Showing posts with label fruit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fruit. Show all posts

Friday, January 23, 2015

Quick Puff Pastry Apple Hand Pies

I love apple pie. And I feel pretty confident (correct me if I'm wrong!) that it's a relatively "safe" dessert to serve at a dinner party or bring to a friend's. Most people don't cry, "Oh, the horror! Apple pie! Shield my eyes!" So it's a good go-to dessert. But sometimes I'm just not in the mood to make a big mess in the kitchen or I simply don't have time to start from scratch. Enter: Individual apple hand pies made with puff pastry!

I first learned about this recipe last spring when I was visiting my sister at her house; she had just given birth to my second niece and was now settling back in at home. It was evident that suddenly being catapulted into having two kids under 3 years old who needed constant supervision was going to require quick meals and creativity. My mom was in town staying over to help out and found this pie recipe online. It was so easy that she was able to assemble these pies and still get back to being the supportive mom and grandma requested of her. And the pies were a hit.
These pies are cute (because anything individual-sized is adorable...duh!), delicious, and EASY BREEZY. In fact, you could make them WITH your guests after dinner is over. Because group activities are fun! Just purchase a package of puff pastry that has two sheets in it, make the quick apple filling, and cut up the puff pastry into 9 portions. You sandwich the apple filling between two pieces of puff pastry and create a pie pocket. Add a little decorative fork-tining artwork to the edges, and you've got something that looks impressive but took no time or effort to make. I got ooohs and ahhhhs when I served this at a dinner party, and bonus points: the house smelled amazing! Serve the pies with vanilla bean ice cream for pie a la mode. Soooo good.

Quick Puff Pastry Apple Hand Pies
Adapted from a recipe on submitted by Chef Fifi

1 (17-ounce) package puff pastry that contains two pastry sheets (Trader Joe's sells this!!)
2 medium-sized baking apples (such as Granny Smith, Pippin, or Gravenstein), peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons flour
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg, beaten

Thaw puff pastry according to directions on package.

To make the filling, in a medium bowl, combine apples with sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place 1 sheet of puff pastry on a floured work surface and cut the pastry sheet into nine 3x3-inch squares. Will look like a tic-tac-toe board! Place the squares on an ungreased baking sheet. Scoop approximately 1/4 cup of the apple mixture onto the center of each square. Brush the edges with the beaten egg.

Place the second sheet of puff pastry on the floured work surface and cut the pastry sheet into nine 3x3-inch squares. Place one square on top of each apple filling-topped square on the baking sheet to form a pie pocket! Use your fingers to seal the edges together and then use a fork to go over the edges and create a design (criss-cross or straight or diagonal!).

With a sharp knife, cut a small L-shaped incision, about 1-inch, into the top of each pie and fold back the pastry flap so the pie can let steam escape while baking.

Brush each pie with the remaining egg wash.

Bake until golden brown on top, about 20 minutes. Sometimes I let it go a little longer because I want a darker, crisper crust.

Voila! Instant individual apple pies!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Banana Chocolate Chip Layer Cake with Mocha Frosting

This is not your conventional birthday cake. But it is totally a great birthday cake! Imagine making banana bread in round cake pans instead of a loaf pan. That's essentially what this is. And it's made me rethink all quick breads. What if any loaf could be turned into a layer cake. So much more exciting. And so much more room for frosting. ;)

Pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, lemon poppy seed. Oooh, some of those might go well with a cream cheese frosting, perhaps flavored with orange or lemon zest. This quick breads-turned-layer cakes thing could possibly be a dangerous discovery. I don't have time in my life right now to start a new obsession. Someone needs to write a cookbook on the topic. I should get royalties.

This banana chocolate chip layer cake is everything you want it to be and more. Actually, if we really want to talk about "and more," try changing the frosting to peanut butter, because we all know that bananas, peanut butter, and chocolate go perfectly together. But even as is, I am so happy to have discovered this recipe and I will be making it again for sure.

Not only were the texture and taste great, but from a difficulty level, this cake is easier than other layer cakes. When the two layers bake, they pull away from the edges so nicely and plop right out of their pans without any trouble. They're a little denser than other cakes and therefore less fragile when handling. Sturdier. Forgiving. And when you've made delicate cakes that crumbled when removed from the pan, or broke into four giant chunks in your hand during assembly (and broke your heart!), a forgiving cake is something to be thankful for. Ain't that the truth!

Banana Chocolate Chip Layer Cake with Mocha Frosting
Adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz in Ready for Dessert

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant espresso or coffee powder (you can skip this to avoid caffeine)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream, at room temperature
2 cups banana puree (3 to 4 very ripe bananas)
1 1/4 cups mini chocolate chips

Mocha Frosting
10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee or espresso (or water if you don't want caffeine)
10 tablespoons unsalted or salted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of two 9-inch round cake pans, then place round parchment papers on the bottom.

In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy in texture, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and coffee powder. Add the two eggs, beating well after each addition. Beat in half of the dry ingredients, then add the buttermilk (or other dairy option) and the banana puree. Then beat in the remaining dry ingredients. Stir in the mini chocolate chips just until combined, using a spoon or spatula, not the mixer. You don't want a tough cake, so as soon as the chocolate chips are dispersed, put down the spoon!

Spread the batter evenly among the two prepared cake pans. Bake for about 40 minutes until the tops of the cakes are golden brown and the sides pull away from the edges. I recommend checking the cakes at 30 minutes in case your oven is fast (like mine!). Cool at least 15 minutes in the pans on cooling racks before using a sharp knife to cut around the edges, then inverting onto the racks to finish cooling. Remove the parchment from the bottoms.

To make the frosting, melt the chocolate with the coffee in a medium saucepan or in the microwave, taking care not to burn the chocolate. Stir occasionally. The consistency should be perfectly smooth. Remove from the heat and add in the 10 tablespoons butter, whisking until completely melted and combined.

To assemble the cake, place one of the cake layers upside down on your serving plate. Slide pieces of wax paper or parchment paper under the edges of the cake to protect your serving plate from unruly frosting. Spread about 3/4 cup frosting over the cake. Place the second cake layer on top of the first, standing right side up. Use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Sift the dry ingredients together; set aside...

Beat the butter and sugar together...

Add the vanilla and coffee powder...

Add the eggs, one at a time...

Add half the dry ingredients...

Add the buttermilk and banana puree...

Add the remaining dry ingredients...

Stir in the mini chocolate chips...

Spread evenly in two prepared cake pans...

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes...

To make the frosting, melt the chocolate with the coffee...

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until completely melted and smooth...

Spread about 3/4 cup of cooled frosting onto the first cake layer...

Place the second layer on top of the first...

Frost the outside of the cake with the remaining frosting...

Decorate with the back of a spoon if desired...

Slice and serve!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Evan's Pumpkin Bread with Dates

My brother-in-law is a pretty picky eater. Understatement!!! However, there's pretty much no dessert I make that he won't eat. And that redeems him from whatever pickiness he has for other foods. As long as he eats (and loves) what I make, we can sustain a healthy relationship. And what's more, he often goes for seconds or thirds. What a mensch!

But it's not as often that he actually bothers me to make a recipe twice, still dreaming of that baked good he tasted weeks or months ago. This Pumpkin Bread with Dates is one of those recipes. He first tried it several months ago. And the thought of it has been lingering in his mind and on his taste buds ever since.

Every time I'd see my brother-in-law, he'd ask if I brought him some more of this bread. I got tired of saying no. So finally, the next time I visited him, I brought him a loaf. He couldn't believe it. A whole loaf just for him. Sure, I'm a nice sister-in-law. But to see the look on his face when his dream bread materialized in front of him, I'd do it again in a heartbeat; there was something in it for me, too.

Pumpkin Bread with Dates
Adapted from a recipe by Beth Hensperger in The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Muffins
Makes one 9x5" loaf or two 8x4" loaves

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1/2 cup nut oil, such as walnut or almond, or sunflower seed oil (vegetable/canola works fine, too!)
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (ground nutmeg works well, too)
1 cup coarsely chopped pitted dates

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan or two 8x4-inch pans. You can use butter, shortening, or nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium or large bowl, combine the sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs, and oil. Whisk or beat until smooth, about 1 minute.

In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Beat these dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until smooth and incorporated. Shouldn't take more than 2 minutes. The batter will be thick. Finally, fold the chopped dates into the batter using a large rubber spatula. Don't overmix.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan or pans.

Bake 60 to 70 minutes, until the top is browned and set and you can tell a crust has formed. You'll see a long center crack down the length. Insert a toothpick into the center and if it's done, the toothpick will come out clean. Transfer the pan(s) to a wire rack and let cool in the pan(s) for 10 minutes. Loosen the edges of the loaf with a knife or metal spatula. Invert the loaf onto the rack to cool completely. Serve at room temperature. Or give an entire loaf to your brother-in-law for major bonus points.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Whisk together the pumpkin, sugar, eggs, and oil...

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients...

Beat the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture...

Fold the chopped dates into the batter...

Spread the batter into the prepared pans...

Bake at 350 degrees F for 60 to 70 minutes, then let cool in the pans for 10 minutes...

Remove from pans and allow to cool to room temperature...

Slice and serve!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Apricot Lemon Bars with Hazelnut Crust

Sometimes a few words explain it all. This time, I'm telling my tale with a limerick. Suffice it to say, the addition of apricot to a timeless classic dessert deserves a round of applause.

Apricot Lemon Bar Limerick
by Happy Go Marni

There once was a famous treat:
The lemon bar you thought couldn't be beat.
Then apricot was added
And my tushy was padded
From eating the whole cookie sheet!

Apricot Lemon Bars with Hazelnut Crust
Adapted from a recipe by Alice Medrich in Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies
Makes 16 large (2-inch) bars or 25 smaller bars

Note: Feel free to swap out the hazelnuts in the crust with walnuts, toasted almonds, or another nut.

For the crust:
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1.25 ounces) toasted and skinned hazelnuts
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the topping:
1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (5.5 ounces) apricot preserves
1/3 cup strained fresh lemon juice
2 to 3 tablespoons powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square metal baking pan with foil.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.

To make the crust:
In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and nuts. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the melted butter and the vanilla and pulse just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the mixture begins to form a ball. Remove the dough and knead it on your work surface for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is well combined.

Pour the dough into the bottom of the pan and press it evenly with the back of a spoon or your fingers so that it is even thickness across the bottom. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust is golden in the center, well browned on the edges, and no part looks undercooked.

To make the topping:
While the crust is baking, it's the perfect time to prepare the fruit layer! In a large bowl, stir together the sugar and flour until well combined. Add the eggs and whisk to combine. Stir in the preserves and if you see any large chunks of fruit, break them up. Stir in the lemon juice. When the crust is done, turn the oven down to 300 degrees F. Take the crust out of the oven and pour the filling over the hot crust. Return to the oven.

Bake for 20 to 25 more minutes. You'll know it's done if you tap the pan and the fruit layer does not jiggle like jello; it should be firm. Cool completely on a wire rack in the pan.

When you're ready to serve the bars, lift up the foil that lined the pan and transfer it to a cutting board. Cut the bars with a long sharp knife into squares. If you want, sift powdered sugar over the bars (but don't do this ahead of time; do it just before you serve the bars - or buy non-melting powdered sugar from King Arthur Flour). Store the bars in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
To make the crust, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and nuts in a food processor...

Pulse till the nuts are finely ground...

Add the butter and vanilla...

Mix until the ingredients are moistened and begin to form a ball...

Press the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan...

Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust is golden...

To make the apricot lemon layer, first combine the sugar and flour...
Whisk in the eggs...
Stir in the apricot preserves and break up any large chunks...
Stir in the lemon juice...
Pour the mixture over the hot crust...

Return to the oven and bake at 300 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes...

To cut the cooled bars, lift the foil lining out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Dust with powdered sugar if desired...

Cut into squares and enjoy!
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