Archive for the ‘Desserts’ category

Applesauce

December 29, 2016

Making applesauce used to be a chore, what with all the peeling and coring. Turns out all that work is unneeded if you have a food mill, a device that uses a rotating blade to press food thru a perforated disk. And the results are better, too, because the skin adds flavor to the sauce.

foodmill

You can use pretty much any apples here, although my preference is for apples on the tart side such as Granny Smith and pink lady. A mix of apples is best.

All you need do is wash the apples, remove any stickers, and cut in half. Place in a large, heavy pot with 1/2 inch of water on the bottom. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring now and then, until completely soft. Taste and add a bit of sugar if you like. Put thru the mill using a relatively fine disk – the seeds and skins stay behind. That’s it! Freezes perfectly well and can also be canned using traditional methods.

Almond cake

December 14, 2013

I have always loved almonds and enjoy them in almost every possible way they are prepared, from fresh-roasted to Amaretto. I particularly like almond cake and would be thrilled to find it on the dessert menu of a good restaurant now and then. But, I never could make one at home that I really liked, so I gave up long ago. But, my interest was again piqued by a recipe I saw recently in a magazine, so I did some experimenting and came up with something that I really like. I hope you will, too.

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So, what makes a great almond cake? The flavor of almonds, of course, must be paramount, but not overwhelming. Sweet but not too sweet. The texture will not be dense and chewy, but neither will it be light and fluffy–you need just the right balance! Here’s how I do it.

2 c blanched, sliced or slivered almonds (see note)
3/4 c all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
1-1/2 c granulated sugar
zest of 2 large or 3 small lemons
1 tsp almond extract
6 TB unsalted butter
1/4 c vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 300 degrees with rack in the middle.

Put the almonds in a non-stick saute pan that will hold them in a thin layer. Cook over medium heat, shaking frequently, until the almonds are lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool.

Put 1-1/c of the almonds and the other dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the almonds are finely ground. Remove to a bowl. Put the eggs, 1-1/4 c of the sugar, about three-quarters of the zest, and the extract in the processor and let it run for a minute or more, until fully combined and pale yellow. Melt the butter, combine with the oil, and add to the processor while it is running until all is mixed well. Add the almond/flour mixture and pulse to combine.

Grease a 9 inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Scrape the batter into the pan and level the top.

Combine the remaining 1/2 c almonds, 1/4 c sugar, and zest in a small bowl and mix with your fingers until combined. Sprinkle over the top of the cake, not quite to the edge. Bake for 30 minutes, rotate the pan half a turn, then bake or another 25 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center–if it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Place pan on wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes. Invert cake onto a plate, remove pan and parchment paper, and re-invert back onto the wire rack. Serve when cool.

Note: In my experience, blanched almonds are never labeled “blanched” but you can identify them because the skin is off (the skin is bitter and you do not want it in the cake). I usually find them in the baking section of the market.

Fig tart with almonds

August 12, 2013

Figs can be astoundingly bad or astoundingly good. When you have good figs, this is a wonderful recipe that combines the fig flavor with almonds and mascarpone cheese.

Fig-1

The crust:

1-1/2 c all purpose flour
2 TB sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp salt
1 and 1/4 sticks (10 TB) cold butter cit into pieces
About 3 TB ice water

Put the flour, sugar, zest, and salt in a food processor and zap to blend. Add the butter and blend until the mixture looks like coarse corn meal. With the machine running, add the water slowly until the dough comes together – don’t over process! Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and form into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Turn the cold dough out onto a piece of parchment paper on your work surface and roll into a 11-12 inch circle. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to continue.

The filling

4 oz almond paste
1/3 c mascapone cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 TB honey

Clean out the food processor – it does not have to be spotless, but you do not want big globs of dough remaining. Add the above ingredients and zap to a smooth paste – you will probably have to scrape down the bowl a few times to ensure that no lumps of almond paste remain.

Assembly

1/3c apricot or peach jam
About a dozen small or 6 large ripe figs, sliced thickly.

Spread the almond/cheese mixture over the dough circle, leaving about 1-1/2 inches at the edges. Arrange the fig slices over the paste, again leaving the 1-1/2 inch border. Spread the jam over the figs. Turn the edges of the pastry up and over the filling as shown in the photo. Transfer the tart on its parchment paper to a baking sheet and put in a 400 degree oven. Bake for 20 minutes then turn the pan a half circle. Bake another 20 min, about, until the crust is nicely browned. Cool on a rack for at least 15 min before serving.

Apple, pear, and strawberry crisp

May 16, 2013

I love the combination of apples and pears, and the strawberries add their own flavor and color.

4 large or 6 small apples
4 ripe pears
juice of 1 lemon
1/4c sugar, more or less depending on your taste and the sweetness of the fruit
1 tsp corn starch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
About 6 large, ripe strawberries
1 recipe crisp topping, found here

Peel and core the apples and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Do the same with the pears. Toss together with the lemon juice. Mix the sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon in a small bowl and add to the fruit along with the vanilla. Toss to blend and put into a 9″ pie plate or 8″ square baking pan, press down a bit to level. Hull the strawberries and cut each into 3-4 slices, arrange over the apple-pear mixture. Top with the crisp mixture and press down lightly with a spatula. Bake at 350 degrees until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is lightly browned, then remove from the oven and let cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Vanilla ice cream would not be a bad addition!

Orange-poppy seed cake

April 25, 2011

One of our favorites. Using oil instead of butter gives it a lighter flavor that lets the orange and poppy seed taste come through. I think it goes well with plain yogurt, but I would not turn my nose up at vanilla ice cream.

3 c all purpose flour
2 c sugar
1/4 c poppy seeds
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
============
1 c cooking oil (I use canola)
3 eggs
3/4 c milk
2 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 c orange juice

Spray a 10 inch bundt/tube pan with non-stick spray. Preheat over to 350f with rack at lower-middle position.

Put the dry ingredients in a mixer bowl and mix to blend. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low to blend then on medium-low for about a minute, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice. Scrape batter into pan and even out the top. Bake for 45-50 min until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10-15 min and then invert into a plate.

Optional glaze: mix 1 c sifted powdered sugar with 3-4 TB orange juice until you have a smooth, thick paste. Drizzle over cake once it is almost completely cooled.

Topping for crisps and crumbles

April 23, 2011

Crisps and crumbles are great and easy desserts, fruit tossed with sugar and maybe some spices, then topped and baked. This is the best topping I have found, and you can use it for just about anything you like. This makes enough to top about 2 lbs of fruit.

1/2c flour
1/2c rolled oats
1/4c white sugar
1/4c brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
6 TB butter, cold, and cut into pieces
1/2c walnuts or pecans

Put all ingredients in your food processor and zap until crumbly. Use to top your fruit, then bake as directed.

Poached pears in Marsala reduction

April 22, 2011

Another example of the versatility of pears.

4 not-quite-ripe pears
3 TB unsalted butter
3 TB sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2c Marsala (can use Madeira or a sweet port)

Peel, core, and quarter the pears. Melt the butter in a non-stick saute pan and when the foam has subsided add the pears. Cook for about 10 min over medium heat, stirring and turning once in a while, until the pears are partially browned. Add the sugar and cinnamon and stir to mix. Add the Marsala and simmer for a few minutes, stirring, until the wine has reduced to a syrupy glaze.


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