Baking Bible post: Mud Turtle Pie

Many layers of deliciousness make up this Mud Turtle Pie. First is the flaky cream cheese crust, seen here rolled out and patched up, and then with one of my big cold brew coffee filters sitting on top of it filled with rice so it will keep its shape as it bakes:

piecrust side 2048x1536rice on crust 1676x1254

and here it is post-baking, and ready to fill.

crust baked around edges 1629x1212

Speaking of filling:

P1030775pie goo spatula

Yummy chopped, toasted pecans (don’t ask me about the ones I burnt trying to multitask for this recipe, I’m still mourning them!) and the brown sugar sauce that will surround them. Using golden syrup instead of dark corn syrup definitely improved the flavor. Let me just warn you though; avoid the plastic squeeze bottles of golden syrup unless you’re planning to use the whole bottle up soon. I had some that was a couple of years old that had crystallized in the bottle. I managed to warm it up and retrieve most of it, but the process would have been much simpler with a can.

chocolates in processor 1040x775chocolates and cream processor 1036x775

Now the chocolate! Dark and white chopped chocolate into the food processor, add warm heavy cream  and presto! Licking the bowl afterwards was my reward. 😉

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Here’s the pie pre-ganache while I’m still adding the custard, and fresh from the oven.

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Ta-da! That’s what my daughter said when she showed me the turtle she’d made for the pie. It has peanuts, not pecans for legs and head because she got so excited by the challenge that she didn’t come upstairs to ask me where the pecans were, she just used peanuts. I think it came out pretty well anyway.

Baking Bible post: Honey Cake for a Sweet New Year

slice nestled 2 2048x1536Today I’m beginning with the end in mind, as author Steven Covey advises. Here’s the cake I made last week on the Jewish New Year. It was tasty, if I do say so myself! I took the liberty  of interpreting  Rose’s suggestion of creme fraiche with the cake to mean whipped cream, since I know my family is partial to it. It was good, if extra sweet.

Backing up, here’s what the ingredients looked like:

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Here are the spices waiting to be mixed with the dry ingredients. Lots and lots of spice here! I loved the complexity they added to the cake.

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The spices are added into the flour here.  Just enough cocoa in the mix to darken the cake and add a deep flavor note without any detectable chocolate flavor.

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The dry and wet ingredients are ready to be mixed together. Look how much liquid!

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Pre/post oven shot. Looks much better afterwards, I must admit.


Finally, here’s the post-slice view. 😉

NPR had a piece on honey cake right around Rosh Hashana, calling it the Jewish fruitcake. Their point was that both cakes have a long history, and recipes from 100 years ago were written for people with different expectations from desserts. I’ve had honey cake made from old recipes and it was definitely denser and more clove-y, with less complex spices than this cake.  Let’s just say I thoroughly enjoyed the end I began with this week.

Baking Bible post: Pepparkakor

Can you say pepparkakor three times fast? I sound a little like a parrot when I do. Curious about the name, I Googled it and found that it sounds much nicer when pronounced by a native Swedish speaker than when I   attempt it. Here: pepparkakor.

Pepparkakor are peppery gingersnaps. Luckily for me I read this recipe through a week before I was planning to make them, so I knew to save the cardboard from a  paper towel roll to use as a mold.

paper towel roll 2048x1536toppling paper towel roll 2048x1536

And of course, the all-important freshly ground pepper:

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After that, everything came together nicely. I particularly like the way the molasses looks being added to the butter.

molasses and butter 2048x1536  dough pre flour 2048x1536dough chunk best dough roll 1888x1409

Here’s the dough going from mixer (see those ribbons of molasses top left? yum!) to a log ready to be wrapped up and frozen in a cardboard tube. It was hard, wrapping the dough up and leaving it in the freezer overnight before baking any of it! But I was sure it would be worth the wait.

cookies ready to bake
closeup finished cookies 1771x1320
and ready to eat!

And they were.

One last note; I made granola while my cookie dough was chilling. By chance I’d decided on ginger granola. Pro tip; crumbled pepparkakors make a great addition!

Baking Bible post: Luscious Apple Pie

apples at the ready finished pie

Two observations here. First, no, no, noooo why did you make me bake an apple pie on Labor Day when I’m trying so hard to hang onto summer? Sigh.

Second, I need better lighting or something. My pictures of sliced apples and cinnamon were not appetizing, so this post will be light on visuals.

My cream cheese crust making technique is definitely improving. I got everything refrigerated, and whizzed up into the right texture in the food processor, then rolled out into a pretty good-looking dough.

The technique of thickening cider with cornstarch and reducing the apple juices was intriguing. I’ve been thinking of buying some boiled cider to make pies with. Now I think I’ll have to try it just for comparison’s sake.

I had pie for breakfast. The verdict: very tasty!

pie slice

Baking Bible post: Flaky Cream Cheese Scones

Scones were the perfect choice this week because school starts Wednesday,  and I want to have some grab-and-go food on hand for my teens, who hate getting up in the morning. I usually try to make something with whole wheat and maybe a little less milkfat, but getting up for the bus is painful, and these scones will give them motivation to get moving those first few days. Back to baking, and milkfat in particular; I started with whipped cream, then cut in cream cheese, added chunks of flattened butter, then mixed everything together into a happy, flaky (well, proto-flaky) dough.

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Look below for the whipped cream on top. I think it looks a little like Jabba the Hutt.  See that little bit of yellow between the two leftmost blobs? That’s lemon oil, substituting for zest. Much easier to stock, and saves me the guilt-inducing sight of zested lemons slowly drying in my fruit drawer.

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Here’s the dough shaped in a nice even disk thanks to the cake pan.


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and all cut into pieces, ready for the oven.

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Remember those grade B knife skills? Well, here’s what happened this week:

scones baked 1943x1461

I’m not sure why the bigger scones are darker, especially since I had the convection on, but the uneven sizes are a direct result of my happy-go-lucky way with a knife. On the positive side, I was careful to refrigerate the cream cheese, butter, and even the flour mixture and the bowl for the whipped cream as directed, so my scones were light and flaky. I went out for coffee with my husband earlier in the week and froze a scone from the coffee shop so I could compare and contrast. The homemade version was infinitely better.


Baking Bible post: Woody’s Black and White Brownies

First step when preparing to bake; make sure you have all the ingredients. Cream cheese? Check. And check, and check. There are certain items my husband reaches for reflexively when he’s at the supermarket. Cream cheese is one of them.

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No need to put cream cheese on the shopping list!

butter melting in chocolate on the way to becoming brownies
butter melting in chocolate on the way to becoming brownies

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nekked brownies, uncovered top and bottom.
nekkid brownies, uncovered top and bottom.
Now there's foil!
Now there’s foil! And frosting!

I baked the brownies in a Pyrex pan with pan spray and flour, but I didn’t line the pan with foil like I was supposed to. After the brownies were baked, I turned them out onto a rack, lined the pan with foil and returned the brownies to the pan for frosting. That allowed me to remove the panful of brownie so I could cut it up without injuring the frosting. Or at least without causing mortal damage. My knife skills are in the solid B range, as you see below.

love the contrast here

The frosting got even shinier later
The frosting got even shinier later

I like food with with different textures, so this recipe looked promising. Chewy dense brownies with nuts and two kinds of topping! I loved the brownie part of these brownies. Putting cream cheese actually IN the brownie is genius. The result is a brownie that tastes cheesecake-like. They look lovely. Making the white chocolate buttercream was a new experience; I’ve never made buttercream with a custard base. And they look stunning, even when the knife is wielded by someone with grade B skillz.

All of that said, the effort:reward ratio was high. I’d make the unadorned brownies again, but the taste of white chocolate was diluted by the butter in the buttercream, which was overshadowed by ganache. Finally, the texture of the ganache and the buttercream was almost identical, so the taste experience was dense, delicious chocolate brownie with sweet, creamy richness on top. Enjoyable, but I’d rather spend the time baking a fruit galette.