Archive for the ‘Pies & Cakes’ Category

The wonderful ladies at The Kitchn have written a guide on how to bake home-made pies. 🙂 Love it. It says a lot of what I have always felt: It’s about the flavor, not about the looks. If you are like my mom, whose artistic abilities and patience allow her to replicate the picture or even make it better, I am in awe of you. But the rest of us fret about the look of our baked goods. It also talks about crusts and all the steps for the pie. Joy.

Go and check it out! 🙂


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Last week, while watching PBS on my iPad, I saw a small video of Aube Giroux’s Strawberry Basil Tart. I fell in love with the film, the music, the recipe and the aesthetic of the dish. As I always say, food IS art, and she proves it.  This little thing has managed to jump over several desserts I have in my favorite rotation and jumped to the top 5. Will surely be making it for my next get-togethers.

While her video is impossible to replicate or top, I am being courageous here and posting the photos of my preparing it at home and the end result (I forgot to take a picture of the syrup and of the yolks before adding them to the milk). I actually had to make-do with only one cup of basil, but it still came out delicious!

Creamed butter with ground almonds

Masa a medias

I actually did a little dance of joy when this was done. Such great texture and so easy to roll!

Masa fuslereada

Freshly out of the oven

Masa horneada

Basil and strawberries waiting

Albahaca y fresas

Preparing the custard…

Basil and milk

Finger-straining the yolks after one fell into the whites…

Colando yemas

The finished product! So pretty, I don’t want to touch it.

Pie listo

Now go, get the ingredients and make it. It’s soooo good!

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Back in August I wrote about a cake that came out just like the picture in the magazine (at least in the dough part), but I didn’t have a way to upload the images. I finally found them, so here’s the report. The original recipe is a Blackberry Buttermilk Cake from Bon Appetit. I followed it almost to a T, with the exception of the berries and the sugar quantities for the topping of the berries. I found that 1/4 cup was too much sugar, so I just eyeballed it, using less than 1/4, but certainly more than 1/8.



  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan and parchment
  • 2 1/3 cups cake flour (sifted, then measured) plus more for pan
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • about 1/4 cup sugar for coating the berries in the pan, PLUS
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar for the batter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 1 cup buttermilk*
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting the finished cake)

You will need a 9 or 10 inch springform pan for this recipe


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Butter pan; line bottom with a round of parchment paper*. Butter parchment. Dust with flour; tap out excess.
  • Arrange berries in a single layer in bottom of pan; sprinkle evenly with a little less than 1/4 cup sugar.
  • Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a medium bowl; using a sifter. Set aside.
  • With an electric mixer, beat 3/4 cup butter and 1 1/3 cups sugar in a large bowl at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and zest. Reduce speed to low and add the flour slowly, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating just until blended. The batter will be thick. Pour batter over berries in pan; smooth top.
  • Bake until cake is golden brown and/or a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour 25 minutes for a 9″ pan and about 1 hour for a 10″ pan.
  • Let cool in pan for about 15 minutes, then run a thin, sharp knife around the edge of the pan to loosen. Remove pan sides. Invert cake onto rack and remove pan bottom; peel off parchment.
  • Let it cool completely and then dust the top with powdered sugar. I find that dusting after complete cooling allows for the sugar to stand out. If you dust too soon, the powder sugar will melt and there won’t be any white effect on top of the berries.


If you don’t have buttermilk, use regular milk and add, per each cup of milk, one spoonful of vinegar and stir. You will get buttermilk.

As evidenced by my substitution, I’m pretty sure this recipe works well with pretty much any berry. Substitute away!

To get the parchment lining to fit the pan, cut a square of parchment , the size of the pan and fold in four. Take the bottom of the springform pan and place the folded parchment, with the folded corner in the center of the circle. This will leave you with part of the parchment flowing over bottom. Using a pen or pencil mark that edge, then cut it off with scissors.  WHen you open the square, you will have a circle that perfectly fits the pan.

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Here’s a the recipe my mom has been using for ages, and therefore the one I use too.



  • about 1 and 1/4 cups of flour, sifted
  • 1 bar of unsalted butter, cold, cut up in small pieces
  • pinch of salt, if you want
  • cold water


  • Mix the flour and butter by hand until they feel like sand.
  • Add the salt (optional). Add the water by teaspoons, mixing the dough as you go.
  • Be careful to not add too much water or the dough will become gummy.
  • Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour
  • Set oven to 350 F degrees
  • Lightly flour a working surface, or spread plastic wrap on the counter
  • Place dough ball and roll into a 1/8 inch thick circle
  • Spray quiche-baking sheet with cooking spray or butter lightly
  • Place rolled dough onto sheet, form accordingly and prick it lightly with a fork
  • Cook it according to your recipe (some recipes call for baking the shell along with the filling, others require you to pre-bake the shell and then add the filling)

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Key-Lime Pie

I used to be terriefied of making Key-Lime pies. I thought I had never done any, until now, but my aunt reminded me of a ginger-key-lime pie debacle of a few years ago. I think that’s why I feared them, and having forgotten about that thing, was convinced I had never baked any.

With the big snow storm of Feb. 5-6, 2010, I got a craving for meringue. All that white fluffy snow on top of cars made me crave a Key  Lime Pie. So I got over my fears, called mom for advice and baked away.

This is for you, Sara Carolina.



For the dough:

  • about 1 and 1/4 cups of flour, sifted
  • 1 bar of unsalted butter, cold, cut up in small pieces
  • pinch of salt, if you want
  • cold water

For the filling

  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • about 4 limes, of which you will use the zest and the juice.

For the meringue

  • The egg whites you separated from the yolk
  • sugar


  • Preheat the oven to 350º
  • Mix the flour and butter by hand until they feel like sand. Add the salt (optional). Add the water by teaspoons, mixing the dough as you go. Be careful to not add too much water or the dough will become gummy. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour. Demo here.
  • Remove dough from the refrigerator, dust a little flour on the surface of your counter, and place the dough on it. Be careful not to add too much flour or you will unbalance the proportions and dry out your dough. Roll your dough until it reaches the size of your pie mold. According to my French pastry cook book, you should roll the dough in one direction, so as not to shrink it back and also be careful not to manipulate the dough too  much.
  • Place the dough on the pie, shape it accordingly and bake for about 15 minutes. Poke little pricks on it so it can “breathe” and doesn’t inflate in the oven. Don’t let it get too golden.
  • Meanwhile, mix the two egg yolks and the condensed milk. Grate the zest of about three limes and add their juice. Mix. You know you’ve added enough juice when the mixture starts to curdle and is less liquidy. If your limes are not very juice, you may need more than 4. Taste to make sure it’s to your liking.
  • In bowl add the egg whites and start to whisk. Either with a standing mixer or by a hand held one (or, if you’re old school, like my mom, with a fork!). Halfway through, start adding the sugar, until it reaches the sweetness you like. Careful, remember that as the meringue bakes and then cools, it will sweeten a bit more, so err on the side of caution with the sugar.
  • When the whites are fluffy and firm, pour the filling onto your baked dough, spreading it out. Top with the meringue. Lower the oven temperature, say to 275-300º and return pie to oven. Monitor it, so the meringue doesn’t burn. When it starts to get golden-brown, pull it out and let it cool.

After it’s fully cooled, store in the fridge up to 5 days.


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