In many cultures, bread is symbolic for life and sustenance. If there is bread in the house, no one will go hungry. Bread has symbolic meanings in different religions as well. Throughout Europe, Easter bread symbolizes new life and served at breakfast on Easter morning. The history of Easter bread goes back hundreds of years and is enjoyed during a meal at the end of Lent.
During its life cycle the grain of wheat dies and is reborn months later in the form of a spike capable of providing sustenance to human beings. Wheat is the quintessential nutritional plant. It was believed to contain the mystery of life and death and thus it became a sacred plant. One of the essential features of the Neolithic era was plant cultivation. This led to a way of life that had previously been unimaginable and gave birth to new beliefs that completely altered the spiritual universe of humankind.
There are many recipes for Easter bread with a variety of ingredients and shapes. Traditionally, Italians and other Europeans develop their family recipe with the usual ingredients of flour, milk, eggs, butter, sugar, and yeast. Additional ingredients, like oranges and anise are added to the dough. These special ingredients personalize the bread and show what Easter means to the family or town. Every loaf of Easter bread tells a story. The bread means life. The three braids symbolize the elements of the Holy Trinity, and the eggs mean new birth. (Jovina Cooks). The baker becomes the storyteller of their family history and Easter significance.
This Easter bread recipe is slightly adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2012. It is less involved than other traditional recipes because a “starter” is not required. Yet, I kept the shape simple as one long braided loaf decorated with eggs and poppy seeds. Another benefit I learned, is there’s no need to hard boil the eggs before you color them. They cook in the oven with the bread. It is always great to have one less thing to do around any holiday.
Before I researched the history of Easter bread, I believed challah and Easter bread are the same, with the exception of the decorated eggs. There are similarities, but ultimately they are different breads. Easter bread is made from a sticky dough, has fewer eggs, and is sweeter than challah. Additional ingredients in Easter bread are oranges, anise, and dried fruits or nuts. I also learned Easter bread is similar to Panettone, but has a different shape.
Without question, Easter bread is delicious and fun to make. It is an airy, pleasantly sweet, and fresh tasting bread. I made the bread once with orange zest and fennel pollen, and once without. Both versions produced bread with delicate subtle butter flavor perfect for a delicious breakfast treat. Also, don’t be afraid to eat the eggs as long as the Easter bread has not been sitting unrefrigerated for over 12 hours. As always concerning any egg product, use your common sense.
You should make this bread just to fill your home with its seductive scent. For 24 hours, my house filled with a warm buttery scent causing everyone to perk up and take a break from their work. Joy was in the air. Don’t we all need a break from work, and have a chance to look around? This time of year, there are so many wonderful surprises to discover. New plants and flowers are popping up every day and the sun feels warmer and warmer. I love Spring and the activity of life that comes with it.
Makecreamy ricottato spread on your sweet Easter Bread. A heavenly breakfast of homemade ricotta smeared on homemade bread.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I make bread I am happy. Baking bread brings me joy and a great sense of accomplishment. Maybe it is because the touch of dough is so smooth and soft. I love feeling my hands wrap around the supple dough. I tell myself to stop and resist temptation to play with my food. If you find yourself succumbing to this seduction, please stop yourself or you will have tough overworked bread.
At last, Spring is here along with every reason to celebrate new life after a dormant winter. At any time, a loaf of homemade bread brings the promise of life and sustenance for all to enjoy. Without hesitation, the promise of your specially prepared loaf is revealed in the joyful expressions of friends and family. Join the fun and start your Easter celebration at breakfast with sweet Easter bread.
This is a delicious bread perfect for any breakfast. It is lightly sweet with hints of orange zest and fennel pollen. The eggs will cook perfectly in the oven with the bread for an extra bonus.
Recipe is slightly adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2012. Recipe by Melissa Roberts
For the Dough
2/3 cup / 150ml whole milk
5 Tbs / 70g granulated sugar- divided
1 3/4 tsp / 1/8oz / 6g active dry yeast
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 3/4 cups / 405 g all-purpose flour
1 tsp / 3 g Kosher salt
1/2 cup (10 stick) / 113g unsalted butter, melted
1 Tb / 23 g melted butter
Finely grated zest of 1 orange (optional)
1/2 tsp of ground anise or fennel pollen (optional)
Poppy Seeds for decorating (optional)
1 egg plus 2 teaspoons of water, mixed (for egg wash)
For the decorative eggs
5-6 large eggs
Food coloring of your choosing
Make the Dough
Heat the milk in a 2-cup microwave safe glass measure in the microwave until the milk reaches 110-115F (43-46C). (Can also heat the milk on the stove in a small sauce pan). Start at 30 seconds and check the temperature of the milk and add 10 seconds until you reach the desired temperature. You do not want it hotter than 115C because the higher temperature will kill the yeast.
Gently stir in 1 tablespoon (13g) of the sugar, and the yeast into the milk. Let it sit for 5 minutes. The milk should get foamy from the yeast. (If the milk does not get foamy your yeast is not active).
Melt the butter and let cool.
Whisk the eggs into the milk and add the cooled melted butter.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the remaining 4 Tb (58g) sugar, all-purpose flour, and Kosher salt, orange zest (optional), and ground anise or fennel pollen (optional). Mix together with a whisk or fork to get the ingredients evenly combined. Attach the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
On low speed, add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix to get the ingredients combined. Stop and scrape the bowl when necessary. About one minute. Turn the speed up to medium high and mix for 5 minutes until the dough gets soft and silky.
Brush the insides of a medium mixing bowl with the remaining half tablespoon of melted butter. Add the bread dough into the bowl and butter the tops and sides of the dough with the remaining butter. Turn the dough around in the bowl to get a good coating of butter all over it. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter in a warm spot until it doubles in size, for 1 1/2 hours up to 2 hours.
The dough can be made ahead up to the point of the first rising. Refrigerate the dough, then when ready, rest the dough at a warm spot on the counter and let it rise for 2 1/2 hours.
Color your eggs according to the directions of your food coloring. You do not need to hard boil the eggs first, just be careful not to crack any eggs while you are coloring them. The eggs will cook in the oven while the bread is baking. Refrigerate your decorated eggs until you are ready to use them.
Assemble the bread
Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and divide the dough into three equal pieces.
Lightly sprinkle flour over your work surface and dust your hands with flour.
Roll each piece of dough into long tapered ropes about 16 inches (41cm) long. If your dough is springing back and not lengthening, cover the strands with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Arrange the strands lengthwise across the sheet pan and pinch the top of the strands together. Loosely braid the dough. Drape the outer left strand over the middle strand, then drape the outer right strand over the (new) middle strand. Repeat alternating the left and right outer strands until you are at the bottom. Pinch the bottom strands together and secure. Tuck the eggs between the braided strands down the middle of the bread. The eggs will slide out if they are too close to the sides of the bread. Loosely cover the bread with plastic wrap or clean kitchen towel and let the bread rise for 45 min - 1 hr. The bread will puff up but not double in size.
Meanwhile, arrange the oven rack to the middle position, and if you have a baking stone place it on the middle rack. Pre-heat the oven to 350F/ 175C/ Gas Mark 4. When baking bread, I like to preheat my oven for an hour. I believe the temperature is more even and accurate.
After the final rise, whisk together one egg with 2 tsp water and brush the bread with the egg wash. Avoid getting the egg wash on the eggs. Sprinkle with poppy seeds, if using, and place the sheet pan with the bread on the middle rack in your oven. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until the internal temperature is 190F (88C).
Take the bread out of the oven and slide it with the parchment paper onto a cooling rack. After 5 minutes remove the parchment paper. Can be served warm or room temperature.
The bread can be made the night before serving for breakfast, 8 hours in advance. After 8 hours, the eggs might start to turn bad. The bread will be fine for a couple of days, but not the eggs.
It turns out for the past half century I missed out on a special dessert. I recently learned this dessert originated in Oregon in the 60’s, then variations developed all over California. I was there. How did I, or anyone in my family or friends, not know about this? If it was hot in Eureka, it was hot in San Francisco. Despite the gravitational pull of anything pink had on me then, this popular and pink dessert slipped by unnoticed. Pink Champagne Cake was a popular dessert in the 60’s but I believe a resurgence is in order. It is a beautiful tower of pale pink cake and buttercream, flavored with pink champagne.
I first discovered it in a cookbook,American Cakeby Anne Byrn. My thoughtful sister gave me this book because she knows how much I like to research the history and story behind the food I make. It is a great cookbook about the history of cakes in America with recipes from the 17th century to present time. Pictured right on the cover is a beautiful pink cake garnished with white chocolate and bright pink rose petals. It is a true sight of beauty and elegance. Apparently, as Anne Byrn explained, pink champagne was a popular drink in the 60’s among hip California women. It also became a popular color from jewelry to shag carpets. This cake was created to ride the Pink Champagne trend. I love seeing how food culture and popular culture connect and influence each other.
Pink champagne cake is the first recipe I have made from this book and it is an unexpected winner. I was not sure how it would taste, but the subtle flavors balance with the light texture. The cake is moist and made with egg whites, like a chiffon cake, but is slightly denser because of the butter. The frosting is very sweet, and even though it is a buttercream Confectioners sugar is the dominant ingredient. There are several types of buttercreams and this recipe I consider is an American buttercream. They usually are not as smooth as European buttercreams and have a lot more sugar.
I made pink champagne cake twice, first as written, and the second time with a different buttercream. American buttercream is not my favorite frosting. They tend to be too sweet and slightly gritty from all the powdered sugar. Instead, I used a recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaumcookbook, The Cake Bible. Her buttercream recipe is light, silky smooth, not as sweet, and very buttery. I thought the texture of this mousseline buttercream matched the light texture of the cake. I also added some strawberry purée because strawberry adds a little more depth to the pink champagne buttercream. This is an American cake, but the European buttercream is a lot nicer and more elegant than the American one. Anne Byrn shared her recipe on Food 52 if you want to see her original.
One downside, the mousseline buttercream is not an easy frosting for a beginner to make. It helps to have a confident eye and hand that experience develops. There is always a first time. Be patient and give yourself plenty of time to make this. You will also need a candy thermometer, or a good instant read thermometer that goes up to 255˚F (124˚C). My version is somewhat of a production between the strawberry purée, buttercream, the cake, and all the layers. The original frosting is a lot easier to make.
If you want to bake this cake, but are unsure about making a European buttercream, make the original frosting from the recipe provided in the Food 52 link. However, taste as you add the sugar. The frosting is very sweet. When I made it, I cut back on the amount of sugar by two cups and I still thought it was too sweet. I added lemon juice and lemon zest to cut the sweetness.
The original recipe is a three layer cake. It is a beauty to look at, but I thought making six layers with strawberry mousseline buttercream would be a nice way to add more strawberry flavor throughout the cake. I am a little embarrassed by how uneven my layers came out. I have not had this issue before. In the past my measure and marking technique has been successful in creating even layers. I believe the cakes were more domed shaped than I realized. I do work hard to be consistent. However, wouldn’t you know the one time I am documenting my work for reference and prosperity, it does not turn out the way I want it to. As I always say, “This is how you know it is homemade. It is perfect in its’ imperfections.”
Springtime is the beginning of a lot of special occasions, and Spring is one of them. After a long winter who doesn’t want to come out and celebrate the new season’s emerging life. No more dormancy and short days. Life is blooming all around and that alone is worth celebrating. It is also the beginning of Easter, Passover, more birthdays, graduations, bridal showers, baby showers, bachelorette parties, weddings, and anniversaries. Pink Champagne Cake is the perfect cake to make for these momentous occasions.
A special cake for any celebration. Pink champagne adds a light flavor to the cake and the buttercream for a very delicate party cake. Strawberries and white chocolate complement the delicate champagne flavor to make the cake shine. Pink champagne cake was popular in California during the 1960’s.
Best eaten the day the day it is made and assembled, but will last for a couple of days unrefrigerated.
This cake recipe is from American Cake by Anne Byrn. The buttercream and strawberry puree recipes are slightly adapted from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. The amount of buttercream in my recipe will cover an 8 inch 6-layer cake, which is one and a half of the original recipe. Listed in the notes section, are the ingredient amounts if you want to make a 3-layer cake.
Three recipes make up this cake and the prep and cook times are listed in the instructions for each recipe. Give yourself plenty of time. All three recipes can be made in advance.
Butter and flour for preparing three 8-inch cake pans
3 cups / 348g cake flour*
1 Tbs / 16g baking powder
½ tsp Kosher salt
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1 cup / 250ml pink champagne, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 cups / 447g granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) / 226g unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pink food coloring*
20 oz / 567g frozen strawberries with no added sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
2-3 tsp granulated sugar (optional)
Pink Champagne Mousseline Buttercream
3 cups (6 sticks) 1 ½ lb / 680g unsalted butter, soften but still cool
1 ½ cups / 332g granulated sugar, divided
⅓ cup / 75 ml water
7 large egg whites, room temperature
¾ tsp + ⅛ tsp cream of tartar
3 fl oz / 90 ml / 5-7 Tbs pink champagne, room temperature
Finely grated zest from one lemon
Pink food coloring*
½ cup / 125 ml strawberry purée
Decorate with shaved white chocolate, or sliced strawberries, or grated coconut, or edible rose petals, or other candy garnishes
Strawberry Purée -Takes about 20 - 30 minutes to make, not including the defrosting time.
Start defrosting the strawberries the day before or first thing in the morning. They will take several hours for the strawberries to defrost and release their juice. Suspend a colander over a large mixing bowl. Add the frozen strawberries to the colander and let the strawberries thaw out and release their own juices. Occasionally press down on the strawberries to encourage the juices to release. You should get close to 1 1/4 cup juice.
In a small saucepan, pour in the strawberry juice and turn the heat to medium high. Reduce the juice to about 1/4 cup.
Purée the strawberry pulp in a food processor until smooth. There will be some texture because of the seeds, but you want it as smooth as you can.
When the strawberry juice is reduced add the strawberry puree and stir. Add the lemon juice and taste the strawberries. Depending on how tart or sweet the strawberries taste, add about 2 -3 teaspoons of granulated sugar. You will not want it very sweet because the buttercream will be sweet. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the strawberry purée into a heat proof glass measuring cup. You should have about 1 ¼ cup. The purée can be stored in an airtight container for 10 days in the refrigerator, or frozen for up to one year.
Cake - Takes about 20 minutes to mix, about 25 minutes to bake, 40 minutes - 1 hour to cool
Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350˚F/ 175˚C / Gas Mark 4
Prepare 3, 8-inch cake pans. Cut a circle of parchment paper for each pan, large enough to fit inside your cake tins. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of each pan, then coat with a light dusting of cake flour around the sides and bottom. Tap the pan against the counter to release any excess flour. Discard the excess flour. Place the parchment paper circles inside each cake tin. Set aside.
Place the flour, baking powder, and Kosher salt inside a medium size bowl. Mix the flour mixture with a wire whisk to get all the ingredients thoroughly mixed together. Set aside.
Place the egg whites, champagne, vanilla and oil in a medium mixing bowl and whisk together until thoroughly mixed through. Set aside.
Put granulated sugar and butter in a bowl of a stand mixer, or large bowl if using a handheld mixer. Mix on medium speed until lighter and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula.
Turn the speed on low and add a portion of the flour to the butter, and mix. Then add a portion of the egg whites to the bowl and mix. With the beater on, alternate adding the flour and the egg whites to the butter, ending with the flour.
Turn off the mixer and stir in one tiny drop of pink food coloring. Stir by hand until all mixed through.
Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared cake pans.
Place all three pans in the oven on the center rack and bake until the cake is lightly golden brown, the cake has pulled away from the sides of the pans, and a cake tester comes out clean when poked in the center of each cake. About 23-27 minutes. Be careful not to overbake the cakes. The cakes will taste dry if they are overbaked.
Place the cakes in the pan on cooling racks and cool for 10 minutes. After the cakes have cooled for 10 minutes, run a knife around the edge of each cake pan to loosen the cakes. Turn the cake upside down resting the top of the cake in one hand, and pull the pan away. Carefully peel off the parchment paper and place the cake right side up on the cooling rack. Repeat for the remaining cakes. Cool completely before frosting. Can be made in advance. Wrap each cake tightly with plastic wrap and store on the counter for 1 day.
Pink Champagne Buttercream- Takes about 20 to 30 minutes to make.
In a large mixing bowl beat the butter with a hand-held mixer until smooth. Set aside away from any heat source.
Place a heatproof glass measuring cup to the side next to the stove where you will be working. In a small heavy saucepan heat 1 cup plus 3 Tbs sugar and 3/8 of a cup (90 ml) of water over medium high heat. Stir the sugar in the water until it is completely dissolved and the liquid is bubbly. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting. (If using an electric range turn off the heat and set the saucepan aside).
In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until the egg whites form soft peaks. Add the remaining sugar, one tablespoon at a time to the egg whites, and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Turn off the mixer and return your attention back to the sugar syrup.
Turn the heat up to high and boil the sugar syrup until it reaches the temperature of 248˚F - 250˚F (120˚C) using a candy thermometer or an instant read thermometer. Pour the syrup into the heatproof glass measuring cup to stop the cooking.
Return to the egg whites and turn the speed up to high speed. If using a handheld mixer, slowly drizzle the syrup into the egg whites without the syrup touching the beaters. If you are using a stand mixer, turn the speed off, add a little of the syrup, then turn the speed up to high and beat for 5 seconds and stop. Repeat the process until the syrup is added into the egg whites, scraping the clinging syrup with a rubber spatula to get every drop. If you get the syrup on the whisk or beaters, the syrup will just spray over the sides of the bowl and not mix into the egg whites. Once all the syrup is added, turn the speed down to medium and beat for a couple of minutes to cool the whipped egg whites.
On low speed, beat in the whipped butter into the cool egg whites, one tablespoon at a time. The buttercream will look thin at first, but it will eventually thicken up. If at any time the buttercream starts to look curdled, stop adding butter and turn the speed up a little. Beat until smooth. Once smooth, continue to add the butter one tablespoon at a time until done.
Lower the speed and add in the pink champagne and lemon zest, and beat in. Add one tiny drop of pink food coloring and mix until thoroughly mixed through. (Can be made in advance up to this point, keep in the refrigerator for 2 days or freeze).
Measure in a dry measuring cup, 2 ¾ cup (685 ml) buttercream and place in a medium mixing bowl. Set the remaining buttercream aside. Add ½ cup (125ml) cooled strawberry purée to the buttercream and beat by hand until mixed together. Cover both bowls of buttercream and keep on the counter away from any heat until you are ready to assemble the cake.
Putting it all together- About 30 minutes to assemble.
For a 6-layer cake, measure with a ruler the height of each cake and mark the center with a toothpick. Measure and mark the center point around the circumference of each cake. The toothpicks are your guide to cut each cake in half through the middle. With a long serrated knife, rest the serrated edge up against the side of a cake and on top of the toothpicks. With a gently sawing motion cut through the cake, paying attention to your markers and turning the cake as you work your way around the circumference, and then through the middle of the cake. Repeat for each cake. Keep the pairs together. Select which cake layer is going to be your top layer and set aside.
Take apart one divided cake and place the bottom portion of the cake on your cake plate.
Spread ½ cup (125ml) of the strawberry buttercream over the top of the cake. Make a smooth and level layer of buttercream. Place the top portion of the cake on top of your frosted layer and spread ½ cup (125 ml) of strawberry buttercream evenly and smoothly across the top.
Continue to stack and frost the tops of each layer with ½ cup (125ml) strawberry buttercream until you get to the top layer. The strawberry buttercream is to be used only for the middle layers of frosting. While you are stacking your cake layers, try to get them as level as possible. Trim off the top of each layer if they are uneven, before you frost the layers.
For a three layer cake frost each layer with 3/4 cup pink champagne buttercream or strawberry pink champagne buttercream.
Once the layers are assembled, spread a thin "crumb" layer of pink champagne buttercream around the top and sides of the cake. This is to get the cake frosted with a thin protective layer so the crumbs won't show through the frosting. Once done, spread more buttercream all over the top and working down the sides of the cake for a nice finishing layer of buttercream. Frost as much as wanted or needed.
Decorate the cake with shaved white chocolate over the top of the cake and extra strawberries for decoration.
Keep the cake in a cool spot loosely covered with aluminum foil up to 2 days unrefrigerated. Best if eaten the day it is assembled.
Cake flour has less gluten and produces a more delicate cake than with all-purpose flour. If you like to bake cakes, cake flour is nice to have around. Swans Down and Softasilk are two brands that sell cake flour. Do not buy self-rising cake flour. If you do not want to buy cake flour, or cannot get some, substitute 1 cup of all-purpose flour, plus 2 Tbs all-purpose flour, plus 2 Tbs cornstarch for every cup of cake flour. Recipe from The Kitchn
Ingredient amounts for buttercream if you want to make a 3-layer cake:
Unsalted butter - 1 lb / 454g (4 sticks),
Sugar - 1 cup / 200 g,
Water - ¼ cup / 2oz 60 ml,
5 large egg whites,
Cream of tartar - ½ + ⅛ teaspoon,
Pink Champagne - up to 3 fl oz or 90 ml, Tiny drop of pink food coloring.
Use 3/4 cup of buttercream between the three layers, instead of 1/2 cup.
I used Wilton Liquid food coloring - Base Pink. Wilton also makes a gel food coloring in pink.
There is no occasion too ordinary that does not deserve recognition and celebration. For any reason, be it a birthday, anniversary, honor your national heritage, a promotion, or simply because the whole family is together, a celebratory acknowledgement is welcome and cake is the perfect finale.
If you are partial to chocolate cake, then chocolate stout cake is a terrific stand in. This is a very moist cake with deep dark chocolate flavor. Guinness Stout enriches the chocolate without any boozy aftertaste. Adding the Guinness to the cake makes a moist cake with deep malty and dark chocolate flavor. The extra bonuses are, it is simple to make, baked in one pan, and does not require fancy cake decorating skills. Chocolate Stout Cake is perfect in its simplicity as well as flavor.
I believe chocolate stout cake would taste delicious by itself without frosting, or just simply topped with whipped cream. Yet, it is nice to give cake more pizzazz and a creamy rich frosting will compliment the dark chocolate. Also, adding white frosting creates a cake that resembles a pint of stout. Many recipes frost chocolate stout cake with dark chocolate ganache, or cream cheese frosting. Fortunately, I discovered one made with white chocolate and cream cheese frosting and that sealed the deal for me. Normally, cream cheese frosting does not excite me, but add some white chocolate to it, I just knew it would be spectacular.
Baking with stout is not a novel idea. According to Anne Byrn in her book American Cake, people across the globe have baked with ale, porters and cider for ages. Centuries ago people used to make their own ale or cider. This common ingredient was often included in baked goods to keep cakes moist and add extra flavor. During that time, cakes were cooked inside a cast iron pot with a lid and placed directly on top the hot embers of the home fire. These were not like the delicate cakes that we now know and love, but hearty ones with preserved and fermented ingredients.
Traditional Irish Stout Cake is more like a spice cake with raisins and citrus. The origin of this type of cake could date back several hundred years. I am not sure when chocolate stout cake became popular in Ireland, or the US, yet I believe it was an inevitable pairing. Chocolate and stout are perfect mates.
My recipe for Chocolate Stout Cake is a combination of three recipes. From my research, I discovered Chocolate Stout Cake is not for the faint at heart. One recipe I found uses a pound of butter for one cake. That is more like a pound cake with all that butter. I was hoping for something not so heavy, and kept searching for a “lighter” version. Nigella Lawson’s recipe from the New York Times came through. Her recipe for Chocolate Guinness Cake uses only 10 tablespoons of butter, and another bonus includes 1 cup of Guinness. The other recipes I found used a half cup of stout. This was an easy decision to make, less butter… more stout. I believe that is a fair trade.
I was thrilled when I discovered Donal Skehan’s recipe for White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. His Chocolate Guinness Cake recipe is like the other ones I researched, but his idea of adding white chocolate to the cream cheese frosting is brilliant. The past few times I made frosting with white chocolate has been nothing but extraordinary.
Additionally, I discovered a recipe for stout simple syrup from Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith. I added chili powder to the syrup then drizzled it over the frosting. I thought the stout syrup would resemble the amber stout making its way up through the white foam in a pint. Honestly, I could drizzle this stuff on anything. Right now, I am wondering how it would work in whipped cream, ice cream, or espresso martinis.
I am sure there are many potential adaptations for my pieced together cake. Most recipes for Stout cake select Guinness as the stout of choice. Fortunately, there are so many stouts to choose from, why not have some fun with it? I may try a stout from a local microbrewery the next time I make Chocolate Stout Cake.
Chocolate Stout Cake is a perfect cake to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. Yet, it is too delicious to serve only once a year. I know I will want to make it for any time good cheer is on the menu.
Chocolate Stout Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Next time you are in the mood for chocolate cake, Chocolate Stout Cake will give you that chocolate flavor you crave. The addition of Guinness stout makes this delicious chocolate stout cake very moist with some extra lift. The stout makes the chocolate richer without a boozy taste. The white chocolate cream cheese frosting is a delicious compliment to the dark chocolate cake. A luscious double chocolate treat.
This recipe is from three recipes: Cake from Nigella Lawson's, Chocolate Guinness Cake via the New York Times. The white chocolate cream cheese frosting is from Chocolate Guinness Cake by Donal Skehan. The Stout Syrup is from Stout Float by Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith from the Food Network.
Chocolate Stout Cake
1 cup / 8oz / 250ml Guinness Stout, or your favorite stout
10 Tbs / 5oz / 132g of unsalted butter plus more for greasing the pan
3/4 cup / 2 ½ oz / 70g unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups / 1 lb / 450g sugar
2 cups / 10oz / 291g all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup / 6oz / 200ml sour cream
2 large eggs
1 Tb vanilla extract
White Chocolate and Cream Cheese Frosting
7 oz / 200g good quality white chocolate, 30% cocoa butter
4 oz / 125g unsalted butter at room temperature
1- 225g package cream cheese
1½ cups / 225g confectioners sugar
Stout Syrup (optional)
1 cup / 225g granulated sugar
1-12 oz / 355 ml bottle Guinness Stout
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 inch / 23cm springform pan. Add a parchment paper liner to the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
In a medium sauce pan add the butter and stout. Turn the heat to medium low and stir occasionally until the butter has melted. Once the butter is melted, remove from the heat and add the sugar and cocoa powder. Whisk together until well combined. Let cool for 10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl add the flour and baking soda and whisk together to get the baking soda evenly mixed through. Make a well in the flour and add the slightly cooled chocolate mixture, the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Mix together until thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter in the prepared cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for 45 min - 1 hr, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Place on a wire rack and cool the cake in the pan.
Stout Syrup (optional)
If using make the stout syrup while the cake is baking.
Pour the stout and sugar in a medium saucepan and turn the heat up to medium high. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat then simmer the liquid until it becomes thick and syrupy, about 15 minutes or more. Let the syrup cool before using.
White chocolate and Cream Cheese Frosting
Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler. As soon as it is melted remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
In a bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or large mixing bowl with a hand held mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and light. This will take awhile. Periodically stop beating and scrape down the sides of the bowl so it mixes evenly.
Add the cooled white chocolate to the cream cheese and butter, and mix together at medium speed.
Sift the confectioners sugar, then gradually add it into the white chocolate and cream cheese. Mix on low speed between each addition of confectioners sugar. Once all the confectioners sugar is added, beat the frosting until smooth.
Putting it all together
Run a knife around the edge of the cake pan to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Release the latch from the springform pan and lift the rim away from the cake. Loosen the bottom of the cake from the pan with an icing spatula or knife, then remove the bottom of the pan. Holding the cake upside down, carefully peel off the parchment paper. Place the cake on a serving plate.
Spread the frosting across the top of the cake. The cake will look like a pint of stout with the dark bottom and the white cloudy top.
(optional) Drizzle the stout syrup randomly across the top of the frosting on the cake. Swirl a knife through the stout syrup drizzle to create a random pattern.
Serve and enjoy. The cake tastes best at room temperature and eaten the day it is made.
My family knows, they can always give me a cookbook as a gift. It does not matter if the cookbook is an older publication or a new one, I will always welcome any addition to my collection. This year my husband gave me The Baking Bible Cookbook by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I am familiar with Rose Beranbaum’s work because I own another book of hers, The Cake Bible. She is a one of a kind baking guru and a significant authority about the science involved with baking. If you are curious about culinary science, she is the number one resource. Learning from her cookbooks will make you a better baker.
As I turned each page of my new book I made mental notes to myself of baking projects to try later. Ultimately, my goal was to find inspiration for something I could make immediately. Upon first sight of her recipe Stilton Baby Blue Cheesecakes, I decided this was the one. These baby cheesecakes enriched with blue cheese instantly grabbed my attention. They were beautifully photographed with slivers of Bosc pears draped over their tops. Additionally, the crust of the baby cheesecakes is made with one ingredient, crushed walnuts. They are a new twist on the classic pairing of walnuts and blue cheese. Add some champagne to serve with these baby blues and you have an elegant party spread for all to enjoy.
Another great feature of these baby cheesecakes is the blue cheese itself. The combination of blue and cream cheese creates flexibility for the cheesecakes to be served as either an appetizer or a dessert. I can add additional blue cheese to make them more savory, or less to make them sweeter for dessert. As well, they can be made in advance, which is always a plus. I am not usually a cheesecake fan, however this recipe for baby cheesecakes came across as a pleasant surprise. They are savory, sophisticated and unexpected all in one bite.
One change I made to the original recipe was to switch the type of blue cheese. The original recipe called for Stilton cheese, which I like, however I love Point Reyes Blue Cheese. It is creamier and not as sharp as Stilton, yet still maintains that distinctive blue bite. This is my favorite blue cheese, and is made in the sacred land of my childhood, the Point Reyes National Seashore in California. I can’t help myself when it comes to Point Reyes Blue Cheese or any of the other cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery. Their cheeses remind me of home and help me feel connected to this treasured seashore.
Dinner Ideas when serving Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes
Serve Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes as a cheese course along with fresh and/or dried fruits at the end of the meal.
My new book, The Baking Bible, has been christened and I have a new recipe using one of my favorite cheeses. Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes are an elegant, versatile and creamy bite of bliss.
Cheers to a beautiful, happy and healthy 2017. Enjoy!
Helpful Hints Making Point Reyes Baby Cheesecakes:
If using a metal muffin pan, do not skip the step of placing parchment paper into each muffin cup. Even if you have a non-stick pan the parchment will make it a lot easier to lift the baby cheesecakes out of the cups. Additionally, the parchment paper will stick to the pan so you will not have to pull the paper off the bottoms.
Boil water in a tea kettle and then pour into a medium bowl. Use the hot water to heat up a metal spatula or knife and then wipe clean with a kitchen towel. The heated and cleaned knife will make lifting the cheesecakes out of the tins easier and smooth out the edges.
Garnish the baby cheesecakes with fruit, nuts or minced arugula combined with chopped walnuts and pears. Lightly dress the greens with extra-virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar.
If serving as an hors d’oeuvres, serve them on a multigrain cracker. It will taste great and will be easier to manage.
For a first course serve the Blue Cheese Baby Cheesecakes with a salad of arugula and pears, lightly dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar.
These delicious Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes can double as a dessert or an appetizer. For a personal touch, feel free to use your favorite strong flavored blue cheese. The original recipe used Stilton cheese in these baby cheesecakes. This recipe is from The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, Stilton Baby Blue Cheesecakes.
1 shy cup (3 oz/84 g) walnut halves
1/4 cup plus 2 Tb (2.6 oz/75 g) granulated sugar
1 Tb (9 g) cornstarch
Kosher salt, a pinch
1 1/3 cups (12 oz/60 g) cream cheese at room temperature and cut into pieces
1/4 cup (2.1 oz/35 g) sour cream
2 -3 Tb (35 g - 52 g) Point Reyes Blue Cheese*
2 large eggs lightly beaten
Prepare the muffin pans
2 - 6 cup silicone muffin pans set on a wire baking rack and placed into a sheet pan Or 1 - 12 cup muffin tin.
For the silicone muffin pans - lightly coat the muffin pans with cooking spray then place them on a wire rack set in a baking sheet.
For the muffin tin - coat each muffin cup with shortening or butter and cut small circles of parchment paper to set in the bottom of each cup. Lightly spray each cup with cooking oil spray.
Toast the walnuts
Set the oven rack in the middle of the oven and pre-heat the oven at 350˚ F/175˚ C/Gas Mark 4. Let the oven heat up for twenty minutes before you toast the walnuts.
Spread the walnut halves evenly over a small baking sheet, place in the oven and toast the walnuts to bring out the oils and enhance their flavor. Toast for 7 minutes turning the walnuts over a couple of times while baking.
When finished spread the toasted walnuts over a clean lint free dish towel and fold one end over the walnuts to cover. Place your hands over the covered walnuts and gently rub back and forth to loosen and remove the walnut skin. Rub off as much of the walnut skins as you can and place the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor. Discard the skins.
Lower the oven temperature to 225˚ F/107˚ C
Pulse the food processor to finely chop the walnuts. You want an even consistency without turning the walnuts into flour.
Spoon 1 Tb of ground walnuts into each muffin cup and press down evenly to pack the walnuts together.
Using a stand mixer or hand held mixer, mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt until just mixed together. Add the cream cheese and beat on low speed until the ingredients are evenly combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until very smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape the batter down the sides of a bowl.
In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream and blue cheese until evenly combined. A fork is great for this job. Add the blue cheese mixture to the cream cheese and mix together on low speed until just combined, about 15 seconds.
Add the lightly beaten eggs and mix until evenly combined. The batter consistency should resemble sour cream.
Pour the cheesecake batter into each muffin cup almost up the top, about 1.8 oz/50 g in each muffin cup. Smooth over the tops of each cheesecake with an offset spatula.
Bake in the 225˚ F/107˚ C oven for 15 minutes. Rotate the muffin pan in the oven from front to back to encourage even baking and bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer. The muffins are done when an instant read thermometer reads 160˚ F/71˚ C. The batter will jiggle somewhat and the centers of each muffin will spring back when touched. Put muffin tin and/or baking sheet on a cooling rack.
Allow the cheesecakes to cool in the muffin pan for 30 minutes. Cover the muffin pan(s) with plastic wrap lightly coated with cooking spray and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before unmolding.
For the metal muffin pan: run a small spatula or knife, heated up with hot water, around the edge of each muffin cup. Press the spatula or knife up against the side of the pan to not scrape the sides of the cheesecakes. Clean the spatula with warm water and wipe clean with a cloth for every cheesecake. Lift the cheesecakes out of the muffin cups with a spatula. Smooth the sides of each cheesecake using a small metal spatula that has been heated with hot water and wiped clean.
For silicone muffin pans: Rose Levy Beranbaum recommends placing a baking sheet on top of the plastic wrap-covered muffin pan and turn it upside down. Then place a dish towel in very hot water. Wring out the excess water and drape it over the muffin pan. Make sure to press the hot wet towel into the recesses of the pan. Let it sit for about 2 minutes. Remove the towel and carefully lift off the muffin pan. If the cheesecakes do not release, repeat the above steps, and try again after another minute. Once released, place a second sheet pan on top of upside down cheesecakes and turn them right side up.
Place the cheesecakes on a serving platter and serve.
Store, refrigerated for up to 5 days.
*To make the cheesecakes more savory add the total 3 Tb blue cheese to the batter. If you want the cheese cakes for dessert use 2 Tb blue cheese.
While in my mid 20’s I commuted into Manhattan by train from Bedford Hills NY. As commutes go my morning routine was generally relaxed. Joe would drive me to the train station in Bedford Hills, and we would get breakfast at a place called Leslie’s Kitchen. They served the best apple muffins and every morning I asked for one. Joe and I would eat our muffins and talk before my train arrived. Not a bad way to start one’s commute.
Unfortunately Leslie’s Kitchen does not exist anymore, but I still think of those apple muffins. What I liked about them was, they had chunks of apples in the muffin and sprinkled with cinnamon. They were also extremely moist and light. Leslie’s apple muffins were delicate muffins that did not weigh me down like some muffins will. It might not have been a hearty breakfast, but to this day I have not seen or tasted apple muffins like the one’s I had from Leslie’s Kitchen.
I was thinking about recipes that would be great to serve for breakfast on Christmas morning. I wanted to share a recipe that was easy to make, something that could be made ahead, and had a touch of festive cheer. My pondering concluded with an inspiration to recreate the apple muffins I longed for from Leslie’s Kitchen. As a result of my recipe testing, combining, swapping, and improvising, I came up with a recipe that is similar to what I remember of Leslie’s Kitchen apple muffins but are all dressed up for the season. Since it is December and overflowing with holiday spirit and celebrating, I included a glaze to add some sparkle and pizzaz to my apple muffins.
My recipe is adapted from three recipes. Two are from Joy of Cooking and one idea from Baking Illustrated Cookbook. First, I combined and adapted Joy of Cooking standard muffin and their apple and walnut muffin recipes. I added dried apricots and yogurt and omitted the cinnamon. The yogurt addition in my recipe created the moistness and lightness similar to the apple muffins I was recreating.
Then I decided to add sparkle and shine, so I dressed up these delicacies with an idea from Baking Illustrated, and brushed a lemon glaze over the muffin tops then dipped them in lemon sugar. This one small step converted good muffins into fabulous party worthy muffins with lemony crystal sweetness and sparkle.
My recipe for apple muffins is not exactly the same as Leslie’s, but they do remind me of them and satisfy my apple muffin cravings. Apple muffins with lemon glaze are festive breakfast muffins that shine with lemon sugar crystal twinkles and the warmth of apples. They are a delightful way to start your day and will satisfy peppy early risers and grouchy morning people alike. Enjoy!
Make ahead tip for Apple Muffins:
Joy of Cooking says you can freeze muffin batter. Spoon the muffin batter into muffin liners and freeze. First freeze the batter in the muffin liners while still in the muffin tin. Then, take the frozen muffins out of the tin and place in a freezer bag. Keep in the freezer until ready to bake. When baking day arrives, place the frozen muffins into the muffin tin then bake. The baking time could take longer, so watch carefully.
If freezing is not your thing, mix the dry ingredients together the night before. Then finish mixing the recipe the next morning. I would not recommend making the muffin batter the night before you want to bake them, because the leavening could weaken overnight.
Apple muffins with lemon glaze will give your morning breakfast some festive sparkle and shine. They are delicious moist muffins with apple and apricot surprises in every bite. These muffins are painted with a light lemon glaze and dipped in lemon sugar crystals. Party worthy muffins all age groups will enjoy.
These muffins can be made ahead, frozen before cooking, then baked (still frozen) the morning you want to serve them. See my tip in blog post.
Apple muffins with lemon glaze are best served the day they are baked, but will last for one day, packed in an airtight container.
2 medium sized apples, (see note)
2/3 cup/158g granulated sugar
Rounded 1/3 cup/ 63 g chopped dried apricots (about 1/4" in size)
4 Tb/2 oz/56 g sweet butter
2 cups/280 g all-purpose flour
1 Tb/13g baking powder
1/2 tea baking soda (use only if you add yogurt, buttermilk or sour cream)
1/2 tea Kosher salt
1/2 tea freshly grated nutmeg (1/4 tea if used ground nutmeg)
2 large eggs
1 cup/ 237 ml yogurt or buttermilk (you can substitute with whole milk or cream- but omit the 1/2 tea baking soda)
1 tea/5ml vanilla
Lemon Sugar Glaze for muffin topping
zest from one small lemon
1/2 cup/100g Turbinado sugar
1/4 cup/60ml fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup/54g granulated sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a regular size muffin tin with cooking spray.
Peel and core the apples. Grate one of the apples on the coarse side of a box grater and put into a medium size bowl. Chop the remaining apple into pieces no bigger than 3/8" /1 cm. Add to the bowl with the grated apples. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the apples and stir until combined. Add the granulated sugar and chopped dried apricots. Stir then cover with plastic wrap directly on top of the apples to prevent browning, and let the apple sugar mixture to sit for 10 minutes.
Melt the butter in a microwave or saucepan. Set aside to slightly cool.
In a large mixing bowl, add the all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, (only if using yogurt, buttermilk, or sour cream), Kosher salt, and nutmeg, and whisk until just combined.
In another large bowl whisk together the yogurt (or substitute), eggs, melted butter, and vanilla until just combined. Add the apple mixture to the yogurt mixture and stir until just mixed in.
Add the yogurt/apple mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Be careful not to over mix the muffin batter.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin and fill each cup slightly shy of the top of the tin.
Bake the muffins in the oven for 14- 17 minutes, turning from front to back halfway through the baking time. A toothpick inserted in the middle of a couple of muffins should come out clean.
Cool the muffins for a couple of minutes in the muffin tin. Remove the muffins from the tin and place the muffins on the cooling rack. Serve or add the Lemon glaze to the muffins.
While the muffins are cooking prepare the lemon sugar and lemon glaze. Mix the grated lemon zest with 1/2 cup Turbinado sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.
In small sauce pan add 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture becomes syrupy and reduced to about 4 tablespoons.
I recommend to place the cooling rack with the muffins over a piece of parchment paper, newspaper, or baking sheet to protect your counter from the dripping glaze.
Once the muffins have cooled for 5 minutes, brush the warm lemon glaze over the muffin tops with a pastry brush. When all the muffins are glazed, dip one muffin at a time, and top side down, into the lemon sugar. Turn muffins right side up and place on the cooling rack.
Best enjoyed on the same day they are made. These muffins do not have to be completely cooled before serving. Can be served after they have been cooled and glazed.
There are some great types of apples to use in baking. I used Lady Dragon and Granny Smith Apples in my recipe testing. You want to use a firm apple that will stand up to the high temperature of baking.
There is no denying it, the heat is turned on and the leaves are turning and dropping. Summer is over. Fall has established itself and cast a deciduous mosaic of red, orange, yellow, brown, and green leaves gleaming across the hillsides. Along with the change of season, the tempo has picked up. The quiet and relaxed pace of summer is replaced with back to business with intense purpose. No more half days on Fridays.
Despite the hurried tempo, cooler temperatures, and reminder that winter is not too far away, I love fall. It is a great time to play outside, hiking, gardening, sightseeing and foraging the last of the season’s bounty. Even though the growing season is ending, there continues to be an ample selection of vegetables and fruits to buy at the market before everything dies down for the winter. Fall belongs to apples, winter squash, pears, persimmons, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and so much more.
I visited a local apple orchard, Stuart’s Fruit Farm, on Columbus Day. It was heartwarming to see many couples, families, or just friends walking around the orchard picking apples, enjoying a crisp and sunny fall day. Children’s laughter and the excited child pitch, “I got one!” echoed across the orchard. Glee, family love, activity, and the sweet aroma of fermenting apples with trampled grass enveloped me as I walked about. I saw in the faces of the playing children the reflection of my own children as preschoolers, running and climbing around the same trees. When you are surrounded by your history, it is easy to see how simultaneously time stands still and moves forward.
I am grateful that Stuarts Fruit Farm is still here. A lot of apple orchards sold off their land to developers in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. The land is very valuable and farming work is difficult to make profitable. Stuart’s Fruit Farm recently received grants and secured a conservation easement from The Westchester Land Trust. These combined efforts will protect the farm land from development and allow the Stuart Family to own the land and continue to farm there. Stuarts has been an operating family farm since 1828, and is the “oldest working family farm in Westchester County,” (LoHud July 11, 2016).
I went to Stuarts with two purposes, take photographs of the apple orchard and buy apples. I feel so fortunate to be able to drive 6 minutes and step out on farm land. It is so close to home, I could ride my bike, or walk to the farm if I was so inspired. I love being able to go out in my neighborhood buy fruit and vegetables grown on the very same land. It is amazing to me that I live in a suburban NYC metropolitan area and have an apple orchard in my neighborhood. The additional bonus is it is not the only family farm in the Somers/Yorktown area.
I returned home with a memory card full of images, a bag full of apples, and a desire to make apple pie. Being that it was late in the afternoon, I did not have enough time to prepare a pie crust, so I decided on one of my best and easiest dessert recipes I have, Swedish Apple Pie. It is the perfect recipe for any last-minute impulse bake or invitation to dine. Swedish Apple Pie is more like a cake in texture, but because apples are the main ingredient, it satisfies like a pie.
I first discovered this dessert staying at the home of a college friend. Her mom gave me the recipe and I have made Swedish Apple Pie for over 30 years. All you have to do is peel and slice apples, mix together flour, sugar, egg, and butter, then pour the batter over the apples and bake. It is that easy. People who say they cannot bake, can make this dessert. You mix it by hand, and you do not need special equipment, just a pie pan. If you don’t own a pie pan, just buy the aluminum pans available at the grocery store. The pie will taste just as delicious. You can make this recipe with confidence knowing it is a delicious and easy dessert that all will love.
Swedish Apple Pie is a family favorite dessert that I can practically make in my sleep. It is so well-loved in my family, one of my sons asked to have it as his “Birthday Cake.” Making Swedish Apple Pie will not interrupt your play time during this gorgeous fall season. You can spend the day outside and have time leftover to bake Swedish Apple Pie. Fill your home with the aromas of baking apples and cinnamon and a reminder of a beautiful fall day well spent.
Swedish Apple Pie is an easy dessert recipe that anyone can make. It is more cake like in structure, and assembles without a lot of fuss. All you need to remember is "1": 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 stick of butter, 1 egg. It is that easy. Swedish Apple Pie is a delicious dessert and a family favorite. Great for any occasion.
It is easy to add additions to the apples or batter. Chopped nuts like walnuts or pecans can be added to the batter. Dried cranberries or other dried fruits are nice with the apples. I like to add lemon zest or lemon juice to the crust batter, it really brightens it up. You just do not want to add anything that will bring in more moisture.
5-6 apples, Granny Smith, or other crisp and not too sweet apple *see notes
1-2 Tb granulated sugar
1-2 tea ground cinnamon
1 cup (4 oz/ 117 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 5/8 oz/ 218 g) granulated sugar
1 stick, (1/2 cup/ 4 oz/ 113 g) butter
Zest of one lemon, or juice of half a lemon (optional)
Heaping 1/4 tea of freshly grated nutmeg. If you own ground nutmeg, just use a level 1/4 tea (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Use a 9-inch pie pan (Pyrex or metal pans are preferred)
Melt the butter set aside to cool.
Peel, core and slice each apple and put into pie pan. Slice the apples no bigger than 1/2 inch across the bottom of each slice. The size of your pan and the size of your apples will depend on how many apples you will need. If you have a regular 9-inch pie pan start with 5 apples. You want the apples to fill the inside of the pie pan and have a slightly rounded top. Add more apples if it looks flat and you see bare spots. Optional - squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Toss to mix.
In a small bowl mix the 1-2 Tb of sugar with the cinnamon. The amount of sugar depends on the type of apple you are using. If you are using Granny Smith Apples you should use the full amount of sugar because they are not that sweet. All other apples are sweeter and might require using less sugar.
Sprinkle the sugar cinnamon mixture over the top of the apples in a nice even layer.
In medium size bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, ground nutmeg, and lemon zest until just combined. Add the cooled melted butter and egg, then stir until the batter is thoroughly mixed. Make sure you scrape down the sides and across the bottom of the bowl to mix in all the flour.
Spoon the batter over the apples starting at the center and working your way around the pan. The batter will be thick but still fluid, and will slightly ease over the apples and into holes. Try to evenly spread the batter in an even layer all around the apples, then spread it into any holes. The batter should read as one smooth top.
Put the pie pan on a sheet pan and place in the oven. Bake, checking to see if it is done beginning at the 45-minute mark. The cooking time will vary depending on the number of apples you have. For me, it has consistently baked at least an hour and often a little longer. The pie is done when the crust is golden brown all across the top, and none of the crust looks uncooked. You will get some crispy crust along the edges and a cake-like middle, not mushy, or too moist.
When it is done baking, take the pie out of the oven and let it completely cool to room temperature before serving.
Serve with vanilla ice cream or creme anglais. Caramel sauce is a delicious addition with the ice cream.
When testing this recipe I used Cortland Apples. Over the years I have used many different types of apples, but the best ones are apples that are well suited to baking. Some good examples are, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Cortland apples. You want very crisp apples that are not too sweet. You can even use more than one type of apple. McIntosh apples and Red Delicious apples do not work well because they are a softer apple and your pie will become apple sauce.
There is nothing like eating a fresh ripe nectarine or any ripe fruit for that matter. Its sweet perfume and the subtle give of the flesh informs me that I am holding a delicious nectarine. I love the colors. No two nectarines are the same with their variegated and rich red-yellow-orange blended and distinct sunset colors. One bite into a perfectly ripe nectarine and you are rewarded with firm, but soft, sweet flesh bursting with juice. I am often tempted to lick my elbows just to catch every last juicy drop. To eat a fresh ripe nectarine, is tasting the fruit at its brightest and sweetest. Cooks can get so caught up with presenting something new and different, that it is easy to forget how lovely a ripe piece of fruit is. I am in awe of Mother Earth and her many nourishing gifts. How does she do it?
Fresh fruit is refreshing and delicious, but sometimes extra preparation and cooking will reward you with a sweeter and more concentrated fruity flavor. A simple baked nectarine dessert is an easy and delicious choice for a summer dessert. One of my favorite baked fruit dessert is, nectarine and blueberry galette. The free form structure of a fruit galette is just my style. I love pie, but I am never satisfied with how mine look. I feel a lot of pressure to present a pristine and detailed pie crust without any flaws. Whenever I try to make a pie, I feel like my fingers just get in the way and I lack the extra-fine motor skills to perform such neat and detailed work. I know practice makes perfect, but the simplicity and informality of galettes appeals to me.