……………………………………………………. Baking our mark

Summer Fruit Crumble Bars July 21, 2012

It’s not 100 degrees any more. Which means I want to make something that isn’t an enormous green salad.

And I might have bought blueberries because they were on sale and I was making smoothies anyways. And then I might have gotten home and realized that I had SIX PINTS OF BLUEBERRIES but only two people to feed.

So, I made an incredible, simple dessert.



Fresh Fruit Crumble Bars (adapted from a few places)

1 cup white sugar
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick cold butter
1/2 cup Crisco
1 egg
Zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp. cornstarch
4 cups fresh fruit (I did mostly blueberries, with some sliced strawberries and peaches in as well)

Stir together first three ingredients, then stir in the salt and lemon zest. Then blend in the egg, butter and Crisco using a fork or pastry cutter to create a crumbly dough. Take half of this mixture, and pat it down into a greased 9×12 baking dish to form a crust.

In a separate bowl, blend lemon juice, 1/2 cup sugar sugar and cornstarch. Add the fruit and gently toss to coat. Spread the fruit evenly over the crust, then crumble the remaining crust mixture over the fruit. Make sure this “crumble” portion is spread out evenly.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about an hour, or until top begins to brown. Before cutting into squares and serving, let this cool completely so the juices from the baked fruit stay in the crumble instead of escaping.

If you want to warm it up and serve it with some vanilla ice cream for dessert (or just toast it for breakfast), go right ahead.


“Belgian” Brownies August 14, 2011

Filed under: Dessert — Michelle Jackson @ 4:26 pm
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These little brownies are not for the faint of heart. The recipe is inspired by Le Pain Quotidien’s “Belgian” brownies (little chocolate muffins with crispy tops and creamy insides) which I’ve had the recent privilege of [repeatedly] eating at work. They appear to have absolutely nothing to do with Belgium (somewhat in the vein of Irish Potatoes). Like most fatty American inventions though, they are pretty amazing for special occasions. Or for when you have an extra pound of butter lying around.

My good friend Tina was having her last day at the museum a few weeks ago (hey, you guys if you’re reading!), so it was a perfect opportunity to try a new recipe, and use 10 eggs in one go. Yes, you read that correctly.  (Doubled from a recipe found here.)  The Wednesday Chef luckily has a picture to illustrate in the link– these little guys disappeared way before I could get a good shot.

Makes 4-5 dozen cupcake-sized brownies. 

24 oz bittersweet dark chocolate (Ghirardelli chocolate chips worked well with the double boiler)

5 sticks of butter, cut into small pieces

10 eggs, beaten lightly with a fork

2 2/3 cups brown sugar

4-5 tablespoons pastry flour

2 teaspoons salt

Melt the chocolate and butter in a large double boiler until combined. (I finagled a big one using two large stew pots for doubling the recipe. If you’re being a normal person though, a sauce pan configuration would also work.) Transfer chocolate mixture to a large bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325, and then start sifting the flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl.  Stir this into the chocolate/butter. Crack all the eggs into a separate large bowl, whisk lightly, pour into the chocolate mixture, and stir until combined. I did this by hand, but using a mixer would probably be smarter, faster and easier. (By hand is an excellent work out though!) Once the eggs are combined with the chocolate, let the batter rest for 30 minutes; it will eventually start to look like thick chocolate syrup.  Spoon 1/4 cup’s worth of the batter into lined muffin tins and bake for 35 minutes. The brownies will puff up as they bake, and then cave in a little bit as they cool– this is good! The crackly surface is apparently due to the volume of egg whites, and while it doesn’t look super attractive, it tastes AMAZING. I’m not usually an all-caps type of person, so really. These are good. Eat warm or cool, but best when shared with friends.


Zebra Popcorn July 5, 2011

Filed under: Dessert,Snack — Michelle Jackson @ 10:00 am
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I used to babysit for a kid who loved making this snack, and I sort of forgot about it until now.  That little girl is probably 18 years old by now, but let’s not talk about that.  Zebra popcorn (which apparently is an actual thing, and not just some kiddie fantasy) is popcorn drizzled with chocolate to give it a striped look and salty-sweet taste. The next time you’re craving something super sweet and super filling (without being a dead weight on the calorie scale), I highly recommend this. Plus, start to finish, it only takes 5 minutes to make.

Here is my low-budget version:

1 packet of kettle corn style microwaveable popcorn, popped

1 cup milk chocolate chips

1/2 cup peanut butter

Melt the chocolate chips in a medium-sized bowl in the microwave for about 30 seconds, stir. Continue melting for about 20 seconds, or until the chips become fully melted and a spreadable consistency. Stir in the peanut butter and set aside. Microwave the popcorn according to package directions (I used the popcorn button on our microwave. Love that thing.) Place popcorn in a large bowl and drizzle melted chocolate/peanut butter mixture over  it with a spoon. Serve immediately, or let sit for a few minutes to let the chocolate harden. 


Almond Matzoh Cookies May 2, 2011

Filed under: Dessert,Snack — krandle @ 5:52 pm
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Once, a professor told me he thought that it’s people from New England who are most attuned to the weather. When the day starts with a brisk autumn morning but ends in a wild windy rainstorm with the ocean so tumultuous it can be heard a mile away, you become used to watching for weather. (The professor cited the example of a fellow professor from southern California who rarely mentioned weather – even the seasonal newsletters she wrote for the department.)

New England rubbed off on me, and even in Philadelphia I’m stuck on what’s going on outside. For the past few weeks, my entire neighborhood has been sprinkled by the pink confetti of falling blossoms off the trees that line the streets. My steps have been carpeted with cotton candy-colored soft petals, and my walks home are marked by the pollen-y scent. Perhaps I’m a bit too romantic when I think about the nice part of spring (before it gets hot), but the weather and the flowers do put me in a nice mood.

And nice moods mean cookies. I decided to try a new kind – largely because I recently came into some leftover matzoh when my roommate left, and because I have found a nearby store that sells nuts in bulk (relatively) cheaply. (See recipe below)


Simple Lemon / Grapefruit Cake April 13, 2011

Filed under: Dessert — krandle @ 6:33 pm
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And, keeping with the theme of grapefruit dessert, I’m also posting about this cake I made. The original recipe from Everyday Food is for a lemon cake, which I’m sure would appeal to more people than a grapefruit cake. If you’re looking for a crowd-pleaser, don’t try the grapefruit.

On the other hand, my roommate, a woman who prefers not-too-sweet desserts, loved the cake. When I had a few slices leftover and passed them along to her, you would have thought I’d passed along a gift card for $50 (I was thinking of saying gold, but that’s pushing it. She wasn’t that excited.)

I also really enjoyed the cake. It has an amazing texture. But then, I ate over 10 pounds of grapefruits by myself this citrus season. So, if you’re adventurous, do grapefruit. If you’re having a party for picky people, do lemon.

Simple Lemon Grapefruit Cake

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature + more butter for pan
2 cups flour (spooned and leveled) + more flour for pan
3/4 pound lemons grapefruits, ends removed, cut into thin slices
Coarse salt
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs (2 large eggs + 2 egg yolks) [Save an egg white for the Grapefruit Icing below]
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup whole milk [Yes, whole milk. This is about the texture, not about your waistline. Do some crunches if you’re worried.]
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400. Lightly butter and flour a 9-in round cake pan (2 in deep).

In a medium saucepan, cover grapefruit slices with 3 cups water. Add a pinch of salt, cover, and bring to a boil over high. Boil grapefruits, partially covered, until very tender – about 15 minutes.

Drain and transfer to food processor. Add butter and process until smooth, scraping down bowl as needed. Add granulated sugar, eggs, and yolks and process to combine. Transfer to a large bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt. Add vanilla to milk and, in two additions, add flour mixture to lemon mixture, alternating with milk.

Transfer batter to pan and smooth top. Bake until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached – about 40 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove cake from pan and let cool completely on rack – about 1 hour. (Store cooled cake, tightly wrapped in plastic, at room temperature, up to one day.)

Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve with raspberries and whipped cream

…or make…

Grapefruit Icing (This icing adds a nice contrast to the denser cake – and is incredibly shiny after it sets, so it looks really fancy)

2/3 cup superfine sugar
1 egg white
1 Tbs light corn syrup [I substituted honey and it was fine]
1 Tbs. fresh grapefruit juice
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp grated grapefruit rind or lemon rind

Combine sugar, egg white, corn syrup / honey, grapefruit juice and salt in the top of a double boiler. Beat at low speed of an electric mixer for 30 seconds until blended. Place over boiling water; beat at high speed for 7 minutes or until stiff peaks form. [CAUTION: icing will expand dramatically – make sure your double boiler is large enough.]

Remove from heat; stir in rind.


Grapefruit Bars April 8, 2011

Sometimes, when I’m talking about cooking something particularly involved or when I get excited about a coupon or when I spend the larger part of a weekend cleaning my house, people will say things like “you’re such a mom” or “well aren’t you just the little housewife.” And here’s where they’re wrong: If I was a mom, I would have no time to try new recipes all the time or to prepare dried garbanzo beans. If I was a housewife, I’d clean a little bit every day, so it wouldn’t take me a weekend to get it all done. (Note: if your mom had time to cook complex dishes, keep an impeccable house all the time, and retain her own sanity, you might win an award for being the least needy child ever. Or your mom is a really awesome robot.)

No, I’m more like a lame version of Martha Stewart – single, independently…solvent, and with a little too much time to think about food. Ah, the perks of being a twenty-something cook.

And so, my foray into grapefruit bars.

I first made these a few months ago. Following the original recipe, they were unbelievably bland. While they had the right consistency, there was barely a hint of citrus, let alone grapefruit. Since I love grapefruit, I wanted it to taste like the real deal, not just a wimpy light version. See my recipe below.



(Super Easy) Strawberry Shortcake / Banana Cream Pie Parfaits March 8, 2011

Filed under: Dessert — krandle @ 6:05 pm
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I’m a little obsessed with tasting-sized portions right now, thanks to the most awesome little tasting dishes ever. For the latest dinner party, I made strawberry shortcake and banana cream pie parfaits. People are way more apt to eat more desserts when they’re in tiny little containers and served with tiny little spoons.

Strawberry Shortcake Parfait

Makes 8 little parfaits

8 strawberries, sliced very thinly and sweetened with confectioner’s sugar, if necessary
12 vanilla wafer cookies, crunched into smaller pieces
1/2 cup whipped cream
1-2 Tbs. confectioner’s sugar
Chocolate syrup (or enough chocolate and cream to make a little bit of ganache)

First, whip the cream and sugar in an electric mixer or hand mixer.

In each parfait, put one crunched up vanilla wafer at the bottom of glass. Then, after putting whipped cream in a plastic bag, then cutting of the end (to create a piping bag), squeeze about 1-2 Tbs. whipped cream on top. Add two strawberry slices, a bit of chocolate syrup or chocolate ganache on top, more cookie crumbles, two more strawberry slices and whipped cream. Then, add another dollop of whipped cream and one additional strawberry slice on top for a garnish.

Banana Cream Pie Parfait

Makes 6 parfaits

Vanilla pudding (made according to package directions and refrigerated until set)
1 banana, cut into small slices
6 vanilla wafer cookies
6 vanilla wafer cookies, smashed up into smaller pieces
1/4 cup whipped cream
1 Tbs. whipped cream

First, whip the cream and sugar in an electric mixer or hand mixer.

Put one whole cookies at the bottom of the parfait dish, then about 1/2 Tbs. vanilla pudding, then 2 banana slices, enough vanilla pudding to cover all banana slices, one crumbled cookie, three or four more banana slices, then enough pudding to cover all banana slices. Add a big dollop of whipped cream on the top of the whole dessert.