raspberry ricotta scones

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I’ve largely gotten out of my scone phase from a few years ago. Back then, I was making a new scone recipe almost once a month. One batch of scones, frozen before baking, would last a couple weekends, which made for some wonderfully relaxed weekend mornings, with nothing to do but turn the oven on, transfer the frozen scones to a baking sheet, and boil water for the French press. Twenty minutes later, I’d sit down with a scone, a mug, and a food magazine.

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The problem with this scenario is that there’s very little nutrition in a scone. I’m not against a little butter for breakfast, but as we’ve become more active lately, we require breakfasts that fill us up and provide energy. I don’t want to imagine Dave on one of his weekly racquetball marathons with nothing but butter, flour, and sugar for fuel.

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On quiet mornings when we don’t have a busy day ahead though, scones hit the spot. And this one is even better, because it does have some extra health benefits from protein-rich ricotta and fiber-rich whole grains. Moreover, this is one of the best scones I’ve ever made.

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I’ve admittedly become more and more enamored with whole grains and the nutty depth of flavor they add to baked goods, and this was a perfect example of how a portion of whole wheat flour isn’t a sacrifice to be made for health reasons, but an improvement in flavor. I think this recipe has me headed toward another scone phase.

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One year ago: Corniest Corn Muffins
Two years ago: How to adapt any bread to be whole wheat
Three years ago: Lemon Cup Custard
Four years ago: Spaghetti and Meatballs

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Raspberry Ricotta Scones (slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Makes 9

Baked scones are best fresh out the oven. If you want to make these in advance, form and cut the scones, then transfer the unbaked scones to a ziploc bag to freeze. There’s no need to defrost before baking, but you will need to add a few extra minutes to the baking time.

I used whole wheat pastry flour, which I prefer in quick breads. But if you only have regular whole wheat flour, I’m sure it will be fine.

¾ cup (6.5 ounces) whole milk ricotta
⅓ cup heavy cream
1 cup (4.8 ounces) whole wheat flour
1 cup (4.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup (4.75 ounces) raspberries, fresh or frozen

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. In a large measuring cup, combine the ricotta and heavy cream.

2. Combine the flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt in the food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is cut into pea-sized pieces. Add the raspberries and pulse a few times to break them down. Add the ricotta mixture; pulse just until the dough is evenly moistened but still looks crumbly.

3. Transfer the dough to a work surface and pat into a ball. Knead the dough a few times, then pat it out into a 7-inch square that is about 1-inch thick. Cut the dough into 9 squares.

4. Transfer the scones to the prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden brown around the bottom edges, 16-20 minutes. Transfer the scones to a wire rack and cool about 10 minutes before serving.

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pear almond danishes and lemon ricotta danishes

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I went through a baking drought early this year that lasted a few weeks, maybe a month. I couldn’t explain it, but I just wasn’t interested in baking for the first time in years. I was kind of worried – how long would this last? When would my drive to bake come back?

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Oh it’s back. It crept back in, but it’s in full force now. The last few weeks, in particular, I’ve taken on some ambitious projects. It started with these danishes, made for a brunch potluck that was in the evening after work. The very next day, I stayed up until midnight flooding sugar cookies with royal icing. A week after that, I made two batches of fancy cupcakes for a bridal shower. I breathed a sigh of relief when that was over, but mixed up another batch of sugar cookie dough just one day later. I’ll decorate those sugar cookies this week, plus make a double batch of tiramisu for my friend’s rehearsal dinner on Friday.

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Baking projects that are for an event in the evening after work are particularly complicated, especially if the event is toward the end of the week instead of shortly after the weekend. It requires careful balancing of chilling time, lunch hours, and evening schedules. Of course it’s worth it when you’re sitting around with your friends, drinking bellinis and eating eggs Benedict and buttery, flaky danishes on Thursday evening after work. Not just worth it, but so enjoyable that I did it again a week later with cupcakes, and a week after that I’m sure it will be something else. My baking obsession is back.

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One year ago: Chocolate Pots de Creme
Two years ago: Toasted Coconut Custard Tart
Three years ago: Lemon Cream Cheese Bars
Four years ago: Raspberry Bars

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Danishes (adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)

I made 18 danishes from this batch of dough, and they were about 3-inches on a side after baking. Bigger danishes are probably easier to work with; many of mine unfolded when the dough expanded during baking, particularly the square shape with the corners folding in.

½ cup warm milk
2 teaspoons instant yeast
10 ounces (about 2 cups) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 batch of filling (recipes follow)
egg wash (1 egg mixed with ⅛ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon water)

1. In a small measuring cup, stir the yeast into the milk. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add 2 tablespoons of butter; mix until evenly combined. Pour in the yeast and milk; mix until the dough starts to look shaggy. Switch to the dough hook; add the egg and knead until the dough just starts to look smooth, 2-3 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

2. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch by 8-inch rectangle, about ¼ inch thick. Distribute the softened butter over two-thirds of the dough, leaving a short end free of butter. Fold the non-buttered third over the middle, then fold the last third over the middle, like folding a letter. Pinch the edges to seal. Roll the dough out to a 12-by-8-inch rectangle again, then fold it in thirds again. Rewrap the dough in plastic wrap; chill 1 hour.

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(see here for an explanation of the creases on the dough)

3. After the dough has chilled, roll it out and fold it in thirds twice more, then chill another hour, and roll and fold twice more. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight. (This is a good point to freeze the dough too; thaw in the refrigerator overnight.)

4. Roll the dough out to a 12-by-18-inch rectangle about ⅛-inch thick. If the dough becomes too elastic and springs back, cover it and place it in the refrigerator for at least ten minutes, then try rolling again. Be patient; the rolling and chilling could take up to an hour. Cut 12 to 18 squares (see note).

5. For pinwheels: Cut from each corner halfway to the center of each square. Dab about ¼ teaspoon of filling into the center of each square, then fold every other corner toward the center, pressing to seal. Top with one (for smaller danishes) to two (for the larger size) tablespoons of filling.

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For squares with folded corners: Spoon one (for smaller danishes) to two (for the larger size) tablespoons of filling into the center of each square. Fold each corner to the middle of the dough; press to seal.

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6. Transfer the danishes to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Cover and either chill overnight or set aside to rise. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. When the danish dough is about doubled in height and is starting to look puffy, brush the danishes with the egg wash. Bake one baking sheet at a time until the danishes are golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack; let the danishes cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring them to cooling racks to cool to room temperature. Serve within a day.

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Cheese Danish Filling

Makes enough for 1 batch of danishes

1 cup ricotta cheese
6 tablespoons (2.6 ounces) sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Combine all ingredients. Chill.

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Pear Almond Danish Filling (rewritten from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)

Makes enough for 1 batch of danishes

⅔ cup slivered almonds, toasted and cooled completely
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup (3.5 ounces) sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 large egg
2 pears, peeled, cored, diced finely
¼ cup lemon juice

1. In a food processor, grind the almonds, flour, ½ cup sugar, and salt; add the butter and egg; chill.

2. Heat the pears, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the pears caramelize, 8-10 minutes. Chill.

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strawberry buttermilk cake

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I woke up yesterday wanting cake. Not wanting to eat cake, so much, although that part is nice, but wanting to watch butter and sugar swirl in the mixer bowl and gradually turn into a smooth batter. This despite plans to make Danish dough, two Danish fillings, fajitas, grapefruit cookies (which didn’t happen because I’d gotten my mixer fix with the cake), and a batch of Tartine country bread dough to freeze (which didn’t happen because I ran out of flour). No one said anything about being practical.

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I started poking around the internet for recipes, and chose this one because it uses buttermilk, which I have right now, and it wasn’t loaded with butter, which is always nice when you’re planning to eat cake for breakfast. I did not have any fresh berries, but I always keep strawberries in the freezer for our weekday smoothies. And it didn’t require an hour in the oven; key on a government holiday that included sleeping in.

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The cake was everything I’d been craving. The most important part of the craving was my favorite mixing method of beating butter and sugar until fluffy, whipping in an egg and vanilla, and alternating the additions of buttermilk and dry ingredients. But cake for breakfast doesn’t hurt either.

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One year ago: Eggplant Rollatini
Two years ago: Pasta with Baked Ricotta and Sweet Tomato Sauce
Three years ago: Vegetarian Chili
Four years ago: Salmon Cakes, Flaky Biscuits, Hashed Brussels Sprouts

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Berry Buttermilk Cake (rewritten but not changed from Gourmet via Smitten Kitchen)

Serves 6

Two things: The original recipe calls for fresh raspberries, which are probably a better choice than the (frozen) strawberries I used. Strawberries are juicier than other berries, so my cake was a little wetter than is probably ideal. I also thought it was too sweet, which could be because strawberries aren’t as tart as raspberries, but still, next time I’ll only use ½ cup of sugar.

1 cup (4.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ stick unsalted butter, room temperature
⅔ cup (4.67 ounces) plus 1½ tablespoons sugar, divided
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
½ cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup (5 ounces) fresh raspberries (or other berries)

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a medium bowl using a hand mixer), beat the butter, sugar, and lemon zest (if using) on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, beating until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low; add one-third of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk. Continue alternating the dry ingredients and buttermilk, ending with the dry ingredients.

3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Scatter the berries evenly over the top, then sprinkle with the remaining 1½ tablespoons sugar. Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack; cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and cool another 10-15 minutes before serving.

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grapefruit margaritas

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If 2010 was the year of the vodka gimlet, 2011 was dedicated to margaritas. It started with these, and then when grapefruits went out of season, we tried strawberry margaritas, pineapple margaritas, classic lime margaritas, and, most recently, cranberry margaritas. I love them all, but nothing holds a candle to the grapefruit version.

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It’s perfectly balanced – not too sweet, not too sour, not too strong. The light grapefruit mellows any harshness from the lime and alcohol, and the result is perfectly refreshing. As an added bonus, one grapefruit yields enough juice for four drinks – which is just the right amount to split between two people.

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One year ago: Feta and Shrimp Macaroni and Cheese
Two years ago: Apple Muffins
Three years ago: Twice Baked Potatoes with Broccoli, Cheddar, and Scallions
Four years ago: Maple Walnut Cupcakes

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Grapefruit Margaritas (adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride)

Technically 4 servings, but you’ll be sad if you only get one

Of the many grapefruits I have juiced for margaritas, one grapefruit has always resulted in 4 shots of juice. Two limes will usually give two shots of juice, but not always, so it’s best to buy a third just in case.

As with all things, alcohol quality matters. I’ve used Cointreau, Gran Marnier, Gran Gala, Controy (which can only be purchased in Mexico), and Patron Citronge in these, all with good results. I’ve never used a bargain triple sec. For tequila, I tend to buy whatever is on sale in the $20-25 range.

2 shots lime juice
4 shots grapefruit juice
3 shots orange liqueur
3 shots tequila

In a pitcher or 4-cup measuring cup, mix all of the ingredients. Pour over crushed ice in individual glasses; serve immediately.

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fresh orange cream tart

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I’ve come full circle. The second recipe I made as part of Tuesdays with Dorie was a lemon cream tart; the alternative offered for that recipe for lemon haters was this fresh orange cream tart, and now this is the second-to-last thing I baked for the group. I swore after that lemon tart that I was done with citrus creams, because, as good as they are, a full pound of butter in a 9-inch tart is extreme. But it was a never say never situation, because I made a lemon cream as part of this lemon meringue cake and now I’m making an orange cream to say I baked every single dessert recipe in the book.

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Fortunately, this time I was smart enough to give them all away without telling my guests that they were eating orange-flavored butter on a cookie. Plus I made them tiny, so each little tartelette only contained maybe one tablespoon of butter. Which is still a lot. It’s good enough that it might be worth the calories. But what I can say for sure is that making this one very rich dessert was worth it to say I finished off an entire cookbook.

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Three years ago, one very busy day of candy-making: Candied Orange Peels, Buckeyes, White Chocolate Lemon Truffles, Pumpkin Seed Brittle, Vanilla Bean Caramels

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Fresh Orange Cream Tart (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Home to Yours)

I skipped both the orange segments and the jelly garnishes.

For the Orange Filling:
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
Grated zest of 3 oranges
Grated zest of 1 lemon
4 large eggs
Scant ¾ cup fresh blood-orange or Valencia orange juice
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1¼ teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon cold water
2¾ sticks (22 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at cool room temperature

1 9-inch tart shell (round or square) made with Sweet Tart Dough or Sweet Tart Dough with Nuts, fully baked and cooled

3 orange segments, for decoration
⅓ cup quince or apple jelly mixed with ½ teaspoon of water, for glazing

Getting Ready: Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at hand. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

Put the sugar and orange and lemon zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zests together between your fingertips until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the orange and lemon juice.

Set the bowl over the pan and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk – you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling – you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger and then, as it gets closer to 180 degrees F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point – the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience – depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.

As soon as it reaches 180 degrees F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the zest.

Soften the gelatin in the cold water, then dissolve it by heating it for 15 seconds in a microwave oven (or do this in a saucepan over extremely low heat). Add the gelatin to the filling and pulse once just to blend, then let the filling cool to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.

Turn the blender to high (or turn on the processor) and, with the machine going, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going – to get the perfect light, airy texture, you must continue to blend the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. (The cream can be refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months; thaw overnight in the fridge.)

When you are ready to construct the tart, whisk the cream vigorously to loosen it. Spread the cream evenly in the crust. Arrange the orange segments in the center of the tart and prepare the glaze: bring the jelly and water to a boil. Use a pastry brush or pastry feather to lightly spread the jelly over the orange segments and cream. Serve now or refrigerate the tart until needed.

Sweet Tart Dough

1½ cups (7.2 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ cup (2 ounces) confectioner’s sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioner’s sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in – you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses – about 10 seconds each – until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change – heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

To Press the Dough into the Pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy-handed – press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

To Fully Bake the Crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, butter side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) 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. For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack (keep it in its pan).

Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

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hidden berry cream cheese torte

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I don’t think of myself as much of a shopper. The majority of the clothes I’ve bought over the last year have been thrifted, I rarely buy books or CDs since we moved to a town without a big bookstore, I have no interest in cars beyond dependability and gas mileage, and the only decorations in my office at the place I’ve worked for a year and a half are a bird-shaped mirror that makes me smile every time I see it and three posters on local geology that a coworker was trying to get rid of.

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But ingredients are becoming a weakness. I blame living in a small isolated town; because there are so many foods I can’t buy here, when I do have access to a fun new ingredient, I snatch it up. This is why I have a container of truffle salt I’ve only used once and several types of ground and whole mustard seeds which I never got around to using in homemade mustard recipes. It’s probably a good thing Dave rushed me out of the Middle Eastern market we went to for lunch in Albuquerque, so I only had time to buy a container of za’atar and a jar of boysenberry preserves.

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I haven’t used the za’atar yet, but the jam was perfect in this light, creamy cheesecake. I added a little more than the recipe called for, and I wished I had used even more. This is one impulse buy I don’t regret one bit.

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One year ago: Cardamom Crumb Cake
Two years ago: Cafe Volcano Cookies
Three years ago: Buttery Jam Cookies

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Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Home to Yours)

8 servings

I used 8 ounces of cream cheese, since that’s the normal size of the packages. I also left out the spices.

Crust:
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Filling:
⅓ cup thick berry or cherry jam
9 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 ounces (1 cup) cottage cheese, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

Getting ready: Butter a 9-inch springform pan, dust the inside with flour, and tap out the excess. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

To make the crust: Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse just to blend. Toss in the pieces of butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir the egg yolks and vanilla together with a fork, and, still pulsing the machine, add them and continue to pulse until the dough comes together in clumps and curds—restrain yourself, and don’t allow the dough to form a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface. If you want to roll the dough, gather it into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about 20 minutes before rolling. (I like to roll this, and all sweet crusts, between sheets of plastic wrap.) Or simply press the dough into the pan. The dough should come about 1½ inches up the sides of the springform. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Fit a piece of buttered aluminum foil against the crust, covering it completely. Fill the crust lightly with rice, dried beans or pie weights and slide the pan into the oven. Bake the crust for 20 minutes, then carefully remove the foil and weights and bake for another 5 minutes or so—you don’t want the crust to get too brown. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the filling. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

To make the filling: Stir the jam and spread it over the bottom of the crust—it’s okay to do this while the crust is still warm.

Put the cream cheese and cottage cheese into the food processor and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times, for 2 minutes, until you’ve got a smooth, satiny mix. Add the sugar, salt and spices and process for another 30 seconds. With the machine running, add the eggs and process, scraping the bowl as needed for a final minute. Pour the filling over the jam.

Bake the cake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the filling is uniformly puffed and no longer jiggly. Gently transfer the springform pan to a cooling rack and allow the torte to cool to room temperature, during which time the filling will collapse into a thin, elegant layer.

Run a blunt knife between the crust and the sides of the pan, then open and remove the sides of the springform. If the sides of the crust extend above the filling and you don’t like this look, very gently saw off the excess crust using a serrated knife. Chill the torte slightly or thoroughly before serving and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

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berry chocolate ice cream

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I’m not a big ice cream lover. When I saw how rich and thick and chocolately this custard was right before being churned into ice cream, I was tempted to leave it just like that. The only thing that stopped me was knowing I wouldn’t be able to resist something so like chocolate mousse.

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So I poured it into the ice cream maker. After a few minutes, I tested a spoonful to see how it would taste when it was partially frozen. And then I tested more and more spoonfuls, until it became clear that any claims I might want to make about not loving ice cream are wishful thinking.

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pre-frozen, like smooth rich chocolate pudding

Laurie chose this for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. Other than adding a pinch of salt to bring out the flavors and using the boysenberry preserves I had in my fridge instead of buying blueberry preserves, I followed the recipe exactly.  I’m glad I did, because Dorie is right about how well the dark chocolate and bright berries compliment each other.

One year ago: Oreo Cheesecake Cookies
Two years ago: English Muffins
Three years ago: Cranberry Orange Muffins

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puffed poached pear tart

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Just a handful of recipes left, and I’ll have baked every single dessert in the Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Home to Yours!

Or at least I’ll have baked something vaguely resembling Dorie’s recipes. These stragglers at the end call for unseasonal unavailable ingredients, so I’ve had to make some significant substitutions. I was actually surprised to find that the plums I needed for this recipe weren’t available at all at my store, not even tasteless rockhard specimens shipped in from another continent.

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But when I saw that the plums in the original recipe are poached in wine, I immediately thought of pears. I exchanged the red wine for white and the prunes for dried apples. Raisins might have been a better choice for the dried fruit, because the whole thing ended up looking pale and plain. But it was nothing that a dusting of powdered sugar couldn’t solve, and anyway, after a bite of the buttery flaky crust and sweet winey pears, I wasn’t at all concerned about whether this delicious dessert was a little on the monochrome side.

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Julie chose the Puffed Double Plum Tart for Tuesdays with Dorie. I replaced the prunes with dried apples and the fresh plums with pears. I poached the two in a mixture of 1 cup white wine, 1 cup water, and ⅔ cup sugar for about 20 minutes, then arranged them on top of the puff pastry and baked according to the recipe.

One year ago: Apple Coconut Family Cake
Two years ago: Sablés
Three years ago: Buttery Jam Cookies

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normandy apple tart

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There seems to be a misconception among some people that I have my act together. Something like this tart, with its carefully arranged apple slices, presents an image of someone organized and calm and productive. Who knows – they might even think that I regularly clean my bathrooms.

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The truth is that I forgot about the apples while they were cooking down into sauce and was lucky that there was no harm done. The truth is that I sliced and arranged the topping while singing Chicago hits (you’re the inspiration!) and drinking champagne late Sunday night when I should have been getting ready for bed.

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I took the tart out of the oven long after my normal bed time. Then my hand slipped and mussed the carefully arranged apples and scalloped edge. The truth is that photographing the tart Monday morning made me even later for work than usual.

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Maybe the moral of the story is that even if you’re just fumbling through, things will probably turn out just fine. You can use two forks to carefully unmuss your carefully arranged apple slices. You can eat the broken edge first. And none of those surficial imperfections spoiled how incredible this tart tasted, with the apples in the sauce adding a bright contrast to the sweet browned apples on top. This tart, Chicago’s greatest hits, and champagne were worth staying up for – even if it means that any image of me having it all together is just smoke and mirrors.

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Tracey chose this tart for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the full recipe posted.  I followed it exactly, except, remembering a Cook’s Illustrated testing of applesauce and how the version with a pinch of salt was the favorite, I was sure to add a smidgen of salt to my sauce as well.

One year ago: Devilish Shortcakes
Two years ago: All-in-One Holiday Bundt
Three years ago: Linzer Sables

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apple pie cake

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Those accursed diamonds. Dorie Greenspan tells a cute story about how her grandmother used to make a similar recipe to this one and cut it into diamonds. Notably however, Dorie did not suggest the diamond shape. She recommends squares.

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But I thought the diamonds sounded so elegant and pretty. I considered and then disregarded how fragile the sharp diamond corners would be. I also considered and disregarded the impracticality of cutting a rectangular pan of pie-cake into diamonds. I powered on.

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The result was more crumbs than diamonds. I usually consider the fallen crumbs to be a little treat to snack on, but when half of a large pan of pie-cake crumbles as you cut it, that can be dangerous. Once the crumbs started getting really out of control, I shoved them all in a bowl before I could even consider eating them.

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Bu not even one coworker mentioned the broken diamonds when they came by to tell me that these might be the best thing I’ve ever brought to share. It didn’t even get mentioned when one coworker announced over the intercom how amazing they were. (I blushed.) I’m actually a little bit glad that I cut them into impractical diamonds, because now I have a bowl full of apple pie-cake crumbs stashed in my freezer.

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One year ago: Almost-Fudge Gateau
Two years ago: Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies
Three years ago: Thanksgiving Twofer Pie

Printer Friendly Recipe
Russian Grandmother’s Apple Pie-Cake (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Home to Yours)

As usual with Dorie’s recipes, I bumped up the salt – ¾ teaspoon in the dough and a pinch in the apples. And I completely forgot the raisins.

For The Dough
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon
3¼ – 3½ cups all-purpose flour

For The Apples
10 medium apples, all one kind or a mix
Squirt of fresh lemon juice
1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
¼ cup sugar
1¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon

Sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar, for dusting

To Make The Dough: Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes more. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the baking powder and salt and mix just to combine. Add the lemon juice – the dough will probably curdle, but don’t worry about it. Still working on low speed, slowly but steadily add 3¼ cups of the flour, mixing to incorporate it and scraping down the bowl as needed. The dough is meant to be soft, but if you think it looks more like a batter than a dough at this point, add the extra ¼ cup flour. (The dough usually needs the extra flour.) When properly combined, the dough should almost clean the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or for up to 3 days. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; defrost overnight in the refrigerator.)

To Make The Apples: Peel and core the apples and cut into slices about ¼ inch thick; cut the slices in half crosswise if you want. Toss the slices in a bowl with a little lemon juice – even with the juice, the apples may turn brown, but that’s fine – and add the raisins. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together, sprinkle over the apples and stir to coat evenly. Taste an apple and add more sugar, cinnamon, and/or lemon juice if you like.

Getting Ready to Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter a 9×13-inch baking pan (Pyrex is good) and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Remove the dough from the fridge. If it is too hard to roll and it cracks, either let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin to get it moving. Once it’s a little more malleable, you’ve got a few choices. You can roll it on a well-floured work surface or roll it between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. You can even press or roll out pieces of the dough and patch them together in the pan – because of the baking powder in the dough, it will puff and self-heal under the oven’s heat. Roll the dough out until it is just a little larger all around than your pan and about ¼ inch thick – you don’t want the dough to be too thin, because you really want to taste it. Transfer the dough to the pan. If the dough comes up the sides of the pan, that’s fine; if it doesn’t that’s fine too.

Give the apples another toss in the bowl, then turn them into the pan and, using your hands, spread them evenly across the bottom.

Roll out the second piece of dough and position it over the apples. Cut the dough so you’ve got a ¼ to ½ inch overhang and tuck the excess into the sides of the pan, as though you were making a bed. (If you don’t have that much overhang, just press what you’ve got against the sides of the pan.)

Brush the top of the dough lightly with water and sprinkle sugar over the dough. Using a small sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 evenly spaced slits in the dough.

Bake for 65 to 80 minutes, or until the dough is a nice golden brown and the juices from the apples are bubbling up through the slits. Transfer the baking pan to a cooling rack and cool to just warm or to room temperature. You’ll be tempted to taste it sooner, but I think the dough needs a little time to rest.

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