Recipe Review: Strawberry Rhubarb Pecan Loaf

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Miss Fats has been hitting the rhubarb pretty damn hard these past few weeks.  However that’s not her fault: blame her produce shop which continues to sell those beautiful red stalks for basically nothing.  Now Miss Fats also can’t resist a deal, so when she sees precious rhubarb on the cheap she feels the obsessive urge to snatch up as much as she can while the prices are low. Her compulsion mixed with the lure of rhubarb and all its sour goodness results in literally purchasing an arm-load that she intends to hoard and savoras the season comes to an end.  Only rhubarb hasn’t left yet.  And nor has the bargain price tag.  So this cycle has literally happened about 3 times. In the last two weeks. Oops.

There are worse problems to have than an excessive amount of rhubarb.  (And yes, she knows that it freezes real well: her freezer currently reflects that.)  It has given Miss Fats the opportunity to embrace spring time in all its bright goodness and force her to experiment with more fruit-centric baked goods.  (Clearly she tends to favor the chocoholic side of the spectrum.)  So she’s now shoved rhubarb into ice cream, crumbles, jams, and compotes. Not all successful or quite right, but some insanely good.  (I’m talkin to you, rhubarb jam.)  However one item has really won over Miss Fats and will have a permanent spot in her recipe book: Smitten Kitchen’s strawberry rhubarb pecan loaf.

Miss Fats has whined about the loaf cake/bread before.  She can never manage to get excited about posting them for you all because the photos inevitably resemble a brownish brick.  And again, with this treat you see just how unphotogenic a loaf can be: above it appears to be a kind of moldy rectangle.  Who wants to eat that?  Oh yeah, that’s right, you definitely want to.  Because this loaf is out of control.  The rhubarb and strawberry kind of melt into the bread and create this crazy perfect sweet/sour bite.  It’s then littered with nuts that provide the perfect crunch for texture contrast.

Miss Fats has altered this recipe a bit: she’s tried out a couple of different nuts and decided to amp up the streusel topping.  Instead of Smitten Kitchen’s traditional streusel, she opted for oatmeal.  This created delightfully crispy, and slightly salty clusters that called upon all fruit crumble dreams to contrast with the super moist cake.  Additionally, she omitted the tbs of rum (only because she didn’t have any on hand) and spiced it up with some cinnamon and ground ginger.  Miss Fats is a huge fan of rhubarb and ginger, so she just couldn’t help herself.  With these additions, you end up with a breakfast loaf that manages to span the space between bread and crumble and offers up an amazing harmony between crunch and cake.

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Since a number of little changes have been made to the original, Miss Fats has provided the altered version of the recipe below. She should note that though she’s now made this loaf a number of times, it comes out slightly different each round.  Depending on the state of your strawberries and rhubarb, your loaf will likely sink a bit.  Have no fear: it’s still a mouth party.  If your strawberries are looking extra juicy, she’d recommend a tbs more flour for your batter, otherwise you might end up with a soggy bottom.   Bleh soggy bottom: two words that should never be consecutive.

Strawberry Rhubarb (Insert Nut) Crumble Loaf:
makes one 9×5 inch loaf
adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Strawberry Rhubarb Pecan Loaf

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oil
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup yogurt
1/2 cup diced strawberries
1/2 cup diced rhubarb
1/4 cup nuts of your choice (Miss Fats recommends pecans or walnuts)

streusel:
2 tbs melted butter
1 tbs sugar
2 tbs flour
1/3 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup nuts
big pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 9×5 inch loaf pan.  In a large bowl, mix the sugar, oil, egg and vanilla until blended.  Stir in the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt until it’s just barely incorporated.  Add the yogurt, rhubarb, strawberries and half of the nuts.  Stir until completely combined.  Batter will be very thick.  Pour into the pan.

2. In a small bowl, combine the streusel ingredients.  Using your fingers, mix the topping until all ingredients are evenly distributed.  Crumble the topping over top of the loaf with your fingers.  Bake for 55-65 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

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Miss Fats has now made three of these loaves and each time they’ve been gobbled up real quick.  She highly recommends just doubling the damn thing so you make sure you have enough precious cake on hand.  (Because like the rhubarb, this shit should be hoarded and gorged upon.)  So get out there now and make this recipe immediately while rhubarb still remains: it’s dire, people.  Miss Fats fears we only have days of this precious season left.  Now if you can bring yourself to part with any of this tasty cake, it makes an excellent gift or crowd pleasing breakfast item.  But again: this requires sharing.  And she’s not sure sharing is caring in this case.

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Recipe Review: Lemon Cheesecake Topped with Strawberries

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It has been years since Miss Fats has baked a cheesecake. And reflecting upon it, she’s not sure why. Perhaps the pressure to get that filling silky smooth and set just right was too much for her. After all, there’s nothing lamer than a dense cheesecake with a mushy center.  But thanks to a recent spring-form pan purchase, she was all set to return to the chilled dairy cake realm (just you watch out, ice cream cakes), and try her hand at a massive and indulgent cream cheese monster.

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Miss Fats was baking this cake for a department event and had the request for some sort of “cream-cheese-strawberry-type-cake,” and due to a lack of imagination, went straight to cheesecake with strawberry topping.  (Sorry this sounds so apathetic. Miss Fats does not know what’s wrong with her: she has so little enthusiasm for the prospect of cheesecake with fruit.  Her unconscious is clearly deeply effected.)  For the recipe, she turned to Food 52’s Meyer Lemon Cheesecake with Biscoff Crust, which looked beautifully spring-like and just what everyone needed for a June lunch meeting.

Since Miss Fats still can’t figure out what Biscoff cookies are, she opted to go for the standard graham cracker crust.  She simply substituted the same amount of graham cracker crumbs for the Biscoff cookies and it worked out perfectly.  Since she also could not get her hands on meyer lemons, she used normal lemons but added an additional one to amp up the flavor (she also omitted the lemon extract).

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Food 52’s recipe worked perfectly.  The filling was incredibly easy to create thanks to a stand mixer and leaving the cream cheese out until it was fully softened.  She highly recommends beating the hell out of that cream cheese when you first put it in the bowl- there is nothing worse than a lumpy batter.  Even though Miss Fats opted to use full fat cream cheese, the actual cake turned out to be surprisingly light (or as light as a full fat cheesecake can be…) and not too sweet.  The bright lemon flavor cut the heaviness of the cream cheese and the crispy crust provided the perfect balance of texture and even a little salty note at the end (Miss Fats is a HUGE fan of Food 52’s addition of salt to the crust).

Now, Food 52’s recipe does not include strawberries.  And frankly, there isn’t necessarily a reason to add them: the lemon cheesecake is insanely good in itself.  Except why the hell not?  Strawberries are in season, gorgeous and affordable right now.  We all must shove as many in our mouths as possible.  So Miss Fats is going to share her totally ad hoc strawberry topping with you so you can push this cake into the realm of excessive.

Strawberry Topping:
creates a heaping portion for a 9 inch cheesecake

2 pints strawberries, divided
1-2 tbs sugar (depending on your berries)
2 tbs water
pinch of salt

1. In a small sauce pan, combine the sugar, water and about 2/3 of a pint of hulled, chopped strawberries.  Cook over medium heat until berries begin to breakdown and form a sauce (about 10 minutes).  Using a handheld blender (or regular one), puree the sauce until smooth.  You can also skip this step if you don’t mind a chunkier sauce.  Simply cook a little longer, mashing the berries with a spoon or fork as you go.  Allow to fully cool.

2. Slice the remaining berries and toss in the cooled sauce.  Dump that good stuff all over top of your cake.

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In the end, this cake really seemed to please everyone.  Miss Fats received reviews including “more” and even “perhaps even the best cheesecake I’ve ever eaten.” Now these are sugar-induced delirious statements, however Miss Fats does believe this recipe makes a case for the top.  With the strawberries and tangy lemon cream cheese flavors, this dessert manages to be both sunny and utterly indulgent.  She’s sure that this cake will become a critical recipe in her dessert arsenal and plans to experiment as soon as possible (hello, rhubarb is in season.)  Don’t even get Miss Fats started on the sweet-salt combos likely to come. Just you wait.

Recipe Review: Salted Caramel Date Loaf

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Again with these loaves.  Miss Fats has been baking up a number of quick breads lately and hasn’t been documenting them for you because they tend to fail pretty miserably in photo form.  Despite the fact that they are often filled with tasty moist wonder, loaf cakes more often appear to be boring brown logs on camera.  Case and point above: hey brown square, you look real lame and why would anyone want to eat you?  Oh yeah that’s because you’re the perfect balance of sugar and salt and soaked in an insanely good caramel sauce.  Who says the camera reveals?

But Miss Fats couldn’t help but review her new favorite loaf cake recipe from Not Without Salt (her new favorite blog name: they get her.)  The Salted Caramel Date Loaf was a spontaneous recipe she tried out one night when a sudden bout of stress baking hit her hard.  She had about an hour to make some baking happen before a friend arrived for dinner.  This recipe was ideal: simple, 1 pot, 1 pan and very little work.

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This recipe takes the basic dump loaf cake to a new level by simply caramelizing the sugar in the cake batter.  Miss Fats has very recently gotten over her fear of caramel and all forms candy cooking, so she was ready to face this head on.  And for those of you who might still be skeptical about sugar-cooking skills, this cake is the ideal way to begin your steps toward recovery.  Whenever you read a recipe with sugar caramelization there’s always warnings about sugar crystals and temperatures etc.  But none of that really matters here: all you’re really doing is getting that smokey burnt sugar flavor.  The cake’s texture will be handled by all that butter and date action.

So the real magic of this cake comes from the caramel glaze.  And now you’re probably saying: what? I have to face my caramel fears twice to make this cake happen?  It be worth it.  Miss Fats should clarify: this glaze does not approach the difficulties of a well executed caramel sauce.  Instead, Not Without Salt has brilliantly used brown sugar and butter to counter any of the problems involved with white sugar crystallization nonsense.  Instead the glaze just goes for the full on fat of heavy cream and butter getting all warm and tasty with brown sugar’s molasses.  Miss Fats added a little extra salt to the glaze to enhance that sweet-salty flavor combo (she wanted to make sure some of that action got down into the loaf).  Then you get to dump all that gooey glaze over top the hot cake and watch it sink in while you fantasize about just how good that pocket of caramel will be when you stick it in your mouth.  And it’s topped with salt.  What’s better?  Probably nothing.

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Miss Fats has now made this loaf a couple of times and its proven to be the perfect weeknight dessert, indulgent breakfast, or giftable treat.  The second time she made the cake, Miss Fats added a bit of ground ginger to the batter to play up the dates.  She’s sure this cake could be taken in a number of festive directions depending upon the time of year (family, welcome to your Christmas present).  Miss Fats will deem this one the brown square of mystery. Despite its lame appearances, there lurks a salty-sweet moment in its (lamely) photographed portrait.  Now go out and discover it.

Recipe Review: Chai and Salted Pistachio Morning Cake

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So Miss Fats has clearly done a terrible job at blogging lately.  She has been seriously MIA for about a month.  But May brings a resolve to return to actually writing about her food, not just consuming it.  Forcing this work wake up call upon herself, Miss Fats has decided to start with a tasty breakfast cake for all you wake and “bake” folks out there.

This Chai and Salted Pistachio Morning Cake comes from The Fromagette, and is an incredibly easy one bowl mini cake, perfect for  4-6 people to quickly consume.  Miss Fats threw this together for a game night when she felt the need to create an impressive dessert for an impressive crowd. Little did they know that it was just about the easiest thing ever.

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Miss Fats ended up making a couple of changes to the recipe, because it was a bit tame for her taste.  She doubled the amount of Chai to two bags, added about a tbs of cinnamon and 1/2 tbs of ground ginger.  This created an incredibly flavorful and spicy cake that would serve up perfectly with a cup of steaming coffee.  However her favorite part of this cake is, of course, the giant pile of salty pistachios mounded on top.  This creates a spicy, nutty and sweet flavor combo that would brighten any morning.

When she first came across this recipe Miss Fats was surprised by it’s categorization as a “breakfast” item.  However after testing this one out, she would actually agree.  It’s not too sweet and the texture of the cake is somewhere between a muffin and a breakfast loaf.  When she makes this cake again, Miss Fats thinks she’ll add a couple of tbs of oil to create a more muffin-like, super-moist texture.  If any of you out there give it a try, holler at Miss Fats.

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Miss Fats encourages all you novice bakers out there to try this recipe out.  It’s one of those incredibly easy cakes that requires almost no work, but creates a truly impressive result.  I mean look at that thing: it’s gorgeous, tasty and simple. It has brunch written all over it. You’d look like a total pro if you showed up for an event with this cake in hand.  Get out there and fool all your friends.

Pastry Walkabout Part I

Miss Fats fears saying this out loud, but Spring may have finally arrived in Chicago.  Sure, she shouldn’t complain: winter was pretty damn mild, at least snow-wise.  But Miss Fats seems to have found herself with a small dose of SAD (confusing considering the fact that she spent most of her life in the greyest city on the planet) and needs some sunshine asap.  Well the last couple of days have BEEN ABOVE FREEZING AND SUNNY (say what?), which basically means spring is here in full force.  So she’s puttin’ away that parka and busting out the standard wool coat (hello, friend, I haven’t seen you in three months).  What spring means is Miss Fats can emerge from the toasty confines of her apartment and hit the streets of Chicago and continue to learn this city hard.

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Miss Fats’ favorite way to get to know a city is by walking the hell out of it.  She will literally just wander for hours: looking at buildings (fantasy apartment search), pop in and out of shops, and learn the streets.  But where to begin?  Rather than randomly selecting a place in the city, Miss Fats tends to orient these derives (pretentious grad student French nonsense) in search of a sweet treat.  Typically she’ll select a bakery, shop or restaurant that sounds tasty and head out into the unknown.  Where the wander takes her from there, no one will know/like there is such a thing as “unknown” with bestfriendiphone.

So, in celebration of Spring’s kickoff, Miss Fats will be sharing a couple of neighborhood/treat pairings to encourage all you winter hermits out there to emerge into the daylight, if only to grab a delicious cookie and quickly retreat back into your hole.

Lakeview (East): 

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Lakeview (right around Diversey), is a frequent wander spot for Miss Fats.  This is probably because critical elements of her livelihood exist here: Aveda Institute (for those cheap haircuts), Korean Tacos (more on those later), Trader Joes, and most importantly, Molly’s Cupcakes (2536 N Clark). Miss Fats’ first trip to this neighborhood happened about a year ago thanks to a groupon for a “new” cupcake shop in town.  Little did she know what she was in for.  This is Miss Fats’ go-to cupcake shop in the city.  It’s damn expensive, but they know how to make a decadent cupcake MIss Fats-style.  Her favorites include the Ron Bennington (peanut butter filled genius) and the Butterscotch (no words). They tend to abide by Miss Fat’s cupcake formula: gotta have a great cake base, tasty filling, and the right amount of frosting.  Miss Fats has now sampled more cupcakes from here than she’d like to admit, but she personally favors Molly’s more decadent cupcakes.  The fruit and pie-themed ones are solid, but the chocolate or sugar explosions are out of this world.

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So now you’re full of cupcake goodness, wandering around the shops and have purchased too many nuts and fancy things that come in little plastic containers from Trader Joes.  You’re debating whether or not to hit the zoo while you’re up here (I mean hey, why not? It’s free.)  While you’re deciding, Miss Fats recommends a stroll down Clark to Orange (2413 N Clark) for a weird, but refreshing sweet treat: Frushi.

Each day Orange serves up two frushi (fruit sushi) options: a maki (roll) and sushi.  Miss Fats tends to be a spoiled, annoying sushi snob, so you may be asking why she’s recommending this.  Because frankly, it’s not sushi.  It’s a deconstructed/reconstructed tasty rice pudding dessert.  The frushi Miss Fats had featured a little bed of thick coconut rice pudding topped with a mandarin orange slice, and the roll had some mango flavored rice action with a little grape on top.  Nonsense? Yes. Delicious and fun? Also yes.  Miss Fats encourages all of you to get out there and remember whimsy.  She knows it’s hard.  But winter is over, people.

Lakeview (West):

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Miss Fats hasn’t made her first journey to this neighborhood a couple of days ago.  She’s not sure why this particular stretch of the city had yet to be hit, but boy had she been missing out.  Dinkels (3329 N Lincoln), people.  How could she have missed this?  Dinkels is the classic bakery that has everything from candies, to bright frosted buttercream sheet cakes and house made pastries.  Naturally, Miss Fats opted for their doughnuts.  These are no gourmet, bougie, $3 doughnuts: they’re just the classics served up without all the fuss.  For $1 you can get just about any flavor and Miss Fats ended up taking bakery boy’s rec: classic old fashioned.

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This was a SOLID doughnut.  The perfect dipper for your morning cup of coffee.  Crispy outside, tender inside and completely unassuming.  Miss Fats is glad Dinkels is so far away because it could be mighty easy to just pick one of these up with a cup of coffee everyday.

West Lakeview is perhaps less scenic than some of the other north neighborhoods, but this particular stretch has a number of great “Old Chicago” buildings and businesses.  It took basically all of Miss Fats’ self-control to not spend the entire day hopping from one diner to the next.  Those diner milkshakes were seriously calling her name, especially with a little sun shining on her back, but somehow Miss Fats managed to resist. (/will probably be back next weekend…)

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If you wander down Lincoln (with that Dinkels donut in hand), you’ll eventually hit Diversey and you should probably hang a right and head over to Fritz Pastry (1408 W Diversey).  Miss Fats had sampled one of their chocolate chip pretzel cookies at Wormhole Coffee a couple of weeks ago and was intrigued by this mysterious bakery that clearly understands the beauty of the chocolate pretzel combo.  After a little googling she learned of their doughnuts and it was a no-brainer. Had to happen.  Unfortunately Miss Fats lives very far from here and was not able to get herself that far north in time for a doughnut.  All sold out. Oh well.  The cute little shop had some tasty cookies left for her, so she selected a chocolate peanut butter oatmeal.  This was a damn good cookie.  Better than the pretzel (shocking, I know).  It was surprisingly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  And, of course, excellent salt balance.  Miss Fats could have used a little more peanut butter flavor (naturally), but overall this was a lovely cookie/sunshine experience.

Lincoln Park/ De Paul:

IMG_2426So Miss Fats would probably never live in Lincoln Park (hah! not like she could ever afford it), but it makes for a pretty walk and is kind of the ideal spot to pick out your future fantasy home.  She’s a big fan of wandering down Lincoln Park’s many quiet side streets that boast fancy townhouses kept safe by little pristine gates (fear me, Lincoln Park!).

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She knows this neighborhood has a TON of bougie bakeries and food shops, but the reason why Miss Fats continually returns is for Sweet Mandy B’s (1208 W Webster).  Yeah, yeah.  I’m sure you are all sick of hearing about this glorious bakery.  It’s been featured on tv shows, magazines and is continually raved about.  Which is usually something to be weary of, but for once the bakery is worth all the hype.  Miss Fats loves Sweet Many B’s because it fails to ascribe to all the fads.  This is a classic bakery that is only concerned with making delightful and damn good-tasting treats everyday.  You’re not going to find a tomato cupcake here; only chocolate covered marshmallows topped with sprinkles.  It’s hard to resist buying everything here, but Miss Fats favorite is the  Toffee “Cabinet Pudding,” which is basically bread pudding made with leftover cake.  THAT’S RIGHT.  So it’s Sweet Mandy B’s insane caramel sauce that hooked Miss Fats from the get-go.  The perfectly salty, sweet, buttery sauce is pure heaven.  And the cabinet pudding features chunks of moist chocolate cake drenched in this sauce.  It’s literally one of the most incredible desserts Miss Fats has ever put in her mouth.  It’s not always around, so if you see it: get on it.  Order it immediately and ask them to warm it up.  Then sink into it’s moist, gooey indulgent center.  Miss Fats dreams about the bottom of this dessert: where all the caramel has pooled and created a soft layer of soaked cake and salty-sweetness.

Miss Fats’ ultimate afternoon in Lincoln Park includes a long wander through the neighborhood so she works up a serious appetite for that pudding.  She takes that pudding to go and strolls down to the movie theater a couple of blocks away, parks herself in front of a screen, and dives into that dessert.  Most of the time when the lights come up, Miss Fats finds herself covered in caramel sauce: like she cares.  Did you see that pudding? She got to eat that.

So Miss Fats has officially over-excited herself.  She needs to take a break and think some more about that cabinet cake.  But she’ll be back with part two of this post that features an array of traditional treats and weird dessert options.  Go out and explore in the meantime.

Also, these are just Miss Fats’ favorites, but as you’ve now read, she’s always in for a new adventure.  Has she missed any critical shops in these neighborhoods? What are your favorites?

Butterscotch 3.14159

Miss Fats would like to begin this pie tale with a quote from her friend- who when nearly done with a slice, queried: “What… IS it?” The mystery dessert which Miss Fats baked in honor of March 14 (3/14 aka PI day!) was in fact, a simple Butterscotch Pie.

THREE THINGS:
Pie crust. (Pre-baked.)
Oh dear.  This is what happens when you work real hard making that crust all balanced with flour, butter and water, and then take the time to chill it but then get real lazy come roll-out time. Clearly Miss Fats didn’t take the time to make this crust big enough, or round enough, and instead opted to just throw it in the pan and squish the edges all up…. Then she baked it.  Clearly without being properly weighted.  Oops.  But they were in a time crunch! Pi Day was nearly over and this shit had to get done.

Miss Fats Butterscotch Pie Crust

2. Butterscotch filling. Basically you cook up a crap ton of heavy cream, brown sugar, some egg yolks, butter, a little flour, cornstarch, + vanilla. Oh yeah, and Miss Fats added salt, because THIS RECIPE CALLED FOR EXACTLY NONE. ?! That’s the whole point of butterscotch, it’s the epitome of sweet-salty! Anyway, cook that all together and you get this:
Miss Fats Butterscotch Pie FillingButterscotch gloop! Pour the gloop into the crust and chill. Miss Fats made this close to the stroke of midnight on March 14th… so the Pi Day pie was DONE on Pi Day, but wasn’t admired/consumed until the 15th. So it received a full 24 hours worth of chillage and became more of a Ides of March thing…. let’s just call it Pides of March Pi Day Pie. C’mon, let’s!

3. WHIPPED CREAM. The final step is to whip up another crap ton of cream and smother the now extremely chilled pie. It’s like that time when it snowed three feet here in Chi-town, and everyone freaked out and called it Snowpocalypse, only in this scenario, Chicago is the pie, and the cream is the snow, and whipped cream blizzards are way more fun. The original recipe called for two cups of whipped cream. Miss Fats made that much and maybe used… half of it, which gave the pie a serious smother. So halve that, unless you have a whipped cream disorder and need it to stay alive. Miss Fats doesn’t want you to die on her watch.  Given the rushed pie-making process, the whip cream seriously cleaned up Miss Fats’ mess.  A little swirl of creamy, fluffy goodness will do that to the ugliest of desserts.
The final product:

Miss Fats Butterscotch Pie/Butterscotch 3.14159

Pretty nice, eh? This pie would comfortably serve about ten reasonable people, or 7-8 gluttons. (We will leave it to you to guess how many servings we got out of it.)

The pie ended up being a tasty salty, sweet creamy combo.  While chowing down on this pie, the J half of Miss Fats was like, “I had a chocolate bar I thought about melting on top but I thought it would be weird.” To which M responded, “WHY WOULD THAT BE WEIRD?!”  In the future, Miss Fats definitely intends to add some chocolate sauce action to the top, since clearly chocolate belongs in almost everything.  Additionally, after indulging in Lickity Split’s coffee butterscotch concrete, she’d probably be into serving this butterscotch pie with a heaping scoop of coffee ice cream.  Yeah she know it sounds weird, but that combo must be tried: totally out of control.

While sitting around enjoying the pie with friends, the room went quiet as hungry mouths were filled with salty sweetness.  The silence was only to be broken by the best review Miss Fats has ever received, “I want to take a quiet bath in this pie.”

Miss Fats highly recommends that you do.

No MORE: Brown Butter Pear Cupcake with Goat Cheese Frosting

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Miss Fats is dedicated to sampling cupcakes across the city in search of her favorite shops and baking inspiration.  And naturally she does her research.  This has taken her to some hits and misses, but there’s been one shop haunting her for the last eighteen months now: More.  This super fancy Gold Coast shop has been featured on numerous lists and television specials, boasting “creative” and “boundary-pushing” cupcakes.  (ensue eye roll)   Part of Miss Fats’ hesitation stems from her belief that its a damn cupcake and there’s a certain degree of homemade simplicity involved in any truly successful dessert.  Not to mention flavor and texture should come way before any decorative nonsense.  Ok. Done with rant.  Anyway, Miss Fats finally sucked it up and decided to try out these infamously strange cupcakes.

IMG_2202Their tiny little shop featured a wall of stark plexi fancy time.  She wasn’t entirely sure she was getting “food.”  However she pushed on, and inquired about popular flavors and recommendations.  She ended up with one of their salted caramel cupcakes (more on that later) and a goat cheese walnut pear.

IMG_2209(Miss Fats apologizes for the poor photography.  This cupcake was consumed in a bar nearby.)

Now Miss Fats has had goat cheese involved in her cupcakes before (not to mention crazy delicious goat cheese cheesecake), so she thought this cupcake would be a safe median between their disgusting-sounding tomato cupcake and the more traditional flavors.  However she was so so wrong. This was one of the most confusing and unpleasant cupcake experiences of Miss Fats’ life (and she has had a lot of cupcakes).  The dry dry mass of cake was flavored with dried thyme, which brought out an overly savory flavor in the goat cheese frosting.  The frosting itself was oily, and super goaty, which would have been fine if the cake had been sweeter and less crazy savory.  Miss Fats felt like she was eating some weird goat cheese spread that had syrup poured over top and was left to sit out and dry up for a couple of days.  Don’t even get her started on the filling.  She’s not even sure what happened.  The pathetic little patch of pear foam/watery jelly (?) had absolutely no pear flavor and was just lost in the mess of herb and cheese.  More’s cupcake has quickly risen to the top of most disappointing cake experiences of Miss Fats’ life.  She had about two bites, sampled the separate components, and threw her four dollar cupcake away.

But Miss Fats is not into a purely negative cupcake experience.  She believes joy can always emerge from cake.  She considered More’s flavor-texture failure to be a challenge: could Miss Fats do better?  Hell yes she could.  So she’s bringing her version to you all; welcome to the Brown Butter Pear Cupcake with Goat Cheese Frosting.

IMG_0241These little dudes feature a simple brown butter cake stuffed with a gooey pear filling and topped with a balanced goat and cream cheese frosting.  They are entirely sweet. No savory here, people.  Not to mention they’re damn easy.  The only slightly tricky step is browning the butter, but other than that, the cake can be made with one bowl.  The filling can easily be switched out for any fruit in season, or even any jam or compote you have on hand (Miss Fats would totally recommend  a scoop of Bon Maman pear compote or apple butter.)

IMG_0246For those of you who might think goat cheese frosting is gross, you are wrong.  Well you might not be wrong, but Miss Fats recommends trying out this recipe before you write it off.  Her frosting features a mix of goat and cream cheese, which allows for the tanginess of the goat to come through, but doesn’t totally over-power the other components.  The frosting recipe can (and should) be used to top some of your other cakes as well.  Who doesn’t want a carrot cake with a little goat action?

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Brown Butter and Pear Cupcakes with Goat Cheese Frosting:
makes approximately 18 cupcakes

cake: adapted from browned butter cake
3/4 cup butter
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt

filling:
1 bartlett pear, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
2 tbs butter
2 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt

frosting:
1 8 oz package of cream cheese (softened)
5 oz of goat cheese
1/2 cup butter (softened)
4 cups powdered sugar (depends on how sweet you like it)
1 tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla
juice of half a lemon
pinch of salt

1. make the cake: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  To brown the butter, heat pan over medium heat and add your butter.  Stir continuously as the butter begins to foam up.  Continue stirring as the butter begins to take on a rich brown color and creates an insanely good nutty smell.  Once it’s reached a dark golden tone, remove from heat so as not to burn.  Beat sugar and eggs until slightly thickened (about two minutes).  Once the butter has cooled slightly, add it and the milk, and vanilla and beat until just combined.  Mix in all the dry ingredients until just combined.  Fill a lined or greased cupcake pan with approximately 3/4 of the batter.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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2. make the filling: heat the butter over medium in a saucepan or skillet.  melt the brown sugar and flour in the butter.  Add the spices and salt.  Toss in your pears, and allow to cook for about a minute.  Adjust spices and sugar depending on how sweet your fruit is and your preferred flavor.

IMG_02713. make the frosting: beat cream cheese, goat cheese and butter on high speed until completely combined and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Beat in vanilla, lemon juice and salt.  Carefully sift in powdered sugar in stages, beat, starting on low and moving to high.  After about three cups of sugar, taste and decide whether or not you’d like to add the remaining sugar.  Finally, beat in the milk.

4. assemble the cupcakes: using a small spoon, remove the center of the cupcakes.  Fill with a heaping tablespoon of the filling.  Top everything off with the goat cheese frosting.  To keep it pretty, Miss Fats recommends filling a ziplock bag with the frosting and cutting the tip off to create a little ad hoc pastry bag.  Swirl it on top and finish off with a little slice of pear.

IMG_0276Miss Fats hopes you all enjoy these cupcakes as much as she did.  This is a bit of a working recipe, so she’s not completely satisfied with her current filling.  It might just be the pears she got, but Miss Fats thinks they need a bit more intensely pear flavor.  Her current filling more closely resembles the flavors of good old fashioned apple pie.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but next time she’ll probably cook those down into a tasty jam-like filling.  Any you readers out there have a suggestion for some super pear flavor?

Recipe Review: Chocolate Butterscotch Muffins

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These little guys are incredibly deceptive.  I mean, just look at them: they look completely harmless and could easily be mistaken for a boring healthy bran muffin.  WRONG.  These are basically cupcakes masking as “muffins.”  Only instead of a fluffy, oil-based cake, you’re getting a rich, dense and moist cupcake-muffin hybrid that’s perfectly paired with butterscotch chips.

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Miss Fats got the recipe from the folks over at The Kitchn, who seem to rarely fail her.  The recipe is incredibly easy: no mixer, no melting chocolate, and no sifting.  Since Miss Fats is lazy, and doesn’t have a dishwasher, naturally she adapted this to be done with one bowl.  That’s right, these chocolate delights can be made with minimal clean up.  All she did to omit the “wet ingredient bowl,” was follow the first step for combining the dry ingredients, then she made a well, threw all the wet ingredients in and made a half assed attempt to stir them together a little before combining everything together.  This seemed to work.  No tragic baking failure occurred.  She did find, however, that her muffins took a little bit longer than the original recipe stated: it says between 17-20 minutes, but Miss Fats’ took closer to 22-25.  However, the instructions to wait until the tops are no longer shiny is the best advice: just watch for that glistening top to transform into a rich and crisp chocolate top.

IMG_0224Miss Fats can’t even look at these.  They are so damn unassuming.  Little do people know that these muffins are in fact rich, chocolately butterscottchy flavor parties.  They are perfectly tender and moist on the inside and the muffins tops crisp up just right for a little bite on your way to fudgey breakfast heaven.  These easily top Miss Fats’ favorite muffin recipes.  Many more will be made in the future.

Recipe Review: Salted Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Cookie Bars

IMG_0208Make these IMMEDIATELY, people.  Salted Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Cookie bars are no joke.  They seem non descript, with their average looking blonde color and square shape: no decorations, no shmancy ingredients.  But these affirm that a simple cookie just might be a thousand times more delicious than the fanciest of cupcakes.

IMG_0199Miss Fats made these little guys to celebrate the end of classes and provide a little cushioning for that paper extension she needed.  Given her current butterscotch addiction, she gravitated toward Passports and Pancakes’ tasty looking recipe for a little salty-sweet treat.  Since Miss Fats was baking for a smaller crowd, she halved this recipe and had no problems with the result.  The original recipe seemed to make too many: 40 cookie bars? But NOW SHE KNOWS WHY.  These bars were gone so fast, Miss Fats was just left mourning the loss of some butterscotch saltiness to stick in her mouth.  This was a solid and simple recipe that allows for a good deal of play with ingredients and servings. Passports and Pancakes’ recipe allows for an adjustment of salt based on taste, but Miss Fats seriously recommends upping it to at least 1 1/2 tsp (for the half recipe) to make sure you get that perfect balance. Also, since she’s a grad student and cannot afford nuts, she threw in some extra white chocolate chips she had on hand instead of almonds.

IMG_0211Miss Fats would like you to know that this recipe technically doesn’t call for crack. It just tastes like it.

Blah Blah Blabla, Cafe Spiaggia

Miss Fats apologizes for the delay on this restaurant week review.  They have been BUSY eating (clearly).  The second spot Miss Fats hit last week was the famous Cafe Spiaggia.  There were obviously a lot of warning signs to prepare Miss Fats for disappointment with this one: Gold Coast location, famous reputation, tourist spot, and fancy Italian (this shit should be rustic, cheap and delicious always.)  However, looking at the menu and lunch price, Miss Fats decided to give it a go.  BIG MISTAKE.

Here’s what they were promised:
Three-Course Lunch Menu

Olive -Nocellare, Gaeta, Alfonso, Torremaggiore,orange zest, pickled fennel

FIRST COURSE
Gran Farro – cannellini beans, farro, pancetta
Fegato – chicken liver mousse, cranberry, arugula, crostini
Bocconcini – mozzarella di bufala, apple mostarda
Rucola – arugula, Capriole Farm goat cheese,balsamico

SECOND COURSE
Salmone – Faroe Island salmon, Tuscan beans, shallots, fingerling potatoes,
fennel, Brussels sprouts
Gnocchi – wild boar ragu,Parmigiano Reggiano
Polpette – meatballs, tomato sauce,polenta,Pecorino Romano
Cappellacci- butternut squash, sage,Parmigiano Reggiano,brown butter

DESSERT
Zeppole – Italian style fritters, vanilla sugar, rasberry compote
Sorbetti – passion fruit, lemon-lime, pear
We were offered a menu with SEVEN differences from the original. When your menu only has 11 items on it… nice work, jerks.

Yeah. Looks pretty damn good huh?

Well here’s what they got:
1. NO OLIVES. WHERE WHERE THE OLIVES? We wanted the olives. They were not there.
2. NO CHICKEN LIVER MOUSSE. Miss Fats wanted the chicken liver mousse. It was not there. NO GRAN FARRO. NO MEAT BALLS AND POLENTA.

RESULT: The most apathetic restaurant review ever.

IMG_1825Bread – parmesan crisps & foccacia

M: Fine. Fluffy bread. Crispy cracker.  Eh.
J: Miss Fats put this in her mouth. It was food. The top of the foccacia was super super salty.

IMG_1845Bocconcini – mozzarella di bufala, apple mostarda, thyme

M: Ok. The moz was pretty damn good. But who should really get credit for that?? Miss Fats thinks the buffalo. Not the chef.  Eff that apple thing; too sweet. Give me more cheese.
J: The cheese stands alone. The cheese stands alone. Hi ho the buffalo, the cheese stands alone. The cheese SHOULD have stood alone. It was hanging out with a bad crowd, Miss Fats swears it was some sort of carmelized syrup pear slice sitting on top. Not her cup of tea. Also, ARUGULA NEEDS TO GET THE EFF OUT OF HER LIFE. In general.

IMG_1846Ribollita – purgatory beans, Tuscan kale, Savoy cabbage, San Marzano tomatoes, Parmigiano Reggiano

J: This wasn’t actually listed as a soup on the menu, so Miss Fats thought they were getting some kind of interesting vegetable concoction. They received what amounted to a bowl of canned soup. Like, the good kind, though, the chunky ones that cost $2.50. You know.

IMG_1847Cappellacci – Chioggia squash, brown butter, chestnut honey, Parmigiano Reggiano, sage

M: Standard vegetarian pasta.  Vegetarians seriously get shafted.  There was also a problem with the filling to pasta ratio.  By the end of the meal, the edges of the cappellacci became hard and gross.  No good.
J: Miss Fats doesn’t even really remember eating this. ? Vague memory of it being too sweet and tasting exactly like every time she’s ever had butternut ravioli, ever.

IMG_1848Gnocchi – wild boar ragu, Parmigiano Reggiano

M: Pretty good. At least these were REAL gnocchi.
J: This was the second time Miss Fats had wild boar ragu, the first being at Erbaluce in Boston. They did it better.

IMG_1849Trota – ruby trout, Tuscan beans, fingerling potatoes, fennel, padron peppers, shallots

M: Trout deserves a shout out.  This shit was GOOD.  After their poor fish luck, Miss Fats was worried about their sea friends.  However this fish was incredible. Perfectly cooked and covered in a lemony sauce that made the dish.  If this had been it, the review would have been outstanding.  Miss Fats apologizes to you, trout, because it’s not your fault you got overshadowed by lameness.  You deserve a serious award.
J: Fish luck fish luck! Miss Fats falls asleep dreaming of fennel fields. All the accessories that came with this fish were superb. Actually, now that she’s looking at the description, this dish didn’t have any peppers. It did BYOB… Bring Your Own Brusselssprouts… Miss Fats was sharing this and they each got a whole QUARTER OF A SPROUT. Oh you menu lies. This fish was delish.

IMG_1850Bomboloni – Italian doughnuts, poppy seed sugar, apple cinnamon compote

M: Miss Fats rarely disses on fried dough.  But a doughnut should NOT collapse when you bite into it.  This was completely devoid of the chewy, yeasty bready goodness that makes a doughnut.  Fail.
J: And then there were some fried ball sugar thingies sitting in applesauce, which Miss Fats would have been really happy to see… had they been served some crispy latkes. Uhhh. Uh. Uhm. Whatever.

IMG_1851Sorbetti + Gelati – passion fruit sorbet, chocolate gelato, cinnamon rice milk sorbet

J: The chocolate gelato tasted like chocolate gelato. The passion fruit was bright and sour and wonderful and Miss Fats ate every last drop! The cinnamon rice milk sorbet was also awesome, or maybe it just seemed that way after this super mediocre meal. Suck a floppy cappellaci, Cafe Spiaggia.
M:
Shout out to the passion fruit and cinnamon rice milk.  Miss Fats is out.