Category Archives: Desserts

Lemon Curd

I know that long ago, I promised a recipe for lemon curd. Because I had made it to go with scones, and it was really, really, really good.

But I got distracted by these and these.

And then there were tornados in Raleigh, and I felt very, very grateful that neither I nor anyone I know was seriously hurt.  One of my coworkers put together an art auction to help benefit those affected by the said tornado, and so I baked some goodies (like these brownies, this cake, and the aforementioned caramel rice crispy treats) to sell.

With all that plus a million other things, this post…just didn’t get written. And even when I started writing it, it sat in my “Drafts” folder for two weeks. But enough excuses.

The ingredients for lemon curd are simple: lemons (duh), eggs, butter, sugar.

First you zest and juice the three lemons (have I ever mentioned how much I love my zester? It’s amazing).

Add the sugar and lemon zest to a mixer with a paddle attachment, and mix on medium-low speed till the sugar and zest are mixed thoroughly.

Add the softened butter, and cream till light.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Then add the lemon juice and salt, and mix till blended.

This is where it gets funky.  Pour the mixture into a saucepan over medium heat.  It starts to kind of curdle as the butter starts to melt, and it’s a little bit weird looking (kind of matches the “curd” in the name).  But eventually, as the curd heats up slowly, it smooths out and starts to thicken.

I hooked up my instant read thermometer to the side of the pot with a clothespin (very fancy, I know) so I would know when the curd had reached the correct temperature (170 degrees).  You can also tell it’s done when you can drag your finger across the back of the spoon and it doesn’t fill in. But as soon as it reaches the right temperature, you take it off the heat.

Mine took a VERY long time to reach the right stage, and I think it’s because I had the heat on too low.  The original recipe says low heat, but I would recommend medium heat, unless you want to wait an HOUR for your curd to thicken.  Which you probably don’t want to do. Especially since you can’t just leave it for an hour…you have to pretty much stir it constantly.

Whenever you’ve reached that magical thickened stage, be it after 20 minutes or 60, you pour the curd through a mesh strainer to get rid of the lemon zest and any eggs that curdled (although this method of creaming the sugar and eggs together first helps prevent curdling – I didn’t have any) and make it super smooth.

I got about 2-1/3 cups of curd from this batch, which is a LOT of curd – a little bit goes a long way.  So feel free to halve this recipe.  It was also a tiny bit sweet for my taste – I’d like to try this with 1 cup of sugar, instead of the 1.5 called for.

Lemon Curd

Adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients:

  • 3 lemons
  • 1-1.5 cups sugar (to taste)
  • 1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Zest and juice the three lemons.
  2. Add the zest and sugar to a mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until the zest and sugar are mixed thoroughly.
  3. Add butter to the sugar mixture and cream till light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.
  5. Add lemon juice and salt and mix until combined.
  6. Pour mixture into a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat and cook till the mixture thickens and reaches a temperature of 170 degrees (right before a simmer).
  7. Pour through a fine mesh strainer to remove the zest any curdled eggs.
  8. Store in an airtight container for up to one week in the refrigerator.
Advertisements
Tagged ,

Babies, Book Club, and Bundt Cake

This past weekend was the annual Nawakwa Women’s Book Club Weekend. Our book this year was “The Good Earth”, by Pearl S. Buck. The book is amazing, if you haven’t read it. I never had to read it in high school, and I am really glad that I have read it now!

All the PREP girls were there, if only for Friday night. I got to meet Sophie for the first time, and she was tiny, adorable, perfect. Charlie was so much bigger than the first time I met him…and he was such a little flirt!

There were so many willing and eager arms waiting to take Sophie and Charlie off of their mamas’ hands.

Two loving sets of hands tucking a tired Charlie into his car seat.

Plus, as always, there was an abundance of food. This year, I made spinach & artichoke dip (a.k.a. The Dip), almond roca, and an orange olive oil bundt cake (from Baked Explorations).

The orange olive oil cake was delicious – it had a texture similar to pound cake, and although I expected a stronger olive oil taste, it really did not come through very much. The orange flavor was beautiful though. It is the type of cake that’s great for dessert, snack, or breakfast.

In my mind, it’s also not terribly unhealthy…there’s four eggs, but no butter!  And there’s yogurt!

Zest two oranges – mine ended up being about 1/8 cup. Mmmm…I love the scent of orange zest.

Then you separate the eggs and beat the yolks (save the whites for later). After the egg yolks are thick and pale, add the sugar slowly with the mixer on low. I wasn’t expecting this, but it becomes really thick – a grainy paste. After you add the orange zest, vanilla bean paste (or just plain old extract), yogurt, and olive oil, it loosens up. Then, you add the dry ingredients, and it is a pretty thick batter.

At this point, you set the batter aside and beat the egg whites till they form stiff peaks. I don’t know about you, but I’m always amazed at how egg whites work. Seriously, they start out as a liquid and then they triple in size and become a fluffy foam. So cool.

Then you begin the kind of hard work (ok, “hard” for someone who is not very strong): folding in the egg whites. You start with a small amount and fold it in gently, gently, gently. Then, you fold in the rest, still very gently, until they’re all incorporated. The batter becomes lighter, and the texture is more like what you’d expect from a cake batter.

You pour it in a bundt pan and put it in a 350 degree oven. It’s supposed to bake for 40-50 minutes, but mine probably took closer to 60 minutes. You rotate it once, halfway through baking. The smell wafting through my apartment was amazing, and the cake itself was really good.

Not too sweet, great texture. I didn’t use the powdered sugar because I transported it in the pan, but I think that would have added a really nice sweet touch. I want to try a grapefruit version of the cake as well.

This was definitely a time- and labor-intensive recipe. For everyday cakes, I’d probably try something a little easier (possibly this one from Smitten Kitchen), but for special events or get-togethers, this is perfect.

Orange Olive Oil Bundt Cake

From: Baked Explorations (page 36)
Yield: 1 10-inch bundt cake

Ingredients:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup plain yogurt (I used low-fat)
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly grated zest of 2 oranges (about 1/8 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1.5 teaspoon vanilla extract)
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting – optional

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 10-inch bundt pan – either with cooking spray or butter and dusted with flour.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk or sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a mixer with the paddle attachment (or just a regular old hand mixer), beat the egg yolks on medium speed until they are pale and thick.
  5. Turn mixer to low and slowly add the sugar until it is completely incorporated. You may have to increase the speed slightly as the mixture gets thicker. Scrape the bowl.
  6. Add the yogurt, olive oil, orange zest, and vanilla and mix on medium speed just till combined. Scrape the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated.
  7. Add the flour mixture in two parts, scraping the bowl after each addition. Mix just till incorporated. It will be quite thick.
  8. In another large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  9. Scoop about a cup of the egg whites into the batter and gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
  10. After about 30 seconds of folding, add the remaining egg whites and gently fold them in until they are almost completely combined.
  11. Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan and bake for 40-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Start checking for doneness after about 40 minutes – mine took close to 60. Rotate the pan halfway through the baking process.
  12. When it’s done, transfer cake (still in pan) to a rack to cool. Then, once cooled, turn onto a rack.
  13. Store tightly wrapped; cake will keep for a few days.
  14. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving (optional).
Tagged , , ,

Homemade Almond Roca (Butter Toffee)

This was, hands down, the favorite thing I made this Christmas season. I have loved Almond Roca since discovering it several years ago in an employer’s Christmas basket.  It’s sweet and salty and the texture is perfect – crunchy, but not break-your-teeth hard. It had never occurred to me that I could actually make this candy at home, until I saw this post on Tasty Kitchen. And, now that I know I can make this at home, I pretty much want to make caramel and toffee all the time.

Soon after the post on Tasty Kitchen, there was also a recipe for Butter Toffee on Pioneer Woman, so I used a combo of the recipes.

This recipe is not for those afraid of butter. There are four sticks in this, plus sugar, water, salt, almonds, and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Basically, you melt the butter, add the water and sugar, and cook till it gets nice and dark. I used a 5.5 quart pot for this; the first time I made this, I actually started out in a smaller pot, but switched partway through.

I don’t have any process shots of this because, frankly, cooking sugar frightens me a bit, and I didn’t want to take my eye off of it for a second. The Tasty Kitchen post has great pics, so use that for reference.

I used a candy thermometer for this, since it seemed a little easier than trying to gauge the done-ness by eye, considering I’ve never made candy before. The Butter Toffee recipe says to cook to 298 degrees, and the first time I made this, it cooked to 298 degrees and it turned out perfect. There was also minimal burning on my pot.

The second time, however, it didn’t really go above 250 or so, and it was starting to get pretty dark and burn to the bottom of the pot, so I pulled it off the heat when it looked like the right color. The texture of the finished candy was a little off: it was a little bit sticky – meaning that although the candy was hard, it stuck a little to your teeth. After doing some research, I think that it may have had to do with the heat being too high, which led to burning, which led to me not cooking it long enough. Most recipes recommend cooking on medium heat, but the Tasty Kitchen one says high heat. I have revised the directions below to say medium. In retrospect, the fact that I had to switch pots midway through the cooking process the first time probably helped, because it cooled the mixture down a little bit so it didn’t burn. In addition, apparently overstirring can cause issues too – so I’ll have to try again with lower heat and less stirring.

When it’s done, pull it off the heat, stir in the almonds, and pour onto a large, greased, rimmed half sheet pan (or jelly roll pan).  Spread it out evenly, then sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. After a few seconds, the chocolate chips (I’m guessing you could also use other chocolate, chopped up) will be melty enough that you can spread it out evenly.

Then just sprinkle with chopped almonds, and let cool. I put mine in the fridge to help it along, and it cooled pretty quickly. I tried both scoring it and just breaking it, and I prefer just breaking it. Even though I scored it and most of the pieces broke along the lines, a lot of it just broke haphazardly anyway. This one pan was enough to fill a tin, which I brought into work. For the second batch, I included it in cookie tins that I gave to my PREP girls (with plenty leftover for me and my parents).

Homemade Almond Roca

Slightly adapted from here and here

Makes one 12″x17″ or 13″x18″ pan

Ingredients:
-4 sticks (1 lb) butter (salted or unsalted)
-2 rounded cups white sugar
-1 teaspoon kosher salt
-4 Tablespoons water
-2 cups sliced almonds
-1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
-1/2 cup chopped almonds

Directions:

  1. Grease a rimmed  12″x17″ or 13″x18″ jelly roll or sheet pan (I used nonstick cooking spray).
  2. Combine butter, sugar, salt, and water in a large saucepan or pot over medium heat.
  3. Bring to a boil, stirring gently but constantly. It will gradually change color and consistency, from thin to thick, light yellow to darker golden brown.
  4. Cook till it reaches a smooth, dark brown color, or till a candy thermometer reaches 298 degrees. This will probably take about 20 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and add sliced almonds, stirring to combine.
  6. Pour onto baking sheet, spreading evenly with a silicon spatula or offset spatula.
  7. Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top of the toffee, and let sit for a few minutes to soften.
  8. Use a spatula to spread the chocolate evenly over the toffee.
  9. Sprinkle with chopped almonds.
  10. Once completely cooled, turn onto a large cutting board and use a knife to break it into pieces.
  11. Store in an airtight container.
Tagged , , , , ,

Apple Cardamom Cake

This delicious cake recipe is courtesy of The Kitchn, and it’s a perfect fall/wintery cake.

I normally would not have tried this recipe, but I had recently purchased a bottle of cardamom for a butter chicken recipe (this one, from Tasty Kitchen – very good). I don’t know if you know, but cardamom is freaking expensive. So, needless to say, anything that would help keep the spice from going to waste will catch my eye. To be honest, I went into this half expecting to not like it. I love cinnamon and ginger, but I am not always a fan of super spiced things. And cardamom is a pretty strong spice. But I’m glad I tried it – it’s so delicious! Just a note: if you want to try this but don’t want to shell out $12 at the grocery store for cardamom, try a place like World Market – their spices are much more reasonably priced. Or find a friend willing to give you a teaspoon or so.  Or, I also think this would still be good without the cardamom, if you want to try just the cake (it’s a very tasty cake).

I had everything on hand: apples from my CSA (Papa Spud’s), an expensive bottle of cardamom waiting to be used, and the other pretty basic ingredients and spices – ginger, cinnamon, cloves, eggs, flour, etc. I love when that happens – I don’t have to buy anything to bake or cook something.

The only thing I didn’t have was dark brown sugar, but I did in fact have molasses, so I was able to add about a teaspoon to my regular light brown sugar. I melted the brown sugar and some butter together in a small pan. Yum. {sidenote: I’ve kind of become obsessed with melting butter and sugar together….another recipe to come}

While I was waiting for it to boil, I sliced two apples into thinnish slices. The recipe called for thick slices to be cut in half…I wasn’t sure how that was supposed to work but I was envisioning a nice pinwheel of apples, so that’s how I sliced em.

Then, after the brown sugar/butter mixture bubbles for a few minutes, just pour it into a greased cake pan, and arrange the apple slices in a pretty arrangement around the bottom.

Then, beat the eggs till they’re nice and thick and pale yellow, and add the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, salt, sugar.  Then you pour in some milk that’s been warmed on the stove, and it becomes a beautiful spiced batter.

Pour it over the apples and bake for 40 minutes. I recommend putting it on a baking sheet in case anything bubbles up or over (mine did a little bit).

When it’s done, let it cool a bit, run a knife around the edge, then turn it over onto a plate. Gorgeous! The end result is so good. It’s not a heavy cake, but it’s got a nice texture; I expect because of the beaten eggs. The crust on top is exactly what you’d expect a butter and sugar topping to be – a little crunchy, sweet, rich. I almost wanted more of it, so I’d add a bit more butter and sugar next time.  I think it would have been better if it had a chance to sink into the cake more, but the number of apples I used kind of kept it on the top. But still…pretty perfect.

Apple Cardamom Upside-Down Cake

Makes one 9-inch cake. From The Kitchn, where it was adapted from Canal House Cooking No. 5.

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/3 cup dark brown sugar (or 1/3 cup light brown sugar + 1 teaspoon molasses)
2 medium-sized firm apples
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, plus extra for the apples
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan (I used cooking spray). Gather your ingredients.
  2. Peel the apples, core them and slice into thin slices (about 12-16 slices per apple). I used Granny Smith.
  3. Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the brown sugar (or 1 teaspoon molasses and light brown sugar) and stir until well-combined. Note: I accidentally added the butter and sugar at the same time, and it turned out just fine.
  4. Let the butter/sugar mixture bubble for about 2 minutes, then pour in the bottom of cake pan. Spread so it covers the bottom. Set aside.
  5. Arrange the apples in a circle, overlapping slightly, in the prepared cake pan on top of the sugar mixture. Start on the outside and then overlap smaller slices in the middle in a smaller circle.  Sprinkle them lightly with cinnamon.
  6. Put the milk in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat until it is warm (but doesn’t boil). Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter so it melts. Keep warm.
  7. Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and cardamom, as well as 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking powder. Note: I almost never do this (mainly because I have a tiny kitchen and hate doing extra dishes) – I just add the ingredients separately into the bowl of the mixer. It turned out fine for me.
  8. Beat the eggs for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they are very thick and pale. Gradually add the sugar and beat for 5 minutes. Add the flour mixture, and then the warm milk. Mix until the batter is smooth.
  9. Pour the batter over the apples in the cake pan and lightly tap the pan a few times to make sure the batter settles completely to the bottom.
  10. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden. Let the cake cool for a full 10 to 15 minutes, then run a knife around the inside of the pan to help release the cake, and invert onto a serving plate.
  11. Note from the original article – the cardamom flavor develops overnight, so this is a great cake to make ahead of time for a get together. It would be delicious with tea or coffee.
Tagged , , , , ,

Sweet Cherry Cake

I recently won a few pounds of fresh cherries from Whole Foods and I wasn’t sure what to do with them. I haven’t ever liked cherry pie, and I was worried about finding something to do with them, besides eat them fresh. Regardless, I bought a fancy cherry pitter and researched cherry pie recipes. Most recipes I found featured sour cherries, and since I had sweet, I kept on searching.  I found this one from Smitten Kitchen and was all set to make it.

However. I was too lazy to make cherry pie.  But, my cherries were going to go bad, so I had to use them.  I didn’t want to go to the grocery store (again with the laziness), so it was back to the internet…

I didn’t have the ingredients for a good crumble, so I searched for cobbler. I found this recipe and it seemed perfect (simple, plus I had all the ingredients).  It turned out more like a cake than a traditional cobbler – but it’s delicious regardless. Sweet, with a hint of spice from the cinnamon, and the cherries were almost jammy.

Flour, sugar, cherries, baking powder, milk, butter, cinnamon (not shown…whoops). I made a few adjustments to the original recipe – substituted some brown sugar for white, added cinnamon, used sweet instead of sour cherries, and about doubled the cherries. I would love to try this with triple the amount of cherries.

First thing you do is preheat the oven and melt the butter in the baking dish while it’s heating. Brilliant!

Then you mix the dry ingredients together and add milk. This recipe is really easy to scale because all the amounts are whole and easily split – one cup of flour, one cup of sugar, one cup of milk, half cup of butter.

Then you pour the batter into the dish with the butter. And you don’t even have to mix it!

Then you mix the cherries with sugar and a bit of flour. I used about half of the sugar in the recipe because I used sweet cherries – definitely just taste the cherries first to see how sweet they are (a tough job, but I’m sure you’ll muddle through).

Then you sprinkle the cherries over the whole dish, and dump in all the leftover sugar (or, if you like it a little less sweet, you could leave it out).  I had a lot of sugar left, so I would recommend using a lot less sugar to mix with the cherries.

Bake in the oven, and like magic, it puffs up and mixes and makes a delicious cake!  It should come out when it’s browned and a toothpick comes out  clean. My oven was running too hot, and mine actually was a little bit overdone after about 50 minutes.

It was still delicious though.

Sweet Cherry Cake

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup milk

4-6 cups pitted sweet (or sour) cherries
1/4 to 1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Put the butter in a 9×13 inch baking dish, and while the oven is preheating, place in the oven to melt. As soon as the butter is melted, take it of the oven.
  3. Mix together the flour, brown and white sugars, cinnamon, and baking powder.
  4. Pour in the milk and stir until well blended.
  5. Pour the batter into the pan over the butter. Do not stir.
  6. Mix the cherries with the 1 tablespoon of flour and additional sugar.
  7. Sprinkle the cherries evenly over the batter. Do not stir.
  8. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Tagged , , ,
%d bloggers like this: