Friday, September 30, 2011

New York's Best Known Snack Cake

The beloved 80 year old “Twinkie” and some of his best friends have been given a make-over by the thoughtful bakers at Lulu Cake Boutique

Baked on site with the freshest ingredients and given some quirky spins, these delectable treats will have you forgetting the classic crave-able snack and ordering one of each new version. With scrumptious combinations like “Passionately Kissed ‘Twinkie” (a yellow cake with passion fruit filling dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled lightly with coconut flakes) or a handmade “Snowball” (chocolate cake with coconut custard filling and coconut marshmallow frosting) it’s truly a tough choice, so I say, you can always come back for more...I know I will.

Lulu Cake Boutique with 3 locations-New York City, Scarsdale and Brooklyn
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Berry Coffee Cake with Crumb Topping

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I’m a FAN of tasty pastry with my morning cappuccino. It doesn’t need to be a sticky sweet, gooey donut (not that I don’t crave that from time to time too); but a flavorful spicy, crumb cake is perfect with a rich creamy strong cup of coffee. 

A few years ago, in an attempt to make my morning treat a touch healthier, I started incorporating whole wheat flour into my pastry baking. It was a simple step with no noticeable taste difference and a nod to the much touted whole grain movement. 

My Berry Coffee Cake with Crumb Topping can be made with any type of berry you can gets your hands on which makes it a go-to any time of the year. It’s wonderfully summery with fresh raspberries or makes a cozy, holiday treat when tossing in re-plumped, dried cranberries around Christmas time.

Berry Coffee Cake with Crumb Topping
Crumb Topping~
½ cup Whole Wheat Flour
¼ cup Sugar
½ teaspoon Cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Egg
1 cup Milk
¼ cup Unsalted Butter, melted
½ cup Sugar
2½ teaspoons Baking Powder
½ teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Ground Mace (optional)
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup Fresh, Frozen or Re-plumped Dried Berries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform cake pan with cooking spray.
To make topping, in a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Blend in the butter, using fingertips or a pastry blender, until the mixture is crumbly, set aside.
To make the cake, in a large bowl, beat together the egg, milk and butter. Add the sugar, baking powder, salt and mace; blend well. Gradually add the flours in two batches, beat until just blended. Gently fold in the berries.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan and sprinkle with the crumb topping. Bake until a wood toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40-45 minutes.
For flavor variation use any type of berry; blueberries, raspberries or dried cranberries with the zest and juice of one orange (blood orange when in season). 
To re-plump dried berries: warm a small bowl of water in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, remove from the microwave and toss in the measured amount of dried berries. Allow the berries to sit for about 5 minutes and drain.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Trip to the Market

Spend some time strolling through the foodie haven of Chelsea Market. Not only the home to The Food Network but an abundant array of gourmet delectables and tasty delights. Choose from shopping for creative ingredients to gather and bring back to your own cozy kitchen or pop into any of the prepared food shops and restaurants to be spoiled with some of the most unique dishes around.

A lingering browse through Buon Italia, a shop simply yet indulgently stocked with imported Italian goodies allowed me to feed my recent obsession with snacking on olives. A few with every meal seems to be my go-to as well as my constant treasure hunt at every gourmet spot I stumble upon. This medley caught my eye purely for the larger than usual, boldly bright red variety drawing me in (I have been accused of being easily distracted by something shiny, I guess bright colors work too.). The Red Bella di Cerignola Olive has become an instant favorite with it’s meaty flesh and mild flavor. This package of mixed olives is in a brine with no additional herbs so it’s perfect for me to experiment with my own flavor combinations of marinades.

Continuing through the refurbished industrial bakery leads me to The Filling Station, which lets you taste and try a beautiful collection of oils, vinegars and salts. My first trip to the station encouraged me to send my mother a bottle of Red Apple Balsamic Vinegar as an answer to her inquiry for a special vinegar for bread dipping. For myself, a jar of their White Truffle Salt, which they describe asExtraordinary when used as the secret ingredient in your mac-and-cheese recipe!” How could I resist?

A final touch and treat for the day has to come from Jacques Torres Chocolates who just happens to be the Dean of Pastry Arts at The International Culinary Center, yummy and stylish bite size truffles or perhaps a “Wicked Hot Chocolate” from no other than “Mr. Chocolate” himself.

Friday, September 2, 2011

An Apple a Day...

It’s that time of year, bring on the apples!

Find your favorite, most juicy and delicious variety and take advantage of this bounty. For me, snacking on a Honey Crisp or Jazz apple takes care of any craving I have for a sweet treat and gets me closer to that recommended nine (yes, I said 9!) fruits and vegetables a day.

Feeling creative? Bring that fresh picked delight to your kitchen and brainstorm ways to incorporate it into your go-to salad, perhaps a tiny dice whisked into a vinaigrette, or feeling really adventurous? How about a Crabmeat, Apple, and Mango Salad? Looking for a heartier dish, something to bring to the table that can sit center stage next to a perfectly prepared pork chop, try this Apple, Potato, and Onion Gratin.
But let’s face it...our first instinct is dessert! And call it what you want, Apple Pie, Tart, Tarte Tartin, Cobbler, Crostata...they all bring comfort and scrumptiousness to any day.

Creating such a dessert might seem intimidating, making the perfect dough, rolling it to just the right thickness, then do you go with a more rustic presentation allowing the beautiful filling to shine on it’s own or use that extra touch of arranging the meticulously thin slices just-so for a classic look. Don’t stress! Food, especially dessert is meant to be enjoyed and to make you feel good. Take the time to play in the kitchen and I can think of no better recipe to relax and have fun with than whatever your version of pie is.
My play day featured an Apple and Cranberry Tart. With all my ingredients gathered and my mind set on just that creation I was a little disappointed to find my official “tart” pan has not arrived from California yet (How was that not in the priority boxes?). Nonetheless, a “tart” was made. Using a spectacularly simple recipe recently learned at FCI, except I added a my own twist by tossing in a handful of cranberries, my dessert was a success.

Still want to roll that perfect thickness of dough? Get yourself an Adjustable Rolling Pin from JosephJoseph, I love mine.

Apple Tart
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup (or more) ice water
Filling~amounts determined by the size of your pan
3-5 apples (Granny Smith)
1-4 Tablespoons of water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 lemon
1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)
2-3 apples (Golden Delicious)
1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons butter, melted
For crust~
Blend flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in processor. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add 1/4 cup ice water to processor and pulse until moist clumps form, sprinkle with more ice water if mixture is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 1 hour. 
Roll out dough on floured work surface to approximately 3 inches larger than your tart pan, about 1/8” thick. Brush off excess flour and transfer to pan. Gently fill in the corners of the pan with the dough and create a side edge about 1/4-1/2” above pan walls or to desired finish. Chill crust while preparing filling.
For Filling~
Peel, core and chop the apples into 1” cubes. (Rub the apple with sliced lemon if necessary while cutting to prevent browning.) Combine the apples, water and sugar in a pan over medium high heat. Cover the pan with a parchment paper lid cut to the size of the pan with a whole in the middle. Cook the apples, stirring occasionally, until soft and resembling chunky applesauce. Add more water if needed throughout cooking. If adding the dried cranberries do so in the last minute of cooking, stirring in the berries allowing them to absorb some of the juices. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
For Finish~
Preheat oven to 350° F. Pour filling into prepared crust, spreading to form an even surface filling to 3/4 full. Peel, core and thinly slice the topping apples to desired thickness either by hand or with a mandolin for precise consistency. (Rub the apple with sliced lemon if necessary while cutting to prevent browning.) Carefully arrange the apple slices covering the filling completely since the slices will shrink slightly during baking. Brush the apples with the melted butter.
Bake for about an hour. The apples should be soft and browned slightly on the edges.