Invisible Apple Cake

I pinned a recipe for this Invisible Apple Cake a few weeks ago because it looked pretty neat, and I was ready to try something new and different. And I certainly got all that.

Cutting all the apples thin was what took the longest, but in my opinion there’s almost something calming about it. Plus, I may have eaten just about every other slice I cut.

Next, I had to mix up some batter, coat the apples in it, lay them in the pan, and drizzle the rest of the batter over it. Pretty simple. The last thing I did before sticking it in the oven was sprinkling some sliced almonds on top.

In the end, this dessert wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. I guess that’s what you get for looking into healthier desserts…it’s the sugar and cream and butter that makes sweets so good. Honeycrisp apples probably would have been a better choice than the Gala that I used, since most of the sweetness comes from the fruit, but I don’t expect to be making this again. Nothing wrong with it, but it wasn’t anything extraordinary.

It did look pretty, though.

Homemade Bagels

It’s the spookiest day of the year, and what screams “Halloween” more than a basket of homemade bagels?

Just kidding. I didn’t really go with the Halloween theme today, but I have no regrets. It’s never a bad time for bagels, especially the homemade kind.

I used the same recipe as I did last time—from Sophisticated Gourmet—and once again it was delicious. I did make one change, however. After our last experience with these, I knew that this time I would have to make a double batch! The recipe makes 8, but I doubled it and also separated it into smaller bagels, so I got 24 in all.

Since the cinnamon raisin bagels were so popular last time, I didn’t make any plain ones today. 14 were cinnamon raisin and 6 were just cinnamon (to give to my friends—for some ridiculous reason they don’t like raisins! I don’t understand that). I also tried making 4 pumpkin-flavored, since I had a bunch of pumpkin leftover from last week’s muffins.

Adding the purée made the dough super moist, but they turned out okay. The pumpkin taste wasn’t really apparent, but we still liked them. Next time, though, I think it’s going to be all cinnamon-raisin!

I can never seem to get these bagels smooth and seamless, but I think the bumpy, twisted, imperfect surface actually gives them a really neat look.

The entire bagel-making process is surprisingly fun, but my favorite part will always be the boiling. It’s one of those things that’s hard to describe—you just have to try it for yourself! I took a video this time, but honestly not even that can capture the experience.

Maybe I’m being weird, but I really do love boiling those things. This is what gives them that “skin.” You have to boil them for at least a minute, but I like to go longer to make the outer layer thicker. If you’ve never had homemade bagels, this may not sound so appetizing, but I’m telling you, it’s something amazing that’s completely unmatched by any store-bought bagel.

After they’ve been boiled, the bagels need to go in the oven for about 20 minutes. The outsides get that slight crunch, and mmm…that’s what I call perfection.

These make an amazing brunch, as well as next-day sandwiches! If you ask me, toasting them for just a minute brings them to perfection.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

Back at it again with brunch! Today I made chocolate chip pumpkin muffins. I’ve made these once before—about this same time last year, actually—and they’ve been delicious both times.

I used my own fresh, homemade pumpkin purée for this. Since I haven’t cooked with the canned kind, so I can’t really compare the two, but I do think it’s fun to bake the actual pumpkin.

I’m not exactly sure where the original recipe for this came from, but I did make a few changes to it today. First, I replaced half of the oil with applesauce, and then instead of two cups of sugar I put in one, plus a half cup of Stevia. Still tasted great!

My brother said today: “I hope we’ll see more of these in the future!” and I can guarantee that we will.

Chocolate Birthday Cake

I know it’s been a while, but you can rest assured that I have not given up baking! I just made this chocolate cake for my uncle’s birthday.

This was actually my very first cake (other than carrot cake, but that was a very different process) and you’ll be surprised to hear that I didn’t have any mishaps along the way! I could hardly believe it myself. Everything went as planned and it all turned out pretty perfectly, if I do say so myself.

I found this lovely recipe on Add a Pinch, and will definitely be using it again in the future! Absolutely delicious!

Lemon Bar Tart

Everyone in my house loves lemon bars—especially my dad. They’re quick, easy, and delicious, so naturally they’ve become a pretty frequent dessert.

This time, I wanted to try something different. I got a tart pan for Christmas, which, as I’m sure you know by now, I love to use. So, I made a lemon bar tart—which sounds fancy, but is really just lemon bars made in a tart pan!

The tart turned out great, and I’m especially happy with the way it looked. I think that the thin lemon slices were definitely a good idea, and the dusting of powdered sugar was also a nice addition. I’ll be making this again for sure! (Even though the only thing that changed was the shape…haha!)

Here’s the lemon bar recipe that I used:

Berry Pancakes

A couple of years ago, my family was in Chicago and we had these AMAZING pancakes at a place called Wildberry. I still think about those pancakes…so for Father’s Day, I made them myself!

These were a hit. I made three kinds of sauces/toppings to go with the pancakes: a crème anglaise, a raspberry coulis (originally it was blackberry, but I didn’t have any of those so I substituted raspberries), and a sort of whipped cream topping, which I found in a crêpe recipe. Personally, the whipped topping was my favorite, but of course the pancakes tasted best with all three!

Call me lazy, but I just used store-bought pancake mix for the pancakes themselves. I was running short on time after making all of the other things, and the mix we have is actually pretty good.

Eggs Benedict

This week, I had planned to make English muffins, but then I decided to take it a step further with Eggs Benedict! I’ve never actually had Eggs Benedict before, but I think these were really good!

The hardest part of making these was doing everything at the same time. All of the steps were simple, but when I was cooking the muffins, poaching the eggs, cooking the bacon, and making the sauce all at once, it was a bit chaotic. Let’s just say I have a new appreciation for all of the multi-tasking my mom does when she cooks dinner every night!

Here’s the English muffin recipe I used:

Blueberry Muffins

Week #3 of surprise brunches: blueberry muffins!

A few days ago, while we were on a walk, my dad mentioned that blueberry muffins sounded good to him. I kept this in mind and made them for brunch today! Just so you know: I’m always thinking about what to bake next, so if you’re ever craving a certain treat, just drop a subtle hint…they might just happen to show up within the next few days!

I had a hard decision to make when choosing a recipe: should I make regular blueberry muffins, or blueberry oatmeal muffins? I’d narrowed it down to two recipes…it was just a choice of one or the other. The hard thing about these surprise brunches is that I can’t ask my family for their input! Being an incredibly indecisive person, this is unbelievable difficult for me. Eventually, I caved and asked my mom which one to make. She said regular blueberry—so that’s what I went with! I think it was a good choice, too. As for the other recipe, I’ll have to try it sometime soon, as well.

When baking these muffins, I made quite a few changes to the recipe. First of all, I thought that 1¼ cup sugar sounded like way too much, even when I compared it to other recipes. I ended up putting in just shy of 1 cup, and they were still plenty sweet. Next time, I think I’ll probably reduce it even more.

I’ve read about substituting applesauce for butter or oil in muffins, and I thought I’d give it a try. This being my first time, I didn’t want to make a big mistake, so I only replaced a third of the butter. Better to be safe than sorry. I’ve heard that using applesauce can make muffins too dense, but that wasn’t a problem for mine. They had a perfect texture—moist and soft, and neither too dense nor too airy.

There were two more changes I made to these muffins. I didn’t sprinkle sugar over the top—just a minor difference, but I thought I’d mention it. Personally, I’m not a fan of sugar-sprinkled muffins. Next, I changed the baking temperatures a little.

Before going into this, I read a lot about muffins, and how doing different things can make them turn out differently. Actually, here’s one of the posts that proved to be very helpful and interesting:

One thing I learned was that by putting the muffins in the oven at a higher temperature for the first few minutes, then lowering it for the rest of the bake time, you can get taller, rounder muffins with bigger tops. Well, mine certainly rose…many of them too much so! I don’t think that the high-low temperature method was to blame for that, though. A lot of the muffin tins were just filled too high. At least I got three perfect looking muffins: just enough for a nice photo!

Strawberry Cheese Danishes

For my second week of surprise brunches, I made danishes! Since it was such a lovely day, we got to eat them outside on the back patio.

I started making these danishes two days ahead, though I’m sure you could manage it if you started just one day in advance. The danishes are made using what’s called “rough puff pastry”, which is similar to puff pastry, but instead of having a layer of butter, you mix it into the dough in chunks. This makes the process faster and easier, though the layers aren’t quite as defined.

When making the dough, I must have made a mistake, because it came out very wet. It was more like batter than dough, really. I’m still not sure what I did wrong. I re-read the recipe many times, but I still can’t figure it out. Luckily, the addition of a little extra flour fixed my problem immediately.

Other than that, I didn’t have any mishaps when baking these. For me, that’s quite the achievement. I divided the dough into sections, folded them up, added the cheese, topped them with a bit of jam, and baked them. They came out perfectly!

I got this recipe from NYT Cooking—click here to see it.

Starry Strawberry Tart

Tonight, I made a strawberry tart for dessert. I’ve used this recipe three times now, and it’s become one of my family’s favorites. The recipe is actually for a blueberry tart, but it works with other fruits, too! Each time I’ve made this, I’ve used a different fruit. The first time, I used blueberries, and then I made it again with blackberries, and this time it was strawberries. It’s been delicious every time!

I’ve definitely become faster with every time making this tart. The first night I tried it, I baked well into the night, and by then it was too late to eat it! We had to wait until the next day, which was certainly not what I had intended. Last time, I worked quicker, and today I made it faster than I’ve ever done before. Not to brag, but I must say I’m pretty proud of myself for that.

Before trying this recipe, I’m not sure I ever realized just how delicious custard is! In fact, I’m not quite sure I’d ever tried it at all. Whatever the case, I’m in love with it now! This recipe makes an especially thick and creamy custard/pastry cream, and it’s absolutely scrumptious. Maybe this is technically called a “berry tart”, but the custard is the real star of the show! When making this tart, I always end up with some leftover custard, but my family loves it so much that I’ve never reduced the recipe. We’re all more than happy to have an extra dollop on our slices!

When using blackberries or strawberries instead of blueberries, I just substitute the berries and leave everything else exactly the same. This recipe calls for 200 grams of blueberries, which I’ve found can easily be replaced with 200 grams of any other berry. The funny thing is, we had such huge strawberries that it only took four! Those things were enormous!

Last time I made this tart, I didn’t quite roll the dough out thin enough, so the bottom crust was too thick. There wasn’t any issue with the taste, but it meant the tart was shallower and the filling was harder to fit in. This time, I made sure to roll it out thinner, which resulted in quite a bit of extra dough. The crust of this tart is almost cookie-like, and it was my mom’s idea to make little cookies with what was left over. Originally, I had just planned on eating them, but after they baked, I had another idea. I realized that the little stars would actually make a really pretty decoration for the top of the tart! It was kind of a last-minute decision, but I think it was definitely a good one.

In my opinion, it came out quite pretty!

If you’re interested in trying this recipe, you can find it here.