Thursday, October 29, 2015

Apple Pie Filling

 This summer season was incredible that I wish it would not go away.  But as soon as I see apples, pears, persimmons, and other fall fruits start to appear in the market, my heart rejoices for the endless possibility of savoring them.  First thing I did was making apple pie filling.  This type of filling is suitable for canning because I like the idea of having it ready when I feel like making apple pie.

Canning has become an enjoyable chore for me surprisingly.  It's true that I have to make a time to do canning but I found that I'm quite proud of what I make into those glass jars.  And I can because of necessity; I want to preserve the flavors of whatever's seasonal but I don't have an extra freezer to store them.

This filling uses ClearJel because it's recommended for canning pie filling.  I've made numerous pie fillings using CearJel before and am always satisfied at how easy it is to process them.  I made this fillings using Honeycrisp apples, courtesy of one of my good friends who has a tree in her backyard.  I'm blessed to have a friend who graciously gives!!

Apple Pie Filling

Makes about 7 pints jars

12 cups sliced peeled cored apples
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup ClearJel
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups cold water
2 1/2 cups unsweetened apple juice
1/2 cup lemon juice

Treat apple slices by submerging them into a mixture of 1/2 cup lemon juice and 8 cups water.  Leave in the lemon juice water until ready to use; drain completely.

Prepare canner, jars, and lids.  I usually wash jars and lids in dishwasher and then submerge them in the canner pots; fill it with enough water to cover them, then I let it boil for 1 minute.  Leave the jars and lids inside the pots until ready to be used.

In a large pot of boiling water, working with 6 cups at a time, blanch apple slices for 1 minute.  Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm in a covered bowl.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine sugar, ClearJel, cinnamon, nutmeg, water, and apple juice.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, and cook until mixture thickens and begins to bubble.  Add lemon juice, return to a boil.  Drain apple slices and immediately fold into hot mixture.  Before processing, heat, stirring, until apples are heated through.

Ladle hot pie filling into hot jars, leaving 1 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace; if necessary, by adding hot filling.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 25 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool, and store.

Source:  adapted heavily from Ball: Complete Book of Home Preserving

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Truffle Mac and Cheese

Here is an easy pasta dish that surely is everyone's favorite.  I think now that the cool nights have returned, I'd be making this again.  We're Oregonians so we love the Tillamook product brands, in fact this recipe was found at their website by my son.  So naturally he asked me to make this for supper.  Super easy, super creamy, and earthy from the truffle.  I only have truffle butter, not the oil, and I think it can be substituted easily.  Use sharp and medium Cheedar to get a good balance of mild and tangy flavors, but Tillamook also sells triple cheddar combo cheese that's pre-shredded, which is also good and convenient.

Truffle Mac and Cheese

Yields 4 servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sharp Cheddar
1 cup medium Cheddar
2 tablespoons truffle butter (or more if you really like truffle)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups dry elbow or any small shape pasta

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  In a medium pot, melt the butter.  Add flour and stir continuously over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Gradually whisk in milk and cream until incorporated.  Stirring often, bring to simmer.  Mixture should thicken as it heats.  Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes, continuing to stir often.

A little at a time, stir in grated cheese, until completely melted.  Take off heat.  Stir in truffle butter and season with salt and pepper.

While sauce is being made, cook pasta until al dente.  Add drained, hot pasta directly to sauce.  Stir and check seasoning.  Serve immediately.

Source:  adapted heavily from Tillamook's website

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Chocolate Sprinkles Cake with Fluffy Chocolate Ganache Frosting

My son just had a birthday this week and this was the cake I made for him.  I've been super busy with everything in my life right now that I was glad that he wasn't fussy about how his birthday went.  As long as he got his favorite food for dinner (sushi!), some cool presents (like a Nerf gun!), and a cake (homemade by his momma!), he's contend.  I tell you, birthday celebration for a teen boy is so much simple.  I like how mellow it is with no drama whatsoever!

Anyway, this cake's inspiration came from looking at funfetti cake.  I asked my son what kind of cake he wanted.  He said anything will do as long as it is a chocolate cake.  And so I bargained with him that I would make the frosting chocolate but the cake yellow with chocolate sprinkles in it.  The chocolate sprinkles that I used wasn't the regular jimmies, but the one that's made from real chocolate.  As someone who was born in Indonesia, I'm used to eat chocolate sprinkles in sandwich bread.  The origin of eating this type of food came from the Dutch, who occupied Indonesia for quite some time and brought their eating habits to Indonesia.  The chocolate sprinkles is called hagelslag, which means hailstorm; and I think the name fits very well.  Chocolate hails sandwich is such a comfort food!   The way the sandwich is prepared is to slather bread slices heavily with butter so the sprinkles will stay put.  Although my son was born here, it's a habit that he's acquired since I've served to him from time to time.  To see which chocolate sprinkles to use, see here.

My husband teased me endlessly about the appearance of this cake, saying that the chocolate sprinkles creates a pattern like ants in the cake, but of course the cake tastes nothing like it!  I think it's simple, elegant, manly enough, and not too mention very delicious.  The texture of the cake is tender with tight crumbs allover and the frosting is equally rich and delectable.  I'm happy that I made this cake for my son because it's perfect for him.

Chocolate Sprinkles Cake with Fluffy Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Makes one 8-inch, 2-layer cake

For the cake
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
3/4 cup real chocolate sprinkles or hagelslag

For the fluffy chocolate ganache frosting
12 ounce semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350F.  Butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.

To make the cake:  Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until light and fluffy.  Stop the mixer a few times and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and paddle to release any clinging butter or sugar.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla just until combined.  On low speed, slowly pour the egg mixture into the butter mixture and mix just until incorporated.  Scrape the bowl and paddle again, then beat on medium speed for 20 to 30 seconds, or until the mixture is homogenous.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  On the lowest speed, add about one-third of the flour mixture to the egg-butter mixture and mix just until barely combined.  Immediately pour in about half of the buttermilk and continue to mix on the lowest speed until the buttermilk is almost thoroughly incorporated.  Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl well.  Again on the lowest speed, add about half of the remaining flour mixture and mix just until barely combined.  Add the rest of the buttermilk and mix just until combined.  Be careful not to overmix.

At this point, it is best to finish the mixing by hand.  Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and using the rubber spatula, fold in the remaining flour mixture and the chocolate sprinkles just until the batter is homogenous.  As you fold, be sure to incorporate any batter clinging to the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and the cakes spring back when pressed in the middle with a fingertip.  Let cool completely in the pans on wire racks.

To make the ganache frosting:  While the cake layers are cooling, put the chocolate in a medium heatproof  bowl.  In a small saucepan, scald the cream over medium-high heat (bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan, but the cream is not boiling).  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for about 1 minute, then slowly whisk together the chocolate and cream until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.  Let sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, or until completely cool.  (Or refrigerate the ganache until cool, about 30 minutes, whisking every 10 minutes.)

Fit the stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat the butter on medium-low speed for 10 to 15 seconds, or until smooth.  Add the confectioners' sugar, salt, and vanilla and continue to beat on medium-low speed for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture is fluffy and smooth.  Stop the mixture a few times and use a rubber spatula to scrape the bowl and the paddle to release any clinging butter or sugar.  On medium speed, add the cooled ganache and beat for about 2 minutes, or until completely combined.  Stop and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.   Turn up the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for about 1 minute, or until the frosting lightens in color and thickens.  You should have 4 cups.

Remove the cooled cakes from their pans.  Using along, serrated knife, trim the top of each cake to level it.  Place one cake layer on a cake plate.  Spoon about 1 cup of the frosting on top and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly to the edges.

Carefully place the second cake layer, top side down, on top.  Spoon about 1 cup of the frosting on top and spread it over the top and down the sides of the cake, smoothing the frosting as well as you can and covering the entire cake with a thin layer.  If time permits, refrigerate the cake for 20-30 minutes to let the crumb coating set.  Spoon a heaping cup or so of the frosting on top of the cake, and spread it evenly across the top and down the sides.  If desired, spoon any remaining frosting into a pastry bag and decorate the cake as you like.

The cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Source:  adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang

Monday, October 5, 2015

Black-Bottom Banana Cream Pie

How do you eat your banana?  Fresh without embellishment or layered in between chocolate custard and vanilla custard?  If your answer is the second one, this pie is for you.  This is the kind of pie that has all my favorite ingredients, chocolate and custard.  It's also super easy and unfussy.  I really like the method where I only have to make one custard which will then divided into a chocolate and a vanilla one.  And the crust is the old-fashioned graham cracker crumbs which I think is excellent bearer of this seemingly humble pie.  It's certainly not humble in the taste department but grand in my opinion!

So go on, try it, you might like it!

Black-Bottom Banana Cream Pie

Serves 8

For the crumbs:
1 1/2 cups fine graham cracker crumbs (about 7 ounces)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
2 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 medium bananas, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Chocolate shavings, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350F.  In a food processor, combine the graham cracker crumbs with the sugar, cinnamon, salt and melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened.  Press the crumbs evenly into a 9- to 10-inch, deep-dish glass or ceramic pie plate.  Bake for about 8 minutes, until the crush is lightly browned and set. Let cool completely.

In a large saucepan (preferably with a rounded bottom), combine the granulated sugar with the cornstarch, egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the milk and whisk until smooth.  Whisk in the remaining 2 cups of milk and cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until the custard is very thick, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla extract until the butter is melted.  Pour half of the vanilla custard into a medium bowl.

Whisk the chopped chocolate into the custard in the saucepan until it is melted.  Spread the chocolate custard evenly in the pie crust and top with the sliced bananas.  Carefully spread the vanilla custard over the bananas.  Refrigerate the banana cream pie until it is well chilled, at least 6 hours and preferably overnight.

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the heavy cream with the confectioners' sugar until it is softly whipped.  Mound the whipped cream on top of the pie.  Garnish the banana cream pie with chocolate shavings and serve.

Source:  adapted from Food and Wine, authored by Valeri Lucks