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Mrs. Perotti’s Apple Pear Pie Cake

I have never met anyone yet who has eaten an apple pear pie cake. This dessert seems confused about its identity, but it is not exactly a cake and in many ways not like a pie!

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I believe this unique recipe originates from my childhood neighbor, Mrs. Perotti, and I’ve been making it ever since!  The apple-pear mixture combined with the layers of soft dough creates so many wonderful flavors.. I hope you’ll give it a try!

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It’s been such a long winter, so let’s say farewell to the cold weather for good with the last of our winter produce. Strawberries and peaches will be showing their colorful faces on this blog before you know it!

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The types of apple and pears you use is completely up to you. I like to use a mixture of Granny Smiths, which add a wonderful tartness, combined with some sweeter apples like Cortland or McIntosh.  Similarly for the pears,  Bosc and D’Anjous tend to keep their shape, while the addition of Bartletts helps to make a nice sauce. 

 

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Apple Pear filling
  • 5-6 (about 2 1/2 lbs) cooking apples (Granny Smith, McIntosh, etc.)
  • 5-6 (about 2 1/2 lbs) pears (Bosc, D’Anjou, Bartlett)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons butter

Peel the apples and pears until you fill a 3 1/2 quart pot.  It will cook down to about 7 to 8 cups of filling.  Add the sugar and butter.  Cook on a low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes.  While the fruit mixture is cooking, make the dough. By the time you finish the dough, the apple-pear mixture should be ready!

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Pie cake dough
  •  4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter (cold)
  • 2 eggs
  • Milk – add to eggs to make 1 cup total
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the dough, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl.   Chop the butter (make sure it’s cold!) into small pieces.  Using a pastry dough cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until you have pea-size chunks of butter.

In a liquid measuring container, crack the two eggs and add milk (2% or whole) until you have one cup of liquid total.  Add the vanilla.  Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture.  Mix with a fork until fully combined.

The dough will be pretty soft, but the first goal here is to make the bottom layer of the pie cake. We want to roll out about 2/3 of the dough and place it in the bottom of a 11″ x 17″ jelly roll pan. (The remaining 1/3 will be used for the lattice topping).

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Depending on how comfortable you feel handling the soft dough, you have a couple of choices.  No matter which method works best for you, use lots of flour to keep the dough from sticking to your counter surface! You could roll the dough in one piece on a silicone pad and transfer it to the jelly roll pan. But I find it easier to make the bottom layer in two parts. I overlap them slightly in the middle of the pan and press them together.   Trim the excess dough around the sides of the pan.

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Add the hot filling carefully over the dough in the jelly roll pan. (It should have cooked down to about 2/3 of the original volume). Be careful as the dough can rip easily.  The filling should be slightly runny, but you may not want to use all of the juice, as it will make the dessert too soggy.

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Next, roll out about half the remaining dough. It best to roll it into a rectangle about 20 – 24″ long and about 6 – 8″ wide.  Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into about 1/2″ strips.  Lay the strips on the diagonal over the fruit filling, with about 1/2″ spaces between them.

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Repeat the process with the remainder of the dough, and place the strips perpendicularly to create a lattice.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 350F until the crust is a golden brown.  Let it cool for about 30 minutes for the ultimate experience.  It is best when still slightly warm on the inside with the crisp crust on the outside…MMmmmm

You can also kick it up a notch with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream…enjoy!

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Nona’s Chocolate Cake

Birthday cakes are really important to us. They might even be the most important birthday decision, and they are definitely the most delicious present. In our family, my Nona’s chocolate cake is often the birthday treat of choice. Boston Cream Pie or berry trifle sometimes make an appearance, but this cake celebrates birthdays with us at least a couple of times a year. We don’t know exactly where the recipe came from, but my Nona (grandmother) used to make it for me all of the time when I helped out at her house as a kid.

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While it may look like your average chocolate cake, this recipe is truly the ultimate. The cake is incredibly moist, perfectly chocolately, and destined to be paired with delectable cream cheese frosting. We have tired to make it in different types of pans, but the tube pan is the only one that does justice to our favorite chocolate cake.

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Instead of smothering it with icing like I do, my Nona would simply dust it with some powdered sugar.  This is a great way to eat the cake in the 1 to 4 hours after its made. Plus, it has a fantastic crust on the top that you won’t find on any other chocolate cake.  But in our house, for birthdays and any other excuse to make a chocolate cake, we love to pair the cake with this delicious cream cheese icing.

Nona’s chocolate cake
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder, natural and unsweetened
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour milk/buttermilk/milk+vinegar
  • 1 cup boiling water

First, let’s take care of the sour milk.  (My Nona would keep old milk until it went sour and use that. But most of us don’t want sour milk around the house, so there are a few substitutes – like buttermilk.) Or what we do is to add a tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of milk (2% or whole) and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes… now you have sour milk!

Next, grease and flour the tube pan. Set aside.

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This is one of easiest cakes to make! Add all the ingredients (except the boiling water) together in your mixer bowl in the order listed above. Beat for 1-2 minutes.

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Now, CAREFULLY, add the boiling water, with your mixer running on a very slow setting.

Note: Unless you have a deep mixing bowl (mine’s a 7 quart – nice and deep!), add the boiling water SLOWLY so it doesn’t splash every where.

Pour the batter into the greased and floured tube pan.

Bake at 375F (350 convection) for 55 minutes.

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Cream Cheese Icing

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Mix the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and milk at high speed.  Slow down the mixer and add the powdered sugar. Once incorporated, beat again at high speed until nice and fluffy. After your cake has cooled, spread the icing all over the cake.

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To add some pizazz, reserve a couple of small bowls with 1 – 3 tablespoons of icing and then add your favorite food dye colors.  You can use a piping bag or a small zip-lock bag with the corner cut off. I like this method as it allows for asy clean up and you can have all 4 bags going at the same time!  Decorating is fun for the kids or for adults (like me) that need to act like kids…

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Chocolate Almond Biscotti

My dad doesn’t call himself BiscottiDave for nothing. For starters, he always makes his famous biscotti to support bake sales and fundraisers. He even teaches biscotti making classes at our local community college and church! I might be biased, but I’m telling you that his recipes create the best biscotti I’ve ever tasted:)

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Here is the second installment in our biscotti recipe series – Chocolate Almond Biscotti. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to check out our classic almond biscotti recipe!

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His biscotti are magical because not only because of their flavor but also their unique texture. While many store bought varieties are hard and crumbly, these recipes will yield softer, more enjoyable cookies to be enjoyed at any time of day.

I eat and love all varieties of my dad’s biscotti, but this chocolate almond flavor is just barely my favorite. When I’m home, I like to enjoy one of these with a cup of freshly brewed coffee in morning for breakfast. This chocolate almond biscotti will definitely help you start your day on a very happy note:)

Chocolate Almond Biscotti
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 egg white, mixed with 1 Tablespoon water

 

( For more detailed instructions and tips, see our first biscotti post – Almond Biscotti)

Preheat your oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Stir in the granulated sugar, vanilla, and almond extract until fully combined.

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Now, the fun begins!

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients using a wooden spoon.  As the mixtures become almost incorporated, I find I have to use my hands to complete the mixing process.  Add in the almonds and chocolate chips unit the dough mostly holds together.

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Separate the dough in two equal quantifies and place each half on a parchment covered baking sheet.  Using your wet hands, shape into two flat logs about 4″ wide, 1/2″ tall and maybe about 14″ long.  This batter does not expand too much when it is baking, so if you want a long biscotti, make the logs 5″ or 6″ wide and shorten them as necessary.

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I like to make them look a little bit shiny and special.  I use an egg wash (1 egg white with 1 tablespoon of water, mixed very well) and brush it over the surface.  Then, I sprinkle a little bit of turbinado large crystal sugar on top for some added sparkle.

Bake the two logs for about 30 to 35 minutes at 350F.  Remove and let cool on a cooling rack for about 30 minutes.

Then cut into 3/4″ to 1″ wide slices.  Lay them back on the cookie sheet. Bake for about 7 to 10 minutes on one side. Then, flip them and back for about 5 minutes more on the second side.

Let them cool fully on a cooling rack, about an hour, before storing.

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Buckwheat Banana Bread (Gluten Free)

I’ve been baking way too much this week. I like to tell myself that it’s a healthy form of stress release.

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Thank goodness for hungry med school friends who are always willing to take the masses of banana bread off my hands. The recipe for this bread appears somewhat similar to the gluten free chocolate muffins I posted yesterday, but it totally deserves its own post. To me, the flavor and texture of this banana bread are out of this world. It’s like something you’ve never tasted before, but once you experience it, you want to keep eating nonstop.

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My friends have even asked me if I put some sort of magical ingredient in here. Luckily, the ingredients are simple and extraordinary on their own:) I’ve already made this bread twice this week. It’s a good thing that I ran out of bananas…or I’d be likely to bake it again.

 

Buckwheat Banana Bread (Gluten Free)

modified from Happy Healthy Life – Triple Banana-Dark Chocolate-Peanut Buckwheat-Banana Bread

3 large bananas, mashed (can also substitute pumpkin or sweet potato puree for some of the banana)
1/3 cup agave (or maple syrup, honey)
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground flax seeds
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup pecans (or any nut), roughly chopped

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a bread loaf pan with parchment paper or grease with coconut oil.
Add bananas to a large mixing bowl and mash very well. Add in the melted coconut oil, vinegar, vanilla extract, and agave.
Fold in the flours, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, flax seeds. Stir well to form a very thick batter. Add in the chocolate chips and 1/3 cup of pecans. Pour this mixture into the loaf pan and smooth out the top with a spoon. Sprinkle the remainder of the pecans on top.
Bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Cool the loaf before slicing and serving. Enjoy!

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Gluten Free Chocolate Everything Muffins

I bought some buckwheat flour the other day, and I’m hooked. It adds an amazing nuttiness to breads and muffins that I’ve never experienced before. Combine that with some oat flour, bananas, chocolate, and other delicious flavors, and you have a killer gluten free muffin:)

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I’m a total novice in the gluten free baking world, so I’ve been searching my favorite food blogs for inspiration. This one is based off a recipe from Edible Perspective, and I’m pretty obsessed with it. These muffins are super moist, dense, and filled with chocolatley goodness. Luckily, they’re still pretty healthy for you:) Hope you enjoy!

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Gluten Free Chocolate Everything Muffins
modified from Edible Perspective – ‘Triple Chocolate Quick Bread’

Muffins:
2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk + 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 ripe banana, mashed
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (or sweet potato puree)
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons agave (or maple syrup, honey)
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 1/3 cup gluten-free oat flour
1/2 cup almond meal
6 tablespoons buckwheat flour
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground flax meal
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate

Crumble:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup gluten-free rolled oats
3 tablespoons coconut oil, softened
2 tablespoons gluten-free oat flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease your muffin pan cups with coconut oil or use muffin liners.

Whisk the milk and apple cider vinegar in a bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. (We’re making some almond milk buttermilk!)

Whisk all wet ingredients in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Add the dry ingredients on top of the wet and stir until just incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Combine all of the crumble ingredients in another bowl.

Pour the batter into the muffin cups and sprinkle the crumble mixture overtop. This recipe made about 18 normal sized muffins for me.

Bake for 18-22 minutes until the center is set and the top is golden and crumbly. Let the muffins cool in the pan for about 5 minutes. Then carefully remove and transfer them to a cooling rack. Let cool another 10 minutes are so, and they are ready to eat!