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  • Blueberry Crumb Bars
    • Monday September 13, 2010

      From smittenkitchen.com, adapted from allrecipes.com.

      Difficulty Rating: 2 out of 10.

      For the crumb

      • 1 C. granulated sugar
      • 1 tsp. baking powder
      • 3 C. all-purpose flour
      • 1 C. cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 oz.)
      • 1 egg
      • 1/4 tsp. salt

      For the blueberry filling

      • Zest and juice of one lemon
      • 4 C. fresh blueberries
      • 1/2 C. granulated sugar
      • 4 tsp. cornstarch

      Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

      In a large bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan and set other half aside.

      In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust.

      Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

      Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares. (Refrigerating once they're cooled to room temperature also helps them to slice more cleanly.)

  • Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
    • Tuesday September 07, 2010

      From smittenkitchen.com, adapted from The New York Times.

      Difficulty Rating: 3 out of 10.

      • 1 cup whole hazelnuts, preferably blanched
      • 2 1/2 cups flour, plus flour for work surface
      • 1/2 cup Dutch-style cocoa powder
      • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
      • Pinch of salt
      • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
      • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
      • 4 large eggs
      • 1 1/3 cups sugar

      Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

      Spread hazelnuts on baking sheet and toast about 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned. If hazelnuts are not blanched (meaning they still have their skins on), watch for the skins to begin to crack, then remove them from oven and wrap them in clean linen or cotton towel (not terrycloth). Rub the hazelnuts inside the towel to remove most of the skin. Set aside.

      Sift the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder together and set aside. (I can never find espresso powder and replaced it with instant coffee.)

      Beat eggs lightly in a large bowl, just until blended, in mixing bowl with whisk or in electric mixer. Remove 2 Tbsp. of egg mixture to small dish and set aside.

      Beat sugar into remaining eggs until blended. Stir in flour mixture, little by little, to form soft dough.

      Divide the dough in half and place one portion on a well-floured work surface. (Seriously, use a lot of flour. The dough is sticky.) With floured hands, pat it into a six-inch square. Scatter half the hazelnuts on the dough and press them into the surface.  Roll the dough until it stretch out to between 12-15 inches in length. Then flatten to about a 2-inch width. (So, basically, you're looking for a rectangle approximately 2 inches by 12 inches or so.)

      Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and place the dough on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. (Both units of dough can go on the same baking sheet. They don't spread much. Leave about 2 inches between them.) Brush the tops of both rolls with the reserved egg.

      Place in the oven (still at 350F) and bake about 15-25 minutes, until firm to the touch. (I poked mine with a knife to see when it started to feel crispy. Took me closer to 25 minutes.)

      Transfer to a cutting board and let sit for approximately 20 minutes. (The recipe I read said to give them 5 minutes, but I found them very difficult to cut without smashing after that length of time. Letting them cool for longer made all the difference. Also, I'd recommend using a bread knife or a knife with a tightly serrated edge.)

      Cut diagonally into slices one-half-inch thick. (This will result in tiny end pieces that look nothing like biscotti but make for happy taste testing.) Return the slices to the baking sheet, laying them on their cut sides, and return them to the oven. Bake another 20 minutes, until they are crisp and dry. Allow to cool completely before storing or serving.

  • Alsatian Apple Tart
    • Monday August 30, 2010

      From "Baking" by James Peterson, with modifications

      Difficulty Rating: 7 out of 10.

      Making a sweetened pie crust:

      • 1 C. all-purpose flour
      • 1 C. cake flour
      • 1/2 C. granulated sugar
      • 1/2 tsp. salt
      • 3/4 C. (or 12 Tbsp.) cold butter, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
      •  4 Tbsp. cold water or heavy cream, or 2 eggs, lightly beaten

      You can make pie crust by hand, in a food processor or in a stand mixer.  I used a stand mixer, so that's how I'll instruct you. Also, this recipe calls for baking in a tart ring. I don't have one, but substituted with a fluted tart pan. Either works fine.

      Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.

      Combine all of the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and mix on low for 30 seconds. 

      Add the cubes of butter and mix on a medium-low speed for 1 minute. (It should look like parmesan cheese at this point.)

      Note: If at any point, the mixture does not feel cold, refrigerate for 15 minutes. I had to refrigerate after mixing in the butter.

      Add the water (or cream or eggs) and mix until dough pulls together into a cohesive mass. If it mixes for 2 minutes and still hasn't clumped together, add 2 Tbsp. water (or cream) and continue mixing. Stop mixing as soon as it becomes a ball of dough. Do not overwork.

      Pat dough into a disk and place on a generously floured surface. Roll into a round approximately 11" in diameter, just slightly larger than the 9 1/2-inch tart pan. When I'm doing this step, I always roll the dough out a little, then flip it over and re-flour the surface a few times to prevent it from sticking.

      Roll the dough onto the rolling pin, then unroll over the tart pan. Fit into pan, pressing sides into pan. To trim the overhang, lay the rolling pin on the top of the pan from edge to edge and roll back and forth to separate. 

      Fit a piece of parchment paper into the crust and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake 15 minutes, then remove beans and paper and bake 15 minutes more. Cover edges with foil if they become too dark.

      Alternately, follow the Smitten Kitchen method, which I believe to be superior and should have done myself: Place the prepared crust in the freezer for 20-30 minutes until solid. Then butter a piece of foil and place buttered side down in crust.

      Bake for 15 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes. Cover edges with foil if they become too dark.

      The best way to do this is to cut a piece of foil just a couple inches larger than your pan on all sides, fold it in half twice, then fold it diagonally twice into a very narrow triangle. Place the point in the center of your crust and trim it on the inside of the pan about one inch from the edge. Discard the point and unfold the larger section. It should fit nicely around the edges, leaving the middle open to bake.

      Once cool enough, remove crust from tart pan and set on sheet pan. This is how it will bake once you add the filling to it.

      Making the filling:

      • 3-4 large Golden Delicious or Rome apples
      • 1/2 lemon
      • 1/4 C. (or 4 Tbsp.) butter 
      • 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, or 2 tsp. vanilla extract
      • 1/4 C. plus 1/3 C. granulated sugar, separated
      • 2 eggs
      • 1 C. milk
      • Powdered sugar, for dusting

      Preheat the oven to 325°F. Use a 91/2-inch tart ring or fluted tart pan. 

      Peel the apples and rub them with the lemon. Halve and core them, and cut each half into 3 or 4 wedges, depending on their size. I just used a handheld apple corer. Melt the butter over medium heat in a nonstick sauté pan and place the apples with the vanilla bean (if using) in the pan. Gently toss or stir the apples for about 12 minutes, or until they’re a golden brown. Sprinkle the1/4 C. granulated sugar over the apples. Continue to toss or stir for about 5 minutes longer, or until the apple wedges are deep brown on both sides. Be careful not to break them. Remove from the heat.

      To make the custard, whisk together the eggs and the 1/3 C. granulated sugar for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture gets a little pale. Stir in the milk. If you used the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds in each of the halves and add these to the egg mixture; otherwise, add the vanilla extract. (I just used extract here because my bean was fried up so tough, I couldn't get the seeds out.)

      Arrange the apples in the prebaked tart shell and pour the custard mixture over them. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the custard sets—when it no longer moves in the middle when you jiggle the sheet pan slightly (don’t move the tart).

      Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. 

  • Chocolate Caramel (Crack)ers
    • Monday August 23, 2010

      From smittenkitchen.com, adapted from David Lebovitz, adapted from Marcy Goldman.

      Difficulty Rating: 3 out of 10.

      • 4 to 6 sheets matzo (or approximately 40 Saltine crackers or crackers)
      • 1 C. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into a few large pieces
      • 1 C. packed light brown sugar
      • A big pinch of sea salt
      • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
      • 1 1/2 C. semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips (or chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate)
      • 1 C. toasted chopped almonds, pecans, walnuts or a nut of your choice (optional)
      • Extra sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

      Liz: I couldn’t tell you if they sell nuts already toasted. I just took slivered almonds, scattered them on a baking sheet and put them in the oven at 300°F for a total of 8 minutes, stirring them around every few minutes to prevent burning.

      Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet completely with foil, and then line the base of the foil with parchment paper, cut to fit.

      Line the bottom of the baking sheet with matzo or crackers, covering all parts. If using matzo, you'll need to break pieces to fit any extra spaces. It’s sometimes difficult to break in straight lines. One method that works pretty well is pressing a serrated knife straight down along the perforations (placing the points over the cracker sections, not the actual holes).

      In a medium heavy-duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and stir it over medium heat until it begins to boil. Once it has begun boiling, let it bubble for three more minutes, stirring it well. It will thicken a bit as it cooks.

      Liz: Mine took less than 3 minutes. Once the two ingredients finally started to combine, they darkened pretty quickly and I took it off the heat with 40 seconds left so it wouldn’t burn. Just gauge it based on your own stovetop.

      Remove from heat and add the salt and vanilla, then quickly pour it over the matzo or crackers. You’ll want to spread it quickly, as it will begin to set as soon as it is poured.

      Bake the caramel-covered crackers for 15 minutes, watching carefully as it will bubble and the corners might darken too quickly and/or burn. You can reduce the heat if you see this happening.

      Liz: I let mine bake at 350°F for about half the allotted time, then bumped the temperature down to 300°F because the tops of some of the bubbles started to turn dark.

      Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand five minutes, and then spread them evenly across the caramel. An offset spatula works great here.

      If you’re using them, sprinkle the chocolate with toasted chopped nuts and/or sea salt. (The sea salt is great on matzo. On Saltines, it’s really not necessary.)

      Once completely cool — you can speed this process up in the fridge — break it into pieces and store it in a container. It will keep for a week. 

  • Nectarine & Mascarpone Tart
    • Sunday August 15, 2010

      From smittenkitchen.com, adapted from Bon Appetit I followed suit with Smitten Kitchen in leaving out the crystallized ginger. I couldn't find it. My plan was to buy it, try some and decide whether to use it, but I couldn't find any where I thought it might be and I didn't want to dedicate lots of time to finding it.

      Difficulty Rating: 1 out of 10. (No, really!) 


      • 37 gingersnap cookies, coarsely broken
      • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


      • 1 8-oz. container mascarpone cheese
      • 6 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
      • 1/4 C. sour cream
      • 1/4 C. sugar
      • 1 tsp. grated lemon peel
      • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
      • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped crystallized ginger (optional)


      • 4 to 5 small nectarines, halved, pitted, cut into thin slices
      • 1/4 cup peach jam, warmed
      • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped crystallized ginger (optional)

      Take out the cream cheese to let soften to room temperature. It'll take a while.

      Making the crust:
      Preheat oven to 350°F.

      Finely grind gingersnaps in food processor. Melt butter, pour it over the crumbs and blend until crumbs are evenly moistened.

      Press mixture over bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom.

      Bake crust until color darkens, pressing sides with back of spoon if beginning to slide, about 8 minutes. Cool completely.

      Making the filling:
      Beat first 6 filling ingredients in medium bowl until smooth. Then beat in crystallized ginger, if using.

      Spread filling in prepared crust. Cover loosely and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

      Making the topping:
      Overlap nectarine slices atop filling in concentric circles. Brush with jam. Sprinkle with chopped crystallized ginger if you’re using it. (Mint makes an excellent garnish, if you’re skipping the ginger.)

      Serve, or refrigerate up to 6 hours. 

  • Dimply Plum Cake
    • Monday August 09, 2010

      From smittenkitchen.com, adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours

      Difficulty Rating: 1 out of 10.

      • 1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour2 tsp. baking powder
      • 1/4 tsp. saltScant 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
      • 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature3/4 C. (packed) light brown sugar
      • 2 large eggs1/3 C. canola or safflower oil
      • Grated zest of 1 orange1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
      • 8 purple or red plums (or even Italian prune plums, when they are in season), halved and pitted

      Liz note: I have no idea what a "scant 1/4 tsp." is either. I find some people's instructions to be way too vague for my liking. I figured it meant just slightly less than 1/4 tsp. *shrug*

      Take butter out to soften. Prep/Measure other ingredients.

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

      Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the inside with flour, tap out the excess and put the pan on a baking sheet.

      Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together in a medium bowl.

      Working with a mixer (Don't make my mistake! Use a hand mixer. There is not enough butter for a stand mixer to be of much use!), beat the butter at medium speed until it’s soft and creamy, about 3 minutes.

      Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes, then add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each egg goes in.

      Still working on medium speed, beat in the oil, zest and vanilla; the batter will look smooth and creamy, almost satiny.

      Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.

      Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums cut side up in the batter, jiggling the plums a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.

      Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes (mine took 33), or until the top is honey brown, puffed around the plums and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

      Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pan and unmold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.

      Once cool, you can dust with powdered sugar if you like. You can wrap the cake and store it at room temperature for up to 2 days. 

  • Key Lime Meltaways
    • Tuesday August 03, 2010

      From smittenkitchen.com, adapted from Martha Stewart, with tips from me.

      Difficulty Rating: 1 out of 10.

      Yield: 5 dozen (Liz: I didn't get nearly this many.)

      • 12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
      • 1 C. confectioners’ sugar
      • Grated zest of 4 tiny or 2 large key limes
      • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
      • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
      • 1 3/4 C. plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour (or 2 C. minus 2 Tbsp.)
      • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
      • 1/4 tsp. salt

      Take out the butter ahead of time so it can soften.

      In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream butter and 1/3 C. confectioners' sugar until fluffy. 

      Add lime zest, juice and vanilla; beat until fluffy.

      In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, and salt. 

      Add to butter mixture and beat on low speed until combined.

      Cut two pieces of parchment paper, approximately 8 inches wide. Roll dough into two 1 1/4-inch-diameter logs. Wrap in parchment paper. Chill at least 1 hour.

      Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Place remaining 2/3 cup sugar in a resealable plastic bag. 

      Remove parchment from logs; slice dough into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Place rounds on baking sheets, spaced 1 inch apart.

      Bake cookies until barely golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool slightly, just three or four minutes. While still warm, place cookies in the sugar-filled bag; toss to coat. 

      Bake or freeze remaining dough. Store baked cookies in an airtight container for up to two weeks. You can keep the logs frozen for up to two months.

  • Peach Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting
    • Monday July 26, 2010

      From smittenkitchen.com.

      Difficulty rating: 2 out of 10. There's nothing difficult about these at all. The only part that requires some patience and finesse is prepping the peaches.

      Makes 24 to 28 cupcakes

      • 3 C. cake flour
      • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
      • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
      • 1 tsp. salt
      • Pinch of nutmeg
      • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
      • 3/4 C. granulated sugar
      • 3/4 C. dark or light brown sugar, packed
      • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
      • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
      • 1 1/2 C. (12 ounces) buttermilk, sour cream or full-fat yogurt
      • 3 large peaches, peeled, cored and chopped smallish (1/3-inch dice)

      Making the cupcakes:

      Liz: Take out your butter ahead of time to let it start softening. (And don't forget that the frosting requires room temperature butter and cream cheese as well, so take those out at least 30-60 minutes before you start that part of the recipe.)

      Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 28 muffin cups with paper liners.

      Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg and set aside.

      Cream the butter and sugars together, beating until fluffy.

      Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition, and then the vanilla.

      Gently mix in the buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt.

      Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the peach chunks.

      Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cupcake liners. (Liz: This seemed very vague to me. My main problem being that, at the moment, I only have one muffin pan, so how would I possibly know how to make all 27 ... which is what I ended up with ... look the same when I could only measure out 12 at a time? So, for your benefit, I will let you know that you should basically fill each cupcake liner up to just a little below the top. Don't be afraid of them billowing out too high. I filled them all to just under the top of the liner and they came out perfectly.)

      Bake for 18 to 22 minutes (Liz: 20 was perfect for me.), or until a tester inserted into the center of cupcakes comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes for five minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

      Making the Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting:

      • 1 1/4 C. light brown sugar
      • 1/4 C. cornstarch
      • 1/2 C. powdered sugar
      • 2 8-oz. packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
      • 1/2 C. (4 ounces or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
      • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

      Liz: If you haven't done it yet, take out the cream cheese and butter to soften.

      In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cornstarch and powdered sugar.

      In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy.

      Add the sugar-cornstarch mixture along with the vanilla, and beat until frosting is smooth and light, a minute or two.

      Chill the bowl in the refrigerator until it thickens back up a bit, at least 30 minutes, then spread or dollop onto cooled cupcakes. 

  • Southern Pecan Pie
    • Monday July 19, 2010

      From leitesculinaria.com, taken from The Glory of Southern Cooking.

      Difficulty Rating: 1 out of 10. 

      For the crust:

      • 1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
      • 1/2 tsp. salt
      • 1/2 C. vegetable shortening, lard, butter, or margarine
      • 4 to 5 Tbsp. ice water, as needed

      For the pie:

      • 4 large eggs
      • 1 1/2 C. light corn syrup
      • 1 1/2 tsp. all-purpose flour
      • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
      • 1/4 tsp. salt
      • 4 Tbsp. butter, melted
      • 2 C. pecan halves
      • Whipped cream, for garnish

      For the whipped cream, I used 8 oz. heavy whipping cream, 3 Tbsp. powdered sugar and 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract, beaten until fluffy.

      Making the crust:
      In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt, then cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter or two knives, till the mixture resembles coarse meal. Mixing with a wooden spoon, gradually add enough of the water so that a ball of dough is formed.

      Liz: I had to use more than 5 Tbsp., so just keep adding small amounts until it pulls together.

      Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour (or up to 1 day).

      Grease a 9-or-10-inch pie plate and set aside.

      After the dough has chilled, take it out of the refrigerator for about 10 minute to let it soften. Then place the dough on a lightly floured surface and with a lightly floured rolling pin roll it out from the center to a 1/8-inch thickness. Carefully fold the pastry in half, lay the fold across the center of the prepared pie plate, unfold it, and press it loosely into the bottom and sides of the plate. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork, trim and crimp the edges, and place on a heavy baking sheet.

      Making the pie:
      Preheat the oven to 350°F.

      In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer until frothy. (Liz: This doesn't take long at all.) Add the corn syrup, flour, vanilla and salt, and beat until well blended.

      Stir in the butter and pecans and mix well.

      Turn the mixture into the pie shell and bake till the filling is cooked but still soft in the center when the pie is gently shaken, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool the pie completely on a rack, then chill slightly, and serve with dollops of whipped cream on top.

      Liz: I'm not sure if this is normal, but when mine came out of the oven, it was all puffed up. If this happens to you, don't worry, it settles back down as it cools.

  • New York Cheesecake with Cherry Topping
    • Monday July 19, 2010

      From smittenkitchen.com, adapted from Gourmet Magazine, with improvements from me.

      Difficulty Rating: 5 out of 10. This rating was earned because of the required temperature adjustments, the necessity to watch the cake bake for at least the first 10 minutes and having to make sure all of the thick cream cheese mixed thoroughly with the other filling ingredients.

      Crumb crust:

      • 8 oz. (15 standard sheets) of graham cracker
      • 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
      • 1/2 C. sugar
      • 1/4 tsp. salt


      • 5 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (Philadelphia is recommended)
      • 1 3/4 C. sugar
      • 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
      • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
      • 1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
      • 5 large eggs
      • 2 large egg yolks
      • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

      Cherry topping:

      • 10 oz. sweet or sour cherries, pitted (frozen works)
      • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
      • 1/4 C. sugar
      • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
      • 1/2 C. water

      Take cream cheese out of fridge to begin softening.

      Coat a 9 1/2-inch springform pan lightly with butter on bottom and sides.

      Making the crumb crust:
      Place graham cracker sheets in a gallon-sized freezer bag and crush with a rolling pin.

      Stir together crust ingredients, then press onto bottom and up the sides of springform pan, stopping one inch shy of the top rim to prevent burning. Optional: Place in freezer while you prepare filling to help it set.

      Making the filling:
      Make sure you have an oven rack in the middle of the oven, then preheat oven to 550 degrees (or whatever your oven goes up to, with 550 being the hottest). Per my recommendation below, I'd suggest having one rack in the middle and one rack under the first.

      Zest the lemon and orange.

      Beat together cream cheese, sugar, flour and zest with an electric mixer until smooth. (I used my stand mixer with the paddle attachment. I'm sure you could also use a hand mixer if that's all you have.)

      Add vanilla, beating on low speed until incorporated. Then add eggs and yolks, also beating on low until incorporated. Scrape bowl down between additions; if you do not, you’ll end up with unmixed stripes of cream cheese.

      Put springform pan with crust in a shallow baking pan (to catch drips). Liz recommendation: It may be because I have cheap baking pans, but every time I put one in the oven, it bends when it gets hot. This made my cheesecake sit unevenly. My solution was to pull everything out after a few minutes and place the baking sheet on the rack below the cheesecake, rather than directly under the springform pan. I would highly recommend doing this from the get-go if you have similar issues to avoid ending up with either a lopsided cheesecake or a steamed face as you try to fix it in the middle of baking.

      Pour filling into crust. The recipe says it should fill the pan to the top. As you can see in my pictures, mine did not fill that high. Is my pan taller than normal? Whatever. Bottom line, it turned out great.

      Bake in the middle of the oven for 12 minutes or until puffed. Please watch your cake because some ovens will top-brown very quickly and if yours does too fast, turn the oven down as soon as you catch it. For me, it only took 10 minutes at 500 degrees to begin browning in places.

      Reduce the temperature to 200 degrees and continue baking until cake is mostly firm (center will still be slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken), one hour more.

      Run a knife around the top edge of the cake to loosen it and cool the cake completely in springform pan on a cooling rack. Then chill it, loosely covered, at least 6 hours.

      Making cherry topping:
      Weigh cherries and then pit. (Sorry, I totally forgot to measure for those of you who don't have scales. If I remember to, I'll do it later with my leftover cherries and add the info here.)

      Using the lemon you zested earlier, squeeze out the juice for this part of the recipe.

      Place all ingredients together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, cook it for an additional one to two minutes then remove from heat. Cool completely.

      Final Preparations:
      Remove side of pan and transfer cake to a plate. Spread topping over chilled. Slice and serve!

      Cheesecake keeps, covered and chilled, 2 weeks. 

  • Root Beer Float Cupcakes
    • Monday July 05, 2010

      From Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, adapted by smittenkitchen.com

      Difficulty Rating: 2 out of 10. Once again, not too difficult, just a lot of steps.

      As suggested in Baked, in order to achieve a stronger root beer presence, swap out half a cup of root beer for root beer schnapps. (Liz: Though I dare you to find another use for the schnapps you will have left over!)


      • 2 C. root beer
      • 1 C. dark unsweetened cocoa powder
      • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
      • 1 1/4 C. granulated sugar
      • 1/2 C. firmly packed dark brown sugar
      • 2 C. all-purpose flour
      • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
      • 1 tsp. salt
      • 2 large eggs

      Marshmallow Frosting:

      • 2 large egg whites
      • 1/2 C. sugar
      • 1/4 C. light corn syrup
      • 2 Tbsp. water
      • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

      Making the cupcakes:

      Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 dozen cupcake cups with paper liners. (Liz: I got 23 cupcakes.)

      In a small saucepan, heat the root beer, cocoa powder and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the sugars and whisk until dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

      In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt together.

      In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until just beaten. Then whisk them into the cooled cocoa mixture until combined.

      Fold the liquid and flour mixtures together in the large bowl. The batter will be slightly lumpy; this is okay. If you overbeat it, it will get tough.

      Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 to 3/4 full (a 1/4 cup measuring cup works great) and bake cupcakes, rotating trays back to front and top to bottom halfway through, until a tester inserted into the center of each comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

      Making the frosting:

      Combine frosting ingredients with a pinch of salt in a metal bowl (Liz: I used glass.) set over a saucepan of simmering water and beat with a handheld electric mixer at high speed until frosting is thick and fluffy, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat until slightly cooled, just a minute or two. (Use frosting the day it is made.)

      Building the Cupcakes:

      Use the tip of a knife to cut a small cone of cake out of the top center of each cupcake. Using a spoon or a small cookie scoop, nest a scoop of ice cream in each indent. Surround ice cream with dollops of whipped cream. Top with a cherry, if using. To keep cupcakes in a holding pattern while you assemble the remaining ones, you can put them in the freezer, but try to do so for no more than 5 minutes or the whipped cream will harden.

      Eat immediately. 

  • Chocolate Chip Meringues
    • Tuesday June 29, 2010

      From smittenkitchen.com.

      Difficulty Rating: 1 out of 10.

      • 2 egg whites, room temperature
      • 1/4 tsp. salt
      • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
      • 1 tsp. vanilla
      • 3/4 C. (You can use less — 1/2 cup — they’re plenty sweet)
      • 6 oz. chocolate chips, miniature chips or finely diced semi or bittersweet chocolate
      • 1/4 chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted first is even tastier

      Preheat oven to 300°F.

      Beat egg whites until foamy.

      Add salt, cream of tartar and vanilla, and beat mixture again until it holds soft peaks.

      Add the sugar, gradually, beating the batter until it is stiff.

      Fold in the nuts and chocolate chips.

      Spoon batter onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. I guess my one tip is to say that I didn't make these very big. I used a big spoon and dropped probably golf ball-sized dollops onto the baking sheet. They turned out fine, so since the recipe didn't specify, I'd recommend this size.

      Bake for 25 minutes. Undersides of cookies should be golden or lightly tanned.

      Note: The alternate approach is to bake them at 200 degrees for 1.5 to 2 hours. Take the longer-baked version out when they are slightly golden and firm to the touch. 

Copyright 2004-2021 Elizabeth Shiver