Sarabeth Levine - Goddess of Bakedom
 
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CATEGORY: Dessert

 

SAMMI JO'S SWEET 16 CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

 

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Sammi Jo is my granddaughter. Not only is she a connoisseur of great desserts, she is kind, loving, witty, smart—and beautiful. She adores my cupcakes more than anyone else I know and I was not surprised, when she requested them for her special birthday this past weekend. Normally, I just pipe the tops with the icing, but as you can see from the photo below, I popped a small opening in the top so that I could partially fill the centers with a yummy vanilla frosting—that's just the way she likes them!

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Here they are with an extra layer of icing—as Sammi Jo says, " There can never be too much!

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STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKES

 

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I love these Strawberry Shortcakes and have been serving them in our restaurants for over 20 years. I learned to bake them from a wonderful baker and friend, the late Craig Ruttman, who was inspired by James Beard's recipe. We think of Craig whenever we make them at the bakery— his wonderful nature lives on in these exceptionally light and delicate cakes. Paired with vanilla scented strawberries and vanilla flavor, they are an easy summer dessert and great for brunch as well.


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HAMANTASCHEN- REVISITED

 

Purim will be here in a few days and I have had numerous request for my Hamanaschen recipe. Rather than refer you to search the archives of my blog, I am posting the entry again.  No searching necessary will give you no excuses for not trying this classic recipe. 
If you are not in the mood to make them, stop by the bakery and pick up a few. 

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 Purim is the springtime Jewish festival celebrating the Jews freedom from persecution. King Ahashuerus was almost tricked by his advisor Haman to annihilate  the Jews of Persia.  Esther, who became his new queen and her uncle Mordecai, the new advisor, helped the King save their people. Haman and his followers were sent to the gallows. The tradition of making hamantaschen has continued throughout Jewish history and they are meant to be shared with family and friends. They are called shalach moneswhich is the Yiddish expression for the giving or sharing of food. Shaped into triangles to signify the hat of Haman, these little cakes or cookies can be stuffed with a poppy seed, prune or fruit filling. I add orange juice for the steaming of the dried prunes and raisins, a touch of cinnamon, and of course vanilla.

My granddaughters, SammijoLilli and Chloe, always remind me when the holiday is coming. I love that they continue the family heritage of their great-grandmother Margaret and me, using the family recipe to bake their hamantaschen at home. They fill them with Sarabeth's Peach-Apricot Spreadable Fruit.


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SUPER BOWL BREAD PUDDING

 

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I love being in our bakery. In fact, I find it difficult to leave at the end of each day, especially when the bread puddings are just out of the oven and cooling on the rack.  I think these are the most decadently-delicious, magically- beautiful desserts I have ever eaten. For me, it is all about the crme anglaise— I have been known to sip it straight from the bowl, or seen pouring some over a slice of chocolate cake, and always churning it into my favorite ice cream. What you will need to make this winning dessert, is good quality bread, crème anglaise and some raspberries. Don't think of these as dinner parties desserts only— you can surprise everyone at your Super Bowl Party next week. If you think the ball game will put your friends over the edge—screaming for joy over the score, wait until you hear the wows, groans, and sighs while they devour the 'gold team line-up' in the photo above. You will be the one with the winning score. Here is the recipe from my cookbook, Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours.

  


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APPLE BRETONNE TARTLETS RECIPE FOR A HAPPY NEW YEAR

 

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APPLE BRETONNE TARTLETS

This could be one of my all time favorite desserts. What I love about these tartles are the multiple flavors and textures that you can experience in just one bite.  First, comes the crunchy almond topping on the roof of your mouth and then the buttery flavor of the crisp crust crunching between your teeth. Next, so smooth and tasty, is the unexpected almond cream surrounding the slightly tart apples. Last, but not least, is the intense flavor of the fresh vanilla bean. The tart shell is very special—the texture and flavor are exactly what you would expect to  find at the best bakeries in Paris. I have been using this particular dough recipe for all of our tarts at Sarabeth's for over 30 years. For this reason alone, you must give them a try. This special occasion dessert is definitely worth the extra time it takes to make. Wishing you a Happy New Year filled with good health, happiness and many new delicious things to eat—Sarabeth


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THANKSGIVING RUSTIC APPLE PIE

 

This is the time of year that we make 1000 pies. You have no idea what it's like to make 1000 hand-made pies in one day! I only bake three varieties—Pumpkin, Apple and Pecan—otherwise it would get too crazy. We prepare all the pie dough about a week before so it can mature and the gluten can relax in our walk-in freezer. Today we will make the Pumpkin and Pecan fillings and they will chill in the refrigerator until very early tomorrow morning when the pies are filled and the oven madness begins. Twenty-five cases of fresh apples will arrive this morning and we will  peel and slice them tonight. Early tomorrow morning the apples will be seasoned in small batches and the unbaked shells will be filled, shaped and topped with our delicious streusel. Each pie is handcrafted, just the way you would make them at home. This is an  easy single-crusted covered pie— kind of resembles a big dumpling. You can make your own in your favorite pie dish, with my recipe that I posted recently in full detail —and here it is again. Or, if you have my book, open it to page 180  Oh, by the way, the recipe for my creamy Pumpkin Pie is also in my book.  

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               This is what it looks like UNBAKED and then...

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                                                               BAKED

If you don't have time to make your own, let us bake one for you. This pie won the Macy's Best Apple Pie Bake-Off this year. Available at the bakery and by special order and can be picked up at all of our Sarabeth's restaurants. Sarabeth's Bakery, 75 9th Avenue, NYC. It is best to order in advance, so give us a call 212-989-2424. Don't forget to buy a jar of my Cranberry Relish to go with your Thanksgiving Turkey. If you stop by, please wave at me through our glass window and I will wave back.   HAPPY THANKSGIVING


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A MORNING COFFEE INDULGENCE + CARAMEL APPLE CAKES

 

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The first  morning cup of coffee is always the best. The pillow-like foam is so easy to make—the Nespresso Milk Frother is the perfect tool. The secret to good foam is organic 2% milk. Now you know how I start everyday before I go to the bakery! And wait until you see the Caramel Apple Cakes that would be perfect with a coffee anytime of day...


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RESTAURANT PARTNERS, CUPCAKES, AND ME

 

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I have been fighting the cupcake fad for a long time and was desperately hoping it would go away. Then one of our restaurant partners began asking me to make them, I responded with, " Oh , Steve, cupcakes are silly, it's a temporary craze—please leave me alone, I have more important things to bake than cupcakes. The request continued to fall on my deaf ears and finally the begging ceased. Whew, I was glad that was over with— boy was I wrong!  A few weeks before the opening of our new Sarabeth's restaurant in Tribeca, the pleading began again—it was daily. This time it was our partner Stewart. "Sarabeth, you have to make us cupcakes! Must we beg you? If so, we are begging!" Needless to say, I reluctantly gave in to the nagging and began preparing for their debut. I knew that if I thought of them as mini- birthday cakes, half the the battle would be over, as I love making party cakes. I am ashamed to admit that I have become obsessed with the idea of the little cakes. With my new found mission, I immediately began to research and experiment. It had to be a great cupcake and the frosting had to be perfect. I tried several recipes before I stumbled upon Martha's cupcake cookbook in my library. There they were, buttermilk cupcakes, I whipped out my small mixer and I was off and running. The batter was lush and creamy and the little cakes turned out tender and light. The cake (or pastry) flour is the secret to creating a light, delicate crumb. They were everything I expected from a perfect cupcake. In fact, the Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes are so terrific that I have made only one change, I substituted the seeds from 1 vanilla bean for the vanilla extract, which the recipe called for. And of course, I use my own recipe for the Lemony-Vanilla Bean Frosting. Thank you Martha! Everyone is very happy. You will be too!


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CHOCOLATE VELVET ICE CREAM

 

Celebrate the Fourth of July this year and buy yourself an ice-cream maker. Once you make your own, you will never steer your shopping cart down a supermarket ice cream aisle again. This is the best chocolate ice cream I have ever eaten— and I am not apologizing for self praise. It is made with bittersweet chocolate (61% cacao) which produces the most chocolatey-smooth ice cream ever. Splurge and buy Valhrona— it really makes a difference.

The job of an ice-cream machine is to provide a very cold environment  that will freeze the liquid mixture in a metal canister into a semisolid state. A turning paddle churns the ice cream, which incorporates air during the freezing process and lightens the mixture. My favorite ice cream machine is electric and has a Freon insert which must be stored in the freezer overnight before churning.

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Photograph by Quentin Bacon


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STRAWBERRY JAM

 

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These luscious strawberries are the first of the season on the East End of Long Island, and if they are an indication of what's to come, we are in for a yummy crop. When I arrived at Billy Zaluski's farm stand, Billy was taking berries from the rear of his truck and placing them on the farm stand table. It was a good thing that I was having a lengthy chat with Holly, the manager of the stand, or I would have missed the berries. I bought enough for a big potful of jam and off I went feeling very happy with my purchase. They were so ripe and juicy that even my gentle handling of them didn't prevent the berries from coloring my finger tips. It's a good thing our cottage is only a short distance from the stand because I devoured an entire pint on the ride home.


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MONET BUTTERY SHORTBREAD FOR THE ROYAL WEDDING

 

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I adore the French Impressionist painters as much as I do a perfect butter cookie. These shortbreads allow me to experience the thrill of both. Inspired by the unmistakable style of Claude Monet, I decorate my cookies with a painterly technique. It is easy to forget that one is baking as you dab and brush these cookies with pastel colored edible petal dust. If you have a chance to visit Paris, it is definitely worth the hour train ride to Giverny to see the glorious gardens that inspired Monet's masterpieces —and these cookies can become treasures to enjoy at your very own Royal Wedding. They are easy enough for a child to make, so grab your brushes and follow me...
 


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HOW TO MAKE PERFECT MERINGUE

 

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Making perfect meringue for lemon tartlets or a pie is like winning the Oscar. For years I struggled each time I tried to make meringue, always experiencing disappointment. I would make this gorgeous pie, prepare the meringue, pipe it on and admire the results. Immediately, after removing it from the oven it would start to deflate and within two hours weep— ruining my beautiful flaky crust. Fellow bakers would tell me, "It doesn't keep well and so you have to serve it right away". I couldn't accept that kind of thinking and decided to do my own research and experimentation. I knew most recipes specify cream of tartar to stabilize the whites (ugh, I hate that awful taste), and others suggest a dash of lemon juice or a pinch of salt (not much better). You can always heat the sugar and water to 236°F. and carefully add it to the beaten whites in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer using the whisk attachment. This method is successful but you have to be very careful handling the hot syrup. It is important to make sure the egg whites are cooked to 160°F (according to recommended food safety regulations). Using the following method will assure you completely cooked egg whites that are safe to eat, and retain their beautiful shape when beaten into a meringue.


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TECHNIQUE:HOW TO ROLL AND BLIND BAKE A PIE SHELL

 

Here are a few photos that are definitely worth checking out. I decided to photograph this easy technique for you to see how simple it is to roll out and blind bake (pre-bake) a pie shell. This will be very helpful when you want to make a lemon meringue, banana cream, or chocolate pudding pie —or any pie that requires a baked shell that will be filled and chilled to set before serving. Use this technique with your favorite pie dough recipe, or use the Tender Pie Dough recipe from my baking book, Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours. I know you will be very pleased with the results.

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Blind baking is when you bake a pie or tart shell partially or completely before you add the filling. The shell is at its personal best when baked this way. It allows the pastry to bake completely and achieve its signature light and flaky texture. 


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SABLES-THE CHAMELEONS OF THE COOKIE WORLD

 

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I have loved this cookie forever. The luxury to just grab my jams off the shelves and pop them in my cookies is just the best. The cookie dough for this recipe is simple to make. The French call them sablés. They are sandy in texture, light and buttery in taste, with an extra touch of lemon and salt to brighten their flavor. To be more traditional, you can replace the lemon with 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or the seeds of 1 vanilla bean. Some people liken this dough to shortbread, which has no eggs, but I think this dough has a finer crumb and are more sophisticated—after all, they are a little bit French!

This particular dough has found its way into many of my cookie recipes. (Sometimes I even use it as a tart dough.) In my baking book, I sandwich the cookies with marmalade and dip them in chocolate. You can transform them by substituting cocoa powder, or almond flour for some of the flour, or fill them with chocolate ganache. Or, simply egg wash them and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and finely chopped pecans. Whenever I bake these at Sarabeth's, I always leave a dozen plain and sprinkle them with a little sugar just before placing them in the oven. If you happen to be passing by our bakery, you might just see me through the window, popping a few off the cooling rack into my mouth!


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WELCOME BACK MARBLE CAKE

 

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BELOVED MARBLE CAKE, every time I pass you sitting on our bakery counter I feel a pain in my heart that you were excluded from the final round up of the "Everyday Cakes" chapter of my baking book. It was not an easy decision. Oh, so tender, moist and chocolaty; scented with a hint of almond, and a touch of coffee. How I love your beautiful brown and golden swirls. This morning as I looked at you, it came to me quite naturally, why not include you in the blog? Let me hurry and prepare you in your beautiful pan for your debut and take a photo. Now, everyone will enjoy you.


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