Thursday, September 29, 2011

What's Baking: My Mom's Apple Pie

It's time for another What's Baking challenge! I was particularly excited about this one--we were asked to make a recipe that has been in our family for a while and that our family is known for. Now, when I think of the family classics, three things come to mind: carrot cake, oatmeal scotchies, and apple pie. They're the three best things that my mom bakes (and she's a darn good baker!), and I believe all three recipes came from my grandmother, too, so they definitely fit the challenge! After polling friends, I decided on the apple pie. And, in the spirit of the challenge, I followed my mom's recipe exactly, which is pretty rare for me! This pie turned out wonderfully! I can't say it's as good as my mom's, but it was pretty tasty! I did bake it on a lower rack than usual, because I always have trouble with the bottom crust undercooking, and that seemed to help! So, on to the recipe!

My Mom's Apple Pie

  • 1 unbaked double pie crust
  • 6 c. peeled, thinly sliced apples (Cortland is my preference, but I had to use McIntosh)
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 Tbl. flour
  • 1 heaping tsp. cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg

Mix together apples, sugar, flour, and spices (I usually shake them around in a ziplock bag). Put bottom crust in your pie plate, then pour in the apple mixture. Give it a good shake to settle the apples, then put the top crust on. Seal the top crust to the bottom one, then cut air vents in the top. I wrote "Hi Mom," since this pie is in her honor, after all. Bake for 50 minutes at 400 degrees F, shielding the edges after the first 15 minutes.

Other options if you're not dedicated to following the recipe exactly: add a pinch of salt and/or a dash of lemon juice to the filling; brush the crust with and egg wash, adding a sprinkling of sugar overtop, if desired.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Green Tea Cupcakes with Pink Lemonade Frosting

The boyfriend and I were entertaining another couple last weekend, and we started planning the menu: Asian pork burgers with soy glaze and/or sriracha mayo and grilled chicken in an Asian-inspired marinade. Can you tell he loves grilling and loves Asian flavors? Anyways, I volunteered to come up with a similarly Asian-inspired dessert. I immediately thought of a box of matcha sitting on my baking shelf that I had ordered online, intending to bake something, anything green tea-flavored. Perfect! Green tea cupcakes! But then I needed a frosting flavor. I didn't want to go with matcha frosting, too...I wanted something that would complement and play off the green tea cupcakes. So I got thinking....

My favorite coffee shop in Rochester, NY is a little place called Java's. They have standard coffee house fare, but it's all just really good and in a fun, quirky environment. Being a non-coffee-drinker myself, my favorite drink on the menu is perfectly refreshing on a summer day, which is usually when I find myself at Java's. It's called a Kinky Reggae, and to the best of my taste buds' knowledge, it consists of a blend of iced green tea and pink lemonade, served nice and cold over ice. I know this is an unusual combination, but it's so good! And voila! I had my frosting flavor: pink lemonade!

These cupcakes turned out great! The cupcakes are a vivid green color (my Facebook friends had fun guessing what made them green!), and the grassiness of the green tea flavor is perfectly offset by the light sweet/sour flavor of the frosting. The only complaint that I have is that the frosting is ever so slightly grainy due to the pink lemonade powder, but that didn't stop me from wolfing it right down! This unusual flavor combination went over very well with everyone who tried it!

Green Tea Cupcakes with Pink Lemonade Frosting (adapted from Chockylit with an original frosting recipe)

  • 1 1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened, divided
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 egg plus 1 yolk
  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbl. matcha*
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbl. pink lemonade powdered drink mix

Cream together 1/2 c. butter with the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and egg yolk until incorporated. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and matcha. Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat just until incorporated. Mix in the milk. Finally, mix in remaining dry ingredients just until combined. *I bought my matcha from Amazon. If you don't want to do that, you could probably substitute 1/2 c. of very strong brewed green tea for the matcha and milk.

Portion the batter out evenly into greased muffin cups (I got 11). Bake for 22-25 min. at 350 degrees F, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Cream together remaining 1 c. butter with the pink lemonade mix. Beat in 1-2 c. of powdered sugar, or until desired sweetness is reached and frosting is a spreadable consistency. Frost your cupcakes using a knife when the plastic bag that you were using to pipe the frosting bursts. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake

My friend Christina was recently talking about how birthdays aren't a big deal in her family. This made me sad, because we always celebrate birthdays in my family--the birthday person gets to choose his/her favorite meal to be cooked or the restaurant to go to and gets to pick a sweet birthday treat for dessert! I love doing this for my friends, although I usually stick to just the sweet treat. So when Christina's birthday rolled around, and she asked for a chocolate raspberry cake, I knew I wanted to make one that was over the top! Thankfully, Annie over at Annie's Eats had just the thing with her Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Layer Cake!

I made this cake over the course of three days, and I highly recommend breaking it up like that to make your life easier! I baked the cakes on day 1, then made the ganache, raspberry filling, and raspberry frosting and filled and frosted on day 2, and finally, made the chocolate glaze and decorated the cake on day 3. This worked pretty well for me, although day 2 was a little long. It was totally worth it in the long run, though, as the birthday girl LOVED the cake and said it was the best one she had ever had! Everyone was ooooh-ing and ahhhh-ing over the presentation, too--it looks very professional, but it's actually pretty simple! But enough preamble...on to the recipe!

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake (very slightly adapted from Annie's Eats)

For the cake:
  • 1 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbl. instant coffee granules
  • 1 1/2 c. boiling water
  • 3/4 c. sour cream
  • 1 Tbl. vanilla extract
  • 3 sticks (12 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 c. plus 2 Tbl. sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 c. plus 2 Tbl. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
Combine cocoa powder and instant coffee in a small bowl. Whisk in the boiling water until smooth. Let cool slightly while you work on the rest of the batter, then whisk in sour cream. Resist the urge to lick the spoon (no,'s bitter despite looking like chocolatey goodness).

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture in three additions, alternating with the cocoa/sour cream mixture. Mix each addition until just combined.

Divide the batter evenly into three buttered and cocoa-powdered (won't leave your chocolate cake white like flour would) 9" round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cakes cool for 15 minutes in the pans, then remove them from the pans and transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Once cool, level the cakes using a serrated knife.

For the raspberry filling:
  • 16 oz. frozen raspberries, thawed
  • Up to 1 1/4 c. raspberry wine, as needed
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 3 Tbl. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
Drain the raspberries, reserving the juice. Add raspberry wine (or raspberry liqueur or water) to the reserved juice until the total liquid is 1 1/4 c. If your thawed raspberries happened to leak bright red liquid all over your fridge, drink the leftover wine while cleaning it up.

Put the sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan, whisking to combine them. Transfer the raspberry liquid to the saucepan slowly, whisking it into the cornstarch so that it doesn't clump up. Heat over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from the heat, whisk in the lemon juice, and fold in the raspberries.

Cover and chill until you're ready to use it.

For the ganache filling:
  • 8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 3 Tbl. unsalted butter, at room temperature

Combine chocolate chips and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments, stirring in between each one, until chips have melted. Whisk in the butter, 1 Tbl. at a time.

Transfer 1/2 c. ganache to a piping bag fitted with a star tip and another 1/2 c. to a piping bag fitted with a plain tip. Let all the ganache cool until thickened but still soft enough to spread and pipe.

For the raspberry frosting:

  • 1 c. sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 21 Tbl. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 c. strained raspberry puree (just puree fresh raspberries and strain!)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine sugar and egg whites in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Cook, whisking constantly, until sugar dissolves (it shouldn't feel grainy when you rub the egg whites between your fingers) or until egg whites reach 160 degrees F. Remove from heat, and whip egg whites until the mixture has cooled to room temperature and the egg whites have reached stiff peaks, about 8 minutes.

Add the butter, 2 Tbl. at a time, whisking until each addition is incorporated. If it looks curdled, just keep beating--it will come together! Once all the butter has been added and the frosting is thick and creamy, beat in the raspberry puree and vanilla extract.

For the chocolate glaze:
  • 4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 c. light corn syrup
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine chocolate and heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl--if you have a Pyrex measuring cup that is big enough, use that to save yourself an extra step! Microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring in between each one, until chocolate is melted. Stir in corn syrup and vanilla extract. Transfer to a pitcher or measuring cup with a spout.

To assemble:

Take one of your cooled, leveled cake layers, and put it on a cake board. Spread with approximately half of the chocolate ganache that's still in the bowl. Take the chocolate ganache in the plain-tipped piping bag, and pipe a border around the edge of the cake--this will help hold in the raspberry filling. Spread approximately half of the raspberry filling inside this ganache border.

Top with your second cooled, leveled cake layer. Repeat the process with the rest of the ganache and raspberry filling. Top with the third cake layer--put this one upside down so that the clean edges from the bottom of the pan are on top! This is a good point to refrigerate the cake to let the chocolate and raspberry fillings set up before frosting the cake.

Frost the entire cake with the raspberry buttercream, starting with the top and working the frosting down around the edges. Make the sides as smooth as possible! This is another great point to stop and refrigerate the cake to set the frosting before proceeding on to the next step.

Lastly, take the chocolate glaze, and pour it slowly over the top of the cake, making sure that it covers the entire top and just starts to drip down the sides. Refrigerate the cake for a while to let the glaze set.

Finally, take the ganache in the star-tipped piping bag, and pipe little swirls or rosettes around the top of the cake. Top each one with a fresh raspberry.

Pray to every god you can think of while transporting this cake that you've spent 3 days on to its destination. Glare at anyone who gets too close to the cake before the birthday girl has seen it in its pristine state. Revel in the delight in her eyes. Devour. :)