Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cobble this together

Sorry I've been absent.  As I mentioned before, life intruded in a major way recently.  In spite of that, I've still been cooking and baking.  I just haven't had time to blog about it.

But now I'm back and I am here to give you two ridiculously easy "cobbler" recipes.  These are about as no-brainer as you can get, but either one will never fail to elicit smiles and requests for seconds.  Trust me on this!

Okay, so it's summer and in my book, that means desserts laden with fresh, seasonal fruit.  Since I live in Georgia, peaches are high on my hit parade.  So are blueberries and I love the combination of both.  In a perfect pastry world, I would make a crust from scratch, roll it out, sprinkle it with a little sugar and cinnamon and place it over a casserole of cut-up, lightly sugared fruit of choice then bake until golden.

Oh, but I can be SO lazy sometimes!  That means screw the pastry-making and instead default to my mom's "cobbler."  I hesitate to give you this recipe because it is so very elementary and basic, but it fits the bill when you have a plethora of frest fruit around which you have totally ignored and it is on the verge of attracting those dreaded fruit flies.  Here is the perfect solution:


2 ½ cups fruit of choice (think sliced peaches, berries, sliced apples, or any other combo)
2/3 cup granulated sugar (or less, depending upon the sweetness of your fruit) plus ¾ cup
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Toss fruit with the 2/3 cup sugar and salt. Set aside.

Place butter in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Transfer to the preheated oven and let butter melt (about 5 minutes).

Meanwhile, combine the ¾ cup sugar, flour and baking powder in a bowl. Whisk to blend, then whisk in milk and vanilla to make a thin batter.

Remove pan from oven and pour batter over melted butter. Do not stir. Pour prepared fruit over batter. Again, do not stir.

Bake for 45 – 50 minutes or until puffed and golden and just set in center. Serve with ice cream, whipped cream or a drizzle of heavy cream, if desired.

Serves 8

This is ideally served warm, but I have been known to eat it straight from the fridge with no complaints.  It's good for breakfast, too!

Of course, when you just can't face any more fruit desserts, it's time to cut to the chase and overdose on chocolate.  Not exactly the quintessential summer dessert, but there are times when you just gotta do what you gotta do.  I made this the other day for a group of friends and it was a huge hit.  Hello, everytime I make this it's a huge hit.  Make it yourself and you'll understand why.

"ANTI-SUMMER" BROWNIE COBBLER  (adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate chips
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs (I used extra-large)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup all-purpose, unbleached flour
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Butter a 10-inch baking dish. In a large, heavy saucepan, melt butter and chocolate chips. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar then eggs, one at a time. Whisk in vanilla, flour and salt.

Turn into prepared pan and bake for 45 -50 minutes or until just puffed in center. Serve with vanilla ice cream (or salted caramel ice cream or coffee ice cream, if you are like me) or softly whipped cream.

Serves 6 - 8

*  If you noticed that the pictures of the brownie cobbler don't match the quantity called for in the directions, it's because I doubled the recipe when I made and photographed it. 

*  Admittedly, these are not sophisticated recipes.  I should probably be embarassed to share them but I will sacrifice my food integrity so I can pass them on to you.  Just don't tell anyone how easy they are after you've made them (and are basking in the accolades) and don't you dare tell anyone that you got them from me!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Yeah, it just gets in the way sometimes. 

Sorry I've been absent from the blogosphere.  I'll be back in a few days, I promise.  Can't wait to tell you about my anti-summer cobbler!

In the meantime, prayers would be appreciated for my friend who has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure.  We are all rallying as best we can.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why Didn't I Think of This?

Let’s be honest. Who amongst us doesn’t like chocolate chip cookie dough? Personally, I prefer it over the finished, baked cookie. I think it has something to do with that mouth-watering butter/sugar combination and the crunch of brown sugar in the raw dough. And then of course, I believe in the old adage that if you eat it straight from the mixing bowl, it doesn’t count. Yeah right, Liz.

Keep your spoon away, Liz!

In any event, when I’m whipping up a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, I’m always happy when there is enough of it remaining in the bowl so I can actually bake the things. C’mon, can you really look me in the eye and tell me you’ve never done the same thing?

Ben and Jerry figured this out years ago when they came up with cookie dough ice cream. Someone also decided it would be a good addition to milkshakes. Now I am going to sink to a new low and let you in on a recipe for Cookie Dough Truffles.

Since my cookie-making method usually revolves around shaping the dough into balls and storing them in my freezer until ready to bake, I can’t believe I never thought to make them into truffles. I stumbled onto the concept one recent Saturday after I had been to the gym and was waiting for Henry to get home so we could go out to lunch (that doesn’t count either after an intense workout, right?) With nothing else to do, I flipped the channel to the Food Network and there was this woman making Chocolate Chip Blondies, which she was morphing into several other desserts like Cookie Dough Truffles. Well, well, well!

Are your kids hanging around the house this summer with nothing to do? Make these with them. Except for the fact that they will likely bounce off the walls after consuming one, it’s the perfect thing to make on a sweltering day when you are loathe to fire up the oven.

COOKIE DOUGH TRUFFLES (adapted from Anne Thornton, The Food Network)

4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt (I used fine sea salt)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 egg (I used extra-large)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups mini chocolate chips or chunks
2 12-oz. bags dark chocolate chips, preferably 60%
2 oz. white chocolate
2 oz. milk chocolate

Place butter into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until butter is creamy, scraping down bowl once, about 2 minutes. Add sugars and salt and continue beating for about 5 minutes, scraping down bowl several times until mixture is smooth and well-blended. Try to resist the temptation to dip a spoon into it and shovel it into your mouth.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda. Add the egg and the vanilla to the butter mixture and blend well on medium-high speed. Scrape down bowl, then reduce speed to low. Add the flour mixture in two parts and mix only until just blended. Remove bowl from mixer stand and fold in the chocolate chips (or chunks) with a heavy spatula or wooden spoon.

Pat dough into an oval and wrap well in plastic. Refrigerate until just chilled, about one hour. Use a small ice cream scoop (I used a 1 ½-inch scoop) to shape into balls. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate at least one hour or until firm.

When ready to assemble, line a baking sheet with parchment and have ready a long skewer. Melt the chocolate chips in a small, deep pan. Use the skewer to spear a chilled cookie dough ball and dip it in the melted chocolate. Let excess drip off, then place ball on the prepared sheet, using the skewer to smooth out the top and cover the hole it made. Repeat with remaining balls, then place tray into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or until chocolate sets and is firm to the touch.

When ready to decorate, place chocolate covered balls on a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet to catch excess chocolate. Melt the white chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. Place into a plastic pastry bag with a very small hole snipped from the end. Pipe white chocolate over half of the chocolate balls.

Repeat with the milk chocolate and decorate the remaining balls.

Yield:  26 1 ½-inch truffles

*  You will need to store these in the refrigerator, however I recommend letting them sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before wolfing down serving. 

*  Be creative in your decorating!  Use both kinds of chocolate or roll balls in cocoa, chopped nuts, sprinkles or powdered sugar.  Let your kids decide....

*  The original recipe called for regular chocolate chips, but I think they are too big, which is why I used minis.  I think they give a better ratio of chocolate chips to dough.

*  Don't have a plastic pastry bag?  That's what Ziplocs are for.

*  When you dip the truffles in the melted chocolate, no matter how much you let the excess drip off, you will end up with a puddle of it around the truffle, which will solidify.  By all means, just leave it (means that much more chocolate) but if you are ridiculous like me, you will triim it off before decorating.  And then Henry will bemoan the waste of all those chocolate scraps...

*  I would be remiss if I didn't remind you there is a raw egg in this recipe.  If your health is compromised, you should skip this recipe altogether.  To reduce the risk of salmonella or any other food-borne illness, make sure you use only fresh, properly refrigerated and clean Grade A or AA eggs.  The more you know about where your eggs come from, the less the chance of contamination.

Well, I guess I have blown my Weight Watchers regimen for this week.  On trash food, no less........


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Road Trip

You’ve heard me rant talk before about how good parenting skills are necessary even if your kids are grown and haven’t lived under your roof in years. This proved to be true again recently when our youngest son Eric visited the ATL.

His visit was twofold. He was attending a conference at Georgia Tech (which involved a long bus ride to and from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, this is relevant later) and he was here to pick up his tin can car (a well-used 2000 Jetta), which was living here because he didn’t want to pay for long term parking in downtown Philadelphia where he lives as a student. He planned to leave Atlanta on Wednesday, drive to NYC for a little R & R with friends, then drive to DC on Sunday to start his summer job.

There was just one small problem. Since last fall, he’s been living with severe back pain, and in spite of a cortisone shot and physical therapy, it wasn’t improving. He limped into our house after that bus ride and could do nothing but lie on his stomach and work on his laptop in that position. Sitting was out of the question. Our parental hackles went up.

At the end of the day, despite his protests, we got him to a pain specialist and informed him he was NOT driving to New York and DC. I don’t care how old they get (he’s 27), sometimes you just have to act like parents. So we put him on a plane, fueled up his Jetta and drove to DC to deliver his car. With no working radio or CD player, I might add. At least we had air conditioning. Oh, the joys of parachute parenting!

I did manage to cobble together some speakers and a plug-in iPod connection so we could listen to a book along the way. That would be Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, chef-owner of Prune in NYC. (Sorry, Henry. You have unwittingly become an accomplice in my never-ending thirst for culinary knowledge and good dirt. Happy driving).

I won’t give anything away, but I will tell you that Prune will certainly be on my radar screen the next time I am in NYC. If I can get a reservation, that is. For the purposes of this blog however, I thought it would be fun to make one of Gabrielle’s recipes.

Until I did a google search. Oh, there were recipes from her, but none that I thought you guys would actually cook. I mean, do you really want a recipe for rabbit?

Then I found her recipe for Roasted Pear Tarte Tatin with Brown Sugar-Balsamic Swirl Ice Cream. It got me thinking … but pears? Sure, you can easily find them right now, but it’s not their best season. Peaches seemed to be a better choice. Especially since I live in Georgia.

Now about the ice cream. Brown Sugar-Balsamic Swirl sounded better with pears than peaches. But straight up brown sugar ice cream with roasted peaches sounded pretty good. Here’s what evolved:

DECONSTRUCTED ROASTED PEACH “TATIN”  (inspired by Gabrielle Hamilton)

8 peaches, peeled and halved, seeds removed
½ cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Sprinkle sugar evenly over the surface of a 9-inch round baking pan. Cut butter into small cubes and distribute them over the sugar. Place peach halves over, cut side down. Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Baste with the cooking juices and remove from oven.

Change oven setting from “bake” to “broil.” When top element is hot, return peaches to oven and broil for 2 to 3 minutes or until browned. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

Using a slotted spoon, remove peaches to a baking dish. Pour remaining liquid into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until it caramelizes and starts to turn brown. Remove from heat and add cream. Stir to blend. Return to medium heat, if necessary, to smooth out.

Meanwhile, unfold the puff pastry sheet on a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper. If necessary, use a rolling pin to lightly smooth out any creases. Place a 9-inch round pan on top and cut around edges to produce a 9-inch circle of pastry circle. Place the circle on a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Reserve pastry scraps for another use.

Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Bake the pastry for 20 – 25 minutes or until puffed and golden. Remove from oven and cool on a baking rack.

To assemble, place the pastry disk on a serving plate. Arrange the peaches on top and spoon caramel sauce over. Serve with a scoop of  Brown Sugar Ice Cream.

Serves 8


2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
2 cups half-and-half or whole milk
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
7 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Combine cream and half-and-half in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in ¾ the brown sugar and salt. Heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is just warm but not simmering.

Whisk egg yolks and vanilla extract together in a separate bowl. Whisk in 1 cup of the warm cream mixture to bring up the temperature. Pour this into the remaining cream in the pan and stir well. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens and temperature reaches 165-degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat immediately and strain into a heatproof bowl. Let cool slightly, then place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until well-chilled, preferably overnight.

Place into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Yield: approximately 1 quart

*  As you know, a Tarte Tatin is traditionally made by placing pastry over fruit and sugar in a heavy skillet, then baking and inverting it so the crust in on the bottom and the fruit (usually apples) is on the top.  The point of this is to ensure a crisp crust but I have found that sometimes the fruit sticks to the pan.  The deconstructed method above (thanks, Gabrielle) completely eliminates this problem.

*  This is a great make-ahead dessert.  The peaches and caramel can be done ahead of time and refrigerated.  Bring peaches to room temperature before using and reheat the caramel over medium-low heat, then assemble.  You could pre-bake the pastry and keep it for a day or two in an airtight container but instead I would recommend just cutting it out, prepping it on a baking sheet and refrigerating it.  Then, thirty minutes before you want to assemble, pop it into the oven and bake.

*  Obviously I recommend serving this with my Brown Sugar Ice Cream, but it's also wonderful with whipped cream or good store-bought vanilla ice cream.  It's not bad "nekkid" either!

*  You can buy frozen puff pastry in the frozen foods section of your grocery store, usually near the frozen pie crusts and phyllo.  The Pepperidge Farm variety is perfectly fine and I have used it many times.  My favorite though, is this variety from Whole Paycheck Foods:

*  As I was putting this dessert together, I was watching "Fried Green Tomatoes" on the TV that resides on my kitchen counter.  Anyone remember the movie?  Not only is it one of my all-time favorites, but I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to help style some of the food for the movie.  Great memories!  Check out the glass plate in the first picture at the top of this post - it was one we used in the movie.  I have the entire set of 12 and I use them often for desserts.  Makes them that much sweeter!