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Friday, September 16, 2011

Celebrations from the Heart

Cookbooks are great, but making a recipe that you've made numerous times trumps that.  Today I made two desserts for a birthday celebration, Peach-Ginger Pie with Freshly Whipped Cream, from Rose Levy Beranbaum"s The Pie and Pastry Bible, and Chocolate Praline Cake, from Anne Byrn's The Cake Mix Doctor But my coworker Mike baked the baklava from memory, and how can you beat that?

Mike and his baklava - before and after the ravenous hordes.
Peach-Ginger Pie
adapted from The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Pastry cutouts with the birthday names piped in frosting.
8 cups of sliced peaches, peeled or not
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2 pinches salt
4 teaspoons cornstarch
4 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Decorative pie dough cutouts (use single crust premade dough or make your own)

Mix everything together (not the cutouts!).  Pour into extra deep pie plate or casserole, or a glass 13" x 9" pan.  Cover with foil, cut 1" slit in foil.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes for the casserole, 35 minutes for 13x9 pan.  The juices should be bubbling thickly and peaches will be tender when tested with a knife.  (Place in the oven on a greased foil lined baking sheet to catch drips and keep your oven clean.)

Make pie dough cutouts:  use any pie pastry dough (or premade), and roll out to 1/4 thickness.  Cut into fun shapes - I used two different star cutters.  Brush with milk, sprinkle very heavily with coarse sugar.  Bake at 425 for 12 minutes or until golden.  Cool. 

Place on pie.  Serve with whipped cream (see recipe below) or ice cream - and spoons.

Some notes for the Peach-Ginger Pie:

I ran out of light brown sugar, so I used half dark brown sugar and half white: since brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses added, this substitution works just fine.

Forgot to buy fresh ginger at the store, but luckily my (ever resourceful!) daughter had frozen a piece of fresh ginger last month. Fetched it out of the freezer, peeled it by scraping off the skin with a teaspoon (much easier and less wasteful than using a knife), and grated it on a microplane - it turns out that ginger is actually easier to grate frozen than fresh.


Chocolate Praline Cake adapted from The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn

3/4 cup chopped pecans
8 Tablespoons butter (1 stick) 

Cake mix gone fancy.
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream

Melt together butter, sugar and cream in saucepan.  Pour evenly in two 9 inch cake pans. 

Spread the chopped pecans over the sugar mixture.

One 18.5 oz. devil's food cake mix
1/2 cup oil
3 eggs
1 cup water

Prepare the cake mix as directed on package.  Spread over praline mixture.  Bake at 325 for about 30 minutes.  Don't overbake chocolate cakes - bake until toothpick inserted in center has a lot of moist crumbs clinging to it, but no raw dough. 

Put cake pans on racks to cool for 10 minutes.  Then turn cakes out onto wire racks, praline side up.  Cool.
Spread with Whipped Cream between layers and on top. (Or pipe it if you have decorating supplies...)

Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar\
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1 packet Whip It, optional

Mix all together at low speed and increase to high until stiff peaks form.  (For serving as an accompaniment to the pie, mix only until soft peaks form.)

Some notes for the Chocolate Praline Cake:

First off, if you want to decorate the cake with the whipped cream, double the recipe for the Sweetened Cream: use two cups, not one.

Second, don't follow Byrn's recipe and use 1/4 cup of sugar per cup of cream - too sweet. Instead follow Berenbaum's proportions of 1 Tablespoon of sugar per cup of cream plus 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Finally, you can buy a little envelope of powder at the store in the baking aisle of Wegman's called "Whip It". (Nothing to do with Devo, by the way.) - it just stabilizes the cream so it doesn't separate, and is especially good when decorating with whipped cream, or transporting a whipped cream dessert. It's made by Dr.Oetker, originally from Germany, the main ingredient is cornstarch. I always try to keep a packet or two on hand.
When you don't have the old family recipes to rely on, try some of the cookbooks in our library.  You might even find something better than "mom used to make"!  And the baklava? - stay posted, we'll try to get that recipe for you soon..

The Cake Mix Doctor is in our Library.  You can get the Pie and Pastry Bible from 12 of our member libraries:  just place a hold online or at the Info desk.  It takes about a week to get holds that are on the shelf from another library - a great service only 25 cents. 

I found the inspiration for the styling of these desserts from several cookbooks in our Library.  Come and check some new cookbooks out for ideas!  It's fun and cheap - enjoy your weekend...and diet on the weekdays.

Diane Whitman
Reference Librarian
Amateur Baker

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