September #baketogether Remix

I loved the dough from Abby’s brown butter apple hand tarts so much, I had to make it again. Partly so I could stand in my kitchen and eat pinches of raw brown butter pastry, and partly because I had this crazy idea that if I switched out the white flour for whole wheat, it would make awesome graham crackers.

So that’s what I did, made Abby’s dough recipe, as written,  but with whole wheat flour. Then, when it came time to roll them I cut and baked them like cookies.

I happened to have had a bit of chocolate truffle frosting left over from a birthday cake I made that same day (see previous blog post). On a whim I used it as a cookie filling and made brown butter graham cracker sandwiches.

Yum. Very much yum.


Pseudo Sacher Torte

After I finished school, I got a job in Germany. I lived there for five years, first in Munich, then Berlin. This gave me ample opportunity to travel the continent. One of my favourite cities to visit was Vienna, for the art, for the music, for the architecture, and of course for the food.

During one visit in particular, I decided to conduct an in-depth analysis of the Sacher torte. I went to the Hotel Sacher, of course, and Demel’s. I also sampled the tortes at a number of cafés, pretty much every café I passed, which was a lot, all of which served Sacher torten, because it is the unofficial cake of Vienna.

I took notes, and when I returned home to Berlin, I set about creating my ideal version of the Sacher torte. It is not authentic. It is not in any way an attempt to try to recreate the original. It’s simply the Sacher torte the way I want it to be.

For the cake, I use a recipe out of the old Time Life cookbook series, the volume on Vienna, of course. I have tried others, but I don’t like them nearly as much.

For the frosting I use chocolate truffles, or, more accurately, I follow a recipe for truffles, then pour it over the cake while the chocolate is still warm. It’s a very particular recipe, and one that is quite different from your standard truffle. It makes an excellent frosting.

Most recently, I made this cake for my friend Daryle, who just celebrated a birthday. Happy birthday Daryle!

Pseudo-Sacher Torte

For the cake (adapted from The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire, Time-Life books):

  • 6 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 oz. butter
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 10 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 350
  2. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
  3. Melt the chocolate with the butter. Let cool 10 minutes, then beat in the egg yolks.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until foamy. Continue beating, adding the sugar in a slow, steady stream, until all the sugar is incorporated and the egg whites hold stiff peaks when the beater is raised.
  5. Fold 1/3 of the whites into the chocolate mixture.
  6. Pour the lightened chocolate mixture over the remaining egg whites.
  7. Sift the flour over the top, and gently fold it in.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake until the layers are puffed, and spring back when lightly touched in the center, about 25 minutes.
  9. Let cake cool thoroughly before assembly.

For the frosting:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 T. cream
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 oz. butter
  • 5 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup golden syrup
  1. Combine the yolks, cream, and vanilla in a saucepan.
  2. Add the butter and chocolate.
  3. Stir over very low heat until the butter and chocolate are melted, and teh mixture is homogenous.
  4. Stir in the golden syrup.
  5. Set aside to cool and thicken, stirring occasionally.
  6. When the mixture is thick, but still pourable, proceed with the assembly of the cake.

To assemble the cake:

  1. Spread 1/2 cup of apricot jam over one layer of the cake. Top with the second layer.
  2. Pour the truffle frosting over the cake. I do this by pouring it into the center of the top layer, and, with an icing spatula, gently coax it to spread evenly across the top and down the sides.
  3. Garnish or decorate as you wish. I like to sprinkle the cake with cocoa nibs. You can also use some of the excess frosting to pipe a simple pattern on the top.
  4. Serve with strong coffee and unsweetened whipped cream.

Brown Butter Hand Tarts with Gingered Autumn Fruit

It’s time for my version of the September #baketogether recipe. Check out the original version here: brown butter apple hand tarts.

I got excited about this dough the moment I saw the recipe. Once I made it, and tasted it I knew it was true love. It is so good. It was a wonder any of it lasted long enough to be baked. I kept sneaking pieces.

For this go around I made the recipe exactly as Abby posted it, but it did give me ideas, and I look forward to playing around with it a bit and trying them out.

With four trees in my back yard, I have no shortage of apples a the moment, but I didn’t want to replicate the entire recipe as written, so I mixed up the fruit a bit. Instead of two apples, I used one, plus three Italian plums, a handful of grapes, and 1/3 of a cup of chopped, candied ginger. Otherwise I followed the recipe as written.

Well, almost as written. I pulled out a cookie cutter and opted to make round tarts instead of rectangular ones.

The fruits were ones I happened to have on hand, and the ginger was a special nod to Abby, who loves ginger, and this recipe just seemed to cry out for it.

Given that I made so few changes to Abby’s recipe, I won’t retype it, but you can find it here. To make my version all you need to do is follow the fruit substitutions above.

The Secret of Apple Pie

I have four apple trees in my back yard. they are all different varieties. I have no idea which ones. The house is over 100 years old. Odds are good the trees are too. All I know is that these apples are really, really good. They all ripen at slightly different times. I missed two of them this year, from having to be out of town, but I arrived back home in time to get apples from the last two. It was a pretty good harvest this year, though not as good as my neighbor, whose tree is so full of apples the branches bend nearly all the way to the ground.

Needless to say, I have been making a lot of apple-related dishes, including my famous-within-the-family apple pie. There are a lot of recipes claiming to produce the best apple pie. I don’t claim this is the absolute best. It is, however, much requested, and my favourite. It’s also very simple. Many apple pie recipes are, to my lazy self, overly complicated. Pie should be simple. Apple pie should be simplest of all.

I have three basic rules for creating my ideal apple pie:

  1. Use an all-butter crust, with extra butter, and aim for maximum flakiness. The tenderness will suffer a bit, but that’s OK. Fruit pies taste best with a more toothsome crust.
  2. Use more than one variety of apple. It will lend a fuller, more complex flavor to your pie.
  3. Add a pear. That’s right. A pear. In your apple pie. Just one per pie, mixed with the apples. The pear takes an otherwise good pie and makes it transcendent. And nobody will ever guess it’s in there.

Now you know the secret to great apple pie. How great is it? Let’s just say this was all that was left by the time I could get a photo.

The Secret of Apple Pie

For the crust:

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 8 oz. butter, cold
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water
  1. Blend the flour with the salt.
  2. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces and scatter it over the flour.
  3. Using you hands, and working quickly, mix the butter into the flour by smearing it between your thumb and fingers. Continue doing this until only pa-sized pieces of butter remain and the mixture has the consistency of coarse corn meal.
  4. Drizzle in the ice water, and blend it into the flour/butter mixture, again using your hands.
  5. When the water has been blended just enough to form a dough that holds together, divide it in two. Shape each half into a disc.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge while you make the filling.

For the filling:

  • 7 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1 pear, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 T. flour
  1. Blend all ingredients in a large bowl. (I usually use the one I just made the dough in – no need to clean it first).
  2. Let them sit while you roll out the crust.

To assemble the pie:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Remove one disc of dough from the refrigerator.
  3. Roll it out, on a lightly floured surface, until large enough to line a 9-inch pie pan.
  4. Place the dough in the pan.
  5. Pour the filling into the dough-filled pan.
  6. Remove the other disc from the refrigerator and roll it out until large enough to cover the top of the pie.
  7. Place the second round of dough on top of the filling.
  8. There will be a decent amount of dough hanging out over the edge from both crusts. Roll the edges of the top and bottom crusts together and crimp them with your fingers to join them and make the rim of the pie.
  9. Using  knife, cut a dozen or so vent in the top crust for steam to escape.
  10. Place in the oven, with foil underneath the pan to catch drips.
  11. Bake for 1 hour, or until the crust is browned and the juices from the apples bubble up through the vents.
  12. Cool completely before serving.

Guest Post: Smoked Salmon Pizza

My blog updates have been fewer and farther between than I’d like over the past month. My father has been in the hospital with a terminal illness, and has just passed away after losing a battle with lung cancer at the age of 81.

I’ve asked a few close friends to help me out for a bit with guest posts until I’m able to get back to blogging. Who knows, maybe this will persuade them to start blogs of their own (hint, hint). I know you will enjoy their contributions.

First up is RuthAnn, aka Kitchen Witch, with an amazing smoked salmon pizza. Listen to Bill, RuthAnn. The world needs a blog from you. I’m so glad you agreed to do this.


My husband has been after me for some time to write a blog and says I need to share my pizzas with others, so they won’t be stuck with frozen pizzas or awful delivery ones.  So when my dear friend Jennifer called for some guest bloggers, I figured the time was now.

Homemade dough is the key, I think, along with great toppings.  Following is pretty bulletproof pizza dough and it’s really forgiving. I can make it an hour before I want to make a pizza, or I will often stir it together in the morning, without kneading it, and pop it in the fridge until the evening. The recipe makes enough for two pizzas, and after making one pizza, the remaining dough can be frozen, or kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks – the flavor improves with age as the dough ferments. Just remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before you are ready to start. The time it takes to preheat the oven is usually sufficient.

Now, I put this together with ingredients from the local market. You can go to your local cheese and fish mongers and get fancier cheese and really plush lox, but even with ordinary market ingredients, this makes a pizza that is readily accessible and has an elegant simplicity and (at least in my house) was eagerly consumed by both husband and children.

Best Ever Pizza Dough

  • 500 grams flour (about 3.5 cups)
  • 8 grams of dry yeast  (about 1.75 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ¼ cups of warm water
  • 1/3  cup of extra virgin olive oil
  1. Mix flour, and salt in bowl and make a well in center.
  2. Mix yeast with a pinch of sugar and 1/4 cup of warm water and let rest until foamy.
  3. Pour yeast, olive oil and the rest of the water into flour, mix and knead until smooth.
  4. Place in oiled bowl, cover and let rise 1 hour until doubled.
  5. Knock down dough and divide in half. Makes two pizza crusts.

Smoked Salmon Pizza

  • 1/2 recipe of Best Ever Pizza dough
  • Flour
  • Cornmeal
  • Olive Oil
  • 8 oz. of Havarti Cheese, grated
  • 1-2 heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon of Capers, rinsed briefly
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 oz. Cold Smoked Salmon (Lox)
  • ½ Cup Sour Cream or Crème Fraiche
  • Dried Dill Weed
  1. Preheat oven (with a pizza stone, if you have one) to 480 degrees F. If you don’t have a pizza stone, try placing a couple rimless cookie sheet in the oven before heating – having the dough on a hot surface helps give a great crispy bottom crust.
  2. Dust a sheet of parchment paper lightly with flour and generously with cornmeal. Dust dough lightly with flour and roughly shape it by hand to desired shape (my pizza stone is rectangular, so that’s what I do… round, square, rectangular, have at it.) Lay dough down onto parchment and roll to desired thickness. We prefer thin.
  3. Brush dough with olive oil and then sprinkle with a little of the dill weed.
  4. Scatter 3/4 of the grated Havarti, arrange  tomatoes over cheese, then finish with the remaining Havarti.
  5. Sprinkle red onion and capers over the cheese. I like to reserve a little red onion to add to the pizza after baking.
  6. Transfer to the pizza stone (I leave it on the parchment.)
  7. Bake for 7-10 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned and the cheese is melted.
  8. While the pizza is baking, stir together sour cream and a ½ teaspoon of dill weed. Add salt to taste.
  9. Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes. After resting, top with smoked salmon and reserved red onion. Serve with a little of the sour cream dill sauce and additional capers, if desired.
  10. Makes 4 generous servings (assuming several will want more than one slice.)