So. We missed a week. Let me explain.
If there is one thing that can throw a serious monkey wrench into a personal-chef business, it's a broken refrigerator. Three weeks of no working fridge in the house, so to the rescue come three friends and their three fridges. (You know who you are and I love you dearly.) The BF and I are driving all over town to these different locations, then out to fulfill all the client orders. Extra time, extra hassle, and then of course problems with new-fridge delivery and oy...
Then, a bonus: jury duty. [Ed. note: #@%$#^&*] I was called to attend, but luckily was dismissed on the second day. A side note: in 1993 I served for four weeks during procedures that were deciding whether or not a serial killer was competent enough to stand trial. We determined that he was.
So, with all apologies, am late in getting into the Rosh Hashanah spirit. Even though it started on Sunday and ends today, Tuesday, it's not too late to make this lovely apple cake. This will work throughout the rest of fall and winter, and really, the last three weeks have had a "better late than never" kind of mantra.
Many years ago I made this for my Momala, and it was an instant favorite (and she is a woman who knows her coffee cakes). The BF enjoyed it for his birthday last year, and of course it was brought out again for this Rosh Hashanah. It doesn't skimp on the apples, the entire house smells like apples, cinnamon, and fall.
The BF and I want to wish all our Jewish family and friends a healthy and happy Shana Tova!
Adapted from: Smitten Kitchen
Number of servings: 12-16
For the apples
DO AHEAD: This cake is awesome on the first day but absolutely glorious and pudding-like on the days that follow, so feel free to get an early start on it. I keep it at room temperature covered with foil.
* NOTE: The apples love to hide uncooked pockets of batter, especially near the top. Make sure your testing skewer or toothpick goes not just all the way down to the bottom, but does a shallow dip below the top layer of apples, and make sure it comes out batter-free. Should your cake be browning too fast, before the center is baked through, cover it with foil for all but the last few minutes, while in the oven.
"More people will come if they think we have punch and pie!"
~ Eric Theodore Cartman
Twenty-one years ago, four crudely animated foul-mouthed boys began their seemingly endless journey through grade school in the quaint, cozy mountain town of South Park. Through alien abductions, soul-singing chefs, cannabis-drenched towels, and commentary covering all possible levels of political incorrectness, one thing has been perpetually certain: Eric Cartman loves pie. Loves all desserts, actually.
Growing up, my siblings and I would ask my Mom, "Can we have dessert?" Her reply would often be, "Yes, you can have a piece of fruit." As if channeling Cartman, we would all bellow in unison, "But Mom, fruit is not a dessert."
Honestly, in this form, it really is.
Whenever I bake a pie, especially a blackberry pie, I recall the mother of my best childhood friend (Mrs. C). A master pie maker. She taught me how to make a pie from scratch.
We picked wild blackberries from her daughter's back yard. The berries were so plump, we filled the huge plastic bucket within 15 minutes. Of all the priceless baking tips Mrs. C gave, I'm most thankful for her method of thickening a pie filling with tapioca flour (a.k.a. tapioca starch) instead of cornstarch or all-purpose flour. Tapioca flour makes the filling bright and clear, whereas cornstarch or A.P. flour can give the filling a cloudy look and chalky taste.
This recipe is adapted from Julia Frey's blog Vikalinka. Besides some general streamlining, my changes include adding a bit of cinnamon to the filling, upping the amount of blackberries, and subbing tapioca flour in place of A.P. flour. I love her idea of topping the pie with honeyed creme fraiche (a favorite that really complements the blackberries well).
One note, if you're lucky enough to have wild blackberries in your backyard, use them (and I'm envious). If not, store bought will do just fine. If you're short on time, you can also use your favorite store-bought pie crust. Just don't forget the honeyed creme fraiche. More people will come if they think you have honeyed creme fraiche.
Adapted from: Vikalinka
Number of servings; 8
"Life is short. Take the trip. Buy the shoes. Eat the cake."
Today is mamala's birthday, and as with my BF-mom's birthday, we gather here today to celebrate their collective sweet tooth.
Mamala passionately loved root beer floats and "black cows" (made with Coke instead of root beer), quintessential summer treats. Are they as nostalgic for you as they are for me? If so, what was your first memory of them? (Feel free to comment below!)
Even though I was lucky enough to grow up with an A&W in my hometown (it's still there), growing up we didn't frequent it too often. Mamala made her own floats at home, and oh how I loved watching her make them. One scoop of vanilla ice cream in a frosted glass. Root beer poured just so. The carbonation would foam up instantly, but never overflowed. She had the touch. I also remember she used a long, slender soda spoon to give it a slight stir.
I made it home for almost all of her birthdays, but one year it wasn't possible and the BF and I Fed Exed these root beer float cupcakes (frosting in a separate container, ice cream not included) to my sister and mom. They were delighted, and a little surprised, to discover what was in the box.
My first attempt at this was as a full-sized bundt cake, as was originally written in one of my favorite cookbooks, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, by Matt Lewis and Renato Polafito. When I spied the cupcake version on the Smitten Kitchen blog, knew I had to make it for mamala. I added the root beer fudge frosting.
If you don't have time to make individual cupcakes, make it into a bundt, frost it and serve ice cream on the side. Either way, you won't be sorry.
Adapted from: Matt Lewis and Renato Polafito, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking and Smitten Kitchen (cupcakes)
Number of servings: 22 cupcakes or one (10-inch) bundt cake
PS: One year ago...
Marionberries have a short season. July to be precise. The plump, Oregon-borne morsels are the cabernet of blackberries, with a tart-yet-sweet flavor that's somewhere between raspberries and blackberries.
NPR states, "The marionberry, a cross between Chehalem and Olallie blackberries, was bred at Oregon State University as part of a berry-developing partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture that dates back to the early 1900s. It's named for Marion County in the Willamette Valley, where most of the field trials took place."
[Ed. note: To be clear, this has nothing to do with the late-D.C.-Mayor Marion S. Barry, who in 1990 was caught in an FBI sting smoking crack. Man, this blog suddenly got dark, didn't it? All apologies, we now return you to your regular programming.]
The original recipe calls for raspberries, but I chose marionberries as an homage to my home state. Feel free to use raspberries, blackberries or even boysenberries. I have been lucky enough to find fresh marionberries, but have used frozen too and it's delicious.
An incredibly moist, unassuming everyday cake that is perfect for breakfast, tea or a light dessert. Works well with ice cream or softly whipped cream, but it needs no accoutrement Well, maybe a cup of coffee!
Adapted from: Bon Appetit, March 2015 and Orangette
Number of servings: 8
Okay. So, I can be a tad stubborn in my dessert likes and dislikes. The BF can attest.
[Ed. note: Want to answer this honestly, but I've been falling asleep before her and value my own life.]
My existence has revolved around the dictum: if it is not chocolate, it is not dessert. Would think to myself, "What's the point?" It was never a problem to pass up fruit pies, tarts, parfaits, jams, jellies, or other such confections.
Then several years ago this tart changed my mind. Discovered it from Donna Hay's Seasons and it became a real show stopper for clients. Tart, tangy, colorful, not too sweet, and light. It's also one of the easiest desserts I have ever made.
It's not chocolate, but it works as a terrific distinctive summer dessert to end the meal with.
Adapted from: Donna Hay, Seasons
Number of servings: 4-6
Tart and Topping
Tart and Topping
So, the last few weeks have been challenging. Found out that pain from my neck, down my shoulder, radiating down to my fingers was the result of pinched-nerve and mild-bone-spur issues. Not fun.
So grateful for the BF, who has been heroically helping me with everything, including the many things you can't do with one hand, such as opening jars, schlepping 50-pound food-filled bins in heavy glassware, fastening a bra hook. Good times.
It was a week where a cheesecake must be made. [Ed. note: Or a day ending in "y."]
The original recipe comes from Stella Parks of Serious Eats, and to be clear, this is not your traditional New York dense cheesecake. This particular cheesecake is creamy, fluffy and has an acutely concentrated blueberry flavor. Bodes well considering the hot summer months that will be here soon. This will be a go-to dessert for my clients.
I realize it's often said, "Hey folks this dish is really easy to make," but consider I made this for Memorial Day with one hand. It was also a hot day and I didn't have to even bake the crust. Can't wait to try the freeze-dried strawberry and mango versions.
As Stella Parks says in her blog, "Unlike fresh fruit purée or jam, freeze-dried fruit has no water or added sugar, so it packs a concentrated flavor that won't throw off the consistency or sweetness of the no-bake cheesecake filling. And thanks to the low-temperature processing method, freeze-dried fruit has the same bright flavor as fresh, not the semi-caramelized profile of a stovetop reduction."
Adapted from: Stella Parks, Serious Eats
Number of servings: 8-12
Crème brûlée is French for "burnt cream." It's all about the contrast between the crisp caramelized topping and smooth, creamy custard beneath.
Some people have the impression that this is a difficult dessert to make. Truthfully, it isn't, if you follow a few tried-and-true steps. The first time I made it (in my twenties) it turned into scrambled eggs, because I did not temper the eggs. Over/under-baked the custard? Burned the sugar topping? Been there, done that. One thing is certain, I do learn from my failures.
That said, this particular recipe is pretty fool-proof and simple, a solid "go to" time and time again. Several years ago, I had a client who wanted a small dessert (with no leftovers) once a month. She adored custards, so I made the family a different flavored crème brûlée every month for a year.
Once you've tried making this lemony custard, you can go nuts and make pumpkin, chocolate, espresso, butterscotch, bourbon-maple, eggnog, ginger, Earl Grey–the flavor possibilities are endless.
After the recipe, there are some very extremely helpful tips. Please check them out before you start baking!
One nice aspect of this dessert is that it's very easy to adjust. You can easily make 4 or even 2 (which I do when it's just the BF and me) servings, if desired.
Also, you don't need a butane torch. If I'm doing 8 or more custards I will place all on a baking sheet and put them under the broiler. If you do this, you need to place them back in the fridge for awhile to cool, but I'm okay with that, as this keeps the BF calm (he gets nervous when I break out the butane).
Have fun with this one!
Adapted from: Bon Appetit, June 2005 and most of the "Tips" from Simply Recipes blog
Number of servings: 8
You might not think of rum in conjunction with the Kentucky Derby, but since it's such a booze-heavy event, my clients at last Saturday's party didn't seem to mind this Caribbean Rum-Soaked Bundt cake. Neither did the friends we hosted the previous Thursday, who we were thanking for a very comfortable (and stylish) ride to and from the airport. In fact, it was such a hit both times that I'm considering breaking out a third one for a client's upcoming Mother's Day luncheon. [Ed. note: The same cake thrice in one week? Is this allowed?]
While the BF likes many different types of liquors [Ed. note: As the late Robin Williams said, "I am not an alcoholic–I simply prefer living in a liquid medium"], rum is not my favorite, so I actually wasn't sure if I would take to this dessert. Oh, so wrong. There were no crumbs left on my plate, it was that good.
It's a boozy, evergreen (any season) cake that only uses one bowl, is super easy to transport, and if you follow the directions should not stick to the pan. BF chose the rum, and he chose one with lovely vanilla and caramel notes [Ed. note: Bacardi Select w/black label, but have fun with it], and it turned out super moist and fragrant. The flavor even seeps in more over time, so it was even better the following morning with coffee and tea.
The recipe is adapted from King Arthur Flour and they explain, "Yes, there's a lot of rum in this cake, and it's definitely not for those avoiding alcohol. But the incredibly moist texture and rich flavor are deeply satisfying." They are not kidding.
Adapted from: King Arthur Flour (www.kingarthurflour.com/)
Number of servings: 16 slices
All apologies, as the BF and I have been under the weather this week. Somehow, in over a quarter century of knowing each other, this is the first time we have been sick at the same time. [Ed. note: It's not like we were trying to set a record or anything.] We are slowly coming out of our funk.
A more pleasant subject: strawberries! While fresh strawberries are not quite in season yet—soon!—this dessert actually uses the freeze-dried variety, which pack a supremely flavorful punch. So easy to make, we're talking roughly a half hour, this made a perfect little housewarming gift for a friend and her hubs.
Adapted from: Leelalicious
Number of servings: 2 small servings
Baileys Irish Cream, check.
For me, a trifecta of favorites in one dessert. In one bite, even. Boozy and creamy, while managing to be light tasting. The BF has already had too much of it. [Ed. note: <whistling and singing> We have no heads! No we have no heads!] Don't mind him.
This takes all of 20 minutes to put together, but needs to chill overnight. Have lost count how many times I've made this for family, friends, and clients. One of my clients who never eats desserts, eats this one.
A good friend is like a four-leaf clover, hard to find and lucky to have.
- Irish Proverb
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Adapted from: Nigella Lawson, Nigella Express and Jenn Segal, Once Upon a Chef
Number of servings: 12
NOTES: Savoiardi cookies are also called lady fingers. But be sure to buy crisp cookies, not the soft sponge-cake lady fingers sold in the bakery section of your grocery store. Also, this recipe uses raw eggs, so use only fresh, properly refrigerated and clean grade-A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell.
[Ed. note: We leave you with a little Traditional Irish Folk Song, courtesy of Denis Leary. Cheers and Happy St. Patrick's Day!]
We drink and we die and continue to drink!
I'm Jacquie, personal chef & recipe developer in the bay area. Living life with my wildly funny boyfriend and dog Marlowe. Lover of books, bourbon, chocolate and movies.