Amy’s Apple Crisp

Amy's Apple CrispAn Apple a Day
At the first sign of fall I get a yearning for something apple-y. If I lived back east I would be knee deep in apple cider donuts and spiced fresh cider. But alas, I am not. So when the first of the new apple crop hits the shelves (I’m looking at you Gravensteins) I make an apple crisp.

Usually when the new apple season is upon us, the temps outside are too hot to make turning your oven on seem like a good idea. But, I make an exception for apple crisp. Sometimes a little pain is worth the gain.

There are any number of ways you could make an apple crisp. Personally, I prefer to top mine with an oatmeal crumble. Of course, you can add other fruits besides apples in there too. The last of the summer stone fruits would work. I love adding a handful of raisins. Or, some of the new pears and later in the season, cranberries can add a bright pop of tartness. For the first crisp of the harvest season, I always keep it simple and go with only apples. I will make an exception for cinnamon or a little cardamom as a nice twist.

My recipe is pretty basic, though lately I have been adding some boiled cider to all of my apple recipe for a little added apple kick. This works great for your freshly-picked apples from the garden or market—but also with the ones that have been in your fruit bowls for a day or to longer than they should have.

This is dessert for the soul, especially when served with ice cream. But, the left overs make for a very satisfying breakfast the following morning…what? There’s oats in there. That counts!

Amy’s Apple Crisp
Yields 8 Servings Read more…

Fresh Fruit & Mascarpone Tart

Fresh Fruit & Mascarpone Tart

Tart of the Matter
When you think of mascarpone cheese what comes to mind? OK, wait. I’m being presumptuous. Does anyone else actually ponder mascarpone cheese? Or is that just me? On second thought, don’t answer that. Let me just live in my happy little bubble where everyone spends significant time considering the wonders of spreadable Italian cheeses…

I love mascarpone cheese. It’s essentially Italy’s cream cheese and I actually like it better than the tried and true Philly cream cheese because it’s got a fresher more mild flavor than the American version. Don’t get me wrong I’m still here for a good cream cheese frosting and you don’t get that with mascarpone. You do however get fantastic things like tiramisu with mascarpone and you can swap out your whipped cream for a dollop of mascarpone next time you find yourself with a bowl of fresh summer berries.

To quote Forest Gump, “Fresh fruits and mascarpone go together like peas and carrots.”

For your tart you can use peaches or plums with raspberries or blueberries. Any combination will work. Strawberries are always insanely good when paired with a little mascarpone. Even better if they come together in a tart. Lately I have enjoyed a mix of all of ‘em.

This recipe for a Fresh Fruit & Mascarpone Tart below is what I call a good start. It’s a basic recipe that can be adapted to suit your own taste. You can play with the crust. Personally, I like to make it with a graham cracker crust or r you could go this route with a rye crust. Our recipe uses a traditional Pâté Sucrée (French sweet pastry) crust.

This is definitely a dessert best prepared and served on the weekend as it doesn’t hold up too well overnight.

Fresh Fruit & Mascarpone Tart
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Independence Flag Cake

Independence Flag CakeJust like everything else this year, the 4th of July is going to be weird. There will be no fireworks shows—though if your neighborhood is anything like mine has been lately, you’ve had your fill of the sound of fireworks. There will be no neighborhood parade with Dads pushing their prized, decorated grills while performing dance routines. (Yep. This is a thing where I live.) But, I know one thing that will not change. We will eat flag cake.

Every year my sister makes a flag cake for 4th of July. It’s kind of become a running joke for my family. Don’t get me wrong, the cake is great but not having the cake would be a catastrophe of epic proportions. Maybe. Probably not. I just know there have been more than a few years when we had to scramble to find decent berries to top the cake. I sense that this year it will be just that much more important if only to provide a bit of normalcy.

We always use Ina Garten’s recipe for flag cake. But, as long as you have white frosting and red and blue fruit for the decorations, you can use any cake recipe you want. You can use your favorite boxed cake mix and make your life that much easier.

I did do a quick search online for flag cakes just to switch things up this year. I was amazed by what I found. If you are not a big fan of sweet stuff, rest assured that there are plenty of savory versions including a flag Caprese salad and a deviled egg flag which sort of scares me, frankly. Take a few minutes to do a search if only for the entertainment value.

How ever you decide to celebrate the 4th this year, be it with or without a flag cake, I wish you a safe, healthy and very happy 4th of July!

Independence Flag Cake
Adapted from the Food Network and Ina Garten
Yields about 20 servings Read more…

No-Knead Rustic Bread

No-Knead Rustic BreadStill We Rise
I struggled with bread making for years. It was only in the last few that I figured it all out. Since then I have mastered a couple of recipes, Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread and Hearty White Sandwich Bread. And, have experimented with others with a decent amount of success. Lately, since I seem to have a little more time on the weekends, I have branched out to make some of the harder stuff. And, by harder I mean those beautiful crusty loaves that you would normally purchase from people who know what they are doing.

The most difficult thing about baking bread right now is finding the flour and even the yeast. I was fortunate to be able to order a 10# bag from the King Arthur website but I had to keep checking to see if they had stock before I got lucky. I will say that we have been able to get some flour in here at the store, though it’s been spotty. (But, it’s getting a little better.) Yeast is a different issue. The good news is thousands of years of bread making on this planet have taught us that you don’t need foil packets of yeast to make bread. It’s in the wild, man…

There have been a number of recipes popping up that require using “wild yeast” which for all intents and purposes means making a “starter”. The most obvious example is a sourdough starter. I have mostly tried to avoid making sourdough during my bread making journey because of the requirement of using a starter. Starters can be labor-intensive. They require daily feeding to keep them active. It can take over your life and become a real chore if you have an active calendar. As my calendar has become less active in recent weeks, I was working up the courage to start the process but I was saved by a friend of mine who not only dropped of a tasty loaf of her rosemary sourdough but some of her starter as well. This is a common practice amongst sourdough bakers. You gotta do something with the “discard” so why not dispense it to your friends? You can only make sourdough waffles so many times…

Because I am unable to share my starter with all of you I am sharing a few recipes for your viewing pleasure. The first is a fairly basic recipe for a rustic sourdough. Please note it does use packaged yeast as well as starter. And here are instructions for how to get your started going. If you are unable to get yeast, I encourage you to do a little research about natural yeast. (The King Arthur Learn section of their website is great.) Yeast from dried fruit is a very old but effective method of baking bread and might be a good option. ( It’s also a great science lesson for your kids.)

The recipe below is a fantastic peasant bread for those who want crusty loaf but aren’t big into sourdough. I made this one last weekend and it was so tasty. Also, remember that these recipes and ideas require time. Good news is, right now, we have that time…

No-Knead Rustic Bread
Adapted from the Food Network
Yields 8 servings Read more…