Crostata di Marmellata di Fichi

It all started with a jar of jam. A beautiful, urn-like, Costco-sized jug really, filled with sparkling fig jam. Fig is my favorite, next to apricot, and the best brand is Tuna’s (which Caravan stopped carrying!) I was so sad until that moment in Costco. That is, until I got home.
Because, you see, this gorgeous golden Greek jug of hope held a horrible, horrible secret that only revealed itself when you took your first bite. Vanilla. They put FUCKING VANILLA in the jam. It tasted like my father’s pipe tobacco smelled. So, great. Now I had a Costco-sized jug of inedible fig jam taking up precious refrigerator space. And it stayed there for several months while I decided what to do. Then it occurred to me: crostata di mamellata!! Of course. Found a nice nonna recipe on The YouTube. It used oil and eggs in the crust – intriguing! I tried it and took it in to the office. It was lovely, and consumed with glee.

But overall the feedback was that it was too sweet – I’d made the layer of jam too thick. Everyone loved the vanilla now that it was in a tarte. I thought the crust needed a pinch of salt, and would taste better with butter than oil. General consensus was that it tasted like a giant fig newton. I’m cool with that. And realized essentially this is like those stained glass cookies you make for the winter holidays.

Fast forward to Saturday morning, time to try those adaptations. This time the dough mixed in the food processor, and I used melted butter instead of the oil. I thought this was a good idea. Oh, lawdee lawdee lawd. Do not ever do this. Ever. For reals. Learn from my pain. What an awful, greasy glob it made. I hoped by putting it back in the fridge for an hour, it would become useable. It was. Whew, dodged that bullet.

For the sweetness, the second batch which (THANK GAWD) finally ends that damn jar of fig jam, I stirred in the juice of one lemon. That did the trick, and balanced out the sweetness nicely. If I could do dairy, a dollop of mascarpone or plain Greek yogurt would be absolute heaven on this puppy.

The next time I make this, I will use either apricot or bosenberry jam. And I shall feast, betches!

Let’s make this – and I hope you check out the nonna video – I love the Italian technique, whether it is pasta for noodles or for pastry you beat that egg then slowly add in the flour. With your damn hand, dammit. Because centuries of practice going back to the Roman Empire cannot be wrong.

Crostata di marmellata
2 eggs, beaten
½ c. butter, cool-ish
½ c. sugar
1 tsp bkp pwd
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp. salt
2 c. AP Flour
sparkle sugar
Filling: a jar of jam (about 1.5-2c)

Set aside 2Tbsp. of the egg. Preheat your oven to 350*. In the bowl of your food processor, put the dry ingredients and briefly pulse to combine them. Add the butter, pulse til it looks like fine crumbs. Add the liquid, and pulse again to combine.
You will wind up with a crumbly mass. Turn it out on your floured board and gently knead a few times. Cut off 1/3 and set it aside. Roll out the larger piece to fit the bottom and sides of your pan(s). Fit it in the pan and trim the edges. Roll out the remaining dough to the same thickness (about 1/4″) in a big rectangle-ish shape and using a swirly-edged pasta cutter, slice it in to ½” wide strips. place these in the lattice style of your choice on top of the jam, and pinch them in to the dough at the edge. You’ll have many strips left. When that is done, smoosh down the dough at the sides of the pan with your finger, it should be about ¼” higher than the jam. Take the remaining strips and place them around the circumference. Gently brush all the dough with the reserved beaten egg, and sprinkle with the sparkle (or normal, or turbinado) sugar.
Bake 350* for 40m. Cool completely before slicing. Then have with your afternoon caffe with the neighbors.

Pecan Brown Sugar Scones

This is the second attempt at these babies. I’ve been trying to capture Himself’s favorite dessert, pecan pie. Although these are not quite there, they are quite tasty. Hopefully a future post is coming that can be called the pecan pie version. Not today, though. If I make one more batch of these this weekend, I am afraid Himself will have my head.

This version is just sweet enough, with a nice crunch from the nuts, and a little hint of salt in the special icing.

These are a little more fussy than my usual, but don’t be scared off. It’s not hard, there’s just a couple extra bits. But hey! That’s what makes these so special. And pretty enough to get rid of the leftovers to the neighbors!
Shall we?

Pecan Brown Sugar Scones.
yield: 16 mini or 8 large

Scones:
2 c. AP flour
1/2 c. dark brown sugar, plus a little extra for sprinkling
¼ c. toasted chopped pecans
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ c. ice cold butter
¾ c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg separated, with the whites lightly whisked until foamy.
8-16 pretty pecan halves.

Icing:
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbps. water
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. vanilla
1 c. powdered sugar.

Preheat the oven to 375*.

For the Dry, in a medium-sized bowl mix together:
2 c. AP flour
¼ c. dark brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
Mix, then cut in with a pastry cutter:
½ c. ice cold butter
Set aside, and a small bowl mix the wet:
¾ c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg yolk.

Mix the wet in to the dry genty until it is shaggy-looking. Turn on to your board/counter, and gently flold and knead until the tough barely holds tegether. With your board knife, cut the dough in to four equal parts, and gently shape and flatten each in to a disc about 6” across and ½” high. On two of the discs, sprinkle:
¼ c. dark brown sugar
¼ toasted chopped pecans.
With your board knife, gently lift one of the plain discs and set it on top of the nuts/sugared disc. (Do the same for the other) Gently press down, they will kind of stick together. Smooth the outside edge so there’s no brown sugar poking out. (Otherwise, the top half will just slide off the bottom half during baking.) Use your board knife to slice each disc in to 8 wedges. (I do halves, quarters, then eighths). Place about ½” apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toss the pecan halves in the foamy egg whites. Brush the backs and tops of the wedges with the beaten egg white, and place a pecan half on each. (Why not the sides? I don’t know the chemistry of it, but essentially it’ll seal the sides so there’s no where for the scone to rise and expand in the oven.) Sprinkle the moist tops with a little more brown sugar. Bake about 15 – 18 minutes until deep golden. Remove from the oven. and place the scones on a cooling rack. When they are just barely still warm, drizzle with the salted brown sugar icing. (And ermehgerd, this icing! I wanted to just eat it with a spoon. This would be amazeballs on a coffee cake. Soooo yummy.)
The Icing:
In a microwave-safe bowl (or 4 cup pyrex!), put:
2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbps. water
Microwave until it is bubbling. (Mine took about 30 seconds). Stir in:
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. vanilla
1 c. powdered sugar.
Stir. It should be the consistency of a thick icing. Put it in a pastry tube to drizzle over the almost-cool scones. Serve and eat!


Remember to take some to the neighbors!

For the 16-scone version, the nutritional info per scone calculated using the verywell.com site is:
Calories 256
Fat 18.8g
Sodium 132mg
Carbs 19.6g (fiber 2.3g, sugars 5.7g)
Protein 4.3

Green Chili Corn Cakes

Creen Chili Corn Cakes

These are so tender, savory, spicy and sweet, with just a little tooth from the corn kernals. I highly recommend making these immediately for dinner or breakfast. We spread ours with butter and a little drizzle of agave syrup. Total yum. Himself considers them very tasty.

I made these a couple weeks back after I saw a Food52 Instagram post for these masa cakes with cheese and cilantro crema. They looked so very tasty; well, except for the cheese and crema parts in our lactose-impaired household. Modified a bit for our tastes, boy are these amazing. The recipe is brilliant with the addition of some corn starch to the flour – it makes these so very tender.

As always, this recipe needs Hatch green chili. Do not use the mushy tasteless canned things. If you don’t have Hatch, mince up fine a fat jalapeno without the ribs and seeds, but use about 30% less of that than the green chili. And, if you are lucky enough to be able to eat cheese, a sprinkle of cotija on this would be amazeballs.
I keep wanting to see how these would be as a bun for an eggie sammich on a weekday morning, but there are never any left by Monday morning….life’s tough, I know.

Alrighty then, let’s make these mofos:

Green Chili Corn Cakes
Time: 30 m
Yield: about a dozen 3” cakes
Heat your griddle to medium.

Dry – in a big bowl, stir together:
1 c. corn flour (masa harina like MaSeca, NOT corn meal)
3 Tbsp. corn starch
½ c. AP flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Wet – in a second bowl, whisk:
2 eggs
1 ½ c. buttermilk
2 Tbsp. oil (mild like Canola or light olive)
4 Tbsp. sugar
1/3 c. grated onion.
½ c. thawed frozen corn kernals
½ c. chopped Hatch green chili

Mix the dry with the wet until combined. You don’t have to be super gentle like with wheat flour, the masa doesn’t have gluten to toughen things up. (Don’t go nuts – there is a little AP in there.) Cook the way you do pancakes. Then happily consume them.

Bon apétit!

The VeryWell.com recipe nutrition calculator says each cake has:
cal: 135
fat: 3.9g
sodium: 366mg
carb: 21.9g (fiber: 1.3g, sugar: 6.2g)
protein: 3.7
and! 75% of your Vitamin C for the day (who knew? must be the chilis?)

Kahlua and Cream Triple Layer Cake

Quick share of a fun cake. We were invited to game night at a friend’s house, so of course I volunteered to make dessert. Because me.

I started to go Super-Karen and think of triple chocolate with a salted caramel, or orange-chocolate with Cointreau….and then told myself to calm the fuck down. Just a chocolate cake with vanilla frosting would be fine.

So, that is basically what we got. Three layers of Ina’s chocolate cake sandwiching my grandmother’s fluffy vanilla frosting and a little ganache to top it off. Since it was a naked cake, I brushed it with a Kahlua simple syrup. I wish I hadn’t garnished it with the swirled chocolate bits on top (it was a pain to slice that way) and the ganache was lovely by itself. But, ya know – live and learn.

This puppy got rave reviews (Ina’s cake always does), so I put the steps & the recipe links in a Google doc. Give it whirl. It is incredibly moist and chocolately, without being so treacly sweet it makes your teeth hurt. We all need a little choco indulgence now and again, and this baby fit the bill nicely. If you make it, I’d love to hear how it turns out, and how you adapted the recipe for your perfect indulgence.

Gateau aux Pommes

It’s good to fail. It gives perspective.
I know I should be posting about berries and springy things and asparagus, but I saw this recipe yesterday and made it this morning on a whim.

This is like a clafoutis, or even an apple pudding, if the pudding part were similar to a bread pudding. I hated it and thought it tasted like vanilla paste. Himself said it “wasn’t bad”, but might be better chilled. We’ll see. Maybe.

Do not think I will make this again. Or, if I do, I will make it thicker. I still want to try that Swedish version with the grated marzipan – that sounds much tastier.

Alrighty, here’s the receipt:

Heat your oven to 400*. Grease an 8″ springform and line the base with parchment.

In your mixer on high for three minutes until super fluffy light:
2 eggs
1/4 brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Peel and mandoline 6 medium apples.

Sift together
1/2 c. + 1 Tbp flour
1 tsp baking powder

Melt 2 Tbp butter

Once the eggs/sugar are super fluffy foamy, sprinkle the flour/baking powder over them, drizzle in the butter and
1/3 c. whole milk.

Mix to combine.

Reserve some apple slices to sprinkle on top, and hand mix the rest of the apple slices in to the batter, making sure they are all coated. Pour into prepared pan, put the reserved slices on top, and bake for 30-35 minutes until set.

Serve hot, warm, or cold. With vanilla sauce or sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Almond Danish

One of himself’s favorite treats is an almond croissant.

When I made that marzipan, he was on that in an instant.
Gotta confess, though, croissants scare the crap out of me. And the time required meant I would not be done before I lost the light for photos. So…..what to do? Then I remembered the danish pastry dough recipe I’d found for my mom for bear claws, and thought – what the hell? Let’s try this.

Oh, my. These turned out to be one of the most amazing treats ever to come out of my oven.

And although it took some time, it was all passive. The actual labor was negligible. You do have to start the day before, though. The next day is about two hours time to goodness, so these would be perfect for a brunch. Unless you’re an obscenely early riser. Which I am not.

Quick Danish Pastry Dough (modified from this recipe at SprinkleBakes)
3.5 c. AP flour
¼ c. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1.5 c. unsalted butter
2 packages quick yeast
½ c. warm water
½ c. half and half
2 eggs, room temp
The night before you want pastry heaven, bloom the yeast in the water. Slice each stick of butter in to 8 slices. Combine the dry, use a pastry cutter to very coarsely cut in the butter – most of the butter should still be in chunks bigger than a pea. Stir in the wet – it will be a thick, shaggy dough. Cover the bowl with saran and put it in the fridge til morning.
The next morning, dust your board well and roll out the dough to a rectangle about 16”x24”(It’ll be about ¼” thick). Use your board knife to lift up one of the short sides and fold it over. Then do the opposite side. It should look like a third-fold letter you would put in an envelope. Then fold up the open-ended sides in thirds again. Now it should be a fat square. (Confused? Here is a lovely diagram from Kokblog! Her work is gorgeous – check it out!) Flip it over, seam side down, and repeat the process. Put that fat square in plastic wrap and toss it in the fridge for 30 min.
Line two baking sheets with parchment, set the oven to proof and then make the filling.

Almond Filling
Combine in the mixer until smooth:
2/3 c. marzipan
1 egg white (save the yolk for the egg wash in a little bit!)
¾ c. powdered sugar.
This will be a thick sticky paste. Set aside.

Then, roll out your dough to a rectangle about 18” x 24”. Slice that in to four strips (6” wide, 18” long), then cut that in to triangles (Look at the pictures above). On the fat part of each triangle, glob a rounded teaspoonful of marzipan filling. Roll them up by starting at the fat end. Place on the tray at least 2” apart, loosely cover with a towel and proof for 1 to 1 ½ hours until doubled in size.

After the proofing, make your egg wash.
Whisk the egg yolk with ¼ c. half and half

Preheat the oven to 400*. Gently brush the egg wash on to the proofed dough and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Bake 15-20 min, until deep golden brown.
Cool on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar and serve. Or box up for the neighbors.

Marzipan

I have to blame my mother for this. She has been on a quest to make home made bear claws, and dropping off samples. And that almond filling made me think about marzipan, and whether it could be made at home. The interwebs said yes. That I needed almond flour, and hey! I still had ¼ bag of that almond flour I bought to make macarons with G.
Things can spiral out of control so very quickly…..

So, found this recipe at The Daring Gourmet. Had most of the ingredients on hand, although I did a few mods: I prefer Dr. Oetker’s bitter almond to just extract, and merinque powder just for the safety of no raw egg whites. It is simple, and amazing. Don’t think I will ever buy marzipan again.

Marzipan
1 ½ c. almond flour
1 ½ c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. orange flower water
1 vial bitter almond (or 2 tsp. almond extract)
2 tsp. meringue powder
3 tsp. water
Stir together the meringue powder and water. Set aside. In your food processor, put all the rest of the dry ingredients and pulse to combine. Pour in the liquids, and pulse until it forms a loose crumbly ball. I had to add another teaspoon of water to mine, but I think that’s because I’m in the desert and everything is very dry.
Remove from the food processor and knead the marzipan a few times. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and toss in the fridge.
Besides just eating this as is, we made some little logs and dipped them in dark chocolate. Oh, yes. So very very tasty!
If you have the ingredients on hand, make this!!!

Cake for Breakfast, Bitches

Mmmmmm. Cake. I LOVE cake. Nothing in this world tops a plain yellow cake. Except maybe a yellow cake with my Meme’s fluffy frosting. (Snort. Nothing tops a cake…. ok ok.) Don’t get me wrong, chocolate cake is delicious. But yellow cake is sublime.

So, what if I told you that you could have cake for breakfast and that it would be slightly healthier than pancakes? As in, it has less sugar (unless you’re some kind of weirdo who eats pancakes without syrup.) Silliness aside, the ingredients for pancakes or this yellow cake are practically interchangeable. Add some low-sugar jam, and we’re done.

We picked this jam up at Costco, and it’s quite tasty. It is not very sweet, though – so if you like a really sweet jam, this is not for you. But for a cake filling, it is spot on.

Shall we?

Cake:
2 c. AP flour
1 ¼ c. sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1 c. buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350*. Get out two 8” or three 6” round pans.
Alrighty, y’all know I love me the creaming method of cake creation – so here it is:
In the Kitchenaide, with the paddle attachment, put all the dry ingredients. Give a couple spins to combine, then toss in the stick of butter (Cold from the fridge is fine). Run on medium for a couple of minutes, until the mixture looks like a bowl full of fine crumbs.
While that’s going, line the bottom of the cake pans with parchment, then grease and flour the pans. No, this is not overkill. You could parchment the sides, as well, if you want a super-smooth side. I didn’t – I’m lazy.
Back at the mixer, when the mix looks like crumbs, pour in the three liquid ingredients, bring up to medium high then high for about three minutes – until the mixture looks fluffy and is a lighter color than when you started.
Evenly divide between the pans. Give each a good whack, and bake for 30-35 minutes (start testing at 25 for the six inchers.) And, I weigh mine when it’s by three because otherwise I have vastly different sized layers. Eyeball it at your own risk.

When they test clean with a toothpick, cool on a rack for ten minutes (they’ll still be warm), then remove the cake from the pan. Cool completely. Layer with your compote or jam, sprinkle with powdered sugar and you are good to go.
Bon apétit

What about Meme’s frosting? I will try and fit that in to a post here soon. The interwebs knows about it, especially because the Pioneer Woman extolled its wonder a while back – check it out if you can’t wait!

Cranberry Crumb Muffins


So, these were supposed to be those blueberry muffins that came in out in the NYTimes last week – that new recipe with the smashed blueberries in it. Only when I went to the freezer to get the blueberries, I forgot himself had been making smoothies and….yeah, you see where this is going. But, because my poor long-suffering husband is awesome, he said, “what about cranberries? You have those.” Indeed. And they’re nice and tangy, to boot!

So a little tweak here and there, add some crumb topping and serve with some marmelade! Yum!!

That is kumquat marmelade, from my friend K’s tree, btw. Never made it before – turned out a bit thin, but yummy! (The interwebs tell me I overcooked it a bit and so killed some the pectin from the seeds. Sigh.) I’d never seen kumquats like those, turns out they are a hybrid with a mandarin orange and are called Fukushu. Those little fruits were so pretty, too. The peel itself was sweet. Amazeballs.

Well – lets bake! These cook under half an hour, and are gorgeous and slightly sweet. If you have some marmelade, it takes it to a whole new level.

Cranberry Crumb Muffins (yield 12-ish)

Preheat oven to 375. Line twelve muffin cups.

For the crumb topping:

1 stick unsalted butter
¾ c. sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ c. AP flour
1 Tbsp corn starch
Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir in the rest of the ingredients until it’s crumbly. Set aside.

For the muffins:
In the mixer on low until it looks like fine crumbs.
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tsp. lemon zest
1 ¼ c. sugar
2 c. AP flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp salt

Add in, and then mix on medium high for a minute or two until thick and fluffy.
2 eggs
½ c. buttermilk or plain yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla

Stir in:
2 c. fresh cranberries (not sweetened dried!).

Spoon in to lined muffin cups, top with the crumb mix and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and a tester comes out clean.

These are so yummy – lots of good feedback (nyuk!) from the neighbors.

Pecan Bars – Nutty Salty Caramel Goodness

Here’s some really good advice. Do not make a batch of your favorite cookie if you are home alone on a rainy day. Do. Not. Holy shit, y’all. Seriously. I’ve eaten three of these and had to force myself to stop. Three doesn’t sound like much, does it? But these are buttery rich little tiles of heaven and one would be perfect for a normal person.

I’ve never made these before – so why now? We had a cookie potluck at work the week before Christmas; one of my co-workers brought in some of his girlfriend’s pecan bars. Oh, lawdee lawd. They were so good. Crunchy base, caramely salty pecan topping. I have not been able to get them out of my mind for three weeks. That, plus the fact that my mom gave me three pounds of pecans, and you can see why I had to make these.

The interwebs garnered many a recipe, and pecan PIE bars appears to be the preferred nomenclature. But I don’t want a gooey top, I don’t want a pecan pie. I want that toasty nutty chewy sticky caramel taste. I found an awesome recipe at Shockingly Delicious – which of course I had to tweak.

My one take away from this, though? Grease that pan. Then, when you think you are done, grease it some more. This is serious sugary sticky shit.

Pecan Bars

Preheat the oven to 350*. Heavily grease a rectangular cake pan – 9”x13”x2”. Line it with parchment or foil, à la Alton Brown brownie hammock. You’ll need those edges as handles to lift them out after baking.
In the mixer with the paddle attachment, mix:
2 c AP flour
2/3 c powdered sugar
1 ½ sticks butter
½ tsp salt
When it looks like crumbs, it’s done. Dump the mix in the bottom of the pan. Smooth it out. Then, cover it with a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper and use the bottom of a jar or glass to smoosh it down. Be sure to put a little lip up all the sides and especially the corners. Remove the wrap, and bake it about 20m until it’s set, but not brown. (This would also be a fun kid part – smooshing it down with their hands.)

While it is baking, combine in a heavy 2 quart sauce pan on medium heat:
½ c. plus 2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/3 c. honey
¼ c. corn syrup
14 Tbsp butter (two sticks minus two Tbsp)
½ tsp salt.
3 Tbsp. heavy cream (I used coconut/almond coffee creamer)
Stirring frequently, bring the mix to a low boil – it will get all foamy and lighten a bit in color.
Remove from the heat til the crust is done.

When the crust comes out of the oven, spread out on top:
3 1/2 cups pecan halves or pieces
Even pour the caramel mixture over them. Make sure everything is well-distributed, then all back in the oven for another 25-ish minutes. It will be bubbly and a little darker when it’s done.

Cool completely, lift it out of the pan and slice in small squares. Sprinkle with some good flaked salt, like a kosher salt or fleur de sel.

These will keep in an air-tight tin for quite a while. If they last that long.