Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

Tiramisu

September 29, 2012

My favorite dessert is hands down tiramisu. Not because it is an Italian food (although that doesn’t hurt) but because there is something about coffee-soaked ladyfingers, chocolate and cream filling that just makes me happy. And I mean REALLY happy.

But it always seemed such a daunting task to actually make it by hand, and therefore my experience had been limited to restaurants. But, for Valentine’s Day last year, I decided of all desserts to know how to make, this one seemed essential. The only “hard” thing about this dish is planning ahead, since you need to make it the night before consuming. But otherwise, I was pleasantly surprised at the simplicity. Do be careful of soaking the ladyfingers too long, as they will fall apart in your hands. The good news is, after destroying a few, I started getting the hang of it!

Thanks to Gourmet for this recipe which will now be my default when I am craving my favorite sweet treat. Bon Appetit!

TIRAMISU

6 Servings

  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 (8-oz) container mascarpone cheese (1 scant cup)
  • 1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 2 cups very strong brewed coffee or brewed espresso, cooled to room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sweet Marsala wine
  • 18 savoiardi (crisp Italian ladyfingers, 6 oz)
  • 1/4 cup fine-quality bittersweet chocolate shavings (not unsweetened; made with a vegetable peeler) or 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Beat together yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Beat in mascarpone until just combined.

Beat whites with a pinch of salt in another bowl with cleaned beaters until they just hold soft peaks. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating, then continue to beat whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat cream in another bowl with cleaned beaters until it just holds soft peaks. Fold cream into mascarpone mixture gently but thoroughly, then fold in whites.

Stir together coffee and Marsala in a shallow bowl. Dip 1 ladyfinger in coffee mixture, soaking it about 4 seconds on each side, and transfer to an 8-inch glass baking dish (2-quart capacity). Repeat with 8 more ladyfingers and arrange in bottom of dish, trimming as needed to fit snugly. Spread half of mascarpone mixture evenly over ladyfingers. Make another layer in same manner with remaining ladyfingers and mascarpone mixture. Chill tiramisu, covered, at least 6 hours.

Just before serving, sprinkle with chocolate.

Chocolate Covered Macaroons

May 19, 2011

What I find in my cooking and baking is that sometimes amazing recipes come from unexpected places. I recently blogged about a recipe a woman got from her mother’s blender box. Sometimes I look at the back of a chocolate wrapper and steal that recipe for my own. And sometimes you are on a airplane traveling for business, catching up on your People magazines (fortunately it is official work reading) and you see a celebrity recipe and think “wow, that does look amazing!”

So, when the torn out macaroon recipe found its way to my dining room table later on that week, my husband innocently asked “oh, is this what you are baking this weekend?” (and for those who know me know that wasn’t a subtle hint, but a realistic question). He inspired me to give it a try.

Having never made macaroons before, I was a bit concerned, but optimistic when I revisited the short ingredient list. Coconut, sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, vanilla, cream, baked and dipped in chocolate I figured I could handle the challenge.

Let me start off by saying I am not sure I could have made this recipe without my cookie scoop so if you don’t have one, use this as your excuse to buy one. Also, don’t “save a step” by not dipping them in chocolate. The dish isn’t complete without it. Also, the recipe says it makes 24, well I got 40 (perhaps my scoop is small).

So 40 macaroons later my husband and I tried one and were speechless. So easy to make, yet SO good. They made their way into my office Monday (gone in minutes) as well as my husband’s office (gone in seconds). So, as people continue to ask me for the recipe, I thought I would divulge my unexpected source and share in my secret.

So, thank you to People magazine (and Jill Zarin of The New York Housewives) for this fantastic sweet treat!

CHOCOLATE COVERED MACAROONS
Makes 40 (although recipe says 24, if you use a larger ice cream scoop)

2 (14-ounce) bags shredded coconut
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tablespoons sour cream
1 Tablespoon heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
12 oz of bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli and mixed in a little bit of milk chocolate. I would assume any chocolate combination would do! Maybe next time I will do semi-sweet…)

Preheat the oven to 325.

Mix together in a large bowl the sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, heavy cream, and vanilla. Add the shredded coconut.Mix together. Make sure that all of the coconut is covered with the milk mixture. Use a cookie scoop and place mounds on parchment lined baking sheets or silicone lined baking sheets.

Bake at 325 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until the coconut is nicely browned. Cool completely on a cooling rack. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Dip the macaroon halfway. Let the chocolate harden in the fridge (on a wax paper lined jelly roll pan) at least 20 minutes before serving.

Almond Joy Cheesecake

March 14, 2011

So I might lose a bit of credibility here, to disclose that I have only baked as many cheesecakes as I can count on one hand. They always tend to scare me – don’t want to overbake, don’t want to underbake. But the thing about cheesecakes (other than being delicious) is that they are ALWAYS impressive. They look so beautiful, complicated to make, and flavorful to boot.

So one day this winter I was craving making something a bit more “elaborate” than brownies, cookies or the typical baked goods. So, one random Sunday, I made a cheesecake. But, to mix it up, I thought I would try this cheesecake that promised to taste like Almond Joy.

The thing that this cheesecake taught me is that I have been slightly afraid of pretty much nothing. The cheesecake is so easy to make – and you start to get a feel for what a “done” center should really be like. It won’t wiggle in the middle, but it doesn’t look like a chocolate cake, either.

The crust might make this cake – it is amazing. The coconut and almond combination are so delicious, and the crunchy-texture balances out the smooth, rich filling.

This cheesecake is a great one to serve for company because it is so impressive with the chocolate topping and little bit of decoration. It is a lot of cake, so if you don’t have a neighbor to bring it to (like I did after devouring a few pieces) then I would plan this one for company. Also, don’t forget you should give it a night to solidify (although I sneaked a piece the night after I made it and it seemed to hold up ok, but I wouldn’t take that risk if you are making for company!).

Thanks to Bon Appetit Just Desserts for this one. I think it has given me the confidence to try a few more cheesecakes in my baking career!

ALMOND JOY CHEESECAKE

Crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
1 tablespoon coconut extract
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Glaze:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Wrap outside of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides with foil. FInely grind cracker crumbs, coconut, almonds and sugar in processor. Add butter; process until moist crumbs form. Press mixture onto bottom and 1 inch up sides of pan. Bake crust until set and beginning to brown, about 12 minutes. Cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

For filling: Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Mix in coconut and extract . Fold in almonds. Transfer filling to crust. Bake until cake is puffed and no longer moves when pan is shaken, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool completely on rack.

For glaze: Combine 1 cup chocolate chips, cream and vanilla in small saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until smooth. Cool until glaze begins to thicken but can still be poured, about 30 minutes. Pour glaze over cooled cake; spread evenly. Chill cake overnight.

Run small knife around sides of cake to loosen. Release pan sides.

Toffee Squares

December 12, 2010

The problem with making cookies for the holidays is that everyone has a different favorite. I can’t go through a holiday season without making jam thumbprints for my husband (his favorite) or brownies for my co-worker (her favorite) and so on and so forth. Every year I make 3 or 4 of the old favorites that without, whining would certainly commence. Then, I always try some new ones to be added to the rotation.

And, before my designated “Christmas Baking Day” (yes, I actually take a day off of work to do it), I had to bake a bit early since our holiday parties seemed to span a 2-week time frame. So, when I saw this recipe on epicurious.com, I thought it sounded like the perfect missing puzzle piece to my cookie line-up.

The original recipe comes from a booked called Very Merry Cookie Party by Virginia Van Vynckt and Barbara Grunes. I made the recipe in the second way suggested – with the inclusion of toffee bits.

I am actually a bit embarrassed to show how easy this recipe is, since only about 30 minutes total gives you an entire 9 x 13 of these sweet morsels. They are so good that only within about 4 days from my first batch, I will be making another for yet more holiday occasions.

Thanks to Very Merry Cookie Party for this amazing recipe – and the newest member of my holiday cookie favorites.

TOFFEE SQUARES
Makes about 48 squares (on 9×13 pan)

Crust:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

Topping:
7 to 8 ounces milk chocolate, broken into pieces, or 1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted
1/2 cup toffee bits

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment. (or spray a nonstick pan with baking spray)

Prepare the crust. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg yolk, vanilla, and salt. On low speed, gradually beat in the flour just until mixed. The dough will be stiff. Pat the dough evenly over the bottom of the baking pan.

Bake in the center of the oven until pale gold on top, about 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and scatter the chocolate pieces evenly over the crust. Return the pan to the oven for 1 minute. Remove the pan again and, using a knife, spread the chocolate evenly over the crust. Sprinkle evenly with the almonds.

Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Using a sharp knife, cut into small squares, then carefully remove from the pan with a small offset spatula or an icing spatula.

Double-Nut Maple Bars

November 1, 2010

If anyone has been to my house, they know how large my cookbook cabinet is. Rows and rows of possibilities – old and new, salty and sweet. There also is a cookbook annex in the basement that has yet another plethora of recipes just waiting to be sauteed, sliced, simmered and savored. And, with the internet these days, do I really need any more?

That HAD to be a rhetorical question because the answer is, of course, yes. And, when Bon Appetit had on their facebook page that you could get their new cookbook Just Desserts as a pre-order for half the price, it was a no brainer. Now that my baking infatuation has continued to grow and grow, this book would clearly make it worse – beautiful glossy photos along with the best of Bon Appetit’s sweet treats.

The day it arrived, I settled into my sunroom with a glass of wine and dove in. I read it with the intensity many would read a trashy romance novel – and yes, I read my cookbooks cover to cover.

This recipe was my first trial out of the cookbook. I had recently bought some grade B maple syrup and wanted to keep using it up, so when I saw these bars, I thought it would be the ideal way to use some up.

These are different than my normal cakes, cookies and brownies – it is a shortbread crust with a sticky maple, pecan, caramel filling. Even with making the crust, I was able to make this in less than 1 hour. It was AMAZING – not to mention gone in one day. The sweetness of the topping combined with the texture of the crust is the perfect combination, and a great way to “mix up” my baking with something different.

Not only is this post an ode to these bars, but also an ode to Just Desserts by Barbara Fairchild, from which many of my kitchen creations will surely emerge.

DOUBLE-NUT MAPLE BARS
Makes 16

For crust:
1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon whole milk

For filling:
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 8 x 8 x 2-inch metal baking pan. Combine flour, sugar and salt in processor and blend. Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine egg yolk and milk in small bowl. Drizzle egg mixture into processor; process using on/off turns just until dough clumps together but is still dry. Transfer dough crumbs to prepared pan. Press crumbs onto bottom and halfway up sides of pan. Bake until crust is set and pale golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer crust to rack and cool.

Make filling:
Combine maple syrup, sugar, cream and butter in heavy medium saucepan. Bring mixture to boil. Boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in nuts and vanilla.

Pour filling over crust, spreading nuts evenly bake until filling bubbles all over, about 8 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool completely. Cut into bars and serve at room temperature. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Store cookies between sheets of wax paper in airtight container at room temperature.)

Upside-Down Butterscotch Apple Sour Cream Cake

October 31, 2010

This recipe might have been the turning point where my love for my cast iron skillet turned into a slight obsession. My particular skillet came from a woman named Lois who lives near Hocking Hills, Ohio – she wears a bonnet and swears by Wagner cast iron (and she claims to be able to spot impostors). She sold me on the antique item, and ever since I bought my Wagner (no impostors here!), I am finding more ways of using it. The obvious would be steaks, and other meats that will get a fantastic sear from the hot metal. But cornbread was a new discovery, and now I realize I can make cakes in my antique cooking device.

This upside-down cake is a perfect fall dessert. The sour cream makes the cake incredibly moist and the apples with butterscotch give it an irresistible sweetness.

Only tip I have for those recreating this (and I give this tip because it has happened to me), make sure not to burn the center of the skillet with the apples prior to adding the batter (which means you might have to turn down the heat a bit more than the recipe says). Reason is, the apples can start to burn and will caramelize them in a way that they will stick to the skillet and not “flop out” with the rest of the cake.

Thanks to Bon Appetit for this fall favorite!

UPSIDE-DOWN BUTTERSCOTCH APPLE SOUR CREAM CAKE
Makes 8 Servings

Cake:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup baker’s sugar (superfine sugar) or regular sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 Golden Delicious apple (or other baking apple), peeled, cored, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)

Butterscotch-caramel apples:
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/3 cup butterscotch morsels
2 8-ounce Golden Delicious apples, peeled, halved, cored, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (or other baking apple)

For cake:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Gradually add sugar and beat until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until blended. Beat in flour mixture, then sour cream. Stir in chopped apple. Set aside while preparing butterscotch-caramel apples.

For butterscotch-caramel apples:
Melt butter in 10-inch-diameter nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add brown sugar and butterscotch morsels; stir until melted and smooth and mixture is bubbling, about 2 minutes. Add apple slices to skillet and cook until golden brown, using tongs to turn slices, about 3 minutes per side (there will be a lot of liquid in skillet). Remove skillet from heat and let cool 3 minutes. Using tongs, arrange apple slices in skillet in concentric circles or other pattern.

Carefully spoon cake batter in small dollops atop apples in skillet. Using offset spatula, gently spread batter evenly to edges of skillet (batter will seem to float on top of apples and pan juices). Bake until cake is golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in skillet 10 minutes. Run knife around edges of cake to loosen. Place large platter atop skillet. Using oven mitts or pot holders, hold platter and skillet firmly together and invert, allowing cake to settle onto platter. Serve cake warm (with whipped cream of ice cream if desired).

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple-Marshmallow Cream

September 30, 2010

I am not Amish. My husband isn’t a farmer. But I still love Whoopie Pies. (I am going somewhere with this, I promise…)

Apparently Whoopie Pies got their name from Amish wives making them for their farmer husbands and putting them in their lunches. When they would open their lunches, they would say “whoopie!” And, for good reason. If you have ever had these small round cakes sandwiched between sugary, marshmallowy frosting, you will know what I mean.

Although baking them myself? I don’t know…might be easier to go to a bakery. This technique would be doomed in my amateur kitchen – how do you make the cakes so round? How do you get the right texture? How do you assemble without breaking?

But, when Bon Appetit featured a recipe that included pumpkin and maple, classic fall ingredients, I really had no choice but to give it a whirl. And worst case, my husband would shout “whoops” instead of “whoopie” and we would break out the tub of vanilla ice cream in the freezer instead.

I cannot fully express the reaction my husband gave when he ate one – it wasn’t “whoopie” (after all his mouth was terribly full) but eventually was along the lines of “I can’t stop eating these!” The cake is like a pumpkin bread but sweeter, and the frosting I could just eat with a spoon. The perfect fall dessert!

Now, the technique. My fears were a bit unwarranted, I must say. You truly just spoon the batter on the cookie sheet (I used my cookie scooper) and they turn into pretty round cakes (although I saw in my Sur La Table catalog they do make Whoopie Pie Pans). Bon Appetit nailed the timing – 20 minutes exactly (check with a toothpick). Then, assembly was a piece of cake (sorry, I couldn’t help it!). No breakage, just perfectly beautiful pumpkin whoopie pies.

Thanks, Bon Appetit (and Portland, Maine’s Two Fat Cats Bakery), for broadening my baking skills and giving me a huge reason to shout “Whoopie!”

PUMPKIN WHOOPIE PIES WITH MAPLE-MARSHMALLOW CREAM
Bon Appetit says it makes 23 pies but I found it only made 16 (maybe mine were a bit big)

FILLING
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme
2 teaspoons maple extract
CAKE
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
•3/4 cup sugar
•1/2 cup vegetable oil
•3 large eggs
•1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
•1/2 cup milk
•Nonstick vegetable oil spray

FILLING

  • Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add marshmallow creme and maple extract; beat until blended and smooth. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

CAKE

  • Sift first 7 ingredients into large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and both sugars in another large bowl until blended. Gradually beat in oil. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend between additions. Beat in pumpkin. Add dry ingredients in 2 additions alternately with milk in 1 addition, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Cover and chill batter 1 hour.
  • Arrange 1 rack in bottom third of oven and 1 rack in top third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment; spray lightly with nonstick spray. Spoon batter onto baking sheet to form cakes (about 3 level tablespoons each; about 12 per baking sheet), spacing apart. Let stand 10 minutes.
  • Bake cakes until tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking. Cool cakes completely on baking sheets on rack. Using metal spatula, remove cakes from parchment.
  • Line cooled baking sheets with clean parchment; spray with nonstick spray, and repeat baking with remaining batter.
  • Spoon about 2 tablespoons filling on flat side of 1 cake. Top with another cake, flat side down. Repeat with remaining cakes and filling. DO AHEAD Can be made 8 hours ahead. Store in single layer in airtight container at room temperature.

Crack Pie

September 7, 2010

My friends in New York City were constantly referring to this culinary delight called “crack pie.” Perhaps because I had never tried it, perhaps because I don’t live in NYC, but “crack pie” seemed like a surreal sweet treat that I wasn’t sure really existed. It is served at Momofuku Milk Bar in NYC, and it is supposedly one of a kind. Chocolate? No. Nuts? No. Fruit? No. Can only have one slice? No. Ok, now I am intrigued.

So, without hesitation, I had made a vow that next time I was in NYC and had a moment (which is rare), I would indulge myself in this so-called, out of this world “crack pie.”

But, to my amazement, I opened my September Bon Appetit to see the infamous “crack pie” recipe from the chef herself! I surely had to try to make it.

I will admit, it takes some time – you make an oatmeal cookie, crumble it, then add butter and brown sugar for the crust. Then, you make the filling, bake it, then let it set overnight in the fridge before having a piece.

The anticipation was killing me – I spent much of my Sunday making this pie and then had to wait until the next day to see what all the fuss was about. Fortunately, it was Labor Day weekend, so Monday I was at my house at lunchtime. Yes, after lunch, my husband and I dug into that pie like nobody’s business.

Oh. My. Goodness. It is like nothing I can describe…almost like a pecan pie without the pecans, but oh so much better. It has a sweet creaminess of the dry milk and cream, then a saltiness and heartiness of the oatmeal crust. Now, I see what all the fuss is about.

This pie is sure to get an amazing response if you bring it to a party, make for friends, or if you are like me – eat the entire thing in your 2-person household minus a few pieces that went to your neighbors!

Thanks Momfuku Milk Bar and Bon Appetit for allowing me to see the light!

CRACK PIE
Makes 10-12 Servings

Oat cookie crust:
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
5 1/2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt

Filling:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
6 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (for dusting)

For oat cookie crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13 x 9 x 2-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper; coat with nonstick spray. Combine 6 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Add egg; beat until pale and fluffy. Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Turn oat mixture out onto prepared baking pan; press out evenly to edges of pan. Bake until light golden on top, 17 to 18 minutes. Transfer baking pan to rack and cool cookie completely.

Using hands, crumble oat cookie into large bowl; add 3 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar. Rub in with fingertips until mixture is moist enough to stick together. Transfer cookie crust mixture to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Using fingers, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie dish. Place pie dish with crust on rimmed baking sheet.

For filling:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and whisk until blended. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble). Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but center still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 20 minutes longer. Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; keep chilled.

Sift powdered sugar lightly over top of pie. Cut pie into wedges and serve cold.

Pistachio Baklava with Orange-Cardamom Syrup

July 26, 2010

I have always had a fear of phyllo. It is thin, breakable and who REALLY knows how to use it?! No good could come of it, and it would only set me up for failure.

Although I realized this weekend, good CAN come of phyllo – baklava! My motto for cooking and baking is that the worst thing that can happen is take out, so I thought this Sunday I would attempt to make my first batch of baklava.

I will warn you, it isn’t a quick batch of cookies, hands on time was well over an hour, plus an hour of baking and an hour of cooling. But, it was one of those accomplishments I will remember – when I cut the diamonds, cooked it until it was golden and poured the syrup over top…it smelled of spicy goodness and I realized “my goodness, I just made baklava.”

So don’t be afraid, it can be done. Just a few tips: keep your phyllo moist with a wet paper towel while you work. Also, don’t worry if it breaks – just put it together best you can because when it bakes and is cut it really doesn’t matter. Last tip – be patient! The phyllo consists of 30 layers in this recipe and takes some time to assemble.

But, the result is probably the most amazing baklava I have ever had. The orange and cardamom with pistachio and cinnamon warms you inside and out, and the sugary syrup makes you feel like a kid. I will definitely be making this again.

Thanks to Bon Appetit for this recipe and the corresponding article that chronicles how Molly Wizenberg got over her “fear of phyllo.” It inspired me, so I hope it inspires you too!

PISTACHIO BAKLAVA WITH ORANGE-CARDAMOM SYRUP
Makes about 30

1 3/4 cups plus 8 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 1/4 cups fresh orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
12 ounces shelled pistachios, toasted (scant 3 cups)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
30 14×9-inch sheets fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed (from one 16-ounce package)
Powdered sugar (optional)

Simmer 1 3/4 cups sugar and orange juice in saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil over medium heat until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Add cardamom. Cool syrup.

Place nuts and 2 tablespoons sugar in processor. Using on/off turns, process until most of nuts are finely ground (the largest pieces should be the size of small peas). Mix nuts, 6 tablespoons sugar, and cinnamon in medium bowl.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with some of melted butter. Place 1 phyllo sheet on bottom of dish. Brush lightly with melted butter. Repeat 9 more times with phyllo and melted butter. Sprinkle half of pistachio mixture (about 1 1/2 cups) evenly over phyllo. Place 1 phyllo sheet over nuts; brush lightly with butter. Repeat 9 more times with phyllo sheets and melted butter. Sprinkle remaining pistachio mixture evenly over. Place 1 phyllo sheet atop nuts; brush with butter. Repeat 9 more times with phyllo sheets and melted butter.

Using sharp knife, cut diagonally through top phyllo layer from top left corner to bottom right corner. Cut top layer of phyllo into 1-inch-wide rows parallel to both sides of first cut. Turn pan and cut rows about 2 1/4 inches wide, forming diamond pattern.

Bake baklava until golden brown and crisp, 50 to 55 minutes. Drizzle syrup evenly over hot baklava. Cool in pan on rack. Recut baklava along lines all the way through layers. DO AHEAD Baklava can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Sift powdered sugar over, if desired.

Chocolate Brownies

January 1, 2010

I learned early on in my baking that the best complement to chocolate is coffee. Might sound a bit strange, but there is something about coffee that brings out the true flavor of chocolate and gives everyone that “hmmm, what is in there?!” feeling.

This recipe is by far my one and only go to chocolate brownie recipe. One word of advice is that since it is SO cholocately and gooey, wait until they are completely cooled and even put in the fridge for a while before cutting them or you will have quite a mess on your hands.

Thanks to Ina Garten for this one!

CHOCOLATE BROWNIES
1/2 pound unsalted butter
1/2 pound plus 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 extra-large eggs
1.5 tablespoons instant coffee powder
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
1 1/8 cups sugar
1/2 cup, 1/8 cup all-purpose flour, divided (1/2 cup for batter and 1/8 cup in the chips and nuts)
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1.5 cups diced walnut pieces (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 by 13 glass baking dish.

Melt together the butter, 1/2 pound chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.

Stir together 1/2 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 1 cup of chocolate chips with 1/8 cup flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Do not over-bake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.


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