Apple Strudel

Apple Strudel

Apple Strudel

I always look forward to apple season. It gives me a chance to continue testing the many apple recipes in “The Art of Fine Baking.” The sweet smell of crisp juicy apples baked in any kind of buttery vessel is hard to resist. With previous posts on unconventional apple desserts like Apple Cheese Cake Puff, Bavarian Apple Pancake, Sauteed Apple Cake, and Apple Roll, I figured it was time to introduce a classic.

Old fashioned Apple Strudel is fairly well-known but somewhat out of style and awaiting a comeback. Frequently confused with Streusal  – the crumbly topping – Strudel is often said to have originated in Austria. It can be savory or sweet and is differentiated from other pocket style pastries by the characteristic paper-like pastry layers rolled around its filling. Apple is one of the most common strudel fillings and this version pulls out all the stops with cinnamon sugar, raisins, and ground walnuts.

Much like Puff Pastry and Danish Pastry (which I have yet to tackle), Strudel has always been a bit daunting for me. The idea of attempting to stretch the dough without destroying it seemed frustrating. I’m happy to report that it is much easier than I anticipated. Based on the introduction provided in her book and the number of strudel filling recipes, it appears my grandmother spent a fair amount of time perfecting it (along with James Beard). Her thoughts and instructions are some of the best I’ve found, including on the internet, so I’ve provided them in the basic Strudel dough recipe.


Stretched basic Strudel dough
½ – 1 cup butter, melted
2 cups fresh bread crumbs sauteed lightly in butter
½ cup ground walnuts
4 cups peeled, sliced apples
1 cup raisins
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2/3 cup cinnamon sugar
powder sugar for dusting

Brush strudel dough generously with melted butter. Sprinkle all over with sauteed bread crumbs and ground walnuts. Place a 2-inch strip of sliced apples along one end of dough.

Brush apples with butter and sprinkle with raisins, lemon zest, and cinnamon sugar. Fold in flaps of dough at sides of filling. Brush them with butter. Lift up end of cloth nearest filling and make the dough fold over apples. By raising cloth, continue to roll up apple filling until it is completely enclosed in the sheet of dough. Roll loosely.

Transfer strudel to lightly greased baking sheet, making a horse shoe shape if it is too long for the pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour, basting occasionally with melted butter until strudel is golden brown. Dust with powdered sugar. Serve slightly warm

Brush remaining dough all over with melted butter.


Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse

This recipe was a long time coming. For what seemed like a fairly straight forward and simple chocolate mousse, it took more testing and modifications than most of the other recipes I’ve posted here from “The Art of Good Cooking.” I eventually settled for a more traditional mousse approach, similar to what I was taught at The International Culinary Center. I then put my own spin on it by adding marscarpone cheese to the whipped cream. This really isn’t necessary and the mousse is delicious without it, but I like the contrast of the semisweet chocolate with the rich whipped cream. It’s an addition I learned from a chef I once worked with and it adds to the recipe’s overall velvety texture.

So what was the issue with the original recipe that required so much modification? Basically, it says to just serve the meringue chocolate mixture with whipped cream, when really a large amount of whipped cream should first be folded into the chocolate mixture. Then it should be served with a dollop of the remaining whipped cream. Without this step, the mousse tends to take on too much of a foamy feel and can easily fall flat. The ratio of egg white-chocolate-whipped cream was another challenge but as long as all three are combined, it’s hard to go horribly wrong. From there you can make whatever adjustments you see fit: take out the marscarpone, use bittersweet chocolate instead of semisweet, add a few tablespoons of brewed espresso, take out the cognac or liqueur – the list goes on. Just remember to serve with extra whipped cream, it’s one of the best parts.


8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
6 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons liqueur (Grand Marnier or Cognac)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Mascarpone Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup mascarpone cheese

Prepare whipped mascarpone cream by beating cream until slightly thickened. Gradually add sugar until thick and stiff. Beat in vanilla and mascarpone just until combined. Chill until ready to use.

Melt chocolate over hot water in a double boiler.  Cool slightly.

While chocolate cools, add salt to egg whites and beat until soft peaks are formed. Gradually beat in sugar and continue to beat until very stiff and meringue loses its graininess. Beat in liqueur and vanilla.

Fold about 1/4 of the meringue into chocolate to lighten. Fold chocolate mixture into remaining meringue. Add 1 1/2 cups whipped mascarpone cream and fold until just combined. Pour in individual dishes and chill for 1 hour. Serve with remaining whipped mascarpone cream.

Serves 6.


Hunter Almond Cake

Hunter Almond Cake

Hunter Almond Cake

This classy almond cake hides many secrets. For starters, the original recipe from “The Art of Fine Baking” is ambiguously titled just “Hunter Cake.” What is “Hunter Cake” and where does it come from? Your guess is as good as mine. Although I tried researching this mysterious cake title, I found little that resembled this recipe (think camouflage frosted cake with various fondant animals and rifles).

Other secrets of this cake lie within the ingredients. At first glance, a cake without flour may sound like a recipe for a rock. However, as my grandmother showcased in her gluten-free chocolate cake ring recipe, moist light cakes are not only possible without white flour, but delicious. Grated almonds act as a replacement for white flour but provide more flavor and protein. Although I’ve previously used ground almonds as a substitute for grated, they seem to weigh the cake down a bit and make it slightly heavier. But who really has time to grate over 3 cups of almonds? Enter almond flour. This nutty flour is essentially grated almonds and makes recipes like these a whole lot easier. You will pay for it though – almond flour runs $10-$15 per lb.

With all this talk about a moist light cake, you may be wondering how much butter or oil is needed. The answer is none. No butter, oil, or shortening of any kind is used. The secret of this fluffy cake lies within the egg yolks and stiffly beaten egg whites. Both the cake itself and the topping contain egg whites and although the topping is much like a meringue, it takes on a totally different texture with addition of the grated almonds. The finished moist cake layered with tart jam and almond meringue topping reminiscent of frangipane, will not only surprise you but keep you guessing.


1 3/4 cups unblanched almonds or 2 cups almond flour
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
3 egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup raspberry jam (or other tart jam of your choice)

3 egg whites
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups unblanched almonds or 1 1/3 cups almond flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan. Finely grate unblanched almonds (if using instead of almond flour).

Add lemon zest and vanilla to egg yolks. Stir lightly with a fork to break them up.

Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add sugar, a little at a time, beating well after each addition, until whites are very stiff, about 5 minutes in all.

Pour egg yolks over whites. Sprinkle almond flour or grated almonds over them. Fold gently together. Pour into prepared pan and bake 30-40 minutes until cake is lightly browned and springy when gently touched.

Begin preparing topping when cake has backed about 20 minutes: Grate unblanched almonds, if using. Combine egg whites, lemon juice and vanilla. Beat until egg whites hold soft peaks. Add sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition, until whites are very stiff, about 5 minutes in all. Fold in grated almonds or almond flour.

Remove cake from oven and quickly spread top with a thin layer of raspberry jam. Spread half the topping over jam and press remaining topping through a pastry bag fitted with a large star tube.

Replace cake in oven on a high rack. Bake 30-40 minutes longer or until top is golden brown and set. Cool cake in pan.

Adapted from “The Art of Fine Baking” by Paula Peck.



Grilled Princess Pound Cake and Peaches with Whipped Cream

Grilled Princess Pound Cake with Peaches

Grilled Princess Pound Cake with Roasted PeachesThis lengthy recipe title requires a bit of explanation. For starters, you may be wondering why this is a “princess” pound cake and not just a regular pound cake. I wish I could answer this question but it just so happens that “Princess Cake” is the title of this cake recipe in “The Art of Fine Baking.” In an introduction to this recipe, my grandmother mentions that this is a replacement for ordinary pound cake but why she calls it a Princess Cake remains a mystery. My guess is that it somehow refers to the light fluffiness of the cake, which is made with just egg whites and not yolks, like her regular pound cake recipe. I actually prefer the airiness of this cake to the more dense pound cake. It also works well in this strawberry shortcake-like dessert.

I tend to struggle to find summer recipes in both “The Art of Good Cooking” and “The Art of Fine Baking” as well as my grandmother’s unpublished recipes. This may be because she spent most summers traveling through France and eating at all the best restaurants (don’t we all wish we could?). The lack of what we now consider seasonal recipes, requires me to be a bit more creative. In this case, I wanted to take advantage of the sweet summer peaches (with a few apricots) that have premiered at the farmers markets and are becoming more prominently displayed. The simpler version of this dish is to just grill the peaches and serve over sliced pound cake with a dollop of whipped cream. Nothing wrong with that. I just decided to take it to the next level by grilling the pound cake and mixing the fruit with a little brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, and chopped mint. This marinade along with juices of fruit produce a caramelized sauce that drips off the fruit after it has been grilled and is delicious on the pound cake (which is basically toasted). It might be fancier to replace the whipped cream with mascarpone but the contrast of flavors and textures of the fruit and cake alone need nothing more than the lightness of sweetened whipped cream to bring it all together.


Princess Pound Cake
1/2 cup butter
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large egg whites
pinch salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped with 1-2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4-5 Grilled Peaches (or Apricots) – see note

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan and dust with flour.

Cream butter and half the flour until light and fluffy. Add vanilla.

Beat egg whites with salt and cream of tartar until they hold soft peaks. Add sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat whites at least 5 minutes or until they are very firm.

Quickly stir 1/4 of beaten egg whites into creamed butter-flour mixture. Pour mixture back over remaining egg whites. Fold genly together while sprinkling in remaining flour. Be careful not to overmix.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake about 45 minutes or until cake is golden brown and pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Note: For balsamic marinade, mix cut fruit with 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 3-4 tablespoons brown sugar, and 1-2 tablespoons chopped mint. Measurements will depend on the sweetness of the fruit. Marinate for 15 minutes before grilling.


Blueberry Tart

Blueberry Tart | imPECKable Eats

Blueberry Tart

Fruit tarts are abundant in “The Art of Fine Baking.” They are some of the most seasonal recipes throughout the book and as the high season for blueberries approaches (though a bit late this year), it seemed like an obvious choice for this classy summer dessert. It’s also the only time of year that blueberries are affordable enough to make a whole tart full of them. Frozen just will not do and for those of us berry addicts, this tart is a delicious delivery method for these healthy bursts of juice.

We made a fair number of fresh fruit tarts with blueberries in culinary school, but none quite like this. In addition to my grandmother’s exceptional rich tart pastry dough (lemon zest and hard boiled egg yolks are key), a quick pseudo jam is made with half of the fresh blueberries and then combined with the remainder. This not only adds an additional layer of texture and flavor, but also a sweetness that can help balance out any berries that maybe slightly under ripe. With all this decadence, a layer of pastry cream maybe overkill. But I can’t seem to resist the urge to add the sweet cream with a touch of almond paste, even if only so that I can eat the leftovers with just a spoon. The star of the show though, remains the blueberry tart – with each ingredient perfectly distinguished in every bite.


1 recipe rich tart pastry dough
4 cups blueberries
3/8 cup sugar
zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 recipe pastry cream (optional)

Grease a 9-inch tart ring and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll pastry dough an 1/8 inch thick and line tart ring. Chill.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chilled pastry in oven, taking it directly from freezer or refrigerator so it is as cold as possible. Prick bottom all over with a fork. Prick 3-4 times during first 10 minutes of baking to prevent bottom of pastry from puffing up. If sides of pastry should sink down during first 10 minutes of baking, simply press them back with a fork. Bake for a total of 25 minutes, or until shell is golden brown.

In a heavy saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups blueberries, sugar, lemon zest and juice, and cinnamon. Cook over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Raise heat and boil rapidly about 8 minutes or until blueberries thicken and acquire the consistency of jam. Cool.

Combine raw blueberries with cooked jam, mixing gently. Spread a thin layer of pastry cream (if using) on the bottom of the baked tart shell. Combine raw blueberries with cooled jam, mixing gently. Spoon into tart shell.

Adapted from “The Art of Fine Baking,” by Paula Peck


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