World Peace Cookies

WPCookies

Before heading out on our eight-day road trip to San Diego, I thought I’d share a recipe I’ve made three times this past week, a Dorie Greenspan recipe for a cookie created by pastry chef Pierre Hermé. For the past year, a neighbor of mine has been on the quest for a good double-chocolate cookie recipe, and when I read the description for these “world peace” cookies on Smitten Kitchen, I had to try them myself.

And the first batch I made looked and tasted just as described: midnight-dark in color, buttery-rich in taste, sandy-textured, chocolaty, salty … delicious! When I made them a second and third time, however, the cookies came out completely differently — thin and crisp without that sandy, grown-up character of the first batch. Still delectable, just different. Very strange. I can’t explain the difference.

I have made some notes: For the first batch, I used a stand mixer; for the following two, I used a hand-held mixer. For the first batch I used parchment paper; for the following two I used a Silpat. For the first batch I used mini chocolate chips; for the second two, I used chopped bittersweet chocolate. Using Dutch process cocoa versus unsweetened cocoa powder doesn’t seem to make a difference — I used Dutch process for the second batch and unsweetened for the third, and the two cookies came out nearly identical. Having the oven temperature at 325ºF, as described, seems to be important: The third batch of cookies spread less than the second batch of cookies, which baked at a higher temperature.

So, I’m a little perplexed, but nonetheless believe the recipe to be a good one. Incidentally, in her book Baking From My Home To Yours (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), Dorie Greenspan explains why she calls these chocolaty delights “world peace” cookies: A neighbor of hers, Richard Gold, believes a daily dose of these cookies is all that is needed to ensure planetary peace and happiness.

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for Korova Cookies
Also known as “World Peace” cookies
Yield = 18

1¼ C. all-purpose flour

1/3 C. unsweetened cocoa powder

½ tsp. baking soda

1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 C. (packed) light brown sugar

¼ C. sugar

1 tsp. kosher salt or ½ tsp. fleur de sel or ¼ tsp. fine sea salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous ¾ C. store-bought mini chocolate chips

Whisk the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour, and mix just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1½ inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen in 1-ounce portions for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325º F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are ½-inch thick or that weigh exactly 1 ounce. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange six rounds on a baking sheets, leaving about one inch between each round.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

Serve with milk after dinner or with morning coffee.

Boozy Chocolate Truffles

truffles4

I am currently sitting on the floor of my barren living room, on a carpet strewn with random bobby pins, pen caps and Styrofoam packing peanuts. Though no furniture remains, I’m hanging out in this dust-bunny-filled corner, drawn by my Comcast modem, still connected despite all the chaos. The movers, who have been working nonstop since 8 this morning, have about an hour — or so I’m told — more of packing to complete. I still cannot believe the truck parked outside 754 S. 10th St. will be on its way to California by the end of the day.

Surprisingly, the day has gone smoothly. My sole concern now centers around the very large Tupperware sitting in my refrigerator filled to the brim with chocolate truffles. I went a little overboard this year, making over 300, in an effort to use up all the remaining chocolate in my refrigerator and pantry before the move. I emptied nearly every bottle of booze in my possession as well — Grand Marnier, Brandy, Marsala, even a splash of Sake. Sounds gross, I know, but a trustworthy friend enthusiastically described these as my “most impressive feat yet.” Now, I’m concerned because with nothing but a half-full jar of Sriracha, a few bottles of beer, and a tub of peanut butter remaining in my fridge, I could make a considerable dent in this chocolate stash tonight.

I have been experimenting with this Alton Brown recipe for almost a year now. These chocolaty confections have morphed from Derby Day Bourbon balls coated with chopped pecans and confectioners’ sugar to trendy dark chocolate truffles topped with gray salt and now back to their original incarnation, filled with booze, doused in cocoa.

Boozy Chocolate Truffles
Yield 35

10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup Grand Marnier, Brandy, Port, Marsala, whatever (seriously)
12 oz candy-making chocolate disks (dark), Merckens brand works well or Nuts to You’s dark chocolate disks
½ cup Dutch process cocoa powder

Place the bittersweet chocolate and the butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 30-60 seconds, stirring after the first 30 seconds. Alternatively, melt chocolate and butter together in a bowl set over (not touching) gently simmering water.

In a small sauté pan or saucepan, heat cream, corn syrup and salt until simmering. Pour over melted chocolate mixture and let stand 1-2 minutes. With a spatula gently stir mixture until evenly blended. Pour the alcohol into the chocolate mixture and stir. Pour mixture into an 8×8 inch baking dish, preferably glass or Pyrex. Let chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using a truffle scoop (also called a #100 scoop) or a melon baller, gently drag the balled end across the surface of the chocolate. Release the ball of chocolate onto the cookie sheet and repeat until all of the chocolate has been scooped. These balls should look slightly mishapen. Let chill in the refrigerator for at least another hour.

Place the coating chocolate in a large stainless-steel bowl. Fill a pot large enough to accomodate the bowl with a few inches of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a very gentle simmer and place the bowl with chocolate over the pot being sure that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. After a few minutes, stir the chocolate with a heat-proof spatula.

Place the cocoa powder in a shallow vessel—a large Tupperware works well. Have a clean Tupperware ready for the finished truffles.

When the chocolate is smooth and melted, remove the bowl from the heat. Remove the chocolate balls from the refrigerator. Place a large stainless-steel spoon in the bowl and using the spatula push chocolate into the spoon to fill. Working one at a time, place one ball into the chocolate-filled spoon. Quickly coat the ball using a small spoon or fork, then transfer to the cocoa powder. Repeat with five or six and let sit for a minute. Gently shake the vessel back and forth until the truffles are coated, then transfer to the clean vessel.

Note: Toward the end of this coating process, you may need to place the bowl back over the water to gently warm the chocolate again so it more easily coats the chocolates. Just follow the same procedure as above—the key is to melt the chocolate slowly and to keep moisture out of the inside of the bowl. Keep the un-dipped chocolates cool in the refrigerator while you reheat the chocolate.

Once all of the truffles are coated, store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. If you prefer to eat them at room temperature, remove them from the refrigerator one hour prior to serving.

Note: After the chocolates have chilled in the refrigerator for a few hours and are firm, taste one. If the cocoa-powder coating is too strong, try this: Place five or six in a strainer and shake until enough of the coating comes off.

Note: You may have left over cocoa powder and coating chocolate. You can store the remaining coating chocolate in the refrigerator and use for another project or use in a recipe for chocolate sauce or hot cocoa. The remaining cocoa powder can also be saved for hot cocoa.

Homemade Marshmallows

marshmallows

Every so often the Food Network offers some really good ideas. Last Sunday, I watched Tyler Florence make marshmallows, a food I never thought I would venture to make from scratch. But after seeing the two egg whites whip in the stand mixer until they tripled in size — until they nearly spilled out of the mixer — I had to try for myself. Plus, he packaged them in a cellophane bag tied with a festive ribbon and nestled the pouch into a basket with a jar of hot cocoa mix, his idea for a wonderful homemade Christmas gift. After tasting one of these sugary confections, I couldn’t agree more.

Homemade Marshmallows:
Adapted from Tyler Florence

This recipe requires the use of a stand mixer.
3 tablespoons powdered gelatin
2 cups cold water
2 cups sugar
2 egg whites
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted, plus more for dusting pan and marshmallows

In a medium sized saucepan soak the gelatin in the cold water. After the gelatin has softened, about 10 minutes, add the regular sugar, and gently dissolve over low heat, another 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold in the sifted confectioners’ sugar. While the mixer is on low, slowly pour in the cooled gelatin mixture. Increase the speed and beat until white and thick. The volume should double (or triple) in size and should form between soft and firm peaks. (When the mixture fills nearly the entire bowl, it is ready.)

Coat bottom and all sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with confectioners’ sugar. Pour marshmallow mixture in and top with more sifted confectioners’ sugar. Leave out overnight or for at least 3 hours to set. The marshmallow should be light and spongy when set.

Loosen marshmallow from edges of tray and invert onto a large cutting board. Use a large knife to cut the marshmallows into cubes. Sprinkle each piece with more confectioners’ sugar.

Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix Baking Spree

rumbundtcake

Three-hundred sixty-four days a year, my mother suffers from make-it-from-scratch syndrome. On her one day a year liberated from this affliction, she spends a few hours preparing a Greek New Year’s cake (vasilopita), pulling from the pantry a box of Duncan Hines yellow cake mix and a box of instant vanilla pudding. She combines these two powders in a bowl, adds a considerable amount of rum – the secret, she says, to the cake’s moist texture – and before long has produced a beautiful rum bundt cake, the dessert of choice for our annual coin-hiding, cake-cutting, Greek ritual.

Introducing this old WASP recipe into my mother’s repertoire – one dominated by traditional Greek dishes like spanakopita and moussaka – was no easy task. My stepfather, the man responsible for accomplishing this feat many years ago, still gloats to this day.

Only after several attempts at making the cake from scratch (substituting for the powdered mixes a pound cake one time and a chiffon cake another) received unfavorable reviews, did my mother concede, vowing never to tinker with the recipe again, a pledge widely supported by the rest of the family. Moist and boozy with a sugary-buttery glaze, this cake – in its original incarnation – has been a favorite since its debut.

Although my adoration for the rum bundt cake has made me less skeptical than my mother of recipes calling for instant cake mixes, I still find myself calling home to consult the authority before opening the box. “Be sure to add vanilla extract or a splash of Bourbon,” she always tells me, adding, “you need something to hide that artificial flavor.” Rarely do I end up making the recipe.

A recent visit to Williams- Sonoma, however, unexpectedly inspired a prepared-mix baking spree, my arrival to the shop fortuitously coinciding with the presentation of a batch of freshly made pumpkin dessert bars. Spiced with cinnamon, double-textured like a lemon bar, these pumpkin treats instantly won the affection of all who sampled them. Much to my surprise, the recipe called for a box of yellow cake mix.

After successfully making the pumpkin bars at home, along with a pan of quick apple kuchen, neither recipe calling for extract or alcohol, I resolved never to look suspiciously at recipes beginning with a premade mix. Though I’ll never tell my mother, my recent discoveries have confirmed an inkling I’ve had for years regarding the legendary rum bundt cake: The secret’s in the box, not the bottle.

The rum bundt cake can be made in mini pans as well. This was a batch I made last year for the Greek New Year’s Cake. Last year, I made the cake from scratch — truthfully, it’s much better using the box!
Rum Bundt Cake

1 box yellow cake mik
1 pkg. instant vanilla pudding
½ cup rum
4 eggs
½ cup canola oil
½ cup water

Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Mix all with an electric mixer for five minutes. Grease bundt pan and lightly flour. Bake for one hour.

1 stick butter
¼ cup rum
½ cup sugar

Meanwhile, combine rum, butter and sugar together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. When cake comes out of the oven, pour one-third of this mixture into the bottom of the cake. Let sit for 30 minutes. Turn cake out onto a cooling rack. Paint a layer of the glaze all over the cake. Let harden. Paint another layer. Repeat until all the glaze is gone.

Note: Tastes even better the second day.

Pumpkin Butter Dessert Squares

1 package yellow cake mix
½ cup butter, melted
3 large eggs
1 jar Muirhead pumpkin butter (This is the Williams Sonoma brand, but any will do. The jar was 13.5 oz.)
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon flour
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon cinnamon.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Measure one cup of cake mix. Set aside. Stir remaining cake mix with the butter and one egg. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan. Mix the jar of pumpkin butter with the remaining two eggs and milk. Pour mixture over layer in the pan. Stir the reserved cake mix with the flour, sugar, butter and cinnamon. Mix until crumbly. Sprinkle over the top of the pumpkin layer. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into two-inch squares. Serves 24.

Note: Of the three recipes posted here, I would say the kuchen tastes the most artificial, a sour cream glaze giving it an Entenmman’s-like character. Best served warm with a cup of coffee, however, this kuchen is still delectable.

Quick Apple Kuchen
Serves 20-24

1 box yellow cake mix
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup sweetened coconut
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 large apples, peeled and sliced thinly
1 egg
1 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Combine first three ingredients together in a bowl. Mix with your hands or beat slowly with an electric mixer. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pat mixture into pan. Bake 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix cinnamon and sugar together and toss with the apples. Remove pan from the oven and top with the apple mixture. Whisk egg and sour cream together and drizzle over the apples. Return to the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Serve immediately.

Daley Toffee

toffee

Well, after spending hours in the test kitchen, sifting through recipes submitted for The Bulletin’s “Edible Gift Recipe Contest”, I found a winner — Daley Toffee, a family recipe submitted by Laura Daley of Mount Airy. Crunchy, sweet, chocolaty, nutty, buttery, this toffee is so yummy! And addictive. Almost immediately after breaking the toffee into shards and photographing it, I brought it into the office — mostly to get it out of my sight — where the staff polished it off … I received several e-mails that day describing the scene. I returned to work the next day to find the empty Tupperware sitting on my chair.

Before trying this recipe, I had never attempted making toffee, and now, I have no fears of candy making or of terms like “hard-ball” stage. Cooking the sugar and butter mixture until it reaches the hard-ball stage is the only tricky part of this recipe, but Laura’s instructions make the process painless. Instead of relying on a thermometer, which I find never to be accurately calibrated anyway, Laura’s method calls for testing the mixture by dropping a small spoonful of the mixture into a glass of cold water — it’s foolproof.

The toffee, as Laura notes in the recipe, makes a great gift for the holidays. Several years ago, I purchased a case of 100 brown stationary boxes from Usbox.com. Although this large case of boxes takes up nearly half our storage space in the basement, every holiday season I am so happy to have these clear-top boxes on hand. I have packaged biscotti and chocolate truffles in them for the past two years, and now I will pack Daley Toffee in them as well. For a nice presentation, use parchment paper as a base inside the box, wrap the box with a delicate ribbon, and tie on a simple tag describing the contents of the box. My favorite tags to use for gift giving are metal rim tags, which you can find at Staples or any office supply store. They sell packs of 50 for about $10.

Daley Toffee: A Family Recipe
Laura’s notes: This recipe makes a great holiday gift for those with a sweet tooth! It keeps up to 2 weeks if you put it in an airtight container.

1 C. salted butter 

1 C. sugar 

3 T. water (if tap, put through a Britta or use well or bottled) 

1 1/8 tsp. vanilla
2/3 C. ground pecans (or nut of your choice) 

4-6 oz. premium milk chococlate (bar form is easiest; can also do a dark chocolate but we think milk chocolate is best)

Directions:
1. Cook butter, sugar, water, and vanilla over medium heat stirring CONSTANTLY until golden brown — test for hard ball stage in cold water. It may smoke, but don’t worry.
2. Put half to 2/3 of the nuts in the bottom of a greased 9×9 inch pan. 

3. Pour the cooked butter/sugar mixture over the nuts. 

4. Wait a few minutes and put the chocolate on top — when chocolate softens, spread evenly and sprinkle remaining nuts on top.
5. When completely cool, break into pieces. Store in airtight container. 

NOTE: You can also use an 8×13 if you’d prefer a thinner version — in which case increase nuts to 1 C.

Fair Trade Pecan Tart

pecantart

Once a term used only to label coffee, chocolate, tea and a few other imported products, Fair Trade now describes a few domestic items as well. In honor of Fair Trade month (October), four farmers — two banana farmers from Costa Rica, a pecan farmer from Georgia, and an apple farmer from Vermont — visited several East Coast cities on a tour called the Faces Of Fair Trade. Last Tuesday, Joe Coffee Bar hosted one of the tour’s stops, and I got to meet Diann Johnson (the pecan farmer), Glen Schreiter (the apple farmer) and Yocser Godoy Carranza and Carlos Vargas (the banana farmers) — the new faces of Fair Trade.

I never realized all the difficulties — isolation, for example, and low prices driven by increased market supply from countries such as China — domestic farms face, until I spoke with these farmers, especially Mr. Schreiter.

To survive in a globalized world, Mr. Schreiter had to change his game plan, and in 2000, he initiated a complete restructuring of his farm, Saxtons River Orchards, in Saxtons River, Vermont. The last straw? Mr. Scheiter couldn’t even sell his apples to his neighbors, living only 10 minutes from his farm. Before 2000, Mr. Schreiter’s 200-acre farm, equipped with a multi-million dollar packing facility, shipped their apples all over the world. After 1993, however, when NAFTA enabled China (the largest apple-producing country in the world) and New Zealand to sell their apples to consumers in the U.S. and all over the world, Mr. Screiter’s farm began suffering.

And so, Mr. Schreiter downsized his farm to 40 acres, sold the packing facility and hooked up with an organization called Red Tomato, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting farmers and consumers. Red Tomato purchases 50 percent of Mr. Schreiter’s apples as well as fruits and vegetables from family farms located all along the East Coast, supplying shops throughout New England. Because few farmers’ markets operate near Saxtons River, and because the farm’s isolated location discourages many visitors, Mr. Schreiter believes his orchard could not survive without Red Tomato.

In 11 years, Red Tomato has succeeded in bringing locally grown produce to markets such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. In 20 years, Equal Exchange, the oldest and largest Fair Trade for-profit organization in the country, has brought numerous Fair Trade goods — including domestic nuts and dried cranberries — to hundreds of cafés and stores, reaching over a million consumers. These organizations, realizing that domestic farmers face many of the same challenges producers in marginalized regions of the world face, have changed the face of Fair Trade.

Also, find all of your holiday baking needs, certified Fair Trade that is, at Joe Coffee Bar. ‘Tis the season for pecan pie, so plan ahead: Find a source for Fair Trade products, and purchase enough now to cover your seasonal baking needs. Equal Exchange is another good source for Fair Trade products and information. This recipe has been adapted from this month’s Bon Appétit — it’s delectable — not cloyingly sweet. I’m very thankful I got to see my husband this weekend, who happily took the remaining tart off my hands … I’m looking forward to returning to my morning oat bran routine.

Diann Johnson (pecan farmer from Georgia) stands with Joe Cesa (owner of Joe Coffee Bar) at Joe Coffee Bar, where many Fair Trade products are sold:

Fair Trade Pecan Tart
Serves 5

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ C. sugar
1 large egg yolk
pinch sea salt
1¼ C. all purpose flour
2-3 T. milk, cream or water

Beat butter and sugar using an electric mixer until smooth. Add the yolk and salt and mix again until smooth. Add the flout, mixing on low until just incorporated. Add the liquid, a tablespoon at a time, to bind. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll into an 11-inch round, approximately. Transfer to a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom. Pierce dough all over with a fork and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Filling:
3 large eggs
½ C. packed brown sugar
½ C. maple syrup
½ C. dark corn syrup
¼ C. unsalted butter, melted
1½ C. coarsely chopped Fair Trade pecans, roasted and salted

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and syrups until well blended. Pour in the melted butter, whisking constantly. Stir in the pecans. Place the tart shell on a baking sheet and pour the filling inside. Bake tart until filling is puffed and slightly set, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool

Pumpkin Cupcakes

cupcakes5

These cupcakes, the third in a series of pumpkin recipes, are really a seasonal treat — they’ll please everyone: On Monday, fearing if I left them in my reach they would disappear as quickly as last week’s apple cake, I dropped the remaining 11 of this batch of 12 off at The Bulletin’s office, and they were a big hit. Unfortunately, I still have about a quart of the cream cheese frosting left in my refrigerator at home … I really hope I don’t return to Philadelphia with an empty stomach.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield = 12 cupcakes

1½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup pumpkin purée
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1¼ cups sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt

frosting and decorative garnishes (purchased at Fante’s) if desired

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Whisk together the flour and baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix only until just combined. Place paper liners in muffin pan or coat with cooking spray. Fill each cup only three-quarters full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
8 oz. butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Beat all with an electric mixture until smooth. Chill until ready to serve.

Pumpkin Waffles, Bread Pudding

waffles5

There’s nothing like gourd season to separate the purists and the pretenders in the kitchen. As I grew up indoctrinated with my mother’s culinary canons — chicken stock is made at home from real chickens, herbs and vegetables; salad dressing does not come from a bottle; homemade bread is simple to prepare; pie crusts are made only with butter; and the best burgers are made with freshly ground meat — I always considered myself a purist.

On Tuesday, however, I made the mistake of telling Sam Consylman, one of the farmers at the South and Passyunk Farmers’ Market, I had just made some pumpkin bread. “What kind of pumpkin did you use?” Mr. Consylman asked me. I paused. I knew what he meant. And as I looked around, I felt a sudden pressure, a collective stare emanating from the farm-stand table spilling with butternut, acorn, delicata, hubbard, kabocha and red kuri squashes. I sheepishly confessed: “Libby’s.”

“Oh man,” was all Mr. Consylman could say, his face twisting in disbelief, bordering on disgust. As he shook his head, he extolled the light texture and pure squash flavor of a real pumpkin pie, and he implored me to travel to Lancaster to taste one. I promised him I would.

I hope before winter squash season ends, I will get out to Lancaster, and I hope at some time, I do get around to making my own pumpkin pie from scratch. And in the meantime, I guess I’ll have to revise a little axiom of my own: Canned pumpkin for the sweets, fresh for the savories.

Pumpkin Waffles
Serves 3 to 4

2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1½ cups buttermilk
1 cup pumpkin purée
4 eggs, separated
1 stick butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla
powdered sugar, maple syrup and butter for serving

Preheat a waffle iron to hot and preheat the oven to 200ºF. Whisk together the flour, two tablespoons of the sugar, baking powder, salt and spice together. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, pumpkin, yolks, butter and vanilla until smooth. Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix only until just blended. Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Slowly add the remaining tablespoon of sugar and beat until glossy peaks form. Stir one-third of these egg whites into the batter to lighten, then gently fold in the remaining whites. Ladle into heated waffle iron and cook until crisp and golden. Meanwhile, place a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet. As the waffles come off the iron, place on the cooling rack and place pan in oven to keep warm until all the waffles finish cooking (the rack keeps the waffles from getting soggy on the bottom).

Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Serves 8

1 baguette or loaf of white bread, cut into one-inch cubes, preferably cut and left to stale overnight
¾ stick (6 tablespoons or 3 oz.) of unsalted butter, melted
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups whole milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup pumpkin purée
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place cubed bread in a bowl and pour the melted butter over top. Toss to coat, then transfer to a baking dish such as a 9×12 glass baking dish or any other similarly shaped vessel.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, vanilla, salt, pumpkin, sugar and spice together. Strain mixture then pour over the bread in the baking dish. Bake for 55 minutes to an hour. When pressed gently, mixture will feel slightly jiggly but set.

Let cool 15 minutes before spooning into bowls and sprinkling each with powdered sugar.

Best Dessert Ever

Balzano

Seriously, this may be my favorite dessert ever. After cookies and cream ice cream, that is. No really, I have taken this don’t-take-your-mother’s-advice thing way too far. She, I mean my mother — (Liza hates to be referred to as a pronoun) — has been telling me to make this cake for years, well at least since 2004, when the New York Times printed the recipe.

I baked this cake this morning, ate one quarter of it for lunch, and another quarter for dinner. I’m tempted to include a picture of the half-eaten cake in this post, but am too embarrassed. I don’t know what else to say. It’s moist, delicious, seasonal and can be enjoyed at breakfast, lunch or dinner. I mean it. Make it!

Balzano Apple Cake
Adapted from New York Times 2004
Serves 8

1 stick butter, plus more for greasing pan
parchment paper
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean 

4 Fuji apples
½ cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt such as fleur de sel
½ cup milk at room temperature
powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease a nine-inch-circle pan with butter. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and place inside pan.

Melt butter in small saucepan. Set aside. Beat together eggs and half of sugar in a bowl. Continue to beat while slowly adding remaining sugar until thick — it should form a ribbon when dropped from spoon.

Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape seeds into the egg-sugar mixture and add pod to melted butter.

Peel apples and cut straight down around the core into four big chunks. Discard the core then slice the apple pieces thinly.

Remove vanilla pod from butter and discard. Stir butter into sugar-egg mixture. Combine flour, salt and baking powder, then stir into batter alternating with the milk. Stir in apples, coating every piece with batter. Pour batter into pan.

Bake for 25 minutes, then rotate the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes more, until cake pulls away from pan and is brown on top. (A thin-bladed knife inserted into the center will come out clean when it is done.) Cool 30 minutes, then cut into wedges sprinkling each with powdered sugar if desired.

Green Tea Madeleines & Birchrun Hills Farm Blue

greentea

I realized I forgot to report a few other details from my little gathering last weekend. On Sunday morning, my friends and I slowly recovered from the late-night festivities with the help of coffee for some, tea for others, and green tea madeleines for all. I had some leftover batter for these delicate treats from a batch I had made a few days ago, and baked them off while the coffee brewed — they take only ten minutes in the oven. The recipe had been adapted from a recipe I cut out of this past April’s Bon Appetit for madeleines from New York’s renown Payard Patisserie & Bistro. The recipe is excellent — very lemony — and a couple of teaspoons of matcha (green tea powder) add a nice, but very subtle touch. Truthfully, the green tea flavor is hardly detectable, so double the amount of matcha for a more pronounced flavor.

And while I mentioned that we stopped by the Birchrun Hills Farm stand at the Sunday Headhouse Farmers’ Market, I forgot to mention that we all enjoyed a wedge of Birchrun Blue with our hors d’ouevres the previous evening. Sue Miller makes this creamy blue cheese from raw milk drawn from the cows on her dairy farm in Chester Springs. I recently visited her beautiful farm, met many of her precious cows and learned about the intensive cheese-making process. I also learned that a snack Sue makes — melted Birchrun Blue over a toasted baguette drizzled with honey — has been named “Sweet Sue” by one of her neighbors.

Matcha Madeleines
Yield = 30

1¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons matcha (green tea powder)*
1½ sticks (¾ cup) unsalted butter
2½ teaspoons honey
4 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
2½ tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
Special equipment: madeleine pans (3-inch-long molds)

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt and matcha in a bowl. Place butter and honey in a microwave-proof dish and microwave for one minute. Stir, and microwave 30 seconds longer or until butter has melted.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk eggs, sugars and lemon peel until combined. On low speed, add half of the hot butter mixture and mix until blended. Add half of the flour mixture and mix again until blended. Repeat with remaining butter and flour mixture being careful to mix the batter just until the flour is incorporated. Let batter chill for one to three hours.

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Butter and flour madeleine pan or pans. (Note: If you only have one pan, it is important to let each batch of madeleines cool completely in the pan. The pan should be washed, re-buttered and re-floured as well before using on a second and third batch.) Place heaping spoonfuls of the batter into the molds. Don’t worry about spreading the batter — it fills the molds and rises in the oven.

Bake five minutes. Reduce heat to 400ºF and bake five more minutes. Check madeleines: If they are golden brown around the edges and puffed in the center, remove from the oven. If necessary, continue baking. (They may take an additional five minutes.) Remove pan from the oven, and let madeleines cool completely in their molds before removing. Serve at room temperature with tea.

*Available at Asian markets. Also, the green tea taste of these madeleines is very subtle. For a stronger flavor, add an additional 1 to 2 teaspoons of matcha.