Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Donut Ice Cream Sandwich

Everything in moderation, right? 
Here's the easiest, most delicious breakfast/dessert "recipe" ever:
Buy a donut.  Slice it in half.  Spoon the ice cream of your choice on to the bottom half, cover it with the top.  Enjoy!  
We made three combos: chocolate frosted filled with coffee ice cream, vanilla frosted with sprinkles filled with strawberry ice cream (this was our favorite), and glazed filled with vanilla ice cream.  This will certainly not become a habit, but it was a fun way to celebrate the morning.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Apple Cider Crostata

I told you yesterday that I made a crostata.  It was delicious, but, of course, I wanted to make it again with some of my own edits. 

Crostatas are something that I expect to be making often in the future. Unlike a pie, it's very easy to make any size you want.  This is great for me because I like variety.  I don't want to carve away at the same giant dessert for days on end. Also, they are so fast and easy that I think crostatas could be renamed "lazy pies".  Unlike a traditional pie, there is no top crust, and you don't need a special dish to make this free-form goodie...that means one less dish to wash.  Fast recipes are key for me because I do most of my cooking with a toddler wrapped on my leg. 

For this crostata I cooked the filling on the stove top before baking. I didn't want the result to be too greasy, so I didn't add any additional fat. I also didn't want my apples to dry out, so I knew I needed to add some liquid. I opted for apple cider vs water because why not add even more apple flavor?  I also added raisins, but these could be easily left out or swapped for a different dried fruit if you aren't keen on raisins. 

To get the bottom of the crostata thoroughly cooked, you have to be brave and bake it until the top is just shy of being too dark.  I always want to pull things out when they are blonde, and this has resulted in lots of doughy feasts. I'm trying to get better about that. 

I think I've mentioned before that my husband doesn't give out complements to soothe feelings. Well, he raved about this Apple Cider Crostata!  I like his way of being because I know when he's enthusiastic about something it's the real deal. I'm excited to share the recipe, and I hope you please your toughest critics too. 

Apple Cider Crostata

For the pastry:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, diced
3-4 tablespoons ice water
For the filling:
1/2 cup apple cider
3 large Granny Smith apples, diced
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Stir to combine. Add the butter and cut in with a pastry cutter until the butter is the size of peas. Add the ice water one tablespoon at a time. Keep mixing until the dough looks moist enough that it could form a ball.  Shape with you hands to form dough into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap or parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Flour a rolling pin and roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to a baking sheet lined with parchment.

For the filling, place apples, cider, raisins, and zest in a saucepan and simmer until the apples are just tender. Drain any extra juices away. Once the apples are cooled, cover the tart dough with the apple mixture leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together. Sprinkle evenly on the apples. Gently fold the border over the apples to enclose the dough, pleating it to make a circle.

Bake the crostata for 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust is deep golden brown. Allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dear Ina...

Dear Ina,

I entered your contest to win a signed Make It Ahead cookbook.  I didn't win.  I was sad.  Maybe it was my pregnancy hormones, but I was really sad.  I only allowed myself to think about it for a short time, and then I got over it by cooking...more of your recipes.  I made Beef Bourguignon...your five star recipe.  It was very tasty, and it filled my house with an incredible aroma.
I didn't pose this.  When I was cooking the onions for the beef bourguignon this smiley just appeared...happy onions.

Next, as you may already know, I made a flour-less chocolate cake that was topped with chocolate ganache...your easy and decadent recipe.

Then, I was kind of wanting to do something non-Ina.  No offence meant, but, since was trying to get over my sadness about losing, I thought a diversion might be necessary.  I decided to make an Apple Crostata.  After looking up recipes, I couldn't help but notice that your recipe has over 100 reviews and, like many of your other recipes, it gets five out of five stars.  You can guess what I did.  I made it.  It was delicious.  Thank you for another lovely bite.  The crostata almost made me forget about losing, almost.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Shake to Change

So, I looked back over my recent posts, and I noticed a trend: dessert. Haha!  Well, it's not exactly fun to write or read about eating leafy greens.  Maybe exercise falls in to the same category, but I have been hooked on Barre Amped workouts this pregnancy, and I thought I'd share...

These workouts are for anyone at anytime, not just preggos, but I especially like them for this time in my life because they are virtually no-impact. You can push yourself as much or as little as you feel is right for you. There are classes around the country, but I use the DVDs since we live in the middle of nowhere.  You can get them from the official website or on Amazon.com.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Bête Noire

As the name implies, this cake is a beast. It's not that it's hard to make, it's just very, very rich. The "Black Beast" is able to handle even the most intense chocolate craving. It's also flourless, which is great if you seek out gluten-free treats. You probably have the ingredients in your pantry...so get busy baking! 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


After making éclairs, I started looking up other pastries that are made using similar techniques and ingredients.  I stumbled on the Paris-Brest.  It's history is all over the internet, so a quick search can give you the details on the name and story.  Of course, my primary interest was how to make it and how does it taste.  It's made with the same dough used for cream puffs and éclairs, piped in round, bagel-like shapes, filled with mousseline cream, and dusted with powdered sugar.  Lots of steps, none of them hard.  

The first thing was making praline paste.  It is available online, but not commonly available in grocery stores in the US.  To make it, you caramelize sugar, pour it over hazelnuts and almonds.  Once it is cool, you process it in to a peanut butter consistency.  This is then added to pastry cream and chilled.  Then, you add in extra butter to make it into a buttercream type frosting/filling called mousseline cream.

The rounds are piped in three circles.  You can use a round or star tip from what I saw during my research.  They are sometimes piped very large to make a pastry the size of a 8 or 9 inch cake, but, more often, they seem to be made about the size of a doughnut.  You top them with sliced almonds before baking.  There is also a single plain ring piped (not pictured) for each pastry.  This is nestled between the cut halves when you assemble.  It gives the pastry height and structure with out throwing off the pastry to cream balance.

Once baked and cooled, they are sliced and filled with the cream.  My cream wasn't very firm as it approached room temperature, so I would only serve it straight from the fridge.

Consensus... they are delicious and very, very rich.  I hope that I can find one in a pastry shop sometime (maybe in Paris ;) ), but I don't think I will make them again.  For the time and effort, I would prefer to make cream puffs or éclairs.  I might even fill them will a nutty filling (Nutella?) because the nuttiness with the choux dough was excellent, but, overall, it was a little more involved than something that I will do again.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Giver Quartet

I recently finished reading The Giver Quartet.  The Giver, which is the first of the four books, has had renewed popularity recently with the release of the movie.  I hadn't read it in school, so I wanted to know what it was all about.  Reading the four books was more of a commitment than I normally take on, but I'm so glad I did.  The last book of the set, Son, was my favorite, and probably one of my favorite reads ever!  I don't want to give anything away, but, if you have read The Giver, I would definitely recommend that you read on through the rest of the books.

Side note...after I started reading this I realized that it was by Lois Lowry who also wrote Number the Stars, which was a childhood favorite of mine.  I quickly re-read that too, and I enjoyed it even now as an adult.  For a story that is set in such an awful time in history, I found it to be so positive and encouraging.