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If you’re like me, your first introduction to this nut came in the form of an unnaturally bright green ice cream studded with bottom-basement chunks made soggy over time. Which is to say, (if you are like me that is) you never touched the stuff. It took years for me to appreciate the supple, bright and earthy pistachio. And no, I do NOT enjoy those circus red, bad dye job ones.

This National Pistachio Day, I have a wee little cake studded with real deal, green as green gets, nutty and earthy pistachios; and paired with one of their very best friends, the Meyers lemon. The cake is 100% nutty goodness and actually terrific on its own as a snack cake.

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Pistachio Butter Cake*

2 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 c. sour cream, divided
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 2/3 c. cake flour
2/3 c. pistachios, roasted and unsalted
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 375F. Spray your cake pan(s) with a light coating of pan spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.
Place the eggs, 1/3 c. sour cream and the vanilla extract in a bowl and whisk lightly to combine. Set aside.

Place 2/3 c. of the flour and the pistachios in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. Add the remaining flour,sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and pulse until well combined and no large chunks of pistachio remain.

Place the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer (or you can use a hand mixer). Add the butter and remaining 1/3 c. of sour cream. Stir on the lowest setting until well combined, then kick the speed up to medium and blend for another 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and gradually add the egg mixture in three batches, scraping the side of the bowl after each addition.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for approximately 25-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool five minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack and removing the cake pans. Allow to cool completely before assembling.

Quick Meyer’s Lemon Curd Filling

2 eggs
3 egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 c. fresh Meyer’s lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
Pinch salt
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 oz. (1 1/2 sticks) very cold butter

Bring a cup of water up to a simmer in a medium pot.
In a heat-proof bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and yolks. Add all of the other ingredients except the butter, and whisk to combine. Place the bowl over the simmering water and stir continuously until the mixture is thickened and smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk the butter in, again until completely smooth. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

Italian Buttercream

1 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
5 egg whites
2 c. (1 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into cubes
Pinch salt

Add the water to a small pot and sprinkle the sugar on top. Bring to a boil and cook until the syrup reaches 240F.
While the sugar syrup is cooking, pour the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and begin to whip on medium-high speed. It is important to have a medium-peak meringue already as the syrup reaches 240F. As soon as the syrup reaches the right temperature, immediately pour it in a slow, steady stream into the still whipping egg whites. Continue to whip on high speed until the mixture cools to room temperature and a very thick, glossy meringue is achieved.
With the mixer still on high, begin to add the butter one chunk at a time, allowing each chunk to disappear entirely into the meringue before adding the next piece. This will take a minute, and it is going to look really awful and broken. Just keep mixing, it will come together.
Remove from the mixer and assemble the cake.

Simple Syrup

1 c. water
1 c. sugar
1/4 vanilla bean, split

Bring all of the ingredients to a boil in a small pot. That’s it. Keep whatever you don’t use in the fridge for the next cake you bake, or to sweeten a post-cake eating cocktail.

Assembly

Soak each layer of cake with the simple syrup before spreading on a 1/2 cup portion of the chilled lemon curd. once the layer are stacked together, combine the remaining curd with the buttercream, and frost the cake.

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Hey over there! So, is it feeling a little like the calm before the storm over where you are? Literally, the world, after you stop looking at the news and Facebook and breath some of that outside air seems a little quieter and calmer. Maybe it’s just me. Entirely possible. Walking around town yesterday morning with a thick mist hanging over everything sounded just the same as when snow starts coming down in earnest, and when you go outside and shut the door behind you and just stand… well it sounded just like that.

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It won’t last for long, so if you’re feeling it too, drink it in and keep it stored for when the holiday rush toward whatever comes.
It is National Brownie Day, and it is no accident that the goodies pictured here are so dark. They are the deepest, richest, darkest brownies I have in my collection. I kind of love them.
If you are not 100% familiar with pain d’epices, think of it as the French version of gingerbread. Not the cookie, either, but an actual slice-able loaf of deeply spiced yumminess.
The brownie version I have for you today gets its flavor from all of the spices typically found in pain d’epices- cinnamon, cardamon, honey, rye flour and from extra-dark cocoa powder, and I am unabashedly borrowing a few ingredient proportions from this NYTimes/Violet Bakery recipe, here.

Pain d’Epices Brownies

11 Tbsp. unsalted butter
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped small
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped small
1 1/2 c. dark rye flour
1/2 c. dark cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp. finely ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cardamon
1/4 tsp. ground anise
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. honey
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp grated orange peel

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Line a 9″ x 13″ sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

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Melt the butter and both chocolates in a bowl set over a double boiler. Once melted, remove from heat and keep warm.
Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and all of the spices together and set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, honey, vanilla, and orange peel. Whisk vigorously to combine.
Pour the warm chocolate mixture into the eggs and whisk/fold to combine completely.
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Sift the dry ingredients once more, on top of the chocolate mixture. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold the ingredients together until just combined.
Pour into the paper-lined pan and smooth the top.
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Bake on the middle rack of the oven until the edges are set and the middle is very soft under a dry surface, about 15-18 minutes.
Cool to room temperature before cutting into pieces, then sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top and eat with reckless abandon.

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Just because…

I have a ton of those little French plums hanging out in my kitchen
They won’t last forever
Summer is nearly over and I’m feeling a little wistful
I’m hungry
I’m seeing these all over and I want to join in

So… buckles. I don’t think it’s just me, these are kind of everywhere lately. If you’re unsure what a buckle is, it’s sort of the middle ground between a cobbler and a coffee cake. Perfect for when you don’t quite have enough fruit to fill a pie or cobbler, and don’t necessarily want a lot of cake.

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It is, among other things, National Just Because Day, a day that gives one a reason to not have a reason. I have plenty of reasons to make what I’m making today, but I think “just because” fits with how I’m feeling right now.

You know, just because.

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French Plum and Raspberry Buckle*

Cake Batter:
3/4 (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
3 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
Small pinch nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

2 c. French plums, halved and pitted (if these are unavailable, apricots, small plums, or more berries
can be substituted
1 c. raspberries

Sugar Topping:
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cubed, very cold
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 375F. Butter an 8″ pan and set aside.

For the batter:
Cream the butter, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula between each addition. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl then add to the butter mixture. Mix on low speed until just combined. Fold in the fruit- very gently- then pour into the prepared pan. Spread evenly and set aside.

For the topping:
In the bowl of a food processor (or with a pastry blender), pulse all of the ingredients until a fine cornmeal-y texture develops. Sprinkle evenly atop the cake.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a deep golden color forms on top and the middle of the cake springs back when gently pressed.

Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before removing from the pan and serving. Consume with reckless abandon.

*Borrowed heavily from a recipe found in this book here, which is one of my most all-time favorites.

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I have never been much of a cake-eater, but if there is a Boston cream pie somewhere close by, you had better believe I am going to seek it out. Layers of light, buttery sponge cake sandwiched together with a generous slathering of pastry cream then topped with an equally generous layer of chocolate ganache glaze- there is nothing not to love. It’s hard to imagine a time of year when this particular dessert would ever be out of place, but since we are firmly footed in Autumn, I thought I might add a little seasonal flare, with chestnuts, rum, and milk chocolate. Not to worry- no pumpkin spice was used in the making of this dessert.

 

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Autumnal Boston Cream Pie

Sponge Cake (adapted from Tish Boyle’s The Cake Book:

 

1 1/4 cup cake flour, sifted

1¼ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

½ cup whole milk

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

3 Large eggs

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch cinnamon

 

Preheat oven to 350F.

Sift together cake flour, baking powder and salt twice. Combine milk and butter over medium heat just until butter is melted.

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs with a whisk attachment until well combined and foamy. Gradually add in sugar and vanilla extract and continue

beating at high speed for 6 mins until pale and tripled in volume.

Sift one-third of flour mixture over egg foam and gently fold it with a rubber spatula. Repeat with remaining flour mixture in 2 more additions.

Heat up milk mixture to just under a boil. Add it all at once to the egg mixture and gently fold it in to combine.

Immediately pour the batter into a 9″ cake pan lined with parchment paper.

Bake the cake for 20 to 25 mins , or until it springs back when touched and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool

the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then gently flip it onto a cooling rack to cool completely

 

 

Chestnut Pastry Cream

2 cups whole milk

2/3 cup sugar

4 Tbsp cornstarch

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

Pinch salt

2 large eggs

2 egg yolks

2 tsp vanilla extract

5 oz unsweetened chestnut puree *

 

Heat the milk and 1/3 cup of sugar  to a scald in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot.

Whisk the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar, cornstarch, flour, salt, eggs and egg yolks in a medium-sized bowl until well-combine and no lumps remain.

Gradually add the milk mixture to the eggs and whisk vigorously. Return to the pot and bring to a boil, whisking continuously until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Allow to boil gently for one minute to cook the starch completely. Stir in the vanilla.

Add a small amount of the finished pastry cream to the chestnut puree and whisk until smooth. Add to the remaining pastry cream and stir until completely combined.

Cover with a piece of plastic wrap placed directly on the pastry cream and allow to cool completely before using.

* If the puree is dry and/or crumbles, soften it with a paddle attachment on the lowest speed of your electric mixer. Add a tablespoon of milk if       it remains dry.

Cinnamon-Rum Simple Syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 cinnamon stick

1/4 cup dark rum

Bring the sugar, water, and cinnamon to a boil in a small pot. Allow the cinnamon to steep in the syrup for 30 minutes. Once cooled, remove the cinnamon stick and stir in the rum.

 

Milk Chocolate Glaze

12 ounces good quality milk chocolate, finely chopped

1/4 cup heavy cream

Small pinch of salt

 

Place the chocolate and salt in a small bowl. Bring the cream to just below boiling. Pour evenly onto the chocolate and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Allow to cool and thicken to a pourable but not too watery consistency.

 

Assembly:

 

Split the cake into two layers. Brush with the simple syrup. Spread the pastry cream onto the first layer, being careful not to spread it past the edge of the cake. place the top layer of cake onto the pastry cream. Gently flatten the cake so that it adheres. brush a little simple syrup onto the top. Allow the cake to sit for a few minutes to absorb the syrup. Pour the Glaze onto the cake, starting in the center and moving outward. Allow the cake to chill for 30 minutes before serving.