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Bringing Home the Bakin'

bake my cake and eat it, too

Monthly Archives: December 2012

This dish was beautiful.  Its perfectly browned exterior looked fantastic on the table, alongside my Mom’s homemade stuffing, and my Grandma’s plump turkey. Unfortunately, this dish did not provide much more than eye candy to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner.  Being a fennel AND parmesan cheese obsessive, I had such high hopes for this dish.  Upon taking the first bite, though, all I could taste was salt, and I’m pretty sure my family felt the same way; although they were too kind to tell me of my culinary mishap, I could tell by the sad looking remainders on each and every plate that their tastebuds concurred.

I’m so grateful that my mom later remade this dish and had better results, re-instilling my faith in Ina Garten. My mom made some significant changes, though, but was VERY happy with the results.  To improve the dish, she did not salt the fennel, she did not use cheese in the crumb mixture, she added artichoke hearts, and she replaced the panko crumbs with homemade seasoned italian breadcrumbs. Also, to insure that the bread crumbs were as crisp as panko crumbs can be, she placed the dish under the broiler for the last few minutes of cooking.

If anyone else tries this recipe, please let me know how it turns out!

Fennel Gratin – Ina Garten, Foolproof


  • 3 medium fennel bulbs
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup panko (Japanese bread flakes)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the stalks from each fennel bulb and discard.
  2. Cut the bulbs in half lengthwise through the core. Remove most (but not all) of the core by cutting a V-shaped wedge, leaving the wedges intact. Cut each piece into 2, 3 or 4 wedges, depending on the size of the bulb.
  3. Arrange the wedges, cut side up, in a gratin dish just large enough to hold them snugly in a single layer.
  4. Pour the chicken stock and wine over the fennel, then sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of salt and 3/4 teaspoon of pepper. Dot with the diced butter.
  5. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the fennel is tender.
  6. Remove from the oven and raise the oven temperature for 425 degrees.
  7. Meanwhile, make the topping. Combine the melted butter, panko, Parmesan, parsley, zest, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle evenly on top and return to the oven.
  8. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, until the topping has browned. Serve hot or warm.

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I’m so unapologetically turned off by the traditional marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes served on Thanksgiving.  Sweet potatoes are sweet enough as it is, and adding gelatinous sugar to the top seems entirely unnecessary.  These potatoes, while slightly sweetened, have much more of a “spiced” feel, letting the natural sweetness of the potatoes shine through.

Southern Candied Yams – Lawfully Wedded Wife

Ingredients (serves 8)

  • 6 c. cubed sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar, packed
  • 1 T. molasses
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. ginger
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bring 1/2 c. water to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  3. Once the water is boiling, add in the sweet potato cubes and put the lid on. Allow the potatoes to steam for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes turn bright orange in color.
  4. While the potatoes are steaming, bring the oil, sugar, and spices to a simmer in a skillet over medium-low heat. Whisk together over the heat just until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture thickens.
  5. Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in the molasses. Set aside.
  6. Drain the potatoes and place them in a large bowl.
  7. Pour the hot sauce over the drained potatoes. Gently mix with a spatula to coat the potatoes in sauce.
  8. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and brown.
  9. Cool and serve.

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Forgive me for neglecting to photograph the most important process: the marbling.  This tart really was a stand out, though — such a fun and unique twist to the traditional pumpkin pie.

Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart – Deb Perelman, of Smitten Kitchen


4 ounces (115 grams) gingersnap cookies (about 16 cookies), coarsely broken
3 ounces (85 grams) graham crackers (five and a half 2 1/2 x 4 7/8-inch graham cracker sheets)
4 Tablespoons (55 grams or ½ stick) salted butter, melted

Cheesecake Batter
4 ounces (115 grams) cream cheese, well softened
3 Tablespoons (40 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk

Pumpkin Batter
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 1/4 cups (10½ ounces or 300 grams, about 1/2-3/4 of a 15-ounce can) pumpkin purée
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
few fresh gratings of nutmeg
1 cup (235 ml) heavy cream


Make crust
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Remove any children sensitive to loud noises from the premises, and finely grind the gingersnaps and graham crackers in a food processor (yielding 1½ cups). Add the melted butter, and process until the cookie- crumb mixture is moistened. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9- inch- diameter tart pan with removable bottom. (I like to use the bottom and outer side of a measuring cup to help pack the crumbs into the base and neatly up the walls of my crumb crusts.) Place pan on rimmed baking sheet.

Make Cheesecake Batter
Mix together the ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.

Make Pumpkin Batter
Beat the egg and the egg white lightly in a large bowl. Whisk in the pumpkin, sugars, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in the cream.

Assemble Tart
Pour the pumpkin batter into gingersnap-graham crust. Dollop the cheesecake batter over pumpkin batter, then marble the two together decoratively with a knife. Try not to pierce the bottom crust as you do. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

To Serve
Cool the tart completely on a rack, or in the fridge if you, like me, prefer it cold. Serve immediately, and refrigerate any leftovers. Theoretically, it keeps for several days, but the crumb crust will get a little soft on the bottom after day one.

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Looks definitely do not do this cookie justice.  True to their name, they are the perfect mix between a cookie and a brownie (fudgy, crispy, AND chewy, all at the same time), and the deep chocolate flavor really comes through.  If you’re planning to make these (which you should be),  make sure to keep in mind that you MUST freeze the dough for an hour before baking.

Chocolate Brownie Cookies – Belinda Leong (Food and Wine Magazine)


  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • One 12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips


  1. In a large bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chopped chocolate with the butter, stirring a few times, until smooth, about 7 minutes.
  2. In another large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar at medium speed until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and salt. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the melted chocolate, then fold in the flour and baking powder. Stir in the chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into a shallow baking dish, cover and freeze until well chilled and firm, about 1 hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Working in batches, scoop 2-tablespoon-size mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the cookies are dry around the edges and cracked on top. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely before serving.

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This is easily one of the best apple desserts I’ve ever made.  It was tart, but not sour; spiced, but not spicy; soft, but not mushy; in other words, it was near perfect.  Food and Wine recommends serving with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but I opted to serve it with a generous scoop of Jeni’s ‘Salty Caramel’ ice cream instead — it was a fantastic addition.

Apple Crisp with Sweet Ginger and Macadamia Nuts – Food and Wine Magazine


  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 3/4 cup macadamia nuts, finely chopped
  • 3 1/2 pounds large Granny Smith apples (about 7)—peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger (2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime


  1. Preheat the oven to 400° and position a rack in the lower third. In a food processor, pulse the flour with the brown sugar, ground ginger, cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas. Add the macadamia nuts and pulse twice, just until combined.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the apples with the crystallized ginger, granulated sugar, lime zest, lime juice and a pinch of salt. Spread the apples in a shallow 3-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the topping over the apples and press gently. Bake the crisp for 50 minutes, until bubbling and the top is golden. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving with ice cream.
MAKE AHEAD The crisp can be refrigerated overnight. Rewarm before serving

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