September 26, 2016

Honeycrisp Apple Pie

My dear friends Frank and Evelyn moved from San Francisco to Seattle several years ago.  Both had lived and worked in the Bay Area for more than a decade but actually grew up in the Pacific Northwest, so their return to the Emerald City was a homecoming of sorts.  

I try to visit them at least once a year and on my most recent trip up north I requested we go apple picking.  Honeycrisp apples in particular, known for being sweet, slightly tart and definitely crisp.  Washington state produces the majority of the apples grown in the US and apple picking is a time honored fall tradition.

We drove about 45 minutes outside of Seattle and headed to The Farm at Swan's Trail.  The weather couldn't have been better and because it was the beginning of the season there was an abundance of fruit just ripe for the picking.  Forty five minutes and about fifty pounds of apples later we went home thoroughly satisfied.   

I ended up bringing about ten pounds of apples back to San Francisco (in my checked luggage!) and was determined to bake something with them.   Up until now I hadn't had much success with apple pies, but when I did a google search for Honeycrisp recipes I came upon this one from claiming it was their "favorite apple pie."  

The filling was super easy to pull together, but rather than using the included crust recipe I instead used Cook's Illustrated's foolproof one.   It's the most buttery, flaky crust I've ever tasted, owing to the use of vodka, and knew it would be fantastic for my pie.     

Golden brown and bubbling from the oven, the pie smelled heavenly.  But the real test would be once it was cooled.  Would the filling be soupy and mushy, similar to previous pies I'd made?  The verdict: NOT AT ALL!  

One bite of the cinnamon and nutmeg infused apple filling and I was hooked.  Epicurious was spot on, Honeycrisp apples were the perfect variety to use for pie baking - sweet and tart but still able to hold their shape.   I think I've found my very own foolproof apple pie recipe!

September 14, 2016

Mallorcas & a Giveaway

What started as a "girls trip" in 2014 with my girlfriends has subsequently turned in to a summer tradition that I look forward to every year.  On our first tour we went to Capri which was absolutely gorgeous and had the best people/celebrity watching.  Last year we ventured to Florence  where we shopped 'til we dropped and ate tons of pasta and gelato in between.    This summer's locale was Mallorca, one of Spain's stunning Baleriac islands. 

We stayed in Palma and had the best time walking throughout the capital city's cobblestone streets and enjoying the delicious food (tapas! sangria!), beautiful sites and fantastic shopping.  Can you sense a theme in our trips?   So when I was thumbing through America's Test Kitchen's latest amazing tome, Bread Illustrated, I was absolutely delighted to see the recipe for Mallorcas.

It seemed like every bakery we passed by sold this massive, spiral bread which I later came to learn was called ensaimada (see pic below)With further research I soon learned that Mallorcas, or Pan de Mallorca, are Puerto Rico's version of the ensaimada.  Unfortunately I never got the chance to try the bread in Palma, but armed with this recipe I could now try it's close relative!

The enriched dough is similar to brioche in that it's laden with eggs and butter.  After an initial proof the dough is rolled thinly, brushed with melted butter and rolled up like a jelly roll to achieve multiple layers.  After portioning out the dough each piece is then rolled in to a long rope, brushed with more butter and finally formed in to a spiral before it's final proof.

The smell of the freshly baked buns is absolutely hypnotic.  After a brief cooling they are generously dusted with a cloud of powdered sugar and served slightly warm.  Delicioso!  I brought the buns to my family's Labor Day BBQ where they were subsequently claimed by my siblings and mom.

There are so many fantastic bread recipes in this cookbook and I can't wait to try more.  I think the chocolate babka and Portuguese sweet bread are calling my name, so watch this blog for future posts.

My friends at America's Test Kitchen have generously donated a cookbook to give away on my blog AND my Instagram, @treatssf.   See blog giveaway rules below.

  1. Deadline to enter is Saturday September 24, 2016, 11:59pm PST.
  2. Only open to people with US mailing addresses.
  3. To enter, leave a comment to this post with your email address.  Sorry, you must include your email address as that's the only way I can contact the winner.

September 5, 2016

Clotted Cream Shortbread

What to do when you bring home eight tubs of Rodda's clotted cream from London, give away six and keep two for yourself?   Well, you eat one tub, of course, slathered on scones with tons of jam.   Absolute heaven!  The dilemma then became the fate of the remaining tub, which was nearing its expiration date.   I searched on Rodda's website and found their recipe for Clotted Cream Shortbread...jackpot! 

Shortbread made with clotted cream?  The baker in me was skeptical, to be sure.  Would the clotted cream compromise the texture of  the shortbread.  Only one way to find out.  

As soon as the dough came together I knew these cookies would be fantastic.  It had the exact same look and feel as other shortbread I'd made before and rolled out like an absolute dream.   Look how beautifully the dough held the shape and  design of the strawberry cookie cutter I used.  

My toughest critics, aka my family, tried the cookies and gave them the thumbs up.   Just the right amount of crunch with a hint of sweetness.   Perfect served with ice cream or fresh strawberries and clotted cream.  

August 21, 2016

Beijinho & Brigadeiro

The 2016 Summer Olympics conclude today in Rio so here's my final homage to the games and host country.  I had heard of the popular Brazilian candy brigadeiro, a chocolate fudge ball most associated with birthday parties, but when I mentioned I was thinking of making them my Brazilian colleague Marcelo said his favorite sweet was actually the beijinho.  Beijinho?  What the heck was that?  Beijinho in Portuguese means "little kiss" and these treats are similar to brigadeiro but made with coconut instead of chocolate.  

Both candies start with a base of sweetened condensed milk and butter.  Chocolate or coconut is stirred in and the entire thing is cooked over the stove.  You stir constantly until the mixture gets very thick and viscous.  Once cooled, the candy is formed in to bite-sized balls and rolled in sprinkles or coconut.  

Given my aversion to anything overly sweet I was a bit hesitant about candy made with condensed milk.  To my delight I found both versions had just the right amount of sweetness.  I must say that I agree with Marcelo and prefer the beijinho, but that's mainly because I pretty much love anything coconut.  The one tip I would offer is to cook the candy mixture until it's super thick.  With my brigadeiro I think they definitely could have benefited from a few more minutes on the stove to ensure a harder consistency when cooled.   But no worries, it still tasted delicious!


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