Applesauce Carrot Cake

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This carrot cake recipe comes from The Little Pie Company, which makes amazing desserts.  It’s moist, with lots of textures and flavors, and cuts down on cholesterol by using a combination of egg whites and applesauce.

 

Applesauce Carrot Cake
Adapted from The Little Pie Company’s Pies and Other Dessert Favorites

Yield: 9″ x 13″ cake or two-layer 9″ round cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4-1 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you want it
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce, thick and smooth
  • 1/2 cup egg whites (from about 4 large eggs) OR 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flavorless vegetable oil, such as canola
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups finely shredded raw carrots (about 2 large carrots)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut (the packaged variety)
  • 1/2 cup raisins OR coarsely chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts OR pecans
  • Cream cheese frosting

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Grease and flour a 9″ x 13″ baking pan or two 9″ round cake pans.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, stir together applesauce, egg whites OR eggs, oil, and vanilla on low speed.
  3. On medium speed, beat in sugar, baking soda, and cinnamon.
  4. Stir in flour and beat on medium speed until well blended.
  5. Stir in carrots, coconut, dried fruit, and nuts.
  6. Pour batter into pan(s) and smooth the top.
  7. Bake for about 35 minutes in a 9″ x 13″ pan, or 25 minutes in round cake pans.  The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and when touching the center with your finger leaves only a faint impression.
  8. Cool cake to room temperature on wire rack.  (You can turn out the cake onto the racks when it’s cool enough to touch, but I just left them in the pans.)
  9. While cake is cooling, prepare cream cheese frosting.
  10. Frost cake after it has cooled completely.
  11. Store cake in the refrigerator, covered.  You can serve it immediately, but the flavors will develop as it stands and the cake will taste even better on the second day.

Classic Berry Tart

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Since berry season is upon us, what can be more refreshing than a berry tart?  The sweetness of the pastry cream filling complements the tartness of the fruit nicely.

 

Classic Berry Tart
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Yield: 9-inch tart

For pastry cream filling:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons+2 teaspoons (1/6 cup) cornstarch, sifted if you have the patience
  • About 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits, at room temperature

For tart shell:

  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup almond flour OR 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For topping:

  • 1 pint fresh raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, or strawberries, or a mix of them
  • 2 ripe kiwis

 

  1. Butter a 9-inch springform pan or 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.  (I skipped this step and it was fine.)
  2. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat butter on medium speed until creamy.
  3. Beat in egg yolk.
  4. Add flour, almond flour if using, confectioners’ sugar, and salt and beat on low speed until mixture just clumps together into a rough ball.
  5. Knead dough gently to incorporate any dry ingredients left.  (At this point, you can wrap the dough well and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.)
  6. Press dough into the bottom of the pan, spreading dough evenly across the bottom and 1-2 inches up the sides.  Save a little piece of dough in the refrigerator in case the crust cracks during baking and you need to patch it later.
  7. Freeze crust in pan for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.  (At this point, you can wrap the unbaked crust and keep it in the freezer for up to 2 months.  Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.)
  8. While crust is freezing, make the filling.  In a small pot on the stove, bring the milk to a boil.
  9. Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until well-blended and thick.
  10. Whisking without stopping, drizzle in about 2 tablespoons of the hot milk — this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they don’t curdle — then, still whisking, add the remainder of the milk in a steady stream.
  11. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking constantly (make sure to get in the edges of the pan), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 minute, then remove the pan from the heat.
  12. Whisk in vanilla extract.
  13. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the pastry cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate it or, if you want to cool the pastry cream quickly, put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is fully chilled, about 20 minutes. (At this point, you can keep the pastry cream, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)
  14. While filling is cooling, center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375°F.
  15. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust.  (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.)
  16. Put pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes.
  17. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon.  If there are any cracks in the crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges, and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust.
  18. Bake for another 8 minutes, or until it is firm and golden brown.  (Dorie Greenspan suggests keeping the crust in the oven for just a few minutes longer if you dislike lightly baked crusts.  Keep a close eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn.)  Again, if there are any cracks in the crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges, and very gently smooth the edges into crust.  Bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to take the rawness off the patch.
  19. Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.
  20. When you are ready to assemble the tart, peel and thinly slice 2 kiwis.  Rinse berries and gently pat dry with a paper towel.  If using strawberries, either halve them from top to bottom or slice them.
  21. Whisk the pastry cream vigorously to loosen it and spoon into the tart shell, stopping just short of the crust’s rim — you want to leave room for the topping.
  22. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
  23. Arrange kiwi slices across the surface of the pastry cream.  Heap berry mixture in the center.
  24. Serve tart as soon as possible after assembling it, certainly on the same day.  If you need to keep it for a few hours, cover it and store in the refrigerator, keeping it away from any foods with strong odors.

Bagels

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If you don’t live near a good bagel shop or if you just enjoy a challenge, these bagels are really fun to make and taste great.

To mix home-made high-gluten flour, we combined 98% King Arthur bread flour with 2% Bob’s Red Mill wheat gluten (which said it was 75-80% gluten) by weight.  Although I rarely weigh out my ingredients, this recipe is a lot simpler if you use a kitchen scale!

Original recipe

 

Bagels
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 12 bagels

For sponge:

  • 1 teaspoon (0.11 oz) instant yeast OR active dry yeast
  • 4 cups (18 oz) unbleached high-gluten flour OR bread flour OR home-made high-gluten flour (see above)
  • 2 1/2 (20 oz) cups warm water

For dough

  • 1/2 teaspoon (0.055 oz) instant yeast OR active dry yeast
  • 3 3/4 cups (17 oz) unbleached high-gluten flour OR bread flour OR home-made high-gluten flour (see above)
  • 2 3/4 teaspoons (0.7 oz) salt
  • 2 teaspoons (0.33 oz) malt powder OR 1 tablespoon (0.5 oz) dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar

To Finish:

  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting baking sheets
  • Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, rehydrated dried minced garlic or onions, ground cinnamon, etc.

 

Day 1:

  1. To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl.
  2. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter).
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly.  It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the counter.
  4. To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir.
  5. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt.
  6. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough.
  7. Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour – all ingredients should be hydrated. The dough should pass the windowpane test. If the dough seems dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.
  8. Immediately divide the dough into 12 (4.5-oz) pieces and form them into balls.
  9. Cover the balls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.
  10. Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil.
  11. Poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2.5 inches in diameter. The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots.)
  12. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and slip each pan into a food-grade plastic bag, or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
  13. Place pan in refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days).

Day 2:

  1. Position racks to divide oven into thirds and preheat to 500ºF.  While oven preheats, bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better; it doesn’t have to be very deep), and add the baking soda.  Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.
  2. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minute, flip them over and boil for another minute.
  3. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour.  (If you decide to replace the paper, be sure to spray the new paper lightly with spray oil to prevent the bagels from sticking to the surface.)
  4. If you want to top the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water.  You can use any of the suggestions in the ingredients list or a combination thereof.
  5. When all the bagels have been boiled, bake bagels for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180º rotation.  (If you are baking only 1 pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180º.)
  6. After the rotation, continue baking for 5-10 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer.
  7. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.

Chocolate Cream Tart

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This chocolate cream tart has a crisp, buttery shortbread crust and smooth filling.  You can serve it with or without the whipped cream topping, but be forewarned that without, the chocolate flavor is very intense!

 

Chocolate Cream Tart
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Yield: 9-inch tart

For tart crust:

  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For filling:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and at room temperature

For topping (optional but recommended):

  • 1/2 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Cocoa powder for dusting

 

  1. Butter a 9-inch springform pan or 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.  (I skipped this step and it was fine.)
  2. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat butter on medium speed until creamy.
  3. Beat in egg yolk.
  4. Add flour, cocoa, confectioners’ sugar, and salt and beat on low speed to start mixing the ingredients together.
  5. You won’t be able to beat in most of the dry ingredients, so use your hands to knead until you have a dark brown ball of dough.  (At this point, you can wrap the dough well and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.)
  6. Press dough into the bottom of the pan, spreading dough evenly across the bottom and 1-2 inches up the sides.  Save a little piece of dough in case the crust cracks during baking and you need to patch it later.
  7. Freeze crust in pan for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.  (At this point, you can wrap the unbaked crust and keep it in the freezer for up to 2 months.  Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.)
  8. While crust is freezing, make the filling.  In a small pot on the stove, bring the milk to a boil.
  9. Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar, cornstarch, and salt until well-blended and thick.
  10. Whisking without stopping, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk — this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they don’t curdle — then, still whisking, add the remainder of the milk in a steady stream.
  11. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking constantly (make sure to get in the edges of the pan), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1-2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
  12. Whisk in the melted chocolate.
  13. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the custard is smooth and silky. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the custard to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the custard or, if you want to cool the custard quickly, put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water and stir the custard occasionally until it is fully chilled, about 20 minutes. (At this point, you can keep the custard, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)
  14. While filling is cooling, center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375°F.
  15. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust.  (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.)
  16. Put pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes.
  17. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon.  If there are any cracks in the crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges, and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust.
  18. Bake for another 8 minutes, or until it is firm.  Again, if there are any cracks in the crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges, and very gently smooth the edges into crust.  Bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to take the rawness off the patch.
  19. Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.
  20. When you are ready to assemble the tart, whisk the chocolate cream vigorously to loosen it and to bring back its velvety texture.
  21. Spoon the cream into the tart shell, stopping just short of the crust’s rim (you may have some left over) — you want to leave room for the topping. Smooth the top and, if you are not serving the tart immediately, press a piece of plastic wrap against the cream and refrigerate the tart until needed (or up to 6 hours).
  22. If desired, make the topping.  Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream until it just starts to thicken.  Beat in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until the cream holds firm peaks.  Spread the whipped cream over the tart and smooth it with a metal icing spatula or, if you prefer swirls, go for them.  Serve the tart now or refrigerate it for up to 2 hours before serving.
  23. When you are ready to serve the tart, lightly dust the top with cocoa powder.

 

Mexican Chocolate Cake with Cinnamon Mascarpone Frosting

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This is one of my favorite cakes, with the hint of spiciness coming from the cayenne pepper in the cake itself, and the wonderful cinnamon mascarpone frosting.

Original recipe

 

Mexican Chocolate Cake with Cinnamon Mascarpone Frosting
Adapted from Baked Bree

Yield: Two 8-inch two-layer cakes

For cake:

  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 – 1 1/4 cups sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (chili powder works if you don’t have cayenne pepper)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil OR vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

For topping:

  • 1 (8-oz) tub of mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Extra cinnamon for sprinkling on top (optional)

 

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350ºF.  Spray two 8-inch round pans with cooking spray.  Put a piece of parchment on the bottom of the pan and spray again.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl, stir together cocoa powder, flour, sugars, cinnamon, baking soda, cayenne powder, and salt.
  3. Add milk, oil, eggs, balsamic vinegar, and vanilla extract.
  4. Mix on medium speed until batter is smooth.
  5.  Pour batter into pans.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Let cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove cakes from pans and let cool completely on rack.
  8. When cakes have cooled, make the frosting.  Whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form.
  9. In another bowl, use a sturdy rubber spatula to stir together mascarpone, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and sugar.  Whisk mixture until smooth.
  10. Add one large spoonful of whipped cream into mascarpone mixture and stir in with spatula to lighten the mixture.
  11. Gently fold remaining whipped cream into mascarpone mixture in 3 additions.
  12. Using a long serrated knife, split each cake in half.
  13. Use half of the frosting to fill and frost each cake.
  14. Sprinkle cinnamon on top of each cake for garnish, if desired.

Cream Scones

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Serve these scones fresh out of the oven with clotted cream, jam, and Earl Grey tea for an English tea party.

 

Cream Scones
From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Yield: 12 scones

  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup cold heavy cream
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
  • 3/4 cup moist, plump currants OR dried cranberries

 

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together egg and cream.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Drop in the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour.
  5. Quickly, working with your fingertips or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly.  The pieces will range in size from oatmeal flakes to peas.
  6. Add currants OR cranberries and toss with a fork to mix in.
  7. Pour egg and cream over dry ingredients and stir with a fork just until the dough, which will be wet and sticky, comes together.  Don’t overdo it.
  8. Still in the bowl, gently knead dough by hand, or turn it with a rubber spatula 8-10 times.
  9. Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn out dough.
  10. Divide it in half.
  11. Working with one piece at a time, pat dough into a rough circle about 5 inches in diameter, cut it into 6 wedges, and place it on the baking sheet.  (At this point, the scones can be frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight. Don’t defrost before baking; just add about 2 minutes to the baking time.)
  12. Bake scones for 20-22 minutes, or until their tops are golden and firm-ish.
  13. Transfer them to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before serving, or wait for them to cool to room temperature.  They’re best soon after they’re made.
  14. Scones can be cooled to room temperature, wrapped airtight, and frozen for up to 2 months.  They can be reheated in the oven at 350ºF.

 

 

 

Lamb Chops Sizzled with Garlic

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Garlic lovers, this one is for you!  If your lamb chops are thicker than the recommended 1/2 inch, use the cooking directions from here.

Original recipe

 

Lamb Chops Sizzled with Garlic
From Food & Wine

Yield: 8 lamb chops

  • Eight 1/2-inch-thick lamb loin chops (about 2 pounds), fatty tips trimmed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, extra-virgin if you have it
  • 10 small garlic cloves, halved
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh if you have it
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)

 

  1. Season the lamb with salt and pepper and sprinkle lightly with thyme.
  2. In a very large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering.
  3. Add the lamb chops and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until the chops are browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes.
  4. Turn the chops and garlic and cook until the chops are browned, about 2 minutes longer for medium meat.
  5. Transfer the chops to plates, leaving the garlic in the skillet.
  6. Add the water, lemon juice, parsley, and crushed red pepper (if using) to the pan and cook, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom, until sizzling, about 1 minute.
  7. Pour the garlic and pan sauce over the lamb chops and serve immediately.