Toffee Apple Bacon Pie

This pie is delicious.

The technique is very poor.

But the outcome is so, so good.

Please note that this recipe can be adjusted to your tastes, and also note that the toffee sauce is copied from this recipe.

But the addition of bacon and the combination of tart, pie, and sticky toffee pudding, is unbeatable.

Toffee Apple Bacon Pie

Ingredients:

2.5 cups flour, plus more for apples

2 sticks butter, cut into cubes, plus 3/4 cup butter

3 egg yolks

4 cups sugar, divided evenly

1 cup whipped cream

vanilla, to taste

salt, to taste

1 package bacon, cut into pieces

About 10 apples, peeled and sliced into medium-thin wedges

20141126_0839451. Combine half of the sugar, the cream, and the 3/4 cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Warm it until the sauce has thickened and coated the back of the spoon, about 10 minutes. You don’t want the sugar to burn, you want it to gently melt.

20141126_0906262. Pour it over the apples, add a scant amount of flour to thicken the mixture (maybe 1 tablespoon or so), and set to work making the dough.

20141126_0852383. Combine the rest of the butter, sugar, flour, and egg yolks in a large mixing bowl. Add a couple of teaspoons of vanilla, too.

20141126_085904Really get your hands in there and make a nice, crumble-y mixture. Don’t forget to add the bacon!

20141126_0919244. Pat the shortbread mixture into a pie dish, poke it with a few fork holes, and bake it at 350 F for about 10 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. It will seem oozy and bubbling, but that’s just all the butter. Don’t worry, it will solidify.

20141126_0921215. Tip the apples into the pan, along with all of the toffee sauce, cover with large patches of the dough, and bake at 350 F for about an hour, or until the apples are soft and the crust is golden but not too brown.

20141126_092846Bake it on a sheet pan in case any sugary juices bubble over.

20141127_1819046. Serve warm with a mountain of whipped cream.

Sweet, Buttery. Soft. Crumbly. Sweet apples, soft but not mushy, in the lushest, softly sweet toffee sauce. A crust that needn’t be rolled out. And tiny shards of crispy, salty, slightly smoky bacon throughout to temper the sugar content.

It’s not kosher. But it is perfect.

Charming Charleston: Drinks and Dessert

I can finally say that I see the light. I see why people are obsessed with the South and don’t want to leave it once they visit there. 

I have seen the light in the form of Charleston, South Carolina. Beautiful shop-lined streets, horse and carriage rides just because it’s Saturday, and food.

WOW. FOOD. 

I had two outrageously delicious restaurant meals, but if you wanted to get just drinks and desserts, you could do that in Charleston and be mighty pleased. 20141115_134448 Sugar Bakeshop

This diminutive bakery is what Magnolia must have been before “Sex and the City” turned it into the slut of the West Village. It’s no larger than your first studio walk up and filled to the brim with cookies and cupcakes. The servers are helpful, the prices are more than fair, and the cupcakes are DIVINE. Don’t miss the cream cheese icing if you can help it – it’s the smoothest, creamiest icing I have ever enjoyed, with just the slightest tang. 20141115_134759 Lemon cupcake

For the true lemon baked goods connoisseur. The cake is fluffy and moist, with a very tender, loose crumb. It doesn’t crumble, it more melts in your mouth. The center is filled with a tart, pleasantly lip-puckering lemon curd, and the icing is bright, rich, and very sweet. It’s refreshing and decadent at the same time. A must get, especially if the weather is nice enough so that you can enjoy the bakery’s adorable courtyard while you indulge. 
20141115_195101The Gin Joint

Some of the best cocktails for the price that I have enjoyed anywhere. For $10…that’s right, $10…I treated myself to a bespoke cocktail using only the words “vegetal” and “strong.” This beaut came with gin, aperol, and cucumber. It’s definitely strong, but also well balanced – sweet, tart, and a little savory. It’s the ideal way to start the evening – or end it! The restaurant is tiny (a theme in Charleston eateries), but friendly and upscale-casual. I would definitely go back for another drink or one of the delicious looking pork buns!

Next up: Bloody Marys and fried chicken

Corn-Coconut-Lime Muffins

So sorry for the tardy posting…I could have sworn that I pushed “publish” yesterday, but I pushed “draft!” Have a delicious weekend, all!

These are some super easy muffins based on my favorite treat from Amy’s Bread - their lime cornmeal cookies. These cookies bridge the gap between sweet and savory. They are perfect for breakfast or a snack – I guess that you could eat them as dessert, but I certainly never have any left over after dinner.

These muffins are a tribute to those, made with a sample of Zico that I was sent.

Corn-Coconut-Lime Muffins

coconut lime corn muffins

1 package corn muffin mix, including whatever is needed to prepare the package

Zest of 2 limes

2 cups shredded coconut

Enough Zico coconut water to replace the liquid (NOT THE OIL!) called for in the recipe

IMG_1718

1. Prepare the muffin mix according to instructions. Replace the water with coconut water.

IMG_1729

2. Add the lime zest and shredded coconut.

IMG_1735

3. Put into greased muffin tins and bake according to package.

IMG_1740

4. Serve.

IMG_1750This is so easy…like, almost criminally so. It’s just an easy mix that is doctored up with a few ingredients and BAM! – suddenly it’s some artisanal muffin. It could actually be sweet enough for dessert with a powdered sugar and milk glaze, but I like it as a muffin. It’s light and fluffy, with sticky shreds of coconut and that fragrant coconut water flavor. Lime’s essential oils are all in the zest, so using the zest infuses the batter with tart lime flavor without having to juice the lime. Replacing the liquid with coconut water cuts fat and adds such a delicate tropical flavor. The texture is a little crumbly, but slap some butter on one and you will suddenly forgive its structural defects. Whip these up and you will feel like you are in the tropics.

Or at Amy’s Bread…def one or the other.

Billy’s Bakery – A Chelsea (Trick or) Treat!

Billy’s Bakery. Yes, a cupcake bakery. Shut up, I like cupcakes more than ever now that they are uncool again.

Just like jeggings.

I haven’t been here for quite some time, and wow…I miss it!

The Chelsea shop is diminutive – just a counter, a few fresh faced employees, and a couple of tables and chairs. Feel free to take your seat outside on the bench or bring it back to your casa. Be prepared for an influx of  kids if you go after school, but the scent of chocolate and sugar makes everyone a little kid-like, right?

Red Velvet

These cupcakes really are so good. They are just what you want in a red velvet cupcake – dense and a little chocolatey with a tender, moist crumb. The icing atop is tangy, smooth, and cream-cheesy. I could eat it by the spoonful and I’m honestly a little bummed that I can’t get a cupcake totally enrobed in icing.

20141030_154737Vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting

Ugh, what a departure from that lovely red velvet cupcake. This cake is cottony and dry with nary a waft of vanilla. The frosting is good – very chocolatey and not at all greasy or chalky – but it can’t make up for that wretched cake. Maybe I got a bad one, but wow…this isn’t tasty.

20141030_154656Icebox cake

Where have you BEEN all of my life?! Creamy, soft filling with a slight, pleasant tang. Deep, dark, chocolatey cookies that are tender and sweet. It’s like cheesecake-whipped cream-oreo filling-cookie goodness. This is incredibly rich – I couldn’t finish more than half of it, and I really gave it my all. I would get this again yesterday.

 

Billy’s is a small but generally wonderful bakery. The treats are fairly priced (that is to say, too expensive, but you are willing to pay it), most of the cupcakes are delicious, and the icebox cake is really craveworthy. Enjoy your weekend and make it a cupcake filled one!

Happy Halloween!

The World’s Best Cheesecake

*I had another post lined up for today when I discovered that this blog post was devoid of pictures. Somehow, in the great blog transfer, this post’s pictures disappeared into thin air! Plus there was a dead link right in the first sentence! Sacre bleu! So, this is reposted because it is one of my favorite recipes ever…thanks  to my sous chef mom, and thanks to my favorite food group DAIRY!*
 Remember the best cheesecake on earth? What a crock! This…THIS is actually the best cheesecake. I decreased the size of the cake, added a touch of sour cream to the batter, and put gingersnaps in the crust. Quite frankly, this is the best cheesecake on the face of the planet. It is rich, creamy, sweet, perfect fresh or frozen…but wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go through the recipe first, shall we? The World’s Best Cheesecake Ingredients: 4 packages cream cheese 1/2 cup sour cream 1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups total sugar
2 eggs Juice of 1 lemon 1 Tbsp. vanilla 12 gingersnaps or graham crackers, crushed into crumbs 6 cups of crushed nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, or whatever you like) 1 stick butter, melted Special Equipment: Springform pan, lined with tinfoil.
download

 1. Preheat your oven to 350 F and combine 1 cup of sugar with the crushed nuts and cookies. Mix well.

download (2)

2. Drizzle the butter over the crumbs and mix well until all the crumbs are moistened and become a thick sort of paste. You may not use all of the butter – you want it to be just a bit moist, not sopping wet.

download (1)

 3. Pat the crumbs into an even layer in your tinfoiled springform pan. Set aside.

download (3)

 4. In a large bowl, combine your cream cheese,

download (5)

 sweetened condensed milk, 

download (5)

 vanilla, lemon juice, 

passover 085

the rest of the sugar, the eggs, and the sour cream.   images (1) 5. Mix with your hand mixer or stand mixer for at least 7 minutes or until the mixture has increased in volume by about 1/3 (yes, Christina Tosi, you have convinced me that a prolonged mixing time really makes an outstanding cake).

images (2)

 6. Pour the cheesecake batter into the crust. Take a quick lick of the spatula. You won’t get salmonella. Probably.

tsimis brisket liver hummus latkes 153

 7. Place the cake on a sheet pan with a lip and put it in the oven. Pour water into the sheet pan to create a water bath. Cook the cheesecake for about 45 minutes, or until the outside is firm but the center is still somewhat jiggly. If the cheesecake starts to become golden around the edges, take it out at once. When the cake is done, cool it for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

tsimis brisket liver hummus latkes 155

 10) Serve. You are going to love this cake – I bet my blog’s credibility on it. It isn’t one of those fluffy, sugary, preservative laden cakes. This is dense – like a glorious brick in your stomach. The first taste is of cream and pure, clean dairy. Then there is the sweet and gingery crunch of the crust – like a buttery, nutty graham cracker. Then there is the gentle tang of the lemon and sour cream, the aromatic, floral vanilla and the sweetness of the sugar. Pushing your knife through this is like running your fingers through wet sand. It is slow, it is sensual, it gives you some resistance. And it’s so damn satisfying.

tsimis brisket liver hummus latkes 166
Without a doubt, the best cheesecake ever.

Forty Carrots is as Good as Gold

New Yorkers are a cultish little crew.

If New Yorkers like a particular store, they will shop there regardless of the bad service, iffy merchandise, or remote location.

If New Yorkers are loyal to a hairdresser, it doesn’t matter if that hairdresser moves to Philadelphia – the true New Yorker will schlep.

And the feelings that they have for frozen yogurt run deep and passionate.

When my girlfriend brought me for frozen yogurt right before my birthday, I thought it was just a light lunch date.

I didn’t know that she was initiating me into Satan’s lair.

IE, Forty Carrots.

If you get here on a weekday and don’t mind waiting for 10 minutes, you can almost always sit down for your meal. On a weekend, I’m sure that it would be MURDER to try to get a table.

20140731_134732Try not to trip over the yummy mummies, hordes of tourists, and fashionistas on your way to the table. If you have a low tolerance for ladies who lunch, this may not be the place for you. However, if you love to people watch as much as my friend and I do, settle in for the best reality non-tv on the face of the planet. 20140731_140729Chopped Greek salad

Surprisingly huge – most of the women here look as though they haven’t eaten this much food since Thanksgiving when they were 11. This is fresh, really tasty, and I’m telling you – big enough for a light lunch for 2 or a really filling lunch for 1. The chicken is warm and crispy outside, tender inside. The veggies are finely diced, with crunchy romaine lettuce, cucumber, juicy kalamata olives, and plenty of creamy chickpeas. The dolmades alongside are soft and salty, filled with dilled rice that is somehow creamy but not mushy.  The pita is warm and soft and the lemon oregano dressing is tart with mustard, creamy, and just rich enough to up the light salad’s ante. I would get this again.

Except…I never will again.

Because, you know…next time I will be getting this:

20140731_142746Frozen yogurt with carob chips and Oreos

This is the best frozen yogurt I have had – ever. Period. When I was a kid in Southern California, fro yo shops were all the rage. I remember going all the time with my dad and sister, getting huge cups filled with nonfat gray cookies ‘n’ cream yogurt that had a weird, airy consistency and was doubtless filled with enough chemicals to kill a horse.

Aah, California in the 90s.

But this was not that.

This is rich. It’s creamy. It’s tart but not bitter or bracing. It’s sweet in a very clean, milky, fresh yogurt-y way. The coffee flavor is wonderfully complex, with notes of espresso, caramel, chocolate, and almonds. The carob chips are a nostalgic throwback andthe oreos…well, I haven’t ever said no to an Oreo and I’m not going to start now.

This place isn’t stupidly expensive for how much food you get and the food really is delish. If you can either stand the crowds or get your food to go, it’s so worth it.

So get me a candle and prepare me for the initiation.

I’m joining the Forty Carrots cult.

FPB Flashback

*I am getting married this week – Wow! I am working, taking care of  my small family, and also tying programs and please heaven let me have time to get a pedicure. This week is going to be cray-cray. In light of that fact, today I am featuring one of my oldie-but-goodie posts that no one got to read when I posted them because…well…I think I had 47 readers. Enjoy!*

Bakery opening!  Woohoo!!! Is there anything quite so thrilling as entering a bakery?  The savory scents of butter and flour in the air?  The chocolate and fruit glistening before you?  A whole place devoted to CARBS and DESSERTS???

…ANYWAY…

 

Francois Payard Bakery recently opened in Soho, and when I was walking by before lunch, I popped in.  Because what is a better appetizer than sweets?  Am I right? 

 Payard is a very well respected French pastry chef with expensive and luxurious pastry shops all over the world. It is not unusual for a creation of his to go for over $60 a pop.  Yikes! But this new incarnation is a much more casual, relaxed, and inexpensive one.  Flavor stays, expense goes.  Me likey.

 

 

 

 

 

It is a small space, but well laid out, with a glass pastry case lining one wall and a few small tables facing it.

 

You can also see the bakers at work through the plate glass wall!  I love seeing bakers and chefs doing their thing-to me it is really seeing an artist at work.

 The pastries all look gorgeous and the smell in that shop was DIVINE-it was reminiscent of a time before Splenda was part of our vernacular.  Oh, sweet memories.

 There was a huge selection of savory goods too-creamy quiches, cheese laden sandwiches, and even pissaladiere-my FAVORITE use of caramelized onions!  But I had my eye set on one thing and one thing only:

 The coffee macaron

 

A macaron is a cookie made out of egg white, almonds, sugar, and whatever flavoring you like-anything from plain old vanilla to passion fruit to chocolate chili!  Then you take two of those cookies and sandwich them together with a rich ganache-it can be a different flavored ganache, complimentary to the cookie flavor, or it can be the same flavor ganache.  These cookies are crispy, light, very sweet, and very rich all at the same time.  People are obsessed with them. They are the Justin Bieber of the cookie world.

They are often small, like the size of Nilla wafers.  This was closer to a whoopie pie in size.  NICE.  And the taste?

 Oh sweet Caffeine Deities, bring me to your lair and let me live with you. This was COFFEE! Rich, deep, sweet with butter and sugar, slightly salty from the almonds, and just barely bitter from a true, well roasted coffee bean.  Seriously…these were to DIE for.  Taste wise at least.  Texturally…this was not the macaron I am used to.  Fluffy and soft versus light and crispy, this did lack the necessary crunch that makes a macaron a macaron.  But the flavor was really so delicious, I can overlook that.  The ganache was LITERALLY the stuff of dreams.  Thick and rich as nutella, powerful and flavorful as an Italian espresso…this was some seriously outstanding ganache.

 Not a cheap place-$4 for a macaron-but what do I always say?  Ya get what ya pay for,  kid!  And here you pay for world class ingredients, made fresh every day, right in front of your eyes.  My only regret about this place is that I didn’t get 2 macarons.  Will I ever learn?

 

François Payard Bakery on Urbanspoon

 

Skillet o’ Cake at David Burke Fishtail

So, this weekend, I made some awesome Mexican corn dip, ate the best deviled egg of my life, and had some kick ass Chinese food at my bridal shower (spoiler alert – Congee Bowery has not only an awesome private room but some of the juiciest pork dumplings in town).

But this isn’t about any of those piddly stories.

This is about the most whimsical things that I ate this weekend.

This is about Fishtail’s Skillet of Cake.

Fishtail is David Burke’s elegant UES restaurant. It’s loud and upscale, just like all of his places, but it has a casual bar in the front area. You can sit there and have a beer or sit at one of the high booths with your friends and order this expensive, indulgent, childhood kickback dessert. I didn’t even take any pictures of the interior because the bar area is really just the standard picture of a nice UES restaurant bar.

Little did I know what I was in for.

They call it a can o’ cake, but it’s really a skillet. You order it in the large size for 4 people and then it takes about 20 minutes to make.

IMG_20140131_212835_904Don’t worry, while you wait, you get to lick the beaters, just like at Grandma’s house. The cake batter is dark and chocolatey, whith a smooth texture. It’s so fun to sit in this fancy restaurant and lick cake batter off of the beaters. And, of course, eavesdrop on all of the second dates going on at the bar.
IMG_20140131_215406_039When the cake is ready, it comes to you on a small side table. A warm skillet of brownie cake, homemade vanilla ice cream, a can of whipped cream, hot fudge, and puffed rice. Let the server divvy up the cake and give you the works. IMG_20140131_215611_771This is pretty much a souped-up version of a brownie sundae. It’s all warm, soft, dark chocolate cake, airy whipped cream, and some of the finest vanilla ice cream in recent memory. That ice cream is homemade and it’s really something else. It has a caramelly, buttery note that made me think that there was bourbon int here somewhere. The server swears that it’s just vanilla, but let’s be honest – there is obviously some addictive substance in there that they aren’t telling us about. And that’s okay – as long as they keep this on the menu, they can be as secretive as they want. The cake is reminiscent of Duncan Hines in the best way possible – it’s soft and warm – just like you remember. This is totally nostalgic. It’s expensive to be sure, but what a fun way to cap off an adult night on Manhattan’s UES. Plus, if you split it between four people, it’s only about $10 a person after tax. I have spent more than that on adult desserts that aren’t as whimsical or tasty.

And they surely don’t come with a side of raw batter to enjoy!

NYC’s Best Lazy Buffets

I happen to love a good buffet. The hedonistic, gluttonous, slightly(more than slightly?) trashy experience of eating mountains of sushi, prime rib, eggs Benedict, and “gelato” until your stomach is distended and the clock has turned from AM to PM.

But…there is something a  little better than the standard buffet, which also includes lines, sneeze guards, and less than optimally heated food.

That would be the lazy person’s buffet.

Where the endless food is just brought to you. You don’t even need to get up from your chair. Expandomatic pants are all that’s needed.

IMG_20140101_122702_895

Churrascaria Plataforma

Have you ever been to a Brazilian steakhouse? Because if not – and you eat meat – you have been missing one of life’s greatest pleasures. A pleasure that starts with cheesy, puffy yuca rolls, like doughy gougeres. That progresses to a massive salad bar filled with vegetables, pasta,  spicy bean stew, and other items. A pleasure that reaches its savory climax in the parade of meats. Servers come to your table and slice you different cuts of freshly roasted meats – as much as you can handle. Literally – you have a little token that you make red when you want to stop eating, but as long as it’s green…you keep getting fed. And this stuff ain’t hot dog meat, either. We are talking smoky pork chorizo, garlicky rubbed steak, salty and wonderfully rare prime rib, Parmesan crusted juicy pork chops, and every kind of rib you can imagine. Don’t forget the bottomless mashed potatoes, fried bananas, and french fries. And don’t forget to come early…you can stay as long as you want and with food this tasty and at a price this reasonable-you will want to eat as much as you can.

IMG_20140104_145606_234

Moti Mahal Delux

This New Delhi export makes the UES the best brunch neighborhood in town. For just $15, you get intricately flavored, delicately balanced Indian food – as much as you can handle, and then some. Pungent bhel poori, creamy tikka masala, buttery dahl, fragrant saag paneer, fresh naan…and the menu changes every weekend. If you gett he brunch special, you get what the Michelin-recommended chefs want to make that day. And if they would eat it themselves, why wouldn’t you eat it? The food is not heavy or salty – it’s complex in flavor and texture, and is highly recommended for the most discerning Indian food connoisseurs (not that I’m discerning, but I have had a lot of tandoori in my life…just saying). Do NOT miss out on the gulab jamun for dessert – the yeastiest, warmest, softest doughnut I have had in  many a moon. As added bonuses, service is excellent and the menu is very vegetarian friendly.

IMG_20140103_212413_715

Mish Mosh at Sugar and Plumm

Not a buffet, but it might as well be…do you SEE the size of this thing? Vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream, potato chips, gummy bears, chocolate candies, whipped cream, blondies, and chocolate sauce…and a spoon.

Or 2 spoons if you want it to be more of a meal with loved ones and less of an ode to lactose tolerance and gluttony.

Whatever floats your boat.

It isn’t cheap, but it is insanely decadent (LOVE those salty chips!), and where else can you go at 9 PM and see an entire menu filled with desserts, fit for an out-of-town guest (for those times when a diner just won’t cut it)? It’s over the top, but then, that’s just what buffets are.

Especially lazy person’s buffets.

I’ll meet you at the table.

Moti Mahal Delux on Urbanspoon

Carl’s Custard – My Favorite Landmark

And, now, a blast from my roadtripping past.

If you should ever find yourself in Fredricksburg, VA, don’t worry. This small town is near some awesome seafood, some finger-lickin bbq, and one of the best desserts you will ever taste.

 Carl’s Custard has been in this spot since 1947, and can be easily seen by the big neon custard cone on top. It’s actually on the National Registry of Historic Places, if you can believe it! Frozen custard is perfect road trip food – open late, cheap, quick, and – most importantly – something way too indulgent to eat on a daily basis.

  Frozen custard differs from ice cream in that it has more eggs added to it.  It is made in a machine that also incorporates less air into it than traditional ice cream, more like a gelato machine. In other words, the ice cream is richer.  It is to ice cream what Bill Gates is to your dad.

Just step up to the counter, order your custard and toppings, and dig in. The line, if there is one, goes quickly and the servers, who are often high school kids, are efficient and congenial.

Maple walnut sundae and a plain scoop of chocolate 

Shove it, Snapple. THIS is the best stuff on earth.  That first bite of vanilla custard hammers home the truth that this is NOT ice cream. This isn’t sugar or fluffy – it is pure, sweet, clean cream with the texture of frozen pudding. The sundae version amplifies that rich custard. The almost overwhelming, creamy, eggy feel is just barely tempered by the sweet maple syrup and meaty walnuts.  The chocolate has a bit more complex flavor, with hints of espresso and nuts, but with the same buttery, rich mouthfeel.  It is divine.

Don’t be a shmo. If you are in Fredericksburg, come here. Hell, if you are in Virginia come here! What other National Historical Landmark has a dessert takeaway?!

Sorry, Lincoln Memorial, you don’t hold a candle to this when it comes to lasting impressions.