Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My Favorite Apple Pie

My last post on the blog was published way back on November 7. And today I'm republishing an existing recipe...so much for coming back, right? I can honestly say that I've had every intention of publishing something new but for the last few weeks, I've literally had no time to do much of anything. This entire moving out process was draining and exhausting...I mean, I went to IKEA not once, not twice, but three times last week. I love IKEA and their cinnamon buns and froyo and Swedish meatballs as much as the next guy, but three times in a week is just too much. When I wasn't at IKEA, I was packing, at Target, at Home Goods, at the Home Depot, basically anywhere and everywhere that wasn't my computer. I actually had a whole new recipe and photos that I could have published, but I didn't have spare second to even sit down and select which photos I wanted to publish, let alone edit them, type up a recipe, and write a reasonably coherent and mildly interesting blog post. And to be honest, I'm so pooped from the move that I'm still not sure I'm able to do so. I'm sure this isn't my most interesting post, but I think that all I need to get back in the game, now that I'm more or less settled into my amazing ew apartment, is a few days of rest and a whole lot of Thanksgiving in my belly. 

Since the big say is only two days away, I figured I would bring back an old recipe while I'm still recovering from moving my entire life up to my fourth floor walk up apartment. A really good, classic, no-frills apple pie is, in my opinion, the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert. I personally can't stand pumpkin pie (believe me, I've really tried hard just getting to a point where I think it's ok), so I consider apple pie to be the Thanksgiving dessert to end all Thanksgiving desserts, and this version is especially delicious. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls

Happy Saturday, everyone! Now that Fall is underway (maybe not in NY, where we've had some freakishly spring-like weather for the past few days), all I want to do is bake anything that feels warm and cozy. Rolling my sleeves up, making a mess of flour and spices, and putting something in a hot oven to make my house smell amazing is just about all I want to do. Now that I'm baking on a more regular basis, this is happening much more often, and it's pretty awesome. Of course, just as I start to get back on the baking and blogging grind, my posting and time spent in the kitchen are going to be a little thrown off once again, but at least it's for a good (and exciting!) reason: I'm moving on out! 

The timing is finally right for my long-time boyfriend (C.) and I to finally leave the nest and start a new adventure together. The apartment search went incredibly fast--we went from having no apartment to scheduling the lease signing in a matter of two days, and before we know it we'll be packing up the U-Haul and making the drive to Astoria. To say that we're incredibly excited would be the biggest understatement in the world; this move has been in the works since we graduated from college, and the fact that we're moving to a beautiful pre-war apartment in a prime location of a neighborhood as rich and diverse as Astoria has me completely giddy with excitement. 

Since we're furniture shopping and packing every spare second we have, the time I can actually spend in the kitchen over the next few weeks has to be spent as efficiently as possible, so get ready for a bunch of short, fuss-free (but still amazingly delicious) recipe posts!  All I want are comforting treats now that I'm leaving home and entering a crazy few weeks, and since it's time to bake all things warm and cozy, cinnamon rolls needed to come out of my oven (they're C.'s favorite and Fall=cinnamon roll season, in case you didn't know).  They need to be easy, quick cinnamon rolls though, because I definitely do not have time for sit and wait for yeast rolls to rise. As much as I love traditional, fluffy yeast rolls, right now I just need some immediate gratification. These cinnamon rolls, from Claire Ptak's gorgeous Violet Bakery Cookbook, are exactly the type of cinnamon roll I need. They're definitely different from yeast rolls--they're almost like biscuits--so if you're after a soft, pillowy roll then this might not be the recipe for you  (but this one may be up your alley!).  Warm from the oven, this quick cinnamon roll was comforting, delicious and better than I could have imagined, since I went from having no cinnamon rolls to having a dozen in just under an hour. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Kit Kat Milkshake

I hope everyone had an amazing Halloween! Whether you dressed up or not, I hope you at the least got to eat a TON of candy. I definitely ate more than I should have, and since we got almost no trick or treaters, I have an absurd amount of candy leftover. And while I'm more than happy to just eat it straight, it's always fun to mix it up into something new.

A milkshake is my favorite way to go about this.  Three years ago, I shared a Snickers and Pretzel Milkshake and it was a huge, huge success. I thought it was such a great way to use up my favorite goodies from Halloween as a kid, so I wanted to make a new version this year. My tastes have changed since I made that milkshake--back then I was a die-hard Snickers fan, but today, I'm all about Kit Kats.

This Kit Kat milkshake is just your basic chocolate milkshake with a lot of Kit Kats blended in. There's nothing crazy about it, but nevertheless, it's pretty amazing. A couple scoops of chocolate ice cream (or any other flavor you want) get blended together.  The mixture is then poured into a tall glass that's been drizzled with hot fudge or chocolate sauce, and is topped off with a generous dollop of freshly whipped cream and finished with two more Kit Kat bars. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Last-Minute Halloween Treats

Halloween is tomorrow! This has always been one of my absolute, most favorite holidays ever (right after Christmas and Thanksgiving). I've loved everything about Halloween since I was little, whether it was figuring out what my costume was going to be, to packing trick or treat bags for the neighbors, and of course, the actual trick or treating. I'll never forget the year when I managed to get over ten pounds of candy (all by myself, for myself) in just under two hours. If that's not marathon trick or treating, I don't know what is.  It was the result of having an epic costume, trick or treating at the most opportune moment, and having my mom follow just a few feet behind me (I would dump out my candy into a bag she was carrying whenever my pumpkin started to overflow). So really, it was careful planning that made Halloween so perfect each and every year. 

While I love the idea of planning something elaborate and creepy (or cute!) to celebrate this spooky holiday, I'm fully aware that life gets in the way and it just doesn't always happen. Take this year, for instance. I wanted to make an amazing Halloween-themed layer cake, but when I went to make it, nothing seemed to work out. I had an off day, and nothing seemed to be going right. So, since that idea has been archived to share next year, here are a few easy, last-minute Halloween-themed treats that you can make in advance tonight or before your party tomorrow. Whether it's because life got in the way or you procrastinated, these quick ideas are just what you need. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Apple Cider Bundt Cake

Hello again! I'm back! Really and truly. I'm back to blogging and I'm crazy excited about it. My "few weeks" of time off turned into a few months, and even though my vacation extended much longer than I had anticipated, I regret none of it. Taking some time off for myself, to sleep in on weekends, set my camera down, step away from all the pressure I was putting on myself was the best decision I could have made. I had a chance to enjoy my summer (I went to the beach! I completed two Spartan Races!! I went to Sicily!!!) and recharge my batteries. It only took a few weeks for me to realize that I really did miss this working on this space that I had created for myself.  And even though it took me a few months to feel like I was ready to get back into blogging, now that I have, all I can say is that it feels awesome.  I’m still going to work on making my blogging feel as natural as possible, so I don’t see myself getting back to the regimented schedule I forced on myself before.  While I don’t know how often I'll actually end up posting, all I know that I’m going to make sure I have a good time working on each and every post.  Because this is supposed to be my happy place, right? 

Anyway. Now that the formalities are over and we’re back in action, let’s talk cake. Because really, that’s what we’re all here for. 

This cake is the result of a failed attempt at apple picking. I’ve wanted to go apple picking ever since I learned such a thing existed, but for one reason over another, fall came and went every year and I never made it to an orchard. Last weekend was different though. My parents, sister, and I packed some snacks, got in the car, and drove all the way to the North Fork. We were ready. We made it to the orchard, and the parking lot was full of cars and people of all ages.  As we walked closer to the apple-studded trees, we saw a sign propped up against the fence that read “CLOSED.” We assumed we had just gotten to the orchard too early and that we’d be able to start picking our bushels of apples in a few minutes—but we were wrong. It turns out that the picking season had ended the weekend before, and the few apples that remained on the trees were reserved for picking during the week, so we made the best of the situation.  We drank some cider and explored the small neighboring farms, and I bought an apple pie (a really, really delicious pie) and a few jars of fruit preserves. It was fun but bittersweet nevertheless—after all, we drove almost two hours to get to the orchard, and left with zero freshly picked apples. 

Aside from getting an obvious lesson for next year (call BEFORE leaving to drive to the orchard), we got to pick up a gallon of some incredible spiced cider and enjoy a few cider donuts, still hot from the fryer.  I had been planning on baking up some kind of delicious apple-filled quick bread (perhaps swirled with salted caramel??) as my welcome-back post, but given that all I had was some cider, my plans had to change. I still wanted to go in the direction of a simple cake, because this is me we’re talking about and there’s nothing I love more. When I came across this recipe for an apple cider cake covered in cinnamon sugar, I was sold. I didn’t need to think twice about the recipe because it essentially makes a giant cider donut, and who needs to think twice about that?

The recipe starts off by boiling a roughly chopped apple (a supermarket Granny Smith, in my case) in spiced cider. Once the apple is soft and the cider has reduced, it all gets pureed until smooth. This, along with warming spices like cinnamon and cloves, are what give this cake its quintessential fall flavor. After the apple puree is made, the recipe is straightforward. Dry ingredients are whisked, then added to creamed butter and sugar, along with the apple puree and milk. A 45-minute trip in the oven and a brushing of melted butter later, the entire cake is sprinkled with cinnamon-scented sugar. At this point, you just have to resist giant cake donut sitting in your kitchen making it smell all kinds of delicious. Once it’s cooled completely, simply slice into it and enjoy. The wait will be worth it! 

Apple Cider Bundt Cake
recipe adapted slightly from Serious Eats


For the Cake

1 1/2 cups spiced apple cider
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil

For the Topping

6 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted


Add the cider and chopped apple to a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring the cider to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until half of the cider has been absorbed and the apples can be smashed easily with a fork, about 15 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Pour the mixture into a food processor or blender and blend until pureed and smooth.  Measure out 1 cup of the cider mixture and add to a large measuring cup, along with the milk and vanilla extract. Stir with a fork to combine.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Grease a 10-cup Bundt pan with non-stick spray  and dust all over with flour, tapping out the excess.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves.

In the bowl of standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add in the oil, and beat to combine, about 1 minute.

Lower the mixer speed to low, and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the cider-milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix only until incorporated and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.  After the last addition, increase the speed to medium and beat for about 20 seconds to fully combine.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake until the top is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer the cake to cooling rack set over a baking sheet and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert directly onto the cooling rack.

While the cake is still warm, combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon to make the topping. Brush the warm cake with melted butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar, using your fingers to rub it onto the sides.

Let the cake cool completely, about 1 hour, before slicing. Enjoy!

Makes 1 Bundt cake

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tiny Chocolate Cake (GF)

Hello! I'm here! I haven't disappeared.  I've just been a bit quiet and taking things easy over the past few weeks. I think I'm just in need of a break of sorts.  I'm not really even sure what I need, but having slowed down recently has been nice, I'll admit.  I've been taking some time to think about this space I've carved myself online, and reflect on how I've spent the last four years (almost) of my life.  The time really just flew by, and it's amazing to me how quickly it's gone.  Over 300 posts, more photographs (both good and bad) than I would ever want to count, and so much time have gone into this.  Creating content on such a regular basis and maintaining a site has been more work than I could have ever imagined, but it's been incredibly rewarding at the same time.  Despite that, I'm starting to drive myself crazy. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Strawberry Galette

The weather has finally been improving, and it's getting warmer (if only slightly), and the sun has been out (I'll take two days of sunshine a week!).  Things are looking brighter, and I can't wait for spring to really arrive with full force. For now though, these mild improvements are a very welcome change.  Since this past weekend was the first that kinda sorta resembled spring (aside from the crazy howling wind on Saturday), there was nothing better than embracing a new set of seasonal flavors.  In my mind, nothing says "spring is here!" quite like the arrival of fresh strawberries.  Fresh, colorful, and beautiful, strawberries are one of my all-time favorite fruits.  There's nothing more disappointing than eating fresh strawberries in winter, simply because they don't taste like anything.  So when an abundance of strawberries arrive at the grocery store and farmer's market, and they really taste the way they're supposed to...it's just a wonderful thing.
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