Cake · Dessert · Fruit

Plum Torte

Despite being knee deep in October, plums are still bountiful at my local farmers market. This unexpected harvest inspired me to try the recipe below, shared long ago by the NY Times and now a mainstay in many home cook’s kitchens. This plum dessert makes a surprisingly great neighbor to your other fall favorites, pairing nicely with the season’s pumpkin breads and apple pies.

Plum Torte (3 of 4)

After trying this recipe, there’s no wonder why it continues to rage in popularity. The batter is practically effortless –  the entire recipe can be prepared in one bowl, should you decide to sift the ingredients directly into the batter. The preparation process takes less than 10 minutes, and the majority of your time will be spent salivating at the smells coming out from your oven.

While the original recipes calls for a springform pan, I didn’t have one of those in hand. Instead, I pulled out my handy non-stick cake pan, lined it with parchment paper, and gave it a good coating of butter. This method worked seamlessly, and my cake popped out without a crumb. If you don’t have a springform pan either – there’s no reason to write off this recipe!

Plums for the plum torte (1 of 1)

Plum Torte (1 of 4)

For the topping, lay the plums neatly on the top of the torte. They should be side by side, with little space in between. This will prevent the plums from moving around and sinking into the batter unevenly. There’s no need to push the plums in, though – they collapse naturally into the batter once baking.

Plum Torte (4 of 4)

Plum Torte (adapted from the NY Times)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 10 plums
  • Cinnamon for dusting
  • 1/2 a lemon

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9 inch cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter again (you can skip this step if you have a springform pan).
  2. Cut plums in half and remove pits.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and light in color, about three minutes.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and eggs to the bowl. Beat on low to medium speed until just combined.
  6. Pour batter into the prepared cake pan. Top with plum halves, skin side up. Dust with sugar and cinnamon and squirt with lemon juice.
  7. Bake for 45-50 minutes and let cool completely.

 

Breakfast · Fruit

Triple Berry Muffins

As a lover of all things sweet for breakfast, I often wake up with a craving for muffins. However, daunted by the thought of finding a recipe and gathering the ingredients, I tend to settle for something simpler – and right out of the cereal box.

That is, until I found this recipe. There’s a short list of ingredients, so it’s likely that you have them all on hand in your pantry at this very moment. Flour? Yes. Sugar? Yes. Eggs and milk? In the refrigerator and ready for use. In addition, there’s a ton of flexibility built right into the recipe. Granulated sugar can be easily replaced with brown, vegetable oil can be swapped for butter (or another variety of oil), and berries can be removed entirely or accompanied by nuts (pecans and walnuts would be ideal).

For those of you that see this recipe as a base for future experimentation, there’s plenty of room to play around with spices. Cinnamon, allspice, and cardamom come quickly to mind, but other spices would work just as well. Add lemon zest, lime juice, or other citrus flavors if you like muffins with an extra tangy bite.

When it comes to mixing together the ingredients, that’s where this recipe really begins to shine. Most importantly, you’ll only need two bowls from start to finish. If you’re like me and loved baking but hate dishes, that’s a huge win. And, if you opt for oil instead of butter, there’s no need to break out the mixer – a large mixing spoon will do. Give the batter a few stirs, divide it between the 12 muffin cups, and all the sudden you’re done.

Berry Muffin Breakfast

Once in the oven, these muffins come out warm and toasty in under 20 minutes. Combined with prep time, that means the entire recipe comes together easily in under 35 minutes. Now, baking breakfast doesn’t have to last into the early afternoon.

Triple Berry Muffins Recipe (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (1/2 cup if you want a very moist muffin)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed berries (I used raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries)
  • Lemon zest

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly butter two muffin trays (6 muffins each).
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and vegetable oil. Stir in the eggs and vanilla.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Gently stir in the berries and divide muffins into the prepared muffin cups.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

 

 

Dessert · Fruit

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

One of the things I love most about summer is the sudden appearance of fruit desserts. I’ve seen them pop up just about everywhere, from the fanciest of restaurants to my friend’s laid back weeknight BBQ. The varieties are endless, beginning with berries in June and transferring over to peaches and other stone fruits as the season progresses. Even the toppings differ, ranging from streusels to sweet puffy biscuits.

My personal favorite fruit dessert is the crumble, a simple dish of baked fruit with oats in the topping. The oats compliment the already delicious combination of flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon, adding a touch of crunch to each bite. If you’re curious about the distinctions between summer fruit desserts, like what makes a crumble different from a crisp,  check out this article via the Huffington Post.

Rhubarb Crumble Food Blog (1 of 1)

There are a few options for the filling. Purists will stick with one fruit, but I always prefer two (and a touch of zest, if you have it!). This particular crumble features strawberries and rhubarb, balancing tart and sweet flavors. Both fruits are on the watery side, however, so add corn starch to the mix if you prefer a thicker filling.

Rhubarb Crumble Food Blog (1 of 1)-2

From start to finish, crumbles should take no longer than an hour to prepare. And don’t forget – while you’re waiting for the fruit to bake, run out and buy a pint of vanilla ice cream. You’ll thank me later.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Recipe (adapted from William-Sonoma Essentials of Baking)

Filling:

  • 6 stalks of rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2.5 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered (if large)
  • scant 1/2 cup sugar (I used a bit less)
  • juice and zest of half a lemon

Topping:

  • 1 cup of flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a square Pyrex dish (about 8 x 8)
  2. In a large bowl, mix together fruits, white sugar, and lemon juice. Stir to combine and pour into the prepared dish.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, and oats. Slowly add the melted butter and stir until small clumps begin to form.
  4. Spoon crumbs onto the fruit mixture and spread evenly. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top crumbs are golden brown. Let cool and serve.
Dessert · Fruit

Free-form Apple Galette

Finished tart

In DC, it’s easy to miss the arrival of fall.  September days often reach up to 80 degrees, and it’s totally acceptable to wear shorts and flip flops outside the house.

Since I can’t count on the weather to indicate the changing of seasons, I’ve come to rely on other context clues.  This year, that clue was the arrival of apples.  Sometime around the middle of September, apples began to pop up everywhere, taking the place of peaches at the farmer’s market and lining the center stands in grocery stores.

And just like that, it’s apple season! Apple season is one of my favorites for the following reasons:  1) I love apple picking 2) I can’t get enough of apples with peanut butter 3) apples usher in a baking season full of spices, pumpkin, and cranberries. I decided to celebrate, searching for an apple recipe that was fancy looking but not too difficult.

forming the galette

Enter the galette, or what should be known as the “lazy man’s pie”.  The galette still looks and tastes like your favorite apple pie, but takes about half the prep time.  It also requires no special pots or pans, taking its form from the filling and sitting on your everyday baking sheet.

Despite the reduced difficulty level, the galette doesn’t lose any of its flavor. In this galette, the flavor is due largely to the combination of chopped and sliced apples.  The chopped apples bake until soft and almost melted, taking on the texture of a chunky applesauce and creating a unique texture in every bite.  The galette dough also browns wonderfully, producing a flaky texture that looks like it came from a bakery.

gallete

Free-form Apple Galette (adapted from Food and Wine)

Ingredients:

Galette Pastry:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 10 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup water, ice cold

Filling:

  • 4 apples, about 1.5 pounds (I used golden delicious)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp of cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Instructions:

Galette dough:

  1.  In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt.
  2. Using a pastry cutter, slowly mix the butter into the dough.  Add about half at a time, mixing until butter is well incorporated and the dough has a crumbly texture (some small chunks of butter can still be present).
  3. Slowly add the water to the dough and mix with the pastry cutter.  Once the dough becomes too sticky, finish kneading it with your hands.
  4. Turn the mixed dough onto a floured cutting board and form it into a small flat disk.  Chill the disk in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Apple filling:

  1. Peel and core the four apples, cutting half of the apples into slices and the other half into 1/2 inch chunks.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

Forming the galette:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Remove the disk of dough from the fridge and place on a large piece of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin (or a cold wine bottle, in my case), roll the dough out to a 12 x 14 rectangle.  If the rolling pin sticks to the dough, rub it with flour.
  3. Transfer the rolled out dough to a large sheet pan.  Spread the chopped apples on the dough, leaving a 1-2 inch border from the edge (you’ll need this in order to fold up the edges to form the galette). Top the chopped apples with 1 tbsp of honey.
  4. Place the sliced apples on top of the chopped apples in vertical lines.  Top the sliced apples with the cinnamon sugar mix.
  5. Dot the top of the galette with the remaining butter and fold up the edges. Place the galette in the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the galette is golden brown on top and the apples are soft when poked with a fork.
Dessert · Fruit

Peach Blueberry Crisp for Two (or more)

Peach Blueberry Crisp

To me, crisps are a vacation from baking.  While there are plenty of recipes out there to guide you through the process, crisps practically encourage experimentation.  They are also forgiving, and I doubt you’ll find many people out there that can claim to have tried a bad crisp. 

They are also simple.  Similar fruit filled desserts (thinking of pies, here) can be very time consuming when you take into account the hours spent prepping and rolling out the dough.  Crisps only take about an hour from start to finish, and most of that time is spent waiting (and salivating) while it’s bubbling in the oven.  

Peach Blueberry Crisp

For this crisp, I combined peaches (the star here) with frozen blueberries for get some additional tartness.  This is only a suggestion, and I imagine that plums, rhubarb, blackberries, and raspberries would all be great additions.  Just make sure that you’re adding enough flour to your fruit filling, since fruits with a higher percentage of water need more flour to soak up the juices during cooking.

For the topping, I decided to do a little experimenting.  I wanted it to have a hint of nutty flavor, so I substituted 2 tbsp of the all-purpose flour for almond meal.  Other flours can definitely be used, but I suggest substituting no more than 1/4 of the all-purpose flour in the recipe to maintain consistency.  I also added walnuts, since I think they add a nice crunch to the topping.

finished crisp

Since there are only two of us, I made enough crisp to fill a small Pyrex dish (it ended up being about 6 servings).  If you’d like to feed more people, simply double the recipe and use a bigger dish.

Peach Blueberry Crisp

Ingredients:

Topping

  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp almond meal
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp butter, softened and cut into 1 tablespoon cubes

Fruit filling

  • 3 peaches, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • zest and juice from half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour

Instructions:

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and butter an 8″ x 6″ Pyrex dish (or double the recipe and use a larger dish)
  2. Combine all of the ingredients for the topping (except for the butter) in a small bowl.  Using your hands, add the butter and mix until the topping is crumbly and the butter is well incorporated.
  3. In another small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the fruit filling.
  4. Add the fruit filling to the Pyrex dish, distributing evenly.
  5. Using your hands again, spread the topping over the fruit.
  6. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is golden brown.