LeSweetThings..

March 11, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie – Russian Grandmpther’s Apple Pie-Cake

Filed under: Cakes, Fruits, TWD — lynettechng @ 5:56 pm

Aaaahhh…. It’s been a while. A while since I followed a recipe, and have it come out a flop. But is it a flop?? 

Once again, I had to fly blind on the latest installment on Tuesdays with Dorie. The Russian Grandmother’s Apple Pie-cake, chosen by Natalie of Burned Bits, was a dessert that I had trouble picturing in my mind, despite reading the recipe over and over. 

Mixing of the dough? No problemo. Mine needed the extra ¼ cup flour, as Dorie said I might, and it went into the fridge to chill overnight.  

On to the apples, my favorite! Any dessert with apples rates highly in my books. Sugar and cinnamon on apples…. yum! The only addition I made was to add a little more sugar, and grated some nutmeg to spice it up a little… this part of the recipe I had no problems with. 


It all went downhill from then on. I got the part about having a thick ‘crust’ at the bottom, it was a cake after all… and so I layered it on nice and thick. The apples on the next layer, and the second half of the dough went on the top. I thought I was on the right track! 
70 minutes into the oven, and there still wasn’t any bubbling from the apples. Yikes! So I gave it another 5, and still nothing. Cue panic mode. By this stage, the crust was getting brown, and I didn’t really want it burning! So that was that. 

Leaving it to rest for a half hour, I wasn’t really holding high hopes for this. You know when you get a bad feeling about something, even though everything looks alright? That’s how I felt. 

It was not good, and the only problem with that is, I have no idea where I went wrong! The upper crust was hard as a rock, and the bottom ‘cake’ layer was so soaked through, and tasted a little uncooked. Bleah! The only saving grace was the apples, which tasted delicious with some homemade vanilla ice cream, both crusts set aside. 

Can someone tell me what went wrong? Please? 

On a completely different note, I will unfortunately be taking a bit of a break from TwD and all sorts of baking for a while. Not because I’m not going to get right back up on the horse after I’ve fallen, but rather that I will be elbow deep in packing (as opposed to being elbow deep in my mixing bowl!). 

I will be leaving the smoggy shores of Hong Kong over Easter, and heading home. Said mixing bowl will be in transit, and I will need to shop for a new oven once I’m back. 

I’m asking my dear fellow TwDers for your full understanding for my absence, but do know that my hands will be itching to join you as you dish out desserts after gorgeous desserts in the following weeks. 

* * * * *
 

Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie-Cake 

For The Dough:
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Juice of 1 lemon

3 1/4 – 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
 For The Apples:
10 medium apples, all one kind or a mix (I like to use Fuji, Golden Delicious and Ida Reds; my grandmother probably used dry baking apples like Cordland and Rome)

Squirt of fresh lemon juice

1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar, for dusting
 
To Make The Dough:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.
 Add the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes more.
Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the baking powder and salt and mix just to combine. Add the lemon juice – the dough will probably curdle, but don’t worry about it. Still working on low speed, slowly but steadily add 3 1/4 cups of the flour, mixing to incorporate it and scraping down the bowl as needed.
The dough is meant to be soft, but if you think it looks more like a batter than a dough at this point, add the extra 1/4 cup flour. (The dough usually needs the extra flour.) When properly combined, the dough should almost clean the sides of the bowl. 
Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or for up to 3 days. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; defrost overnight in the refrigerator.)
To Make The Apples:
Peel and core the apples and cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick; cut the slices in half crosswise if you want. Toss the slices in a bowl with a little lemon juice – even with the juice, the apples may turn brown, but that’s fine – and add the raisins. 
 
Mix the sugar and cinnamon together, sprinkle over the apples and stir to coat evenly. Taste an apple and add more sugar, cinnamon, and/or lemon juice if you like. 
Getting Ready to Bake:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter a 9×12-inch baking pan (Pyrex is good) and place it on a baking shee tlined with parchment or a silicone mat.
 
Remove the dough from the fridge. If it is too hard to roll and it cracks, either let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin to get it moving. Once it’s a little more malleable, you’ve got a few choices.  You can roll it on a well-floured work surface or roll it between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. You can even press or roll out pieces of the dough and patch them together in the pan – because of the baking powder in the dough, it will puff and self-heal under the oven’s heat.  Roll the dough out until it is just a little larger all around than your pan and about 1/4 inch thick – you don’t want the dough to be too thin, because you really want to taste it. Transfer the dough to the pan. If the dough comes up the sides of the pan, that’s fine; if it doesn’t that’s fine too. 
Give the apples another toss in the bowl, then turn them into the pan and, using your hands, spread them evenly across the bottom. Roll out the second piece of dough and position it over the apples. Cut the dough so you’ve got a 1/4 to 1/2 inch overhang and tuck the excess into the sides of the pan, as though you were making a bed. (If you don’t have that much overhang, just press what you’ve got against the sides of the pan.) 
Brush the top of the dough lightly with water and sprinkle sugar over the dough. Using a small sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 evenly spaced slits in the dough.

Bake for 65 to 80 minutes, or until the dough is a nice golden brown and the juices from the apples are bubbling up through the slits. Transfer the baking pan to a cooling rack and cool to just warm or to room temperature.  

You’ll be tempted to taste it sooner, but I think the dough needs a little time to rest. 

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March 4, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie – Snickery Squares

Filed under: Chocolate, Cookies, TWD — lynettechng @ 8:37 pm

It’s been a helluva long week, and I was just dying for something sweet to take the edge off. Something full of chocolate, with a crunch! I knew Dorie’s Snickery Squares would do the trick. Lucky for me, this was the recipe for this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie, chosen by Erin of Dinner and Desserts. 

Bottom layer of buttery, crumbly shortbread, next filled with home-made dulce de leche and candied peanuts (not a big fan of peanuts, but anything candied can’t be too bad!), then topped by velvety smooth chocolate… ooooohhh!! I was drooling just at the thought of the assembly of the deliriously sweet treat. 

What I did not anticipate, was the amount of work required into each step. Sure, they all looked simple enough reading, but the actual process of getting the individual layers was not something I had put very much thought into. 

The dulce de leche made, all 90 minutes of baking my jar of sweetened condensed milk (great recipe from here, recommended by Madam Chow) consisted of me walking back and forth between my kitchen and loving room. Constantly. I was so worried that it would burn!! I guess that sort of explains my slightly pale dulce de leche. It still tasted sinfully good, though. 

The next ‘nightmare’ was tackling the candied peanuts. Caramelising? Yet another pothole. I really should try to be more optimistic. I read, and reread, and read yet again the whole bit about caramelising sugar. When to throw in the nuts, what to do after… and I’m now extremely pleased to know that it’s not all that scary, after all!  

All in all, it probably wasn’t all that difficult a task to do, but I wanted to have my snickery squares on the Friday night. Remember the exhausting week? Well, I knew I wasn’t going to get a snickery square that night, so I consoled myself by snacking on my freshly ‘baked’ dulce de leche. 

Bad move! I realised that I now did not have enough dulche de leche (can you tell I just love saying that? Dulce de leche) for my recipe!! So it was on with whipping up another batch while I started with the base. 

Everything proceeded swimmingly after that. Cool the base, scatter the nuts, spread the dulce de leche, pour the chocolate… YUM! I just could not wait. So much so, that I took it out of the fridge 10minutes in, and went for a slice! 

It wasn’t pretty. My caramel wasn’t firm yet, and slicing it at this stage made a complete mess. But of my! It tasted divine! Just like a bar of store bought snickers, only better! It tasted like a grown up bar of snickers. 

This is one recipe that will be repeated again and again. Give this Dorie Greenspan recipe a try. I promise it is worth all the effort that goes into it! 

* * * * *

Snickery SquaresFor the Crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
2 TBSP powdered sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

 For the Filling:½ cup sugar
3 TBSP water
1 ½ cups salted peanuts
About 1 ½ cups store-bought dulce de leche

For the Topping:7 ounces bittersweet, coarsely chopped
½ stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature
Getting Ready:Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 8 inch square pan and put it on a baking sheet.

To Make the Crust:

Toss the flour, sugar, powdered sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Toss in the pieces of cold butter and pulse about 12 times, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Pour the yolk over the ingredients and pulse until the dough forms clumps and curds-stop before the dough comes together in a ball.

Turn the dough into the buttered pan and gently press it evenly across the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough with a fork and slide the sheet into the oven.

Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, or until it takes on just a little color around the edges. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature before filling.

To Make the Filling:

Have a parchment or silicone mat-lined baking sheet at the ready, as well as a long-handled wooden spoon and a medium heavy bottomed saucepan.
Put the sugar and water in the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Keeping the heat fairly high, continue to cook the sugar, without stirring, until it just starts to color. Toss the peanuts and immediately start stirring. Keep stirring, to coat the peanuts with sugar. Within a few minutes, they will be covered with sugar and turn white—keep stirring until the sugar turns back into caramel. When the peanuts are coated with a nice deep amber caramel, remove the pan from the heat and turn the nuts out onto the baking sheet., using the wooden spoon to spread them out as best you can. Cool the nuts to room temperature.

When they are cool enough to handle, separate the nuts or break them into small pieces. Divide the nuts in half. Keep half of the nuts whole or in biggish pieces for the filling, and finely chop the other half for the topping.

Spread the dulce de leche over the shortbread base and sprinkle over the whole candied nuts.

To Make the Topping:

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove chocolate from the heat and gently stir in the butter, stirring until it is fully blended into the chocolate.

Pour the chocolate over the dulce de leche, smoothing it with a long metal icing spatula, then sprinkle over the rest of the peanuts. Slide the pan into the fridge to set the topping, about 20 minutes; if you’d like to serve the squares cold, keep them refrigerated for at least 3 hours before cutting.

Cut into 16 bars. 

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