Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Way Too Easy Pineapple Upside Down Cake

There's an episode of Desperate Housewives in which Gaby, known for having ordered Chinese takeout on Christmas, must bake a pineapple upside down cake for her husband, Carlos, to prove to him that she's not sneaking around behind his back to see her friend Bree, who is famous for her excellent cooking and baking.* (Of course, Gaby is sneaking around to see Bree, and ultimately Bree finds a way to rescue her with the pineapple upside down cake, leaving Carlos suspicious but baffled.) If you based your opinion on this episode, you'd think making a pineapple upside down cake was equivalent to singing the national anthem under water while chewing gum, or something. And granted, I've made some complicated pineapple upside down cakes, notably Emeril's, which involves using a cast iron pan both on the stove and in the oven. Emeril's cake is very decadent, and that's because there's enough butter in it to fell a water buffalo. So this recipe, which I just tried out a few days ago, wins over that one because it's 1) SUPER EASY and 2) has WAY less butter in it, and is still incredibly yummy.

In fact, I decided to call it "Way Too Easy Pineapple Upside Down Cake" because it's so fast and easy to make I'm probably going to be making it... a lot.

You will need:
1/2 a fresh pineapple, cut into slices or thin chunks
About 6 candied cherries, cut in halves
2-3 tablespoons of salted butter (you can use unsalted, but I like the flavor of salted better)
1/2 cup (or so) of brown sugar
1 cup of pineapple juice**
1 box of yellow cake mix
3 eggs (or however many your cake mix calls for)
1/2 cup of vegetable oil (or however much your cake mix calls for)

I used one 8 inch cake tin, but then I also made a bunch of cupcakes with what was left, so really you need to decide if you want one big cake or two smaller ones or what. Follow the directions on the box of cake mix to determine oven temperature and cook time.

I greased the cake tin with butter, which is not what I normally do with cakes (I usually go with nonstick spray), to make it just a little more golden.

In the bottom of your cake pan, evenly distribute small pieces of butter. Distribute the cherries around as you like for a colorful effect (I also really find them delicious in this cake, and it's odd because ordinarily I am not a fan). Place slices of pineapple evenly and as tightly as possible. If you are using a bigger cake tin than I did, you can probably fit rounds. I couldn't, so my slices were just random shapes. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over everything. If you are doing cupcakes, it's the same process but smaller; a bit of butter, one cherry half in the center, pieces of pineapple around it, then brown sugar on top.

Using the pineapple juice instead of water, mix the cake mix. Pour into the pan, and bake. Once it's done baking, allow to sit for about five-ten minutes and then separate the edge of the cake from the tin using a butter knife. Put a plate on top like a lid. Holding the plate to the tin, flip over and ease the tin off the cake. Voila!
* Want to see the clip of this sequence from the episode? Here it is:

** You're substituting the water called for in the cake mix with pineapple juice, so check the box. I just bought a big bottle of it and we drank what was left over mixed with fizzy water or other juices (cranberry is nice) for a week.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Fried Fruit Pies

What makes this recipe really easy is that you don't make the pie crusts. You just use premade egg roll wrappers (won ton wrappers will be too small) you find in the refrigerated produce isle. Another advantage is you can make any kind of filling you want--savory or sweet. You can even use Nutella or jam (which if you are like us and seem to attract gifts of homemade jam like magnets attract iron, is very cool). I've included a recipe for peach compote, which is what I used as a filling the last time I made these.

You will need:

1 package of large egg roll wrappers
1 egg yolk
Filling; 3-4 tbsp per pie (see Peach Compote recipe below, or choose any jam, Nutella, etc.)
2 cups safflower or canola oil
3/4 cup powdered sugar

2 plates
soup spoon
a fork
a small bowl
a deep pan for frying
paper towels
a mesh strainer
plates for serving

Begin heating the oil in the pan on medium-high heat. To check if the oil is ready, drop a few grains of salt into it. If bubbles rise around the salt, it's ready.

Egg yolk can act as a glue for pie crusts (not just these), so break the yolk in the small bowl.

One plate is for stuffing and sealing your pies, one is for placing the pies as they leave the oil. On the second plate, put two sheets of paper towel to soak up oil. As you pile up the pies, you may want to add another layer of paper towel.

Use the soup spoon to put filling in the center of the egg roll wrapper--about 3 or 4 tablespoons in each. Fold the wrapper diagonally, using the fork to rub a thin layer of yolk along the edge. Then seal the two sides of the wrapper by pressing down with the fork along the edge--this will make a ridged design.

I stuff and seal all of the pies first, before frying, so I don't have boiling oil going while I do each one.

Place the pie in the oil--be careful not to create a splatter that could burn you. Allow to boil about 4 minutes. If the edges look browned, it's ready to flip. Using the tongs and perhaps a wooden spoon to help steady the pie, flip it over. The underside you have revealed should have bubbles in it and be browned. If you think it is undercooked, leave it until the other side is done, and flip again.

Remove the pie and place it on the plate with the paper towels. Continue until you have made as many pies as you require. To serve, place a pie on a plate and dust with powdered sugar by sifting the sugar through a mesh strainer.

For the Peach Compote:

2 peaches, skinned, pitted, and chopped finely (frozen work too)
1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
2 tbsp salted butter (if you use unsalted, add a pinch of salt)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger

chef's knife
cutting board
measuring cups & spoons
2 quart saucepot
wooden spoon

Place all of the ingredients in the saucepot on medium high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes (or longer, if you reduce the heat).

This also makes a great waffle topping.

If you try this recipe (or any of the other ones on this site), please post a comment and let me know how it turned out!