Nectarine Cardamom Vanilla Pie – for a Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday J.! To celebrate J. birthday, I was asked to make a fruit dessert.  Well hello peaches. Or nectarines. Or apricots.

Millions of peaches, peaches for me.
Millions of peaches, peaches for me.

J. is kind of an old soul stuck in a young body. Or as he puts it, in an old body. What is it with men and feeling older than they are? Isn’t it better to feel young and spry? It’s a mental game people! J. is also a longtime fan of The Unappreciated Baker (thanks!) and a lover of all things fruity desserty. And so, for his birthday – fruit dessert! Coincidentally, I love fruit desserts as well :).

Nectarines!
Nectarines!

Going back to nectarines.  I like to bake with nectarines as opposed to peaches because then I don’t have to worry about peeling them.  While I don’t mind the fuzzy peach peel in my desserts, others do. So if I bake with them, I need to peel them.  Due to the special occasion, I broke out my mini pie plates so that everyone could enjoy their very own peach pie.

Pie crusts ready to be filled.
Pie crusts ready to be filled.

I thought about going with my tried and true pie recipe, but then I thought about changing it up a bit – after all, isn’t that the point of this blog? To try new things. I found a recipe that flavored the peaches with vanilla and cardamom, not a combination I have used before with peaches. Testing time!

One pie all filled up.
One pie all filled up.

I did stick with my tried and true pie crust recipe, because, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. With my regular double crust recipe I had enough dough for eight crusts and seven lattices. One ended up being a snack on Friday afternoon :).

The Little Rocker and I snacked on the sample and we enjoyed it a lot.  She was a little disappointed that she did not get her own pie to sample, but I told her that at the party she would have her own so it was okay to share this time.

And the others follow.
And the others follow.

On a related note, Squeaker just started eating solids and while she is not such a fan of the peas and sweet potatoes, she loves her some peaches. I mixed the peas and peaches and wham – at the whole bowl. Peach season for everyone!

The finished product.
Ready to be

I didn’t really feel the cardamom in the pie, maybe increase it next time?

And here we go!
And here we go!

We know what J.’s birthday means – Rocker Dude’s birthday! Amazing how close friends can have their birthdays so close together. Rocker Dude asked for a plain sheet cake for his birthday – can you see what I am working with?? A plain yellow cake??? With icing!! I hate working with icing. I am not talented in that way – drawing was never my forte, and the icing is always so sweet. It is always the part of the cake that I take off so that I can eat the actual cake.

So here is the cake that I made. My friend M. was kind enough to lend me a guitar shaped cake pan so that I didn’t have to try and cut out a guitar shape from a rectangular pan. That would have been disastrous. The Little Rocker had such a fun time watching the cake take shape, especially putting in the food coloring. I didn’t make the icing that bright as I hate putting in more than a few drops of food coloring. It may be weird but if I do then I feel like I am coloring my insides.

Happy Birthday Rocker Dude!
Happy Birthday Rocker Dude!

I have included the recipe for the cake because I thought that the cake was delicious on its own – with a bright citrus flavor. It’s perfect for birthday cakes and cupcakes.

And speaking of summer (weren’t we?), there are a few things that are ubiquitous to summer – baseball and ice pops. Here is a picture of Squeaker in an NY Yankees outfit that we originally got for the Little Rocker.

Yankee Fans!
Yankee Fans!

My father is a lifelong Yankees fan and if there is one thing I learned as a kid, it was that you root for the Yankees, or you’re not a real Schachter. Lucky for me, Rocker Dude is not into sports so I don’t have to keep up with his favorite team stats and stuff.

And ice pops! The Little Rocker remembered this picture of her “eating” my ice pop when she was a year old or so, and so she asked me to do it with Squeaker as well.

Eating ice pops.
Eating ice pops.
Squeaker tries to eat an ice pop.
Squeaker tries to eat an ice pop.

This time I just gave her a closed ice pop of her own, but she knew better. She still kept trying to grab my ice pop.

Nectarine Cardamom Vanilla Pie (makes 8 4-inch pies)

Recipe:
Crust:
A double crust recipe of this recipe, prepared through

Filling (based on this recipe from The Pastry Affair):
6 large (7 medium or 8 small) fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar, packed
1 vanilla bean, halved with the seeds removed (or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg white
2 tbsp. sugar for sprinkling

Whipped Cream:
250g whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Prepare the dough through the refrigeration stage.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine all the ingredients for the filling and set aside while you roll out the dough. Roll out one disc of dough to a 1/8 inch thickness. You don’t want to leave the dough too thick as the pies are small. Cut out circles that are slightly larger than the circumference of the pie plates. Gently place each circle in the pie plates and trim the edges. Refrigerate the pie crusts as you make them to keep the dough cold. Then add filling into each of the pie plates and return to the refrigerator while you roll out the lattice top. Roll out the second disc to a 1/8 inch thickness. Slice into thin (about a finger’s width) strips with a very sharp knife or a pizza wheel. Carefully weave the lattice strips onto the tops of all the pies.

Brush egg white onto the tops of the pies and sprinkle with sugar. Place the pies in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, until the filling is bubbling. Let cool on a rack.

To serve, beat the whipping cream with the confectioner’s sugar and dollop a generous spoonful on top of each pie.

Yellow Cake (From The Kosher Palette):

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the a large mixing bowl and stir until well blended.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the oil, orange juice, eggs and vanilla. Beat until lightened in color. Add the dry ingredients in one shot and mix until just blended. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

This cake also freezes well.

 

Caramel Cheesecake with Brown Sugar Crust – Bring on the Dairy!

Hello everyone.  Here we are two days before Shavuot – the holiday during which we eat tons and tons of dairy to make up for all the other holidays in which we eat meat. Rocker Dude, being of a lactose intolerant nature, does not enjoy this holiday as much as other people, and this year, due to Squeaker’s sensitivities, I will be joining him in the non-dairy consuming club. But don’t worry, to make up for this, when I do stop nursing her, we will have a make-up Shavuot filled with all sorts of dairy delicacies.

In any case, at this time of year, the interwebs are filled with tons of cheesecake recipes of all varieties.  As we were having a cheesecake celebration at work, I wanted to make something different, something new. I spent a morning exploring options for possible flavorings, and settled on two options – something caramely or a brownie cheesecake. I knew that I would only have a few hours to make the cake on Saturday night as I did not want to stay up past midnight, so I decided to go with the caramel cheesecake for work.

Caramel cheesecake with caramel goodness all over.
Caramel cheesecake with caramel goodness all over.

I bounced around possible versions in my head for a few days and finally on Saturday I finalized how I would go about making it. I had bought dulce de leche to mix into the cheese, but then I read on the container that it is not suitable for cooking in high temperatures, so I freaked. What was I supposed to do now??? Do I just make a standard cheesecake and put the dulce de leche on top? Do I scrap the idea completely? Major dilemma.

I wanted to get the caramel flavor into the cake itself, so in the end, as I was measuring the sugar to mix into the batter, I decided to caramelize it first. I threw the whole cup and a half straight into a pot and set it on the fire.  I knew that it would be hard when it cooled, but that I could probably use the cheese to smooth the caramel out.  When the caramel was ready, I put in half of the cheese because I didn’t want the consistency to change too much. After much stirring, the caramel smoothed out and became usable in the cheesecake. I mixed it with the rest of the ingredients and into the oven it went.

The whole cake. (Sorry for the poor photography, I did not have fancy dishes at work to really show this cake off).
The whole cake. (Sorry for the poor photography, I did not have fancy dishes at work to really show this cake off).

My one issue with this whole affair was that I would not be able to taste the cheesecake when it was done – how would I know if it even tasted good?? Well, we put our faith in God.

When the cheesecake cooled, I spread the dulce de leche on top so that this cake would have a double whammy of caramel flavor.

Caramel Cheesecake with Brown Sugar Crust
Caramel Cheesecake with Brown Sugar Crust

I brought the cake to work the next day and let me just say, God delivered.  It was a hit all around, the consistency was perfect, and the caramel flavor was there. I even snuck a bite (hope it doesn’t come back to bite me later when Squeaker wakes up crying at night because her tummy hurts), and it was delicious.

Shavuot cheesecake spectacular
Shavuot cheesecake spectacular

If you need a cheesecake pick-me-up – here you go. Also, just because I am curious, do you say car-a-mel or car-mel?

Recipe:

Crust:
50 g tea biscuits, crushed into fine crumbs
50 g butter or margarine, melted
1 tbsp. brown sugar

Cake:750 g white cheese (gevina levana) 5%, or equivalent amount of cream cheese
5 eggs
3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

400 g dulce de leche

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C/320 degrees F. Combine all the ingredients for the crust and press into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan, or a 9×13 rectangular pan (the crust will just be a tad thinner). Bake the crust for ten minutes until it is lightly browned.

Place the sugar in a pot over medium-low heat. Without stirring, let the sugar heat up until it dissolves. You can use a wet pastry brush to wash down the sides of the pot from any sugar crystals that might creep up. When the sugar starts browning, take it off the fire to ensure that it doesn’t get too dark.  It should stay a light amber color. The sugar will still cook after it is removed from the fire. Once you have reached the desired caramel color, add half of the cheese to the pot.  The caramel will seize up and bubble, but keep stirring the mixture over the medium-low heat, and it will soften and mix into the cheese. Set aside to cool (or refrigerate for 10 minutes or so.

In a bowl, mix up the rest of the ingredients, being careful to not incorporate too much air.  Add the caramel mixture and mix well.  Bang the bowl firmly on the table or counter to pop any air bubbles that might have gotten in. Gently pour the batter over the crust and place the pan in the oven. Because I usually cook my cheesecakes in my toaster oven I don’t have space for a water bath, so I just undercook the cake slightly – it should still be jiggly in the middle, and usually that is enough to prevent cracking. Also, covering the cake with a topping helps.

When the cake is completely cool, spread the dulce de leche over the top of the cake. Slice and serve!

You can also melt some chocolate with some heavy cream and drizzle it on top of the cake and that would be delicious too.  I just didn’t have time for it.

Pie Crust

Here is the basic recipe for an awesome pie crust that can be used for just about anything:
from Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking From My Home to Yours

For a 9 inch Double Crust

3 cups all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
2 ½ sticks very cold unsalted butter, cut into tbsp size pieces
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces (or use margarine for both the butter and shortening)
About ½ cup ice water

Margarine for the pie crust.

Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse just to combine the ingredients. Drop in the butter and shortening and pulse only until the butter and shortening are cut into the flour. Don’t overdo the mixing- what you’re aiming for is to have some pieces the size of fat green peas and others the size of barley. Pulsing the machine on and off, gradually add about 6 tbsps of the water- add a little water and pulse once, add some more water, pulse again and keep going that way. Then use a few long pulses to get the water into the flour. If, after a dozen or so pulses, the dough doesn’t look evenly moistened or form soft curds, pulse in as much of the remaining water as necessary, or even a few drops more, to get a dough that will stick together when pinched. Big pieces of butter are fine. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a work surface.

Pie crust dough ready for refrigeration.

Divide the dough in half. Gather each half into a ball, flatten each ball into a disk and wrap each half in plastic. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour before rolling (if your ingredients were very cold and you worked quickly, though, you might be able to roll the dough immediately: the dough should be as cold as if it had just come out of the fridge).

Ready to be rolled out

To Roll Out the Dough: Have a buttered 9 inch pie plate at hand.

You can roll the dough out onto a floured surface or between sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap or in a rolling slipcover. If you’re working on a counter, turn the dough over frequently and keep the counter floured. If you are rolling between paper, plastic or in a slipcover, make sure to turn the dough over often and to life the paper, plastic, or cover frequently so that it doesn’t roll into the dough and form creases.

If you’ve got time, slide the rolled out dough into the fridge for about 20 minutes to rest and firm up.

Butter a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate (I use a Pyrex pie plate). If you want to use a standard 9-inch pie plate, just reduce the amount of filling by about one quarter.

Rolling out the dough

Working on a well-floured surface (or between wax paper or plastic wrap), roll out one piece of the dough to a thickness of about 1/8 inch.

Flouring the dough

Fit the dough into the buttered pie plate and trim the edges to a 1/2-inch overhang. Roll the other piece of dough into a 1/8-inch-thick circle and slip it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Cover both the circle and the crust in the pie plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 20 minutes, while you preheat the oven and prepare the filling.

Pressing the dough into the pie plate.

Add your filling, lay the top crust and crimp as you like.  Make sure to cut steam slits in the top crust. Brush with a little milk or cream and sprinkle some sugar on top.

Bake at 425 degrees F for about 15 minutes, and then lower the oven to 375 degrees F and bake the pie for another 50-60 minutes.  If there is a fruit filling, it should be bubbling.

After about 40 minutes in the oven, if the top crust looks as if it’s browning too quickly, cover the pie loosely with a foil tent.

Transfer the pie to a rack and let it rest until it is only just warm or until it reaches room temperature.