Archive for May, 2008

Blueberries on the Ceiling

May 29, 2008

I want to propose something a little different…

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Blueberries on the Ceiling: Hiliarious Stories of Kitchen Mishaps

This is my second attempt at a food blogging event (I tried “Make Martha Cringe” a while back but only got one entry! boo hoo…) and I think this one might be a little bit easier to participate in.

“Blueberries on the Ceiling” is your chance to write about your most disatrous (and hopefully hilarious) kitchen mishap. As someone who cooks a lot, I love telling kitchen horror stories and then hearing what went wrong in other kitchens as well. It makes us all feel more human, dontcha think? I mean, no one’s perfect, and as far as I’m concerned, if we’re going to be making mistakes, we should take the opportunity to laugh at them! Did you set the top of a crisp on fire and then dump a gallon of water into your broiler to put it out? Maybe you accidentally dumped an entire cup and a half of sea salt into an otherwise perfect mushroom pasta minutes before company arrived. Oh wait, that was me…. ehhhh… Anyway, I’m sure you’ve done something similarly ridiculous, so fess up!

Here’s how you participate:

  1. Write a short story about something hilarious and disastrous that happened in your kitchen. The length of the post doesn’t matter, but see if you can include a somewhat relevant picture so people have something colorful to look at while reading your post.
  2. Post your story between now and Sunday, June 15, and please include a link back to this post so that other people can read about the event!
  3. Send me the link to your post so that I can compile a list of all the entries and pick a winner!  You can either put the the link in the comments, or email me at caitlin DOT Larussa AT gmail DOT com.

EDIT:  There will be a prize!!!  The person who submits the story of the most ridiculous and hilarious kitchen disaster will win one of my favorite books about a certain someone’s adventures in many kitchens.  So send in those stories!


Blueberry Buckle

May 21, 2008

Rhubarb Buckle

Blueberry buckle is the squintingly bright day that you’ve been waiting for all April. The first bite delivers at once the initial chill and then the subsequent warmth that comes when the midday sun hits your bare shoulder on the first no-sleeve day of late spring. I could go on and on, and I will!
For those of you who have not yet tasted a buckle, I have no idea what you’re waiting for. Hurry up and make it. It’s easy. For all you new or non-bakers, the is the one that will fool your family and friends into thinking that you know what you’re doing. Incidentally, it is also the dessert that will make you love baking and want to know what you’re doing. That’s what I call killing two birds with one stone.

As for the history of the buckle: as far as I know, it’s one of those desserts that has been around forever. It’s of the crumble-grunt-cobbler-crisp family, and in my opinion, it may be the best of the bunch. Here’s why: a buckle, in my opinion, is exactly like a well written story. It is simple, elegant, and to the point: cake, fruit, streusel. There are no complex flavor combinations (prose, if you will) to cloud the palate: everything in the buckle is necessary, nothing is extra.  And like a good story, this dessert is indescribably satisfying.

Serve the buckle after a relaxed meal with good friends or family.  It’s best at room temperature or slightly warm under a big scoop of the best vanilla ice cream you can find.  Make sure that you’ve made more than you need, so that you can leave the left-overs out on the kitchen counter to be eaten with fingers as a secret midnight snack.

 Now, for the recipe.  Normally I tweak and change recipes, scoffing at the original for some omission or addition that is not up to my standards. But I have to say, this is one recipe to leave exactly as it is. If you can get the batter into the pan without spooning most of it directly into your mouth (well, maybe you should taste just a little) you will remove from your oven a gorgeous cake, hinting of lemon zest and vanilla and crowned with a generous layer of crunchy, buttery struesel.  Don’t mind the viscous blueberry juice dripping down the side of your pan and creating sticky puddles on the bottom of your oven.

One note: One of the best things about this buckle is that it’s so flexible. Although blueberries are the old standard, and are arguably the best fruit to use here, I have made this dessert with plums, blackberries, peaches, rhubarb, and cherries, all with great success.  Just don’t use anything too wet, and fresh is better than frozen, as always.



Blueberry Buckle
Makes one 9-inch cake, serving 8 to 10

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (2 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch table salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cut into 8 pieces, softened but still cool

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour ( 7 1/2 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/4 stick), softened but still cool
2/3 cup granulated sugar (about 4 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs , room temperature
4 cups fresh blueberries (about 20 ounces), picked over

1. For the streusel: In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, combine flour, sugars, cinnamon, and salt on low speed until well combined and no large brown sugar lumps remain, about 45 seconds. Add butter and mix on low until mixture resembles wet sand and no large butter pieces remain, about 2 1/2 minutes. Transfer streusel to small bowl and set aside.

2. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9-inch round cake pan with 2-inch sides with nonstick cooking spray, line bottom with parchment or waxed paper round, and spray round; dust pan with flour and knock out excess.

3. Whisk flour and baking powder in small bowl to combine; set aside. In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, cream butter, sugar, salt, and lemon zest at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes; using rubber spatula, scrape down bowl. Beat in vanilla until combined, about 30 seconds. With mixer running at medium speed, add eggs one at a time; beat until partially incorporated, then scrape down bowl and continue to beat until fully incorporated (mixture will appear broken). With mixer running on low speed, gradually add flour mixture; beat until flour is almost fully incorporated, about 20 seconds. Disengage bowl from mixer; stir batter with rubber spatula, scraping bottom and sides of bowl, until no flour pockets remain and batter is homogenous; batter will be very heavy and thick. Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries (or whatever other fruit you’ve chosen) until evenly distributed.

4. Transfer batter to prepared pan; with rubber spatula, using a pushing motion, spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Squeeze handful of streusel in hand to form large cohesive clump; break up clump with fingers and sprinkle streusel evenly over batter. Repeat with remaining streusel. Bake until deep golden brown and toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool on wire rack 15 to 20 minutes (cake will fall slightly as it cools).

5. Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen. Place upside-down plate (do not use plate or platter on which you plan to serve the cake) on top of cake pan; invert cake to remove from pan, lift off cake pan, then peel off and discard parchment. Re-invert cake onto serving platter. Cool until just warm or to room temperature, at least 1 hour. Cut into wedges and serve.

One last note!  The other thing you can do to switch it up a little is to change the meltedness of the butter. Once, we accidentaly melted the butter to be used in the cake batter, but to our delight, the resulting buckle ended up with an almost pudding-like consisency that was surprisingly luscious.

I’m back, with Cheesecake!

May 12, 2008

cheesecake truffles

Please forgive me, I’ve been bad.  Well, not so much bad as busy.  I did a lot of rushing around and baking this week in order to prepare for a vendor fair.  It was in NY, near my parents’ house, and I was asked to come bearing baked goods and business cards.  Well, it turned out to be a bit of a production.  I made all the knockouts: about a million cheesecake truffles (pictured above), lots and lots of Melt-in-your-mouth Chocolate Cake (thank you Clotilde!), and a bunch of mini blackberry buckles (I’m sure you’ll see that recipe in an upcoming post). 

Today I want to talk about the cheesecake truffles.  These were inspired by last month’s Daring Bakers challenge, cheesecake lollipops.  I wanted to make them again, this time using real vanilla bean (last time I just used extract), but I also wanted to class them up for this event.  The lollipops were cute, don’t get me wrong, but I was looking for something a bit more sophisticated.  I used the exact same recipe and just let these little guys harden up on a baking sheet.  As soon as they solidified, I popped them into these mini cupcake papers. 

Let me tell you, if you’re looking for a show stopper, this is the one.  It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like cheesecake, and even people who are “watching their weight” can’t really justify passing up one of these.  After all, as decacdent as they are, they’re tiny!  I made mine about walnut sized, and it was perfect.  

Cheesecake Truffles

Also, just as a note… last time I made these, I used dark chocolate as coating, and in my opinion, it was too strong against the delicate flavor of the cheesecake.  This time around I opted for coating some with milk chocolate, and some with summer coating (kind of white chocolate, i guess), and I LOVED the results.


She may not be the bell of the ball…

May 2, 2008

Let me start out with a disclaimer. What I am about to show you is not pretty. (If you want to see pretty, you’ll have to avert your eyes.. maybe in this direction, or perhaps here). Oh all right, I’m making it out to be worse than it is.. we’re not talking murder scene here, it’s just not a pretty cake, and I am a pretty cake type of girl. Oh well.

So here’s the story. I made this cake to celebrate my grandfather’s 89th birthday. He is an especially awesome grandpa, so I wanted to make something especially awesome for dessert. Inspired by the Daring Bakers March challenge, I wanted to make cake and it had to be special. I loved Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake, which was the recipe for the DB March challenge, but I had already made it three times in the past three weeks and was looking forward to trying something new.

I ruled out a buttercream frosted cake, since my grandpa doesn’t care for the stuff. Instead, I planned to use the ricotta mousse that I threw together as a filling for the DBs cake when I made it in March. (It’s really pretty great, it’s so, so, easy to make and keeps cakes layers incredibly moist. It’s also such a nice alternative to a mouthful of butter, in my opinion). I also knew that I wanted to incorporate some kind of nut, either hazelnut or almond, into the cakes somehow. I had been eying the Hazelnut Brown Butter cake that Deb at Smitten Kitchen loved so much for a couple of weeks and thought about making that but…. I wanted to make a layer cake and the hazelnut brown butter cake seemed like it might be a bit heavy to layer up. As you can see, I have the potential to be cripplingly indecisive in the kitchen.

My next thought was almond. I like almond, my grandpa likes almond, I have almonds. There we go. I briefly considered just making an almond brown butter cake, but I just didn’t feel like messing with a meringue, so I set my sights on something a bit simpler. Finally, I remembered an almond breakfast cake I had seen a while back at Alpineberry and decided to use that as the base recipe. Well, a few changes later and here’s what I ended up making:

Almond and Blood Orange Brown Butter Cake with Ricotta Mousse and Lemon Curd

Well, now that I spell it out, it seems kind of ridiculous! I think I’ll work on figuring out a better name for this cake. The components are:

  • Two split layers of Almond and Blood Orange Brown Butter Cake (made with Mary’s recipe, but substituting brown butter and blood orange juice for the cream)
  • Ricotta Mousse (studded with dark chocolate) and Lemon Curd between the layers, and Ricotta Mousse on top.

The recipe is below, but I would like to tweak the cake recipe a bit more before I would completely recommend it. I think the brown butter made it a bit heavy, and although my family loved it, I was hoping for something a little bit more delicate in texture.

Almond and Blood Orange Cake
(makes two 9-inch round layers)

2 cups (4 sticks) butter (like I said, I think this was too much!)
½ cup fresh squeezed blood orange juice
2 cup granulated sugar
6 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups almond meal (finely ground almonds)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
large pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Line with a parchment circles and butter the paper.

Brown the butter: Melt the butter in a small saucepan and keep cooking it over medium low heat until it begins to brown and smell nutty. Remove from the heat and pour into a measuring cup. You should have about 1 ½ cups. Let cool slightly and add in the orange juice.

In a large bowl, mix the butter/orange juice mixture and sugar with a wooden spoon. Mix in eggs (3 at a time). Mix in vanilla extract.

Add the almond meal, flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.

Pour the batter into your prepared pans. Bake at 350F for about 35 minutes or until your cake tester comes out clean and the cakes springs back when lightly touched.


Ricotta Mousse
(this is kind of an approximate recipe that can definitely be toyed with)

1 pint of heavy or whipping cream
1 cup (or so) of good fresh ricotta
2 tablespoons confectioners sugar (or more or less to taste)
1 tsp vanilla extract (or to taste)
finely grated rind of one lemon
1/2 C finely chopped dark chocolate (optional)

Beat the ricotta with the lemon rind until it has softened up.  Set aside.  Combine the cream, confectioners sugar, and vanilla extract in a large bowl.  Whip the cream until it has somewhat stiff peaks.  Fold the cream into the ricotta.  If you’d like to add the dark chocolate (I did, it reminded me of stracitella and the insides of cannoli), now’s the time.  I would suggest leaving 1/4 of the mousse chocolate-free and using that for the top of the cake.

*Depending on how dry your ricotta is (some of the really good stuff is pretty solid), you can add a bit of the unwhipped cream before beating it to help it loosen up.

Lemon Curd
I used this recipe, and it’s wonderful with or without the almonds.  For the record, I made it both ways and preferred it without almonds in this cake.

To Assemble the Cake:

Split the cooled layers with a good serrated bread knife.  Line a cake plate with four pieces of parchent to keep the plate clean.  Place the bottom layer of the cake on the plate, spread on 1/3 of the lemon curd, and then 1/4 of the ricotta mousse (if it’s easier for you to just dollop the ricotta on and then smush it down with the next layer, you can do that too).  Continue with the rest of the layers, saving the flattest layer for the top.  Cover the top layer with ricotta mousse however you’d like (I just spread it on but you could definitely pipe it on an maybe make it look a little bit nicer than my cake did).