This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was selected by my good buddy Leslie of Lethally Delicious: tarte fine. It's a really simple, yet elegant dessert - essentially a layer of puff pastry topped with sliced apples, which are brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with sugar. The magic happens in the oven, where the pastry puffs and browns to reveal its flaky layers and the apples soften and brown around the edges slightly. When the tart emerges, you can brush it with a bit of thinned apricot preserves (or really any flavor you want to pair with apples, for that matter) to add a little shine, but it's definitely optional. Either way, I think you'll love this tart just as much as I did and because it's so easy to whip up, you can make it again and again!
This is the first of many apple recipes that is sure to emerge from my kitchen this fall, and I'd really hoped to make it to the orchard this past weekend to pick some apples in preparation for all the baking. Unfortunately, we got busy and never made it there, but it's on the agenda for next weekend for sure. Instead, I grabbed a few Golden Delicious apples from the store to make the tarte fine. Dorie recommended Golden Delicious for the recipe, but my fellow bloggers used lots of different varieties of apples this week so you can certainly go with your favorite. It doesn't happen often, but I didn't scale back the recipe at all this week because, in my opinion, you simply can't have too much flaky puff pastry with baked apples. The tart is definitely best warm from the oven, but I thought it was still delicious the following day (I reheated it briefly in the microwave). Also, I used store-bought puff pastry this week because I was short on time, but next time I make this tart I hope it includes homemade puff pastry. I've made a quick version a few times and I always think it tastes better than the store-bought versions I've tried, though admittedly I'm splitting hairs as I don't know that "bad" puff pastry exists :)
Many thanks to Leslie for hosting this week! You can find the recipe (as well as some really great tips) over on her blog or on page 315 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays was chosen by Margot of Effort to Deliciousness: plum raspberry preserves. Last summer the group made strawberry-ruby grapefruit preserves from the book using the same master recipe, and they were very good so I was pretty confident this version of the recipe would be yummy - especially with fabulous in season plums and raspberries! Fun fact - as I dug through my archives to find the post for the strawberry-ruby grapefruit preserves, I discovered that Margot hosted the recipe that week too. Someone is a big fan of preserves :) I'm not complaining at all though; this super quick and easy recipe was exactly what I needed this week! Today we're hosting a baby shower for one of my best friends, and in preparation I've been baking up a storm the entire weekend (I hope to be sharing some of the treats later I made soon) so it's unlikely that I would have had the time or motivation to participate were a more complex recipe chosen.
The preserves really are a cinch to throw together - if you can cut up fruit, you can make this recipe. This week we started with raspberries and unpeeled, sliced plums. I halved the recipe, using 4 plums and about a cup of raspberries. Sugar is added to the fruit as well as citrus zest and juice (I went with lemon juice and zest). The final ingredient is a granny smith apple, which is used as a source of natural pectin. Everything is thrown into a pot where it is boiled until the fruit breaks down and reduces to a sweet spread. It needs to be stirred occasionally, and you may want/need to mash the fruit a bit, but otherwise, you can tend to any other tasks you may have on your to-do list while the preserves do their thing. I didn't mash the fruit when I made the strawberry-ruby grapefruit preserves last summer, but because I left my apple chunks a little bigger this time, I wound up mashing them quickly toward the end of the cooking time.
The finished product was a gorgeous purplish-red color, thick and slightly chunky in texture and just sweet enough. The nice thing about recipes like this is that you can modify so easily to fit your needs/tastes - add less sugar if your fruit is quite sweet or change up the fruit if plums and raspberries aren't your thing. Although the preserves can be stored in the fridge for a few weeks, I'm going to share mine with my mom and step-dad as they're much more likely to eat them before they go bad than Shane and I are. Shane won't touch fruit, and as much as I enjoy the flavor of the preserves, they're just not something I eat very often. As Shandy pointed out over on the P&Q's this week, little jars of these preserves would make wonderful gifts around the holidays!
Many thanks to Margot for hosting this week! She'll have the recipe for the preserves on her site today or you can find it on pages 165-166 of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book.
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was selected by Rhiani of Chocoholic Anonymous: coffee-break muffins. Here's the thing...I don't drink coffee - ever. We don't even own a coffee pot at our house. Growing up I remember seeing my mom and my grandparents drink coffee all the time and I remember thinking that someday, when I was an adult, I too would drink coffee. It didn't happen when I went to college, and even though everyone told me I'd become a coffee drinker in law school, it didn't happen then either. At this point I think it's safe to say I'll never like coffee :)
That said, I do usually enjoy coffee-flavored treats (coffee ice cream is one of my favorites!) so I definitely wanted to try these muffins. Dorie uses coffee rather than milk to moisten the muffins and also includes espresso powder to impart even more coffee flavor. I always have espresso powder on hand but like I said, no coffee pot here, so my muffins didn't include the cup of coffee. I made half of the recipe and ended up with six muffins, which baked very quickly - about 12 minutes rather than the 20 the recipe suggests. For some reason I substituted water (rather than milk) for the coffee in my muffins and as a result, they were lacking in flavor a bit. Totally my fault and next time I'll probably use milk and also add chocolate chips to the recipe. The texture of the muffins was perfectly moist and tender, definitely a keeper.
Thanks to Rhiani for hosting this week! She'll have the recipe on her site today or you can find it on page 15 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
Is it really Sunday afternoon already? This weekend has absolutely flown by, but it was a ton of fun! Yesterday Shane and I woke up bright and early, hopped in the car and drove out to western Massachusetts (about an hour and a half from home) to visit Six Flags New England. We've found that late summer/early fall is the best time to visit theme parks and yesterday was no exception - perfect weather and almost non-existent crowds. In fact, I think the longest we waited (even for the major coasters) was 15 minutes. It was nearly three and a half years ago that we visited our last theme park, Universal Studios in Florida, so it was high time for another trip. Shane is such a big kid at heart and he couldn't have been more excited to be at the park. He loves getting to the park before it opens and then making a beeline for the biggest, most thrilling, coaster as soon as we're let in. Yesterday, that meant a ride on Bizarro, complete with a 221-foot drop, was first on the agenda. We followed that up with a spin on every major ride in the park and let me just say, I was feeling my age by the end of the day :) I'm making up for it today, though, with an afternoon on the couch watching football, so it's all good!
Since we were so busy yesterday, I didn't get a chance to bake this week's Sweet Melissa Sunday's recipe until this morning. Melissa of Lulu the Baker selected lemon blueberry buttermilk pie - a flaky all-butter crust filled with a buttermilk/lemon custard and finished off with a blueberry topping. I took a few liberties with the recipe to make my life easier. First, I skipped the pie crust and instead opted for a graham cracker crust, which I pressed into two mini springform pans. I baked the crusts for about 8 minutes, let them cool briefly then poured in the filling (I made 1/3 of the filling recipe). I ran into some trouble with the baking time for my minis. I wound up letting them go about 22 minutes, at which point the filling finally seemed set, but in hindsight, they definitely should have come out earlier. The resulting texture of the filling wasn't entirely pleasant, except in the very center of the pies where they were actually baked properly. As for the flavor, I generally love lemon desserts, but the buttermilk made the filling a bit too tangy for me. I used frozen blueberries for the topping, though I strayed from the recipe in the book. My topping started with the frozen berries, a little water and orange juice and some sugar in a saucepan. I let the mixture come to a boil then added a slurry of water and cornstarch to thicken the sauce.
It was a pretty dessert, even if not entirely successful for me. I'm also glad to have tried my first buttermilk pie so lots of thanks to Melissa for hosting this week! You can find the recipe on her blog or on pages 158-159 of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book.
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was selected by Sabrina of Superfluous: cranberry upside-downer. Though my neighboring state of Massachusetts is one of the biggest producers of fresh cranberries in the US (we drove by a few bogs on the way to one of Shane's triathlons last year - so cool!), it's just a tad too early for them. I normally keep my freezer stocked so I have enough to last me from one season to the next, but I've used all of mine up already. They'll be popping up in stores everywhere soon enough, but this week I was happy to make some substitutions, especially since I actually tried this cake with fresh cranberries back in February of 2009 (post here). I think that may be the only time I've jumped ahead and made something from Dorie's book that hadn't already been selected, but I simply couldn't resist the gorgeous photo accompanying the recipe!
This week, I used some fruit I'd stashed in my freezer earlier this summer. I halved the recipe and made two mini cakes in my 4" springform pans - one with peaches and the second with cherries and pecans. A combination of melted butter and sugar lines the bottom of the pans before the fruit is placed, then the cake batter tops it all. While my cakes baked, a lot of the juices seemed to escape out the bottom of my springform pans. I'm not sure why as I haven't had issues with these pans before - maybe a springform just isn't the best choice for this recipe. The cakes baked in about 24 minutes and when I removed them from the oven and flipped them from the pans, they released perfectly. I wish I'd used more fruit, especially on the cherry cake, as it looked really bare - note to self for next time. I glazed the peach cake with thinned apricot preserves and the cherry cake with thinned raspberry preserves, which made them both shiny and gave them a little more color.
The mini peach cake was dessert tonight for me, and it was outstanding!! The cake in this recipe has a warm spiced flavor from the cinnamon and is really sturdy, though tender, and absorbs the juices from the fruit without getting soggy (nothing worse than a soggy cake!). The butter/sugar combo on the bottom of the pan doesn't really caramelize, but instead makes the fruit buttery, sweet and ridiculously tasty. It would be the perfect counter to the tartness of fresh cranberries. I can't wait to make this cake when fresh cranberries start popping up all over New England.
Many thanks to Sabrina for hosting this week! You can find the recipe on Sabrina's blog or on page 206 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
Speaking of Dorie's books, her new one arrived on my doorstep late last week and it is stunning! Dorie's books, for me anyway, are the kind of cookbooks that I open and read from cover to cover, engrossed by the stories and photographs. I remember when I picked up my copy of Baking several years ago, I did the same thing. There aren't too many other cookbooks that have held my attention the same way, and I am so excited to start on this new one!
This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays was chosen by Andrea of Nummy Kitchen: bosc pear, blue cheese and walnut muffins. I happen to think muffins are the perfect on-the-go breakfast (and I needed one this weekend!) so I definitely wanted to bake along. The alarm went off at 4:15 am today and Shane and I headed out the door to his final triathlon of the season. It was still dark out when we got in the car but by the time we got down to the beach, the sun was starting to come up. I can't remember the last time I saw such a gorgeous sunrise and I snapped a ton of photos of it before sitting on the sand and eating my muffin. Despite the early start, it was a wonderful way to begin the day!
Savory muffins aren't my cup of tea, so I sweetened this recipe up a bit to suit my tastes, taking some advice from Andrea as well as Michelle of Flourchild (thanks ladies!). I still used pears in my muffins, but I omitted both the blue cheese and the walnuts. To add more flavor to the muffins I mixed in cinnamon, nutmeg and almond extract and also topped them with a cinnamon-sugar combo. I've had problems in the past with dense muffins using Melissa's muffin recipes, and Andrea suggested sour cream might yield a fluffier muffin so that's the route I went, subbing it in place of the milk and heavy cream the recipe suggests. Additionally, I used slightly less flour in my muffins. I made a third of the recipe, which yielded 5 muffins that baked in just over 20 minutes.
The batter for my muffins was incredibly thick so I wasn't sure how they'd turn out but the texture was perfect - not a hint of the denseness I'd experienced in the past. In the flavor category I wish I'd done more though. The spices were too mild and left me feeling like something was missing. Perhaps next time I'd pair my pears with another fruit and up the spices. That said, I still enjoyed the muffins a lot and look forward to grabbing another for breakfast tomorrow. Big thanks to Andrea for hosting this week! You can find the recipe for the muffins on her blog or on pages 8-9 of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book.
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Jasmine of Jasmine Cuisine: peanut butter crisscrosses. I baked these late one night over the course of the glorious 3-day holiday weekend. I truly believe all weekends should be 3 days long and they should all involve the kind of amazingly sunny, but not too hot and humid, weather we've been experiencing lately. That's not asking too much is it? :) Fall will be here soon but in the meantime I'm soaking up every last minute of summer!
Anyway, Shane's parents invited us to lunch at their house over the weekend and I figured these cookies would be the perfect treat to complete the meal. I whipped up half a batch and wound up with somewhere between 25 and 30 cookies. The recipe couldn't possibly be more quick or easy. The only change I made was to substitute peanut butter chips for the peanuts Dorie called for. I baked my cookies for about 11 minutes a batch, which resulted in a slightly crisp edge and a wonderfully chewy center. The chips added texture and even more peanut butter flavor, not that the cookies were lacking in that area. I was powerless around these cookies so I was really glad I brought most of them to Shane's parents' house. Still, I ate more than my fair share, definitely a top Dorie recipe for me and without a doubt one worthy of a repeat.
Many thanks to Jasmine for hosting this week. You can find the recipe for the peanut butter cookies on her blog here or on page 78 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays was chosen by Jaime of Good Eats and Sweet Treats: Mom's French Pancakes. When I opened the book and flipped to the page for this recipe I quickly learned that these were actually crepes but had been dubbed "French pancakes" by Melissa's great grandmother. Of all the things I've cooked and baked on this blog, crepes have somehow been passed over. Not only have I never made them, but best I can recall, I've never even tried them!
I wish I'd made time to make the recipe a few times, but I didn't get around to trying it out until this afternoon so I'll have to come back to it another day. The crepes are such a great blank canvas for so many different flavor combinations and I'd loved to have tried more than one. This afternoon the crepes became a snack for me and since I was short on time I simply sprinkled them with confectioners' sugar and drizzled them with chocolate sauce. I quartered the recipe and wound up with three 12" crepes. The only downside to making such a small batch was that I didn't have many opportunities to perfect the technique of swirling the batter around the pan to make the perfect crepe. By my third crepe I got the hang of it, but the first two were a bit ragged :) As Melissa promised, it wasn't hard, just takes some practice. Otherwise, this recipe couldn't be easier - all of the ingredients are combined in the blender and then the batter can even sit in the fridge overnight so you can have fresh crepes for breakfast the next morning.
I'm still trying to decide how much I like crepes. Having absolutely no basis for comparison I feel like I need to make them a few more times before I can decide conclusively. They were good, but I think the batter in this recipe would benefit from the addition of some vanilla or almond extract for more flavor. I liked the texture a lot though and they definitely fall into the "fun" category as far as I'm concerned. I'll absolutely make the recipe again soon when I have more time and perhaps a few more testers to weigh in with opinions. Many thanks to Jaime for hosting this week and expanding my horizons! You can find the recipe for the crepes on her blog or on pages 23-24 of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book.