dessert


I left one day with an ambitious plan – going to bed early. It had been a busy several weeks at work with events and I needed an early night to help offset. My big post-work “plan” was simple – a quick post-work sweet treat at Buttermilk Bakeshop before I turned in. So yes, a pre-dinner dessert. Yolo.

This spot was much more narrow than I was expecting. There’s a thin lane going the width of the store for customers to stand in. There were a few chairs though it was tricky to really hang out. Much more of a grab and go scenario.

Since I came for the cupcakes, I had to give that priority – though I really wanted to try the whoopie pie. Next time…

I went simple. Plain vanilla / vanilla. A friend of mine once mentioned you can really tell a good bakery by something as simple as vanilla / vanilla standing out – and I have to agree. Putting them to the test, I have to say their’s were quite good. Their name is not just to be catchy, as buttermilk was noticeably present in the cake of their cupcakes.

They also have a weekly macron schedule. Amazing. Since I was lucky enough to be there for PB&J (couldn’t have asked for a better flavor) I had to take one of those too.

Buttermilk Bakeshop – 339 7th Avenue (b/w 9th/10th St), Brooklyn – 347.689.4376

T and I had been wanting to pay a visit to the newly opened store for Robicelli’s. But it’s a bit of a hike – ok far – so going for a visit, unless that happens to be where you live, does require some time (not that I’ve ever let that deter me).

Yesterday was gorgeous. Okay, comparatively nice. The sun might have been hiding, but temps were almost a balmy 50 degrees, no rain or snow, and little wind. Perfect day for a stroll to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. To be fair, the plan had been to take the subway, but we decided why not just walk?

Turns out that walk was over five miles. We strolled through South Park Slope and into Sunset Park, where the streets were filled with families, some children sitting to the side of their parents as they fried up food for their street carts. There was a man protesting in Spanish outside a church, his microphone breaking up but seemingly accusing someone of being a murderer.

Finally we made it into Bay Ridge, which started much further north than either of us realized. There were too many options from which to choose, the likes of which changed while we were sitting there.

T had walked the whole way intent on trying their buffalo chicken cupcake, an appropriate nod to Super Bowl day. When we got there, there were none to be seen. Instead, he went with the chicken and waffles.

Seeing as I’m a big fan of the salty/sweet combo, I finally chose the pecan potato chip cupcake. It was perfection – pecan potato chip cake, vanilla buttercream, salted butterscotch, roasted pecans, crushed potato chips. Potato chips are my favorite unexpected dessert accent.

As we were halfway through both, Matt Robicelli came out with a surprise tub of found buffalo chicken cupcakes, and we went from two to consume to three. So hard.

As we finished up, I looked over to eye the cookie sandwiches which had just emerged, filled with a layer of marshmallow fluff. Marshmallow fluff! I sighed, wishing that had been available 30 minutes ago before realizing I was being greedy and could go back. And go back I will.

Robicelli’s – 9009 5th Avenue (between 91/92 Street) – 917.509.6048

When we went apple picking at Harbes Farms, I thought 1/4 peck didn’t sound like it was really that many apples. Granted, I’m working with double that but still, I’ve been surprised just how few apples most recipes require and how many, at this point, I still have left! Of course, going apple picking again this past weekend in Vermont didn’t help with the apple situation, but that’s another story.

A couple weeks ago, I decided to make an apple tart with more of these apples for date night. It seemed perfect timing that I received a great looking recipe from Tasting Table for a Brown Butter Apple Tart. Since I actually don’t have a tart pan and didn’t want to be the grand hold up on dinner, I ended up simplifying, skipping making my own crust and using a crust from the store. It’s hard to feel guilty about this shortcut when your store carries crusts made entirely from Nilla Wafers.

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 vanilla bean (halved lengthwise, scrapping out the seeds from the pod with the tip of a knife)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 semi-tart apples

First, you’ll need to make the filling. To do so, you’ll whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar. Separately, heat the sticks of butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Once the butter is melted, add in the scraped vanilla seeds as well as the vanilla bean pod. Keep stirring the mixture over the heat until the butter foam begins to subside and turns a deep golden color (rougly 5 minutes).

Remove the saucepan fromt he heat and allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the pod halves and then whisk the butter into the original egg-sugar mixture. (Full disclosure: I accidentally didn’t keep the egg/sugar separate from the butter/vanilla bean. While I didn’t get quite the same brown butter effect, I kept going and the tart was quite good. If you mess up something, keep on going!)

Then whisk in the flour and salt, whisking until the mixture is smooth.

Next, you’ll need to cut the 3 apples into rings. The best apples to use are something like Granny Smith, Braeburn, or Pink Lady. The apples need to be peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (ideally into ¼-inch thick rings). I can only assume this would be infinitely easier if you happened to own an apple corer. I, naturally, do not. No big deal, right? Wrong. This made coring and slicing the apples a bit more difficult. Arrange the sliced apples into a an overlapping concentric circle. Add a few apple at the center as well. I’ll admit that when I did this I looked at the apples, neatly situated in the pie crust, and assumed this was going to be one ugly pie-tart.

But fret not. The filling magically filled in the gaps and covered over the non-uniformly sliced apples. Finally, you’ll slowly pour the prepared filling over the sliced apple. Since the filling is a bit thick, allow time for it to make its way through the spaces between the apple slices to make sure you don’t overflow. Stop once the filling reaches ¼-inch from the top of the crust.

Place the pie-tart on a baking sheet in the oven, baking until the colof of the apples is deep golden-brown. Make sure the center of the pie is also set and that the filling does not move when the pie is jostled. This should take around 1 hour. Once it is done, remove the baking sheet and the pie-tart from the oven, transferring it to a surface to cool for 2 hours. It’s lovely served with simple vanilla bean ice cream.

Enjoy!

I had sinus surgery last week (fun times!) so I’ve been enjoying a pretty low-key several of days. Yesterday my sister and her boyfriend came over along with my boyfriend and my mom made the basic meatball from The Meatball Shop’s cookbook. Really, it was like the restaurant inside your own home – amazing. So good. We ate meatballs and polenta and watched the Alabama football game (Roll Tide!) and relaxed. I decided it was a good time to pick something and put my new KitchenAid mixer to work. Isn’t she pretty?

I was looking at cakes and cupcakes, but wasn’t feeling inspired. I then decided what I really wanted was oatmeal cream pies! Like the Little Debbie variety, but homemade (of course). I started looking through recipes online. There weren’t too many varieties. Some were gluten free. Some were making odd substitutions to make it super healthy (and I didn’t want to have to buy all of those additional ingredients that one required – too much money and hassle). Several also used marshmallow cream, which I need to look at the Little Debbie box, but that just didn’t sound right to me.

I ended up going with Martha Stewart’s recipe, because Martha usually knows best. The recipe was quite simple, although I always know going in that even though Martha says it’ll only take 30 minutes, that’s never the case for me.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not the quick-cooking variety)
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins (I omitted this)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. In a separate large bowl, beat butter, brown and granulated sugars, and molasses on high with an electric mixer, scraping down bowl, until light and fluffy (about 4 minutes). Then add the vanilla and beat until combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time. You’ll need to scrape down the bowl after each addition.

Next with mixer on low, add the flour mixture and beat just until combined. Using a rubber spatula, stir in oats (and raisins, if you chose to add them). Drop dough in 2-tablespoonful mounds, 2 inches apart, onto two baking sheets. I actually had to do in two batches since it ended up being too many for two baking sheets. Crowding them will squish your cookies a bit, and may make them take longer to bake. Bake until cookies are just set at edges and slightly soft in middle, about 11 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cookies cool on sheets for around 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely.

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar with a mixer until light for around 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Use a small spatula to spread the filling on the flat (bottom) side of half the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies.

I thought these came out quite good! Recipe claimed it would yield 13 and I ended up with 12, so quite close to what I was expecting. These were close to the Little Debbie originals. The cookies were nice and fluffy. The filling is slightly different from the originals though (but tasty in its own way). I’d be curious to try out some of the other fillings to use with these cookies, but I think this cookie recipe is just about perfect!

And after a day of cooking and all this company, Dixie was ready to call it a day.

Since moving, I’ve become slightly obsessed with my local farmer’s market. To round out the end of T’s birthday week of fun and tasty things, I picked up what (accidentally) turned out to be a lifetime supply of blueberries to make blueberry cobbler. The best thing about the recipe is that it reheats quite well, as unless you’re entertaining a crowd, it makes more than you’ll need for just one meal.

The recipe was quite easy. I wasn’t sure before, but the comparison that 1 pint container is the equivalent of 2 cups of blueberries is in fact accurate. I’m sorry I ever doubted you Internet.

Mixing the sugar, lemon juice, and those beautiful farmer's market blueberries

Mixing the sugar, lemon juice, and those beautiful farmer’s market blueberries

Because I’ve recently become obsessed with it, I ended up choosing to substitute coconut palm sugar for 2/3 of the overall sugar in the recipe. It made it come out a bit darker in color, but I loved the flavor. This recipe was quite simple and is a great way to incorporate whatever seasonal fruit strikes your fancy. The original recipe referenced blackberries. I used blueberries. Next time, perhaps peaches or mixed berries!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups, white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line your baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Mix the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in 1/4 cup boiling water just until the mixture is evenly moist. I went ahead and used the whole amount this time around, but monitoring more than I did is probably the smart way to go!

Disolve the corn starch in cold water in a separate bowl. Mix in the remaining 1 cup sugar, lemon juice, and blueberries. Transfer the mixture over into a cast iron skillet and bring it to a boil, stirring often. Drop the dough into the skillet in small spoonfulls, placing them spaced out across the skillet. Then place the skillet on the foil-lined baking sheet.

Bake 25 minutes, until the dough on top is a golden brown. Serve with ice cream, if you are so inclined. (The simple vanilla bean from Turkey Hill made for an inexpensive and excellent additionl when I made this!)

Last night, All You Can Eat Press held a launch party for their latest publication – the New York Doughnut Map! The event took place in the Project No. 8 space at the Ace Hotel.

The line wrapped around the corner on 6th Avenue well before the 6pm start time. Inside, you could puchase a copy of the map itself for $10. It’s also available online.

Doughnuts represented included Van Leeuwen, Doughnut Plant, Peter Pan and Dun-Well Doughnuts. There was also someone onhand making cocktails as well as serving coffee. Fun idea for an event for a Thursday night and a lovely finished product with the map itself!

Throughout my whole trip to San Francisco, I was in hot pursuit of sweets. Namely cupcakes. Perhaps it was where we happened to have plans, but I never seemed to come across anywhere selling this (or anything worth stopping for, that is). After brunch at 15 Romolo, my friends drove us around the city a bit and we saw some of what we hadn’t seen yet. Along the Waterfront. Over and down Lombard Street (windy windy and oh so packed with tourists) and we weren’t far from a spot they said was good – Kara’s Cupcakes. I was thrilled!

They have different types. There’s there signature flavors, including the likes of “sweet s’mores”. There’s their filled cupcakes, such as passion fruit, meyer lemon, just to name a few). And then there were some seasonal options, such as key lime or their latest – “royal biscuit”, which is a nod to the London Summer Olympics.

While it might have been smart to have gone with their mini cupcake options (and they had quite a few), I felt since I’d looked for days for cupcakes, I’d earned the real deal. I went with the key lime, since I wanted to make sure to try at least one of their filled options. It was a graham cracker crust vanilla cupcake with a key lime curd filling with cream cheese frosting. Pretty good, though the cake part was a tad on the dry side for my taste.

I also had to get the sweet s’mores, which was a chocolate cupcake with a graham cracker crust and a toasted marshmallow frosting. This was good though, again the cake was a bit dry and warning! If you leave this one in the box to eat for later and oh, maybe walk around in the Haight for a bit thumbing through dresses at Ambiance and various vintage stores, you might (ooops) find that gorgeous frosting has slid off the top.

Kara’s Cupcakes – 3249 Scott Street (@ Chestnut), San Francisco – 415.563.2223

I admire friends who come in from out of town and know their food enough to have their hit list. Nikki, my friend who lives in Detroit, does just that. Sometimes, she even puts me to shame, knowing more about new and hot spots in my supposed forte – desserts. She’s been raving about Dominique Ansel for months now, and I’ve never managed to make my way over. To be honest, I thought it was in a completely different area – more on the Bowery side of SoHo than bordering on Tribeca. But yesterday, I happened to walk by it. Sure I was just imagining it was the spot, I went through my email on my phone with what little bit of battery I still had and found out it was indeed the spot!

Dominique Ansel - SoHo

Dominique Ansel – SoHo

When I first walked in, I saw the basic pastries. “What’s so great about this?” I wondered. There was a lady in front of me who seemed to be overanalyzing the puffiness of each croissant. I was a little antsy. I almost walked out. I walked around her and made my way down the rest of the display case, which went on for much longer than I’d originally realized. What looks like an eclair with a bow tie on, below, caught my eye – their “Sugar Daddy Eclair”. It’s chocolate bourbon cream with a caramel glaze and dark chocolate mustache decorations. Cute, catchy, and what I’m getting next time…

Bakery Display - Dominique Ansel

Bakery Display – Dominique Ansel

I talked to the girl working behind the counter a bit, explaining to her that my friend in Detroit had commanded that I add them to my “to do” list, a fact that made her smile. The other guy behind the counter turned around to face us and looked at her when she sounded surprised to say “oh yeah, if you didn’t realize it yet, people in other places know about us too.” He said it with a smile – in a non-cocky manner that made me realize my yammering on had kind of made his day.

I was tempted by some of the other options, but in the end I had to go with the five macaroon assortment. They had so many from which to choose. It was a tough decision, but in the end I went with raspberry, passion fruit, coconut, earl grey, and lemon poppyseed (just because when do you ever see that?). They were all so thick and fluffy that I almost wondered if they were the proper macaroon consistency. Fret not. Take one bite, and they crumble in a perfect fashion. So flavorful and soft. On par with what you’d naturally expect from the former pastry chef at Daniel.

5 Piece Box of Macaroons - Dominique Ansel, SoHo

5 Piece Box of Macaroons – Dominique Ansel

The raspberry one was heavy on the filling, but that’s not a bad thing in the least! The coconut one was so unique that I almost had to remind myself that I was eating a macaroon – and the way the macaroon began to flake with each bite almost made me feel like it was breaking down into coconut flakes itself. So good. And I decided, seeing as it is a tea and all, that the earl grey one was more than justified to be my breakfast selection today – and oh was it good. If you’re nearby – or even if you’re not – I recommend a trip to this fabulous little SoHo bakery. As suspected, Nikki did not steer me wrong.

Close-up of the Raspberry and Coconut Macaroons

Close-up of the Raspberry and Coconut Macaroons

Dominique Ansel Bakery – 189 Spring Street – 212.219.2773

Last weekend, a friend and I cashed in on our cookie making class at Milk & Cookies in the West Village. The class was a special offered through Thrillist but owner Tina Casaceli said she’d be open to doing more if there’s interest!

Milk & Cookies Bakery - West Village

Milk & Cookies Bakery – West Village

I’ll admit, that Sunday was a rare day where I wasn’t really in the mood for sweets – least of all cookies – but that soon changed. Their kitchen in their main West Village is cozy. We wound downstairs behind the bakery counter to the kitchen area.

I was really excited though to see what kinds of cookies we were going to be making. Rather than making cookies that we could also purchase up front we were instead baking her family recipes – all traditional Italian cookies you’d more likely find in an Italian bakery.

There was Grandma Connie’s Anise Toast – perfect for dunking in your morning coffee and far better, IMHO, than biscotti. Easy and only five ingredients: flour, baking powder, eggs, sugar, and a bit of anise oil. Dont love anise? You can replace the anise with pure vanilla or pure almond extract, or another flavor that strikes your fancy.

Shaping the log

Shaping the log

Slicing up the cookies

Slicing up the cookies

Finished Anise Cookies

Finished Anise Cookies

Next was Grandma Tina’s Chocolate Drop cookies. We used bittersweet chocolate, which led to a chocolate cookie that wasn’t super sweet. All in all, this one only used 9 ingredients! After baking, we lightly iced these and added a walnut on top. So good.

Baked Cookies - Pre-Icing

Baked Cookies – Pre-Icing

Finished Chocolate Cookies

Finished Chocolate Cookies

The third kind we made was Aunt Annie’s Sesame Seed Cookies. This also was only 9 ingredients. You could do the recipe with standard sesame seeds or even black sesame seeds. The cookie portion crumbles slightly in your mouth and the sesame seeds added a fun crunch.

Dough & sesame seeds, ready to go

Dough & sesame seeds, ready to go

Rolling out the cookies

Rolling out the cookies

Coating the cookies in sesame seeds

Coating the cookies in sesame seeds

Finished cookies

Finished cookies

Finally we made Viscotti or Aunt Rose’s Famous “S” cookies, which Tina explained her aunt made every day fresh for her uncle. I was surprised how easy it was to form the dough for each cookie into an “S” shape. Like the anise toast, I found the “S” cookies paired nicely with coffee.

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

Dusted & finished

Dusted & finished

So many fabulous cookies!

So many fabulous cookies!

We had a blast in the class. Tina made us feel completely at home and I walked away with four recipes I can’t wait to make on my own. I haven’t tracked it down yet, but looking forward to checking out her cookbook (look like we got a nice taste of chapter 7!) – and maybe returning back to their store for their whoopie pies, which looked delicious!

Milk & Cookies – 19 Commerce Street - 212.243.1640

Another favorite dish of Laura Giordano’s from the Zagat Presents: Taste of Puglia event was the zeppoles. I’m a big fan of zeppoles/beignets/whatever slight rendition someone serves up. The nice thing about these ones below is that they are not fried, which gives them a slightly lighter flavor. The black cherry jam worked well since it had a darker, heavier flavor in contrast to the pastry. This recipe has me convinced I just might be able to conquer pastries yet!

Baked Zeppole

Ingredients for the pastries (choux)

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 cups of water
  • 3/4 stick of butter
  • 6 large eggs

Ingredients for the custard filling

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Black cherry jam

In a heavy saucepan, heat the water. Add the butter and the salt and remove from the stove once melted. Add the flour all at once. Beat with a wooden spoon. Return the pan to medium heat and beat the mixture until it becomes sort of a ball. Remove the pan from the heat again. Put the ball in a mixing bowl and add the eggs in one at a time, beating the dough with a wooden spoon or hand mixer. Note – make sure to blend in each egg well before proceeding to add in the next one. Using a pastry bag, squeeze out 1/4 inch puffs about 1/2 inch apart on a cookie sheet. Bake the cream puffs about 15 minutes at 392 degrees and then for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Transfer the cream puffs to cooling racks.

While the beignets (zeppole) are cooling, go ahead and start the custard. In a small bowl, mix the corn starch and sugar for the filing. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium-high heat until it’s almost boiling. In a mixing bowl combine the 6 eggs with the sugar and the corn starch and gradually add a couple of large spoonfuls of warm milk. When it’s well-blended, pour it into the pot until the mixture reaches the right thickness.

To serve, use a small knife to cut each zeppola in half. Fill each zeppola with some custard, replace the halts and put the zeppola on a serving dish. Add a teaspoon of jam to each zeppola and dust them with confectioner’s sugar.

Baked Zeppole

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