Milky Swirl Brownies

If you’re going to break your New Year’s diet resolution, it might as well be with these Milky Swirl Brownies because you won’t regret it…not one bit.   The combined super powers of chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, and espresso powder  result in an intensely chocolatey and rich brownie, and swirls of sweetened condensed milk amplify the already moist and fudgey center.  Fire up that oven because making these brownies has turned into your new New Year’s resolution.

P.S. Using a high quality cocoa powder makes a big difference in taste and texture.  My baking fairies (MG and SB) gifted me with  Rodelle baking cocoa, and my world has been extra chocolately ever since.

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Milky Swirl Brownies

Makes one 9×13 inch pan of brownies (that’s a lot!)
(from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients

12 ounces (24 tablespoons) unsalted butter; more for the pan, softened (Yep, that’s A LOT of butter, but that’s why these brownies are so good)
4 1/2 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
4 ounces (1-1/3 cups) Dutch-process cocoa (use the best quality possible.  I used Rodelle baking cocoa)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
16 ounces (2-1/4 cups) granulated sugar
2 ounces (1/4 packed cup) light brown sugar
1 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 large eggs, cold
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional, but not really since it’s part of the chocolate trifecta)
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment (make sure it goes up the sides of the pan and overhangs on the longer sides) or aluminum foil (butter lightly to ensure the brownies don’t stick too much.  Buttering the parchment is not needed).
  3. In a small bowl, mix the flour and cocoa powder until well combined, and set aside.
  4. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
  5. Increase the heat to medium and simmer, stirring while the butter hisses and pops. Continue cooking, scraping up any brown bits that form at the bottom of the pan, until the butter is golden yellow.  Remove from the heat, and stir in the chocolate until it has melted, and the butter and chocolate are well combined.  Set aside.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the sugar, brown sugar, salt, eggs, vanilla, and espresso powder (if using.)  Whisk on medium-high speed until thick and fluffy (about 7 minutes), scraping down the bowl as needed.
  7. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and pour in the warm chocolate mixture in a slow steady stream.  Mix until well incorporated.
  8. Turn off the mixer, and fold in the flour mixture in thirds with a spatula, and fold until well combined.
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth with an offset spatula.
  10. Using a small cookie scoop or a spoon, drop one-tablespoon scoops of condensed milk on top of the brownie batter in a configuration of five rows (vertically) of four (horizontally).  Drag a butter knife through the milk and batter, and very lightly swirl.  Do not mix too much or the swirls will disappear.
  11. Bake until the brownies are glossy and just barely firm, 25 to 30 minutes.  If you insert a cake tester or toothpick into the center, a few crumbs will cling to it.
  12. Cool to room temperature. Use the parchment or foil overhang to lift the brownies from the pan, then cut into 24 pieces. Do not cut the brownies while they are warm as they won’t hold their shape well.  Also, you may need to clean off your knife between cuts, as things can get a bit gooey.
  13. Store in an airtight container for up to one week at room temperature.

Lemon Bread

Recently I went into a huge lemon curd making frenzy after a neighbor gave me loads of Meyer lemons from her tree.  Afterwards, I realized that my options for consuming thus lemon curd were fairly limited.  Yes, eating it directly off a spoon is a totally reasonable option, but with the amount of lemon curd I made, I needed additional options.  What’s the perfect accompaniment for lemon curd?  My answer was more lemon… specifically Lemon Bread (cake).  On its own, this lemon bread probably won’t garner “oh my god this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever eaten” praise, but it’s a perfect partner to lemon curd.  It’s a tender and moist cake, yet dense enough to stand up to a heavy slather of lemon curd on top.  Plus, it’s easy to whip together.  I left the lemon glaze off  to make room for every little bit of lemon curd (and to make sure things wouldn’t get too sweet).

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Lemon Bread

Makes one 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf
(from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients

Bread

1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup (6 ounces) buttermilk (I used reconstituted dried buttermilk powder) or yogurt
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, softened
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
2 large eggs

Glaze

(I didn’t make this because I topped my bread with lemon curd)
1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar

Directions

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Lightly grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan.  I used baking spray with flour and my cake came out of the pan easily.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk (or yogurt), lemon juice, and lemon rind, and set aside.
  4. In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
  5. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until well combined.  It will look a bit crumbly.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  7. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with the buttermilk mixture.
  8. Pour the batter into the pan, and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. [NOTE: since I didn’t make the glaze, I stopped at this step.]
  9. While the bread is baking, whisk together the glaze ingredients (1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar) to dissolve the sugar.
  10. Remove the bread from the oven, and poke it all over with a cake tester, skewer, ice pick, or other long, thin tool.
  11. While the loaf is hot, drizzle it gradually with the glaze, stopping periodically to allow it to soak in. Set it aside, and let it cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.
  12. Remove the bread from the pan, and allow it to cool completely before slicing.

Note: The bread can be stored in an air tight container on the counter for up to 5  or frozen for up to 3 months.

Cinnamon Marshmallows

It’s taken three years, but I finally feel like I have made all possible interesting variations of caramel and nut brittle.  So, my holiday sweets experimentation for 2017 was making marshmallows.  I don’t like sticking to the usual flavors (actually there seems to only be one common flavor of marshmallow), so I whipped up a few batches of cinnamon marshmallows for holiday presents.  I did not expect them to be such a hit, as in general, I and most people I know are not especially big fans of marshmallows, but the comparison between homemade marshmallows vs. store bought packaged ones is like watching magic close up and live vs. watching magic on a tiny airplane TV screen (like this one).

Some of my favorite comments in response to eating my cinnamon marshmallows include:

  • “I didn’t know you could make marshmallows at home from scratch.  Don’t they just come from the store?”
  • “I don’t usually like marshmallows, but these are ridiculous.”
  • “I’m hiding these from my family.”
  • And from someone who never asks me for anything, “Do you have more marshmallows?”

Making marshmallows involves strict adherence to the recipe and no substitution of the main ingredients, so if you tend to improvise and don’t have a candy thermometer, it’s best to skip this one.

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Cinnamon Marshmallows

Makes  95 one-inch marshmallows
(from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients

3 ounce (3/4 cup) confectioners’ sugar
1 1/8  ounces (1/4 cup) cornstarch
Cooking spray
4 (four) 1/4-ounce packets unflavored powdered gelatin
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 vanilla bean, 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract, or 2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste ( prefer using vanilla bean paste)
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Directions

  1.  Sift the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch into a medium bowl.
  2. Generously coat the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan (preferably one with straight sides) with cooking spray. Dust it well with about 1/4 cup of the sugar-cornstarch mixture, tapping any excess back into the bowl; set aside.
  3. Put 3/4 cup cold water in a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water, and stir until lump-free. Set aside to hydrate, at least 5 minutes.
  4. Put 1/2 cup cold water, the granulated sugar, corn syrup, and cinnamon stick in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan. If using a vanilla bean, split it and scrape the seeds into the pan; add the pod, too. Stir with a heatproof spatula just to combine (try not to get any sugar on the sides of the pan), then bring to a boil over medium-high heat without stirring. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.
  5. When the syrup reaches 240°F, begin beating the egg whites in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks form, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn the speed down to low.
  6. At this point, the syrup should be 250°F. If so, remove the vanilla pod (if using), and remove the cinnamon stick.
  7. Increase the speed on the mixer to medium low, and carefully pour the syrup down the side of the mixer bowl. (If not, turn the mixer off until the syrup reaches temperature and turn it on before adding the syrup.)
  8. With the mixer running, break the hydrated gelatin into several pieces, and add it to the bowl one piece at a time, beating until incorporated.
  9. Increase the mixer speed to high, and beat until the marshmallow is white, thick, and almost tripled in volume, about 6 minutes.
  10. If using vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, add it now.  Add the ground cinnamon, beating until just combined.
  11. Pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan, smoothing it into the corners with an offset metal spatula.
  12. Sift about 1/4 cup of the sugar-cornstarch mixture evenly over the top. Let set at room temperature for at least 3 hours and preferably overnight.
  13. Run the tip of a paring knife around the edge of the baking pan to loosen the marshmallow, and invert the pan onto a large, parchment-lined cutting board. Lift a corner of the pan and carefully free the corner of the marshmallow with your fingers, after which it will fall onto the board. Generously coat a sharp chef’s knife with cooking spray and cut the marshmallow into 1-inch pieces, respraying the knife as needed.
  14. Gently toss each marshmallow in the remaining confectioners’ sugar mixture to coat, shaking off the excess.

Note: Store the marshmallows in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a month.

Oatmeal Whoopie Pies with Maple Bacon Buttercream Filling

Oatmeal Whoopie Pies with Maple Bacon Buttercream Filling.  Take a moment to savor those words and let them fully sink in.  These Oatmeal Whoopie Pies with Maple Bacon Buttercream Filling may just be everything you have ever dreamt of … and more.  Imagine breakfast all rolled up into one decadent, handheld sandwich of oatmeal, smokey bacon, and maple syrup.  It’s as epic as it sounds, and you totally need this in your life.

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Oatmeal Whoopie Pies with Maple Bacon Filling

Makes about 24 two-inch whoopie pies
(from Whoopie Pies: Dozens of Mix ’em, Match ’em, Eat ’em Up Recipes)

Ingredients

Oatmeal Whoopies

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not fast-cooking), separated into 3/4 cup and 3/4 cup
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt

Maple Bacon Buttercream Filling

4 thick strips bacon, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2-3 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
3 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon maple flavoring
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Oatmeal Whoopie

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy and smooth.
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  5. Add the vanilla, and beat until light and creamy.  Set aside.
  6. In a food processor or blender, process 3/4 cup of oatmeal until it resembles whole grain flour.
  7. Transfer the ground oatmeal to a medium bowl and add the remaining 3/4 cup of oatmeal, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Stir well to combine.
  8. Add the oatmeal mixture to the butter-sugar mixture, and beat on low speed until just combined.  Do not overmix.
  9. Using a spoon or a cookie scoop, drop about 1 tablespoon of batter onto the prepared baking sheet, making sure to leave at least 2 inches between each scoop of batter.
  10. Bake one sheet at a time for 8-11 minutes or until the cakes begin to brown.
  11.  Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes.  Then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Maple-Bacon Filling

  1. In a medium skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain and cool.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and powdered sugar on low until combined.
  4. Add the heavy cream, sour cream, vanilla extract, maple syrup, maple flavoring, and salt, and beat on low until smooth.
  5. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the bacon bits until just combined.

Assembling the whoopie pies

  1. Spread the filling onto the flat side of one of the cakes using an offset spatula, knife, or spoon.
  2. Top it with another cake, flat side down.  Very lightly press down.
  3. Repeat with the rest of the cakes and filling.

Note:  I store these in the refrigerator so that they stay as fresh as possible.

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies with Cream Cheese Filling

In my attempt to cull down my constantly growing collection of cookbooks, I set a rule for myself.  If I haven’t made anything from the cookbook in at least a year, it’s time to consider moving it off my shelf.  And having a full cookbook devoted solely to whoopie pies seemed a bit decadent, so it was time to do some intensive whoopie research.  For those unfamiliar with whoopie pies, they’re cookie shaped cake disks with a creamy filling sandwiched between.  Red Velvet Whoopie Pies with Cream Cheese Filling seemed like a safe bet to start out with since red velvet cake is generally delicious.  Turns out these little handheld cake-cookie treats are just as good as, if not better than, the cake or cupcake version.

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Red Velvet Whoopie Pies with Cream Cheese Filling

Makes 48 whoopie pies
(from Whoopie Pies: Dozens of Mix ’em, Match ’em, Eat ’em Up Recipes)

Ingredients

Whoopie

2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 ounce (one small bottle) red food coloring
1 cup buttermilk

Cream Cheese Filling

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Whoopies

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a medium size bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In a stand mixer, cream together the butter, shortening, sugar, and brown sugar until fluffy and smooth (approximately 5 minutes).
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each is well combined before the next addition.
  6. Add the vanilla and food coloring, and mix until well combined.
  7. Add half of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk to the wet ingredients, and beat until incorporated (don’t overmix).  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  8. Add the remaining flour and buttermilk, and mix until everything is well incorporated.
  9. Using a cookie scoop or spoon, drop 1 tablespoon of batter onto the prepared cookie sheets, spacing the whoopies about 2 inches apart.
  10. Bake one sheet at a time for approximately 8-10 minutes.  The whoopies are done when they spring back when pressed gently.
  11. Remove from oven and let the whoopies cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes.  Then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Filling

  1. In a stand mixer on medium speed, beat together the cream cheese and butter until well combined.
  2. Add the sugar, and beat on low speed until combined.
  3. Add the vanilla, and beat on medium speed until creamy and smooth (approximately 4 minutes).

Assembling the Whoopie Pie

  1. When the whoopies have fully cooled, using an offset spatula, spread a thick layer of filling on the bottom side of a whoopie.
  2. Place a matching sized whoopie over the filling (to create a sandwich), and press together lightly.
  3. Store the whoopie pies in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Make sure to store the whoopie pies separated by parchment paper as they’ll stick together if stacked directly on each other.

 

Chocolate Almond Nougat Bites

(Sung to the tune of the Beatles “Let It Be”)
“When I find myself in times of trouble
Candy bars are there for me
Easing all the stress
De–li–cious–ly”

A series of flight delays and other airport hassles on a Sunday night led me to treat myself to a See’s Candies Nut & Chew Bar from an airport See’s kiosk.  And you know what?  It made my travel experience a little sweeter and inspired me to make nougat from scratch.  Most people barely know what nougat is, and you don’t really need to know much more than that it’s the chewy stuff that holds together a Snickers bar.  My experimentation with nougat was in the form of Chocolate Almond Nougat Bites- a mini twist pretzel covered in a mound of chewy, fluffy nougat with two roasted almonds on top, smothered by dark chocolate.  It turns out the nougat wasn’t as difficult to make as I thought it would be, but it still requires proficient use of a candy thermometer and coordination skills that allow you to slowly and carefully pour boiling hot sugar into a rapidly turning mixing bowl.  So, it’s definitely not a process for the candying making novice.  That said, the results are pretty ridiculously delicious.  Note, the nougat doesn’t take too long to make (under an hour), but it takes quite a bit of time to individually assemble each of the candies.  Plus chilling time is needed, so this recipe can be quite a time intensive project.

The nougat in all its beauty and glory.  You can see the candies to the left before they’ve been covered with chocolate.
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Hours later, the Chocolate Almond Nougat Bites are ready to eat.
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Chocolate Almond Nougat Bites

Makes approximately 100 pieces
(From Hand-Crafted Candy Bars)

Ingredients

Mini twist pretzels (buy a big bag to make sure you have enough.  The number of pretzels you use will depend on how much nougat you pile on top of each pretzel)

Nougat

3 egg whites
1 cup (200g) sugar
1/2 cup (120ml) corn syrup
1/4 cup (60ml) water
2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Whole roasted almonds, approximately 1 pound (16 ounces)

1 pound of melted dark chocolate (I used a Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Dark Chocolate bar)

Directions

  1. Line at least two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Put the pretzels on the baking sheets in a single layer.

Nougat

  1. Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and water.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, and continue to boil without stirring until the mixture reaches 235°F on a candy thermometer (about 6 minutes).
  4. When the sugar mixture has reached 235°F, begin whipping the egg whites on low speed, just until they are a bit bubbly.
  5. Continue cooking the sugar syrup until it reaches 245°F.  Take it off the heat.
  6. With the mixer on low, pour a splash of the sugar syrup into the egg whites, aiming for the space between the rim of the bowl and the whisk attachment.  Make sure not to add too much sugar syrup at a time because it could cook the egg whites.
  7. Continue whisking, and slowly add the rest of the hot sugar syrup.
  8. Increase the mixer speed to medium, and mix until the nougat reaches a full, frothy foam (about 4 minutes).
  9. Add the vanilla and salt to the nougat.
  10. Keep whipping at high speed until stiff peaks form, about 3-6 minutes.
  11. Allow the nougat to cool in the bowl, and once it has reached room temperature, you’re ready to assemble the candy.

Assembling the Candy

  1.  Using two spoons or a small cookie scoop, put a mound of nougat on each pretzel.
  2. Lightly press 2-3 whole almonds on top of the nougat.  Repeat with all the pretzels.  Set aside.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a stainless steel bowl set over a boiling pot of water.
  4. Spoon the melted chocolate over the almond/nougat, and spread lightly over the sides if desired.
  5. Place the baking sheets in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden.

Note: These can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days, in the refrigerator for 2 weeks, or in the freezer for 2 months.  I prefer to keep them in the fridge.

Brown Sugar Sour Cream Cake with Peach Jam Swirl

While making a big batch of peach jam, I discovered that one of my jars of jam did not process correctly and had to be used within a week.  Instead of eating almond butter and peach jam sandwiches for a week, I opted to bake a Brown Sugar Sour Cream Cake with peach jam swirled through the center of the cake and spread as a glaze on top.  Turns out peach jam is a perfect accompaniment for this light and tender, buttery cake.

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Brown Sugar Sour Cream Cake with Peach Jam Swirl

Makes one bundt cake
(adapted from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

16 tablespoons (1 cup; 8 ounces) butter, at cool room temperature
1 cup (7 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 8-ounce jar of jam (I used peach jam)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Lightly grease a 9- or 10-cup Bundt pan.
  3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugars at medium speed for about 2 minutes. The mixture will be light and airy, and will have lightened in color.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute or two between additions. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and beat briefly to recombine any residue.
  5. Add the baking powder, salt, and baking soda, then gently beat in half the flour.
  6. Gently mix in the sour cream and vanilla,
  7. Add the remaining flour, mixing just until blended.  Don’t over mix to ensure the cake will be tender.
  8. Scoop the half of the batter into the prepared pan.
  9. Evenly dollop approximately 2/3 of the jam on top of the batter (set aside the remaining 1/3 or jam for use after the cake has finished baking).  Use a knife to lightly swirl the jam into the batter.  Then pour the remaining half of the batter on top.  Make sure that the jam is covered by the cake batter, otherwise the jam will burn.
  10. Bake the cake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  11. Remove the cake from the oven. Cool it in the pan for 15 minutes before turning it out of the pan onto a rack to finish cooling.
  12. When the cake has cooled for about 15 minutes, spread the remaining jam on top of the cake.  Cool completely before slicing.

Fresh Peach Jam

In my first year of harvesting from my peach tree, I learned a few lessons.  I was so intent of picking my peaches at the absolute prime level of ripeness that in the process of testing the fruit for ripeness and picking them off the tree, the fruit would get bruised or  slightly squished.  At first I didn’t mind and enthusiastically ate the blemished fruit immediately.  But when it started to feel like I was in a competitive peach eating contest, I decided to to switch tactics and instead make peach jam.  One of my favorite things about making homemade jam is that you can take advantage of the flavor from perfectly ripened fruit, control how much sugar to add, and add in spices like cinnamon to make it extra special.

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Fresh Peach Jam

Makes about 5 half-pint jars
(from Canning for a New Generation- Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry)

Ingredients

12 ounces Granny Smith apples (about 2 large)
4 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted, and diced (about 6 cups)
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

Directions

  1. Prepare your jars for canning (by sterilizing them).
  2. Cut the apples into quarters, and cut the cores from them.  Put the cores and seeds in a cheesecloth bag, tie it off, and set aside.
  3. Gently combine the peaches and sugar in a wide, 6 to 8 quart preserving pan.  Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, and cook until the juices just cover the peaches.
  4. Pour the peach mixture into a colander that’s set over a large bowl.   Stir the peaches gently to drain off the juice.
  5. Return the juice to the pan.  Add the apple quarters and cheesecloth bag.  Bring to a boil over high heat.
  6. Boil stirring occasionally, until the syrup is thick and reduced.  This takes about 15 minutes.
  7. Return the peaches (and any accumulated juices) to the pan.  Add the lemon juice and cinnamon, stir gently, and bring to a simmer.
  8. Simmer, stirring frequently until the peaches are very tender.
  9. Remove the jam from the heat, and stir gently to evenly distribute the fruit in the liquid.
  10. Remove the cheesecloth bag and the apples.
  11. Put the jar lids in a medium-sized bowl.  Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids.  Let sit for 5 minutes.
  12. Using a jar lifter, remove the sterilized jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded towel.
  13. Ladle the hot jam into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top.
  14. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars.  Remove the jar lids from the hot water, and drain the water off the lids.  Put a flat lid and ring on each jar, and adjust the ring so that it’s just finger-tight.
  15. Return the filled jars to the water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes to process.
  16. Remove the jars to a folded towel, and do not disturb for 12 hours.  After 1 hour, check to make sure the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately.  Label the sealed jars and store.

Fresh Peach Cake

One of the most delicious things I’ve eaten so far this year are the juicy, sweet peaches from my tree.  And if that weren’t enough, my peach tree pumped out peaches at such a plentiful rate that I had to find other creative ways to eat peaches.  Enter the Fresh Peach Cake.  This thick, tender, fluffy, vanilla cake is layered and topped with fresh, ripe peaches, and the cinnamon sugar sprinkle adds a sweet crunch to the crust on top.

I was rich is peaches this year.
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Peaches abound on top of the cake, but they’re also layered within the cake too.
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Even people who claimed not to like peaches liked this Peach Cake.
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Fresh Peach Cake

Makes one 9-inch square cake
(from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?)

Ingredients

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 large or extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large, ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced (if you don’t fully peel the peaches, the skill will create an unappetizing greyish hue after baking.  Also if the slices are too thick, they’ll sink too far into the cake batter.)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and 1 cup of sugar for 3-5 minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy.
  4. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time.
  5. Add the sour cream and mix well.
  6. Add the vanilla and mix well.
  7. In a separate large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  8. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until combined,
  9. In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of sugar and the cinnamon.
  10. Spread half of the batter evenly in the pan.  Use a small offset spatula to spread the batter all the way to the edge of the pan.
  11. Top with half of the peaches, laying in single layer, evenly distributed.
  12. Sprinkle 2/3 of the sugar mixture on top.
  13. Spread the remaining batter on top.
  14. Arrange the remaining peaches on top.
  15. Sprinkle remaining sugar mixture.
  16. Bake the cake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  17. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nectarine Upside-Down Cake

Two years ago, I lived in downtown Los Angeles among the hustle bustle of high-rise buildings and endless construction and traffic.  My valiant efforts at growing herbs on my rooftop patio were constantly thwarted by the sooty layer of city grime that always covered my plants.  So, when we moved to a house in the suburbs with a yard, high on my wish list was a garden of edibles including fruit trees.  Fast forward to the present, and those fruit trees have produced their first crop.  After eating more white nectarines in a month than I’ve previously eaten in a year, I decided to bake with them too.  This Nectarine Upside-Down Cake takes everything good about nectarines and amps it up 100% with a caramelized layer of nectarines resting on top of a tender, vanilla-almond cake.

Even though the tree was small, the fruit was plentiful.
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Tree-ripened, just picked, super sweet and juicy nectarines are a little slice of heaven.IMG_9095[1]

Upside down cakes look so demure and unassuming in the pan…
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But when you flip the pan over, the nectarine party is in full swing.IMG_9107[1]

Nectarine Upside-Down Cake

Makes one 9-inch round cake
(adapted from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients

7 1/2 ounces (15 tablespoons) unsalted butter (3 tablespoons melted, 12 tablespoons softened; more for the pan)
3 tablespoons demerara or other raw sugar
4 to 5 nectarines, cut into wedges (you can keep the skin on)
6 3/4 ounces (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or paste
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven,  and preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  3. Pour the 3 tablespoons of melted butter into the pan, and tilt so that the butter covers the bottom.
  4. Sprinkle the demerara sugar evenly over the bottom.
  5. Lay the nectarine wedges over the bottom in snug concentric circles, starting from the edge. Set aside.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
  7. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 12 tablespoons of softened butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  8. Beat in the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next.
  9. Add the vanilla and almond extracts.
  10. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined; the batter will be very thick.
  11. Use a silicone spatula to spread the batter over the nectarines, being careful not to move them. Smooth the top.
  12. Bake until the cake is dark brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
  13. Let the cake cool in its pan on a rack for 20 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert onto a cake plate. Remove the cake pan and parchment, and let the cake cool completely before serving.