Category Archives: Desserts

Summertime Fruit Cake

There is a slight Goldilocks’ attitude to my preference for a summer time cake featuring fruit.  Not too dense and not to light, but a medium textured, moist cake that seems just right for a satisfying sweet treat during our late summer heat.

 

If you are a baker, or a fan of simple fruit cakes, you may already be acquainted with Marion Burros’ iconic Original Plum Torte.  It is said to be the New York Times’ most requested recipe, and indeed, was published every September for seven years back in the 1980’s.  Now that’s serious lasting power, and apt appreciation for a genius cake.

 

Ms. Burros also encourages home bakers to experiment with our own adaptations, and this is one of mine.  Over the years my family has enjoyed several variations, but we seem to especially appreciate using peaches and/or nectarines.

 

This cake, which is pretty forgiving when it comes to making substitutions, is a brilliant showcase for perfectly ripe stone fruits.  The other bonus for making this now – many of these fruits are at seasonal low pricing from your local farmers.

 

I hope you’ll give this cake a whirl.  There are only five, FIVE, actual mixing steps to it; fairly short for an outstanding outcome.

A few advance notes:

A combination of two medium peaches and one medium nectarine. Freestone fruit is important here.

  • Experience shows me that fruit sliced on the thinner, 1/ 3-inch side, yields for a baked cake with most of the fruit showing. If this appearance appeals, then you’ll be glad for the tip.  Slightly thicker slices of fruit results in a perfectly delicious cake that shows more cake than fruit on top.  You can always garnish with a bit more fruit, or a dollop of whipped cream.

  • Don’t overdo it with overlapping the sliced fruit. The rising cake batter needs somewhere to go.  You don’t want to weigh it down so much that you end up with a stodgy cake that couldn’t rise for the heft of the fruit topping.

A stunner — If I do say so myself!

 

Summer Fruit Cake with Peaches and Nectarines

Inspired by Marion Burros’ Plum Torte

Makes one 9” round cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 1-1/ 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/ 4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/ 2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/ 2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/ 2 cup whole milk yogurt, room temperature (substitute sour cream)
  • 3 medium peaches or nectarines, or large plums
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon cinnamon or ginger or “Dusk” spice blend
  • 1 tablespoon Turbinado sugar, or any coarse grind sugar
  • Additional butter for the pan

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Position an oven rack into the center of the oven, preheat oven to 350° Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment.  Make sure the pan is securely fastened, then generously butter the sides of the pan.  Set aside.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Slice the fruit lengthwise and remove the pit. Slice into about 1/ 3” to 1/ 2” thick wedges.  Place in a medium sized bowl; add the lemon juice, lemon zest and spice.  Stir gently to evenly coat the fruit.  Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat on medium until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each.  Add the vanilla.
  5. Add one-half of the flour mix, blend in slightly; then add one-half of the yogurt. Repeat with the remaining flour mix and yogurt, taking care to just mix thoroughly, but do not over beat the batter.  The batter will be thick.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan, leveling it with a spatula. Arrange the sliced fruit atop, avoiding too many overlapped pieces.  It is okay if some batter is uncovered, where it will rise during baking.
  7. Bake for about one hour. Test doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake.  If it comes out clean, with no batter clinging to it, the cake is ready.  Remove and place on a wire rack to cool.  After 10 minutes, remove the sides of the pan.
  8. May be served slightly warm, or completely cooled. Finish with additional fresh fruit, or a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  Any leftover, good luck with that, makes delicious breakfast fare.

More photos because this cake is so lovely

Now it’s time to eat from the photo session!

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French Yogurt Cake with Lemon and Rosemary

Lots of Lemons!

Lots of lemons at this neighbor’s house!

     A walk around my neighborhood tells a tale of bumper crop lemons.  I am only seeing front yards, and they are laden with lemons!  This quick loaf cake recipe uses only the lemon rind, leaving you with options for using the juice.  I suggest making lemonade, to serve along with this cake, and setting out a lovely Mother’s Day brunch table.

     I hope you find the combination of lemon and rosemary in a cake appealing.  It may be a new cake combo to you, and if so, you may well be delighted with their subtle pairing here.  I use a mild, “buttery” olive oil for another intriguing layer of flavor.  As you might imagine, the resulting cake is fragrant, light, moist, and tender.

     Oil-based cakes stay moist for days.  And left overnight, the lemon and rosemary become more flavorful.  I mention this to say this is good for making in advance.  Once it’s served, it’ll go fast in any case.  It certainly does at my house!

     Speaking of Mother’s Day, coming up this weekend, this recipe is easily made by novice bakers.  A bit of measuring, mincing and whisking and you’ve got a top-notch gift for Mom, or Grandma, or Auntie, or a cherished friend.

Happy combination of sugar, lemon and rosemary

Happy combination of sugar, lemon and rosemary

A few advance tips:

  • Pre-measure the 3/4 cup of yogurt and bring it to room temperature before you begin mixing the ingredients. The eggs should also be at room temperature.
  • Use a quality olive oil that boasts a “buttery” taste. Save a “grassy” or “peppery” olive oil for another time.
  • This cake is perfectly delicious without the rosemary, so feel free to take baby steps with adding it. But I promise, if you enjoy rosemary, it does bring a taste sensation to desserts.

 

French Yogurt Cake w-Lemon & Rosemary v2

French Yogurt Cake with Lemon and Rosemary

Adapted from Andrew Knowlton/Bon Appétit

 

Ingredients

 

  • 1-1/ 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/ 4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh rosemary, to taste
  • 3/ 4 cup whole milk, plain yogurt
  • 1/ 2 cup olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional (include if using a lesser amount of rosemary)
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar for the topping, “Turbinado” raw cane sugar is a good choice

 

Preparation

 

  1. Lightly coat an 8-1/ 2” x 4-1/ 4” loaf pan with olive oil. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.  Dust with flour, tapping out any excess.  Set aside.
  1. Position an oven rack to the lower third position. Preheat oven to 350*F.
  1. Whisk 1-1/ 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/ 2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Using your fingers, rub 3/ 4 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest in a large bowl until sugar is moist. Stir in the minced rosemary.
  1. Add 3/ 4 cup whole milk yogurt, 1/ 2 cup olive oil, 2 large eggs, and 1/ 2 teaspoon vanilla extract; whisk to blend.
  1. Fold in dry ingredients just to blend. Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth the top. Sprinkle the top evenly with the course sugar.
  1. Bake until top of cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes.
  1. Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert onto rack; let cool completely before slicing.
Sprinkled with Coarse Sugar 2

Coarse sugar sprinkled atop makes for a bit of crunch

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Chocolate-Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Pretty Much Always on Hand

Pretty Much Always on Hand

     Cookies are the favorite dessert in my house.  No question.  Hands down.  My family certainly enjoy other desserts; but when asked, they want a big plate of cookies set at the center of the table.  And dishes of ice cream for good measure.

     I am a longtime fan of David Lebovitz.  I enjoyed his desserts when he was pastry chef at Chez Panisse; and now his cookbooks and blog bring his recipes straight into my kitchen.  When it comes to chocolate, he’s masterful.  You can bet on rich, deep chocolate flavor.

     These cookies are very chocolate-y, soft and have a burst of brightness from the dried tart cherries.  They come together very quickly, with typical staples you may have on hand.  You will be rewarded within an hour of commencing the recipe with these endearing cookie bites.

A few advance tips:

  • Use quality chocolate. That’s the predominate flavor here.  I use Guittard, conveniently packaged in baking wafers for easy melting.  And easier snacking—that’s a clue by the way, the chocolate must taste good to you on its own!
  • Do not over bake these cookies. They may seem under-baked when you pull them from the oven, but they will firm up as they cool.  You are aiming for soft, fudgy cookies.
  • By all means experiment with other dried fruits; and add some chopped nuts if they’re your thing.
  • I halved the original recipe here, so it will double perfectly if you’re in need of greater quantities.

Chocolate Cherry Cookies Cooling Close

Chocolate-Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Adapted from David Lebovitz, Ready for Dessert

Makes about 30, 2-inch cookies

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped or baking wafers
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/ 4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/ 4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/ 8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 7/ 8 cup (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/ 4 cup dried, tart cherries, cut into pieces about the size of the chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Combine the bittersweet chocolate and butter in a large, heat-proof bowl.  Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted and smooth.  Remove the bowl from the heat.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.  Using a hand mixer (or stand mixer with the whisk attachment), beat at high speed until the mixture forms a well-defined ribbon when the beaters are lifted, about 5 minutes.  Adjust the mixer speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate-butter mixture until thoroughly incorporated.  Use a spatula to stir in the flour mixture, followed by the chocolate chips and dried cherries.
  4. Cover and refrigerate the dough until it is firm enough to handle, about 15 minutes.
  5. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  6. Drop the dough in generous tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, spacing them evenly, about 2-inches apart.  Gently flatten the dough to an even thickness.
  7. Bake for about 9 to 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway through baking, until the cookies feel just slightly firm at the edges.  Baking time will vary slightly based upon the thickness of the cookies.
  8. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets until firm enough to handle, then use a thin spatula to transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Note:  The dough can be refrigerated for 1 week or frozen for up to 1 month.  You will have to bring the dough back to room-temperature to scoop the cookies.

Flatten the cookie dough for quick, even baking

Flatten the cookie dough for quick, even baking

Baked cookies do not spread much

Baked cookies do not spread much

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Pumpkin Chocolate Snack Bars

pan-of-pumpkin-chocolate-bars     Stay with me here, as we jump into the already crowded field of pumpkin-mania…This entry is a keeper.  I knew I was onto a winner when the batter tasted like pumpkin pie filling, before it’s baked.  With an intentional light hand with the spices, there’s plenty of pumpkin flavor.  And when highlighted by chocolate chips, you have one of my favorite pairings.

     The sugar content is dialed down to a mere half cup.  The addition of walnuts steer it toward a slightly healthy-ish direction.  Hence I’ve dubbed these “snack bars” rather than a cookie or cake.  Clever me!  The bars are plenty sweet enough to qualify for “treat” status, but enjoy them anytime.

     I envision a future batch with a streusel topping to land it into breakfast territory; or a drizzle of melty chocolate frosting to fancy it up a bit.  The batter is sturdy enough to hold a handful of dried cranberries for a festive, seasonal version.  By all means, do with it what you will.

     P.S.  I see a very easy, direct substitution of mashed, ripe bananas in place of the pumpkin puree.  This idea comes to me as I stare upon about six very speckled bananas on the counter.  Of course then we call them Banana Chocolate Snack Bars – another favorite pairing.

pumpkin-chocolate-bars-close-3

Anytime Pumpkin Chocolate Snack Bars

Makes one 9 x 9-inch pan

Ingredients

  • 3/ 4 cup pumpkin puree; canned is fine
  • 1/ 2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/ 4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/ 4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Line a 9 x 9-inch pan with aluminum foil and butter lightly. The easiest way I’ve found to do this neatly is to invert the pan and cover it with a 12 x 12-inch sheet of foil.  Carefully fold the corners as if wrapping a gift box.  Gently lift the foil off of the pan, turn the pan right-side-up, and then tuck the perfectly molded foil neatly into the pan.
  2. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  3. Measure the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl; stir or whisk to combine. Set aside.
  4. Combine the pumpkin and sugar into a large bowl and mix to blend. Either a sturdy hand whisk or electric mixer does the job.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well to incorporate into the batter.  Add the spices, mixing until they are evenly distributed.  Add the melted butter and mix until smooth.
  5. Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until fully incorporated. When the batter is smooth, taking care to not over-mix it, add in the chocolate chips and nuts.  Stir to combine well.  Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before cutting.  I cut into 16 bars, each about 2-1/ 4 inch square, but I’ll leave the particulars to you!
Thanks to my taste-tester Grant. He approves.

Thanks to my taste-tester Grant. He approves.

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