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All of the content and images featured on The Garden of Eden are © Darcy Eden 2011-2014 unless otherwise stated.  If you post an image of mine on your blog/website, please link back to The Garden of Eden and credit me accordingly.  Thanks! 

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Entries in Birthdays (5)

Wednesday
Dec042013

Felt App 

Since I post about stationery that I love almost weekly, it won't come as a surprise that I keep a stash of stationery (organized by occasion) around at all times.  That said, I occasionally find myself without the right card for a particular occasion.  In this month's InStyle, I read about Felt, an app for the iPad that allows you to pick from a selection of cards, use your stylus or finger to handwrite your note, and then Felt prints, seals, stamps, and mails your card for $4. I can see this coming in handy for those last-minute cards you need to send, when your traveling, or if you are someone who doesn't keep cards around but still loves to send them.  Has anyone tried Felt?  I'm going to test it out and will report back!

Friday
May032013

Whack Piñata

How fun is it to have a piñata at a party?  Whack Piñateria has created some truly awesome piñatas and there is one for every occasion.  You could liven up a baby shower with the Stork, throw a Bastille Day party with the French Toast and entertain kiddos with the Elephant.  All images credit to Whack Piñateria.

Friday
Oct282011

A First Birthday & Vanilla Cupcakes

Last weekend we celebrated the first birthday of one of my favorite people, WJP.  He's made an appearance on the blog before and is a regular guest at our gatherings and the only person who trusts me and Rob to babysit for him (well, his parents trust us... he doesn't have much say in the matter).  I adore WJP.  He is all smiles and big blue eyes.

While WJP may tolerate my babysitting, he made it clear at the party that he does not likes my baking.  He was most upset by the "smash cake" and not only did he not smash it, but he wanted nothing to do with it.  One taste of frosting was enough to cause a minor meltdown.  Alas, the other guests didn't seem to mind my baking and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the vanilla cupcakes.  The recipe couldn't be easier (one bowl!) and the end result is a simple, moist cake.  It is a great vehicle for any type of frosting - I made vanilla frosting but chocolate or cream cheese frosting would be tasty, too.  The vanilla frosting recipe I used wasn't anything to write home about so I haven't included it. 

I also made Red Velvet Cupcakes from Alexandra Cooks and we decorated the cupcakes with sprinkles and these adorable dinosaur toppers and cupcake wrappers.

One-Bowl Vanilla Cupcakes

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups cake flour (I used all-purpose flour and they turned out just fine - but if you have cake flour, go for it)

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 24 cupcake tins with baking papers.  Place the butter in a medium, heatproof bowl placed over a pot of gently simmering water.  When the butter is just melted, whisk in the brown sugar.  Let cool to lukewarm temperature, about 4 minutes.

Whisk the eggs into the mixture.  Add the milk, vanilla, baking powder, and salt; whisk to combine.  Whisk in the flour until evenly combined.

Fill each baking paper two-thirds full.  Bake until a skewer inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. 

Monday
Oct172011

Roasted Apple Tart

In recent years, I've developed a love-hate relationship with my birthday.  I love celebrations and this year was no exception - Rob planned a birthday surprise with many of my dearest friends at a new brewery that we love (the Denver Beer Co.), one of my favorite people visited from New York and we had a wonderful weekend in Colorado, including a birthday dinner with my parents (my mom and I almost share a birthday) and I heard from my friends and family from all over the world.  Pretty awesome!

On the other hand, I turned 31.  Sigh.

   

Something else that cheered me up were the unexpected, fabulous gifts I received, including one from M, an amazing friend from college, who sent me a new cookbook that I immediately put to use.  Nothing cures the birthday blues like baking!

Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts is incredibly useful.  Certainly my other cookbooks contain recipes for pies and tarts, but it is great to have a collection of creative approaches to pies and tarts in one place.  So far I have made Apple Pie, a savory Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese Galette and this Roasted Apple Tart.  I love a classic apple pie, but I really wanted to try something different and this certainly is the time of year to experiment with apples.  What sets this tart apart is that it contains a layer of roasted apples topped with thinly-sliced apples.  There isn't cinnamon or nutmeg in this tart, but there is Calvados, or apple brandy.  The apple-brandy-crust combination is dynamite! 

A note about the crust - this is my go-to crust recipe from Cook's Illustrated.  They call it "Foolproof Pie Dough" and it is.  The surprise ingredient is vodka, which helps keep the crust moist, making it easier to roll out and handle.  Don't worry - there is no vodka flavor as the alcohol vaporizes in the oven.

Roasted Apple Tart

Adapted from Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts

Crust (this will yield enough dough for two 9" tarts - if you only plan to make one crust, freeze the other half of the dough wrapped tightly in Saran wrap for future use)

  • 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup cold vodka
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Filling 

  • 1 teaspoon unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 6 tart, firm apples, such as Granny Smith
  • 1/4 cup, plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons Calvados or other apple brandy
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Make the crust:
Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.  Let dough soften at room temperature prior to rolling.

Make the filling:

Place the tart pan on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  On a lightly-floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick.  Press the dough into the bottom of the tart pan.  Trim excess dough flush with the rim.  Refrigerate or freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Peel, core, and slice 3 apples into 8 wedges each.  Toss wedges with the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, the bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, the Calvados and the salt.  Spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake 20 minutes.  Toss apples, and continue baking until very soft and caramelized around the edges, 15 to 20 minutes more.  Transfer to a bowl and roughly mash.  Let cool completely.

Peel, core and quarter 1 apple.  Core and quarter (do not peel) the remaining 2 apples and slice all 3 apples very thin.  Toss peeled and unpeeled apple slices separately with remaining 2 teaspoons lemon juice.  Spread the mashed apple mixture into the tart shell.  Fan peeled apple slices on top of mash.  Evenly brush apples with half the melted butter and sprinkle with half the remaining sugar.  Repeat layering with unpeeled apple and remaining butter and sugar.  Bake tart until apples are dark golden brown on edges, about 65 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly.

Tuesday
Mar082011

Strawberry-Rhubarb Birthday Pie


A dear friend turns the big 3-0 this week and we are having a surprise "girls only" celebration this evening before the real party later this week.  I have known B since we were in elementary school and we've been friends through very bad haircuts (both of us having "boyish" cuts at some point - thanks, Mom), countless sports teams and boyfriends, and the ups and downs of life.  The celebration tonight is a surprise and I knew that only B's favorite dessert would suffice.  Thus, I emailed her Dad and was told that B loves strawberry-rhubarb pie.

This was music to my ears.  I LOVE rhubarb and love cooking with it.  My love affair with rhubarb began when we were living in London and I discovered that the Brits have rhubarb yogurt.  Amazing!   When I was unable to find this in the States, I started making my own rhubarb compote to add to plain yogurt.  I typically just slice the rhubarb, add a little bit of sugar and water and let it stew on the stove until the rhubarb is soft.  The recipe I've linked to calls for 1 1/4 cups of sugar -- I prefer my rhubarb tart rather than sweet so I add less sugar initially.  You can always add more sugar later.

Ready for the ovenI digress... thankfully both fresh rhubarb and strawberries were available at the grocery store (otherwise frozen would suffice) and the pie is now baked and waiting to be eaten tonight.   The recipe I used is a combination of a Bon Appétit recipe for Lattice-Topped Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie and the only pie crust recipe that I use from Cook's Illustrated for Foolproof Pie Dough (access to the Cook's Illustrated website requires a subscription, but the recipe has been posted online here).  A side note about this pie crust - I always make it using a food processor and it really is foolproof.  Even better, I often make several batches of dough at a time and freeze them for future use.  It is so easy to whip together a pie when the dough for the crust is already made.

Before you start baking, here are a few tips, most of which relate to improving the presentation of the pie:

  • Pie crusts (particularly the edges) are likely to burn in an oven for this long.  For this particular pie, after the first 20 minutes of baking at 400°F, I removed the pie, covered the edges of the crust with aluminum foil to prevent burning and returned the pie to the oven.  If the middle of the pie crust starts to brown too quickly, loosely cover it with foil as well.
  • I use a fluted pastry wheel to make the edges of my pie uniform and pretty (in theory).
  • Martha Stewart has some amazing tips and ideas for making a pie crust stand out.  I stuck with the lattice-top and fluted edges for this one, but one of my favorite ways to make a pie special is to use a cookie cutter to cut out pieces of the dough which are then layered on top of the pie to create a crust.
  • If you make a fruit pie and don't use an open crust (e.g., lattice-top), you may want to use a pie bird (also called a pie vent, pie whistle, pie funnel or pie chimney) to allow air to escape from the pie.  A pie bird is a hollow ceramic device that allows steam to escape from the pie to prevent the pie from boiling over.  Additionally, there are some adorable pie birds available... my husband bought me this one for Christmas and I also have this one from Anthropologie.  I see a collection in the making!
  • Another way to add some flair to your pie is with a decorate pie dish.  A sweet friend gave me this one from Anthropologie for Christmas and I received the classic Emile Henry Auberge Pie Dish as a wedding present.  Emile Henry sells beautiful pie dishes in a wide range of colors hereSheila's Art shop on Etsy has some lovely ceramic options.

Lattice-Topped Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie (adapted from Bon Appétit and Cook's Illustrated)

Yield - 1 pie that serves 8

For crust

  • 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup cold vodka
  • 1/4 cup cold water

For filling

  • 3 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices trimmed rhubarb (1 1/2 pounds untrimmed)
  • 1 16-ounce container strawberries, hulled, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Make crust:
Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.  Let dough soften at room temperature prior to rolling.

Make filling:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine all filling ingredients in large bowl. Toss gently to blend.  I reduced the amount of sugar from 1/2 to 1/4 cup.  You should add or reduce the sugar depending on how tart you like your pie.

Roll out 1 dough disk on floured work surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter flass pie dish. Trim excess dough, leaving 3/4-inch overhang.

Roll out second dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Cut into fourteen 1/2-inch-wide strips. Spoon filling into crust. Arrange 7 dough strips atop filling, spacing evenly. Form lattice by placing remaining dough strips in opposite direction atop filling. Trim ends of dough strips even with overhang of bottom crust. Fold strip ends and overhang under, pressing to seal. Crimp edges decoratively.

Transfer pie to rimmed baking sheet (my pie bubbled over and I was thankful for the baking sheet so that I didn't have to clean my oven today).  Bake pie for 20 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 375°F.  Bake pie until golden and filling thickens, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.  Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.