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Brownies make me make them. It doesn’t matter what I think of the recipe or if I’m in the mood (which I wasn’t) or if I’m sneezing my head off (which I am) or if I don’t like caramel and D ain’t a fan of nuts (which I don’t and he ain’t). Brownies seduce me by saying, “It takes five minutes to stir me I promise, and you don’t even have to use anything except a whisk and a bowl!” They didn’t lie, these were the easiest brownies. Even if the use of corn syrup made me look at them sideways, I tried it and was very happy! Not sure why they’re called rich and fudgey, but I halved the recipe so that could’ve changed things. They came out an almost pound cake texture, very simple and ready to have topping.

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It ain’t caramel, I realize this. Caramel makes me make annoyed faces, and the recipe sounded a little intimidating! When Dorie tells me to back up so I don’t et splatter burnt, I have to admit this doesn’t make m want it more. To be honest, I ain’t ever made ay kind of caramel sauce or anything before! These brownies are in slices with my first butterscotch sauce recipe from the Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book. It’s really frigging good! It never came to the soft boil stage, which was really annoying but it worked.

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They’re nibbling on the little baby leaves, and trying to eat all of our garden! How did these snails get there you ask? What could’ve brought them into our yard? Could it be my fault?

brioche snails         brioche snails

It’s true that I made some brioche dough and rolled it out. It’s true that I simmered some dried cranberries in orange juice until they got fat and tasty. If they were scattered across a layer of lemon pastry cream and sprinkled with sugar, could you call me the responsible party?

brioche dough         brioche dough cranberries

Oh sure, it can’t be denied that I rolled it up into a log and cut it into these bun shapes (rather squishy because I let the dough get too warm)

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The lemon glaze that was drizzled over the hot snails was my doing, there’s too much evidence to plead innocent now. Tried to eat all the proof, but there were pics.

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Does that mean they have to eat my arugula?

brioche snails

This is three recipes, so there’s a lot to read. The recipes were really easy, and it was no problem doing it by hand without a mixer. The changes I made were int he fruit and pastry cream. Ain’t a fan of raisins and I don’t keep alcohol in the house except for D’s Guinness, instead I used dried cranberries simmered in orange juice. The pastry cream I flavoured with lemon extract instead of vanilla extract, and the glaze I changed to lemon. Didn’t use any cinnamon, wasn’t sure how it would taste with the lemon.

This is my new favourite snack. Even ate them for breakfast, and I don’t usually like sweet things in the morning. If y’all get to, try breaking them up the next day over ice cream. Ain’t much better as a dessert, D loved it.

If y’all read everything, here’s a joke. A rich snail buts himself a limo, and has a big golden S painted on the side. When asked why he did it, he replied, “When I go down the street I want everybody to say look at that S car go!”

Brioche Raisin Snails

1 cup moist, plump raisins
3 tablespoons dark rum
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 recipe for Golden Brioche Loaves(page 48), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating overnight)
1/2 recipe Pastry Cream (page 448)

For The Optional Glaze
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
About 1 teaspoon water
Drop of pure vanilla extract

Getting Ready: Line one large or two smaller baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Put the raisins in a small saucepan, cover them with hot water and let them steep for about 4 minutes, until they are plumped. Drain the raisins, return them to the saucepan and, stirring constantly, warm them over low heat. When the raisins are very hot, pull the pan from the heat and pour over the rum. Standing back, ignite the rum. Stair until the flames go out, then cover and set aside. (The raisins and rum an be kept in a covered jar for up to 1 day.)
Mix the sugar and cinnamon together.
On a flour dusted surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 inches wide and 16 inches long, with a short end toward you. Spread the pastry cream across the dough, leaving 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Scatter the raisins over the pastry cream and sprinkle the raisins and cream with the cinnamon sugar. Starting wit the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it up to 2 months; see Storing for further instructions. Or, if you do not want to make the full recipe, use as much of the dough as you’d like and freeze the remainder.)
With a chef’s knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends if they’re ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into rounds a scant 1 inch thick. Put the snails on the lined baking sheet(s), leaving some puff space between them.
Lightly cover the snails with wax paper and set the baking sheet(s) in a warm place until the snails have doubles in volume–they’ll be puffy and soft–about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Getting Ready To Bake: When the snails have almost fully risen, preheat the oven: depending on the number of baking sheets you have, either center a rack in the oven or position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Remove the wax paper, and bake the snails for about 25 minutes (rotate the sheets if you’re using two, from top to bottom and front to back after 15 minutes), or until they are puffed and richly browned. Using a metal spatula, transfer the snails onto a cooling rack.

If You Want To Glaze The Snails: Put a piece of wax paper under the rack of warm rolls to act as a drip catcher. Put the confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl, and stir in a teaspoon of water. Keep adding water drop by drop until you have an icing that falls from the tip of a spoon. Add the vanilla extract, then drizzle the icing over the hot snails.

Golden Brioche Loaves

2 packets active dry yeast
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 3/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

For The Glaze
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can– this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you’re doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you’ll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.
Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You’ll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.
Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight.
The next day, butter and flour two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch pans.
Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.)

Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.
Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.

Pastry Cream

2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.
Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk– this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are full incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly–as I always do–put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

The name of this recipe had me drooling y’all, there are few things I love more than an apple pie. The problem was, D is very anti apple pie, what’s a girl to do when trying to show off for TWD and please her hard working man (he really is hard working, that man works like a mule)?

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 Pears! D loves pears, and ever since I made the pear crumble he’s been very enthusiastic about baking more of them. A little chat with the brilliant Jaime got us both wanting to try combining pears, apples, and cranberries for our filling. Nobody ever accused me of being the brightest, but I’ve got enough sense to know if she thinks something food related is a good idea it’s worth a try.

The first time I made the dough (half the recipe), I did it by the book and put it in the fridge for 3 hours. It stayed as sticky as it started out with, and my first turn overs fell apart when I tried to make them. They tasted perfect, but they looked so bad I knew that trying again was the right thing to do. The second time I made the dough, I forgot to put it in the fridge and got distracted watching Star Trek with D! Oh no! The funny thing was that when I picked it up to put it away, it was firmer. Not dried out, and I’d added a little extra flour but it was a lot more dough like. Why not try it right? Floured a silicone sheet, and patted out two large circles. Added the filling, and using a spatula carefully flipped one half over and pressed it closed. It wasn’t sticky, it worked! Lifted it to the baking pan, and baked it at 375 F for 20 minutes.

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If y’all are kind, you’ll call them rustic. No laughing at how I like things better when they look like that, ain’t got nothing against fancy but this makes me hungry! They’re big enough that D and me split one, and we were both satisfied after half. It was almost too much! The pastry is so good you could eat it by itself. The other half that i didn’t use for the turn overs, I made into a log and put in the fridge to make cookies with.

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Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie-Cake
from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

For The Dough

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon
3 1/4 – 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flourFor The Apples
10 medium apples, all one kind or a mix (Dorie likes to use Fuji , Golden Delicious and Ida Reds; her grandmother probably used dry baking apples like Cordland and Rome)
Squirt of fresh lemon juice
1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar, for dusting

To Make The Dough:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes more. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the baking powder and salt and mix just to combine. Add the lemon juice – the dough will probably curdle, but don’t worry about it. Still working on low speed, slowly but steadily add 3 1/4 cups of the flour, mixing to incorporate it and scraping down the bowl as needed. The dough is meant to be soft, but if you think it looks more like a batter than a dough at this point, add the extra 1/4 cup flour. (The dough usually needs the extra flour.) When properly combined, the dough should almost clean the sides of the bowl.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or for up to 3 days. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; defrost overnight in the refrigerator.)

 

To Make The Apples:
Peel and core the apples and cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick; cut the slices in half crosswise if you want. Toss the slices in a bowl with a little lemon juice – even with the juice, the apples may turn brown, but that’s fine – and add the raisins. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together, sprinkle over the apples and stir to coat evenly. Taste an apple and add more sugar, cinnamon, and/or lemon juice if you like.

Getting Ready to Bake:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter a 9×12-inch baking pan (Pyrex is good) and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat

Remove the dough from the fridge. If it is too hard to roll and it cracks, either let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin to get it moving. Once it’s a little more malleable, you’ve got a few choices. You can roll it on a well-floured work surface or roll it between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. You can even press or roll out pieces of the dough and patch them together in the pan – because of the baking powder in the dough, it will puff and self-heal under the oven’s heat. Roll the dough out until it is just a little larger all around than your pan and about 1/4 inch thick – you don’t want the dough to be too thin, because you really want to taste it. Transfer the dough to the pan. If the dough comes up the sides of the pan, that’s fine; if it doesn’t that’s fine too.

Give the apples another toss in the bowl, then turn them into the pan and, using your hands, spread them evenly across the bottom.

Roll out the second piece of dough and position it over the apples. Cut the dough so you’ve got a 1/4 to 1/2 inch overhang and tuck the excess into the sides of the pan, as though you were making a bed. (If you don’t have that much overhang, just press what you’ve got against the sides of the pan.)

Brush the top of the dough lightly with water and sprinkle sugar over the dough. Using a small sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 evenly spaced slits in the dough.
Bake for 65 to 80 minutes, or until the dough is a nice golden brown and the juices from the apples are bubbling up through the slits. Transfer the baking pan to a cooling rack and cool to just warm or to room temperature. You’ll be tempted to taste it sooner, but I think the dough needs a little time to rest.

Apple Turnovers
Roll out the dough until it is a little thinner than 1/4 inch and cut it into circles 4-1/2 to 5 inches in diameter. Fill each one with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the apple filling (I chop the apples when I’m using them in a small turnover) or substitute another fruit filling, apple butter and apple chunks or some great preserves. Brush the edges of each dough circle with a little water, fold over the dough to make a half circle pocket and use the tines of a fork to seal the edges. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat and cut a steam slit in the top of each turnover. Bake in a 375-degree-F oven for about 20 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and you can smell the sweet filling. Cool to room temperature before serving.

D loved these, and I ain’t arguing with him about it. Y’all, these are so tasty it ain’t even right! They were simple and friendly, the dough was so nice to work with and they were done before you could clean up after them. A few things I changed, walnuts instead of pecans and low fat buttermilk instead of whole milk. Wanna try these with whole wheat flour!

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Now y’all, cutting in butter ain’t never been one of my favourite things to do. That’s why when I heard about this technique, I was really happy to try it! It’s worked out good, and this recipe was no exception. Using a cheese grater, very cold butter can be grated into your flour mixture instead of cutting your butter. Toss it with a fork a little, and you’re good to go! It’s a lot quicker, and you don’t have to worry about warming the butter up as you cut and rub it. Y’all won’t be disappointed with this trick. Y’all can tell I didn’t have a biscuit cutter, a star cookie cutter made these really cute!

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A little apple butter is the perfect accompaniment to these tender guys. A cheerful fried egg and a biscuit was a great breakfast, and one that D says is a keeper. He’s the one who vetoes or approves the food around here. He’s a really good one to feed, he ain’t picky and he’s always encouraging me to try new things. Don’t ya love him (and these biscuits)?

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Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits
 (Makes about 12 biscuits)

2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/3 cup cake flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
1/2 cup cold sour cream
1/4 cold whole milk
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans, preferably toasted

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Get out a sharp 2-inch-diameter biscuit cutter and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Whisk the flour(s), baking powder, salt, and baking soda together in a bow. Stir in the brown sugar, making certain there are no lumps. Drop in the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips (my favorite method) or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly. You’ll have pea-size pieces, pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pieces the size of everything in between– and that’s just right.

Stir the sour cream and milk together and pour over the dry ingredients. Grab a fork and gently toss and turn the ingredients together until you’ve got a nice soft dough. Now reach into the bowl with your hands and give the dough a quick gentle kneading– 3 or 4 turns should be just enough to bring everything together. Toss in the pecans and knead 2 to 3 times to incorporate them.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Dust the top of the dough very lightly with flour, pat the dough out with your hands or toll it with a pin until it is about 1/2 inch high. Don’t worry if the dough isn’t completely even– a quick, light touch is more important than accuracy.

Use the biscuit cutter to cut out as many biscuits as you can. Try to cut the biscuits close to one another so you get the most you can out of the first round. By hand or with a small spatula, transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet. Gather together the scraps, working with them as little as possible, pat out to a 1/2-inch thickness and cut as many additional biscuits as you can; transfer these to the sheet. (The biscuits ca be made to this point and frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight and kept for up to 2 months. Bake without defrosting– just add a couple more minutes to the oven time.)

Bake the biscuits for 14-18 minutes, or until they are tall, puffed and golden brown. Transfer them to a serving basket.

Oh y’all. What can a girl say when a recipe like this gets chosen but that? The more people talked about it, the more I was almost jumping out of my chair to make it! Around here, we wait until Saturdays for the baking (that way I can unload leftovers on people at the Saturday family dinner), but this one almost made me break my rule! A few people said the cake was too dark, and that this household drool even more.

Saturday took it’s sweet time getting here, but that morning I was ready to get to work.

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Aint got a double boiler, but a metal bowl on top of a sauce pan worked fine. This part was so easy, I mixed it with running outside a few times to watch D try to wrestle an old push lawn mower into submission. It was good timing! Got to try to push it around, but any real work was gotten out of by pointing out my chocolate was gonna burn.

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Ain’t this neat? Who knew folding egg whites into chocolate would look like pics from the Hubble telescope? This is even better than the Milky Way!

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This cake was so fun to make. Ain’t a bit harder than an average ol’ cake you throw in quick for unexpected company, and it came together so nicely you could. Ain’t a person that would be disappointed to be served this either (unless they’re one of those odd people who don’t like chocolate, but we don’t talk about them in polite company), and it’s sure to get you lots of compliments.

Tried to make my first ganache for this one, and it couldn’t have been simpler. A little hot cream over some chopped up chocolate did the trick, we didn’t have any corn syrup for the glaze Dorie had and I ain’t partial to corn syrup.

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The neighbours are convinced I’m odd, as well as the pierced and eyeliner caked teenage boy who wandered by as I was crouched down in the front lawn taking pics. Ain’t it pretty? The reflections of light made me feel like I had done something right.

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Here’s a few pics of the crumb. It was dense, but I didn’t think it was as dense as some of the other people were saying. D declared it similar to a really good brownie, and I agreed. That’s high praise around here.

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Almost-Fudge Gâteau

5 large eggs
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup of sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons coffee or water
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

For the Glaze (optional)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Getting Ready:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 9-inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper, dust the inside of the pan with flour and tap out the excess.  Place the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a mixer bowl or other large bowl and the yolks in a small bowl.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and add the chocolate, sugar butter and coffee.  Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted; the sugar may still be grainy, and that’s fine.  Transfer the bowl to the counter and let the mixture sit for 3 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, stir in the yolks one by one, then fold in the flour.

Working with the whisk attachment of the mixer or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until they hold firm, but glossy peaks.  Using the spatula, stir about one quarter of the beaten whites into the batter, then gently fold in the rest.  Scrape the butter into the pan and jiggle the pan from side to side a couple of times to even the batter.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the cake has risen evenly (it might rise around the edges and you’ll think it’s done, but give it a few minutes more, and the center will puff too) and the top has firmed (it will probably be cracked) and doesn’t shimmy when tapped; a thin knife inserted into the center should come out just slightly streaked with chocolate.  Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the cake rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Run a blunt knife gently around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the pan.  Carefully turn the cake over onto a rack and remove the pan bottom and the parchment paper.  Invert the cake onto another rack and cool to room temperature right side up.  As the cake cools, it may sink.

To Make the Optional Glaze:

First, turn the cooled cake over onto another rack so you’ll be glazing the flat bottom, and place the rack over a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper to catch any drips.

Put the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.

Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave oven – the chocolate should be just melted and only warm, not hot.  Meanwhile, bring the cream to a boil in a small sauce pan.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir very gently with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth and shiny.  Stir in the corn syrup.

Pour the glaze over the cake and smooth the top with a long metal icing spatula.  Don’t worry if the glaze drips unevenly down the sides of the cake – it will just add to its charms.  Allow the glaze to set at room temperature or, if you’re impatient, slip the cake into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.  If the glaze dulls in the fridge, just give it a little gentle heat from a hairdryer.

A water bath? There it was, mocking me and my rather incomplete set of baking pans and dishes. Where in the world was I gonna get a pan big enough to hold even my smallest springform pan? Oh sure, there was one at the store, but with no room in the budget to spare this month, no way was I gonna make a case for getting a pan for the sole purpose of holding a cheesecake, hah! Right then… ya know, on Myth Busters the other day they made a balloon out of foil, why not a roasting pan? Try to follow the logic here…

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You can’t really use tape on something you’re gonna put in the heat, but if we scrunch the layers of foil up the right way (of course they ain’t the wide foil, ugh) and put it on the baking sheet… It managed to hold the water well enough, and the cheesecake was on!

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It ain’t the fanciest food processor, but it does manage to have two speeds and a blade, so the gingersnap crumbs got all nice. Y’all love me, which is why we ain’t gonna speak about how I read it wrong first and ended up with 20 gingersnaps and two sticks of melted butter. Ew. Beating the dyslexia back with a whip and a chair, I figured it out and made a nice little crust. Most of the gingersnaps made it into the crust, only a few brave little ones sacrificed themselves to my gingersnap obsession.

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The batter was so easy to make, it was like a little cheesecake party! What had me fearing I was gonna be stressed, ended up being fun. Ain’t it pretty?

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D ain’t a big fan of cooked apples in pies and such, so I used the apple butter variation. It ain’t nothing, you put some apple butter in the batter after it’s in the pan, and swirl it around with a knife. The apple butter is heavy, so you gotta swirl and hope for the best really.

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It looks like a cheesecake don’t it? It’s the first one I ever made, and I couldn’t be more proud. It’s very tasty, and I’m doing a dance to know I can make cheesecakes now! The only crack in the cheesecake was a little one when my thumb poked it too hard taking it out of the oven. Who knew, the redneck water bath worked! Could eat half of this cheesecake by myself. Dorie Greenspan, I love you!

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Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake

For the Crust
30 gingersnaps (or a scant 2 cups graham cracker crumbs)
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted

For the Apples
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter
3 large Golden Delicious or Fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
2 tbsp (packed) light brown sugar

For the Filling
1 1/2 pounds (three 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp apple cider
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy cream

Apple jelly, for glazing, or confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)

To Make the Crust: Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan.

Put the gingersnaps in a food processor and whir until you have crumbs; you should have a scant 2 cups.  (If you are using graham cracker crumbs, just put them in the food processor.)  Pulse in the sugar and cinnamon, if you’re using it, then pour over the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened.  Turn the crumbs into the springform pan and, using your fingertips, firmly press them evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan as far as they’ll go.  Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.  (The crust can be covered and frozen for up to 2 months.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the pan from the freezer and wrap the bottom tightly in aluminum foil, going up the sides.  Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is set and lightly browned.  Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the apples and the filling.  Leave the oven at 350 degrees F.

To Make the Apples: Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  When the foam subsides, toss in half of the apple slices and cook, turning once, until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Sprinkle the apples with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and cook them, turning, just until coated, another minute or so.  Scrape the apples onto a plate, wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining apples.  Let the apples cool while you make the filling.

Getting Ready to Bake:  Have a roasting pan large enough to hold the springform pan at hand.  Put a kettle of water on to boil.

To Make the Filling: Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth.  Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes.  Beat in the cider, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Reduce the speed to low and beat in the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in.  Finally, beat in the sour cream and heavy cream, beating just until the batter is smooth.

Pour about one third of the batter into the baked crust. Drain the apples by lifting them off the plate with a slotted spoon or spatula, and spoon them into the pan.  Cover with the remaining batter and, if needed, jiggle the pan to even the top.  Place the springform pan in the roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 to 45 minutes, covering the cake loosely with a foil tent at the 45-minute mark.  The cake will rise evenly and crack around the edges, and it should be fully set except, possibly, in the very center–if the center shimmies, that’s just fine.  Gently transfer the cake, still in the pan, to a cooling rack and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it for at least 6 hours; overnight would be better.

Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the crust, open the pan’s latch and release and remove the sides.

The Black And White Cake ain’t, let me start out by making that clear. This is the story instead of a Black And Pink Cake. Everybody else’s look so nice, I had to make myself post this poor failure.

Picture 472 It started out so well, the little pink cake pans were floured and parchmented for the first time (I’d never used the paper before), the bowls were lined up and shining. Everything was shaping up to be a simple, lovely day of baking and frosting. Oh sure, the white chocolate gave me pause as I remembered my early childhood hatred of the stuff but I didn’t let it bug me.                           

   

Picture 473

 

The batter whipped up very nicely, thick and fluffy. I didn’t even try to speed up the mixing process, despite my mutterings about having to do things the fancy, uppity way with each addition carefully timed. The ingredients seemed to my uneducated self an awful lot like a basic ol’ buttermilk cake, but a look at the picture reassured me that we were making fancy pants, high falutin’ food in the kitchen today!

Picture 476 Like a good girl, I avoided opening the oven to check on the cakes. They were doing fine in there, surely that beautifully luscious batter wouldn’t be having any problems! The timer went off, and I pulled out… pancakes. Now, it’s entirely possible that I’m too used to the fluffy cakes and without proper warning panicked over much. They seemed so flat, so dense though that I quickly tossed them to the side and tried again! The batter was perfect, I counted the seconds between adding eggs with a quiet whisper and slid the cakes into the oven…

Picture 481

 

Pancakes. There is no other word to describe them but pancakes. I knew it wasn’t the ingredients, the baking powder and baking soda are brand new and made everything else they’ve touched light and fluffy! Why now, why these poor little cakes? A quick bite of the earlier batch confirmed what I had suspected early. Ol’ buttermilk cakes. Dense and crumbly, the kind of cakes you serve folk when company ain’t coming. Tasty to be sure, but not a whiff of white napkins and crooked pinkies to be heard of!

Resigned to the flat little things, I started in on the chocolate cream. This was to be the redeeming touch of sophistication, and I threw myself into the unfamiliar task without fear. What could be more charming and suave then a lovely bowl of… pudding? The stuff looked like cooked chocolate pudding. Dismayed, I swiped a pinky finger across the spatula, and sure enough it tasted just like a comfy lick of homey chocolate pudding.

Right. An ol’ buttermilk cake with chocolate pudding on it. Mind you, I ain’t got no objections to that combination. It’s a favourite of mine, but there are a lot quicker ways to accomplish it without the time consuming steps or the pricier ingredient list.

The white chocolate cream was the last hope of this being anything resembling fancy. Y’all ever really hated something as a kid, and then outgrew it later? Yeah… that didn’t happen here. From the first whiff of the warm white chocolate, to the cautious lick of the spoon, every fiber of my being was trying to scream and run from the vile stuff. After a few attempts to get near it, I groaned (and did *not* cuss out loud thank you very much) and threw the whole mess in the trash. To make up for it, I whipped up some more whipped cream, and boiled down some fresh strawberries and sugar into a sauce to fold in. It was very tasty, but obviously not sturdy like the original.

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The Black And Pink Cake. After all the hassle, I served it to D and his mom for dinner. After explaining why it didn’t work out, his mom (bless her) laughed and said she was happy it didn’t because she doesn’t care for white chocolate at all. It was a tasty cake, even if that night I wasn’t it biggest fan from having too many hopeful expectations about it.

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Picture 490

 

Last night, I grabbed a slice before I was gonna throw it out this morning. It had been hanging around since Saturday, and it wasn’t gonna be good by the next day so I wanted to give it one more chance. Very tasty! The cream had sunk into the cake more, and everything was much moister and blended. Then again, ain’t everything tastier in a middle of the night refrigerator raid?

Picture 540    Picture 542

 

 

Black and White Chocolate Cake

For the cake:
2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 (10 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk

For the dark chocolatecream:
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp corstarch, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces, at room temp

for the White chocolatewhipped cream:
6 oz. premium quality white chocolate
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9X2 inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To make the cake: Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking sodaand sal t.

Working with a stand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, and then the yolk, beating for 1 minutes after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 28-30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then unmmold, remove the paper and invert to cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.

To make the dark chocolatecream: Bring the milk to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolk with the sugar, cornstarch and salt until thick and well blended. Whisking without stopping, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk-this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won’t curdle-then, still whisking, add the remainder of the milk in a steady stream. Put the pan over meduim heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (make sure to get into the edges of the pan), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the melted chocolate, and let stand for 5 minutes. Then whisk in the pieces of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the chocolate cream is smooth and silky. Press a piece of plastic wrapagainst the surface of the cream to create and airtight seal and refrigerate the cream until chilled, or for up to 3 days. Or, if you want to coool the cream quickly, put the bowl with a cream into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water and stir the cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

To make the white chocolate whipped cream: Put the white chocolate in a heat proof bowl and put the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir frequently to melt the chocolate evenly. Meanwhile, bring 1/2 cup of the heavy cream to a boil.

When the white chocolateis melted, remove the bowl from the pan. Pour the hot cream into the melted chocolate and let it sit for a minute. Using a small spatula, stir the chocolate gently until it is smooth. Let it sit on the counter until it reaches room temperature-it can’t be the least warm when you add it to the whipped cream.

Working with the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream only unti l it holds the softest peaks. Turn the machine to high, add the cooled white chocolate all at once and continue to beat until the whipped cream holds firm peaks. Turn the whipped cream into a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap gently against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 6 hours.

To assemble the cake: If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. Slice each layer horizontally in half. Place on layer cut side down on a cardboard cake round or on a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment.

Remove the dark and white chocolate creams from the refrigerator and whisk each of them vigorously to loosen and smooth them. With a long metal icing spatula, spread enough dark chocolate cream (about 1 cup) over the cake layer to cover it completely. Top the cream with another cake layer, cut side up, and cover this layer with white chocolatewhipped cr eam, making the white layer about the same thickness as the dark layer. Cover with a third layer, cut side up, and cover with another cup or so of the dark chocolate cream. (You’ll have some dark chocolate cream left over) Top with the final layer of cake, cut side down, and frost the sides and top with the remaining white chocolate whipped cream. Decorate with chocolate shaving or curls, if you wish.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.

Tuesdays with Dorie is a great little baking group, started by the wonderful Laurie over at Quirky Cupcake. I’ve admired their baking skills, read along with their adventures, and longed to join up to add in my messy baking skills. So eager was I to join, that yesterday I begged for an invite quite hastily… without stopping to think I needed the book. After the welcomes were given, after the enthusiastic hellos from the great girls of the group, my common sense decided to show up late to the party and mention that I didn’t *have* the book. How embarrassing it was! They were all very nice to me, and welcomed me to hurry back as soon as I got it, but I didn’t really have much hope that would be anytime soon due to our tight budget.

Today Fed Ex came to the door, and carelessly dropped a package on the door mat without even bothering to knock. Everything we’d ordered for Christmas had already come, there wasn’t anything expected, and yet a package from amazon.com sat staring up ta me with my name on it. It was with much confusion that I opened the package, and smiling up at me was Dorie Greenspan’s book. Baking, From My Home To Yours. My beloved man, after hearing my story of my mess up and joining me in some chuckling over my typically impulsive behaviour, had the book over nighted to me. In spite of our tight budget. In spite of me telling him everything was fine and I didn’t mind waiting. I won’t lie, I teared right up and got my glasses all streaky wet. The words aren’t there to tell y’all how I feel right now, all I can say is it’s good.

D, you truly are my knight in shining armour. I love you so much.