Make Syrup: Combine brown sugar, water, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Stir in butter until melted. Set aside.
Make Crust: Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until the butter is the size of small peas (or use a food processor). Stir in milk all at once and form into a dough.
Peel and core 6 medium apples. Stir together brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Preheat oven to 375°F.
Roll out dough into a 18″x12″ rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 6-inch squares. Place a whole apple in each square. Stuff the core of each apple generously with the spiced brown sugar and dot with a pad of butter. Moisten the edges of the square and fold the corners up to the center of the apple. Pinch the edges together to seal. Repeat with remaining dough squares and place about 1-inch apart in a large ungreased baking pan.
Pour syrup over the dumplings. Sprinkle with granulated sugar and bake for 35 minutes.
The Spencer house didn’t stock store-bought treats. At lunchtime I used to trade my mom’s homemade cookies for oatmeal creme pies. One time I asked for Pop-tarts for Christmas. But every so often Fig Newtons would appear and I thought it was a treat royale.
1 cup (1/3 lb.) dried figs (Black Mission or Turkish will do fine)
1/2 cup boiling water
1 TBSP honey
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 TBSP honey
1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Turbinado sugar and water
Put figs in a 1- or 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Pour boiling water over figs, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes.
Prepare your work surface with a baking sheet and two pieces of parchment paper that are about 14″ long. Make sure your baking sheet can fit in your freezer. Cut a 1 1/2″-wide tip off the end of a pastry bag or ziplock bag that can fit your fig filling.
Combine butter and brown sugar in a mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat until light and fluffy. Add egg, honey and vanilla and beat to incorporate, scraping bowl and paddle when needed.
Stir together flour, salt and baking powder. Add to butter mixture and stir on low to combine. Increase speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds, until well incorporated.
Scrape dough onto a sheet of parchment paper about 14″ long. Sandwich with the second piece of parchment and roll out gently so your dough is 10″ wide by 14″ long. You can cut and paste the dough to fill in bare spots if needed. Slide the dough onto a baking sheet and put in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Pour the figs with their water, honey and graham cracker crumbs into the food processor. Process until smooth, stopping to scrape the bowl, and making sure there are no chunks. Scrape into prepared pastry bag or ziplock. Chill in the refrigerator until dough is ready (this can be done ahead of time).
After the dough has chilled, remove from freezer. Trim edges. Cut in half lengthwise so you have two 5″ by 14″ pieces. Separate the pieces- placing each on it’s own piece of parchment.
Pipe a 1 1/2″ thick line of fig filling down the center of each strip of dough. Carefully fold over one side of dough over the filling, then fold again- enveloping the filling in the center, with the seam on the bottom. Repeat with second piece of dough.
Use the parchment paper to lift the uncooked fig bars onto the baking sheet. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°.
After chilling, remove from freezer. Wet a pastry brush with water and moisten the tops of the bars. Sprinkle liberally with Turbinado sugar. Trim the ends of each log and slice each into 2″ bars. Place on lined baking sheet.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until light brown on the bottom.
I have moved around too much to feel ownership of any state other than the state I was raised in. Iowa means a lot of things to me, but dessert-wise, it has to be pie, and cherry pie in particular. It was my birthday request every year as a kid. I remember when the cherries on the tree were ready, everyone would get together to pick them, then gather around the porch table armed with bobby pins to pit the cherries. Cherry juice would run down your forearms to your elbows until you were so sticky you had to hose off.
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBSP sugar
1 stick cold butter (115g), cut into pieces
1/3 cup lard (70g), cup into pieces
1/3 cup ice water
Combine flour, salt and sugar in food processor. Add butter and lard and pulse until the butter pieces are no larger than peas. Add ice water and pulse until dough just comes together, about 5 times.
Divide dough into two pieces, shape into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Cherry Pie Filling:
2 pounds sour pie cherries, thawed if frozen
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 TBSP lemon juice
2 TBSP butter
1/4 almond extract
Drain cherries, reserving liquid – you should have a little more than 1 cup. Place cherries in a medium bowl.
Combine sugar, salt, and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Gradually add reserved cherry liquid and lemon juice, whisking until smooth. Cook over medium heat until thick and clear. Remove from heat, stir in butter and almond extract. Pour over cherries and stir to combine. Sneak a taste here.
Assemble and Bake:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out each pie crust between two pieces of wax paper, peeling the paper and flipping the crust over to make rolling easier and uniform.
Line pie plate with bottom crust. Refrigerate until ready to use. Cut top crust into strips, if you’re doing the lattice. On a square of wax paper, prepare the lattice by weaving the strips together, starting with the longest pieces in the middle and working outwards. Sandwich the lattice crust with another piece of wax paper and refrigerate for 15 minutes to firm it up. Pour prepared cherry filling into bottom crust. Brush the edges with egg wash. Peel one piece of wax off the lattice and gently flip it over onto the pie, trying to get it centered. Crimp the pie and trim the excess pastry.
Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the cherries are bubbling.
This recipe was from Joanne Chang’s Pastry Love cookbook – I recommend it. She opened her first bakery, Flour, a block away from our Boston apartment and it was such a treat to walk across the park and get something tasty.
I substituted apricots for figs, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly (with one exception- I let the dough rest overnight, instead of the 3-hour maximum it suggested). These turned out deliciously sweet, tart and buttery. I do have danish pastry leftover in the freezer, waiting for me, which isn’t a bad thing.
For this month’s flatbread challenge I decided to go with an oldie but a goodie. These popped up often on our dining table when I was a kiddo. They are a breeze to throw together, and usually disappear as quickly as they come off the griddle.
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup boiling water
1 tsp Kosher salt
3 TBSP chopped scallions
2 TBSP chopped cilantro
1 TBSP sesame oil
vegetable oil for frying
Combine flour, water and salt and mix until dough holds together (I like to do this in the food processor). Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes
Stir together scallions, cilantro and sesame oil.
Divide dough into 2 pieces. Roll each into an 8-inch circle. Spread each circle with half of the scallion mixture. One at a time, roll up the circle into a cylinder, hold the two ends and twist, then wind the cylinder into a coil. Flatten and roll out again into 1/4-inch thick round.
Heat a griddle that will fit the cake to medium. Pour a little vegetable oil on the griddle to coat, then fry the scallion cake until browned. Flip and fry the other side. Add more vegetable oil to the griddle and fry the second scallion cake.
Cut into wedges and serve with soy sauce, chili crisp, or hoisin.
Makes 2 cakes (you should probably double this recipe – I always do).