Pineapple Carrot Cupcakes

Pineapple Carrot Cupcakes 000

Happy Easter, baking gods and goddesses!

So … I’m one day late on holiday wishes AND blog posts. In my defense, I was busy cooking, over-eating and laying around in a food-induced stupor. If you don’t consider that much of defense, take heart! Some things are better late than never, and these cupcakes are most definitely one of those things.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, many of the recipes featured on this blog – indeed, the blog itself – are inspired by and devoted to my late grandmother, Bonnie Jean. She loved food – shopping for it, cooking it, and of course, eating it – and centered every holiday around what inevitably became an epic family meal. If she were still here – and I swear sometimes she is! – she’d confirm that there’s no better end to an Easter meal than a giant slice of homemade carrot cake. THIS carrot cake.

You’re probably asking yourself: “But why pineapple?” Honestly, I have no idea. I have no idea why she put pineapple in her carrot cake. Or grape leaves in her homemade pickles. Or sour cream in her chocolate chip cookies. I just know they’re hands down the best carrot cake, pickles, and chocolate chip cookies ON THE PLANET. Maybe when I’m a grandmother, I’ll be let into their secret society of culinary sorcery. In the meantime, I don’t ask questions, and I add the damn pineapple. You should too!

{I made my grandmother’s recipe into cupcakes, but have also included the instructions for a sheet cake below.}

Enjoy!

 

PINEAPPLE CARROT CUPCAKES

Yields | 36 cupcakes

 

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cups canola oil
  • 2 cups finely granulated sugar
  • 5 medium fresh eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, divided

For the frosting:

  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 to 6 cups confectioner’s sugar

 

To make cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line three 12-well cupcake pans with paper liners (if making a sheet cake, lightly oil a 9- by 13-inch cake pan). Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat oil and granulated sugar on medium speed for 30 seconds. As motor runs, add eggs individually. After eggs are fully incorporated, remove bowl from mixer.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir, by hand, into sugar-egg mixture and blend thoroughly.
  4. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla, carrots, pineapple and 1 cup chopped walnuts; stir well. Pour batter into prepared paper liners until each liner is 3/4 full (or into prepared cake pan, spread evenly to edges). Bake cupcakes for 18 to 20 minutes (cake for approximately 1 hour), or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.
  5. Remove cupcakes from pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool thoroughly before frosting (cool cake in pan).

To make frosting:

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, blend cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract and powdered sugar (adjust powdered sugar to taste). Frost cupcakes (or cake) only when completely cooled. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup chopped walnuts.

 

Peach and Raspberry Clafoutis

Peach-Raspberry Clafoutis

My parents have had quite the bumper crop of raspberries at their home in southwest Washington this year, and my mum and I have been racking our brains for interesting new recipes in which to use them. We have also – inexplicably – been talking about making a clafoutis for years, despite never having tried one. Hundreds of raspberries + irrational clafoutis obsession = raspberry clafoutis!

What the heck is clafoutis, you might ask? Clafoutis (pronounced klah-foo-tee) is a French dessert of stone fruits arranged in a buttered dish and baked in thick, custard-like batter. Originating in the Limousin region of central France, clafoutis is typically made with whole, stoned cherries, but can also be made with other fruits, including plums, pears, or apples. I went a bit rogue with this recipe (adapted from Woman’s Day), using peaches and raspberries instead, which technically makes this dessert a flaugnarde (for all intents and purposes, a non-cherry clafoutis). That said, my mum and I were crushed at the prospect of having our clafoutis dreams dashed, so … we’re calling it a clafoutis. Call it whatever you want, just make it – it’s so yummy!

When I make this again, I’ll double the raspberries and omit the peaches. I LOVE peaches, but very little peach flavor comes through in this recipe (and the raspberries are fantastic!). Otherwise, its delicious served warm as breakfast or dessert – enjoy!

PEACH AND RASPBERRY CLAFOUTIS

Serves: 6

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 fresh lemon
  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh yellow peaches
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 4 large fresh eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Confectioners’ sugar, to serve
  • Soft whipped cream or ice cream, to serve (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Grease a shallow 2 1/2-quart baking dish with the butter and lightly dust with granulated sugar.
  2. In a medium bowl, finely grate the lemon zest (about 2 teaspoons), then squeeze in 1 tablespoon juice. Add the peaches, raspberries, and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and gently toss to combine.
  3. Using a sharp knife, cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. In a blender, combine the eggs, milk, flour, salt, spices, 1/2 cup heavy cream, remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and vanilla seeds and pulp (discard the pod). Blend on high until slightly frothy, about 1 minute.
  4. Transfer the fruit to the prepared pan along with any juices and pour the batter on top. Bake until just set, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes.
  5. Dust the clafoutis with confectioners’ sugar and serve with softly whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Individual Blackberry Cobblers

Individual Blackberry Cobblers

Blackberry cobbler is – HANDS DOWN – my favourite summer dessert. As soon as I spotted the world’s largest blackberries for sale at my local farmer’s market this week, I knew cobbler was in my near future.  I used a recipe that – while in my family for decades – differs from others floating around the Internet these days. It’s actually a recipe for ‘cottage pudding’, featured in the 1918 edition of the AMAZING Fannie Farmer cookbook (if you don’t have one, visit your local bookstore ASAP!!). With the addition of fresh berries, the original Fannie Farmer recipe becomes the BEST cobbler you will ever taste! And by ‘taste’, I mean DEVOUR.

While I divided the recipe into individual serving-size portions, it can just as easily be made in a shallow baking dish. Enjoy!

INDIVIDUAL BLACKBERRY COBBLERS

Makes: 4 servings

  • 2 cups fresh blackberries
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup finely granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup butter + extra for greasing
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). Grease four 6-ounce ramekins with butter.
  2. Rinse blackberries and pat dry. Set aside.
  3. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In a separate bowl, mix the egg, milk and melted butter. Stir gently into the flour mixture to combine.
  4. Place a layer of blackberries in the bottom of each ramekin. Spoon a layer of batter over the berries, repeating this process until the ramekin is full (I like to add several berries to the top of the final batter layer). Transfer ramekins to a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes (cobbler topping should begin to brown lightly at the edges). Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

*Re-posted from my old blog, Cucina Fresca*

Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream

Strawberry Ice Cream

Happy June, baking gods and goddesses!

One of the first things I do come summertime – other than running for nature and stuffing my face full of s’mores (see previous post) – is digging through my garage in feverish search of my ice cream maker. My beloved, trusty, kick-ass ice cream maker. And hallelujah – IT’S BEEN FOUND!

I have so many recipes for ice cream stuffed in my recipe box, it’s absurd. Toasted Coconut. Pumpkin Pie. Blueberry Cheesecake. Peach and Pecan. Key Lime Pie. Come hell or high water, I WILL make each and every one of them. But to kick off the summer of ’15, I’m going with a classic. Okay, a classic with a twist: Roasted Strawberry.

I know what you’re thinking.

“ROASTED strawberry?? Who ROASTS their strawberries?”

Well, I do. And Zoe Bakes, from whom I got this amazing recipe. There are a lot of strawberry ice cream recipes on the Internet – and I do mean A LOT – but this is where it’s at if you’re looking for a fresh, intense strawberry flavor. Roasting the berries really brings out their natural juices, and doesn’t require a great deal of extra time or effort. And even if it did (it doesn’t – seriously), it’s crazy delicious. I am having the hardest time keeping my ice cream-loving paws out of it – I guarantee you’ll feel the same! Enjoy 🙂

ROASTED STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM

Yields: 16 servings

  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 large vanilla bean, scraped
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 10 egg yolks
  • 3/4 pound fresh strawberries
  • 1 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
  1. Heat the heavy cream, milk, vanilla bean and 1 cup of sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. [Note: the longer you let this mixture sit, the stronger the vanilla flavor will be. I often bring the mixture to a simmer, turn off the heat and let it steep for an hour or so. Before you continue with the recipe, you will need to bring it back to a simmer.]
  2. Whisk together the yolks in a medium sized bowl. Remove the cream mixture from the heat and whisk a small amount of the cream into the egg mixture. Add enough cream to warm the eggs.
  3. Once the eggs are warm, add them back into the pot of remaining cream.
  4. Use a rubber spatula to gently stir the custard over low heat. Continue stirring until the mixture starts to thicken.
  5. When the custard seems to be getting thicker, lift the rubber spatula and run your finger through it. It is done when the custard clings to the spatula.
  6. Strain the custard through a fine mesh strainer to a shallow dish. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and immediately place in the refrigerator.
  7. Allow the custard to “ripen” for 6 to 12 hours for the best result. The custard will be quite thick once it has chilled.
  8. While the custard is chilling, roast the strawberries. Remove tops and toss the berries with balsamic vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Lay them out on a nonstick silicone mat-covered baking sheet (make sure you use one with sides, as the juices will over-run the sheet). Place the sheet in the oven, turn it on to 300°F, and slowly roast berriesuntil they have given up their juices and are slightly mushy looking. Their color will also be darker. This will take approximately 30 to 45 minutes depending on the size of the fruit.
  9. Scoop the fruit and all of its sugars into a bowl. Add the corn syrup to the fruit; it will add sweetness, but will keep the ice cream a silky smooth texture.
  10. If you like small chunks of fruit in your ice cream, use a potato masher to crush the berries. If you prefer a smoother ice cream, you can puree the berries with an immersion blender. Chill the berries until they are very cold.
  11. When the custard base is sufficiently chilled, add the berries. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.
  12. While it is in the machine, place a bowl in the freezer to have ready to scoop the ice cream into. Once the ice cream is frozen to a soft-serve consistency, scoop it into the frozen bowl and place it in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up.

Apple Pie Cheesecake Bars with Salted Caramel

Apple Pie Cheesecake Bars2

This recipe – for Apple Pie Cheesecake Bars with Salted Caramel – is a huge family favorite, shared in honor of my husband’s birthday today. This is one of only two desserts he’s ever requested multiple times, and the only item he specifically asked for this year. Happy Birthday, my love – please save one of these for me!

APPLE PIE CHEESECAKE BARS WITH SALTED CARAMEL

Yields: 16 bars

For the bars:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 2 large fresh eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored + finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the streusel:

  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

For the salted caramel:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, crushed or kosher salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius).
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into a 9 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
  3. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture.
  5. In a small bowl, combine streusel ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over spiced apple mixture. Bake for 30 minutes, or until filling is set.
  6. While bars are baking, make the salted caramel. In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, stir sugar and water over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to a boil, without stirring. If necessary, use a wet pastry brush to wash down any crystals on the side of the pan. Boil until the syrup is a deep amber color, approximately 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the from heat and carefully whisk in heavy cream. Stir in the unsalted butter and salt. Transfer the caramel to a dish and cool slightly. Drizzle over warm apple pie cheesecake bars. Leftover salted caramel sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  7. Enjoy!

Persimmon Bread

Persimmon Bread

It’s persimmon season!

Don’t worry, I forgot to mark this on my calendar too. In all honesty, I had no idea what a persimmon was until four mysteriously showed up in my Farm Fresh to You box last week. Thank goodness for Wikipedia (it’s not a tomato) and Google (it’s actually a sweet, delicious fruit)! Persimmons can be used in a variety of baked and non-baked goods, including this bread recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com. It’s moist, has a great spice flavor, and is a unique, crowd-pleasing autumn alternative to pumpkin bread. Enjoy!

PERSIMMON BREAD

Yields: 1 bundt cake, 2 full-sized or 4 miniature loaf pans

For the bread:

  • 2 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 fresh eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups persimmon pulp
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Vanilla glaze (optional), recipe follows

For the glaze:

  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 4 teaspoons milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To make bread:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Grease baking pan(s) well.
  2. In a small bowl, combine flour and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine sugar, oil, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Blend until smooth. Mix in persimmon pulp alternately with flour-baking soda mixture. Fold in nuts.
  4. Divide batter into the prepared pan(s), filling (each) 2/3 full.
  5. Bake for 45-55 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool for another 15 minutes.
  6. If using, spoon vanilla glaze over almost cooled cake. Serve when cooled.

To make vanilla glaze:

  1. Melt the butter and add to rest of ingredients. Mix until creamy and smooth.