On this day, I declare loud and proud over the interwebs that Izzy has learned her first trick!! Besides using the litter box consistently, that’s kind of a necessity for my sanity. She now knows how to come when she’s called…as long as you extend your hand out in such a way as she can see it and thinks you’re holding a treat. She will also stand on her back legs for treats, which is incredibly adorable. I promise I will take a picture of her standing like a little prairie dog soon. It’s just these little things in life that make me so happy.
Like Izzy standing on her hind legs, realizing I had an extra bottle of grape soda in the pantry, or waking up to find the comforter still on top of me, and not completely wrapped around Luke. Or, biting into a piece of this apple “strudel.” I guess it’s not proper strudel since the dough is more of a sweet bread than a pastry, but it’s still really tasty. Also, homemade pastry dough, while totally legit and delicious, is a project I’m just not ready to take on yet.
But this strudel did fine. I’ve mentioned before that I always like to have some sort of breakfast appropriate baked good available for Luke to encourage some little morning noshing. It is, after all, the most important meal of the day.
So I try to vary what I offer to keep things interesting. This strudel was definitely a nice interlude between muffin and scone, with its soft fluffy dough enveloping tender chunks of fresh apple, covered in cinnamony goodness, all drizzled with a vanilla scented glaze. This is definitely one of those makes-your-house-smell-awesome kind of strudel.
Mock Apple Strudel
Adapted from Taste of Home
Makes one log of strudel
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold butter
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter, melted
3 cups chopped tart apples
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon fat-free milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, 2 tablespoons sugar and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in milk just until moistened. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead 8-10 times.
Roll out into a 14-in. x 10-in. rectangle. Brush with melted butter. Top with apples; sprinkle with cinnamon and remaining sugar.
Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seams to seal. Place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet baking pan. Bake at 425° for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. You may have to cover it with foil to prevent over-browning.
Remove from pan to a wire rack. In a small bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla; drizzle over warm strudel. Sprinkle with nuts if desired.
I hope everyone had an enjoyable and delicious holiday. We went to Luke’s uncle’s house (they live in the same town, so no long holiday driving) and spent the day with his family. I celebrated Thanksgiving with his family last year too, which makes me feel more grown up than I think I actually am… maybe that’s because I don’t consider myself to be too grown up yet. Hopefully a full time job in the near future with help with that sentiment.
It’s always interesting to become part of a different family’s celebrations, you get to experience the holiday through different traditions, perhaps eating strange new side dishes and meeting fascinating people.
I truly love Thanksgiving, not only because it brings families together, but because of…you guessed it…the food, specifically the desserts. I made two pies this year, and completely forgot to take pictures of one, so here’s what I have for you.
I love pie. All kinds of pie. I contemplate having pie at my wedding, though I doubt that would go over too well with the groom. Apple pie is one of my favorites, but only if it’s a crumb pie. I know double-crusted apple pies are more traditional, but a crumbly, sweet brown sugary topping all over my apples definitely tickles my taste buds more than another crust layer.
Apple Crumb Pie
Adapted from Nutmeg Nanny
For the Filling:
6 cups apple chunks (I used 2 Golden Delicious and 2 huge Crispin apples)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp lemon juice
For the Topping:
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare dry ingredients in a large bowl, set aside. Core, peel, and slice apples. Transfer into large bowl with dry ingredients. Top off with vanilla and lemon juice. Toss to coat apples well. Set aside for 10-15 minutes while you prep the dough.
Fit your pie crust into a pie plate. You can even use store bought pie crust if you prefer. Fill pie crust with prepared apple chunks.
In a medium bowl, combine the dry topping ingredients. Pour cooled melted butter into bowl. Toss and cut until small to medium sized chunks form. Break up large chunks as needed. Using a spoon, sprinkle crumb topping over entire pie.
Cover pie loosely with foil. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 and continue baking for an additional 35 minutes. Cool and enjoy.
Arriving home after camping out at Luke’s office for the afternoon, I found that our power had been restored! And I immediately starting thinking about all the things I would bake the next day. Because that’s the kind of person I am.
I’m very thankful I was able to take shelter at the office, not only because being warm and having an internet connection are wonderful things, but because I also got a job of sorts!
Since Luke and I moved to Andover, I’ve been sending our leftover baked goods into work with him, and apparently they have been enjoyed quite a bit. I am now doing a trial run of being the birthday dessert provider at the office, instead of store-bought cakes (the frosting on those store-bought cakes make me gag). I’m very excited to put my self-taught baking skills to the test and see what I can create, and share (virtually) here as well.
Now that the storm has passed, fall has resumed its normal course. Whatever “normal” fall weather is in New England. So here’s another delicious fall recipe that I made after buying a container of ricotta cheese on a whim…and because it was on sale. Cheese may seem like a weird cake ingredient, but it works. WELL. This cake is moist with tender chunks of cinnamon-y apples in every bite. It also paired well with my homemade dulce de leche ice cream. If you have any leftover ricotta hanging around from your grandma’s lasagna recipe, I’d highly recommend giving this cake a try. Also a good alternative for leftover ricotta, lemon ricotta pancakes! (which will come later, I promise.)
Apple Ricotta Cake
Adapted from Poor Girl Gourmet
3 medium apples (approximately 1 1/4 pound, I used one huge Crispin and a regular sized Golden Delicious), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup fresh ricotta
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Mix the sugar and cinnamon together to make cinnamon sugar. Place the apple slices in a large bowl, add the cinnamon sugar to the apples, and stir to evenly distribute the cinnamon sugar. Allow the apples to macerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter (the remnants on the wrapper from the softened butter are good for this task).
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until it is creamed. Add the ricotta and vanilla extract and mix until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated.
In a second bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, stirring well. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and mix until fully combined. Add the apple slices and any accumulated juices, and gently stir them (also known as “folding” them) into the batter.
Bake the cake on the middle rack until the cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, 55 minutes to 1 hour. Cool on wire rack before serving.
Back to fall. Or finter. Or whatever season you want to call this. It’s technically fall, but when I went to tutor yesterday, my car had an inch of slushy snow on it. It quickly melted, but it’s back again today and tomorrow.
When I was in Taiwan two years ago at this time, it was in the low 80s. Kind of missing it right now. But only a little bit. It’s a hard trade as the warm temps are always accompanied by high humidity. Definitely not missing that.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love fall in New England. It’s by far my favorite season, but sometimes I wish New England weather would just make up its mind already. In a few days it’ll be sunny and in the 50s. So strange.
I think this weather calls for something yeasty, warm and delicious. This was my first attempt at making bagels, and I was pleasantly surprised with how they turned out. They weren’t the prettiest bagels ever, but man, were they tasty. Caramelized apples in the dough added a piece of fall in every bite. Enjoy them while the fall weather still lasts, though I suppose they’ll taste just as good in the winter.
Apple Cinnamon Bagels with Streusel Topping
Adapted from My Little Celebration
makes 11-12 bagels
2 cups warm water, about 110 degrees F
2 (1/4-ounce) packets active dry yeast
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour ( I used all-purpose flour for the whole recipe)
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tbsp. butter
3 small-medium granny smith apples, cored, peeled and diced
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup + 3 Tbsp. sugar
Streusel Topping: [optional, I omitted the topping]
1 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2-3 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. rolled oats
1 tsp. cinnamon
Add 1 Tbsp. of butter to a large skillet over medium heat, and then add the apples, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 2 Tbsp. sugar and stir. Cover and let cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the apples are soft and caramelized. Set aside to cool.
Combine the water, yeast, and 3 tablespoons of the sugar in a large bowl. Stir and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of whole wheat flour, the apple mixture, salt and 1/4 cup sugar and stir. Then gradually add 3 cups of AP flour and mix until the mixture comes together.
Add 1 to 1 1/2 cups additional AP flour 1/2 cup at a time, either stirring with the wooden spoon or working with your hands. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky adding flour as needed, about 10 minutes.
Grease a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm spot until almost doubled, about 1 hour.
Remove from the bowl and punch down the dough. Divide into 12 equal pieces, about 2 to 3 ounces each. Loosely form each piece of dough into a ball and then poke a small hole in the middle of the ball with your middle and ring fingers from the underside. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and cover with a clean cloth, and let rest until risen but not doubled, 20 to 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare streusel topping by mixing all ingredients together in a small bowl with fingers or a fork. If the mixture is too wet, add more flour. If it’s too dry, add more butter.
In a large, heavy pot, bring 12 cups of water and the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar to a boil. In batches, add the bagels to the water and boil, turning, for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Flip bagels onto the prepared sheet pan. Bake for 5 minutes, turn over [optional] and cook for another 30 to 35 minutes. [If adding streusel topping, spoon topping onto bagels after you’ve flipped them at the 5-minute mark.]
Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
Before I continue rambling along with all my musings, I should probably back up a bit and introduce myself and where this blog came from a little better. For those of you who know me, you all know this sudden passion for cooking and baking didn’t really assert itself until my junior year of college, just after I came back from my semester abroad in Taiwan. To this day, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when websites like Tastespotting and Foodgawker became my most visited websites, and I started spending more time thinking about interesting food item to make next than anything else (well, not everything else, but you get the point). It was slightly obsessive, and is still that way, though I have other things to occupy my time…like watching Izzy leap around the living room. She has some kind of cute-animal-magic-power over me, but I mean, come on, how could she not, she’s freaking adorable.
Anyway, so about a year and a half ago I was bitten by the foodie bug, and since then I’ve been infected with the fervent urge to read food blogs and garner inspiration from them. And finally, I’m taking all those ideas, hundreds (so not kidding) of bookmarked recipes, and putting them to good use: by sharing it virtually with all you kind people. I wish I could share it in person, but that would be slightly more difficult…
Today, I’m serving up a twofer post, dinner and dessert. I’m definitely more of a baker than a cook, but I enjoy both equally. Since I’m responsible for making dinner, I try to vary our meals and try new things every once in a while. I’m also a huge fun of making a large batch of something, and then freezing half of it for a later occasion. Consequently, our freezer is always full, but I like to think a full freezer is a happy freezer.
This orange honey chicken comes from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express cookbook. I got it this past summer when Border’s was going out of business, and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s divided by season, and each season contains 50 or so recipes, ranging from appetizer to dessert, all of which can be made in 30 mins or less. Definitely a useful tool in your cookbook arsenal. This chicken comes together fast, and the sweetness of the orange juice and honey are counterbalanced nicely by cumin, salt and pepper. It’s great served over rice or pasta, though I served it over something different that I’ll be sharing soon.
I saw this recipe for pumpkin-pear streusel cake on this website, and knew I had to make it. Luckily, I had recently opened a 29 oz can of pumpkin (which I got four separate pumpkin recipes out of, score!) and decided this was one of them. It’s tender, moist, and delicious without the pumpkin flavor being overpowering. The sautéed pears are soft and lend a touch of sweetness, along with the streusel topping. I sent some into work with Luke, and it received a stamp of approval from his co-workers. And to me, that’s the highest praise I can get.
Honey Orange Chicken
Adapted from Kitchen Express
Makes 2-3 servings
2-3 boneless chicken breasts, sliced to ½ inch thickness
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I always use olive oil)
½ cup orange juice
½ cup honey
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon salt and pepper
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Mix together all other ingredients and stir until honey dissolves. Sear the chicken on both sides in the oil on medium heat for about four minutes total. Add the orange juice mixture, cover, and allow it to simmer for about six minutes. Serve over mixed greens, rice or pasta.
Pumpkin-Pear Streusel Cake
Adapted from My German Kitchen
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 4 cups diced peeled cored firm pears (about 4 large)
* 3 tablespoons sugar
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
* 1 cup (firmly packed) golden brown sugar
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 3/4 cup canned pure pumpkin
* 1/3 cup sour cream
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 2 large eggs
For the pears:
Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pears; sauté until pears begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add sugar and cinnamon and sauté until golden brown, about 3 minutes longer. Cool.
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Combine flour, brown sugar, butter, and salt in large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until mixture resembles coarse meal. Set aside 2/3 cup of mixture for topping. Beat pumpkin, sour cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, spice, and baking soda into remaining flour mixture, beating just until smooth. Beat in eggs. Transfer batter to pan. Scatter pears evenly over top. Sprinkle reserved topping over apples.
Bake cake until topping is golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 20 minutes. Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Release pan sides from cake. Transfer cake to platter. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.) Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Another fantastic fall activity I neglected to mention are fairs. I’m not sure why they only happen in the fall, but for me, it’s just another plus for the season. Growing up in the Connecticut River Valley, I often attended the Durham Fair. Now that I’ve moved out of Connecticut, I wasn’t sure where I was going to get my fair fix. (Although I did manage to go to the Durham Fair this year, but I hadn’t gone in at least four so double-fairing it this year is totally ok). Anyway, while trying to figure out what to do this weekend, my friend Kelly mentioned she was going to the Topsfield Fair. I was so in. Luke and I went and had a great time.
We had such a good time, we even brought a little piece of the fair home with us….and here she is!
Isn’t she adorable? I am such a sucker for animals, and when I saw that a large number of the rabbits were for sale, I couldn’t resist. Luke was smitten too. Her name is Isadora and she’s a 13-week-old black otter Netherland Dwarf rabbit. I’m watching her explore our living room while writing this post. I can’t get enough of her. I have sat in front of her cage watching her with my camera quite a few times already…and we haven’t even had her for 24 hours. Luke said that having our own pet makes him feel like more of an adult. Again, fall gives me my childhood, and somehow slowly takes it away. It’s ok though, because I get to take photos that are cuteness incarnate.
Anyway, I have an awesome recipe to share. I love caramel…a lot, and I’ve been dying to make it ever since I got a candy thermometer. This is the first recipe I’ve tried, and it turned out fabulous. Plus, it has the flavors of fall, which makes it even better. The only annoying part was cleaning the pot afterwards and cutting up the caramel into bite-size pieces. I guess I let it cool too long.
Either way, I have a huge tupperware full of individually wrapped caramel, a new bunny, and I couldn’t be happier!
Apple Cider Caramels
adapted from Poet in the Pantry via Blondies Cakes
2 cups apple cider
1 cup heavy or whipping cream, divided
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup salted butter, cubed
If you don’t already have apple cider reduction on hand, you have to make it first. Pour 2 cups of apple cider into a medium saucepan and boil on high for about 20 minutes, or until the cider is reduced to 1/3 c. Keep a measuring cup nearby in case you need to measure a few times to make sure you have the correct amount. Set aside.
Prepare your 8″ square pan by lining it with parchment paper, leaving about 1″ hanging over the edges for easy removal. You can spray the parchment paper with cooking spray or butter it, but I felt this was redundant and skipped that part.
In a small bowl, combine 2/3 c. cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and reduced apple cider. Set aside.
In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, 1/3 c. whipping cream + enough water to reach the 1/2 c. line on the measuring cup, and maple syrup. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves, then insert the candy thermometer and simmer until the syrup reaches 234 degrees.
Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Add the cubed butter and stir until the cream and butter are fully incorporated. Return the pan to heat and re-insert the candy thermometer. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the temperature reaches 248 degrees.
Remove from heat and pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Let the mixture cool completely at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Cut into logs or individual pieces to the size desired and wrap in wax paper. Store in a covered container, in a cool place or in the refrigerator, for up to 2 weeks.