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Wednesday
Nov042009

Decadent Sweets Inspired by Dana Treat: Caramel Apple Pie Bar Recipe

Piggie loves Apple Pie Bars
It's not that I don't like apple pie. It's just that the parts I do like happen to be the ones that don't really involve apples: the buttery, rich crust, and the equally buttery, rich topping--which, if I have my say, is always some sort of brown sugar crumbled goodness. So when I saw a recipe for Apple Pie Bars on the Dana Treat website, I knew I had found the apple pie that my soul had always been searching for: i.e., mostly crust and topping, with a little filling sandwiched in between. I had to make these bars. I did make these bars, the very same day I found them--adding in a layer of caramel too for good measure. With a bar this rich, was that necessary? No. But it sure was good. In fact, the only mistake I made with these bars is that I halved the original recipe, which was a mistake because we ran out all too soon.

Apple Pie Bars
Caramel Apple Pie Bars
Adapted from Dana Treat
- Makes about 24 bars -

Notes: I made some changes to Dana's recipe. First, I halved her original recipe, instead making my batch in an 8x8-inch pan. This was probably a mistake as we definitely could have eaten more. I also added aforementioned caramel layer. Good decision.

For the crust
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling
(optional) 1/2 cup caramel sauce, such as Fran's Dessert Sauces (or if you're feeling saucy, you could make your own; or, you could just use a dozen or so caramel candies--choose your own adventure!)


3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 large Granny Smith apples, cut into thin slices (I didn't peel mine, and nobody judged me)
1 tablespoon cinnamon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

For the topping
1/2 cup walnuts
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 sticks salted butter (the original recipe calls for unsalted, but I like a really salty crumb, so I used salted), cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled

Procedure
  1. Make the crust. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease an 8x8-inch pan thoroughly. In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. At low speed, beat in the flour and salt until a soft dough forms. Press the dough over the bottom of the prepared pan, leaving the edges slightly higher (but still even all around). Bake in the center of the oven for about 12-15 minutes, until the crust is golden and set. Let cool on a rack.
  2. While this is cooling, make the filling. In a large skillet, the butter and brown sugar. Add the apples to the skillet and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir the cinnamon and nutmeg into the skillet, making sure it has evenly coated the apples. Cook until the apples are caramelized and very tender and the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes longer; scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet, and if necessary add a small amount of water to the pan to prevent scorching (I didn't have to).
  3. Make the topping. Lightly toast the walnuts in the oven for about eight minutes; let cool, then coarsely chop them. In a large bowl, mix the oats with the flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon, and baking soda. Using a pastry blender or two knives (or your very clean hands!) cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the walnuts and press the mixture into clumps.
  4. Assemble and bake. Spread the 1/2 cup caramel sauce (or caramel candies) over the bottom layer, ensuring even coverage. Spread the apple filling directly on top of the caramel. Scatter the crumbs on top, pressing them lightly into an even layer. Bake in the center of the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the topping is golden; rotate the pan halfway through baking. Let cool completely on a rack before cutting into bars.
Note: Dana says that these bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 days or frozen for a month, but I can't be sure as ours didn't last that long.

For more of Dana's sweet recipes, check out danatreat.com. You won't regret it.

Wednesday
Nov042009

Sweet Art: A Romantic Anniversary Commission

Custom anniversary illustration
Romance can be as sweet as cupcakes, as evidenced by this sweet commission I recently took on for an anniversary present! Kris asked me to create this custom illustration for his wife Ashley (a cupcake baker!) for their three year anniversary. It combined a variety of places, things, and seasons that they both love and have shared. It's always such a pleasure to work on custom pieces which I know will be going to a perfect home!

May you two have many more sweet years ahead!

Wednesday
Nov042009

Oh So Good: A New Take on Osgood Pie, for Serious Eats

What is Osgood Pie, anyway?
Have you ever heard of Osgood Pie? Didn't think so. Actually neither had I, until I discovered it via Not Martha!

While the pie, which is in the tradition of old-time vinegar and chess pies, doesn't necessarily sound like the most appetizing dessert--it's comprised of eggs, sugar, vinegar, and raisins--I was nonetheless intrigued, and I tried to modernize it a bit for my latest contribution to Serious Eats by swapping raisins for cherries and adding some almonds for an added texture and flavor contrast.

If I do say so myself, it turned out pretty tasty--once you've wrapped your mind around the vinegar pie idea, that is. You can check out the entire post and recipe, as well as more Osgood Pie lore, over at Serious Eats!

Wednesday
Nov042009

Sweet Art: Skinny for Illustration Friday

Cuppie Gets Physical
How does Cuppie maintain such a streamlined physique and avoid the dreaded muffin top?

By Sweatin' to the Oldies, of course!

This illustration is an oldie but goodie, and seemed perfect for this week's Illustration Friday theme of Skinny.

Wednesday
Nov042009

Gingerbread, Man: A Sweet Recipe from Cake Gumshoe Julia

Gingerbread cake, c/o Cake Gumshoe Julia
CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post and recipe from Cake Gumshoe Julia, a 26 old wife, exercise fiend, and baking enthusiast. She is always looking for ways to make recipes healthier and to enhance the fresh flavor (without losing deliciousness!). It can't always be done, but if it can be, then she will do it!  Her writing can be find at her site, Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body.

Ever since I made the Ultimate Ginger Cookies a few days ago I have been craving gingerbread. I can't get it off my mind. What the heck, I figured--I should probably just make some. So when 5:15 am came Saturday morning I decided that was the perfect time to start my baking.

Things started out with a measure of uncertainty: the batter seemed a little too sweet and runny; I didn't know how the baked product would turn out. It was my first time in years to make gingerbread; I have been so focused on pumpkin and mint the past few fall seasons that I nearly forgot about gingerbread. But not this year, my friends. Gingerbread is reining supreme so far in Autumn 2009. And since this bread uses no oil or butter and even has some whole wheat flour, it's practically health food.

When the bread puffed up perfectly, I was so happy. And then when I tasted it, oh my word, success! The lemon is sort of an odd component to add to the cake, but it gives it an extra freshness. You could use orange as well and that would be wonderful. But don't omit the lemon!
Gingerbread cake, c/o Cake Gumshoe Julia
Gingerbread Cake

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup (105 grams) light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
  • 1 cup 1% milk (you can use non-fat or whole also)

Procedure
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in center of oven. Grease your pan of choice with non stick spray. Note: You have a variety of pan options: 24 Cupcake Pan (bake for only about 20 minutes) - 9 inch loaf pan - 9 inch round cake pan (bake for about 30-35 minutes). Set aside.
  2. In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ground cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl of your electric mixer, beat the applesauce and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lemon zest and molasses and beat to combine. Add the dry ingredients and milk, alternately, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat just until incorporated.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing cake from pan. Let cool completely and then frost (I just used chocolate frosting from a can for the little cake. Remember, it was 5:15 Saturday morning. Making gingerbread was enough of an accomplishment that early).

Tuesday
Nov032009

Batter Chatter: Interview with Food Photographer Ryan Nowell

Photo by Ryan (used for interview)
One of the best parts of looking at food websites and recipe books--bar none--is the pictures. A compelling food photo can draw the viewer in, evoke taste memories, and create new appetites. But what goes on behind the lens? Who could tell us better than Ryan Nowell, a Portland-based photographer with a great eye, and a penchant for sweets (as evidenced by the collaborative blog, The Chef and the Photographer, which he writes with his pastry chef wife).

CakeSpy: What was the last sweet you ate?
Ryan Nowell: Well the last baked good was the Chocolate Bundt cake from this post on our website. I actually ate the piece in the picture the evening of the same day. I may be biased but it really was wonderful! Nice and dense but not too chocolatey. We missed out on taking a photo of the whole thing.....wanted to eat it too much! The outside was nice and shiny and would have made a great shot. Oh well, good excuse to make another.

Photo by Ryan (used for interview)
CS: Tell me what photography means to you.
RN: Photography is really a great way to show people what I see in everyday items and moments. I always feel like there are so many wonderful images that we are surrounded by but most people are too busy to notice. Food especially is something that everyone enjoys and by taking photos it makes it easier to explain how all the ingredients came together.
Photo by Ryan (used for interview)
CS: As a photographer, how does food stack up to other subject matter (people, landscapes, etc)?
RN: Food is just about the easiest and sometimes the most challenging as compared to people or landscapes. People are really great to work with but it can sometimes depend on the person. I like to shoot candids which can sometimes catch people off guard and not everyone, in my experience, likes to have their photo taken. Landscape is another of my favorite subjects. Living in the Northwest really gives you so much to shoot but can sometimes be a challenge when its raining most of the year. With food, you have complete control of everything in the image but then some elements can be tricky to control and light. I like to mostly use natural light when its available but other times I use a light box I made at home to mimic natural light and to help with shadows. Shadows in food can be tough since each object will have so many angles, textures, and colors. Sometimes shadows can really take away from what you would normally see with your eye which has the ability to adjust to light in a fraction of a second. I don't use any flash at all at the moment which makes me work a little harder to work with what I am given.

CS: Tell more about your blog, Chef & Photographer. How did it come about?
RN: Our blog came about with my love of photography and my wife's culinary passion. Its a great way for us both to work together and to then enjoy her creations and share them with family, friends and anyone that may come across the site. It's also a great way for my wife to document a recipe that she has created and reference it later if she needs to. She also really enjoys the challenge of the setup of the shot and really does most of the styling of the food since she is sometimes looking for a specific look or detail in the food.

CS: Your wife is a pastry chef (!). What is your favorite dessert that she makes?
RN: Yes, my wife is a Pastry Chef and teaches at a local culinary school. I am not sure if I have a favorite since she hardly makes the same thing twice but a few of my favorites are her Cheesecake and Pumpkin Pies. Luckily many recipes have been created and tested on me which I thoroughly enjoy!!
Photo by Ryan (used for interview)
CS: It seems that the desserts featured on your blog seem to honor seasonal ingredients. How does it change food to keep your ingredients seasonal/local?
RN: We do try to use as much local ingredients as possible. We have a modest garden in our backyard and sometimes we end up with more then we can eat which gives my wife some more inspiration to try and create something savory or even desserts using vegetables.
Photo used w/Permission from Coco & Co
RS: You recently did some photography for the Coco and Co. Chocolates site. Now, chocolate seems like it's a particularly hard food to shoot and make look good. Any tips for getting sexy chocolate shots?
RN: The main issue with chocolate is lighting for sure. For the chocolate truffles for Coco and Co., I used the light box I mentioned earlier. It really cancels out the shadows nicely and helps to light up all sides of the truffle and works well with any textures that be present.
Photo by Ryan (used for interview)Photo by Ryan (used for interview)
CS: Where else can we view (or purchase/ commission?) your photography?
RN: I am about to release my website which will be coming soon! It will be ryannowellphotography.com. In the meantime, check out Ryan's photos via Flickr!

Tuesday
Nov032009

Candy Massacre: Leftover Halloween Candy Pie for Serious Eats

Leftover Halloween Candy Pie
Poor Halloween candy. Just a few days ago it was the star of the supermarket aisle, the festive treat on everyone's mind. But now, just two days later, these sweet treats are Halloween has-beens, relegated to sale bins, withering away in candy dishes.

But is there a way to breathe new life—to re-animate, if you will—this past its prime candy? I propose yes: by dumping it in a pie shell and melting it into one monstrous mash of a candy pie.
Leftover Halloween Candy Pie

This pie was the subject of my weekly sweet writeup over at Serious Eats--why not click over and check out the full post plus recipe?

Tuesday
Nov032009

Candy Massacre: Leftover Halloween Candy Pie for Serious Eats

Sunday
Nov012009

Pie Time: The Most Amazing Pumpkin Banana Cream Pie with Brandy Whipped Cream

Pumpkin Banana Mousse Tart with homemade brandy whipped cream
There are pies--and then there are truly great pies. And it's my great pleasure to introduce you to one of the truly great ones: Pumpkin Banana Cream Pie with Brandy Whipped Cream. This triple-decker treat is a triple-threat of awesome, combining recipes by Ina Garten and Tom Douglas, with some added variations (like Brandy whipped cream) dreamed up by my friend Nurit, ace baker and writer of 1 family. friendly. food., with whom I baked this hunk of delicious the other day. But really, words are wasted when we could be talking about how to get on the express train to having this pie in your mouth:

Pumpkin Banana Mousse Tart with homemade brandy whipped cream
Pumpkin Banana Cream Pie with Brandy Whipped Cream

Nurit's Note: We used an 11-inch tart pan but you can use a regular pie pan. In any case, you probably will have some extra custard which you can layer and serve in pretty little bowls. (Check her site for her own posting about the pie, and check back soon for a separate post about this dessert!)

More notes:The pumpkin custard is based on Ina Garten’s Pumpkin Banana Mousse Tart and the vanilla custard is based on Tom Douglas’s Coconut cream pie (but substituting banana for coconut). The dough was from a recipe of Nurit's, and the brandy whipped cream (ethereal!) was her brainchild as well.

For the dough:
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups self-rising flour
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup banana chips, crushed in food processor

For the pastry cream:
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract plus 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (the original recipe called for 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1-2 bananas thinly sliced

For the pumpkin custard layer:
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
A pinch ground nutmeg
3 extra-large egg yolks
1 package (2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 ripe banana, finely mashed
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice

For whipped cream:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons brandy

Make the dough. 

  1. Pulse butter, sugar, and flour in a food processor, or do it with hands, until you get big crumbs. Add the yolks, pulse until the crumbs are moist. Press into a generously greased 11-inch tart pan. Press banana chips into dough. Refrigerate covered for 30 minutes or so. 
  2. Bake at 375 F for 20-25 minutes.

Make the pastry cream. 
  1. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan until it almost comes to a boil. Add the vanilla. (If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean and add both the seeds and pod to the milk mixture. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and stir occasionally.)
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and flour until well combined. Temper the eggs (to keep them from scrambling) by pouring about 1/3 cup of the scalded milk into the egg mixture while whisking. Then add the warmed egg mixture to the saucepan of milk. Whisk over medium-high heat until the pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble. Keep whisking until the mixture is very thick, 4 to 5 minutes more.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the butter and whisk until it melts. (Remove and discard the vanilla pod.) Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and place it over a bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally until it is cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a crust from forming and refrigerate until completely cold. The pastry cream will thicken as it cools.

Make the pumpkin custard layer.
  1. Heat the half and half, pumpkin, brown sugar, salt, ginger, and nutmeg in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water until hot, about 5 minutes. Whisk the egg yolks in another bowl, stir some of the hot pumpkin into the egg yolks to heat them, then pour the egg-pumpkin mixture back into the double boiler and stir well. Heat the mixture over the simmering water for another 4 to 5 minutes, until it begins to thicken, stirring constantly (so the eggs to scramble) until it reaches 160 F degrees. Remove from the heat.
  2. Dissolve the gelatin in 1/4 cup orange juice (or water). Add the dissolved gelatin, banana, and orange zest to the pumpkin mixture and mix well. Set aside to chill in the fridge or use the same ice bath as the vanilla cream.
Make the whipped cream.
  1. In an electric mixer with the whisk, whip the heavy cream with the sugar and brandy on medium-high speed until firm peaks form.
Pumpkin Banana Mousse Tart with homemade brandy whipped creamGoodbye, pie
Assemble it all.
When the custards and dough are cooled, assemble the pie by layering the fresh bananas on top of the dough. Then spoon with vanilla cream on top, smoothing the surface. Next, add the pumpkin custard, and last spoon the whipped cream. Decorate with banana chips or fresh banana slices (add fresh banana only shortly before serving so they don’t brown). Let pie set in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.

Keep up with my friend Nurit by visiting her site and by following her on twitter!

Friday
Oct302009

Salty Sweet: Bacon Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe

Chocolate Bacon Ice Cream
CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Cake Gumshoe Bonnie, a 25 year old graduate student who finds sanity in the kitchen. If it doesn't turn out the first time, try again, and add some cinnamon; it always spices things up. She's on twitter too! Take it away, Bonnie:

I know it sounds disgusting. But you have to get past it and think of it like a chef: the perfect combination of salty and sweet will keep your guests wanting more. Did you know that the Lays potato chip people have this mixture down to a science? Those chips aren't that good, they just keep you wanting more sugar or more salt so you reach in handful after handful. So think of this creation as that: a perfect blend of salt and sugar that really does leave you wanting more.

Now, I must say that if I did this again I would use full fat ice cream. It is much better to have one scoop of full fat ice cream that is mouth-waterinlg good and has natural ingredients than have two scoops of non-fat ice cream that is so-so in taste.

Also, per my friend Julia's suggestion, I would make the bacon bits larger. I was so nervous about having bacon in ice cream that I cut them very small. The truth is they were very good, and thus we learn a lesson: if you are going to do something, be bold about it, and do it with gumption. Anyway, here we have it:
Chocolate Bacon Ice Cream

Chocolate Bacon Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole milk (I used Organic Rice Milk, pick your variation, but the less fat, the less creamy)
  • 6 ounces of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
  • 2 cups low-fat vanilla yogurt (I used Organic Greek Yogurt to make up for the thin Rice Milk)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (Organic)
  • 6 strips of organic bacon
  • 6 tablespoons organic brown sugar

Note: It's all about what you have. You don't have the exact ingredients? Make a variation. You don't want to use whole milk? Don't. Try it out and if you hate it, then you learned for the next batch. No harm done.


Directions:
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 F. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, shiny side facing up. Place the bacon strips evenly on the cookie sheet and sprinkle about a tablespoon of brown sugar on the side facing up. Be generous, and if you need more, just use more. Don't be too uptight about measurements here.
  2. Once the oven is pre-heated, place the bacon inside the oven and set the timer for 12-14 minutes. Half way into the baking process, open to oven and use tongs to rub the bacon in the melted brown sugar and flip it over. This way, both sides are coated. Let it cook for the remaining time. You will know the bacon is ready because the brown sugar on and around the bacon will have turned a dark, maple brown. Remove from oven and set on a cooling rack to allow to cool. Once it has cooled, chop into small pieces, you can determine the size based on how prominent you want the bacon to be. Set aside.
  3. Now it's time for the ice cream/frozen yogurt part. Most ice cream makers call for the container to be frozen at least 24 hours before use, please check with the manual on this one. Combine the milk and chocolate in a blender or food processor, until smooth, about 20-30 seconds. Add the yogurt and sugar and process until smooth, about 15 seconds.
  4. Turn the Ice Cream machine ON and pour mixture into freezer bowl through the "pour spout" and let thicken which is about 25-35 minutes. You can watch the thickness here, and you can tell how it's turning out. In the last 5 minutes or so of mixing, pour the bacon into the mixture as it churns. Add the bacon in segments so that it gets all throughout the ice cream.
  5. Once the ice cream is all churned up, turn the machine to the OFF position and remove pouring spout and plastic "blade." Some ice cream will have stuck to the blade, just be patient and remove it with a spoon. Now you are ready to enjoy your treat. The freezer bowl should still be cold, so either scoop and enjoy immediately, or put into an air tight container and place into the freezer. If you are making the ice cream ahead of time, I would suggest the latter, and then placing it at room temp about 5-10 minutes before you are serving it. This will allow for it to soften just a bit.
  6. This dessert is so rich and flavorful, I would suggest serving as is. Some ice creams may need a bit of sauce or syrup, but that will overpower the flavor here, and take away from the combination of sweet and salty. Plus, the point is to taste the bacon. Oink, oink...enjoy!

 

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