Fluffernutter Cake {For Ella’s 11th Birthday}

Fluffernutter Cake

Before I get to the cake I just have to say that it is INSANE that it’s already been 11 years since Ella was born! I mean, where does time go? She was just a little girl, and now she’s in the middle of her last year of elementary school. Crazy.

Yep, I’m definitely feeling older now. Sigh.

P1010230Fluffernutter Cake

Onto the cake:

After two years of super rich chocolate cakes, Ella chose something much simpler this year. Simpler, but no less delicious. When Ella was little, she loved fluffernutter sandwiches, and when I suggested this cake she thought it was a brilliant idea. Layers of moist (sorry—I know many people can’t stand that word, but there’s no better way to describe this cake) peanut butter cake, filled and topped with a creamy marshmallow meringue frosting.

Fluffernutter Cake

Peanut Butter Layers:

6 large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups (360 ml) whole milk, at room temperature

1/2 cup (120 ml) grapeseed oil (or any neutral-flavored oil)

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

4 1/2 cups (675 g) all-purpose flour

4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups (340 g) granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups packed (340 g) light brown sugar

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

About 1 cup (225 g) smooth peanut butter

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottom with rounds of parchment paper, grease again, and dust with flour, tapping out any excess. I used baking spray with flour already in it, to make it a little easier.

2. Whisk the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla together in a medium bowl, until well combined.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and both sugar on low speed for about a minute, to get it all mixed together evenly. Add the butter and peanut butter, and mix on medium speed until the mixture is crumbly.

4. Add 1/3 of the milk mixture, and beat on medium speed for a couple of minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add another 1/3 of the milk mixture, and mix well. Scrape the bowl down again, and the remaining milk mixture, and mix well, until smooth and creamy. Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared pans (a kitchen scale works great for that!)

5. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centers of the cakes comes out clean, and the top of the cakes springs back when lightly poked, about 50-55 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn the layers out onto a rack to cool completely.

Marshmallow Meringue:

2 cups (450 g) granulated sugar

6 large egg whites

Pinch of kosher salt

1. Combine the sugar, egg whites, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Whisk constantly until the mixture is frothy and hot to the touch, about 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Attach the bowl to the stand mixer, and using the whisk attachment, beat on high until it’s thick, shiny, and bright white, and the bowl is cool to the touch. This can take 10 minutes or more.

Assembling the Cake:

If your cake layers are domed (mine were), use a serrated knife to even out the tops (the scarps are great to snack on!). Cut each cake in half horizontally, as evenly as possible. Spread a little bit of frosting onto a serving plate or cake stand. Top with a layer of cake. Add some of the frosting onto the cake layer, spreading with a small offset spatula just to the edges of the cake. Repeat with the rest of the cake layers and frosting, ending with the frosting.

And that’s it! It’s such a quick and simple way to frost a cake, but it looks so pretty.

Adapted from Piece of Cake: Home Baking Made Simple, by David Muniz and David Lesniak
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Vanilla Meringue & Blood Orange Ice Cream Sandwiches

Vanilla Meringue & Blood Orange Ice Cream Sandwiches

It was right around this time last year that I made Blood Orange Sorbet in a Chocolate Shell. Well, blood oranges are back in season, and I just could not resist buying two big bags full when I came across them last week. When I unloaded them I realized that there were a ton of them, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them all. I mean, yeah, we could snack on them. But I’m a food blogger—I wanted to make something with some of them!

After a quick search, I found a recipe for blood orange ice cream. It’s a slightly lower fat recipe since it has no heavy cream in it, just whole milk and egg yolks (both of which I had in the house). I’m not going to lie, it’s not quite as rich and creamy as regular ice cream, but it was still delicious.

I then used the leftover egg whites to make some vanilla meringue cookies, and sandwiched the ice cream in between them.

Vanilla Meringue & Blood Orange Ice Cream Sandwiches

Vanilla Meringue & Blood Orange Ice Cream Sandwiches

For the Blood Orange Ice Cream:

2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided

1 vanilla bean, split open

Generous pinch of salt

2 tablespoons blood orange zest

4 large eggs yolks (reserve the egg whites for the meringues)

1/2 cup fresh blood orange juice

For the Vanilla Meringue Cookies:

4 large egg whites

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Make the ice cream:

1. Combine the milk, 1/4 cup of the sugar, the vanilla bean, salt, and orange zest in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, and then remove from the heat.

2. In a bowl, beat together the egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Slowly ladle some of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly (you wan to warm up the egg yolks, so that when you add them to the hot milk you don’t end up with scrambled eggs). Add the egg yolk mixture into the pot with the milk, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

3. Strain the mixture into a bowl and allow to cool. Stir in the blood orange juice, cover, and place in the fridge until very cold.

4. Process according to your ice cream maker’s directions. transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm.

Make the Meringues:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Trace 12 3-inch circles onto parchment paper with a pencil, flip the parchment over so that the pencil circles are on the bottom, and place on a sheet pan.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or with a handheld mixer, or, if you’re feeling  brave, by hand with a whisk), beat the egg whites until they’re foamy. With the mixer in medium-high, beat in the vinegar and salt. Keep on beating until you get soft peaks (when you lift the whisk out of the egg whites, a peak will form but won’t hold it’s shape). At this point you want to start adding the sugar. Add it slowly, about 1 tablespoon at a time, to allow the sugar to fully dissolve into the eggs. Beat on high speed, until the whites are stiff and shiny. Add the vanilla, then sprinkle the cornstarch over, and beat just until incorporated.

3. Pipe or spread your meringue mixture onto the parchment-lined sheet pan, using the circles as a template. You may have extra meringue, which you can pipe onto another parchment-lined sheet pan, for extra cookies to snack on.

4. Place in the oven, and immediately turn the heat down to 300°F. Bake for 30 minutes, and then shut the oven off. Leave the sheet pan(s) in the oven to allow the meringues to completely dry out, several hours at least.

5. Remove from the oven. When the meringues are completely cool, gently remove them from the parchment paper. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days (or freeze for up to a month).

Assembly:

Remove the ice cream from the freezer to soften a bit. Spoon or spread some onto 6 of the meringues. Do this very gently, because meringues can be very fragile! Top each one with another meringue. Wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap, and freeze. Remove the sandwiches from the freezer a few minutes before you want to eat them, just so the ice cream is not too hard to bite into (I like it best when it’s just starting to soften).

Makes 12 sandwiches

Ice cream recipe from Pictures and Pancakes

Meringues adapted from Meringue, by Linda K. Jackson & Jennifer Evans Gardner

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

Notes:

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

Onion, Feta & Olive Rolls

Onion, Feta & Olive Rolls

In my last post I left you all with half a batch of leftover Mother Dough, and a promise for a recipe to use it up. It took a while to get this post up, because I was enjoying time with Chaim while he was off from work over the holidays. But he’s back at work today, and it’s time for life to get back to normal. So here we go.

I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with the rest of my dough at first. I was thinking of doing another variation of the bagel bombs, but in the end I decided I wanted to something different. I rolled out the dough, spread caramelized onions over the top, scattered it with kalamata olives and feta cheese, then rolled it up and sliced it cinnamon bun-style, and baked them in muffins cups.

Onion, Feta & Olive Rolls

Filled with some of my favorite flavors, these are a perfect savory option for breakfast. They’d also be great alongside a bowl of tomato soup for a light lunch or dinner.

Onion, Feta & Olive Rolls

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large onion, diced

1/4 cups chopped kalamata olives (about 8 olives)

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/2 batch Mother Dough (find the recipe HERE), at room temperature

Flour, for rolling out the dough

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 6-cup muffin tin.

2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, and cook until a deep golden brown, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and allow to cool.

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to about a 9-by 14-inch rectangle. Spread the caramelized onions over the top of the dough, all the way to the edged. Sprinkle evenly with the olives and feta.

4. Roll the dough up lengthwise, as you would cinnamon buns. Lightly push in on the sides of the roll to make a roll that is 12 inches long. Cut the roll into 2-inch slices, so that you have 6 rolls. Place each one into a muffins cup. Don’t worry if they fall apart a little, the cup with hold them together; they don’t need to be perfect.

5. Bake at 375°F for about 35 minutes, until the tops of the rolls are golden brown. Carefully remove the rolls to a rack to cool for a few minutes before serving. These can be made a ahead of time, but warm them up before eating them.

Makes 6 rolls

Tomato & Scallion Cream Cheese Bagel Bombs

Tomato & Scallion Cream Cheese Bagel Bombs

Since I was already using my Milk Bar cookbook to make the pretzel ice cream, I thought I’d finally pay some attention to the small savory section in the back if the book. The chapter is dedicated to the bakery’s “mother dough”, a simple dough that is used to make all different kinds of savory goodies.

Bagel Bombs are a sort of all-in-one breakfast sandwich, with the filling baked right inside the dough. The recipe in the book uses a bacon, scallion, and cream cheese plug, but since we do not eat bacon (nor do we eat milk and meat together) I needed to come up with an alternative. Yes, I could have just omitted the bacon, and had a plain scallion cream cheese plug, but I wanted something with a little richness in there.

Tomato & Scallion Cream Cheese Bagel Bombs

I ended up using some chopped homemade smoked-paprika oven-dried tomatoes in them, which was perfect. I served these for dinner with a huge salad, and everyone loved them!

Smoked Paprika Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Like most Milk Bar recipes, this is made up of a few components, but they can all be made ahead of time: the cream cheese plugs up to a month ahead, the everything bagel mix up to 6 months ahead, and the dough up to a week ahead. And once you’re ready to make them the assembly is pretty easy.

Tomato & Scallion Cream Cheese Bagel BombsTomato & Scallion Cream Cheese Bagel BombsTomato & Scallion Cream Cheese Bagel Bombs

Mine all exploded in the oven (which is, apparently, quite normal). But I guess that’s why they’re called bombs!

Tomato & Scallion Cream Cheese Bagel Bombs

Notes:

This recipe uses only half of the mother dough. I do have another recipe coming up that will use the other half but, if you prefer, you can double the plug & bagel mix amounts and make 16 bagel bombs.

If you’d rather, you can use jarred oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (blotted dry with a paper towel) for this if you don’t want to make your own oven-dried tomatoes.

Tomato & Scallion Cream Cheese Bagel Bombs

Tomato & Scallion Cream Cheese Plugs:

7 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 tablespoons chopped oven-dried tomatoes (recipe below)

2 scallions, green part only, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Place the cream cheese into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat on medium speed until creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the tomatoes, scallions, sugar, and salt. Mix just until it’s incorporated.

2. Evenly divide the mixture into 8 portions, and place them onto a lined quarter-sheet pan. Freeze until solid, about 1 to 3 hours. If not using right away, place them into an airtight container and freeze for up to 1 month.

Oven-Dried Tomatoes:

Use whatever tomatoes you find that look good. Normally I’d use Roma’s, but even for this time of year they looked really bad, so I used tomatoes on the vine. You really only need about one tomato for this recipe, but make as many as you want—you can use the leftovers in a salad or panini (anywhere you’d use sun-dried tomatoes, really). Cut the tomatoes in half, scoop out the seeds with a small spoon, and place in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, and mix them with your hands to make sure they are all coated. Place in a parchment-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Bake in a 250° oven for about 6 hours, until dry (but not bone dry; you want them to be fairly soft). Mine took about 7 1/2 hours, because my tomatoes were really juicy). Allow to cool.

Mother Dough

3 1/2 cups bread flour

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 3/4 cups water, at room temperature

grapeseed oil, to grease the bowl

1. Place the flour, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir together, using the dough hook like a spoon. Add the water, and keep stirring it by hand with the dough hook until the mixture just starts come together.

2. Attach the dough hook to the mixer, and mix the dough on the lowest speed for about 6 or 7 minutes, until the dough looks like a wet ball and bounces back softly when pressed.

3. Grease a large bowl with the oil and turn the dough out into it. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough sit at room temperature for 45 minutes (it may not rise much, and that’s okay).

4. Use the dough then, or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to a week. Bring the dough to room temperature before using!

Everything Bagel Mix

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon white sesame seeds

2 teaspoons black sesame seeds

1 tablespoons dried onions

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl. Can be store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Assembly and Baking:

1 recipe Tomato & Scallion Cream Cheese Plugs (above)

1/2 recipe Mother Dough (above)

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon water

1 recipe Everything Bagel Mix (above)

1. Preheat oven to 325°F and line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.

2. Flatten the dough down on a smooth, lightly floured surface, and divide evenly into 8 pieces. Using your fingers (I lightly floured my hands, because the dough was a little sticky), gently stretch each piece of dough into a circle about 3 inches wide.

3. Place a cream cheese plug onto the center of each circle, and bring the edges up and around the plug. I used a bench scraper to do this, because the dough was sticking to my work surface (you can sort of see this in the pictures above). Lightly flour your hands, and gently roll the ball between your palms to make a round shape. Place them onto the sheet pan, 4 inches apart from each other.

4. Whisk together the egg and water, and generously brush onto the rolls. Sprinkle evenly, and heavily, with the bagel mix.

5. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the bombs are golden brown. Don’t worry if the cream cheese explodes out; that’s normal—you can leave it as is, or tuck it back into the bomb after it cools a bit.

6 Remove from the oven, and serve warm. If you are making these ahead of time, warm them up before serving. You can keep these, well-wrapped in plastic, in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Makes 8 Bagel Bombs

Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar, by Christina Tosi