Archive for the ‘dessert’ Category

For some people, there’s nothing like scent that bring them back to a half-remembered past. For people who grew up with allergies like me, those memories come back through sound.

After dinner with friends last night, we sat around a television to hang out, and I put on a Muppet Christmas Carol on Netflix. I had meant for it to be background noise that would make the room feel more like Christmas, but found out that it was one of our friend’s favorite movies, and so it turned into the main event. A few minutes into watching it, I realized I had never seen it — I just thought I had because the opening sequence was the trailer preceding another Muppet movie my older sister bought for our baby sister on the first Christmas break that she returned from boarding school. As I watched this movie, a million feelings came back: being ten; my awe of the United States from my sisters’ stories, gifts, and pictures; watching my little sister grow up, feeding her solid food while she watched Gonzo; how special that Christmas felt because after my sister being away for a semester, I realized how precious our time together as a family was.  All this from watching the first five minutes of Rizzo and Gonzo talk and sing about Michael Caine in the late 19th century. Memory is a funny thing.

Tonight’s dessert: a mix of the recent past (Thanksgiving) and present (Christmas):  swirled pumpkin chocolate cheesecake

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crust

  • 1/4 cup melted butter (1/2 stick)
  • crushed graham crackers (half a box)

filling

  • two packages (or one pound) of cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup of sugar (half white, half brown)
  • three eggs
  • one cup of pumpkin puree
  • half tsp cinnamon
  • half tsp nutmeg
  • one tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 oz chocolate, melted in a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water

To make the crust, crush half a box of graham crackers (two packages from the Nabisco brand) in a food processor, then add the melted butter and process until the powdery grahams turn into a wet sand. Pour the wet sand into a spring form pan that’s been greased and press with your fingers all around to create a  nice brown floor. Stick this in the freezer for ten minutes.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Blend the softened cream cheese in a stand mixer until smooth, then add the sugar and blend. Once mixed thoroughly, add the rest of the ingredients, except the melted chocolate. Pour one cup of this mixture to the melted chocolate, and then the rest into the now slightly frozen spring form pan. Then, add two teaspoonful dollops of the melted chocolate into the spring form, too, as though making polka dots. To make a marbled design, run a toothpick or knife through the polka dots, and create a letter L, making sure not to run the knife too deeply as to upset the graham cracker bottom. Once you’ve created your design, stick the pan in the oven for one hour. Then, remove and cool for 15 minutes before serving.

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Nutella Crepe

Posted: October 28, 2014 in american, dessert
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I have an enormous sweet tooth, as I think I’ve established on this  blog. However, it’s a rare moment when Jimmy gets the pang for something sweet, since he’s more excited by say, fruit, or sushi. It’s slightly embarrassing when we walk into a bakery and I walk out with an enormous slice of buttermilk four chocolate cake, and he’s cradling a two ounce cup of gelato the size of my pinky. So when I heard him wander into the kitchen the other night, murmuring, “Do we have any chocolate?” I was delighted. I’m sure he meant something less involved than this nutella crepe I created, such as a chocolate truffle or a Twix bar, but as they say in this football-frenzied neck of the woods: Go big or go home.

I followed this super easy crepe recipe to make these in 15 minutes flat.

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Heavenly coconut cake

Posted: August 9, 2014 in dessert
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cake

By now you know how much I love cake. I have opinions about cake, bakeries, and cake flavors the way other people have opinions about buying a Dell versus a Mac, a ball point versus ink pen, or Delta over American Airlines. Cake is just something I happen to care about.

So it should surprise no one who knows me well (or at least those who read this blog) that during the wedding planning process, the one thing I was most excited about was getting a delicious wedding cake. I didn’t care about the aesthetics, just that it would taste good. Because I would be nowhere near the bakery or our wedding site until the week before the wedding, my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law went to the patisserie for a taste trial, and they said that the best cake there was the coconut cake with chocolate ganache covered in almond slivers, so that’s what we chose.

I have been dreaming about that cake since my wedding.

Until my wedding, I did not realize how light, delicate coconut cake could taste and I’ve been searching for the perfect recipe – not too sweet, not too coconut-y, but just a hint pervading throughout. I found this incredible recipe from Epicurious, which I paired with the following frosting from youtube.

The verdict: Indulgent and delicious, one to please and impress. I used unsweetened coconut cream I picked up from Trader Joe’s and I still think I could have cut a 1/4 cup of sugar.

So this has become my new delight: waking up on a Sunday morning to pore over a recipe that I bake rather than stuff into a casserole dish, and watch it rise in the oven. Breads are like magic to me because I love that the rise on their own, before you’ve heated them up. I wasn’t sure it would rise that well in my chilly kitchen, what with Michigan’s polar vortex,  but read a trick that all you have to do is heat your oven to 200 degrees for five minutes, turn it off, and then stick the covered bowl with the dough in there to let it rise for the right amount of time. It worked like a charm and I delighted in watching the dough puff up with air.

cinnamonraisinbread

And of course, the gorgeous moment of cutting into the bread to see the delicate swirls of cinnamon raisin:

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The best part about this recipe is that it isn’t chock full of butter or sugar the way I noticed most cinnamon raisin bread recipes are, yet the bread didn’t turn out dry or tasteless. I followed this recipe word for word.

chocolate chip banana bread

Posted: December 23, 2013 in dessert

Now that I live in Michigan, I’ve found that I rarely have ‘ladies night’ anymore. In New York, ladies night or brunch felt a bit more natural: my friends are mostly female, so when I wanted to see them, we just happened to have ladies night or brunch because we were all ladies. In Michigan, Jimmy and I hang out with mixed groups, we make couple friends, and/or we meet in groups that mean that our general friendships are fairly 50/50. So when a friend said that she was going to have “ladies over” I was excited. While I sometimes feel closeminded when I’m with any homogeneous group, in this case, a gendered one, there’s something freeing about being able to share things that you might not otherwise in a mixed one. PMS? Why not. Tampon trends? Sure. Your last gyno check up? Maybe not, but hey, I won’t judge, this is a safe space.

I did lady things beforehand: painted my nails, picked out a nice outfit, and made banana bread. There’s something about banana bread that feels so delightfully 1950s: you mash up ripe bananas, you preheat the oven, you pull it out with two oven mitts and take it to the party wrapped in a kitchen towel. This recipe turned out well and had half the butter that it usually might, thanks to the Cooking Light recipe: http://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/from-the-editors/banana-bread-recipes-staff-favorites-00400000041611

I just stirred in the chocolate chips afterward.

bananabread

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
  • 1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce (optional)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.
  3. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, yogurt, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. This recipe is further improved and made more moist with 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce. However, the original recipe was written and works without it.
  4. Spoon batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray.
  5. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

This Thanksgiving was a special one for my family. Jimmy and I split up for this holiday – the last year of us doing so, I think – and I spent it with my sisters and met one of my first cousins for the first time in our lives. This meet up has been a long time coming: our fathers are brothers who used to be close, so we grew up receiving pictures of her growing up across the border in Canada. As sisters who ‘grew up’ in the United States, we’ve had an especially strong fascination with meeting our Canadian cousins. Being on the same continent, would they share our more Western culture? Would they think like us, eat like us, speak like us? K. flew into the East Coast for the first time, and there was something quietly comforting to be with her – someone who albeit having never met us before, felt strangely close. She looks like us, writes like us, has similar passions and similar ailments (yes, hairy arms run in the family, we commiserated). As we discovered things that we shared, conversations were not unlike two puppies sniffing each other’s behinds: “Are you puppy, too? Smells like it.” I’ve never been very close to my relatives; I’m either not close enough in age and my introversion gets in the way; I’ve always been fascinated by others who say with certainty that they are friends with theirs.  This Thanksgiving it felt really good to be able to say that I had met another cousin who felt like family.

Today my recipe for cranberry chocolate chip muffins is a sweet start to make use of that leftover cranberry relish. it’s a bit drier than most muffins since they’re the healthy version, so if you’d prefer something less dry and don’t care too much about the arteries, switch out the oil for butter. I got the recipe from Serious Eats.

muffins

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-grain wheat flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups of leftover cranberry sauce
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin tins.

In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, mix wet ingredients. Add them to the dry ingredients and fold them in until well-mixed. Fill muffin tins and heat for 20-22 minutes.

It’s difficult to describe fall outside of its scientific traits to someone who’s never experienced it.  Before coming to the United States, I used to confuse fall for summer and spring all the time, and I have friends who still do the same, given that they live in countries with only two seasons (hot and rainy) and don’t use the four seasonal markers to describe any specific time of year. But really, don’t the seasons mean more to us than just that it each gets three months of the year? I’ve heard people walk into a cozy room and remark that it felt like winter, or watch the flowers in a greenhouse and say that it felt like spring. Fall for me brings the excitement of a new school year and the melancholy of awkwardly learning new experiences in a new place. I’ve only ever moved to a new place in the fall and thus associate the leaves turning brown with a little bit of anxiety. Fall: when it’s crisp and breezy but not so cold that you call it winter; when you hear the crunch of dead leaves under your feet; bust most of all, when you taste and smell hot apple cider, pumpkin soup, and braised turkey. Last night, I wanted to bring a fall dessert to a party, so I went with Smitten Kitchen’s marbled pumpkin cheesecake because the photograph in the cookbook looked so good. I don’t like either pumpkin pie or cheesecake, but together, the two somehow gave birth to this deliciously light but warm breed that tasted like fall.

Seriously, though you must get the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. Just reading it makes me hungry and all the recipes have so far been foolproof.

pumpkin

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust
From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman
Ingredients:
Crust:
4 ounces gingersnap cookies (about 16 cookies), coarsely broken
3 ounces graham crackers (five and a half 2 1/2-by-4 7/8-inch graham-cracker sheets)
4 tablespoons salted butter, melted

Cheesecake batter:
4 ounces cream cheese, well softened
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk

Pumpkin batter:
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Few fresh gratings of nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream

Directions:
Make crust: Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Finely grind the gingersnaps and graham crackers in a food processor (yielding 1 1/2 cups). Add the melted butter, and process until the cookie-crumb mixture is moistened. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet.

Make cheesecake batter: Mix together the ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.

Make pumpkin batter: Beat the egg and the egg white lightly in a large bowl. Whisk in the pumpkin, sugars, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in the cream.

Assemble tart: Pour the pumpkin batter into gingersnap-graham crust. Dollop the cheesecake batter over pumpkin batter, then marble the two together decoratively with a knife. Try not to pierce the bottom crust as you do. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool the tart completely on a rack, or in the fridge if you like it cold. Serve immediately and refrigerate any leftovers.