One of my earliest childhood memories was baking apple pie with my Nanny. But it wasn’t just about learning her baking secrets (like a splash of OJ in the crust), it was the passing-down of a family recipe without anything written down, just the experience of baking together, grandmother to granddaughter. Today, every time I bake a pie, I think of her. I’m an experimenter in the kitchen, so my latest creation involves adding homemade caramel to my apple pie. And if you’re wondering, my Nanny would not approve! But, she’d applaud the effort and I know after one bite, she’d agree it’s delicious.
Category Archive Cakes, Cobblers & Confections
Yesterday I had the pleasure of judging the blueberry pie contest at my local farmers market in Summit, New Jersey. It’s not easy tasting 10 blueberry pies in 10 minutes (poor me!). They ranged from gluten free to tricked out with whipped cream and even one with canned blueberries (I noticed). But the winner kept it simple with a buttery crust loaded with blueberries bursting through the sugar dusted lattice, almost identical to my own version. If pie baking seems daunting to you, take note home cooks; the winner was just 12-years old. Congratulations Jozi! That’s an honest blueberry pie.
What do you get when you cross a pie with a bar? A cherry blueberry slab pie of course. It’s everything great about a fruit pie but made in a baking dish so it’s thinner and manageable enough to pick up with your hands just like a lemon square or a brownie. It’s logical and genius because one slab pie feeds a crowd, can be made in advance and totally portable. With the clock is ticking on summer fruit, now’s the time to savor every last bite before it’s all a distant memory.
It’s been a perfect storm in the Secrets of a Home Cook kitchen. First, baker extraordinaire, Dorie Greenspan’s been talking up her strawberry shortcake recipes and with strawberry season in full swing, it’s all I want to eat right now. Second, my mom (mom extraordinaire) brought me gorgeous vanilla beans from her recent trip to India. The result is my own version of strawberry vanilla shortcake. It really is a very easy recipe with vanilla beans throughout. They’re a bit pricy but worth the few extra dollars and you can find them right next to the extract in the baking aisle.
Like the song goes, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year….” That would be when summer fruit hits the supermarkets and just about every other place that sells produce. All this vibrant seasonal fruit is just right for a fresh apricot tarte tatin. It’s an upside-down tart where the fruit is caramelized in butter and sugar. Typically it involves apples, but you can save those for the cold weather. Apricots are at their peak right now and they fill in quit nicely for the most beautiful summer dessert you’ve ever seen (and tasted).
When comfort food and a traditional recipe collide it can only mean one thing: pineapple upside-down cake. This moist and dense cake with a sticky caramel topping was a dessert staple in the good old days but it’s so much better today with fresh pineapple and raspberries (for that bright red touch). Fresh fruit vs. canned takes an old-fashioned dessert to a new sophisticated level and this easy-to-follow recipe means you can make it any time.
Ahhh…Valentine’s Day. If you’re madly in love, it’s magic. If you’ve been married 20 years (with three teenagers), it’s about food, the more decadent, the better. Honey crème brûlée is truly a special occasion dessert that couldn’t be easier to make. The secret to its success lies in the technique, which is a little out of the baking ordinary, but worth the culinary stretch. Luscious custard with honey’s floral notes and topped with caramelized sugar formed directly on top. Really…who needs chocolate?
When it comes to Thanksgiving memories, one thing’s for sure, you don’t mess with tradition or recipes. But, there’s no reason why you can’t take a classic apple pie and add a tiny twist. In this case a mere handful of crushed pretzels in the crust. Salty, crunchy pretzels liven up the crust especially when using coarse, raw sugar. The sweet and salty combo is a perfect compliment to the rustic, earthy apples. Maybe the Pilgrims didn’t do it, but there’s no reason why you can’t make apple pie with pretzel crust.
As the September weather ebbs and flows from cool to hot to cool again, that seasonal change is even more evident at the farmers market. Right this very moment, it’s evenly split between summer peaches and fall apples. Next week the apples will outnumber the peaches and the week after that, quit possible just apples (as it should be). So, grab those last fruits of summer and make peach pandowdy. This authentic southern recipe comes by way of my sister-in-law, Kelley. Read on for Kelley’s secret to what makes this one a keeper.
The thing about summer stone fruit (peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots) is that for a few months it’s everywhere and then it’s gone. When it’s in season, like right now, it’s heavenly but the delicate flavor can quickly turn squishy and overripe just days after you buy it. If you’re a stone fruit ‘hoarder’ like Secrets of a Home Cook, with too much fruit on your hands all summer long, you can give it a second life by making a simple fruit crisp (you probably already have the ingredients).