The Almond Cake That Will Save Your Soul

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The ingredients are simple: butter, sour cream, baking soda, flour, sea salt, sugar, almond paste, 4 egg yolks, almond extract and confectioner’s sugar for dusting. But assembled as they are and baked as they were, this cake is sheer perfection. On pg. 70 of Hesser’s book (referenced also in the previous post), this cake was first prepared by Amanda’s now mother-in-law. I’d like to break into that family somehow just so I’d have an excuse to genuflect at mom-in-law’s feet on a regular basis to thank her for this brilliant creation. “Thank you thank you thank you,” I’d say.

Am I overdoing it? Maybe. Just maybe. But look at this cake again and call me a liar:

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Look at this slice:

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Do you have any idea how good this tastes? Do you? DO YOU PUNK?

Ok, I’ll break my own rule established in the post below and share the recipe. I think recipes are in the public domain, anyway–it’s somewhere in the Federal Code 3.825 regarding Delicious Almond Cake Recipes and the Rule Against Perpetuities. I do have a law degree, you know.

The ingredients are mentioned above but not the amounts. So here we go again:

2 sticks butter, softened, more for buttering pan

1 cup sour cream, at room temperature

1 tsp baking soda

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (measured after sifting)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

7-oz tube almond paste, cut into small pieces

(Lisa cut the almond paste using a juvenile method that I found offensive:

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“Those aren’t small pieces,” I pleaded.

“Shut up, crackwhore,” she retorted.)

4 egg yolks, at room temperature

(Ok, can I just mention that I’m usually great at separating egg yolks, and how these eggs I bought were deformed? I’d pour the egg into my hand, as I usuall do, spreading my fingers for the white to fall through–except the yellow bled into the white and I had to dump it all. Then I did the shell method–break the shell in half and pour back and forth until it’s all separated; but again the yolk bled. It took a big mess to finally get the four I needed. Don’t ask why I was using coffee mugs:

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Ok, I used the coffee mugs because you’re supposed to add the yolks one at a time so I put two yolks per mug then poured half the mug for each addition. Genius? I dare say it is!)

1 tsp almond extract

Confectioners’ sugar, for sifting over cake

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter sides and bottoms of one 9-inch springform pan; line sides and bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the paper. (You may forego the parchment paper as long as you are generous with the butter on the pan itself.) Mix together the sour cream and baking soda in a small bowl. Sift the flour and salt into another bowl.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the almond paste, a little at a time, at medium speed, and beat for 8 minutes.

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Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, and mix until incorporated. It will look curdled; don’t worry. Blend in the almond extract and sour cream mixture. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, just until blended.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

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Bake about 1 hour. It is done when you press the top and it returns to its shape, and also shrinks from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and place on a baking rack to cool in the pan. When ready to serve, sift confectioners’ sugar on top and slice like a pie.

Behold the celestial magesty of this cake:

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Simple.

Elegant.

Robust.

Erotic.

Dyslexic.

Make it today and thank yourself tomorrow.

PUMPKIN CAKE: A Multimedia Extravaganza featuring the Music Video “Corner of the Pie”

Wow. It is 3:24 am and I am still exhilerated. What an evening! Pumpkin, spices, songs and magic and a beautiful cake to show for it. Where do I begin?

I know where. Epicurious.com. That’s where I found this recipe for “Stunning Spiced Pumpkin Cake” which Lisa and I decided to bake together tonight in honor of Halloween. (We decided not to do the chocolate leaves on top. Thank God. Or it would be 5:24 am and my eyes would be bleeding). Ricky came over and joined us too.

Let me tell you about our hijinks:

– We accidentally used an entire CAN of pumpkin instead of a cup of pumpkin and had to throw away the entire first batch of batter. A travesty!

– While the cakes were cooling, we went costume shopping. I bought bunny ears. I came home and tried them on and Lolita (the cat) had a NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. Seriously. She began hissing and growling this horrible low grumble like something from a Stephen King novel. I think she scared me more than I scared her.

Anyway, back to the cake. The frosting is wild—butter, molasses, brown sugar, orange peel:

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Add two packets of cream cheese and it looks like this:

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I have to give Lisa a TON of credit for being a good judge of cake-doneness. After the recipe-suggested 25 minutes I thought the cakes were done. She didn’t. She was right. They were still wet inside. We let them cook 5 minutes longer and they came out PERFECT:

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Then there was the cooling. That’s when we went costume shopping. Ricky ate a calzone.

We came back and frosted the cake.

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Lisa applied her expert touch:

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The finished product:

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Beautiful, no?

But I’m not done with you people yet!

Lisa, Ricky and I have made for you a MUSIC VIDEO that defies all your wildest expectations and dreams. It fuses music, cooking, pumpkin and humor for one of the greatest cinematic experiences of your internet life. (I only hope you like show tunes.) There’s costumes, singing, egg-cracking and more MUCH more. You must must must watch this movie. I beg of you. It’s my Halloween gift to you. Happy Halloween! And enjoy…

Vanilla Bean Loaves (via Amanda Hesser)

When I read “Cooking For Mr. Latte” there were many recipes that I carved into my brain with the label: “To be cooked one day.” One such carving was a recipe for “Vanilla Bean Loaves” adapted from Hi-Rise Bread Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Everything about the recipe seemed wonderful, except the potential expense. 4 vanilla beans would be required. Unless you live in Madagascar, vanilla beans are mighty pricey. This vanilla bean loaf would have to go on the back burner.

But then I was having company over on Saturday–more playwrights to watch movies for class. And I was in Whole Foods anyway, and there were the vanilla beans. These were a bit cheaper–sold in bottles of two instead of one. How could I resist?

Should you ever feel a similar impulse, here’s how to proceed. [Quoted directly from Ms. Hesser without persmission—don’t sue!]

“You will need:

3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature.

2 1/2 cups vanilla sugar (1 split vanilla bean stirred into 1 pound of sugar; let sit for a few days)

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(I let it sit for a few hours and that sufficed, I think.)

1 vanilla bean.

1 Tbs vanilla extract.

8 large eggs at room temperature.

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour.

1 1/2 tsps baking powder.

1/2 tsp salt.

For the syrup:

1 3/4 cups sugar

2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped.

1. Heavily butter two 8X4X3-inch (or similarly sized) loaf pans and preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Using a paddle attachment in your mixer, cream the butter and vanilla sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy.

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Scrape the vanilla bean and flick its seeds into the mixer, along with the vanilla extract and eggs. Beat to mix.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add this to the batter and mix just until smooth–a few turns of the paddle should do it. Take the bowl off the mixer and use a spatula to scrape the bottom and fold the mixture a few times, to make sure everything is blended. Divide the batter between the buttered pans:

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Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the pans around, and bake until a cake tester or skewer comes out almost clean, another 25 to 40 minutes.

3. While the loaves bake, prepare the syrup: in a small pan, dissolve the sugar in 1 cup of water over medium heat. Add the vanilla beans and stir a little so their seeds and fragrance disperse. Take the pan off the heat:

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4. When the loaves are done, cool for 10 minutes on baking racks, then turn them out of their pans and set back on the racks. Place the racks over parchment paper or a baking sheet and brush generously all over–bottoms, tops, and sides–with the syrup.

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Brush a couple of more times as they cool. These cakes store well. They may be wrapped and frozen, although I can’t imagine not eating one of them right away.”

Honestly these cakes are awesome:

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I popped one in the freezer and served the other to my guests. The air filled with a loving vanilla smell. Sure, it was Yom Kippur and I was supposed to be fasting, but this is a recipe that’s worth going to Jewish Hell for…don’t you think? L’chaim!

A Cobbler Recipe for Cobbler People: Cherry and Apricot Cobbler

In this world there are pie people, tart people, and cobbler people.

Pie people, bless their souls, say things like “bless their souls.” They wear aprons and buy toilet paper at Sam’s club.

Tart people are a little edgier, but not much. Their hair is cropped and they wear wire-rimmed glasses. They don’t favor Yanni, but they don’t dislike him either. In Sex and the City terms, tart people are Miranda.

And then there are cobbler people. We’re the rustics, the hands-dirty type. We like finger painting and eating glue. We’re impatient. We don’t care what it looks like as long as it tastes good. We are cobbler people.

What I like about cobbler is that it is so easy. You make the fruit, you make the topping, and you’re done. It’s a great way, also, to try different fruits and to celebrate the season. Except cobbler people don’t say things like “celebrate the season.” Pie people say that.

A few days ago I spotted apricots and cherries at Whole Foods. Remember how I told you to keep your eyes out for what’s in season? This was one of those times. So tonight I scrambled over there, loaded up on ingredients, and came storming back ready to make my cobbler.

Here are my apricots:

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Here are my cherries:

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After washing the apricots and cherries, I began the pitting process. Pitting cherries is the pits. I tried various techniques, but ultimately relied on my fingers. It took a while. Here are the results:

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And here are the pits:

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And the Pips:

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Now you halve and pit the apricots. This wasn’t too hard, I used a paring knife:

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The recipe I used (from Epicurious) has you toss the fruit with sugar, cornstarch and (rather unconventionally) almond extract. After which I poured it into the baking dish:

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It baked for 35 minutes at 400 degrees. It came out smelling great:

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Meanwhile, I made the topping. This was easy too. First I whisked together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt:

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Then I cut up a stick of cold butter into squares. Notice how ingenious (and immodest) I am. I halved the butter lengthwise, flipped it over, halved it again (thus quartering it). Then I sliced down horizontally to get cubes:

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Work the butter into the flour with your fingers until it resembles “coarse meal.” I never get this instruction because I am none too familiar with coarse meal. I imagine, though, that coarse meal looks like this:

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Sam Neil, on the other hand, looks like this:

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Here’s where our recipe gets sloppy. You pour in 3/4 cup of buttermilk and 3/4 cup of whipping cream:

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Everything turns quite gloppy:

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The cobblers I usually make have crumby toppings; this one would turn out biscuity. It made the actual toppping process (glopping the batter on to the fruit) a bit more difficult. “Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfulls” says the recipe. I managed ok, and it looked like this:

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Then I baked for 40 minutes at 375 and it came out looking like this:

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Pretty huh?

Now from the side:

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Served us up a bowl:

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And it was quite delicious. I was worried for a bit. I thought the cherries wouldn’t be cherryey enough. That the apricots wouldn’t be tart enough. That the topping wouldn’t be crumby enough. But nothing to worry about: everything tasted bright and terrific. This is a good early summer recipe. That is if you’re a cobbler person. And who wouldn’t want to be a cobbler person? We’re the best.

You Will (Maybe) Make This Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler

If there was no Lauren there’d be no Maybe.

She felt that the rhubarb was too prominent, that the fruit wasn’t cooked enough. But tell me this doesn’t look delicious:

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Here’s a good tip for all you aspiring gourmets out there: when you’re at the supermarket, pay attention to what’s in the produce section. Recently at Whole Foods I noticed prominent displays of strawberries and rhubarb. So tonight, when I was craving a diversion from my homework and the bread in the refrigerator, I typed in “Strawberry Rhubarb” at Epicurious and came up with this recipe (which, incidentally, has a 100% approval rating):

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB COBBLER WITH CORNMEAL BISCUIT TOPPING.

My formula for a good recipe is as follows:

EASY TO DO + DELICIOUS RESULTS = GOOD RECIPE

This recipe was incredibly easy. My one mistake was with the rhubarb.

First, wash and dry the strawberries:

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Then wash and dry the rhubarb:

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Here’s where I made my mistake. Well, I’m not sure if it was a mistake. The recipe says to cut the rhubarb into 1/2-inch thick slices. I found this confusing. I mean, are we talking width or length? Should I have cut it like celery?

I ended up making little rhubarb sticks of 1/2 an inch width:

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If I had to do it again, I’d go the celery route.

In any case, you put the rhubarb and strawberries in a bowl with flour, sugar and ground cloves. (I think the ground cloves make the recipe terrific; adds a lot of depth to the flavor):

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Pour into the pie dish:

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Now make the topping. There’s flour, sugar, butter, and corn meal:

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Mush it up with your fingers until it resembles course meal. Then add buttermilk and stir with fork:

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[I don’t know why I’m giving you these instructions. Just follow the Epicurious recipe!]

Pour the topping on the strawberry mixture:

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And bake at 400 degrees for what I think is 25 minutes. (Follow the recipe, dummy!)

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Doesn’t that look delicious?

Here’s what it looks like in the bowl:

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I think Lauren’s main complaint was that the fruit wasn’t cooked down enough. Someone on the Epicurious site makes the same point and suggests cooking the fruit first before adding the topping. I had never cooked with rhubarb before, so I didn’t know the difference. In any case, I think this is a perfect Springtime Sopranos-watching dessert. Unless you’re Lauren. In which case, the fruit wasn’t cooked down enough.

Cobbler Sex City

Nothing says sex like apple cobbler. The bubbling sticky apple juices; the savory, buttery cobbler topping. Sometimes, when I’m feeling lonely, I break out a bottle of wine, turn up the Barry Manilow and bake myself an apple cobbler. I pour it over my head like Jennifer Beals in Flashdance and scream in agony. Apple cobbler is hot.

Last night, however, my cobbler and I had company. Friends came over to watch “Sex and the City” and, rather grudgingly, I spooned them up heaping portions of sex cobbler with a side of vanilla ice cream. Does this make me a voyeur? Or does this make my friends exhibitionists?

Either way, the recipe I used comes from Saveur magazine which usually contains recipes so exotic and forbidding that you can’t cook anything without a vast supply of squirrel meat and pigeon brains. Luckily, the most exotic cobbler requirement was nutmeg.

Due to time constraints, I am unable to reproduce every minute detail of my cobbler making. Suffice it to say, there were apples:

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I was forced to use Granny Smith instead of the suggested Cortland. All Oedipal implications of Granny apples in a sex cobbler shall be stifled.

After coring, peeling and chastizing the apples I sliced them and tossed them in a combination of: granulated sugar, brown sugar, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, freshly grated nutmeg, ground cloves, honey, apple cider and the juice of one lemon. I then baked them for 30 minutes, producing this lovely image:

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While they cooled, I sifted together 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp baking powder:

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I then cut in 10 tbsps of cold butter, stirred in 1/2 cup of rolled oats and 6 tbsps of heavy cream. I poured the combo on top and it looked like this:

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And then I baked it for 45 minutes in an oven at 375 degrees. People started arriving.

“What smells so good?” they asked, removing articles of clothing.

“People!” I yelled, “This is not Eyes Wide Shut. Put your clothes back on.”

Finally, halfway through “Sex and the City,” the cobbler was done:

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At this point, the living room couches were humming with sexual tension.

“BRING US COBBLER!” the guests demanded, breaking out in a communal cobbler sweat.

I served them up sexy bowls:

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They snapped them quickly out of my hands and began feeding each other cobbler with such velocity and unbridled energy that several neighbors came over to ask what the fuss was about.

“Sorry,” I said, “It won’t happen again.”

“Is that cobbler?” they asked, and began streaking their way through the apartment.

“All naked neighbors please leave!” I shouted, to no avail.

The following image is just one of many examples of cobbler lust at its worst. In this ribald sex pic, AG reader “Carrie” spoon feeds cobbler to AG model “Andrew.” This is not safe for work!

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9 months from now the Children of the Cobbler will be born. Their ravenous cobbler appetites will wreak havoc across all 50 cobbler-serving US states. Cobbler corruption will breed a new race of cobbler eaters; stalking their way across the country thirsting for bubbling apple juices and savory, buttery toppings.

Which is why, in the future, I’ll save my cobbler-making for those magic nights home alone. Just me, Barry Manilow, and 12 simmering apples slathered on my head. What a feeling!

Martha Stewart’s Pecan Chocolate Chunk White Chocolate Chip Cookies

So despite my self-proclaimed ineptitude in the kitchen, I do have a knack for all things sweet and desserty. I’m a baker, not a fighter.

One of my favorite cookie recipes comes from America’s most beloved white collar criminals / domestic goddesses, Marthalicious Stewart. Available on her website for no charge (or the occassional insider trading tip) you will find the recipe for some wonderfully delicious cookies. I served these cookies to friends this weekend and their reactions were as follows:

“Mmmm!”

“Ohhhh!”

“Wheeee!”

Clearly, these are some really good cookies. Since posting the actual recipe may cause legal trouble for The Amateur Gourmet (who, despite three years in law school, has no idea how the law actually works), here’s the link:

http://www.marthastewart.com/page.jhtml?type=content&id=recipe3472&search=true&resultNo=3

And, for your viewing pleasure, some pictures:

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