Pistachio Layer Cake with Honey Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Pistachio Cake

Adapated from Baked Explorations’ Aunt Sassy Cake

Ingredients for the cake:

1 cup shelled pistachios (plus 1/3 cup for decorating)
2 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups ice-cold water
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Ingredients for the Honey Vanilla Buttercream:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoon honey

Make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 325° F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper and butter the parchment. Dust parchment with flour and knock out excess flour.

In the bowl of food processor, pulse the pistachios until they are coarsely chopped. Transfer about 2 tablespoons’ worth of the coarse pistachios to a large bowl. Continue to process the rest of the pistachios until they are almost powdery, but not a superfine dust. Stir the pistachio powder into the reserved coarse pistachios. Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt, together over the large bowl containing the pistachios mix. Stir to combine.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add the whole egg, and beat until just combined. Turn the mixture to low.

In a measuring cup, make 1 1/2 cups ice water. Add the flour mixture to the mixer in three parts, alternating with the ice water, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. For each addition, turn the mixer to low to add ingredients, then up to medium speed for a few seconds until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low-speed for a few more seconds.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form (You can do this by hand. Don’t be intimidated, it should only take 2 to 3 minutes). Do not over beat. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 40-45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack and let cool completely. Remove the parchment paper.

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Make the honey vanilla buttercream:
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add milk and cream and cook over medium heat whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer with paddle attachment. Beat on high until cool (this takes at least 7 to 9 minutes of mixing) then add the butter; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the vanilla and honey and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bow over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.

Assemble the cake:
Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface, and evenly spread about 1 1/4 cups frosting on top. Add the next layer, trim and frost it, then add the third layer. Spread a very thin layer of frosting over the sides and top of the cake and put it in the refrigerator for bout 15 minutes to firm up. (This is known as the crumb coating and will help keep loose cake crumbs under control when you frost the outside of the cake.) Spread the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Garnish the cake with crushed pistachios and refrigerate it for 15 minutes to it firm up before serving.

This cake will keep beautifully in a cake saver at room temperature for up to 3 days, if the weather is humidity free. Otherwise, put it in a cake saver and refrigerate it for up to 3 days. Let the cake sit a room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.

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Classic Pie Dough

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This basic pie dough recipe can be used for any of your favorite recipes that call for pie crust.

Yields 2 balls of dough, enough for two single-crust 9-inch pies or one double-crust pie.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Ice water
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together. In a measuring cup, stir 3/4 cup water with several ice cubes until it is very cold.

Cut the cold butter into cubes and toss them in the flour mixture to coat. Put the mixture in the bowl of a food processor and pulse in short bursts until the butter pieces are the size of hazelnuts.

Pulsing in 4-second bursts, slowly drizzle the ice water into the food processor.

As soon as the dough comes together in a ball, stop adding water. Remove the dough from the food processor and divide it in half. Flatten each piece into a disk and wrap each disk first in parchment paper and then in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 1 hour. (The dough can stay refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for 3 months)

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An Apple Pie made using this Classic Pie Dough recipe.
An Apple Pie made using this Classic Pie Dough recipe.

Coffee Ice Cream with Oreo Cookies

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Makes one quart of ice cream.

Ingredients:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon Kahlua
  • 1-1 1/2 cups of Oreo cookie pieces

Directions:

Put the egg yolks in a large heatproof bowl and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, stir together the heavy cream, milk, sugar, salt, and instant espresso powder. Bring the mixture to a slow, consistent simmer (just this side of a boil) and remove from heat.

Whisk the egg yolks until just combined (don’t overmix), then slowly stream in half of the hot coffee cream mixture while whisking constantly. Tranfer the egg mixture back to the medium saucepan containing the other half of the coffee cream mixture. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 175 degrees on an instant-read thermometer).

Remove from heat and strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Whisk in the Kahlua, and let mixture cool to room temperatue.

Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the mixture to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for 4 hours.

Pour into ice cream machine and freeze, following the manufacturer’s instructions. In last five minutes, add Oreo cookie pieces. Transer to a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze until firm.

If you don’t have an ice cream machine, follow these instructions on how to make homemade ice cream without an ice cream maker: 

1. Prepare the custard base as directed in the recipe (including chill time in the refrigerator).

2. Remove custard from the refrigerator and stir with a rubber spatula. Transfer the mixture to a freezer-safe bowl or container (if not already in one). Cover tightly with plastic wrap or an airtight cover. Place in the freezer and allow to freeze for 2 hours.

3. Remove from the freezer and beat with a hand mixer to break up the ice crystals that are beginning to form. Cover and place back in freezer for 2 more hours.

4. Remove from the freezer and beat again with the hand mixer. The ice cream should be thick but too soft to scoop. If it is not thick enough, return it to the freezer for additional freezing time. Beat again. If the ice cream has thickened properly, stir in any add-ins at this point (chocolate chips, cookie chunks, etc.). Do not beat with the hand mixer after the add-ins have been mixed in.

5. Pour into a plastic airtight freezer container, leaving at least ½-inch space at the top. Cover and place the container in the freezer and allow the ice cream to freeze until firm.

Cranberry Margarita

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Ingredients for Cranberry Jam:

  • ¾ cup fresh cranberries
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Ingredients to Assemble Margarita:

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 lime wedge, plus 2 oz. fresh juice
  • 4 oz. fresh orange juice
  • 6 oz. tequila

Directions:

First make the Cranberry Jam.

In a medium saucepan, bring cranberries, sugar, orange juice, and ¼ cup water to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and jammy. This will take about 30–40 minutes. When done, mix in orange zest and let cool.

Cover and chill in the fridge.

*Jam can be made 5 days ahead. Cover and chill.

When ready to assemble the margaritas, mix salt, sugar, and five-spice powder on a small plate. Rub rims the glasses you will be using with lime wedge then dip in salt mixture and fill glasses with ice.

For each cocktail, combine ½ oz. lime juice, 1 oz. orange juice, 1½ oz. tequila, and 2 Tbsp. of the cranberry jam in a cocktail shaker; fill with ice.

Cover and shake for about 30 seconds.

Strain into prepared glass.

Enjoy!

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Enjoying the Cranberry Margaritas!

Sweet Potato Croquettes

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Ingredients:

  • 3 large sweet potatoes or yams cooked and mashed
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary finely chopped
  • 1 clove finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 cups Panko bread crumbs
  • Vegetable oil for frying

 

Directions:

In a large bowl mash cooked sweet potatoes or yams.  Add brown sugar, rosemary, garlic, pecorino cheese, parsley, cinnamon, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to. Add in 1 egg and mix well.
Refrigerate sweet potato mixture for about 2-3 hours to allow mixture to get firm, which will make it easier to shape the croquettes for breading and frying.
When ready to bread set up 3 bowls: One bowl with the panko bread crumbs, one with the regular bread crumbs and one with the remaining 2 eggs and tsp of water, whisked together.
Roll mixture into individual 1in balls and place on a lined or floured baking sheet.
Meanwhile, heat 2 inches of oil over medium high heat and once the oil is hot, lower to medium/medium low. Make sure not to add any croquettes to the oil until it is hot.
Roll each ball you created in the regular breadcrumbs, then into the egg wash and then into the panko breadcrumbs.
Lightly press and form and then gently place the croquettes into hot oil. Do only a few at a time, as you want to make sure you don’t burn the croquettes.
Fry for about 1-2 minutes on each side until lightly golden. Remove from oil with slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain off excess oil.  Repeat until all croquettes are done.

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Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

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Ingredients:


For the Whoopie Pies

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder ( like Valrhona)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened, cut into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon red gel food coloring

For the Cream Cheese Filling

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cram cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Assembly
1/2 cup toasted walnuts,chopped coarsely

Make the Pies
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour,cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the canola oil and buttermilk.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and shortening until smooth.  Scrape down the bowl and add the sugars.  Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until combined.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the red gel food coloring, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds to incorporate.   Do not over mix.

Turn the mixer to low.  Add the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk mixture, in three separate additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture until just combined.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl , then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill the batter in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.

Remove the batter from the refrigerator.  Us a a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart.  Bake for 10-20 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean.  Let the cookies cool completely on the pan while you make the filling.

Make the Cream Cheese Filling
Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it is completely smooth.   Add the cream cheese and beat until combined.

Add the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat until smooth.  Be careful not to over beat the filling or it will lose structure. (The filling can be made 1 day ahead. Cover the bowl tightly and put it in the refrigerator.  Let the filling soften at room temperature before using.)

Assemble the Whoopie Pies
Spread the walnuts in an even layer on a small plate.

Turn half of the cooled cookies upside down (flat side facing up)

Use an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon to drop a large dollop of filling onto the flat side of the cookie.  Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling.  Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie. Turn the whoopie on its side and roll through the walnuts.  Repeat until all the cookies are used.  Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.

The whoopie pies will keep for up to 3 days on a parchment lined baking sheet covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator.

Dark Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Ingredients:

  • 2 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup room temperature water
  • 4 large room temperature eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

Creame Cheese Frosting Ingredients:

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cram cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F . Grease and flour three 9×5 inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and the eggs until combined. Mix in the pumpkin, vegatable oil, and water. Beat until smooth. Slowly incorporate the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Fold in the chocolate chips. Fill pans about 3/4 full.

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Bake for 1 hour, or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Rotate the pans midway through the baking process  to ensure that all sides bake evenly. Cool on wire racks before removing from pans.

Creame Cheese Frosting Directions:

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it is completely smooth.   Add the cream cheese and beat until combined.

Add the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat until smooth.  Be careful not to over beat the filling or it will lose structure. (The filling can be made 1 day ahead. Cover the bowl tightly and put it in the refrigerator.  Let the filling soften at room temperature before using.)

Spread evenly on to cooled loaves.

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