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Pithy and Cleaver » dessert

Archived entries for dessert

The Quickest Biscuit: Blackberry-Peach Cobbler

This recipe is a game-changer. You may usually be the crumble type, or a pie person, but this cobbler may convert your dessert forever.

Let me introduce you to the quickest biscuit recipe you’ve ever met. It goes like this: self-rising flour, crème fraiche. A little sugar if you’d like. But that’s all. No worries if you don’t have self-rising flour around–it’s just a mix of flour, salt, and baking powder, in the quantities specified below. Mix ‘em up and use them to top your favorite fruit, sprinkle a little sugar over it all, and pop your cobbler in the oven. The biscuit topping emerges twenty-five minute later puffy and golden, pillowy inside, perfect to soak up the bubbling fruit below. A cinch, really.

The original Bon Appetit recipe calls for stovetop-cooked blueberries as a filling, but I bought blackberries instead–they’re Matt’s favorite. (He was pleased, though less pleased with the heat of the oven in his “office” on this 100-degree day. Oops…luckily the cooking time is short.) Precooking the fruit really isn’t necessary. Doubling the recipe might be–there’s no shame in eating leftover cobbler for breakfast, topped with a dollop of plain yogurt.

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RoboJesusSpaceBaby Cake (or, The. Best. Coconut. Cake. Evar.)

There’s a longstanding joke about my alma mater that goes a little something like this: A Sarah Lawrence girl will do anything–except math. And it’s funny because it’s true (for the most part); with the exception of the ladies enrolled in the school’s mighty genetics department, we were not a bunch known for our mathematical prowess.  I want you to keep this fact in mind as you read this post.

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About this time last year, my lovely friend A and I got together for a baking date, which resulted in the creation of the famous and wonderful RoboJesusSpaceBabyCake. (Which, for the uninitiated, was a coconut cake so named because of the AWESOME box we made for it.). It was tremendous! And delicious! And amazing! Everything you’d ever want in a coconut cake!

And so of course I promptly lost the recipe.

[insert sounds of wailing, gnashing of teeth]

Fast forward to last week, wherein I found myself craving a slice of RoboJesusSpaceBabyCake. Craving it SO FIERCELY, in fact, that I spent at least two hours combing the internet, from whence the original recipe came, trying to locate it. After much hunting, I found it! And there was much rejoicing!

…until I decided to take it from a double layer cake to a triple layer cake. By increasing the recipe by 1/3. Instead of, you know. Just increasing it by half. Which would have the logical way to approach this.

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This is what happens when you let me start baking at midnight. Math. Lots and lots of unnecessary math. And after spending some time scrabbling fraction-based equations in my cooking notes, I can tell you this with authority: 1/3 is a RIDICULOUS multiplier to use in the kitchen. Most measuring spoons are not made to dole out 7/12ths of a teaspoon.

Fortunately, the cake was just as awesome as I’d remembered: dense, rich, delicious, not too sweet (well, until you slathered it with cream cheese frosting), and an excellent excuse to throw an impromptu party for some of my best and brightest. And any equation that adds up that nicely is okay by me.

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And now, without further ado:

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The Endless Cappuccino-Fudge Cheesecake

I’m not going to claim this was a quick one. First, I had to track down chocolate wafer cookies (no, Oreos are not the same thing.) Then, I assembled our new food processor for the first time and gleefully swirled the cookies around in it. I chopped up some good chocolate and weighed it out with our new kitchen scale. Then, I called my mother to tell her how exciting it was to use the new food processor and new kitchen scale. An hour had gone by and I wasn’t even done with step one.

But once I got rolling, with the help of my friend (and cheesecake expert extraordinaire) Lindsay, I got more and more excited. The scent of dark chocolate ganache and freshly ground espresso beans wafted through the kitchen. The buttery chocolate-crumb crust rested in the freezer. The recipe was from Lindsay’s files—she used to bake cheesecakes for local restaurants in New Hampshire after college. She became a bit famous, but the constant cheesecakes were so much work, and the ingredients so costly, that it wasn’t quite worth it.

Five hours after I started with the crust, the coffee cheesecake layer was baked and topped with a slightly tart and rich sour cream layer (like the foam on a cappucino.) Five hours. And it still needed chilling and decorating. Dear readers, do not plan on making this the evening of of a dinner party. This is not a last-minute dessert.

But therein lies the beauty. Once assembled and topped with a lattice of dark chocolate ganache, this baby really improves in the fridge. I’m not exaggerating—the first day we ate this cake, we were underwhelmed. And then something magical happened, and with a second day’s rest, the flavors melded and the cheesecake layer grew creamier and more luscious. Lindsay and I made the cake on Wednesday, adding ganache on Thursday, and on Friday friends who came over to help us eat it couldn’t stop cooing over their hefty slices.

And that wasn’t the end—there was still so much cake left. But guests who joined us the following Wednesday (a full week after the five hour baking marathon) couldn’t get over how delicious it was. The intense coffee flavor! The fudgy crust! The perfect balance of the creamy-and-tart topping! When they returned two nights later they were saddened that we’d finally, finally finished the last slice. “Just think of all the unfortunate people who didn’t get to taste that cheesecake,” one lamented (after a few beers.)

But you (and your friends—it’s a big cake) don’t have to be unfortunate in that way. Just make sure you’ve got a little time on your hands.

Recipe after the jump.

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Looking for an easier cheesecake? This crustless lemony goat cheese cheesecake was easy as pie…or easier.

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A little tropical refreshment: Piña Colada Ice Pops

If you happened (hypothetically) to be visiting the Pacific Northwest in the last week of July, you may still be in shock. It can get that hot in Portland, and not everyone is prepared for it. The restaurants don’t all have air conditioning. The traffic lights got shorted out. We’re just lucky it didn’t last too long.

And we were lucky that my mother had the foresight to save a page of grown-up popsicle recipes from July’s Gourmet magazine. These piña colada ice pops were fresh and not too sweet. They were easy to whip up ahead of time, and made a fun finish to a spicy takeout Thai dinner we ate the night my brother’s family arrived.

If you can’t get a sweet ripe pineapple, you could probably use canned, but I suspect it wouldn’t be quite as good. In the future, I might add a tablespoon or two more rum to make sure you can taste it a little. Adding too much could keep them from freezing solid, though. Also, don’t be tempted to skip the straining step—getting lazy might mean you end up with quite a fibrous dessert.

If you don’t have popsicle molds handy, I hear you can use shot glasses or little jars as well.Dont worry, hers was just apple juice

Don’t worry, hers was just apple juice.

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Ultimate Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

A few days ago, as he feverishly prepared for the deadline, Matt announced that it was customary in his department to bring cookies to one’s dissertation proposal talk. He said he could just pick some up at Panera (gross), and there was also the option of Olive’s (a bakery whose undercooked Frisbee-sized cookies fueled many of the late night study sessions of my undergraduate years), but I volunteered to do better. I don’t speak math, so I can’t really proofread his papers or criticize his slides. I couldn’t tell him if his equations were off or if he needed to explain some statistical concept further. I’m really no help in that category, but cookies? Cookies I can handle.

These chewy peanut butter nuggets were adapted by Deb (of Smitten Kitchen) from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. They have the perfect texture, and the surprise of sweet peanut butter chips in each bite. The recipe also calls for chocolate chips, but I skipped those since I was also making a batch of intensely chocolatey cookies recommended by another favorite blogger. (More on those later, I promise.) I also skipped rolling the cookies in additional sugar, because I have found that many of the recipes from this book are a tad sweet for my taste.

I mixed the batter the day before and let it rest overnight covered in the fridge. Dough-aging is all the rage these days, since those New York Times cookies, and in this instance it may have improved the chewiness and heightened the deep caramel flavors of the final result. Also, it was just convenient.

And they were exceptional. I tasted one right out of the oven, then swore I would stop. Then I bit into another crackly edge into the soft, chewy, nutty center, and had to sit down.

I’ve had a few peanut butter cookies in my day, and maybe you have, too, but we should both throw away those other recipes. This is the one. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so passionately about a cookie—certainly not a peanut butter cookie. But I’m serious about these. Luckily Matt took the rest of the batch with him on the train (after tasting a few for “quality control.”)

Stuffing themselves with stacks of cookies, his committee members praised the presentation. I’m sure it wasn’t just the sugar talking, but it can’t have hurt.

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