It’s Pi Day!!

March 14th! 3.14! It’s Pi Day!

I finally have it together enough to share a pie recipe on the actual Pi Day. This particular pie is a classic French apple tart decorated in an escargot pattern. This is not to be confused with a Tarte Tatin where you use puff pastry and assemble and bake the pie in a skillet and then flip it out when it comes out of the oven. This is a classic tart pie – baked in a fluted tart pan with a pate sucree, or sweet shortcrust pastry.

I got this recipe from Beth Le Manach over at Entertaining with Beth. Her recipe makes this pie SO EASY! I’ve linked to her recipe so if you want to try it click on over. I am sharing my thoughts below.

First – when making the pie dough do use a food processor if at all possible. The butter is super cold and the egg yolk is hard to blend in right without it. I started with my hands and ended up having to make the switch part way.

You end up with a lovely, soft dough that is really easy to work with, especially after you refrigerate it for 30 minutes, like Beth tells you to.

Second – Make the compote as she says. I used a stick blender to puree it and it ended up looking like apple sauce, but thicker. I would not use apple sauce for this recipe. The compote is really thick and really nice. Plus you can spice it as you wish and the lemon zest really adds a lovely bright flavor to the pie.

Now comes the hard part. Slicing the apples. They need to be sliced thin. Really thin. The recipe says 1/8″ thick, but I think that is the maximum it should be. They need to be bendy. Save back 4 or 5 of your thinnest ones for the middle of the pie where they really need to be pliable. And soak them in the lemon juice or you will end up with sad brown apple slices. I didn’t use the sugar she recommended because the Gala apples I used were already sweet.

What was really unexpected was where she said to broil the pie. Yes, you actually turn to oven to broil for the last 1 to 2 minutes of baking to give it those brown highlights that make it look like a rose. The melted apricot jam really highlights the swirl design and gives it a lacquered shine that makes it bakery quality.

It was a delight to eat. The crust was light and flaky and the apples were so delicate. The whole thing just melted in the mouth. A real 5 out of 5!

Happy Pi Day!!

GBBO Bake – Millionaire Jaffa Shortbread

I am obsessed with the Great British Bake Off. Like, so obsessed I’ve probably watched each episode of EACH season about 12 times. And as a baker myself, I find what they create so inspiring.

A while ago my friend Barbara and her son made the Millionaire Jaffa Shortbread desserts that Sophie made on season 8. She didn’t make them as individual rounds like Sophie did (she needed them to be patissere window quality, while any normal person does not), but she did tell me that they were “something special.”

I found the recipe and converted the grams to ounces so that this American cook could attempt it. And then I let it sit. For ages.

Until yesterday. I just really needed to bake. I needed something that could be fussy and take my mind off of the enormous amount of stress that I’m dealing with right now and yet have a really delicious pay-off. I didn’t want to waste my time and then have more stress because one of my bakes failed (yet again. someday I will tell you all about the Yorkshire Pudding Incident. Actually that could be a great band name. Dibs!)

Anyway, I decided to make the actual fussy, individual, cylinder-shaped Millionaire Jaffa Shortbread.

I’d never heard of millionaire shortbread before this episode. It turns out it’s like a Twix candy bar. Shortbread base, caramel layer, and chocolate on top. Usually these are made in a pan and just sliced into squares and served. Twix is my favorite candy bar ever and so I was pretty excited to find out that I could actually make these in my home!

I’d also never heard of Jaffa Cakes before GBBO. (The J in Jaffa is capitalized because it refers to a particular type of orange.) It was a technical challenge in Season 4, episode 1. The base is a sort of a yellow cake and is topped by a small dish of orange jelly and covered with tempered chocolate.

This particular recipe combines the orange of the Jaffa cakes with the shortbread and caramel goodness of the millionaire shortbread.

It also calls for a tempered chocolate disk, but I skipped that part because I just decided not to do it.

Here we go…

Sophie’s Millionaire’s Jaffa Shortbread

For the Shortbread
3.5 oz cornstarch
3.5 oz powdered sugar
5.6 oz flour
7 oz butter, chilled and diced (but I found that I needed the full cup of butter because American butter doesn’t have as much fat as the European butter)
1 tsp vanilla
the finely grated zest of one orange

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a food processor, pulse together the cornstarch, powdered sugar, and flour to blend. Then add the butter, vanilla, and orange zest and turn the processor on until it all comes together in a sort of ball.

(I started with the 7 ounces of butter and forgot the zest, but the dough wouldn’t come together and it was a pale crumbly mass that fell apart like beach sand when I tried to get this crap to come together as a dough. In desperation I put it all back in my processor, added the last tablespoon of butter and then the zest and it came together like a dream. And the zest gave the dough a really lovely light orange color, too.)

Dump it out of the processor and onto a baking sheet covered with a Silpat or parchment paper. I suggest rolling it out from here. I think I rolled mine out way to thin. It should be twice that thickness so the layers are all equal. Live and learn. If you are NOT crazy like me and cutting these into individual rounds you can press this into an 8-inch square pan lined with parchment paper.

Dock with a fork so the dough doesn’t puff up and chill for 15 minutes. Then bake for 17 – 20 or until a pale golden color.

If you are cutting them out, use a cutter that is 6cm across and do it while they are warm. They will cut much more smoothly. Use a spatula or pancake turner to scoop them out and then place them on a clean cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Take some acetate sheets and cut them into strips of 22cm long by 4 cm wide. Wrap them tightly around the base of the shortbread and secure the edges of the acetate with tape. The tighter the better as the caramel will leak down, as you will see. Set them aside for later.  (You can do this set while you wait for the caramel to cool.)

Salted Caramel

4 oz (1 stick) butter
125 ml heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
7 oz sugar
50 ml water

In a small saucepan, slowly heat the butter, salt, and the cream together until it is almost boiling.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, heat the sugar and the water together on medium heat until the sugar is melted. Then increase the heat to med-high and bring the liquid to a boil. Boil it until it turns from clear to a lovely light brown sugar color. Careful not to let it get too brown or it will taste burnt!

Remove the pan from the heat and very carefully add the hot cream and butter – pouring in a steady stream.

Warning! This will bubble, foam, and spit! You will burn yourself if you are not careful!

Put the pan back onto the heat and bring the temperature up to 230F/110C on a sugar thermometer. Cool the caramel to between 95F to 105F (35-40C). This will take at least 20 minutes and the caramel will thicken and look a little greasy. Once it is cool measure out 2T for each shortbread round and pour into your acetate molds.

Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Orange Chocolate Ganache

300 ml orange juice (I used the juice of the orange I grated the zest off of and then used store bought juice to make up the rest. If you can’t find a Jaffa orange grown on the hillside of Jerusalem, watered by the Jordan River, and picked by the descendants of Egyptian pharaohs, store bought is fine.)
2.6 oz dark chocolate
2.6 oz milk chocolate
2.6 oz heavy cream

In a small saucepan, bring the orange juice to boiling and keep it boiling until it is reduced in volume to about 1/4 cup or 50ml. This will take about 20 minutes, but watch it because once you are near the end it can burn quite easily. (Ask me how I know!) Set it aside while you work on your ganache.

Chop the chocolate into small pieces and combine them in a heat-proof bowl (I use metal or a Pyrex measuring cup). Heat the cream to the boiling point and then pour it over the chocolate. Let them sit together for 30 seconds and and then stir them together until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is very smooth.

Add the orange syrup you made and stir together well.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the ganache over each layer of caramel.

Let this chill for about 20 minutes. At this point you can follow the directions from Sophie and temper some chocolate to make disks for the top, but I preferred to save my energy for the eating.

Right before you serve them, gently peel off the acetate from the rounds. The caramel, being caramel, will stick, so I had to use a very sharp parring knife to peel them away from the acetate. But here are the results!

They were gorgeous to eat! The orange in the ganache really packs a wallop of flavor. It’s almost overwhelming it’s so much orange. And the bitterness of the dark chocolate helps to cut the sweetness of the caramel really nicely. The shortbread has a nice subtle orange flavor and my oldest wanted to eat all my off-cuts. The ganache has a nice shine to it so you could get away with not having a chocolate disk on top.

You do want to keep these refrigerated as the caramel will start to loose it’s shape and bow out in the middle. But they would be lovely as a sweet treat at a small gathering with friends or as a special dessert for a larger party.

I had fun making them. I know I said they were fussy, but it was really just because of all the steps. If you have the time they are fun to make and even better to eat!

Gold Cake

I am putting together a cookbook for my family that celebrates all the recipes that we have grown up with. I come from a long line of really fantastic cooks and bakers and I decided that there are recipes that we were in danger of losing.

One that we almost lost is this recipe for Gold Cake. My cousin Cathy emailed this to me. I’d not only never eaten it before, I’d never even heard of it before. Naturally, I had to try it out – if only just so I could have pictures of it for the book. Plus I love to try out new recipes! And the whole point of a family cookbook is to try the recipes that our grands and great-grands loved enough to make and keep and pass down.

I hope you enjoy it!

Gold Cake

  • 1 ¾ cup sifted cake flour
  • 2 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp lemon extract
  • ¾ cup unbeaten egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Sift the flour and then measure it. Add in the baking powder and the salt and whisk those quickly in with a fork. Set the flour mixture aside.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla, and lemon extract.  Add the egg yolks to the butter and sugar mixture and beat on high until the are light and a lemonade color. You need a lot of air whipped into this so don’t cheat yourself on time.

(A note about the egg yolks: I ended up using – I kid you not – *9* egg yolks. 9. Egg. Yolks. The look on my face increasingly become more horrified as I continued to crack and separate egg after egg. And the yolks need to be unbeaten as they go into the cup or your measurements will be off.  Given the price of eggs in the Great Depression I can only wonder if the name of this cake isn’t for the golden color the yolks provide, but for how much it would have cost to make it. Now I need to decide if I should make the world’s largest batch of Macarons or an Angel Food Cake.)

Fold in dry ingredients alternately with the milk – beginning and ending with the flour. And they mean fold, not beat with the mixer. You have just added a ton of air when you were beating the eggs, so folding will ensure you keep the air and lightness.

The finished batter is actually quite thick. Carefully spoon or pour into two lightly greased and floured 8” square pans. I didn’t have square pans, so I used round. I’m sure it ended up tasting just the same.

Do NOT tap it on the counter to remove the air from the pans.

Bake at 350° 25 minutes (just until cake begins to pull away from pan sides.) Watch this. You don’t want to bake it too long or the cake will end up dry.

Cool. Put together with lemon curd filling (recipe below).

Lemon Curd Filling

You will need a double boiler for this.

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 slightly beaten egg yolk (Holy crap, yet another egg yolk.)
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (this works out to be the juice of one lemon)
  • 1 tsp grated lemon peel
  • 1 T butter

Get the water in the bottom of the double boiler to a simmer. Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in the top of a double boiler and set of the the top of the simmering water. Then add the egg yolk (Lord!), water, and lemon juice.

Cook until thickened stirring constantly. This took me about 45 minutes to an hour to get it really nice and thick. I had to remind myself that this is a filling and not a glaze or sauce. And it will thicken as it cools, but you do want it really nice and thick.

Remove from heat. Add the grated lemon peel and butter. Stir until the butter is melted. Leave aside to cool completely. Spread between layers of cake.

Our family traditionally frosts this cake with a simple powdered sugar frosting, but you can also adopt our family’s other time-honored tradition of opening a can of Betty Crocker and using that instead. (She’s practically a cousin.)  A nice mascarpone frosting would be awesome with this, too.

This cake lasted exactly 1 day. The kids loved it, Mark – who is not a fan of lemon – also enjoyed it, and then I took it with me to girls’ night and the rest of it was devoured. The curd is really sharp and very lemony and the sponge is light and airy with a hint of lemon itself which makes it perfect for a summer treat.

Blackberry Custard Bars

I am always on the lookout for a new spring/summer dessert recipe. Something that can go to a picnic or other event to be shared by friends. Something that is different than a cobbler or crisp or a fluff and more than simply plopping down ice cream bars or fruit pops. (Although I wouldn’t snub those at any picnic!)

Someone shared a recipe on Facebook for a rhubarb custard bar. I was totally game to make those except Safeway hadn’t gotten the memo that I would need 5 cups of rhubarb for this. In fact they had 0 cups of rhubarb and so I needed to think of an alternative.

Raspberries! Uh, not this time. Too expensive and the frozen berries were sugared. I needed something to mirror the tartness of the rhubarb.

Mixed berries? I don’t think so.

Pineapple? Absolutely not.

Blackberries? Yes! They had them in bags in the freezer section which made them A LOT cheaper than their fresh brothers and sisters. They were unsweetened and, frankly, I think they are a forgotten berry. No one sings the praises of blackberry pie or opts for blackberry jam on their toast. It’s always raspberries. Raspberries! Raspberries! Raspberries! Blackberries are the Jan of the fruit world.

More things need blackberries in them so blackberries would be going into my custard! I’m doing it for the middle children!

And they were delicious. A bright and tangy taste with a surprisingly fluffy cream cheese and whip cream layer on the top. You will definitely enjoy these at your next picnic.

Blackberry Custard Bars

Crust

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, cold and cut into pieces

Custard

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 7 T flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 24 ounces blackberries, fresh or frozen – thawed, rinsed, and drained

Topping

  • 6 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, whipped

To make the crust:

Preheat the oven to 350F/176C.

Prepare a glass 9×13 rectangular Pyrex baking dish with cooking spray or butter.

Using a medium-sized bowl combine the flour, sugar, and salt together using your fingers. A couple of quick turns with your fingers will do it. Then add the cold butter and smoosh (a technical term) the flour mixture into the butter mixture until you have a bowl of course crumbs.

Then dump the crumbs into the baking dish and firmly press the crumbs down to make a crust of about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. Place the pan into the oven and bake for 10 – 12 minutes until the crust is just lightly brown.

To make the custard:

As the crust is baking, take a medium or large mixing bowl and measure out the sugar, flour, and salt into the bowl. Give them a quick whisk to combine them. Then add the eggs and cream and give the entire mixture a good hard whisking until it is well combined. Then add the drained blackberries and very gently fold them into the custard mixture.

As soon as the crust is out of the oven pour the custard mixture on top of the crust. Return the whole shebang to the oven for another 45-50 minutes, or until the custard is set. This part is a little tricky. It should have a very slight wobble to it and be just slightly tacky on the top. The top will be browned and yet still look slightly wet. When in doubt stick it back in the oven for another 3 to 5 minutes or until you are satisfied it is done. Extra browning won’t hurt it as you will be covering it with the topping.

When you think it is done take it out and let it cool. As soon as it is room temperature or a little above chill it in the refrigerator until it is very cool.

To make the topping:

In a medium-sized bowl whip the 1 cup of whipping cream until it is stiff. You should be able to tip the bowl upside down and nothing will fall out.

Then in another medium-sized bowl beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. These should be completely combined and very smooth. Carefully dump in the whipped cream and gently fold the cream cheese mixture into the whipped cream until it is completely combined with no streaks.

Remove the bars from the refrigerator and dump the whipped topping on top of it. Gently spread it over the bars until it is of an even thickness. Chill the bars for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Serve with coffee, tea, or champagne (save a bit of the berry liquid back to make a sort of blackberry bellini!).

These are delicious. They have a bright, fresh, light flavor. The crust and blackberry seeds give you a satisfying crunch while the custard and the topping are smooth and creamy. If they aren’t tangy enough for you add about 2 tsp of lemon zest to the custard for an extra zing.

Enjoy!

Bourbon Pecan Pie

In the fall in America pecans start to flood into the supermarkets. I do love pecans.  Almost as much as I love pumpkin. Pecans feel very distinctly American to me. They were hard to find in Switzerland, while almonds and hazelnuts were everywhere you looked and were in just about every pastry offered in a bakery.

Pecans come up from the south, from states like Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Mississippi. The same areas, incidentally, where bourbon is distilled. I guess it isn’t unusual then that bourbon and pecans would go together in my mind. They are even kind of the same color.

And they taste great together.

If you Google “pecans and bourbon” you will find countless recipes for bourbon spiced pecans, bourbon glazed pecans, bourbon candied pecans, bourbon maple pecans, and the list goes on and on. And if you look there are also a number of recipes for bourbon pecan pie. I have come up with my own, based on the recipe a friend gave to me years and years ago. I tweaked it a bit and then spent a few trials experimenting with different amounts of bourbon, trying to come up with the the right amount for a good flavor. I wanted the bourbon to enhance the pecans and not just taste like a glass full of Blanton’s. It took me about 3 or 4 pies, much to my husband’s delight, to decide on a tablespoon and a half as “the right” amount. Of course, feel free to season it to your own taste. 😉

If you don’t like bourbon, just leave it out. It is a great recipe without it and a pecan pie is an amazingly simple pie to make.

Bourbon Pecan Pie

  • 1 pie crust – whatever recipe you like, even Pillsbury’s ready-made is great
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 3 Tblsp melted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 & 1/2 Tblsp bourbon
  • 1 & 3/4 cup pecans, chopped or the halves

Preheat oven to 350F/175C.

Roll out the pie crust and place it into a 9-inch pie pan. Flute the edges and set it aside while you make the filling.

Using a wire whisk, whip together the sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Then add the corn syrup and melted butter and whisk them together thoroughly. Add the vanilla and bourbon and gently whisk them into the mixture.

With a spatula, gently fold in the pecans until coated with the liquid.  Pour the whole lot into the pie crust you have ready and carefully place it into the oven.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until center is just barely wobbly and the pecans have turned a nice dark brown.

img_0645Let it cool down until room temperature and then enjoy.

You can top it with some whipped cream or serve it with a side of vanilla ice cream or even a side of bourbon. (Although I’m told a nice cup of tea or coffee can also be satisfying. I wouldn’t know. 😉 )

 

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Cheesecake Filling

My Dad used to take us fishing on Sundays after we got home from church, which gave Mom 5 to 6 hours of precious alone-time, or at least time without us shouting and fighting and making a mess. We would come home to a clean house, a cake on the counter, a roast in the oven, and Mom napping on the couch.

It seems I am following in her footsteps.

Sundays are promising to be a great baking day for me. The boys have started curling lessons. And as it happens, one boy is in the first age range practice and the other boy is in the second age range practice. This means I get 5 hours all to myself now on Sundays.  Yay!

I had intended to just read my book and surf the Web while they were gone, but before I knew it I was thinking about those Bundt cakes that Mom used to make. Sure they came from a box, but they also had those pudding packets that made a tunnel of filling. I would eat all the cake and save the pudding for last. It was like getting two desserts.

Happily, I was already on the Web and found a couple of different recipes for Bundt cakes – both filled and unfilled.  I wasn’t completely satisfied with any of them so I took a bit from all of them and made up my own recipe for a Chocolate Bundt Cake with Cheesecake Filling.

I chose a cheesecake filling instead of pudding because I wanted both the cake and a creamy filling that contrasted with a rich chocolate cake. Also, I had cream cheese in my fridge, but no whipping cream. It certainly does the job! Nice and creamy and just like cheesecake nestled inside chocolatey goodness.  You will need a special Bundt cake pan for this. You can find them anywhere – Target, Amazon, Williams-Sonoma – and in a variety of fun shapes.

Here’s how to make it!

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Cheesecake Filling

For the cake:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 & 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or a packet of vanilla sugar)
  • 1/2 cup vanilla or plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 & 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the filling:

  • 8 ounces of cream cheese, room temp and soft
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (or one packet of vanilla sugar)
  • 2 teaspoons of flour

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon room temperature butter
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons milk (it depends on how runny you want it)

Making the Filling

In a small bowl use a whisk or an electric mixer to whip the cream cheese and sugar together until it is light and fluffy. Then add the egg, vanilla, and flour. Beat very well until completely mixed together and smooth. Set aside.

Making the Cake

Preheat the oven to 350F or 175C.

Take your special Bundt pan and butter it really well. This cake pan needs a good greasing in order for the cake to unmold perfectly and capture all those beautiful ridges. You can also sprinkle the pan with cocoa powder after buttering it to help it unmold. It works just like flour, but because cocoa powder is dark like the chocolate cake it will help the cake still look dark instead of flecked with baked flour.

Cream together the butter, oil, and sugar in a large bowl. Once that is nicely creamed add the eggs one at a time, waiting until each egg is blended in, and beat until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy.

Add the vanilla and gently blend it in.

In a glass measuring cup measure out the milk and then add the yogurt. Give them a little stir together, but it isn’t important that they be totally mixed together.

In a small to medium sized bowl measure out the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. Give them a stir together, making sure the cocoa powder is evenly distributed through the flour.

Now in the bowl of the mixer with the egg and sugar mixture in it, add half of the flour and cocoa powder mixture. Turn the mixer on to low and slowly beat in the flour. If you turn it to ‘high’ cocoa dust will go everywhere, so take it slow. Then add the milk and yogurt and mix it until it is almost blended. Finally add the last half of the flour and cocoa powder mixture.

Once this last bit of dry mixture is incorporated take the bowl out of the mixer and give it a good beating by hand. I find this makes sure none of the flour escapes and hides at the bottom of the bowl. This will be a thick batter.

Next we take our prepared Bundt pan and get to assembling the cake. First put about half the batter in the pan. Use a rubber scraper to help make it nice and level. Then take your cream cheese mixture and put it on top of the cake batter in a ring, making sure to leave about an inch of space on either side of the ring. You can use either a spoon or a piping bag for this. A piping bag will give you a smoother ring and better control over where the cream cheese goes.

And very, very carefully spoon the rest of the chocolate cake batter over the top and smooth it out. As I said above, the chocolate cake batter will be very thick. A Bundt cake needs to be thick so that it won’t break apart during unmolding. The thickness of the batter also helps the cheesecake filling to stay in the middle and not sink to the bottom of the pan.

Bake the cake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes. Gently loosen the sides with a butter knife and then flip it out onto a cooling rack.

Once the cake is completely cool make the frosting glaze by just whipping all the ingredients together. You want to have enough milk that the frosting runs, but not so much that it soaks in and slips completely off the cake.  Drizzle it over the top in a way that pleases your aesthetic.  (I’ve also been known to take a jar of Betty Crocker frosting, heating it up to be runny and pouring that over the top, too, for a delicious result.)

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Be very careful not to over bake this cake. I did and the cheesecake filling ended up having a gap in it. It was still fantastically delicious, however, and the kids didn’t seem to mind the gap at all.

This is a crowd-pleaser for sure. And I will be making it again to figure out what that gap is all about (so look for an update here….).

The Swiss Family Carlson Mom makes Apfelstrudel

Also known to us Americans as Apple Strudel.

A loooong time ago I went to visit my friend Ginnie in Vienna. While I was there I picked up this tiny little cookbook called Austrian Specialties.  There are lots of handy recipes in this short 80-page cookbook and it has my go-to recipe for goulash.   Most importantly it is in English with mostly American measurements.

Today was one of those dull and grey February days and what can pick you up better than a nice warm apple strudel!  REAL apple strudel.  Not this almost-from-scratch crap that some recipe websites tout as being “wonderful.”  Opening a box of phyllo dough or puff pastry instead of making an actual strudel dough is cheating!  (Caveat: Sometimes it’s okay to cheat, but I wasn’t in a cheating mood.)

I’ve always wanted to make it, but it seemed like just So Much Work.  I’d never worked with a dough like that; a non-yeast dough that seems like a yeast dough.  And you have to get it really thin so that the layers are light and don’t end up being thick and snappy like crackers.  And then there is the bushel of apples you have to peel and slice.  And the rolling?  Insane.

But I had time today. H and Mark had gone to yet another dinosaur museum and E was immersed in a book.  So, what else am I going to do with my time other than make some kind of insane baked good that no one in their right mind makes anymore.

I looked at my handy little cookbook and read through the recipe.  Actually…. it seemed kind of doable.  Here is the dough recipe.

Strudel Dough
7 oz flour, sifted  (you sift 7 oz of flour)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 T vegetable oil
pinch of salt
about 1/3 cup water

Sift the flour into a bowl. Make a “well” in the flour and put in the egg, oil, and salt.  Start to mix it up with a fork and then add your water slowly as you mix together the dough.  Stop when the dough becomes a medium-firm ball.  It will be very sticky so flour your hands and kneading surface well. Knead the dough for a good 10 minutes and then let it rest for 30 minutes, covered with plastic wrap.

IMG_0808
My happy strudel dough, taking its little nap.

And just when you think you can sit down with a cuppa and take a load off you have to start cutting up the apples.  3 and half pounds of apples!  That is a bucket-load of apples!

IMG_0809It took me at least 30 minutes to cut up all those apples.  Don’t worry, though. Your dough won’t mind.

But before I get too far, here is the recipe for the filling.

Strudel Filling
3 ounces raisins
2 T rum
2 ounces butter, softened and cut into small pieces
3 & 1/2 pounds of cooking apples, thinly sliced
4 ounces of white sugar
a generous 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (or adjust to your taste)
1/2 cup of bread crumbs
about 2 or 3 T melted butter for brushing and basting
2-3 T of powdered sugar, for decoration

Some people like raisins in their strudels. I am not one of them, so I skipped this step and just drank the rum.  However, if you are one of those people who do, in fact, like raisins in your strudel you will need to soak the raisins in the rum while you cut the apples. You will need a really big bowl for your apples because this A LOT of apples.  Once you have cut the apples sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar over them.

IMG_0810

Spread a large clean table cloth or sheet over a large table. You will see from my pictures that my table was too long for this. I would say that a regular square table will be fine.  Sprinkle the table cloth with flour. The dough will still have some “stick” to it, so have some flour handy.

Roll out the dough right onto the table cloth until it is a thin as you can get it.  Then you will use the backs of your clenched fists to gently pull it even thinner, moving around the table as you do so.   Don’t worry if it rips.  Cut off the thicker parts at the edges and use them to patch your holes.

You can see the table cloth pattern with no problem.
This is as big as my dough, that started as the size of a grapefruit, got. You can see the table cloth pattern with no problem.

Preheat the oven to 400F and generously grease a baking sheet.

Now you are going to sprinkle those bread crumbs over the dough.  It’s odd, but it helps to soak up the liquid from the apples.

IMG_0812
Weird, but effective.

Now you’re going to take all those apples you painstakingly sliced (and the boozy raisins if you’re using them) and you are going to spread them over 2/3rds of the dough.  Dot the softened butter around the apples to keep them juicy.

Now for the main event!  Rolling up the strudel!

Stand at the head of the dough where the apples start.  Fold the edges of the dough on your left hand and right hand over the apples.  Then you are going to use the tablecloth to help you ever-so-gently start to roll the apples and dough together.

IMG_0813     You can see a big rip right near the bottom. If this happens to you don't panic. You have a lot of rolling to do and it is going to cover that rip with no problem.
You can see a big rip right near the bottom. If this happens to you don’t panic. You have a lot of rolling to do and it is going to cover that rip with no problem.
You can see how I’m not even touching the dough. I’m literally pulling on the cloth to help the dough evenly roll onto itself.
And here it is all rolled up!  Now to find a baking sheet big enough for it. Hmmm....
And here it is all rolled up! Now to find a baking sheet big enough for it. Hmmm….

Your tablecloth also comes in handy when it’s time to move this behemoth to the baking sheet.  I wrapped mine in foil and sprayed it with non-stick spray.  You might need help getting on the tray.  I had E here to help keep the tray still while I got the strudel into place.

Then take the melted butter and a soft pastry brush and, again, very, very gently brush the entire strudel with butter.   Then pop it in your oven and bake for 45-55 minutes.

Thar she blows! It’s Moby Strudel!

At about 15 and 35 minutes in you should baste your strudel with more of the melted butter.  I have no idea why, but it’s butter so I’m not asking any questions.

Crisp! Golden! And it smells heavenly!

Lightly (or generously) dust this bad boy with powdered sugar and enjoy with the beverage of your choice!

As Rachelle would say, “Yum-O.”

It’s got layers of apple goodness and a nice crunch to the outer layer.  I think that perhaps next time I might not pull it quite so thin, but there were absolutely no complaints at dessert tonight.   And it was actually pretty easy.  The most time consuming part was the slicing of the apples and the baking time.  If you have minions to help you out the time it takes won’t be that bad.  As it happens, I was watching Pirates of the Caribbean while I did all this so the time passed very quickly.

This is actually very doable and your family will think you are a hero.  I encourage you to channel your inner Julia Child and give it a try.

Ala Red Velvet Cookie Sandwiches!

This was quite a weekend of desserts over here.  Thursday I made a New York meets DC cheesecake for a dinner party on Friday (there is none left) and yesterday I was reminded by my faithful spouse that I had promised to make a dessert for a Bon Voyage party being held for one of his co-workers.  I had, of course, completely forgotten.

Luckily, I had been perusing the internet in search of new dessert recipes to try and modify and had found a recipe for a Frosted Red Velvet Cookie.   It looked kind of like Mom’s chocolate drop cookie recipe with the addition of sour cream and red food coloring.   I wasn’t sure about frosting the cookies, though.  The cream cheese frosting would stick to the bottom of the one on top or get smeared on my shirt or who knows where else.  But what if the frosting was contained between two cookies like a sandwich?  That could be awesome.

Let me show you the awesome.

Cute little tasty bites!
Cute little tasty bites!

These are perfect for a party. The recipe makes 40 cookie sandwiches that are about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter and have about 1 to 2 teaspoons of cream cheese frosting.  They are contained by these neat little wrappers that the party goers just loved; and which I’ll show you in just a little bit.

It took very little time to cook and assemble. Definitely a bake sale go-to if ever I saw one.  Here’s the recipe.

RED VELVET SANDWICH COOKIES

Cookie part

  • 2 oz unsweeted chocolate, chopped and melted
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T red food coloring
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Have the chocolate melted and slightly cooled.  It should be smooth and glossy.

In a small to medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Leave aside.

In your mixer cream together the sugars and the butter until light and fluffy.  Add the egg, food coloring, and vanilla and blend well.  Beat in the melted chocolate.  Alternately add the flour mixture and the sour cream to the red batter; starting and ending with the flour.  Scrape down the bowl as needed to ensure it’s all mixed together completely.

I have one of those handy 1-inch cookie scoops, but if you don’t have one a tablespoon is fine.  Just drop the cookie batter in nice balls about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. The rounder and more consistent size you can make them the nicer your sandwiches will look.

The last sheet. Look at those nice round cookies!
The last sheet. Look at those nice round cookies!

Bake at 375 for 6 – 9 minutes or until set.  (I actually baked mine for 9min and 30sec, but that’s just my oven.)  They will feel firm and just slightly springy to the touch. They will not be brown.

Cool them on a wire rack until completely cool or your cream cheese frosting will melt.

All lined up! And this is only 1 rack. The recipe made 80 cookies and 40 sandwiches.
All lined up! And this is only 1 rack. The recipe made 80 cookies and 40 sandwiches.

Now for the frosting.  Making your own is easy.  1 8oz block of cream cheese, 1 stick of butter, a cup or so of powdered sugar, 1 tsp of vanilla.  Blend it all up in your mixer.  Or, as Ina Garten says, “Store bought is just fine.”  Unlike Ina, I actually mean it.  One can of cream cheese frosting will be more than enough.

Using your butter knife spread about 1-2 teaspoons of frosting on the bottom of one of the cookies. Then top with the bottom of another cookie of about the same size. This is why I used a cookie scoop. All mine were just about the same size and so it was easy to assemble.  No hunting for a proper pair.

Pop them in the fridge for about 15 minutes to help the frosting firm up or the frosting might melt. If there are any left after serving, store them in an air-tight container in the fridge.

For cute little wrappers I used some wonderful cupcake wrappers I found at Michael’s for a buck fifty.

Seriously, these puppies were just $1.50 at Michael's!
Seriously, these puppies were just $1.50 at Michael’s!

They have a neat message on the bottom and I decided to flip them inside out so that after they ate their cookie the guests would find this…

SMILE!!
SMILE!

What better for a going-away party for a friend?

I am definitely making these again.  E wolfed down 3 of them at the party after begging for a taste while I was making them. And then after I was making them.  And then in the car.  And then immediately after we walked in the door at the party.  After I stopped him from eating the whole tray he asked if I would make them for his school.  And for his birthday.

Then he was scandalized that I left the last three at the party for the other guests instead of taking them home along with our tray.

Perfection.
Perfection.

But he won in the end.  He got to go home with the maker of the cookies.

Try these!  They are so easy and make you look like a professional baker!