Apples (Crumb Cakes) for Dayyyyssss

In honor of Fall, last weekend, we made the trek “off Cape” to C.N. Smith Farm to pick apples and get pumpkins! It’s a tradition that my fiancé and I have done four Falls running now and I LOVE IT. The fresh air, the smell of apples, getting a warm cup of apple cider afterwards  (did I mention it was 70 degrees that day? Ugh, global warming).

Fortunately (unfortunately?) apple picking means lots and lots and LOTS of apples. Therefore, my next few recipes will be apple-centric as I try to get through all these babies.

Apple Trees

For my first apple recipe, I went with this month’s Food and Wine Baking Bucket List Challenge, which is Apple Crumb Coffee Cakes and is the 6th month I’ve been in it. I made a few modifications, like adding more cinnamon and more apples, which overall made the crumb cakes softer and more moist, which is perfect with my favorite kind of topping: streusel (butter and sugar that gets a tinsy bit crispy and crunchy while remaining soft and crumbly – YUM).

Apple Crumb Cakes tin
1. Batter in the prepared muffin tins and 2. Streusel topping before being baked.

Ingredients:
For the Streusel:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the Crumb Cakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup sour cream
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup peeled, small-diced apples (I used Cortland apples, which is what we picked)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°.

To make the streusel, in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the flour with the brown sugar and salt. Add the butter pieces and mix at medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse meal; continue mixing the streusel until very small clumps form. Transfer the streusel to a large plate and refrigerate until it is well chilled, about 10 minutes.

To make the crumb cakes, line 18 standard-size muffin cups with paper liners. Spray the liners with cooking spray. In the mixer bowl, combine the flour with the granulated sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Add the butter pieces and beat at low speed until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the sour cream and beaten egg and beat until the batter is smooth. Add the diced apple and beat just until incorporated.

Fill the muffin cups halfway with the crumb cake batter. Press the streusel into clumps and sprinkle on top. Bake the crumb cakes in the center of the oven for about 30 minutes, until risen, golden and springy to the touch; rotate the pans halfway through baking. Let the crumb cakes cool slightly before serving.

Yield: 18 crumb cakes

Parents Meeting and Lots of Eating (Strawberry Shortcake that is)

Three and a half years in the making and this past weekend, it happened – my mom, dad and my fiancé’s dad and stepmom finally met. My parent’s came to stay the weekend, which was completely lovely (with the exception of some weird fog that kept rolling in and rolling back out) – we went to two of my favorite places: Summer Shanty and Provincetown.

Summer Shanty has my favorite lobster rolls on Cape Cod (and shoutout here to my maid of honor who’s described the clam chowder as “the bomb!”) and Provincetown is the epitome of good, clean fun where all are welcome.

In between all of that though, I made this delicious strawberry shortcake-cake. When it boils down to it, it’s whipped cream, macerated strawberries, and shortbread – pretty easy and delicious (here’s where I let you in on a little secret: my favorite strawberry shortcake ever is the one at the Cheesecake Factory – I have no doubt it’s full of sticks upon sticks of butter, but man-oh-man if you get the chance, it’s worth it.)

This strawberry shortcake is a little different – it’s prettier (very important), the shortcake is a crunchy and crumbly shortbread but with the sugary strawberry syrup that’s seeped in and melts in your mouth. The velvety-ness of the whipped cream sneaks in from behind and melds everything together into a perfect bite – YUM!

StrawberryShortcakeCut

Anyway, needless to say, the meeting went off without a hitch, as did the cake, and I FULLY recommend you giving it a go – whether for a parent meeting or for an easy cake on a summer day.

Ingredients:
For the Shortcakes:
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
10 tablespoons cold (but not frozen) butter

For the Strawberries:
3/4 cup sugar
2 16-ounce packages of strawberries, hulled and sliced

For the Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Thoroughly butter 3 9-inch round cake pans.

To prepare the strawberries, combine the sugar and hulled and cut strawberries into a medium bowl. Place in the fridge.

To make the shortcake, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and use two knifes to cut the butter in until it resembles coarse crumbs. Slowly add heavy cream and stir in with a fork, just until moistened.

Gather dough into a ball and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Gently kneed and split into the three cake pans. Spread the dough all the way to the edges and press down to make as smooth as possible (think flat and thin like a pancake).

Bake for about 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let cool in the pans before turning out.

When you’re ready to assemble, prepare the whipped cream. Using an electric mixer, combine heavy whipping cream and vanilla extract and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar while beating until stiff peaks form.

To serve, place first layer on the serving plate, top with 1/3 of the macerated strawberries, and top that with 1/3 of the whipped cream. Top with second shortbread layer and repeat with 1/3 strawberries and 1/3 of the whipped cream. Top with the final layer and spread remaining whipped cream and pile remaining strawberries on top.

Serve immediately.

Note: it’s ok if it’s a little rustic and crumbly – that’s part of the shortcake charm!

Yield: 10 slices of cake

Making Lemon Bars out of Lemons

This week, we got to see a few friends that my fiancé and I used to work with who happened to find themselves in Cape Cod! Did I mention I met my hubby-to-be at work? We didn’t work in the same office, but our jobs brought us together on the same projects – we were both checking each other out over PowerPoint presentations to get ready for a conference about the ocean!

Lemon Bars mixer full
The dough for the crust should still be a little crumbly before it gets pressed into the pan.

Anyway, we’re in Cape Cod, prepping for my parents to come visit from North Carolina (i.e. cleaning), getting ready for my fiancé’s family to descend on Cape Cod from the other side of the bridges, as many Massholes (my fiancé’s term of endearment, not mine. He says he can say it because he is one.) do between end of May through mid-October, and my fiancé says to me: you know what we should make our friends? Lemon bars.

This, of course came as no surprise to me as he could eat lemon bars for days. So I responded with: make our friends lemon bars or make you lemon bars?

He answered: Well, I do like lemon bars…

And because I’m a sucker for my fiancé: voila – lemon bars!

In all honestly, I do find this recipe to be pretty quick, easy to follow, and sweet and tart – as any good lemon bar recipe should be.

Lemon Bars cooked full
Fully-cooked and pre-powder sugared – air bubbles are ok! We’ll fancy ’em up in the next step!

(At the end of the day, we did wrap most of the bars up in brown parchment paper to give to our friends…after we snuck a couple for ourselves, of course. And knowing my fiancé, I’m sure I’ll find that he hid a few for himself.)

Ingredients:
For the Crust:
1 cup softened butter (2 sticks) (or if you’re me, firm butter microwaved last minute!)
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Zest of 1 lemon *reminder to zest before you juice – it’s so much easier!

For the Lemon Filling:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon flour
4 eggs
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 3 lemons (about 2/3 cup)

For the Topping:
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine 2 sticks of softened butter, 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, zest of 1 lemon until crumbly (as shown in the first picture). Press into the bottom of an ungreased pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown (it’s better to overbake then under-bake!).

To make the lemon filling, in another bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup+1 tablespoon flour and then whisk in the 4 eggs, 2/3 cup lemon juice, and zest of 2 lemons.

Pour the lemon filling over the golden brown, baked crust. Bake for an additional 30 minutes.

If the bars aren’t completely firm when you first take them out, they’ll firm up when they cool.

After they’re completely cool, using a sifter, sprinkle powdered sugar over the top (if you try to do this before they’re 100% cooled, the sugar will melt!)

Note: the best way to cut them is to first let them completely cool, then stick the pan in the fridge for 30 minutes. They’ll still be a little crumbly when you start to slice in, but that’s part of the appeal!

Yield: 12 lemon bars

Tailgating and Gooey Brownies

Before we even got to Cape Cod, my fiancé’s brother asked my fiancé if he wanted to attend the Patriot’s opening game against Kansas City Chiefs, to which he responded to with a resounding yes and I responded too with a resounding ‘what’s the best tailgating dessert I can bake?’ (I know, but it’s how my brain operates, ok?)

I went through my repertoire for portable desserts; red, white, and blue (Patriots, hello…) desserts; football-themed desserts; and great-desserts-but-not-Super-Bowl-worthy desserts (whether I want to admit it, I’m marrying into a Patriots family after all; sorry mom and dad who are life-long Buffalo Bills fans).

To which, I arrived at these babies: gooey triple-layer-fudgy-peanut-buttery brownies with some classy/abstract football décor on top to keep them a smidge themed (have I mentioned how much I love a theme?). Perfect – easy to take for the game-goers and great for my fiancé’s sister-in-law and nephews who I Uno’d-til-we-dropped with at home.

Fun fact about this recipe: my beloved emailed it to me some time ago (if it’s yours, email me, and I’ll link to your site as I’m a big believer in giving credit where credit’s due!), he tried to make it, and to be frank, failed miserably. He has so many amazing qualities, but patience when brownies are involved is one that we’re still working on. With three trips to the fridge to cool and some Ashley-recommended freezer time, these require a lot of patience. But man-oh-man are they worth the wait. (Note: I actually started making them the day before just so I’d have enough time for all the cooling to commence). 

Gooey Brownies Making
1. Cooked and cooled brownies with peanut butter swirled (top left), 2. Brownies frosted with marshmallow topping (top right), 3. Peanut butter ganache layered on top of marshmallow frosting and being sprinkled (bottom left), 4. All four layers after cutting (bottom right).

Ingredients:
For the Brownies:
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

For the Marshmallow Topping:
7 oz jar marshmallow cream or fluff

For the Peanut Butter Ganache:
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup heavy cream

For the Decorations (Optional):
Chocolate sprinkles
White icing to pipe

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 8×8 pan with foil so that it’s hanging over the sides; grease with cooking spray (I told you they’re going to be gooey!).

For the brownies, mix flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt until combined. Then mix in sugar, eggs, vanilla, and vegetable oil just until the dry ingredients are wet and there are no lumps. Pour into greased foil pan, then take spoonfuls of the 1/3 cup of peanut butter and dollop it around so that it’s spread out. Then, using a butter knife or a toothpick, carefully swirl the peanut butter throughout the brownies. Bake for 20 minutes or until the sides start to pull away from the pan. Cool completely before proceeding to the next step.

After the brownies are cooled, use a butter knife to spread the marshmallow onto brownies. Place in fridge for at least 45 minutes, or until firm.

Once the marshmallow is firm, start to make the peanut butter ganache. In a small saucepan, combine peanut butter, powdered sugar, corn syrup, and heavy cream. Heat on low until you can stir it together and the peanut butter has completely melted (it may look like it’s starting to separate at first, but it will come together quickly). Wait five minutes for the ganache to cool slightly before pouring onto the brownies. Place in fridge for at least an hour, or until firm.

Once the ganache is firm, use the overhanging foil to remove the brownies from the pan and then slice.

(For decorations, I spread chocolate sprinkles all over, cut them into squares and then piped white icing diagonally to make an abstract sort of football.)

Keep uneaten brownies stored in the fridge and if you’re traveling with them (maybe to tailgating, perhaps), I’d strongly recommend freezing before transporting.

Yield: 12 decently sized brownies

Red Bell Pepper Butter Makes Everything Better

One of my favorite inspirations is without a doubt the Pioneer Woman. I could not love her more as an inspirational cook, fascinating life, awe-inspiring farm, handsome husband, warm extended family, and flowing red hair, than I already do. In my next life, I’d like to be her.

That being said, I saw her making a similar recipe, with Labor Day coming up, and the huge cart of corn I saw at the P&D Fruit Stand, I had to give it a go.

 

Cornstand
P&D Fruit Stand in Dennis Port, MA

 

This stuff was so delicious, we actually ended up putting it on our corn for our Labor Day cookout, baked sweet potatoes the next day (I love a good baked potato, in any form), and to sauté our green beans the day after that.

Ingredients:
8 oz unsalted butter (one stick)
1/3 cup of finely diced red pepper (or any color you have handy)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or to taste)

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse together until the butter turns a light orange and there are little flecks of red throughout. Refrigerate until use. (Note: if you don’t have a food processor, you can also use an immersion blender, it will just take a little longer).

Summer Baking = Berries

Some of my favorite things to make include: 1. berries and 2. a theme. Lucky for me, this past Labor Day Weekend was our first weekend in Cape Cod and we had people in and out of the house galore! It allowed me the opportunity to try out try out a cheesecake recipe as well as use up a great jar of blueberry jam that I’ve been saving since I was last at Harrods’ Food Hall in London (it’s one of my most favorite, crazy decadent places to go when I’m in London).

After serving them to our third group that stopped by for the weekend, which was my boyfriend fiancé’s family (it’s just been a month today), my fiancé’s nephew proudly declared he didn’t like cheesecake until his dad explained that it’s not cake made out of cheese (kinda, sorta…) but that it’s sweet and he’d like the blueberries on top (lo and behold he did – phew).

Ingredients:
For the Crust:
6 oz of Nilla Wafers (half of a box), crushed into dust
4 oz butter (half of a stick)

For the Cake:
8oz cream cheese (one package), at room temperature
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Blueberry Sauce:
1/2 cup blueberries
6 oz blueberry jam
(Mini U.S. flags optional)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your muffin tins with paper liners.
For the crust, combine butter and Nilla wafers until all the crumbs are coated.

Place a tablespoon in each of the muffin cups and press firmly. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes to firm up the crust, remove, and set aside.

To make the cake, mix together the softened cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla extract until smooth. (Note: the cream cheese needs to be softened – if it’s just out of the fridge, your batter will turn out lumpy. I’ve been guilty of this cheesecake sin and had to strain it through a sieve).

Pour the cake mix into the prepared crusts and bake for 20 minutes or until the top of the cheesecakes just start to turn golden.

While the cheesecakes bake, mix jam and blueberries in a separate bowl. After the cheese cakes are cooled to the touch, top with a spoonful of blueberry sauce and serve. (Note: I took some of mine out of the cupcake liners so you could see what the bottom looks like, but feel free to leave them in or out).

Yield: 12

Nice to Meet You!

Hi world! That’s me and my husband-to-be! Welcome to my blog as I bake my way through a new move, a new job, and the new title of fiancée!

I’ve been incredibly lucky, mainly through my work, to have spent most of my twenties traveling the world, eating some pretty amazing food, and learning recipes along the way. In total, I’ve been to 106 countries (including the best – USA!) and to 23 states in the United States.

Recently, my fiancée and I moved to Cape Cod, Massachusetts where he spent a lot of his childhood growing up. Having lived most of my life in Austin, Texas, but also spending time in Buffalo, New York and Washington, DC, I’m no stranger to getting used to a new environment and am looking forward to experiencing all it has to offer.

In the last few years, I’ve found baking to be something I’m passionate about, love doing, and is my zen activity.

I’m looking forward to sharing with you my favorite recipes, creating some new ones with our Cape Cod finds, and taking us all on some excursions back through some of the most memorable foods I got to experience having through my travels!