apple cranberry pie

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It’s not like me to be still tweaking my menu just a few days before Thanksgiving. I even had to rework my timeline as a result! But the change made my timeline simpler with more reasonable expectations of what I can fit in my oven at once (i.e., not four casseroles, rolls, and a tray of roasting vegetables).

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If you, too, are still looking for recipes, this is one worth adding. It’s a nice variation from a strictly traditional apple pie, while still within the Thanksgiving theme of fall ingredients and, of course, pie. Plus, both of the fillings and the dough for the crust can be made a couple days before the holiday, which is always an advantage when you’re trying to serve a huge meal to a crowd.

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Cranberries and apples, both sweet and tart, accented by flaky pastry, are a great combination. Hopefully you’re a step ahead and already have your turkey salting, your cranberry sauce in the refrigerator, and your pies chosen. If not, this one is a great addition to your holiday.

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Apple-Cranberry Pie (from Cook’s Illustrated)

Makes one 9-inch pie

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
¼ cup orange juice
1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon for top of pie
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon table salt
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3½ pounds sweet apples (6 to 7 medium), such as Golden Delicious or Braeburn, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
pie dough for double-crust pie
1 egg white, beaten lightly

1. Bring the cranberries, juice, ½ cup sugar, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally and pressing the berries against the side of the pot, until the berries have completely broken down and the juices have thickened to a jamlike consistency (a wooden spoon scraped across the bottom should leave a clear trail that doesn’t fill in), 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in water, and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. (Can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

2. Meanwhile, mix ½ cup sugar, the remaining ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, and the cornstarch in a large microwave-safe bowl; add the apples and toss to combine. Microwave on high power, stirring with a rubber spatula every 3 minutes, until the apples are just starting to turn translucent around the edges and the liquid is thick and glossy, 10 to 14 minutes. Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. (Can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

3. While the fillings cool, adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on the oven rack, and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator and roll it out on a floured work surface to a 12-inch circle about ⅛- inch thick. Roll the dough loosely around the rolling pin and unroll it into a pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang. Ease the dough into the plate by gently lifting the edge of the dough with one hand while pressing into the plate bottom with the other hand. Leave the dough that overhangs the plate in place; refrigerate until the dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

4. Transfer the cooled cranberry mixture to the dough-lined pie plate and spread into an even layer. Place the apple mixture on top of the cranberries, mounding slightly in the center; push down any sharp apple edges.

5. Roll the second disk of dough on a floured work surface to a 12-inch circle about ⅛-inch thick. Roll the dough loosely around the rolling pin and unroll over the pie, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side.

6. Using kitchen shears, cut evenly through both layers of overhanging dough, leaving a ½-inch overhang. Fold the dough under itself so that the edge of the fold is flush with the outer rim of the pie plate. Flute the edges using a thumb and forefinger or press with the tines of a fork to seal. Brush the top and edges of the pie with egg white and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon sugar. Using a sharp paring knife, cut four 1½-inch slits in the top of the dough in a cross pattern.

7. Place the pie on the preheated baking sheet and bake until the top is light golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees, rotate the baking sheet, and continue to bake until the crust is deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes longer. Transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool at least 2 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

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blueberry and cream cookies

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This is usually my view while baking lately. I like it, except for the constant challenge of keeping the baby from grabbing the spatula, or sticking her hands in the way of the mixer paddle, or kicking a bowl full of eggs. Also, I’ve been guilty of dripping batter on her head while grabbing a spoonful to taste.

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It’s best if I just wait until nap time to put things in the oven or take them out, although in a pinch, I’ve found I can tilt her away from the oven and hold her limbs down when one hand while I grab a hot baking pan with the other. This recipe, then, is perhaps not the best choice for baking with the baby, since it has an extra oven step of making milk crumbs by toasting a combination of dried milk powder, sugar, flour, and butter.

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After that, it’s mixed like a standard cookie, with the sugar creamed into the butter, the egg beaten in, and the dry ingredients added at the end. Then, the dough is scooped for baking, except you don’t bake it then. It needs to chill before baking to reduce how much the cookies spread. Then, when the baby is sleeping, or sitting on the floor putting things in her mouth, or jumping like a crazy person in her bouncer, you can finally put the cookies in the oven, and shortly afterward, enjoy a soft and sweet cookie, studded with tart bits of blueberries.

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Printer Friendly Recipe
Blueberry and Cream Cookies (adapted from Christina Tosi’s Momofuko Milk Bar via Bon Appetit)

I did not chill my dough overnight. I left it in the fridge for a couple hours, just until it was cold. It seemed fine.

Milk Crumbs:
6 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder
¼ cup all purpose flour
1½ tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
⅓ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Cookies:
2⅔ cups (12.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cups (5.25 ounces) sugar
¾ cups (5.25 ounces) brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup light corn syrup
1 large egg
Milk crumbs
1 cup dried blueberries

1. For the milk crumbs: Heat the oven to 275 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. In a small bowl, combine the milk powder, flour, sugar, cornstarch, and salt; toss to mix evenly. Add the butter; stir with fork until clusters form. Spread the mixture evenly on the prepared sheet. Bake until the crumbs are dry and crumbly but still pale, about 10 minutes, stirring twice during baking. Cool completely on the sheet. (The crumbs can be made 1 week ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.)

2. For the cookies: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer), beat the butter, sugars, and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the corn syrup, then the egg, beating until the mixture is very pale, about 10 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Add the milk crumbs and blueberries; mix on low speed just until evenly combined. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Scoop the dough in heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 2 days.

3. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until they are golden, 10-12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining cookies.

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peach-riesling sangria

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This recipe is delicious, easy, light, summery, and goes well with a variety of foods. With that list of compliments, you can probably tell that it’s one of my favorite summer drinks, especially when I’m serving a crowd. I like it even more than traditional red wine-based sangria.

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I love how, between the sliced peaches, peach liqueur, and cranberry peach juice, it actually tastes peachy. The raspberries are mostly for decoration, but they certainly are a pretty one. Plus, if you manage to fish them out of the steeped liquid without smooshing them, the boozy berries are a nice treat.

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Other than slicing some fruit, you just mix a bunch of stuff in a pitcher, wait a day, and then you’ve got enough drinks for a group. However, I made a single recipe for six people to go along with afternoon cheese and crackers, and we all agreed that we wanted more. Fortunately, making another batch is no problem at all.

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Peach-Riesling Sangria (slightly adapted from Bon Appetit via epicurious)

The original recipe also includes the seeds from a vanilla bean, but the black specks floating in the drink looked unappetizing and didn’t add noticeable flavor. I leave the vanilla out entirely, but a teaspoon of extract would be good too. I also cut the orange and lemon slices a little thinner, which I think looks nicer in a clear glass.

1 (750-ml) bottle dry Riesling
1½ cups white cranberry-peach drink
½ cup peach schnapps
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
2 ½-inch-thick lemon slices
2 ½-inch-thick orange slices
2 peaches, cut into wedges
10 fresh raspberries

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve over ice.

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raspberry cream cheese brownies

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My mom has a new favorite dessert, and I am not surprised. The two of us have been big fans of the chocolate/cheesecake/raspberry combination since I was in high school and she was a teacher, and we took a day of our spring break to check out the new mall across town. My clearest memory from that day is sharing a slice of chocolate raspberry cheesecake. A few weeks later, I drove back out to that mall to pick up another slice to give her for Mother’s Day. When my mom developed her own chocolate raspberry cheesecake recipe, it became one of my most-requested birthday cakes.

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So when I made these brownies, I was sure to save her a piece. It did not occur to me to also save my dad a piece, and since my mom was nice enough to share, she really only got a nibble. Fortunately, that nibble was enough to convince her to make them herself just a few days later.

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The raspberry jam is both mixed into the chocolate portion and swirled into the cheesecake batter, so it isn’t just a pretty red swirl; the flavor stands out in every bite, vying for attention with the rich chocolate and tangy cheesecake. This is a well-deserved favorite.

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Printer Friendly Recipe
Raspberry Cream Cheese Brownies (from Cook’s Illustrated’s Summer Entertaining via Pink Parsley)

Filling:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
1 egg yolk
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

Brownies:
⅔ cup (3.35 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup raspberry jam
1¼ cups (8.75 ounces) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil. leaving the excess hanging over the edges. Grease foil. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla. Set aside.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Microwave the chocolate and butter in a large bowl, stirring after every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth. Whisk in ¼ cup jam and allow the mixture to cool slightly. Add sugar, eggs, and vanilla to the chocolate mixture, and stir until combined. Whisk in flour mixture until just incorporated.

3. Microwave the remaining ¼ cup jam until warm, about 30 seconds, and stir until smooth. Scrape half the brownie batter into the prepared baking dish. Dollop the cream cheese by the spoonful over the batter, and spread into an even layer. Drop spoonfuls of warm jam over the cream cheese, and use the tip of a knife to swirl jam through the filling. Spread the remaining batter evenly over the filling.

4. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few dry crumbs attached, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 2 hours. Using the foil overhang, lift the brownies from the pan and cut into squares.

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broiled salmon with marmalade-mustard glaze

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While I nursed the four-day-old baby, my mother-in-law asked when we wanted to eat dinner. She said it would take fifteen minutes to cook, and I told her that I should be ready by then, not having yet figured that the baby likes to savor her meals and takes far longer than fifteen minutes to eat.

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But I also didn’t believe my mother-in-law that she could make a full meal in someone else’s kitchen in fifteen minutes. However, it turns out that not everyone makes things as complicated as I do, and this easy dish served with instant rice and steamed broccoli was ready long before the baby was finished eating. It was the not the last time I’d eat my dinner lukewarm after the baby ate hers fresh.

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It was also not the last time we’d eat this dish. A recipe that can be made in an unfamiliar kitchen in fifteen minutes is a good one to have around. The glaze has plenty of flavor to spread around the whole meal, so I often serve it over a simple quinoa pilaf with vegetables mixed in. As a bonus, it tastes almost as good lukewarm as it does hot from the oven.

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Broiled Salmon with Marmalade-Mustard Glaze (slightly adapted from Cooking Light)

Serves 4

½ cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed through a press, or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets

1. Adjust an oven rack to 6 inches below the broiler. In a medium bowl, combine the marmalade, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper.

2. Arrange the salmon in a broiler-safe dish, skin-side down. Spread half of the marmalade mixture over the salmon.

3. Broil until the glaze is bubbling, about 6 minutes. Spread the remaining marmalade mixture over the salmon, and continue to broil until the salmon breaks into flakes or reads 125 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 additional minutes. Serve.

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strawberry and chocolate cupcakes

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There were probably better things I could have been doing with my time instead of making fancy cupcakes. Surely I should be focusing on easier, more straightforward treats right now. Even better, I had planned to get the flower garden ready for spring that Sunday afternoon. Or I could clean my house. Instead, I couldn’t resist the siren call of my mixer, plus butter, sugar, and flour.

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It went about how most things do these days: I thought I’d have enough time to get the batters made and the cupcakes in the oven, but the baby woke up earlier than expected. Once she’d eaten and we gave her a bath and read a few books to her, I hurried back to finish the cupcakes while Dave took a turn trying to get her to sleep. Then he removed the cupcakes from the pan while I took my turn trying to get her to sleep.

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Baking, frosting, and garnishing cupcakes all in one day is nearly impossible right now, at least if I want to do anything else with my time, like dress the baby up in silly outfits and take pictures. I packed the cupcakes away overnight, then got halfway through making the frosting the next morning when the baby woke up earlier than expected. (The baby almost always wakes up earlier than expected, unless she sleeps for hours longer than expected.)

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Fortunately, I was able to finish the toppings when Dave came home for lunch. He took most of the cupcakes to share at work, and I stashed a couple away for a well-deserved treat for myself. I’ll work in the garden next week (unless I find another fun dessert to bake instead).

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Strawberry Chocolate Cupcakes (cake recipes are both adapted from Alyssa Huntsman’s and Peter Wynne’s Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes via Smitten Kitchen; chocolate frosting is from Martha Stewart)

Makes 24 cupcakes

I’m years overdue for a thorough chocolate cupcake comparison, but right now, I’m really happy with this recipe. It’s chocolately, tender, and moist.

A friend gave me this fun cupcake batter divider, but I’m sure you can just simultaneously spoon both batters into the cups.

Strawberry cake:
1 cup (4 ounces) cake flour
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1¾ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup pureed frozen strawberries (from about 5 ounces of strawberries)
3 egg whites
3½ tablespoons milk
1 drop red food dye, optional

Chocolate cake:
1 cup (4 ounces) cake flour
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
½ cup (1.5 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 egg
½ cup freshly brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature

Frosting and garnish:
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ cups (6 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
pinch salt
½ cup sour cream
12 strawberries, halved through the stem

1. To make the cupcakes, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 cupcake wells with paper liners.

2. For the strawberry cake: Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With an electric mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and strawberry puree and mix to blend, then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. In another large bowl, whisk together the egg whites, milk, and red food dye, if using. Add the egg white mixture to the batter in two or three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and mixing only to incorporate after each addition. Set aside.

4. For the chocolate cake: In a large mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. With an electric mixer on low speed, blend for about 30 seconds. Add the butter and buttermilk and blend on low until moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Whisk the eggs and coffee together, and add to the batter in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating only until blended after each addition.

6. Simultaneously spoon the two batters into each cupcake well, filling them about two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove them from the wells and cool completely on the rack.

7. For the frosting: Melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Set aside to cool until just barely warm.

8. In a large mixer bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Gradually mix in the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Beat in the melted and cooled chocolate and then the sour cream. Continue beating until the mixture is smooth and well blended. Frost cupcakes immediately. Top each cupcake with a strawberry half.

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rhubarb sour cream pound cake

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The newborn stage hit all of us hard – including the baby, who apparently found life outside the womb to be unsatisfactory. I was grateful for a freezer full of dinners, although I did manage to do some simple baking – chocolate chip cookies, pound cake. My favorite recipes, made almost more for the comfort of going through the motions, of feeling like me, than to have a delicious dessert to share and enjoy.

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I’m hesitant to put this in writing, but things are a little better now. We’ve figured out how to calm the baby’s cries (usually), she smiles and even sometimes coos, and we’ve learned to adapt to a routine where nothing is really routine. For example, I learned the hard way, when a pissed off hungry baby had to wait to eat until the cookies I’d just put in the oven were done baking, that I can’t bake unless Dave is home to take things out of the oven if necessary. Also, it’s best if I divide up the baking as much as possible; for one cake I made recently, I had the measured dry ingredients and the baking pan sitting by the mixer for almost a week until I finally got a chance to mix it all together.

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This cake was slightly more impromptu, only because the days before I baked it had gone so fast I couldn’t make time to prepare the ingredients. Fortunately, the baby had a particularly sleepy day on the last day of the weekend, and I was able to mix and bake a cake. She woke up hungry when I was doing the final mixing of the dough, so Dave did his best to soothe her while I rushed to get the cake in the oven. I left myself a bit of batter in the mixing bowl to enjoy after the nursing session. After this last month, I definitely deserve a treat.

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Rhubarb Sour Cream Pound Cake (rewritten and slightly adapted from Cook’s Country)

16 servings

The original recipe is for cranberries (fresh or frozen), but I’ve found that rhubarb and cranberries are interchangeable in baked recipes like this. I also doubled the recipe so I could bake it in a bundt pan instead of a loaf pan.

10 large eggs, at room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3½ cups (17.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1½ plus ¼ teaspoons salt, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
⅔ cup sour cream
½ cup milk
28 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2½ cups (17.5 ounces) granulated sugar
2 cups (8 ounces) finely diced rhubarb
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease and flour (or spray with baking spray) a 12-cup bundt pan. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, 1½ teaspoons salt, and baking powder. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and milk.

2. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand-held mixer), beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add the granulated sugar, then increase the mixer speed to medium-high and continue to beat for another 3-4 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium; gradually add the egg mixture. Scrape the sides of the bowl, then continue to mix on medium speed until evenly mixed; the mixture will probably look curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the sour cream mixture, another third of the flour, the remaining sour cream, and the remaining flour. Mix until almost combined, with a few streaks of flour remaining.

3. Toss the rhubarb with the powdered sugar and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Add the rhubarb to the batter and use a large rubber spatula to fold it in until the rhubarb is evenly incorporated and the batter is thoroughly mixed. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan.

4. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 1½ to 2 hours. Transfer to a wire rack; cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack. Cool the cake completely, about two hours, before serving. Tightly wrapped, the cooled cake can be stored for up to three days.

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passion fruit meringue tart

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My original goal was to post this before Valentine’s Day – passion fruit, get it? But instead, I had a baby just a few days before that. And despite what everyone had told me about how difficult the newborn stage is, I’m surprised to find the newborn stage is, indeed, difficult. It seems like most of my days are spent bouncing on an exercise ball, as that’s the best way to keep this tiny creature from screaming in my ear.

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Needless to say, I haven’t been doing much cooking. I’m thankful to JanuaryMe for providing a very well-stocked freezer, not to mention all the other people who have cooked meals for us. Dave and I take turns eating while the other bounces.

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However, today, I baked a cake! A simple cake that I prepped as much as possible yesterday, but I still got to turn butter, sugar, and flour into a sweet treat. It was glorious.

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Still, I think it’s going to be a while before I make a dessert that involves multiple components. This tart is back from my friend’s cancelled party. I took it to work instead, but not before setting aside a slice for myself. It was such a great combination of tart filling and sweet topping, creamy curd and crisp crust. I’m looking forward to stable days of getting back into more elaborate baking, but for now, I’m grateful for any quality time I get to spend with my mixer.

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Passion Fruit Meringue Tart (crust recipe from Dorie Greenspan)

8-12 servings

I get passion fruit concentrate from amazon.

Crust:
1½ cups (7.2 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk

Passion fruit curd:
4 large eggs
3 egg yolks
¾ cup (5.25 ounces) granulated sugar
¾ cup passion fruit concentrate
6 tablespoons cold butter
¼ teaspoon vanilla
⅛ teaspoon salt

Meringue:
4 large egg whites, room temperature
¾ cup (5.25 ounces) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt

1. For the crust: Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut, with some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk with a fork and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. Process in long pulses until the dough forms clumps and curds; the sound of the machine working will change. Scrape the sides of the processor bowl to incorporate any unmixed dry ingredients.

2. Grease a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes before baking.

3. Center a rack in the oven and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a piece of aluminum foil with nonstick spray and fit the foil, oiled side down, tightly against the crust. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for about 8 more minutes, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

4. For the curd: Heat the passion fruit juice in a double boiler until hot but not boiling. Whisk the eggs and yolks in a medium nonreactive bowl; gradually whisk in the sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the hot passion fruit juice into the eggs, then return the mixture to the double boiler and cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until the mixture registers 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and is thick enough to cling to a spoon, about 3 minutes. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cold butter until it’s incorporated; stir in the vanilla and salt, then pour the curd through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium nonreactive bowl. Spread the curd evenly over the prepared crust.

5. For the meringue: Beat egg whites until frothy. Beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time; until sugar is incorporated and mixture forms soft peaks. Add vanilla and salt; continue to beat meringue to stiff peaks.

6. Pipe the meringue over the curd. Use a kitchen torch to brown the meringue. Serve immediately or chill for up 8 hours.

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lemon cheesecake

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I read somewhere the sanctimonious line that “eating for two while pregnant doesn’t mean eating twice as much, it should mean twice as healthy.” I decided early on that my my regular diet is plenty healthy, so my extra calories could come from string cheese, cereal, and a few more servings of dessert. As a result, I’ve started making the occasional dessert just for me and Dave to have at home, which pretty much never happens otherwise unless it’s our birthdays.

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Of course, more dessert isn’t so bad when you’re growing a new little person, which I am but Dave is not. So sometimes the desserts are just for me. I didn’t exactly hide this one from Dave, but I just sort of never offered him any. I’d only made a mini version, and it was just too good to share. He never showed any interest, which was a relief. I did make a big version first, to share at work, but when I didn’t get my fill from the two slivers I saved for myself, I needed a little one to hoard to myself at home. Hey, I’m growing a tiny person, I deserve my own tiny cheesecake, right?

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Printer Friendly Recipe
Lemon Cheesecake (slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

I made a few changes to this. First, if you make the lemon sugar in the food processor before the crust mixture, you don’t have to clean the processor bowl between uses; a little lemon in the crust is okay, but trace amounts of cookie crumbs in the cheesecake is not. Second, I accidentally overbaked mine slightly the first time, but I thought it was the perfect texture. The same week, my brother baked it to the temperature recommended in the original recipe and found it underdone for his taste. Therefore, I’ve increased the goal temperature of the cheesecake from 150 degrees to 155 degrees. Third, my brother and I both agreed that we prefer making the curd in a double boiler instead of directly in the saucepan. For both of us, when made in the saucepan as per the original recipe, the curd curdled. The lumps smoothed after straining, but I feel more comfortable using a double boiler and it isn’t more work, so I’ve adapted the recipe for a double boiler.

Filling:
1¼ cups (8¾ ounces) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
¼ cup lemon juice
1½ pounds (three 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon table salt
½ cup heavy cream

Cookie-Crumb Crust:
5 ounces animal crackers
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
⅛ teaspoon table salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Lemon Curd:
⅓ cup lemon juice
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
½ cup (3½ ounces) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes and chilled
1 tablespoon heavy cream
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch table salt

1. To make lemon sugar: Process ¼ cup (1.75 ounces) of the sugar and the lemon zest in a food processor until the sugar is yellow and the zest is broken down, about 15 seconds, scraping down the bowl if necessary. Transfer the lemon sugar to a small bowl; stir in the remaining 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar. Do not wash the food processor.

2. For the crust: Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. In the food processor, process the cookies to fine, even crumbs, about 30 seconds (you should have about 1 cup). Add the sugar and and salt; pulse 2 or 3 times to incorporate. Add the melted butter in a slow, steady stream while pulsing; pulse until the mixture is evenly moistened and resembles wet sand, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan; using the bottom of a ramekin or dry measuring cup, press the crumbs firmly and evenly into the pan bottom, keeping the sides of the pan as clean as possible. Bake until fragrant and golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 30 minutes. When cool, wrap the outside of the pan with two 18-inch square pieces of foil; set the springform pan in a larger baking pan.

3. For the filling: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese on low to break it up and soften it slightly, about 5 seconds. With the machine running, add the lemon sugar in a slow steady stream; increase the speed to medium and continue to beat until the mixture is creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the eggs one at a time; beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl well after each addition. Add the lemon juice, vanilla, and salt and mix until just incorporated, about 5 seconds; add the heavy cream and mix until just incorporated, about 5 seconds longer. Give the batter a final scrape, stir with a rubber spatula, and pour into the prepared springform pan; fill the larger baking pan with enough hot tap water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

4. Bake until the center jiggles slightly, the sides just start to puff, the surface is no longer shiny, and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the cake registers 155 degrees, 60 to 70 minutes. Turn off the oven and prop open the oven door with a potholder or wooden spoon handle; allow the cake to cool in the water bath in the oven for 1 hour. Transfer the springform pan without the foil to a wire rack; run a small paring knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the sides of the cake; cool the cake to room temperature, about 1 hour.

5. For the lemon curd: Set a metal or glass bowl on top of a saucepan that contains 1 inch of simmering water (do not allow bottom of the bowl to touch the water). Add the lemon juice to the bowl and heat until the juice is hot but not boiling. Whisk the eggs and yolk in a separate bowl; gradually whisk in the sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the hot lemon juice into the eggs, then return the mixture to the bowl set over the saucepan and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, often at first and constantly when the mixture begins to thicken, until the mixture registers 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and is thick enough to cling to a spoon, about 5 minutes. Immediately remove the bowl from the saucepan and stir in the cold butter until it’s incorporated; stir in the cream, vanilla, and salt, then pour the curd through a fine-mesh strainer into a small nonreactive bowl. Cover the surface of the curd directly with plastic wrap; refrigerate until needed.

6. To finish: When the cheesecake is cool, scrape the lemon curd onto the cheesecake while it’s still in the springform pan; using an offset icing spatula, spread the curd evenly over the top of the cheesecake. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours. To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan and cut the cake into wedges.

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apple slab pie

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I’m such a hoarder. A couple months ago, I oh-so-casually asked my coworker how her apple tree was doing this year, and, just as I’d hoped, the next day she brought in a bag of apples. A big bag, which she said I was welcome to take, but she’d give away whatever I left behind to other coworkers. I really wanted them all – I had so many apple plans! – but I tried not to be greedy. I ended up with something like fifty apples.

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And I still have about twenty in my fridge. I made this, I made baked apple oatmeal, I made applesauce to put in the apple oatmeal, I made apple cinnamon rolls, I sautéed apples to top pancakes, I ate apples as snacks, and then…I kind of lost interest. Not that I ran out of apple recipes I want to make, but I also want to make pumpkin recipes and lemon recipes and chocolate recipes.

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Even this pie-that-serves-a-crowd hardly made a dent in my stash. It does have a higher ratio of crust to fruit than a regular pie, but if you make an excellent pie crust, one that’s flaky and crisp and buttery, that’s not a bad thing. But maybe it’s time to make a regular apple pie to use up some more apples. In fact, a deep dish pie is probably best. Or, maybe I can keep hoarding my apple stash for just a little while longer. I still have a few fun apple recipes up my sleeve.

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Printer Friendly Recipe
Apple Slab Pie (slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Crust:
3¾ cups (18 ounces) all-purpose flour
1½ tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons table salt
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, very cold
¾ cup very cold water

Filling:
3½ to 4 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into approximately ½-inch chunks (about 8 cups)
⅔ to ¾ cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like your pies)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice

To finish:
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Glaze:
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. For the crust: Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Cut the butter into ½-inch cubes; add to the food processor and pulse until the largest pieces are pea-sized. Transfer the mixture to a bowl; stir in the water. Divide the dough in half and wrap each portion in plastic wrap; chill at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. If chilled longer than an hour, leave the dough at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to soften before rolling.

2. For the filling: In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt. In a large bowl, toss the apples with the lemon juice. Add the sugar mixture and stir to evenly coat.

3. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the bottom of a 15-by-10-inch (or something roughly equivalent) baking pan with parchment paper.

4. On a lightly floured surface, roll one portion of the dough to a 18-by-13-inch rectangle. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet. If it breaks, patch the pieces together. The dough should overhang the pan rim. Roll out the second portion of dough to a 16-by-11-inch rectangle.

5. Spread the apple mixture evenly over the crust-lined pan. Top with the second portion of dough. Seal the edges of the two sheets of dough together, trimming excess if necessary. Crimp the edges if you’d like. Cut about twelve 2-inch slits into the top crust. Brush the top crust and edges lightly with the 2 tablespoons heavy cream.

6. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, 40-45 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Cool about 45 minutes, until the pie is warm but not hot. (Can also be stored overnight at room temperature.)

7. For the glaze: In a small bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled pastry.

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