Thursday, October 28, 2010

FFWD: Marie-Helene's Apple Cake

There is one particular dessert I remember vividly from my childhood. It was a single crusted pie stuffed with apples and custard. I only had it once, at a friends house, but I loved it. I've thought about it often in the fall when apple season comes around and the pies, turnovers, tarts and crisps are plentiful.

Marie-Helene's Apple Cake brought me right back to that dessert. I ate and ate and ate this cake, sneaking chunks of apple with my fingers while I was in the kitchen making breakfast, lunch and dinner over the next couple of days.

I've found that adding rum to desserts brings out such a different depth of flavor. I first realized it with Dorie's Banana Bread. This cake was no different. I love the kick of flavor that the little bit of rum brings.

With October's recipes behind us, I can't wait to see what French Fridays brings for November!!!

To check out the group, head over to French Fridays With Dorie. And to buy the book (which you should!) head over to amazon. Do it!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pecan Pie Cupcakes

A few weeks back, I was killing some of my down time at work on a cooking board I scope out for new ideas, dinner inspiration, and recipes, and one of the ladies over there asking if anyone was interested in doing a bake-along. A small group of us joined in and formed "What's Baking?" Our first task was to bake fall-themed cupcakes. I searched the web for something that looked unique but delicious and fell for these pecan pie cupcakes. They did not disappoint, they were sweet for sure, but tasted JUST like pecan pie! I especially loved the little mini pecan pie pieces on top. So cute!!


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
2/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350°. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, beat brown sugar and butter at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl as necessary.

Add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in pecans and vanilla. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Tap pan against counter to release air bubbles.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove from pan, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Place Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting (see recipe below) in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe cupcakes with frosting, or spread evenly on cupcakes.

Just before serving, top each cupcake with a Pecan-Topped Pastry Round (see recipe below).
Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting


1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened and divided
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons whole milk


In a small saucepan, combine brown sugar, water, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until sugar is dissolved, approximately 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in 2 tablespoons butter. Let cool completely.

In a large bowl, beat cooled brown-sugar mixture and remaining 1/2 cup butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar and enough milk to achieve a spreadable consistency.

Pecan-Topped Pastry Round


1/4 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough (1/2 sheet)
1 tablespoon dark corn syrup
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon salt
12 pecan halves


Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
Place dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut 12 rounds using a 1 1/4-inch fluted cutter. Reserve scraps for another use.

In a small bowl, combine syrup, melted butter, and salt; lightly brush over dough rounds. Gently press 1 pecan half onto each dough round. Lightly brush tops of pecans with butter mixture.
Bake until dough is golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool completely. Store in a resealable plastic bag.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

FFWD: Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

Stems from one bunch of cilantro...

Me: Honey.... - (asking my husband whose idea of cooking is grilling and making chili) -do you think she means JUST the stems or the whole stem including the leaves?

Husband: Just the stems.

Me: So, I need to pull off EACH leaf??!!?

Husband: No, just cut off the top half off where the leaves are.

Me: Oh, okay. Hey, do you think this is a bunch - or more than a bunch? It's kind of a lot.

Husband: Looks like a bunch to me, I'd use it all.

Me: Sounds good.

Other questions I had along the way - what does she means by two POINTS star anise? What is a garlic germ?? Do you think these dried red chiles are okay?? Does the market sell thai basil?

Each question followed with a conversation similar to the cilantro talk above. Some obvious answer out of my husband who rarely cooks, who was watching football, and whose main objective was probably trying to get me to pipe down as quickly as possible. Well mission accomplished by him, I took his word for everything he said.

I'm obviously still learning here, and hopefully always will be. This soup was something completely different than anything I'd typically make. I tend to base my weekly menus on ease, convenience, and shopping budget! And usually when some ethnic recipes pops up that I'd think I might like, I continue to put it aside due to time/lack of available ingredients... whatever.

I'm committed to trying as much as I can out of Around My French Table - to expand my skills in the kitchen and my palette - I refuse to not try a recipe because it doesn't look appealing. I'll make, I'll try, I'll feed to my husband (or dog) if I don't like it. Well, I'd feed it to my dog if I gave her people food. Sorry Rae.

Anyway, the soup. I'm looking at the photo in AMFT right now. I can taste the soup just looking at it. When I first saw the photo, I thought it was beautiful, of course, but really had no idea what I would taste in the end. It was a smooth, sweet, citrusy, spicy, chewy, crunchy masterpiece. You could taste each flavor distinctly with each bite. The cilantro, the star anise, the lime, the fish sauce, the chili. The flavors married and melded together perfectly.

I really enjoyed this soup, and the leftovers. Everything about it was new to me. I love that.

Check us out at French Fridays With Dorie - - and buy Dorie's newest book Around My French Table (so worth it) over at Amazon.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nutella Hot Chocolate

As much as I love the summer, I love the cooler months for things like hot chocolate. Although, there is frozen hot chocolate to be had in the summer, and that stuff is pretty incredible, too. But, there is something to be said about settling in to watch TV after a long day with a mug of hot cocoa.

The urge struck me recently for the first time this season. I didn't have any powdered mixes in the kitchen, and usually when this is the case, I'll do the milk/cocoa/sugar mix on the stove. But, when i was digging through the cabinets I spotted the Nutella, and I thought... mmmm, Nutella would be perfect in hot chocolate.

So, I dug out the cocoa and the Nutella, and pulled out espresso powder as well. I often add a bit of espresso powder to my hot cocoa, so I thought I'd try it here too! The result was a satisfying, creamy drink for dessert on one of the first cool nights of the season. I'm sure I'll be enjoying this drink for months to come.

Nutella Hot Chocolate


1 cup 2% milk
1 tbsp nutella
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp espresso powder


Heat milk on stovetop, being careful not to boil. Add Nutella, unsweetened cocoa, and espresso powder. Whisk until combined and heated to desired temperature.

Top with marshmallows or whipped cream and savour.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

FFWD: Gerard's Mustard Tart

I rounded the corner into the mustard aisle at Whole Foods last weekend, a woman in search of the perfect grainy mustard. There stood a man, also contemplating grainy mustards. Could it be? Could he be looking for the perfect mustard for Gerard's Mustard Tart, too? Alas, I will never know - I was too chicken to ask. I almost did, but I thought he might think I was nuts, so I waited patiently for him to make his selection, he chose, and I moved in. Ah, mustard.

I wasn't sold on this tart after reading the recipe. Mustard, eggs, cream... ummm... no thanks. But, I'm trying to branch out, try new things, learn new techniques, so I went for it. I made the carrot and leek version. I love leeks. The cashier didn't know what they were. I love when that happens, makes me kinda feel like a foodie, just for a second.

Did I love this tart? Love is such a serious thing. I'd say we were in like. Although, I must say, I sliced myself a piece the next day, gave it a quick 20 second warm up in the microwave - and the flavors actually did grow on me more since the night before. So, now I kind of really like it. Our relationship is still developing.

Can I also tell you that the crust on this tart has been my most successful yet. I've made several tarts and pies in the past, but this crust was flakey, tender, melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and stood above the rest. I'm not sure what I've done wrong in the past, but this time, I got it right!

Thanks, Dorie, for another great selection. Head over to French Fridays with Dorie to join us, and head over to amazon to buy the book!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

FFWD: Hachis Parmentier

French shepards pie. This recipe is reason enough to buy this book. I made this the first week of French Fridays with Dorie to go along with the Gougeres (and Marie-Helene's Apple cake - coming next week). I figured making this and the gougeres would be a good way to use the whole block of gruyere I had bought. To me, this may have been one of the the best things I've ever made. I usually try to stay pretty healthy during the week, and indulge on the weekends. This was one of those indulgent meals for sure, and it was worth every last calorie.

I made this one the long way. I used chuck beef and made the broth myself. It was Sunday, I had the time. I'm sure this is tasty using ground beef and canned broth, but the little bits of tender meat brought this meal to another level. I also used the veggies from the broth, chopped them up and added them to the mix, I couldn't stand to throw them away!

I'm loving this cooking group so far! I can't wait to see what recipes November will bring. To check out the group, head over to French Fridays With Dorie. And to buy the book (which you should!) head over to amazon. Do it!!

Oh - and please excuse the ugliness of this picture, my photography skills are sorely lacking. I just wanted to eat it.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Ahhhh... fall. Cooler weather. Pumpkins, apples, squash, baking, soups, all my favorite things. I love summer weather, I love the heat, the grill, ice cream... but this summer was unlike any other I can remember. It must have been 90 degrees and humid every. single. day. My oven was feeling neglected. There was no break from it, and fall is now completely welcome.

This pumpkin bread was perfectly spiced, moist and delicious, with little studs of chocolately goodness.

Adapted from Cooking Light

Makes 2 loaves


3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (about 15 ounces)
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk (I used the buttermilk substitute - just under 1/2 cup 2% milk, and about 1/2 tbsp vinegar)
4 eggs
2/3 cup water
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
2 cups milk-chocolate chips
Cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through allspice) in a bowl.

Place sugar, oil, buttermilk, and eggs in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until well blended. Add 2/3 cup water and pumpkin, beating at low speed until blended. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Spoon batter into 2 (9 x 5-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack; remove from pans.

Cool completely on wire rack.