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Fresh Apple Cake with Hot Butter Sauce

I was a very lucky kid. I grew up in a house where the entire family ate dinner at the table every night. My parents both worked full time but somehow my mom pulled off a real meal 7 days a week. I have them both to thank for many things, but many thanks to my beautiful mother for never chasing me out of her kitchen.

This sinfully crispy and buttery apple cake has burned a memory in my stomach. It was 1997 and instead of sitting through college graduation I was having one last party with my friends… and this cake was my final request from her kitchen.

Make it for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Even better make it on some random Wednesday and share it with people you like to see smile. Trust me, it works.

** The Vanilla, Butter and Nut extract is available at Kroger. If you can’t find it, use vanilla… but it’s just not my mom’s cake without it.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnaomn
  • 3 medium apples (peeled, cired and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

For the Sauce:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla, butter & nut extract (KROGER)

DIRECTIONS

Cream butter and sugar and beat until light & fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and do not over mix. Gradually add other ingredients except apples and nuts. Stir in apples and nuts. Turn into a buttered 9X13X2” pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 55 to 70 minutes.

Combine sugar, butter & milk in small sauce pan. Warm over low heat, stirring occasionally until hot (starts to rise up pan). Remove from heat and and stir in extract. Puncture cake with large fork in spots and pour hot sauce over cake. Serve with whipped cream.

Chocolate Crackle Cookies

These cookies are dead simple and the ingredients are probably already in your pantry. Yes, I always have Valrhona cocoa powder in my pantry – who doesn’t???

The egg whites do not have to be whipped into a froth – just lightly beat with a fork. You can use any combination of nuts and substitute cocoa nibs for the chocolate chips if you can find them!

The bowl is definitely worth licking.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder (Valrhona is the best)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup each of toasted pecans, mini chocolate chips & toasted almonds (chopped)
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, mix together powdered sugar, cocoa, and salt using a whisk. Add in nuts and chocolate chips. In a small bowl, stir together the egg whites and vanilla and then pour into the nut, cocoa& sugar mixture. Give everything a good stir until everything is well combined.

Line cookie sheets with parchment or silpat and then drop batter using a tablespoon. Make sure that there is at least 2 inches between each cookie and that you have no more than 8 cookies per sheet. Bake for 13-15 minutes. You will know that they are ready when the cookies lose their shine and become matte. Use a spatula to carefully lift each cookie onto a cooling rack. Makes about 24 cookies.

Bing Cherry, Blueberry & Almond Crumble

Sadly, fresh cherries have not been in my life before this summer. Maybe in the back of my mind I knew pitting the suckers would suck. It only sucked for a short bit until I found the perfect pitting tool: the metal pour spout from my olive oil bottle. Works like a charm.

I probably ate a 1/4 pound fresh out of the bowl and they were delicious. But the fresh cherry and caramelized onion compote over pork chops wasn’t too shabby either! I will be making that again in the next few weeks to share with you.

Lets move on to dessert. Those of you who know me can testify that the ice cream in my freezer usually gets thrown out. My sweet tooth isn’t as big as my chip and dip tooth. But when it comes to crumbles, crisps, cobblers, hot fruit and sweet brown sugar crusts… hand me the spoon and an ice cream scoop. Pronto.

I’ve made a few versions with my cherry crop – but this is my favorite. Luckily it is lighter in calories and fat which means I don’t have to give it all away.

Calories: 311, Fat: 11g, Protein: 4g

INGREDIENTS

Filling

  • 6 cups (about 2 pounds) bing cherries, pitted
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup tightly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray

Topping

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375°.

To prepare the filling, combine cherries, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, cornstarch, juice, almond extract, and salt in a large bowl; toss gently. Spoon cherry mixture into an 11 x 7–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

To prepare topping, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. With you fingers, work in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in sliced almonds. Sprinkle oat mixture evenly over cherry mixture. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is crisp. Let stand 5 minutes; serve warm.

Kaitlyn’s Cheesecake with Dark Chocolate Ganache

This little creature was the first to officially make me an Aunt. I’ve loved her since the moment I set eyes on her. She entertained me with her silly games when she was little and my family lived for every second we could spend with her. It’s unbelievable she just celebrated her 18th birthday and graduated Cum Laude!

From an early age Kaitlyn’s food selections were always impressive. When she was 4 years old I took her to a local kids pizza place with games and lots of noise. She headed straight to the salad bar and piled up a plate of cherry tomatoes, carrots and baby corn. She still loves her vegetables but also developed quite a friendly relationship with her mom’s best friend… chocolate.

Cheesecake made with vegan baking supplies and chocolate is what she wanted for her graduation party. So I made her one… with cherries on top.

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 oz. graham crackers, finely crushed (2 cups of crumbs)
  • 3 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 7 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • Table salt
  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • chocolate shards or curls, for garnish

Chocolate Ganache

  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate
  • 6 ounces semi sweet chocolate
  • *I used Valrhona chocolate

DIRECTIONS

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.

In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs and 3 Tbs. granulated sugar. Mix in the melted butter until the crumbs are evenly moist and clump together slightly. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly onto the bottom and about 2 inches up the sides of the pan (to press, use plastic wrap or a flat-bottom measuring cup). Bake until the crust is fragrant and slightly darkened, 9 to 12 minutes. Let the pan cool on a rack. Lower the oven temperature to 300°F.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, flour, and a pinch of table salt on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the paddle frequently, until very smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Make sure the cheese has no lumps. Add the 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar and continue beating until well blended and smooth.

Add the vanilla and beat until blended, about 30 seconds. Add the eggs one at a time, beating just until blended. (Don’t overbeat once the eggs have been added or the cheesecake will puff too much and crack as it cools.) Pour the filling into the cooled crust and smooth the top.

Bake at 300°F until the center jiggles like Jell-O when nudged, 55 to 65 minutes. The cake will be slightly puffed around the edges, and the center will still look moist. Set on a rack and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. The cake can also be frozen at this point for up to 1 month. (To freeze, put the unmolded, cooled cake on a rimmed baking sheet in the freezer, uncovered, until the top is cold and firm; then wrap it in two layers of plastic and one layer of foil. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.)

For the ganache: Pour 3/4 cup of whipping cream into a saucepan on the stove and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Remove from heat, and stir in the chocolate. Keep stirring, and as it comes together, switch to your whisk, stirring until it is completely combined and smooth. Let this cool slightly. Pour the ganache on the cheesecake and spread evenly.

Garnish with chocolate shards and serve immediately. To cut, run a thin knife under hot water, wipe it dry, and cut the cake into slices, heating and wiping the knife after every slice.

Marisa’s Peanut Butter “Sandwiches”

Marisa is well known for her baking skills (famous really). She says cookies and pies are her strong suit. I would agree and hope she will open up a treats shop so we can all get our fix (key lime pie please)!

These cookies are her leading mans favorite sweet something (second to Marisa of course) and she was kind enough to share them with me.

I baked these for a few of my favorites (you all know who you are) and was very happy with the tasty turnout.

Thanks Marisa – these are a permanent addition to the keepers box!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg

PEANUT BUTTER FILLING:

  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 teaspoons vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS

Heat oven to 350. In medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt. In large bowl, beat butter, peanut butter, sugar and egg until smooth. On low, beat in flour mixture.

For each cookie, roll 1 rounded teaspoon dough into 1 inch ball; place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake in 350 degree oven 10 minutes until puffed. Let stand 2 minutes on sheet. Remove cookies to rack; let cool.

For the filling: In a bowl mix peanut butter and sugar. Spread flat side of half of the cookies with 1 rounded teaspoon filling; top with remaining cookies. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

In small bowl, microwave chips and oil for 1 minute; stir until melted. Dip cookies halfway into chocolate; let excess drain off. Place on waxed paper lined sheets. Drizzle with remaining chocolate. Refrigerate to set.

Dark Chocolate Molten S’more Brownies

My great friend Laura is a wonderful cook and her lemon bars, guacamole and salads dressings are famous in our circle of friends. She was in charge of dessert for a recent dinner and quite kindly brought these to share. The graham cracker crust was perfect and was the star of this sinfully gooey dessert.

These look half done, but just the inside was molten. The outside of the brownies were dense and chewy.

She purposely left the pan on my kitchen countertop… but after a few grazings and slivers they have been banished to the neighbors.

I wish I had them back…

INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch fine salt

For the Brownie:

  • 1 box Dark Chocolate Brownies

For the Topping:

  • 4 cups large marshmallows

DIRECTIONS

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8 by-8-inch square baking pan with foil so it hangs over the edges by about 1 inch.

For the crust: Lightly butter the foil with some of the melted butter. Stir the rest of the butter together with the crumbs, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Press the crumb mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the brownie batter according to the directions on the box.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top is crispy and a toothpick inserted into the middle is to your preferred level of “gooeyness”. For a more gooey inside check after 20 minutes. For brownies more well done bake for about 40 to 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and carefully position a rack about 6 inches from the broiler and preheat on low. Layer marshmallows across the top and toast under the broiler until golden, (keep an eye on it, it can go quick), about 2 minutes. Cool on a rack, gently removing the brownies from the pan using the aluminum flaps. Carefully separate any marshmallow from the foil and fold away. Cut into 12 (2-inch) squares.

Dark Chocolate Bark with Fruit & Nuts

Shoes for chocolate… WHY NOT? My original plan was to make a fabulous chocolate tart with dried fruits and nuts and a bottom layer of raspberry preserves. I came to my senses.

What the hell was I going to do with an entire tart worth a nice pair of shoes in 72% dark French chocolate?

Make something cheaper AND buy Italian leather shoes in celebration of 2009 being my favorite year thus far.

I had a bag of nuts & fruit with the ingredients below… but use whatever nuts & fruit you have on hand for an antioxidant packed treat.

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios, walnuts and almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, cherries and blueberries

DIRECTIONS

Melt the chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, about 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Pour the melted chocolate over the paper and spread to form a square. Sprinkle the nuts and fruit over the chocolate. Set aside for 2 hours until firm. Cut the bark in pieces and serve at room temperature.

Lemon Chess Pie

On a recent trip home to Arkansas I had the pleasure of leafing through a recipe collection from Pat Lacy. Pat is the late grandmother of my beautiful friend Lacy. I had a bite of her Green Bean Casserole and knew I had to look through that little book of handwritten recipes for more old Southern jewels. Folks, I don’t even like Green Bean Casserole… I had seconds.

I came across several great recipes including this one for Lemon Chess Pie. Chess Pies are a Southern specialty of eggs, butter & sugar. When cooked the inside resembles a creamy lemon curd and the top becomes a beautiful golden brown.

Surprisingly, I didn’t have a lot of Chess Pie growing up in the South. My mom always made Chess Squares which are actually NOTHING like Chess Pie (but yummy). This is a very rich pie… so plan on sharing.

Since I shouldn’t eat an entire Chess Pie (no one should or COULD really) I made 3 small ones. The recipe makes 1 regular pie and the cranberries were just a holiday addition.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pie crust
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350.

Prepare a pie plate with a homemade or store bought crust. Set aside.

Combine sugar, flour, cornmeal & salt in a bowl. Add melted butter, lemon juice & milk. Mix well. Add eggs one at a time until just mixed. Pour in pie shell. If adding cranberries – drop a few fresh cranberries on the top.

Bake at 350 for 50 minutes.

 

Spotlight Montréal: Café Soufflé (Lemon Curd Bars with Pistachio Graham Cracker Crust)

Café Soufflé

location: 100 Marie-Anne W. (corner St-Urbain), Montréal, QC

I was lucky enough to find the perfect room at Urban Haven in Montréal. My generous hostess, Carolyn, turned me on to the lovely coffee shop with homebaked treats just steps from her front door. I happily let Café Soufflé become my afternoon treat & café au lait stop while I caught up on email.

Café Soufflé is the home to Marie-Josée and Brigitte Anne and their very creative baking. Sinful brownies, fabulous tarts & muffins (poppyseed pear and strawberry white chocolate…not your everyday boring muffin). I was most impressed by the best homemade toffee I’ve had the pleasure of letting melt in my mouth (don’t miss the creation with masala chocolate).

On my last visit to the café on the corner there was a beautiful lemon tart sprinkled with nuggets of bright green pistachios… delightful. My inspired version of Lemon Curd Bars with Pistachio Graham Cracker Crust has satisfied my lemon cravings… but the Montréal atmosphere I just can’t recreate.

INGREDIENTS

For the crust:

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar

For the filling:

 

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into pats and chilled

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish and line bottom with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides.

In a food processor, grind pistachios with graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Blend in butter. Press mixture into bottom and 1 inch up sides of prepared pan.

Bake until lightly browned for 8 to 12 minutes. Set aside to cool.

To make the lemon curd, add enough water to a medium saucepan to come about 1-inch up the side and bring to a simmer. Combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium size metal bowl and whisk until smooth. Measure lemon juice and if needed, add enough cold water to reach 1/3 cup. Add juice and zest to egg mixture and whisk smooth. When water reaches a simmer, reduce heat to low and place bowl on top of saucepan. Whisk until thickened, approximately 8 minutes, or until mixture is light yellow and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in butter a piece at a time, allowing each addition to melt before adding the next.

Pour filling into cooled crust. Bake for 15 minutes or until set. Cool in pan on rack; then chill at least 1 hour before serving.

Using parchment paper as handles, lift out of pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares, wiping knife with a kitchen towel between each cut. To store in refrigerator, cover with plastic wrap.

Strawberry Fluff

This dessert takes me right back to summer and memories of sneaking into the freezer with a fork. It’s frozen crunchy sweet strawberry goodness. A tantalizing & perfect sweet treat for summer. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

For the Crunch Topping:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Combine flour, walnuts, sugar and melted butter in a bowl. Spread onto baking sheet and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Let cool and break into pieces.

For the Fluff:

  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups strawberries, sliced
  • 9 ounces cool whip

DIRECTIONS

Mix all above except cool whip and beat for 10 minutes, until light and fluffy. Fold in cool whip. In a 13×9 pan, spread 2/3 of the crumb mixture in the bottom, top with the fluff filling and top with the remaining 1/3 crumb topping. Freeze 6 hours or overnight.

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