Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread

Sunday, December 4, 2016

I know without even looking at the calendar that it's the first weekend of December:

- With a week off between my last work contract and the next one, I set a goal to both start and finish my Christmas shopping last week. I came very close, and am now basking in the knowledge that I don't need to visit another mall until 2017.
- We had an early celebration of Andrew's birthday yesterday, when both the girls were home. I baked his favourite cake and we enjoyed some wonderful family time together.
- Andrew put up the Christmas lights this morning, and now our house looks like it's ready for Santa!

The cake I baked on Saturday was the simple but amazing Gingerbread recipe I've shared on this blog before. But this Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread is terrific too, and a festive choice to celebrate a birthday, the holiday season, or being almost done your Christmas shopping.


Upside-Down Pear Ginger Cake
(from Epicurious.com)

For topping

2 1/2 firm pears (preferably Bosc)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar

For cake

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup molasses (preferably mild)
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Peel and core pears and cut each into 8 wedges. Melt butter in 10" or 12" heavy skillet until foam subsides. Reduce heat to low, then sprinkle brown sugar over bottom of skillet and cook, undisturbed,  for 3 minutes (not all sugar will be melted). Arrange pears decoratively over sugar and cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If the skillet handle isn't ovenproof, wrap it with a double layer of foil.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together molasses and boiling water in a small bowl. Beat together butter, brown sugar and egg in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy, about 2 minutes. Then alternately mix in flour mixture and molasses in 3 batches, stirring after each addition, until smooth.

Pour batter over topping in skillet, spreading evenly and being careful not to disturb pears. Bake in middle oven until a tester comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool cake in skillet for 5 minutes. Run a thin knife around edge of skillet, then invert a large plate with a lip over top. Using pot holders to hold the skillet and plate tightly together, invert cake onto plate, replacing any pears that stick. Serve warm or at room temperature, with whipping cream or vanilla ice cream.


Enchilada Pie

Sunday, November 27, 2016

This is my favourite new family recipe. It takes just 15 minutes or so before it goes in the oven, and most of that is stirring time. Forty minutes later, you're serving it for dinner. Served with a salad, it makes a complete meal; it's so filling, you're sure to have leftovers for lunch the next day.

It's worth looking for the corn salsa to make it with, but I think it would be a winner even with regular salsa.


Enchilada Pie
(From Goodness:Recipes and Stories, by Peter Neal and Chris Neal)

1 lb. ground turkey
2 tsp ground cumin
2 cups corn salsa (if you can’t find corn salsa, regular salsa would be fine)
1 cup frozen corn kernels
3 large (12”) flour tortillas
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I used a touch more than a cup, and it was super-cheesy)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper to make it easier to remove the pie when done.

In a skillet over medium heat, stir ground turkey to break up any clumps until meat is no longer pink. Add cumin and combine. Stir in salsa and corn. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes to let the flavours meld. Remove from heat.

Place one tortilla on the parchment paper. Spread with half the turkey mixture. Sprinkle with one-third of the cheese. Top with second tortilla. Cover with remaining turkey mixture and sprinkle with another third of the cheese. Top with remaining tortilla (reserve remaining cheese). Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake, uncovered, for another 10 minutes. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving.


You can garnish with chopped green onions or sour cream, but it's also terrific served exactly as is.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Brown Butter and Sage

Sunday, November 13, 2016
There's nothing about this recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash with Brown Butter and Sage that isn't perfect for a cool fall day. Once the squash is cubed, it requires very little effort. The brown butter and sage complement the squash beautifully, making an ideal side dish. The cookbook says it goes well with pork, but it would also be great with poultry or roast beef. For my American friends, this would be a perfect addition to your upcoming Thanksgiving dinner! And it's versatile - next time I'd love to try it with either carrots or sweet potatoes as the main ingredient.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Brown Butter and Sage

4 cups cubed butternut squash (or other root vegetable, such as carrots)
1 Tbsp olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
24 leaves fresh sage

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Peel the squash and cut into 1” cubes. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes. Stir the squash and continue roasting until tender and browned, another 10 – 15 minutes. Remove from oven.

In a small frying pan, melt butter over medium heat until foam subsides. Add sage and cook just until the butter turns a light hazelnut brown and the sage is crisp, about 30 seconds. Immediately pour brown butter and sage over the squash on the baking sheet and toss to coat. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl and serve.

A birthday cake

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Yesterday was my birthday, and I celebrated it in the best way possible - in the company of my family. The girls took a day off work and school, and joined Andrew in helping me celebrate. The day was unseasonably warm, and we enjoyed a lovely walk along a nearby river. (I only wish my birthday was this warm every year.) 

My oldest daughter gifted me with a professional cheese tasting (given by her! She works at a local cafe and has been educated in how to sell cheese.) And we finished the day by going to dinner at one of my favourite restaurants. All in all, a great day.




One of the highlights was baking with the girls in the afternoon, something we used to do together all the time but, with our busy schedules, rarely do anymore. At the top of my list to try was an orange cake with orange cream cheese icing that I saw a few weeks ago on my friend Liz's blog. It was every bit as wonderful as I'd hoped - a fine addition to a day that couldn't have been any better.

Orange Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

Cake:
1 cup butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp orange extract
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt

Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 Tbsp butter (1/2 stick) at room temperature
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp finely grated orange zest
1 Tbsp orange marmalade
2 Tbsp orange juice
additional grated orange zest for decoration (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9" x 13" pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Beat 1 cup butter until soft. Add sugar and beat for 2 minutes, until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, then add orange extract and zest and beat for another 2 minutes.

Remove from blender. Add flour and salt, and stir to combine.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove to wire rack and cool completely.

When cake is cool, make the frosting: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth, then add the butter and beat until well-combined. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar, mixing until smooth. Beat in the zest, marmalade and orange juice. Spread over cake. Sprinkled with additional grated orange zest, if desired.

German chocolate brownies

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Did you know that German chocolate cake isn't actually German in origin? I didn't until I started researching the roots of the recipe. It's actually named for an American, Samuel German, who developed a new flavour of chocolate for Baker's Chocolate Company. German chocolate cake is now known as any chocolate cake that's topped with a creamy frosting studded with pecans and coconut.

This delectable variation uses brownies rather than cake, and tops it with the traditional frosting. I always seem to have a few ounces of unsweetened chocolate sitting in my cupboard, and this is a wonderful way to use it up. Make sure you don't overbake these brownies: a fudgy base is perfect for the sweet frosting that ties it all together.


German Chocolate Brownies
(adapted from My Baking Addiction)

Ingredients

For the brownies:
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the frosting:
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup half and half cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk, beaten
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

To make the brownies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8" x 8" baking pan with parchment paper.

Melt unsweetened chocolate and 3/4 cup butter together over a double boiler. Let cool for 10 minutes.

Once chocolate mixture has cooled slightly, whisk in 1 cup sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt. Add flour and stir just until combined.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake for 30 - 35 minutes. Don't overbake - these brownies should be fudgy and slightly undercooked. Leave the oven on after you remove the brownies so you can toast the pecans and coconut.

Let brownies cool slightly before frosting.

To make the frosting:

Spread chopped pecans in a loaf pan, and spread coconut in a second loaf pan. Place in preheated oven, toasting the pecans for 8 - 10 minutes and the coconut for 5 - 10 minutes. You'll want to stir them every 2 - 3 minutes so they're evenly browned. (Alternatively, you could just use one loaf pan and toast the pecans and coconut back-to-back.) Remove each from the oven as they're golden brown and let cool.

In a large saucepan, combine half-and-half, 1/2 cup sugar, egg yolk and 4 Tbsp butter. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened (about 5 - 7 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, pecans and coconut. Spread on brownies while still warm.





Cheesy Bacon, Mushroom and Spinach Breakfast Strata

Sunday, October 23, 2016
The days are getting cooler and shorter now, and I'm starting to think about comfort food. And there isn't much that's more comforting than this simple breakfast strata. It always comes back to the cheese, doesn't it? There's enough of it in this recipe to warm you up on the coldest of days. But with both spinach and mushrooms in the recipe, you can convince yourself you're eating healthy, too. And don't let the name "Breakfast Strata" fool you - this is wonderful served any time of day.


Cheesy Bacon, Mushroom and Spinach Breakfast Strata
(adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)

Ingredients

9 - 10 slices bacon, cooked, coarsely chopped, drippings reserved
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped or sliced
1 cup baby spinach, coarsely chopped
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese (first amount)
1 small loaf of bread (about 10 ounces), slightly staled, cut into 3/4" cubes
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup mozzarella cheese (second amount)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Fresh chives, chopped (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Heat 2 Tbsp of the reserved bacon drippings in a 10" skillet and place over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until all the moisture has been released and has evaporated. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and return to the heat.

Add the spinach to the pan and toss, cooking just until slightly wilted but still bright green. Remove from the pan and turn off the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs until completely blended, seasoning them with salt and fresh black pepper. Add cheddar cheese, 1 cup mozzarella and bread, and fold together with a spatula until all the bread has been moistened.

Turn mixture into a 1 1/2 quart baking dish, pressing down if necessary. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the strata is set and the top is golden brown.

Sprinkle with chives (if using) and serve. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge up to 3 days.





Thanksgiving

Sunday, October 9, 2016

One of the advantages of Canadian Thanksgiving being six weeks earlier than its American counterpart is that I can share my Thanksgiving recipes in time for many of you to use. When I went looking for my pumpkin pie recipe online and realized I hadn't posted it yet, I knew I wouldn't let another year go by without putting it up.

I've made this recipe for years and can't think of a single thing I'd do to improve it. Well, that's not completely true: The filling is exquisite, but in a perfect world I'd be a slightly better pie-crust maker. Although everyone around the table claimed to like it, I felt I could do better. That's why I'm not sharing a pie crust recipe below - use whichever one you like best.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in Canada, and a happy Columbus Day to my American friends!

The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie
Adapted slightly from Bon Appetit

Your favourite pie crust recipe

3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 1/4 cups solid pack pumpkin
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sour cream
3 large eggs, beaten to blend

Make your pie crust according to recipe directions. Freeze for 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line crust with foil, pressing firmly, and bake until sides are set, about 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake crust until pale brown, about 10 minutes more. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

To make filling, mix sugar, brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger and salt until no lumps remain. Blend in pumpkin, whipping cream, sour cream and eggs.

Pour filling in partially-baked crust. Bake until filling puffs at edges and centre is almost set, about 55 minutes. Cool on rack. Cover and chill until cold.

Can be made 1 day ahead.