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All-American Apple Pie

Mom made apple pie all the time when I was little. It was my brother Damien’s choice for “birthday cake” several years in a row. He was born in October: it just made sense. Mom taught us how to cut the butter into the flour, to make a flaky pie crust, and she taught us how to add cinnamon and nutmeg to flavor it. (In her honor, I’ve labeled my cinnamon jar “sin,” just as she did then) Then I moved to Oklahoma, as far from New England’s familiar orchards as I could get. Every year about this time I start missing home – I start hungering for the bright, fall taste of apple pie. Of home. Use any firm baking apples you’d like.  This time I used pink lady, though many different varieties will do, as long as they are firm. Check with your grocer and see what crop they think would suit you well. While many insist on adding at least half granny smith, I prefer my pie granny-free. In the end, I …

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Coconut Banana Fritters

I don’t usually pick my Friday afternoon snacks based on Prince William’s and the Duchess’ eating habits, but this week I couldn’t help myself. The royal couple were fed these amazing fritters during their stay in Tuvalu. What an endorsement. If they’re good enough for royalty, they are good enough for me. Trust me on this: each bite will transport you to magical Tuvalu, way out in the Pacific, where the sun shines brightly, the water sparkles like a smile, and every day feels like a vacation. They are indulgent in the most unapologetic way possible. The fritters contain many local ingredients, most notably coconut and bananas. Not just any bananas, my friends. These are nice, ripe, bananas. After a quick dip in bubbling oil, the fritters emerge soft in the middle and crisp and nut-brown on the outside. A heavy dusting of powdered sugar later and they become the perfect tropical doughnut. Makes 8 large, 12 small Ingredients: Vegetable oil, for frying 2 ripe bananas, rough chopped For the batter: 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 …

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Swiss Fondue

If I had to face life or death, I’d choose Swiss Fondue. Every. Single. Time. This decision is purely based on personal experience. A) I know that life gets better whenever I dunk hunks of rustic bread into ooey-gooey cheese. To support my case, I must call attention to a fictional character: Heidi (does this help me or hurt me?). She knows all things are better with melted cheese because, apparently, this is the only thing she eats at her grandfather’s house, on the flower dotted Alps… and she is happier there than anywhere else in the world B) If I’m faced with death, I’m willing to bet that, if I crack open a pot of fondue, Mr. Death would certainly realize they are no match for boozy cheese. I’d like to think that, as he slunk away, I’d toss him a cube of cheesy bread for the road. A peace offering of sorts. Two days ago I wrote about my near death experience in the Swiss Alps and how Fondue is one of the few comfort …

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Swedish Princess Cake | Prinsesstårta

They say this spring green dome from the 1930’s made with layers of sponge cake, raspberry jam, custard, and whipped cream is DIFFICULT. Everyone says so, in fact, except for the Swedes. Curious, right? I finally figured out why: Swedish folk have great recipes and three quarters of a century’s worth of tips and tricks up their sleeves. Like, ahem, pre-rolled marzipan and boxed custard. I even saw one Swedish video which used prepacked cake, already sliced in thirds. “We all start out as children.” This Swedish Proverb hints at what I learned, first hand, when making this cake: we must crawl before we can walk, we must be children before we are grown. Experience comes one step at a time. Considering I made each part of this cake 3 times, and messed it up terribly along the way… I thought you might benefit from my errors. So, do forgive me, but before we get into the recipe, I must tell you about the top five mistakes I made when making this cake, so you don’t do …

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Battered Plantains with Peanut Sauce | Bakabana

Bakabana is a traditional treat in Suriname. All you do is take very ripe plantains (i.e. blackened), deep fry them, and dust the crispy, fried goodness with powdered sugar. Alternatively, you can serve them with homemade peanut sauce. The result is a crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside, finger-licking snack. What could go wrong? (Actually, a lot.  I made this recipe three times, before I finally figured out that I needed cornstarch to make the batter crispy. For reference see below. The piece on the left is an all flour batter, the lighter piece on the right is half flour, half cornstarch – and much crispier… …I also made a really bad peanut sauce…so bad I had to toss the recipe. Thankfully, I have an amazing peanut sauce recipe… my old standby, from when we cooked Indonesia. If you decide to make this peanut sauce, it will look like the picture below, not like the one pictured with the plantains.) Thanks to our readers on Facebook, Megan H. and Natalie F., who suggested we try Bakabana. This was a fun one. …

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Dulce de Leche Stuffed Cookies | Alfajores

Sometimes we need a do over. A chance to get it right. And a little forgiveness. Because in every mishap is a silver lining. Especially when it comes to sweet, crumbly dulce de leche filled alfajores – the popular South American cookie. One bite instantly dissolves on the tongue into a cloud of tender lemon zest deliciousness. Divine. But back to forgiveness. Specifically, I need to forgive my sweet, bumbling husband for being so thoughtful as to fill up the cooler with ice for our 3 1/2 hour road trip, yet being so forgetful as to overlook returning the cookie dough to the cooler. I need to let go of the grief that the cookie dough rode in the bed of our pickup truck, saran wrap in the wind, balanced precariously on top of my red suitcase, all the way to our family vacation in Beaver’s Bend. And I need to accept that, because it was 100F and sunny, the cookie dough could never be cooked. In situations like this, it’s all about the silver …

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Pavlova with Summer Berries & Kiwifruit

Summertime means running barefoot through sprinklers, nibbling fresh fruit, and shining your smile all the time, even when you’re sleeping. It means laying your back, watching bubbles of clouds dot through the sky. And today we’re eating one such cloud. Pavlova. Named after a Russian ballet dancer, this meringue “cake” takes center stage, topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit, like berries, kiwifruit, mango, or even passionfruit. Both New Zealand and Australia lay claim to inventing this famous dessert. I’m happy to say that I’d eat Pavlova any which way – even if it was invented on the moon. Since we’re making Pavlova in honor of our New Zealander Global Table, we’ll be adding slices of fresh kiwifruit (be careful not to call it kiwi, as that is the state bird as well as a nickname for local New Zealanders). Kiwifruit is a major export of the island nation. P.S. Make this when you need it, to ensure a crackly exterior and soft interior. P.P.S. Make a big pot of hot tea to drink with this. Or coffee. Unsweetened. …

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German Tree Cake | Baumtorte / Baumkuchen

This is my favorite cake. All 21 layers of it. It has been since my mitten-wearing years. My mom used this intricately layered almond and chocolate cake as an activity for us kids – something to keep us busy on rainy mornings, when crayons had lost their interest. It is single-handedly responsible for my obsession with almond paste (and it’s sweeter counterpart, marzipan). The original recipe might as well be called “the dance of dirty bowls.” I took a hacksaw to the method, removing five extra bowls. Your baby soft hands will thank you. The best part? No cake goodness was harmed in the streamlining of this recipe. NOTE: You need two days to make this cake because the cake needs to chill in the fridge overnight. Serves 12 Ingredients: All ingredients should be room temperature 1 1/2 cups almond paste, tightly packed (12 oz) 6 Tbsp half & half 1 1/2 sticks butter (12 tbsp), softened 1 cup sugar 10 eggs, separated (put the whites in a bowl big enough to whip them up to …

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Natural Grape & Walnut Candy | Churchkhela from the Caucasus

Makes 1 string, as pictured Meet our adaptation of Churchkhela, the dangly natural candy from the Caucasus. Audrey, from Uncornered Market, informs me that this typically sausage shaped treat is nicknamed the “Georgian Snickers.” Nice! Unlike a Snickers bar, however, we use only three ingredients, none of which are sugar. Long strands of Churchkhela can be found all over the caucasus, generally with extra thick outer layers of dried grape syrup (they call this tatara). Our version is simplified for the home cook. First, it has significantly fewer layers. Second, we loop our strand so it is easier to dip in a small amount of liquid. Finally, we didn’t age our Churchkhela as long as they do in Georgia. Our ingredients and technique vary somewhat, so this recipe is designed to be eaten within a few days. You’ll need to plan for 1 day’s drying time for every time you dip the strand into the grape syrup (although drying times could be longer depending on humidity and temperature). Plus you’ll need one night to drain …

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Starfruit Curd with Tropical Fruit

Makes about 1 1/4 cups of curd Read this recipe at your own peril. Inspired by the bountiful tropical fruit of Gabon, you’ll be inevitably faced with a choice. Spend an extravagant $12 dollars on 2 star fruit to make this simple treat, or live a life untouched by the smiles this dessert could bestow upon you. While Gabon certainly grows mangoes, bananas and starfruit – and most likely serves up a great fruit curd in the capital (they were a French colony after all) – this particular recipe is my own creation. And, since I’m not exactly Gabonese, I must admit … that makes this recipe not exactly authentic. Once you taste it, though, you’ll forgive me. I promise. Ingredients: 1 cup strained, fresh starfruit juice (about 2 starfruit) 3 egg yolks 1/4 cup sugar 1 Tablespoon flour 1 Tablespoon cornstarch butter, as needed For the parfait Banana slices Mango cubes Method: Sing a few rounds of “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” while you make this recipe. Use ripe starfruit. They’ll be heavy for size, …

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Grapefruit and Ginger Tart

Celebrate late winter with this French-inspired, bright citrus tart, featuring grapefruit and ginger flavored pastry cream on top of a spicy gingersnap crust. The candied ginger garnish is the exclamation point to this perky citrus dessert. I created this dessert for a contest on Food52. The flavor was so good – tart and sweet and gingery – I thought I’d share it with you here, during French week. I came up with this happy combination while playing around with a classic French citrus tart recipe in “The Cordon Bleu at Home.” The result is a far cry from tradition. While the flavor combination is unusual, the ginger and grapefruit really complement each other. Even Mr. Picky gave it rave reviews, exclaiming “I could eat the whole thing.” As you know, that’s a pretty good review, coming from him. SERVES 6-8 For the Grapefruit & Ginger Pastry Cream: 1 cup strained, fresh grapefruit juice 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger 3 egg yolks 1/2 cup sugar 1 tablespoon flour 1 tablespoon corn starch 1 teaspoon brandy (optional) butter, as needed For the garnish: 1 teaspoon finely …

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Apple Empanadas

Sweet, cinnamon-loaded apple empanadas are perfect for popping at parties. Popular throughout south and central america, these tidbits will be gone before you can put the tray down. Try serving warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of dulce de leche. Makes 4 dozen 3 1/2″ empanadas Ingredients: 2 batches of empanada dough For the filling: 4 cups peeled, chopped apples (about 3 medium apples) 1/2 cup sugar 1/8-1/4 cup raisins 1 tsp ground cinnamon 4 Tbsp butter 1 Tbsp cornstarch 1 egg to brush on the pastries before baking 3 1/2″ cutter Method: First, prepare the empanada dough. Next, put on a happy song while you peel and chop the apples. Preferably this one from Ecuador. When you’re chopping go a little smaller than I did (it will make it easier to fill such the empanadas). Gather the rest of your ingredients… in a moment the sweet apples, cinnamon, sugar, and raisins will make your entire house smell like “good.” Melt butter in a pan with sugar and cinnamon. Add apples and …

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