Tag Archives: Dessert

Comfort Food: Apple Crisp Edition

Apple crisp isn’t going to change your life.  I can promise you that.

But what it might do is make you feel like everything is all right with your world; that your insides are warm and fuzzy and nothing bad can happen.  And that nothing makes you feel better than ice cream melting into cinnamon and nutmeg with warm apples and crunchy-buttery oats and nuts.

Apple crisp is a comfort food, my friends.  At least in my house it is.  My mom always makes at least one apple crisp every fall, and when I was a freshman at college she drove six hours to visit with a pan of still-warm apple crisp to help me move in the right way.

And that is comforting.

Apple Crisp (makes enough to serve a large crowd, or have lots of leftovers to be warmed up later)

for the filling:

  • 10-12 mixed varieties of apples (Empire, Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Braeburn…), peeled, cored, and cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 2 T lemon or lime juice
  • 1 t cinnamon

for the topping:

  • 1 C whole-wheat flour (I was out, so I used all-purpose)
  • 3/4 C almond meal
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 1 C whole walnuts
  • 1 C old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 C butter (1 stick, chilled)
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/2 t)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  The first big step is to peel, core, and chop the apples–and this step is much easier when you have one of those nifty apple corer and slicer things.  I do, thank goodness.  Mix in the sugar, spices, and lemon or lime.  Pour the apple mixture into a large dish–mine is 10′ x 15′.  The apples should come right up to the top (but don’t worry, they’ll cook down later).  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the ingredients for the topping.  Cut the butter (it’s better if it is a bit chilled) into small pieces into the bowl.  Use your hands for the easiest mixing, blending the flours into the butter until it is the texture of sandy pebbles…if that makes any sense. 

Crumble the mixture over the top of the apples, and dust with freshly grated nutmeg.  Bake on the middle rack until the apples are soft and bubbly and the top is golden brown, about an hour.

Please, please, oh please, serve with ice cream.  Warm.

And when you reheat this, do it in the oven and not the microwave.  Your mother will thank you.  And so will your belly.

One of the best parts of this is the big walnuts–and that’s coming from someone who’s not a big fan of nuts inside desserts.

And if you’ve had a hard day at school, or a long day at work, or a fight with your hubs, or you are feeling down for any reason, really…this is your dessert.

Enjoy!

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Hot Chocolate Cookies

This may sound like a weird thing to post in the middle of summer, but it was freezin’ cold yesterday!  It required sweaters, multiple pairs of pants, socks, and blankets in order to sit outside and read my Kindle by morning light.

So you can imagine how happy I was, since I’ve been fiending for fall since April hit.

I know, I’m a crazy person.  But Fritz made the whole family some hot chocolate, and I was inspired.  I needed hot chocolate in cookie form.  Immediately.

I searched the web for a few recipes, but didn’t find any that I really liked so experiment, I did.  I also had limited ingredients on hand (we are on vacation, after all), so I was pleasantly surprised when this recipe turned out just loverly.

Hot Chocolate Cookies (makes a dozen cookies) Printable Recipe Card

  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/3 C butter
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/8 C milk
  • 1/2 C whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 C old-fashioned oats
  • 1 t baking soda
  • sprinkle of salt (probably around 1/8 t)
  • 1/2 C hot cocoa mix (not unsweetened cocoa powder)
  • 1/2 C choc0late chips (optional–use as a glaze or in the cookies if you want!)
  • 6 large marshmellows, cut in half vertically

This recipe is fairly simple.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the milk and egg.  Beat until blended, and sprinkle in the remaining ingredients, except the marshmallows (and chocolate chips if using for a glaze).  Mix until just blended.

Drop large spoonfuls onto a lightly greased baking sheet (I used two, since the cookies spread out and puffed up quite nicely!).  Bake for 6-8 minutes on the middle rack until they just begin to set. 

Remove the baking sheets from the oven and press a marshmallow half, cut side down, into each cookie.  Place the cookie sheets on a higher rack and turn on the broiler.  Watch carefully and remove the cookies after the marshmallows puff and turn a beautiful golden brown (about a minute).

If you used the chocolate chips in the cookies, then you are done.  Otherwise, carefully melt the chips in the microwave at low power for a few seconds at a time, then drizzle the melted chocolate over the top.

Enjoy with a cold glass of milk or a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

Fritz and his dad later heated some cookies up in the microwave to be topped with ice cream, and declared that a true success.

What I like about these cookies is that they are not too sweet–even with the marshmallow and chocolate chips.  You’ll still probably want to eat only one, maybe two, but you won’t be overwhelmed with a sickly sweetness of bad hot chocolate mix–I promise. 

I also like the slight chewiness from the oats.  But you guys know how I feel about oats in any form (very, very good, in case you actually don’t know).

And here’s part of the gorgeous sunset from last night!  Isn’t it beautiful? 

Today the weather is back up in the 80’s and I am subsequently enjoying a nice left-sided pink sunburn from when I fell asleep at the lake after our run this morning (2.5 miles–but not all continuously).  Have a peaceful day!

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Lemon Meringue Pie

I tried making lemon meringue pie once, a long time ago, when I was probably about 12 or 13 years old.  It took a long time, and then devastatingly, the lemon custard layer never set, so we just threw the whole thing out.  Since then, lemon meringue pie has been dead to me.

Dead to me.

So imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago I found out that it is one of Fritz’s favorite desserts!  I knew that since his long-studied for and agonizingly difficult test was finally over today, we needed to celebrate, and celebrate good.

It was enough motivation to write lemon meringue pie back into my will.  Oh, and this recipe is super easy, totally fool-proof (you can tell if the lemon custard will set or not before you bake it), and…oh yeah.  Totally delicious.

I probably ate about 3 weeks worth of calories in lemon custard.

Pie, you will never be dead to me again.

Lemon Meringue Pie (from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook) Printable Recipe Page

for the crust:

  • 3 T vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 4 T butter, chilled and cut into pieces
  • 1 1/4 C flour (I used my new whole-wheat pastry flour, but you can sub in all-purpose)
  • 4-6 T ice water
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 C graham cracker crumbs

for the custard layer:

  • 1 1/2 C cold water
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/4 C cornstarch
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 6 (yep, 6–deal with it) egg yolks
  • 1 T lemon zest (zest from 1 large lemon)
  • 1/2 C lemon juice (from 3 lemons)
  • 2 T butter

for the meringue layer:

  • 1/2 C water
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/4 t cream of tartar

Yeah, I know.  It’s a lot of stuff–and I promise you, this recipe takes a lot of time (but not at all if you buy a pre-baked pie crust!) but pies are never quick and never easy and they are always worth it.

You need to start out with the crust, ’cause it’ll take a few hours of waiting before this baby is ready to go.

In your mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt (you can do this all by hand, too, or in a food processor).  Add the shortening and the butter and allow the mixer (paddle attachment) to blend them until small crumbs are formed.  Add four tablespoons of ice water and mix until just blended.  If the dough isn’t coming together, add up to two more tablespoons of water.  Flatten the dough into a small disc, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Once it’s ready, take it out of the fridge and allow it to rest for a few minutes.  Use the graham cracker crumbs in lieu of extra flour as you are rolling out the dough.  This makes the dough more resistant to the sogginess that is correlated with baking custard pies.  As you roll out the dough, continue to sprinkle crumbs above and below to incorporate them.  Roll the dough out into a 12-inch circle and carefully lift into the pie pan.  Tuck the extra edges under, and crimp the edges any way you like–using your fingers, a fork, whatever.  Just make it reaaal purty.

Stick the crust in the freezer exactly as it is for about a half an hour, or until it’s firm.  Then (whew), line it with foil, covering all the edges so they don’t burn, fill with pie weights or beans, and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Remove the foil and beans and finish baking another 12-15 minutes until the crust is a deep, golden brown.  Let it cool completely.

Let me also remind you that you can buy a crust at the grocery store if you don’t have an issue of pride or require kitchen therapy the way I do.

‘While the crust is cooling, you can make the rest of the pie.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

For the custard layer, bring the water, sugar, cornstarch, and salt to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat (keep it at medium no matter what!) while whisking constantly.  Once it thickens a lot and starts to turn translucent, whisk in the egg yolks, two at a time, then the lemon zest, lemon juice, and lastly the butter.  Go slowly and whisk constantly.  Allow the mixture to come up to a full simmer (it should be getting very thick!), then remove from the heat.  Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the top, right against the custard, to keep it hot and prevent a skin from forming.

Next stop: the meringue.

Bring the water and cornstarch to a simmer in a small saucepan.  Once it’s thickened and translucent, remove from the heat and set aside.  In a mixing bowl (I used my KitchenAid with the beater attachment, but you can also use a hand mixer), whip the eggs and vanilla until frothy.  Add the sugar and cream of tartar to the eggs, a tablespoon at a time, whipping at medium speed until soft peaks form (when you lift the beater from the eggs, the peaks should droop–those are soft peaks).  Add the cornstarch mixture, and continue whipping at medium speed until stiff peaks form (no more drooping).

You are ready to assemble the pie.

Peel the plastic wrap off the custard layer, and test the temperature.  If it has cooled a lot, return to low heat for a minute until hot.  Pour the custard into the cooled pie crust.

Leave a good 1/4 C out “by accident” so you can eat it with a spoon.  Actually, don’t do that.  But do it.

But don’t.

Even the custard layer out with a spoon, then drop large spoonfuls of the meringue over the top.  Press the meringue into the crust to ensure that it adheres, and gently even out that layer with a spoon.  It’s also quite pretty to use the back of a spoon to press into and lift from the meringue, making nice peaks all over for the good housewife-decorating effect shown here.

Bake on the middle rack for twenty minutes, until the meringue is golden brown.  Cool to room temperature before serving (alternatively, eat a slice immediately and cool the rest to room temperature).

Isn’t this totally gorgeous?

Fritz was so excited when he got back from his test.  He said it went well, and I had just taken the pie out of the oven, so it smelled all lemony and meringuey (?) in the whole apartment.

Lemon meringue, I’m so glad you’re back.

Never leave me again.

Henry and I also built some shelves today to surprise Fritz with!  He now has a place for his extensive dental book collection–and Henry has a new stepping stone to the top of Fritz’s dresser.

Fritz also shaved his beard for the first time in weeks as a post-test celebration–and he considered this look:

What do you think?  Ha!

Lastly (so much news today=longest blog post EVER): I now have a Facebook page for this blog and you, my friends, can “like” it from the button on the right side of this blog.  Nifty, eh?

By the way, Fritz said this was the best lemon meringue pie he has ever eaten.

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Cauldron Cupcakes for a Harry Potter Party

Oh yes, I went to a Harry Potter party.  And if you didn’t already know, I l-o-v-e Harry Potter.  The books and the movies, though if you are anybody with any sense, you’ll like the books better.

Just sayin’.

Anyway,a blog reader, aubrimichelle suggested that I make these cauldron cupcakes from The Pastry AffairOne look and I was smitten.  Aren’t you?

I started with a basic dark chocolate cupcake recipe–and no, it’s not healthy.  I figured that since I was bringing these babies to a party, and only planning on eating one, it’s fine to really splurge on the fun stuff.  It’s good to go all out once in a while, you know?

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes  (adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)  Makes 1 dozen cupcakes Printable Recipe Card

  • 1 stick (8 T) butter
  • 2 oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 C unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
  • 3/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1/2 C sour cream

Microwave the cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and butter (at low power!) for short intervals until melted, stirring often.  Don’t over do it, or your chocolate will go quickly into an unusable texture–and remember this tip, you’ll use it often with this recipe.  The slower the better when it comes to melting chocolate.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and oil cupcake tins.  In the mixer, beat the eggs and vanilla together and add the sugar.  Add the baking powder, soda, salt, and flour, mixing until just combined.  Fold in the sour cream and melted chocolate mixture until blended.

Fill the cupcake tins (2/3rds full) and bake for 15-20 minutes on the middle rack, until an inserted toothpick comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it.  Allow to cool completely.

Cauldron Cupcakes

  • 1 dozen cupcakes
  • chocolate glaze: 1 C chocolate chips and 4 T butter
  • 1/2 C chocolate chips (to pipe the handles) and for the cauldron feet
  • 1/2 C cauldron filling–I used vanilla frosting
  • yellow sprinkles for the filling decoration

While the cupcakes are baking and cooling, melt 1/2 C of chocolate chips in the microwave (slowly!), and scoop into a ziplock baggie.  Lay out a piece of wax paper on a flat surface, and cut a small corner of the baggie off.  Use the baggie to pipe handles for the “cauldrons” onto the wax paper.  They can’t be too thin, but you can make them whatever shape you want!  I used the extra chocolate to pipe some lightning bolts and an “HP” for additional decoration.  It’s probably a good idea to pipe a few extra handles, in case some of them break.  Allow the chocolate to harden completely, about 30 minutes, before carefully removing from the wax paper (you can speed the process along with the fridge).

Once the cupcakes are cool, use a sharp knife to carve a small cone out of the middle of the bottom of the cupcake.  To make cauldrons, you’ll be flipping the cupcake over and serving it bottoms up.

Make a chocolate glaze using 1 C of chocolate chips and 4 T of butter–melting slowly in the microwave and stirring frequently.  Dip the tops of the cupcakes in the glaze (this will form the cauldron bottom), using a spoon to help fill any missing spots.  Place three chocolate chips into glaze in a “tripod” position to form the feet of the cauldron.  Cool them right side up until the glaze sets (30 minutes, or a bit faster in the fridge).

Once the chocolate is set, flip the cupcakes upside down again and make another baggie to pipe the filling into the cones you cut out previously.  Cut the corner of the baggie a little larger this time.  Fill each cauldron and dust with yellow sprinkles.

Use any remaining chocolate glaze (or make more), remelting it if necessary, and pipe around the edges of each cauldron, surrounding the filling.  Carefully peel the prepared handles from the wax paper and gently press them into the frosting or glazed edges.  I also used a bit of glaze to stick a lighting bolt to the front of each cauldron.  Once again, allow the chocolate to set in the refrigerator before serving.

These were a big hit and really fun to make.  I love getting the chance to be a little more creative in the kitchen, instead of always making dinners that get quickly eaten and underappreciated.  And thanks to the creative mind at The Pastry Affair for the good idea.

Aren’t they fun?

Almost (almost) too good to eat.  But not quite.

I also made some chocolate pretzel wands–dipping pretzel rods in melted chocolate and decorating with Gryffindor-colored sprinkles.

I love Harry Potter parties!  

We also had butterbeer (cream soda with butterscotch snapps and whipped cream):

And Hermione stopped by to lounge poolside!

Overall, a complete success.

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White Chocolate Chip Zucchini Brownies

We’ve got a lot of zucchini around these parts.  Your standard green zucchini and the special golden variety–lots of ’em.  Since Fritz and Eber (his sister) are hangin’ around this weekend, and both are notorious chocoholics, I decided to make them a special vegetable delectable treat.

White chocolate chip zucchini brownies.

They are fudgy, chocolatey, and incredibly moist, studded with walnuts and white chocolate chips.  You also can’t see the zucchini at all.  It’s a beautiful thing.

White Chocolate Chip Zucchini Brownies (adapted from Skinny Chef) Printable Recipe Card

  • 1 egg
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/4 C vegetable oil
  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  • 2 C shredded zucchini (leave the skin on and use the small holes of the grater)
  • 1/2 C walnuts
  • 1 C white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and oil a square brownie pan. 

Combine the egg, oil, sugar, and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon) and mix until blended.  Fold in the zucchini, chocolate chips, and walnuts.

Pour the batter into a baking pan and bake on the middle rack until cooked through, 30-45 minutes.  The brownies were still a bit fudgy when I took them out of the oven,leaving some wet crumbs on an inserted toothpick.  Not only is that okay, it’s the best.  Do it. 

I was shocked at how high the batter rose.  I was afraid they would be too much like cake, but with the zucchini, they were super moist and dense.  Total brownie delight.

Plus, I got to use up two (smallish) zucchini to make the magic happen.

By the way, I just ate one that I microwaved for 10 seconds (I stored them in the fridge), and they definitely got even better over the last few hours. 

They’d be amazing with a little ice cream.

Thought I’d also show you the gorgeous green monster I made this morning: basically the classic green monster, but with the addition of a beet.

Magenta monster?

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Basil Melon Sorbet

Sometimes, I decide I want to do something, and despite my previous plans it turns out in quite a different way than I originally intended.

I wanted to make ice cream (because it’s hot), and since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows–Part II is coming out, I thought I’d make it butterbeer flavored.  Good idea, right?

Yes.  Except that I came home from school and wanted to use some of the basil from my CSA box, and there was an oh-so-ripe ($1) cantaloupe in the freezer, and making a cream-and-egg based butterscotch shortbread caramel ice cream just sounded so heavy and dense and waaay too rich for the occasion.

Luckily, I’m adaptable, and the ice cream maker is always in the freezer ready at a moment’s notice whether it’s to be filled with sorbet or custard.  And honestly?  Butterbeer ice cream can always happen later.

Basil Melon Sorbet  Basil Melon Sorbet Printable Recipe Card

  • 1 C water
  • 1 C sugar
  • few sprigs fresh basil (about 20-30 leaves)
  • 1 cantaloupe, seeds and rind removed

I was lucky and happened to have the cantaloupe frozen before I started making this, which sped up the ice cream making process tremendously.  We bought the cantaloupe for a buck at the farmer’s market, so ripe it was about to burst–which necessitated it being frozen ASAP in plastic baggies for smoothies (so I thought).

Start off by making a basil-infused simple syrup.   Bring equal parts water and sugar to a simmer, until all the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from the heat and add a handful of basil leaves (I counted out 20 leaves, all sizes) and allow the syrup to cool, then remove the basil leaves.  I only used about half of this syrup in the sorbet, and poured the rest into a jar–purpose to be determined later. 

You can decide how sweet and basil-y you want your sorbet to be as you do the next step.

Blend the frozen melon and half of the simple syrup together to form a puree–if your melon isn’t frozen, that’s okay!  It’ll just take a bit longer to freeze.  My cantaloupe had started to defrost at that point, so it was pretty easy to blend.  I also added 5 or 6 fresh basil leaves to the blender to have some pretty green basil flecks in the sorbet.

Once it’s blended, taste to decide if you want to add more of the basil simple syrup. 

Pour the puree into the container of the ice cream maker, and allow it to churn according to the machine’s directions.  If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can just freeze it in a plastic container, stirring every once in a while to prevent large ice crystals from forming.

The basil taste was subtle but gorgeous with the fresh summer melon–quite refreshing.

It’s also a nice reminder that basil can be paired with sweets–it’s not just for pasta (though you may be seeing a pesto recipe in the very near future).

Moral of the story is, sometimes when things don’t go the way you planned, it works out even better.

And summer flowers!  Aren’t they nice?

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Raspberry Blueberry Crumble

We had a Fourth of July picnic yesterday–it was lots of fun.  Kids and friends and dogs running around all day, complete with Dad’s barbecued chicken, lots of fruit, and corn on the cob.  Sangria was sadly missing from the party, but I guess that’s okay every once in a while.

I also made dessert. 

It didn’t really work that well–but it tasted good, and I think I know what to do to fix it, so I’m going to share the recipe (new and improved) with you.  It was supposed to be a berry crumble, but it ended up…um…soup-like.  Here’s what my problems were:

  1. Too many raspberries=too much juice=soup-like crumble.
  2. Not enough lemon zest=not enough pectin=soup-like crumble.
  3. Too little thickener=soup-like crumble.

As I was putting this together (I also made a strawberry-raspberry one that never moved out of the liquid phase), I started to realize that there just might be an issue.  Once it was cooking…well.  Yeah.  I knew.  But the taste of the crust with cardamom in it was quite lovely, I must say.

Raspberry Blueberry Crumble (adapted from Tartelette)

for the berry filling:

  • 1 1/2 C raspberries
  • 2 C blueberries
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 4 T lemon juice
  • 4 T cornstarch

for the crumble topping:

  • 12 T butter, cold
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 C whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 C old-fashioned oats
  • 1 t cardamom
  • 1 C chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium-sized bowl, combine all the ingredients for the filling, being gentle so you don’t crush the  berries any more than you have to.  Pour the filling into an ungreased ramekins (6-8 of them) or into one larger dish.

Combine the dry ingredients for the filling, then cut in the cold butter until large crumbs form. 

Crumble the topping over the berry filling, then bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the topping is browned and the berry filling is bubbling up around the edges.

Serve with ice cream.

Or else.

Fritz quite enjoyed this, as you can see.  He even had seconds later. 

It’s nice to have a husband who even enjoys your baking flubs.

One of the best parts about the picnic yesterday was having fun taking pictures of all the kids and friends who were running around:

And of course, happy Fourth of July–especially to Fritz and Eber who are enjoying their first Independence Day as American citizens!

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