Vanilla Bean Caramel Apple Tart

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Although March is not apple season, we’re a week away from Spring and my heart is already thinking about Autumn! I picked up pink lady apples and decided to try out this tart. What could be more simple and delicious than store-bought puff pastry? Almost nothing. When you’re in a pinch, it’s texture can’t be beat. It’s a beautiful canvas for just about anything. The apples are slightly cooked in a little caramel sauce and baked till super soft, contrasting beautifully with every bite of crispy pastry. You can try this with any tart apple like honeycrisp, granny smith or braeburn. Quick, easy and with so much reward. This is my new breakfast on rotation.

  • 5 tart apples (such as pink lady) peeled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 sheet fresh puff pastry (14 oz package)
  • all-purpose flour, for rolling
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Cut apples as close to core as possible into three lobes. In a small, heavy pot, add sugar, water, and scrape in vanilla seeds; discard pod. Cook over medium heat until sugar comes to a boil is dissolved, as it starts to caramelize, 6–8 minutes. Keep at a boil (under 375 degrees with a candy thermometer). Don’t stir! When it becomes a nice amber color, remove from heat immediately and shock pot in an ice bath. Stir in butter, vinegar, and salt.
  2. Add apples into a skillet and cook until they start giving up some of their juices and shrink slightly, 5–8 minutes. Remove apples from skillet and combine with  caramel, pouring into prepared 9″ baking dish. Carefully turn apples so the cut side is facing up and scoot them together so they overlap slightly. (The apples will shrink more as they bake, so they need to be tightly packed.)
  3. Gently roll out puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface just to smooth out creases; cut into a round that will fit snugly inside your pan. Drape puff pastry over apples.
  4. Bake until pastry is puffed and starting to brown in spots, 20–25 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake until apples are tender and pastry is golden brown and cooked all the way through, 20 minutes longer. Let rest 5 minutes before inverting onto a platter. Don’t wait too long to invert or else the apples with stick to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine.

Chocolate Cherry Ganache Cake + Happy Anniversary, Cuoco!

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

I skipped my workout this morning so I could ice this chocolate cake at 6:30am before work. Life is short.

A year ago today, I officially launched Cuoco Contento. Happy Anniversary, blog! You’re an outlet, a safe place and a truly happy food journal. I’ll never forget the day a good friend of mine convinced me to start a blog. I didn’t think much would come of it. I was hesitant, even scared. But, that day she sparked something in me that has now become such a big part of who I am. There isn’t a minute that goes by that I’m not thinking about what I want to cook next. The list is endless. The memories attached to the things I make are countless. All of them make me infinitely happy. I want you to feel what I feel: when I close my eyes and smell a pie fresh out of the oven, I am reminded of home, of my family, of my grandmother. I am instantly filled with joy and content. Seek out that feeling. Find what it is that makes you glow, the thing that keeps you up at night buzzing with new ideas and desires.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t contain all the things I want to bake and cook. Like a bubble about to burst, I wish I could get them out fast enough! Yet, it’s good to slow down and savor the experience of cooking. For me, it is my absolute favorite way to relax. I am calmed and at peace in the kitchen. I know it’s not for everyone, but there’s something to be learned from it. I am one who loves routine. See if you can find a way to cherish the mundane, to turn a weeknight dinner into something you meditate on. I’d even say it’s something of the spiritual. Some of my quietest moments with God are when I’m stirring a cream sauce or pouring spoonfuls of batter into muffin tins. One. Two. Three. Scrape. Click. Ding. Scoop. Sizzle. Simmer. The rhythm of my heart.

This chocolate cherry ganache cake is a combination of a FANTASTIC recipe from my friends at Food and Wine, and a little playfulness of my own. In celebration of my blog’s first birthday, give this cake a whirl. The sour cream and coffee make this the most decadent, chocolate-enriched, and dare I say, moist, cake you’ve ever eaten. (Sorry, I’m not sorry about ‘moist’). People will start clamoring for the recipe. Light, fluffy, and rich. Cherry compote adds a little summer flair, juicy and bright.

If you’re reading this, I want to say thank you. Cuoco Contento is 100% personal, and I’d still be enthused to share it even if I were the only one reading it. If you enjoy the kitchen as much as me, we are two of a kind. Here’s to another year of Cuoco!

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Total Time: 2 hrs 45 mins / 12 servings

Cake Ingredients:

  • unsalted butter, for greasing
  • 3 cups flour, plus more for dusting (I prefer King Arthur Flour)
  • 9 oz semisweet chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli)
  • 2 cups hot brewed coffee
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt

Cherry Filling Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cherries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp water

Ganache Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 lb semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup hot brewed coffee
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Fresh cherries, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and position the racks in the center and lower thirds. Butter three 9-by-2-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust the pans with flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the chocolate with the coffee and vanilla and let stand for 2 minutes, then stir until the chocolate is melted. In another medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the oil until pale yellow, then whisk in the sour cream. Gradually whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the 3 cups of flour with the sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and mix well. At medium speed, beat in the wet ingredients in 3 batches until just incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and beat until the batter is smooth.
  4. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans. Gently tap the pans on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean; shift the pans halfway through baking. Let the cakes cool completely, then carefully invert onto a rack and peel off the parchment.
  5. Meanwhile, make the ganache and the cherry filling. For the ganache, In a medium saucepan, bring the cream, butter, sugar and salt just to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Let stand for 2 minutes, then stir until smooth. Stir in the coffee and vanilla. Let cool completely, stirring occasionally.
 (Don’t skip this part, it must cool completely or it will be really liquid-y. If your a bit impatient, cool in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to speed up the process). To make the cherry compote, half and pit cherries. Add cherries to a small saucepan over low heat. Add sugar and cornstarch and water. Stir continually until it thickens. Set aside and let cool.
  6. When cakes are cool, slice off the tops to create flat surfaces. Transfer 1 cake to a plate. Spoon 1/4 of the ganache on top and spread in an even layer. *Spoon 1/2 of the cherry filling on top of that and smooth. Top with another cake and 1/4 of the ganache, and 1/2 of the cherry filling. Cover with the third cake and spread the remaining ganache over the top and side 
of the cake; decoratively swirl the ganache on top. Top the cake with cherries, cut into wedges and serve. 


*If you find that the icing has not solidified enough yet, do a quick crumb coat and then refrigerate cake for 20 minutes. The final layer of ganache will go on much better!

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine Magazine.

Carrot Cake

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

Who said carrot cake is just for Easter time? Not me. Not only is it pretty, but one can argue that it’s technically healthy cake. Vegetable cake, if you will. Zucchini is a close second. Shredded carrot mixed in sweet cake batter, baked and topped with creamy cream cheese icing. It’s a decadent dessert everyone loves (even my picky husband). This recipe is brought to you by Food.com, who I’ll be working with to take photos for their site! I am SO excited about this new opportunity. The only thing better than baking all day is getting paid to bake all day. Am I right? Check out the recipe below and stay tuned for more food photography!

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.Com

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.Com

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.Com

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.Com

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.Com

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.Com

Prep time: 10 mins, Cook time: 35 mins

Cake Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups flour (I prefer King Arthur Flour)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 cups grated carrots, fully packed
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 8 oz cream cheese, packaged block
  • 1 lb powdered sugar
  1. Beat oil and sugar, then add eggs. Add the remainder of the cake ingredients in the order given and beat for 1 minute.
  2. Pour into 2 9-inch cake pans (the original recipe says to fill 3 cake pans but I could only fill 2. Worked fine!)
  3. Bake at 350 F for for 35 minutes. Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.
  4. To make frosting, beat butter and cream cheese on high speed until smooth. Gradually add in sugar and mix until smooth.
  5. Frost cake and garnish with carrots, crushed pecans, or whatever you want!

Recipe courtesy of Food.com

Buttermilk Vanilla Birthday Cake

2Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Vanilla + Buttercream: a true BIRTHDAY combo! Classic and simple. I know a cute little boy who turned 2 years old today. I decided he needed a big, pretty white cake to blow out candles beneath. Or just dig his little face into. Probably both! When I presented him with this sugary, buttery confection, his eyes widened and he screamed “CAKEY! CAKEEEEY!” over and over again. What enthusiasm!! But really. Why wait for a birthday to bake a cake? Try celebrating your anniversary…a new job…cardboard collection day…a Tuesday? Any reason will do. Satisfy your sweet tooth with this delight!


Cake Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large cage-free eggs
  • 2 cups unbleached cake flour (I used all-purpose)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp buttermilk*
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. To make cake, start by creaming the butter and sugar in a stand mixer or hand mixer. Add eggs. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add this dry ingredient mixture to the wet while alternately adding buttermilk. Mix in vanilla.
  2. Divide batter into 2 (8″) round cake pans. Grease pans generously with butter. You can also try filling 3 (6″) round pans for a cute small cake.
  3. Bake 20-25 minutes or until edges are a light golden brown. I have a gas oven, and 21 minutes was perfect. Allow cakes to cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing. Transfer cakes to cooling racks. Allow to cool completely before frosting. This is super important!! Nothing is worse than a cake that is frosted when warm. It’s impossible. Letting it cool overnight is best– avoid all temptation!
  4. To make the buttercream frosting: in a stand mixer or in a bowl with hand mixer, whisk the butter for 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Scrape the sides in between each addition. Mix for 20 seconds or so between each sugar addition. Add vanilla extract and buttermilk. Mix on medium high speed for 4-5 minutes. Frosting should look light and creamy. Chill for 30 minutes before frosting your cake.
  5. For best frosting results, use an offset spatula. It has a large surface area, making it easier to spread evenly. Then first frost with a “crumb coat,” which is thin layer of frosting. This ensures that the end result is clean. Chill cake in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before adding the second layer. Then be generous with the rest of the frosting and get creative!

*If your frosting seems too thick or hard to work with, add 1-2 teaspoons more.

1Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco