Simple Apple Tart

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Yum! It’s summer and warm again!

This apple tart is really easy to make and can be in any shape or form you’d like it to be in. I ended up making a long oval-ish apple tart because I had a few too many apples compared to my tart crust, but in the original recipe photos, it’s a cuter circle shape. If you’re craving anything with apple and cinnamon and sugar, this is a very fast, quick option.

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The crust is buttery and flakey

Since I’m a student, cost is always an issue with any new recipes I try, and I’m happy to say that this dessert is very cheap! I used two little apples and I already had the baking essentials (flour, sugar, salt, etc.) in my pantry.

Recipe (original from Taste of Home)

Crust
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold butter, cubed
6-1/2 teaspoons cold water
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling
1-1/2 cups chopped peeled tart apples (I didn’t peel mine)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

Topping
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons caramel ice cream topping, warmed (I didn’t include this)

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Apples + Cinnamon + Sugar = Winning combination!

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt; cut in butter until crumbly. Gradually add water and vanilla, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 400°. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 10-in. circle. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Combine the filling ingredients; spoon over pastry to within 2 in. of edges. Fold up edges of pastry over filling, leaving center uncovered. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over filling.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. Drizzle with caramel topping (optional). Serve warm.

Yield: 4 servings (my boyfriend and I usually finish it off between the two of us in one sitting though…)

Banana Bread

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This banana bread recipe should have been the first recipe on this blog. I like to think of it as my “signature” recipe, if it’s at all appropriate for a complete novice cook/baker to have a “signature” recipe. I’ve made it dozens of times and brought it to many potlucks and dinners with good feedback. It’s easy, quick, and the perfect way to take care of those 3-4 bananas that are looking a little bit too brown for plain eating. You can add chocolate chips (I almost always do), a drizzle of Nutella, or nuts. Or keep it plain, and it’ll still be delicious.

I found this recipe online my 2nd year of college; it’s from the famous Flour Bakery in Boston, MA. I’ve never been to the actual bakery before, but I’d love to one day. Their motto is “Make Life Sweeter… Eat Dessert First!” which, as a serious, non-recovering sugar addict, I agree with completely. The owner, Joanne Chang, also wrote a cookbook (which is where this recipe originally came from, I believe–I found the recipe on Food Network’s website).

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I moved to New York about a month ago, and I’ve already made this banana bread 4 times. I think it was the first thing I baked in my new apartment, actually. It’s perfectly moist, super banana-y, perfect with a bit of chocolate (if you like), and it never gets old.

Banana Bread (from Flour Bakery via Food Network)
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
3 1/2 bananas, very ripe, mashed
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional:
2/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
Chocolate Chips
Nutella
Or nothing!

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. I know it says 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, but I’ve always interpreted that very, very liberally. I just dump in a ton of cinnamon until it looks good. I love cinnamon.

In a separate (larger) bowl, mix together the sugar, 2 eggs, oil, and the mashed-up bananas. It can be nice to recruit a minion to help you mash the bananas, be that a roommate, a boyfriend, etc. etc. They will be enjoying the fruits of your labor so get them to help a bit. Add in the 2 tbsp of sour cream (I have substituted heavy cream, yogurt, greek yogurt, milk, or soy milk for the sour cream in the past with fine results). Add some vanilla. Mix thoroughly.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredient bowl and stir until combined. At this point, you can add in any of the extras you might like. I usually go with about 1 cup of chocolate chips. I’ve never tried putting nuts in, but the original recipe does call for nuts. I’ve also drizzled in Nutella which was heartily appreciated by everyone. Leaving it plain is also just as good.

[Edit: I realize I never included the baking temp and time when I first posted this! Whoops.] Bake at 375 for 45-55 minutes, depending on your oven. It’s done when you insert a knife and it comes out clean.

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Last of all, I know this post was a long time coming. I haven’t stopped cooking or baking (maybe I bake a bit less) since starting medical school in New York, but I definitely have much less time to take photos and write about the results. I’ve also just been making a lot of plainer, quicker stuff–rice with kale, simple pasta, lots of salads, quinoa with veggies, etc. Not very exciting stuff to blog about.

What IS exciting: my boyfriend made a video of the banana-bread-making process! See below on YouTube:

Honey Beer Bread

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This is a simple but very good recipe that anyone (over 21!) will be able to put together in less than 30 minutes. And if you’re not 21, I’m sure you can figure out a way to get it done. This bread involves no kneading, no yeast, no rise time, and bakes in less than an hour. Super good when you’re just craving those carbs. The melted butter gives a nice crunch to the edges, and the honey adds a bit of sweetness. It looks awesome, it smells amazing, and it will wow everyone at the next potluck you go to with very little effort on your part.

The best part about this recipe is that you can use any kind of beer in it, and it could be a lot of fun experimenting with different kinds. I’ve made this recipe with 2 different types of beer, and it definitely makes a big difference in terms of how the bread tastes.

My favorite so far has been bread with the Troublesome beer from Off Color Brewing here in Chicago. Malts include “Pils, Wheat Malt, Flaked Wheat, Flaked Oats” and secret ingredients include “Coriander and Lactobacillus.” Don’t ask me any hard questions about beer or “mouthfeel” because I can’t answer those. In fact, I’ll be completely honest and say that this was a beer I found in my boyfriend’s fridge, leftover from his ex-roommate. That is the extent of my knowledge about beer. I also tried making this bread with a different kind of beer found in his fridge, and it was still good, but not as great. Why? I don’t know.

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Honey Beer Bread Recipe (adapted from here)

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp honey or agave nectar
1 bottle (12 ounces) beer
4 tbsp (half stick) butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a regular loaf pan.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir the beer and honey into the dry ingredients until just mixed. The combination will be super fluffy and bubbly.

Pour half the melted butter into the loaf pan. Then spoon the batter into the pan, and pour the rest of the butter on top of the batter.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until top is golden brown and a toothpick/knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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This bread is uber-delicious straight out of the oven, but it’s also fine as lunch the day after. Make sure to store it in an air-tight contained so it doesn’t get stale and dry!

Homemade Bagels

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It’s official: in less than 11 days, I am moving to New York! These past 3 weeks have been incredibly hectic for me, but thankfully the worst is over. I’ve secured an apartment (got the call from my realtor today!) so now the countdown begins. And what better way to celebrate moving to the Big Apple than with some homemade bagels? I’ve never had a real NY bagel before, but these were pretty good if I do say so myself.

I used to think that bagel-making must be some complicated, magical process, but it’s really quite simple. If you know how to make a basic dough with yeast and flour, you can make bagels. There are a few extra steps but they’re easy and fairly quick: you have to work the dough into a bagel shape, of course, and you have to drop the dough into boiling water to get that nice, shiny skin that bagels are known for.

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Bagel recipes are also versatile–I kept mine plain, but you can add all sorts of things to the dough (blueberries, chocolate chips, etc) or put toppings on them (sesame seeds, poppyseed, etc) without having to change up the basic dough recipe. Here’s the one I used:

Homemade Bagels Recipe (adapted from here)
1 1/4 cups water
4 1/2 cups bread flour (I used 4)
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon instant yeast

1 pot boiling water
About 3-4 tbsp honey (the original recipe called for 1 cup but I thought that was excessive)

Combine 1 1/4 cup water, flour, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, vegetable oil, and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Mix together, then turn out onto a floured countertop and knead for about 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and let rise for 2 hours. After 2 hours, punch the dough down, place it on a lightly floured work surface, and use a knife or dough scraper to divide the dough into 8 pieces. Form each bagel into a bagel and poke a hole through the middle with your finger. Shape the bagel around the hole. Repeat with the remaining dough, and let the bagels rest for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.

Bring about 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Add honey, if desired (according to the original recipe, “Adding honey or barley malt syrup to the boiling water bath gives the bagels a pleasing chewy texture with a hint of sweetness.”) Boil the bagels, three at a time, until they rise to the surface of the pot, about 1 minute per side. Remove the bagels with a slotted spoon and place them on the baking sheet.

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Bake in the preheated oven until the bagels begin to brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Then EAT!

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Perfect toasted with cream cheese in the morning, or with some peanut butter & honey!