Biscoff Cream Cheese Brownies + 5 Gotta Make Brownie Links

 

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Happy 2018! Another year, another chance, a gift, really, to try again.  I’m starting the year off with a simple brownie recipe slightly adapted from David Lebovitz.  I added a delicious Biscoff cream cheese swirl which pairs perfectly with the rich chocolate flavor of the brownie.  I hope you enjoy this brownie and welcome 2018 with big, open arms.

Biscoff Cream Cheese Brownies

Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz

Makes about 12-16 brownies

Ingredients for the brownie batter:

1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/4 cup Dutch Process cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

a good pinch of kosher salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs at room temperature

1 egg white (save yolk for cream cheese swirl)

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Directions for brownie batter:

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Line a 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil.  Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray or brush with melted butter.  Set aside.  Grab a small bowl and add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk together until well-combined and no lumps remain.

Using a medium saucepan, melt the butter, semi-sweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth.  Remove from heat and whisk in 1 cup of sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Next, add the egg white and vanilla extract.  Continue to mix until smooth.  Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  Be careful not to overmix!

Spread half of the brownie batter into prepared pan.  Add dollops of the Biscoff cream cheese mixture.  (See recipe below.) You should use about half of the mixture.  Gently swirl with a butter knife.  Add remaining brownie batter to the pan and gently smooth the top.  Spoon large dollops of the remaining Biscoff cream cheese spread over the top.  Swirl gently with a butter knife.  Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt.  Bake until center is almost set, about 50 minutes.  If you insert a toothpick into the center of the brownie it should come out mostly clean with a few moist crumbs attached.

Remove from oven.  Allow brownies to cool completely before cutting.  They can also be refrigerated overnight.  When ready to serve, lift the foil to remove brownies.  Use a sharp knife to cut the brownies.  In between each cut, wipe the blade clean for neater slices.

The brownies will last in an air-tight container, at room temperature for up to 4 days.  Enjoy!

Ingredients for Biscoff cream cheese swirl:

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

1 large egg yolk

1/2 cup Biscoff Cookie Spread

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of kosher salt

Directions for Biscoff cream cheese swirl:

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.   Next add egg yolk, vanilla, salt and Biscoff Cookie Spread.  Continue to beat until smooth and creamy.  Set aside until ready to use.

5 Gotta Try Brownie Links for 2018

Dark chocolate brownies topped with creamy goat cheese and perfectly sweet raspberries are on my must make list.  Head to the Kitchn for the recipe.

If you love sweet and salty desserts check out The Brick Kitchen’s salted caramel pretzel brownies.  My mouth is watering!

Are you a s’mores lover?  If so, head to Seven Spoons for Tara’s triple layer s’mores brownies.

Looking to spice things up in 2018?  Try Tutti Dulci’s spicy chocolate brownies.  I’m intrigued!

Be sure to check out Food 52’s 12 ways to customize brownies for some unique twists on the beloved brownie.

 

 

Snowflake Sandwich Cookies with Maple Buttercream Filling + 5 Fun Holiday Cookie Links

 

If Tess had known she would think of him as often as she did during her final days she may have made different choices many decades ago.  If she knew he would appear in her dreams, nightly, standing in the sunlight on a pathless mountainside under a blue sky while she struggled, step by step, over rocks and snow to reach him…she may have never said hello.  And yet so many years ago, she initiated a simple conversation without fully releasing she also made a choice to make a space for this strange man in her mind and heart.

Tess entered his life and he her’s, grateful for a providential connection.  She loved this man as she did her husband without ever really, fully knowing him.

[Boundaries remained intact.  Years later when middle age became old age, gray hair to white hair, wrinkles abundant, widowed, and often alone, but seldom unhappy, she smiled when she thought of him.  And when they ran into each other coming out of the library, both carrying a stack of large print books to occupy the endless quiet hours’ widowhood afforded them, Tess felt her fingertips tingle, and her eyes moisten.  How lucky after all these years that the connection she felt to this man remained intact!]

A nameless night later Tess finds herself awake at 4AM.   She carefully tiptoes through the house, her cotton nightgown grazes the hardwood floors and catches a white hair or two on its hem.  She pauses by the large window and watches the snowflakes falling outside.  Some stick to the window screen, others dance and swirl around each other, as if, communicating a long forgotten fable.  She opens the window.  The wooden frame slides up without much effort, odd, Tess thinks for such an old house.  She pops out the window screen and leans through the opening into the cold night air, her breath mingling with the snowflakes.  Tess sees the strange man she loved all these years standing at the end of the driveway next to the lamppost covered in boxwood and tiny white lights.  She gladly waves to him.  He waves back and turns away from her.  Wait! Tess calls.  Wait!

“Mom?”  Tess remains centered in the open window, her nightgown outlined in the moonlight, her wrinkled body shivering in the frigid wind.

“Mom?”  She turns to the familiar voice she cannot place.  [Time moves in a way Tess no longer understands.  People, too.  Once gone, now reappear.  Once an empty house, now her daughter is here.]

“Time to go back to bed, Mom.”  Tess’ daughter closes the window quickly, frustrated by her mother’s nightly wanderings, and guides her back to bed.  She tucks Tess into bed as she does her own children, brushes Tess’ long white hair away from her face and kisses her forehead.  Tess does not share with her daughter who she saw standing at the end of the driveway.   She would seem crazy after all.

Minutes later, Tess falls into a deep sleep only to find herself on a sunlit mountainside next to a man she barely knew but loved just the same.

 

Snowflake Sandwich Cookies with Maple Buttercream Filling

Recipe adapted from Bake From Scratch Holiday Cookies Edition

makes about 24 sandwich cookies

Ingredients for cookie dough:

3/4 unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup vanilla sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

sanding sugar or nonpareils for decorating

Directions:

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, on medium speed beat the butter, sugar and salt until creamy, about 5 minutes.  Be sure to stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add the egg and vanilla.  Continue to beat until incorporated.  Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the flour.

Divide the dough in half.  Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.  Lightly flour a clean surface, remove dough from plastic wrap.  Roll the dough to 1/8 inch thickness.  (Be sure to leave other half of dough in the refrigerator until ready to use!)  Using a 3-inch snowflake cookie cutter dipped in flour, begin cutting out snowflake shapes.  Gather scraps,  reroll and cut again.  Place cookies about an inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.   Bake until golden brown around the edges, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Maple Buttercream Filling

Recipe adapted from Bake From Scratch Holiday Cookies Edition

makes 2 cups

Ingredients:

1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon maple extract

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

pinch of kosher salt

Directions:

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the butter and maple extract until creamy.  Add the confectioners’ sugar and a pinch of salt.  Beat on medium speed until well combined and smooth.  Once the confectioners’ sugar is incorporated, increase speed to high and beat for another 5 minutes.   Set aside.

Assembly Time!

Spoon half of the maple buttercream filling into large pastry bag fitted with an open star pastry tip.  Pipe filling onto 1 cookie, starting at the tip of each snowflake point and moving to the center.  Place another cookie on top of the cookie with the filling and press gently until the cookies form a sandwich.  Repeat with remaining cookies.  Place the remaining filling in a large pastry bag fitted with a small decorating tip.  Decorate the cookies with the remaining filling making a snowflake pattern on one side of the sandwich.  Sprinkle with white sanding sugar or nonpareils.   Let the cookies set before stacking.  Store cookies in an air-tight container for up to 4 days.  Enjoy!

5 Fun Holiday Cookie Links

My grandmother always had a stash of Italian Rainbow cookies floating around her house during the holidays and I couldn’t eat them fast enough.  Check out Love and Olive Oil’s  modern take on these beloved cookies.

Salted caramel and dark chocolate is a perfect pairing.  Want it in cookie form?  Head to Sally’s Baking Addiction for the recipe.

Love a good shortbread cookie?  Head to Cooking Classy for a chocolate dipped toffee pecan shortbread cookie recipe.  My mouth is watering!

Add something new to your holiday cookie platter with my alfajores recipe.

This lemon cookie recipe is one of my most pinned recipes.  Check it out!

 

Chocolate Dipped Ginger Snaps + 5 Ginger Cookie Links

After training for and completing my third marathon, my words and stories are struggling to emerge.  Heart to head to hand, muddled pathways and tired bones continue two weeks after crossing the finish line.  So, I bake a simple and delicious cookie to share with you…and wait for my words to return, the exhaustion to pass.  Until then, enjoy this cookie with others and a glass of cold milk.

Chocolate Dipped Ginger Snaps

A soft-baked gingersnap cookie, covered in raw sugar and dipped in semi-sweet chocolate. 

Recipe barely adapted from Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

Makes about 24 cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 + 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 stick + 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup of sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg, at room temperature

1/2 cup raw sugar

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted (I used Guittard chocolate chips.)

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.  Set aside.  Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment beat the butter until light and fluffy.  Add the sugar and continue mixing, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl once or twice.  Next, add the vanilla extract, molasses, and egg.  Beat until combined.  Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients.  Continue mixing on low-speed until just combined.

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  While the oven is preheating, chill the dough.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Pour raw sugar into a bowl.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop the cookie dough into rounded balls.   Dip cookie dough balls into raw sugar, covering completely and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Using the palm of your hand, flatten the dough slightly, until the ball looks like a 2-inch circle.  Bake until set, about 10 minutes, one cookie sheet at a time.  Allow cookies to cool for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  While the cookies cool, melt the chocolate.  Once the cookies are cooled completely, dip half of the cookie into the melted chocolate.  Allow the cookies to set completely before packaging.  Enjoy!

5 Ginger Cookie Links

Ginger infused caramel and bittersweet chocolate come together in this delightful chocolate caramel cookie.  Head to I am Baker for the recipe.

Looking for an easy, go to cookie for the holidays?  Head to Not Without Salt for a brown butter ginger cookie with mascarpone cream.  This recipe is now on my must-try list!

Bon Appetempt’s ginger cookies with chocolate and dried apricots is a cookie that cannot be missed this holiday season!

If you are a fan of white chocolate, check out Cooking Classy’s white chocolate dipped ginger cookies.

Prefer crispy gingersnap cookies over soft?  Head to A Thought For Food for Brian’s recipe.

Apple Cider Doughnut Cake + 5 Unique Fall Desserts

 

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Hail Mary, full of grace.  Hail Mary, full of grace.  Hail… 

Hazel rubs her rosary beads between her thumb and index finger, gently at first and then harder, much harder as if the act in itself will make her recall the prayer she has known since she was a child.  Russell, can you believe this?  She says to no one.  Oh Russell, when I need you the most…you disappointment me Russell.  She calls to the air.  She calls to the dust particles floating in the stale air, and the old cat riddled with tumors, purring near her feet.  She sets her rosary beads next to her mother’s bible which rests on a black marbled, plastic folding table circa 1970.  Water rings mark the table where Hazel’s nightly whiskey on ice with a splash of water once sat.  Hazel reaches for her walker and slowly pulls it towards her, clipping the cat’s tail.  The cat doesn’t seem to mind her carelessness, stares up at her lovingly, and quickly falls back asleep.

Hazel’s body is now turning against her, every step is a chance and yet she makes her way into the kitchen.  Just as determined now, as she was playing basketball many decades ago. Hazel stands at the counter hoping her knees won’t buckle or her legs betray her before she gets a chance to smell the apple cake her daughter left behind.  A peace-offering, a gesture of love, whatever her daughter tells herself to rationalize making decisions about Hazel’s life without much input from Hazel.

She inhales the cake deeply allowing the cinnamon, nutmeg and baked apples to fill her where she feels empty.  Hazels thinks of a fork.  Fork to cake, cake to mouth.  Chew.  Swallow.  Easy enough, and yet, Hazel’s hand fails to make the connection to the fork.  She plunges her long, skeletal finger into the cake.  It feels good being inside that cake, a bit of a relief having part of her body encased in something else.  Hazel pulls her finger out, grabs a chunk cake with her arthritic right hand, and free throws it into the cat’s bowl.  One point, she thinks.

Hazel’s legs feel weaker.  She must sit before she falls.  So, she slowly makes her way back to the living room, the cat just steps behind her, and plunks down into her chair, with bone-weary breath.  An old western plays in the background, like a friend carrying on with a conversation long after your mind has drifted elsewhere.  The western doesn’t reach Hazel, but the sound is comforting.  Hazel closes her eyes.  Rests.

Not today, Russell?  She asks to no one.  Then when, Russell?  She asks to to the air.  She asks to the dust particles floating in the stale air, and the old cat riddled with tumors, purring near her feet.       

Apple Cider Doughnut Cake

Serves 8-10

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 cup white whole wheat flour

1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 + 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 + 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup apple cider

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 unsweetened apple butter (store-bought or homemade)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 large eggs at room temperature

Ingredients for topping:

1/4 cup raw sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Generously butter and flour a 12 cup Bundt pan and set aside.  Grab a large bowl and add the flours, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk together until combined.  Set aside.   In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together sugar, apple cider, oil, apple butter, vanilla, and eggs.  Add wet mixture to dry mixture and whisk until well combined.  Pour batter (it will be thick) into prepared pan, spreading the mixture evenly with a spatula.

Bake for about 50 minutes (check at 45 minutes), rotating the pan halfway through until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.   Transfer pan to a wire rack set inside a baking sheet and allow to cool for 15 minutes.  While cake is cooling, melt butter.  In a small bowl mix together raw sugar and cinnamon.  Invert cake onto wire rack.  Brush cake with melted butter and then sprinkle sugar/cinnamon all over the top of the cake.   Serve and enjoy!

*Cake can be stored, covered, at room temperature for up to two days.*

5 Unique Fall Desserts

Looking for the best of two sweet worlds in one pie?  Check out Food & Wine’s apple cider cream pie.

Apple pie in cookie form?  Yes!  Head to An Italian In My Kitchen for the recipe.

Celebrating a fall birthday soon?  Head to Adventures in Cooking and make Eva’sapple spice cake with salted caramel frosting.

There is nothing I love more in the fall than apple crisp with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and then I stumbled on this recipe.  Yes, please!

I am from New England and yet I have never made a New England Apple Cider Cake.  A Family Feast’s recipe is now on my must make list.  Check it out!

 

Cherry Crumb Pie + 5 Must Try Pie Links

 

 

We planted bamboo in our backyard, placing the roots in a thick plastic bag so as to prevent the invasive species from taking over our yard entirely.  The roots were then covered with a thick layer of soil and neatly outlined with gray stone bricks.  We made a choice: restrict the plant’s natural growth pattern.  Watch and see.  Wait and wonder. Will it flourish in such restrained, unnatural conditions?

Yes.  It reached for the sun, ached for it really.  Absorbed the rain like a drunk, waiting patiently for a change of state, until finally, its branches hung heavy with delicate chartreuse leaves.  It pushed itself to the very corners of the neat space it inhabited, hoping, I think, to cross the stone barrier and when it realized some things are just not possible, it reached for the moon and sun, Orion and the Big Dipper.

The bamboo tolerated dog piss, little hands shaking and pulling at it, suffocating mounds of snow, branch breaking ice, drought and heavy rains.  Many long and relentless days and nights tested the bamboo season after season and yet it stood, reaching higher every day.

Today I watch the bamboo from our kitchen, my view partially obscured by an old air conditioner rattling away, attempting to bring relief to an old house surrounded by more concrete than grass.  In the stove, a cherry crumb pie bakes.  I can smell cinnamon and vanilla build in the air while the heat from the stove thwarts the cool air blowing from the AC.  The kids play outside on the swing set.  Red-faced, dirty feet, sticky skin, happy. The dog surveys our small yard, weaving in and around the kids, the toys.  [Life’s junk, carried from one place to the next as if it holds value.]  Nose to the ground she sniffs the same smells.  [Are you hoping for something new, sweet girl?]  And the bamboo? The bamboo bends a bit with the wind.  It waits patiently, absorbing what it can, not asking too much, quietly preparing for the next growth spurt.

I envy the bamboo.

Cherry Crumb Pie

Pie crust recipe adapted from The Washington Post

Cherry filling recipe adapted from My Baking Addiction

Crumb topping adapted from My Recipes

Serves 6-8

Ingredients for Pie Crust:

1 + 3/4 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose, unbleached flour

1 tablespoon raw sugar

1 + 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean

16 tablespoons unsalted cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 of very cold water

Directions for pie crust:

Grab a medium bowl and sift flour into the bowl.  Whisk in the sugar, salt, and vanilla bean seeds.  Add the butter.  Combine butter and flour with your fingers until the butter resembles small peas.  Stir in the cold water, a little at a time, until shaggy dough forms.  If the dough is too wet, add a bit more dough or if it is too dry add a just spoonful of water.  Knead the dough into a ball.  Wrap in plastic, refrigerate and allow to rest while you make the cherry pie filling.

Ingredients for cherry pie filling:

5 cups of fresh cherries, washed and pitted

1/2 cup of sugar

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

1/2 cup water

4 tablespoons of cornstarch

Directions:

Add cherries, sugar, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon to a medium sauce pan.  In a small bowl mix together the water and cornstarch to make a slurry.  Add the water/cornstarch mixture to the cherries.  Stir to combine.  Over medium heat, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  **Filling can be made several days ahead.  Be sure to store in an air-tight container and refrigerate.**

Ingredients for crumb topping:

1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter

3/4 brown sugar

3/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour

3/4 old fashion oats

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions for topping:

Add all of the dry ingredients to a medium bowl and stir together.  Next, add the butter.  Combine the butter and dry ingredients with your fingers until the mixture resembles wet sand.  Set aside or refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.

Pie Assembly Time!

Preheat your oven to 350F.  While the oven is preheating, flour a work surface.  Divide dough in half.  Roll out one portion of the dough into a 14-inch round.  Place gently in pie plate, pressing into the corners.  Trim the excess to 1+1/2 inch overhang.  Fold the overhang to the middle to create a 3/4 inch border all around that sits on the rim of the pie plate.  Refrigerate the pie crust for 20 minutes before proceeding.  (While the pie crust is chilling wrap the second portion in plastic wrap and refrigerate for another use.   Clean up a bit and before you know it the crust will be ready!)

Add filling to pie and spread evenly.  Top cherry filling evenly with crumb topping.  Brush a bit of heavy cream on the border of the pie crust.  Place the pie in the oven on the middle rack and bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 50-60 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.  Serve with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream or as is.  Enjoy!

**Pie can be kept at room temperature lightly wrapped in aluminum foil for a couple of days but I doubt it will last that long.**

5 Must Try Pie Links

Take advantage of peach season and make my peach ricotta pudding pie.

If a pie feels like too much work, try Whole Hearted Eats dark fruit galette.

Craving ice cream?  Try Jelly Toast’s marshmallow ice cream pie or my recipe for bourbon brown sugar ice cream pie.

Fall is just around the corner and I can’t wait to make Pastry Affair’s caramel apple crumble pie.  Yum!

Strawberry Buttermilk Birthday Cake + 5 Unique Birthday Cake Links

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Wilson May didn’t care much for birthdays.  And yet he acquiesced, celebrating with family, [family he didn’t care much to see], at the request of his pushy daughter, year after year, cake after cake.

Why the hell does my daughter need to mark every goddamn birthday? He thought while his phone vibrated in his pocket.  It was her.  [Who else would it be?]  Calling to remind him about his birthday celebration later in the day.

As if Wilson needed a reminder that yet another year had passed.

He silenced the vibrating phone in his pocket [God damn phone.] just as the nurse he dreaded seeing pushed open the door to the long, stark hallway he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to walk down.

Wilson May?  Wilson May?  the nurse said, her squirrel like eyes darting around the waiting room.  [Did her nose wiggle too? Is she sniffing me out?]

Wilson removed his cheap, cockeyed reading glasses placing them in the 3 button placket of his pink polo shirt, adjusted his now wrinkled pants and debated leaving.  In 20 minutes he could be home.  Alone.  A beer in hand and sitting in the sun on a large wooden deck only one rocking chair occupied, where he’d have more time to think about what was next for his tottery body, his tired soul. [If the pain dissipated? Golf everyday. Gone entirely? Travel, fucking, drinking.  Wilson as he imagined himself 25 years ago.]

And yet, Wilson’s inner thoughts never matched his outer life.  For the past sixty-six years he had lived and loved two very different lives.  The life the outside world saw, a life well-lived [to others], consisted of obligations, dependability…sometimes love varied immensely from the impractical, reckless and solitary life Wilson imagined daily.

[At times becoming so engrossed in the romanticized version of his life, Wilson was unreachable. Lost to his castle in the air, his black coffee growing cold in his large, hairy hands, the local paper left unread.  His now ex-wife called them staring spells.  Wilson knew better.]

Wilson May…Wilson…?  He sensed a bit of hostility in the squirrel nurse.  He had aggravated her now and in turn she would likely be less gentle with him.  Tit for tat, like so many relationships he once knew.

Squirrel nurse surveyed the room one last time before giving up on Wilson.  The beige door gradually closed behind her, as if allowing chance to take over.

Wilson stared straight ahead, unmoving.  No decisions would be made today.

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Strawberry Buttermilk Birthday Cake

Cake and frosting recipe adapted from Sweetapolita

Italian pastry cream recipe adapted from An Italian in My Kitchen

makes 1, 3 layer, 8-inch round cake

Serves 10-12

Ingredients for cake:

4 eggs at room temperature

2 egg yolks at room temperature

1 + 1/4 cups buttermilk, well shaken

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

3 cups cake flour, sifted

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup or 2 sticks, unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces

Ingredients for strawberry compote:

2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced

1/4 cup sugar (a bit more if strawberries are not sweet)

1 tablespoon orange juice

pinch of kosher salt

Ingredients for Italian pastry cream:

1 cup + 1/2 cup whole milk

4 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon Grand Marnier

2 + 1/2 tablespoons flour

Ingredients for whipped vanilla frosting:

1/4 cup whole milk

3 sticks + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

good pinch of kosher salt

few drops of food coloring if desired

Directions for cake:

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Grab 3, 8 inch round cake pans and butter the bottoms and sides of each pan.  Line the bottoms with parchment paper and dust with flour.  Tap out an excess flour.  Set aside

Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, 1/4 cup of buttermilk and vanilla in a large measuring cup or small bowl.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Reduce the speed to low and add the cold, cubed butter, one piece at a time, leaving a few second in between each addition.  Continue to mix on low until butter  is well blended and looks like wet sand or cornmeal.

Next add the remaining buttermilk (1 cup) and mix on medium speed for about 4-5 minutes.  Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure everything is well incorporated.  On low-speed, slowly add the egg mixture.  Increase speed to medium and beat for about 1 minute.  Stop the mixer and fold the batter once or twice.

Divide the batter evenly among the three pans.  Bake two of the pans until the cake is golden and springs back gently when  touched in the middle or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a couple of crumbs, about 25-28 minutes.  Cool cakes on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing them from the pan to cool completely.   Next, bake the last pan for 25-28 minutes.  Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from the pan and cooling completely.

Directions for strawberry compote:

Combine 1 cup of strawberries, sugar, orange juice, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often until the berries start to break down, about 10 minutes.

Lower the heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  The compote is ready when it covers  the back of a spoon.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Using a handheld masher,  mash the strawberries until juicy.  Add remaining fresh strawberries.  Store in an air-tight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

**The compote can be made up to 3 days ahead of time!**

Directions for Italian pastry cream:

Heat milk in medium sauce pan over low heat.  Do not boil.  Remove from heat.  Using another sauce pan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until combined.  Next add the vanilla and flour.  Slowly pour in warm milk and cook over low heat, whisking constantly until it thickens, about 10 minutes.  Cool slightly and stir in the Grand Marnier.  Pour into glass bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the pastry cream.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

**Pastry cream can be made several days in advance.  Store in air-tight container with plastic wrap covering the surface of the cream and refrigerate.**

Directions for whipped vanilla frosting

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until very pale and creamy, about 8 minutes.  Add sifted confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, salt and milk.  Mix on low-speed for about a minute.  Increase the speed to medium and whip for 5-6 minutes.  Add food coloring, if desired.  Frosting will be very light and creamy.

Assembly Time!!!

Place first cake layer on cake stand, face up.  Using a pastry bag, filled with the Italian pastry cream, pipe a two-inch circle around the perimeter of the cake layer.  This will keep the compote from leaking out.  Add a few spoonfuls of the strawberry compote to the center of the cake layer.  Spread the compote just to the pastry cream.  Add your next cake layer, pressing gently in place.  Again, pipe a two inch circle around the perimeter of the cake layer.  Add the remaining strawberry compote to the center of the cake layer.  Spread the compote just to the pastry cream.  Next, add the final cake layer, pressing gently into place.  Cover the entire cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Once the cake is chilled add the whipped vanilla frosting  to the entire cake, decorating however you wish.   Flowers, sprinkles anything goes!  Serve at room temperature.  Enjoy!

**Cake can be made 2 days in advance.  Be sure to keep it refrigerated.**   

5 Unique Birthday Cake Links

Looking for a special gluten-free cake for the chocolate lover in your life?  Head to the Tartelette blog for Helene’s flourless chocolate cake with salted butter caramel sauce.

Take advantage of fresh summer berries and make Camille Styles’ summer berry ice cream cake.

My husband loves chocolate chip cookies so I may need to make him Pastry Affair’s cookie dough cake for his next birthday.  Check it out!

Key lime pie in birthday cake form?  Yes it exists.  Head to Bakerella for the recipe.

My birthday was last week.  I’m thinking I’ll take some me time and celebrate a new year alone with a fork and this angel food cake.

Key Lime Pie + 5 Pie Free Key Lime Links

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I wish I had a story for you, a perfect snippet that makes you feel great, big wonderful things.  But, writing is a slog even in the best of circumstances.  So on this cold, rain-swept June day (damn you New England!) I’ll share a bright, tasty key lime pie recipe with you.  And hope.  Hope the rain clouds move elsewhere (literally, move anywhere else) my mind clears (sleep come back to me!), my chest feels less heavy (the weight of just too much + a cough) and remember this bit of wisdom from T.S. Elliot’s East Coker:

“I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”

 

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Key Lime Pie     

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

serves 6-8

Ingredients for the crust:

1 + 1/2 cups of finely ground graham cracker crumbs  (takes about 10 graham cracker sheets)

3 tablespoons sugar

a good pinch of kosher salt

a good pinch of ground ginger

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, browned

Ingredients for key lime filling:

4 large egg yolks

1 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of Nellie and Joe’s key lime juice

Ingredients for topping:

3/4 cup heavy cream, cold

2 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla

zest of two limes

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Make the graham cracker crust.  To make the graham cracker crust, use a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and pulse the graham crackers until fine.  Add the sugar, salt, ginger and melted browned butter.  Pulse several times until the crumbs resemble wet sand.  Pour the crumbs into a 9 inch pie pan and press firmly but evenly across the bottom and up the sides.  Bake until light brown, about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

Next, make the filling.  Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks until pale and thick, about 5 minutes or so.  Add the sweetened condensed milk and beat until combined and thick.  Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and whisk in the key lime juice until well combined.  Pour filling into cooled crust.  Bake for 10 minutes or until filling is set but not brown.  Allow the pie to cool completely on a wire rack before adding the whipped cream.

While the pie cools, beat the cold cream, sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form.  Do not over beat!  Spread whipped cream evenly over the pie.  Add lime zest decoratively.   Chill for a couple of hours before serving.  Enjoy!

**Pie will last for a week in the refrigerator.**

5 Pie Free Key Lime Links

Looking for a quick and easy key lime recipe?  Head to Cake Whiz for Abeer’s key lime cookie recipe.

Key lime pie in bar form with a twist: a pistachio graham cracker crust.  Yes, please! Head to Hummingbird High for the recipe.

Craving chocolate?  Check out Sally’s Baking Addiction’s dark chocolate key lime truffles.

Every home baker should try making a magic cake.  A little bit science, a bit of magic and you end up with three layers of cake: sponge, custard and fudge coming together in one subtly sweet bite.  Curious?  Head to Foodness Gracious for key lime pie magic cake recipe that is sure to surprise your taste buds.

For all of the vegans out there I found a vegan key lime pie recipe at Minimalist Baker. Check it out!