About Aneesa S.

Posts by Aneesa S.:

raspberry peach summer cake [smitten kitchen]

(Originally posted: September 12, 2014)

Peaches finally, finally, finally went on sale.

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So did raspberries.

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In-season and vibrant enough that I wish I could bottle the colors, these perfect summer fruits were absolutely irresistible. I bought more than I knew I could reasonably eat before they went bad, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t try my hardest anyway.

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Seriously, does anybody else pop raspberries like candy? They’re so sugar-sweet, yet tart, and melt-in-your-mouth delicate. I’ve been known to polish off whole boxes while still standing at the kitchen counter.

(Can you tell I’m a little obsessed? I’ll stop.)

In any case, fruits like this just beg to be baked, and that’s exactly what I did. I was staying at Sheena‘s house for the long weekend, and I knew I couldn’t show up empty-handed, so I made this quintessentially summer cake from Smitten Kitchen.

Raspberries that burst in your mouth, peaches that gush juices down your chin with every bite, and a fluffy cake with a perfect crumb combine in this ideal summer evening treat.

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The colors.

I want to eat the colors.

Can we figure out a way to make that possible?

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I followed Smitten Kitchen’s recipe with barley, but, inspired by The Baker Upstairs, I swapped the 1/2 cup milk with buttermilk, and topped the whole thing with 1/2 a cup of raspberries and one large peach, thinly sliced.

(Don’t worry; the rest of fruit–whatever didn’t end up in my stomach–found a home in the freezer, for when cooler days beg for a taste of summer sunshine.)

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As you can see, the cake that went into the oven didn’t look quite like the one that came out. That’s because about 30 minutes in, I realized that the batter had swallowed up the majority of the fruit I had so carefully laid on top of the cake. So I pulled the cake out, added another layer of thinly sliced peaches and another sprinkling of sugar, and then popped it back in for the remaining 20 or so minutes.

Also, out of a lack of desire to buy an entire bag of barley flour, I had borrowed some of Sheena’s barley and ground it up in the blender. The result was a mostly powdery flour, with a handful of larger bits that the blades couldn’t quite break down. Those bits sank in the oven, giving the cake a crunchier crust-like layer along the bottom of the pan. I liked the texture, but next time, I’ll definitely opt for a finer flour to have a more even distribution of barley.

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The verdict? 10/10, would bake again in a heartbeat. It’s light and moist, but with an amazingly complex flavor from the barley. With seven of us in Sheena’s house for the weekend, the cake vanished almost instantly after the first slice was cut.

But next time, I’ll be experimenting with different fruits and flour combinations. The Baker Upstairs’ cake is absolutely gorgeous with those peach slices sinking only slightly into the pale, fluffy cake–somehow reminiscent of butterfly wings–and I definitely want to try to recreate that.

Let me know if you try the cake–especially now as the weather is hinting at turning, and the farmer’s market trades its berries and peaches in for crisp apples and pears.

As always, happy baking! 🙂

nutella & cream cheese swirled blondies [cookin’ canuck]

(Originally posted: August 28, 2014)

Somehow, despite the fact that it is already the end of August, it feels as though summer has only shown its face in the past week or so.

Chicago suddenly went from a series of balmy, springy days to BAM–85 degrees, muggy, humid, thunderstorms, and basically everything that one would actually expect from a Chicago summer.

As a result, I’ve been flip-flopping all summer between wanting peach iced tea-strawberry ice cream-blueberry lemon pie bar days, and hot noodle soup-steaming tea and biscuits-hearty tomato sauce and pasta days.

My stomach is terribly confused.

So today, you all get a throwback to these blondies from Cookin’ Canuck, which are absolutely irresistible in any weather.

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I’ve made them in the midst of February for World Nutella Day, I’ve shipped a box of them to my best friend over spring break, and most recently, I whipped them up as finals wound down in the beginning of June–a time when nearly everyone on campus could do with a little Nutella-white chocolate-cheesecake swirl in their lives.

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If you’re feeling crazy, you can sub out 1/2 a cup of Nutella for 1/2 a cup of peanut butter–like the really great honey roasted kind–and you’ll get an even more rich cheesecake swirl in there. Mmmmm.

Not gonna lie: I’m drooling a little bit looking at these photos.

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I really want one now. Dammit. They’re great when they’re hot and gooey, but they really shine when you let them cool and absorb the flavors. Thick, buttery, soft blondies, broken up by mouthfuls of Nutella cheesecake and the gentle crunch of white chocolate chips. Grab a glass of milk with these, because you’ll need one after you realize you’ve accidentally eaten three in a row.

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Sorry not sorry.

Enjoy the blondies, and keep your eyes open for more summery posts as I make the most of what’s left of the best fruit season of the year!

salted caramel apple pie [SBA & smitten kitchen]

(Originally posted: March 14, 2014)

Hey guys.

Guys guys guys.

Guess what today is?

It’s PI[E] DAY!! 😀

I can’t be the only one who geeks out over this.

In celebration of Pi Day, my dorm does a large Pi Day Study Break that includes a pie baking contest, a pie eating contest, and a pi recitation contest. And, of course, lots and lots of delicious pie for everyone to eat.

I’d never made a pie before, but I was feeling ambitious this year and figured I’d try my hand at one for the contest. Plus, looking at pie recipes is a lovely (read: dangerous) procrastination method when you’re spending upwards of 8 hours a day in the library.

Let me just say that I severely underestimated how long it would take me to make a pie for the very first time. My slight procrastination via baking turned into an entire afternoon of slicing, mixing, rolling, and carefully cutting, broken up by periods of waiting for the pie to chill again in the fridge so that I wouldn’t accidentally melt the pockets of butter in the dough.

Still, it was worth every second, as I realized when I checked on my pie in the oven and began shouting excitedly at my roommates.

Dear roommates: thank you for putting up with my sometimes loud, messy, and distracting baking endeavors.

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The final product was a mix of several recipes, parts of which I tweaked slightly, and other parts that I wish I’d tweaked.

I started with one of smitten kitchen’s staple pie crust recipes. Unlike most of the recipes I found, this one requires no shortening and still promises a tender, flaky crust.

The verdict? 10/10 would use again. Granted, I have a particular love of flaky pastry crust to begin with, but this one was actually fantastic. It’s very easy to make–only flour, butter, sugar, and salt!–even for a beginner. Plus it got nice and crispy on the outside while flaking perfectly on the inside and, arguably most importantly, did not crumble. I hate crumbly pie crust. It makes me feel like I’m eating a sad cheesecake hybrid.

Recommendations:
+ Get a pastry blender. Trying to cut cold butter into flour with a fork sucks from all perspectives.
+ No matter what recipe you’re following, keep the dough cold! Seriously, they’re not joking about this. I made a few mini pies with the extra dough, and the crust wasn’t as good because it had warmed up sitting on the counter for too long, melting all the cold butter chunks.
+ Make your dough early, both for convenience and because it’s ideally supposed to chill for a while. I did this on Wednesday night as my don’t-think-just-bake de-stressor after a CS final.

Behold: dough!

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For the filling, I went with salted caramel apple from Sally’s Baking Addiction. If you’ve been with me for a while, you know how much I love Sally’s recipes–trustworthy and always slightly offbeat. I knew I wanted to make an apple pie the first time around, but I wanted to make it unique, and this one fit the bill.

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Remember when I was raving about the salty sweet combination?

Yeah, really not surprising that I picked salted caramel. Or that I fell in love with this candy thermometer-free salted caramel recipe. The only change I made to the caramel was using sea salt instead of regular salt, adding an extra 1/2 tsp to kick up the salty edge. Other than waiting a while for the sugar to start caramelizing, this was incredibly quick and easy.

Changes I made to the filling:
+ 3 Pink Ladies and 3 Granny Smiths, but they were only medium-sized. Still, plenty of apples.
+ No cloves, and instead added about 1/8 tsp more nutmeg.
+ Instead of 1/2 cup granulated sugar, I used 1/4 cup dark brown and 1/4 cup granulated.
+ Thick lattice because I like how it looks. You can do whatever you want here, of course.

I kept picking at the apples and caramel as I mixed them.

No shame.

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Into the oven, cue some shouting and dancing around the kitchen in excitement, then lots and lots of dishwashing (if you can figure out how to do this without making a complete mess of your kitchen, please tell me), and finally…

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omg PIE.

That’s my proud pie face, you guys. I stood there for a good couple of minutes just staring at it.

(Sheena captured the moment. Thanks, Sheena. <3)

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I won’t bother with the step-by-step in between parts, because both the SBA and the smitten kitchen recipes describe them far better than I can. Not to mention both ladies actually know what they’re doing with a pie.

I will, however, tell you that this pie filling is not everyone’s favorite. Sadly, I did not win the pie contest. The lemon flavor was overpowering for some, while others weren’t fans of the more pronounced spices. Personally, I love lemon, and I loved how unexpected and noticeable it was with every bite. If you’re not as much of a fan, make sure you scale back the citrus.

Mostly, though, I was sad about how much of the caramel bubbled out of the pie. There was a puddle of it forming on the baking sheet after only 20 minutes in the oven. So much salty sweetness! Wasted!

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Changes I would recommend:
– Less nutmeg. As in, maybe only 1/8 tsp for the whole pie. And more cinnamon. And cloves, if you like them. (I usually don’t.)
– Less lemon juice, or maybe substituting some orange juice in there for a slightly different flavor.
– Layer the apples with the caramel when filling the pie to avoid losing so much of it in the oven.
– More strips for the lattice, also to keep the filling inside as best as possible.

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All in all though, super pleased with this pie. I poured the extra salted caramel over a slice and happily devoured it. There’s nothing quite like the warmth and comfort of a good apple pie.

I’m already looking for excuses to make another one. Something tells me that my mother wouldn’t appreciate an entire pie sitting in our kitchen, though. Must find a way to get rid of it first.

Finally, in true celebration of today, here are some really awful pi jokes.

And then this last one, because I just can’t help it.

Happy Pi Day, happy Friday, and happy baking! 🙂