Apple Crisp

Happy New Year!  I hope you had a wonderful holiday with your family and friends.  I have been enjoying a lovely time off from work, and there has been much baking going on in the last couple of weeks.  In addition to the Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies, I also made Swedish Visiting Cake, lemon bars, oatmeal raisin cookies, and apple crisp.  The apple crisp recipe is new to me and came from a colleague who adapted it from The California Cookbook (1970) by Jeanne Voltz.  The crisp is simple but delicious, and is now my go-to recipe when I don’t feel like rolling out the dough for apple pie.

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6-8 apples to yield approximately 6 cups (I used 6 small golden delicious apples)
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/8 cup flour
10 1/2 tablespoons butter, cold (I diced the butter right before using it)

Peel, core, and cut apples into 1/2 inch slices and place in a buttered 7 x 11 baking dish. Stir cinnamon into water and pour mixture over apples. Work together sugar, flour, and butter with fingertips until crumbly and distribute over apples. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes (I baked it for about 45-50 minutes because I wanted my crust a little more golden). Serve warm or cold with vanilla ice-cream.  Enjoy!


Swedish Apple Cake

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I love Dorie Greenspan’s Swedish Visiting Cake, so when she posted a variation called the Swedish Apple Cake, I knew I wanted to try it. The two cakes definitely do taste different, but the Apple Cake is just as easy and delicious! We loved the mild flavor with just the right amount of sweetness.  Next time I have to remember to use more apple slices.
Modifications: used 9.5 inch pie dish and reduced baking time by about 7 minutes.

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Swedish Visiting Cake

The Swedish Visiting Cake was another stellar recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking: From My Home to Yours.

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The main flavors are almond and lemon. This was a super easy, very quick one-bowl recipe that resulted in a wonderfully delicious cake.  I can definitely see myself baking this cake over and over again.  You can find the recipe here on Dorie’s blog.


Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

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The recipe for Janet’s Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake caught my eye in the May 2007 issue of Everyday with Rachel Ray. It was easy to make and the flavors are good. This would be a great brunch item for a chocoholic.

I never thought I would be a Rachel Ray fan, but I enjoyed reading the last two issues of her mag…so much that I even subscribed. I’m seeing her recipes in a new light. And I recently discovered this fun blog focused on Rachel Ray!


Dutch Apple Pie

When my sister was a teenager, she loved baking. I was unenthusiastic about it back then, but she usually managed to cajole me into the kitchen. By the end, I would always admit grudgingly that I had a good time. We used to bake a variety of goodies together, such as thumbprint cookies, crescent rolls, and Dutch apple pie. The pie was definitely a favorite of mine. It’s been at least five or six years since I’ve had it, so I decided to bake it last weekend.

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The recipe comes from my sister’s junior high school home economics course. It is very basic but I think it tastes pretty good.

Crust:
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp shortening
3-4 Tbsp cold water

Measure flour and salt into a bowl.
Cut in shortening thoroughly, until the size of small peas.
Sprinkle in water, one tablespoon at a time, mixing until all flour is moistened and dough begins to stick together.
Gather dough into a ball. Shape into a flattened round on a sheet of wax paper.
Roll the dough until it is two inches larger than an inverted pie pan.
(Yield: one 8- or 9-inch crust)

Filling:
1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 apples, peeled and sliced

Stir together all of the filling ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour into unbaked pie shell.

Topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup margarine or butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup sugar

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients together until crumbly. Be sure to break the margarine or butter into very small pieces. Sprinkle over pie. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

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Eating this pie brings back fond memories of baking with my sister.

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Lasagna, Chicken, and Lemon Cake

Hubby and I were adventurous last weekend and tried out two Cooking Light recipes – Basil and Zucchini Lasagna and Asian Barbecue Chicken.

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This was our first time making lasagna from scratch. The food processor came in handy, and Hubby liked pouring the various layers into the baking pan. He even said that making the lasagna together was “fun” (and he’s never said before that about cooking)! The best part? We loved how it tasted! In the past, we used to buy frozen lasagna, but we thought they were very salty and had too much sauce. So after a number of disappointing experiences, we quit buying lasagna altogether. This recipe had exactly what we liked. I made a couple of mods — I threw in mushrooms because I thought zucchini by itself was a little boring, and I also used tomato sauce instead of pasta sauce simply because I didn’t read the directions carefully enough. But all in all – a success!

I selected the Asian Barbecue Chicken recipe because I wanted to test our Foreman grill. As you can see from the photo, the chicken breasts are way overcooked and are on the verge of becoming chicken jerky…but they still had a yummy flavor. The crushed red pepper flakes added a nice kick. The only downside? Cleaning the grill. The grill plates are not removable, and the entire thing isn’t supposed to be immersed in water. We scrubbed it with wet paper towels and then Hubby held it over the sink while I soaped it. Talk about a pain. But I would definitely use this marinade recipe again.

This week, I baked a Lemon Cake (a Barefoot Contessa recipe).

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Instead of describing what happened, I think I’ll just list what I learned in the process.

1. My arm is totally weak. After grating the zest of two lemons and then juicing four lemons, my arm wasn’t up for holding the hand mixer for five minutes to cream the butter and sugar. I need a stand mixer.
2. If a recipe calls for grating zest, juicing lemons, using three mixing bowls plus a saucepan, pouring syrup on the cake after it comes out of the oven, and then letting the cake cool down completely before adding icing, then the recipe wasn’t meant for a slowpoke like me to make after dinner on a work night. Because by the time I finished washing the dishes and took the cake out of the oven, it was bedtime. I left the syrup and the icing for the following evening.
3. I am terrible at reading directions. If the ingredients list shows 2.5 cups of sugar, and the instructions tell you to mix 2 cups of sugar with something else, I shouldn’t assume that the author just forgot to mention the remaining ½ cup. Because she didn’t. The half cup was supposed to be saved for the lemon syrup. Whoops…did I just add 25% more sugar than instructed? Sigh.
4. When my husband suggests that perhaps I should skip the lemon syrup and go directly to the icing, it might be a good idea to listen to him. After doing both steps, I decided that the lemon syrup was unnecessary. The icing has lemon juice in it and is plenty sweet.

Overall, the lemon cake turned out so-so. It didn’t taste too bad even with the sugar overload – it was a just a bit dry. I’m thinking that maybe I’m not clicking with the BC dessert recipes. Anybody want to recommend a good cookbook for sweets? I’m considering Williams-Sonoma Desserts. But first, I want to try a low-fat banana bread recipe and make butterscotch cookies for Hubby.

Hope you have a great day with some yummy food!