I heard that y’all in Moscow got snow last week and–ouch–it’s a high of four degrees tomorrow. I’m sorry to be smug, but I am so glad to be back at this time of year. Ottawa, number four coldest capital, is going to be a glorious 22 degrees tomorrow. And at the same time the leaves are turning red and orange and falling to the ground. Weather jackpot! It’s amazing and should never end.
So far we’ve just been really lucky. And plus, we’re coming up on a bank holiday. So happy! For you Canadians, any of these recipes would be make an amazing dessert for a Thanksgiving family feast.
Like many of my friends, I am always giddy with the coming of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. It’s amazing. This recipe actually uses some real pumpkin for a homemade version.
A delicious pumpkin bread, courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated. I haven’t tried this exact recipe, but if it’s based on a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, you know it’ll be good. And accurate.
Another great porridge for cold fall mornings. This one uses amaranth, which I am eager to try.
Pumpkin butter was a new thing for me, but it is super delicious and sweet. It’s pumpkin pie in a jar, fit to be swirled into oatmeal or spooned onto toast.
Last, but not least, is the Pumpkin Pie Swirly Cake below (yes, that’s its grown-up name), which comes from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. It is actually quite easy. Definitely less time-intensive than pumpkin cheesecake. It’s like a pumpkin pie-slash-cheesecake, with a smooth pumpkin pie filling paired with a tart cream cheese swirl.
Pumpkin Pie Swirly Cake (adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook)
- 115g gingersnap cookies, coarsely broken
- 85g graham crackers, digestives or shortbread cookies
- 55g (1/2 stick) salted, melted butter
- 115g cream cheese, softened
- 40g (3 tbsp) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg white
- 300g (1/2 or 3/4 of a 15-ounce can) pumpkin purée
- 50g granulated sugar
- 50g brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp table salt
- 3/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 cup heavy cream
Preheat your oven to 425 °F (220°C) and grind up the cookies in your food processor. When they’re finely ground pulse in the melted butter. Press the mixture into a tart tin and set it aside.
Mix together the cheesecake batter ingredients. Easy.
For the pumpkin batter, beat together the whole egg and egg white lightly in a large bowl. Whisk in the pumpkin puree, the sugars, salt and spices. Then mix in the cream.
To put it all together, pour the pumpkin batter over the crust. Then dollop over the cheesecake mixture. Take your knife and swirl artfully. It may look a little watery, but it’ll turn out nicely, promise! Put it in the oven for ten minutes, then lower the temperature to 350°F (175°C) and bake for 30-40 minutes. Below we have the finished produit.
Putting aside for a moment the homemade Snickers bars, this might be the most unhealthy recipe I’ve ever posted; five egg yolks, half a pound of butter, and nearly half a pound of sugar. But since we’re going to be stuck in Moscow winter for all eternity, there’s no need to prepare for swimsuit season.
This cake is based on the traditional French Gâteau Breton, which tells me right away that it will be satisfyingly old-fashioned: butter, flour, sugar and eggs. No leaveners, no stabilisers. In fact, there’s nothing light about this at all.
Click here for another buckwheat cake, from almost exactly this time last year
- 140g buckwheat flour
- 140g all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp plus 1/3 tsp sea salt (this is the place to use any fancy salt you have lying around)
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 240g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 175g sugar (any kind will do)
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 whole egg
- seeds of one vanilla pod (alternatively, 3/4 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 tsp vanilla sugar)
The glaze: 1 large egg yolk and 1 tsp milk
Butter a 9- or 10-inch removable-bottom tart pan or, failing that, use a pie dish as I did. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.
In a small bowl, mix the buckwheat and all-purpose flower together with 1/2 tsp salt and the cinnamon
In a separate bowl, cream the butter until it’s soft and airy. If you’re too lazy to wait and put the butter in the oven to melt as I did, it won’t be any great harm. Mix in the sugar and cream together until it’s uniform.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the 4 egg yolks and the whole egg. Stir in the vanilla. Give it a few good whisks or a good pass with the electric mixer. Then mix the eggs into the butter and sugar, stirring well. Slowly pour in the flour mixture and stir until it’s just combined. Scrape into your prepared pan and level the top with a spatula.
Mix the glaze together and spread over the top of the cake with a pastry brush or your fingers. Then draw a lattice design over the top by raking your fork across the top in three parallel lines. Then make three parallel lines going diagonally, forming a criss-cross design. Sprinkle the rest of the salt over the top, and put your cake in the oven. The original recipe says it should bake for 45 minutes, but mine took 25. Judge accordingly: you want your cake to be golden and shiny, but not at all dry.
My cake got a little burnt in our manic Soviet oven, but even so I think it looks very pretty with its latticed top and glazed edges. A good cake for staying in while the last of winter plays out. This little guy understands:
Shortbread cookies, plum pudding and mincemeat tarts are some of my favourite Christmas dishes. I would gladly give up stuffing and mashed potatoes for an all-dessert feast. So I leave the mains to my mum, and take care of dessert. As you know from before, I am a great fan of cheesecake, so the crossover into a mincemeat cheesecake is terrific. It also has a delightful hint of brandy to it, which makes it perfect for all the grown ups in your life. If your New Year’s resolutions don’t include diets of any kind, you can find Nigel Slater’s recipe for Mincemeat Cheesecake on The Guardian.
For the last few years I’ve also given myself the task of making something to munch on while we open gifts on Christmas morning. We used to make those pop-open Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, smothered in icing, served with a big pot of tea. But you can make something even tastier with just a little planning. This year it was Christmas Chelsea buns, which are fitting given their London-based history.
Hope you all had a merry Christmas, and have a great time celebrating the new year with good friends (and food).
Christmas Chelsea Buns, adapted from Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake. I know Paul Hollywood from The Great British Bake-off, a truly tasty reality show. (Making Bûches de Noël has never been so stressful.) Hollywood also has the honour of creating what is said to be the most expensive loaf of bread in Britain, a roquefort and almond loaf that sells for £15 at Harrods. The “Rolls-Royce of loaves.”
- 300mL whole milk
- 40g salted/unsalted butter, softened
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 10g salt (dial this back a bit if you used salted butter)
- 10g instant yeast (this will seem like quite a lot, but it is indeed how much you need.)
- 1 medium egg, lightly beaten
- 40g unsalted butter, softened
- 75g soft brown sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 100g dried cranberries
- 100g dried apricots, chopped
- 75g apricot jam
- 125g icing sugar
- Finely grated lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
- 1 tbsp water
Heat the milk and butter in a saucepan until the butter melts and the mixture is lukewarm.
Put the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt to one side of the flour and the yeast to the other side. Add the milk mixture and the egg and stir together to make a rough dough. Flour a work surface and tip the dough onto it. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, until it is smooth. Wash the original bowl, oil it lightly and put the dough into it. Cover with a clean tea towel and place in a 90℉ oven to rise for at least an hour.
At this point, line a baking dish with parchment paper. I found an 8″ x 11″ dish worked quite well. Now tip the dough out onto a work surface and roll it out into a rectangle about 5mm thick. Mix the butter, sugar and cinnamon together and spread over the surface of the dough. Then sprinkle over the dried fruits and roll up the dough into a cylinder. Cut into nine slices and place these, cut side up, into your prepared baking dish.
Cover the dough with a tea towel and set it aside to rise again for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to around 375℉ (190℃). Then bake the buns for around 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown (mine took at least 35 minutes, but that will depend on your oven and the size of your–tee hee–buns.)
Meanwhile, make the apricot glaze by warming the apricot jam with a little bit of water. As soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush them with the glaze and set aside to cool on a wire rack. When the buns are quite cool, mix the ingredients for the lemon icing. Mine was a bit runny, but I’ve increased the amount of icing sugar. It should spread nicely, and you can get awfully fancy with it if you like.
It’s spring! This calls for lemons and shades of pink, blue and pale green. This calls for light jackets, walking around in ballet shoes, and open windows.
This recipe comes from The Guardian’s post about middle eastern desserts, but it seems like the perfect English cake to me. This is an ideal tea-time cake for the afternoon, with a cup of black tea (Russian-style, with lemon slices). It was so easy I can’t wait to make it again. Do not scrimp on the syrup. The amount may seem excessive, but the semolina will absorb everything, making this cake enviably moist. Everyone will wonder what you’ve done when really, all you’ve done is pour on more sugar.
I like taking food photos near my window (as above) looking down 13 scary stories to the bottom of Mytischi. The beautiful light makes everything seem so much happier.
Lemon Semolina Cake (adapted from Dan Lepard at The Guardian)
- 3 lemons
- 150ml sunflower oil
- 175g caster sugar
- 4 medium eggs (I was short an egg, but it caused no problems)
- 175ml milk
- 200g semolina
- 75g flour
- 3tsp baking powder
- 500ml honey syrup (recipe below)
- chopped almonds or pistachios, to decorate the top
- 200g white or brown sugar
- 200ml water, 100ml lemon juice
- 1-2tbsp honey
Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line a 20cm-square glass baking dish.
Finely zest the lemons (you can use the juice for the honey syrup) and place in a bowl with the oil, sugar and eggs, and beat until smooth. Stir in the milk and semolina, add the flour and baking powder, and whisk until smooth. The Guardian cautions that it may seem thin, but it really will thicken and puff up during baking.
Pour it into the dish and bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. While your cake is baking, make the syrup: put all your ingredients (sugar, water, lemon juice and honey) into a pot, turn it on to boil, then turn off the heat.
When your cake comes out of the oven, let it cool slightly and then cut it into small pieces. Pour all the syrup over until it’s soaked. Scatter over the chopped nuts and enjoy!
This isn’t the prettiest of cakes. It’s brown–the most unloved of colours–and has a very different flavour from traditional cinnamon-/chocolate-/fruit-based coffee cakes. But this cake, befitting its sophisticated Italian roots, is subtly elegant, with a bit of cinnamon and a hint of lemon zest. This was originally supposed to be baked in a springform tin, cake-style, cut into wedges, but my lack of such a tin meant that this became moist cubes of buckwheaty goodness. Somehow cubes makes this seem more like breakfast, less like a giant slab of cake. And really, even though there’s a lot of butter and sugar, this wheat-free beauty isn’t too bad for you.
Buckwheat, гречка, is a hearty winter favourite here, especially in its whole-grain form. Really, as a relative of rhubarb, buckwheat is not a grain, but it can be eaten like one with mushrooms, especially at this великий пост (Lent) time, where many Russians aren’t eating animal-derived ingredients like dairy and eggs. This is no good for lent (because of its milk and well-beaten eggs) but the moisture from the ground almonds means that it will stay soft for many happy days, and you could eat it later. I’m rather surprised I haven’t seen too many buckwheat-based cakes here; this one is a goodie.
Buckwheat Coffee Cake (adapted from The Traveler’s Lunchbox)
- 175g whole almonds (blanched if you want; I used almonds that were roasted with the skin left on)
- 200g buckwheat flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- zest of 1 large lemon
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 300g sugar, divided
- 180 ml milk
- 4 room-temperature eggs, separated
Preheat your oven to 175°C. If your almonds aren’t roasted, put them on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Cool completely. Grease a 9-inch springform pan or similar-sized baking dish. In a blender, food processor or clean coffee grinder, grind the almonds together with 50g of sugar. In a medium bowl, stir together the ground almonds with the buckwheat flour, salt, cinnamon, lemon zest and baking powder.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and 200g of the sugar. Beat in the egg yolks one by one. Beat in the dry mixture alternately with the milk until everything is well combined.
In a clean mixing bowl, with clean beaters, beat the egg whites with the remaining 50g of the sugar until you have stiff, glossy peaks. (I got tired shortly before the end point, but I’d suggest making sure they’re nice and puffy.) Stir one quarter of the whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then fold in the rest. Pour the batter into the tin/pan and smooth the top.
Bake the cake for around 40 minutes, covering it with foil if it becomes too dark (this wasn’t necessary for me). When a toothpick comes out clean, take the cake out and put it on a cooling rack for around 10 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle with some powdered sugar, if you like.
Photo courtesy of Echoing Footsteps
Still coming off my chocolate high from Brussels, I decided to make this rich, creamy cake, which is a delight in so many ways and a David Leibovitz special. Leibovitz worked as a pastry chef in Paris (where he still lives) and it’s clear that he knows his desserts. His knowledge of sweet goodies is fantastic, and so this cake is too. I made it for many dinner parties back when I lived in Toronto, and it always got rave reviews (and recipe requests). In Leibovitz’s original recipe it’s called “Chocolate Idiot Cake” because anybody can make it, no matter how bad they think they are at baking. It truly is easy, looks beautiful, and feeds plenty of people. Even if you’re just feeding one or two, this cake keeps well in the fridge, making it–in my book, at least–the perfect chocolate cake.
I think there’s something really beautiful about making a luscious cake with only four ingredients, and it’s a nice idea to spend a bit more money and make sure those ingredients are of the highest quality. With that in mind, last week I stopped by my local farmer’s market and specialty stores and stocked up on some good eggs and Valrhona chocolate. You certainly don’t need to spend gobs of cash on chocolate (I even mixed my expensive chocolate with some more ordinary stuff) but the flavours from fresh eggs, top-quality chocolate, and rich butter will definitely shine through in this cake. While we’re on the subject of butter, if you’re in the UK I suggest sampling the Waitrose Brittany butter. It has tiny little flecks of sea salt in it, which makes for a delicious spread on toast or a little crunch in a sweet dessert. Salty-sweet, my favourite taste combo.
Flourless, Flawless Chocolate cake (Stolen from David Leibovitz)
I still have some of this in the fridge, which is really a testament to how many people this cake serves (like, 12). I used a large tart pan, as my springform is getting a little old, and it made for a lovely thin cake with the consistency of warm baked ganache. Heavenly. Just don’t forget to adjust your baking time!
- 10 ounces (290 g) chopped bittersweet or dark chocolate
- 7 ounces (200 g) butter, cut into pieces. It doesn’t matter whether you use salted or unsalted butter.
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200 g) sugar
Preheat the oven to 350° Farenheit (175° Celsius)
Butter a 9-inch (23 cm) springform (or tart) pan and dust it with cocoa powder, tapping out any excess. You may want to wrap aluminum foil around the outside, if your pan isn’t watertight. Definitely do this if you’re using a tart pan.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler (or microwave, my preferred option), stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar, then whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. You may want to cover the top of the pan snugly with a sheet of foil. Put the springform pan into a larger baking pan, such as a roasting pan, and then add enough hot water to the baking pan to come about halfway up to the outside of the cake pan.
Bake for around 45 minutes (if you’re using a taller springform pan, it may take longer). Take the cake out when it feels just set, and a finger touched to the surface comes away clean. Take the cake pan out of the water bath and remove the foil. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack.
Serve your guests thin wedges of this flourless chocolate cake after it has cooled for a few hours. Top with crême anglaise, ice cream, whipped cream, or just powdered sugar. If you wrap it up tightly in your fridge, it should last up to a week.