Friday, November 27, 2009


Look at those chunks of apples! Aren't they beautiful? I love it when you see the actual pieces of fruit in a cake. I found this recipe in Bon Appetit's October issue. Dorie Greenspan had a bunch of recipes for specific varieties of apples. And since I had a ton of Fuji apples this cake called my name.

I've had great luck baking Dorie's recipes (don't I sound like I know her?). You may remember her delicious Swedish Apple Cake recipe a few months ago--that was divine. This cake is also delicious--a bit more substantial than the delicate Swedish cake. It reminded me a bit of carrot cake.




  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon, apple brandy, or rum (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 medium Fuji or Gala apples (13 to 14 ounces total), peeled, halved, cored, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans (about 6 ounces)


  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar (measured, then sifted)
  • Coarsely chopped toasted pecans (for garnish)

Special equipment

  • 2 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides



  • Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of each pan with parchment paper round. Whisk first 7 ingredients in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add both sugars and beat until smooth. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla, then bourbon, if desired (mixture may look curdled). Add flour mixture to egg mixture in 3 additions alternately with applesauce in 2 additions, beating until blended after each addition. Stir in apples and pecans. Divide batter between cake pans; smooth tops.
  • Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of each comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer cakes to racks and cool in pans 15 minutes. Cut around pan sides to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto racks; peel off parchment paper. Place another rack atop 1 cake and invert again so that cake is rounded side up. Repeat with second cake. Cool completely. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap each cake in plastic and store at room temperature.


  • Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in vanilla extract and pinch of salt. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until frosting is smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  • Using long serrated knife, trim off rounded tops of cakes to make level; brush off any loose crumbs. Transfer 1 cake to platter, trimmed side up. Drop half of frosting (about 1 1/2 cups) by spoonfuls atop cake. Spread frosting evenly to edges of cake. Top with second cake, trimmed side down. Drop remaining frosting by spoonfuls onto top of cake, leaving sides of cake plain. Spread frosting to top edges of cake, swirling and creating peaks, if desired. Sprinkle with pecans. Let cake stand at room temperature 1 hour to allow frosting to set slightly. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate. Let cake stand at room temperature at least 2 hours before serving.

Monday, November 23, 2009


It is very hard to take a decent picture of white bean soup. White beans, garlic, onions, go figure.

This is a mild tasting soup that is quick to make and keeps well in the fridge. I doubled the spices (garlic, bay leaf, and rosemary--although I'm never quite sure what exactly a bay leaf contributes?). I also cut back on the oil which makes for a healthier soup.

It still needs something more--I'm thinking a little bit of ham, prosciutto, or bacon sauteed with the onions would deepen the flavor. What do you think?

And since I don't love pureed soups, I quickly dipped my immersion blender in and pureed about 1/3 just to make it thicker.

  • 1 pound dried white cannellini beans
  • 4 cups sliced yellow onions (3 onions)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large branch fresh rosemary (6 to 7 inches)
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


In a medium bowl, cover the beans with water by at least 1-inch and leave them in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight. Drain.
In a large stockpot over low to medium heat, saute the onions with the olive oil until the onions are translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook over low heat for 3 more minutes. Add the drained white beans, rosemary, chicken stock, and bay leaf. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until the beans are very soft. Remove the rosemary branch and the bay leaf. Pass the soup through the coarsest blade of a food mill, or place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until coarsely pureed. Return the soup to the pot to reheat and add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve hot.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


The BFG by Roald Dahl is a favorite book of my niece, Ellie. So, since it is her favorite I had to read it. It is darling! Very clever, well-written, some good conflict, and besides a bunch of crazy giants even Royalty is involved.

And, yea for me! I finally finished Vanity Fair by William Thackeray. I read this book through DailyLit--one page emailed a day. Vanity Fair was a favorite of Theodore Roosevelt which is why I thought to read it in the first place. Thackeray had great wit and his characters are hilarious. He creates an atmosphere that clearly illustrates the pinch of a face or the whine of a voice without stating so. And is there anyone as rotten as Becky Sharp?

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding is written by Julia Strachey (niece of Lytton Strachey, a Bloomsbury writer). Published by Persephone Books, it is a novella that takes place on the day of a wedding. Funny and a bit sad, I kept waiting for something big to happen. Do big things ever happen in novellas? I don't think so. Usually just a bit of a story and that's it. Check out Persephone Books, though. It is a small British firm that publishes books written by 20th century female (mostly) writers. This is the publisher that gave us Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Next time I am in London I shall be stopping by its darling little shop.

Currently I am reading Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire by Alex von Tunzelman. I am a third of the way through--fascinating.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


My sister, Tammy, made this salsa (recipe from our fabulous neighbor, Jody). Yes, you read that correctly. TAMMY made something! And it was so delicious. Enjoy!

1 can corn, drained

1 can black beans, drained

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

2 tomatoes, diced

3 green onions, diced

2 avocados, chopped

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tsp. garlic salt

2 tsp. hot sauce

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 lime

Combine the first 6 ingredients, set aside. Mix vinegar, garlic salt, hot sauce, and olive oil. Pour mixture over vegetables. Squeeze lime over the top. Refrigerate for a few hours.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CARROT CAKE - Simply Recipes

After my sister, Lori, requested Carrot Cake for her birthday I was on the hunt for just the right recipe. Ingredients had to include walnuts, pineapple, but not raisins.

I have wished a thousand times I had my Mom's recipe--it was perfection. But my Mom didn't write all of this stuff down and I wasn't interested in figuring it out during her lifetime. My mistake.

However, Simply Recipes to the rescue. My sisters thought it was the closest to my Mom's delicious cake. Of course I will never get it just right--I think memories elevate the actual taste experience. I can live with that.


3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups olive oil or grapeseed oil
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups shelled walnuts, chopped (more whole or chopped for topping)
1 1/2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
2 cups of finely grated carrots
1 cup of drained crushed pineapple

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
2 1/2 cups of confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9 inch cake pans. Cut out rounds of wax paper and place at bottoms of cake pans. Butter the top of the wax paper rounds.

2 Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Add oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat well. Fold in chopped walnuts, coconut, carrots and pineapple.

3 Pour batter into pans. Set on the middle rack of oven and bake for 45-50 minutes (shift positions of cakes front-to-back if necessary about halfway through), until edges have pulled away from sides and a toothpick or sharp knife tip inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a cake rack.

4 To prepare frosting, cream together the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl. Slowly sift in the confectioners sugar and beat until mixture is free of lumps. Stir in vanilla and lemon juice.

5 Once cakes have cooled, frost. Sprinkle top with chopped walnuts or arrange walnut halves in a crown around the top.

Serves 12-16.

Friday, November 6, 2009


These are rich and chewy and sophisticated tasting for a chocolate cookie. Definitely my new favorite chocolate cookie. Which up until now I really didn't have a favorite since I don't normally love chocolate cookies. (Of course, the New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie is in a different category altogether.)

The recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen which she adapted from Bon Appetit magazine. (Did you hear about Gourmet magazine? Very sad.)

Chocolate Toffee Cookies
Adapted from Bon Appetit

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups (packed) brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 1.4-ounce chocolate-covered English toffee bars (such as Heath), coarsely chopped
1 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling (optional, but please add it)

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl; whisk to blend. Stir chocolate and butter in top of double boiler set over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Cool mixture to lukewarm.

Using electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs in bowl until thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla.

Stir in flour mixture, then toffee and nuts. Chill batter until firm, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. Drop batter by spoonfuls onto sheets, spacing two inches apart. Sprinkle with a pinch of flaky sea salt, if you’re using it. Bake just until tops are dry and cracked but cookies are still soft to touch, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on sheets. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

Let them cool completely as they continue baking once they come out of the oven.

From Smitten Kitchen: After struggling a bit to scoop these cookies, I rolled the dough into a log 1.5 inches in diameter and chilled it. When I was ready to bake the cookies, I cut it into 1/2-inch slices. You can store the dough log in the freezer, wrapped in waxed paper and then two layers of plastic wrap for up to a month, just baking the cookies off as you need. Cookies baked straight from the freezer may need an additional minute or two in the oven, depending on their thickness.

From Kim: I lined a 9 x 13 pan with wax paper and spread the dough in the pan and then chilled it for about an hour. Then I cut it in 4 pieces and rolled the dough into logs, then cut into 1/2 inch slices. This worked well.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


This is a really, yummy breakfast treat but could definitely be a family dessert. It doesn't have as much sugar (3 tablespoons and a bit of honey) as a regular apple crisp which is why it works well for breakfast. I had mine with plain Greek yogurt--divine.

Breakfast Apple Granola Crisp

3 pounds of whatever apples, or mix of apples, you like to bake with, peeled, cored and cut into medium chunks
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup flour
2 cups oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened; I used unsweetened)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix apple chunks with lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and pinch of salt in a 9×13-inch baking dish until apples are evenly coated. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter with the honey. Stir in the flour, oats, almonds, coconut and another pinch of salt until clumps form. Sprinkle evenly over the apple mixture and bake in the oven for about 45 to 55 minutes, or until the apples are softened and bubbly. Should the granola brown too quickly, place foil over the dish for all but the last few minutes of baking time, when removing the foil will help the granola recrisp. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate.