Golden Vanilla-Pear Jam

Golden Vanilla-Pear Jam

I don’t easily get intimidated in the kitchen. A multi-layered cake made up of 4 different components? No problem. Roasting a turkey for the fist time, with 20-plus guests coming over? Bring it on. I love a challenge. But canning is something that I’ve pushed off trying for a long time, even though it was something that I was interested in. It just seemed like so much work. And then, of course, there was always the thought in the back of my head that I’m going to kill my family by serving them improperly canned food.

After reading several books about canning, I decided it was time for me to give it a try. And you know what? It really wasn’t that scary. I made this delicious vanilla-pear jam. So many jams are made with spring and summer produce, but this is a great was to use produce that’s in season during the colder months. You all know how much I adore vanilla, and this jam shows it off perfectly.

Golden Vanilla-Pear Jam

If you don’t want to can this (which I totally understand!), don’t let that keep you from making it! It’ll keep for about a month in the fridge. If you won’t use it that quickly, you can give some away or just make a half recipe. It’s wonderful on a sandwich with almond butter, and I also used about a jar of it in a batch of fruit bars (using THIS recipe).

Golden Vanilla-Pear Jam


Make sure that the lids you use for canning are new—you can not reuse lids when canning!

The reason you remove the lids before storing is because in case the food wasn’t properly canned, and bacteria starts growing in it, the lid will pop off and you’ll know right away that you shouldn’t eat it. For that reason, it’s also best not to store jars in top of one another.

Golden Vanilla-Pear Jam

6 cups peeled, cored, and chopped pears

4 cups granulated sugar, divided

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise

1 (1.75-ounce) package powdered pectin

1. Place a rack (I used the basket from THIS set, but a rounds cake cooling rack also works well) on the bottom of a large pot. Add your (lidless) canning jars, fill the pot with enough water to cover the jars by an inch, and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes to sterilize, then remove from heat, drop in you jar lids, and cover the pot to keep everything nice and hot.

2. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot. combine 3 3/4 cups of the sugar, the lemon juice, and the vanilla beans. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Boil until the pears are very soft, about 12 to 15 minutes, mashing with a potato masher as the fruit softens.

3. Whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar with the pectin in a small bowl. Stir into the pear mixture, and let boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the vanilla bean pods, scrape out any remaining seeds into the jam, ans mix well.

4. Carefully remove the jars and lids from the hot water using canning tongs and a magnetic lid lifter, pouring the hot water from the jars back into the pot. Place onto a clean towel on your work surface.

5. Place the canning pot with the water over medium heat.

6. Dry the jars, and then immediately ladle the jam into the jars a wide-mouth funnel helps a lot!). Wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth. Place a lid on a each jar, and add the rings to close. Close the jars with the tips off your fingers, so that they are tight enough, but not too tight to allow air to escape when you remove the jars from the canning pot.

7. When the water starts boiling, add the closed jars to the pot, adding more water if necessary to cover the jars by a few inches. Boil for 10 minutes.

8. Using canning tongs, remove the jars from the pot back to the dish towel to cool. As they cool, you’ll hear popping sounds as the jars seal. Once cooled, check the jars to make sure that they have sealed properly—the center of the lids should not pop back when you press on them. Remove the rings, and store in the pantry for up to a year. Once opened, refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Makes about 6 half-pint jars (I canned 4 of them, and put 2 in the fridge)

From Pure Vanilla, by Shauna Sever

Cranberry Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream

Cranberry Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream

You know how some cookbooks are not just full of great recipes, but they are also really great to read? Piece of Cake: Home Baking Made Simple is like that. It’s a baking book written by two American guys who own a bakery in London, and it’s one of my favorite books to just pull off the shelf and look through. It’s also great for when you finish all the books you borrowed from the library, and you have nothing else to read, and you must read something before going to sleep. (I’m not the only one who does that, right?!)  Not only is it filled with the most incredible-sounding recipes (most of which I want to make), but the photographs are gorgeous and the writing is actually entertaining and fun to read. I’d to thank my friend Shannon with all my heart for introducing me to this book!

Cranberry Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream

Despite owning the book for quite a while, this is the first thing that I’ve actually made from it. I was flipping through it a while back, and decided that I must make the cranberry cupcakes this fall. After waiting for what seems like forever, fresh cranberries are finally available and I was able to bake them up. I have to say, both the flavor and the texture of these was spot on. Even with a whole bag of cranberries these weren’t too tart, just fruity. And they weren’t dry at all (dry cupcakes are pretty much the worst thing ever).

I know that pies and cookies tend to be the traditional baked goods for this time of year, so if you don’t want to break with tradition,  you could make these for somebody who has a birthday during the holidays. Or turn them into mini cupcakes to put onto a dessert buffet for a larger party. Or make them just because.

Cranberry Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream

Cranberry Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream

For the cupcakes:

2 cups (340 g) fresh or frozen cranberries (1 12-ounce package)

2 1/2 cups (380 g) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 /2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

4 large eggs

2 cups (450 g) granulated sugar

1 cup (240 ml) grapeseed oil (or other flavorless oil)

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest

1 cup (225 g) sour cream

1. preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin cups with paper liners.

2. Place the cranberries in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, and pulse about 6 or 7 times, until finely chopped. Set aside.

3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

4. Put the eggs and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat for 2 to 4 minutes, until the mixture thickens and lightens. Stop sometime in the middle to scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure there are no eggs hanging out at the bottom of the bowl not being mixed in. Turn the mixer to low, add the oil, vanilla, and orange zest, and mix until combined. Keep the mixer on low speed, and alternate the flour mixture and the sour cream in 3 to 4 parts, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until only just combined; you should still see some streaks of flour throughout.

5. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold the cranberries into the batter with your rubber spatula. This will also finish mixing the batter, without over-mixing it.

6. Using a spoon or an ice cream scoop, fill each liner with batter until about 2/3 full.

7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pans about halfway through to ensure even baking. The cupcakes are done when a toothpick comes out clean and the tops are golden brown.

8. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, and then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the orange buttercream:

3 cups (525 g) confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (90 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Pinch of kosher salt

3/4 cup (175 g) unsalted butter, softened

1. Combine the confectioners’ sugar, orange juice, orange zest, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until almost combined. Add the softened butter, a little at a time, and then increase the speed to medium-high. Beat for 5 to 6 minutes, until light and fluffy.

2. Spread or pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes.

Makes somewhere between 26 and 28 regular-sized cupcakes.

From Piece of Cake: Home Baking Made Simple, by David Muniz and David Lesniak

Only one recipe in and I’m so happy I added this book to my baking/desserts cookbook collection, because it’s pretty darn awesome!


Vegan Caramelized Pineapple Swirl Ice Cream

Vegan Caramelized Pineapple Swirl Ice Cream

I know, I know. Another ice cream recipe so soon after the last one. I have a feeling I’m going to be posting quite a few ice cream and sorbet recipes around here, so I’d like to apologize in advance to all my readers who don’t have an ice cream maker. I just can’t help myself—making ice cream is just so darn fun!

I got the idea for this ice cream HERE. I’d never had caramelized pineapple before, but it seemed like it would be such a great flavor for ice cream. And since I’ve been meaning to experiment with non-dairy ice cream, I knew this would be a perfect opportunity to try a coconut milk base. Pineapple and coconut go so well together, and I loved the results of this ice cream!

Vegan Caramelized Pineapple Swirl Ice Cream

The pineapple swirl doesn’t freeze very hard (I’m guessing because of all the sugar), which I loved since it kept the ice cream really creamy. You do definitely taste the coconut, but if you want a stronger flavor you can just add a little bit of coconut extract along with the vanilla.

Vegan Caramelized pineapple Swirl Ice Cream

Note: For strict vegans, make sure to use vegan sugar.

Vegan Caramelized Pineapple Swirl Ice Cream

For the ice cream base:

3 1/4 cups full-fat coconut milk

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

2/3 cups granulated sugar (see note, above)

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

For the caramelized pineapple swirl:

1 pineapple, cored and chopped (I had just over 4 cups)

1 cup granulated sugar (see note, above)

1/4 cup coconut oil

Make the ice cream base:

1. Whisk the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of the coconut milk together in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. In a large saucepan (3 to 4 quarts) whisk together the remaining coconut milk, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat. Boil for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally (lower the heat down if you need to, to keep the mixture from boiling over). Remove from the heat, and slowly whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to the heat and bring to a boil again, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Transfer to a bowl or container and refrigerate until very cold, several hours or overnight.

Make the caramelized pineapple swirl:

1. Toss the chopped pineapple together with the sugar, making sure each piece is coated well.

2. Heat a large, heavy skillet (I used a 10″ cast iron) over medium-high heat. Add the coconut oil. When melted, add the pineapple pieces. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pieces begin to brown.

3. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the puree into a bowl or container, and refrigerate until cold.

Make the ice cream:

1. Stir the vanilla extract into the ice cream base. Process the base in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. When done, transfer to a container.

2. Dollop the pineapple puree over the ice ream base, and use a skewer or dull knife to swirl it into the ice cream (like you would a marble cake). Or if you are using a tall, narrow container, layer the ice cream and puree). Cover well and freeze for several hours, until the ice cream hardens.

Ice cream base adapted from How Sweet it Is.
Caramelized pineapple adapted from Feast magazine & Shannon Weber

Victoria Sponge Cake

Victoria Sponge Cake

Lucky for me, Chaim chose an easy cake for his birthday this year (especially after my crazy birthday cake!). But easy doesn’t mean boring. While simple, this cake is delicious. Just make sure you use the best strawberries you can find.

Victoria Sponge Cake

And I have to admit, the history geek in me got a little thrill making Queen Victoria’s favorite cake 🙂

Victoria Sponge Cake

For the sponge cake:

2 cups (455 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar

7 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup whole milk

2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

For the filling:

2 cups  heavy cream

1/3 cup (35 g) confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

For the assembly:

4 pints fresh strawberries

1/4 cup (25 g) confectioners’ sugar

Make the sponge cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Place the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat until light and fluffy, about 8 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

3. Add eggs one at a time, beating on high speed for 30 seconds and then scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and milk, and beat for a few seconds.

4. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on medium-low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated. Using a large rubber spatula, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and gently fold the batter a few times to make sure that the flour is distributed evenly.

5. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 prepared pans. If you have a kitchen scale, use it to weigh each pan to ensure that they are filled evenly. Smooth the batter with a small offset spatula. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and the cake springs back when touched. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Make the filling:

Combine the heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla bean paste in a mixing bowl, and whisk until stiff and smooth (I did this in my stand mixer with the whisk attachment).

Assemble the cake:

1. Set aside a few of the best-looking strawberries for the top of the cake. Hull and halve the remaining strawberries.

2. Place one of the cake layers on a serving plate, spread with all of the filling, and arrange the halved strawberries over the filling.

3. Place the second cake layer over the berries and cream, dust with the confectioners’ sugar, and top with the reserved whole berries. Serve immediately.

From Bake it Like you Mean It, by Gesine Bullock-Prado

Triple-Berry Curd

Triple-Berry CurdTriple-Berry CurdTriple-Berry Curd

I served this on top of slices of angel food cake, but this would also be wonderful with pound cake, as a filling for a layer cake, on toast, on ice cream, or with just a plain old spoon.

Triple-Berry Curd

1 2/3 cup mixed fresh or thawed frozen berries (a mixture of blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon lemon juice

4 large egg yolks

1. Combine the berries, sugar, butter, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring, until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 5 minutes. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth (or transfer to a blender or food processor, if you do not have an immersion blender). Place pan back over low heat for just a minute or two to heat it back up.

2. Lightly beat the egg yolks in a large bowl. Very slowly stream the hot berry mixture into the egg yolks, stirring constantly.

3. Return the mixture to the saucepan, and stir constantly over low heat for 2 minutes. Do not to allow the mixture to boil.

4. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. It will thicken when cold.

Makes 2 cups