Chocolate Cherry Tart

Oh, heavens! This cherry tart has a rich chocolate crust that lies somewhere between a cookie and a pie crust, and filling that’s spiked with cherry brandy. (Totally optional.) Oh, and did I mention that I used canned cherry pie filling? I know that’s not my usual modus operandi, but I’m afraid my cherry tree is buried under a few feet of snow, and besides…I’m making you create the crust from scratch, which is probably enough of a challenge, right?

I had to do some experimenting to come up with a crust that didn’t turn soggy on the bottom, but I’m happy to say that if you follow my baking instructions, your tart will be tender (but definitely not gummy) on the bottom, and crunchy on the sides. Yum yum yum!

Tips:

  • If you don’t want booze in yours (eyeroll), you can skip the whole “cook the filling, lime juice, and cornstarch” step and just dump the cans of filling into the chilled tart crust. I wouldn’t even bother with the lime, (though it does add a nice flavor) because that would mean you’d have to dump the filling into a bowl, and…well…one more bowl to wash!
  • If you do use the brandy, be sure the cooked mixture is cool before putting it in the crust.
  • It’s critical to keep your dough chilled, and that egg white wash is a must! This will help keep the cherry mixture from seeping into your bottom crust.
  • Use whatever method works best for you when you move the crust to your tart pan. It’s thicker than a pie crust, but you can still roll it gently onto a rolling pin to transfer it. I like to roll mine out on parchment, center the tart pan upside down on the dough, slide one cookie sheet under the parchment and lay one gently on top of the dough, then flip. Whatever works best for you!
  • After you’ve eased your dough into the pan, turn the excess inward and press firmly against the inside edge. Trim off any dough that sticks over the edge of the pan.
  • Put a baking sheet in the oven while it preheats, then slide the chilled tart onto the hot sheet. This blast of heat from below will also help your crust to cook through. Be careful when you do this; you don’t want it to slide right into the back of the oven!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Filling ingredients.

Crust ingredients. (Whoops. And an egg white!)

Chocolate Cherry Tart
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Makes one 11-inch tart.
Ingredients
  • FILLING: (If not using alcohol, just use canned filling and skip the other ingredients)
  • 2 cans cherry pie filling
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime (or lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ¼ cup cherry brandy
  • CRUST:
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • ½ cup cold butter
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 egg white, whisked
  • ***
  • Serve with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.
Instructions
  1. FILLING:
  2. In a large pot on medium heat, combine two cans of cherry pie filling, lime, and cornstarch. Cook and stir until mixture bubbles and turns clear (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the cherry brandy. Set aside to cool.
  3. CRUST:
  4. In a medium pot over medium heat, bring water, sugar, and salt to a boil.
  5. Remove from heat and add the chocolate chips, whisking until smooth. Allow mixture to cool completely before moving to the next step!
  6. In a medium bowl, grate the butter using a grater with large holes. Add flour and stir until all of the butter is coated.
  7. Add the cool chocolate mixture and stir until mostly combined, then dump out onto lightly floured surface and knead gently just until it comes together into a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. (No longer - the chocolate will harden and make it difficult to roll out.)
  8. Lightly spray an 11-inch tart pan with cooking spray. I like to use a flour and oil mixture, like Baker's Joy.
  9. Roll out dough to make a circle about an inch bigger than your tart pan, all the way around. (Your pan should be 11 inches, so the circle would measure approximately 13 inches in all directions.)
  10. Gently ease the dough into the pan. Roll any excess at the top towards the inside of the pan, pressing firmly against the sides. If any dough sticks up past the edge, trim it off.
  11. With a pastry brush, cover the bottom of the crust with egg white. Freeze for 15 minutes (or refrigerate for 30).
  12. Preheat oven to 400 F. Place a baking sheet on the bottom rack while preheating.
  13. Place tart pan onto a flat baking sheet or cutting board. Spoon filling into crust and slide it from the flat sheet onto the hot baking sheet in the oven.
  14. Bake for 10 minutes. Without opening the oven, turn the heat to 350 F and bake an additional 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. When tart is barely warm, slide onto your hand, letting the ring fall down your arm. You may either leave the tart on the metal bottom or use a thin spatula to slide it from the base to a serving platter.
  15. Decorate with whipped cream if desired, or serve with ice cream.

Add lime (or lemon) juice and cornstarch. It will look cloudy – that’s okay.

Cook it until it’s bubbly and fairly clear.

Add flour to grated butter and stir to coat.

Stir chocolate mixture into butter and flour. Make sure the chocolate isn’t warm!

Knead gently until it forms a ball, flatten into disk, wrap and chill. (You should see little bits of butter throughout.)

My favorite method to transfer dough to pan. Center pan upside down on dough, slide baking sheet under parchment, one on toop of dough, and flip.

Brush bottom of crust with egg white and chill. Add filling and bake!

I used stabilized whipped cream on this tart. To stabilize cream, I beat 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form, add 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar and beat until combined. Then I heat about 1/2 teaspoon Knox gelatin in 1/2 teaspoon water until it’s melted and drizzle a little in the cream while mixing on high. I don’t use it all…maybe half, but it’s too hard to melt a smaller amount!

For the tart at the beginning of the post, I beat 4 ounces of room temperature cream cheese, added 1 cup of powdered sugar and 1 cup of heavy cream and beat until it was thick and fluffy. I think I like the piped hearts better because the cherries still show.

Or…you could just eat it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Disclaimer: My husband preferred the tart without alcohol; he didn’t like the smell of cherry brandy. It MAY be because I had already spent a fortune at the liquor store picking up other booze for Valentine’s Day baking and went cheap on the brandy, but I liked it. A lot. I’ve never tried Kirsch, but that might be a good alternative if you have some.

Ready, set, GO!

So…onward. There are lots of ideas swirling around in my head; as soon as I corral them into something resembling recipes, you’ll be seeing lots of chocolate, cherries, raspberries, and sprinkles.

Feelin’ the love…

Lorinda

No-Bake S’mores Cheesecake

No bake s'mores cheesecake - The Rowdy BakerWith grandchildren here for their summer visit, all thoughts have turned to s’mores. Cheesecake was our plan for their mom’s birthday, so you can guess what flavor we chose!

We made a large cheesecake with a graham cracker crust, a layer of chocolate cheesecake, a layer of chocolate ganache, and a layer of marshmallow cheesecake…and then decorated around the top with whipped cream and ganache rosettes.

I totally stole this photo collage from my daughter. Thank you, Brenna!

I totally stole this photo collage from my daughter. Thank you, Brenna!

 

When I say “we”, I really mean it. The girls are getting old enough to not only help, but practically take over. It’s gotten past the grit my teeth and try not to meddle stage; now I feel more like a conductor with a very talented and capable orchestra. Oh, and the beautiful blue nails in the picture? Those are 12-year old Sophie’s, not mine! (They’d be a little impractical for me in the garden.)

My daughter loved the dessert, and so did we. I especially liked the fluffy marshmallow layer, and would probably double that part of the recipe next time. There was enough room to fit it into the pan, and it deserved equal billing with the chocolate layer in my opinion.

Hints:

  • I used a 10-inch springform pan. Use a 9-inch pan, if you prefer. There’s room for all of the layers, but your decorations will just be on top instead of nestled into the crumb sides.
  • If you love marshmallows, you could add another handful to the melted marshmallow mixture before combining with the cream cheese.
No-Bake S'mores Cheesecake
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3 layers of goodness - chocolate cheesecake, ganache, and marshmallow cheesecake - make this a luscious (yet not too rich or heavy) dessert that will easily serve 10-12.
Ingredients
  • CRUST:
  • 2 cups finely-ground graham cracker crumbs
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE:
  • 1½ cups chocolate chips
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups non-dairy whipped topping
  • GANACHE:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 10 ounces good quality dark chocolate
  • MARSHMALLOW CHEESECAKE:
  • 6 ounces mini-marshmallows
  • ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream, divided
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 cup non-dairy whipped topping
Instructions
  1. CRUST - baked or no-baked options given.
  2. Baked (my favorite method): Heat oven to 325 F. Lightly spray 10-inch springform pan with an oil/flour spray like Baker's Joy. Place pan on baking sheet.
  3. Combine 2 cups graham cracker crumbs, ½ cup melted butter, and ¼ cup brown sugar. Press very firmly into pan, using fingers or straight sided measuring cup. Bake for 10 minutes. Move to rack to cool.
  4. No-bake crust: Prepare crust as described, but instead of baking, place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before adding filling.
  5. CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE LAYER:
  6. Melt chocolate chips in microwave-safe bowl, stirring every 15 seconds until completely melted, or in small pan over lowest heat possible, stirring often. Set aside to cool slightly.
  7. In a large bowl, combine 12 ounces cream cheese, ½ cup sugar, and ¼ cup softened butter. Beat well.
  8. Add ¼ cup cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon vanilla, and beat until combined.
  9. Gradually add melted chocolate, beating until incorporated.
  10. Gently fold in 2 cups whipped topping. Spread evenly over prepared crust. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  11. While the cheesecake is chilling, prepare the ganache.
  12. GANACHE:
  13. Chop the 10 ounces of dark chocolate finely and place in a small bowl.
  14. In a small pan, heat 1 cup cream until it bubbles around the edges...almost to a boil. Remove from heat.
  15. Pour half of the hot cream over the chocolate and allow it to sit without stirring for a few minutes - this will begin melting the chocolate..Stir gently.
  16. Re-heat the remaining cream and pour over chocolate mixture. Allow to sit a few minutes more, then stir gently until smooth.
  17. Pour half of the ganache over the chocolate layer in the pan and return the cheesecake to the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Put a piece of plastic wrap over the remaining ganache and set aside, stirring occasionally.
  18. MARSHMALLOW CHEESECAKE LAYER:
  19. In a small pan on low heat, stir together 6 ounces of marshmallows and ⅓ cup cream, Remove from heat before the marshmallows are completely melted, to leave little bites of marshmallows in the cheesecake. (If you prefer a smooth layer, stir until completely melted.) Allow to cool slightly.
  20. In medium bowl, beat together 8 ounces cream cheese, ¼ cup powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon cream. Add the marshmallow mixture and stir until combined.
  21. Fold in 1 cup of whipped topping and spread the mixture over the ganache layer in the pan.
  22. Chill for several hours - overnight is even better! At any point during this chilling time, you can decorate your cheesecake:
  23. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large open star tip and pipe simple rosettes on a parchment lined baking sheet. Freeze for at least 1 hour.
  24. Decorate cheesecake with whipped cream, ganache rosettes, graham crackers, or cracker crumbs.
  25. Remove the springform pan ring and serve!
Press the crust into the pan very firmly.

Press the crust into the pan very firmly.

Spread the chocolate cheesecake layer evenly.

Spread the chocolate cheesecake layer evenly.

Between the chocolate layer and this lovely marshmallow layer was a layer of ganache...but we forgot to take a photo.

Between the chocolate layer and this lovely marshmallow layer was a layer of ganache…but we forgot to take a photo.

Sophie, piping out pretty ganache decorations.

Sophie, piping out pretty ganache decorations.

Sigh. My family has left, slowly working their way back to California. Things are quiet here – and I think I’m through with all things s’mores. At least until next summer!

Lorinda

 

Triple Chocolate S’mores Brownies

Triple Chocolate S'mores Brownies - The Rowdy BakerDeep, dark fudge brownies with a crumbly graham crust and chewy marshmallow topping are a dream come true for s’mores fans. They’re great for a crowd, because once the brownies have cooled down, the marshmallow turns from gooey to chewy, and won’t stick to a cover, so you can transport them easily to a picnic, potluck, or party.

I didn’t allow myself to Google s’mores brownies until I was writing this blog; sometimes it’s discouraging to see how many people have had the same exact idea!  And yes…this has been done and done and done. Sigh. But…it hasn’t been done by me before, and the idea of a brownie with a graham cracker crust really called to me. Guess I’m just jumping on the bandwagon with this one!

They’re easy to make and are hand stirred in one pot, so even I didn’t manage to make much of a mess – which was a very important criterion right now, since my kitchen is torn apart (getting a much-needed update) and I needed something to take to book club.

Trust me, when you’re washing dishes bent over the bathtub, you weigh the importance of using each bowl and utensil!Triple Chocolate S'mores Brownies from The Rowdy Baker

Makes 24 large brownies. You may notice that these probably won’t be on the “approved” list of most diets. Suck it up – they’re worth every calorie!

Triple Chocolate S'mores Brownies
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Makes 24 large, thick brownies.
Ingredients
  • GRAHAM CRUST:
  • 1¼ cups finely crushed graham crackers (9 double crackers) ...more for decorating if desired
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • BROWNIES:
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter (or 2¼ sticks)
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • ½ cup special dark unsweetened cocoa
  • 1½ cups mini chocolate chips (divided)
  • 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups mini marshmallows
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking pan and line with parchment. (The grease will hold the parchment in place.) Spray parchment with a flour/oil baking spray like Baker's Joy.
  2. Combine graham cracker crumbs with ¼ cup melted butter and brown sugar. Press evenly into prepared pan.
  3. In a large pot, melt the butter. Remove from heat and add the sugar. Stir until well combined.
  4. In a small bowl or measuring cup, beat the eggs and vanilla until frothy. Add to pot and stir well.
  5. Add both kinds of cocoa, ½ cup of mini chocolate chips, flour, soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir JUST until combined. (A few streaks of flour showing is fine.)
  6. Drop spoonfuls of dough evenly over crust and smooth gently with an offset spatula, being careful not to disturb the crust. Spread close to edges of the pan.
  7. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the brownies comes out clean.
  8. Remove from oven and place on rack. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup of mini chocolate chips. Let the pan sit undisturbed for 5 minutes (chips will be melted - you don't need to spread them) and then top with a single layer of mini marshmallows.
  9. Broil just until the marshmallows are golden brown. DON'T walk away - this goes fast, and you don't want black marshmallows! (They're pretty tasty at a campfire, but not so much on a baked treat.)
  10. Sprinkle with additional crushed graham crackers if desired, and allow brownies to cool in the pan on a rack for at least 30 minutes. Lift out by the parchment and cut into squares. Hint: the longer you wait, the easier they are to cut. If they're sticky and gooey, run a very sharp knife in butter before cutting each row.

Combine sugar and melted butter in large pot.

Combine sugar and melted butter in large pot.

Beat eggs and vanilla together. Stir into mixture.

Beat eggs and vanilla together. Stir into mixture.

Add everything else except for the marshmallows!

Add everything else except for the marshmallows!

Drop globs of batter over crust.

Drop globs of batter over crust.

Spread evenly. (An offset spatula is your friend.)

Spread evenly. (An offset spatula is your friend.)

Pull the brownies from the oven and scatter mini chocolate chips over the top.

Pull the brownies from the oven and scatter mini chocolate chips over the top.

When chocolate is melted, add a layer of marshmallows.

When chocolate is melted, add a layer of marshmallows.

Broil just until golden. Holy crap, it happens fast. Do NOT take your eyes off of the oven!!! Add crushed crackers if you'd like.

Broil just until golden. Holy crap, it happens fast. Do NOT take your eyes off of the oven!!! Add crushed crackers if you’d like.

Once cooled, slide a very sharp knife through butter and cut into squares. The longer you wait, the easier they are to cut. Of course, mine were VERY gooey because I’m all about instant gratification.

Happy summer!

Lorinda

 

Lavender Lime Tea Cakes – and a Bonus Cocktail!

Lavender Lime Tea Cakes, The Rowdy BakerUndecided whether to give readers a recipe that made a whopping 6 dozen tea cakes, or cut the recipe in half and end up with leftover coconut-lime mixture, I came up with the following options:

  • Make a ton of tea cakes. (Hey, they’re small. And light. And irresistible.)
  • Make a half batch and use the leftover coconut and lime mixture on a salad or vegetables.
  • Make a half batch and use the leftover mixture to make a kick-ass cocktail!

I’m pretty sure you know which route I took.

 

Tempting Tropical Fizz - Tthe Rowdy Baker

 

Waste not, want not, right?

So…the recipe will give you approximately 3 dozen dainty, soft, refreshing tea cakes. (Definitely more cake than cookie.) You can double it easily if you’d like, but then you won’t be able to make yourself a Tempting Tropical Fizz. Your call!

Making these cookies will require a couple of special ingredients and a little advance preparation. You will need to thoroughly chill a can of coconut milk so that you can pour out the separated liquid and keep the solids. Try to find coconut milk that is high in fat. If it doesn’t say so on the front, compare the nutritional information on all of your options to pick the one that has a higher fat content. Here’s what you’re looking for:coconut milk

I used lavender sugar in this recipe. I keep a jar of sugar mixed with culinary lavender in my pantry at all times, so my sugar was very flavorful and I just sifted out the lavender buds. (I mix sugar and lavender buds in a mason jar – 1 heaping tablespoon of buds per cup of sugar – and let it sit at least one week.) If you don’t happen to have lavender sugar sitting around, you can blend together one cup of sugar (if you’re doubling the recipe) and two teaspoons of culinary lavender in a blender until the lavender pieces are very fine.

(If you’d like more information about where to buy lavender and how to use it, please visit Sweet Lavender, a column I wrote for Yummy Northwest.)

You’ll find that the subtle flavor of lavender and lime isn’t overwhelming at all; it’s a wonderful combination.

Lavender Lime Tea Cakes - and a Bonus Cocktail!
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Makes 3 dozen tea cakes. This recipe will actually only use half of the coconut milk and lime mixture. (See instructions.) Double the rest of the recipe to avoid leftover mixture, or refrigerate it for another use.
Ingredients
  • 1 can (13.5 oz) CHILLED coconut milk...preferably a brand with a higher fat content.
  • zest and juice from 2 small limes (approximately 2 tablespoons juice).
  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup lavender sugar *see instructions
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla ( I used clear vanilla for this, but that's optional)
  • 2½ cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. * To make lavender sugar, either start a week ahead of time and combine ½ cup sugar with 2 teaspoons culinary lavender in an airtight container (sift out the lavender buds before using) OR for immediate use, combine ½ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon culinary lavender in a blender and blend until the lavender is ground into small particles.
  2. Heat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment.
  3. Drain liquid from thoroughly chilled, canned coconut milk, and reserve for another use if desired. Place coconut solids in a small bowl.
  4. Add lime zest and juice to coconut solids and stir well. Place in refrigerator.
  5. In a large bowl, cream butter and lavender sugar together well.
  6. Add egg, egg white, and vanilla. Mix well.
  7. Remove coconut mixture from the refrigerator and give it a stir. Measure out ½ cup of the mixture and put the rest away for another use.
  8. Add ½ cup of coconut mixture to the bowl, stirring until combined.
  9. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low just until incorporated. Batter will be thick and sticky.
  10. Dough can be scooped using a small cookie scoop or level tablespoon, or you can pipe it with a pastry bag and rosette tip. (The cakes won't hold the shape well, but you will still see design on the top of the baked cakes if you pipe them.)
  11. Bake for 10 minutes or until the bottom of the cookies is turning a golden brown. The top will not brown.
  12. Remove to a cooling rack, and when the cakes are just barely warm, shake them gently in powdered sugar.

Drain the liquid and keep the solids!

Drain the liquid and keep the solids!

Somewhere between batter and dough. It's soft and sticky!

Somewhere between batter and dough. It’s soft and sticky!

You can scoop...

You can scoop…

Or pipe. Don't expect them to hold the rosette shape, but there will be some design on the top of the baked cakes.

Or pipe. Don’t expect them to hold the rosette shape, but there will be design on the top of the baked cakes.

Only the bottoms should turn golden brown.

Only the bottoms should turn golden brown.

Dust with powdered sugar. (See the shape? These were piped.)

Dust with powdered sugar. (See the shape? These were piped.)

Sooooo, ready for that cocktail yet?

TEMPTING TROPICAL FIZZ

Drop a heaping spoonful of the coconut milk and lime mixture into a glass. Add 1 pineapple slice and about 1/4 cup of pineapple juice (or more to taste). Add clear rum to taste, and top with sparkling mineral water. Give it a quick stir – it should be quite frothy!
I used approximately equal amounts of all 4 ingredients, which made a tart, refreshing drink. If you’d like it to be sweeter, add more pineapple juice or a little simple syrup.

Cheers!

Lorinda

Sour Cream Apple Strudel

Sour Cream Apple Strudel - The Rowdy BakerWhile traditional strudel is fun and challenging to make (all that stretching), by far my favorite strudel to eat is kind of a cross between pie and strudel. The dough is made from “rough puff pastry”, (which is a quick and easy version of the much more complicated puff pastry dough) instead of classic strudel dough.

Compared to store bought puff pastry, rough puff pastry doesn’t puff quite as high, nor does it shatter as easily when you cut or bite into it.  I rolled my dough out very thin, which also reduced the puffiness, so it was the perfect dough to use for this recipe.

I wanted flaky, I wanted delicate, and I wanted just the right crust-to-filling ratio. Easy was a very nice bonus!

If you’re feeling motivated and want to play with stretchy dough, try my companion post, Classic Apple Strudel.

I’ve never been crazy about hot apples, especially when they’re in a sticky sauce like a traditional apple pie. I will, however, fight you for the last slice of Sour Cream Apple Pie, because it’s so mellow and creamy – especially when it’s warm, with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

That was the flavor and texture I was shooting for, and was exactly what I got…on my very first try! I added some boozy, rum-soaked raisins and finely chopped pecans, and was thrilled with the results. The normally unflappable Mr. Rowdy was enthused – extremely enthused. He may have even thrown a “WOW WOW WOW!” in there as he inhaled half of the finished product.Bite of Sour Cream Apple Strudel - The Rowdy Baker

Tips:

  • If you want to serve this for breakfast, go ahead and make the dough the night before. Wrapped snugly in plastic, it will be waiting for you to roll it out, fill, and bake. (Let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or it will be a real bear to roll out!)
  • If you’d like to go for the glory and have even more layers, you can make 4-layer folds by folding each short end into the middle and the folding them together.
    For more layers, you can fold ends to meet in the middle...

    For more layers, you can fold ends to meet in the middle…

    ...then fold together, creating a 4 layer turn

    …then fold together, creating a 4 layer turn

Sour Cream Apple Strudel
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This strudel is made with a quick and easy homemade puff pastry. Filled with apples, sour cream, rum-soaked raisins, and toasted pecans, it will become a family favorite! Serves 8-10.
Ingredients
  • DOUGH:
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cold butter
  • ⅔ cup very cold water
  • *****
  • FILLING:
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup rum (or use apple juice, if desired)
  • 3 large Granny Smith apples
  • ⅔ cup sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon (more to taste) cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup toasted pecans (or walnuts), finely chopped
  • ***********
  • ASSEMBLY:
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • ¼ cup plain breadcrumbs
Instructions
  1. DOUGH:
  2. Cut 1 cup cold butter into pieces approximately 1-inch square.
  3. Place flour on work surface, stir in the salt, and drop the butter onto the flour.
  4. With a bench scraper or metal spatula, chop the butter and flour together until combined. Don't overwork the mixture - you want to see chunks of butter larger than peas.
  5. Begin drizzling the water over the mixture with one hand, while flipping and tossing it with the other. Again, don't over do it! It should be a crumbly mess at this point.Use your metal utensil to form the dough into a rough rectangle about 5"x 8".
  6. Roll out dough to approximately 6"x10", using the metal scraper to form straight edges. Keeping the short edge facing you, Flip the bottom edge up to the middle (it will be crumbly...just do the best you can) and the the top edge down to the bottom. This will create three equal sized layers. Give the dough a turn to the left, lightly flouring the surface if necessary to keep it from sticking, and repeat. Repeat 3 more times. Wrap snugly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Make filling while the dough chills.
  7. FILLING:
  8. Place raisins in small pan with rum over medium heat. When rum is just beginning to bubble, Remove from heat and let sit uncovered.
  9. Peel and core apples. Cut into eighths and slice thinly crosswise, making small thin pieces. You should have approximately 4 cups.
  10. In a large bowl, combine apples, raisins (including the excess rum) and remaining filling ingredients. Stir until apples are coated.
  11. ASSEMBLY:
  12. Remove dough from refrigerator. Using the previous instructions, roll and fold two more times.
  13. On a floured surface, roll dough as thinly as possible. Aim for 14"x20", with the long side facing you. Don't worry if your measurements aren't exact, but do make sure there's enough flour under the dough to keep it movable.
  14. Brush the surface lightly with melted butter, using a paper towel or pastry brush.
  15. Beginning 2 inches inside the long edge facing you, distribute the bread crumbs in a thick line all the way across, leaving an inch of plain dough on each side.
  16. Pile the apple mixture evenly over the bread crumbs. (The crumbs will help soak up extra moisture.) If your apples were really juicy, you may need to use your judgment and remove a little of the juice from the bowl.
  17. With your scraper or spatula, lift the long edge to cover as much of the apples as possible. Roll the strudel, using the scraper to lift under the dough and inch it along.
  18. Pinch the ends well. Roll the strudel onto a piece of parchment paper, and use the paper to lift the strudel onto a baking sheet. Curve into a half-circle if needed to fit into the pan.
  19. Brush with melted butter and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  20. Heat oven to 400 F.
  21. Bake strudel for approximately 40 minutes, or until rich golden brown.
  22. Remove to a rack and mark the pieces with a serrated knife, just through the top. This will allow a little of the steam to escape and keep it crisp. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Flour, salt, and butter - ready to chop-chop!

Flour, salt, and butter – ready to chop-chop!

Roughly chop together. Don't blend in the butter - small chunks are what make it flaky!

Roughly chop together. Don’t blend in the butter – chunks are what make it flaky!

First fold is pretty rough. If it's pretty, you overworked it. It WILL come together!

First fold is pretty rough. If it’s pretty, you overworked it. It WILL come together!

Second fold is a little better

Second fold is a little better

After five folds and a cold nap, fold two more times and then roll it out nice and thin

After five folds and a cold nap, fold a couple more times and then roll it out nice and thin

Use a scraper or spatula to help roll the dough

Use a scraper or spatula to help roll the dough

Pinch the ends and shape it to fit the pan

Pinch the ends and shape it to fit the pan

Score the baked strudel and let it cool a bit before cutting

Score the baked strudel and let it cool a bit before cutting

Dig in!

Dig in!

Oh, man. You are going to love, love, love this! Eat it while it’s warm, or soon thereafter; it gets a little soft by the second day. Since there is sour cream in the filling, make sure any leftover strudel gets wrapped and put in the fridge.

I’ll leave you with a quote from S.J. Perelman:

“I have no truck with lettuce, cabbage, and similar chlorophyll. Any dietitian will tell you that a running foot of apple strudel contains four times the vitamins of a bushel of beans.”

I’ll buy that!

Lorinda

 

Classic Apple Strudel

Classic Apple Strudel - The Rowdy Baker

 

Are you ready to do this? There will be no frozen puff pastry for this recipe – no sir! We’re going to pull our hair back, put our big white voluminous aprons on, and do it the old-fashioned way today!

I’m warning you, though…I’m going to get pretty wordy, because I learned a lot, failed a lot, and have some ‘splainin’ to do.

The other day, my husband came into the kitchen while I was running the mixer and asked me what I was making. I looked him right in the eye but didn’t say a word. He just whispered: “noooooo”.  Poor man. Uh huh – another strudel. Obsessive, stubborn, tenacious – whatever you want to call me, I simply refuse to let a blob of dough get the best of me.

After being inspired by an apple strudel video on Facebook, I immediately began looking at recipes and videos. I had never made strudel before; in fact, I’m not sure I had even eaten a piece of strudel. But…I had to do this. I was compelled to do this…because it just looked like so much fun.

(Cue the creepy music that always starts when the girl heads down to the basement because she heard a noise, and even though everyone in the room is screaming: “Don’t do it!”, she does anyhow because she just has to.  Yeah, that.)

Seriously, I had a blast stretching the dough and fully expected the beautiful, fragrant, finished pastry to melt in my mouth, but it was…well…kind of tough on the bottom and more like a shell on the top.

I assumed a strudel would be light and flaky, like those frozen toaster strudels. Mine? Not so much.

So I tried:

  1. nuts instead of breadcrumbs when rolling it up.
  2. more butter brushed onto the dough.
  3. butter instead of oil in the dough.
  4. throwing the dough against the counter 100 times as suggested to activate the gluten strands.
  5. chilling the rolled strudel before baking.
  6. A richer dough, using milk and eggs

I tried higher temps, lower temps, letting the dough rest longer before stretching. I finally achieved a modest amount of flakiness (whew) and an enthusiastic response from my guinea pigs book club with the version I’m going to post, but I’ve come to a conclusion: the problem wasn’t with the dough, it was with my expectations. After asking around, I think I highly overestimated how light and delicate strudel should be. I mean, this dough has been mixed, pounded on the counter, and stretched within an inch of its life. It’s gotta be pretty tough to withstand that, right?

Don’t get me wrong, it really is good – very good. If you want to have the fun of stretching out this dough and making a traditional dish, and can promise me you aren’t expecting puff pastry, this recipe is for you!

(Oh, and if you have your heart set on a very light pastry, check out my companion post, Sour Cream Apple Strudel . The dough has a lot more butter in it, and is made with a “rough puff pastry” dough, similar to puff pastry but a little more restrained. You will just miss out on the dough stretching fun.)

A random hint:

You know that moment when you sniff the air and say to yourself: “what am I smelling?” and then you remember you left raisins and rum on the burner and forgot about them? NO?? Well…I do. I suggest you watch the raisins until you see the liquid begin to bubble – then remove the pan and set it aside until completely cool. Because you don’t want to see (or smell) this:

Burnt raisins and wasted rum.

Burnt raisins and wasted rum.

Since I have a nice, sturdy Bosch mixer that can really work the dough, I skipped the recommendations for hand kneading and throwing the dough onto the counter to activate the gluten strands. I figured it got enough of a workout. If you are doing this by hand though, or just want to get your aggression out by manhandling the dough, knock yourself out! It’s kind of fun.

I can’t really credit one recipe – my version is a conglomeration of many that I found. In fact, I tried so many variations that my recipe notes look like THIS!! And this is just the first page. My final conclusion was that the simpler recipes (no egg, no milk) worked better for me, and melted butter in place of the oil gave me the nicest pastry.

Clear as mud

Clear as mud

 

To make an old fashioned strudel, you’ll need a table or kitchen island that you can maneuver around (at least 2’x3′) and a large piece of clean cotton fabric. A sheet works well. You are going to be stretching a tiny ball of dough into a surprisingly large, paper-thin sheet of dough, and the best way to do this is on fabric. When you’re ready to roll it, the fabric will be your best friend. Trust me.

I also tried a different filling just for fun, combining blueberries, lemon, and apples. I’ll share that recipe at the bottom of the post if you’re interested. That’s the strudel the gals at my book club tested and liked. Here’s a mouthwatering photo of it:Blueberry Apple Strudel from The Rowdy Baker

The most important thing I learned during my immersion into all things strudel was this: don’t make a strudel when you’re in a hurry or feeling pressured. Fast, jerky movements create holes in the dough, and while a few holes aren’t a big deal (they won’t show when the strudel is rolled up) it’s better to go to your happy place and take your sweet time. The act of stretching the dough should be a pleasurable experience, not something to be rushed through.

Ready? Here we go!

Classic Apple Strudel
Print
Author:
This classic strudel is filled with tender apples, rum-soaked raisins, and nuts. Serves 10.
Ingredients
  • DOUGH:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • ⅔ cup room temperature water
  • oil to coat dough
  • ******
  • FILLING:
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup rum (or apple juice)
  • 5 cups of peeled, cored, and chopped Granny Smith Apples
  • 1 small lemon (juice and zest)
  • ½ cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • *****
  • FOR ASSEMBLY:
  • 1½ cup breadcrumbs* (See Instructions)
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • ½ cup finely chopped or ground walnuts (optional)
Instructions
  1. DOUGH:
  2. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, butter, and vinegar. Slowly pour in while stirring, until well mixed.
  3. Knead by machine for 5 minutes, or by hand for 8 minutes. Dough should be soft and elastic, and slightly tacky. Repeatedly throw the dough against a hard surface for a minute or so to help the gluten develop. Form into a ball, generously coat with oil, and cover with plastic. Allow dough to rest (very important) for 1 hour.
  4. Once dough has rested, combine the chopped apples with lemon in a large bowl and set aside. Cover a table with a clean cotton sheet or tablecloth, and sprinkle with flour. Rub the flour into the fabric. Place dough on cloth and form into a rectangle. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out as thinly as you can.
  5. Using your hands, begin stretching the dough. Work slowly, lifting edges and pulling. Slide your hands under the dough and coax it thinner and thinner. Two people can make this go a lot easier, with both reaching into the middle from opposite sides and easing the dough outwards. The goal is to get a paper thin dough, approximately 24"x30", but I stop when the dough seems consistently thin and small holes are beginning to develop.
  6. Trim the thick edges away with a pizza cutter or scissors, and brush the top of the dough with melted butter. The easiest way I've found is to use a paper towel to lightly spread the butter.
  7. Sprinkle with 1 cup of fine breadcrumbs and ½ cup finely chopped nuts. (Nuts are optional.)
  8. With one of the short sides facing you, pour the remaining bread crumbs from one side to the other, leaving about 2 inches of plain dough closest to you (to help begin the rolling process) and about 1 inch of plain dough on either side .
  9. Add remaining filling ingredients to the apples and spoon evenly over the breadcrumbs.
  10. Using the cloth, lift the plain dough edge over the apples and roll to the end. Roll the strudel onto a piece of parchment, and use this to lift it onto a baking sheet. You may need to give it a curved shape to fit the pan.
  11. Pinch the ends firmly and tuck under the strudel. Brush generously with butter, and put in the refrigerator to chill for 45 minutes. This will let the butter firm up, helping to create flaky layers.
  12. Heat oven to 400 F. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until the pastry is a rich golden brown.
  13. Score the top where the strudel will be cut, to allow some of the steam to escape, and sprinkle the top with powdered sugar. Cool until just warm, and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
  14. *Breadcrumbs: You can use commercial crumbs, but for more taste, crumble 2 cups of stale bread and toss with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Bake at 375 F for 10 minutes. Crush into fine crumbs.

The dough is so soft and stretchy after its little nap!

Dough, ready to roll and stretch!

Dough, ready to roll and stretch!

Use a rolling pin to get it as thin as you can before you start stretching. Make sure to rub flour into the cotton fabric on the table.

Roll dough out on floured fabric.

Roll dough out on floured fabric.

Start stretching. Move slowly but don’t be afraid of the dough! I like to use the palms of my hands and sort of “tickle” the dough from the center outwards. You’ll find what works for you. Two people, one on each side of the dough, can really get the job done.

Stretch it very thin!

Stretch it very thin!

Regardless of the size, I stop when I start seeing little holes. Just trim to remove thick edges and get ready to roll!

Ready to fill and roll.

Ready to fill and roll.

Butter the dough gently. A pastry brush is too rough, so I use a piece of paper towel. You can just sprinkle it on too, if you’d like. It’s not critical to cover every inch of the dough – just do the best you can.

I use a paper towel to spread the butter. You can just sprinkle it on if you prefer.

I use a paper towel to spread the butter. You can just sprinkle it on if you prefer.

Now mix together the filling. I chop or slice my apples before rolling, and toss them with the lemon to keep them from browning, but don’t add the sugar until the last minute or you’ll end up with a whole lot of juice.

Mix together the filling ingredients just before rolling.

Mix together the filling ingredients just before rolling.

The butter and the crumbs help define the layers. I tried doing without this step, and it was definitely not as flaky.

Buttered dough, sprinkled with breadcrumbs & nuts. Apple filling is arranged on bed of breadcrumbs.

Buttered dough, sprinkled with breadcrumbs & nuts. Apple filling is arranged on bed of breadcrumbs.

The cloth will help you roll the strudel. this part’s so easy; once you get it started, it just rolls itself!

Use the cloth to lift and roll the strudel.

Use the cloth to lift and roll the strudel.

Coat it with melted butter and put it back in the fridge for 45 minutes. You can skip this step, but chilling the butter between the layers really helps the texture.

Brush the strudel with melted butter

Brush the strudel with melted butter

Once baked, score through the top with a serrated blade to release extra steam. Don’t cut the strudel until it has cooled a bit. It will soften slightly, which is what you want.

Score the baked strudel and let it cool a bit before cutting

Score the baked strudel and let it cool a bit before cutting

Apple Strudel

And now, as if this post wasn’t long enough, I’ll give you instructions for making the blueberry apple filling.

For a thickening agent I used Agar (or agar-agar). If you’ve never used it before, I think you’ll be surprised by how easy and dependable it is.. It produces a slightly gelatin-like result, with no taste or funny texture. Agar is available through most health-food stores and Asian markets, or can be purchased online.

BLUEBERRY APPLE FILLING

4 cups frozen blueberries
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon agar powder (not flakes)
2 cups finely chopped apples
1 cup chopped walnuts

*In a large pan over medium-low heat, stir together the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Heat, stirring often, until berries begin to release juice. Raise heat to medium and bring to a low boil. Sprinkle with agar powder and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
*Remove from heat and stir in apples.
*Once mixture has cooled, stir in the walnuts. Place in the refrigerator until thickened and use as you would apple filling.

NOTE: Don’t be alarmed if it gets very thick and gelatin-like. It will soften and melt once it’s baked in your streudel dough!

Remember that baking should be an adventure. New ideas, new techniques, and new experiences – that’s what it’s all about!
Lorinda

“In the Garden” Triple Berry Pie

Triple Berry Pie from The Rowdy BakerMother’s Day is next month, and I was trying to come up with a motherly theme for a pie crust. If my daughter was making this for me, she’d probably put a wine glass on the crust…but I went with a more traditional garden theme. Figured it was a little more classy.

Playing with dough is my favorite thing to do. The pie crust recipe I use is SO forgiving. You can re-roll it, form little shapes with your fingers, let it stand at room temperature (within reason), and abuse it thoroughly….and it stays flaky. Good stuff!

I will admit that the details on the crust took me a while, so the crust got a little too warm. If I’d thought to chill the pie for a little bit before baking it, the pretty fluted edges would probably have stayed perky, instead of bailing on me. Meh.

If you’d like a similar idea that is less work, here’s a pie I made with just a trellis on it. I made little flowers using gum paste cutters, but you could create them with a sharp knife too.Trellis on pie crust

Use whatever combination of berries you have, fresh or frozen. (Don’t use frozen berries packed in juice or sauce, though!) I had lots of frozen raspberries, maybe a cup of sliced strawberries, and a two cups of frozen blueberries. The combination of flavors is amazing!

Triple Berry Pie - The Rowdy Baker

I like to use instant tapioca as a thickener. It’s clear, tasteless, and never fails me. I grind mine in a clean coffee grinder to avoid chewy spots in the pie. tapiocaThe recipe below has enough dough for a normal two-crust pie. If you plan on adding decorations, double the recipe. (Any extra can be baked and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar…mmmmmm.) I often double the recipe anyhow, since I like a fairly thick crust and find it a lot more manageable than paper-thin pastry. I’m also fairly casual about discarding decorations that don’t please me, so a generous amount of dough is a good thing in my kitchen.

Ready to make some pie? I’ll show you how to make a Triple Berry Pie, then add photos of the decorations, if you’re interested.

Triple Berry Pie
Print
Author:
This recipe is for a two-crust deep dish pie. If you plan to create pie art, you'll need to double the crust recipe for a generous amount of dough. (You can always freeze some if you don't use it all.)
Ingredients
  • FILLING:
  • 5 cups mixed berries - fresh or frozen (I used raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup instant tapioca, ground finely if possible
  • PIE CRUST:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chilled shortening
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vodka (or you may use vinegar)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 400 F
  2. FILLING:
  3. In a large bowl, combine the berries, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and tapioca. Stir well and allow mixture to sit while you work on the crust. This will give the tapioca time to soften.
  4. CRUST:
  5. In large bowl, combine flour and salt. Work in shortening with fingers or a pastry blender until there are no large lumps. (Anything the size of a pea or smaller is fine.)
  6. Combine milk and vodka and pour into flour mixture all at once.
  7. Toss the mixture with fork or fingers until it holds together.
  8. Divide into two pieces, with one piece a little bit larger than the other.
  9. Put the larger ball of dough on a floured piece of parchment and flatten into a disk. Dust with flour and lay a second piece of parchment over the dough. Roll out until large enough to cut a circle that is at least 1 inch larger than your pie pan. Remove top parchment and cut dough into circle.
  10. Slide a flat baking sheet under the bottom parchment. Put your pie pan upside down in the center of the dough circle. With one hand under the baking sheet and one hand on the pie pan, flip both over. Remove baking sheet and carefully peel back parchment. Ease dough into the pan.
  11. Fill the pie crust with filling.
  12. Roll out the smaller piece and cut a circle a little bigger than the pie pan. Gently roll onto a rolling pin and lay over the filling. Press the edges together, fold them under, and flute the edges.
  13. Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes, then - without opening the oven door - turn the temperature down to 350 F. Bake for additional 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
  14. Move pie to a rack and allow it to cool. If served warm, it will be a little runny. If cooled (or chilled) it will hold its shape when cut.
  15. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Roll between parchment. See how smooth it is when you pull the paper back?

Roll between parchment. See how smooth it is when you pull the paper back?

Cut first crust at least 1 inch larger than the pie pan

Cut first crust at least 1 inch larger than the pie pan

Slide a flat baking sheet under parchment. Center upside down pie pan on dough.

Slide a flat baking sheet under parchment. Center upside down pie pan on dough.

With one hand under baking sheet and one on the pie pan...flip!

With one hand under baking sheet and one on the pie pan (don’t press too hard)…flip!

Without stretching, ease dough into pan.

Without stretching, ease dough into pan.

filling

Add filling

Cut top crust a little bigger than the pie pan. Lift with rolling pin and place over filling. Crimp edges and bake.

Cut top crust a little bigger than the pie pan. Lift with rolling pin and place over filling. Crimp edges and bake.

AND NOW…

If you’re in the mood to play with pie crust, here are a few photos of the construction of the garden crust. Press each piece of dough down lightly as you work. You don’t need liquid – they’ll pretty much stay put. Well, except for the fence rails. I kept bumping the darn things.

Also, don’t get too close to the edge. In retrospect, I should have given myself a little more space for fluting the edge of the pie.

Set your top crust on a generously floured baking sheet or piece of parchment. You will need to slide it off onto the pie when it’s finished. If it gets too soft and warm and won’t slide, pop it in the freezer for a couple of minutes and try again, or if you’re coordinated, slip your hands underneath the crust and move it quickly.

Make the fence. Cut a strip, divide it into "slats", and trim each to a point.

Make the fence. Cut a strip, divide it into “slats”, and trim each to a point.

Birdbath: I cut a shapely pedestal, then two identical ovals.

Birdbath: I cut a shapely pedestal, then two identical ovals.

Lay one oval down, cut center out of second oval, and lay the "rim" over the oval to give it depth.

Lay one oval down, cut center out of second oval, and lay the “rim” over the oval to give it depth.

I added a bird, made by pressing and shaping the dough like clay. Mine may look more like a small turkey…hopefully you have more artistic skills!

I added an arbor, then some thin pieces of dough for vines, and little leaves.

I added an arbor, then some thin pieces of dough for vines, and little leaves.

A toothpick is your friend. It will make a nice crease in the leaves, and help place them.

At this point, I stopped taking photos while I struggled with the teeny tiny roses. I finally just took narrow strips of thin dough about an inch long and rolled them up. Good enough!

Add details. A tree on the right, then I added some clouds in the upper left (use your thumb to press all over so they aren't flat)

Add details. A tree on the right, a birdhouse, then I added some clouds in the upper left (use your thumb to press all over so they aren’t flat)

Use a thin spatula or knife to chop up some grass. It looks best if you place it in little "bunches".

Use a thin spatula or knife to chop up some grass. It looks best if you place it in little “bunches”.

Make little balls of dough and then press down with fingers to flatten them.

Make little balls of dough and then press down with fingers to flatten them.

Lay top crust on filling. Pinch layers together and flute the edges.

Lay top crust on filling. Pinch layers together and flute the edges.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Triple Berry Pie -The Rowdy Baker

 

I know it will hurt to actually take a knife and STAB your masterpiece, but remember: there’s no crying in pie art! It’s just a beginning – there will be many more dough canvases in your future. Think of all the scenic pies you can make for holidays throughout the year.

Have fun with this!

Lorinda

Please, Bees…Bring Spring! Honey Lemon Cheesecake

Honey Lemon Cheesecake from The Rowdy BakerSweet little jelly bean bees usher in Spring with this honey and lemon cheesecake. Honey adds a mellow sweetness, and sour cream gives it a light tang – a perfect combination!

The cheesecake is easy; making the bees takes a bit of patience and fine motor skills. If you’re not up for that, they sell cute little pre-made bees and flowers too, and no one will judge you!

Bee factory!

Bee factory!

I’ve made gum paste bees before, and the wings stuck on them easily. With jelly beans? Not so much. I tried royal icing and candy melts, and those pesky wings just kept sliding off. Finally I found that the slices of jelly beans I used for wings would stick to the bean body as long as there was a sticky surface exposed. (So, cut a thin slice of jelly bean and then trim a little bit off one end so it STICKS!)

I made small bees using a yellow jelly bean, two slices for wings, and a small piece cut off one end of a jelly bean for the head. A black food color pen works really well for the stripes and eyes. I tried making a stinger out of dark chocolate, but frankly…it looked like the bee was pooping. Had a good laugh over that one. Tiny slices of black jelly beans kind of worked, but I wasn’t very happy with them. Next time I’ll buy some black licorice.

Just for grins, I also made some larger bees, using yellow peanut M&Ms. They looked more like big fat bumblebees…very cute. Those are around the base of the cake.

I found that toothpicks really helped hold the bees in place while I fussed with them and while they dried. (This obviously doesn’t work for the M&M bees – they just have to chill on the plate.) A piece of styrofoam is nice to stick the toothpicks into, but use your imagination. A small box or even a potato would work well, too!

I made the little violet flowers and the bee hive out of royal icing. (Make sure the icing is very stiff when you pipe the bee hive. or maybe you could make one out of half of a lemon?) I forgot to add leaves. Grrrr.  The green icing was sitting on the counter in a pastry bag with a leaf tip, and I forgot to use it! I think it would have looked a lot prettier with that touch of green.Honey Lemon Cheesecake the rowdy baker

The honey comb was made from melted white chocolate, with a little milk chocolate and a tiny bit of yellow candy coloring (a yellow candy melt would work too) to achieve a honey color. Spread it over bubble wrap and place in the freezer until hard, then just peel off and break into pieces.

And….here’s the recipe for the cheesecake!

Honey Lemon Cheesecake
Print
Author:
Ingredients
  • CRUST:
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs, finely crushed
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • CHEESECAKE:
  • 2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup honey
  • Juice and zest from one large lemon
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • drop of yellow food coloring (optional)
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 325 F.
  2. Prepare 9-inch springform pan by lightly buttering sides of ring. Place a 10-inch round of parchment over the bottom of the pan and set the ring over it. Hold the ring down firmly and close the clasp, trapping the parchment. You should be able to see a small "ruffle" from the outside. This gives your crust a smooth appearance all the way to the plate. It will ooze butter in the oven, so make sure you have a baking sheet or foil under it.
  3. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, and melted butter.
  4. Using a straight sided measuring cup, press crust firmly and evenly in pan. Using one hand to support the side of the pan, press firmly all the way around. Mixture doesn't have to go all the way to the top.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and white sugar until smooth. Add the honey, lemon juice and zest, flour, vanilla, and food coloring. Beat on medium until combined.
  6. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low just until incorporated. Do not over beat!
  7. Fold in sour cream and pour over crust, smoothing with a knife.
  8. Place pan on baking sheet and bake for 70 minutes. Without opening oven door, turn oven off and let the cheesecake remain in the oven for 30 minutes.
  9. Test by shaking pan gently. The inside should jiggle a bit. This is exactly what you want. If the whole thing wobbles, close the door and leave it in there for another 30 minutes before removing.
  10. If your cheesecake extends over the top of the crust, run a knife gently around the edge, right down to the crust, to avoid cracks as it cools.
  11. Once completely cool, refrigerate until ready to decorate and serve.

Honey gives this cheesecake a lovely, mellow sweetness.

Honey gives this cheesecake a lovely, mellow sweetness.

Trap the parchment with the ring.

Trap the parchment with the ring.

There should be a cute little ruffle sticking out.

There should be a cute little ruffle sticking out.

I like the clean look I get when I do this with parchment. But…it will ooze butter, so make sure the cheesecake is setting on a baking pan – preferably lined with foil!

Really press to make sure the crust stays in place since it isn't pre-baked.

Really press to make sure the crust stays in place since it isn’t pre-baked.

Pour batter into crust and smooth with a knife.

Pour batter into crust and smooth with a knife.

 

Cooling on the counter

Cooling on the counter

Once your cheesecake is chilled, pipe whipped cream around the edge and decorate to suit your tastes. You might even want to drizzle a little honey on the top.Honey Lemon Cake Sliced

Dig in!

And here’s another version, using colored whipped topping for the pastel flowers.Easter Cheesecake

As much as I love winter, I’m so happy Spring is officially here! More Easter recipes to come.

Lorinda

Irish Coffee Macarons

Irish Coffee Macarons from The Rowdy BakerNothing says “Irish” like macarons, right?

Yes, yes…of course they’re French (or Italian, depending on who you believe). Whatever. They sure aren’t Irish, but the idea of green macarons with an Irish coffee filling was just irresistible, and perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.

Dark chocolate, cream, butter, Irish Whiskey, Irish Cream, and coffee combine to make a silky truffle-like filling. If you have any left over, you may want to try this; it was amazing!

ganache on ice cream

Heat leftover filling gently and use as a sauce for ice cream

 

A month ago I’d never even eaten a macaron, so baking them has been a real challenge for me. After scouring the Internet, I was determined that Italian macarons were the way to go. A little more work, since you have to boil the syrup to a certain temperature before pouring over the stiff egg whites, but more predictable.

Huh.

Five batches and five different results later (and that almond flour isn’t cheap) I caved in and tried the French method…which is my favorite by far. I measured everything to the gram, and tried several recipes, tweaking measurements to find one that works well. I’m still searching for perfect, but…this is good.

I even tried adding some grated chocolate to the batter just before piping, which made a cool chocolate chip mint shell. They seemed a tiny bit flatter though, so I omitted that step in the next few batches. They’re great with a chocolate mint filling – maybe worth sacrificing loft?choc chip mint macarons

I reduced the sugar a little in the recipe I’m posting, but they’re still sweet – very, very sweet., and any less sugar would compromise the structure of the meringue. The coffee filling helps balance the sweetness out, but if you don’t care for sugary desserts, macarons may not be for you.

As usual, I immerse myself in new projects, refusing to move along until I’m satisfied, so you’ll probably be seeing macarons in many different forms for a while. I’m sure we’ll all survive this current obsession – and that 3 pound bag of almond flour can’t last forever!

I painted a few macarons, using gel color or petal dust thinned with vodka. I used a gold petal dust too, just for fun. I’m no artist, and I’m sure you can do better than I, so please shoot me a picture if you attempt this!Irish Coffee Macarons from The Rowdy Baker

I resisted one step in making macarons, simply because many bakers said it wasn’t necessary, and I wanted to take the path of least resistance. But…after many, many attempts, I have to admit that it’s better if you age your egg whites. I don’t do it for days, because the thought of leaving egg out at room temperature gives me the willies, but even 18-24 hours seems to help stabilize the mixture. This is just my opinion; you might not notice a difference.

Tips:

  • Start with squeaky clean utensils. Egg whites do not like grease!
  • If you don’t want to age your egg whites, at least make sure they’re at room temperature.
  • For best results, weigh your ingredients, but if you don’t have a scale, my measurements work pretty well.
  • The almond flour really makes a difference. Make sure it says “flour”, and look for blanched almond flour; it makes a prettier macaron. I used Bob’s Red Mill until I found the 3 pound bag of Honeyville brand at Costco. It’s a super fine grind at a great price. (And no, I don’t get kickbacks from any companies!)
  • To avoid having your batter drip out of the tip as you fill your pastry bag, place the tip in the bag firmly and give the bag a little twist right above the tip – then tuck the twist right into the tip. Once the bag is filled, just pull the tip down before piping. I use a pitcher to hold my pastry bag while I’m filling it.
  • Silpat – especially the kind for macarons, with circles – works great for macarons, I think the bottoms are prettier and they release better, but parchment is preferred by some bakers, so it’s your choice.
  • Circles are your friend. If you’re not using macaron silpats, draw 2-inch circles on parchment (flip it over before using, of course) or make one good, dark, cardboard template that you can see through the parchment and just slide it out from under each sheet to use on the next. Pipe in the center of each circle to about 1/4″ from the edge. When you tap the pan the macarons will spread out a bit to fill the circle.

    I don't pipe all the way to the circle edge. If you want to do that, you may want to make your circles 1-1/2" instead of 2"

    I don’t pipe all the way to the circle edge. If you want to do that, you may want to make your circles 1-1/2″ instead of 2″

  • Unless you happen to have 4 sturdy baking sheets, pipe directly on a piece of parchment on the counter (put a little batter under each corner or weigh each corner down to hold it steady) and slide a cooled cookie sheet underneath when it’s time for that batch to go in the oven.
  • To avoid pointy tops, test a spoonful of batter on a plate to make sure it’s thin enough. If you tap the plate on the counter a few times and the batter doesn’t smooth out, give it a few more stirs.
  • Don’t be shy about dropping each pan of piped macarons on the counter. Do it several times. Air in the batter = hollow shells, and you don’t want that!
  • Only use gel or powdered colors.
Irish Coffee Macarons
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Author:
Makes 24 2-inch macarons (48 shells)
Ingredients
  • MACARONS:
  • 210 grams (2½ cups) almond flour (use the lightest, finest flour you can find)
  • 380 grams (3½ cups) powdered sugar
  • 200 grams (6 whites) egg whites, room temperature or - better yet - aged *
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 90 grams (1/2 cup) superfine sugar
  • green food coloring (gel or powdered)
  • *******
  • FILLING:
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped coarsely
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup (divided) heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder, or dark instant coffee powder
  • 2 tablespoons whiskey
  • 2 tablespoons Irish Cream Liqueur
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • * To age egg whites, cover lightly with a towel and leave on the counter for 24 hours before using.
Instructions
  1. Prepare heavy baking sheets by covering with parchment or using silpat sheets. (Before piping macarons on parchment, put a little batter under each corner to hold it down.) If you don't have 4 baking sheets, you can cool and slide sheets under each batch before putting in the oven.
  2. Weigh or measure the almond flour and powdered sugar. Sift together twice, discarding any large bits that won't go through your sifter, and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Sprinkle a pinch of cream of tartar over the top and beat until soft peaks form.
  4. While beating, slowly add the superfine sugar. Continue to beat until meringue forms stiff peaks.
  5. Add food coloring and stir just until it is incorporated.
  6. Add the dry ingredients and carefully fold in, just until it is thick but will pour slowly from your spoon or spatula. It won't look smooth - it has almonds in it - but shouldn't be "gloppy". Drop a spoonful on a plate and tap the plate against the counter. The batter should smooth out. If there is still a peak on the top, stir a few more times.
  7. This is important: *The more you stir, the thinner it will get (not good), so don't over-stir!*
  8. Spoon into a large pastry bag equipped with a large round tip.
  9. Squeeze bag to pipe uniform "patties" (about 1½") on prepared pans, about an inch apart. Drop the pan several times onto the counter to flatten out any tip left from piping and remove air bubbles. Pop any air bubbles that come to the surface with a toothpick right away.
  10. Let the pans of macarons sit and dry for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300 F.
  11. Place one sheet of macarons in the oven at a time, on the middle rack. Bake for 13 minutes. Check to see if they are done by touching one gently on the side. If it moves at all, give the macarons another minute or two.
  12. Slide parchment or silpat onto a cooling rack. Let them cool completely before removing.
  13. Repeat with remaining baking sheets.
  14. If your macarons aren't all uniform, match up pairs of equal sizes before piping on the filling.
  15. FILLING:
  16. In a large pan on low heat, combine chocolate, butter, ½ cup of the whipping cream, and coffee powder, Stir frequently until mixture is melted and smooth.
  17. Remove from heat and add whiskey and liqueur. Stir until blended and let pan cool 15-20 minutes, or until cool to the touch. If you have a thermometer, wait until the mixture drops under 80 degrees. (You can put the pan in a bowl of cold tap water, stirring frequently, to hurry it up.)
  18. With a hand mixer, beat until mixture lightens in color and begins to thicken.
  19. Add powdered sugar and beat well.
  20. Slowly trickle in the remaining ¼ cup cream, beating continuously until the filling is fluffy and mousse-like, When you scrape a rubber spatula down the middle of the pan, the filling should not fill the space back in. MIXTURE WILL BE SOFT, but firms up quickly as you work with it.
  21. Using a pastry bag and large round tip, pipe onto one macaron shell. Gently cover with second shell. It's best to pipe filling close to the edge to avoid having to press down too hard. Don't be tempted to pipe them all at once, or the filling may be too firm to set the top macaron.
  22. Refrigerate macarons for 24 hours before serving (or up to 3 days) to give the filling time to blend into the shells a bit.
Macaron shell ingredients

Macaron shell ingredients

Here's the colored meringue. See the peak? It's ready to go!

Here’s the colored meringue. See the peak? It’s ready to go!

Fold in the dry ingredients carefully. Don't stir! It's hard to believe that this will turn into......

Fold in the dry ingredients carefully. Don’t stir! It’s hard to believe that this will turn into……

This! It needs to flow, but not be runny.

This! It needs to flow, but not be runny.

There are different methods of piping – from the top (my method), from the side, and from the top, pulling off to the side. Though I forgot to take a picture of myself piping this batch, here’s a photo showing the chocolate chip macarons being piped onto a silpat. I dropped the pan on the counter a few times and got rid of those pesky peaks.

Piping mint chocolate chip macarons

Piping mint chocolate chip macarons

Drop the pan several times to release air bubbles. You can use a toothpick to pop any stubborn ones.

Drop the pan on the counter several times, then use a toothpick to pop any stubborn air bubbles.

Baked. Yeah, I got a little generous with the size on this batch. Smaller is better; they're SWEET!

Baked. Yeah, I got a little generous with the size on this batch. Smaller is better; they’re SWEET!

Slowly melt chocolate, cream, butter, and coffee powder

Slowly melt chocolate, cream, butter, and coffee powder

Beat in the powdered sugar - right there in the pan.

Beat in the powdered sugar – right there in the pan.

Trickle in remaining cream and beat until mousse-like

Trickle in remaining cream and beat until mousse-like

Filling will be soft, but shouldn't flow back into a track made with a spatula.

Filling will be soft, but shouldn’t flow back into a track made with a spatula.

.Irish Coffee Macarons and rainbows

…but wait, that’s not all!

BONUS! This recipe is part of a group post.

To welcome Spring, I joined three of my favorite blogger/bakers to bring you some new recipes to usher in the season. The photos and links to their creations are below. Hope you’ll take a moment to visit them and check out their posts! – Lorinda

Amy, of Crumbs in My Mustachio, has paired juicy strawberries with chocolate in this mouth-watering Chocolate Strawberry Tart

Amys spring recipeCydnee, of Tampa Cake Girl, takes meringue to the limit with her luscious Mile High Lemon Meringue Pie
Cydnees mile high lemon meringue pie

Lysska, of Cooking from a Stay at Home Mom, made a giant peanut butter cup, inspired by Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs. (Be still, my heart.) Here’s her recipe for Easy Reeses Peanut Butter Cup Pie

lysskas spring dessert

 

 

 

Tropical Strawberry Tortecake!

Tropical Strawberry Tortecake from The Rowdy Baker

 

Here is a recipe that is definitely a labor of love, an artistic adventure, and a culinary explosion of flavors and textures.

The recipe looks long because…well, because it is! Let’s go with “involved”, but not difficult. You will be making pie crust, pastry cream, thickened pineapple puree, and coconut whipped cream. You’ll also be melting chocolate, slicing and sugaring strawberries, and thickening strawberry juice for a pretty drizzle. If you choose to, you will make a few chocolate curls or toast a little coconut.

Oh, and you’ll also be washing lots of bowls, pans, and equipment.

and it is…

ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT!

Tropical Strawberry Tortecake - The Rowdy Baker

 

If you’re shaking your head, saying “Oh, hell no!”, remember this: Most of this can be made ahead so the assembly can be done quickly when you’re ready. There are also short cuts, should you choose to use them, such as vanilla pudding instead of pastry cream, crushed pineapple instead of the lovely, light puree, and whipping cream from a can for the top. You could even (this hurts to say it) use packaged pie crusts.

This took me about 2 hours, start to finish. I think I could do it more quickly now, since part of that time was spent searching for my blender and doing a little bit of cleaning up as I went.

Hope you like stirring! During the process of making this, you will need to remember to occasionally stir the strawberries, the pastry cream, and the pineapple puree.

Tropical Strawberry Torte Cake
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Author:
Makes four generous, luscious desserts. Six, if you make thinner layers of pie crust.
Ingredients
  • FRUIT:
  • 2 cups, packed, thinly sliced strawberries
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple, in small chunks
  • ¾ (approximately) teaspoon agar-agar, divided (I buy this in bulk at my local health food store.)
  • ****
  • PASTRY CRUST:
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vodka (you can use the cheap stuff! Or if you prefer, you can use white vinegar.
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup shortening, very cold
  • Coarse sugar (I use sparkling sugar)
  • 1 ounce of melted dark chocolate
  • ½ teaspoon coconut oil
  • ****
  • PASTRY CREAM:
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup whole milk (you can substitute half & half if you want a richer cream)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ****
  • FOR DECORATING (optional)
  • Whipped coconut milk (using can of chilled coconut milk)* or lightly sweetened whipping cream
  • Chocolate curls
  • Toasted coconut
Instructions
  1. Place sliced strawberries in a small bowl and add ½ cup sugar. Stir well and set aside. (Stir now and then, when you think about it.)
  2. Heat oven to 400 F.
  3. MAKE PASTRY:
  4. In a small cup, combine the milk and vodka. Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. With your fingers (or a pastry blender), blend the cold shortening into the flour mixture until well combined. Use a light hand; it's fine if there are small lumps of shortening visible.
  6. Add milk and vodka all at once. Stir gently, using fingers or fork, until you can gather it into a rough ball.
  7. Flatten dough onto a lightly floured piece of parchment. Sprinkle with flour and cover with parchment. Roll out about ¼-inch thick.
  8. Remove top sheet of parchment and lightly sprinkle with coarse sugar. Pat gently with your hand. Place the top piece of parchment back on dough and, grabbing one edge (make sure you have both pieces of parchment AND a little of the dough in your hands), flip it quickly over.
  9. Peel off top, sprinkle that side with sugar and pat. Cut with 3-inch square cookie cutter. You should easily get 12 squares, with a little dough left over. (bake and eat the scraps!)
  10. Using flat spatula, move squares to ungreased baking sheet. Prick all over with a fork and bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until just beginning to get brown around the edges. Move to a cooling rack.
  11. Melt chocolate and coconut oil in a small pan on low, or in the microwave. Melt it slowly, stirring often. Drizzle over cooled pastry squares. (I like to use a small zipper bag with one corner snipped off.)
  12. MAKE PASTRY CREAM:
  13. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, water, and egg yolks until frothy.
  14. In a medium pan over medium heat, bring milk almost to the boiling point. You should see bubbles all around the edges, and bubbles just beginning to come up in the middle.
  15. Pour half of the hot mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking thoroughly. Return the mixture to the pan and whisk over medium-low heat until it thickens...1 -2 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Whisk well to avoid lumps. Cover lightly and whisk every 5 minutes or so until it cools completely.
  16. MAKE PINEAPPLE PUREE:
  17. Place pineapple in blender and blend until smooth. Measure out 1½ cups of puree. If you don't have quite enough, add some of the sugar-juice from the strawberries.
  18. Place puree in a small pan over medium heat. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon agar-agar. Whisk until mixture comes to a boil. Lower heat if necessary to keep mixture at a low simmer for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside, stirring occasionally until room temperature.
  19. Add one-third of the cooled pastry cream to the pineapple mixture and stir well.
  20. Drain strawberries, reserving the liquid.
  21. Place one pastry square on each dessert plate.
  22. Place a spoonful of pastry cream on each square, spreading cream slightly.
  23. Place a spoonful of pineapple puree on the pastry cream, spreading slightly.
  24. Divide half of the strawberries between the four squares, and top with another pastry square.
  25. Repeat, ending with pastry square.
  26. In a small pan, combine ½ cup reserved strawberry juice and a pinch of agar-agar. Stir on medium high until thickened. Drizzle over desserts.
  27. Top with whipped coconut milk or whipping cream. Garnish with chocolate curl, a strawberry slice, or toasted coconut.
  28. Serve proudly!
  29. *To whip coconut milk, open chilled can of coconut milk and carefully scoop out the solid cream at the top. Discard (or use elsewhere) liquid at the bottom. Beat in a cold bowl, just as you would whipping cream. Sweeten to taste after cream forms peaks.

I took photos – lots and lots of photos, but will try to just hit the highlights. Here we go!

Stir sugar into strawberries. Set aside but stir occasionally.

Stir sugar into strawberries. Set aside but stir occasionally.

I use vodka in my pie crust. You can use vinegar if you'd prefer.

I use vodka in my pie crust. You can use vinegar if you’d prefer.

Add liquids to flour and stir gently with fingers or fork.

Add liquids to flour and stir gently with fingers or fork.

Flip the dough over, parchment and all, and pull off top piece of parchment.

Flip the dough over, parchment and all, and pull off top piece of parchment.

Sprinkle dough with coarse sugar. (I like sparkling sugar!)

Sprinkle dough with coarse sugar. (I like sparkling sugar!)

I'm generous with this stuff because I love CRUNCH!

I’m generous with this stuff because I love CRUNCH!

Cut out 12 squares

Cut out 12 squares

Place on baking sheet and prick all over with a fork

Place on baking sheet and prick all over with a fork

Bake until they just start turning golden brown at the edges. (They kinda look like saltines!)

Bake until they just start turning golden brown at the edges

Sprinkle agar-agar on pineapple puree and simmer

Sprinkle agar-agar on pineapple puree and simmer

The pastry cream - nice and thick

The pastry cream – nice and thick

Assemble! Add some pastry cream. (You can be a little more generous than this.)

Assemble! Add some pastry cream. (You can be a little more generous than this.)

Add the pineapple puree

Add the pineapple puree

Then some berries, and...repeat!

Then some berries, and…repeat!

Find a FORK!

Find a FORK!

More desserts, coming up. But first, I’d better hit that stationary bike in the back bedroom…

Lorinda