Archive for May, 2012

Strawberry Meringue Cake

May 31, 2012

I have always associated recipes with places that I live.  For example, I found the perfect coconut macaroon recipe at my parents house.  My go-to chocolate cake recipe was discovered in grad school.  And my iced sugar cookies were my favorite at my first apartment.  You get what I’m saying.

So, to go along with these theme, and to pay homage to my current apartment and city, I am sharing a spin-off of the most made recipe here: the meringue cookie.  I never quite got meringue right before I moved here.  The cookies would always turn out too crispy and sweet.  But somehow, here, (when I thought to add less sugar, and bake the meringues at a lower temperature..and to add chocolate chips and nuts), they came out perfect.

This cake is that same meringue cookie in grander form.  It’s soft, marshmallowy and light in texture, with crunchy, toasty pecans and graham crackers spread throughout. All topped with a light cream cheese frosting, and first of the season strawberries.  It’s basically screaming summer. 

So on to the next adventure, new beginnings and finding the next perfect recipe!

Strawberry Meringue Cake (adapted from Food Network)


  • 4 egg whites
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted and cooled
  • two sleeves, about 10 oz., crumbled graham crackers (you want tiny pieces, but not crumbs)
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 pounds sliced fresh strawberries

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch nonstick springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.

With a mixer, on low speed, beat the egg whites until foamy.  Add cream of tartar and salt, and turn the mixer on medium high until soft peaks begin to form.  Gradually add the sugar slowly, then the vanilla, and mix at high speed until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold in the pecans and graham crackers. Pour into the prepared pan.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until just lightly golden on top.  Cool for about 15 minutes, and then release the springform pan.  Spread on the cream cheese frosting and decorate with strawberries.

For the frosting: In an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, sour cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until completely smooth.


Magic Vanilla Ice Cream with (Magical) Hot Fudge Sauce

May 24, 2012

Is it weird that I don’t think of ice cream as summer food?  It’s creamy and comforting, especially with hot fudge sauce.  That’s pure winter hibernation food to me.  But seeing as Memorial Day is just around the corner and ice cream will be all the rage, I’m humoring you.  You’re welcome!

This ice cream (as the name might suggest) is actually magic!  No, really.  I literally put it together in 10 minutes.  (It would have been 8, but I couldn’t find the heavy cream anywhere in my crowded fridge.)  And it combined all of these things that you wouldn’t really think would go into a vanilla ice cream base: white chocolate chips? condensed milk? sour cream?  I was pretty skeptical before I tried it.  But it was luscious and soft and creamy and vanilla-y.  Like soft serve ice cream coming straight out of the freezer.

The hot fudge sauce – well, that recipe had no magic involved – it was instead just magical.  I was swooning over the richness and the depth of this hot fudge sauce.  It was exactly like a McDonald’s sundae, with the soft vanilla ice cream and the thick, rich, droopy glops of chocolate on top.  Mmm.  Oh please, don’t judge – you know exactly what I’m talking about.

So go ahead.  Stick with the norm and have your ice cream in the summertime.  But come cold weather, don’t blame me if you find yourself making this again.

Magic Vanilla Ice Cream (recipe from America’s Test Kitchen Best Summer Desserts)

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

3 tablespoons white chocolate chips

1/4 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract, or vanilla bean paste

pinch salt

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

Stir together white chocolate chips and condensed milk.  Melt in 30 second intervals in the microwave, or in a double boiler, until smooth.  Add sour cream, vanilla and salt and stir until combined.

In another bowl, using an electric or stand mixer, mix cream on medium low speed for about 1 minute.  Raise the speed and whip until stiff peaks form.

Stir 1/3 of the whipped cream into condensed milk mixture.  Fold in the remaining whipped cream gently.  Pour mixture into an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours.

Hot Fudge Sauce (adapted from Serious Eats)

2/3 cups cream

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup dark cocoa powder

pinch salt

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 tsp. vanilla

In a small pot, mix together cream, chocolate, light corn syrup, sugar, and salt.  Let it simmer for about 5 minutes.  Take off the heat and mix in butter and vanilla and stir until smooth.  Let cool slightly before serving.

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cakes

May 17, 2012

My battle with yeast continues.  Why will my yeast never foam up?  Why can’t I find a warm enough spot to let the dough rise when I always think my apartment is sweltering?!  Does not rising at all actually mean “doubled in size”?  Sigh, it’s a problem.

Good thing that with this recipe, the rising part is not necessary.  I mean, I’m sure these bars would be quite amazing with a fluffy, typically yeasty base, but I wouldn’t know.  But I can certainly attest to the fact that these bars were nothing short of amazing with a flat, stubborn yeast base.  The base of these bars is just the foundation to the amazing, cheesecake textured, star on top.  Kind of like a nut-less pecan pie filling on spread on top of barely sweet bread.  Think s’mores without the chocolate.  Lemon bars without the lemon.  Buttery, sweet and gooey.

The city with the reigning World Series champs (which I willed them to win – but I’ll tell you about that later) has another star!  This winner doesn’t need any help from me, though.  It doesn’t even need working yeast!  Pretty dependable deliciousness, if you ask me.

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cakes (recipe from NY Times)

For the base:

3 tablespoons milk, room temperature

1 3/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast

6 tablespoons butter, room temperature

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

For the topping:

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon light corn syrup

2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Powdered sugar, for sprinkling

1. In a small bowl, mix milk with 2 tablespoons warm water. Add yeast and whisk until yeast dissolves (you know, it may not). Mixture should foam slightly (still will be okay if it doesn’t).

2. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt.  Beat in the egg.  Alternately add flour and the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.  Switch to the dough attachment, and knead dough on medium speed until it forms a smooth mass and pulls away from sides of bowl, 7 to 10 minutes.

3. Press dough into an ungreased 9-by 13-inch baking dish at least 2 inches deep. Cover dish with plastic wrap or clean tea towel, put in a warm place, and allow to rise until doubled, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, mix corn syrup with 2 tablespoons water and the vanilla.  Beat the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes.  Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg.  Alternately add flour and corn syrup mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.

5. Spoon topping in large dollops over risen cake and use a spatula to gently spread it in an even layer. Bake for 30-35 minutes.  The cake will have a golden brown top, but will still be loose in the center.  Allow to cool in pan before sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar for serving.

Cumin and Caraway Tea Biscuits

May 10, 2012

These sweet-savory shortbread cookie-crackers are obviously a lot of things rolled into one.  They’re the best of so many worlds squished together to make the most delightful snack to have with your afternoon tea.  You don’t do that?  Well, it’s delightful any time of day, really.

You know those people that take pictures of their food while at a restaurant?  I’m not one of those.  It’s a timing thing, really – I don’t want to waste any of my time there taking pictures when I can instead use that time to be eating.  The eating part usually makes me so delusionally happy that I become bold and instead just ask for the recipe at the end of my meal.  This is usually the awkward part of our dining experience.

Except when I ate these cookie/cracker things.  The chef was so kind and generous that he gave me the recipe on the spot!  And he didn’t even change anything (which is what I was expecting) – these tasted exactly like the ones I was eating at his cafe.  So enjoy these savory sweet snacks and relish in the fact that you’re making restaurant food at home.

Cumin and Caraway Tea Biscuits (recipe from the Leela Mumbai)

I failed to mention that I had these biscuits in India.  Which isn’t actually a relevant part of the story, except when I note that the original recipe called for ajwain seeds, rather than caraway.  And you probably don’t know what they are because there does not seem to be anything equivalent in the western world.  It seems that oregano, thyme and even parsley are acceptable substitutions, but for this particular recipe, I thought that the caraway paired very nicely.  I tried these both ways, and though they did not taste exactly the same, they both were very good.  But if you find yourself at an Indian store, pick some up, eh?  I could have left all of this out.  You didn’t need to know this.  It’s like the awkward end of the meal all over again.

1.5 cups butter, softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2.5 cups all purpose flour

1.5 tsp. salt

1 egg

2 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tsp. caraway seeds

Whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, cumin seeds and caraway seeds.  Cream together the butter and sugar until light in color.  Add the egg and mix to incorporate.  Slowly fold in all of the dry ingredients until well mixed.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

 Take the dough out and on a lightly floured surface, roll to about 1/4 – 1/8 inch thick.  Using a biscuit cutter, cut out circles and place them on the prepared pan.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly golden on the edges.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Jammin’ Granola Bars

May 3, 2012

People, I hate running.  I mean, sure, I’ll do it.  You know, for the health benefits and to get that “amazing” feeling after you complete a run, blah blah.  I’ll even sign up for semi-long distance races just to make sure that I’ll keep on running.  But I’m really not a fan of it.  It’s true.

The only person I know that truly hates running more than I do is my sister.  The only difference is that she doesn’t even lie to herself about it.  She just flat out does not run because the thought of it frightens her.  Ah, but what she does do is walk.  You know, for exercise.  And unfortunately, she doesn’t do it like this, though that would be so much more awesome.  Instead, she just walks and walks being extremely inefficient with her exercise time.

All of this was just fine.  Until she signed us both up for a 32 mile walk.  32 miles!?  That’s insanity.  That’s longer than a marathon.  That’s longer than any run I’ve ever done…put together!  Who walks 32 miles in one day??  Not only did she convince me (or force me, however you want to look at it – she’s the older one, after all) to do this walk, she also persuaded me into doing 20+ mile practice walks with her.  Did I mention that this whole thing is insane?

Anyway.  The walk is this weekend.  And I’m taking these granola bars.  Because goshdarnit, we’re going to need a snack during the 11 hour walking day.  And these may be the only gems that pull me through.  God speed.  (I’m telling myself that.)

Jammin’ Granola Bars (slightly adapted from Flour)

Haha, I came up with the name of these granola bars myself.  Anyway, I don’t think that I emphasized how tasty these bars actually are.  Probably because of my anxiety related to the walk.  Because I’m walking 32 miles this weekend – not sure if you knew that.  Anyway, these are unlike any bars you’ve made because of this amazing jam right in the middle of the bars.  Combined with the crunchy topping (millet!  who knew about this wondrous grain!): It’s like a cross between a fancy Nutri-Grain bar and a Nature Valley granola bar.  I mean, if that didn’t get you running to the kitchen to make these, I don’t know what will.

For the jam:

1 cup dried apple rings

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup dried apricots

1/3 cups sugar

2 cups water

In a medium pot, bring everything to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes.  Take the pot off the heat and let it sit for 1 hour.  Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and mix together until the jam is still chunky, but it is a more even consistency.  This will take about 30 seconds.

For the bars:

1 cup walnuts, toasted

1 cup oats

1 1/2 cup rolled oats

1 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cups whole wheat flour

2/3 cups light brown sugar

2/3 cups sweetened shredded coconut

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 stick butter, softened and cut into pieces

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

6 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons millet

3 tablespoons sunflower seeds

3 tablespoons whole flax seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.  In a food processor, pulse together walnuts, oats, flour, sugar, coconut, salt, cinnamon and butter until it comes together.  If doing by hand, rub in the butter into the dry ingredients.  Pour everything out into a big bowl and mix in the applesauce and honey.

Taking two-thirds of the dough, pat it into the prepared pan.  Bake for about 25 minutes, until it turns a light golden brown.  Place the remaining 1/3 of the dough in the fridge while the rest is baking.

Take the pan out of the oven, and spread all of the prepared jam evenly on top.  Take the rest of the dough out of the fridge and mix it in the millet, sunflower seeds and flax seeds.  Dollop the dough evenly over the jam.

Place back in the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the top has turned a light golden brown.  Let it cool in the pan for about 2 hours and then slice into bars.  The recipe says that these bars taste even better as they sit, which is good because we’re not walking until this weekend.  But these bars are pretty delicious right now too.