Baking

Individual Peach Cobblers

image This unique yet delicious peach cobbler recipe uses fresh peaches, fall spices and a delectable non-traditional biscuit-like "crust." I was perusing my neighborhood farmer's market yesterday and I came across so many perfectly ripe white and yellow peaches. When I find perfectly-ripe, locally-grown, pesticide-free produce, I have a hard time walking away. So, I purchased some peaches, and by "some," I mean several pounds. I prefer white peaches for snacking (since I find that they are a little sweeter and less tart) and yellow peaches for baking. Plus, I didn't want to let another summer go by without making a peach cobbler, so I used the yellow peaches for this dish.

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Everyone knows that the crust is the best part about peach cobblers, so I made this cobbler in individual ramekins to ensure that everyone gets a generous serving of crust. But this isn't a traditional pie crust--it's more of a biscuit or scone, but it works perfectly. To make this dish, I peeled several peaches and then cut them into wedges. I tossed the wedges with brown sugar, lemon juice, flour and ground cinnamon. I greased ramekins and then filled them with the peaches and dotted them with butter. I baked them for about 14 minutes, until the juices were just starting to bubble. While the peaches were baking, I prepared the crust. I combined all purpose flour, almond flour (ground almonds), brown sugar, salt, butter and buttermilk. I pulsed the ingredients in a food processor until they were combined. I then turned the rather sticky dough onto a work surface and kneaded it a few times. I then patted it into a 7 inch by 2 inch rectangle, and cut the rectangle into 6 equal squares. I placed a square on top of each peach-filled ramekin, then brushed egg whites and sprinkled sliced almonds and brown sugar. I returned the cobblers to the oven for an additional 25 minutes.

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The cobblers oozed with peach goodness and had beautifully-browned tops. Remove them from the oven and let them cool for about 20 minutes. You can even top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

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Individual Peach Cobblers
Author: Vallery
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds fresh peaches peeled and sliced into wedges
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 4 teaspoons all purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • FOR THE CRUST
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup almond flour (almond meal)
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • sliced almonds, for garnish
  • vanilla ice cream (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F and prepare 6 small ramekins by lightly greasing them and placing them on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the fresh peach slices with the brown sugar, flour, lemon juice and ground cinnamon.
  3. Fill each ramekin with the peach slices and the remaining juice. Place in the oven for approximately 14 minutes, until the peaches just start to bubble.
  4. While the peaches are baking, prepare the dough.
  5. Combine the baking powder, salt, all purpose flour, almond flour and brown sugar in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until small crumbs form. Add the buttermilk and pulse until combined.
  6. Remove the dough and knead it until it comes together (about 15 seconds). Using your hands, pat the dough into a rectangle 5 inches by 7 inches.
  7. Cut the rectangle into 6 equal squares.
  8. Once the peaches are baked and bubbly, place a square of dough on top of each ramekin. Brush the lightly beaten egg on top of each square of dough. Sprinkle a generous amount of brown sugar on top of each ramekin, and sprinkle sliced almonds on top.
  9. Bake for an additional 25 minutes, until the dough is browned and the peaches are bubbling over.
  10. Remove from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes (they will be very hot!)
  11. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

 

Pecan Praline Cake

image Candied pecans, praline filling and caramel buttercream make this cake a delectable treat that's fit for any table. This cake is reminiscent of the Louisiana delicacy pecan pralines. Pecan pralines are pecans suspended in a thick caramel, and they melt in your mouth with each bite. This pecan praline cake stays true to this southern candy, since I'm pretty sure the praline filling could double as a pecan candy recipe if you just add some pecan halves to it and let it solidify at room temperature.

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One reason pecans are found throughout Louisiana cuisine is because there are just so many of them! I have fond memories of walking home from school, stopping in a neighbor's yard, and collecting as many pecans as I could carry. In fact, pecan trees produce so many pecans that folks are eager to give them away. Plus, unlike delicate berries or other fruit, pecans are much simpler to gather. You don't have to worry about bruising the bounty or picking not-yet ripe berries. When pecans are ripe, they fall to the ground. You just gather them (but the real work comes in with shelling them!) imageI wanted to bake something this weekend to celebrate my home state of Louisiana, as many people are still reeling from the devastation that has been caused by the flooding two weeks ago--flooding that has affected nearly everyone in Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas--directly or indirectly. The city's curfew was lifted a few days ago, but it still feels like a bit of a war zone. Certain resources (like vehicles) are still scarce because so many people lost their cars in the flash floods. I made this cake with my mother this morning. I came home to Baton Rouge to assist family with cleaning up following the flooding.

Mom helping to ice the cake

This unique cake is comprised of four parts: the cake layers, praline filling, caramel butter cream and candied pecans. Candied pecans are made by coating pecan halves in a sugar-egg whites mixture and then baking. The cake layers are similar to most cake, except they're spiked with praline liqueur. The filling is made by stirring chopped pecans into a homemade caramel-type mixture. And the caramel buttercream is made by preparing a homemade caramel, then beating in butter. There are quite a few steps but it's such a delicious and unique cake that it's worth it!

Pecan Praline Cake
Author: Vallery
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 10 slices
Ingredients
  • CANDIED PECAN TOPPING
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg white
  • CAKE LAYERS
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 3 eggs + 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon pecan liqueur
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • PRALINE FILLING
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans
  • CARAMEL BUTTERCREAM
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
Instructions
  1. Prepare the Candied Pecans: Preheat oven to 300°F. Whisk together 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 egg white in a medium bowl until foamy. Add pecan halves; toss well to coat. Spread pecan halves in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated oven until browned, 25 to 28 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. (Pecans will become crisp when cool.)
  2. Prepare the Cake: Increase oven temperature to 350°F. Whisk together 3 cups flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Beat 2 cups granulated sugar and 1 cup butter in a large bowl of a stand mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs and egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with milk, in 5 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed after each addition. Beat in pecan liqueur and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Divide batter evenly between 2 (9-inch) greased and floured round cake pans.
  3. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 28 to 30 minutes. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans; cool completely on wire rack, about 30 minutes.
  4. Prepare the Filling: Combine 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, 6 tablespoons butter, and 1/4 cup heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter melts; bring to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; add powdered sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla. Beat at low speed until mixture thickens to spreading consistency, about 1 minute. Stir in chopped toasted pecans.
  5. Prepare the Buttercream: Whisk together 1 cup light brown sugar, 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup flour, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan until smooth. Place pan over medium-high, and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is very thick and bubbly, 4 to 5 minutes. Spoon mixture into a bowl; place bowl in freezer, uncovered, until mixture is cold, about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
  6. Beat 1 cup butter with an electric mixer at medium speed, using whisk attachment, until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add cold brown sugar mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, and beat at high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  7. Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate; spread Filling evenly over top, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Place remaining cake layer on top, pressing lightly. Spread Buttercream on top and sides of cake. Arrange Candied Pecans over top.

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This recipe was adapted from Southern Living.

Banana Walnut Bread with Pistachios

homemade banana bread Banana bread is one of of my all-time favorite classics to bake. I upgraded a recipe I've used for nearly a decade by topping it with a creamy vanilla glaze and chopped pistachios. I love this recipe because it uses so much banana, and you can truly taste the natural banana flavor--something you certainly won't taste if you buy banana bread that has been mass-produced and vacuum sealed.

Banana bread is one of those recipes where I buy a bunch of bananas, and impatiently wait to see if there are any left by the time they are super-ripe. (Most bananas end up in my morning smoothie.)  Fortunately, this morning, there was a nice-sized bunch of bananas that were perfectly ripe for banana bread.

Only use ripe bananas when baking. They should be covered in dark spots.

Plus, this recipe is easy! Like other quick breads, it's simply a matter of combining ingredients and baking. This recipe is also on the healthier side since it replaces some of the flour with wheat flour, and because it uses so many bananas, there's a decreased amount of butter.

To make this recipe, you will need to smash and measure your bananas. I used 4 small bananas, which yielded me the 1 and 1/3 cups (315 grams) of smashed banana I needed. I then measured the flour, wheat flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg into a large bowl. Lastly, I combined the eggs, melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla and milk into the bowl of my stand mixer. Once the ingredients in my bowl were combined, I added the flour and smashed banana, alternating in 3 additions.

square collage banana bread

I then stirred in the walnuts and poured the batter into a buttered and floured 9x5 inch loaf pan, and baked it in the oven at 350 F for approximately one hour. I tested to see if the loaf was done by sticking a toothpick in the center at the thickest part. If the toothpick comes out clean, your quick bread can be removed from the oven.

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I left the loaf in its pan on a cooling rack for 5 minutes before removing the loaf to cool completely. Meanwhile, I made a creamy vanilla glaze by combining powdered sugar with cream and vanilla. I poured the glaze on top, and sprinkled chopped nuts on the loaf.

Remove the loaf from the pan after 5 minutes.

Pour the creamy vanilla glaze on the loaf.

Sprinkle with nuts and serve.

Banana Walnut Bread with Pistachios
Author: Vallery
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 loaf
Ingredients
  • 4 small, ripe bananas (1 and 1/3 cups or 315 grams)
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (235 grams)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (75 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons + 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar (185 grams)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup chopped pistachios
Instructions
  1. Prepare a 9x5 inch loaf pan by buttering and flouring the pan.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  3. In a small bowl, mash the bananas. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg. Set aside.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a separate large bowl), combine the eggs, brown sugar, milk, melted butter and 2 teaspoons of the vanilla extract. Beat on medium-low until just combined.
  6. Add the dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with the mashed bananas on low until just combined.
  7. Stir in the walnuts.
  8. Pour the patter into the prepared loaf pan and bake at 350 F for 55-60 minutes. The loaf is done when a toothpick inserted into the thickest part comes out clean.
  9. Remove the loaf from the oven and let it cool in the loaf pan on a cooling rack for 5 minutes.
  10. While it's cooling, prepare the glaze. Add 1 tablespoon of heavy cream and the remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the 1/3 cup powdered sugar. Stir to combine. If the glaze is too thick, add more cream until it reaches the right consistency.
  11. Drizzle the glaze over the loaf. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios on top.
  12. Once completely cool, store in an air tight container in the refrigerator or at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Recipe adapted from Williams Sonoma, Essentials of Baking.

Cherry Almond Tea Cakes

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These muffin-shaped cookies use ground almonds, browned butter and egg whites, much like the French pastries, financiers. With this recipe, I place a whole cherry into the center of each tea cake before baking.

Tea cakes are the perfect accompaniment to your morning coffee or afternoon tea. This recipe uses browned butter--you actually cook butter until it darkens in color, intensifying the flavor. The tea cakes' crispy, almost-caramelised exterior yields to the sweet and nutty center and whole-baked cherry with each bite. Plus, these are small enough to enjoy guilt-free.

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Making these adorable, delectable tiny treats is simple. You don't need any fancy equipment--just a whisk and a 24-cup muffin tin. First, you butter and flour the muffin tin. Don't use muffin cups because these aren't muffins! Plus, you want the edges to get a little crispy, which won't happen if you use muffin cups. Next, melt the butter in a pot and swirl it around until it starts to brown. Skim the foam off of the top and pour the butter into a bowl, leaving the browned sediments behind.

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In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Then, whisk in the egg whites. Once combined, whisk in the brandy and browned butter. Let sit for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400F. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, then sink a cherry into each tin. Bake until they are golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool in their tin on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Run a butter knife along the edges of each tin to loosen the tea cakes and remove them from the tin. Allow them to cool completely.  Store them in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to two days.

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Cherry Almond Tea Cakes
Author: Vallery
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 30 tea cakes
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus more for the muffin tin)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour (plus more for the muffin tin)
  • 1 cup almond meal (almond flour)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cherry brandy
  • 30 fresh cherries, stems in tact
Instructions
  1. Prepare a 24-cup muffin tin by greasing with butter, then dusting with flour. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Prepare browned butter by adding the 1 1/4 stick of unsalted butter to a small pot. Heat on low. Once the butter melts, swirl it around the pot occasionally, until it starts to brown. Once it starts to brown, remove the pot from the heat and use a spoon to skim the foam off of the top. Pour the melted butter into a small bowl, leaving the accumulated sediment behind.
  3. Combine the flour, almond meal, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the egg whites. Whisk until combined. Add the brandy and browned butter. Whisk until combined. Allow the batter to rest for 20 minutes.
  4. Scoop a little more than a tablespoon into each tin. (The recipe makes 30 tea cakes, so if you are using a 24-cup muffin tin, you will have some batter left over). Place a cherry in the center of each cup.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Use a butter knife to carefully loosen the sides of each tea cake. Remove from the tin and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to two days.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Almond Tart

IMG_9431 Believe the hype. Strawberry and rhubarb baked together is one of those rare and special food pairings. This was my first time baking with rhubarb, and I'm pretty much obsessed with it now. That it isn't easy to come by and has a very short season makes it all the more special. If you can get your hands on some rhubarb, do yourself a favor and make this tart!

 

Tart is truly an appropriate word when it comes to describing rhubarb. While cooking it in a pot with some sugar, I discovered this magical window where the rhubarb finally softens, but is still bursting with juiciness and vibrant flavor. Keep on cooking and you'll have something more akin to jam, which is delicious in its own right. I'll now be adding rhubarb to many of my goodies whenever I have it on hand!

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Pairing rhubarb with strawberries works well for many reasons. First, rhubarb is difficult to find and expensive. Second, a lot of rhubarb that you do find may not be all the way red. So, the strawberries also lend their lovely red color to the tart.

I made my basic almond crust in a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. I baked the crust for about 10 minutes before adding the filling, and then I baked it for another 25 minutes or so. The key is to not overcook the rhubarb before putting it in the tart, since it will continue to cook while it's in the oven! Cook the rhubarb just until it begins to soften. Then, immediately remove it from the stove and stir in the strawberries and remaining ingredients.

Happy baking everyone, and have a wonderful 4th of July weekend!

Strawberry Rhubarb Almond Tart
Author: Vallery
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • FOR THE CRUST:
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • FOR THE FILLING:
  • 12 ounces rhubarb, chopped at a diagonal
  • 8 ounces strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
Instructions
  1. FOR THE CRUST:
  2. Combine the almond flour, flour and butter using a pastry cutter, food processor, or the paddle attachment of your stand mixer until the mixture is crumbly.
  3. Press the mixture into a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Chill in the refrigerator for approximately 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Once chilled, bake the tart crust for about 10 minutes. It should not be brown. Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.
  5. FOR THE FILLING:
  6. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Add the sugar and rhubarb to a pot over low heat and stir. Cook until the rhubarb just starts to break down. Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the strawberries, lemon juice and corn starch. The filling will have a fair amount of liquid.
  7. Scoop the filling (leaving as much liquid as possible) into the crust, and bake for an additional 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes.
  8. Cut into pieces and serve. This can be stored in the refrigerator in a closed container for up to three days.