French Apple Cake

I’ve had baking a French Apple Cake on my bucket list for a long time. A celebratory Valentine’s Day dessert was my excuse! ❤ This version was custardy and absolutely wonderful. We ate it with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream but it could also served with a dollop of softly whipped cream.

This recipe was adapted from Marie-Hélène Brunet-Lhotse, a top editor of Louis Vuitton City Guides (and a restaurant critic for the Paris edition), published in Around my French Table: More than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, via Epicurious.com.

Greenspan emphasized the importance of using diverse fruit in the cake to include crisp, soft, sweet, and tart apples for the best result. I used a combination of Fuji, Granny Smith, Envy, and Opal apples. I also increased the vanilla, and substituted apple cider for the rum. Delicious!

Yield: Serves 8

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 4 large apples (if you can, choose 4 different kinds)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum or fresh apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • whipped cream of ice cream, for serving
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, preferably on convection.
  2. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan and put it on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and put the springform on it.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl.
  4. Peel the apples, cut them in half and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1- to 2-inch chunks.
  5. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they’re foamy.
  6. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend.
  7. Whisk in the rum/apple cider and vanilla.
  8. Whisk in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter.
  9. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it’s coated with batter.
  10. Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it’s evenish.
  11. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.
  12. Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. (Open the springform slowly, and before it’s fully opened, make sure there aren’t any apples stuck to it.)
  13. Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.
  14. To Serve: The cake can be served warm or at room temperature, with or without a little softly whipped, barely sweetened heavy cream or a spoonful of ice cream. Marie-Hélène’s served her cake with cinnamon ice cream and it was a terrific combination.

Note: The cake will keep for about 2 days at room temperature. (The flavor may even improve with time!) The cake is too moist to cover completely; leave the cake on its plate and just press a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper against the cut surfaces.

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Pear & Cranberry Pie

Hello, and Happy belated New Year! I hope that someone out there has not felt the need to modify their diet as I have quite a few recipes to share from festivities at end of 2016. 🙂 My kids have winter birthdays so we are still celebrating in my house!

This delicious pie was from our Thanksgiving feast. The recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Justin Chapple. It was originally a slab pie but I modified the recipe to bake it in a “new” estate sale pie plate that had to be used. It was absolutely wonderful with vanilla ice cream.

Yield: one 10-inch double-crusted pie

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • coarse salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
  • 1/2 cup ice water
  • 5 firm Bartlett or Anjou pears peeled, cored and cut into 3/4-inch wedges
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
  • vanilla ice cream, for serving
  1. Day ahead: Freeze cleaned, fresh cranberries in a single layer on a plastic wrap-lined baking sheet.
  2. Make the Crust Dough: In a food processor, combine 2 1/2 cups of the flour with 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and pulse to mix.
  3. Add the butter and pulse in 1-second bursts until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. Drizzle the ice water over the mixture and pulse in 1-second bursts until the dough just comes together.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather any crumbs and pat into 2 rounds. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 45 minutes. (This can also be done a day in advance.)
  6. Preheat the oven to 425°, preferably on convection.
  7. On a floured work surface or between sheets of plastic wrap, roll out 1 piece of the dough to a 13-inch round. Remove one side of plastic wrap and line the bottom of a 10-inch pie dish with the crust.
  8. Roll the second piece of dough into a 12-inch round; keep between sheets of plastic wrap. Place second crust on a cookie sheet.
  9. Refrigerate both crusts for 15 to 45 minutes.
  10. In a large bowl, toss the pears with the cranberries, ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of flour. Spread the fruit evenly in the dough-lined pie dish.
  11. Cut the chilled, 12-inch round pie crust dough into strips to weave into a lattice. Form a lattice over the pie filling.
  12. Fold under the edge and crimp decoratively all around to seal.
  13. Freeze for 15 to 30 minutes.
  14. Brush the pie with the egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  15. Cover the edge of the pie with a crust shield. Bake the pie for 15 minutes at 425 degrees and then lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake about 45 to 60 minutes, or until filling is bubbling, crust is golden, and the pears are tender; rotate halfway through baking. Let cool.
  16. Serve with vanilla ice cream, as desired.

Note: The pie can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

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Ina Garten’s Apple Pie Bars with Browned Butter Glaze

I have to interrupt my Thanksgiving side dish posts (I know you’re upset! 😉 ) to share this indulgent, crowd-pleasing dessert. (A request by my dear friend who plans to make it for her Christmas Eve feast.)

Recently, my kids and their friends performed in a holiday concert at our house. This was our third annual concert! Everyone brings an appetizer and we eat while the kids rehearse. This year, the concert was upgraded to incorporate a microphone and some stand-up comedy. The parents were asked to perform as well. Special and fun. 🙂

Along with the appetizers, I always feel the need to include a dessert (as I love any excuse to bake). These pie bars had caught my eye and were perfect to serve at a large gathering. The recipe was adapted from Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten, via Barefoot Contessa.com. I baked them in a parchment-lined pyrex dish, used pecans instead of walnuts, (predominantly) Fuji apples instead of golden delicious, and topped it with a brown butter glaze inspired by Joy the Baker. Delicious!

Yield: Makes 18 to 24 bars

For the Crust:

  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

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For the Apple Filling:

  • 3 pounds mixed apples, peeled, quartered, cored, and sliced 1/8 inch thick (I used predominantly Fuji apples with 1-2 Granny Smith and 1 Red Delicious)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter

For the Browned Butter Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • milk, as necessary, to achieve desired consistency
  • pinch of coarse salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection. Line a 9×13-inch pyrex baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Make the Crust: Place the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until light and creamy.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour and salt together.
  4. With the mixer on low, slowly add to the butter-sugar mixture, beating until combined.
  5. Scatter two-thirds of the dough in clumps in the prepared pan and press it lightly with floured hands on the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides.
  6. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  7. Par-Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown, and set aside to cool. (While the crust is still warm, I use a spoon to gently push the edge of the crust back up the side.)
  8. Meanwhile, Make the Topping: Put the mixing bowl with the remaining dough back on the mixer, add the nuts and cinnamon, and mix on low-speed to combine. Set aside.
  9. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  10. Make the Filling: Combine the apples and lemon juice in a very large bowl.
  11. Add the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix well.
  12. Melt the butter in a large (10-inch-diameter) pot, add the apples, and simmer over medium to medium-low heat, stirring often, for 12 to 15 minutes, until the apples are tender and the liquid has mostly evaporated.
  13. Spread the apples evenly over the crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border.
  14. Pinch medium pieces of the remaining dough with your fingers and drop them evenly on top of the apples (they will not be covered).
  15. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the topping is browned. Cool completely.
  16. Make the Glaze: In a small pot, melt butter. Continue to cook until browned and fragrant.
  17. In a small bowl, whisk together browned butter, powdered sugar, a splash of milk, and a pinch of salt. Whisk until smooth. Add milk as needed until drizzling consistency is achieved.
  18. Spoon into a ziplock bag and cut a tiny tip off one corner of the bag.
  19. Drizzle glaze over cooled bars before slicing.
  20. Cut into bars of desired size.
  21. Store, wrapped individually or covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (Without the glaze, the bars can be kept at room temperature.)

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Pear Snacking Cake with Brown Butter Glaze

This cake was just calling for all of the Bosc pears that I’ve received in my CSA share recently. I love it when I have all of the ingredients readily available to make a special treat. 🙂

As a side note, I don’t really understand the idea of a “snacking” cake. This is definitely a CAKE. The brown butter glaze was absolutely essential and absolutely fabulous. Yes, it was easy to eat and, yes, it’s not a fancy layer cake. I also suppose it would be a wonderful snack! We enjoyed it for dessert. 😉

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I incorporated whole wheat pastry flour and decreased the amount of fresh nutmeg. I also omitted the nuts. Delicious!

I’m sharing this special “snack” at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #142 this week, co-hosted by Elaine @foodbod and Michelle @O Blog Off. Enjoy! 🙂

For the Cake:

  • 1 cup/227 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature, more to grease the pan
  • 1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup/100 grams dark brown sugar
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground clove
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 to 4 large pears (2 1/4 pounds/1 kilogram), peeled, cored and shredded or finely chopped (to yield 2 1/2 cups) (I finely chopped the prepared pears in a mini-food processor.)
  • 2 ¾ cups/350 grams all-purpose flour (I used 175 g all-purpose flour & 175 g whole wheat pastry flour)
  • ¾ cup/75 grams rolled oats
  • ½ cup toasted walnuts or pecans, chopped, optional

For the Brown Butter Glaze:

  • 5 tablespoons/70 grams unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons/25 grams dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup/125 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons/45 milliliters heavy cream or milk, more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of coarse salt
  1. Prepare the cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-2-inch square or 9-inch-round pan and line bottom with parchment paper. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  2. Using a stand mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add sugars, baking powder, salt, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves and baking soda and beat for 1 minute.
  4. Beat in eggs, one at a time.
  5. With the mixer on low, beat in half the pears, and then beat in the flour until smooth.
  6. Beat in remaining pears, then the oats, beating until well incorporated.
  7. Beat in nuts, if using.
  8. Spread batter in the prepared pan and bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed in the center of the cake, 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Prepare the glaze: In a small saucepan, melt butter, then let it simmer until the foam on top falls to the bottom of the pot and turns brown, about 3 minutes. It will smell nutty and rich when it’s ready.
  10. Whisk in brown sugar until it dissolves.
  11. Whisk in confectioners’ sugar, cream, vanilla and salt until you’ve got a thick glaze with the texture of hot fudge sauce.
  12. Spread this over the cooled cake. Let the glaze set for at least 2 hours before serving.

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Damson Plum & Cream Tart

This is the second dessert I was able to make with the bounty of Damson plums I received in my CSA share. The plum compote was a great way to preserve the plums for a later use; it keeps for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

The sweet compote paired very nicely with the lightly sweetened cream filling and crust. The quantity of compote used to garnish the top of the tart can be adjusted to affect the overall sweetness of the finished tart.

This recipe was adapted from Gourmet, via Epicurious.com. The pastry recipe is from Martha Stewart. Store-bought pie crust could easily be substituted. I have been eating the leftover compote drizzled over vanilla ice cream!

Yield: One 10-inch tart, Serves 6 to 8

For the Pastry:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

For the Compote:

  • 1 pound Damson plums or prune plums
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons white wine or citrus juice
  • 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf

For the Cream Filling:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

  1. Make pastry dough: Pulse flour, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt in a food processor until combined.
  2. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds.
  3. Drizzle 1/4 cup ice water evenly over mixture. Pulse until mixture holds together when pressed between 2 fingers (dough should not be wet or sticky). If dough is too dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse.
  4. Shape dough into 1 large disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. (Dough can be refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 3 months. Let chilled dough stand for 10 minutes and frozen dough thaw before using.)
  5. Make the compote while pastry chills: Bring whole plums, sugar, salt, wine/citrus juice, and bay leaf to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat, covered, stirring occasionally until sugar has dissolved (be careful juices don’t boil over). (I used an enameled cast iron saucepan.)
  6. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until plums fall apart, about 30 minutes.
  7. Transfer to a bowl and chill, uncovered, until cold, then cover.
  8. Discard pits and bay leaf, then add a little confectioners sugar to taste if desired.
  9. Prepare the pastry: Between layers of plastic wrap, roll dough into an approximately 12-inch round, enough to cover a 10-inch tart pan bottom and sides.
  10. Prick bottoms all over with a fork, then freeze tart pan on a cookie sheet until firm, at least 1 hour.
  11. Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle, preferably on convection.
  12. Place chilled tart crust in oven. Turn oven temperature down to 400°F and bake until golden all over, 11 to 13 minutes.
  13. Transfer tart pan to a rack to cool completely, then remove shell from pan.
  14. Make the cream filling: Put cream in a large bowl, then scrape seeds from vanilla bean into cream.
  15. Beat in sugar and zest with an electric mixer until cream just holds stiff peaks.
  16. Fold in about 2 tablespoons plum compote, then spread cream in the prepared tart shell.
  17. Serve topped with some of remaining compote (you will have a lot left over).

Note: Compote keeps, covered and chilled, 2 weeks.

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Single-Crust Damson Plum & Apple Pie

I “had” to make this wonderful weeknight pie with the Damson plums I received in my CSA share. 🙂 Apparently, they are too tart to be eaten raw and must be cooked. Lucky for me, I received over two pounds of them and was able to enjoy them in two different desserts!

The combination of tart fruit with a sweet cookie-like crust in this pie was absolutely delicious. Blending plums with apples was a wonderful bridge from summer to fall as well.

This recipe was adapted from The Guardian, contributed by Nigel Slater, via Smitten Kitchen. The original recipe used prune plums. It was almost a cobbler with its crumbly lid and oozing filling. Amazing.

I’m sharing my pie at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #138 this week, co-hosted by my friends Mollie @The Frugal Hausfrau and Johanne @French Gardener Dishes. Enjoy!

For the Pastry Lid:

  • 7 tablespoons (100 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (I used the zest from about 1/2 a naval orange.)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup plus 6 1/2 tablespoons (175 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse or flaky salt
  • milk or heavy cream, for brushing crust
  • turbinado or granulated sugar, for sprinkling crust
  • softly whipped, lightly sweetened cream, or vanilla ice cream, for serving, optional (unnecessary!)

For the Filling:

  • 1 pound ripe Damson plums or Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered
  • 1 pound apples, peeled, cored and cut into smaller chunks (I used Pink Lady apples.)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • squeeze or two of fresh orange juice
  1. Make the pastry lid: In a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar and orange zest until light and fluffy.
  2. Mix in the lightly beaten egg and scrape down sides.
  3. Slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt and beat until combined.
  4. Scrape dough into a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap, and stick in the freezer for 10 to 20 minutes, or until firmed up.
  5. Assemble the pie: Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C or gas mark 4).
  6. Butter a pie dish. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  7. Add the fruit and sprinkle it with the sugar, cinnamon and orange juice. Gently toss the ingredients together once or twice. 
  8. Roll out the firmed-up lid dough between sheets of plastic wrap or on a very well floured counter.
  9. Gently lift it onto the pie and fold the edges underneath to fit the dish. Crimp the edges, as desired. (Note: The crust may tear- all the better to let juice erupt through.)
  10. Cut 4 vents in the top to allow steam to release and additional juice to bubble through.
  11. Brush the crust with milk or cream, sprinkle with sugar. 
  12. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until lightly golden on top, covering the edges after the first 15 minutes of baking to prevent over-browning.
  13. Scoop onto dishes and serve plain or with whipped cream or ice cream, as desired. (I thought it was perfect on its own!)

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Blueberry & Corn Crisp

I can’t try enough crisp recipes using summer berries. This dessert was described as a “unique and textured crisp with the flavors of corn muffins and blueberry jam smashed together.” I loved the textural contrast of the fresh corn kernels in the topping with the soft blueberry filling. Yummy!

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Nicole Rucker. I used medium-fine cornmeal instead of coarse. We ate it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, of course. 🙂

Yield: Serves 8

For the Filling:

  • 5 cups fresh (or frozen, thawed) blueberries
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse  salt

For the Topping and Assembly:

  • ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup coarse-grind cornmeal or polenta (I used medium-fine cornmeal)
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 10 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from about 1 large ear)

To Make the Filling:

  1. Toss blueberries, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, cornstarch, and salt in a shallow 2-quart baking dish.

To Make the Topping and Assembly:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°, preferably on convection.
  2. Whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl to combine.
  3. Using a pastry blender or your hands, work butter into dry ingredients until no dry spots remain and mixture holds together when squeezed.
  4. Add corn and toss to evenly distribute.
  5. Press topping between your fingers and break into large pieces over filling.
  6. Place baking dish on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake crisp until topping is golden brown and juices are thick and bubbling, 50–60 minutes.
  7. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 30 minutes before serving.

Note: Crisp can be made 1 day ahead. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

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