Pistachio and Cashew Baklava Fingers

051aBefore I set out to make baklava, a friend of Greek origin advised me, “don’t hold back on the syrup.” This is sound advice.

Baklava is a traditional dessert in countries that were part of the former Ottoman empire. Early recipes for baklava date to the fourteenth century. Layers of filo dough are brushed with clarified butter, enrobing sweetened, lightly spiced ground nuts, and baked until golden. When the baklava is fresh out of the oven and still hot, a sweet syrup—a honey syrup in Greece, and an orange-blossom or rose-water scented sugar syrup in Lebanon and parts of the Middle East—is poured over the top of the dessert, which is then left to soak for several hours. The syrup marries with the filo layers and nuts in a glorious sticky union. Continue reading

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Southern-Style Frosted Cinnamon Rolls

341aThe thing that I love most about baking in the American South is the blithe disregard for caloric content and cholesterol. A close second is the Southern fondness for, well, stickiness. Gooey frostings and sticky caramel reign supreme. Baked goods are literally finger-licking good, and it is a glorious thing. The cinnamon roll – ostensibly, an innocent breakfast roll, but really a wolf in sheep’s clothing – in many ways epitomizes what I love best about Southern cakes. It begs to be eaten with the hands. It’s warm and yielding and fragrant and delightfully, decadently sticky. If you’re watching your waistline, after a proper cinnamon roll you may as well skip meals for the rest of the day. Southern-style cinnamon rolls don’t play around. Continue reading

Peach Upside-Down Cake

DSC_0115aThe last of the peaches. Parental scoffing notwithstanding, I found using up 25 pounds of peaches a formidable task. Despite making six quarts of canned peaches, four jars of peach jam, peach salsa, grilled peaches, and freezing a sack of peeled, sliced peaches for future use (a cop-out, I know), last week several bruised, wrinkly peaches, the remnants from my haul, still regarded me forlornly from the dry sink. Continue reading

My Mother’s Canned Peaches

peachesHigh on the list of the many things my mother does very, very well in the kitchen is pickling and preserving. During the summertime, my telephone conversations with my parents usually go something like this:

Me: What have you been doing?

Mom/Dad, triumphantly: We now have 27 quarts of blueberries from our own bushes!

Or,

We bought a bushel of tomatoes at the farmstand!

Or sometimes,

We picked three huge baskets of chanterelles!

And then later,

Your mother made the most incredible [insert] [jam/pickles/sauce/pie/vegetable tart/canned peaches/pears/plums]! Continue reading

Raspberry Salted Pine Nut Brittle Ice Cream

DSC_0020aSo I had another post in the line-up to publish today, but with the east coast, England, and northern Europe choking in a heat wave, I felt that I should bump something cool, refreshing, and summery to the head of the queue. And what a summer treat it is! I am IMMENSELY PROUD of this ice cream. I made it last weekend, in my nearly new ice cream maker, after I had another no-self-control U-Pick experience. After a little more than an hour, I’d picked six pounds of raspberries and four pounds of blueberries, and it’s only thanks to my sister, who was with me and able to lead me from temptation, that I did not pick more.  Having far too many raspberries is not exactly a crisis. I used over half a pound of them for this recipe, and more than anything, it made me wonder why raspberry ice creams are not more common, because raspberry ice cream is DELICIOUS. Continue reading

Rhubarb Lime Vanilla Bean Sorbet

DSC_0810aI rediscovered my passion for obsession with making ice cream when I co-hosted a dinner party with my lovely and talented friend Nicola last month. Nicola is the owner and founder of http://www.souschef.co.uk, a specialty food export company that sells hard-to-find cheffy ingredients and equipment to home cooks. (Sorry American friends, Sous Chef only ships to the EU for now.) Nicola had a surfeit of pistachio paste (what a wonderful thing to have too much of!) so we decided to make Orangette’s chocolate tart with salted pistachio ice cream for dessert. I took charge of the ice cream and I did not stint with the pistachio paste. The result was wonderful. (Nicola has since blogged a recipe for salted pistachio ice cream using the very same pistachio paste.) Ice creams and sorbets are a fun challenge for home cooks, involving in equal measure the palate and food science. Flavor is key, of course, and limited only by your imagination, but mouth feel is of equal importance. Continue reading

Chocolate Almond Lime Semolina Cake

DSC_0373aThis cake is the happy result of an experiment in gluten-free baking* for my Lovely Flatmate, who is gluten-intolerant, but lacks the willpower to resist my baked goods. It’s based loosely on a Greek cake called Revani, which traditionally is made of a mixture of semolina and almond flour, and sweetened with a sticky orange syrup. My version substitutes lime for the orange and adds plenty of cocoa. It’s a delightful crumbly-but-moist tea cake, with a hint of crunch from the semolina. It meets my ‘specialty diet’ test, meaning that I would bake this cake again for people without dietary restrictions. Lovely Flatmate consumed the entire cake in two days (hurrah! Also, slightly alarming). Continue reading

Dark Chocolate Blood Orange Cake with Blood Orange Buttercream

DSC_0266aThere is something that feels literally magical about the start of blood orange season. A few weeks after the excitement of Christmas and New Year’s has died, when we’ve glumly settled into the January doldrums, being beset by cold toes precludes us from wearing anything but big clumpy shoes, and slushy snow feels rather less than miraculous, the blood oranges suddenly … appear. There they are at the greengrocer’s, putting clementines, humdrum navel oranges and even Sevilla oranges to shame. They’re like visitors from a superior planet. Blood oranges would be irresistible even if they weren’t so glorious-looking, but slicing open a blood orange to reveal its saturated pomegranate-red flesh gives me an almost voyeuristic thrill. So beautiful, so delicious. Continue reading

Berry Almond Custard Tarts

My mother’s berry custard tarts are legendary, and always perfect. Whenever I make a berry custard tart, however, there is at least a 20% chance that my custard will spitefully and wilfully refuse to set. Most recently this happened last summer, when my great-uncle asked me to prepare dinner for him and some special guests. For dessert I served them strawberries which sat like little islands among haphazard pieces of crust in a pool of completely liquid custard. It tasted nice, but it was definitely not a custard tart. (I still do not understand why I can make a perfectly lovely custard most of the time but get stage fright when I’m making a tart.) This year, I spent the Fourth of July with my family in upstate New York. I cleverly decided to make berry custard tarts so I could take advantage of that inexhaustible fount of culinary knowledge, my mother. The secret? My mother CHEATS. Continue reading

Classic Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin is my absolute favourite go-to recipe when I need to produce a nice dessert in a hurry. It’s the ultimate crowd pleaser: a classic tarte tatin consists simply of rich apple-flavoured butter caramel surrounding soft, tender cooked fruit on flaky, buttery, puff pastry. Served warm with a dollop of crème fraiche, there is NOTHING BETTER. And your friends – particularly the ones who don’t bake – have no idea how simple it is. (People are resistant to the idea that something so delicious can be so easy to make.) The beauty of a tarte tatin is that you can make it in less than two hours with minimal fuss. If you’re an expert apple peeler and corer, you can make it in under an hour and a half. Continue reading