New York Crumb Cake

Ready

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once said “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” … “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.

Not that I’m one to argue with a dead, French journalist, who coined one of the most used sentences … well, EVER …

BUT, for me, truth be told, the more things have changed, the more different they have become.

I was born in New York City. Grew up in New York City. Grammar school and high school in New York City. Up until November 2013, I had never lived further than 10 miles from everyone to whom I’m related – except my sister Maria who abandoned ship to marry a great guy and now lives in Oswego, IL.

I worked for my Dad for around 30 years as a paralegal and office manager.

I had GREAT gal pals.

November came along and EVERYTHING changed. I moved from the hustle and bustle of New York City to the calm and quiet of Bar Harbor, Maine (well, except for July and August when town is over run by tourists). Am no longer (mostly) working for my Dad, have new jobs, added some new gal pals to my beloved inner circle, live in a beautiful home surrounded by beautiful gardens, with the MOST incredible man.

I decided as I was packing my boxes that I no longer wanted to be a paralegal. I didn’t want a 9 to 5 office grind. If I was going to change everything about my life, I may as well change everything about  my life.

BUT WHAT DO I WANT TO BE WHEN I GROW UP!?

Well, who knows?! (and I refuse to grow up …) But I do know it HAS to involve food! At the moment, I’m working at Reel Pizza Cinerama – truly one of the coolest places EVER! I began my own summer based cooking business – The Maine Ingredients – which truly struggled its first summer. I even picked up a few shifts as a sous chef in a friend’s restaurant – Sweet Pea’s Cafe.

A little restless. A little bored. Feeling a little sorry for myself.

AND THEN! … an email from my friend Jennifer Steen Booher, whose photographs are the coolest I’ve ever seen (check them out on Quercus Design) arrived. Her daughter Tabby wants to cook, bake, be in the kitchen. They tried a cooking camp and it was a massive FAIL. Would I consider coming over and teaching Tabby and a couple of friends the way around a cake tin? WOULD I? HELLS YEAH!

We had a blast! We made pretzels and scones and bread and blueberry muffins and quiche and lemon meringue pie (which I had personally never made either and was knocking knees that it would work out – and it did!) and sticky buns and this New York Crumb Cake.

Jenn wrote a great piece about our time in the kitchen – check it out – and check out hr fabulous photography!

Thank you, Jenn for sharing your kitchen and daughter with me! Thank you Tabby, Anna, Irene, Geneva and Carolyn for making the lessons so much fun and for turning out some fabulous baked goods!

I’m hoping others will see this and Jenn’s piece on her blog and want some lessons too … if you do you can reach my by email themaineingredients@gmail.com or 207-801-0302!

See, the more things have changed, the more they have changed and the better they have become!

Makes one 9-by-12 1/2-inch cake

  • 2 T canola oil, plus more for pan
  • 4 C all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 2 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1 C packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Place rack in center of oven, and heat oven to 325°. Lightly brush a 9-by-12 1/2-inch baking pan with canola oil, dust with flour, and tap to remove excess. Set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a second bowl, whisk together egg, milk, canola oil, and vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture.

Batter in pan

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine remaining 2 1/2 cups flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Pour melted butter over flour mixture, and toss with a rubber spatula until large crumbs form.

Adding crumbs

 

Sprinkle crumbs over batter.

Transfer pan to oven, and bake, rotating pan after 10 minutes. Continue baking until a cake tester comes out clean, about 10 minutes more.

Cooling

Transfer baking pan to a wire rack to cool.

Dusting

Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Using a serrated knife or bench scraper, cut into 3-inch squares. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Slice

Rhubarb, Rhubarb, everywhere! What’s a girl to do?

There’s only so much that will fit into the freezer!

Ice Cream … done …

Cake! Yes, a nice cake would be great! I looked through my cookbooks trying to find great rhubarb recipes and came across this one from Martha Stewart Cakes.

Company coming, a little showing off in the cake department would be fun.

You know, for me, the hardest thing about moving to Maine is missing my GIRLS! I am making friends here. A couple of very dear, couldn’t live without friends, but they were the Dear One’s friends first … not that that makes a tinker’s damn bit of difference at this point, but it’s all still so new and shiny …

And sometimes … I wanna go to Txikito! I wanna sit around and watch Project Runway! I wanna go to Trader Joe’s, Fariway, Whole Foods! I wanna have lunch! Go shoe shopping! RESTAURANT WEEK! Walk to the store! Chinese food at midnight! I miss my parents and my siblings (I’m a girl who has never lived more than 8 or 9 miles away from her ENTIRE family … ever!)!

Those things ain’t gonna happen in Bar Harbor, so we gather for dinner … and we laugh and we feast and we laugh and we drink and we laugh … truthfully, it’s all DAMN good and I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for anything.

If only I could have my old girls and my new girls (and boys) and my family in one place, like would be … not gonna say it!

TOPPING

  • 4 T unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • Coarse salt

CAKE

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for buttering pan
  • 1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut on a very sharp diagonal about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 3/4 C sugar
  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • Coarse salt
  • 1/2 t finely grated orange zest plus 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 C sour cream

NOTE: I doubled the amount of crumb topping. The amounts above are for the original recipe.

NOTE NOTE: I didn’t cut this on a sharp diagonal. I cut it in 1/2 inch chunks and it was WAY too much rhubarb!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rhubarb

 

Make the topping: Stir together butter, flour, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until moist and crumbly. Set aside.

Butter a 9-inch round cake pan (2 inches deep). Dot with 4 tablespoons butter (cut into pieces). Toss rhubarb with 3/4 cup sugar; let stand for 2 minutes. Toss again, and spread in pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Beat remaining stick butter and cup sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in zest and juice. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream, until smooth. Spread evenly over rhubarb.

Crumble topping evenly over batter.

Out of oven

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and top springs back when touched, about 1 hour. Let cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake, and invert onto a wire rack. Let cool completely.

NOTE: I don’t know if it was me or the pan was too small or I over filled it, but this over flowed all over the oven. Next time less rhubarb and maybe not all the batter!

NOTE: Let the cake cool for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan. The rhubarb will be too hot to handle safely right after baking. But if the cake sits much longer, it may stick.

Invreted

 

Mussels in White Wine and Garlic

Ready

“It’s a beautiful day,” says he.

“I know!” I respond, “FINALLY!”

“We really should get out and about.”

“Oh, yes, please! That would be great.”

It’s one of the first truly nice days of spring. The sun is shining, there’s a light breeze, it’s warm(ish). I want to get out and feel the sun on my face. A nice walk in Acadia National Park. Oh, Sand Beach, I haven’t been there yet. My head was filled with places on Mount Desert Island I wanted to explore.

The Dear One, however, had other ideas in mind.

See, there’s a tree. A tree he cut down. A tree destined to be cut and split and stacked and dried for the wood stove for the winter.

THE WINTER? Seriously, Dude? It’s April! I’ve barely had time to recuperate from this past winter much less think about NEXT winter.

Well, you see, he explains, it has to be cut and split and stacked now, and covered in plastic so that it dries out to be ready for next winter.

Now, back to that tree … it’s down a ‘slight’ hill, on the opposite side of the house from where it needs to be stacked, and looked MUCH smaller standing upright.

“Okay, I’ll take the big part of the trunk. You take the branches. Whatever is too small to cut for the wood stove, throw on the wood pile.”

This is when I realized that the man of my dreams is completely OFF.HIS.ROCKER! Has he not seen these delicate, little hands? Has he not seen me struggle to pick up heavy grocery bags? Most importantly, has he NOT SEEN MY TIARA!? A princess, I tell you! A City princess, at that, carrying a tree? Stacking wood? Surely you jest.

Jesting he was not. But I princessed up, rolled up my sleeves and heave ho’d. I threw branches and stems on the burn pile (wait, ce qui es une BURN PILE … oh, I am so new to this planet!), carried big branches up to some God awful contraption so it could be cut into logs, and stacked up wood that Mr. Lumberjack split.

I smelled. I dropped a birch branch on my toe. I dropped a birch log on my ankle. I was covered in sawdust and dirt and YUCK. Every single inch of my body hurt … except, perhaps, a 1/4″ spot on my left ear.

AND I WAS STARVING. I needed a HOT shower and a hot, quickly made dinner.

I sent Simon Legree the Dear One off to the market to pick up dinner … mussels, garlic, parsley … while I stood in a scalding hot shower trying to wash away the memory of the day.

In the time it took to boil a pot of water, shallots were sliced, garlic was minced, parsley was chopped. When the pasta was dropped into boiling water, the shallots, garlic and white wine simmer, after about 5 minutes the mussels were added, another short 5 minutes, added some parsley and butter. Everything done at the same time. 15 minutes from start to finish.

A few slices of toasted Italian bread, glasses of fabulous red wine, and I was a happy, though still sore, camper.

It doesn’t really get easier than this dish. Next time I may add some arugula in, or perhaps halved grape tomatoes, the possibilities are endless.

  • 2 C dry white wine
  • 4 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 4 pounds live mussels
  • 1/3 C mixed fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, chervil, or basil, chopped
  • 6 T butter, cut into pieces

Rinse and scrub mussels under cold running water. Using your fingers or a paring knife, remove beards (strings that hang from the mussels’ shells), and discard.

In a large stockpot set over medium heat, combine wine, shallots, garlic, and salt. Simmer 5 minutes. Add mussels. Cover, and increase heat to high. Cook until all mussels are open, about 5 minutes. Stir in herbs and butter. Remove from heat. Divide mussels and broth among four bowls. Serve immediately.

NOTE: We were STARVING so I threw this over pasta. If you serve the mussels without pasta toast some bread, rub it with garlic for dipping.

Raspberry Almond Financiers

I am a hopeless romantic. I can’t help it. I may be met by opposition, but if I bake enough pink, sugary things, I may just win one of them over.

I have had this recipe hanging around forever. I printed it out from a Martha Stewart magazine – which I cannot remember – years ago. It might be the boredom of winter. It might just be some sort of strange weekend baking jones – seems to be happening a lot lately! Whatever it was, these needed to finally be made.

  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 cups sliced blanched almonds (6 1/2 ounces), lightly toasted and finely ground
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen), pureed and strained (1/2 cup)

NOTE: I used red foil mini muffin papers. Very cute for Valentine’s Day, but not so easy to take off!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat mini muffin tins with cooking spray.

NOTE: I skipped the spraying since I was using the foil cups.

Heat butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Add honey, and whisk until combined. Remove from heat.

Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine almonds, sugars, flour, and salt on low speed. Raise speed to medium-high, and add egg whites, one at a time, beating after each addition until just combined. Scrape down sides of bowl. Reduce speed to low, and add warm butter-honey mixture in a slow, steady stream. Raise speed to high, and beat for 45 seconds.

Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling each halfway.

Spoon a scant 1/2 teaspoon raspberry puree near one edge of each cup. Draw a skewer or the tip of a paring knife through puree toward opposite edge of cup to form a heart shape.

Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until edges are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool slightly in tins on wire racks. Using a small offset spatula, carefully unmold financiers, and transfer to rack. Financiers are best served warm or the same day they are baked, but they can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 3 days. If desired, serve or package financiers in decorative paper liners.

NOTE: The puree was not thick enough to hold it’s shape while baking. Next time I’ll cook it down a bit to get thicker. Also, I would bake them directly in the pan and then put them in the foil cups. The batter gets sticky once baked from the honey. All in all a good experience and yummy result!

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies

I love Valentine’s Day. I live in testosterone central. I respect the male thought that Valentine’s Day is purely a Hallmark holiday, but I am hard pressed to get them to realize that I love Valentine’s Day.

Is it the pinkness? Is it the promise of love and promises? Is it the recognizing and appreciating those in our lives that we often take for granted? Could be the chocolate! The Cookies! The cupcakes!

So, I, now,  sadly, do not buy cards or candy for the men in my house. I anticipate the same from them – as sad and under appreciated as that makes me feel.

I will not, however, give up hope that something pink will make them remember, perhaps smile, and know that they’re loved.

I made these sugar cookies for my son – they may even be gone as I am typing. I love to see the smile that breaks across his face when he bites into a warm cookie that he knows I baked just for him, the sugary kiss that gets planted on my cheek as he grabs 5 or 6 and runs out the door. It renews my faith in love, family, and hope that one of these days they will REMEMBER that I love Valentine’s Day.

I adapted this recipe from Martha’s Stewarts recipe in Cookies.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks), softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl; set aside.

Put white and brown sugars and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed 30 seconds. Add butter; mix until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, and then the lemon juice. Reduce speed; gradually add flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

Scoop dough using a 2-inch ice cream scoop; space cookies 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Flatten cookies slightly.

NOTE: I used the bottom of a glass to flatten. 

Sprinkle tops with sanding sugar.

NOTE: I used a white, coarse sanding sugar first.

Lightly brush with a wet pastry brush.

Then sprinkle with more sanding sugar.

NOTE: PINK! It’s Valentine’s Day and pink for some reason is one of my favorite colors, so it had to be PINK! THe two different colored sugars gave the cookies a nice shimmer.

Bake cookies until golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks using a spatula; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY TO ALL MY FRIENDS! Enjoy, with love from my kitchen to yours!

Blackberry-Swirl Pound Cake

Walking through the supermarket, wanting to bake something, waiting for inspiration, I came across these glorious blackberries.

Could you resist these? I know I couldn’t. And then from the recesses of my memory, I remembered a recipe in Everyday Food magazine for a Blackberry-Swirl Pound Cake. There was my answer!

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 6 ounces blackberries
  • 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
 
Lightly butter a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan and line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; butter parchment.
 
NOTE: I forgot to butter the parchment, and it made no difference.
 
In a food processor, puree blackberries with 2 tablespoons sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine, scraping down bowl as needed.

With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Transfer half the batter to pan and dot with 1/2 cup blackberry puree.

NOTE: As you can see the inky black-purple of the black berries is very hard to capture.  And this is where I ran into my troubles. Yes, trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with B and that stands for BLACKBERRIES. My puree wasn’t thick enough. So there was no DOTTING the puree – not for a lack of trying!

Repeat with remaining batter and puree.

NOTE: Again, same problem.  I did something wrong, but I have NO clue what it was! All I could hope for was an oven miracle.

With a skewer or thin-bladed knife, swirl batter and puree together. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours.

Let cool in pan on a wire rack, 30 minutes. Lift cake out of pan and place on a serving plate; let cool completely before slicing. (Store cooled cake, wrapped tightly in plastic, at room temperature, up to 3 days.)

NOTE: This cake was really very good, though I didn’t have the swirl inside that you see in the magazine photo. This is definitely a do again cake. I just need to figure out where I went wrong with the puree!  Any thoughts?

Pate Brisee

Pate Brisee
a/k/a The World’s Ugliest Pie

Okay, so maybe not the ugliest, certainly tasted good, but the debate on whether making your own pie crust continues.

My grandmother’s were both wonderful cooks and bakers, especially my mother’s mother. But, I never saw her make a pie crust – she liked Oranoak Orchards.

My mother is a wonderful cook and baker – we never had a cookie from a package, didn’t realize pizza could be bought in a store until we were close to 10, and she made cakes, pies and breads every weekend. I never saw my mother make a pie crust either – she liked Oranoak Orchards as well.

Being one steeped in tradition, it should come as no surprise that I have never made a pie crust. I have never felt the need or been moved to do so. I bake cookies and breads and pies and cakes and muffins – even making English Muffins one snowy Saturday to avoid having to go to the store to buy them. But pie crust? Why? Is a pie really about the crust or about the filling? To me, the answer is definitely the filling. A great pie crust and yucky filling really isn’t going to make a great pie.

And then one day a friend and I were talking about making pie crusts and while she is going on and on about the virtues of homemade crust (and my eyes glazing over in disagreement) she made the ginormous mistake of telling me I probably could but would never make one. Sigh. Hello? Have we met?

So, that, my dear friends, is what brings me to my tale of woe, the ugly-but-yummy pie and the continuing debate on pie crust.

I turned to my trusty friend Martha Stewart and the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook for a fool-proof (see me – the fool – waving?) pate brisee.

There aren’t a lot of  ingredients. It isn’t the ingredients that make it difficult, it’s the directions – pulse until it looks like coarse meal, add enough water so it comes together.

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup ice water

NOTE: After I cut up the butter, I put it back in the fridge to get super cold.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.

With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

NOTE: If you haven’t done the above before you really have NO clue what any of those things mean.  At least Martha added pictures.

Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.

Now, no one, in any book, any where, tells you that when you take these disks out of the fridge an hour pater they are going to be like weapons of mass destruction! They are absolutely hard as rocks. Now what? You can’t roll them, you can’t move them.

I walked away for about 5 minutes hoping that upon my return I would be able to flatten these frisbees of death into a flaky pie crust. Truth be told, I wasn’t holding out much hope.

But, 5 minutes later, I was able to start rolling the crust. A little flour on my board, a little on the rolling pin. The next thing they don’t tell you? This is not going to be pretty. You see TV chefs rolling out dough and it’s a perfect circle. This was anything BUT a perfect circle. Still, I persevered. This seemed to go from too cold to too warm VERY quickly.

I finally rolled something that appeared to be circle-ish. Rolled it onto my roller and out into the pie plate. It stuck on itself a bit, but I managed, and besides, this is the bottom crust. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It just can’t turn to mush.

While I made a filling of peaches and blueberries, I left the top crust in the fridge. The filling was the simplest part. I cut up about 2 pounds of peaches, tossed in a pint of blueberries, some sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch and mixed it all up.

The top crust was difficult to roll as well, but this one is the money shot, the part everyone will look at. It was sticking and ripping and terrible. I managed to cover the pie, having to make patches of scraps here and there. Please at least let it taste good after all of this work and anxiety baking pleasure. I sprinkled some demarra sugar on top as a Hail Mary play and shoved the pie in the oven, hoping for the best.

Okay, it isn’t the prettiest pie in the place. But it is tasty. The crust needed a bit of sugar. The bottom crust was what impressed me the most, even a day later it’s still holding up.

IF there is a next time, I’ll add a tablespoon of sugar. I am not sure though if there will be a next time. Maybe a one more next time, but definitely not more than that, unless I wake up bored out of mind one weekend morning and cannot leave the house to buy one. This might have to be chalked up to one of those learning experiences. As I said from the beginning, if Oranoak Orchards has been good enough for 2 generations of women in my family it’s good enough for me!

So I can, I have, but the question remains, will I ever again!