Apple Nut Muffin Cake – TWD

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I need an extension cord.

You see, I live in Southern Texas were we don’t have Autumn. To prove my point: just a few days ago it was 96 degrees outside. But today, right now it is 66 degrees outside. SIXTY-SIX, people. I realize it’s only 9:30am. But one takes what one can get 🙂

But instead of typing up this post, sitting indian-style on my “back porch” being enveloped in the cool morning air, I am sitting on the couch. No extension cord. I am positive that this is to be remedied.

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Extension cord is going on the shopping list 🙂

This cake is a great choice for a Fall day (like today!!) so I couldn’t skip it. It is lightly sweet, filled with small bites of apple and perfectly spiced. The texture, for me, wasn’t that of a muffin but rather a soft, slightly dense cake… I guess that it what a muffin is supposed to be; but I’m not lucky enough to churn out muffins with this texuture.

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I halved the recipe, omitted the nuts, ramped up the cinnamon, added nutmeg, cloves and some ginger then baked it in an 8×4″ loaf pan and glazed with a simple icing (3/4 cup confectioners sugar + small splash of heavy cream + tiny bit of vanilla, real simple), sliced thick and enjoyed with a fork and a cup of tea. Today couldn’t get any better.

Unless, of course, I had that extension cord.

Thanks to Katrina of Baking and Boys for choosing this gem. Head on over to her blog for the recipe (or simply click here.)

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Happy Autumn (finally)!!!

Cornmeal and Fruit Loaf – TWD

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Cornmeal is one (of the many) ingredients that I NEVER bought before I started baking regularly. I never made my own cornbread, or pizza, or the many things you can used cornmeal for.

Never.

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Oh, how the times have changed. I can’t imagine not having it on hand. Mainly because I have a few stashes of homemade pizza dough in the freezer for emergencies. But let’s not dwell on tiny details.

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With the name of this loaf beginning with ‘cornmeal’ I immediately thought gritty, with a texture and flavor likened to cornbread. But mine didn’t turn out that way. Instead, it was a pretty standard fruit loaf that had a little extra something that you couldn’t quite put your finger on (unless you made it ;P). Honestly, I can’t remember what I omitted and whether or not I subbed ingredients but mine is pretty plain: just apples. And it was tasty and came together rather quickly.

Thanks to Caitlin of Engineer Baker for choosing this. Head on over to her blog for the recipe.

A Tourtely Apple Tart – TWD

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At this precise moment in time, the following things are 100% true and undeniable:

I am sunburned which renders any itch on my arms or legs unscratchable. I am watching a soap opera with the grams and I am not ashamed. I had half a bagel for breakfast but all I can think about is having a second breakfast (such a thing exists, no?). And to top it off, I’m worrying about what everyone thought of this tart.

Making this choice was a lot less painful than I thought it was going to be (definitely less painful than this sunburn, ack). If there’s one thing that I’ve learned with my time as a part of the TWD gang, it’s that you can’t go wrong with baked apples and buttery tart dough.

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Was I right in my assumption? Please say yes, I’d really love to not worry about this anymore 🙂

Making Dorie’s tart dough is so simple: toss everything into my food processor, give it some whirls and I’m done! The most taxing step in making the filling is peeling 5 apples (and I’ve gotten pretty darn efficient at that). From there just assemble it all and bake away! Serve a slice (or two, who’s counting?) with ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream and you’re in business.

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As a few of my dear TWD friends have pointed out, these really do resemble the apple pies you can get from McDonald’s. Now whether that’s a culinary stab to the great Dorie herself, I don’t know. But I DO know that if you love the cinnamon-y pies from the golden arches, you’ll love this pie as it is a dressy, grown up, flaky version that makes you swoon.

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A Tourtely Apple Tart

Tourte is the French term for a covered tart, and it wasn’t until after I created this sweet that I realized that I had created a tourte. What I had in mind when I went into the kitchen to start baking was a slimmed-down apple pie, something not quite so generous as the all-American favorite, not so high, not so fully packed and not so rustic looking. What I ended up with was a trim, sleek but still come-hithery double-crusted tart with the warmth and appeal of an applesauce cookie. The crust is made from almond sugar cookie dough and, if it were cooked down just a tad longer, the filling, which is spiced, spiked with cider and smoothed with browned butter, could be grandmother’s best applesauce.

Ingredients:

A double recipe of Sweet Tart Dough with Nuts (recipe below)

For The Filling

2 pounds (about 5 medium) tart-sweet apples, peeled, cored and cut into 2-inch chunks
1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2tablespoons apple cider, apple juice, or water
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup ground almonds
¼ moist, plump raisins (dark or golden, optional)
Pinch of ground cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, allspice and/or salt (optional)

To Make The Crust: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Divide the almond tart dough in half. Wrap one half and refrigerate it. Press the remaining soft dough over the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan, allowing the dough to extend just a bit above the rim. Butter a piece of aluminum foil and press it, buttered side down, lightly against the crust. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
When the second packet of dough is chilled enough to roll, place it between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap and roll it into a circle that is between 1/8 and ¼ inch thick. Using a pot lid as a guide, cut the dough into a 10-inch circle. Use the wide end of a piping tip or sharp knife to cut a small circle (a steam vent) out of the center. Slide the dough onto a cutting board or a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

To Bake The Crust: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Put the tart pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Fill the foil-covered crust with dried beans, rice or pie weights and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until just lightly browned. Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool to room temperature.

To Make The Filling: Put the apples, brown sugar, cider and nutmeg in a medium saucepan over medium heat, cover and bring to a boil. Check the heat — you want the mixture to stay at a medium bubble – and continue to cook, still covered, for about 10 minutes, or until the apples are so soft you can almost, but not quite, mash them with the back of a spoon. While they’re cooking, stay close by – the mixture has a tendency to boil over. Remove the cover and, stirring constantly, cook until the liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes more. Scrape the filling into a bowl, and wipe out the pan.
Put the butter in the pan and set the pan over medium-high heat. Cook until the butter boils and turns a deep golden brown. Don’t walk away – the time between brown and burned is quick. When the butter is brown and smells nutty, stir it into the apples, along with the vanilla, almonds and raisins, if you’re using them. Taste the applesauce and decide if you want to add the additional spices and/or salt. Press a piece of plastic wrao against the surface of the applesauce and cool. (The applesauce can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated.)

Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the over to 425 degrees F. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.
Fill the crust with the applesauce and smooth the surface. Lightly moisten the edges of the crust with water and place the chilled top crust over the tart. If the top crust is very cold and therefore a little brittle, let it stand at room temperature for about 5 minutes before proceeding. When the crust is still cold but pliable, run a rolling pin over the top crust to seal the tart; trim off the excess dough.
Bake the tart for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and cover the tart loosely with a foil tent. Continue to bake for another 20 to 25 minutes (total baking time 40 to 45 minutes), or until the crust is golden. Transfer the tart to a rack and cool until just warm or at room temperature before serving.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Serving: This is a winner topped with crème fraîche or plain vanilla ice cream.
Storing: Tarts are best served the day they are made, but this one is good served chilled the next day.

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Sweet Tart Dough With Nuts:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup finely ground almonds (or walnuts, pecans, or pistachios)
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, ground nuts, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine.
Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in — you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.
Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses — about 10 seconds each — until the dough, whisk will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds.
Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change — heads up.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and , very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

DSCN4394 copyFor many more versions and beautiful pictures of this tart, head on over to the TWD bakers page.

Thank you all for baking along with me!!

FFwD: Marie Helene’s Apple Cake

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I know, I know… I’m late.

To be fair I did warn you that I’d be playing catch up!! So here is my catch up post for French Fridays with Dorie. If you haven’t gotten Dorie’s new book, you really should! It’s chock full of wonderful Fancy-French recipes that are easy to follow and taaasty!

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Moving right along, this cake is SO MOIST! Dare I say, too moist for my tastes. It has great flavor but I think I may have left my apple chunks a bit too, well… chunky. I also halved the recipe and baked in a mini bundt pan rather than a springform like Dorie says to. What can I say? I’m a bit of a rebel these days.

Regardless of the moist issue, the flavor was PHENOM!! Spicey and appley and tender and delicious. It really is worth trying.

You can find the recipe in her new book (or here on Epicurious).

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In November there are 4 recipes that we can choose to make in any order that suits each individual person. We’ll see what I come up with 😉

TWD – Peanuttiest Blondies (and playing catch up!)

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I swear I’ve been baking along. I even have the pictures as proof!! I feel like I’ve been SO busy keeping up with the Jones’ that my blogging suffers. I’ll be posting a double whammy of a post for the next two entries to catch up and get back into your good graces.

Hey, I’m trying to make amends here. You’ll forgive me, won’t you?

How about now?

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These peanuttiest blondies are darn good!! I skipped the extra peanuts, mainly because I’m lazy and I LOOOATHE chopping nuts. I also ramped up the salt to 1 tsp which gave it a nice salty edge to compliment the peanuts wonderfully. I over-baked them just a tad, so next time I’ll take them out 2-3 mins sooner so they’ll be softer. Even if the darn tester still comes out gooey. Sometimes gooey is welcomed, right?

(Recipe here, Thanks Nicole!!)

Moving along…

All American Apple Pie:

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Please don’t laugh (too hard) at my pie. It won’t win any beauty contests, that’s for sure. I think I may have filled the crust with too many apples and the steam holes weren’t sufficient to let enough steam out. And that means that it basically exploded a bit. But not all over my stove, thank goodness! It just looks like an earthquake ravaged my pie leaving giant cracks around the perimeter. Boo for that, but lemme tell you, this pie is DELISH!! Totally helps you to ignore the cracks. Don’t believe me?

Go make this pie. Grab a slice. Sit down to this post, pie in hand. Look at pics again. Now, tell me…. do you REALLY care? 😉

I used tapioca flour instead of the pearls as I couldn’t find them (again) and it worked just fine! I imagine that you could sub equal amounts of corn starch or flour to thicken the filling. PS, You can’t even FIND the graham crackers… believe me, I tried!!

For the recipe, head on over to Emily’s blog, Sandmuffin. Or simply click here.

Up next week: Not-Just-for Thanksgiving Cranberry Shortbread (and Caramel Pumpkin Pie, to catch up!)

TWD – Double Apple Bundt Cake

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This bundt cake is a serious dessert.

Seriously delicious.

Seriously moist.

Seriously fragrant.

Seriously simple to whip up.

Seriously jolts you into Autumn.

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I love apples, it’s no secret. But this is a whole new take on fruit in cake. The apples aren’t giant chunks of apple-y goodness, no. They are instead shredded to not only give you flavor but extreme moistness as well. So all you baked fruit haters: this is the one for you. You can have your cake and eat it too! Just save me a slice. Seriously.

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I made a few changes: I only used 1 stick of butter, 3/4 cups of apple butter and skipped out on the nuts and raisins. Oh, and I made an ooey gooey caramel glaze to drizzle on top. Cus seriously, apples and caramel live in holy matrimony! Don’t cha know?

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A wonderful thanks goes out to Lynne of Honey Muffin for choosing this recipe and kicking Fall off for us! Head on over to her blog for the recipe!! You’ll want it, seriously!

Up next week: Fold-Over Pear Torte

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SMS Semi-Rewind – Plum Preserves

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Sometimes I feel like I have no idea what is going on around me. Not in a ditzy kind of way… but in a ‘omg, I didn’t know we had plums’ kind of way.

I realize that this may make absolutely NO sense to you, and that’s ok.

Bottom line, plums are pretty much WAY past their prime (read: moldy) round these parts and I ‘knew’ that we didn’t have any at home, therefore I sadly didn’t make these preserves last Sunday.

Monday I go rummaging for an apple in the crisper drawer and lo and behold… there were 5 neglected, semi-soft plums just about on their way out. Jam, here I come.

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Now I realize the way I described the plums may be less than, well… appetizing. But in my head I figured that they were going to be broken down into mush anyhow so it didn’t really matter, right? Plus riper = sweeter. And I love the sweeter things in life, don’t you?

Let me end this post by noting that I had NO IDEA that making jam could be THIS easy!! Why didn’t someone tell me sooner?! Gah, can I count on you people for ANYTHING? 😉

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But in all seriousness, do you have a few plums (and raspberries that I sadly didn’t have), an apple, a lemon, 2 cups of granulated sugar, a pot and a spoon? Yes? Well then you can make this jam. SERIOUSLY!! Just don’t forget to take pictures of the finished jam like I did. Doh!

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A special thank you to my dear friend Margot of Effort to Deliciousness for choosing this recipe. You have made my mom very happy 🙂 Head on over to her blog for this recipe and snag a couple extra great ones while you’re there 🙂

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