Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

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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Plum cake

10 October 2011

Geese are heading South over Manhattan this morning.

So briefly, before it’s too late, before the plums are all gone, here is Nigel Slater‘s “Wonderfully moist, fresh plum cake.” It is exactly that, at the very least.

It is autumnal and luscious. With a crunch from the chopped walnuts and a hint of spice, which I couldn’t resist adding to the recipe.

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Recipe very slightly adapted from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries

I have doubled the recipe and I doubt anyone would mind. However if it is just for one or two, the recipe can easily be halved. The cooking time would then be 40 – 45 minutes at an oven temperature of 350°F (180°C).

32 plums

1 1/2 cups (300 g) butter

1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar

6 eggs

1 1/4 cups (150 g) flour

3 tsps baking powder

2 cups (200 g) ground almonds (1 1/2 cups whole almonds yields 2 cups once ground)

1 cup (100 g) walnuts

Zest from 1 lemon

2 Tbsps muscovado (dark brown) sugar

2 tsps powdered ginger

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Preheat oven to 375°F (200°C).

Line the base of a cake tin 10 1/2 inch (27 cm) in diameter with parchment paper. Butter the paper and the sides of the tin.

Wash the plums, halve them, remove the stones, and cut each half again in two. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar thoroughly until light and fluffy.

In a small bowl, break the eggs and beat them slightly with a fork. Then add them little by little to the butter/sugar mixture.

Sift the flour together with the baking powder and fold in gently with a spatula or wooden spoon. Gently add the lemon zest and ground almonds.

Roughly chop the walnuts and add them too.

Sprinkle the muscovado sugar and ginger onto the plums and toss carefully, preferably with bare hands in order not to squash the plums.

Scrape the batter into the cake tin and place the plums on top, pushing them into the batter ever so slightly (they will sink in more as the cake cooks).

Bake the cake for about 1 hour 15 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a knife or skewer into the cake, which should come out clean. But also gently move the cake tin. If the center jiggles it needs a little more time.

Let the cake cool a little before removing from the tin.

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In Brittany | Kouign Amann from Au Four St Melaine bakery in Morlaix

15 September 2011

It looks fairly harmless; it’s hiding it’s game. After a few summers in Brittany we’ve discovered what has to be the best Kouign Amann. Period.

Kouign Amann is a traditional Breton… cake? bread? voluptuous addiction? The most common version is a bread batter folded many times over with butter and sugar to create a dense, caramelized, buttery puff pastry of sorts. According to renowned Breton chef Jacques Thorel, original Kouign Amann was made with leftover bread dough simply mixed with butter and sugar. The technique of folding the dough repeatedly came later, invented by a baker who knew about puff pastry.

I haven’t attempted to make Kouign Amann – yet. Currently our summers in Brittany are occupied more by heavy construction work than creative cooking. But we look for every excuse to drive the 25-odd minutes to Morlaix, to a small boulangerie hidden on a steep side street, framed by the towering viaduct that contributes to the town’s unique character.

The Kouign Amann from Au Four St Melaine doesn’t look as good as it tastes. It’s no shining, copper disk oozing with butter and sugar. It looks somewhat staid. But, once heated (for about 10 minutes, in a medium oven), it caramelizes on the surface while loosening up inside and becomes a seriously dangerous temptation.

You’ll see. If ever you are in Morlaix.

UPDATE SUMMER 2012: Au Four St Melaine has closed. Tragic. We have not yet found an adequate replacement.

Au Four St Melaine

1 Venelle Four Saint Melaine
29600 Morlaix
France

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Poppy seed and almond cake

4 April 2011

I wanted to write about this cake, which I made, in close succession, once for Louise’s first birthday, again to take these pictures, and another time in between.

It is fiendishly good. It also seems to be the object of a small controversy.

I found this cake on Lottie + Doof and it looked perfectly irresistible. But one small thing irked me about the recipe; the fact that it contains almond extract but no almonds, which feels like cheating, just a little bit. So I thought about adding almonds. I was slightly worried about the fluffiness factor so alluringly portrayed, so, standing there, in front of my ingredients, I pondered – a good five minutes – whether I should substitute some of the flour with ground almonds, or not. I decided yes. And barely half a minute later, I read the blog author’s response to a comment on his poppy seed cake post: “My recommendation would be to try the original before adding almond meal. The texture is what makes this so special, and the meal will change that.” I very nearly threw away my mix of almonds and flour. But I didn’t.

My cake, though undoubtedly much denser than the original, was also completely delicious.

The second time I made the cake I used no flour at all. Thomas insists it is the better version. I (respectfully) disagree. Without flour it is too grainy and buttery. This observation should of course be a hint that the initial version is in fact truly the best. Possibly. But I like dense cakes. Plus, the recipe without almonds can already be found in at least two places. I stand by this one.

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Slightly adapted from Food and Wine via Lottie and Doof

3/4 cup (200 g) poppy seeds

2/3 cup (100 g) blanched almonds

14 Tbsps (200 g) unsalted butter

1 cup (200 g) sugar

4 eggs

3/4 cup (100 g) flour

2 tsps baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

Zest from 1/3 lemon*

Powdered (confectioners) sugar for dusting

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Bring 1/2 cup (filtered) water to boil in a small saucepan, remove from heat, stir in the poppy seeds, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.

In a food processor, pulse grind the poppy seeds until lightly crushed. Remove poppy seeds and set aside. Pulse chop the almonds until finely ground.

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a 10 x 5″ (25 x 13 cm) baking pan with parchment paper and butter the paper generously.

In a small bowl, mix the flour, almonds, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, beat the (softened) butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the poppy seeds until well combined. Then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well to incorporate each time. Add the vanilla extract, almond extract, and lemon zest. Then gently stir in the almond/flour mixture until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a skewer or toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar through a fine mesh sieve before serving.

*The lemon zest should be just enough to make the flavors pop without giving a lemony taste.

Banana cake

10 February 2011

I have had this recipe since I was 7 or 8 years old. I must have been in second or third grade; a friend in my class brought a banana cake to school to celebrate his birthday and offered photocopies of the recipe. I kept the photocopy, and it appears that I have collected recipes ever since. Not obsessively or excessively, but, every once in a while, I wrote down a recipe I liked.

Some years ago I copied these recipes into an orange, cloth-bound dummy book (a sample with blank pages) on the architect R.M. Schindler that I was editing at the time. The recipes compiled in the “Schindler book” (as I now very personally refer to it) are not anonymous, they are not newspaper clippings I fell across and found enticing – they are all linked to memories, and people.

This banana cake reminds me of my first school in France, of Jacob (my school friend) and his family with whom we have not completely lost touch; it evokes their music and a lemon tree in their San Francisco garden that I have seen only in photographs.

Also, it is a very good banana cake. I resisted tweaking the recipe except for the walnuts, as I seem unable to refrain from putting nuts in a cake.

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10 Tbsps (125 g) butter

3/4 cup (150 g) brown sugar

3 eggs

3 very ripe bananas

1 lemon or orange

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups (200 g) flour (half whole wheat)

2 tsps baking powder

1 tsp sea salt

1 cup (100 g) shelled walnuts (optional)

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Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating with a wire whisk to incorporate until smooth.

Mash the bananas well with a fork and add to the butter/sugar/egg mixture.

Grate the zest and juice the lemon (or orange) and add to the batter with the vanilla extract. Mix well.

In a smaller bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt and add to batter. Stir just enough to blend everything together. Gently stir in the walnuts, if using.

Line a baking pan with parchment paper, butter the paper, and pour in the batter.

Slide into the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle of the cake comes out dry. (If, like me, you like the cake to be very moist, take it out of the oven a little sooner, when the tip of the knife is still wet.)


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