Tag : fruit
Tag : fruit
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,
previous monthly muffins:
6/17, balsamic roasted strawberry muffins with balsamic glaze || 4/17, cinnamon raisin english muffins || 2/17, glazed lemon poppyseed muffins || 1/17, earl grey walnut muffins || 12/16, chocolate peppermint muffins
Two years ago, I went to a pie workshop at a bakery in my city known for pies and tarts. Of course, it being the beginning of fall, we had to make apple pie, for which the pastry chef demonstrated this super nifty tool that I went out and bought immediately: a hand-crank apple corer, peeler, and slicer. You spike the apple onto the end of a screw, position the peeling blade, and crank. The apple spins, strips, spirals, and its guts pull right out. It’s wonderful.
When I first bought it, I hated it. The one I bought didn’t seem to work as well as the machine the pastry chef showed us. The peeling blade would either not cut through the skin or it would get stuck in the apple, the core never lined up with the corer blade, and for the life of me I could not figure out how to get an asymmetrical apple to peel and core consistently.
So I put the machine away for about two years, and when I started working on this muffin recipe, I thought I would give it a second chance.
It worked like a charm. Perhaps the little hand crank doohickey grew and matured and learned to be a better version of itself…or maybe I realized it’s easier to use if you flip the apple around and peel tail-to-top instead.
Now I don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on an electric apple machine. Phew.
This recipe was inspired by a pastry we sell and sample at work during the week: apple cider donuts. The donuts are made with butter, buttermilk, and eggs (and they taste like heaven and make the whole store and street smell like apples and cinnamon), but following my obsession with consistency and matching up flavors, I wanted to go full-apple. Eggs became unsweetened apple sauce (the best vegan egg substitute I have ever used), and buttermilk became first-press apple cider. While I was already 2/3 of the way to a vegan recipe, I decided to take that last step: butter became canola oil.
Yes, butter and buttermilk are luscious and make things taste rich, but apple cider has enough acid for that back-of-the-tongue tang and there’s plenty of sweet and spice to make up for the decrease in fat.
The muffins are spiced, filled with chunks of Red Delicious apples, and then rolled in a cinnamon-sugar topping.
vegan apple cider muffins with cinnamon sugar
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes 1 dozen
5 oz (140 g) all-purpose flour
5 oz (140 g) whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
3 oz (85 g) canola oil
3 oz (85 g) unsweetened apple sauce
7 oz (200 g) apple cider
3 oz (85 g) granulated sugar
2 oz (56 g) dark brown sugar
1 large red apple, cored, peeled, and coarsely chopped (5~7 oz of apple bits)
cinnamon sugar coating
1 oz (28 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp canola oil
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together flours, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together apple sauce, canola oil, apple cider, and sugars.
Quickly mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and fold in the apple chunks.
Scoop the batter into the muffin cups so each cup is 2/3~3/4 of the way full.
Bake the muffins for 25 – 30 minutes, until springy to the touch. When lightly pressed down in the center with a finger, the muffins should spring back up like foam.
Remove the muffins from the oven and let them cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling before coating.
In a shallow bowl or plate, whisk together sugar and cinnamon for coating the muffins.
Brush each muffin with canola oil and roll the top of the muffin around in the sugar mixture to coat.
Muffins will keep up to 48 hours wrapped in plastic at room temperature. Don’t refrigerate the muffins, or else the coating will melt/dissolve. If they firm up, you can soften them in the microwave for 10-15 seconds.
Help, I’ve fallen in love with apples and I can’t get up!
I’m not generally a fan of chocolate cake, unless it is 1) flourless, or 2) molten. In fact, I even prefer my brownies on the less-floury side.
That being said, I’m oddly addicted to this vegan chocolate cake. For a while, I’ve been wanting to experiment with using vegan ingredients as features instead of just background ingredients. I’m in the process of working up another vegan muffin for the autumn that uses whole ingredients both for flavor and for function.
I’m also shamelessly obsessed with combining dark chocolate and fruit, namely raspberry.
There’s a dairy farm nearby that has a creamery and ice cream shop on the premises. In high school, when I was learning to drive, I would drive out to the farm for practice, and my dad and I would get milkshakes for dessert. Because of complicated, lactose-related reasons, I don’t get those milkshakes very often anymore, but they were a fond memory back then. My favorites were all the chocolate combinations: chocolate-strawberry, chocolate-orange, even the chocolate-lavender was weirdly enjoyable. It seemed like every time we went to the farm, they had tried out a new chocolate flavor combination, and I loved all of them.
I think it goes without saying that chocolate and raspberry is a classic combination…but I’ll say it anyway: chocolate and raspberry is fan-f**king-tastically classic combination.
With this inspiration, I took a vegan chocolate layer cake recipe, turned it into a single layer cake, added red wine vinegar, non-dairy dark chocolate ganache, and a raspberry-sherry compote*. Every single bit of the recipe works together in luscious harmony: the cake is light, but also dark, and slightly tangy from the vinegar, wet enough to be enjoyable, but fluffy enough that it’s not heavy; the ganache is dark and smooth, no matter what type of milk you use, and has just enough sweetness to be pleasant without detracting from the darkness; the compote is sweet and fruity, not overly acidic, and it has the mmmmmmmm of an after-dinner sherry. If all of that seems like too much mouth commitment, top the cake with some fresh raspberries for a refreshing balance to the chocolate and booze.
*You can swap out the sherry for really any kind of liquor or liqueur, or red wine. I just found that the sherry was my favorite booze to use in the compôte. Substitute your favorite Cabernet or Pinot Noir in a 1:1 ratio, for example.
decadent vegan chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and raspberry-sherry compôte
makes one 9″ (or two 6″~6.5″) cake
adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking
Do ahead: To save some time, you can make the compôte in advance and keep refrigerated in a sealed container. Because it’s a sauce (it’s basically undercooked jam), it’ll keep for a while. Additionally, you can make the cake a day in advance, let it cool, wrap it in plastic, and store it in the refrigerator overnight. And the make things even easier: the cake can also be made in advance. You can make the cake a day or two ahead of time and keep it in the fridge wrapped in plastic, or you can make it farther in advance, wrap it, and freeze it.
Ganache note: Ganache is just a combination of solid chocolate and cream (or any type of milk, dairy or non-dairy); you can have a really thick, solid ganache by using more chocolate than cream, or a thin, syrup-y mixture by using more cream than chocolate. It’s a really simple recipe (2 ingredients), and you can fine-tune the ratio depending on what consistency you want. A 1:1 ratio, though, will be more frosting-like or thinner than what I used for the cake. For toppings on pies and cakes, I’d recommend using less cream/milk than chocolate.
1.5 c (6.4 oz) raspberries, fresh or frozen*
1/4 c (1.75 oz) granulated sugar
1 fl. oz. (1 oz) sherry
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
*Fruit note: when you freeze fruit and then cook/bake with it, or when you buy frozen fruit and then cook/bake with it, be aware that the fruit will produce more liquid/water than when you use the fruit fresh. Also, the frozen fruit will break down more when it starts to cook. For sauces and jams, this means 1) you’ll need to cook just a bit longer to evaporate the excess liquid, and 2) you’ll have fewer large chunks of the fruit due to the fruit breaking down more.
1.5 c (6.4 oz) all-purpose flour
3/4 c (5.3 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 c (1 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/2 c (3 oz) vegetable/canola oil
4 tsp (0.7 oz) red wine vinegar
1 c (8 oz) non-dairy milk
Optional: 1/2 c vegan chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate chunks, 1/2 c (~2 oz) fresh raspberries
2/3 c (4 oz) bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped coarsely
3/8 c (3 oz) non-dairy milk or unflavored, non-dairy cream
Make the compôte
Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat.
Bring to a rolling boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. If the sauce boils up too high or starts sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning, reduce the heat and simmer instead.
Let the sauce thicken and reduce, remove from heat, and let cool for a few minutes. Transfer the sauce to a container with a lid and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Make the cake
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C. Grease cake pan(s) and line with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder.
In a large bowl, whisk together vanilla, oil, vinegar, and non-dairy milk until fully combined.
Add dry mixture to the wet mixture and combine. If using, fold in the chocolate chips/chunks and fresh raspberries.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan(s) and spread out evenly.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until the top is not shiny any longer and the cake feels springy and foamy to the touch. The cake is also done when it starts pulling away from the edges of the pan or when a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then remove from the pan and let finish cooling on a wire rack. When the cake has totally cooled down, start making the ganache.
Make the ganache and assemble the cake
Using a double boiler or a heat-safe bowl and small saucepan*, melt the chocolate and non-dairy milk together.
*There are many different methods of heating and combining the ingredients. You can microwave them together in a microwave-safe bowl, then whisk. You can boil/simmer the cream and pour it over the chocolate, then whisk. You can even microwave the cream and pour it over the chocolate. I usually make a double boiler out of a saucepan and metal or glass bowl, because I can make sure I’ll get enough heat in the ingredients for the chocolate to fully melt.
Combine the solid chocolate and non-dairy milk in the heat-safe bowl or the upper part of the double boiler, and fill the saucepan or lower part of the double boiler with about an inch or a centimeter of water. Bring the water to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Place the bowl or double boiler on top so the steam heat melts the chocolate. Whisk the mixture occasionally.
When the chocolate is almost entirely melted into the milk, remove the double boiler from the heat, and whisk vigorously until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth.
Pour the ganache over the cooled cake and spread out evenly so it covers the top and drips down the sides. Let the ganache cool and solidify, either on the counter or in the refrigerator (it doesn’t need to be wrapped or covered), before serving.
Serve the cake with the raspberry sauce and some more fresh berries.
The cake lasts for a few days covered in plastic and stored in the refrigerator.
The first time I ever made my apple chai-der pie (an idea that I shamelessly stole from the Internet, but eventually made my own), I thought I had died and done gone to heaven, y’all. The apples were good and the spiced black tea filling even better, but the real kicker was the streusel. Every time I make the streusel I have to remind myself that it’s going on top of another pastry and I can’t just eat all of it raw (and every time, my willpower fails and I eat most of it raw anyway.)
It’s also good baked.
I think it’s the cinnamon that makes streusel so addicting. And for some reason, I decided to swap out the cinnamon for orange zest in this recipe. What a strange idea.
I honestly could not tell you why I felt inspired to do orange-infused/scented anything, but just like my lemon cravings from last summer and early this spring, I started having these odd cravings for orange-flavored things. Orange cinnamon coffee cake muffins, orange shortbread, dark chocolate orange cakes. All of these things are on my mind.
This pie is overflowing with the four major spring/summer berries that we grow in North Carolina: strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. It’s currently the peak of strawberry season so strawberries are providing the decorative accents to my citrus fantasies. They’re also taking up all of the space in my refrigerator and freezer.
I went to the farmer’s market a few weeks ago to get strawberries for jam, intending to buy two pounds of the berries, and accidentally, shamelessly going home with one five-pound basket. Most of those ended up in a failed strawberry-rhubarb pie, four of the berries went moldy, three pounds became jam, and the rest became the strawberry balsamic muffins.
The citrus counter-note to the berries, and the liquid base of the filling, is Cointreau, but could easily be orange juice, Triple Sec, or any other orange-flavored liquid. On top of the liqueur-laced berry filling is a streusel flavored with orange zest. Overall, it’s a much brighter, warm-weather version of the spicy apple original.
very berry spring pie with orange streusel
makes one 7″ pie (double the recipe for a 9″ pie)
loosely based on my apple chai-der pie recipe
Make the pie pastry, divide into discs for 7″ (or 9″) pies, wrap in plastic and freeze. If you plan to use the dough within 24 hours, refrigerate it instead. Thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight before rolling it out and filling the shell.
You can also prepare the pie shell all at once and freeze that until the streusel and filling are ready.
Make the streusel and chill or freeze, unbaked, until the pie shell is filled.
And finally, you can assemble the entire pie and freeze it, unbaked, until you’re ready to put it in the oven. The entire pie can go into the hot oven frozen.
2 oz all-purpose flour
2 oz granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
zest of 1/4 of a large orange or 1/2 of a small-ish orange
4 Tbsp (2 oz) butter, softened
1 oz orange juice or Cointreau
4 oz fresh/frozen blueberries
4 oz fresh/frozen blackberries
4 oz fresh/frozen raspberries
4 oz fresh/frozen strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
2.5 oz granulated sugar
1 oz all-purpose flour or cornstarch
dash of salt
preparing the pie shell
Let the pie pastry warm up slightly, for about 15 minutes on the counter, just so you can roll it out without the dough cracking too much.
Sandwich the dough disc between sheets of plastic or parchment, floured lightly to keep the dough from sticking a lot. Depending on the day, and on exactly how much water you use to make the dough (which varies based on how much water you need), the dough can be on the wet side or dry side.
Roll the dough until it’s about 2 inches wider in diameter than the top of the pie pan, and approximately a quarter of an inch thick (so just around half or a third of a centimeter.)
Place the dough into the pie plate, and press it into the bottom and corners of the plate, lifting up the edges and placing them into the plate as you go, to avoid stretching. Roll the edges up under themselves so they rest on the edges of the pie plate and add about an inch of depth, then shape, press, or crimp the edges as you like.
I usually form a zigzag edge using my pointer and thumb of one hand and the pointer finger of the other hand. By creating more height/depth, you can add more filling.
Freeze the pie shell, unwrapped if you’re baking it the same day, or wrapped if you’re not baking it within 24 hours.
making the streusel
In a large bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients except the butter.
Mix in the butter, just until it forms crumbs.
Using a fork or pastry blender, break up any large-ish clumps of dough into smaller pieces.
Chill/refrigerate or freeze the streusel in a sealed container until the pie shell is filled.
filling the shell
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and starch (flour or cornstarch). This will make it easier to incorporate these with the juice/liqueur and berries.
In a large bowl, toss together berries, juice/liqueur, salt, and sugar-starch mixture until all the berries are coated with the juice/liqueur and sugar-starch mix. Mash up some of the berries.
Pour the berry filling into the frozen shell, spreading the filling out to fill up as much space as possible. The filled pie should be mounded, approximately 1.5-2x the depth of the shell. The filled shell can be frozen until ready to top and bake.
assembling and baking the pie
Preheat oven to 425 F/ C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to catch the over-boiled pie filling.
When the oven is fully heated, sprinkle the chilled streusel crumbs onto the filled pie shell so as much surface is covered as possible. Spread the streusel around if needed, and fill in some of the gaps made by the crimped pie crust.
Place the assembled pie onto the baking sheet and bake for 50 – 60 minutes until nicely browned and actively bubbling.
Remove from the oven and cool the pie on a wire rack.
Bon apple-tite, y’all
previous fruit-y monthly muffins:
The first time I ever roasted strawberries was during my short stint working in a restaurant. In fact, the first time I’d ever eaten roasted strawberries was during that job. We filled hotel pans (deep baking pans) with whole hulled strawberries (leaves and dense white core removed), a hefty layer of sugar, and a generous sprinkling of thick balsamic vinegar, and then we popped them in the oven until darkened, softened, and swimming in a thick, sweet strawberry syrup.
I may not have been enamored with that job, but with those strawberries, I was in heaven. To be entirely honest, hulling and prepping strawberries is sort of therapeutic. I prepped pounds (like, humans’-worths of pounds) of strawberries for roasting to serve with French tartlets, for slicing to decorate the tarts, and for plating with cheese, fruit, and local greens for a cheese plate.
I did vow never to make another gelatin-based dessert again, but I held on fast to my strawberry roasting and prepping knowledge.
I’ve recently begun experimenting with jam-making, and though the final product still leaves something to be desired, I can break down a village’s worth of strawberries in a breeze. You should see my freezer. I went to the farmer’s market for the first time in a very, very long time a few weeks ago, searching for 3 pounds of local berries for jam, and went home with 5.5 pounds. Now my pantry is full up with attempts at different flavors of strawberry jam (strawberry margarita jam, strawberry-orange marmalade, strawberry rhubarb jam, etc.) The last weekend of May, because I just can’t help myself when spring berries are involved, I went berry picking with a friend in Raleigh and made the best d**ned strawberry-basil jam I ever did lay my tastebuds on.
Ever since coming up with the two berry-based muffins last summer, I’ve wanted to do something with strawberries. Something a little bit…different. It wasn’t too hard, as I’ve never actually had a strawberry muffin before. I guess strawberries aren’t popular muffin berries. I figured it might be nice to put my balsamic roasting skills to the test and do a roasted strawberry and balsamic-flavored thing. I also figured, cleverly, that if I’m using vinegar, I can easily make these vegan (vinegar + baking soda = eggs.) I then thought, stupidly, that I could just replace all the liquid with balsamic or red wine vinegar for a real powerful vinegar taste.
And then I discovered why people don’t normally make vinegar-flavored things. The first batch quickly found its way into the trash and I’m still trying to convince people that no these are not “vinegar muffins” nor do they taste like vinegar.
I used both roasted and fresh berries to get the balsamic-roastiness and the juicy sweetness of un-roasted strawberries, and then I added a splash of balsamic vinegar to the glaze just to make people aware of the vinegar’s presence in the pastry. The muffins themselves are whole wheat muffins and all of the sugar ends up roasting with the berries to produce a blood-red syrup, so the muffins end up seductively ruddy.
balsamic-roasted strawberry muffins with balsamic vinegar glaze
makes one dozen
vaguely based on previous muffin recipes
Roast the strawberries for half an hour at 375 F/ C, until the sugar syrup is foaming and boiling. Let the roasted berries cool, then strain out the syrup and set it aside. Store syrup and strawberries in refrigerator in sealed plastic containers. You can store them combined or separated, but you’ll end up straining them before you make the muffin batter so you might as well separate them now anyway.
roasted strawberries ingredients
8 oz fresh strawberries, hulled (and halved if you want)
4 oz granulated sugar
1 oz balsamic vinegar
5 oz whole wheat flour
5 oz all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
4 oz butter, melted and cooled, or canola oil
2 large eggs
7 oz whole milk or buttermilk
4 oz powdered sugar
0.4 oz balsamic vinegar
0.6 oz whole milk
roasting the strawberries
Preheat the oven to 375 F/ C.
Hull the roasting strawberries (and halve if you want), and arrange in a single layer in a cake or brownie pan, or a hotel pan at least two inches deep, with the cut end down and the tip pointing up.
Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the strawberries, then sprinkle the vinegar over them as well. You should have one layer of strawberries with a heavy layer of sugar and a splattering of balsamic vinegar.
Roast the berries for about 30 – 45 minutes until the sugar and vinegar have formed a syrup and the syrup is boiling/foaming. The strawberries should be very tender.
Remove and let cool. Strain out the syrup and set it aside. You’ll mix the syrup into the muffin batter before you add the roasted berries.
making the muffins
Preheat (or change the temperature) the oven to 350 F/ C, and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, combine the flours, salt, and baking powder.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, melted butter/oil, and cooled strawberry-balsamic syrup (without the berries.)
Quickly whisk together the dry and wet ingredients in the large bowl, and fold in both the fresh and roasted berries.
Using a large cookie scoop, fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full and bake the muffins for 20 – 25 minutes.
The muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean, or when they spring back like foam when pressed lightly.
Remove the pan from the oven and let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes. Transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling.
Let the muffins cool completely before glazing.
glazing the muffins
Whisk together powdered sugar, vinegar, and milk until smooth. The glaze should be like a thick syrup: runny but slow. Taste and adjust, adding more of any ingredient as needed.
Using a spoon or whisk, drizzle the glaze over the muffins and let it set up before eating.
You can wrap the muffins, glazed or unglazed, individually in plastic wrap and keep them at room temperature for up to 2 days or frozen for a bit longer. If the muffins start to go stale or firm, then microwave them for 10 – 15 seconds before eating.