Tova chased that poor duck around the entire enclosure:

Miriam graduated from preschool. I can’t believe she will be going into 1st grade.

It’s kinda become a tradition that when Chaim is out of town on business we have hot dogs for dinner one night. This time we did it picnic-style in the backyard.

No homework for 2 months? You bet I’m happy! Ask me again in a few weeks, and I’ll probably be all, “I can NOT wait until school starts again!”. But for now we are all just looking forward to a fun summer.

Some goodies from the farmer’s market:


A present to myself:


Apple Picking {Salted Caramel Apple Pie}

This pie was a great way to use some of the apples we picked! Caramel is an obvious partner for apples, and the salt keeps it from being to sweet. There are a lot of steps, but none of them (except possibly the caramel, if you’re not familiar with making caramel) are very difficult. I made the crust in minutes in the food processor the day before I planned to make the pie, and kept it in the fridge overnight.

Salted Caramel Apple Pie

For the Piecrust:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 large egg

1/3 cup plus 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water, plus more if necessary

1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into cubes

8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

For the Caramel:

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel

1/2 cup water

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons heavy cream

For the Apple Filling:

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

6 large apples, cored, peeled, and thinly sliced (I used Rome Delicious apples that we picked and Granny Smiths that I had in the house)

1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup turbinado sugar, plus more for sprinkling

1 egg, beaten, for egg wash

Fleur de sel, for sprinkling

1) To make the pie crust: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, and salt. Or combine the flours, sugar, and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade, and pulse to combine.

2) In a small bowl, beat the egg with 1/3 cup of the water and the vinegar.

3) Add the shortening and butter to the flour mixture. Cut it in with a pastry blender, or pulse the food processor, until the mixture resembles small peas. Add the egg mixture, gently tossing with your hands or a fork, or pulsing the food processor, until the dough comes together in a ball. If the dough seems too dry, add a little more ice water, about 1 tablespoon at a time as necessary.

4) Gather the dough together on a lightly floured work surface and divide it evenly into 2 balls. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Chill for at least 1 hour.

The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

5) To roll out the dough: Dust your hands and rolling pin with flour. On a lightly floured piece of parchment, roll out the chilled dough into a 12-inch round. Roll the dough from the center out, rotating it slightly as you roll to prevent sticking and to keep it round. Dust off any excess flour with a dry pastry brush. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and place it in the pie dish. Carefully arrange the dough to slump inside the dish and press it into the edges. Trim the excess dough with kitchen shears, leaving about a 1-inch overhang. Wrap in plastic and place the pie dish in the refrigerator to chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.

6) Roll out the remaining disk of dough on parchment and transfer it to a baking sheet. Wrap in plastic and return the dough to the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.

7) When ready to bake, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.

8) To make the caramel: Combine the granulated sugar, fleur de sel, and water in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved. Wash down any crystals from the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Turn the heat down to medium  and cook, without stirring, until the syrup becomes a medium-dark amber caramel, about 15 minutes; you can carefully swirl the pan around to check the color.

9) Carefully remove the pan from the heat and immediately stir in the butter and heavy cream. Be careful of hot steam when the heavy cream is added, and do not worry if the butter starts to separate – it will come together once the caramel is cooled.

10) Transfer the caramel to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or to a medium bowl if using a handheld mixer) and beat on low speed until the caramel cools and starts to come together. Set aside.

11) To make the filling: Put the lemon zest and juice in a large bowl. Add the apples and toss gently.

12) In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and turbinado sugar. Gently toss the apples with this mixture.

13) To assemble the pie: Layer the apple mixture into the crust in the pie dish, making sure there are no gaps between the apples. Pour 1/4 cup of the caramel  on top of the apples. Reserve the remaining caramel for serving.

14) Cut 4 to 8 vent holes in the center with a mini cookie cutter (I used the bottom of a icing tip). Brush the rim of the bottom piecrust with the egg wash to create a seal. Place the top crust over the pie filling and seal and crimp the edges, trimming the excess dough. Brush the entire crust with the egg wash. Sprinkle lightly with turbinado sugar and a pinch of fleur de sel.

15) Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the oven down to 375°F and bake for an additional 45 to 60 minutes, until the caramel is thick and syrupy, and the crust turns golden brown. Test the apples with a small knife to make sure they are tender but not mushy.

Cool for at least 4 hours before serving to allow the juices and caramel to thicken. The pie is best served the same day, but it can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

*Adapted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, by Cheryl Day & Griffith Day

Rainbow Cake: Blue/Green Theme

When my friend asked if I would bake something for her son’s 3rd birthday, I was thrilled. Not only did it give me an excuse to make a layer cake (yay!), but it also meant that she thought my cakes were good enough to serve at her party (which meant a lot to me). She also pretty much gave me free reign to do what I want. Her only instructions were, “think boy & color”.

After doing some thinking, I decided I would do a rainbow cake, but this time in a blue and green theme. I used the same recipe for the cake as last time, but used different shades of blue and green instead of the rainbow colors. For the frosting, I used the lemon Swiss meringue buttercream that goes with the original rainbow cake from Whisk Kid. I’m so happy I made that frosting, because it is seriously good! I also made some homemade lemon-flavored sprinkles to decorate the cake with (I made dyed them some of the same colors that I used in the cake), and added some store-bought gold star sprinkles for some sparkly fun.

Happily, my friend loved it 🙂

Rainbow Cake

2 sticks (226 g) butter, room temp
2 1/3 c (466 g) sugar
5 egg whites, room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 c (375 g) flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 1/2 c (355 g) milk, warmed for 30 sec in microwave to bring to room temp
Royal blue, Turquoise, Teal, Sky Blue, and Leaf Green (I used leaf green for both the dark & light green layers) gel food coloring.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F degrees. Oil and line how ever many 9” cake pans you have (I have three and I just reused them).2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.3. Cream the sugar and butter, then add the egg whites (I cracked them all into  one bowl) and add them a little at a time.  Add the vanilla and mix  until fully incorporated.  Then, alternating between wet and dry, add  the milk and flour mixture in two parts.

4. Divide the batter  amongst 6 bowls (I did it by weight).  Weigh your mixing bowl before you  begin adding ingredients and then subtract the weight of the bowl from  the final measurement after the batter is completed.  Divide that number by six and add that weight of batter to each bowl), and then whisk a  fair amount of the appropriate food color into each bowl.  Keep in mind  that the color of the unbaked batter will be the color of the baked  batter.  Pour into the pans and bake for 15 minutes each.

5. When  you remove them from the oven, let them rest on the cooling rack, in the pan, for ten minutes.  Then flip, cover, and stash them in the fridge  to cool quickly.

Lemony Swiss Meringue Buttercream
I made this recipe twice today because I underestimated the amount of  buttercream I would need/ I would recommend that you do the same because you would need a HUGE bowl to make this much buttercream at one time!

To fill and crumb coat:
9 egg whites
1 ¾ c (350 g) sugar
4 sticks (532 g) of butter, room temp
2 tsp lemon extract

To frost:

5 egg whites
1 c (200 g) sugar
2 sticks (226 g) butter, room temp
1 tsp lemon extract

1. Cook the egg whites and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved (test by rubbing  some between your fingers. If it’s completely smooth, it’s done). Pour  into another bowl (a stand mixer is preferable) and whip on high speed  until room temp. Then, on a medium-slow speed, add the butter, waiting  until each piece is completely incorporated before adding the next.  After all the butter has been added, turn the mixer back to high speed  and whip until it has come together, about five minutes.  Add the  extract, beat briefly and then use.

2. If the buttercream seems  soupy after all of the butter is added and does not come together after  whipping, refrigerate for 5 to 7 minutes and continue whipping until it  becomes fluffy and workable.

1. Stack the layers in your preferred order and fill and frost as you would any other cake.
2. Once frosted, the cake can be left on the counter without any problems, but  feel free to refrigerate it.  Just be sure that the cake is at room  temperature when serving or the frosting will be hard, not smooth.

*Adapted from Whisk Kid

Lemon Flavored Sprinkles

8 ounces powdered sugar
3 3/4 ounces corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon lemon extract (I used Lemon Bakery Emulsion)
1 Tablespoon Limoncello
Assorted food colorings
1. Combine all of the ingredients, except for the food coloring, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on the lowest setting until it forms a stiff paste. Add extra liquid only if absolutely necessary to achieve a pipe-able consistency.
2. Divide the paste into as many portions as you have color and tint each however you like.
3. Put one of the colored pastes into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip, and pipe the mixture into long, skinny lines onto parchment paper.
4. Repeat the process with the remaining colors and allow to dry, uncovered, for 48 hours. Depending on the weather conditions where you live, this could take more or less time. A humid climate may prolong the process and those living in an arid place may find they dry quite speedily. regardless of how long it may take to dry in your locale, the important thing is to dry them out to the core. Check by cutting into one of the piped sprinkle lines. If the cut piece lifts easily from the parchment and does not feel squishy to the touch, it’s ready.
5. Use a bench scraper or knife to scrape the dried sprinkle lines off the parchment. Break/chop the lines into fairly long pieces for “jimmies” or mince for “hundreds and thousands”.
6. Store in an airtight container indefinitely.
*Adapted from Brave Tart

Guinness Cupcakes

Knowing how much our friend, Danny, likes Guinness, I knew that these would be the perfect cupcakes to make for his birthday (especially since the party would be at a bar!). They don’t exactly taste like Guinness, but it adds a background flavor that makes them not taste quite like regular chocolate cupcakes either. Everybody LOVED these! Even the people working at the bar thought they were really cool.

For fun little garnish, I made some Guinness flavored sprinkles. They were good, but next time I would start with a great amount of Guinness for even more flavor.

I also brought another kind of cupcake, which used Guinness, too. I will write about those in an upcoming post.

(Note: I needed to keep these non-dairy, so I will write my substitutions in italics. And trust me – even the non-dairy version was fantastic!)

Guinness Cupcakes

1 (12-ounce) bottle Guinness Stout

1/2 cup milk (I used soy milk)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3 large eggs

3/4 cup sour cream (I used Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream)

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used Cacao Barry Extra Dark)

2 cups granulated sugar

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the Guinness, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the sour cream.

3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour and baking soda. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet Guinness mixture.

4. Butter (or line with cupcake liners) 24 cupcake/muffin cups and divide the batter among them.

5 Bake for 25 minutes, until risen and set in the middle, but still soft and tender. Cool before turning out of cups.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream

1 stick salted butter, room temperature (I used salted margarine)

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (I used unsalted margarine)

1/2 cup solid shortening

1 tablespoon Nielson-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste or vanilla extract

1 1/2 pounds confectioner’s sugar, sifted

4 tablespoons very cold milk (I used soy milk)

Cream the butter and shortening in the bowl of an electric or stand mixer. Add the vanilla and combine well. Begin adding in the sugar and mixing thoroughly after each addition. After all of the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly, begin adding the very cold milk, one tablespoon at a time, combining very well after each addition (mixer on medium-high to high speed until you reach the desired consistency.

*Adapted from My Baking Addiction

Guinness Flavored Sprinkles

1/4 cup Guinness Stout

4 ounces (about 2 cups) confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon meringue powder

1 tablespoon warm water

Pinch salt

1. Cook the Guinness in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, until reduced to 1 tablespoon. Set aside to cool.

2. Sift the confectioner’s sugar into a medium-sized bowl. (It’s very important to sift the sugar in this case, because even the tiniest lump will clog you pastry tip later.)

3. Whisk 1 teaspoon meringue powder together with 1 tablespoon warm water. Whisk until smooth and foamy. Whisk in the reduced Guinness and a pinch of salt.

4. Mix the liquid mixture into the powdered sugar and stir to combine. (If mixture looks to thick, add more water as necessary. the mixture should be smooth, thick, and pipe-able.)

5. Place mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a very small round tip (I used Wilton’s #2 tip). Press out any air from the bag.

6. Pipe out long, thin lines of icing onto parchment or wax paper until the icing is used up.

7. Let the icing strips dry until completely dry, for at least one day.

8. Chop into small pieces. Store in a container until using.

*Adapted from