The Brownie

The Brownie

This is not a brownie recipe. This is THE brownie recipe. Brownies can come in so many different flavors that it’s hard to choose a favorite. Sometimes you want a salted caramel swirl in there, sometimes you want the brownie to be frosted, other times peanut butter chips are absolutely necessary, and other times you just want a warm chocolate brownie. What people do often have a preference about, however, is the texture of their favorite brownie. There are those in the “fudgy” brownie camp, who prefer that ooey-gooey center and a super-bold, rich chocolate flavor. Then there are the “cakey” brownie people. Us Goldmans like ours uncut, all brownie, no nuts.

Makes one 8-inch or 9-inch square pan

  • 1½ sticks (¾ cup) butter

  • 9 ounces bittersweet baking chocolate, chopped

  • 1½ cups granulated sugar

  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons lightly packed brown sugar

  • 3 extra-large eggs plus 2 egg yolks

  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and grease an 8-inch or 9-inch square pan. Lining it with parchment paper is helpful as well.

  2. In a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a small saucepan of simmering water, melt the butter and bittersweet chocolate together, stirring often to avoid scorching. Set it aside off the heat.

  3. In a big bowl, whisk together the sugars, eggs, and egg yolks. Whisk in the salt and vanilla. Add the melted butter and chocolate to the egg mixture and whisk just to combine.

  4. Gradually stir in the flour and mix until everything is combined and smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips.

  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle displays as much goo on it as you want to see in the middle of those brownies!

  6. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 45 minutes. Brownies need time to set, and if you try to cut them “while they are too warm, they will fall apart and ruin your day. Slice them at room temp or colder, and if you want them warm, just put them in a hot oven for minute or two.

  7. Serve the brownies with ice cream, duh!

Texas Chili

Texas Chili

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 ounces dried, whole New Mexico (California), guajillo, or pasilla chiles, or a combination (6 to 8 chiles)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin seed

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Kosher salt

  • 5 tablespoons lard, vegetable oil, or rendered beef suet

  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck, well trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (to yield 2 pounds after trimming)

  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion

  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 cups beef stock , or canned low-sodium beef broth, plus more as needed

  • 2 tablespoons masa harina (corn tortilla flour)

  • 1 tablespoon firmly packed dark brown sugar, plus more as needed

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, plus more as needed

  • Sour cream

  • Lime wedges

PREPARATION

  1. Place the chiles in a straight-sided large skillet over medium-low heat and gently toast the chiles until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Don’t let them burn or they’ll turn bitter. Place the chiles in a bowl and cover them with very hot water and soak until soft, 15 to 45 minutes, turning once or twice.

  2. Drain the chiles; split them and remove stems and seeds (a brief rinse helps remove seeds, but don’t wash away the flesh). Place the chiles in the bowl of a blender and add the cumin, black pepper, 1 tablespoon salt and 1/4 cup water. Purée the mixture, adding more water as needed (and occasionally scraping down the sides of the blender jar), until a smooth, slightly fluid paste forms (you want to eliminate all but the tiniest bits of skin.) Set the chile paste aside.

  3. Return skillet to medium-high heat and melt 2 tablespoons of the lard. When it begins to smoke, swirl skillet to coat and add half of the beef. Lightly brown on at least two sides, about 3 minutes per side, reducing the heat if the meat threatens to burn. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with 2 more tablespoons of lard and the remaining beef. Reserve.

  4. Let the skillet cool slightly, and place it over medium-low heat. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of lard in the skillet; add the onion and garlic and cook gently for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock, the remaining 2 cups water and gradually whisk in the masa harina to avoid lumps. Stir in the reserved chile paste, scraping the bottom of the skillet with a spatula to loosen any browned bits. Add the reserved beef (and any juices in the bowl) and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain the barest possible simmer (just a few bubbles breaking the surface) and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender but still somewhat firm and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of thickened but still liquid sauce surrounds the cubes of meat, about 2 hours.

  5. Stir in the brown sugar and vinegar thoroughly and add more salt to taste; gently simmer 10 minutes more. At this point, it may look like there is excess sauce. Turn off the heat and let the chili stand for at least 30 minutes, during which time the meat will absorb about half of the remaining sauce in the skillet, leaving the meat bathed in a thick, somewhat fluid sauce. Stir in additional broth or water if the mixture seems too dry. If the mixture seems a bit loose and wet, allow it to simmer a bit more (sometimes we like to partially crush the cubes of beef with the back of a spoon to let them absorb more sauce). Adjust the balance of flavors with a bit of additional salt, sugar, or vinegar, if you like.

  6. Reheat gently and serve in individual bowls with a dollop of sour cream on top and a lime wedge on the side.

Chocolate Babka

Chocolate Babka

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 1 1/4-ounce packet active dry yeast

  • 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature

  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus a pinch

  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

  • Pinch of kosher salt

  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the topping:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour'

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

  • Pinch of kosher salt

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

For finishing:

  • Cooking spray

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 3/4 cup water

Directions

  1. Make the dough: Sprinkle the yeast over the milk in a liquid measuring cup; add a pinch of sugar and set aside until bubbly, about 7 minutes. Combine the flour, the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, the eggs, yeast mixture, salt, vanilla, nutmeg and lemon zest in a large bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead until soft and smooth, about 5 minutes. Knead in the butter in three additions, dusting the dough with flour if it's too sticky. Transfer the dough to a large bowl; cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down the dough, re-cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the fridge overnight.

  2. Make the filling: Heat the sugar, heavy cream and salt in a saucepan until scalding. Pour over the bittersweet chocolate chips, butter and vanilla in a bowl. Whisk until smooth and shiny. Let cool to room temperature.

  3. Make the topping: Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a separate bowl; work in the butter with your fingers until the mixture is sandy and chunky. Stir in the mini chocolate chips; set the topping aside.

  4. Form the loaves: Cut the dough in half with a bench scraper or chef's knife. Using a rolling pin, roll each half into a 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Using an offset spatula, spread the filling on both dough rectangles, all the way to the edges. Starting from a long side, tightly roll each rectangle into a log. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate 15 minutes. Unwrap the logs; cut each in half lengthwise with a bench scraper or chef's knife. Twist the halves together a few times, starting from the middle. Coat two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with cooking spray and line with parchment, then spray the parchment. Place a dough twist snugly in each pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 1/2 hours.

  5. Finish and bake the babka: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush each loaf with butter and sprinkle with the topping. Bake until browned, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, make some simple syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan; simmer, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Let cool. Pull the loaves out of the oven and immediately poke a bunch of holes in each with a wooden skewer. Pour 1 1/4 cups simple syrup evenly over the loaves.

  6. Let sit 10 minutes, then remove the babka from the pans, remove the parchment and let cool completely on a rack.

Lemon Chess Pie

Lemon Chess Pie

A true Southern and Colonial staple pie, chess pie is traditionally a somewhat gelatinous filling made unique by the addition of cornmeal. This lemony version is nice and tart and decidedly refreshing. Serve at room temperature with a cup of coffee or a cold glass of milk. My friend Rodney Henry from Dangerously Delicious Pies introduced me to chess pie. That man is the pie master. —Duff

Makes one 9-inch pie

  • ½ recipe Pie Dough (see below)
  • 1 stick (½ cup) butter
  • 2 extra-large eggs plus 6 egg yolks
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
  • 1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
  2. Roll out the pie dough on a floured surface into a 14-inch round that’s ¼ inch thick. Carefully drape the dough over the rolling pin and lay it gently into a 9-inch pie pan, making sure that the pan is completely lined with the dough. Trim and crimp the edge.
  3. Lay a circle of parchment paper and some pie weights or dry beans on the bottom of the crust. Blind bake the crust for 5 minutes, remove the weights, and bake for 4 more minutes, until the crust is a matte blond color. Set aside.
  4. To brown the butter, slowly simmer it in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until the solids have separated and lightly browned, taking care not to burn it. Remove it from the heat but make sure it stays melted.
  5. In a large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and salt, then whisk in (one at a time) the sugars, vanilla, cornmeal, flour, buttermilk, browned butter, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
  6. Pour the mixture into the crust and cover the edges of the crust with foil.
  7. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, until the pie looks mostly set, just slightly jiggly in the very center.
  8. Let it cool completely, then chill it in the fridge for at least 1 hour. Let the pie return to room temperature before slicing and serving.

PIE DOUGH
This here is my pie dough recipe that I’ve been using for almost twenty years. It’s super-basic, super-adaptable, and helps me make awesome pie! You can goof around with it and add flavor and spice and stuff, but the ratios are good, I promise. Also, there’s vinegar in this dough, which keeps the gluten from forming and helps make your dough flaky and tender. If you don’t have vinegar, just squeeze a lemon into the water. If the pie calls for a top and bottom crust, double this recipe. —Duff


Makes enough for one 9-inch single pie crust

  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Big pinch of sugar
  • 1 to 1½ sticks (½ to ¾ cup) cold butter, cubed (1 stick will make prettier pie crust, 1½ will make butterier, more delicious pies)
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (nothing distinct like balsamic, but rice wine or distilled white are totally cool) or lemon juice
  1. In a big bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar and make a claw with your hand to mix it up real good. Toss in the cold butter cubes and massage them into the flour mixture so you get nice big chunks.
  2. Combine the vinegar with ½ cup cold water (this is called acidulating, which just means adding acid to something . . . usually water). Stir the acidulated water into the flour mixture and gently work the dough until a ball is formed.
  3. Wrap the dough in plastic, squeeze out the air, and chill it in the fridge for at least 1 hour. This also freezes awesome for up to a year.

Brown-Butter Blondies

Brown-Butter Blondies

This recipe is the jam. I have to say that all other blondies pale in comparison. We use it for our blondies at all of my bakeries. Also, learning to brown butter is an amazing tool to have in your culinary arsenal. You'll find it elevates a ton of dishes. —Duff

Makes one 9 x 13-inch pan

  • 3 sticks (1½ cups) butter
  • 3 cups lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  1. First, brown the butter. Place it in a medium saucepan over low heat to cook. Check it after about 10 minutes; it should be a medium-brown color, not too light, not too burned. Once it reaches that color, take it off the heat and let it cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and grease a 9 x 13-inch pan.
  3. In a the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cooled brown butter and brown sugar until creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix, scraping the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix, scraping the sides of the bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until combined.
  4. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake the blondies for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few crumbs stuck to it. (I like these blondies gooey, so I go with a little less time). Let cool completely on a wire rack, then cut them and wrap them individually in plastic wrap so the sides don’t dry out. Store in the freezer or at room temperature.

Options: Add up to ¾ cup of your own ingredients, like pecans, chocolate chips, shredded coconut, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, or chopped dried cherries and white chocolate chips. Anything goes.

Coconut Meringue Cake

Coconut Meringue Cake

My grandmother lived in Wichita, Kansas, and she could no doubt cook, but she couldn’t bake to save her life. Which is weird, because she was a silversmith and a photographer and had limitless patience. My great-grandmother could bake, my mom can bake, and I’m no slouch, but Nana’s specialty was smokies (small, smoked breakfast sausages popular in the Midwest), and she’d make them in a cast-iron skillet every time we visited her. But one thing she could bake—and did almost every time we’d visit—was this coconut meringue cake. — Duff

Makes one 2-layer, 9-inch round cake

CAKE

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 stick (½ cup) plus 2⅔ tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ½ teaspoon coconut extract (optional but recommended)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 extra-large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup whole milk

ICING AND GARNISH

  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2 extra-large egg whites
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 ounces mini marshmallows
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1¼ cups sweetened shredded coconut
  1. To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350˚F and grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.
  3. With a hand mixer in a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, coconut extract, and vanilla extract until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks and beat thoroughly.
  4. Add half the dry mixture, then the milk, then the rest of the dry mixture to the butter mixture, beating well and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  5. In a separate large bowl, beat the egg whites with a whisk until stiff. Gently fold them into the cake batter.
  6. Divide the batter between the pans, scraping all the batter from the bowl with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely in the pans. Lower the oven “temperature to 325˚F.
  7. To make the icing and garnish: Combine the sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar, salt, marshmallows, remaining ½ cup coconut, and ⅓ cup water in the top of a double boiler. Over simmering water, whisk constantly for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the icing will hold a peak. Remove from the heat, add the orange zest, and whisk until the icing is cooled and thick enough to spread.
  8. Frost with the icing and press the coconut all over the cake.

Pretzels

Pretzels

This recipe is one of my favorites. I love pretzels, and this really embodies the magic of baking for me. It shows that you can make something that you might have thought came from some mysterious place. These pretzels are buttery and delicious, and easy enough for the kids to make, too. Now, real industrial pretzels are dipped in lye for that chewy outside, and it really does make a difference, but do you want to be messing around with lye? I didn’t think so. Remember Fight Club? This recipe uses a much safer solution of baking soda. Let’s just stick with safe, buttery, and awesome. —Duff

Makes 12 to 16 big fat pretzels

FOR THE DOUGH

  • 1 (¼-ounce) envelope active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ stick (¼ cup) butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Olive oil

FOR THE FINISHING

  • ½ cup baking soda
  • 1 stick (½ cup) butter, melted
  • Cooking spray
  • Ramekin of pretzel salt
  1. To make the dough: In a big bowl, mix the yeast, sugar, and 1⅓ cups warm water and let it sit until the yeast blooms, about 7 minutes. Add the butter, salt, egg yolks, and flours and knead the dough until smooth, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Grease the bowl and the dough with a bit of olive oil, set the dough in the bowl, and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let it rise on top of the fridge or any warm, dry place for 30 to 40 minutes, or until doubled in size.
  3. To finish the pretzels: In a saucepan, mix the baking soda and 4 cups warm water until it is milky and then bring to a simmer over low heat.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425˚F, cover four or five baking sheets with parchment paper, and spray them with cooking spray.
  5. Punch down the dough and cut it into 12 to 16 pieces. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Roll out each piece to about 2 feet long and shape into a pretzel (figure it out, I’m not explaining this in words). Dip each pretzel into the simmering baking soda liquid for 30 seconds, flipping once. Remove from the liquid, shake off any excess, and place the pretzel on a prepared baking sheet* using a spider or two wooden spoons. Plan on getting three pretzels per sheet. Lightly flour the pretzels, cover them loosely in plastic wrap, and let them rise for 20 minutes. Gently brush them with melted butter, and use cooking spray to grease any little corners you can’t reach with butter. Sprinkle on the pretzel salt.**
  6. Bake the pretzels until they’re brown. About 8 minutes should do it. Let cool for a few minutes and serve with coarse German mustard.

* This is the same dough I use for pretzel rolls and buns, so if you want to make a roll instead of a pretzel, you’re good. Just finish them as directed and bake at 400˚F for 12 to 15 minutes.

** Salt is awesome on these, but top them with herbs, garlic, cheese, seeds, or anything else you want. Do I smell cinnamon-sugar?

 

Purple Potato Salad

Purple Potato Salad

Fourth of July! America's birthday! Honestly, the 4th is one of my favorite celebrations year-round. The celebration of freedom, our amazing troops,  trying not to blow off a finger with fireworks, and my personal favorite: THE FOOD. This is my go-to dish when someone asks me to bring something. It's a real crowd pleaser. More than enough to pay your ticket to all the ribs and steaks your host is no-doubt preparing for your arrival. 😉 - Duff

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds purple-skinned fingerling potatoes, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/3 cup horseradish, drained
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 4 half-sour dill or sweet pickles, diced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

Combine the potatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 tablespoon salt in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender but not mushy, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the onion and cook until almost tender, about 1 more minute. Drain, discarding the garlic. Let the potatoes cool.

Whisk the remaining 4 tablespoons vinegar, the sugar and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Mix in the mayonnaise, sour cream and horseradish. Add the celery and pickles, then gently fold in the potatoes and chopped herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

 

Focaccia

Focaccia

Focaccia is a delicious Italian bread that, when done right, is amazing. But unfortunately it’s rarely done right. Focaccia should be thick, with big holes in it. It should be chewy and salty, not mealy. I’ve made thousands of pounds of focaccia as a bread baker in Napa Valley and for Todd English and beyond, and this focaccia will be the best you ever tasted, promise. —Duff

Makes one 11 x 17-inch pan

DOUGH

  • 2 (¼-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • Fine cornmeal for dusting

TOPPINGS

  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup sliced red onion
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  1. To make the dough: In a big bowl, mix the yeast, sugar, and 2 cups warm water and let it sit until it bubbles, about 7 minutes. Add the oil, flours, and salt and mix until sticky and wet. This is a wet dough.
  2. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface (get all the dough out or you’ll have to wash the bowl) and knead by hand for 10 minutes, until smooth and soft but still wet and sticky. Oil the bowl well and place the dough back in the bowl. Cover tightly and let it rise for about 1 hour in a warm spot, like on top of the fridge, or until doubled in size.
  3. Pour a light coating of olive oil onto a half sheet pan or 11 x 17-inch cake pan—you want about  inch of oil on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle on the cornmeal, as much or as little as you want.
  4. Punch the dough down and turn it out into your pan. Push the dough around so it’s roughly even across the whole pan. Oil the top and let the dough rise for another 30 minutes, or until doubled in size (or the size of my big grape head).
  5. To make the toppings: In a blender, puree the basil with the olive oil.
  6. Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
  7. Don’t punch the dough down, but make a claw with your fingers and poke deep holes all over the dough, going all the way to the bottom. Arrange the onion slices on top, pour on the basil oil, and let the oil settle into the finger holes. Sprinkle the Parmesan and salt all over the dough.
  8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the bread has a good, dark color to it (it could be up to 45 minutes, depending on the thickness and the mood of the bread). Focaccia should be pretty dark, not blond like you see at chain restaurants. Pull the bread out and let it cool. The oil on the bottom of the pan will have boiled and basically deep-fried the bottom, so it should be well browned and crispy when you take it out of the pan. Let cool completely and enjoy at room temp or warmed up in the oven.

Options: You can top the focaccia with anything you like—olives, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, scallions, bacon bits, whatever. Focaccia is the granddaddy of pizza, remember that. Also, remember that different veggies cook for different times, so don’t put garlic on at the beginning—let the bread bake most of the way through and then add it. Garlic is delicious, but burn it and it becomes disgusting. Same thing with anchovies.

Cornbread

Cornbread

My first fine-dining job was working for Chef Cindy Wolf in Baltimore. She took a chance on me when I really didn’t know how to cook, like, at all. She made me bake the cornbread for the restaurant, and it taught me that no matter what you’re doing, do it the best you can. She’ll tell you that I made the best damn cornbread in the state. This is my adaptation of Chef Cindy Wolf’s recipe, but to be honest, every time I open the oven, I’m doing something that Cindy taught me how to do.

Bake these as soon as they’re mixed, because the acid in the buttermilk will set off the baking soda and you want to get the most lift out of your leavening agent. And make your mouth happy and serve with homemade honey butter—roughly a 2:1 ratio of butter to honey, whipped until soft and awesome. —Duff


Makes one 9 x 13-inch pan or 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Big pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 extra-large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F and grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish or cake pan, or a 12-cup muffin tin.

  2. In a big bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients.

  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and buttermilk to a uniform color.

  4. Quickly but gently fold the liquid mixture into the dry mixture. It should be a loose batter, not a dough. If not, add some more buttermilk or even some cream, but just a tad; these ratios are right.

  5. Pour the batter into the pan or divide it among muffin cups and bake for about 22 minutes (15 to 18 minutes for muffins), or until the top is golden and a toothpick comes out somewhat clean. Let cool for 7 minutes, then turn them out upside-down so they develop a nice thin crust on the baked edge.

Bomb Cheesecake

Bomb Cheesecake

The “bomb” refers to how awesome this cheesecake is, not to the old-school French domed cake called “bombe.” This cheesecake is a blank. It’s super easy to make and it’s great for getting creative with. I’ve made literally thousands of these, adding everything from chocolate to nuts to spices and even herbs. You can even swap out the cream cheese for goat cheese. But if it’s classic you’re going for, don’t be afraid to serve it with cheap-ass canned cherry pie filling.
I bake my cheesecakes in regular cake pans, not springform pans. There’s nothing wrong with a springform pan; it’s just that most people don’t have one. That’s okay. I have a method to get the cheesecake out that totally works and will save you a trip to the store and $30 for a new pan.
This recipe is easy, but read the whole thing before you start. The directions may seem complicated, but they’re not. It’s just that the perfect cheesecake needs to be made exactly right, and all the little details in here really add up to success. —Duff

Ingredients

 

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 stick (½ cup) butter, melted and hot
  • Kosher salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, scraped (you can use 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, but the flavor of a whole bean is extraordinary)
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 extra-large eggs plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature

Directions

  1. Make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature (except the butter). Don’t even try to make this cheesecake with cold ingredients. You’ll fail and blame me.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Place a large cake or casserole pan full of water on the lower rack. Make sure this never goes dry during the baking process. This will help keep your cheesecake from forming a skin and cracking.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix 6 tablespoons of the sugar, the graham cracker crumbs, the butter, and a pinch of salt. Lay the crumb mixture in the bottom of a 10-inch cake pan and press it down very firmly and flat. Get this part right—it really affects how this cheesecake cuts later on. Using all your weight, really press down on the crust. Find something flat and heavy like a jar with a lid on it. Use the lid side to press the crust perfectly even. Also, I make the crust totally level—I don’t round it up the sides of the pan. That way it doesn’t break when you cut it.
  4. Once your crust is perfect, lightly spray the sides of the cake pan with cooking spray. Cut a few long strips of “parchment paper and line the sides of the cake pan. Spray the paper with the cooking spray and place the pan in the freezer.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (not the whisk!), cream the remaining ¾ cup sugar, the vanilla seeds, cream cheese, and a pinch of salt on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs, yolk, and cornstarch and slowly blend until combined, stopping and scraping the bowl at least twice. Add the sour cream and slowly mix it in, stopping and scraping the bowl twice.
  6. Pull the bowl off the machine and bang it hard on the counter 10 times. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Watch the top—you’ll see little air bubbles come up to the top and burst. If they don’t pop by themselves, use a bamboo skewer. Those little air bubbles will kill a cheesecake. They are evil. They will expand in the oven and instead of getting a smooth cheesecake, you’ll get a mealy one. Also, your cheesecake will soufflé in the oven and crack on top.
  7. Slowly pour the batter onto the crust, filling it to about ¼ inch from the top. Don’t let the mix get behind the paper.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 315˚F and bake for 45 to 50 minutes more, until the center is set. Turn off the oven and crack the door open (this is why your oven door has that spot where it will stay open a crack) and leave the cake in the oven for 90 minutes.
  9. Let the cheesecake cool at room temperature for 1 hour, then freeze it for 2 hours.

GETTING CHEESECAKE OUT OF A CAKE PAN


To remove a cheesecake from a regular cake pan, run a paring knife around the edge behind the paper wrapper and make sure nothing is stuck to the sides of the cake pan. Turn on the stove and hold the bottom of the pan briefly over the flame or burner to melt anything that’s making the pan stick to the bottom of the cheesecake. Lay out a lightly sprayed piece of parchment paper and slam the pan face down on it. Punch the bottom of the pan a few times and bang the edges until the cheesecake comes out on its own. Remove any paper stuck to the cheesecake. Get your hand under the parchment and under the cheesecake, flip it over onto a flat plate, and remove the top piece of parchment. Let the cheesecake thaw before serving.

Bacon Cornbread Cupcakes with Honey Butter

Bacon Cornbread Cupcakes with Honey Butter

I'm a big fan of trick desserts, where a baked treat is made to look like something it's not. You can get your non-sweet toothed friends in on cupcake fun with this recipe! - Duff

Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 12 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 extra-large eggs plus one extra-large egg yolk
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature, plus more as needed
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put bacon in a cold pan over medium-high heat, flipping three-quarters of the way through cooking, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and reserve the fat.
  2. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with some of the reserved fat and set aside.
  3. In a big bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and a pinch of salt.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and 2 tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat to a uniform color.
  5. Chop 10 slices of the bacon coarsely into roughly 1/4-inch pieces. Finely chop the remaining 2 slices and set aside.
  6. Quickly, but gently, fold the liquid mixture into the dry mixture. (It should be a loose batter, not a dough. If not, add just a tad more buttermilk.) Fold in the coarsely chopped bacon.
  7. Divide the batter among the muffin cups in the prepared tin and bake until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out somewhat clean, about 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool 7 minutes, then turn them out upside-down so they develop a nice thin crust on the baked edge. Cool to just warm or room temperature before frosting, another 7 to 10 minutes.
  8. With a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the honey, butter, and a pinch of salt together until light and fluffy. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a large closed-star tip and pipe a generous tablespoon on the tops of each of the cupcakes. Sprinkle finely-chopped bacon on top and serve.

Ultimate S'mores Jar

Ultimate S'mores Jar

Summer's coming, and the heat reminds me of camping. But if you're like me, you can't get out much. You're confined to your home! You can't build a fire! You wanna make some s'mores, but you gotta film this new thing! Ok, maybe that last one was for me. But we've all been there: a hankerin' for s'mores and no way to enjoy them. Until now!

Ingredients

For the chocolate pudding:
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup natural cocoa powder
4 teaspoons cornstarch
3 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the marshmallow cream:
1 egg white, at room temperature
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the graham crackers:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
2 to 3 tablespoons milk, plus more for glaze
Cinnamon sugar, for topping (optional)

Preparation

For the pudding, combine 1½ cups milk, sugar and cocoa in a nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat.

Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup milk, cornstarch, salt, egg yolks and vanilla in a bowl. Gradually whisk hot milk into egg mixture, then return to the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until pudding comes to a full boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and continue whisking until thick, 2 or 3 minutes more. Pour into a plastic container. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours or ideally overnight.

For the marshmallow cream, beat egg white, corn syrup and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until thick and doubled in volume, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low and beat in confectioners' sugar until thoroughly combined. Beat in vanilla just until incorporated. (Marshmallow cream can be refrigerated in a covered container up to 2 weeks or frozen for 1 month.)

For the graham crackers, combine both flours, sugar, salt, cinnamon and baking powder in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk egg with oil, honey, and 2 tablespoons milk. Stir egg mixture into dry ingredients for a stiff dough, adding more milk, if necessary. Wrap dough and chill until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Divide dough in half, and working 1 piece at a time, knead dough gently until it holds. Roll out dough to 1/16-inch-thick on parchment paper. Transfer on parchment to a baking sheet; repeat with second piece of dough.

Brush dough with milk, then sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, if desired. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Remove from oven, and use a pizza wheel or sharp knife to cut into 3-by-2-inch rectangles, without separating.

Return cut crackers to oven, and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Turn off oven, and open oven door wide for 5 minutes. Once most of oven heat has dissipated, shut door, and let crackers cool inside for 20 minutes; this will help them become as crisp as possible. Remove crackers from oven, transfer to a cooling rack, and cool completely. (Store crackers, well-wrapped, at room temperature for up to a week; freeze for longer storage.)

To assemble, in a 12-ounce mason jar, pipe a layer of chocolate pudding, then sprinkle a layer of slightly crunched up graham crackers. Next pipe a layer of marshmallow cream and brown the top with a blowtorch. Pipe another layer of pudding, add another layer of graham crackers, and another layer of marshmallow. Brown the top layer of marshmallow and screw the lid on. Don't make too far ahead of time or the graham crackers will get soggy.

Rompope-Filled Churros

Rompope-Filled Churros

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Rompope is a traditional Mexican eggnog drink. I figured with all the Cinco de Mayo imbibing, why not turn it into a pasty cream and fill up crispy churros with it? Plus, rompope's just fun to say. Quick tip: You wanna serve these when they're nice and hot, so make your rompope pastry cream and your churro batter a day before your party, pop them in piping bags. Then you're ready to go. Pipe out churros, fry, fill with cream, look like a baking rockstar among your friends. - Duff

Ingredients

  • 2 cups red and/or green sanding sugar
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 2 to 3 quarts vegetable oil
  • 1 recipe Rompope Pastry Cream, recipe follows

Rompope Pastry Cream

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup blanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick 4 extra-large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup dark rum

Special equipment: a deep-frying thermometer; a pastry bag fitted with a large closed-star tip; a pastry bag fitted with a large (3/16-inch) round tip (#801)

Directions

Combine the sanding sugar and cinnamon in a large shallow dish or pan that's large enough to roll the churros in (at least 8-inches wide). Set aside.

Set up a baking sheet lined with a bunch of paper towels for the finished churros.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the butter, sugar, salt and 1 cup water to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Sift the flour into the saucepan and stir for about 1 minute. (The mixture will immediately form a sticky ball.)

Transfer the mixture to a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer running on low, add the eggs one at a time. Mix until the eggs are well incorporated.

Fill a Dutch oven or pan with 2-2 1/2 inches of oil and place it over high heat. You want the oil to be at 345 to 365 degrees F during the frying process; use a thermometer to monitor the process closely. When the oil hits 340 degrees F, turn the heat down to medium and try to maintain the temperature range.

Fit a pastry bag with a large closed-star tip and fill it 3/4 full with the churro dough.

Squeeze the dough directly into the oil in 4 inch lengths, using scissors or a paring knife to separate the dough from the bag. You can fry 4 - 5 churros at a time, use metal tongs to keep them separated in the pan, about 2 minutes on each side until the churros are deep golden all over.

Gently remove the finished churros with tongs and place them directly into the cinnamon-sugar mixture, rolling to coat them evenly. Place them on the paper towel lined sheet tray.

Repeat until you've used all the dough.

Poke a hole in the end of each churro with the tip of a paring knife. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large (3/16-inch, #801) round tip with the Rompope Pastry Cream. Take each churro, insert the pastry tip in the end and fill. Repeat until all churros are filled. Serve warm.

Rompope Pastry Cream:

Combine the milk, almonds and granulated sugar in a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a pot, add the cinnamon stick and bring the mixture just to a boil over medium heat, scalding it.

Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the scalded milk mixture, then return the mixture back to the pot over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until thick and you can see the trails of your whisk, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, then the rum. Cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until ready to use.

Eclairs

Eclairs

I'm working on some stuff right now for an event I have this weekend. I can't say what it is just yet, but it did remind me of the eclair challenge on season three of Kids Baking Championship. You know, I would never give those kids a challenge dish I wasn't comfortable making myself. So here's my take on this French staple.

Ingredients

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Choux Pastry:
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1 cup bread flour
4 extra-large eggs 

Whipped Cream:
4 ounces (1/2 cup) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups heavy cream 

Chocolate Glaze:
8 ounces chocolate, chopped or discs
5 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 tablespoons cocoa powder 

Poured Fondant Glaze:
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

Special equipment: a pastry bag fitted with a large tip (No.808 round or Nos.866, 867 or 868 star); a pastry bag fitted with a medium round tip

Directions

For the choux pastry: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a large saucepot over medium-high heat, bring the butter, salt and water to a boil. Using a wooden spoon, add the flour in thirds, stirring it in as fast as possible. Smash any lumps against the side of the pot.

Cook the mixture until the dough forms a ball that pulls away from the sides of the pot, about 2 minutes.

Add the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer and let it sit and cool for 5 minutes. Beat on low for 1 minute to release steam. Add the eggs, one at a time, until the dough is smooth and pipeable yet still holds its shape.

Add the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a large tip. Place 4 tiny dabs of dough in the corners of a large baking sheet, then tack down a piece of parchment on top. Pipe the dough into 5-inch lines about 2 inches apart from each other on the prepared baking sheet. Bake, rotating once halfway through, until deep golden brown and dry in the centers, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool.

For the whipped cream: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese with the sugar and vanilla seeds until smooth. Add the heavy cream and continue to beat until medium peaks form. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a medium round tip.

For the chocolate glaze: Meanwhile, melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until completely melted. Whisk together the corn syrup and cocoa powder in a small bowl, then whisk into the chocolate mixture. Set aside until ready to use, but don't refrigerate.

For the poured fondant glaze: Combine the confectioners' sugar, corn syrup and water in a bowl set over a double boiler. Heat, whisking, until smooth and uniform. Turn the heat off and let sit over the water bath until ready to use. Whisk again right before using.

Insert the tip of the pastry bag with the whipped cream into the ends or bottoms of the eclairs to fill them. Dip filled eclairs into the glazes and place on a rack to set.

Mamo's Apple Strudel Recipe

Mamo's Apple Strudel Recipe

This is my great-grandmother Mamo's apple strudel recipe. It's amazing. When I was taught this by my grandmother, she said "Listen, you don't tell anyone that doesn't have your last name this recipe." We kept the recipe locked away in hopes of selling out to a major corporation. Well, that ship has sailed. Also, why should a major corporation make this in mass quantities? You should make it! At home, with family, the way it was meant to be made.

What was Mamo's secret? Canned pineapple! Your strudel won't taste like pineapple. It amps up the apple flavor. Trust me. Well, not me. Trust Mamo.

Ingredients

  • 10 to 12 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin strips
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 large can pineapple, drained and diced
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 pound package phyllo dough
  • Mixture of 1 large freshly ground cinnamon stick, 1/3 cup sugar and 1 cup plain breadcrumbs

Directions

  1. As you peel and dice the apples, sprinkle with lemon juice and mix frequently to prevent browning, or toss in iced water with some lemon juice.
  2. Place the apples into a large pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the pineapple, sugar, 1 cup water and salt. Cook until the moisture evaporates and consistency of the remaining fruit is thicker than preserves, 30 to 35 minutes. Stir often to prevent burning on the bottom. Cool, then stir in nuts.
  3. Refrigerate the apple filling at least overnight. Filling will last in the refrigerator for up to a week in an airtight container.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. In a pot, melt the butter over very low heat. A white foam will form as the top layer. Skim off the foam with a spoon. Once the foam is removed, add the oil. Stir and remove from the heat.
  6. On a sheet of waxed paper, lay out the first layer of phyllo dough. (Dough dries out quickly, so keep other layers not in use covered with a damp cloth over a sheet of waxed paper.) Using a pastry brush, gently brush the butter/oil mixture onto the entire sheet of dough. Sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture over the entire surface. Repeat for an additional 4 layers so each roll has a total of 5 layers of phyllo dough.
  7. Using a spoon, add a row of the apple filling an inch or two from the bottom of the dough. Do not overstuff or the strudel will burst when baking. Lift the bottom edge of the waxed paper with both hands, each about a third of the way in from the outer edges to support the phyllo as you roll up the dough, jellyroll style. As you roll, fold the sides inwards to form sealed edges as you continue to the end. End with the seam-side down.
  8. Coat a baking pan with the butter/oil mixture and place the first rolled dough onto the pan with the seam facing down. Then brush the roll all over with the butter/oil mixture.
  9. Repeat the steps above until you have filled the cookie pan with the rolls but keep at least a roll's width between each. Keep at least 2 to 3 inches between the rolls on the baking sheet to ensure even browning.
  10. Bake until golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes, depending on your oven. During baking, baste 4 to 5 times with the butter/oil mixture.
  11. Cut into pieces while still hot so the crust won't break.

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake

Coffee is to chocolate as salt is to beef. You're not making a coffee-flavored cake. It just makes the chocolate POP. If you've never tried adding coffee to your chocolate cake recipe, take this recipe out for a spin.

Makes one 2-layer, 9-inch round cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter
  • ½ cup brewed coffee
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Frosting of your choice (I shared my Swiss Buttercream last month on here!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. In a big bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the coffee, cocoa powder, and ½ cup water and heat it for a minute, stirring constantly. Pour the melted butter mixture into the flour mixture and whisk until well combined.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add it to the batter and mix until smooth.
  5. Divide the batter between the two cake pans, scraping all the batter from the bowl with a rubber spatula. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes in the pans and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Frost with the frosting of your choice... like that Swiss Buttercream!

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake Rachel Ray Image.jpg

Easily the entire bakery’s favorite cake. You probably have some fond memories of a super good, super moist carrot cake growing up, too, right? Have you tried replicating it, but it's just not as moist and delicious as you remember? Chances are your carrot cake recipe is only calling for butter. It's not gonna be that good. Same thing with chocolate cake. So what do you do?

Oil. Lots of oil. That's gonna help get your cake where it needs to be. Another thing to keep an eye on is that batter. You want it to be really shiny. Luckily, you've got your pal Duff here with a wicked carrot cake recipe to impress.

For the cake:

  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • 2¼ cups vegetable or olive oil
  • ¾ cups plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 2½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ pounds carrots, peeled and finely grated
  • ¾ cup golden raisins (optional)
  • ¾ cup chopped pecans (optional)

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preparation:

  1. For the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. With a hand or stand mixer, mix the eggs and oil. Add the sugars and mix well. In a medium bowl, mix the rest of the cake ingredients except the carrots (and raisins and nuts, if using). Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and mix well. Add the carrots (and raisins and nuts, if desired) and mix until incorporated.
  3. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, scraping all the batter from the bowl with a rubber spatula. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. For the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all the ingredients. Whip on low speed for a while. When the sugar is incorporated, turn the mixer speed up and beat until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl often. (If making ahead, cover and refrigerate; re-whip before using.)
  5. Spread the frosting over each cooled cake layer, then assemble the carrot cake.

Apple Pie

Apple Pie

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My first job was at McDonald's, believe it or not. I was good! I could make twelve Big Macs in a minute, no joke. One of my favorite things on the menu was their apple pie. You know what I'm talking about... that delicious flaky crust with the molten hot lava goo filling you'd always burn your tongue on? You won't find another apple pie quite like McDonald's. Problem is, I love reverse-engineering things that you can buy and instead make them at home. This is my take on McDonald's super tasty dessert offering.

For the Filling

  • 6 cups diced apples (use whatever apples you want. I like Fujis. They taste like they have honey in them. Experiment with different apples and find a flavor and a texture that you like)
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 1/3 c apple juice
  • 1/2 c cornstarch
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t nutmeg
  • 1 t cloves
  • t cardamom

For the Streusel

  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c flour
  • 1 stick butter
  • Vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon

For the Pie Dough

  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Big pinch of sugar
  • 1 to 1½ sticks (½ to ¾ cup) cold butter, cubed (1 stick will make prettier pie crust, 1½ will make butterier, more delicious pies)
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (nothing distinct like balsamic, but rice wine or distilled white are totally cool) or lemon juice

Pie Dough Directions

  1. Whisk together salt, sugar and flour.
  2. With your fingers, tear off pieces of the butter and toss them in the flour. Massage the butter into the flour until you have nice big chunks of buttery flour in what looks like sand.
  3. Add half the water, stir in with a wooden spoon. Gently! Add the rest of the ice water and the vinegar and fold with a wooden spoon until the dough forms.
  4. Wrap in plastic wrap and rest in the fridge. Overnight if you can!

Streusel Directions

  1. With the paddle attachment on a stand mixer or with an electric egg beater, cream together butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, cinnamon.
  2. Add the flour and mix until the streusel looks like chunky wet sand (kinda). If the streusel becomes a dough, add flour until it becomes wet sand.
  3. Store in the fridge, wrapped, for like a week tops or in the freezer indefinitely.

Apple Directions

  1. Peel the apples. Do not put them in water for crying out loud! Cut the apples into slices. Not too thin. Like one centimeter on the obtuse end.
  2. Toss the slices in the sugar and the cinnamon. Melt the butter on the stove in a large sauté pan. If you don't have a big sauté pan, do the apples in batches.
  3. Fry the apples in the butter nice and hot and get some color on them. Set the apples aside in to cool at room temp.

Goo Directions

  1. In a deep saucepot, bring the cider or apple juice to a fast simmer. Reserve 1/2 cup of cider.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, salt, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon.
  3. Whisk the reserved cider into the dry ingredients and create a thin paste. If the paste is too thick, add water a few drops at a time until it loosens up. Slowly drizzle the the paste into the simmering cider while whisking the cider with a firm hand. When the goo thickens and becomes translucent again, turn off the heat and add 1/2 stick of butter to it, set aside to cool.

To Bake the Pie

  1. Line the pie pan with dough and decorate as you see fit. Do your best! You're putting a lot of effort into this pie. Make it beautiful, too.
  2. Toss the apples and the goo together in whatever ratio you want. You don't have to use all the goo. It's delicious on ice cream. Fill the pie about 4/5 full.
  3. Fill the rest of the pie with streusel. Use a lot of streusel. It's delicious, too.
  4. Bake at 375 in the middle rack until the top gets light golden brown. 20-30 minutes. Then place an empty sheet tray on the top rack and bake for 15 more minutes. If the top starts getting too brown, pull it out and wrap the top in aluminum foil.
  5. This pie will be good for a day or two but don't be silly: this pie should be consumed before it has a chance to cool. 😉
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Swiss Buttercream

Swiss Buttercream

Buttercream.jpg

Serves enough to ice an 8 – 10 inch layer cake

Ingredients

  • 6 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (not powdered, it won’t work)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 4 sticks (1 pound) butter, plus more as needed, softened

Preparation

  1. Put the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Start the machine on medium-slow speed and whip until the eggs begin to get frothy. Turn the speed to medium.
  2. Slowly add the sugar to the whipping egg whites, dropping the lemon juice in about halfway through the process.
  3. When all the sugar is in, speed up the mixer and whip until stiff peaks form and the meringue is smooth and super shiny.
  4. Turn the speed to medium-low and begin adding the butter. Add it bit by bit so the meringue doesn’t slop over the sides of the bowl. At this point, the meringue will fall and look ruined and broken. It’s not. This is what happens and it’s okay. If the meringue doesn’t fall, add a little extra butter until it does.
  5. Turn the speed back up to medium-high and walk away. Come back in 10 minutes. Does it look like buttercream? No? Walk away and repeat until it does. If it still doesn’t look like buttercream after 30 minutes, add more butter until it does.
  6. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Warm and rewhip the buttercream before using it if refrigerated.

This is the official Charm City Cakes buttercream. It’s based on Swiss meringue and provides the correct consistency for icing cakes and decorating. Swiss buttercream is sturdier than a cold French meringue buttercream and much easier to make that a hot Italian meringue buttercream. It’s super versatile and can be flavored and colored however you want it. You can also airbrush it, but lightly, as the high fat content will resist any substantial amount of liquid.

There are a few things to be aware of with any meringue-based buttercream:

  • You can store it at room temperature for 24 hours; more than that and you need to keep it in the fridge.
  • If you’re not using it directly after making it, you always want to rewhip it right before use by beating it in the mixer with the whisk attachment and adding a bit of heat from a kitchen torch until it looks right.
  • If you’re planning on using buttercream that has been kept cold, pull it out of the fridge about 2 hours before you intend to use it, whip and heat it, and then you’re ready to go.
  • Sometimes you’ll see people dip a spatula into hot water before icing a cake. This is wrong. If you heat the buttercream to the correct workable temperature, you won’t need a warm, wet spatula.
  • Swiss buttercream keeps for about a week in the fridge, but it’s always good to just make what you need when using egg product.