Baking for the office

Sunday, October 31, 2010

On Wednesday evening, Andrew asked if I could do some baking for an office Halloween party on Friday.  Actually, he didn't 'ask' me so much as he 'emailed me from his business trip'.

No problem, I have a hundred recipes I could make.  He then emailed me back and said they had to be decorated in a Halloween theme. 

Well.  I bake, but I don’t decorate.  But Andrew has such innocent faith in my ability to whip up any recipe that it’s hard to be cross with him. I desperately cast my mind back to when the girls were young and any kind of Halloween decorations impressed them.  I did a ghost cake one year, and another time I made meatballs and passed them off as eyeballs.  I didn’t think either of those would cut it with Andrew’s co-workers.

I was stumped until I remembered the pumpkin muffins I’d made a week ago. I don’t usually frost muffins, but of course these would require something special.  I found a wonderful frosting recipe on Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice to accompany them.  And the decorations were bat, ghost and pumpkin sprinkles bought at the cake decorating store.

Andrew was back in town Thursday evening and the plan was in place.  And he called from work Friday morning to tell me that everyone, including him, loved the muffins.

I loved them too, both with and without adornment.  But I might love them even more when they’re decorated for Halloween and wearing a delicious orange cream cheese frosting.

Pumpkin Muffins
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Makes 12 muffins

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
pinch allspice
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup plump raisins
1/2 cup dried cherries

Preheat oven to 400F.  Grease muffin tin or fill it with paper liners.

In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.

Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one, beating after each addition, then add the vanilla. Lower the mixer speed and add the pumpkin and buttermilk.

Add the dry ingredients and finish mixing by hand.  Stir in the raisins and dried cherries.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 Tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of one orange
2 – 4 Tbsp milk
3 – 4 cups icing sugar

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy.  Beat in vanilla, orange zest, and a tablespoon of milk.  Beat in 3 cups icing sugar, adding more milk and sugar as needed to get a spreading consistency.  Beat until light and fluffy.

Thursday's Child: Nisanyan House

Thursday, October 28, 2010
Nisanyan house
Photo credit: Rainer Stratmann
In October, I’ve been writing about hotels we’ve stayed in that are remote.  The final one is the Nisanyan Evleri, located just outside Ephesus, Turkey.  Although it was less remote than some of the others, we still required alternate means to deliver our luggage.

Nisanyan house is perched on the hillside above Sirince, just a few miles outside of Ephesus, and it’s a steep and winding drive to get there. The hotel itself was accessible by car, but the outlying house that we stayed in wasn’t. The path to the houses is narrow and bumpy, and is followed by a steep staircase.  Carrying the luggage all that distance would have been unwieldy. 

Upon check-in, we had noticed a motorcycle complete with sidecar sitting on the path.  Instead of carrying passengers, it carried our luggage to our house!

The dining room.  Photo credit: Rainer Stratmann
Although we had a busy day in Ephesus and the surrounding area, we still had enough energy to wander down the winding paths into the village.  It was a labyrinth of lanes twisting down the slope, and of course we got lost on the way back.  But asking a young cyclist for directions in a combination of rudimentary Turkish and pantomime only added to the adventure.

Mealtime at the Nisanyan Evleri was heavenly.  Because the hotel is a little out of the way, it’s much easier to eat there than to find a restaurant, and the dining experience was so wonderful that it was an easy choice.  The lamb shank, cooked to tender perfection and served with vegetables, was one of our best meals in Turkey. 

Walking back to our house after the meal, it was so dark that we could see every star in the wide-open sky.  But the cobbled path was lit by torches so we could safely make our way back.  At night, the village was peaceful, and the lights twinkled through the darkness.

Sirince at night.  Photo credit: Rainer Stratmann

Book Signing

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I’m thrilled to let you know the date of the first signing for my newest book, The Witch of Bloor Street.  I’ll be at the Queensway Chapters store on Wednesday, November 24 between 7:00 and 8:30 to sign copies of my book.  Queensway Chapters is located at 1950 The Queensway, right across the street from Sherway Gardens. 

This evening is also a fundraiser for Martingrove Collegiate, so for any books you buy (not just mine) a portion will be donated to the school.  Hope to see you there!

Blog Award

Monday, October 25, 2010

I was thrilled to hear that I received the "One Lovely Blog Award" from Chaya at Sweet and Savory. Chaya is truly a prolific blogger  every time I check her site, she has a new recipe (or three) posted.  Whether she's participating in Meatless Mondays, Tuesdays with Dorie or Gluten-Free Wednesdays (to name only three of the groups to which she belongs) she always has a range of delicious sweets and savories to choose from.  Thank you Chaya!

Having received this award,  I now have the honour of awarding it to some of my favourite bloggers.  It was tough choosing only a few, but here are some blogs that I never miss reading:

Pixie Baker – Valerie's wonderful blog inspired me to start my own.  She consistently produces the most amazing recipes, and her creations are always beautifully photographed.   Oh, and if you happen to have a connection to the F/V Northwestern, it's worth your time to let her know!

Cake Wrecks – I read this site almost every day, because you can never laugh too much.  Cake Wrecks documents an incredible array of cakes that were poorly-decorated and offered for sale.  The incompetence is breathtaking.  To balance this, occasionally they showcase cakes that are unbelievably gorgeous.  Take a look at these peacock cakes and sigh.

Amie Kaufman  Amie is even newer at blogging than me, but she has jumped into it wholeheartedly.  She has a weekly feature called BTW (Beyond the Blog; Things I Like; What I’m reading) that is always worth checking out.  And anyone who enjoys traveling and writing as much as she does is okay by me!  

books I done read  My favorite book review site.  I don't always agree with the reviews, but I am always entertained by them.  It's worth reading the posts on any of the books in the Twilight series, especially if you didn't care for them.

Cake or Death  Liz has a great sense of humour.  She's a pastry chef, so her desserts always have that extra-professional look.  Whether she's adding brown sugar frosting to her double apple bundt cake, or impressing her husband with the world's largest tootsie roll, she always grabs my attention!

Carlavista – Carla is one of my dearest friends, and she writes a general interest blog on all kinds of topics.  Recently she’s written about everything from road rage to a movie that her cousins acted in, directed and produced.  Check out her blog – she always has something interesting to say.

Eats Well With Others – Joanne is a medical student, a marathon runner and consistently posts the most interesting, healthy collection of recipes I've seen.  Also, she is so nice even her ex-boyfriend's mother reads her blog.

Edible Mosaic – Faith has an incredible array of recipes, both savory and sweet.  She recently posted the best guide to making caramel that I've ever read.  Caramel has always intimidated me, but after I saw that post I thought, maybe this time I'll give it a shot!

Journey of an Italian Cook  Claudia is both writer and baker.  In fact, I had no idea what an accomplished playwright she was until I checked her bio for this award.  She has received twelve national playwriting awards and her plays have been produced around the world.  No wonder her posts are always interesting and entertaining.

Mission: Food Victoria has just moved to New York, and I love seeing the city through her eyes.  I'm already dying to go back, just so I can try out some of her recommended restaurants.  And she has even met Daniel Boulud!

Simple Math Bakery – I think Jeanne is brilliant.  I don't know anyone else who could work the Fibonacci sequence into a baking blog, but she managed to do it.

Bakingdon – If only to see this fabulous cake.

Official rules of the award:

1.  Accept the award.  Post it on your blog with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.
2.  Pay it forward to 12 other bloggers.
3.  Contact those blog owners and let them know they've been chosen.

Braces food

Sunday, October 24, 2010

No cookies this week.  No peanut brittle, no sticky toffee, no caramel corn.

This week, my 13-year old got braces.

Anyone who has worn braces themselves, or whose child wears them, knows that for a few days you don’t care about eating.  Your mouth aches, and your teeth sense every air current that wafts by.

It may not seem like it from this blog, but I do emphasize nutrition and a balanced diet in my house.  But for those few days after someone gets new braces, I don’t worry about them eating the four food groups.  I just try to provide food that requires no chewing at all. 

I was more successful at some of these things than others.  Next time you think of me as an expert in the kitchen, consider this.  I made jello for her, and I managed to gel it at a 30 degree angle.  (It must have been tipped by something else I put in the fridge.  I have truly never seen anything like it.)

One item that met with more success was the banana strawberry smoothie.  She loved it, and it got some fruit into a mouth that couldn’t chew a thing.

Strawberry Smoothie

1 cup milk
½ cup frozen strawberries
Half banana
¼ cup strawberry yogurt (original recipe called for plain yogurt and 1 Tbsp liquid honey.  I just used what I had on hand)

In blender, blend milk, strawberries, bananas and yogurt until smooth and frothy.

Thursday's Child: Casa Guilla, Spain

Thursday, October 21, 2010
Photo used courtesy of
Unlike all the other hotels I’m writing about this month, we took our own luggage directly to the Casa Guilla.  But the white-knuckle drive to get there, and the utter peace once we arrived, make it one of the top remote hotels we’ve ever visited.  

Andrew is an enthusiastic driver.  It’s his willingness to rent a car and drive into the far regions of foreign countries that lets me seek out these amazing locales.  But this drive tested even his limits, as we rounded one hairpin turn after another, with sheer drops of a hundred feet or more.  I had booked us into the Casa Guilla for two nights, and the plan was that on our full day there, we’d drive back into the valley and see some of the surrounding countryside.  When I shared this plan with Andrew, he said, “I’ll be driving that road one more time, and that’s to take us back to Barcelona.”

Take a look at the picture at the top of this post.  Notice the buildings all along the ridge.  Then see the building perched at the very top: that’s Casa Guilla.  Even parking our car was an adventure.  I stood along the edge to help Andrew back up, to prevent a reenactment of the final scene in Thelma and Louise.  

Scenes from our hike  
Casa Guilla is nestled in the Pyrenees near the village of Tremp.  It's a couple of hours from Barcelona but it seems like a million miles away.  According to the Casa Guilla website, they've dated the house back at least 1000 years, to the time of Charlemagne.

Even though we never did make it into the valley (except on our way back to Barcelona), we had a wonderful day exploring the casa and hiking around the area.  We relaxed by the pool, and we enjoyed two gourmet dinners which were framed by the most glorious sunsets we’ve ever seen.  The beautiful views of the Pyrenees and the serenity of the hotel made the drive there and back more than worth it.

Hiking down the mountain was easier than driving.
Hiking back up was good exercise!
Casa Guilla patio

Desert Island Songs

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Normally I write about baking, or traveling, or writing in this space.  But as one of my favourite writers said, “If music be the food of love, play on.” 

Duke Orsino (and William Shakespeare) had it right.  Music inspires my writing.  When I find an album I love, I listen to nothing else for months on end.  My family loves that about me.

So I decided to write about my Desert Island Songs – the music that, if I was stuck on a desert island with an iPod that held only ten songs, I couldn’t live without.

Here’s my list.  What’s on yours?

Ten (well, actually eleven) Desert Island Songs

1.  “Nobody Does it Better”, Carly Simon – If I’m ever with you near a karaoke machine, I will want to sing this song.  Don’t let me do it.

2.  “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”, Neil Young – Any top ten list that doesn’t feature at least one song by Neil Young is incomplete.

3.  “The Scientist”, Coldplay – It tells a story, and I love songs that tell a story.

4. “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic”, The Police – Best.  Song.  Ever.

5. “With or Without You”, U2 – Because I love melancholy songs performed by a singer with a great voice.  See also #2 and #10.

6.  “September”, Earth, Wind & Fire – Even people living on a desert island have to dance sometimes.

7.  “My Best Friend’s Girl”, The Cars – This album got me through the worst summer job ever.  I still don’t understand the lyrics, but I love this song.

8.  “I Want You Back”, The Jackson 5 – And 8a is “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”, Jay-Z.

9.  “Singin’ in the Rain”, Gene Kelly – I couldn’t have a desert island list without a song from a musical, could I?

10.  “Racing Like a Pro”, The National – If it isn’t “Racing Like a Pro”, it would be “Start a War” or “Gospel”.  Usually, desert island songs should be at least five years old, to make sure they stand the test of time.  But I know I’ll be listening to this album (Boxer) for the rest of my life. 

Maternal Ingenuity

Sunday, October 17, 2010

This was a busy week for sports in our household.  My youngest daughter is on the school softball and football teams, each of which called for a full-day tournament.  And, being a writer who works only for myself, I had the luxury of attending both tournaments.

“Luxury” may be a relative term here.  The football tournament was held on Thursday, and the weather was, uh, poor.  I won’t say the rain was torrential, but I did notice Gene Kelly hanging off a lamppost one field over.  And between the wind and the biting cold, it was tough on players and spectators.

Fortunately, the coaches had brought along a tent to keep the girls’ belongings dry.  Unfortunately, no one had brought tent pegs, so periodically the wind lifted the poles in the air and threatened to carry the tent away.

Here’s where the maternal ingenuity comes in.  One of the girls’ mothers lives across the street from the field.  She didn’t have tent pegs, but she gathered pieces of firewood from her backyard.  And to knock them into the ground, she brought her hippo-shaped meat tenderizer.

Photographic evidence, in case you think I’m making this up:

I always take a batch of cookies to tournaments.  On Thursday, I baked Buttermilk Chocolate Chunk Cookies, the recipe for which I found on the terrific website Baking Bites.  Will you like them?  I can only tell you that the girls’ football team unanimously loved them – and, powered by these cookies, they won their tournament!

Melt-in-Your-Mouth Buttermilk Chocolate Chunk Cookies
(adapted from Baking Bites)

1/2 cup butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup buttermilk
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Melt the butter and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. 
In a large bowl, combine the melted butter (still warm) with cocoa and stir until very smooth.  Whisk in sugar, vanilla extract and buttermilk.  Gradually stir in the flour mixture until no streaks of flour remain.  Stir in the chocolate chunks.
Drop dough onto prepared baking sheet, leaving about two inches between cookies to allow for spread.
Bake for 10 - 12 minutes, until cookies are set around the edges.  Cool for 2 - 3 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 20 - 24 cookies.

Thursday's Child: Ping An, China

Thursday, October 14, 2010

One of the most remote places our family has visited was Ping An, China.  The village is a steep climb from the parking lot below – one of my daughters counted stairs but gave up at 200.  And rather than tourists trying to take their luggage up the incline, the local village women make a business of carrying it on their behalf.  This was one time when we packed our carry-ons with only the bare essentials!

Ping An Guest House offered very basic accommodations.  I never did get hot water for my shower.  But it’s worth it for the glorious views of terraced farmland.  At least, in theory.

This is what Ping An looks like in the sun:

Dragon Spine Rice Terraces, Ping An
Willow Gerleman @ Asia Transpacific Journeys
This is what Ping An looked like when we visited:

But that’s where our good luck started.

Our guide, seeing my disappointment at the weather, suggested we visit a local villager’s home.  Soon he found a young woman who was sweeping outside her father’s house, and she allowed us to go inside.  The modest home was on the second floor, with the barn and chicken coop occupying the first.

The highlight of our visit, though, was the large living room.  (Vegetarians, avert your eyes.)  A fire pit burned in the centre of the room, over which hung four pigs’ legs, curing in the smoke.  And a few paces away sat a VCR and TV, dominating the short side wall.  The room was a microcosm of China just a few months before hosting the Olympics.  The ancient and the modern were often side by side in the most unexpected ways.

Our visit was one of the most memorable moments in a trip that included the Terra Cotta Warriors and The Great Wall of China. And I was reminded that in travelling - just like in life - the most amazing experience is sometimes the one thing I never could have predicted.

Villagers in Ping An

Top Ten Reasons for an Author to Keep a Blog

Tuesday, October 12, 2010
A few people have asked me why a published author would write a blog.  Don't I get enough writing in my day job?  Doesn't it seem like I'm giving away what I might get paid for?

Well, there are many excellent reasons for an author to keep a blog, and many reasons why it's easier than writing a book.

Here I present the top ten:

10.  I never have to carry a cardboard box of my blogs to sell.

9. No annoying stack of royalty cheques to cash.

8. If I misspell a word on my blog, I can change it.

7. I don’t have to worry about things sagging in the middle (unless I’m blogging about a cake recipe).

6. I never have to think, “Another 10,000 words and I’ll be done.”

5. I can publish my first draft.

4. If I’m blogging about baking, there is always a happy ending.

3. My non-writer friends don't have to listen politely while I rant about how no one appreciates my latest post.

2. If I develop blogger’s block, I can fill in time by writing a book.

And the number one reason for an author to keep a blog:

1.  I can use as many adverbs as I like.

With a Little Help from my Friends

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Baking is a wonderfully collaborative business.  I seldom leave recipes exactly the way I read them.  Once I’ve tried them, I play around with ingredients and measurements to make them exactly the way I like.  Or, if I’m feeling particularly unselfish, exactly the way my family likes.

Take this recipe.  When I first read the Dorie Greenspan recipe for Double Apple Bundt Cake, I wasn’t interested.  Yes, all of her recipes are wonderful.  But I’m not really a cake person.  And I don’t think I’ve ever baked a bundt cake.

But then I saw Valerie’s blog.  Rather than baking one large cake, she made mini bundts.  I love the idea of individual serving size desserts, and not just because they’re so cute.  They’re ideal if you have a portion control problem; if you can’t leave a dessert alone until it has been eaten; if a dessert sitting in your kitchen sings out to you like the sirens to Odysseus until you have finished the whole thing.  And by “you”, I actually mean “me”.

So mini bundts it was.  Mine were really mini, almost cupcake size, and this recipe made twelve.  If you check out Valerie's results, she got six medium-size bundts.

Then I searched for a perfect way to top off these little cakes, longing for something brown sugary and irresistible.  And I found this wonderful icing recipe that Liz used on her full-size bundt.

If you want to personalize this cake, add the raisins and pecans that I left out (unselfishly baking them the way my family likes them).  And if you make this recipe, let me know what worked for you.  Maybe next time I'll give your variation a try!

Double Apple Mini-Bundt cakes
(adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt
5 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup store-bought apple butter
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and grated

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour mini bundt pan.

Whisk together the dry ingredients, flour through salt.

Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes or until the mixture is smooth, thick and pale.  Add the egg and beat well.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the apple butter.  Don’t worry if it curdles the batter.  Still on low, add the grated apple and mix to completely blend.  Stir in the dry ingredients.  Turn the mixture into mini bundt pan and smooth the top of the batter with the spatula.

Bake for 15 – 18 minutes.  Transfer the mini bundts to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before unmolding and frosting.  Cool completely before serving.

Brown Sugar Frosting

5 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp cream
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp maple syrup

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts.  Stir in the cream, and bring the mixture to a boil.  Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl to cool for 10 minutes.  

After 10 minutes, stir in the icing sugar, vanilla and maple syrup.  Beat well.  If the mixture appears too thin, add more icing sugar; if it’s too thick, add a spoonful of hot water.  Be aware that the icing sets up quickly; pour over the cake while it’s still warm.  (Because it starts setting soon after being poured, one option is to put it in a large Ziploc bag and cut off a corner.  Squeeze icing through the hole to decorate.)

You’ll probably only need half a batch of this frosting as I had quite a lot of leftovers with mine.  Oh, well.

Thursday's Child: Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Photo credit: Alan Keohane

This month, I promised to write about four hotels that are worth the challenge to get there.  Three were so remote that we had to use an alternate means of transport to deliver our luggage.

The Kasbah du Toubkal, in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, is probably my favourite hotel ever. It was rebuilt from ruins by hand, because at the time no electricity was available in the area.  Local materials and traditional building techniques were used in the restoration.  Now it’s managed and staffed by the Berber people of Northern Africa, who are known for their hospitality.  Throughout our stay, service was gracious and attentive.  We loved the rose-scented water that we washed our hands with at mealtime!

Photo credit: Alan Keohane

This isn't a luxury hotel.  Bedrooms are simple and comfortable, allowing the wonderful views to take a starring role. Meals are served in a cozy dining room, and the tagines we ate were delicious and filling.

One of the mules that accompanied us on our trek

The location is exquisite.  We spent two days hiking, and saw some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve ever been blessed to view.  Snowy peaks, green terraced farmland, streams rushing below simple footbridges -- every step along the path was a visual feast. On our first afternoon we crossed paths with a goatherd taking his flock home for the day.   And on our second day, a local villager invited our family and the guide into his home for traditional mint tea. 

Local Berber village

Oh, and our luggage?  The last ascent to the hotel is so steep that vehicles can’t make the trip.  We walked up from the village on switchback paths while a couple of mules carried our luggage for us.

This is the most lovely, unique and peaceful place I have ever visited.  If I had the chance, I’d go back in a minute.

Photo credit: Alan Keohane

My New Book

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Just a short post today to let you know my newest book is out!  My copies came in the mail a week ago and are making their way into stores.  I don’t want to sound neurotic, but I’m terrified to read my books once they’re published, in case I find a typo.  So I assign my husband and daughters the task of proofreading.  To date I’ve received one “all’s clear” with two reviews pending.

My book is called The Witch of Bloor Street and here’s what it’s about:

Sixth-grader Maggie Ito believes she has been cursed by “The Witch of Bloor Street”. While her friends all seem to be best at something, Maggie believes the curse is keeping her from being best at anything. Her attempts to break it become increasingly far-fetched, but her luck is still bad. With the help of her friends and a supportive teacher, Maggie finds confidence in her own abilities and the strength to confront her “witch.”

If you know any 6- to 10- year olds who might enjoy this book, you can buy online through Chapters or Amazon.  Some local bookstores, including The Book Mark and Book City (Bloor West) have also ordered them in to sell.  And for my friends in the Toronto area, I’ll post the dates for my signings as soon as I know.

Thanks to James Lorimer & Company, who have published all three of my books.  And thanks to my wonderful writing friends -- Trish, Carla, Nancy, Rob, Louise and Paula. Without your support and advice, none of this would be possible!

My three books

The Ultimate Fall Dessert

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Ultimate Fall Dessert.  Those are powerful words. We all have our favourites.  And by claiming this one as the ultimate, I’m bound to invite all kinds of disagreements.

I stand undaunted.

If you know me well, or if you’ve read most of my posts, you’ll know that I adore fruit desserts.  That “fruit crisp” is a heavenly phrase, with few peers.  (“We’d love to publish your manuscript” and “You haven’t aged a day since university” would also be up there.)

If you know me well, you might also know that I own three Barefoot Contessa cookbooks.

So could The Ultimate Fall Dessert be anything other than a fruit crisp inspired by Ina Garten, a.k.a. The Barefoot Contessa?

This recipe called out to me immediately when I read it.  I bought pears from the local farmers’ market, and I bought apples from a friend’s orchard.  I love dried cherries and thought they might make a tasty addition.  They do!  I’ve scaled down the recipe a bit, but my version still makes quite a large crisp.  You can cut my recipe in half, and have a nice little crisp that bakes in 30 minutes.  About the same amount of time as it will take you to polish it off.  That is, if you agree that this is The Ultimate Fall Dessert.

Apple Pear Cherry Crisp

2 pears
4 apples (I used Cortlands, but any variety of cooking apple should work)
1 cup dried cherries
1 tsp grated orange zest
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg

For the topping:
2/3 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal (not instant)
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter

Preheat the over to 350 degrees.  Peel, core and cut the pears and apples into large chunks.  Add dried cherries.  Place the fruit in a large bowl and add orange zest, juice, ¼ cup sugar, 2 Tbsp flour, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Pour into a 12" x 9" baking dish.  (I used an oval pyrex baking dish.  This isn't a standard size, so feel free to substitute a 13" x 9" pan.  You might want to remove it from the oven five minutes early, but it shouldn't make much of a difference.)

For the topping, combine 2/3 cup flour, 1 cup brown sugar and oatmeal.  Cut in the butter until the mixture starts to form small clumps.  Sprinkle topping over the fruit mixture, covering fruit completely.

Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, until the top is brown and fruit is bubbly.  Serve warm.

The Curious Incident: The Conclusion

Saturday, October 2, 2010

For anyone who is reading my blog for the first time, this post won’t make sense without the back story explained here and here.

For the rest of you, it’s time to announce the winning name of my Lost and Found cake server.  I loved all the suggestions you made, but in the end I can’t pass up a clever pun.  Because I bought the original in France … and bought a second one to replace him … and his real identity is a dog …

Ladies and Gentlemen, I introduce Deux-ggy Bowser.

Thanks to Shaz for the amazing idea, and to the rest of you for your suggestions!