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Archive for November, 2010

It’s Cyber Monday, which means Thanksgiving is over and it’s on to the festive holidays that make up December.  But before the sugar plums come calling, I’m still dreaming of Thanksgiving treats.  Here’s a snapshot of some of the amazing food I spent last week gobbling up…

Apple cornbread stuffing with raisins

Fluffy white mashed potatoes

Clove cranberry sauce

Aunt Ethel's dinner rolls

Roasted Brussel sprouts

Baked sweet potatoes in a brown sugar sauce

The main course

Apple cream cheese crumb pie

Chocolate pumpkin joconde cake

Chocolate pumpkin joconde cake

Ahhh…can’t wait until next year!

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Apple Crisp served with maple pecan ice cream and a honey drizzle

I love apple pie, but I think I may love apple crisp even more.  It’s something about that crunchy topping mixed with those soft, spicy apples that seems to make the perfect dessert.

The best thing about apple crisp is it’s EASY.  For those of you that think baking is hard, make this.  There is no pie crust needed, which means no folding, rolling or fitting temperamental dough into a pie plate.  Apple crisp is about the apples and crisp, and that’s it.

Now about those apples, everyone has their apple loyalties.  My grandmother, for instance, will only bake with Cortland apples.  Others may prefer Pink Lady, Gala, Fuji or even Braeburn.  For pies and crisps, I like to use a mix of apples, which creates a nice balance of tart, sweet and juicy varieties.  At most farms and markets I would recommend buying the “mix” basket.

Here’s an easy and flavorful apple crisp recipe that’s great served warm and topped with your favorite ice cream or gelato.  I served this to my dad recently with a heaping scoop of homemade maple pecan ice cream and a honey drizzle. Luckily, he was able to get it all down.  : )

November Apple Crisp

Ingredients:
6 large apples (variety mix)
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsps cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt

To make the apples:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish with butter or cooking spray and set aside.

Peel and core the apples, thinly slice them and place them in a large bowl. Squeeze the lemon over the apples and toss the apples to keep them from browning. Add the white sugar, 1/4 cup of flour, 1 tsp of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp nutmeg and toss together, evenly coating the apples. Pour the apple mixture into the prepared 2-quart baking dish and set aside.

Spiced apples in pan

In a separate bowl, mix together the butter, oats, remaining 1/2 cup of flour, brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, ginger and salt using a pastry cutter or two forks. Combine until it becomes clumpy. Place topping mix over apples in baking dish, evenly covering them.

Ready for the oven!

Put in preheated oven and bake for one hour, or until the topping is golden brown.

Ta da!

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Cakes n’ Carrots

Happy Sweet Treat Tuesday!

I love a great carrot cake, and so does my mom.  For her birthday (Nov 9!), I knew a traditional carrot cake would be a must.  It’s been a long time since I made one for myself, although I’ve certainly tasted my fair share of carrot cakes at other people’s houses, restaurants and events.

The best carrot cake I’ve ever had the joy of eating was at MC Perkins Cove.  Those of you that live near southern Maine had better count yourselves lucky.  Chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier offer an amazingly tall carrot cake with nearly a dozen thin layers covered in tart cream cheese icing.  My favorite part is the candied carrots that rest atop the cake…wowza.

For my mom’s cake, I didn’t have a particular recipe in mind, though I knew I would need plenty of carrots, shredded coconut, nuts of some type and maybe even pineapple…I set out to consult my cook book collection, and to my utter disappointment, found that not ONE of my books included a carrot cake recipe.  Seriously?  Of course, my living room is no Barnes & Noble, but I consider my small collection of recipes to be pretty reliable and versatile.  Well apparently, I’ve got some more collecting to do.

After some extensive online research and much contemplation over what makes a great carrot cake (walnuts or pecans? sweetened or unsweetened coconut?  pineapple or not?), the recipe I chose yielded a moist, flavorful cake with a great texture and light, tart icing.

I chose to make a 9-inch double layer cake, but you can alternatively split the cakes into additional layers or divide the batter into muffin pans for cupcakes.

Carrot’s up!

Nancy’s Carrot Cake

Nancy's Carrot Cake

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¾ teaspoon salt
3 cups hand grated carrots (about 9 carrots)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs

Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 ½ cups finely chopped walnuts (optional)

To Make the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmet and salt and set aside. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped walnuts and coconut.

Beat the sugar and oil together on medium speed in a kitchen aid mixer or large bowl until smooth (approximately 2 minutes).  Add the eggs one at a time, combining completely after each addition. Reduce the speed to low and gently add the flour mixture to large bowl.  Mix on low speed only until just combined. Gently add the carrot mixture and mix until just combined.

Dive the batter among the pans and baked for 55 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the cake comes out clean.  Transfer the cakes to a cooling rack and cool in pans for 5 minutes.  Invert cakes onto cooking rack and cool completely.

To Make the Icing:
Beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth (approximately 3 minutes).  Add the sugar one cup at a time and mix completely after each addition.  Turn the speed up to medium / high and beat for 3 minutes.  Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the lemon juice.

Place one cake layer on a plate and cover the top with 1/2 – ¾ cup frosting.  Place the second cake layer on top and frost the cake completely.  Cover the sides of the cake with chopped walnuts by pressing them into the frosting.  Serve immediately, or store the cake at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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