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Pumpkin Bundt Cake

19 October 2013

Pumpkin Bundt Cake

 

Much to my surprise, I discovered earlier this week that I haven’t featured a single cake recipe on this blog over the course of its nearly 3 year existence. This was a somewhat shocking development, particularly considering how much (and often) I enjoy a delicious fetta di torta.

It is my pleasure, therefore, to feature this seasonally-appropriate – and exceptionally yummy – recipe for pumpkin cake. This torta holds a very special place in my heart, as it was a particular favorite of my beloved grandmother, the late (and great) Bonnie Jean. She baked this cake – a moist bundt chocked full of walnuts and semi-sweet chocolate chips – each and every year throughout my childhood. Its appearance always coincided with falling leaves, crisp morning air, and steaming mugs of apple cider; it was, and will always be, my favorite culinary harbinger of fall.

Enjoy served slightly warm with or without ice cream. Leftovers hold up very well to several weeks of freezing. Buon appetito!

 

PUMPKIN BUNDT CAKE

Serves: 12

 

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground allspice

2 cups finely granulated sugar

4 fresh eggs

2 cups pureed pumpkin

1 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups bran flakes

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Confectioner’s sugar

 

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Lightly oil a bundt pan and set aside.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, and caster sugar. Add eggs one at a time to dry ingredients and whisk well.

3.  Add pumpkin and vegetable oil and stir until thoroughly combined. Gently stir in bran flakes, semi-sweet chocolate and walnuts.

4.  Pour into prepared bundt pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in cake comes out clean.

5.  Invert onto a wire rack and cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

 

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Savory Butternut Squash Bake

14 October 2013

Savory Butternut Squash Bake

 

Sometimes I put a lot of effort into making these blog posts clever or witty, but today is not the day for that kind of rubbish. Instead, today is the day for stuffing your face with this AWESOME CHEESY SQUASH BAKE!

I know what you’re thinking: butternut squash and blue cheese? Gross! But holy cow, this recipe was a huge, very pleasant surprise. Some of my guests thought it tasted like stuffing, while others compared it to rich, cheesy mashed potatoes, but all agreed it was absolutely delicious. It takes less than one hour to prepare from start to finish, but can also be assembled (and refrigerated) up to one day in advance of baking. If you’re on the lookout for a new, vegetarian-friendly side or main dish, I can’t recommend this more highly. Enjoy, and buon appetito!

 

SAVORY BUTTERNUT SQUASH BAKE

Serves: 4-6

 

1 (4 pound) butternut squash (peeled, seeded + cubed)

1/3 yellow onion, minced

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs

1 tbsp minced fresh thyme

4 ounces crumbled blue cheese*

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

*If you don’t care for the blue cheese in this recipe, feta and goat’s cheese are great substitutes!

 

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (220 degrees Celsius).

2.  Toss the squash, onion, olive oil, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, thyme, and blue cheese in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Pour the mixture into an 8×8-inch baking dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup breadcrumbs over the squash.

3.  Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

 

Rustic Apple Galette

8 October 2013

Rustic Apple Galette

 

Despite Mother Nature’s continued refusal to acknowledge the obvious – that it is, in fact, AUTUMN in southern California – I have decided to forge ahead with my collection of fall recipes. The first dessert feature of the season goes to this rustic apple galette: a free-form, crusty tart filled with lightly sweetened apples. I found the recipe – originally contributed by the legendary Jacques Pépin and Grace Parisi – in the September 2003 edition of Food & Wine magazine. I made only minor variations (because seriously, you don’t fool around with a Pépin creation!), and absolutely LOVE the result. With buttery, flaky crust and insanely delicious filling, this tart is already lodged in my ‘make this again ASAP’ folder!

A couple of notes: first, this is – HANDS DOWN – the best and easiest pie crust I’ve ever made. I’ve experimented with dozens of recipes over the past decade, and this one beats them all by leaps and bounds. The dough is incredibly easy to assemble and manipulate (there’s no chilling required!), and bakes up like an absolute dream! Second, I highly recommend following Pépin and Parisi’s instruction to use Golden Delicious apples. As the picture above indicates, I used Granny Smiths – this was an unfortunate mistake. While they hold up well to baking, I found them slightly too tart for this recipe. If you aren’t able to find Golden Delicious at your local grocer or farmer’s market (as I wasn’t), substitute with a sweeter variety like Honeycrisp, Mutsu or Pink Lady.

This galette is heaven served warm with vanilla bean ice cream. If you’d like to make ahead or have leftovers (good luck!), the baked tart can be stored overnight at room temperature and reheated in a 325 degree Fahrenheit (160 degree Celsius) oven. Enjoy, and buon appetito!

 

RUSTIC APPLE GALETTE

Serves: 6

 

1 1/2 cups + 1 tbsp all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) cold unsalted butter (cut into 1/2-inch pieces), + 2 tbsp, melted

1/3 cup ice water

3 1/2 tbsp finely granulated sugar

4 large Golden delicious apples (peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices)

 

1.  In a large food processor, pulse 1 1/2 cups flour with the salt. Add the cold butter and process just until the butter is the size of peas (approximately 5 seconds). Sprinkle with ice water and process just until moistened (approximately 5 seconds). Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times, just until it comes together. Pat the dough into a disk and roll into a 16- or 17-inch round approximately 1/4-inch thick.

2.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer the dough to the parchment (rolling the dough around your rolling pin helps considerably with this step!).

3.  In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the sugar with the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour and sprinkle over the dough. Arrange the apple slices on top in overlapping concentric circles to within approximately 3 inches of the edge. Fold the dough over the apples in a free-form fashion. Brush the apples with the melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar. Refrigerate the unbaked tart for 10 minutes.

4.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). Bake the tart in the center of the oven for 1 hour, or until the apples are tender and golden and the crust is deep golden and cooked through. Slide the parchment onto a wire rack and let the tart cool slightly before serving.

 

Cauliflower + Leek Soup with Bacon Gremolata

1 October 2013

Cauliflower + Leek Soup with Bacon Gremolata

 

I was hoping to wait until temps cooled down to post a new soup recipe – because really, what’s better on a crisp autumn day than homemade soup? – but unfortunately the weather in southern California isn’t remotely interested in cooperating with me. Seriously, a high of 79 degrees on the first day of October?? I miss seasons. And pumpkins. And apple cider, corn mazes, falling leaves and hay rides. A lot.  :(

What was this post about again? Oh right, soup. This recipe is actually a combination of two I found, each with their own individual merits. The first is from the Spring 2012 edition of the British magazine Women & Home – Feel Good Food. I was drawn to this recipe because 1) it contains a lot of garlic, which.is.awesome. and 2) I’m a big fan of gremolata. For those unfamiliar with the term, gremolata is a chopped herb condiment typically composed of lemon zest, garlic and parsley. Here, I’ve added toasted breadcrumbs and, in what I consider a stroke of sheer genius, crumbled bacon. That’s where the second recipe comes in. Featured on the foodie blog Authentic Plate, it substitutes bacon fat for butter in the process of cooking the leeks and garlic. This makes the recipe both slightly lower in cholesterol and considerably higher in bacon-y goodness (in other words: better).

The recipe below yields a much more flavorful soup than most other versions I’ve tried, and is extremely easy to prepare from start to finish. Enjoy, and buon appetito!

 

CAULIFLOWER + LEEK SOUP WITH BACON GREMOLATA

Serves: 4-6

 

Soup:

2 strips of bacon

2 leeks, cleaned and sliced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 small heads of cauliflower, florets separated and large ones chopped

2 cups hot chicken stock

Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon

Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Gremolata:

1/3 cup breadcrumbs

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large garlic clove, minced

Zest of two fresh lemons

3 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

 

1.  Heat bacon in a skillet over medium to medium-high heat. The bacon should be crispy enough to crumble in a later step. Transfer cooked bacon to a paper towel to drain.

2.  Add sliced leeks and garlic to rendered bacon fat and cook over gentle heat for approximately 5 minutes, or until softened. Transfer cooked leeks and garlic to a larger saucepan or soup pot.

3.  Add the cauliflower to the previously-used skillet and saute for 2-3 minutes (this step brings out the nutty flavor in the cauliflower). Transfer cauliflower to the pot with other vegetables. Add the chicken stock and simmer for approximately 15 minutes, or until the florets are tender. Blend (using an immersion or standing blender) until soup is smooth. Taste, season (it will need a fair amount of salt!) and add lemon juice.

4.  While the soup is cooking, make the gremolata. Add the oil and breadcrumbs to a frying pan and cook on gentle heat until crisp and golden. Stir through the garlic, lemon zest and parsley. Crumble the bacon and add to the mixture, stirring well to combine.

5.  Serve the soup warm with gremolata sprinkled on top.

 

Individual Blackberry Cobblers

20 September 2013

Individual Blackberry Cobbler

 

Blackberry cobbler is – HANDS DOWN – my favourite summer dessert. As soon as I spotted the world’s largest blackberries for sale at my local farmer’s market last weekend, I knew cobbler was in my near future.  I used a recipe that – while in my family for decades – differs from others floating around the Internet these days. It’s actually a recipe for ‘cottage pudding’ featured in the 1918 edition of the AMAZING Fannie Farmer cookbook (if you don’t have one, visit your local bookstore ASAP!!). With the addition of fresh berries, the original Fannie Farmer recipe becomes the BEST cobbler you will ever taste! And by ‘taste’, I mean DEVOUR.

While I divided the recipe into individual serving-size portions, it can just as easily be made in a shallow baking dish. Buon appetito!

 

INDIVIDUAL BLACKBERRY COBBLERS

Makes: 4 servings

 

2 cups fresh blackberries

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup finely granulated sugar

1 large egg, beaten

1/2 cup reduced-fat milk

1/2 cup butter + extra for greasing

 

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). Grease four 6-ounce ramekins with butter.

2.  Rinse blackberries and pat dry. Set aside.

3.  In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In a separate bowl, mix the egg, milk and melted butter. Stir gently into the flour mixture to combine.

4.  Place a layer of blackberries in the bottom of each ramekin. Spoon a layer of batter over the berries, repeating this process until the ramekin is full (I like to add several berries to the top of the final batter layer). Transfer ramekins to a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

5.  Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes (cobbler topping should begin to brown lightly at the edges). Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

 

Toasted Almond Brittle

30 April 2013

Almond Brittle

 

My mum and I made this SUPER easy recipe for brittle (courtesy of Cooking Light magazine) last weekend. Holy cow – AMAZING!! The crunchy sweetness of this almond version beats the peanut variety any day. Low fat, low calorie AND ready in under 45 minutes? Yes please!!

Enjoy, and buon appetito!

 

TOASTED ALMOND BRITTLE

Serves: 12 to 14

 

1 cup finely granulated sugar

1/2 cup lightly-colored corn syrup

3/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds, toasted

1 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/8 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

 

1.  Line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

2.  Combine sugar and syrup in a 2-quart microwave bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes (sugar mixture will appear clear and bubbly).

3.  Stir in almonds. Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes or until mixture is a light caramel color, stirring every minute.

4.  Stir in butter, vanilla and salt. Microwave on HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes or until mixture is the color of peanut butter. Add baking soda and stir until the mixture is foamy.

5.  Quickly pour mixture onto prepared pan. Spread to 1/4-inch thickness and let stand for 30 minutes. Break brittle into pieces to serve.

 

Per serving:  142 calories, 4 grams fat (0.8 grams saturated), 1.3 grams protein, 27.3 grams carbohydrates, 0.8 grams fiber, 2 mg cholesterol, 0.2 mg iron, 136 mg sodium.

 

Orange Cheesecake Tart with Roasted Plums

31 March 2013

Orange Cheesecake Tart with Roasted Pllums

 

ORANGE CHEESECAKE TART WITH ROASTED PLUMS

Serves: 8

 

Crust

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1/4 cup icing sugar

9 tbsp cold butter, chopped

2 egg yolks

2 tbsp iced water

 

Filling

18 oz cream cheese, softened

1 tbsp finely grated orange rind

2/3 cup finely granulated sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tbsp plain flour

1/4 cup orange juice

 

Topping

8 small red or black plums, quartered

2 tbsp orange juice

2 tbsp brown sugar

 

1.  Grease a rectangular (19cm x 27cm) or circular (26cm) loose-based flan tin.

2.  To make crust, process flour, icing sugar and butter until crumbly. Add egg yolks and iced water; pulse until ingredients come together. Knead dough on floured surface until smooth. Wrap in plastic; refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3.  Roll chilled dough between sheets of baking paper until large enough to line tin; press into sides, trim edges. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

4.  Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius/350 degrees Fahrenheit.

5.  Cover pastry with baking paper, fill with dried beans or rice; place on oven tray. Bake 10 minutes. Remove paper and beans; bake 10 minutes or until pastry is browned lightly. Cool.

6.  Reduce oven temperature to 160 degrees Celsius/325 degrees Fahrenheit.

7.  To make filling, beat cream cheese, rind and sugar in the medium bowl of an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add remaining ingredients; beat until smooth.

8.  Pour filling into cooled crust and bake for 50 minutes. Cool tart, then refrigerate for 3 hours.

9. To make topping, increase oven temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit/200 degrees Celsius. Place quartered plums in a single layer on a baking tray; sprinkle with juice and sugar. Roast plums for 20 minutes or until soft. Cool.

10.  Serve tart topped with roasted plums.