real life test kitchen: blueberry crumb pie

In the next installment of the Maine-is-on-my-brain chronicles, blueberry pie takes the spotlight. Actually I made this pie last week, when red, white and blue banners were flying everywhere and soaring temperatures made everyplace feel like an oven. I thought, ‘It’s hotter than hell right now, so why not just embrace it and bake something?’ This recipe from Food Network magazine for blueberry crumble pie was speaking to me. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the whole recipe before I started the process, and it took a long time. So long, I started it on the 4th but we didn’t eat the pie until the 5th. The only adjustment to their recipe I made was adding apricots to the blueberries. You can’t see them, but they’re in there! There are three main steps to this dish: the dough — which takes about an hour and half; the filling — which takes about 30 minutes; and the topping — which takes about 35 minutes. Once everything is assembled, the actual baking takes around 50 minutes, but then you need to let the pie cool for a long time — at least four hours, but overnight is best. So, my word to you before you bake this pie: Start the day before you want to eat it! In the end, all your hard work will pay off as you gather praise and adornment from all who eat its magic. This blueberry crumb pie is crazy delicious. To get the recipe, click through to Food Network mag .

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real life test kitchen: the perfect lemon cake

The other the day one of our favorite local bakers, the Able Baker, was serving out samples of a lemon cake. I had one little sliver and became obsessed. It was so moist and deliciously lemony, I needed more. I needed a whole cake. I needed to make it myself. I drilled Julie, the Able Baker herself and she said her recipe include buttermilk, and a lemon glaze. The secret, she said, is to poke holes in the cake before you pour the glaze on, so it goes deep into the cake.

I went home and seplaceed and seplaceed for a recipe that sounded similar. I pulled out all of my cookbooks and looked through the indexes. I finally found one that sounded like what I was hunting for, in The Essential New York Times Cook Book. The author Amanda Hesser writes “imagine the taste of a lemon cake, then multiply that by three, and you’ll have a faint idea of the piercing resonance in this cake.”

This recipe makes a lot of cake. I thought about cutting it in half, but then decided to make the whole thing and share with neighbors (who were very grateful that I did). I used loaf pans, but I think a Bundt pan would work nicely, perhaps one that was a little smaller and you could make two. I mostly stuck to NYTimes recipe, but I added in Julie’s hole technique. My cake stuck a little to the pan, so I recommend be extra diligent with flouring to prevent sticking. Here’s my version of the recipe the below.

Triple Hit Lemon Cake
3 cups of flour
1/2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of salt
2 sticks of soft butter
2 1/2 cups of sugar (1/2 cup is for the syrup)
2 cups of confectioner’s sugar, sifted (for glaze)
4 eggs at room temperature
1/3 cup lemon zest
3/4 cup lemon juice + about 3 tbls
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temp
1 tsp of vanilla

1. Take butter, eggs and buttermilk out of the fridge to warm up to room temp.
2. Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour two loaf pans or one Bundt pan (I used one 9″ x 5″ x 3″ loaf pan and one smaller one). Line bottom with parchment paper. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.
3. Beat butter and 2 cups of the sugar in mixer with a paddle attachment, for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, one at a time, then lemon zest.
4. Combine 1/4 cup of the lemon juice, the buttermilk and vanilla in a bowl. Add the flour mixture to the butter batter, alternately adding in the buttermilk mixture, ending with the flour.
5. Pour batter into pan(s). Bake for about 45 minutes until tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool for about ten minutes, then invert it onto a rack over a tray.
6. Meanwhile make syrup by combining 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of lemon juice in a pan until it is a smooth liquid. Let it cool.
7. Poke holes with toothpick or chopstick into the cake. Pour the syrup over, letting some drip down into the cake. Allow to cool completely
8. Make the glaze by whisking about 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar with a few tablespoons of lemon juice.
9. Spoon the glaze over the cake allowing some to drip down the sides.
10. Enjoy!

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real life test kitchen: peaches & cream cake

Every June, my neighborhood hosts a block party. We close off one end of a street that butts against a golf course, set up tables and grills, a bouncy house, cotton candy machines… it’s a blast. This year I wanted to bring something special to share and was inspired by the current issue of Everyday Food. It has a feature called “Blue Ribbon Desserts” and everyone one of them is block party-worthy. I chose to make the peaches-and-cream Bundt cake but adapted it slightly. Instead of sour cream, I used Greek yogurt — and I added in a couple extra peaches than what the recipe called for. The results were pretty delish. In fact, we almost didn’t get to take a photo before it was all gobbled up! Some ate it with whipped cream on top, but I thought it was sweet and moist enough all on its own.

Peaches & (Almost) Cream Cake

3 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for pan
3 cups of flour, plus a few tablespoons to coat peaches and pan
1 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp fine salt
6 peaches, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 1/2 cups of sugar, divided
6 large eggs
1 1/4 cups of Greek yogurt
1 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract
1 1/4 tsp of cinnamon

1. Take the butter out of the fridge to soften to room temperature (why don’t recipes tell you to do this!).
2. Preheat oven to 350.
3. Butter and flour the Bundt pan
4. Toss cut peaches in a little bit of flour to coat.
5. Whisk 3 cups flour, baking soda and salt in one bowl.
6. In another mix together 2 sticks of butter and 2 cups of sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. With mixer on low, work in flour mixture in two additions, alternating with Greek yogurt until well mixed.
7. Fold in peaches and vanilla.
8. Pour batter into pan and tap to settle.
9. Bake about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
10. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes or more.
11. Melt remaining stick of butter.
12. Mix remaining sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.
13. When cake is cool down a bit, invert it to a wire rack over a cookie tray. Brush the cake with butter, and then spoon the cinnamon sugar mixture over top. Don’t worry about the excess, it will drop down to the pan below.
14. Serve with whip cream!
15. Enjoy!

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real life test kitchen: good old banana bread

It happened again. We bought more bananas than we could we eat and they sat, ripening away and attracting fruit flies on our kitchen counter. Only one thing could be done: Bake some banana bread! Who cares if the temperature was nearing 90 on the unseasonably hot day, this was a matter of putting some sweet fruit to good use. Normally, when I bake banana bread, I make this chocolate version. But on this day I decided to keep it simple and classic. A quick seplace on Pinterest turned up multiple pins for this recipe from For The Love of Cooking: Banana Banana Bread. Hard to resist something slathered in butter, huh?

The recipe was super simple, and I had everything handy. Naturally, I had to add chocolate chips to mine. I know I should restrain myself, but I can’t it. It’s an addiction.

Here’s my version Good Old Banana Bread. (Click through to For The Love of Cooking for theirs.)

1/2 cup of butter, softened
3/4 cup of brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
3 to 4 mashed overripe bananas (about 2 and half cups total)
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups of flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees then coat a 9×5 loaf pan with cooking spray.

2. Beat together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs, bananas, and vanilla then continue beating until well combined.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg together, mix well.

4. Add the dry mixture into the wet and stir until just combined.

5. Fold in chocolate chips.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

7. Bake about 45 minutes or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean.

More banana bread recipes from our archives:
Katie D’s banana bread (slightly more complicated than this one)

Chocolate Banana Bread

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totally genius: game of thrones cake pops

We must take our collective hats off to Jennifer, the amazing self-taught baker behind Not Your Momma’s Cookie blog. She posted these seriously awesome Game of Thrones cake pops the other day, and we are in totally in awe of them. Their sweet irony may not numb the sting we are still feeling from poor Ned Stark’s grizzly death at the end of season one, but we are impressed. She provides a detailed how-to that includes his manly goatee and the blood dripping down the stake. Seems like an ambitious undertaking but, perhaps the finale will be worth it?

Are you a Game of Thrones fan too? Got any viewing party ideas?

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