Berry Crumb cake

20120824-233150.jpgLast spring I went on a church retreat, and the cook, besides being an amazing person, makes amazing food. She’s the kind of person I envy I admire because of her ability to cook and bake without a recipe. One of the things I remember most vividly is her berry cobbler. I don’t have cobbler very often, and I never thought very much of it, until hers; the sweet, tart mixed berry filling (warm, of course), underneath a light, vanilla scented biscuit layer with a hint of lemon. My thoughts of runny berries and soggy biscuits were over; this wonderful creation took it’s place.

20120824-235306.jpgAnyway, yesterday I felt I needed that cobbler. I mean, really needed, as I’ve been cutting out a lot sugar and needed it back. So I got out the recipe, oven preheated and all, and got to thinking; this isn’t enough biscuit. I needed more carb substance! So then, what could be better than tucking that berry layer between a thick (browned butter) crumb topping and a vanilla-lemon scented cake? What a sweet revelation. Long story short: I got my carbs. Warm berry filling oozing out of those soft/crunchy layers, perfect for using up those last summer berries. Happy baking!

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Berry Crumb Cake

Adapted from smitten kitchen who adapted it from The New York Times 6/6/07

Berry filling:

2 cups mixed fresh or frozen berries (or berries of your choice)
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Crumb topping:

1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

For the cake:

1/3 cup sour cream or buttermilk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. To make filling: toss berries with sugar and cornstarch. Set aside.

2. To make crumb topping: in a large bowl, whisk sugars, cinnamon and salt combine. Melt butter in small saucepan over high heat and cook, swirling the pan constantly until it is frothy and browned and has a nutty aroma (watch carefully).
Let cool slightly; whisk into sugars. Add flour and stir to combine. Press dough together and set aside.

3. To prepare cake: in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream (or buttermilk), egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Set aside.

4. In bowl of mixer, combine sugar with lemon zest; rub zest in to sugar until moistened. With mixer on low speed, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt into sugar mixture to combine. Add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until the mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add sour cream mixture; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl once if necessary. Scoop out 1/2 cup batter and set aside.

5. Use a slotted spoon to remove the berries from the bowl where it will have released some juice. Add the drained berries to a clean bowl. Toss the berries with the 2 teaspoons of all-purpose flour, coating it evenly.

6. Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle berry mixture over batter. Dollop set-aside batter over berries.

7. Break topping mixture into large crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter (it might have some berry juices on it), 55 to 65 minutes. Cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

Yield: 9-12 servings.

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Peanut Butter Stuffed Chocolate Cookies

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Have you ever come home, completely exhausted, and needed something sugary and delicious? That was the story of my life last weekend. Luckily for me, I live in a household of bakers! A shortage of sweet treats is not a common occurrence at my house. So was the case last weekend; my sister K made some cookies when I needed them the most. Now K didn’t make any ordinary cookies like chocolate chip or raisin…she made soft,
crunchy-on-the-outside, rich chocolate cookies, stuffed (!!) with a peanut butter filling not unlike the inside of a peanut butter cup.

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Imagine making these cookies for a loved one and watching their face light up as they discover the creamy center inside an already incredibly decadent chocolate cookie (unless they have nut allergies, in which case there’s more for you how sad for them). These would be a fun project to make with kids or anyone you wish to gain instant admiration from!! Enjoy.

Magic in the Middles

King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion

Ingredients

Chocolate dough:

1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder or dark cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar (plus extra for rolling)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg

Peanut butter filling:

3/4 cup peanut butter, crunchy or smooth
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

2. To make the dough: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

3. In another medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the sugars, butter, and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the egg, beating to combine.

4. Stir in the dry ingredients, blending well.

5. To make the filling: In a small bowl, stir together the peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar until smooth.

6. With floured hands or a teaspoon scoop, roll the filling into 26 one-inch balls.

7. To shape the cookies: Scoop 1 tablespoon of the dough and make an indentation in the center with your finger and place one of the peanut butter balls into the indentation.

8. Bring the cookie dough up and over the filling, pressing the edges together cover the center.

9. Roll the cookie in the palms of your hand to smooth it out. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

10. Roll each rounded cookie in granulated sugar, and place on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies.

11. Grease the bottom of a drinking glass, and use it to flatten each cookie to about 1/2-inch thick.

12. Bake the cookies for 7 to 9 minutes, or until they’re set and you can smell chocolate. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a rack.

Browned Butter Snickerdoodles

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At the first respite of this heatwave, I made browned butter snickerdoodles.
Why? OCBD; obsessive compulsive baking disorder. If I stop baking for too long, I go on withdrawals! A terrible thing for sure, so I just had to make something. That’s where snickerdoodles come in.

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So what makes snickerdoodles so special one may ask? They are after all just a sugar cookie rolled in cinnamon sugar, right? Absolutely wrong! A good snickerdoodle is a thing of art, having just the right balance of textures and flavors. It is made up of a crunchy crust with warm cinnamon flavor contrasting to the soft and slightly chewy inside. A subtle tang and a beautiful craggily top is characterized by it’s magic ingredient; cream of tartar. This ingredient gives them that wonderful soft texture.

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As amazing these cookies are already, I couldn’t help adding browned butter to amp up their flavor. Oh, the wonders of browned butter! Who knew that cooking butter until it browns develops the most wonderful warm, nutty, aromatic flavors. I did! And am taking full advantage of it by combining that browned butter flavor with those tangy, cinnamon-vanilla cookies. Perfection!

Browned Butter Snickerdoodles

Yield: 2 dozen

2¾ cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a baking mat and put in refrigerator and chill.

*Melt butter in small saucepan over high heat and cook, swirling the pan constantly until it is frothy and browned and has a nutty aroma (watch carefully).
Let cool 3 minutes; pour into container and freeze 15 minutes. Stir butter and freeze 15 minutes longer.*

Whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

Gradually stir in the flour mixture, beating on low speed just until the flour is blended.

Chill the dough for at least 45 minutes.

In the meantime, mix together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Scoop 2 tbsp balls of dough and roll in the cinnamon and sugar mixture to coat.

Place on chilled cookie sheet about 3 inches apart and chill until firm, about 10 minutes. Bake for 10 minutes.

Chill the dough and cookie sheets between batches.

Let cookies set on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack. Store cookies in an airtight container.

*You can skip this step and use softened butter if you want regular snickerdoodles.

Roasted Strawberry Dark Chocolate Chunk Scones

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Summer, a season where fresh produce is at it’s peak. It’s a shame not take advantage of it while it lasts! Take berries, for instance; plump, juicy raspberries, deep purple blueberries just ready to burst. There’s tart-sweet black berries and bright, fragrant strawberries. Now, imagine enhancing those amazing flavors so that they develop deep, robust, intense qualities that shine through any baked good you choose.

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Take strawberries. Did you know that one of the best flavor pairings you can have is strawberries and chocolate? Of course you did. Now this is where it gets good. How about pairing some roasted strawberries with smokey, dark chocolate chunks in a tender, delicate, buttery scone? It just doesn’t get very much better than that! This scone recipe may not have your ordinary quick and easy preparation, but the scone it produces is not so ordinary either. Each step works together to create the ultimate, exquisite, deeply flavorful scone experience that you need in your life. Make these, and be prepared for something divine.

Roasted Strawberry Dark Chocolate Chunk Scones

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated and Chocolate Passion by Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty

Roasted Strawberries:
4 cups hulled fresh or frozen strawberries
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp sugar

Scone dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 + 1/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter, frozen
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
8 oz bittersweet chocolate bars, cut into chunks

To roast the strawberries:

Toss berries with vinegar, then sugar and lay out on a cookie sheet with sides, lined with parchment paper. Roast strawberries in oven on 300F until they have given up their juices and are mushy, 30-45 min.

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Drain berries; save or discard juices. Freeze berries while preparing scone dough.

To make scone dough:

Preheat oven to 400F. In large bowl, whisk together first 4 ingredients. Cut butter into pieces, then cut butter into dry ingredients using pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in sugar. In separate bowl, whisk together cream, eggs and vanilla. Pour over dry ingredients along with chocolate and mix until just combined.
Turn dough out unto floured surface and knead 6-8 times. Roll into a 12-inch square.

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Fold dough into thirds like a business letter,

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Then lift short ends of dough and fold into thirds again to form square.

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Transfer dough to floured plate and freeze for 5 min.

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Roll out again into a 12″ square. Cut strawberries into chunks; scatter over dough.

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Roll dough into cylinder, pressing to form a tight log. Arrange log seam side down and press into a 12 by 4-inch rectangle. Cut rectangle crosswise into 4 equal pieces.

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Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles and transfer to two baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

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Brush tops with heavy cream, sprinkle with sugar.

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Bake scones 15-18 min. or until set; the exterior will be firm, golden, and slightly springy to the touch. Cool scones 1 min. on sheets then transfer to cooling rack and cool at least 10 min. before serving.

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