Every fall I try to think of fun and different Apple recipes to take advantage this awesome autumn fruit with its growing number of varieties. My grandmother has many tasty Apple dessert recipes in “The Art of Fine Baking.” I’ve been baking my way through them and posting those such as Apple Cheesecake Puff and Sauteed Apple Cake on this site. The majority of these Apple recipes are more refined desserts, fit for a crowd or dinner party. I often crave something easier, something that takes the idea of Apple pie but simplifies, making it guilt-free in the process. Well maybe not entirely guilt-free, but at least more so than a traditional Apple pie or the over-the-top (but awesomely delicious) Stuffed Baked Apples with Homemade Caramel Sauce I made last year. These sweet cinnamon baked apple snack stacks are the perfect compromise.
If you’re not familiar with speculoos or cookie butter, you’re missing out. This growing trend started a few years ago and is now said to be one of Trader Joe’s best selling products. Some may argue that the popularity of cookie butter peaked back in 2014 but I see more of it now, especially in baked goods, than I did then. It’s a deliciously simple concept: ground spiced shortbread cookies and oil are made into a spreadable butter, similar to peanut butter or nutella. The idea seems to have come from Belgium and Biscoff was one of the first, most recognizable brands in the US. The dessert-like spread is a wonderful nut-free alternative for those with nut allergies and although it’s easy to eat by the spoonful or simply on toast, it turns out this sweet spiced cookie spread makes an amazing molten lava cake.
Crème brulee is one of those semi-fancy French-American desserts that often seems too pretentious to make at home. This rich custard, also known as burnt cream – a reference to its hard caramelized top layer, is not as fussy to make as it looks. Those familiar with crème brulee may think you need those cute little kitchen blow torches to make it properly. A blow torch is definitely more fun but not necessary. This dessert was around long before anyone determined a blow torch was the best way to caramelize the sugar on top of the cream. I can’t imagine my grandmother using a blow torch in the 1960’s, when she did the majority of her cooking and baking. Although this is not her recipe, it was published around the same time period in 1961 in “The New York Times Cookbook,” by friend and colleague, Craig Claiborne.
So what can you use instead of a blow torch? The broiler, of course. The texture may not be as perfect but a similar sugary glass-like shell can be achieved. Shallow ramekins (unlike the ones shown here) will also help the cooking process. They simply allow the crème to bake faster and provide more surface area for caramelization. Blow torch or not, that first spoonful of the crispy burnt caramel with rich vanilla crème will make the few extra steps to make this impressive dessert, well worth it.
3 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons sugar
6 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup light brown sugar
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Heat cream over boiling water (in a double boiler) and stir in sugar. Beat the egg yolks until light and pour the hot cream over them gradually, stirring vigorously. Stir in the vanilla and strain the mixture into ramekins.
Place the dishes in a pan containing one inch of hot water and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, or 35 minutes. Do not over-bake. The custard will continue to cook from retained heat when it is removed from the oven. Chill thoroughly.
Before serving, cover surface with brown sugar. Set the dishes in a pan with cracked ice and put under the broiler until sugar is brown and melted. Serve immediately.
There is something magical about meringue. The process of whipping liquid egg whites into a sugary pillow-like mass is not just satisfying, but fun. From cookies and marshmallows to frosting recipes such as this, there are multiple uses for shiny sweet meringue. Despite whatever the intended purpose, I can’t seem to resist dipping my fingers into the bright soft fluff and eating most of it before it makes it out of the mixing bowl.
This meringue frosting recipe, inspired from “The Art of Fine Baking,” is really just a basic Italian Meringue: the egg whites are “cooked” by beating in a water sugar mixture that has been heated to soft ball stage (238 degrees). This process creates an extra shiny thick meringue, which is all the more irresistible. Butter can also be added to create a meringue buttercream. I skipped this step because I personally don’t think the frosting needs butter. The greasy addition also makes it much easier for the meringue to break down and create a soggy mess.
But enough about meringue, let’s talk cake. I know I need to be more open minded but whenever I make a cake, it usually has a chocolate component. In this case, the cake itself is chocolate since the meringue frosting is not. I also took it one step further and added melted chocolate to a small amount of the frosting for a chocolate surprise in the middle layer. This of course is optional. The cake is a Red Devils Food Cake recipe that I adapted from “The New York Times Cookbook“ by Craig Claiborne, a good friend of my grandmother. It’s a basic chocolate cake with just the right amount of moistness. Paired with the meringue frosting, it becomes impressive and indulgent. I dare you to eat just one slice.
Devils Food Cake
1 3/4 cup sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon corn syrup
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottoms of two 9-inch layer cake pans, line with waxed paper or parchment paper and grease the paper.
Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, and salt. Add the oil and 2/3 cup of the milk and mix. Beat two minutes. Add remaining ingredients and beat two minutes longer.
Turn the batter into the prepared pans and bake on the lower shelf of the oven until the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center, 30-35 minutes.
Cool the cake in the pan five minutes. Turn out on rack, remove paper, and frost as desired.
For the meringue frosting:
Combine 2/3 cup of sugar with water and corn syrup in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Raise heat and boil syrup without stirring until a candy thermometer reads 238 degrees, or a few drops of syrup form a soft ball in cold water.
While syrup is cooking, beat egg whites with pinch of salt until they form soft peaks. Gradually beat in vanilla extract and remaining sugar, a little at a time, until whites are firm. Pour boiling syrup in a fine stream over whites, beating constantly. Continue beating until completely smooth and stiff. Cool.