Independence Cake

For family occasions, I am the designated dessert maker. Our traditional Fourth of July dessert is chocolate cupcakes with American flags stuck in them (which I did do last year), but I didn’t have the flags or the chocolate and I wasn’t sure what to do. After turning over and rejecting various ideas (including éclairs), I settled on making a cake.

Surprise, surprise, the recipe I chose is from King Arthur flour (I do love them). It’s a classic, standard American cake, the kind that gets made for birthdays: golden vanilla cake.

It’s pretty much a one bowl cake, but it was more work than I anticipated. Each egg needs to be beaten in individually and the whole bowl scraped down in between each one, to ensure that the cake has enough air, presumably. And my cake had a lot of air: each of the layers domed hugely, making it necessary to cut off the tops. And as the pictures clearly show, there were holes throughout the cake.

To fill and cover the cake, I whipped about 2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream with about 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 or 2 teaspoons vanilla. I didn’t use quite all of the cream: 2 1/4 cups probably would have sufficed. I also layered the cake with raspberries freshly picked (by me) from my parents’ garden, and blueberries (store-bought). Then I slathered more cream on the bottom layer so there wouldn’t be any gaps.

To make sure the cake dish would be neat after I finished frosting the cake, I put four strips of parchment paper in a square underneath the cake and when I was done, I pulled them away: voilà! Clean cake stand. That’s a trick I got from Cook’s Illustrated. My husband helped me by slowing spinning the cake stand while I frosted, and by helping me with garnish (again, raspberries and blueberries for a red, white, and blue cake!). I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the top of the cake until the last minute, when I decided a star was appropriate to the occasion, and I think it turned out really well.

The cake was moist and kept well. In fact, I think it was perhaps even better the second day. All in all, a satisfying endeavour.

Peach Clafouti

It’s peach season! What to do with all those fresh peaches (courtesy of my parents’ fruit trees)?

I looked up peaches in the indices of some of my cookbooks to get some ideas, and I settled on King Arthur Flour’s peach clafouti.

Baking temperature and time: 375°F, 35-40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups peeled and sliced peaches
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a round, 10-inch oven safe pan or skillet (I used a deep pie dish).
  2. Line the bottom of the pan with peaches and sprinkle the brown sugar over them.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Blend thoroughly, and then gradually whisk in the flour mixture, smoothing out the lumps.
  5. Pour the mixture over the fruit and bake for 35-40 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the clafouti comes out clean.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature. I would allow it at least and hour and a half to cool and set.

Strawberry-Lemon Profiterole

IMG_20160618_195524160For Father’s day, I made profiteroles, and I filled them with lemon gelato, over which I drizzled strawberry puree. This flavor combination works really well.

To serve it, I sprinkled the pastry shells with powdered sugar and sliced a strawberry to decorate each plate.

Snickerdoodles

These are delightfully chewy, buttery cookies, and very quick to make. Even after a couple of days, their texture is still good.

Baking temperature and time: 400°F for 8-10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

To coat the cookies:

  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  1. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together; add the eggs and beat them in.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend. You can chill the dough or make the cookies immediately.
  3. Roll the dough into small balls and roll each one in the cinnamon sugar mixture.
  4. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, bake the cookies at 400°F for 8-10 minutes

 

Cherry Pie

Another summer classic! A cherry pie. I used butter and lard in the crust, and the dough rolled out more smoothly than any pie crust I’ve ever made, and as a result, this pie may be one of the prettiest I’ve made. I brushed the lattice with cream and sprinkled it with sugar.

I am proud to say I pitted about 2 1/2 pound of cherries with my bare hand in less than twenty minutes.

Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

These delicious treats can be eaten fresh or frozen, and keep well, though they probably won’t last long!

Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus 2 tbs melted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 package (11.5-12 oz) semisweet chocolate (2 cups)
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Line the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with aluminum foil. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat one stick room-temperature butter, brown sugar, flour, and salt until coarse crumbs form. Pour mixture into prepared pan; press firmly into bottom.
  3. Bake until lightly browned, 25-30 minutes. Let cool for ten minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in the same large bowl, mix eggs, corn syrup, granulated sugar, and melted butter until well combined. Add chocolate chips and pecans; spread over crust. Bake until set, 25-30 minutes. Cool completely in pan before lifting out (using foil to lift).
  5. Cut into 32 bars (8 rows by 4 rows).

This recipe comes from Monica Svatek, writing for tastebook.com, and I was introduced to it by way of my sister Isabella. I looked for a link, but the page has been taken down.

My suggestions:

When putting the crust in the pan, use a plastic drinking glass with smooth sides to roll out the mixture smoothly. If you don’t want to freeze the bars, keep them in a cool, dry place.

This is a straightforward recipe that can be made well ahead of time, and I made it last Christmas, where it proved a popular treat.