Bubby’s Famous Sour Cherry Pie on National Cherry Pie Day!

While cherry season isn’t quite in full swing, that doesn’t stop the National Food Holiday gods from making February 22nd National Cherry Pie Day. Who would say no to a great cherry pie, anyway?😉 The most common mistake when making cherry pie is using sweet, or bing, cherries, as this can make the resulting pie way too sweet for anyone to eat. (Sure, those cherries are sweet and juicy and delicious, but you’ve got to mash them and add granulated sugar to create a filling for cherry pie, and it all gets cooked down in the baking process.) Instead, most experienced bakers use sour cherries, which don’t taste all that great when you pop them in your mouth, but give just the right amount of tartness to make a cherry pie scrumptious. Most cherry pies are double-crust: they have both a pastry bottom and a top, which can sometimes be made into a pretty lattice-shaped pattern. And who doesn’t love a big scoop of vanilla ice cream with their slice of cherry pie?

Last year I highlighted one of New York City’s best pie makers for their sour cherry pie: Bubby’s Pie Company is still churning out the pies, both sweet and savory, and I’m sure that their sour cherry pie will be in big demand today. Accented with almond and lemon flavors, it’s the perfect blend of sweet and sour that makes a balanced and delicious slice of pie. And now, you can try Bubby’s famous cherry pie right at home! Their 2007 cookbook, Bubby’s Homemade Pies, has the recipe, which is also featured on Food Network’s website. Make this one today to celebrate National Cherry Pie Day!

Bubby’s Sour Cherry Pie
from The Food Network and Bubby’s Homemade Pies

Ingredients:

10 1/3 cups pitted sour cherries
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon tapioca
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 homemade or store-bought rounds of pie dough

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix together the cherries, sugar, tapioca, butter, lemon juice, almond extract and salt. Transfer 2 rounds of pie dough to 2 (9-inch) pie tins. Divide the cherry mixture between the crusts. Cover the pies with the remaining 2 rounds of dough (in a lattice pattern, if desired). Sprinkle the pie crusts with water, and then the sugar. Chill the pie in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before baking.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.

Place the pies on baking sheets and transfer to the oven. Bake about 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F and continue baking until the filling bubbles and the crust is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Cool the pies on wire rack at least 2 hours before slicing. Store at room temperature up to 2 days.

No more Griff’s Gelati for Cafe Au Lait Day…

Today is National Cafe Au Lait Day! The yummy French coffee drink known as Cafe au Lait — directly translated as “coffee with milk” — is a little more complicated than a slosh of skim mixed in with your daily brew. The milk in a cafe au lait must already be hot when it’s added to the hot coffee; otherwise, the temperature of the whole drink is brought down, degrading the flavor and potency.

I highlighted a lot of places in New York that use the cafe au lait flavor in their dishes and beverages. You can check out the post here. But unfortunately, one of those places has already shuttered its doors! Griff’s Gelati in the City Hall area of Manhattan made some rich, delicious gelati in great flavors, including cafe au lait. But it couldn’t keep up with the fast pace of businesses down there, and has since closed.

But fear not! If you want to get some great cafe au lait (or just get that creamy, milky coffee flavor), you can still head to Balthazar Bakery for a hot mug of the stuff, or to Dough for their take on the “Cafe Au Lait” doughnut. Or go to both places and get a cafe au lait double for today!

Check out Buttermilk Channel’s Maple-Bacon Almonds on National Almond Day!

It’s National Almond Day! I pretty much adore almonds: the little nut that could can be found in so many food items, from sweet to savory, in cookies, breads, side dishes, and even distilled into almond liqueurs. Not only that, but almonds can be manipulated for those with food allergies to substitute some of our most beloved food staples: ground almond flour can be used instead of wheat flour for the gluten-intolerant, and pasteurized almond milk is a great alternative for the lactose-intolerant. You can usually find a half gallon of unsweetened almond milk in my fridge: it’s thinner than soymilk, with less sugar and calories, and reminds me more of the skim milk I liked back when lactose wasn’t as bad of a problem. Almond milk is literally saving my cereal for me!

But there are many ways you can cook an almond, and there are some great versions out there in the New York City restaurant scene. Last year for National Almond Day I highlighted one of the most delectable-sounding appetizers going around the city today. Sure, almonds are great, but what would make them even better? Add maple syrup and bacon, of course! Buttermilk Channel does that with their high-end and high-flavor take on the bar staple, corn nuts: almonds are mixed with chunks of crispy slab bacon and coated in maple syrup for a quick bite that will have you salivating for more.

And if you just can’t get enough of Buttermilk Channel’s bacon maple almond appetizer, you can make this super easy dish right at home! The blog Skulls and Bacon shared this recipe that comes straight from the restaurant itself. You may even want to save this gem for later in the year when National Maple Syrup Day comes around. It’s so delicious, it’s worth eating twice!

Maple and Bacon Roasted Almonds
From Buttermilk Channel, via Skulls and Bacon

Ingredients:
1 pound almonds
1/2 pound slab bacon
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tbs. mustard powder
Salt

Directions:

1. Cut bacon into large dice, about the size of a whole almond. Cook bacon until it’s crispy. Toss bacon, bacon fat, almonds and mustard powder until almonds are well coated.
2. Combine with maple syrup and toss again till well coated. Cook, stirring constantly, until maple syrup is just coating the almonds. Pour onto a paper lined sheet pan. Sprinkle with salt. Let cool.
3. Should resemble brittle when done.

Test Out Amy’s Bread’s Recipe on National Carrot Cake Day!

It’s National Carrot Cake Day! Who would have ever thought that one of the most popular cakes around–popular enough to get a national food holiday!–would be made out of shredded vegetables? You won’t be finding turnip cake on the national food holidays calendar any time soon. Carrots are one of the sweetest vegetables, second only to sugar beets, and they work well to flavor, sweeten, and moisten the batter into a great carrot cake. Adding the carrots also gives carrot cake a dense texture, which, coupled with the traditional slightly-sour cream cheese frosting, can make for a really rich cake!

Last year for National Carrot Cake Day I lauded Amy’s Bread as the best carrot cake in the city, which has been a Serious Eats favorite for years now. Even though they’re best known for their interesting twists on typically normal breads–hence their name–Amy’s Bread has been making their simple yet delicious carrot cake for years now, in large sheets of carrot cake squares, topped with a tangy, but sweet, cream cheese frosting. Each of Amy’s Bread’s three locations only makes carrot cake on Thursdays, so by today, most of the sheet cakes will already be sold and eaten! But fear not, because thanks to The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread, you can make their scrumptious carrot cake right at home! Their sweet bakery cookbook has a plethora of recipes for cakes, cupcakes, and sweet breads, but I singled out the carrot cake to share with you. And while my last attempt at baking wasn’t a home-run, I may want to try out this recipe and see if my carrot cake comes out more successfull than my chocolate cupcakes!

Carrot Cake
From The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread

Ingredients:
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 1/4 teapoons baking soda
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 3/4 tablespoons cinnamon
2 1/3 cups canola oil
8 large eggs
5 1/4 cups carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1 1/2 cups walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Cream cheese icing

Directions:
1. Place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the over to 350 degrees F. Spray the sides of the sheet pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon until they are well combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and oil. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and dtir them together gently with a large wooden spoon until they’re almost completely moistened. Add the carrots and the walnuts to the batter and fold them in until they’re evenly distributed.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it into an even layer. The pan will be very full. Place the pan in the lower third of the preheated oven and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean.
4. Cool the cake completely on a wire rack. When the cake has cooled, leave it in the pan and spread a 1/2 in layer of the icing over the top. Cut the cake into 20 squares to serve it.

Delmonico’s Baked Alaska for National Baked Alaska Day!

The dessert named Baked Alaska even sounds difficult to make: the marriage of hot and cold, pastry and ice cream, is a delicate balance that many wouldn’t even think to put together in one dish. But the Baked Alaska is just that: a sponge cake or puff pastry is filled with cold ice cream, then topped with fluffy meringue. The whole thing is then baked in a hot oven to get a firm, slightly browned meringue on top, yet still keeping the ice cream cold. You have to time a Baked Alaska just right in order to get a perfectly cooked meringue and an ice cream that hasn’t turned into sweet cream soup. That’s why ordering a Baked Alaska in a restaurant makes you feel so fancy!

As I mentioned last year on National Baked Alaska Day, the famous name for the dessert is attributed to a New York City restaurant with a deep, long history. Delmonico’s claims to be the oldest restaurant in New York (which is slightly false, as the original restaurant that had opened in 1827 closed in 1923, and reopened with new management in 1999), and they are the originators of many restaurant mainstays we know today, including the Baked Alaska. It may not be the original, but Delmonico’s tries to keep the old-school atmosphere alive in its restaurant decor, styling, and most of all, its menu: you can still get a Baked Alaska for dessert here, using the same recipe they had when they coined the term “Baked Alaska” in 1876.

And thanks to the official cookbook of the restaurant, Dining At Delmonico’s, you can make the dessert all for yourself! The restaurant makes their Baked Alaskas individually to order, but this recipe is for one large loaf meant to be sliced into individual portions. Either way, it’s a bit of an undertaking, so I won’t be trying this one at home (especially after the relatively easy chocolate mayonnaise cupcake recipe bested me!) But intrepid bakers may want to give this one a whirl: it’s got a Devil’s Food Cake and meringue shell around dulce de leche ice cream Yum!

Baked Alaska
From Cookstr and Dining At Delmonico’s

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¾ cup sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons hot milk
1 cup sifted cake flour
½ plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable shortening
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ quarts caramel or dulce de leche ice cream, or other ice cream of choice (see Notes), softened slightly
2¼ cups sugar
10 large egg whites, at room temperature
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt

Directions:

For the cake:

1. Lightly grease the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan. Cover with a piece of parchment paper (or wax paper) cut to fit exactly. Lightly grease the paper and set the pan aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

3. Place the cocoa in a small, heatproof bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the sugar, mixing to blend. Gradually whisk in the milk, beating until blended. Set aside to cool.

4. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt with the remaining sugar. Sift into a stainless-steel mixing bowl. Add the shortening, along with half of the cooled cocoa mixture, beating on low with a handheld electric mixer. Add the egg and vanilla along with the remaining cocoa mixture. Raise the speed to medium and beat to blend, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula from time to time.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan, gently smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

6. Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Then invert the pan onto the wire cake rack and tap it to release the cake from the pan. Peel off the paper and allow the cake to cool completely.

7. Either use the cooled cake immediately or wrap it in plastic film and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze until ready to use as directed in the recipe. This cake may also, of course, be iced and served as a simple cake.

For the baked alaska:

1. Line a 9-inch, 1½-quart stainless-steel mixing bowl with plastic film, leaving about a 3-inch overhang around the edge.

2. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the ice cream to the bowl, smoothing the top with the spatula. The entire bowl should be filled. Place in the freezer for about 3 hours or until completely solid.

3. Place the cake on a small baking sheet. Remove the ice cream from the freezer and invert the bowl onto it. Grabbing the plastic film that lines the bowl, lift the bowl from the ice cream and discard the plastic film. Again, return the dessert to the freezer and chill for about 1 hour, or until the cake is hard.

4. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

5. Combine the sugar and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 12 minutes, or until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage, or 240°F on the thermometer.

6. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

7. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the wire whip and beat on medium-high until very foamy. Add the cream of tartar and salt, increase the speed to high, and beat until soft peaks form. Immediately begin pouring the hot syrup into the whites, allowing it to drizzle down the sides of the bowl to keep from splattering. Continue to beat on high until the mixture is cool and very shiny. (This is known as an Italian meringue.)

8. Remove the molded ice cream cake from the freezer, leaving it on the baking sheet. Using a rubber spatula, immediately begin spreading the meringue over the frozen ice cream, covering the entire dessert in a thick, even layer, shaping the meringue into soft peaks over all.

9. Once the dessert is covered, immediately bake it for about 8 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly browned and the ice cream is soft enough to be pierced with a metal cake tester or skewer.

10. Remove the Baked Alaska from the oven and carefully transfer it to a serving plate. Cut into slices as for a standard cake and serve.

I made chocolate cupcakes for Chocolate Cake Day!

Sorry I couldn’t get this post out earlier…I was planning to write it over the weekend to celebrate National Chocolate Cake Day on Saturday, but then I came down with an awful fever all weekend! And when your temperature is spiking at 104, the last thing you want to do is sit in front of a computer and write out your recipe for chocolate cupcakes. But I’m better now (or at least heavily medicated), and I wanted to share with you the recipe I used to celebrate Chocolate Cake Day!

For the longest time, I’ve heard of interesting and unconventional ingredients used in baking and wanted to try them. Diet Coke in brownies? You can’t be serious! A similar thing happened to me earlier this year, when a coupon bonanza earned me more mayonnaise than I could use by myself on a sandwich. A recipe search in allrecipes.com for things to make with mayo came up with the strangest thing I’ve ever heard: mayonnaise chocolate cupcakes! Could it possibly be? The mayonnaise, which is essentially an emulsion of oil, egg, and lemon juice, is the substitute for egg in a cake recipe, and helps make the cake super moist and dense. I figured, why the hell not! And Chocolate Cake Day seemed like the perfect time to try out this interesting recipe!

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes
From Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:
1 cup white sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup water
2 tablespoons grape jelly
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease 15 muffin cups or line with paper baking cups.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the white sugar, flour, cocoa, and baking soda. Make a well in the center, and pour in the water, grape jelly, mayonnaise, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Mix just until blended. Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, dividing evenly.
3. Bake in the preheated oven until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan set over a wire rack. When cool, arrange the cupcakes on a serving platter.

What I Did Differently:
– There was also a recipe for whipped caramel frosting that I didn’t use. I’m not all that confident in my baking skills as it is, so cupcakes were just enough out of my comfort zone as it was. I used a bucket of Betty Crocker dark chocolate fudge frosting instead. YUM.
– Instead of grape jelly, which I didn’t have, I used Peach preserves because I thought, they’re all made by Smuckers, it’s all good, right? Ehhhhh…the heterogenous nature of preserves, while treasured when it’s a spread on toast, doesn’t work well when you try to mix it into a cupcake batter. I got pieces of peach preserve sticking out weirdly in my cupcakes and that doesn’t look pretty. Next time I will try the grape jelly, or just not put it in at all.
– I….think I completely forgot about the water. Oops! Maybe that’s why the cake was so dense, haha!

My batter could have been blended more completely…I am always reluctant to use my electric hand mixer as it gets batter splattered everywhere! But hand-mixing the batter doesn’t always get it blended as well as it could be. I think this was the cause of the cupcakes rising at different heights after baking.

This is actually the first time I’m baking cupcakes by myself! The last time I can possibly remember baking cupcakes was back in 4th grade. I have never been much of a baker😛

After filling the cupcake molds, I had quite a bit of batter left, so I glopped it into a ceramic mug, popped it in the microwave for two minutes, and made my first mug cake! From what I’ve learned from friends who have done this before, mug cakes are extremely easy to make: they’re just your regularly-prepared cake batter, placed into a mug, and microwaved for an easy to make and easy to handle cake. It gave me a sense of what the cupcakes would taste like once they were done: a little bland, but super moist, and not at all like mayonnaise!

The finished cupcakes!

Despite all the changes to the recipe, both intentional and accidental, the cupcakes came out great! They were moist and flavorful just like the recipe said they would be, and had no taste of the tangy mayonnaise at all in the finished product. I found they were a little bland, so next time I might try to add more sugar, or something else to give the recipe a little more kick. But I’m pretty sold on unconventional ingredients in baking products: now I know the best way to get rid of all my excess mayonnaise!

Clinton Street Baking Co.’s famous recipe on National Blueberry Pancakes Day!

It’s National Blueberry Pancake Day! Pancakes are one of those powerful staples of the breakfast table; adding blueberries to the batter gives you an extra punch of antioxidants and nutrients that almost outweighs the maple syrup you pour onto the stack.😛

It’s no big secret that one of the most popular blueberry pancakes to eat in New York City comes from the Clinton Street Baking Company in the Lower East Side. Their breakfast lines commonly wrap around the block just to get a taste of these fluffy pancakes with their specially-made maple butter. They’re so popular that I chose them as the best blueberry pancakes in New York City last year for Blueberry Pancake Day. But who wants to wait around till dinnertime for breakfast…when you can make Clinton Street blueberry pancakes at home??

The Clinton Street Baking Co.’s got you covered. Their cookbook, aptly named The Clinton Street Baking Company Cookbook, has a ton of their recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and it includes their world-famous blueberry pancakes. I’m not going to try the recipe out myself, because I’m not actually a fan of blueberries. But if you’ve got a hankering to celebrate this fine food holiday and just can’t wrest yourself out of bed early enough in this cold weather to make it down to Clinton Street, then get your butt in the kitchen and try these pancakes on for size!

Clinton Street Baking Company’s Famous Blueberry Pancakes
From About.com and The Clinton Street Baking Company Cookbook

Ingredients:
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder, plus 1 teaspoon
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs, separated
3 cups whole milk
¾ cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, plus 2 teaspoons unmelted for the griddle
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2½ cups blueberries or sliced bananas and 1 cup chopped walnuts
½ cup confectioners’ sugar or cinnamon sugar for dusting
Maple Butter

Directions:

1. Measure and sift all the dry ingredients into a large (preferably stainless-steel) mixing bowl: flour, baking powder, sugar, salt.
2. In another bowl, whisk together the yolks, milk, melted butter, and vanilla until combined. Whisk the wet mixture into the dry mixture. The result should be slightly lumpy, yet combined to form a batter.
3. Whip the egg whites in a medium mixing bowl until they reach medium peaks (soft in the middle). You can either whip them by hand with a whisk, or put them in the bowl of an electric mixer to whip. Be careful, you don’t want to overwhip the egg whites.
4. Gently mix half of the whipped whites into the batter with a large rubber spatula. Then gently fold the remaining half into the batter. Remember: this batter should be slightly lumpy and have large parts of egg whites not fully incorporated; it should look like whitecaps in the ocean with foam on top. (The batter will last a few hours in the fridge without deflating too much.)
5. Heat a griddle — either an electric griddle, a stovetop griddle, or a big flat pan — to 350 to 375°F. Grease the hot griddle with the remaining butter. Drop cup (approximately 4 tablespoons) of pancake batter on the griddle and cook to set. Add 1 tablespoon blueberries or sliced bananas and 1 teaspoon walnuts before turning the pancakes. Never add the fruit to the mix; always add the fruit to the pancakes once they’re on the griddle. When you see bubbles start to form on top, lift the pancake halfway up to see if it’s golden brown and crispy on the edges. If ready, flip the pancake.
6. When the pancake is golden brown on both sides, remove with a spatula. Repeat with the remaining batter and filling, cooking several pancakes at a time. Garnish with confectioners’ sugar for the blueberry pancakes, cinnamon sugar for the banana-walnut. Serve warm with Maple Butter.