May I bring a dessert?

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The polite response to a dinner invitation in someone’s home.  In my case the question isn’t “May I bring a dessert?”, it’s “Can I bring a dessert?”.   The first time I dropped a dessert, I called it an accident. After the second time, I had to admit a trend.

The first accident happened at my husband’s boss’ house.  I was a little zealous cutting into a chocolate cheesecake and my hand went through the middle of the cake, tipping over the cake-stand it sat on sending the cake into a white parsons chair in my hostess’s kitchen.  Quickly, I manhandled the cake-stand and cake  before it landed in the chair and made a beeline to my car where I dropped the whole mess onto the floor mat. I calmly walked back to the party and tried to pretend that I had meant to wear chocolate cake that evening.   (The hostess didn’t blink an eye when I told her, with a completely straight face, that I destroyed the cake and put it in my car.  Emily Post take note.)

The second time I dropped a dessert, I made a pound cake and as I pulled it out of the car I lost my grip on the cake carrier and the whole thing tumbled out of my hands.  I watched as the cake flew out of the cake carrier, flipped in the air and then, miraculously,  landed right side up onto the asphalt, completely unharmed.  After a quick look around the parking lot to make sure no one had seen what I had done, I invoked the 5-second rule and delivered my cake.  The moral of the story is if you are transporting a dessert, it should be sturdy as well as delicious.  This pound cake is both and as if that wasn’t enough, it’s a cinch to make.

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It’s called a Two Step Pound cake.  My mom gave me this recipe after she found it in a Southern Living.  It has all of the hallmarks of a great recipe.  Very few, simply prepared, real ingredients.   If you Google Southern Living pound cake, you might guess that you will get more than a few dozen results.  Pound cake preparation is a religion and everyone is sure they have the method to produce the perfect cake.  Southern Living probably publishes a pound cake recipe at least 3 times a year with specific instructions about steps, ingredients, tools and secrets to produce the perfect pound cake.   Beat the sugar and butter together.  No, beat the butter first then add the sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time.  No, add them all at once.  This two-step pound cake could not be simpler to make and is by far one of the best I’ve ever had.  In fact, Southern Living even voted this one of the best recipes of 2010.  You essentially layer all of the ingredients in the mixing bowl, mix it and then put it in the pan.  We can all do that, I don’t care who you are.

On it’s own, this cake is light with a buttery sugary crust and is the star of the show. It’s also really good with a little whipped cream and berries, or a drizzle of lemon glaze or even ganache.  This is my father’s favorite birthday cake, it’s brought in big dollars at bake sales and is a sweet addition to a brunch buffet.  I will also admit that we have been known to devour this cake just as it came out of the oven, standing over the kitchen sink.  This is a perfect basic recipe to have on hand for all occasions.  Dropping the cake is optional. -Andra

P.S.  Mom, Dad…I promise, I’ve never dropped a dessert I brought to your house.

Two-Step Pound Cake  (a non stick bunt ban or tube pan really is essential)

4 cups of all-purpose flour

3 cups of granulated sugar

2 cups of room temperature butter

3/4 cups of room temperature milk

6 large eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons of vanilla

Preheat oven to 325°. Place flour, sugar, butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla (in that order) in 4-qt. bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer. Beat at low-speed 1 minute, stopping to scrape down sides. Beat at medium speed 2 minutes.

Pour into a greased and floured 10-inch (16-cup) tube pan, and smooth. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 1 hour).

Happy Pi Day!

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Oh happy day!  A day devoted to eating pie.  I had another post written about today but it started to sound irrational and went on for what seemed infinity.  Instead of that post, I will leave you with this incredibly easy and more incredibly delicious recipe for a fudge pie.  You might have the ingredients in your pantry and fridge right now and could be eating pie in as little as 3.14 hours.

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We also had a quiche which may not technically be a pie but it is round and round works with Pi.  Happy Pi day everyone!

-Andra

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Fudge Pie 

4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate

2 sticks of unsalted butter

4 eggs

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups of sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons of vanilla

Deep dish pie shell

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate and let cool.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.  Add the  flour, sugar, salt and vanilla to the beaten eggs.  Add the butter and chocolate mixture and stir until all of the ingredients have been incorporated.

Pour into the pieshell (no need to pre-bake) and bake for 45 minutes.   The middle may still be jiggly but it is done.  Let cool for an hour and then serve.  This is even better when made the day before.  Serve with whipped cream or Bluebell homestyle vanilla ice-cream.

 

All The Single Ladies

How about that Puppy Bowl?  I know most of you watched another Bowl game last night, but my husband was out of town, so we didn’t have to watch football.  We watched the annual Puppy Bowl (“Can we get one?”) and ate game day food.  Individual pizzas and chocolate molten cakes for everyone!

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I put toppings out for the girls and let them build their own pizzas, which were sadly lacking in creativity.  (Note:  we weren’t all topless, only those of us still in diapers.)

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Mine was a garlic oil, Herbs de Provence, goat cheese, parmesan cheese and caramelized onion masterpiece.  Surprisingly, my girls didn’t bother me for a slice.

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Like most of the country, we stood around the bar and ate.

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For dessert, I made classic chocolate molten cakes, using the Kraft recipe that never disappoints.  With a little bit of vanilla ice cream, it’s the perfect dessert to accompany the “Why We Don’t Have a Dog” conversation.

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I hope your Bowl Game food was as good.  The only thing missing for us were those commercials, but the puppies made up for it with their cuteness.

– Catherine

Trick-or-treat

Do you remember coming home from trick-or-treating and sorting out your candy?  The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups got a pile, the PayDays got a pile, Heath and Skor bars-special pile, all those miniatures got a pile and then there were those weird things, loose Raisinetes, pennies, obviously last years Christmas mints, stickers and Bit-O-Honeys.  As a kid, I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to super sleuth where those lame treats came from.  I didn’t have to because Catherine would come up behind me and say “OOOOHHH, is that a Bit-O-Honey?  I’ll trade you my peanut butter cups for your Bit-O-Honeys and pennies!”  But, now that I’m the one buying the Halloween candy I wonder, who, besides my sister, is buying the Bit-O-Honey?

Here’s a treat for the few Skor and Heath bars that might make it home tonight.  (Tell your kids what I’ve told my kids about these candy bars.  That they are made with the leftover meat parts that can’t be put into hotdogs.)   These cupcakes are really good.  I made them fun sized, especially for Halloween, so that the adults would have a treat until the kids got home with the rest of the candy that we’ll pretend  not to eat while they’re at school.  -Andra

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Frosting  Adapted from Ina Garten

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½  teaspoon baking soda

½  teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½  teaspoon ground ginger

½  teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 large eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin purée (8 ounces), not pie filling

½  cup granulated sugar

½  cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

½  cup vegetable oil

Maple Frosting (see recipe below)

½  cup coarsely chopped Heath bars, for serving (2 1.4-ounce bars)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush or spray the top of muffin tins with vegetable oil or  line them with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.  In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purée, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.

Divide the batter among the prepared tins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, for regular sized muffins tins or 10-12 minutes for miniature muffin tins until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Set aside to cool completely.

Spread the cupcakes with the Maple Frosting and sprinkle with the chopped toffee bits.  Makes 10 regular sized cupcakes or 24 miniature cupcakes.

Maple Frosting

6  ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

3  tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

¼  teaspoon Boyajian Natural Maple Flavor

½  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter on low speed until smooth. Stir in the maple flavoring and vanilla extract. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.

Apple Pie Bars

Here’s where you can put your apples, Catherine.  This recipe uses six pounds of apples and makes 48 bars.   When you’ve pulled in a haul of apples from a weekend orchard visit, this recipe will make a big dent in that bushel that you’ve brought home.    -Andra

Apple Pie Bars by Cathy Odson from Food and Wine

Crust

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Filling

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup light brown sugar

12 Granny Smith apples (about 6 pounds)—peeled, cored and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup water, as necessary

Topping

3/4 cup walnuts

3 cups quick-cooking oats

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a 15-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper. In a standing electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. At low speed, beat in the flour and salt until a soft dough forms. Press the dough over the bottom of the prepared pan and 1/2 inch up the side in an even layer. Bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes, until the crust is golden and set. Let cool on a rack.

In each of 2 large skillets, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter with 1/4 cup of the light brown sugar. Add the apples to the skillets and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir half of the cinnamon and nutmeg into each skillet. Cook until the apples are caramelized and very tender and the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes longer; scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillets and add up to 1/2 cup of water to each pan to prevent scorching. Let cool.

Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast until golden and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop the walnuts. In a large bowl, mix the oats with the flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the walnuts and press the mixture into clumps.

Spread the apple filling over the crust. Scatter the crumbs on top, pressing them lightly into an even layer. Bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour, until the topping is golden; rotate the pan halfway through baking. Let cool completely on a rack before cutting into 2-inch bars.

Make Ahead:  The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 days or frozen for up to a month.

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