Thursday, July 5, 2018

Food 52 'Genius Desserts'

The latest publication from Food 52 is dedicated entirely to delicious desserts. 'Genius Desserts' consists of recipes from some of the leading cookbook authors and chefs in the food world.  From Dorie Greenspan to the late Marcella Hazan, Martha Stewart to David Lebovitz, and Yotam Ottolenghi to Nigella Lawson, just to name a few, this truly brilliant book will have you measuring, mixing and baking some very tasty cookies, breads, cakes and other impressive desserts.

If you're a foodie, an experienced baker (or not), and a true fan of Food 52 (who isn't?), then you're definitely going to want to purchase this book for your cookbook library.  Don't worry, just about everything in the cookbook is approachable, doable and not very difficult to make.  The majority of the recipes do not require hard-to-get ingredients.   

What's more, throughout the book there are many genius tips on how to work faster and smarter in the kitchen.  Examples include: cleaner-cracking eggshells, the easiest way to clean a sticky mess, salvaging over whipped cream, how to make a lot of cookies, faster, etc.

Let's not forget the beautiful photography and styling we've come to expect from Food 52.  This is apparent as you browse through the book.  Everything is mouthwatering and tempting.

The book is due to be out on September 4th, so don't forget to preorder a copy of Genius Desserts.  You're going to love leafing through it, learning from it and baking from it.  This book is definitely a keeper.  

Many thanks to my amazing friend and neighbor for my advance copy, and many thanks to the staff at Food 52 for giving us such a splendid desserts book!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Sour Cherry Hand Pies

Every year, toward the end of June, I scour the farmers markets for sour cherries.  These incredibly delicious fruits have such a narrow window of opportunity at the market, that I waste no time in buying some whenever I spot them.  My favorite Amish farmstand near my home brings them in during the last two weeks of June.  

Sour cherries fresh from the farmstand.

In years past, I have made sour cherry pies, galettes and tarts, but I've never had the pleasure of making hand pies out of them.  I remember as a child how much my older brother and I used to love the Hostess hand pies which came in several flavors.  Apple and cherry were our go-to favorites, so I wanted to give my little desserts a bit of that nostalgia from childhood.

Tea and a handpie.

These are nothing like the very sweet, prepackaged variety found at the supermarket.  Made with a tried-and-true pate brisee crust, and a precooked sour cherry filling (this is key to making successful handpies), my little hand pies are a bit more sophisticated and polished.  They will definitely become a summertime tradition at my house in the years to come.

Take a look at how easy these are to make.

Martha Stewart's pate brisee is perfect.
It's so easy to work with and tastes extraordinary.

For the pate brisee base, I followed Martha Stewart's classic recipe.  Since I was making one dozen hand pies, I used her Large Quantity Pate Brisee Recipe.  It is one that I've made dozens of times, because it works every time.

The large quantity pate brisee is rolled out in one big slab.
Using a 4-1/2" round cookie cutter, I can easily cut the pie crust.
Sour Cherry Hand Pie Filling
  • 1-1/2 lbs. (2 small baskets) sour cherries, stemmed and pitted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon (pinch) of ground cinnamon 

Quantity:  enough for one dozen handpies.  You will have leftover filling; use it for toast, a small tart, cake filling or for more handpies.

  1. Stem and pit the sour cherries over a bowl so that you can save the juices released from the fruits.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed 4qt. saucepan, add the sour cherries, juice collected from the pitting, the granulated sugar, cornstarch and the pinch of cinnamon.
  3. Over medium-high heat, bring the cherry mixture up to a boil, then lower the heat to medium.
  4. Stir constantly until the juices firm up (the cornstarch has to be activated over heat to thicken properly) and some of the cherries break down.  About 8-10 minutes.
  5. Turn off heat and immediately transfer mixture to a clean bowl to cool completely. 

After you've rolled out the pate brisee, cut out as many 4-1/2" rounds as possible (scraps can be rerolled), and carefully spoon 1 tablespoon of pie filling in the center of each handpie.  Carefully pick up the hand pie and seal the edges well to contain the filling.

Crimp the edges of each hand pie with a fork.  Make sure to dip the tines of the fork in flour from time to time so that they don't stick to the pie crust.  With a sharp paring knife, score the tops of the handpies.

Chill the hand pies for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425F.  Center an oven rack.

Glaze the hand pies with a lightly beaten egg before baking.

Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until golden.

Cool on a rack and serve warm.  

Sour cherry hand pies are easy to make, and they are exceptionally good.

If you happen to find yourself at a farmstand or at a well-stocked farmers market, do keep your eyes out for sour cherries.  They're only available for a very short period of time, so we must partake of their deliciousness while we can.  With a little pie dough, a very simple filling and a very hot oven, you can easily make some cherry hand pies for your family and friends.  Think barbecues, picnics or a potluck dinner.  Delicious!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Matcha Green Tea Cake Roll and Coffee

I love green tea to no end.  It's the tea of choice for myself when I'm at home in the afternoons.  If I'm in the mood for only a cup of green tea instead of an entire pot, I reach for my precious supply of matcha powder.  I've never, however, eaten anything made with matcha until this weekend.

After getting over what seemed like the worst cold ever, I felt good enough for some dessert.  

I've repurposed this large fish knife for cake slicing.
Cake rolls are the perfect thing to serve for those who don't like sweet cakes. Made with a sponge cake base (eggs, sugar, milk and flour--no butter), the finished product produces a very light cake that can be served with either tea or coffee.  It's great for a luncheon dessert or for the end to a weekend dinner. 

Cake served on a vintage cake stand.

Vintage Wedgwood Queensware, old lustreware dessert plates and antique silverware. 

Matcha powder gives cakes a very nice flavor and an intense color that can't be reproduced with food coloring or artificial flavoring.  This is why it's imperative to use the best matcha powder you can find.  What do I use at my house?  I love an organic matcha green tea made by Mighty Leaf.  Look for it at Whole Foods.

This particular cake roll was filled with a very thin layer of apple jelly and some lightly sweetened whipped cream.  The cake was then gently dusted with both confectioners sugar and some Valrhona cocoa powder right before serving.  


I hope everyone is having an auspicious beginning to their summer.  Happy eats!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Sprinkles Birthday Cake

Cheerful, bright, colorful and immeasurably edible, are just some of the ways to describe a sprinkles birthday cake.  That is exactly the type of cake I baked for a dear neighbor's daughter over the weekend, and I did all of it in a matter of hours.  It's almost a foolproof cake that is bound to appeal to kids and adults alike if you use the best ingredients, and if you cover the cake in Swiss meringue buttercream. 

Sprinkles Birthday Cake

I've seen sprinkles cakes vary in the amount of jimmies used for decorating, from some being completely covered to others being lightly sprinkled.  For this sweet birthday cake, I decided to sprinkle only the bottom third of the double layer cake.  

After baking two 8" round yellow cakes (the 1-2-3-4 cake never disappoints) and letting them cool, I made one batch of Swiss meringue buttercream, and tinted it a very light, electric pink.  

Once that was done, I secured a cardboard cake round in the center of my decorator's turntable and placed the first cake layer right side up.  To this, I spread a small amount of the buttercream on the top of the layer, and then I carefully placed the other 8" round cake layer over that, bottom side up.

The entire cake was given a crumb coat of Swiss meringue buttercream, which was then chilled for about 15 minutes.

It was then a matter of applying the rest of the buttercream to the cake, taking care to even out the sides of the cake.  A bowl of sprinkles, a spoon and my decorator's turntable set over a rimmed baking sheet was all that was needed to finish it.  

I gently spooned the sprinkles around the bottom third of the cake, making sure that they adhered to the icing.  It helps to rotate the cake turntable as you do this.  Any excess sprinkles can be transferred onto the baking sheet.  Voila!

There is nothing like tasty, delicious Swiss meringue buttercream on a cake.  With the addition of the sprinkles, it makes the dessert even better.

There you have it.  Easy as 1-2-3.  Make a sprinkles cake for a special individual in your life and watch them smile upon taking their first bite.

Happy Baking!