Homemade pie, with all of its wonderful little imperfections, is pretty stinkin great. It doesn’t look like that oddly perfect-looking pie from Village Inn, Stepford Wife-esque with its unblemished crust and crimped edges. No sir. The homemade pie might have a little burnt spot on the edge. Maybe the fruit inside spilled through the seam a little. There could be a couple tears in the crust like this pie has. But unlike that store bought pie that was probably made completely by machine, this pie, the handmade pie, is baked by a real live person. Probably someone you know and love. They tended the crust (we all know pie crusts need a little TLC) and made sure nothing got too warm before baking time. They picked out the best fruit they could find. They turned on their oven in the middle of summer when the last thing anyone needs is a giant box filled with 375-degree air in their non-air-conditioned house, spewing the leftover heat into the kitchen like it’s a fire-breathing dragon. This person baked you a pie. And that, as my mom would say, is a beautiful thing.
This pie starts out, like most good things, with butter.
This crust is a little different because while the butter is still cold, you’ll roll it out so it makes little strips of butter. It’s kinda tricky but that’s cool cuz we’re going for the flakiness here.
Then it goes back in the bowl, and you’ll add buttermilk.
Then it’ll need some time to cool off in the fridge. It’s hot outside, and pie crust can feel it too.
Now, it’s berry time. These babies will get tossed with some lemon juice and sugar.
When the crust is finally done chilling, roll it out on a floured surface, gently lift it into your pie pan, sprinkle some breadcrumbs in there to help absorb all the berry juice, and pour in the berries. You can see a few spots where i had to patch the pie crust. No big deal. That’s what the homemade pie is all about!
Then, grab the other piece of dough from the fridge and roll it out, lift on top, and seal the edges. I won’t pretend I know how to beautify the edge of a pie crust, so I’ll tell you not to worry about it. No one will notice, and if they do, they’ll forget as soon as they have a bite, And if they don’t forget, take away their pie and give it to someone else. (Not that I want to deny anyone a slice of this…but still.) Make sure to cut some vents in the top so the steam from the fruit juice can escape.
I realize it’s a little late in the season for blueberries (where did you go, summer?), but if you can find them, this would be the perfect send-off for them until next year.
Blueberry Blackberry Pie
Makes 1 double-crusted 9-inch pie
For the crust:
1 cup (two sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cold
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (5-6 ounces) buttermilk, cold
For the filling:
2 pints fresh blueberries
1 pint fresh blackberries
1 cup granulated sugar, plus a little more for sprinkling on top
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
a big pinch of salt
zest of 1/2 a lemon
juice from 1/2 a lemon, or more to taste
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs or crushed graham crackers
1 large egg, beaten with about a tablespoon of water
First make the crust. Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes. Measure out your buttermilk and place it in the refrigerator so it stays cold.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, and salt. Grab the butter from the freezer and toss it with the flour mixture until all the butter is coated.
Dump the cold butter and flour onto a large, clean area of counter for rolling. Using a rolling pin, roll the mixture so that the butter cubes become flat, thin sheets. Work quickly – the butter should stay cold.
Gather the rolled butter and flour, but them back into the bowl, and refrigerate for 10 minutes. When the butter is cold, remove the bowl from the refrigerator and make a well in the center of the mixture. Pour the cold buttermilk into the mixture all at once. Using your hands, bring the dough together, breaking up any clumps of milk and flour that form. The dough will be shaggy, but all the flour should be moistened. If it isn’t, add another tablespoon of buttermilk. Once it’s all mixed together, divide the dough in half and form each half into a disk. Wrap them in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.
At this point, you can keep the dough in the fridge for 3 days or freezer for 3 weeks before using it. If you want to freeze it, roll the dough into sheets and wrap them in plastic wrap, then freeze.
While the crust chills, make the filling. Rinse the berries and place them in a large bowl. Add the flour, sugar, salt, zest, and juice to the bowl and stir it all together gently. Let sit for about 5 minutes, then taste it and add more lemon if needed.
After at least and hour has passed, remove one of the pie crust disks from the fridge. Flour your work surface and rolling pin, and roll the crust out into a circle. Lift it into the pie plate and trim the edges. Leave bout 1/2 an inch of overhand all around.
Sprinkle the breadcrumbs or crushed graham crackers over the bottom of the unbaked pie crust. Slowly pour in the berries and spread them evenly with the back of a spoon. Have your egg wash ready and moisten the edges of the crust.
Place the pie plate with the bottom crust and filling in the fridge while you roll out the top crust. Make the top crust into a 12-inch circle. Remove the pie plate from the fridge and drape the top crust over the filling. Trim it back tuck the two crusts under so the dough is flush with the edge of the pie plate. The egg wash will act like a pie crust glue, keeping them together. Crimp with your fingers or the tines of a fork to seal. Cut 4 slits in the top crust to act as vents. Place the pie in the fridge to chill while the oven preheats.
Place a rack in the lower third of the oven, and a cookie sheet on another rack below to catch any juice that bubbles over. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
Brush the top and outside edge of the pie with the egg wash. Generously sprinkle granulated sugar over the top. Bake the pie at 425 F for 30 minutes. Then, reduce the oven temperature to 375 F and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling up through the vents. If the crust starts browning too quickly, cover the pie loosely with foil while it bakes (the steam will still need to vent).
Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. Don’t worry about it getting to cool. I brought my pie to a barbecue, it sat outside for about an hour and a half, and it still steamed when I cut into it. Enjoy and give yourself a pat on the back!
I’m definitely not one of the neatest people in the world. I don’t always do my dishes right away (and by ‘not always’ I mean ‘basically never’). My bedroom floor is a mess of books and socks and shoes. My purse is a mess of hair ties and receipts. And don’t even get me started on my laundry situation…who needs to fold clean clothes when you can just keep them in the hamper until they’re all dirty again?
So the first time I saw a picture of a galette, I was pretty excited. It’s just like a pie, but a little messy! You don’t have to worry about rolling the dough out to fit the pie pan, or rolling the top crust to the perfect size to fit the bottom crust. No need to secure the two crusts together and make it all fluted and pretty around the edges. All you have to do is roll out the dough to a mostly-circular shape, put the fruit on top, and fold over the edge. It’s as pretty as pie in a messy kind of way and tastes just the same. Perfect for those of us who can’t be bothered with too much neatness.
A galette begins just like a pie does, with a nice buttery crust. We roll it out and drape it over a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Then the fruit! I’ve never made anything with rhubarb before. I think it’s one of those things that you don’t like as a kid and then you forget about it until you see it at the store years later and think, “Huh. That looks good.” So I decided to give it a try. (Good decision, obviously).
This galette is perfect for spring. It’s mostly sweet, with a little tartness from the rhubarb. Some slightly sweetened whipped cream gives it the perfect finishing touch.
Strawberry Rhubarb Galette
From Food and Wine
For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks, 5 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
5 tablespoons ice water
Place the flour and salt in a medium bowl and blend with a fork. Scatter the butter on top. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter or your hands until the pieces are the size of small peas. Sprinkle the water on top and toss with the fork.
Use your hands to press the mixture into a dough. Pat the dough into a 6-inch disk. Wrap it in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
For the filling:
1 pint strawberries, thickly sliced
1 pound fresh rhubarb, cut crosswise 1/2 inch thick
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons whole milk, or 1 beaten egg
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. On a clean floured surface, roll the dough into a 16-inch round 1/8 inch thick. Work quickly to keep the butter cold. I also found that I needed to use a little more flour than I normally do for dough, so don’t be afraid to overdo it. Transfer the rolled-out dough to the baking sheet and chill 10 minutes.
Toss the strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, flour, lemon juice, and vanilla in a large bowl. Spread the fruit over the pastry to within 2 inches of the edge. Fold the outer edge of the dough over the filling, pleating it every 2 inches or so. Brush the dough with milk or egg. Sprinkle some extra sugar on the dough if you want. Dot the filling with the 4 tablespoons butter.
Bake the galette for one hour in the center of the oven, or until the fruit is bubbling and the dough golden brown. Let cool slightly before cutting.
For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat the cream, sugar, and vanilla on high until soft peaks form or until your desired consistency.
Serve aside the galette.
I think the thing I like least about working in an office, or at least one of the things that is really hard to get used to after spending the entirety of my pre-office life in school, is: no breaks! I mean seriously…I honestly believe our productivity and morale would skyrocket if we had a company-wide 2-week winter break, week-long spring break just when it starts to get warm, and at least a 2-week summer break. I mean really, it’s in the company’s best interest.
But no. Instead, we have to work work work until we save up enough vacation days to take a 5-day weekend, calculate whether we’ll have enough vacation days left to go to our friend’s wedding over the summer….the struggle is neverending. Anyway, about a month ago I decided I was in need of a spring break. And today I got up at 2 in the morning to drive to the airport and by the time I normally would have arrived at work, I was already 1200 miles away from my little corner of the office and the few hundred emails that await me every morning.
Yesterday, because I knew I wanted to make something delicious to bring to work for St. Patrick’s Day but I wasn’t going to be back to work by then, I brought in this Guinness chocolate cake. I made this cake last year too so I already knew it was a total winner. And let me tell you, this cake is a dream. Perfect way to eat your Guinness and drink it too this weekend.
This Guinness chocolate cake is rich but not too sweet, super moist and chocolatey, and the Guinness adds just the right amount of a little savory, yeasty touch. The cream cheese frosting is the perfect complement, adding some sweetness without overpowering the magic of this cake.
I was planning on putting green sprinkles on top, but I forgot to buy them, of course. I do think it would be a great touch though.
Also…two cakes in a row. Oops 🙂
Guinness Chocolate Cake
From Feast by Nigella Lawson, via Shutterbean.com
Makes a single layer 9-inch cake
1 cup Guinness stout (this means you’ll have leftovers to drink while it bakes!)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, sliced
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups superfine sugar (I used granulated, it works just fine)
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment. I don’t have a springform pan and was also out of parchment, so I just used a normal 9-inch pan, buttered it very liberally, and the cake came out of the pan just fine.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the Guinness and butter until the butter is melted. Whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar and then remove from the heat. In a small bowl, beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla (you can do it with a whisk). Pour the Guinness mixture into a large bowl, and add in the sour cream mixture. Whisk together until combined. Add the flour and baking soda and whisk until completely combined. Scrape the bowl with a spatula to make sure you get all the flour.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes, until a toothpick stuck in the center of the cake comes out clean. Mine was actually done at about 41 minutes, so definitely keep an eye on it. Remove from oven and let cool. If you’re not using a springform pan, run a butter knife around the edge of the cake and turn it out onto a plate when the pan is cool enough to touch, Then invert again onto whatever you’re going to serve it from so it’s right-side up.
Cream Cheese Frosting
by Garrett McCord on Simply Recipes
I was afraid this was going to be too much frosting for a single-layer cake, but I think it was a perfect amount.
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2-3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
With electric beaters or in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese together until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and beat for another 15 seconds or so. Beat in the vanilla extract.
Add the powdered sugar little by little, until the frosting reaches the desired sweetness and thickness.
Once the cake is cool, spread the frosting on top with a spatula, starting from the center and working outwards to make it look like a nice frothy pint of Guinness. Top with green sprinkles if you want to be even more festive. Or you could add green food coloring to the frosting!
Have a great weekend!
If you’re anything like me, the name of this cake – magic custard cake – will bring out the skeptic in you. Can this cake really be magical? Like real-life, it-will-disappear-in-less-than-a-day magical? There’s nothing incredibly special about everyday non-cake custard. Can this cake really be that much better?
And the answer is…yes. This cake is indeed magical. Somehow, the time in the oven makes a thin cakey layer on top while the bottom of the cake remains creamy and custardy and wonderful.
This custard cake is all the magic you’ll need to make it through your Monday and the rest of the week. It doesn’t take too long to make and you can keep it all week, eat it for breakfast. Even at the risk that the cake is so good, your day might only go downhill from there.
Magic Custard Cake
From White on Rice Couple
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups milk
4 eggs, separated
4 drops white vinegar
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
more powdered sugar for the top
Preheat oven to 325 F and lightly butter an 8×8-inch baking dish.
Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Heat the milk to lukewarm and set aside.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites and vinegar until stiff peaks form and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and falls in a ribbon from the beater. Add in the melted butter and water and beat until fully incorporated, about 2 minutes.
Mix the flour into the egg yolk mixture until fully incorporated. Slowly mix in the milk 1/2 cup at a time by had with a spatula. Mix in the vanilla.
Fold in 1/3 of the eggs whites until mostly incorporated, and repeat with the remaining 2/3, 1/3 at a time. Mix gently, without deflating the egg yolks, until fully incorporated and there are no more big lumps.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 45-60 minutes or until the top is golden. I took mine out at 45 minutes and I think it was a tiny bit overdone, but I’m pretty sure the heating mechanism in there is pretty much uncontrolled. Give the cake a gentle shake, it will still jiggle slightly when it’s done. Allow the cake to cool completely before cutting. You can put it in the fridge to expedite the cooling. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. The cake will last for a few days in the fridge, but let it come to room temperature before serving.
Is it okay to post two lemon recipes in a row if the first one is savory and the second one is one of the prettiest desserts you’ll ever see? I hope so, because I actually have a third lemon recipe to share at some point, but I’ll give it a rest for a while after this. But this. I had to share this. As soon as I could. In these cloudy, misty, so-foggy-I-can-only-see-two-cars-ahead-and-WHY-DON’T-YOU-HAVE-YOUR-HEADLIGHTS-ON days of winter, this tart is a much needed ray of sunshine for the tastebuds. Come on people. Turn on your stinkin’ headlights and maybe I’ll share with you, too.
Seriously. It’s the food version of what I imagine sitting under one of those sunlight lamps for a couple hours would feel like. Bright, cheery, and a little sweet, this tart is just the pick-me-up you need right now. Plus, when life, in the form of your Southern Californian aunt who has a Meyer lemon tree in her backyard, gives you eight fresh Meyer lemons, what else are you going to do?
We start this off like most good things start. Butter, egg yolks, flour, sugar…
This is what the tart looks like without the candied lemons on top. Just a nice, soft, creamy filling made of cream and lemon zest and lemon juice and sugar and eggs.
Then the candied lemon slices get arranged on top and we sprinkle some powdered sugar on and bask in the little bit of sunlight that just came out of the oven.
Meyer Lemon Tart
Recipe by Roxana, found here.
For the Crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
10 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup powdered sugar
For the Filling:
3/4 cup superfine sugar (you can pulse 3/4 cup granulated sugar in a food processor a few times if you don’t have it. I don’t have a food processor and also didn’t have superfine sugar, so I used plain ol’ granulated sugar and it turned out just fine.)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1 tablespoon Meyer lemon zest
For the Topping:
2-3 Meyer lemons
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
Make the Crust:
In a food processor, pulse the flour, butter, egg yolks, sugar and salt for about a minute until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. You can also use a pastry cutter and a bowl, or your hands, which is what I did. Just make sure that if you mix it with your hands, you work quickly so the butter doesn’t get to warm or soft. Add a couple drops of ice water at a time, until the dough forms a ball. I ended up using about a tablespoon of water.
Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 30 minutes.
While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 400 F. After 30 minutes in the fridge, remove the crust and roll it out on a clean, lightly floured counter. Carefully lift the crust and place it in an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough into the bottom corner and edges of the pan and trim the excess. (I used a 9-inch pan – just had a little more extra dough to trim.)
Place a piece of parchment paper in the crust and fill it with pie wights/dry rice/dry beans. Bake 15 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and pie weights and bake the crust uncovered for 10 more minutes, until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes.
Make the Filling:
Reduce the oven temperature to 300 F.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar for about 5 minutes, until pale in color. Add in the cream, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake for 35-40 minutes, until just set. Cool the tart completely before removing from the pan.
Make the Topping:
Thinly slice the lemons and remove the seeds.
Place the sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the lemon slices to the sugar water and simmer for about 25-30 minutes, until the pulp looks transparent. Remove the slices from the water and arrange them on the tart. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired, and enjoy.
I took this tart into my office and it was gone within an hour, but I suspect you could keep it in the fridge for a couple days without anything bad happening.
When I was a kid, I loved chocolate pudding. The kind that comes in the little plastic containers with perfectly separated layers of milk chocolate and vanilla, or milk chocolate and devil’s food. I couldn’t get enough of it. After school, after dinner, afternoon…
To this day, whenever it catches my eye at the grocery store, I can’t resist buying chocolate pudding. It’s like an old favorite movie or book, that you’ll never get tired of, because it’s just that awesome. Even if deep down you know maybe it’s not that awesome. It’s just always been there and you’ve always had way too soft of a soft spot for it. And maybe now that you’re (almost) a grown up, there was that one time you let yourself have two pudding cups after dinner on a day where you worked out harder than you had in a month. No biggie. It’s our pudding party and we can do what we want.
For some reason, until I saw this recipe, it had never occurred to me to make pudding myself. Maybe the whole chocolate-and-cream-are-easy-to-burn thing scared me off. This one, with a shortbread bottom, seemed a little less threatening for some reason.
First we make the shortbread bottom and press it into a pan.
And bake it. Alternatively titled, “My Oven Burns Everything: Exhibit 47.”
Then we whisk together some pudding and pour it over the cooled shortbread.
Then we stick it in the fridge for a bit, and then get to enjoy a slightly more adult rendition of our favorite childhood snack.
These bars are the perfect combination of buttery from the shortbread and slightly sweet from the pudding. Just enough creaminess, just enough crunch — a perfect match.
Chocolate Pudding Shortbread Bars
Recipe from The Crepes of Wrath
For the Shortbread:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Chocolate Pudding:
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cup chocolate
1 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
sea salt for sprinkling (optional — I forgot and really wish I hadn’t)
Preheat oven to 375 F. Liberally butter a 9×13-inch baking pan, or line with parchment and butter the parchment. To make the shortbread, beat the butter until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add in the sugar and beat another 3 minutes or so, until light and fluffy. Add in the salt and the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until incorporated. The dough might be a little crumbly, that’s ok.
Press the dough into the prepared pan using your hands, spreading it as evenly as you can. Bake 20-25 minutes, until slightly golden and set. Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 10-15 minutes. The crust may collapse if it’s still hot when you pour the hot pudding over it.
While the shortbread cools, make the pudding. Place the cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and heat until simmering. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add in the chocolate. Whisk the chocolate into the cream until completely melted, stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn. Remove from heat. Add in the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Whisk until fully incorporated. Return the pudding to medium heat for 2 minutes, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and set aside. If the shortbread isn’t cool yet, stir the pudding every few minutes so a skin doesn’t form on top.
Pour the pudding over the cooled shortbread. Place the pan in the refrigerator for about 2 hours, until the pudding is set. If sprinkling with sea salt, do so just before the pudding is set, so the salt stays on top. When the pudding is fully chilled and set, cut into squares with a clean knife. Wipe the knife with a damp paper towel between cuts, and serve. The bars will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Last week was one gigantic sugar-coated, caramel-filled, chocolate-dipped Christmas treat extravaganza at my office. We had a potluck one day, and the 40+ people who work there couldn’t even finish all the desserts. I definitely had
a little more WAY more than my fair share, just at the potluck. There were countless cookies, rice krispie treats, chocolates, Hershey kiss and m&m topped pretzels….
The day of the potluck, I ended up at work until almost midnight. The plus side was that while I was working, I got to snack on the leftovers. A couple cookies at 8:00, leftover salad at 9:30, and at 11:00 another sliver of this tart, which was my potluck contribution. Don’t ask me how it didn’t all get eaten during the day. Who picks too-sweet but still tasteless store-bought cookies over something rich, chocolatey, homemade, and a little boozy? Beats me. I’d pick this tart over something from a grocery store bakery any day, but I was glad to have some late at night.
This tart is rich and very chocolatey, with a nice citrus flavor, a hint of booze, and a little spicy kick from the cinnamon. We start by candying some orange peel.
Then we’re mixing butter and cocoa powder and sugar and cinnamon and a little flour and salt.
Crust gets rolled out and baked.
Then, the orange peel gets chopped up and some chocolate gets melted.
Orange peel and almonds go in the crust.
Melted chocolate gets poured in, and the tart chills for a bit in the fridge. And then we get to feel really fancy while we eat it.
This tart is a little labor-intensive, but completely worth it. It’s worth your weekend afternoon, both for the taste and for the oohs and ahs you’ll get from your family when you show up at Christmas dinner with it. Have a wonderful holiday!
Dark Chocolate and Orange Tart with Toasted Almonds
Candied Orange Peel:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup slivered almost, toasted, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange liquor
For the candied orange peel:
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel (orange part only) from the orange in strips. Cut strips into pieces the size of matchsticks and place in a small saucepan. Cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Cook for 30 seconds and drain. Rise the pan, add 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons water, and peel. Over medium-low heat, stir until sugar dissolves. Simmer until the peel is translucent and the syrup thick, about 20 minutes. With the tines of a fork, transfer peel to a plate to cool. Peel can be made 1 day ahead. Cover it and store at room temperature.)
For the crust:
With an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in the cocoa powder. Add in the four and beat until dough comes together in moist clumps. Form the dough into a ball; flatten the ball into a disk. Wrap dough in plastic and chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Roll the crust out between sheets of waxed paper to an 11-inch round. Remove the top sheet of paper and invert the dough over a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Peel off second sheet of paper. Gently press the dough into the pan, pressing the overhang in to form double-thick sides. Pierce dough all over with a fork and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Bake crust until the sides look dry and the bottom looks bubbly, about 14 minutes. Transfer crust to rack. If the sides of the dough are falling, use the back of a spoon to press them up. Cool crust completely.
For the filling:
Toss the almonds, sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Chop all but 2 strips of the orange peel. Sprinkle the chopped orange peel over the bottom of the prepared crust, and then sprinkle the almond mixture over. Place the cream in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Add the chocolate and whisk until chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the Grand Marnier. Pour the chocolate mixture into the crust. Refrigerate tart until filling is firm, at least 3 hours. Garnish with the remaining 2 orange peel strips. Tart can be make 1 day ahead. Keep covered loosely with foil in the fridge.
To serve, gently loosen the crust from the sides of the pan with a sharp knife. Cut tart into wedges and serve cold.
Here’s what happened while I was making this cake. The eggs were all separated and ready to go at room temperature. The parchment paper was buttered and floured. All the ingredients were measured and set in their own containers at my fingertips. The bowls were ready. The beaters – which belong to my roommate – were plugged in and reporting for duty. The sugar was in the egg yolks, I was ready to go. And then, I turned on the beaters.
Level 1 speed: they give a little kick, start spinning reeeeaaaallll slow. No cause for concern, right? I’m only at level 1. Turn it up to level 2. They give a decent effort to speed up but it’s not going to happen. Hmmmm. Turn the speed up to level 3. The beaters don’t even try this time. They sputter a little, and weakly plug along at a glacial pace. Up another notch to 4, and they actually slow down. And start emitting the same weird and highly unpleasant smoky smell that the really high pitched spinning drill/cleaner thingy at the dentist has. Just one more notch to go. Level 5, and the beaters are totally out of gas. Except they don’t run on gas, so I can’t just fill them up. But it’s pretty clear they’re done for. So at about 8 pm, I bundle up and head out in the 20-degree night and iced-over roads in search of beaters. And find them tucked in a corner among a beautiful forest of brightly hued Kitchen Aids and high-tech juicers and almost-industrial food processors (I can dream, can’t I?).
I bring my new beaters home, take the already-separated eggs out of the fridge to come to room temperature again, and finally get down to business. And let me tell you, this cake was worth the extra trip and $30 for beaters. And the waiting while the eggs warmed up. And everything else. It’s light and fluffy (even though it totally doesn’t look like it) and pretty and impressive and delicious.
What makes this cake light and fluffy? EGGS. Beaten yolks. Beaten whites. And no flour. It’s gluten-free! The peppermint goes right into the whipped cream, so it’s a big flavor in this cake. Not hiding behind the chocolate at all.
If you’re not a peppermint fan, this cake would be wonderful with a myriad of other flavorings. I think I’m going to make it with Grand Marnier for my family at Christmas, and candied orange peel on top. It would of course be great with Kahlua and cinnamon and chocolate covered espresso beans for garnish. I think Kirschwasser could be tasty, too. Raspberry liquor. Hazelnut liquor. Some kind of coconut situation? Endless possibilities with this one.
Meanwhile we’re melting chocolate, and then mixing it in the egg yolks.
Then we’ll be the egg whites. At first they turn frothy.
And then they turn into a dreamy white cloud that I want to curl up in forever. See those peaks? That’s how you know they’re ready.
Then the egg whites get gently folded into the yolk-chocolate mixture.
Cake goes in the oven, comes out and gets slathered in whipped cream.
And now, we roll.
Those cracks? Totally cool. No one can tell once it’s all rolled up.
And then we cover it in ganache, because why wouldn’t we. And put some candy cane on top, because we’re fancy like that.
This cake is a perfect holiday dessert. Gorgeous and satisfying, but light enough that you won’t have to loosen your belt after a big dinner.
Chocolate Peppermint Yule Log
Makes 1 roll cake, enough to serve about 8
For the Cake:
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chopped fine (I measured 4 oz chocolate chips from the bulk section)
6 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
For the Whipped Cream Filling:
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or scrapings from 1 vanilla bean
1-2 teaspoons peppermint extract or your preferred flavoring (start with 1 and add more to taste)
For the Ganache:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces (I used chocolate chips again)
2/3 cup heavy cream
Make the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place a rack in the upper third of the oven. Grease a 17×12-inch baking sheet with butter or vegetable spray. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper (don’t use foil). It should overhang the sides of the pan about an inch. Grease and flour the parchment.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites while the eggs are cold. After separating, allow them 20 minutes to warm to room temperature.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or in a medium bowl with hand beaters, beat together the egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar at medium-high speed until the yolks are thick and pale in color. This will take about 5-7 minutes. (It took me a bit longer with my hand beaters.) You’ll know it’s been beaten enough when the mixture pours from the beater in a thick ribbon.
While the eggs are beating, melt the chocolate pieces. (Since I have to hold my beaters, I melted the chocolate in the microwave in a small glass measuring cup, and then sat it on the back of the stove where the preheated oven would keep it warm and melty.) You can melt the chocolate in the microwave with low heat for a few seconds at a time, stirring every once in while. You can also use a double boiler, or makeshift one. Place a few inches of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Place chocolate in a large heatproof bowl – this bowl will eventually hold everything – and set the bowl over the boiling water. The bowl should not touch the water. Stir the chocolate until it is melted completely. Remove from heat, and remove the bowl from the water. Let the chocolate cool a few minutes.
Place the chocolate in a large bowl if it isn’t already. Add the beaten egg yolk mixture to the chocolate. Gently stir until just incorporated. Stir in the vanilla. The mixing will thicken the egg yolks even further, and the chocolate will appear fluffy. Set aside.
Clean the mixer bowl and whisk attachment or beaters. Dry to ensure that no yolk is left. Add the egg whites to the bowl. With the whisk attachment, beat on medium speed until the whites are frothy, about 2 minutes. Add the salt, and gradually add the cream of tartar. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. There will be peaks when you lift the whisk out of the whites, but they won’t hold their shape. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar while beating. Beat until stiff peaks form.
Grab your chocolate-egg yolk mixture in its large bowl. Place about 1/3 of the egg whites in the bowl and gently fold to combine. Using a light hand, sweep the egg whites up and under through the center of the chocolate mixture. Fold until just incorporated. Large egg white and chocolate streaks will remain. Add another 1/3 of the egg whites and continue to mix in the same manner. The batter will be fluffy and glossy. The fluffiness creates the spongy cake texture, so try to deflate the egg whites as little as possible. Fold in the remaining egg whites and fold gently until entirely incorporated.
Immediately transfer the batter to the prepared baking sheet. Carefully smooth into the pan, making sure there’s an even thickness. Don’t mess with the batter too much. The more you do, the more it deflates. If the batter won’t reach the ends of the pan, no big deal. Just try to make an even rectangle.
Bake the cake 15-17 minutes. When done, the top will be dry and it will have a spongy, bounce-back feel. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
While the cake cools, make the whipped cream and ganache.
Make the Whipped Cream:
Place the heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, and peppermint extract in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, or if using beaters, in a medium bowl. Beat until there are soft peaks. It should hold its shape but still be soft and spreadable. Let rest in the refrigerator.
Make the Ganache:
Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat cream in a small sauce pan until it’s almost boiling. It will be steaming hot. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let stand 1 minute. Whisk into a smooth and glossy sauce. Let rest in the fridge about 30 minutes, until thickened slightly.
Assemble the Cake:
Once the cake has cooled completely, use the overhang of the parchment paper to remove it from the baking sheet. Spread with a thin layer of whipped cream filling. It does not need to be a thick layer, but I did use all the whipped cream.
Place the cake so the 12-inch side (the shorter one) is facing you. We’ll roll from this side.
Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake. It doesn’t need to be tight. Roll the cake gently, removing the parchment as you go. The first roll or two will probably crack, but that’s okay. It will crack less as the roll gets larger.
End with the seam side down and gently lift the cake onto a serving board or plate. Let rest in the fridge about 30 minutes.
Remove the cake from the fridge and pour the chocolate ganache over it. Let chill until you are ready to serve it. Garnish with a crushed candy cane just before serving. If you garnish early, the candy will ooze and color will seep out a bit.
The cake will last, wrapped and refrigerated, for 3 days.