Pumpkin Custard with Cookie Crumble Crust and Bourbon Chantilly Cream

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If you were planning on making a pumpkin pie for that little holiday we have coming up next week, I have an alternative for you. All the creamy, custard-y, fall-spiced deliciousness of pumpkin pie, but without breaking out your food processor, getting flour all over your countertops, rolling out any crust, etc. And not a single can of evaporated milk. Sound good? I thought so too, especially when my batch yielded 10 individual custards instead of 8 and I was able to sample two one and still have 8, aka a full pie’s worth of servings, leftover.

Thanks to the blog post that introduced me to this cake, I ordered the “Rustic Fruit Desserts” cookbook this past June. As with most of my impulsive cookbook purchases, I had already forgotten about it by the time it arrived on my doorstep two days later. And as also with most of my impulsive cookbook purchases, I flipped through it and then put it in a pile of things I absolutely intended to carefully read and/or do something with ASAP, where of course it lay buried until a week ago. But it was meant to be, because I rediscovered it this week, in mid-November. I’m not sure pumpkin custards would have spoken to me as strongly back in June.

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We’ve done piecakecookies, granolamuffinscinnamon rollsbreadbread pudding, soup…..but I don’t think there’s such a thing as too many pumpkin recipes, especially when everyone’s favorite holiday is a week away. At least let’s hope not, since that list makes me realize that this is B&B’s 10th (!!!) pumpkin recipe. Aside from the pie tin and the pastry crust, this custard looks a lot like pumpkin pie – and as it turns out, tastes a lot like pumpkin pie. But even better, if that’s possible. And the best part is it takes literally 15 minutes to throw together (not counting the hour in the oven and the minimum 5 hours chilling in the fridge once it’s out of the oven – so it does require a bit of planning… and of course the potential trip to Crate and Barrel for whatever number of ramekins it takes to get you from the number you can dig up in your cupboards to 8).

The recipe as written calls for vanilla shortbread cookies for the crust – and the cookbook includes a recipe for them. I’m leaving it out here because I used a combination of store-bought gingersnaps and graham crackers instead (the recipe suggested gingersnaps as an alternative, I love a good graham cracker crust, and – confession – I first learned of the gingersnap/graham cracker combo from a recipe for a really yummy pumpkin cheesecake tart from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook that I’ve made every year since her cookbook came out, and it’s pretty much the best thing ever). You could use any type of cookie you like, however.

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Re: Chantilly Cream. Doesn’t that sound fancy? Turns out it’s just sweetened whipped cream. (As if we weren’t already sweetening our whipped cream?) The recipe told me to whip the cream by hand, which I tried to do but it didn’t take me long to switch to an electric mixer. Add a little sugar and vanilla halfway through, and perhaps a little brandy (as the recipe suggests), or bourbon (as I did). I’m not a huge bourbon drinker but I try to keep a bottle of Knob Creek on hand at all times, mainly for cooking but also because every once in awhile you have a friend that wants a glass of bourbon, and don’t real adults keep a fully stocked bar? Of course when I went to look for my Knob Creek as I was making the whipped cream I realized I was out (too many peach dumplings this summer!), but I did find a mini bottle of Maker’s Mark in my freezer. No idea where it came from, but it turned out to be delicious. I only used 1/2 teaspoon, and it was perfect – I would definitely recommend adding it if you have any on hand, although maybe not if you’re going to be feeding this to small children (I don’t think 1/2 teaspoon of alcohol in one cup of cream, which yields 2 cups once whipped, would be enough to hurt anyone when a single portion would work out to be 1/8th-1/10th of 1/2 teaspoon, aka a very trace amount, but just FYI. If I had offered the bowl of whipped cream to my one year old nephew I think he might have eaten the whole bowl, so just something to keep in mind).

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One Year Ago: Pumpkin, Sage, and Brown Butter Loafs
Two Years Ago: Carrot Mac and Cheese
Pumpkin, Previously: Cookies, Granola, Soup, Bread Pudding, Muffins, Cake, Pie, Bread, Cinnamon Rolls

Pumpkin Custard with Cookie Crumb Crust, from Rustic Fruit Desserts

Serves 8-10

1 1/4 cups crushed cookie of your choice (original recipe suggests vanilla shortbread, I used a combination of graham crackers and gingersnaps but either would be fine on their own)
2 cups half-and-half
2 eggs
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses (recipe suggests Barbados, I used Grandma’s because I had it in the fridge)
2 cups pureed cooked pumpkin, or 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (note: not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Chantilly cream (recipe below), extra cookies, and cinnamon, for garnish

Chantilly Cream:

1 cup cold heavy cream
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Recipe suggests adding Brandy, I used 1/2 teaspoon Bourbon (you could up it to 1 teaspoon but it might be pretty boozy)

To make the Custard: Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Divide crushed cookies among 8 5-ounce ramekins. In a small saucepan, bring the half-and-half to a light simmer over medium-low heat. Whisk the eggs and yolks together in a bowl, then whisk in both sugars and the molasses. Slowly pour the hot half-and-half into the egg mixture while whisking continuously. Stir the pumpkin, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and vanilla together in a large bowl. Slowly add the egg mixture, whisking just enough to combine ingredients; this will keep air bubbles to a minimum, which contributes to a creamier texture when baked.

Set a fine-mesh sieve over a 6-cup measuring cup or a bowl with a pour lip, then strain the custard into the measuring cup. Distribute the custard evenly among the ramekins, filling them almost to the top. Place a large roasting pan on the center rack of the oven, put the ramekins in the roasting pan, and carefully add enough hot water to the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake the custards for 50-60 minutes, or until puffed slightly on the edges and almost set when jiggled. Carefully remove the ramekins from the pan and place on a wire rack. Cool completely on the rack before covering lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerating for at least 5 hours and up to 2 days. Serve garnished with a small dollop of Chantilly cream.

Storage: The custard itself is best if eaten within 2 days, but any leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

To make the Chantilly Cream: Chill a metal bowl and whisk (or beaters). Pour the cream into the bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla (and bourbon or brandy, if using) and continue whipping the cream until it hangs but does not fall from the whisk. Alternatively, if you are using an electric mixer, start whipping the cream on low speed, then gradually increase the speed until the mixer is on medium speed. (Recipe recommends whipping the cream by hand so that you have “more control over the process.” I tried that to begin with, but my arm got tired well before any soft peaks were forming so I happily relinquished control and switched to an electric mixer).

Storage: Chantilly cream is best if served immediately. You may refrigerate it in  covered container for up to four hours, but you may need to rewhip some of the cream at the bottom of the bowl before serving.

Top chilled custards with Chantilly cream, sprinkle cream with cinnamon, and serve with a gingersnap on the side. Yum!

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Friday Faves: Halloween Edition

IMG_3980{my two favorite things}

Happy Halloween Eve! What are your plans for tomorrow? Any fun traditions? I’m looking forward to spending the evening with my niece and nephew, especially since it’s baby Harper’s first Halloween. She’s going as a ladybug (contrary to the photo above, where she and Cooper are just props for my Cat in the Hat costume), and Coop is going to be a little pumpkin. One costume is homemade and has been in the works for months, and one was scavenged from the last few remaining options in his size at Pottery Barn Kids a week ago (anyone who knows my sister or my sister-in-law can guess whose is whose), but they are both going to be adorable. I can’t wait until they’re old enough to trick-or-treat, but for the time being it will be nice to stay warm and dry inside handing out candy, as the forecast for tomorrow night looks pretty bad. Wishing everyone a lovely Halloween weekend, full of lots of treats and hopefully waterproof costumes! Some links and pics (a little baby-heavy, as that’s all I’ve been doing the past few days!):

  • Cooper is obsessed with spiders lately (and cookies too, incidentally) – I may need to make these for him.
  • Homemade Almond Joys – one of the many things on my to-do list for this Halloween that just didn’t happen (along with carving a pumpkin!) – but I’m thinking if I write it down here maybe I’ll hold myself to it for next year. I did make her homemade Twix a few years ago and they were to die for.
  • How cute are these Mummy Cupcakes?
  • I’m going to make this tomorrow night.
  • Lena Dunham’s costumes through the years – so funny!!

IMG_3997{favorite halloween candy}

IMG_3868{little skeleton buns in their honest diapers}

IMG_3853{cookie treats for friends and neighbors}

IMG_3988{coordinating cuddles (compare with last year – sob!)}

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze

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Smitten Kitchen first posted this recipe three Octobers ago, way back in 2012, a few days before I was planning to host a baby shower brunch for my friend Amanda.  I had the menu all planned out, but naturally I saw the blog post and decided I could definitely do homemade cinnamon rolls for a crowd on top of everything else.  I was also planning on homemade quiches, however, and at the eleventh hour decided I couldn’t do both – so I opted for pumpkin muffins, which I had made before and knew would be easier. On the one hand, thank goodness I came to my senses and didn’t attempt the cinnamon rolls, as I was pretty frazzled the morning of the shower (I have a vivid memory of calling a girlfriend at 8 am and asking her to pick up three dozen cupcakes, as I had run out of time to make them). But on the other, it’s really a shame I didn’t, as what I learned last week when I finally made them (three years later!) is that – as it turns out – they’re totally doable. And of course, as delicious as they sound.

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So please believe me when I tell you that you, too, can make homemade cinnamon rolls. You can make them from scratch, even. My grandmother is the only person I’ve ever known to make “homemade” cinnamon rolls, and even she uses frozen bread dough – so of course I assumed they must be really difficult. As it turns out, however, that’s not the case.  I’ve never worked with yeast before, and I was surprised at just how easy it is. It’s already packaged out for you in the baking aisle – you simply let it sit in some warm milk for five minutes and add it to your dough (just make sure you let the dough rise in a warm room ~ I had to turn the oven on in the kitchen, and in a moment of doubt even leave the oven door open for awhile/the full hour – but my dough rose!!).

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You have to let the dough rise twice, for an hour the first time and 45 minutes the second, but that’s still not nearly as long as I thought it would take (SK gives you the option of preparing the rolls the night before baking them, in which case you only have to let the dough rise once, and then the second “rise” happens overnight in the fridge). And you get to use the dough hook attachment to your mixer – I’ve had my mixer for over ten years and this is literally the first time I’ve used it (I was proud of myself more for even knowing where to find it than for the fact that I was actually making dough!). It’s also worth mentioning that the whole process makes your kitchen smell AH-mazing. Please make these tomorrow night, pop them in the fridge for the second rise, and then bake them Saturday morning for the best pumpkin treat you could give yourself. Happy Halloween!

One Year Ago: Barefoot Contessa’s Mac and Cheese and Beecher’s Mac and Cheese
Two Years Ago: My Favorite Pumpkin Muffins

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls, from Smitten Kitchen 

Yield: 16-18 rolls

For the Dough
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 whole milk, warmed (but not over 116 degrees F)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from 1 0.25 ounce or 7 gram packet)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling the dough
1/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cup pumpkin purée, homemade or canned
1 large egg
Oil, for coating bowl

For the Filling
3/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon

For the Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons milk or buttermilk
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Few drops vanilla extract (optional)

To Make Dough: Melt butter (brown it if you wish) and let it cool. Combine warm milk and yeast in a small bowl and set aside. After 5-7 minutes it should be a little foamy – if not, you may have some bad yeast and should start again with a new packet. Combine flour, sugars, salt, and spices in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add 1/4 of your melted butter (reserve the rest for assembly) and stir to combine, then add milk/yeast mixture, pumpkin, and egg. Once the dough starts to come together, switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook and run it on low for five minutes.  Scrape your dough into a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set the bowl in a warm, draft free area of your kitchen and let it rise for an hour. (Trick my aunt taught me: if your dough doesn’t seem to be rising enough, turn your oven on to warm up your kitchen). While the dough rises, prepare your baking dishes: line the bottoms of two 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans (or square or rectangular baking dishes) with parchment and then butter the sides of the pan and the parchment.

To Make Filling: Stir together the sugars, cinnamon, and salt.

To Make Glaze: Beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Slowly drizzle in the milk until you reach your desired consistency – thick enough to ice (less milk) or thin enough to drizzle (more milk).

To Assemble Rolls: Scoop your dough onto a very well-floured surface, sprinkle some extra flour on top, and roll it out into a 16″ x 11″ rectangle. Brush the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter over the dough and sprinkle the filling evenly over the butter. Starting on a longer side, roll the dough as tightly as possible into a spiral. Using a sharp, serrated knife, saw the log with a back and forth motion as gently as possible (almost no pressure whatsoever) into 1″ rounds. Divide buns between the two prepared pans. Sprinkle any filling that has fallen out on top. Cover each pan with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until puffed and golden, top with glaze, and dig in!

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Warm Pear-Ginger Upside-Down Cake

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If you read this blog even semi-regularly, you might start to worry that I only own two cookbooks. While in truth I have about half a bookshelf’s worth, it would be a fair assumption since I sometimes don’t do a very good job of branching out. Last week, in search of an easy fall dessert, I remembered a pear upside down cake I had made a couple years back, when I was trying to use up some pears from a friend’s orchard and really into my cast iron skillet cookbook. I dug up the recipe, happily realized I already had almost all of the ingredients on hand (if you keep the Trader Joe’s ginger chews on hand like I used to, you might even find you don’t have to go to the store at all!), and whipped this up in under an hour. In a season flooded with apple and pumpkin desserts, often rich and heavy or overly sugary, I think this is a great addition to anyone’s fall recipe repertoire. The cake has a barely-sweetened cornmeal crumb, the pears are deliciously buttery, and the spicy ginger adds a little kick. And of course, what’s prettier than an upside-down cake in a cast iron skillet?

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I probably say this too often, in my attempt to encourage everyone to actually make these recipes rather than just read about them, but this really is so easy to throw together. The only caveat is, I do think you need a cast iron skillet. While you could definitely make something similar in a regular cake pan (or ideally an 8×8 brownie pan), the cast iron is ideal here, for the way it caramelizes the fruit and of course for it’s stovetop-to-oven multi-tasking ability. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, consider buying one – the Lodge brand is relatively inexpensive and I use mine all the time. While I’ve done meat and fish in it a few times, I use it primarily for cheese dips and giant chocolate chip cookies – so if that doesn’t sell you I don’t know what will.  But make this first, because I know you have someone in your life giving you a basket of pears from their orchard that you need to use. And if you don’t, it’s a great excuse to buy a couple pounds at the farmer’s market this weekend! You could also use apples if you went on an overly-ambitious apple picking trip recently… but I do recommend trying it with pears first, because just like with cookbooks, sometimes you’ve got to mix it up a little bit!

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One Year Ago: Brown Butter and Bourbon Apple Crisp
Two Years Ago: Black Bean and Pumpkin Soup

Warm Pear-Ginger Upside-Down Cake, from The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook by Sharon Kramis & Julie Kramis Hearne

Serves 8-10

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 pounds firm but ripe Bartlett or Anjou pears (about 4 pears), peeled, cored, and cut into eighths
2 tablespoons minced candied ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup medium-ground yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup boiling water
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
Fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for topping, optional

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add 1/4 cup of the sugar, stir just enough to combine, and cook without disturbing until the sugar dissolves and starts to turn golden brown/caramelize, about 5 minutes. Beginning with the outside edge and working your way towards the center in a circular pattern, arrange the pear slices on top of the caramelized sugar. Sprinkle the ginger and nutmeg over the top. Cook until the pears are soft and the caramel starts to thicken, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Place the cornmeal in a large bowl, add the boiling water, and stir to blend.  Add the remaining 6 tablespoons butter and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar to the cornmeal mixture and mix until well blended.  (This can be done by hand). Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time, alternating it with the milk, making sure not to over mix. Pour the batter on top of the pears in the skillet.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the top starts to brown and the center of the cake feels firm and springs back when pressed, 18-20 minutes. Let the cake cook for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen it, and place an inverted plate on top of the skillet. Protecting both hands with oven mitts, flip the cake onto the plate. Replace any fruit that may have stuck to the skillet.  Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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Friday Faves

IMG_2901{fall foliage + fog}

Happy Friday! What are you up to this weekend? I’m off to Key West…looking forward to eating lots of Key Lime Pie, listening exclusively to Jimmy Buffet and Kenny Chesney, and doing everything the NYT’s “36 Hours” article tells me to do. We’ll have more than 36 hours though (5 days!), so if you have any recommendations I would love to hear them! Wishing everyone a lovely fall weekend. Some fun photos and articles for your Friday:

  • Facial mists – I’ve never really tried them, but this article makes me want to start!
  • I’ve been craving this pasta all week.
  • Loved this week’s Modern Love (Last week’s Modern Love? It’s published online on Thursdays but printed in the Sunday NYT, so depending upon how you read it…)
  • I’m really working on perfecting my roast chicken this fall (have you ever made “Engagement Chicken”? My friend Kristy did one time…..but it didn’t work.)
  • I can’t wait to go visit Eagle the Penguin!

IMG_2660{Queso Fundido for MNF – Go Hawks!}

IMG_2937{I made these photo books for Cooper per a recommendation from Cup of Jo – I did one with his monthly photos and one with pictures of his favorite people. He’s currently not that into them but I’m sure he will be at some point….right? I think it’s a cute gift idea, regardless!}

IMG_2938{Such a thoughtful “just because” gift from my dear friend Jessie ~ I’ve been drinking my detox tea out of it all week! In related news, did anyone catch that game last night? Go Dawgs!}

IMG_2932{My two favorite uncooperative photo subjects in the Petit Bateau outfits I got them about a year ago – now that Coop finally fits into his, Harper has almost outgrown hers. Damn those French sizes! And yes, this took two takes, thus the two different bows}

Ina’s (and Beatty’s) Chocolate Cake

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I feel like the world is made up of cake people and non-cake people, and then within the “cake people” category there are chocolate cake people and… other kinds of cake people? I’m not a huge cake person, nor really a chocolate person, so I certainly can’t claim to be a chocolate cake person.  I do, however, aspire to be a good hostess, so when we were having a big family birthday party for my brother-in-law last month and half an hour before people were scheduled to arrive I realized there was no dessert, I sought to rectify the situation. My brother-in-law is very much a cake person, and specifically, very much a chocolate cake person. So I did a quick google search for chocolate cake and this was the first recipe to pop up.  Since Ina would never steer me wrong, and since miraculously I had all ingredients on hand, I quickly whipped up the batter, greased and floured two round pans (the fact that I not only had all the ingredients but two matching round cake pans tells me that the chocolate cake gods were really on my side this particular evening), and slid the cake into the oven right as the guests were arriving.  And as it turned out, it was a huge hit with cake people and non-cake people alike, which I took to mean that it belongs on B&B (where as I’ve said before, we do things mainly for the accolades).

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For some reason, I read the name of the cake that night when I was a bit frazzled and just assumed it was named after Warren Beatty. So for a time I was calling it Warren Beatty’s Chocolate Cake, which makes no sense. As it turns out, in the episode where she introduces the recipe, Ina is making the cake for her friend Michael and is using his grandmother’s recipe – Beatty is Michael’s grandmother’s name. (Pronounced Betty. But you can understand my confusion). I just thought I should share that before we go any further, so that you don’t make the same mistake.

When I made this the first time, I used a vanilla buttercream frosting rather than the chocolate frosting Grandma Beatty uses (if there’s one thing I know about my brother-in-law, it’s that he loves chocolate cake with white frosting). When I made it again for another family birthday last week, I used Grandma Beatty’s version, to compare.  Both were delicious, although I will say (as a non-chocolate person), you definitely want some vanilla ice cream with the chocolate/chocolate version (and to be fair, even with the chocolate/vanilla I still wanted ice cream – possibly due to the fact that I’m more of an ice cream person than a cake person). Also, the chocolate frosting calls for a raw egg yolk – you could omit it without sacrificing too much, but if you follow the recipe as is just be mindful when serving to pregnant women or little kids.

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Since this is an Ina-approved recipe, it’s basically perfect as written, no need for me to give you any tips. I will say, DO use parchment as instructed – I didn’t the first time and had a hard time getting my cakes out of the pans; I used it the second time and they popped right out and then the parchment peeled right off (shown below, as I was pretty proud of myself). Ina doesn’t have you do a crumb layer, which I did just because I had the time and it always makes me feel like a real baker. If you have time (and freezer space), spread a very thin layer of frosting over the top and sides of the cake and then pop it in the freezer for 20 minutes or so. Then when you finish icing it you won’t have any bothersome crumbs messing up your beautiful frosting job. And along those lines, my final note is to consider investing in an offest spatula – I took a cupcake decorating class at Williams-Sonoma a few years ago and the instructor practically forced us all to buy one, but I’ve used mine probably 100 times since. They really make icing any kind of cake or cupcake (sometimes even cookie) so much easier, and make your final product look so much better.  Because like I said, we’re in it for the accolades. And because cake person or not, everyone needs a beautifully-frosted Grandma Beatty’s Chocolate Cake in their repertoire.

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One Year Ago: Crunchy Cabbage Salad with Peanut Ginger Dressing 
Two Years Ago: My All-Time Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cakes, previously: Pops, Pumpkin, Rum, Berry Bundt (I think this is the first basic cake recipe for B&B – only took two and a half years!)

Beatty’s Chocolate Cake, from Barefoot Contessa

For the cake: 

Butter, for greasing pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for greasing pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

For the frosting: 

6 ounces good semi-sweet chocolate, such as Callebaut
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

To make cake: 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8″ x 2″ round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

To make frosting: 

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t whip!

To assemble cake: 

Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

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Berry Buttermilk Bundt Cake

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This recipe was first posted back in 2012, which means for three years I knew about it and didn’t make it. This blog was started in 2013, which means there’s been over two years (and specifically, two Fourth of Julys) where I haven’t made it. I don’t really have a good excuse, aside from the overwhelming number of patriotic-themed recipes on my “to make” list, and/or who really feels like turning the oven on when it’s 90 degrees outside? But inspired by the berries at the market this past weekend, I finally dug out my bundt cake pan (usually reserved for rum cake season) and whipped one up – a week ahead of schedule, even – and I’m so glad I did, because now I can encourage you all to make it this weekend. For in addition to being absolutely delicious, it’s the perfect cake for Fourth of July weekend – it’s simple, you can make it ahead of time, you can transport it anywhere pretty easily, it’s packed with seasonal summer berries, and of course it’s red, white, and blue, a prerequisite for any Fourth of July dessert.

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I love this cake as written (Deb’s version is one cup raspberries, one cup blueberries, one cup blackberries), and the way I made it (per Deb’s suggestion, I added a fourth cup of berries – you could increase any or all of her three, but I used a cup of chopped strawberries so as to make her “triple berry bundt” a “quadruple berry bundt”), but I also love the idea that you could use this cake batter and add literally any fruit that you like. The original recipe (before Deb tweaked it) was for a rhubarb cake, and a lot of comments on Deb’s post recommended making it with peaches (yum!!). I’m also tempted to try an all strawberry version. If only it was 1950 and people were allowed to bake a cake a week.

Deb’s main tip (aside from adding a fourth cup of berries) was to make sure you grease your pan really, really well.  I used PAM for baking and didn’t have a problem at all, but my bundt cake pan is nonstick – from the comments to her post it seems as though people without nonstick pans had problems regardless of how well they greased them. My only other tip is – and I’m pretty proud of myself about this – I recently read (in my new Huckleberry cookbook, recipes coming soon!) that in baking you should always double the amount of salt and vanilla the recipe calls for.  I don’t have a problem doing this with vanilla – I feel like most recipes only call for one teaspoon, which seems like such a small amount – but the salt is a little scarier. According to Zoe, though, adding the extra salt brings out the sweetness of the sugar. She also recommends using only kosher salt, which I intend to do going forward but forgot in this particular instance.

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I served this for dessert on Sunday and it was quite the crowd pleaser. So while I regret waiting three years to make it, I’m glad I finally did. Better late than never, right? Happy baking, and happy Fourth of July!

Fourth of July, previously: Sugar Cookies, Flag Cake

Berry Buttermilk Bundt Cake, from Smitten Kitchen

For the Cake

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt*
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
Zest of one lemon
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract*
3/4 cup buttermilk
4 cups mixed berries**

*the recipe as written calls for 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; I doubled both amounts as discussed above.

**recipe calls for only 3 cups berries – I loved it with 4 but if you only have 3 cups on hand you’ll be fine.

For the Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar
Juice of one lemon
One tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

Make the Cake

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease and flour a 10 cup bundt cake pan, or spray with PAM for baking. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the 2 1/2 cups flour with baking powder and salt (reserving the 2 tablespoons flour); set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, stirring until just incorporated, then 1/2 of the buttermilk, another 1/3 flour, remaining buttermilk, and remaining flour. Scrape down the bowl as needed and beat as little as possible.

Toss the berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons flour and fold the berries as gently as possible into the cake batter. It’s virtually impossible to do this without squishing the berries, but do your best. My raspberries all squished but they made the batter a pretty pink color. Gently spread the batter into the well-greased pan and smooth out the top with a spatula. Bake 55-60 minutes, or until tester comes out clean, rotating the cake 180 degrees after 30 minutes so that it bakes evenly. Let the cake cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack before inverting it onto a serving platter. Let cool completely before frosting.

Make the Glaze

Stir the butter and lemon juice into the powdered sugar and whisk until smooth (use more lemon juice for a thinner icing, less for thicker – I used a little too much, so while it still tasted delicious it didn’t look quite as pretty as Deb’s). Drizzle the icing over the cake and let it drip down the sides.

Cake is delicious the day of, but even better the next day, and will last 3-4 days if tightly wrapped.

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Friday Faves

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Happiest of Fridays, friends! I know it’s not technically summer for a couple more weeks, but with forecasts in the 80s this weekend it feels like we’ve left spring behind already! Any exciting plans for the weekend? We’re celebrating a dear friend’s birthday tomorrow, and I’m excited to sit out on a gorgeous patio and drink my favorite Moscow Mule in the sunshine. Sometimes it’s the little things, right? Wishing everyone a stress-free Friday and a lovely sunny weekend! Some favorite links and photos from the week (slash, past two months! A backlog of faves, as usual):

  • Love this list of Joanna’s top 12 recipes (I would like a #10 right now, please)
  • I ordered this on Wednesday – hoping it will be as amazing as advertised (thanks, Emily, for the tip!)
  • Can’t wait to try this salad and this salad – both from Bowl + Spoon (below – a double (triple?) fave this week!)
  • Love a cute summer tote (I would like 1, 2, 4, and/or 8)!
  • Has everyone read this post by now? So heartbreaking, but at the same time really beautiful.

photo-135 {a really good hostess gift/three of my favorite things}

photo-124 {my new summer treat}

photo 1-45 {Love Sara and Hugh’s new cookbook!}

photo-134 {So excited for summer with my two best buds!}
Chairs and sun hats from Pottery Barn Kids, beach towels from Serena & Lily, sand toys from Green Toys, and Fourth of July jammies from Hanna Andersson.

Strawberry Rhubarb Tart with Orange Cardamom Shortbread Crust

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Once upon a time, back when I first started this blog, I posted so many recipes from this cookbook that I worried its author might sue me for copyright infringement. Or at least kindly ask that I stop posting all of her material, so that people still have reason to buy the book (which I strongly recommend, btw). I also thought my readers might find me pretty unoriginal. So I decided to take a break, but from time to time I just can’t help myself. This recipe is the first thing that comes to mind as soon as I see rhubarb hit the market each spring, so I thought it deserved a feature on B&B. It’s been an entire two months since I’ve posted (sorry!!!), but luckily this tart is gorgeous (and yummy) enough to motivate me to share it.  We already knew that strawberries and rhubarb were a delicious duo (thanks, pie), but the combination of fresh strawberries and silky smooth rhubarb curd (with no weird rhubarb strings) is really amazing.  And the orange cardamom shortbread crust is just to die for – I don’t usually love orange in sweets (give me lemon or lime any day) and I’m not a huge cardamom fan, but somehow here the combo really works.

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While I can’t call this recipe “super easy,” as I’m often inclined to do, it’s really not complicated, and yet your dinner guests will definitely think you’re an amazing pastry chef. However, it’s not quick. I made this particular tart last Sunday to bring to a birthday dinner, started it early-afternoon, thinking I would have plenty of time, and alas, I was pretty late to the party. Luckily I showed up with a beautiful dessert in hand, so no one seemed to mind too much.  You probably already have almost all of the ingredients in your fridge/pantry, which will save some time. The only two items I didn’t have on hand were the strawberries and rhubarb, which I picked up at the farmers market – no trip to the grocery store needed.

The recipe can basically be divided into two parts: the shortbread crust and the rhubarb curd.  Once you’ve prepared the crust dough, it takes over an hour to chill and bake, so you’ll have time to worry about the curd once the crust is in the refrigerator. Simply pulse the shortbread ingredients in the food processor and then press the dough into the pan and chill. So easy, it makes me want to make shortbread more often! The orange and cardamom is a lovely flavor combination, but I think this would be really amazing with lemon or lime zest too (see above re: not usually an orange fan).

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The second part is the curd. Don’t be intimidated – I had never made curd before I first made this recipe, but it’s not hard at all, just a little more involved. Squeeze the rhubarb juice from the purée (my four stalks of rhubarb yielded twice the amount of juice I needed – they may have been particularly juicy but I think you would be fine with 2 or 3 stalks) and combine with the sugar, eggs, yolks, and salt. [Note: I don’t know if I would attempt this recipe if you don’t have a food processor – you would probably be ok making the shortbread with a pastry cutter but you definitely need the food processor for the rhubarb.]  The time consuming part is the constant stirring – the recipe says 18-20 minutes, and although mine looked plenty thick after about 10 minutes, I kept stirring away until my timer went off, just in case. Melissa encourages the straining step to get that silky texture – there were definitely chunks of what I believe to be cooked egg that I strained out so I’m inclined to agree with her.

Once your crust is baked and your curd is finished, you get to put it all together (the fun part).  You could definitely make this ahead of time – either the crust or the curd, or both.  I’m not sure how long the tart would last once it’s assembled (whenever I’ve made it it gets devoured on day one), so if you wanted to make both in advance I would perhaps still keep the crust and curd separate until the day you want to serve the tart. Just bake the shortbread as directed in step 3, below, and then let it cool and store it in an air-tight container. Let the strained curd cool, place a layer of saran wrap directly on the surface of the curd, and store in the refrigerator. Once you’re ready to put it all together, pour the curd into the tart shell and bake for 10-15 minutes (Melissa says 10, mine didn’t look too set after 10 and so I gave it an extra 5, and even then I was still a little nervous it wasn’t done – but I was in a hurry).  Let the tart cool for at least an hour – see, I told you it was time consuming! – and then decorate with the strawberries.  I just hulled my berries and placed them cut side down on top of the curd, but you could cut them in half or slice them, and then arrange them any way you want. Sprinkle with powdered sugar (definitely don’t do this until the very last minute as the powdered sugar will kind of “melt” into the strawberries), pop the outer ring off of your tart pan, and place the tart on a serving platter.  People will tell you you’re amazing, and forgive you for being late to dinner.

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For the shortbread crust:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest (approx. the zest of one large orange)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes

For the rhubarb curd filling:

10 ounces rhubarb, trimmed and cut into one inch pieces (about 3 cups chopped, I used 4 large stalks and had plenty)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

For the topping:

2 cups strawberries, rinsed and hulled
Powdered sugar, for sprinkling

To make tart:

1. To make the crust, place the flour, powdered sugar, orange zest, salt, and cardamom in the bowl of a food processor with the blade attachment and pulse to combine. Add the butter and run the motor just until a crumbly dough forms.

2. Scrape the dough into a 9-inch tart pan. Use your fingers to press the dough into and up the sides of the pan. Use a spatula to smooth the bottom, then chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line the tart dough with a sheet of foil and fill with pie weights. Bake until light golden brown, 35-40 minutes.

4. While the crust is baking, prepare the curd. Puree the rhubarb in a food processor until smooth, about 2-3 minutes (add a few teaspoons of water if necessary to help the rhubarb move, though try to keep this to a minimum so it doesn’t dilute the juice). Pour into a bowl lined with cheesecloth. Tighten the cheesecloth and squeeze out the juice with your hands, discarding the pulp. You should get about 2/3 cup juice.

5. In a double boiler or a stainless steel medium bowl set on top of a medium heavy-bottomed pot with 2 inches of simmering water, combine the rhubarb juice, sugar, egg yolks, eggs, and salt. Stir constantly, with a whisk, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides, while the liquid thickens, about 18-20 minutes or until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and whisk in butter until dissolved.

6. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh sieve.

7. When the crust is ready, take it out of the oven, remove the foil and pie weights, and lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees F. Spread the rhubarb curd into the tart shell and smooth with a spatula. Bake for another 10 minutes, until the curd is just set (mine needed 15). Transfer the tart to a wire rack to cool completely, for at least one hour.

8. Just before serving, arrange the strawberries on top of the curd and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve at once.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Variations: as I mentioned above, I think the crust would be great with lemon or lime zest in place of the orange, perhaps without the cardamom (but it might be fun to experiment with different spices?). While the point of this recipe is kind of the strawberry/rhubarb combo, Melissa says rasperries work great too.  I also think this tart can serve as an example for other fun and simple curds you could try – I’m thinking about lemon curd with raspberries or blueberries, lime curd with strawberries, mango curd with…..what goes with mango? Anything really, but I imagine strawberries would be delicious. If you’re inspired to make up your own variation, let me know in the comments how it turns out!

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Coconut Bourbon Banana Bread

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I’m pretty sure that were this a legitimate food blog, the kind with paid advertisements and readership beyond friends and family and the odd instagram or pinterest searcher, I would have posts scheduled months in advance and planned to coincide with seasons and holidays. Instead, I’m realizing as I sit down to post this banana bread that Easter is in three days and I should probably be sharing a delicious brunch recipe. Not that you couldn’t serve this for Easter (because you definitely could), but it’s more of a it’s-raining-outside-and-I-have-rotting-bananas-sitting-on-my-counter-and-I’m-in-a-baking-mood activity than a holiday centerpiece. Luckily for all of you, I have no paid advertisers and am not that organized – so despite my best intentions I end up posting whatever I want, whenever I want. For example, I made this banana bread last fall (as evidenced by my dark red nail polish) and meant to post it back then, but it somehow got buried in my drafts folder. And when I discovered it there last night I decided I might as well just post it today. Though it may be sunny now, we all know the rain will be back soon enough. So even if you don’t make this between now and Sunday morning, bookmark it for the next gray day that coincides with rotting bananas.

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Deb has a “healthy” banana bread recipe on her site, which I’ve made quite a few times since she posted it two and a half years ago. I had been avoiding trying this one for fear I wouldn’t be able to go back – the healthy one is divine while still letting you feel at least a little healthy, so why introduce a richer version that makes no apologies for it’s butter and bourbon?  But with a bottle of Knob Creek calling my name from the pantry one afternoon, I decided to mix things up a little bit. I’m not sorry I did, because this one is really freaking good.  And while I’ll still use the healthy version most of the time, it’s never a bad idea to have something a little more exciting in your repertoire.

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One of my favorite things about Deb, besides the fact that I can always count on her recipes to be delicious, is that she writes them with the goal of using as few dishes as possible.  This is one-bowl banana bread (two, I suppose, if you count the pan or bowl you use to melt the butter): you just mash the bananas in your mixing bowl and then stir the other ingredients in. I added a cup of unsweetened coconut in at the end and I thought it made the bread even more amazing – but if you’re not a coconut fan or don’t have any on hand it would be equally yummy without it. You could also add chocolate chips (with or without the coconut), or crushed pineapple (also with or without the coconut, but probably not with the chocolate), or anything else you can dream up. But whatever you do, don’t leave out the bourbon.

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One year ago: Miraval’s Arugula Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette 
Two years ago: Jamie Oliver’s Eggplant Parmesan

Coconut Bourbon Banana Bread, (adapted) from Smitten Kitchen

3-4 ripe bananas
1/3 cup salted butter, melted
3/4 cup light brown sugar (or up to one cup if you prefer your banana bread extra sweet)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional but highly recommended)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup coconut (optional; ideally unsweetened)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and butter (or oil or spray) a 8″x4″ loaf pan. Mash your bananas in a large mixing bowl and stir in the melted butter. Add sugar, then egg, then vanilla and bourbon, and then the spices.  Sprinkle the salt and baking soda over the mixture and stir to combine. Mix in the flour, and then the coconut (if using). Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean (mine always seem to take the full hour if not longer; if you use mini loaf pans start checking them at 40 minutes).

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