Monday, August 29, 2011

Recipe for Three-Berry Buttermilk Cake

Three-Berry Buttermilk Cake
I have never met an upside down cake that I didn’t like, and this one is my new favorite.

When the recipe appeared in the June issue of Bon Appetit, I rushed to make it, using the peaches and blueberries I had on hand instead of the blackberries. Round two was again peaches and blueberries.

The third time (can you tell I like this cake?), I used blackberries but delved into a stash of raspberries and blueberries in order to cover the cake sufficiently.

Really, the cake will work with just about any kind of fruit, but do use blackberries if you can get your hands on some.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Peanut Butter Pie of Love and Loss

Peanut Butter Pie from In Jennie’s Kitchen
This creamy peanut butter pie is dedicated to someone I’ve never met. It is for Jennifer Perillo, the talented blogger of In Jennie’s Kitchen, whose husband Mikey died earlier this month. He was very young, just 51, and leaves behind two little girls.

Just days after Mikey’s death, Jennifer posted about one of her husband’s favorite desserts, a creamy peanut butter pie with chocolate cookie crust.

“I kept telling myself I would make it for him tomorrow,” she wrote. “Time has suddenly stood still, though, and I'm waiting to wake up and learn to live a new kind of normal. For those asking what they can do to help my healing process, make a peanut butter pie this Friday and share it with someone you love. Then hug them like there’s no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on.”

Food bloggers and readers made this pie on Aug. 12, and many others have shared it since. An outpouring of thoughtfulness led to the creation of Bloggers Without Borders, a nonprofit organization to connect bloggers with those in need. Its current project is #AFundforJennie designed to help Jennie and her two daughters with financial security.

My husband loves peanut butter pie, and yet I have never made it for him—until now. Here is the recipe, in Jennifer’s own words, in case you’d like to make it for someone you love.

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie
from In Jennie’s Kitchen

8 ounces chocolate cookies
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 ounces finely chopped chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup creamy-style peanut butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 – 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs.  Combine melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well.  Press mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave.  Pour over bottom of cookie crust and spread to the edges using an off-set spatula.  Sprinkle chopped peanuts over the melted chocolate. Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form.  Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator until ready to use.  Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a deep bowl.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner's sugar.  Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.

Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (helps lighten the batter, making it easier to fold in the remaining whipped cream).  Fold in the remaining whipped cream.  Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan.  Drizzle the melted chocolate on top, if using, and refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

From Paris Sweets: Fresh Strawberry Tart with Marshmallows

Strawberry Tart with Marshmallows adapted from Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan

Supply, time and refrigerator capacity challenge the seasonal cook, especially if she is tries to rely on locally grown produce.

Strawberry season was too short, but I always say that.

I was in a quandary this year about what to do with the berries. I knew that if I didn’t make jam I would regret it come, oh, January when the nights are long and the daylight is puny and cold. But to make even three jars of jam the old-fashioned way requires a good two pounds of berries.

That cut into a supply already diminished by the “car-loss factor” which occurs when the driver eats the warm and juicy berries as she drives home from the market.

Timing is especially critical for fresh-berry desserts and it’s tough to decide what to make.

I was on track to make this fresh strawberry tart with marshmallows in June. Instead, I chose another French dessert, one that has been stalking me since I had it at Lenôtre on a sunny Parisian day.

I had to get it out of my head and onto a plate.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Recipe for Chard Gratin with Parmesan Bechamél and Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs

Red-Stemmed Chard

It was love at first sight.

I’m talking about red-stemmed Swiss chard, surely among the most attractive of leafy edibles, with its  ruby stems and veins coursing through a nutritious, deep green landscape.

Red, gold and purple stemmed chards are newer cultivars of the older green-stemmed variety. And from what I’ve read in various sources, there is nothing Swiss about it. Chard originated in the Mediterranean, where the French now call it blette and the Italians bietole. It was a Swiss botanist (Koch) who gave chard its scientific name. Seed catalogs in the 19th Century added the Swiss name to distinguish chard seeds from those of the cardoon because evidently the French were calling both plants carde due to their similar thick stems. (One source of the saga is here.)

When cooked, chard melts into a grayish green shade, retaining little of its former glory. It also bears  flavor that may put off some eaters at first. Chard tastes earthy like its cousin the beet. Perfect for a gratin.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Summer Cake with Cornmeal and Amaretto Peaches, Plus a Second Variation

Summer Cake with Cornmeal and Amaretto Peaches
Thinking about this cake was almost as fun as baking and tasting.

Abby Dodge offered a Twitter #baketogether challenge for July and I enjoyed pondering variations of her recipe. I’d think about it while washing dishes, exercising, eating other meals. I know I’m not the only one whose mind wanders in this way.

My version substitutes locally produced cornmeal for half of the flour. You could call this a very sweet and moist cornbread. For a frame of reference, this cake is more moist than an Italian polenta cake tends to be.

For the fruit, I selected peaches because I love how the flavor deepens after baking. The peaches hail from Missouri because I’m told peaches do not grow so well in Iowa. (Iowa State University, would you please get on that and develop some Iowa peaches?)

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