Apple Cake

This cake broke my heart.

It baked in the oven for a full hour and a half, filling my apartment with the enchanting, homey scent of apples and cinnamon and whiskers on kittens. With such a glorious aroma perfuming my home, I was convinced it would emerge from the oven absolutely perfect. When the timer finally rang, I was horrified to find, well, a mess.

The cake batter bubbled over the sides of the pan and dripped in messy, brown glops down to the cookie sheet underneath (thank goodness for the cookie sheet!). The remaining edges were done when the timer rang, but the center was completely raw.

Still, I have a really hard time calling this dessert a failure. The truth is it was delicious – sweet and moist, with crispy-chewy, golden brown edges. I made it for Handsome Greg’s birthday dinner, and we all loved it. Well, we loved the parts that were baked through. We ate the edges then put the center back in the oven to finish baking it through, about 40 minutes.

And the failure? Is my fault. The original recipe from Smitten Kitchen is perfect. I wanted desperately to follow it as written, but I didn’t have a tube pan, so I used a 9 x 13. And that was my downfall. I read the many reviews that said, “Oh, I made this in a 9 x 13-inch pan, and it came out perfectly.” I’m convinced those bakers have not only raw, runny apple cake, but also pants on fire.

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Tangerine Sorbet

In the middle of dreary winter, Clementine tangerines are a sign of hope, like pretty, orange light bulbs illuminating the shortest days of the year. In a festive wooden crate!

Winter in Minnesota this year was especially brutal; the snow came early and often, and lingered until the bitter, sub-zero end.

Look, it’s not that I wasn’t comforted by stewed apples (and apple crisp and apple pie and apple crostata) all winter long… but by the time I (finally) made Mom’s birthday dinner in February, the bright, sunshiny taste of citrus combined with the icy texture of my favorite summer treat was like, um, Christmas in July.

The sorbet was very tart, sour even, and incredibly refreshing. Next time I’ll likely add another 1/4 cup of sugar, but it was delicious as is. The tiny amount of alcohol in the orange liqueur (I used Grand Marnier) kept it creamy and smooth.

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Blue Umbrella Bake Sale!

Blue Umbrella Productions is hosting an ongoing bake sale to help raise money for our summer musical, Those Were the Days: A Tribute to Television Themes. I’ll be taking and fulfilling orders Girl-Scout style, plus filling any special requests (like scones for Mother’s Day!) until rehearsals begin in June.

I’ve got a menu of both sweet and savory treats to choose from posted below. Email info@blueumbrellaproductions.com to place an order for pick up or delivery. (Twin Cities only. $10 minimum on orders outside of the Banks Building.)

Menu

Popcorn with Truffle Salt
Fresh, fluffy popcorn is tossed with aromatic, savory truffle salt for a luxurious movie-night upgrade.

3 cups: $1.75
6 cups: $3

Lemon Meltaways
These bite-size, buttery lemon shortbread cookies will melt in your mouth.

Half dozen for $2.75
Dozen for $5

Coconut Macaroons
Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, light as a cloud, with coconutty goodness all the way through.

Half dozen for $4.25
Dozen for $8

Snickerdoodles with Cinnamon Chips
Classic snickerdoodles (sugar cookies rolled in cinnamon sugar) get an extra boost of flavor with creamy cinnamon chips.

Half dozen for $5.50
Dozen for $10

Homemade “Oreos”
They’re bigger, they’re better, and they’re baked fresh with no mystery ingredients.

Half dozen for $8
Dozen for $15

Oatmeal Cream Pies
A grown-up version of the classic treat – the cookies are rich and spiced, and the creamy filling is not overly sweet.

Half dozen for $8
Dozen for $15

Mini Strawberry Hand Pies
Light, flaky butter crust filled with sweet strawberry jam.

Half dozen for $8
Dozen for $15

Sweet and Spicy Candied Nuts
Crunchy almonds and pecans baked in a party-perfect blend of cinnamon, sugar, and a pinch of cayenne.

4 oz. for $4
8 oz. for $7.50
12 oz. for $11
1 lb. for $14.50

Lemon Meltaway Cookies

I think I love parchment paper more than other people do.

I first tried baking with parchment paper a couple years ago after an unfortunate scone episode, and I’ve been a devotee ever since.

If I’m eyeball-deep in baking fresh cookies, and I realize that the only missing ingredient is parchment paper, I will sooner bring production to a halt and drive to the store for a box of parchment paper, than consider browning my beautiful batter on a greased cookie sheet.

See? SEE?!

I only recently discovered 50 kindred spirits who feel as strongly about parchment paper as I do, when I joined the I Love Parchment Paper Facebook group.

Parchment paper is an absolute MUST in baking these tart and sweet, buttery lemon cookies. They’re baked to a delicate, crispy perfection. Then you slide them off the paper with gentle fingers into a softly melting pillow of powdered sugar.

At that point, what you do with them is your business.

Recipe below the fold

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Coconut Macaroons

These cookies bring out the selfish jerkface in me.


I want to keep them all to myself. And I can – neither Mom nor Handsome Greg like coconut. So whenever I make ice cream, and I end up with four egg whites in the fridge that I just have to use up, and ohmygosh I totally forgot that you guys don’t like coconut, then I have a batch of warm, chewy macaroons, just for me.

I feel that I should find something to criticize about these cookies, that if I just gush and gush, I’ll be like the girl who cried cookies, and eventually, no one will believe me.

But I just can’t help myself. I love these cookies. They’re perfect. Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, light as a cloud, with coconutty goodness all the way through.

Oh, and they’re pretty heart-healthy. There’s no oil in them, and no yolks, just the egg whites. The most saturated fat you’ll find in these cookies will be in the coconut, and there’s no cutting the coconut.

Recipe below the fold

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brie ice cream with blackberry red wine reduction sauce

I wanted this ice cream to be spectacular. How could it not be? Y’all, I made Brie Ice Cream.

I wanted it to be creamy and decadent, buttery, slightly savory, complex.

And if it couldn’t be a spectacular success, I hoped for a spectacular failure – inedibly salty, thin and watery, a mess of long, stringy brie glops, with an off-putting sweet aftertaste.

Sadly, my brie ice cream was not spectacular at all. The brie flavor was so subtle, it was nearly undetectable. It tasted like extra rich vanilla ice cream, but with an odd, grainy texture. Not inedible, but not company-worthy.

This was supposed to be a great picture, but almost all the yolks broke.

It wasn’t a complete loss, though. The blackberry sauce was delicious — next time I’ll try it drizzled over pound cake and sweetened mascarpone.

Recipe below the fold

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Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust and Bacon Streusel

I work in the Publishing department at Search, and our department is arguably the envy of all others. One of the best things about working in the Publishing department is the quality and frequency of potlucks. We have elaborate themed potlucks for every birthday.

For her 35th birthday/presidential campaign launch, my kooky boss, Tenessa, requested an all bacon and cheese potluck. Always up for a challenge, I volunteered to make dessert.

I like to think I’m pretty adventurous with food, but I admit, I was nervous about making an apple, bacon, and cheese pie. For one thing, I’d only made pie crust once before, and from what I’ve heard, pie crust can smell fear. Also? It’s an apple, bacon, and cheddar pie.

I love all those flavors together, but I hadn’t really thought of them in a sweet dessert.

My fears were unfounded. This pie is ridiculously delicious. If it weren’t such a pain in the ass to put together, I think I’d make this same pie once a week. Sweet, salty, smoky. Crispy cheese crust, like the best Cheez-It you’ve ever had. Tender, gooey apples. Candied bacon streusel.

Earlier this week, Tenessa announced her resignation from Search, and the Publishing department has been whining and moping ever since. Just imagine, dear Tenessa, how many ridiculous, over-the-top bacon and cheese dishes I have not yet made for you.

Oh, and congrats on the new job. If you need any help packing up your office, I’ll be here planning recipes and potluck themes, soaking Professor Meowington’s back with my salty tears.

Employees must wash their hands.

Recipe below the fold

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