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Posts Tagged ‘Fruit’

This cookie is relatively new to my holiday repertoire, and quickly has become a favorite. It is packed full of great winter flavors: cranberry, citrus, toasted pecans and maple syrup. It is super easy to put together and have in the refrigerator or freezer for those times when you suddenly need fresh-baked cookies on short notice (something that seems to happen often this time of year). And finally, I love that the dough is not overly sweet.

With all that fruit and nut goodness, and some whole wheat flour thrown in, I can almost convince myself that these are good for me.

Cranberry Orange Pecan Shortbread

Adapted from Whole Foods Market

Makes 32 cookies

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup candied orange peel, diced

1 cup pecan pieces, toasted and chopped

Directions:

In an electric mixer, cream together butter, sugar and maple syrup until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Add flour and salt, one cup at a time, mixing well after each cup is added. Stir in the cranberries, orange peel, and pecans.

Shape dough into two logs and chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut dough into 1/2-inch slices and arrange on baking sheet. Bake for 18 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Cookies will keep several weeks in an airtight container.

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I guess I’m on an apple tear. I made this dessert for a dinner party recently, where chicken with Moroccan spices was the main course. I wanted something to complement the warm notes of that dish, and be also appropriately seasonal. I found Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for a not-too-sweet Fuji Apple Spice cake, and adapted it for this occasion.  The original made two very high layers.  I prefer thinner layers, and didn’t need that much cake. So I divided the batter into three layers, and baked them all, but set aside one and froze it for later. The two layer apple cake, pictured here, fed eight for dessert, with leftovers. The cake is moist and dense, studded with chunks of apples and chopped pecans, and the frosting is rich and creamy.  A small slice is plenty for most people. Luckily, the cake improves with a little age, as the flavors meld and the cakes get even more moist. This is a good cake to make a day ahead.

Two-layer Apple Spice Cake, with one for later:

Ingredients:

Cake:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder (at high altitude, reduce to 1 tsp.)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground allspice

1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup (packed) brown sugar

3 large eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 Tbsp. bourbon, apple brandy, or rum (optional)

1 1/2 cups applesauce, unsweetened

2 medium apples (Fuji or Gala, about 13 or 14 ounces total), peeled, and diced into 1/2-inch cubes

1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans (about 6 oz.)

Frosting:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese (or neufchatel cheese), room temperature

1/2 cup butter, unsalted, room temperature

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Coarsely chopped toasted pecans or dried apple slices (for garnish)

Directions:

Cake:

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour three 9-inch-diameter cake pans. Line bottom of each pan with parchment paper round. Whisk first 7 ingredients in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add both sugars and beat until smooth. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla, then bourbon, if desired (mixture may look curdled). Add flour mixture to egg mixture in 3 additions alternately with applesauce in 2 additions, beating until blended after each addition. Stir in apples and pecans. Divide batter between cake pans; smooth tops.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of each comes out clean, about 40- 45 minutes. Transfer cakes to racks and cool in pans 15 minutes. Cut around pan sides to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto racks; peel off parchment paper. Place another rack atop 1 cake and invert again so that cake is rounded side up. Repeat with other cake layers. Cool completely. At this point, you can wrap each cake in plastic and store at room temperature, or freeze for later use.

Frosting:

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in vanilla extract and pinch of salt. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until frosting is smooth and creamy.

Transfer first layer to platter. Drop half of frosting (about 11/2 cups) by spoonfuls atop cake. Spread frosting evenly to edges of cake. Top with second layer. Drop remaining frosting by spoonfuls onto top of cake, leaving sides of cake plain. Spread frosting to top edges of cake, swirling and creating peaks, if desired. Sprinkle with pecans or decorate with dried apple slices (pictured above). Let cake stand at room temperature 1 hour to allow frosting to set slightly.

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Now is the time for apples — crisp, juicy, glorious in their familiar, yet still sublime combination of sweet and tart. And what better way to celebrate them than baking a beautiful apple pie?

For this occasion, I chose a traditional double-crusted, deep dish apple pie. For this to work, the apples need to be flavorful and hold their shape while still being juicy, and the crust needs to be crisp and flaky.

Folks are often intimidated by making pie crust, these days. We’ve lost so much of our accumulated culinary knowledge in the home. We’ve forgotten what it means to be a good cook, and instead revere the celebrity chefs on our televisions. We have huge kitchens with cherry cabinets, stainless steel appliances and 6 burner stoves which too often are used just for heating up take-out food.

Pie crusts don’t require a degree from culinary school.  Generations of women (and it was mostly women) have rolled out pie crusts many times a week, without a recipe and in kitchens the size of my closet. Flaky pie crust is the result of adhering to a few guidelines, and then practicing enough so you get comfortable with the technique.

Keep your cool. Flaky crusts come from fats (butter, in this case) staying cold, and not coating the proteins in the flour. To keep that from happening, recipes often advise cooks to refrigerate their ingredients, even chill their bowls and utensils.  It’s best to make pie on a cool day, rather than in the heat of the summer.

Work quickly. This prevents the dough from warming up (see above) and prevents overworking the dough (see below).

Don’t overwork the dough. Gluten is a protein in wheat flour that creates long strands when stirred or kneaded.  This is wonderful when you are making pizza dough or baking bread, but it is anathema to tender pastry.

There’s not much more to it, honestly.  Details follow below. Don’t be intimidated, give it a try.

Double-crusted Apple Pie

Ingredients:

Filling:

8 apples,* peeled and sliced

Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 cup flour

Dash of freshly grated nutmeg

2 Tbsp. water

2 Tbsp. melted butter

* I suggest a mixture of apples, some tart and some sweet.  Choose varieties that hold their shape during baking. For this pie, I used Granny Smiths, Jonathans, and Golden Delicious. If you have access to an apple orchard or farmer’s market, you may find varieties not sold in normal supermarkets.  Ask the farmer about these — some heirloom varieties make the very best pies!

Crust:

14 Tbsp. (7 ounces) unsalted butter, cold

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking powder

6 Tbsp. ice water

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Directions:

Cut the butter into little cubes (about 1/2″ ). Set aside approximately two-thirds of the butter, wrap loosely in plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator for at least a half hour. Wrap the remaining butter, and put it in the freezer. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a large Ziploc bag and put it in the freezer for about half an hour, as well.

Place the flour mixture in the food processor fitted with the metal blade and process for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter from the fridge (the larger portion) and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10-20 seconds. Add the remaining frozen butter cubes and pulse until the cubes are about the size of pease.

Add the ice water and vinegar and pulse five or six times. The dough will not “come together,” but you will be able to pinch it and have it hold together. Dump the crumbly mixture into a large Ziploc bag (you can use the same one from before). Close the bag, forcing any extra air out. Quickly knead the dough into a flat ball. Divide into two discs, and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 45 minutes or longer.

While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling.

Peel and slice the apples, tossing them with the lemon juice to discourage browning. Combine the remaining ingredients, except the butter.  Gently mix with the apples, tossing gently to coat.

Roll out one disc at a time, keeping the other cool in the refrigerator while you work.

On a lightly floured surface, or between two sheets of plastic wrap, if you prefer, roll out the first disc of dough to approximately 12″ in diameter.  Place the dough in the 9″ pie pan, and put it in the refrigerator while you roll out the upper crust to the same size.

Fill the bottom crust with the apples. Since the apples will shrink some in cooking, I find it best to take the time to layer the apples in the crust, leaving the least amount of space possible. The filling will be mounded over the height of the pan to some extent.  Do not worry about this, it is normal.

Drizzle the melted butter over the filling, and place the top crust over the whole thing. Fold the top crust edge over the bottom crust edge, and press together to make a ridge all the way around the pie. Crimp in any design you like. I usually make a zigzag by pushing the dough between my thumb and forefinger on my left hand, and the thumb of my right hand. But you can use a fork, or make any sort of design that encourages the two crusts to bond together and hold in the juices. Be creative.

Cut slits in the top to let steam escape. In the pie pictured above, I used a fancy device my Aunt Dusty gave me, that made a cute apple design. But you don’t need one to make a perfectly good-looking pie.

Brush the top with an egg white and sprinkle liberally with sugar.

Put the pie on a baking sheet, lined with foil to catch the inevitable drips and spills. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately one hour, or until the top is golden and the juices are bubbling.

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Peach Salsa

Did you know that Colorado has some of the best peaches in the country?  Farmers on the Western Slope (around Palisades) do a remarkable job of growing these sweet beauties and driving them across the Continental Divide to farmers’ markets all along the Front Range. I can’t imagine how many acres of trees must be needed just to supply the hordes of shoppers in Boulder, alone.  People line up a half hour before the farmers’ market opens on Saturday mornings, just to be sure to get a bag or a 20 lb. box (I once saw someone buy four boxes!) before they sell out. They’re that good.

We are on the tail end of peach season here, but you can still find some stragglers at the market.  After you’ve had your fill of peach pie and peach cobbler, and you’ve had diced peaches on your morning cereal every day for a month, it’s time to branch out.  This salsa has that sweet heat that I find so perfect on grilled meats, or just scooped up with copious amounts of chips.  It would be awesome on fish tacos.

Remember, you can adjust the heat or the sweet by adding more or less of the following ingredients…

Peach Salsa

Ingredients:

3  cups  diced peeled peaches (about 2 pounds)

1/4  cup  diced red onion

1/2 red bell pepper, diced fine

2-4  Tbsp  finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 seeded jalapeño pepper, minced (or less, to taste)

2  tablespoons vinegar (rice vinegar or white balsamic or white wine vinegar make good choices)

Juice of half of a lime

Honey to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients gently.  Best served the day it is made.

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Blueberry Cream Tart

This recipe has a lot of steps, but the final result is worth the work. The crust is buttery and crisp, the pastry cream is, well… creamy, and the shiny blueberries on top are just bursting with freshness. It’s an elegant alternative to blueberry pie, which can often dissolve, with all the cooked blueberry juice, into a purple puddle (albeit a tasty one). This tart retains it’s integrity when sliced, as you can see from the picture.

Don’t you just want a bite?

Make it soon, while blueberries are still plentiful and cheap.

* — * — *

The first step is to make the crust and bake it completely. Fill the crust with a thin layer of pastry cream, and top with fresh blueberries, coated with a gorgeous shiny sweet glaze. The blueberries are not cooked. The hot glaze brings out a lovely purple color, while the berries retain their tart fresh flavor. The combination is incredible.

First, make the crust: I used the pate sucree from Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Pie and Pastry Bible. Use whatever crust you like. If you use store-bought, it won’t be as good, but life is full of trade-offs and I won’t tell.

Blind-bake the crust in a 9 inch tart pan, using pie weights or dried beans on parchment.  Take out the parchment and weights and bake until golden brown and crispy.  Set aside to cool.

Next, cook the pastry cream:

1 cup milk

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

3 large egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (cold)

zest from 1/4 orange (optional)

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Bring the milk, 1/2 of the sugar, butter, salt and vanilla to a gentle boil in a medium saucepan.  Remove from heat.  Whisk together the cornstarch and remaining sugar. Add the egg and yolks to the cornstarch and mix into a smooth paste. Slowly add a little of the hot milk to the egg mixture, whisking constantly, to avoid curdling the eggs. Once the egg mixture is warm, add it to the milk in the pan.  Return the custard to the heat and boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Strain the pastry cream through a sieve into a heatproof container. Add the orange zest, if using, and the grated nutmeg. Set aside. If not using quickly, refrigerate. Keeps for a couple of days in the fridge.

Finally, make the blueberry topping

2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

1/2 cup fruit juice (preferably a berry flavor)

2 tsp cornstarch, mixed with 2 tablespoons water.

1 tsp lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Stir together the cornstarch and the water, mixing until dissolved. Add the fruit juice and lemon juice. Heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Cook for at least 30 seconds. It will thicken and clear. Remove from the heat and add the blueberries all at once, stirring gently to coat the berries evenly. The heat from the glaze will turn the berries bright blue, but will not cook the insides or cause the berries to burst.

Gently spoon the glazed berries evenly on top of the pastry cream, in the crust.  Cool completely.

Remove the tart from the pan and serve.

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I recently had really good food on an airplane.

Really.

Well, to be honest, I bought it at the airport, and ate it on the airplane.  Unless you fly first class, you don’t get real meals from the airlines anymore.  Which is just as well, when you can buy yummy things like this and eat them in flight.  I remember what they used to serve, and, believe me, this is a big, big improvement.  In fact, I liked it so much, I tried to memorize the list of ingredients to recreate the dish at home.  Here’s my best approximation…

It starts with couscous, but you could up the nutritional content and make this with quinoa or millet or even brown rice, and it would be higher in fiber and virtue.  But the original was made with couscous, so I started there.  Cook the couscous as you normally would (1 cup dry couscous to 1 1/2 cups boiling water), but add curry powder or curry paste (my favorite) to the water.  Add chopped vegetables, diced dried apricots, drained and rinsed garbanzo beans and chopped fresh herbs.  Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.  Toss a few cashews on top for crunch.  And sit down to a fabulous light lunch, with plenty of leg room to spare.

Curried Couscous Salad with Apricots and Garbanzo Beans

Ingredients:

3 cups dry couscous

4 1/2 cups water, brought to a boil

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp curry paste, or curry powder, to taste

2 stalks celery, diced

1/2 cup dried apricots, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 large shallot, minced

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Zest of one lemon

Juice of 1-2 lemons

Olive oil for drizzling on top

Directions:

Place dry couscous in a shallow casserole or 9 x 13 pan.  Cover with boiling water, which you have added the salt, oil and curry paste (or powder).  Cover and let sit for 15 minutes.  Uncover and fluff with a fork.  While you allow this to come to room temperature, diced and chop the celery, pepper, apricots, shallots and herbs.  Add these and garbanzo beans to the cooled couscous, tossing gently to combine.  Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.

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We couldn’t help ourselves.  I meant to take a picture of this simply elegant dessert all plated pretty and everything. But we got carried away with our enthusiasm, and then someone said, “aren’t you going to take a picture?”

Uh oh.

So much for food styling.  We were lucky there was a piece left to shoot after we got done with it.

If you look close at this imperfect picture, though, you can see why we were so excited.  Both the cream and the sponge cake are studded with orange zest.  The cake is moist and the cream is luscious and the whole thing made for a light yet satisfying Springtime dessert, served alongside sliced strawberries.

Orange Glow Chiffon Cake with Marmalade Cream

Adapted from Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Rose’s Heavenly Cakes

Serves 8.

Equipment:

Stand mixer with whisk beater

9″ springform pan

Flat flower nail (used for cake decorating), 2 1/2 inches long

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour (Rose says bleached gives a finer texture, but I always use unbleached)

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. baking powder (3/4 tsp. at high altitude)

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup canola oil

4 large eggs, separated, plus one additional white

1 Tbsp. orange zest, finely grated

10 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 plus 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, mix the flour, all but 1 Tbsp. of the sugar, the baking powder, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds.  Make a well in the center.  Add the oil, yolks, orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla and beat on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Raise the speed to medium-high and beat for 1 1/2 minutes, or until very thick.  Scrape this mixture into a large bowl and thoroughly wash, rinse, and dry the  mixer bowl and whisk beater to remove any trace of oil.

In the clean mixer bowl fitted with the clean whisk beater, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy.  With the mixer off, add the cream of tartar.  Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised.  Beat in the remaining 1 Tbsp. of sugar and continue beating until very stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly.

Using a large wire whisk, slotted skimmer or large silicone spatula, gently fold the meringue into the batter in two parts until just blended.

Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the surface evenly with a spatula  Insert the rose nail base side down into the center of the batter so that it sits on the bottom of the pan.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the cake lowers slightly and a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Immediately invert the cake onto a prepared wire rack and allow it to cool for about 1 hour, or until the outside of the pan is cool to the touch.  Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the cake, pressing it against the pan.  Remove the sides of the springform and release the bottom of the cake from the bottom of the pan, pressing the spatula against the bottom.  Invert the cake and lift off the pan bottom.  Remove the rose nail.

Frost with orange marmalade whipped cream and serve. (Alternatively, you can serve the whipped cream on the side for an even simpler dessert.)

Orange Marmalade Whipped Cream

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sweet orange marmalade (beware not to use a bitter marmalade)

1 cup heavy cream

1 Tbsp. orange zest, finely grated

Directions:

In a small saucepan, heat the marmalade until hot to soften it.  With the back of a spoon press it through a strainer. Allow it to cool completely. In a mixing bowl, pour the cream and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. (Chill the beaters alongside the bowl.)

Starting on low speed, gradually raising the speed to medium-high as it thickens, whip the cream just until beater marks begin to show distinctly. Add the marmalade and zest and whip just until the mixture mounds softly when dropped from a spoon. The marmalade will act as a stabilizer, keeping the cream from watering out for at least 8 hours refrigerated.

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