for the honey flavor without breaking the batter. Butter is temperamental like that. By separating the flavors out into a variety of different components, I could get both the lemon and the honey, play with different textures, and keep my cake light and fluffy.
So here it is, the 2018 Spring Cake: lemon-honey genoise, layered with lemon curd and honey mascarpone.
For some extra fanciness, top the cake with candied lemon peel, honeycomb candy, or real honeycomb* (but maybe add the honeycomb candy and lemon peel right before serving because they can’t be refrigerated and the cake needs to be chilled.)
Maybe I’ll need to do a summer cake, an autumn cake, and a winter cake, as well.
*I did extensive research (Googling and asking everyone I know), and yes, honeycomb is both edible and digestible (though most people treat it like gum and spit it out after getting the honey.)
lemon honey sponge cake with lemon curd and honey mascarpone frosting
adapted from The Art of French Baking, by Ginette Mathiot
makes one 6″ cake, 3 layers (double the recipe to make an 8″ – 9″ cake)
The written recipe itself looks long, but I promise you that the process is not long or cumbersome. There’s just a lot to know about each component.
First, watch this video to gain some idea of how to go about making and assembling this cake. This is Mary Berry making a “fraisier cake” (a strawberry genoise layer cake), and I follow almost this exact process. You can assemble your cake more roughly/casually and with fewer tools, if you want.
Note: Finding ways to prepare recipes in advance will save you a lot of stress, and fortunately, advanced preparation is not only easy for cakes, but recommended. “Never bake a cake the same day you’re going to serve it,” a pastry chef at work told me when I mentioned this cake idea to her. Make the sponge in advance, slice it into layers when it cools, wrap each layer individually in plastic, and freeze or chill at least 1 day before you plan to assemble the cake. You should also make the lemon curd in advance, and you could even have the honey simple syrup prepared ahead of time. Of course, the garnishes can be made ahead of time. The candied lemon peel should be kept at room temperature and the honeycomb candy stays best in the freezer, but if you have silica gel, you can keep it at room temperature.
For baking the cake: a small saucepan, a large mixing bowl or a stand mixer, a handheld electric mixer (if not using a stand mixer), a whisk, a rubber spatula, a fine mesh sieve, one 6″ cake pan, parchment or a 6″ parchment round
For making the mascarpone frosting: two mixing bowls, one handheld electric mixer (or you can use a stand mixer, but you’ll want to use the electric mixer in both bowls, so if you use a stand mixer, you’ll need to transfer the whipped cream to another container after whipping it), a silicone spatula
For assembling the cake: a 6″ cake ring (not required but highly recommended), parchment paper or an acetate sheet (if using the cake ring, otherwise neither are necessary), a pastry brush (bristles or silicone), a serrated bread knife, two small-ish (12″ or less) piping bags and tips for the lemon curd and mascarpone, a small offset spatula
lemon genoise sponge
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
2.6 oz granulated sugar
zest of 1 large lemon or 2 baby lemons
2.1 oz all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp (0.5 oz) unsalted butter, melted
honey simple syrup
2 oz honey
0.4 oz water
honey mascarpone frosting
3 oz whipping cream
3 oz mascarpone cheese*
2 oz honey
1 oz powdered sugar
*Some regular grocery stores carry mascarpone cheese, occasionally, or you can find it at Whole Foods. It’s like a cross between cream cheese and heavy cream: lighter than cream cheese, but thicker than whipped cream. You can substitute cream cheese for mascarpone, but it will be thicker and have a stronger flavor. A closer cousin of mascarpone is crème fraîche, which is easier to find in the grocery store.
Make the lemon curd in advance. You can make it up to a week in advance and refrigerate or up to 6 months in advance and freeze the curd. Thaw the curd in the refrigerator overnight before assembling the cake.
1-2 days before serving the cake, make the sponge. On the day that you’re serving the cake, make the simple syrup, then make the mascarpone, infuse the sponge with the syrup, and assemble the cake from there.
make the sponge cake
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C. Butter a 6″ cake pan and line the bottom with a 6″ parchment paper round.
Fill a small saucepan about an inch deep with water and set on the stove over medium heat. This is your double-boiler.
In a large, heat-proof bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, and lemon zest. Set the bowl on top of the sauce pan, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water or the bottom of the sauce pan. The water should be simmering, not boiling (despite the term “double-boiler”). If you see steam escaping from the sides or hear boiling, lower the temperature a little bit.
Gently cook the mixture, whisking occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. At first, the mixture will look grainy, like sugar combined with eggs, but once the sugar dissolves, you’ll see a thin foam on top and the mixture will turn darker yellow. It will look smooth, like eggs whisked up by themselves. This will only take about 5 minutes, and if you want to use a thermometer, then the mixture is ready when it reaches 110 – 120 F/43 – 49 C. The bowl and the mixture will feel warm to the touch.
Remove the bowl from the double-boiler and, using either a handheld electric mixer or the stand mixer, and the wire whip/whisk attachment, whip the foam on high until it increases drastically in volume and the bowl cools down completely. The foam will become significantly paler in color and will look a bit like lotion or meringue (but because of the yolks, it won’t act quite like meringue.) Your goal here is to get the foam to the ribboning stage: when you lift the whip/whisk out of the foam, it slowly falls back down and forms a ribbon on the surface of the mixture before disappearing back into the mixture.
You’ll also eventually see the foam stop increasing in volume. As you’re whipping, you’ll see little splatters around the sides of the bowl, above the surface of the foam, and when the whole mixture reaches that far up the side of the bowl, it’s done.
It’s important to whip the foam enough but it’s possible to overwhip. The ribboning will be the best indicator that you’re done.
Once the foam is done, measure out your flour into a small bowl. Using a fine-mesh sieve or a flour sifter (hand-crank is easier than squeeze), sift the flour onto the surface of the foam in 3-4 additions, folding it into the foam with a rubber spatula after each.
After all the flour is sifted and mostly folded into the batter, fold in the butter. The butter can be completely melted or just really, really soft. If it’s completely melted (the way I prefer to do), it’s more likely to pool at the bottom, but it’s easier to mix into the batter. If it’s solid but really soft, it’s less likely to fall to the bottom, but harder to fold into the batter.
You’ll notice pockets of flour throughout the batter and at the bottom of the bowl, and some of the butter may have pooled at the bottom, as well. Keep folding until all of the butter and most of the flour is well-incorporated.
If you’re using a stand mixer with the bowls that have a bump on the bottom, I find it easier to tilt the bowl sideways and fold the batter over itself horizontally, rather than trying to fold up from the bottom around the bump.
Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan. As you pour the batter into the pan, if you see any lumps of flour, just gently mix them back into the batter with your spatula (as Mary Berry does in the video.)
Bake the sponge for 25 – 35 minutes*, until tanned and foam-y to the touch. It should feel almost like a muffin: the center will spring back when lightly pressed down, and the sides of the cake will be pulling away from the sides of the pan.
*It’s very important, like with any other sponge (or anything with meringue), that you don’t open the oven too early! I learned this the hard way. Don’t start opening the oven to test the cake until at least 25 minutes into baking, when the cake starts getting some tan on the surface and pulling away from the sides of the pan. If you open the oven door before the cake sets, it’ll deflate in the center.
Remove the cake from the oven and let cool in its pan for about 5 minutes, then invert the cake onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
When the cake has cooled completely, slice it horizontally into 2 – 3 layers with a serrated knife. The cake should be tall enough to get 3 thin layers, each about 2/3 of an inch. Wrap each layer separately in plastic and keep refrigerated or frozen until ready to assemble.
make the syrup and infuse the cake
Honey simple syrup is just honey with some water. Because the honey itself is already a syrup, there’s no sugar to dissolve, so there’s no need for cooking. The goal is to make a syrup thin enough that it will soak into the sponge, but thick enough that it won’t run out of the sponge. I found that 5 parts honey to 1 part water was a good ratio for the consistency and flavor.
Whisk together the honey and water in a medium bowl.
Don’t pour the syrup onto the cake because it’ll soak in immediately and you won’t be able to brush it around. Use a pastry brush to gently brush the syrup onto one side of each layer (one of the cut sides; the syrup won’t soak through the top or bottom crust).
You can brush each layer as you assemble the cake or you can brush them all before assembling.
prepare the mascarpone
You’ll need to beat both the mascarpone and the whipping cream, but you’ll need to do it separately. You can use the same mixer attachment for both, or even the same bowl, but do the whipping cream first. If using one bowl for both components, transfer the whipped cream to a different container before doing the mascarpone. You don’t need to clean the beaters between whipping the cream and the mascarpone.
First, whip the cream. Cold cream whips up better than warm cream (this is the opposite of eggs: warm eggs whip up better than cold.) Whip the cream until it’s stiff and holds its shape. You should be able to tilt the bowl upside down and the whipped cream will stay. Like with eggs, it is possible to whip the cream too much: eventually, it turns into butter. The cream is done when it starts to look like it isn’t running anymore.
Next, combine the mascarpone, honey, and powdered sugar in another bowl, and beat the mixture until homogeneous and creamy.
Fold in the whipped cream the same way you folded together the cake batter. The mascarpone will be slightly off-white because of the honey and the whipped cream will be relatively pale, so you should be able to see two different colors at first, and you’ll see the colors mix together. Fold until there are no streaks of whipped cream left. This frosting should still be pretty stiff, like the whipped cream but unlike the cake batter.
Taste the frosting and adjust with more honey or sugar as needed. It should have a pretty noticeable honey flavor.
You’ll pipe about 1/3 of the frosting in between the layers and the rest will go on top of the cake.
assemble the cake
When you aren’t using the lemon curd or the mascarpone, keep them in the refrigerator. Additionally, keep the cake chilled when you aren’t in the process of assembling. Cakes and their components are easier to work with when they stay chilled.
You can assemble the cake using cake rings and acetate/parchment, or you can layer it without the extra support. If using a cake ring and parchment or acetate, make a strip wider than the depth of the cake ring (or taller than the cake will be), and set the parchment/acetate inside the cake ring, pressed up around the edges of the ring.
First, place your bottom layer. You won’t need to be spinning the cake around as you would a frosted butter cake, and the finished cake is light enough to pick up and transfer to a cake stand. The bottom cake layer will help hold the parchment/acetate vertically against the sides of the cake ring.
Infuse the bottom layer with the simple syrup.
Using a small piping bag and any tip that has a medium-wide opening, pipe about half of 1/3 of the mascarpone around the edge of the cake layer to form a ring of frosting. Spoon or pipe half of the lemon curd onto the cake inside the mascarpone ring. The frosting helps contain the lemon curd.
Chill the first filled layer (and all of the components except the simple syrup) for at least 15 minutes to let them rest before continuing.
Infuse the second layer of the cake, place it on top of the mascarpone and lemon curd, and repeat the filling process by piping the rest of the first 1/3 of the frosting and the rest of the curd on top of the second layer. At this point, you’re done piping the fillings, unless you want to pipe the frosting on top instead of spreading it*.
*If you do decide to pipe all of the frosting, instead of spreading the other 2/3 on top, I’d still recommend not filling the piping bag all at once. Fill the bag with about 1/3 of the frosting at a time, or else the filling and squeezing will overwork the frosting and it will start to run or break.
If you’re only using two layers, make sure you brush the honey syrup onto the cut side of each layer, not the crust side. You can place the top layer with the crust side up or down.
Chill the partially-assembled cake after finishing and filling the second layer, for at least 15 minutes to let everything rest.
Infuse and place the top layer of the cake onto the filled second layer. Spread the remaining 2/3 of the mascarpone frosting on top so that it covers almost the entire top surface. It should be thick enough that it won’t run down the sides.
Chill the entire cake until ready to serve, and right before serving, you can top the cake with extra honey, candied lemon peel, honeycomb candy, and/or real honeycomb.
I am going to make this soooooo super easy for y’all:
You can make lemon curd with equal parts sugar, butter, eggs, and lemon juice. If you convert any lemon curd recipe into grams or ounces, you’ll see that, on average, they all use equal parts of the four main ingredients, and then some salt, lemon zest, and maybe vanilla (definitely vanilla.) I did not know this until about a month ago, after I’d been making lemon curd for well over two years.
The most eye-opening thing I’ve learned about baking in the past few years is that many recipes have a Golden Ratio. In fact, I have my pie crust recipe memorized specifically because of the Golden Ratio for Pie Crusts (I’m officially calling it that now.) There’s a golden ratio for French tart dough, cookie dough, genoise sponge cakes, and even yeasted breads.
Now we can all sleep easy knowing the Golden Ratio for Lemon Curd: 1:1:1:1, 1 part sugar: 1 part egg (white, yolk, or whole): 1 part lemon juice: 1 part butter. The most important thing about knowing these ratios is that you can use them to manipulate your recipes: do you want a sweeter lemon curd? Maybe you do 3 parts sugar to 2 parts everything else (3:2:2:2.) Do you want your lemon curd to set and thicken more? Follow the ratio, then add in one more egg yolk, or do 3 parts butter to 2 parts everything else (2:2:2:3.) If you want more lemon-y tartness, add more lemon juice and an extra egg yolk: 2:3:3:2. If you want a thinner lemon curd, add more lemon juice or reduce the amount of butter: 1:1:2:1 (more lemon juice), or 2:2:2:1 (less butter.)
And now I’m going to blow your mind again: to make approximately 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) of lemon curd, you use 4 ounces (by weight) of each ingredient. To make approximately 1.5 cups (12 fluid ounces), you use 6 ounces by weight of each ingredient: the input of each ingredient ends up being about 1/2 of the total output. I know, super technical, but we are talking about ratios here, so it’s totally appropriate. If you can’t remember your recipe, or want a certain amount of finished curd but can’t conceptualize how much of each ingredient to use, multiply your desired amount of lemon curd by 1/2. The actual ratio varies depending on how much you cook the curd.
You might want to make 1 cup but end up with 1 1/3 cups. Let’s call that a Baker’s Cup: the baker gets to eat the extra 1/3 for their time and effort.
Y’all know I loooooove lemon and when I choose a flavor, I go hard on that flavor (cardamom and aniseed, heyyyyy!) Since making lemon curd the first time (btw, the first time I ever made lemon curd, there was absolutely no egg scrambling and I didn’t have to strain the curd at all, so there), I’ve fallen head over lemon stem for it. It seems like the perfect marriage: lemon and sugar. But there is one very helpful wedding guest: vanilla. I use the 1-quart vanilla bean paste bottle that I bought 2.5 years ago (which has more than doubled in price since I bought it so buy yours now while vanilla still exists), but you can use any form of vanilla you want. I do strongly recommend that it be real vanilla beans and not synthetic vanillin (nothing against vanillin but it’s not quite the same as real Madagascar vanilla beans.)
And the ringbearer: lemon zest. Overkill? Nahhhhhh. The lemon juice is the main flavor but lemon juice and lemon zest are slightly different flavor experiences, and adding the zest from fresh lemons on top of the full amount of lemon juice really gets that flavor. Aaaaand, here’s another kicker: 1 large lemon produces about 2 ounces of juice on average (1.75 – 2.25 ounces), and the perfect amount of lemon zest for this recipe is the zest of 2 large lemons. Therefore, all of the lemon juice you need (plus extra or minus just a bit) and the lemon zest come from 2 large lemons or 4 small baby lemons.
That was pretty long but in summary: 2 large lemons (or 4 baby lemons), 1 stick of butter (4 oz), 4 oz sugar, and 2 large eggs (which coincidentally contain as much egg as a lemon contains lemon juice), a pinch of salt and a hit of vanilla and wham, bam, thank you, ma’am.
She’s rich. She’s vividly lemony. She’s got just a hint of Madagascar vanilla. She’s Covergirl.
No, she’s vanilla bean lemon curd.
Another great thing about lemon curd: You can use the recipe to make other curds, as well. Think lime or orange curd, pineapple curd, mango curd, or even pumpkin curd and ginger curd (macaron filling ideas for the win, y’all.)
luscious vanilla bean lemon curd
makes about 1 cup
4 oz granulated sugar
4 oz freshly-squeezed lemon juice
zest of 2 large lemons (or 4 baby lemons)
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
4 oz unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (about 8 pieces)
In a small non-stick saucepan, whisk together sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, eggs, salt, and vanilla.
Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer, whisking frequently to prevent the eggs from scrambling.
You don’t need to boil the mixture because the eggs cook at a lower heat than water boils or simmers. You should see the sugar dissolve and then a very thin layer of white froth cover the surface of the curd. It’ll look like the white foam you get when you cook pasta.
Make sure you stir pretty frequently, because the curd will cook around the edges and on the bottom before it cooks in the middle. You don’t have to whisk or stir continuously, but fairly often to prevent scrambling.
At first, it will seem like the curd is cooking slowly and steadily, and then all of a sudden, it will be thick. Once the curd is the consistency of lava (and bubbles and pops like lava in a volcano), then it’s almost done and you won’t need to stir it as often. Test the curd for doneness before adding the butter.
You can test the curd a couple ways. The first is useful for any sauce: dip a wooden or metal spoon (or spatula) in the curd to coat the spoon/spatula. Run your finger through the coating and if the curd doesn’t run along the surface of the spoon/spatula (to fill in where you scraped it off with your finger), then it’s done. You can continue cooking if you want it to be a little thicker.
The second way is the same as testing jam: the freezer test. Freeze a metal spoon, then place a small amount of the curd on the spoon and put the spoon back in the freezer. The spoon will heat up and then cool down. After about 2-3 minutes, check the spoon: if the bottom of the spoon is room temperature and the lemon curd is thick (does not move), it’s done.
The curd will thicken and set more as it cools but you can also keep cooking for about 5 – 10 minutes to get a little more of the water out.
Once the curd is done, add the butter and whisk constantly to melt it. You can place the saucepan back on medium or low heat if you need to. Once the butter is fully melted and incorporated, strain the curd to remove any scrambled bits and the lemon zest. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl or a measuring cup and pour the curd through, using a rubber spatula to push the curd through the strainer until all that’s left is solid (the zest or any scrambled eggs.) You might not need to strain the curd at all but it doesn’t hurt to do it anyway.
The curd will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for about a week, and in the freezer for a couple months.
Y’all come back now, okerrrr-d?
Categories: side dishes
I love winter (I love all the seasons.) I love seeing the bare, spindly branches of trees and feeling my face get all chapped from the wind when I go outside. I love turning on the fireplace and spending all day in my pajamas.
But I’m done with winter. We had a string of snowy days throughout February, interspersed with warm, sunny spring days. It was confusing (it was global warming.) As much as I love winter, though, I was done. I started wearing my spring clothes (shorts in the rain), making spring meals (lots of grocery store herbs), and listening to my spring playlists (Alanis Morissette, heyyy), hoping that I could will it to become spring just by focusing hard enough.
And it worked! Or it just naturally became spring. Despite the equinox being yet another snow day, it is finally actually springtime, which means herbs and berries out the wazoo. Every day my freezer magically refills with berries (or I can’t help myself when I’m at the grocery store and I need a place to store them), and I love it.
Blackberry has always been a personal favorite, even more than blueberry, strawberry, or raspberry. My natural inclination is to always combine blackberry with almond, but I wanted something a little different this time.
spring pies: very berry spring pie with orange streusel
Anise, on the other hand, has not always been a personal favorite. Until recently, I couldn’t stand either anise or fennel (and yet I have an anise star permanently inked onto my shoulderblade…) My taste for the licorice-y spice started changing in December when I was making German pepper nut cookies, and as with cardamom, my love of anise sort of just blossomed from there.
I’d love to say that the choice of anise in this pie was calculated and inspired, that I tasted a blackberry and thought, “I detect a hint of anise, so anise must be the best addition.” But in reality, I really just wanted to add anise to something, and this worked out really well. I noticed after the fact that blackberries already have a bit of an anise flavor naturally. In the finished pie, the spice both blends right in and stands out: you can tell there’s something extra, but it isn’t aggressively licorice-y or spicy.
It is super addicting, though, and the smell of butter, sugar, blackberries, and the anise from the pie baking in the oven is possibly the headiest, most addicting smells I’ve ever come across.
blackberry aniseed double crust pie
adapted from Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour, and Butter, by Kate Lebo
makes one 7″ pie (double to make a 9″ pie)
5 oz granulated sugar
hefty pinch of salt (1/2 tsp)
5 Tbsp cornstarch (6 Tbsp if you’re using frozen berries or freezing the pie before you bake it)
1/2 tsp aniseeds, ground or whole (seeds, not stars)
12 oz blackberries, fresh or frozen
juice of 1 baby lemon (1 small lemon, or half of 1 regular lemon; 0.75-1.00 oz of juice)
*Save yourself some stress by making a full batch of pie crust, dividing it into four pieces, wrapping each individually in plastic, and freezing the dough until you want to make pie. Thaw the frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator. Alternately, the day before, or a few hours before, you’re planning to make the pie, make the dough and refrigerate it (divided into the appropriate portions for the top and bottom crust.) The dough should chill at least an hour before you roll it out, and it’ll need to come to room temperature for about 15 minutes before you can roll it, so plan to make each portion of dough at least 75 minutes before you need to roll it out.
egg wash (enough for one 7″ or one 9″ pie)
1 whole egg
1 oz cream
Demerara sugar for topping
make the filling**
**If you’re using frozen berries and freezing the whole pie before you bake it, this should be the last step. You want to avoid thawing the berries if you’re going to freeze them again. If you’re using fresh berries or the pie is going straight into the oven after you assemble it, then this step will save you some trouble. Additionally, if you’re making the pie in advance and freezing it unbaked, you don’t need to preheat the oven until you’re ready to bake the pie (but give your oven about 15 – 30 minutes to come up to temperature.)
Preheat oven to 425 F/220 C.
In a large bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, salt, cornstarch, and ground anise/whole aniseeds.
Add the blackberries and toss to coat them evenly.
Pour or squeeze in the lemon juice and toss to moisten the filling.
Set the filling aside until you’re ready to assemble the pie.
assemble the pie
Pull the dough out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before you plan to roll it out. You can roll the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap, two sheets of parchment paper, or directly on a clean, well-floured work surface. Using the plastic wrap or parchment saves flour, but rolling the dough directly on the counter saves time.
Whether you’re keeping the dough in plastic wrap or between parchment paper, or having it directly on the counter, sprinkle a little bit of flour on both sides of the dough (and the rolling pin if you’re not using plastic wrap or parchment paper.)
Starting with your rolling pin in the middle of the dough, roll outwards towards the edge, making sure you don’t roll the pin off the edge of the dough. Alternate rolling and rotating the dough (about 1/8 of a circle, 45 degrees each turn), in order to roll the dough out evenly in all directions. Once your dough is at least 7″ across (use the pie plate to measure), focus on rolling out the sections that need to be longer/wider, to form a circle. Run your hand gently across the surface of the dough occasionally, to feel if there are any sections that are thicker than the rest. Make sure the dough is a consistent thickness all around. Every full or half turn (180-360 degrees), flip the dough over and re-flour as needed, to be sure the dough doesn’t stick.
If using plastic wrap and the dough seems to stick to the wrap, gently peel away the plastic and lightly flour that part of the dough, lay the plastic back onto the dough and continue rolling. If the dough comes out of the side of the plastic wrap, peel off the plastic and recenter the dough so it stays within the sheet of plastic.
Once your circle is about 8-9 inches wide, lift it into the pie plate. Make sure you don’t stretch the dough at all. Lift the edges, one small section at a time, and lower them into the plate, pressing down into the corner of the pan to secure the dough against the sides and bottom without creating air bubbles. After the dough is all pressed into the bottom and sides of the pan and there are no trapped air bubbles, place the empty shell in the refrigerator to chill while you roll out the top crust.
Repeat the same rolling, turning, and dusting process with the second piece of dough. If you want to cut shapes into the top crust, do that at this stage, using a knife or cookie cutters. If you just want to vent the top crust with slits, wait until the pie is assembled.
When the top crust is 8-9 inches wide, remove the empty shell from the refrigerator, scoop the filling into the shell (spreading it around to cover the whole capacity of the pie plate), and gently place the top crust on top of the filling.
Use a sharp paring knife or a pair of scissors, to trim off excess overhang from the bottom and top crusts, leaving about an inch of each hanging over the edge of the pie plate. You can either fold this extra crust under itself or up and over. Use a fork or your fingers to press down the edges or crimp them as you like. Use a paring knife or fork to poke slits and vents into the top of the top crust.
At this point, you can freeze the pie unbaked until you’re ready to bake it. If the dough is feeling loose, warm, or a little wet, refrigerate the whole pie for about 15 minutes to let it cool down before moving on.
bake the pie
When you’re ready to bake the pie, put together the egg wash. Whisk the egg and cream together in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, coat the top crust in a layer of egg wash and sprinkle Demerara sugar liberally over the surface.
Place the assembled, washed, and sugared pie onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and in the oven. Bake for 45 – 60 minutes until the crust is dark brown, the filling is bubbling, and it looks thick and syrupy, not thin and water-y. At first, the filling will be thin, like water, and bubbly, but as the cornstarch cooks, the filling will thicken like a syrup. You’ll be able to see the liquid through the vents of the top crust, or as it runs out over the surface of the pie.
When the pie is finished, remove it from the oven and carefully transfer the pie without the baking sheet and parchment to a rack to cool completely, so it doesn’t stick to the parchment (the filling may have started to run out a little bit onto the pan.)
Let the pie cool completely before serving. Pie lasts up to 2 days wrapped in plastic and kept in the refrigerator.
Ani-see y’all later,
previous autumn monthly muffins
I will shamelessly admit that I looooove pumpkin spice. I love spices, I love the holidays, and I love squash, so it’s like a triple whammy. I know that pumpkin spice things are really more spice than pumpkin and that most people don’t actually want a candle that smells like squash or a latte that tastes like it, but I couldn’t care less, because I love all of the spices (especially cardamom.)
My new favorite is cloves. Cloves are in…and cardamom is still in, always.
I was chatting with a customer once about the PSL craze and he mentioned (whether he was right or not, I don’t really care) that when PSL first became a thing, people were so obsessed that they resorted to petty theft and misdemeanors to get their pumpkin-flavored things. I kind of doubt it, but I also kind of don’t doubt it.
Don’t get me wrong, anything super hyped up is too hyped up, and I feel bad for the other autumn and winter flavors: maple, pecan, praline, peppermint, chocolate, gingerbread, etc. I love them all (though I am most looking forward to gingerbread lattes next month.)
I did a pumpkin muffin during the early days of the Monthly Muffin, and now I’ve added on a new one. This one is more sweet than spicy, and combines two different holiday favorites in one muffin: pumpkin spice with cranberries and white chocolate.
For those of you who love everything pumpkin, or even for those of you who are soooooo over pumpkin spice everything, but like autumn, sweets, and hearty things, these muffins are perfect.
Although, if you really don’t like pumpkin at all, then I can’t guarantee that you’ll enjoy them (but I also can’t promise that you won’t enjoy them.)
pumpkin cranberry white chocolate muffins
based on my pumpkin streusel muffins recipe
makes 1 dozen muffins
4.25 oz (120 g, 1 c) whole wheat flour
4.25 oz (120, 1 c) all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cardamom
1.75 oz (50 g, 1/4 c) canola oil
3.5 oz (100 g, ~1/2 c) milk or buttermilk
12 oz (340 g, 1.5 c) pumpkin puree
9 oz (260 g, 1 1/4 c) granulated sugar
4 oz (110 g, 1 c) cranberries, fresh or frozen, whole or coarsely chopped
4 oz (110 g, 2/3 c) white chocolate, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C, and line muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, and spices.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oil, milk or buttermilk, pumpkin puree, and sugar until consistent.
Quickly mix in dried mixture and fold in the chopped berries and chocolate.
Scoop the batter into the muffin pan, filling each cup about 2/3-3/4 of the way full, and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until springy when pressed lightly in the middle.
Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
Squash ya later, applegator!
Y’all, I won’t lie: I’ve been preparing for Thanksgiving 2017 for the last two months. Really. I started trying out some new autumn pie recipes in early September…well, I tried one recipe and fell so deeply in love with it, I decided to commit myself entirely to this recipe and no one else.
last thanksgiving: sweet potato molasses pie
I’ve already begun drafting a list of Thanksgiving sides I want to make, and expanding on my list of desserts so I can start trying out some new recipes in preparation for Thanksgiving 2018 (of course.)
One of my friends from work hosts monthly themed supper clubs, and though I have evening class the night of her Thanksgiving Sides dinner, I promised I would bring two dishes and show up before the evening was over, and I will not be breaking those promises.
I already tested one of the recipes (gluten-free green bean casserole with browned butter cream of mushroom soup and fried shallots.)
I love autumn. Every season, I say “this is my favorite season,” but we all know the truth: autumn is my favoritest favorite. We don’t get a lot of autumn in this part of North Carolina, so I try to soak up as much of it as I can (and by that I mean I’ve been drinking pumpkin spice lattes nonstop for two months, and even making some of my own at home.)
There’s a lot that I want to do whenever the first leaves die…I mean, fall…but for the past two years, I haven’t been able to make time for any of the pumpkin- or apple-picking, hay rides, weekend trips into the mountains, and so on. The one thing that I do consistently, frequently, and obsessively, is go walking in the woods. I always coincidentally choose the rainy days for my forest-exploration days, but the gloom adds to the beauty. When I have a full day off from work and nothing else planned (except studying), I wake up early and drive out to Duke Forest or the Eno River for an hour of trailwalking and autumn photography. I end up taking the same photos every year but who cares ‘cuz they’re always magical.
The idea for this recipe started blooming a year ago. For a brief month, we got a new pie book at the store (literally, they discontinued the book within a month, so it’s a good thing I swept mine up as soon as it was on the shelf), and the first recipe from the book that I tried was a cranberry sage pie. I made that one for Thanksgiving last year and it was a hit. I’ve always been so-so about cranberries and cranberry sauce, but lately I’ve begun to like them more than I used to. I liked that pie a lot, but I wanted to like it more.
I was also only just starting to appreciate sage as a flavor and ingredient, so for now, sage will have to wait in the dugout.
ideas for next thanksgiving: lemon brulée tart, classic pumpkin pie, caramel apple tart
I’ve been playing around with apple recipes but I figured because I already have two apple tarts and an apple cider muffin, I wanted to do something different: pears. I swapped out the sage for pears (a common substitution), hyped up the spices, fiddled around with ratios, and created a filling that warms the heart, stomach, and guts.
The pear helps balance out the tartness from the cranberries, while the rosemary both blends into the sugars and stands out with a wintery, piny taste. The spices are an obvious addition, as they are for any autumn or winter dessert. You could even play around with the crust a bit and fold in some dried rosemary or spices, or sprinkle some on top after brushing on the egg wash.
double-crust spiced cranberry pear pie
adapted from cranberry sage pie, from Four and Twenty Blackbirds
makes one 7″ pie
Do ahead: The dough and the filling can be made advance. If you plan on using the dough within 24 hours, keep it wrapped and chilled in the refrigerator. Likewise with the filling. Otherwise, keep the dough and filling in the freezer. You can even assemble the entire pie and freeze it until ready to bake, but be sure to keep it in the freezer instead of the refrigerator so the dough doesn’t get soggy. The steps provided in the recipe below are a simple, efficient, and low-hassle way of prepping the pie all in one day, using dough that you’ve already made.
Note: Frozen fruits break down more than fresh fruit, and as a result, they release more liquid. If you’re using frozen fruit for your pie, add some more of your thickener (cornstarch, in this case), or else the filling will be too runny. Even if you buy fresh fruit and freeze it, it will break down more and release more liquid.
2 Tbsp cornstarch (3 Tbsp if you’re using frozen berries)
1.75 oz (1/4 c) granulated sugar
1.75 oz (1/4 c) dark brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
8 oz (~2 c) cranberries, fresh or frozen, divided
leaves of 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, or about 2 tsp of chopped leaves
8 oz (~1.5 c) pear, chopped into large chunks (one large pear is close to 8 ounces)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cream
1 Tbsp Demerara sugar for topping
Assemble the filling
Preheat the oven to 425 F/220 C.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugars, cornstarch, salt, and spices. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine half of the cranberries (4 oz) and all of the chopped pear (8 oz), and set aside.
In a small food processor, combine all of the fresh rosemary, the remaining half of the cranberries (4 oz), and the vanilla extract and pulse a few times just until the berries are broken down and a little chunky. The mixture should be like salsa.
Add the dry mixture of sugar and spices to the large bowl of fruit and toss to coat the fruit pieces completely. Add the cranberry-rosemary mixture and combine. Set aside, covered, on the counter or in the refrigerator while assembling the rest of the pie.
Prep the top and bottom crusts
I find it easiest to roll out the top crust first and let it chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the bottom crust.
Pull both discs of dough out of the refrigerator and let them rest on the counter for 10 – 15 minutes to warm up a little bit.
Roll out one disc on a lightly floured countertop or sandwiched between two sheets of parchment or plastic. If using two sheets of parchment or plastic, lightly flour both sides of the dough disc, place the disc in the middle of one sheet, lay the other sheet on top, lightly press down on the disc to flatten it a little bit, and press the plastic wrap together to seal. Roll the dough into a circle of about 8″ or 9″ in diameter*, pausing occasionally to loosen the plastic wrap so the dough doesn’t stick to it, and adding a little more flour if needed.
*The most consistent way to roll the dough into a circle, so that you don’t have to cut it, is to roll a few times from the middle up to the top, then rotate one eighth of a circle (45 degrees), and continue, eventually turning the dough disc all the way around. Every full rotation of the disc, pause and see if any part of the circle looks wider than the rest, and run your hands over the surface to see if it’s consistently thin all the way across. Adjust your rolling accordingly until you have a circle of dough large enough to drape over the top of the pie. It should be about 1/4-1/2 an inch thick. If you can tell that the dough isn’t spreading out enough, it’s probably sticking to the plastic, parchment, or countertop, and needs a little more flour.
Rest the top crust in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic or parchment, until the rest of the pie is assembled.
Roll out the bottom crust the same way, but roll it into a larger circle, about 10″-12″ in diameter.
Gently lower the bottom crust disc into the pie plate, lifting and lowering the edges so that the dough fills in the whole surface of the plate without leaving any air bubbles underneath. Important: Do not stretch dough to get rid of air bubbles or to cover any space. Lift and lower like you’re gluing something onto a piece of paper. Stretching causes the dough to shrink in the oven. Leave the edges of the dough hanging over the edges of the pie plate, and trim if desired.
Assemble and bake the pie
Scrape the filling into the empty pie shell and spread the filling around a bit to create an even dome.
Unwrap the top crust and place on top of the pie. Fold the edges of the bottom crust up over the top crust to seal them together and crimp/fold as desired. Using a sharp knife, poke a few holes through the top crust to let the pie vent in the oven.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and cream, and using a pastry or basting brush, wash/brush the top crust and edges with the egg wash. While the egg wash is still wet, sprinkle the Demerara sugar on top.
Bake the pie for 45 – 60 minutes, until the crust is nicely bronzed and you can tell the filling is bubbling. I suggest placing the pie plate on top of a cookie sheet, in case the egg wash or the filling drip out.
When the pie is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack until room temperature or ready to eat.
The pie can be wrapped in plastic and kept in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Brb, going to play in the leaves,