Sunday, November 23, 2008

Praline Pumpkin Pie

This recipe for Praline Pumpkin pie probably predates my birth. My mom has been making it for as long as I can remember, and easily from before then. My mother’s copy of the recipe resides on the torn out page of the magazine she originally got the recipe from, she thinks it was Food and Wine. The recipe is by far my favorite for pumpkin pie. The pumpkin filling is nicely spiced, but not overly sweet. This is contrasted by the buttery praline at the bottom of the pie. In addition the smoothness of the pie combines wonderful with the mild crunch of the pecans and praline. I just can’t imagine a pumpkin pie that’s better.

As far as crusts go, the original recipe comes with a recipe for a hot water crust, which we don’t use. I actually bought my pie crusts this time (horror of horrors) because I just didn’t feel like I had the time to make them (I am preparing for finals after all). A regular pie crust should do though, or, my mother has had success using this unusual pie crust made with Vodka.  

Praline Pumpkin Pie

Makes 2 nine inch pieswe

Pie Filling:

½ cup sugar 
½ cup light brown sugar 
1 T flour 
1 T Bitters (optional, but we always use it) 
1 t ground cinnamon 
½ t ground ginger 
½ t salt 
¼ t nutmeg 
½ t cloves 
1 egg, lightly beaten 
2 T butter 
1 29 oz. can pumpkin puree 
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk 
¼ cup milk 
1 cup water1. In a bowl whisk together the first 9 ingredients (sugar through cloves), whisk in the egg and set aside.

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat. Add the pumpkin puree and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the pumpkin puree to the sugar mixture. Gradually stir in the evaporated milk, followed by the milk, and then the water. At first it may seem like they won’t come together, just keep stirring. Set the mixture aside.



4 T unsalted butter, softened 
2/3 cups light brown sugar 
2/3 cups pecans, coarsely chopped

1. Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the pecans.



2 9 inch pie crusts 
Praline mixture 
Pumpkin filling

1. Use a fork to poke holes all over the pie crusts. Freeze them for ten minutes.

2. Divide the praline mixture in half, and spread half in the bottom of each pie. Make sure to cover the whole bottom of the pie. Bake the pies in the 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove the pies

3. Turn the oven temperature down to 400 degrees. Let the pies cool for a few minutes. Divide the pumpkin filling between the two pies (you may have a little extra filling). Smooth the surface of the pies with a spatula. Bake the filled pies for 50 minutes to an hour, or until the center is firm and the crust is golden. Let cool completely before serving


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Inverted Apple Tart Cupcakes

Awhile ago I had the idea that you might be able to replace the wrapper in a cupcake with very thinly sliced apple. I decided I wanted the cupcakes to be some sort of cross between a cake and a tart, and so I used a frangipane based cake recipe I modified from Orangette. The result was something that was sort of like an apple upside down cupcake, and was really delicious. The cake was especially almondy. Overall though, I’m honestly not sure it was worth the trouble, as getting all the apple slices made and the cupcake cups lined with them was a bit of a pain. The almond cake recipe is good enough on its own though that it is certain to show up again. Most of the work in this recipe shows up in the assembly section, I tried to take decent pictures. The cake actually comes together really easily. Use Granny Smith Apples for this recipe, they stay firmer than most others when baked (I tried Golden Delicious on a test cupcake, they just fell apart). To make thin strips out of the apples I used a vegetable peeler. I used this type, except I got a cheap one at Kroger for $1. It’s surprisingly effective, though you should be very careful not to peel your fingers (I’ve done it several times now).

Almond Cake

Makes ~ 9 cupcakes

½ cup flour
½ cup ground almonds, or almond flour/meal*
1 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, and salt.

2. Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer, and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs, flour, and extracts and beat until combined.

3. Set the dough aside while preparing the apples.

*You can make almond flour by grinding blanched almonds in a food processor until they reach a sandy consistency (this is what I did). I've been told you should be careful not to overdo it, otherwise you can end up with almond butter. You can also buy almond flour / meal at some grocery stores or specialty stores.


2 Granny Smith Apples

1. Peel an apple. Cut the apple into quarters and remove the core. Use the apple peeler to cut very thin strips of apple.

2. Layer the strips around the cupcake pan. Press the apples in hard so that they take the shape of the cup. Make sure the apples overlap, to try to reduce the amount of cake that gets through to get stuck to the pan.

3. Fill each apple lined cup with a little less than a ¼ cup of batter. I recommend using a measuring cup and a spoon to get the batter in. Try to be careful, because once the batter gets in there, you really can’t move it around without messing up the apples.

4. Bake the cupcakes for 17 – 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

5. Let the cupcakes cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Once they are cooled run a dull knife around the edges of the cupcakes, then invert onto a flat surface. I didn’t frost these, because I thought they were good as is. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I find myself turning yet again to Martha Stewart’s cookie book when I’m looking for a cookie recipe. A friend of mine was having an event at his place, and I happened to know he was a big fan of snickerdoodles, so I decided to whip these up. Fortunately, this recipe comes together incredibly quickly, and turned out very good. They weren’t quite as soft as snickerdoodles I’m used to (admittedly, I don’t eat a lot of snickerdoodles), but my guess is that it’s because this recipe uses butter in place of shortening.

Martha’s Snickerdoodles

Martha says it makes 18, I found closer to 24

2 ¾ cups flour 
2 tsp baking powder 
½ tsp salt 
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature 
1 ½ cups plus 
2 T sugar 
2 large eggs 
2 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

2. Beat together the 1 ½ cups of sugar and the butter at low speed until fluffy. Turn the mixer speed up to medium and add the eggs. Gently mix in the flour mixture.

3. Roll the dough into 1 ½ inch balls. Mix the remaining 2 T of sugar and the cinnamon. Roll the dough balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture until they are completely covered.

4. Bake the cookies (I found an insulated baking sheet worked best for these), leaving them lots of room on the sheets to spread out. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are golden. Let cool on a rack. 

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pound Cake

I finally got a copy of Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, and wanted to try making something from the famed book. Since I didn’t really have an occasion to make anything fancy, I decided to make her Perfect Pound Cake. I decided to make the marbled variation, with the addition of a little almond extract. I have to say, this pound cake was good, but I wouldn’t call it perfect. I’m not entirely sure that I can say what was missing, although I didn’t think it was quite moist enough. I also thought that the outside of the loaf got a little too crisp, but it certainly didn’t reach the point of burning, so I can’t complain much. The main failing may have been my use of inferior (Kroger brand) butter. The book recommends using the best butter you can find, and using something of better quality probably would have improved the flavor. On the plus side, this recipe is really fast to throw together. Overall it was good, but I think I’ll keep searching for a favorite.

Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Pound Cake

2 cups all purpose flour 
1 tsp baking powder 
¼ tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature 
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
½ tsp almond extract 
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat together the butter and sugar for five minutes.

2. While the butter is beating, in a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt

3. Turn the mixer up to medium speed. Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, beating for 1-2 minutes after each addition, and regularly scraping down the sides. Add the vanilla and almond extract along with the last egg.

4. Fold the flour mixture gently into the butter mixture. Divide the batter in half, and add half of it to the chocolate. Fold the batter and the chocolate together.

5. Spoon the batters into the loaf pan using large spoonfuls, alternating regular and chocolate batters. Once all of the batter is in the pan, swirl a butter knife through the cake, this will make it marble. Smooth the top of the cake.

6. Place the loaf pan on an insulated cookie sheet, or on two regular cookie sheets placed one inside the other. Bake the pound cake for 70-75 minutes, or until a knife stuck into the middle comes out clean.

7. Take the cake out of the oven and let it rest in its pan on a cooling rack for 30 minutes. Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan, and invert to remove the cake. Let it cool to room temperature.