Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer fruit upside down cake

My parents must think we're severely malnourished because whenever they visit they bring us cartons of fruit from Costco. Most of it ends up spoiling because we can't keep up with the quantity. I found some of our apricots and plums growing fuzz (ew) and figured I should be proactive this time and put the good fruit to use before they too turned green and furry.

I made David Lebovitz's Upside Down Cake with apricots and plums. The cake is so excessively delicious, it almost feels evil. I can't even describe it. I don't care so much for plain white cake but this recipe, along with the carmelized fruit that gets soaked up into the batter... it's heavenly. I plan to experiment with all different kinds of fruit. Please be forewarned: make this cake for guests, or else you will end up eating it all by yourself in one sitting. Seriously. It's amazing fresh out of the oven, but just as incredible (or maybe moreso) the next day when things have really soaked in.

Lebovitz used a 10" cast iron skillet but I used a plain old 9" cake pan and it worked out fine. Way beyond fine.

Upside Down Cake
Adapted from David Lebovitz

One 9-inch (25cm) cake, 8-10 servings

You have some latitude with the fruits that you use. Just make sure that whatever you use covers the bottom in a substantial layer, around double-thickness, since the fruit will cook down while baking and settle nicely into place. Berries and such as good nestled in the gaps between the slices of fruits.

For the fruit layer:

3 tablespoons butter (45g), salted or unsalted
3/4 cup packed (170g) light brown sugar
fruit: About 4-5 plums sliced 1/2" thick, 4-5 apricots quartered, or whatever fruit you desire

For the cake layer:

8 tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature.
1 1/2 cups (210g) flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (125ml) whole milk, at room temperature

Melt the 3 tablespoons (45g) of butter in the cake pan over low heat. Add the brown sugar and cook while stirring, until the sugar is melted and begins to bubble. Remove from heat and let cool.

Once cool, arrange the fruit in a pinwheel design.

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350F. (190C)

Beat the 8 tablespoons 9115g) of butter and sugar until fluffly. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, until smooth.

Whisk or sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Stir in half of the flour mixture, then the milk, then the remaining dry ingredients. Do not overmix: stir just until the flour is barely incorporated into the batter.

Spread the batter over the fruit, then bake for 45 minutes to one hour (depending on the size of the pan, and the thickness of the batter.) The cake is ready when it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and the center feels just set.

Remove from oven, let cool about 20 minutes, then place a cake plate on top, and wearing oven mitts, flip the cake out on to the plate, taking care, as there may be some hot caramel that might escape.

Serving: Upside Down Cake is best served warm, perhaps with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. It can be made in advance, left in the pan, and rewarmed in the cake pan or skillet right before serving. It's also very good rewarmed in a microwave, and served immediately.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Lemon Madeleines

I visited the New York Cake Store (aka a baker's paradise) and bought myself a Madeleine pan. I found this recipe for lemon Madeleines and then created a lemon icing for it which really helped retain its moisture. With my first batch, I made the icing a little thinner and dunked the whole Madeleine. With the second batch, I thickened the icing and dunked only the top fluted part of the cookie. Either way still tasted great (the sweetness of the icing, surprisingly, was not overpowering at all), but icing only the top made for a cleaner presentation because the bottoms of batch #1 started to stick to the wire racks after I had iced them, creating indentations on the bottoms.

This recipe makes light, fluffy Madeleines. It doesn't even use that much butter, which to me was surprising, because I always thought Madeleines were completely laden with butter. They were spongy and moist and perfect with coffee. Definitely making these over and over again. Maybe I'll have to make some matcha ones since my supply of matcha powder never seems to diminish.

Lemon Madeleines
Adapted from

Yields 1 dozen madeleines

2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Butter and a flour a 12-count madeleine mold and set in freezer.
Melt 1/4 cup of butter and set aside to allow to cool to room temperature.
In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, vanilla and salt at high speed until it starts to become light and fluffy.
Beating constantly, gradually add sugar. Continue beating at high speed until mixture is thick, pale, and ribbons form in the bowl when beaters are lifted (about 5-10 minutes).
Sift flour into the egg mixture 1/3 at a time, gently folding in after each addition.
Add lemon zest. Pour melted butter around the edge of the batter. Quickly but gently fold the butter into the batter.
Spoon batter into molds filling all the way to the top (since this recipe does not have baking soda/powder, the cakes will not overflow out of the mold).
Bake for 14-17 minutes, or until cakes are golden and the tops spring back when gently pressed with fingertip.
Use the tip of a knife to loosen madeleines from pan (they should slip out easily if pan was prepped well). Place cookies onto wire rick with fluted side up. Allow to cool before icing.

Lemon Icing

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons water (room temperature)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Whisk ingredients together until smooth.
Dunk whole or top fluted half of madeleine into icing; place on wire rack to allow icing to set.
Once icing is set, dust tops with additional powdered sugar if desired.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Snickerdoodles, Take 2

I didn't really like the way my snickerdoodles turned out the last time, so this time I used a different recipe. I followed Smitten Kitchen's recipe exactly, and the results were fantastic. Mine turned out fatter than hers (hers appear more flattened) but I like my puffy ones. They are staying soft, chewy, and slightly cakey (basically the perfect snickerdoodle) for 4 days now. But I'm down to the last one so I won't be able to check Day 5. I wish the Snickerdoodle smell would stay in my kitchen forever.

Please refer to Smitten Kitchen for the great recipe! It's definitely a keeper.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wonton Ravioli

One day, if I'm feeling particularly ambitious, I will learn to make my own pasta. Until the day comes that I have that sort of leisure, I'll manage with wonton wrappers. I've been wanting to try making ravioli with these and after a lot of research, the complaint most people had was that the wraps were too fragile for boiling and were always bursting in the water. I decided not to use any filling that needed to be cooked (no meat) so I can allow them to boil only momentarily. This seemed to do the trick.

I didn't really follow any recipe for this... for baking I stick to proportions for the most part or else you could really botch your project. For cooking I tend to just go by sight and taste, but here is basically what I did:

Cook down an entire package of baby spinach with some minced garlic, olive oil, salt/pepper, then place in colander to cool and drain excess water.

When cooled, dump spinach in a bowl. Add half a package of ricotta cheese (approx 1/2 cup) and a handful or two of grated Parmesan cheese (no need for exact measurements here, if you like more, add more).

Taste the mixture; season accordingly. I added a teeny bit of hot pepper flakes, fresh thyme, black pepper, and Italian seasoning.

Whisk 1 egg into a small bowl.

Put a SMALL spoonful (about a heaping teaspoon) into the middle of a wonton wrap. Smudge some egg around the borders, and place another wrap over, matching the edges. Make sure you press out any excess air, but be careful not to smush all the filling out.

Keep going until you've used all your wonton wraps/filling/whatever comes first. Or you just get tired.*

Boil water, add salt. Drop in ravioli no more than about 5 at a time to prevent sticking (I added some olive oil to the water to prevent this but you still need to be careful). They should only boil for about 1-2 minutes max. Use slotted spoon or spatula and place ravioli onto a plate.

Top with your favorite sauce and serve! FYI these would probably be delicious fried and served as hor'deurves with marinara. Yum!

*If you're not going to cook your ravioli right away, place them onto plates (do not overlap them - they will stick) and cover with damp paper towel and saran wrap. Refrigerate until you're ready to cook.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chocolate chip cookies

I've been on such a baking crazy lately, I can't keep up with my blog! It's becoming a compulsion...

I know everyone is always on the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie (as am I) and I think this one may come pretty darn close. I got this recipe from my cousin, who got it from a friend, so my credit goes out to the both of them. The original recipe calls for nuts but I omitted just because I didn't have them around. I love chocolate chip cookies with walnuts though, and will definitely add them next time.

The result was a perfectly chewy middle with a slightly crisp edge, just the way I like it. They stayed this way for several days, although I can't give you an exact amount of time because they were all gone in less than a week.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yields 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup + 2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup chopped nuts
8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cream butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla.
Stir in flour with baking soda and salt; blend into creamed mixture.
Add nuts. Break or cut chocolate bar in to small chunks. Stir into dough.
Drop onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. Cool.

*My cousin uses Trader Joe's Bittersweet pound plus bar (use half or more). I didn't have time to wait in the endless lines at Trader Joe's so I used regular semi-sweet chocolate chips for mine. I'll definitely have to try her way though!