Tarte Tatin

The Tarte Tatin was created accidentally at the Hôtel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, Loir-et-Cher, 169 km (105 mi) south of Paris, in the 1880s. The hotel was run by two sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin. There are conflicting stories concerning the tart’s origin, but the most common is that Stéphanie Tatin, who did most of the cooking, was overworked one day. She started to make a traditional apple pie but left the apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long. Smelling the burning, she tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry base on top of the pan of apples, quickly finishing the cooking by putting the whole pan in the oven. After turning out the upside down tart, she was surprised to find how much the hotel guests appreciated the dessert. In an alternative version of the tart’s origin, Stéphanie baked a caramelized apple tart upside-down by mistake, regardless she served her guests the unusual dish. Whatever the veracity of either story, the concept of the upside down tart was not a new one.

The tarte became a signature dish of the Hôtel Tatin. Historians and gourmets have argued whether it is a genuine creation of the Demoiselles (Misses) Tatin, or the branding of an improved version of the “tarte solognote”, a traditional dish named after the Sologne region which surrounds Lamotte-Beuvron. Research suggests that, while the tarte became a specialty of the Hôtel Tatin, the sisters did not set out to create a “signature dish”; they never wrote a cookbook or published their recipe; they never even called it tarte Tatin. That recognition was bestowed upon them  after the sisters’ deaths.

Originally, the tarte Tatin was made with two regional apple varieties: Reine des Reinete Pippins), and Calville. Over the years, other varieties have tended to displace them. When choosing apples for a tarte Tatin, it is important to pick some that will hold their shape while cooking, and not melt into apple sauce.

So here is my story: Years ago (42) when I was pregnant with my oldest son, Chadwyck Montford Bennett Wirtz, who is now 41, I went to a cooking school in San Diego. I went once a week for a couple of years. I was working on my MA in Interior Design back in the time when everything was done on an actual drafting table, not CADD. I could no longer fit behind my drafting table to do my homework, so a I took a leave from school and needed something to do, so I went to cooking school and cooked and ate. I started my pregnancy at 110 pounds and gave birth at 185 pounds. Yes, I liked to eat what I cooked. No, I no longer weigh 185, but I still love to cook.

My middle son Kyle Michael Bennett Wirtz never loved chocolate, which seems totally foreign to me. He loved this Tarte Tatin and I would make it holidays for him, when everyone else wanted chocolate. It is still one of my favorites and Kyle is now 37, so when I made this today it made smile and think of him.

And yes it is much better with bourbon whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. The cooking school was in San Diego and called “The Gibson Girl”. It was a great concept as two people shared a cooking station, we all cooked part of the meal and we all shared it at the end of the evening. I have great memories of that time.

At about eight months the class was featured on TV and they loved that a “very” pregnant woman was taking the class. I continued the class well after Chadwyck, my first of three sons was born. We had a dinner where all the spouses were invited and Chadwyck’s father was thrilled to attend as he loved to eat and loved showing off his six month old son.

I will never forget, Chadwyck was sitting on Fred’s (Chadwyck’s Dad) shoulders and I looked over to see my quite cholicky son start to leave a deposit on my husband’s head. I looked over in horror to see it run off his head over his face and ears and down the sides of his custom-made suit, Fred being totally unaware. I started laughing and everyone, much to his dismay looked his way and broke out laughing. Luckily Fred was always a great spirit, so he started laughing as someone handed him a nearby towel.

This recipe was from The Cordon Bleu of Paris and to this day is one of my favorites. It is an easy recipe if you remember to cover the handle and can flip the tarte.

I use Italian Joe’s Pie Crust Recipe, which I will add at the end. I change the recipe a bit and will add the changes I make to the original recipe:

TARTE TATIN

The amazing thing about Tarte Tatin is how the caramelized apples are somehow transformed into something entirely new while still retaining their distinct apple taste. It’s one of the easiest desserts I’ve attempted it make, but a little challenging. It’s easy because it’s baked upside down, which means there is no need for special decorations or even beautiful rolling of the dough. The real challenge is finding the right balance when caramelizing the apples. Julia Child captures the essence of the dessert in this quote.

“To be sure, a Tarte Tatin should be brown and sweet, but it needs to be more. The apples need to be cooked in sugar and butter long enough that they are not only coated in buttery caramel but also permeated with sweetness. Like what happens in jam-making, where some of the water in the fruit is replaced by sugar.”

The following recipe is courtesy of Julia Child’s book The Way to Cook, published in 1994.

Tarte Tatin Recipe

Ingredients for Pastry Dough
3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cake flour
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons chilled butter, diced
2 tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening
1/4 cup ice water, or as needed

Ingredients for Tart Tatin
6 Golden Delicious apples, cored, peeled and halved ( I use 9 to 10)
1 lemon, zested and juiced ( I just add lemon juice to apples as I peel and slice them)
1 1/2 cups sugar. ( I used 3/4 cup )
6 tablespoons unsalted butter. ( I use 8 tablespoons)
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, as accompaniment ( I like a bit of Gran Marnier in my whipped cream.

Directions
Preparing the dough. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, place the flours, sugar and butter. Pulse 5 or 6 times in 1/2-second bursts to break up the butter. Add the shortening, turn on the machine and immediately add the ice water, pulsing 2 or 3 times. The dough should look like a mass of smallish lumps and should just hold together in a mass when a handful is pressed together. If the mixture is too dry, pulse in more water by droplets. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and with the heel of your hand, rapidly and roughly push egg-size blobs into a 6-inch smear. Gather the dough into a relatively smooth cake, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days).

Preparing the apples. Quarter, core, and peel the apples; cut the quarters in half lengthwise. Toss in a bowl with the lemon and 1/2 cup of sugar, and let steep 20 minutes so they will exude their juices. Drain them.

The caramel. Set the frying pan over moderately high heat with the butter, and when melted blend in the remaining 1 cup sugar. Stir about with a wooden spoon for several minutes, until the syrup turns a bubbly caramel brown – it will smooth out later, when the apples juices dissolve the sugar. (I let the butter and sugar blend and then add in the apples)

Arranging the apples in the pan. Remove from heat and arrange a layer of apple slices nicely in the bottom of the pan to make an attractive design. Arrange the rest of the apples on top, close packed and only reasonably neat. Add enough so that they heap up 1 inch higher than the rim of the pan – they sink down as they cook. ( As you can see from my photo I do them in a circle, then add some extra in between, so it is tight.)

Preliminary stove-top cooking. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F for the next step, placing the rack in the lower middle level. Set the pan again over moderately high heat, pressing the apples down as they soften, and drawing the accumulated juices up over them with the bulb baster – basting gives the apples a deliciously buttery caramel flavor. In several minutes, when the apples begin to soften, cover the pan and continue cooking 10 to 15 minutes, checking and basting frequently until the juices are thick and syrupy. ( I do not press on the apples or put a lid, as the apples are up and over the rim of the pan). Remove from heat, and let cool slightly while you roll out the dough. ( I do not let cool and have the dough ready to go)

The dough cover. Roll the chilled dough into a circle 3/16 inch thick and 1 inch larger than the top of your pan. Cut 4 steam holes, 1/4-inch size, 1 1/2 inches from around the center of the dough. Working rapidly, fold the dough in half, then in quarters; center the point over the apples. Unfold the dough over the apples. Press the edges of the dough down between the apples and the inside of the pan. ( I roll the dough around my rolling pen and gently unroll on the top of the apples)

Bake and serve. Bake about 20 minutes at 425 degrees F. Bake until the pastry has browned and crisped. Being careful of the red-hot pan handle, remove from the oven. Still remembering that the pan is red-hot, turn the serving dish upside down over the apples and reverse the two to unmold the tart. ( I was taught to start at 475 degrees and bake for about 10 minutes or until it starts to look done and the liquid is sizzling, then turn to 425 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the crust is a lovely medium brown)

Serve hot, warm, or cold, with the optional whipped cream or ice cream.

Now the fun part!
After you take your tart out of the oven, you can test to see whether it’s ready be unmolded. Simply tilt the pan, and if the juices are runny rather than a thick syrup, boil down rapidly on top on the stove. However, be sure not to evaporate them completely or the apples will stick to the pan. If a few apples stick to the pan, rearrange the slices as necessary.

(I run a knife around the pan, put a protective cover on the handle, as once I sort of forgot it was really, really hot and had a lovely burn for quite a while. Make sure you have a nice flat beautiful plate to flip the tarte on). Eat and enjoy!

Italian Joe’s Pie Crust

Ingredients:

3 cups (375g) Plain Flour (unbleached and unfortified)
2 tbsp Sugar

1 tsp Salt

2 sticks (220g) of Butter 
(small cold cubed)
1 beaten Egg mixed with
3/4 cup Milk (cold)

  1. Mix flour, sugar & salt to evenly distribute the dry ingredients
  2. Place mixture into a food processor
  3. Add cold butter cubes with the flour mix and give it a few pulses until it transforms into small pea-sized crumbs
    (Use cold utensils if not using a food processor to not melt butter)
    3) Add egg and milk mixture to the processor while pulsing a few more times until the mixture comes together or take the mixture out to the work surface
  4. Make a well with the flour crumbs mixture adding the egg and milk mixture in the well and lightly handling the mixture
    (do not knead)
  5. Incorporate all ingredients together to form a dryish dough
  6. Wrap it well with cling film & refrigerate for 1 hour
  7. Roll out the dough split it in half for two pie crust and roll it out bigger than the pie dish
  8. Fit the rolled out pie dough in the greased and floured pie dish making sure pie dough is press all around the crevices of the dish so it doesn’t sink in or collapse when cooking.
  9. Cut around the edge of the pie dish and refrigerate again for 20 before egg washing it and filling it with pie filling and cooking in the oven.
    Enjoy!
Tarte Tatin

The Air is Clearing

It is so very nice to finally awaken to fresh clean smoke free air. Another day at last in my studio enjoying putting paint on a 36″ x 36″ canvas. With time in my studio and time in my kitchen life is good. I called the “The Air is Clearing”, as I could almost see the sky become blue during the day.

When I am not painting I seem to be cooking and made this Plum, Nectarine and Blackberry Galette in the morning.

My friend Reed really liked I think, as this was what was left after breakfast…

The recipe is in one of my earlier posts, and it is so easy and so delicious, you should make one. The last one I made with peaches and blackberries. I like to add a little cinnamon on top and four or five dabs of good butter, with an egg wash and a little sugar on the crust. I use Italian Joe’s Pie Crust recipe, as it is moist, flakey and goes together easily:

Italian Joes Pie Crust

Ingredients:

3 cups (375g) Plain Flour (unbleached and unfortified)
2 tbsp Sugar

I tsp salt

2 sticks (220g) of Butter 
(small cold cubed)
1 beaten Egg mixed with
3/4 cup Milk (cold)

  1. Mix flour, sugar & salt to evenly distribute the dry ingredients
  2. Place mixture into a large bowl ( He uses a food processor, but I prefer doing by hand.
  3. Add cold butter cubes with the flour mix and use cold bakers knives or your fingers until it transforms into small pea-sized crumbs
  4. Add egg and milk mixture mixing by hand or cold utensils until the mixture comes together or take the mixture out to the work surface
  5. Make a well with the flour crumbs mixture adding the egg and milk mixture in the well and lightly handling the mixture by hand or utensils.
    (do not knead)
  6. Incorporate all ingredients together to form a dryish dough
  7. Wrap it well with cling film & refrigerate for 1 hour
  8. Roll out the dough split it in half for two pie crust and roll it out bigger than the pie dish
  9. Fit the rolled out pie dough in the greased and floured pie dish making sure pie dough is press all around the crevices of the dish so it doesn’t sink in or collapse when cooking.
  10. Cut around the edge of the pie dish and refrigerate again for 20 before egg washing it and filling it with pie filling and cooking in the oven.
    Enjoy!

I put the second half of the pie dough in plastic wrap, then use my Seal A Meal to seal it before I freeze it till I need it.

The Air is Clearing

What Is a Convection Oven—and What Should You Cook In It?

GettyImages-77625597.jpg

An oven is an oven, right? Wrong. Many professional chefs swear by a convection oven for evenly cooked, perfectly browned foods. So should you invest in one for your own kitchen?

My oven has a convection mode, so I found this information interesting and hope to incorporate it in my cooking in the future.

Understanding why, when, and how to use a convection oven (or a convection setting) can make a world of difference in how your food turns out. Here’s what you need to know about convection oven cooking:

Convection Oven Vs. Conventional Oven

GettyImages-538161084.jpg

A conventional (or traditional) oven cooks food by heating the air inside of it. The air inside the oven remains stagnant. A convection oven, meanwhile, has built-in fans that circulate the air during the cooking process. Many ovens have both convection and conventional settings, allowing you to choose between the two.

Convection Oven Pros

The convection setting on your oven can benefit your food in a number of ways, like:

It cooks food evenly.

Conventional ovens can have hot spots or areas in the oven that heat faster and higher than in other areas. This can result in unevenly cooked food, where one side cooks faster than the other. The circulating air of a convection oven keeps the temperature even throughout cooking, which is especially helpful when roasting a whole turkey or toasting nuts.

mr- classic roast turkey

It cooks food faster. Food cooks about 25 percent faster in a convection oven because the hot air blowing directly onto the food speeds up chemical reactions within the oven.

It’s better at browning. If you’re after a crispy or crunchy texture, reach for the convection setting. Conventional ovens are prone to humidity because of a lack of ventilation. Convection ovens, however, produce dry air that caramelizes sugars during roasting.

It’s more energy efficient. Faster cooking times mean you’re using less energy. Theoretically, using the convection setting can save you money and help the environment.

Convection Oven Cons

Though it can often improve your food, a convection oven isn’t always appropriate. In fact, you should probably steer clear of it when you’re making delicate foods like cakes, souffles, bread, and custard. The air circulation can inhibit the setting process, causing batter not to rise properly.

Some people claim that you should never use the convection setting for cooking American baked goods like biscuits, cakes, and cookies.

Many American recipes were developed using a conventional oven and actually benefit from the moisture that comes from humidity. Dry air will speed up crust formation, which may affect how (and if) your recipe rises during the cooking process.

Using the convection setting during baking could result in flat, fluff-less cookies, cakes, and biscuits, and no one wants that.

What Can You Use If You Don’t Have a Convection Oven?

If your oven doesn’t have a convection setting, you don’t have to buy a new oven to reap the rewards of convection cooking. Believe it or not, you can often substitute an air fryer for the convection setting. Both appliances work by circulating hot air around the food being cooked, providing quick, crispy, and evenly cooked results. While they’re not exactly the same thing, the hot air in an air fryer circulates much faster and is not blown directly onto the food. You should definitely consider trying it out before splurging on a new oven. One caveat: Air fryers are much smaller than convection ovens so plan your meal accordingly.

How to Use a Convection Oven

Sheet Pan Chicken with Roasted Baby Potatoes

Though using the convection setting on your oven is as simple as pushing a button, there are a few things you should know:

You might need to adjust recipes. Most recipes you find in cookbooks and online were developed using a traditional oven, so you’ll have to tweak them a bit. Lowering the recommended temperature by 25 degrees should do the trick. Since food cooks faster in a convection oven, you’ll need to check it’s progress frequently to make sure it’s not burning.

Give your food room to breathe. You may have heard warnings against overcrowding the pan during roasting (we’re looking at you, Julia Child fans), but it’s especially important to make sure your food is spaced properly when you’re using a convection oven. Convection relies on air being able to circulate, and packing too much onto one pan can hinder that process. You should avoid crowding the oven with too many pans at one time, as you could block a fan.

Use low-sided or rimless baking sheets and pans. If you want to take full advantage of the convection setting, you should make sure that nothing is keeping the moving air from blowing onto the food, and that includes the sides of your pans. It’s all about circulation!

What Is a Convection Oven—and What Should You Cook In It?

Quick Rustic Pear Tart

Pear Tart.jpg

Ingredients:

Crust:

1/2 cup pastry flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons buttermilk

3 tablespoons of ice water

Filling:

3 medium pears

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons butter cut up in 1/4″ cubes

I egg beaten

Directions:

  1. To make the crust, in a medium bowl whisk together the pastry flour, all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, and salt. Add the butter and using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until you get a pebbly, coarse texture.
  2. In a small bowl combine the buttermilk and ice water.
  3. Using a fork or your fingers, gradually mix the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture.
  4. Pat the dough into a 4-inch round and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and prepare the filling.
  6. Peel the pears, core them and cut into 1/4-inch slices. In a large bowl toss the pear slices with the lemon juice. Sprinkle in the cornstarch, brown sugar and cinnamon and toss until the pears are evenly coated. Set aside.
  7. On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough into a large circle about nine inches. I like rolling it out on floured parchment, then you can pick up the whole thing and put on a baking sheet. Or line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and drape the dough over the rolling pin, transfer to the prepared baking sheet. If the dough tears, patch it up with your fingers. Arrange the pears in a mound in the center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the border over the filling. It will only cover the pears partially and does not need to be even.
  8. Bake the tart for 15 minutes, and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, keeping the tart in the oven all the while, and bake for another 40 minutes, until the pears are tender and the crust is golden brown.
  9. Brush the crust with the beaten egg and just plop the 2 tablespoons of butter on top of the pears.
  10. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

This would be yummy served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Quick Rustic Pear Tart

Sausage & Apple Pie with a Cheddar Crust

Savory Sausage Apple Pie.jpg

Use your favorite pork sausage (I had homemade Chorizo in the freezer so used it) , a mix of tart and sweet apples, (I only had one, so used sweet only) and a flavorful apple cider or juice. The liquid will intensify in flavor, much like boiled cider, when reduced. I like to pair this filling with a cheddar cheese crust either with or without a bottom crust. Don’t worry if there is extra moisture released in the bake from your fresh juicy apples. That bottom crust will soak up the delicious flavor. I just poured off the extra liquid and it was perfect!

The original recipe was from “Art of the Pie”, but as you can see I altered the recipe to use what I had on hand, as we were in the middle of a snowstorm and I could not get out of my driveway to make to the store.  I figure you can always adlib and substitute and still have a wonderful result.  My husband loved this recipe.
Makes: one 9-inch deep-dish pie

Ingredients

Sausage and Apple Pie

  • 1recipe Cheddar Cheese Crust (below)
  • 1pound (454 grams) ground pork sausage, cooked and drained
  • 2 to 3tart apples (such as Granny Smiths) cored and sliced or roughly chopped
  • 2 to 3sweet apples, cored and sliced or roughly chopped
  • 1/4teaspoon (a pinch) salt
  • 1cup (248 grams) apple juice or cider – ( I did not have either, so I used a little Rose Wine)
  • 1/3cup (73 grams) brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4teaspoon fresh diced rosemary
  • 1/4allspice
  • 1egg

Cheddar Cheese Pie Dough

  • 2 1/2cups (363 grams) all-purpose flour, unbleached (use dip and sweep method), plus additional for rolling out dough
  • 1/2teaspoon (3 grams) salt
  • 1/4pound (115 grams) Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese or other sharp cheddar cheese, grated and chopped fine with a knife (about 1 cup grated)
  • 8tablespoons (112 grams) salted or unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
  • 6 to 8tablespoons (88 to 118 grams) ice water

Directions

  1. Make the Cheddar Cheese Dough: Combine all ingredients but the ice water in a large bowl. With clean hands or a pastry cutter, blend the mixture together until it looks like coarse meal with some lumps in it.
  2. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons ice water over the mixture and stir lightly with a fork.
  3. Squeeze a handful of dough together. Mix in a bit more water as needed.
  4. Divide the dough in half and make two chubby discs about 5 inches (12 centimeters) across. Wrap the discs separately in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
  5. To make the Sausage and Apple Pie: Place the apples, salt, juice or cider, brown sugar, thyme, rosemary, and allspice in a sauté or fry pan and cook on medium-low heat until you can just start to put a fork into the apples. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside. Reserve the juice.
  6. Pour the juice into a small saucepan. If you have less than a cup, add more juice or cider to make 1 cup, then turn the heat to low and cook until the juice has reduced in amount to about one-quarter its amount and has nearly caramelized. Be careful not to let it burn. This will take about 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Spoon the sausage into the apple mixture, pour over the reduced cider, and mix well.
  8. Adjust the salt to taste and let the filling cool.
  9. Roll out the bottom crust and place in your pie pan. Add the filling.
  10. Roll out the upper crust and place it on top. Seal the edges, crimp, and vent.
  11. Make an egg wash by beating together the egg and 1 tablespoon of water with a fork. Brush the pie with egg wash.
  12. Bake at 400° F (205° C) for 40 minutes. Give the pie two more egg washes at 10-minute intervals during the first 20 minutes of the bake.
  13. Let the pie cool for 15 minutes or more before serving.
Sausage & Apple Pie with a Cheddar Crust

18 Bad Baking Habits You Need to Stop

I found this article online and made a few corrections and additions, but it has great information.

These baking mistakes threaten your beautiful bundts, bread, and bar cookies. Here’s what you should do instead…

In cooking, you’re encouraged to riff: Edamame in your stir-fry? Sure! A splash of rice wine vinegar in your pan sauce? Why not! Curious about herbes de Provence in your chicken rub? Give it a whirl!

In baking, however, creativity should be directed toward what you decide to make and how you decorate it—not how you cook it. That’s because baking is a science; cooking is an art. Science has rules. Art? Not so much.

You don’t read the recipe.

As you do with any IKEA furniture, you should read through the steps and gather your tools before you start mixing and whipping. Otherwise, you might get started and realize you’re one short a cup of cocoa powder of what your recipe needs. Or worse, you’ll start mixing up the dough for the birthday party you’re going to tonight and then realize it’s supposed to chill overnight. Oops!

The fix: Pull your recipe up on your phone, or get it from your cookbook. Read the ingredient list, and assemble everything that’s listed. Then, read the directions. You can even go so far as to “pretend” each step. This way, you can double check you have every ingredient and every appliance or tool you need.

You decide to wing it instead of measuring the ingredients.

The “a little of this, a little of that” mentality may suit you well in cooking, but in baking, it could backfire. After all, consider this: cookies, cakes, and bread contain many of the same ingredients: eggs, flour, sugar, butter, for example. In the right ratios, they make a specific type of baked good. In the wrong ratios, they could be a disaster. That’s why it’s vital to measure every ingredient, from the flour to the tiniest bit of cinnamon.

The fix: Use your measuring spoons and cups. You need the right ratios to get the best results. Save the winging it for your salad dressing.

You don’t respect the comma.

Has the comma in “1 cup flour, sifted” ever confused you? What about the comma in “1/2 cup pecans, chopped”? The comma is telling you something very important. Do you know what?

The fix: The comma is telling you to first measure the ingredient and then perform the task. Measure the cup of flour, then sift it. Or measure the half cup of pecans, then chop them. There’s a big difference between half a cup of chopped pecans and half a cup of pecans that were measured, then chopped. It can dramatically affect your final result.

You use liquid measuring cups for dry ingredients (or vice versa).

Liquid measuring cups and dry measuring cups measure things differently. Though it’s not a significant amount, it’s enough that it could affect the texture of your final product.

The fix: Use wet measuring cups (typically, the glass type you pour from) for everything liquid: water, oil, honey, milk, molasses, corn syrup, etc. Use dry cups for everything else, from flour and sugar to chocolate chips and yogurt. With the dry cups, be sure to use a flat surface, like the back of a knife, to swipe across the top of the cup to remove excess before adding to the batter.

You dip your measuring cup into the flour.

Dipping a measuring cup into a bag or jar of flour packs the flour into the well of the measuring cup. It may seem like the easiest way to scoop flour, but you’re actually getting more flour than you really need. Too much flour will turn into dense bread, hard cookies, and stiff cakes.

The fix: You need the same amount of flour each time to get consistent results, and you can do this in two ways: The less accurate option is to use a spoon to lightly scoop flour into a dry measuring cup, then use a flat edge (like a knife) to level off the flour. The most accurate way to measure flour is with a digital scale. A cup of all-purpose flour should be 130 grams.

You don’t preheat your oven.

We’ve all been there: You’ve just finished rolling out a tray full of cookie dough only to realize your oven is cool as a cucumber. So to save time, you turn the oven on and just stick the pan in any way. Bad idea. The quick and sudden heat is an important part of the baking process. If the dough heats slowly, you may have a mess on your hands.

The fix: If you realize the oven isn’t pre-heated when you’re ready to bake, just let the dough or batter sit while the oven heats up. Most ovens can be heated in about 10 minutes time. If you’re working with a temperature-sensitive dough, pop it in the fridge until the oven is ready.

You’ve never measured your oven’s temperature.

I have some bad news: Your oven could be lying to you. Just because it says 350°F doesn’t mean it really is. That means your brownies or pastries may not bake properly because your oven could be too hot, or even too cool. And 25°F in one direction can make a big difference in the final product.

The fix: Invest in an oven thermometer. Hang it from the grates in your oven the next time you turn it on. Let the oven pre-heat fully, and then see what the thermometer says. That will give you an idea of how correct your oven is—and how you need to adjust the oven when you bake in it.

You substitute baking powder for baking soda.

They might share a similar name, and they even look similar out of the box. But baking soda and baking powder are quite different. Baking soda must have an accompanying acid (lemon juice, vinegar, buttermilk, for example) to activate it; baking powder, on the other hand, has that acid already. If you use the wrong one, your baked goods will take a hit.

18 Bad Baking Habits You Need to Stop

Why Do So Many Recipes Bake at 350°F?

 Muffins and quick bread, dips, and pies almost always start with the same instruction: “Preheat the oven to 350°F.” Why?

Why is that?

What makes 350°F the magical temperature?

Why is it that so many types of baked foods from cake to bread go in a 350°F oven and come out perfectly after a relatively brief bake?

The answer to that is one part science and one part, well, human laziness.

Putting something in a hot oven sets off a series of chemical reactions that turn the gooey dough into a bouncing bread or sheets of puff pastry into flaky pastries. A temperature of around 350°F is hot enough to complete a lot of these steps quickly.

Step 1. At 90°F, fats begin to melt and combine with the gluten proteins (flour). Gases from the baking soda or baking powder are released, which helps make the baked good tender.

Step 2..At 140°F, the gluten proteins (flour) begin to swell and dry out. That’s when cake or cookies go from wet batter to dry food.

Step 3. At 300°F, sugar starts to caramelize.

Step 4. The Maillard Reaction, a point at which foods begin to brown and develop their distinctive flavor, happens around 320°F.

So why 350°F? It’s good enough to make all those necessary steps happen quickly, even if your oven runs a little cold and it’s not so hot you have to worry about burning.

But how did we decide to bake things at 350°F and not 340°F or 360°F?

That requires a trip back to the turn of the century.

Before we had ovens that could be warmed up in 5-degree increments like we do today, we had ovens that could bake at three settings: slow, moderate, or high. Recipes for baked goods often called for “moderate ovens.”

After World War II, oven manufacturers capitalized on some technological improvements from the war. Newer models of ovens gave cooks slightly more control by letting them set their gas and electric ovens in 25°F increments. Today, many modern ovens will let you set your oven in 5°F increments.

Attempting to adapt antiquated recipe instructions to match the modern day appliances, recipe writers converted a “moderate” temperature to 350°F, which was typically halfway between an oven’s lowest setting, around 200°F, and its highest, around 500°F.

Is 350°F really the best temperature for baking?

No, probably not. Ovens are notoriously unreliable, so setting your oven to 350°F promises you’ll land somewhere between 330-370°F. You’ll hit 350°F only if your oven is well-calibrated. That being said, most ovens have hot spots and cool spots, so it’s not a good bet that you’re really cooking at precisely 350°F.

Recipe writers and food marketers know that it’s better to err on the side of caution with the “moderate” temperature than to get very specific and have a failed recipe.

Some baked goods, like crusty baguettes,  benefit from baking at a higher temperature, but a too-high temp could sink it. The higher heat will help the bread rise more quickly and set the crust before the gluten in the bread has a chance to dry out and stiffen.

The same can be true for muffins: the muffin tops rise taller in the higher heat, and you can lower the temp to finish baking them and prevent them from drying out.

Likewise, many chocolate chip cookie recipes bake at a higher temp as high as 425°F or start hot and finish at a lower temp. The hot start gets the dough to the caramelization and Maillard Reaction stages faster and then slows the cooking down to keep the cookies from drying out or burning.

Until ovens become almost foolproof and manufacturers can guarantee an oven really is the temp it says, we’ll stick with the magical 350°F. It’s good enough to get the job done.

I like keeping an oven thermometer close at hand to check my oven temperature from time to time.

Why Do So Many Recipes Bake at 350°F?

10 European Desserts to Try

One of the things I love about travel is trying all the different foods that countries are famous in each area.  I try to do a little research before traveling to make sure I know what I should try.  I found the following article helpful and can’t wait to try the following.  I do not have recipes attached, but I might have to start finding them and trying them at home.

On The Great British Bakeoff, Paul Hollywood had the contestants attempt to makePastéis de Nata, and it was not one of the more successful endeavors, so not sure if I am going to try that one.

Europe’s cultural diversity manifests itself in its cuisine, from Italian pasta to French escargot. But for those travelers with a sweet tooth, this appetizing variety extends to the continent’s many mouthwatering desserts. Forget about your diet if you’re planning a trip soon, here are ten European desserts you have to try.

Rødgrød

Rødgrød
You’ll find fruity rødgrød if you visit Denmark, but the similar rote grütze can be found just across the border in northern Germany. Served hot or cold, it’s bursting with summer berries like redcurrants, blackcurrants, raspberries, and blackberries. The fruit is cooked with sugar and some form of starch, like semolina or potato starch is added to make the pudding. Custard or cream often accompanies the dish to balance the acids in the fruit.

Pastéis de Nata

Pastéis de Nata
Pastéis de Nata is the traditional Portuguese custard tarts that are small enough to fit in your mouth in one go. The best place to find them is in the Pastéis de Belem bakery that’s been churning them out in their millions since 1837. The proof of the quality is in the length of the queue, which snakes around the block whatever the time of day. They sell about 50,000 of these delicious tarts every day, which surely makes them a contender for western Europe’s favorite dessert.

Gelato

gelato
Italy’s dessert menu might encompass tiramisu, pannacotta, and zabaglione (all fabulous!) but its gelato is legendary the world over. Every imaginable flavor can be found, on street corners, at pavement cafes, and in fancy restaurants. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s the same as ice cream, however. If what you see is heaped high above the edges of the container, it’s full of air and not the real deal.

Clafoutis

Clafoutis
This baked French dessert originates from the Limousin region and was popularized in the 19th century. It is usually made with black cherries, though raspberries, plums or blackberries are occasionally substituted. The fruit lines a baking dish and a thick batter is poured over the top. Traditionally, the cherry stones are left in, adding an almond-like flavor to the dish.

Apfelstrudel

Apfelstrudel
Apfelstrudel is one of Austria’s greatest exports. Layers of thinly-rolled dough are filled to bursting with sweet apples, juicy raisins and a liberal measure of cinnamon. The first recipe dates from Vienna in 1696 and it’s just as popular today in the city’s many coffee houses.

Sticky toffee pudding

Sticky toffee pudding
Peruse the menu in any British gastropub and you’re almost guaranteed to find sticky toffee pudding. This dense, dark pudding is topped with lashings of toffee sauce and served with cream, ice cream or custard. It’s rich, so save plenty of room for dessert if you plan to try it.

 

Flan

Flan
A flan is not a flan when it’s from Spain. Instead of receiving a small tart or quiche, order flan in Spain and you’ll be presented with a tasty crème caramel. To make it, a caramel syrup lines a mold and warm custard are poured on top. It’s cooked in a water bath to ensure the custard doesn’t curdle and flipped over to serve once cooked and set.

Waffles

Waffles
If there’s one dessert synonymous with Belgium, then it’s surely waffles. Known as gaufre to the nation’s French speakers and waffels to Flemish speakers, the two most popular kinds hail from Brussels and Liege. Buy one from a street stall and eat it straight from the paper, dusted with icing sugar. In a cafe, you’ll find them served with fruit compote, Nutella or Chantilly cream, but hold off on the maple syrup as that’s not the way it’s done on home turf.

 

Baklava

Baklava
Layer upon layer of rich, flaky filo pastry bound together with sweet honey and lavishly sprinkled with nuts, baklava is understandably the Greeks’ most popular sweet treat. But though they’ll argue the toss, it actually originated in the city of Istanbul in Turkey before migrating east. That’s still Europe, at least in part. Wherever you try it, it’s delicious.

Black Forest Cherry Gateau

Black Forest Cherry Gateau
Germans know a thing or two about cake, but its most famous cake is not quite what it appears. That signature bake, Black Forest Cherry Gateau, was invented, so they claim, in 1915 at the Café Agner in Bad Godesberg near Bonn. It’s so popular it even has its own food festival. The key ingredient is the “Schwarzwälder kirschwasser”, a potent cherry brandy which made its way across the border from Switzerland but is named after the Black Forest region of Germany. Without the kirsch, it’s just a chocolate and cherry cake.

10 European Desserts to Try

I want to make this soon!

Buttery German Apple Cake

8 servings

This gorgeous cake was unanimously crowned the best of the best from this year’s Readers’ Choice Week recipe submissions. We love the simple method to get that professional shingled look without having to layer each individual apple slice. Make sure the butter is truly room temperature, or it will be difficult to bring the dough together. Read more about the family story behind the cake (at the end of the article), which was passed down (in memory! Not written down!) through three generations, beginning with one resourceful German grandmother. It’s also known as Versunkener Apfelkuchen, meaning German apple cake.

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • ¼ cup plain fine breadcrumbs
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp. apricot preserves
  • 3 medium, firm apples, such as Pink Lady or Honeycrisp
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Unsweetened whipped cream (for serving)

Special Equipment

  • A 10″-diameter springform pan with removable bottom

RECIPE PREPARATION

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Grease bottom and sides of springform pan with butter, then coat with breadcrumbs, tapping out excess.

  • Whisk granulated sugar, lemon zest, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup flour in a large bowl. Create a well in the center and add egg, vanilla, and remaining ½ cup butter. Using a fork and working in a circular motion, stir until the dough starts to form large clumps. Using lightly floured hands, knead very gently in a bowl until dough comes together in one large, soft mass (you may need to add a little bit of flour to the dough to keep from sticking to your hands).

  • Still using lightly floured hands, press dough into the bottom of springform pan, then press into an even layer with the bottom of a dry measuring cup or mug, sprinkling a little flour over the dough if it starts to stick to measuring cup. Spread apricot preserves in a thin layer over the surface of dough with a small offset spatula.

  • Peel and quarter apples. Cut the core out of each quarter and arrange apples flat side down on cutting board. Make thin parallel crosswise slices in each quarter, taking care not to cut all the way through so apples stay in one shingled piece. Arrange apple quarters in concentric circles over the entire surface of the dough, trimming to fit if necessary (you may have a few extra pieces).

  • Bake cake, rotating the pan halfway through, until apples and crust are golden in color, 55–60 minutes (apples will not be completely tender, but that’s intentional). Let cool 15 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, place powdered sugar in a small bowl. Gradually pour in lemon juice, whisking constantly until a thick but pourable glaze forms.

  • Remove sides of springform pan. Lightly brush top and sides of cake with glaze. Let cool completely before transferring to a platter. Serve with whipped cream alongside.

    The best things in life are worth preserving, which is why Olaf Klutke knew he had to record the recipe for Buttery German Apple Cake, this year’s winning Reader Recipe. Out of the hundreds of recipe submissions we received, this one stood out. It’s creative in its construction, delicious, and, perhaps most of all, passes on a family tradition.

    Ilse is Klutke’s mother, and her famous apple cake recipe was based on one she learned from her mother-in-law, Marta. Newly married (and newly cooking) Ilse learned how to bake with Marta in a tiny, hand-built kitchen in Hamburg, Germany. In 1964, Ilse and her family, including three-year-old Klutke, immigrated to the United States, just outside of Chicago. She brought the memorized recipe for the cake with her, too.

    “Once she learned, it was always there,” Klutke says. “For special occasions, for Sunday night dinner. Even if she saw good-looking apples at the store, that was reason enough to make it.”

    It’s based on a traditional German apple cake, Versunkener Apfelkuchen, but what is usually a runnier batter is more dough-like in her version, yielding something between a cake, a tart, and a cookie. It’s moist and chewy, with a crisp, golden crust. The dough comes together in one bowl but makes two different textures through baking. First, it’s pressed into a buttered springform pan with a removable bottom that is sprinkled with breadcrumbs, which is where the cookie-like, crumbly quality comes from. Then the top of the crust is spread with apricot preserves, which seep into the dough and keep a layer of it soft like Oooey Gooey Butter Cake, even as the bottom crisps up. There are peeled and quartered apples on top displayed like the top of a beautiful tart. You can use any kind you prefer to bake with, like Pink Lady or Honeycrisp.

    The apples are a brilliant move in and of themselves. Each peeled quarter is sliced like a fan at ⅛-inch thick almost to the bottom, but not fully, so that they still hold together, like a Hasselback squash or potato. Though Marta probably wasn’t thinking this, we’re happy to point out that this makes for a particularly ‘grammable cake. The real reason she did it? “When the cake bakes, those slivers separate and brown on their own,” Klutke says. “They get soft, but the center core stays firmer, so you have variety. When my mom was cutting, I took out a ruler to see how far apart the slits were.” He told the BAtest kitchen the apples should be “al dente” when we cross-tested the recipe. The baked result was pleasantly firm, unlike soft-bordering-mushy apple pie filling. It almost made the cake taste healthy.

    In the original recipe, Klukte notes that his grandmother Marta, or omi, served it with a dollop of whipped cream, or schlagsahne, as we do here. “The more American version would be with a scoop of ice cream,” he writes, “which omi would certainly approve of!”

    Because she knew what it meant to adapt. During World War II, Klutke’s grandparents had to escape Germany. They fled to Poland, and then eventually to the small town of Schruns, Austria, where they lived in a hotel for about five years. In exchange for their stay, Marta worked in the hotel kitchen, baking her cake for its visitors, who were often American and French soldiers. Once the war was over and it was safe to return, his grandparents made their way back to Hamburg, where they found their city, and house, in ruins. Klutke’s grandfather re-built the structure from the ground up, but Marta’s memorized recipes were always at-hand, and then passed down to her daughter-in-law, Ilse.

    Klutke has been recording his family recipes for the past year, trying to make a written record of dishes in his mom’s head—things like beef Rouladen and goulash. For the cake, he even printed photos and made diagrams of how to slice the apples to go along with it. “I have to stand next to her and grab ingredients and actually measure them as she’s working,” he says. “I have a whole cookbook like this that I’ve done.”

I want to make this soon!

PECAN PIE CHEESECAKE

I am not a big Cheesecake fan, but I do LOVE Pecan Pie, so this combination just might be beyond wonderful. Test it out and let me know what you think.  I will be trying it later this month.

Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 8.05.30 AM

INGREDIENTS

GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST

      • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
      • 1/3 cup sugar
      • 8 tablespoons butter, melted

PECAN FILLING

    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
    • 3/4 cup dark corn syrup
    • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 pinch salt

INGREDIENTS

CHEESECAKE FILLING

      • 24 ounces cream cheese
      • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
      • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
      • 4 large eggs
      • 1 cup heavy cream

PECAN TOPPING

    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
    • 1 1/2 cups toasted pecans, chopped
    • 1/3 cup heavy cream
    • 1 pinch salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter. Press evenly into bottom and halfway up the side of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 6-8 minutes; set aside to cool.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 6 tablespoons butter. Add 1/2 cup light brown sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to bubble and sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in dark corn syrup, 1 1/2 cup chopped pecans, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt. Pour into prepared crust; set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, 1 cup light brown sugar and flour until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until just combined. Add 1 cup heavy cream and stir until well combined. Pour over pecan pie filling and place springform pan on a baking sheet. Bake for 60-70 minutes until cake jiggles slightly when moved or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn off oven and leave the cake in for 1 hour, then remove from oven and let cool completely.
  4. To Make the Pecan Topping:

DIRECTIONS

  1. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and cook until bubbling, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 1/2 cups toasted pecans, 1/3 cup heavy cream, and pinch of salt. Let cool to room temperature then spoon over.
  2. cooled cheesecake. Slice to serve or store refrigerated.

 

PECAN PIE CHEESECAKE