Teen in the Kitchen: Pear Bread and Poetry

The wind is howling, snow is blowing, and the house fills with the aroma of baking bread in the oven and chili on the stove top.  The men of the house are in the kitchen!

My 17-year-old son is putting on a repeat performance of his pear bread that he baked a couple of weeks ago.  He had me take photos of his lovely first attempt at this baked good, and I must say it turned out beautifully!  The sight and accompanying good taste apparently acted as his poetic muse.  His light-hearted ode to a pear follows.  I suppose I should have properly labeled this post as a “guest post” with my son as the guest blogger!  Enjoy!

Pear Bread

Pear-ly Poetic

A poem by Kat B.’s son

Pear, oh pear,

Fleshy fruit without compare,

Juicy, green, so sweet, so fair –

To thee I pour out emotions bare.

~

Thy rotund figure does seduce,

But I shan’t imbibe thy godly juice.

Though with all this self-abuse,

Me to a madman will you reduce?

~

Tensions begin to run quite deep;

Thoughts of thee keep me from sleep.

This un-sated desire makes me weep,

But sown seeds of want I shall not reap.

~

Canst thou give me a little flavor?

Just a nibble, for me to savor.

Then perhaps I will return the favor,

And present thee mine toe – I shall not waver.

~

I finally snap, grasp thy body at last;

’Tis time to break this maddening fast!

Mine wheel’s unmanned, and lies broken the mast;

I have submitted, heavens, avast!

~

Mine mouth tastes sickly sweet, is thinly glazed.

Within me’s the pear at which I once gazed.

My being’s been torn, my morals razed,

But ’tis lack of remorse that leaves me dazed.

~

For I loved thee, pear, it still is true,

But my recent actions I shan’t ever rue,

For looking back, I’d not undo

Mine every last bite of succulent you.

Pear Bread

You can find a link to the pear bread recipe here on the Taste of Home website — my son recommends one more pear than what the recipe calls for, and added chocolate chips this time for a fun twist.

Ciao! ~ Kat B. (and son!)

Pinterest Fail: Pecan and Salted Caramel Candies

Pecan & Salted Caramel Candies (photo courtesy of King Arthur Flour)
Pecan & Salted Caramel Candies (photo courtesy of King Arthur Flour)

When I originally pinned this lovely “Pecan & Salted Caramel Candies” recipe to my “Cookies, Candies & Gifts in a Jar” Board on Pinterest for future reference, it promised me a “super easy” recipe and a “quick, easy candy” that I thought could be a nice option for holiday treat boxes for neighbors and friends.  With traveling over Christmas and then getting bogged down with the nasty cold bug caught along the way, it was not until the Sunday after Christmas that I felt up to shopping and baking.

In my typical procrastinating fashion, I left the house after dinner and had a couple of other errands to run, ending up at Target’s grocery section at 8:00 p.m., since I was already in the store.  With my two teens’ input and offers to help bake that night, we had decided to make my mom’s easy microwave fudge and date mounds (two of our recurrent classics), and then try this new “Pecan & Salted Caramel Candies” recipe, because Pinterest suggested I could not fail with it.  I opted for the caramel candies, already pre-cut into little squares, and probably should have made one more stop at the large grocery store to see if perhaps they had the “chocolate disks” listed in the recipe; but the evening was already growing late and I had three batches of treats still to make so that I could distribute them the following day on New Year’s Eve!  I settled on semi-sweet chocolate chips when disks could not be found in Target’s grocery aisles, figuring a little cluster of chocolate would work just as well as the disk, when all was said and done.  Melted chocolate is melted chocolate, right?

Now, before we proceed, envision all those lovely cooking blogs with the charming, beautifully arranged ingredients, meticulously arranged background of kitchen accessories, and gourmet shop kitchen tools posed perfectly to illustrate each step of the process.  This is why I do not have a cooking blog — note that the reference to food in my blog’s title is “eat” not “cook.”  The photo speaks for itself:

Pinterest fail: Kitchen prep area
Kat B.’s kitchen prep area

Once I returned home (now 9:00 p.m.), my two teens (who I had made the mistake of earlier referencing as my baking assistants) melted away despite prior offers to help (in their defense, one had skis to wax for the following morning’s workout and the other, well, I still love the other one, too).  The microwave fudge went off without a hitch as it always does, and the date mounds were so tasty that my family’s portion of those treats are gone.  Then, there were the Pecan & Salted Caramel Candies . . . the process started with some promise for a good outcome. I even decided to get the camera out, thinking how nice these could be, just like the recipe!

"Before" Pecan and Salted Caramel Candies
There’s still hope in this “before” photo.

Now, I had softened the caramel squares in order to flatten them into “half-dollar” size circles, but in hindsight, I should have thrown them into a bowl and melted them together, to provide a nice dollop of caramel on top of each “small pile” of pecans.  And, in hindsight, I should have waited for the caramel to have melted somewhat further before placing the chocolate chips on top, because once that step was done, trying to smush the whole darn pile into a cohesive cluster as my patience got the better of me was not a pretty sight.

"After" photo of Pecan and Salted Caramel Candies
No, the cat did not happen to walk through the pan as I was trying to salvage this mess.

[Post update/edit: I showed my husband this blog post and he sees the first photo — the recipe photo — and says “oh, those look really nice.”  I told him, “those aren’t the ones I made, that’s the recipe photo.”  I then scrolled down to the photo just above and said, “this is the photo of my result” — he visibly cringed.]

At some point, after multiple rounds of, “well, maybe just another minute or two will help” in the oven, I said “screw it, I am done” and sprinkled the kosher salt across the candies, surveying the damage.

"Final" Pecan and Salted Caramel Candies
Just ignore the disaster in the background . . .

I probably should have included an apology note in each treat box with this layer of candies, but at midnight, the bar of expectations has been lowered, if not destroyed completely.

Perhaps you will have better luck than me?  Kat B.’s tip — search out those chocolate disks!

Pecan & Salted Caramel Candies

(from King Arthur Flour, link to printable recipe here)

  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 4-ounce block of caramel, cut into 16 pieces; or 16 caramel candies
  • 16 bittersweet chocolate disks (1″ to 1 1/2″ disks)
  • a pinch of Fleur de Sel or other sea salt, to garnish each candy

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Divide the pecans into 16 small piles on a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet (a scant 2 teaspoons pecans each).
  3. Flatten each caramel cube into the size of a half dollar, and place on the pecans.
  4. Heat in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes, until the caramel softens and begins to melt.
  5. Remove from the oven; wait 1 minute, then top each cluster with one disk of chocolate, pressing it into the softened caramel gently.
  6. Top each candy with a few flakes of Fleur de Sel, or other coarse sea salt.
  7. Allow the caramel and chocolate to cool and set before removing candies from the pan.

Yield: 16 candies.

May your new year be filled with travel, garden and eat delights!

Ciao! ~ Kat

An Elegant Holiday Dessert Option for the Non-Baker

As you may have gathered from some of my other posts, I rarely cook since my husband actually enjoys it and gets annoyed with me puttering pestering interfering helping in the kitchen while he is exercising his creative cooking skills.

As we were brainstorming ideas for dessert to bring to our upcoming dinner club (kicking off our 21st year of quarterly gatherings this December! ~ more on our dinner club tradition in this post and this post), I fondly recalled one of the rare occasions I prepared dessert, which happened to be for one of our December dinner club gatherings several years ago.

I share this recipe with you, fellow non-bakers, as a gorgeous holiday option that doesn’t take all day (or multiple days) to prepare ~ Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries, courtesy of a 2008 issue of Gourmet magazine.

Kat's version of Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries
Kat’s version of Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries

Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries

Ingredients for cake:

  • 2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

Ingredients for berries: 

  • 1/2 cup Fino (dry) Sherry
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 cups mixed berries, cut if large
  • (Kat suggests using Chambord instead of Sherry and then cutting back on the sugar instead ~ this wise suggestion was in one of the comments to the recipe.  As for the berries, use whatever fresh berries are in season ~ different berries could easily change the look of the cake to suit different occasions or holidays.)

For cream:

  • 8 ounces mascarpone (1 cup)
  • 1 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Garnish:

  • confectioners sugar

Instructions for making the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan (2 inches deep). Line bottom with a round of parchment paper, then butter parchment.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. With mixer at low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing after each addition until just combined.

Spread batter in cake pan, smoothing top. Rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Discard paper and reinvert cake onto rack to cool completely.

How to macerate the berries:
Bring Sherry (or Chambord if following Kat’s suggestion) and sugar (go light on the sugar, especially if you’re using the Chambord) to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Put berries in a bowl and pour hot syrup over them, gently tossing to coat. Let stand 15 minutes.

(Kat suggests: If you are serving this dessert other than at your own home, you can macerate the berries ahead of time and bring them in a sealed container to top off the cake before serving – however, some berries tend to get “soggier” than others, so ideally, macerating the berries relatively close in time to serving tends to provide a better fruit texture).

Final steps: making the cream and assembling the cake:
Beat mascarpone and cream with sugar in a large bowl using cleaned beaters until mixture just holds stiff peaks.

Halve cake horizontally with a long serrated knife. Carefully remove top half and reserve. Put bottom half on a plate, then spread evenly with all of cream and replace top half. Serve with berries.  (Kat suggests: Wait to pour the berries over the top until shortly before serving, so as not to create a soggy sponge cake resembling a holiday jello “poke” cake instead.)

To link to a printable copy of the original recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Mascarpone-Filled-Cake-with-Sherried-Berries-242873

A nice dessert liqueur or perhaps a small glass of limoncello served alongside would nicely complement this elegant end to a holiday meal!

Ciao! ~ Kat