We are already half way through January and I realize for many, gingerbread is a Christmas thing, but ….
Since gingerbread was not part of my Christmas baking list, I decided to add some oatmeal to it and make it a January ‘comfort food’ dessert.
Using molasses in baking is not an ingredient that generally appeals to me, but its kind of edible nostalgia. Pair it with ginger and that spicy, sweet smell evokes memories of my mother’s gingerbread cake and takes me back to a simpler place and time.
Gingerbread and more specifically ginger, have been around for a very long time. As it has made its way throughout the world it has been adapted to meet the taste of different cultures. In some places it is a soft, delicately spiced cake, in others, a crisp flat cookie or a bread.
My choice is to add some peach slices and bake it as little, mini bundt cakes. Nothing fancy …. just good!
Peach Gingerbread Oatmeal Cakes
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease mini bunt pans. Place a ring of peach slices on the bottom of 4 mini bundt pans.
In a small saucepan, melt butter with sugar & molasses on a low heat. Remove from heat & set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, oatmeal & spices. Add beaten egg, milk & molasses mixture. Mix until well blended.
Divide the cake batter over peach slices in prepared bundt pans.
Bake about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Move to cooling rack & flip upside down. Remove pans & allow to cool.
Serve with cranberry sauce, gingerbread syrup, whipped cream or just simply sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Crostata, Galette and Tart are three terms largely interchangeable when it comes to baking fruit or a savory filling into tender crust. Nevertheless, there are in fact reasons why three different words exist. Just for interest, here’s the ‘scoop’ on the subject.
Crostatas are a rustic looking, free-form pastry that consists of a rolled out piece of dough piled high with fruit and/or veggies. Baked on a flat sheet, the edges of the dough are folded in about an inch or so to create a crust. They are usually brushed with an egg wash before baking.
When it comes to galettes, the only difference from the crostata is linguistic. Crostata is an Italian term and gallette is French. Both refer to the same thing.
Now the tart is actually the European cousin of the pie. What defines a tart is the pan in which it is baked. It can be rectangular, square or circular and vary vastly in size and depth. In a tart pan the bottom is removable, so unlike pies, tarts are usually served unmolded, showing its elegant, fluted edges. Tart crusts are a bit more shortbread-like, as opposed to a flaky pie dough. Tarts can be savory or sweet as well.
Since we are into the fall season, it would seem appropriate to use some beets and apples. These little crostatas have such a great color due to the beets in them. I simply love the flavor of this combo with these spices, Brion not so much! Beets have never been on his ‘favorite’ list but —. The sour cream/cornmeal pastry adds a little ‘crunch’. Hope you have time to give this recipe a try.
Beet & Apple Crostata
In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in butter until mixture resembles BOTH coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, I Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all the sour cream mixture, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed; if not, add additional cold water, 1 tsp at a time. DO NOT overwork dough.
Press dough into a disk shape & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two or it can be wrapped airtight & frozen for a month. When ready to use, thaw, still wrapped in refrigerator.
Trim off top & bottom of beet. Chop apples & beet into 1/2-inch cubes. Place apples, beet, sugar, spices & salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat & simmer for 5 minutes. Add flour & simmer for 1 minute allowing the filling to thicken slightly. There should still be some liquid in the bottom of the pan but filling should not be watery. Cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Remove chilled pie dough from fridge & divide into 4 balls. On a piece of parchment paper the size of your baking sheet, roll each ball into a 6-inch circle. Spread 1/4 of the filling evenly over each circle, leaving a 1-inch border. Gently fold pastry over filling, pleating to form your crostatas. Brush with egg wash & sprinkle with sugar if you prefer.
Bake about 35 minutes until filling bubbles & crust is golden. Remove from oven & cool on a wire rack.
Perhaps its no surprise that Asian pears suffer an identity crises. They are often called ‘apple pears’ because of their crisp texture and apple flavor characteristics. Asian pears are a cross between the Ussuri pear and the Japanese Sand pear, having no relation whatsoever to apples.
Some of the Asian pears made their way west with Chinese and Japanese immigrants in the 1850’s. Their shape and taste were modified into fruit like the well known ‘Bartlett’pear. Other pears travelled eastward to Korea and Japan. These ‘Asian’ pears became more like an apple in shape and crisper in texture. Unlike other types of pears, which you want to eat when they have a bit of give to them, ripe Asian pears are firm. Even though they are hard, they still bruise easily, which is why you often see them sporting ‘foam net sweaters’ for protection in the grocery stores.
Since I had a couple of these nice juicy pears on hand as well as some Brie, putting them into strudel seems like a good idea. I’m just going to ‘wing it’ as the saying goes, and combine a few ideas to see what develops. What’s not to love about strudel, right?!
Asian Pear & Brie Strudel
In a small saucepan, combine pears, apple juice & maple syrup. Bring to boiling; reduce heat & simmer uncovered about 5 minutes or until pears are tender. Drain pears; add nuts, cherries, brown sugar & apple pie spice. Toss gently until mixed; set aside.
In a bowl, stir together flour, oats, sugars, spices & salt until fully combined. Gently stir in melted butter & crumble ingredients together. Set aside
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder & salt. With a pastry blender, cut in cream cheese & shortening until mixture resembles coarse peas. Stir in milk. On a lightly floured work surface, knead dough gently about 20 times. On a sheet of parchment paper, press dough out to a 14"x 14" square & lightly butter pastry.
On another large sheet of parchment paper, spread streusal topping out evenly. Lay pastry, buttered side down over streusal & press down lightly. Lay thinly sliced BRIE cheese over pastry, then top evenly with pear filling. Roll up pastry from the longest side using parchment to do so.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lay filled strudel roll with parchment on a baking sheet. Slice top of strudel part way through at 1" intervals. Remove any excess streusal. Bake about 40 minutes or until golden brown. Remove strudel from baking sheet & place on a wire rack. Sprinkle with excess streusal.
In the winter of 2011, Brion and I spent a month travelling Turkey. While in Istanbul, we happened to be staying in a hotel next to a Starbucks coffee shop. By chance I tasted a ‘Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte’. That unique flavor left a lasting memory with me. Back at home, I wanted to recreate that flavor. The recipe today is what developed from that memory.
The word trifle comes from the old French term, ‘trufle’ and literally means something whimsical or of little consequence. In actual food terms, it’s anything but. A proper English trifle is made with real egg custard poured over sponge cake, soaked in fruit and sherry then topped with whipped cream.
Though a simple dessert to make, trifle looks gorgeous with its multiple layers, colors and textures. It is not only served as a dessert but used as a centerpiece on occasion.
Many puddings evolved as a way of using leftovers, thus trifle originating from stale cake. Some of the many cake choices are sponge, Genoise, ladyfingers, pound cake and macaroons. Alcohol used, often ranges greatly from sherry, white wine, rum, liqueurs and scotch as well as just using a fruit juice. In order for the flavors to marry properly, trifle needs about 8 hours of refrigeration time. In North America, trifle is synonymous with the festive Christmas season.
My blog picture is a PUMPKIN CHIA CHEESECAKE TRIFLE that I made for a Christmas event. If you like pumpkin and cheesecake this trifle is for you!
Pumpkin Chai Cheesecake Trifle
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9 x 9-inch square pan with baking spray.
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (through allspice). In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, egg white, milk, oil and pumpkin until thoroughly blended. Combine wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, stirring until just blended. Spread batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top.
Bake until lightly browned & a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack & allow to cool completely. With a wooden skewer, poke holes in cake about 2-inches apart. Slowly pour 1/2 cup Apricot Brandy over cake. Refrigerate overnight.
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese & pumpkin with a mixer until well blended. Add spices & dry pudding mix; beat until well blended. Gradually blend in milk.
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese with a mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in milk. Add dry pudding mix; blend well. Fold in thawed Cool Whip.
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, coarsely crush wafers; place in medium bowl. Add butter, nuts, sugar & 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice; mix well. Spread onto the bottom of a shallow pan. Bake 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown; cool. Break cooled, baked nut mixture into smaller pieces; store in airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.
Cut pound cake into 1-inch cubes. Line bottom of a straight-sided trifle bowl with 1/3 of cake cubes, 1/3 pumpkin filling, 1/3 creme filling & 1/3 of the nut mixture. Repeat 2 more times. Decorate as desired. Drizzle with bottled Dulce de Leche Creme.