“Let’s do Whole 30,” I said.
“It would be good for us,” I said.
“Fine,” Chris said.
Then Winter Storm Jonas happened. We made it a measly four days before the snow started to fall. When we realized we would be stuck in the house for a few days, we frantically searched our comically large cookbook collection to find the perfect baked good to welcome us back from the clutches of kale, raw almonds and split pea soup. Chris ended up finding the winning cake: Queen Martha’s Banana-Caramel Cake with Mascarpone Frosting. After wiping the drool off my chin, I donned my apron and spent the rest of the snow day in the kitchen.
1 1/2 + 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature; plus more for pans
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour; plus more for pans
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 pounds of bananas, half mashed + half sliced in half lengthwise
1/4 cup crème fraîche
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 2/3 cup + 1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 pound mascarpone cheese
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9 inch cake pans, line bottoms with parchment paper. Butter tops of parchment and dust with flour, tapping out excess.
- Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, mash bananas with vanilla and crème fraîche.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat 1 1/2 sicks butter with 1 2/3 cups sugar on medium-high speed, until pale and fluffy (around 3-4 minutes,) scraping down bowl if necessary. Add eggs one by one, beating in completely after each addition. Turn the mixer to its lowest setting and add the flower mixture in two batches, beating until just combined after each. Fold in mashed banana mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined. Be careful to not over mix.
- Divide batter equally into each cake pan and level with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean, around 35 minutes. Let pans cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then invert cakes onto the rack, peeling off parchment. Let the cakes cool completely, top sides up.
- Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup sugar into a large skillet and cook over high heat, swirling the pan occasionally until the sugar is fully caramelized. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter until melted. Return pan to medium heat and add the sliced bananas; cook until they start to brown. Gently turn bananas over and cook until browned, about 2 more minutes.
- With a serrated knife, trim tops of the cakes to make them level, Arrange banana slices on top of the first layer, then place remaining layer on top. Using an offset spatula, spread mascarpone frosting over the entire cake, spreading to completely cover. Drizzle caramel sauce over the top of the cake.
- Combine mascarpone, heavy cream, and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high spread until medium peaks form, 2-3 minutes. Use right away.
*Made with a lot of help from my Queen Martha
We celebrated Taylor’s 23rd birthday at Le Sel back in November. The food, atmosphere and experience was wonderful, and I’ve gone back several times for lunch and dinner. Le Sel serves modern French cuisine with menu items like steak and frites, french onion soup and ratatouille. The interior aesthetic is incredibly hip and beautifully put together. Our friend, Ben Vandiver, was hired to design the space, and it’s so cool to see his work while eating an incredible meal.
Also, it should be noted that I’m secretly hoping to run into Taylor Swift while eating there. The restaurant is located on the first floor of The Adelicia in Nashville, the same building where Swift’s penthouse condo is.
Growing up, Thanksgiving was never about the food for me. The holiday was about my crazy extended family gathering at my Nana and Papa’s house, where we’d play games, listen to my great grandfather tell stories, and recount what we were all thankful for. As a child, I was most thankful for owning Britney Spears’ debut album …Baby One More Time, but as I got older and was able to move to the grown up table, I started to appreciate what filled my plate; the turkey that had been roasting, potatoes my aunt spent hours peeling, and the pies my Nana would make. My Nana’s pies were always the star of the show for me.
The last few weeks I’ve been gathering tips from my two baking queens, Martha and Ina (hey girls!), in an attempt to master my pumpkin pie recipe for Thanksgiving. After what seemed like a hundred pies later, I had finally made a pie I am proudly to serve at the dessert table.
2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled (See Recipe Note)
4-8 tablespoons ice water
1 large egg yolk whisked with 1 tablespoon water
15 ounces pumpkin puree
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
- Cut the butter into cubes: Cut the butter into small cubes and return to the fridge. This will keep the butter as cold as possible before you add it to the flour.
- Prepare the ice water: Place a few ice cubes in a small ramekin and fill with water. Stir with a tablespoon measure and set aside.
- Mix the flour and salt: Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. If you don’t have a food processor, whisk the flour and salt together in a mixing bowl.
- Combine the butter and flour: Scatter the cubes of butter over the surface of the flour. Attach the food processor lid and pulse 15 to 20 times until the mixture resembles cornmeal with pieces of butter no larger than a pea. If no food processor, cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingertips.
- Add the ice water: With the food processor running, pour 4 tablespoons of water into the flour mixture – don’t pulse for over 30 seconds. The dough should be forming larger clumps around blade at this point. If not, add more water, one tablespoon at a time. The final dough should not come together in a dough, but you should see no more powdery flour and the dough should just be starting to clump together in large crumbs. Alternatively, sprinkle the water over the flour and use two forks to toss the flour to combine. Test the dough and add more water as described above, handling the dough as little as possible with your hands.
- Press the pie dough into disks and refrigerate: Turn the pie dough out onto a clean work surface. Divide the dough into two piles. Use the palm of your hand to quickly gather and press each mound into a thick disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 days (or freeze for up to 3 months; defrost in the fridge overnight before using).
- Roll out the bottom crust: Remove one of the disks of dough from the fridge. Sprinkle your work surface and rolling pin with flour. Unwrap the dough and lay it on top of the flour. Working from the middle of the dough outwards, roll the dough into a circle roughly 12 to 13 inches in diameter (a few inches larger than your pie pan). Lift and turn the dough after each roll to make sure it is not sticking to the work surface. If it starts to stick, use more flour and a pastry scraper to lift the dough from the work surface.
- Transfer the crust to the pie pan: Sprinkle the top of the pie crust and your rolling pin with a little flour. Lay your rolling pin on one edge of the pie crust and begin gently rolling the pie crust over the rolling pin. When it’s all rolled up, move it to the pie pan and gently unroll. Ease the pie crust into the corners of the pan. Trim all but an inch or two of the pie dough from around the edge; use the trimmings to patch up any holes or tears.
- Chill the dough: Transfer the pie pan with pie crust to the fridge and chill for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. While the crust is chilling, heat the oven to 425°F with a rack in the middle position.
- Blind bake the crust. Once the dough is chilled and the oven is preheated, prick the bottom of the crust a few times with a fork so it doesn’t bubble up while in the oven. Then line the crust with foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and take out the foil/parchment and the weights/beans. Bake for a few minutes longer, until the edges start to brown. Let the crust cool while preparing the filling.
Pumpkin Filling –
- Make the filling. While the crust is cooling, combine the pumpkin puree, sugars, honey, and spices in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Heat for about five minutes or until the mixture starts to come together and steam a bit. Remove from heat and whisk thoroughly. Whisk in the milk and cream until fully incorporated. Add in the eggs and egg yolk and whisk to combine.
- The final bake. Pour the filling into the cooled, pre-baked pie crust. Turn the oven down to 375°F and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the center of the pie has just set. Let cool completely before serving.
Embarrassing confession: for the past 22 years of my life, I have never liked tomatoes, which posed a major problem with my tomato-loving fiancé. After months of begging on his end and taste testing on mine, I am now a full-fledged tomato lover.
We got back from our European vacation with enough time to enjoy the last bit of tomato season. I found this recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz, and have made it countless times. These tomato and herbed goat cheese crostinis are the most delicious summertime treat.
P.S. Chris won me over with tomatoes, but will never get me to like mushrooms.
Here is an adapted version on how to make the crostinis:
Herbed Goat Cheese-
16 oz goat cheese
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs (I prefer chives, basil and parsley)
2 tsp minced shallot
1 tsp minced garlic
3/4 tsp kosher salt
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Splash of goat’s or cow’s milk (optional)
1 1/2 lbs grape or cherry tomatoes, stemmed and halved
3 tbs good olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
Handful of fresh herbs (We like rosemary and basil, but you can add thyme and sage too)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 loaf of cibatta, thickly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
Herbed Goat Cheese-
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined. Feel free to add in the optional milk in small amounts to give it a creamier texture. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 350º F. Combine the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic slices, and herbs in a rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and arrange in a single, sung layer.
- Roast the tomato mixture for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice during the process. Once the tomatoes have shriveled a bit and their juices are starting to concentrate, remove and scrape into a bowl. They can keep at room temperature for up to 8 hours and they improve the longer they stew in their own juices. It’s totally worth roasting the tomatoes in the morning and letting them sit all day long. Trust me.
- When ready to serve, evenly brush the ciabatta slices with olive oil and toast them in a 350º F preheated oven, until golden brown. Once toasted, let them cool a bit and rub the garlic clove on each slice.
- Generously smear each piece of bread with the herbed goat cheese and spoon the tomatoes (and their juices!) on to each slice.