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Pre-deflation cake

Last weekend, we made our annual pilgrimage up to Oak Glen’s apple farms. Last year, the apple crop wasn’t strong enough to sustain their usual u-pick operations, so we were happy to see that this year there was a healthy crop of fruit-laden trees. Right now, they have Granny Smith, Red Rome, and Red Delicious ready for picking, but it changes as the season progresses. We picked a peck of all three (after surreptitiously taste- testing the Red Delicious to make sure they were as different from the supermarket examples of that variety as we hoped — they were, crunchy and sweet, with a little tartness). We used up all our cash paying for the apples we picked, and then it was downhill from there. My husband left his Visa at home, I couldn’t use mine because some fool in Florida made a counterfeit card to fund his $5/gallon gas habit, and the yummy barbecue place didn’t take AmEx. But at least we had apples. Lots and lots of apples.

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Fig upside-down cake

No spam was harmed in the taking of this picture.

We have this thing in our house. Whenever the kids are giving us a hard time about food — you know, won’t choose a snack, can’t decide what they want — we offer them figs. Figs figs figs. Sometimes we throw in some Spam. Figs and Spam Spam and figs. For some reason lost to time, they find the idea of figs hilarious and kind of disgusting. Figs figs figs. Read the rest of this entry »

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Everyone loves the traditional NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Cookie recipe. Sure. But do we really have to stick so closely to it? If we add a few things, will the NTHCCCC* come down on us like a ton of bricks? There is really only one way to find out. Read the rest of this entry »

tartredux1

Of course they were on sale. Strawberries, $1.25 a pound; blueberries, $1.25 a pint. I bought five of each and made the hell out of some jam, and when I was done, there were leftover berries. What to do with them? The answer seemed obvious: Make a tart.

I live about two blocks from my office, and smack-dab in the middle of that short distance is the Whole Foods, a gleaming, delightful emporium of products that someone more ethical than me would be able to figure out a way to afford. I, on the other hand, merely wander its aisles occasionally marveling at the otherworldliness, and/or run in there begrudgingly when I realize I’ve run out of sugar halfway through jam-making and don’t have time to drive to a cheaper store. Whole Foods: my corner bodega.

Anyway, one of the many things I covet at Whole Foods is their tarts. Behind the gleaming, curved glass of the pastry counter, they beckon me with their bright colors and perfect sugar glaze. And they are like $4.99 for a two-bite tart. Now, I will not lie and tell you I have never succumbed. Even the stingiest coupon maven has to throw caution to the wind sometime. But I simply cannot justify the frequent consumption of those tarts.

When berries are on sale, though, I can damn sure make my own.

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cake1

No, really! Completely free cake! Read on.

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strawberry rhubarb and peach crumble

strawberry rhubarb and peach crumble

Or, how I am becoming my mother.

Exhibit a) Going to the grocery store so frequently I’m on a first name basis with most of the checkers.

Exhibit b) Frequent employment of illogical logic to the ultimate frustration of my mate.

Exhibit c) Halving (at least) the sugar content of every recipe.

It used to drive me bonkers that my mom would cut the sugar in our cookies, and add back in things like wheat germ and brewers yeast. I suppose I should be thankful that she at least had the sense not to replace the semi-sweet morsels with the abomination that is the carob chip. The sweet tooth that was so deprived as a child such that I would apply sugar to my unsweetened cereal like lake-effect snow in Buffalo has, probably as a result of my mother’s efforts, mellowed and refined. And as a result, I find most baked goods to be (gulp) Too Sweet.

Enter Crumble.

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Me + dessert generally = epic disaster, but this was a dinner party, dammit.  It was the right thing to do.

Kheer 1

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crumble2

Raspberries were two for one at Harris Teeter this weekend, and I bought some, because raspberries are the food of the gods to me. Seriously, when I was a kid on summer break, I used to take my babysitting/lemonade-stand money and ride my bike up to the grocery store and buy as many raspberries as I could afford and take them home and nom them up without restraint. It’s been much too long since I had fresh raspberries, and I was nomming today’s up like the berries of old when it occurred to me: Hey, you can cook with these things.

So I looked around the Internet a bit, seeking a recipe that didn’t call for a bunch of stuff I didn’t have (cream cheese, Cool Whip, graham crackers). Finally I found this and it looked good, so I decided to make it.

Here’s the recipe, copied and pasted from Allrecipes:

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So I took a few days off recently and spent my time eating pastry and gelato.  I’ve never been a huge cheesecake fan.  I’ve always found cheesecake to be heavy and cloying and, well, overly creamy and not cakey enough.  Well, that all changed when I walked into a little Pâtisserie where they had this gorgeous golden brown cheesecake begging for me to buy it.  I don’t think I was three steps out the door before I had devoured the whole thing.  Since then I’ve been on a quest to recreate it all by myself.  This is a pretty damn fine start.

Adapted from the Joy of Cooking: Ricotta Cheesecake.

16 ounces fresh whole milk ricotta, drained (They said 20 ounces, but I had only made 16 ounces)

12 ounce cream cheese, room temperature (use full fat, not reduced or fat free cream cheese) (They said 8 ounces, but I put in 4 more to make up for the ricotta short fall)

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch (Beff, I think you can skip this.  I’ve seen other recipes without any corn starch)

4 large eggs, room temperature

They also said to add the zest of 1 lemon and 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla, but I left both of these out because the cheesecake I was trying to match did’t have any vanilla and the ricotta already had a slightly lemony flavor so I didn’t need this.

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Some people like their cookies soft. Some people like their cookies crunchy. But if you’re feeling the deep burning desire for some soft *and* crunchy cookies (and frankly, if you’re not then there’s clearly something wrong with you) you need to whip yourself up a batch of swamp cookies.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees(190C) and hunt down the following:

Swamp cookie ingredients

Swamp cookie ingredients

  • 100g butter
  • a giant handful of brown sugar
  • a giant handful of granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • a toss of vanilla
  • a wee bit of salt
  • a wee bit of baking soda
  • oatmeal
  • flour
  • couscous
  • chocolate chips

    Chop the butter up in to little squares and throw giant handfuls of equal size of each type of sugar on top. In a separate cup, beat the eggs and add a toss of vanilla – pour that on top of the sugar. Add giant handfuls of equal size of oatmeal, flour and couscous and then toss in a wee bit of salt and a smaller bit of baking soda.

    Swamp cookie proto-dough

    Swamp cookie proto-dough

    Stir until the consistency is good and doughy, then add chocolate chips.

    Swamp cookie dough

    Swamp cookie dough

    Toss giant lumps of dough onto a cookie sheet and cook for 10-12 minutes – the cookies should be still be a little soupy when you remove them from the oven.

    Swamp cookies

    Swamp cookies

    Let them sit for five minutes and then gorge yourself on them! Yum!

    Swamp cookies

    Swamp cookies