Saturday, October 29, 2011

my house is decorated...

This morning I wanted cookies...

Molasses cookies.

So I made some.  Salty, sweet, chewy molasses cookies.

I don't believe in secret recipes, but if i did, these would be one of them.

Happy Halloween everyone...

Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living 
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2  cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup granulated maple sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (seriously these are nice and salty)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg
1/4 cup nutmeg

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I often forget about a lot of lovely things that show up this time of year. Like fall leaves, pumpkin beer, the click of boot heels, and the sight of your breath on a cool morning.  I know I've already declared that I am a fall girl, but every year, it's like I am rediscovering fall for the first time.  And while I mostly associate my fall time in the kitchen with pies, pies, and more pies, there are certain occasions when people just want cake. Some how, cake has weaseled it's way into being the dessert choice for birthdays the world over, and while I am officially, and forever on team pie, I have discovered another highly under-rated tasty, not entirely un-cake like, treat....

 I don't want to knock cake's place as a birthday staple, but these pumpkin chocolate brownies are pretty tasty. Yes, pumpkin and about homage to fall and to birthdays.

And as far as I know there aren't any idiomatic proverbs surrounding one's ability to eat and simultaneously savour brownies, so I think it's safe to say,  eat up!

Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Brownies
adapted from Martha Stewart Living 
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick) plus more for pan
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups A.P flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups pumpkin
1/4 vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9 inch brownie pan.
Melt chocolate and butter on stove in heat proof bowl, stir to combine.
Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside
Beat sugar and eggs together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in flour mixture.
In separate bowl combine pumpkin, oil, vanilla, and spices together.
Separate batter evenly into two bowls. Add chocolate mixture to one and pumpkin to the other. Rotating between the bowls, pour and swirl batter into greased pan. Work quickly to prevent setting.
With a rubber spatula stir the two batters together to get a marbled effect.
Bake for 40-45 minutes.

And hey, when it's your first day off in too long, feel free to enjoy one or two drinks. Just make sure you read the recipe first.  Bottoms up fall....

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Some days....

Sometimes when the day leaves you seriously questioning if you have any skills, particularly of the marketable variety, you are left with only one choice.  Bake a delicious fall pie and sing along loudly to In Through the Out Door, especially Fool in the Rain on repeat. Hey, feeding people and being able to quote Zeppelin lyrics on command are marketable skills. I swear.

Another good tip for combating rejection and just overall winter blues-- bake with bourbon and maple sugar.  It also helps if you wear cowboy boots. I am serious, give it a whirl.

Enter Apple Pear Bourbon Pie.

A classic twist on something all too America. And while traditional Apple pie is my one exception to my disdain for the banal, some days just leave you in the mood to twist....

I have never made this before, but I started with my standard pie crust.  Peeled and chopped some JonaGolds and Granny Smith apples and then thought: hey pears, I bet you'd go great with bourbon too.  For my sake, lets pretend I don't really vocalize my thoughts to inanimate objects while baking.

For the filling you will need:
4 peeled and sliced apples (2 red 2 green)
4 peeled and sliced pears
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
5 tbl maple sugar (not syrup... granulated maple sugar, ideally from Vermont)

Preheat oven to 425. Pour apple, pear mixture into bottom crust. Seal with lattice top (you could do a double pie crust if you prefer, I however despite an obsession with pie birds, like the crust to filling ration better with a lattice top). Be forewarned-- the lattice is a little harder to make perfect, since this is definitely a rustic, hefty, twisted apple pie.

Brush dough with cream and sprinkle with 1 tbl. of maple sugar. Bake for 45 minutes. You may need to cover the top with a loose piece of aluminum foil if the edges brown too quickly.

Let cool and eat with vanilla ice cream, or not.  Whatever floats your boat.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

trinity revisited

A plum trinity: Scotch. Jam. Spice Cake.

Its officially fall. At heart, I am a fall baby.  It's my season.  Leaves, cold air, endless cups of tea, and afternoons of dim light and Faulkner stories. Not to mention big sweaters, scarves, and all the soup and pastries you can stand. And I can, and do, stand for a lot. This plum trio actually started with a cocktail, but it's no wonder it ended in cake.

Plum. Scotch. Yum.  I imagine this drink to be something fitting of a pirate, or of Poe. There is certainly some mystery to it.  Named the Maritime Traitor, it's inventor, Marley at the Golden Beetle, was definitely going for a little more drunken sailor, but there is definitely something ravenish brewing as well.  Regardless, it's delicious, and its made with a plum syrup from my very own plum trees.

So step one, add plum juice to simple syrup, reintroduce plum skins, reduce, cool, strain, drink. Either make your own or get Marley to make you one, either way, you are welcome.

So after making the syrup I was left with a whole pile or mashed plum skin and meat.  So feeling rather industrious yesterday morning, and fancying some pancakes, I mixed the plum remains with maple syrup and reduced on the stove top on low, until the sauce thickened.  I supposed compote is a better word, but like the word tart, jam just has a better ring to it, I think.  After I made the compote, and because I am perpetually delaying doing any studying for the GRE, I decided to experiment with plum cakes.  Yes, cakes, as in multiple. With the amount I have on hand, I am finding plum plurality a welcome and delicious necessity.

Cake #1. Let's just call this cake Plum Jam Cake, we can debate the technicalities later, but I am sticking with Jam.

This cake is insanely moist, but still manages to walk the line between being sticky and dense without settling like a stone in your stomach.  While this is definitely not a pomp and circumstance celebration cake, I wouldn't discredit its dessert appeal . Whip up a little cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a little powdered sugar and you'd have your self one pretty, pink, plumy dessert. I however, opted for the breakfast and coffee route.

Plum Jam Cake 
    Highly adapted from Emily Luchetti Passion for Ice Cream 
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup blue cornmeal (I like the color better) plus some for dusting
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
6 oz butter, unsalted, room temp
1/3 cup almond milk
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/2 cups plum Jame (compote)

Bake 350 for 50 minutes
Add flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and corn meal together set aside.  Beat sugar and butter together until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time.   Combine milk, lemon juice, and extracts. Incorporate flour and milk mixture in turns to egg and butter mixture.  Pour into a greased and corn-meal floured bunt bann or spring foam pan. Bake for approximately 50 minutes.

Cake #2. Pudding Cake of Honey and Plum, Tender vol. II Nigel Slater.

This is a copy cat cake. It is that delicious on its own. I didn't, and wouldn't change a thing.  Thank you Nigel and thank you Molly or Orangette, who posted and shared this very recipe last month. It really is worth the fuss. This cake is amazing, with just the right amount of moisture it almost takes on a Clafouti  quality. Plums. I love you.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Check Mate

I've never understood chess. I'm inclined to believe I've just never had the patience to learn, nor the disposition of one who sits still for long periods of time, rather than admit it looks dull and tedious.  Either way, there are many many things I do adore, some of which include as of late--  southern charm and of course pie.

Lets talk about pie.  To me, it's the perfect dessert.  It's the perfect breakfast and afternoon snack too. It's good warm, cold, fresh from the oven, or two days later straight out of the pie pan. You know what I am talking about.  Chess pie, is a sugary custard like pie common in southern cuisine, with a single buttery crust and a caramelized brown sugar top.  And although chess pie is relatively new to me, it originates from England, and I'd imagine it was popular among my New England Jamestown people as well, before it migrated south.  I don't really have any Jamestown people, but if I did, I would like to think they liked pie.

While there are many tales about where the name "chess pie" came from, my favorite stems from the eventually mutation, or blurring of lines, between the words just and pie, as chess pie was in fact initially, just pie.

Regardless, of where it came from or where it's going, once you make this pie you will want to make it again. And again.  Holiday pies, step aside.

There are about a million variations on chess pie out there, but the general consensus calls for butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Since I usually refer to Paula Deen, a woman who's favorite ingredients include: butter, oil, peanut butter, and cheese, (yes - she said that once while making something that melding all four ingredients) I started with her recipe and then got a little adventurous.  I wanted something to cut the sweetness and I wanted a unique flavor that plays on where I'm from and what I love.

Enter my two favorite ingredients :Vermont Maple Syrup and fresh squeezed lemon juice.

The syrup plays well with the custard, delicious, brown-sugariness of the pie and the lemon adds just a touch of tart. I also used buttermilk, not always common, and corn meal, which is pretty traditional across recipes.

The maple and lemon give the pie a little lighter coloring (see right half of above pie) but I also think it was perhaps a little undercooked, since I used a much deeper pie pan.

So you can thank England, or a Jamestown Rock wife, Paula Deen's great-great-great-great grandmother, or anyone you want.  But, remember your charm and manners, and don't forget to write a thank you note...