Cherry Pie

CherryPie_2

So I guess I better put it out there: after all my hoping and all signs pointing in my direction, I won’t be on the Great British Bake Off this year. And now that that’s out of the way, it’s time to continue in my pajama-clad adventures!

This week I decided to make a cherry pie with a latticed top. I originally found the recipe in a cookbook my friend Leslie gave me for Christmas, but it called for cherry brandy. Having none on hand I instead substituted a bit of Coke, which I think tasted pretty awesome. I also love the addition of the allspice to the pastry – it makes for an extra tasty flaky pie crust.

I’ll admit, the lattice is a little tricky to do – the key is to make sure your dough is good and chilled so that it doesn’t want to fall apart when you go to create the top. Best served warm with a scoop of ice cream on top, this pie is sure to cheer you up when you slice into it and see that there’s not a soggy bottom in sight!

Ingredients

For the pastry:

  • 2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) butter, chilled and cut into cubes
  • 2 eggs, beaten, plus 1 extra beaten
For the filling:
  • 6 cups fresh cherries, pitted (about a pound of cherries)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 teaspoons Coca-cola
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted

CherryPie_1

Directions

1. First make your pastry; sift together the flour, baking powder, and allspice into a large bowl. Then stir in the salt and sugar and mix well. Rub in the butter until the mixture looks like fine bread crumbs. Make a well in the center, power in the eggs and mix into the dough until it comes together. If you need to, add a tiny bit of ice cold water to help. Once it comes together, divide your dough into two halves, wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.

2. While your dough is chilling, make your cherry filling. Put half of the cherries into a saucepan over medium heat. Add in all of the sugar, then bring to a simmer. Once simmering, stir in the almond extract, Coke, and allspice.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and water until it makes a paste. Stir the paste into your saucepan with the cherries and boil until the mixture thickens. Stir in the remaining cherries and remove from the heat.

4. Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C). Roll out your dough balls on a lightly floured surface until they’re large enough to cover your pie plate. Use one of them to line the pie plate.

4. Pour your cherry filling over the lined pie plate, then dot with the melted butter. Cut the remaining dough into strips that are about 1/2-inch wide, then lay them over the top of the pie filling, creating a lattice. Trim and seal the edges with a bit of water and crimp around the outside edge. Brush the top of the pastry with the last beaten egg – this will help give it a golden shine on the top.

5. Cover the pie with aluminum foil, then bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, then bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the top is golden. Allow the pie to cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting into it.

 

Gingerbread Cookies

GingerbreadCake_1

Gingerbread cookies are probably the best cookies to make for Christmas. Really simple, just cut out and decorate with a bit of icing. I’ve actually made a bunch of these to use as Christmas ornaments on our tree, just up the spices a bit more so that they are a bit more aromatic and your house will smell wonderful as you’re making them.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (230 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup black treacle or 1 cup molasses
  • 5 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice

Directions

1. In the bowl of your mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

2. In a separate bowl, stir together the hot water, baking soda, and black treacle/molasses.

3. Sift together the flour and the rest of the ingredients. With your mixer on low, gradually add in the flour mixture, alternating with the hot water mixture. You will start to get a pretty hefty dough, so be sure not to overwhelm your mixer. Once everything is mixed, place the dough in the fridge to chill for at least an hour.

4. Once the dough is chilled, preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). On a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough until it is 1/4-inch thick. Then cut the dough into whichever shapes you choose using some cookie cutters. If you want to make them into ornaments, cut a hole in the dough for the ribbon before baking, making it larger than you actually need to allow for the expansion during baking.

5. Bake for 13-17 minutes until done. Don’t let the edges turn too dark brown, or else the cookies will be pretty brittle. Allow them to cool completely on wire racks before decorating.

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

GingerbreadCake_3

So I hadn’t mentioned this earlier, but I sent in an application for the next series of the Great British Bake Off. One day, I received a very interesting phone call – one of the people who works on the show; he asked me a few questions and then asked if I would like to come in for an in-person interview for the next round of auditions. Of course, I said yes!!

I don’t know how I managed to stay so calm during my interview, I’m pretty sure I was speaking a mile a minute and I felt like my heart was going to burst out of my chest. As soon as I got off the phone, I ran back upstairs to my desk at work with a grin bigger than the Cheshire Cat’s. I was going to audition. I had been selected out of thousands of applicants to have a chance to prove my baking skills.

I was given the instructions to bring some examples of my baking to show off my skills, and instantly my mind starting spinning – what should I make? I wanted something that would be a showstopper. Something that would represent me and my American-ness. Me and my Southern-ness. So I instantly thought to a recipe from Southern Living that I had been eyeing for some time – a chocolate gingerbread cake.

The following weekend, I did a trial bake to take to work for feedback. After a few suggestions and a bit of tweaking, I think I nailed my final recipe. I ended up making this cake three times – once for work as a trial, once for the audition, and a third time for Christmas Eve dinner to share with my family (who are probably more excited at my prospect than I am, as they immediately started planning out plot lines and how they’d ‘spin’ my story on the show).

Anyways, this cake does take a bit of time to prep and assemble. But it is worth it – it is so moist and delicious and it just looks and tastes like the holidays. Plus, the chocolate ganache and toffee layers in between the cakes are an extra decadent treat. The key is to take your time and try not to rush through.

As far as Bake Off goes, I’m awaiting the results to see if I’m invited to the next round – but hopefully this cake impressed! So, bakers, keep your fingers crossed!

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 16-ounce package (450 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups (330 grams) flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 10-ounce (300 ml) container sour cream
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup black treacle or 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
For the chocolate ganache:
  • 2 cups dark chocolate
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 Tablespoons (28 grams) butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
For the toffee layer:
  • 400 grams dairy toffee pieces
  • 1/4 cup (57.5 grams) butter
  • milk, if needed
For the ginger whipped cream:
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 5-6 1/8-inch slices peeled fresh ginger
  • 6 Tablespoons icing sugar
For decorating:

Directions

1. The night before you want to bake your cake, prepare the ginger whipped cream. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the cream and ginger for 3-5 minutes of just until bubbles appear. Be sure not to let the mixture boil. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, place in a container to chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours, but overnight would be best. The colder your cream, the better it will whip!

2. When you’re ready to bake your cake, preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and line 3 round cake tins with parchment paper, then butter the parchment paper. Next, begin your cake batter microwaving your chocolate in a bowl in 30-second bursts until melted. Be sure to stir the chocolate in between bursts to make sure it doesn’t burn!

3. In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the brown sugar and butter at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, followed by the melted chocolate, beating until it’s just blended.

4. Sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, salt, allspice, and nutmeg. Gradually add this flour mixture to the chocolate mixture, alternating with the sour cream. Make sure to begin and end your additions with the flour mixture. Beat at a low speed until everything just comes together. Next, stir together the hot water with the black treacle/molasses as well as the baking soda (this mix will foam a bit). Gradually stir the molasses mixture into the rest of the batter, as well as adding in the vanilla. Once your mixture is blended together, spoon the batter evenly into your 3 prepared cake tins.

5. Bake the cakes for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out to cool completely (about an hour).

6. When the cakes are nearly cool, prepare your toffee mixture. In a glass bowl over simmering water, place your toffee pieces and butter together. Gently heat until the butter and candy begins to melt and become runny. You’ll need this to have a fairly runny consistency in order to spread over your cake. If you need to, you can add more butter or a bit of milk to help lighten the consistency. Once the toffee is melted, quickly spread a layer over the top of two of your cakes. Be careful not to work it too hard as it cools, because it can tear your cakes.

GingerbreadCake_2

7. Next, make your chocolate ganache. Similar to the toffee, melt your chocolate pieces and salt in a bowl over simmering water. Once everything is melted, add in the sweetened condensed milk; cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly until everything is smooth. Remove from the heat, then add in the butter and vanilla, stirring for 4-5 minutes until smooth. Let the ganache cool to room temperature before transferring to another bowl. Add in the cream and beat with a hand mixer on high speed until it reaches the consistency of buttercream. If you need to, you can add a bit of icing sugar to help with the consistency. Once it’s ready, spread the ganache over your toffee layers.

8. Once all of your cakes are toffee-d and ganache-d, layer them up so that the cake with nothing on it is the top layer. Then whip up your chilled ginger cream to make the frosting. Pour the cream through a fine mesh strainer to remove the ginger pieces. Beat with a hand mixer on high speed until the mixture starts to foam. Then add in your icing sugar and continue to mix on high speed until stiff peaks form. Use the whipped cream immediately and spread over your cake.

9. Finally, decorate your cake however you’d like using fresh gingerbread cookies, mint, and cranberries.

Hot Cross Buns

As it comes up to Easter, all of the grocery stores around the UK start selling hot cross buns. So I figured I’d give them a go, having never had one in my life. They turned out alright, except that I’m pretty sure I overworked the dough a bit, so be sure to avoid that!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted

Directions

1. Heat the 3/4 cup milk until lukewarm, then gently stir in the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until it gets foamy. If the yeast does not foam, it is either too old or the milk was too warm, so dump the mixture and start again.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, salt and orange zest.

3. Create a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the milk and yeast mixture. Mix until combined, then add 2 eggs and mix until the yolk disappear. Add the butter and raisins then mix for about four minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

4. Place the dough into a large bowl coated with oil, cover with a clean towel, and place in a warm place to rise for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. (If your house is chilly, like mine, I suggest putting the bowl into a cool oven and placing a dish full of hot water below it. If it’s a sunny day though, a warm window sill works well!) 

5. Once the dough has risen, punch it down once, and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.

6. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and form each piece into a round ball. (I used a scale to make sure everything was even.) Place each ball onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, making sure they are evenly spaced.

7. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of milk. Brush the tops of each dough ball with the mixture, and save the remaining egg wash. Place a clean towel over the tops of the rolls and set in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes.

8. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Then brush the tops of the rolls again with the egg wash before placing in the oven to bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

9. Allow the rolls to cool completely on the baking sheet, then combine the icing sugar and 1 tablespoon of milk. Place the mixture into a pastry bag (or a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off), and pipe a cross over the top of each cool bun.