Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

Stewed dried fruit

13 April 2013

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My intention was to make Louisa’s cake, which I’ve craved since I first saw it two years ago. And since I had no ricotta at home I thought making my own, as I’ve also been wanting to do for a long time, would be the perfect, lazy Saturday morning, we’ve-been-away-and-I-haven’t-cooked-in-a-week sort of project. So I set forth, resolutely and with a tinge of excitement, salting and boiling cream and milk, when I realized there was no cheesecloth at home, either.

Perhaps it was the slow pace induced by a gorgeously sunny, cold week by the sea, cycling, walking, eating, and generally just being, but I was completely stumped. Not for a moment; for many minutes, an hour maybe. Just standing there in the kitchen, wondering what in the world I might do with two liters of salty milk, and what dessert might be on a post-vacation weekend. The invitation was a last minute thing, too.

I thought about the stewed fruits, something I used to make often, in winter especially, but rarely do anymore, for no particular reason. We usually have dried fruit around the house, and though a bit short on prunes to my taste, there was a good enough mix for my purpose.

A few hours had gone by, the morning behind us, and the milk still on the stovetop, so I decided to make a very dense, creamy yogurt to go with the fruit, as I’d done before.

All went quite well from then on. I added bay leaf to my usual recipe, and was very pleased with the result. Of course, the yogurt was nowhere near being set in time for dinner, but I had some commercial greek yogurt handy, too.

My salty yogurt is still sitting in the fridge. I’ve been thinking of making cheese, but for that I’d need some cloth.

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This dessert is very good and extremely easy. Adapted from Jüdische Küche by Elizabeth Wolf-Cohen.

200-250 g (1 1/2 cups) dried figs

200-250 g (1 1/2 cups) dried apricots, preferably unsulphured

200-250 g (1 1/2 cups) prunes

100-150 g raisins

(Also dried apples, pears, unsweetened dried pineapples, as desired, adjusting the quantities to have enough syrup to cover all the fruit)

2 lemons

4 Tbsps honey

6 or 7 cloves

1 or 2 cinnamon sticks (depending on their size)

About 20 peppercorns

1 bay leaf
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Make a syrup with 2 l (8 cups) water, the rind and juice from the lemons, the honey, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the figs (and pears if using) and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the apricots (and apples and pineapple if using) and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Finally, add the prunes and raisins and simmer for a final 10 minutes (total stewing time 30 minutes).

Let the fruit cool in the liquid then refrigerate for a few hours at least before serving with thick yogurt or crème fraîche. (Remove peppercorns, cloves, and bay leaf before serving, or warn your guests.)

Really good brownies

25 January 2013

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Nigel Slater’s brownie recipe is, in his words, “just a 24-carat brownie, as dense and fudgy as Glastonbury Festival mud.” Who would resist? I, for one, couldn’t. Though I rarely make chocolate dessert — a whole year might go by — and never choose the chocolate option on a restaurant menu.

It’s not, as I sometimes explain for simplicity’s sake, because I don’t like it much. The truth is that, in matters of chocolate, I am embarrassingly picky. While most fruity cakes, tarts, and crumbles make me happy, chocolate doesn’t often hit the mark. It’s not as simple as dark or milk, cake or mousse, it’s a subtle dance in proportions: the shade, the butter, the nuts; it’s entirely subjective. For me, the perfect chocolate confection lies somewhere between a pecan blondie and a sombre, flour-less, nutty chocolate cake.

Which swept me right into the lap of this deep dark, spot-on fudgy brownie. It could be the only chocolate dessert I make all year.

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Very slightly adapted from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries

I substituted “60 g of finest-quality cocoa powder” with an equal amount of additional regular chocolate (and so reduced the sugar very slightly). I also added pecans, of course.

2 cups (260 g) sugar

1 cup and 2 Tbsps (250 g) butter (more to butter the pan)

11 ounces (310 g) dark chocolate (70%)

3 eggs plus 1 yolk

1/2 cup (60 g) flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 cup pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped (optional)

Take the butter out of the refrigerator to soften at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking tin, approximately 9″ (23 cm) square, with parchment paper. Butter the paper and the sides of the pan.

Prepare a pan of simmering water. Break the chocolate into pieces and set aside about 2 ounces (50 g). Melt the chocolate (except the 2 ounces) in a bowl sitting atop, but not in, the simmering water. Once melted, remove the chocolate from the heat and set aside to cool. Chop the remaining 2 ounces of chocolate into chip size pieces.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and softened butter thoroughly, until very light and creamy.

Break the eggs into a small bowl and whisk briefly with a spoon. Add the eggs to the sugar/butter mixture, little by little, stirring thoroughly in between.

Add the melted and the chopped chocolate.

Mix in the flour sifted together with the baking powder and a pinch of salt. Do not overstir, stop as soon as all the flour has disappeared.

Finally fold in the pecans, carefully with as few large strokes as possible.

Scrape the batter into the prepared baking tin, smooth the top, and slide into the oven to bake for approximately 30. Test for doneness with the point of a sharp knife that should come out wet but without raw batter attached. Return to the oven for a few minutes if necessary until done. **The brownies will continue to solidify a bit once they are out of the oven, careful not to overcook!**

Let cool for at least an hour before cutting.

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Related posts

Cake with pear and toasted hazelnuts

Orange almond cake

A carrot cake for Halloween

9 November 2012

I felt so organized, I had it all planned out. I would not only make the cake but photograph it and publish it here on Halloween. My plans were thwarted by a storm which, uncharacteristically among New York weather forecasts, turned out to be stronger and much more damaging than anyone expected. Taking the warnings lightly at first we didn’t stock up on food, water, or candles. We didn’t try to locate our missing flashlight.

Subways stopped running on Sunday evening; on Monday schools and offices were closed. Homebound by this citywide shutdown, we huddled and played games all morning. The hurricane was on its way, barely perceptible but for the blustery weather, and we were waiting. Suddenly we felt we must go out. Now was the moment, while there was still time.

The impulse was to go toward the water, see the swollen river, perch on benches to watch the eerily high Hudson. It seems frivolous now. The city was already deserted. The empty park, the windswept streets. We decided perhaps we should make provisions, after all, and my thoughts were, stubbornly, on the Halloween cake.

Some stores that had been open were closing, sending us and a few forlorn tourists on their way. We finally found one, ransacked of chicken and ice cream but with plenty of carrots and walnuts. I forgot to look for candles. We stopped at a pharmacy, they were sold out. I bought two different sizes of batteries hoping one might fit the flashlight, if I could find it.

That night the hurricane came with howling winds and crashing trees, but in our corner of town the power didn’t go out, the lights barely flickered. The next morning I even made the cake. Then the news started getting worse. Those without power were soon without water. Stories of houses burned to the ground, scenes of complete devastation.

So we started checking up on friends, offering food, hot showers, and power outlets. And friends came. And it was Halloween. And though all was dark downtown and broken elsewhere we went trick or treating in Harlem, with neighbors. I even finished the cake, with icing and evil-looking spiders. Just in time.

The news kept getting worse. Within a few days some areas recovered electricity, water, and heat; others did not. Many have lost much more. We were unnaturally lucky, so close and so unscathed. My mind hasn’t been on cooking. Feeding friends and family, yes, but not cooking.

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Carrot Cake

For the past three years I’ve made carrot cake for Halloween, adorned with what I think are pretty cool, mean-looking, edible prune and cranberry spiders. I’m not exactly sure how I got hung up on that particular type of cake but in my mind it presented itself as the natural choice. I was inspired by a few recipes to achieve this one, which comes quite close to my ideal version of a carrot cake. Dense but moist, not too sweet, with nuts.

1 cup (225 g) butter (and a little extra to butter the pan)

1 1/4 cup (200 g) brown sugar

4 eggs

1/2 (150 ml) cup buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup (75 ml) honey

2 cups (250 g) flour, half white half whole wheat

2 tsps baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsps salt

2 cups (250 g) finely grated carrots

1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

1/2 (100 g) cup raisins

1 cup (250 ml) apple sauce

Take the butter out of the refrigerator to soften at room temperature for about 15-20 min.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and line the bottom of an 11-inch (28 cm) round cake pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and the sides of the pan.

In a large bowl, beat the softened butter with the sugar until the mixture becomes light colored and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well to combine. Add the buttermilk, vanilla extract, and honey, mixing well.

In another bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add the flour to the sugar/butter/egg mixture, stirring just enough so the flour disappears.

Gently add the carrots, walnuts, raisins, and apple sauce.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 min. The cake is done when a knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

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Icing

8 Tbsps (110 g) unsalted butter

6 oz. (170 g) cream cheese

1 lb (500 g) mascarpone

1 1/2 cups (150 g) icing sugar

Zest and juice from 1 lemon

At room temperature, let the butter become very soft. In a medium bowl, beat it well with a spatula.

In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese well before mixing it with the butter. Once the cream cheese is incorporated with the butter, beat the mascarpone well before adding it to the butter and cream cheese.

Sift the icing sugar before mixing it into the butter/cream cheese/mascarpone mix.

Finish by stirring in the lemon zest and juice.

Refrigerate the icing about 1/2 hour before spreading it onto the cake.

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Spiders

1 prune and 1 large sweetened cranberry per spider

Cut the prune into thin slivers lengthwise to create eight spider legs. Place the cranberry on the cake so as to make the body of the spider. Arrange the ‘legs’ around it.

The many desserts of Thanksgiving (Best award-winning pumpkin pie)

2 December 2011

I’ve come to realize that I am not a person of habit, I seem incapable of a routine (though I have tried). I am, however, stubborn about traditions.

Every year, on December 1st, I hang an advent calendar over the fireplace for my children — twenty-four hand-sewn little bags filled with chocolates and small toys; it’s just the beginning of the Christmas celebration. On the eve of December 6th, I lay out cookies and milk, salt and a carrot for St Nicholas and his donkey; on the 24th, we feast on foie gras and unwrap presents while nibbling cookies and clementines. In February, I make crêpes for La Chandeleur. In spring, I dye eggs for Easter. I cherish these rituals; they shaped my childhood and I wish to perpetuate these memories. And of course, traditions are always good excuse for a party.

And so every year, on the fourth Thursday in November, we invite friends for Thanksgiving, and there is turkey and cranberry sauce.

This year we were twelve adults and at least as many children, seated around a single long table. I made the same meal as last year, with a different soup to start. And, like last year, each guest brought a dessert. In the past, the timid offering of one pumpkin pie, one pecan pie, and perhaps an apple crumble were usually picked at somewhat wearily, but pulling out a huge spread of desserts (after a small digestive pause) has the unfailing ability to revive the party.

My deepest thanks to everyone for the apple pie, the pecan pies, Mamyvonne’s chocolate cake, tiramisus, profiteroles, pavlovas and more sweet bites, as well as Thomas’s (as he won’t tire of telling anyone willing to listen) “award-winning” pumpkin pie (the award in question being a company bake off — but still).

It was a merry dinner, which, rekindled by an unreasonable amount of desserts, extended with dancing late into the evening.

Two days after Thanksgiving we drove out to Montauk for the day. It brought back memories of another Thanksgiving trip to the beach, some ten years ago. Back then there was leftover pumpkin pie eaten from the hood of the car in a deserted gas station on the way to Cape Cod; an unusual bed and breakfast in Provincetown, memorable in unexpected ways; long walks on the deep yellow sand where seals lolled in the low November sunlight; silly shortcuts through the icy water and tears of pain from thawing feet; two days of glorious weather and the drive back to New York in the pouring rain.

This year in Montauk, the children found smooth stones and carried huge glistening rocks for hours. A fisherman teetered on a rock swept over by rippling waves. We followed a path through the thorny brush that withered away into damp reeds. It was so warm we might have jumped into the sea.

Different years, new friends, interwoven memories.

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Best Award-winning Pumpkin Pie

The story behind this overemphatically named pumpkin pie goes like this: my mother used to make it for Thanksgiving. When she handed me the recipe, she titled it “Best Pumpkin Pie,” and I’d be hard-pressed to disagree. Some years ago the pumpkin pie became Thomas’ Thanksgiving prerogative. One year he entered it in his company’s bake-off and won first prize — unanimously, he claimed. It is the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever tasted. It isn’t cloyingly sweet or overspiced. It has a clear crisp lemony taste that is completely delicious.

1 unbaked sweet pie crust

A little over 1 lb (500 g) of dense, flavorful pumpkin or squash such as hubbard, kabocha, butternut or a mixture of two different kinds, which must yield a little under 1 lb (425 g) of pumpkin purée

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup (200 g) sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 heap tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 ground cloves

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

Juice and rind of 1 lemon

1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream

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Prepare the pie crust, roll it out into the pan, and keep it in the refrigerator while making the batter.

To make the pumpkin purée: remove the skin and seeds from the pumpkin (or squash), cut the flesh into large wedges, and steam for about 20 minutes until soft. Blend or press through a food mill to obtain a thick, smooth purée.

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

Combine the eggs, sugar, salt, spices, lemon zest and juice and beat well. Stir in the pumpkin purée. Add the cream and beat well.

Pour the batter into the pie crust and slip into the hot oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F (175°C) and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. The pie is ready when a knife inserted in its center comes out clean.

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Related recipes

Thanksgiving (Cranberry sauce)

Pumpkin leek soup

Quince and apple tarte

Apple sauce with lemon, cinnamon, and ginger

25 October 2011

Fall has come with crisp air and deepening sunshine, piles of fallen leaves to jump into and carpets of prickly chestnuts to tread onto, scarves without gloves and short skirts with leather boots, and apples, and apple sauce.

Apple sauce should be made with the newest, crispest apples of early fall as a celebratory leap away from summer; but also with the last, gnarly, bruised, and slightly soft apples of spring in patient anticipation of the summer’s first strawberries; and all winter long through grey skies and rainy days, snow storms and frigid winds.

Because making apple sauce is as easy as cutting apples into pieces and letting them cook for a little while, with a film of water at the bottom to prevent burning. But there are countless possible variations. Sugar or no sugar. Chunky or smooth. Spices? Even butter, for some. This is how I often make apple sauce, though by no means the only way.

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This makes an intensely fragrant, chunky apple sauce. For a smoother texture the cooked apples can be run through a food mill. The spices and amount of sugar can also be adapted according to taste. I prefer fresh ginger and whole cinnamon because it imparts a more subtle taste, but ground spices would be fine, too.

About 10 small apples

Rind and juice of 1 lemon

1-inch (2.5 cm) piece ginger

1 thin cinnamon stick (or a half)

2 or 3 Tbsps brown sugar

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Peel, core, and cut the apples into quarters and place in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

Peel the rind of the lemon into a long ribbon, carefully avoiding too much pith, juice the lemon, and add both the rind and the juice to the apples.

Peel the ginger, cut it into thin slices, and add to the apples. Also add the cinnamon stick and the sugar.

Toss the apples. Pour in 2 or three tablespoons of water, just enough to coat the bottom of the pot.

Cook, covered, over medium to low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, until the apples have softened.

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Related posts

At the market | Quinces

Oatmeal raisin walnut cookies

Banana cake

 


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