Home | Lauren's Blog | Shopping & Services | Your Cart | Contact Lauren
Strengthening Lives through Cooking and Baking

Join the Newsletter

Sign up for Lauren's newsletter & blog and
receive her (free) 7-part cooking e-video series!
Loading...Loading...


Search the Site

Lauren’s on Instagram!


Shop Lauren Groveman’s Kitchen

Cooking for a Delicious Life: A Lauren Groveman Kitchen Instructional Video Series

Aprons for Real Life with Matching Towels
Designed for real-life cooking, this Apron is just the thing for keeping everything a busy, 21st-century multi-tasking cook needs within reach at all times.
I Love to Cook: A Lauren Groveman Kitchen Cookbook
Bring back the joy of cooking with Lauren's acclaimed second cookbook.
Lauren Groveman's Kitchen Cookbook
Makes homemade meals possible again with a comprehensive, inspiring book that reinvents cooking as a relaxing, creative, fulfilling activity for even the busiest people.

Hamantaschen

Great of hamantaschen

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, for the dough, plus more for rolling out the pastry
  • ¾ teaspoon fine table salt
  • ½ cup superfine granulated sugar
  • ½ cup finely minced nuts (walnuts, toasted almonds and/or toasted macadamias)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar, as needed, when cutting the pastry dough
  • Fruit fillings: Prune and Apricot (see the end of this recipe)
  • For the egg-wash: 1 egg mixed with 1 teaspoon water and ½ teaspoon vanilla

For the nut topping: ½ cup finely chopped nuts, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1) To assemble the pastry dough: Whirl the flour, salt and sugar in food processor, fitted with the steel blade. Add the chopped nuts and process to combine. Add the egg to ¼ cup water in a cup with a spout and stir with a fork to break up the egg. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and stir. Pulse the cold butter into the dry ingredients until the butter cubes are no larger than the size of small peas. Add enough of the egg/ice water mixture in increments until the dough is moist, but not overly wet and it holds together when pinched between two fingers.

2) To friage the dough: Turn the mixture out of the machine and, using the heal of your working hand, schmear the dough outward—in 1 inch increments, on your work surface (going away from you). Gather the dough using a pastry scraper and do this again. Gather dough, enclose in plastic wrap, flatten into a disk and chill well.

3) To roll and cut the pastry:  Roll dough between sheets of floured wax paper. When the dough is 1/4 inch thick, remove the top sheet of paper and brush any excess flour off from both sides of the dough. Using a 2 ½ to 3-inch cookie cutter (fluted) –cut out circles of dough. Dip the cutter into powdered sugar to keep it from sticking. For larger pastries, use a. 4 to 6 inch cutter). Line a large baking sheet with wax paper. Place the cut circles of dough onto the sheet (layer between sheets of wax paper  Cover with plastic and chill until the dough firms up, 10 to 30 minutes.

4) To fill the pastries: Place a spoonful of fruit filling in the center of each pastry round. Pull up the edges and pinch, creating triangles. Cover the sheet with plastic wrap and chill 1 hour (or overnight).  Fill each circle, square off and pinch edges. Place on tray, cover and chill.

 

5) To set up to bake: Preheat the oven to 375F. Line cushioned cookie sheets with parchment. Make the egg wash by mixing the egg with the water and vanilla. Strain this into another bowl.  Brush chilled pastries with egg wash (surrounding the fruit filling) and sprinkle the top pastry generously with the nut allowing the filling to be exposed. Bake for 15 minutes (or until golden). Bake 20 minutes for larger pastries. Cool on wire racks.

 

Prune and Apricot Butter (for Rugelach and Hamantaschen)

Dried fruit butters are thick and rich and not only make a perfect filling for some of the pastries that you’ll find in the dessert chapter but they also taste great, simply spread on toast or biscuits, lavished over a layer of cream cheese

 

Prune Butter

Yield:  about 2 1/4 cups

  •  
  • 3 cups (packed) best quality dried pitted prunes
  • Water to cover
  • 1 tablespoon strained fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

 

To assemble the prune butter, place the prunes in a 2 1/2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan with enough cold water to cover them and bring the water to a brisk bubble. Turn the heat down to low and simmer the prunes gently (uncovered) until soft, about 10 minutes (timing will depend largely on their original suppleness). Drain the prunes, reserving 1 tablespoon of the poaching liquid and place the fruit with the lemon juice, poaching liquid and sugar into the bowl of your food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until smooth, then use a rubber spatula to transfer the puree to a bowl and stir in the ground walnuts. Let the prune butter cool before storing in the refrigerator, in a well-sealed tub, for up to 3 weeks before using.

 

Apricot Butter

Yield: about 1 1/2 to 2 cups

  • 2 cups best quality dried whole pitted apricots
  • Water to cover
  • 1/4 cup (firmly packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Amaretto (almond flavored liquor), or use lemon juice as a substitute
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped toasted blanched (skinned) almonds

 

To assemble the apricot butter, place the apricots in a 2 1/2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan with enough cold water to cover them and bring the water to a brisk bubble. Reduce the heat to low and simmer apricots gently (uncovered) until soft, 10 to 15 minutes (timing will depend largely on their original suppleness). Drain the apricots and place them into the bowl of the food processor, fitted with the steel blade. Add the brown sugar and the amaretto or lemon juice and process until smooth. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the puree to a bowl and stir in the ground toasted almonds. Let the apricot butter cool before storing in the refrigerator, in a well-sealed tub, for up to 3 weeks before using.

Comments (0)

Sultry Shortbread Rounds (Plain, Chocolate and Dipped in Chocolate)

Shortbread. Decided to drizzle after I dipped.

Ingredients:

  • 3 ½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon fine table salt, slightly rounded
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature (very soft (bendable) without becoming oily)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces melted chocolate or chocolate melting wafers (bittersweet, semisweet or dark sweet, melted (optional)

For Chocolate variation:

  • 2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup Dutch processed, unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon fine table salt
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces melted chocolate (bittersweet, semisweet or dark sweet, melted (optional)

For the shortbread dough: Whisk together the flour and salt and then sift this into another bowl. Cover and set aside. When the butter has become very soft (just shy of being oily) on medium speed, cream the butter 1 cup of sugar until homogenous without beating in too much air. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and combine. Once the mixture has come together, remove the bowl from the machine and, using your working hand, reach down to the bottom of the bowl and bring the dough up from the bottom, working things together until the dough is cohesive throughout.

Dump one half of the dough a long, doubled sheet of plastic wrap. Cover the dough with the plastic and use your hands to pull the dough into a log 1 ½ to  2-inches thick. When satisfied with the shape of the log (it should be uniform in girth) rap wrap again in foil. Chill the dough for 30 minutes (or longer) or freeze. (To thaw, leave in the fridge overnight). If the dough chills for much longer than 30 minutes, allow it to soften just a bit at room temperature (which will make is less likely to crumble when you slice the log into rounds).

To bake: Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Working with one log at a time, unwrap the chilled dough and slice into ½ inch thick rounds. (If you see that the log had formed a flat edge from being chilled on one side, roll it on your work surface to help round out the log.) Place the rounds on the prepared baking sheets (you will have 4 rows of 4 cookies on each sheet, plus one or two more, depending on girth of your logs and the depth of your slices) Sprinkle (or roll each round) evenly with more sugar and bake at 350F until light golden brown, 18 to 23 minutes (baking time will depend on the temperature of the dough when being cut). (If  using the convection oven, check at 18 minutes).

Allow cookies to cool on their sheets, on wire racks, placed over sheets of wax paper. Once cool, if desired, either drizzle or dip half of each cookie with melted chocolate (if not tempering the chocolate, use melting wafers which don’t need tempering). Place directly on wax paper to allow chocolate to set.

For chocolate variation: Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, powdered sugar and salt. Sift this into another bowl. Cream the butter with the sugar until combined, mix in the vanilla. Add the flour/cocoa mixture and mix until homogenous (check for any dry pockets on the bottom of the bowl).

Form logs as previously described and chill until firm enough to slice. Slice the log into rounds, place on parchment lined baking sheets and, if possible, cover and chill the unbaked cookies. (This helps to maintain their shape since this dough is a bit softer than the other version).

Preheat the oven to between 325F and 350F. Sprinkle the unbaked cookies with sugar and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the dough seems to be turning golden around the edges. (Determining the color of these cookies is not as easy since the dough is dark.)  The tops should feel set on top.  Cool and apply chocolate as previously described.

Once cool (and chocolate is set, if using) store cookies in an airtight tin, at room temperature.

Comments (0)

Mocha Cookies with Butter-Toasted Almonds and Chocolate Chips

Mocha cookies resized

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter for toasting the almonds, plus 2 sticks, softened, for the cookie batter
  • 1 slightly rounded cup sliced blanched almonds
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 ¼ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon fine table salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 slightly rounded teaspoons instant espresso, crushed on wax paper to a powder
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 2 large eggs, made tepid by steeping in a bowl of hot water for 10 minutes
  • 1 ½ cups (firmly packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 generous tablespoon Lyle’s Golden Syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces chocolate chunks or chips (dark, semi-sweet or bittersweet)

To toast the almonds: Line a plate with doubled paper towels and sit next to the stove. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch skillet, over medium heat. Add the almonds and continue to cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the nuts are golden and very fragrant, taking care not to allow them to burn. Pour the almonds, along with any surrounding butter onto the prepared paper towels and sprinkle the top with some salt and set aside to cool.

To make the cookie batter: Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, powdered espresso and cocoa powder and then sift into another bowl. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a bowl and a wooden spoon), cream 2 sticks softened butter with the brown sugar and the syrup until homogenous. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and, once incorporated, turn off the machine. With the machine turned off, add the dry mixture and then mix on low until almost combined. Lift the paper towels holding the nuts and pour them into the mixing bowl along with the chocolate chips and mix well. Stop the machine and, using a large, sturdy rubber spatula, scrape down the sides and around the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any residual film the butter and sugar mixture. At this point you can go directly into baking or divide the cookie batter between long, doubled sheets of plastic wrap and form cylinders that can then be wrapped in foil, labeled and frozen for 2 months. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator overnight before proceeding.

To set up to bake: Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 2 or 3 cushioned cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place a couple of wire racks on your counter.

To bake: If using a room temperature cookie batter, use a cookie scoop to place uniform rounds on the parchment lined baking sheets, allowing 2 inches between each mound. If using a log of chilled cookie batter, allow the log to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes, just to soften a bit. Cut the log into 1 ½ inch chunks (I use a ruler) and place on the parchment. Bake in the preheated oven for 9 to 12 minutes, taking care not to over-bake the cookies. (Baking time will depend largely on the temperature of the batter and also the size of your mounds.) When done, the edges will seem firm and the very center will be soft. Cool the cookies on their baking sheets and then transfer them to a platter or a cookie jar. Store at room temperature, in an airtight container.

Comments (0)

Easy Cinnamon Buns

This recipe is so easy and produces tender cinnamon buns that are golden brown and so delicious! Although, in my show, Baking Made Easy, I say that this dough can be made the night before and chilled overnight, for best texture, I do suggest making the dough first thing in the morning. This is one of the few times I use a fast acting yeast –so the process of making and serving fresh-baked cinnamon buns first thing in the morning, really is doable. The night before, just have your fillings all measured out, your egg-wash made and chilled, as well as your powdered sugar sifted and ready for the glaze. Lining your baking sheets with parchment, the night before, also helps to make things go seamlessly in the morning.

Just to get you in the mood…

Ingredients for the Dough

  • Up to 3 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 envelope rapid rise yeast
  • 1 ½ teaspoon fine table salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 / 2 cup milk
  • 1 / 4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 extra-large egg, at room temperature

For the Cinnamon-Raisin Filling

  • 1 / 4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup raisins (mix light and dark)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

For the Maple-Egg Glaze:

  • 1 extra large egg
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

For the Powdered Sugar Glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons milk, or as needed

 

To assemble the dough: In a large bowl, combine 2-1 / 2 cups flour, sugar, un-dissolved yeast, and salt. Heat water, milk, and butter until very warm (120o to 130oF). Gradually add to flour mixture. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer (with the paddle attachment), scraping the bowl occasionally. Add the egg and 1 more cup of flour; beat 2 minutes at a moderately high speed. Using a wooden spoon, stir in just enough remaining flour to make the dough leave the sides of the bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes. Cover with a towel and; let rest 15 minutes.

Assemble the fillings:  In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon with a whisk. Put raisins in another bowl.

Assemble the cinnamon buns and let them rise: Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions; roll each portion to approximately 12 x 8-inch rectangle. Brush each liberally with melted butter; sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (use fingers to help coat dough evenly), then scatter the raisins on top (use half of each for each half of dough) Beginning at short end, roll up tightly as for jelly roll. Pinch seam to seal. With a sharp serrated knife, cut each roll into 7 pieces. Place, cut sides up, on prepared baking sheet(s). Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Or, for morning buns, cover the buns with a clean kitchen towel, and then again with plastic wrap. Refrigerate. In the morning, preheat the oven to between 350Fand 375F and allow the buns to sit out of refrigeration for 1 to 1 1/2 hours before glazing.

Glaze and bake: Mix the egg with the water and maple syrup. Strain into another bowl. Brush the buns with the glaze and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden and cooked through (rotate the sheet front to back once during baking and, if becoming overly brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil (shiny side up). Remove from the oven and let buns sit on the sheet for 5 minutes.

Prepare the powdered sugar glaze: While the buns bake, assemble the powdered sugar glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and enough milk to make a glaze that’s thick but able to be drizzled luxuriously. Remove to a wire rack that sits over wax paper. Drizzle with powdered sugar glaze. (Alternatively, you can spoon and then spread the glaze over the warm buns.)

 

Comments (11)

Panettone

I know, I know…this isn’t a quick recipe but it’s not hard if you get set up correctly and plan your timing accordingly. If you don’t have a large, heavy duty electric mixer, after stirring in the risen sponge and the candied fruit, knead the rest of the flour in by hand on a heavily floured work surface, using a pastry scraper as your aid. And, if the scraper ever gets coated in dough, rub some flour onto the sticky blade—which will help the scraper keep from sticking to the dough, while kneading. It’s important to bake the panettone fully—so that the center of the loaf is fully cooked. This is why I give such a wide temperature range (60 to 90 minutes!). And it’s also why this is the only bread recipe where I suggest using an instant thermometer (and baking until an internal temperature of 190F and 195F is reached)–especially since these loaves will become brown long before they are done baking. The toothsome texture of this panettone is hauntingly good and is particularly great when made with homemade candied citron (either alone or in combination with other homemade candied citrus. My favorite way to enjoy this wonderful loaf is sliced, toasted and served with cream cheese for breakfast!

Special equipment:

  • Large, heavy-duty electric mixer with one central paddle attachment
  • Microplane zester (only if using citrus zest)
  • Pastry scraper
  • 2 large paper panettone molds measuring 6 ¾ inches in diameter and 4 ½ inches in height)
  • Large shallow baking sheet
  • Instant thermometer

For the macerated raisins:

  • 1 1/2 cups raisins (mix light and dark)
  • 1 1/3 cups dark rum

Sponge:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup mild-flavored honey
  • 3 packages active dry yeast
  • 2 cups high-gluten bread flour

To complete the dough:

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fine table salt
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract for the dough and ¼ teaspoon vanilla for the glaze
  • 2/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • ½ cup reserved rum (after steeping and draining raisins), rewarmed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons strained fresh lemon or orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced orange or lemon zest
  • 2/3 rounded cup minced candied citron (either use all citron or, if homemade isn’t available, use all homemade candied orange and lemon rind, as a last resort, use 1/3 cup store-bought citron and 1/3 cup minced candied lemon or orange rind)
  • ½ rounded cup sliced or chopped candied cherries
  • Up to 5 1/2 cups bread flour (not including flour for dusting when shaping)
  • Glaze: 1 egg, mixed with 1 tablespoon milk, 2 tablespoons reserved rum and ¼ teaspoon vanilla

1) To steep (macerate) the raisins in rum: Place 1 ½ cups raisins into a small, nonreactive saucepan and add the rum. Heat the liquid until it just starts to bubble, then turn off the heat, stir the contents and allow the raisins to macerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour (or longer). Drain and reserve the rum and raisins separately.

2) For the sponge: While the raisins steep, heat one cup milk with 2 tablespoons water and, when just warm to the touch, stir into a 2 ½ to 3 quart mixing bowl. Stir in the honey, and then sprinkle on the yeast. Let the yeast dissolve naturally for a few minutes. Once dissolved, add 2 cups bread flour and stir vigorously for 2 minutes, creating a mixture that is smooth and seemingly elastic—(stir briskly). Scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Drape a clean kitchen towel over the top of the bowl and let it rest in a warm, draft-free spot for 1 hour.

3) For the dough: Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the softened butter with the sugar and salt. Beat the eggs and yolks with 1 teaspoon vanilla in a measuring cup (with a spout) using a fork. When the butter is light, add the beaten eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition. While beating in the eggs, gently rewarm ½ cup of the reserved rum in a nonreactive saucepan. Add to the mixer bowl, the sour cream, warmed rum, citrus juice and zest and beat until combined (expect the mixture to look quite curdled at this point—this is fine). Turn the machine off and scrape down the bowl as necessary. Uncover the sponge and, after stirring it down, add the entire mixture to the mixer bowl. Turn the machine back on and combine well. Add 2 cups of bread flour and mix until smooth and glutinous. Add the drained raisins, the citron along with the candied cherries and beat again until incorporated. Add another cup of flour and beat it in well. Add one more cup of flour, this time in ½ cup increments, beating in each before adding the next. Beat again until well combined. Turn the machine off and scrape the dough from the paddle.

4) Finish the dough: Brush an 8 quart bowl with melted butter and set aside. Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and, with floured hands, knead the dough until smooth and somewhat elastic, adding only as much flour as you need. (You shouldn’t need more than 1 1/2 total after taking the bowl off the machine.) Use your scraper to remove the dough cleanly off the board, as you knead. (Expect the dough to always be quite moist.)

5) To rise the dough: Place the dough into the buttered bowl. Brush the top of the dough with melted butter and cover the bowl with well-greased plastic wrap and a clean towel. Place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise until billowy and almost double in bulk, about 3 hours.

6) About a second rise: You have a timing choice. Although you can shape the dough now, for the best, lightest, texture and a more developed flavor, punch the dough down, turn the dough over in the bowl and recover the dough to let it rise again for about 2 hours. If timing is an issue, either skip this second rise or punch down the dough and shape the dough as directed but allow it to rest in the refrigerator overnight (covered with a towel and then with a sheet of plastic wrap). The next morning, allow the dough to reach a billowy state, which can take several hours to accomplish.

7) To cut the dough: Place 2 nonstick paper panettone molds on a wire rack that fits inside a large shallow baking sheet. Uncover the dough and punch it down. Turn the dough out of the bowl and onto a very lightly floured work surface. Knead briefly and gently. Use a pastry scraper to divide the dough in half. Shape each half of the dough into a round and place the round into the paper mold (smoothest side up). In order to have the dough rise up and out of the paper molds, cut off a 1 generous inch off the top of the paper. The dough will be about 1 1/2 inches below the rim, initially. (Cutting the mold is not mandatory, just a choice and will determine how much of the baked panettone will be exposed.) Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap that’s been generously sprayed with vegetable spray, then place a clean kitchen towel over the plastic and allow the shaped loaves to rise for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until the dough is billowy and reaches ½ to 1 ½ inches above the top of the mold. (If you’ve skipped the second rise, for best texture, it’s especially important to allow the shaped dough to rise fully.)

8) To bake: Preheat the oven to 375F for 30 minutes before baking. Glaze the top of the risen dough with an egg wash made by mixing 1 egg with 1 tablespoon milk, 2 tablespoons reserved rum from soaking raisins and ¼ teaspoon vanilla—Strain this into another small bowl. (Depending on how long you’ve macerated the raisins, this will determine how much rum you will have reserved. If you don’t have enough, just add two more tablespoons rum to the glaze.) Bake the panettone in a preheated 375F oven until an internal temperature reaches between 190F and 195F when an instant thermometer is inserted deeply into the top center, 60 to 90 minutes. (After about 20 minutes, once golden, cover the loaves loosely with foil (shiny side up) and continue to bake this way. Bake uncovered for the last few minutes. Let cool completely on the wire rack. To slice, cut the loaf in half through the paper, then peel off the paper and place each half of the loaf (cut side down) on a cutting board. Cut into thin slices.

 

 

 

Comments (3)

Hamantaschen

Hamantashen are tender, triangular, fruit filled “symbolic” pastry that is traditionally served on the Jewish festival of Purim. The shape is said to replicate the three-corner hat that a Jewish oppressor, named Haman, wore. Eating these pastries is supposed to symbolize overcoming the struggle for survival. Having said this, I can assure you than anyone of any culture will adore these pastries and at any time of the year! And, since the dough and the fillings can both be made and frozen—you can enjoy freshly baked hamantashen any time you want!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, for the dough, plus more for rolling out the pastry
  • ¾ teaspoon fine table salt
  • ½ cup superfine granulated sugar
  • ½ cup finely minced nuts (walnuts, toasted almonds and/or toasted macadamias)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar, as needed, when cutting the pastry dough
  • Fruit fillings: Prune and Apricot (see the end of this recipe)
  • For the egg-wash: 1 egg mixed with 1 teaspoon water and ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • For the nut topping: ½ cup finely chopped nuts, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1) To assemble the pastry dough: Whirl the flour, salt and sugar in food processor, fitted with the steel blade. Add the chopped nuts and process to combine. Add the egg to ¼ cup water in a cup with a spout and stir with a fork to break up the egg. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and stir. Pulse the cold butter into the dry ingredients until the butter cubes are no larger than the size of small peas. Add enough of the egg/ice water mixture in increments until the dough is moist, but not overly wet and it holds together when pinched between two fingers.

2) To friage the dough: Turn the mixture out of the machine and, using the heal of your working hand, schmear the dough outward—in 1 inch increments, on your work surface (going away from you). Gather the dough using a pastry scraper and do this again. Gather dough, enclose in plastic wrap, flatten into a disk and chill well.

3) To roll and cut the pastry: Roll dough between sheets of floured wax paper. When the dough is 1/4 inch thick, remove the top sheet of paper and brush any excess flour off from both sides of the dough. Using a 2 ½ to 3-inch cookie cutter (fluted) –cut out circles of dough. Dip the cutter into powdered sugar to keep it from sticking. For larger pastries, use a. 4 to 6 inch cutter). Line a large baking sheet with wax paper. Place the cut circles of dough onto the sheet (layer between sheets of wax paper Cover with plastic and chill until the dough firms up, 10 to 30 minutes.

4) To fill the pastries: Place a spoonful of fruit filling in the center of each pastry round. Pull up the edges and pinch, creating triangles. Cover the sheet with plastic wrap and chill 1 hour (or overnight). Fill each circle, square off and pinch edges. Place on tray, cover and chill. ]

5) To set up to bake: Preheat the oven to 375F. Line cushioned cookie sheets with parchment. Make the egg wash by mixing the egg with the water and vanilla. Strain this into another bowl. Brush chilled pastries with egg wash (surrounding the fruit filling) and sprinkle the top pastry generously with the nut allowing the filling to be exposed. Bake for 15 minutes (or until golden). Bake 20 minutes for larger pastries. Cool on wire racks.

Prune and Apricot Butter (for Rugelach and Hamantaschen)

Dried fruit butters are thick and rich and not only make a perfect filling for some of the pastries that you’ll find in the dessert chapter but they also taste great, simply spread on toast or biscuits, lavished over a layer of cream cheese

Prune Butter

Yield: Yield: about 2 1/4 cups

  • 3 cups (packed) best quality dried pitted prunes
  • Water to cover
  • 1 tablespoon strained fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

To assemble the prune butter, place the prunes in a 2 1/2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan with enough cold water to cover them and bring the water to a brisk bubble. Turn the heat down to low and simmer the prunes gently (uncovered) until soft, about 10 minutes (timing will depend largely on their original suppleness). Drain the prunes, reserving 1 tablespoon of the poaching liquid and place the fruit with the lemon juice, poaching liquid and sugar into the bowl of your food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until smooth, then use a rubber spatula to transfer the puree to a bowl and stir in the ground walnuts. Let the prune butter cool before storing in the refrigerator, in a well-sealed tub, for up to 3 weeks before using.

Apricot Butter

Yield: about 1 1/2 to 2 cups

  • 2 cups best quality dried whole pitted apricots
  • Water to cover
  • 1/4 cup (firmly packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Amaretto (almond flavored liquor), or use lemon juice as a substitute
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped toasted blanched (skinned) almonds

 To assemble the apricot butter, place the apricots in a 2 1/2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan with enough cold water to cover them and bring the water to a brisk bubble. Reduce the heat to low and simmer apricots gently (uncovered) until soft, 10 to 15 minutes (timing will depend largely on their original suppleness). Drain the apricots and place them into the bowl of the food processor, fitted with the steel blade. Add the brown sugar and the amaretto or lemon juice and process until smooth. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the puree to a bowl and stir in the ground toasted almonds. Let the apricot butter cool before storing in the refrigerator, in a well-sealed tub, for up to 3 weeks before using.

 

 

 

Comments (1)

The Most Amazing Rugelach!

I purposely use the best of everything in these chubby, overstuffed eastern European pastries. There are a few things you should know before making them, however. I only recommend using homemade fruit butters since these are thicker than the commercial brands and won’t bleed out as much, during baking. Also, in order to make everything seamlessly easy, think ahead! Get all the fillings, toppings as well as the pastry dough all made ahead. That way, the process is not only efficient, but it’s really fun!

For the cream cheese pastry:

  • 3 sticks sweet unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 12 ounces softened cream cheese (1 1/2 eight-ounce packages)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; plus more for dusting
  • For the filling:
  • 1 recipe Prune Butter, chilled (see the end of this recipe)
  • 1 recipe Apricot Butter, chilled (see the end of this recipe)
  • 1/2 cup (firmly packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped, dry-toasted nuts (combine unsalted macadamias, blanched almonds, walnuts and pecans)
  • 2 cups assorted best-quality dried fruits, pitted and diced if large
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

For the topping:

  • One egg mixed with one tablespoon cream or milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped mixed nuts (same as mentioned above)

 

To get ready to make rugelach, first assemble the pastry and chill it. Cream the butter with the cream cheese and salt, using an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. When well combined, gradually add the sugar, beating until very smooth, on a moderate speed. Stop the machine and add the flour. With the machine on low, incorporate the flour until the mixture turns into a cohesive mass, without over-mixing, to ensure tender pastry. Tear off four long pieces of plastic wrap and position them, in pairs, in a “criss-cross” shape on your counter. Divide the pastry mixture in half, placing each portion on the center of each plastic cross. One at a time, gather the ends of the plastic up and over the dough, loosely, to totally enclose it. Gently press the dough down, into a rectangular shape. Do the same with the remaining half of dough and place both pieces in a plastic bag and refrigerate, for at least 3 hours or up to 2 days. This dough must be cold, in order to work with it.

Now make the fillings. Prepare your fruit fillings as directed and make sure they’ve had time to become thoroughly chilled (see timing tips at the end of this recipe). Combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar and cinnamon, in a bowl, and set that mixture aside. Place the toasted nuts into a bowl and place them next to the brown sugar filling. Assemble an assortment of dried fruits, in separate bowls, or make a mixed medley and set them next to the nuts. When ready to assemble the pastry, take the fruit fillings out of the refrigerator and uncover them.

 To assemble and chill unbaked rugelach, first line a flat cookie sheet with wax paper and place it close to your work surface. Remove one half of the cream cheese pastry from the refrigerator and let it soften for a few minutes. Meanwhile, rub an even and liberal amount of flour onto a large pastry cloth. Slip the bootie over your rolling pin and rub some flour into the bootie. Place the dough on the center of the cloth and, using the covered pin, roll the dough out into a rectangle about 14 x 8-inches, that’s 1/8-inch thick. As you roll, occasionally lift and reposition the cold dough, to make sure it’s not sticking. (Alternatively, if you don’t have a cloth and bootie, roll the dough out between two large sheets of floured wax paper (rub some flour on top of the dough before placing the paper on top) After rolling, use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the rectangle lengthwise, down the center, leaving each half in place. Using a long metal icing spatula, spread your chosen fruit filling generously over each rectangle, (you can use a different kind on each half). Sprinkle half of the spiced brown sugar filling mixture evenly over the fruit, smoothing it gently with your hands. Scatter 1/2 cup of each of the dried fruits and nuts over the sugar mixture, adding a few chocolate chips, if desired.

To fill the pastry, make sure the rectangle of pastry is placed horizontally in front of you (just turn the cloth, as needed). Starting on the outside (long-side) closest to you, roll the dough up going away from you, toward the dividing cut in the pastry. Lift the cloth to help you start rolling and use your fingers to help keep the filling inside, while tucking in the pastry, forming a chubby jelly-roll (things might ooze a bit). Position a prepared cookie sheet up against the log of filled pastry and carefully transfer the log (seam side down) to the cookie sheet. Roll up the remaining pastry and transfer that log to the sheet, as well. Cover the logs with plastic wrap and refrigerate them, to firm up, for at least 4 hours, (preferably overnight). Repeat this same procedure with the remaining half of dough.

Get ready to bake. If planning on baking 2 sheets, simultaneously, in one oven, position the racks on the upper and lower third shelves (the center shelf is preferable). Preheat the oven to 375oF. Combine the egg with the yolk and cream or milk and strain this through a small wire sieve, into another bowl. Line 2 to 4 cushioned cookie sheets or shallow heavy aluminum baking sheets with parchment paper. Make the sugar-nut topping by pulsing 1 1/2 cups sugar with 2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon and the mixed chopped nuts, in a food processor, fitted with the steel blade. When well combined and the nuts are quite small, transfer this to a bowl and place it next to the glaze.

To finish the pastries and chill before baking, transfer one chilled roll of filled pastry on your cutting board and brush the top and sides with the egg glaze, using a pastry brush. Using a sharp serrated knife, slice the log into 1 1/2-inch slices. Working with two slices at a time, lay them in the prepared topping and generously coat the pastry on all sides, pressing gently to help the topping adhere. Lay the slices on the ungreased parchment-lined baking sheets, with 1-inch in between each slice. If you’ve got all three baking sheets lined with parchment, glaze, cut and top the remaining rolls. If you can’t bake them all at once, refrigerate the sheets, covered with plastic wrap.

Bake the rugelach until the tops are golden and the bottoms caramelize, about 25 minutes. If baking 2 sheets in one oven, switch their positions half way through baking. These might need a few more minutes in the oven. Remove the baked rugelach from the oven and let the pastries cool, still on their baking sheet, on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes, before running a thin metal turning spatula underneath each pastry and placing them on the rack to cool further. (If during baking, any of the filling has oozed out, forming a small puddle around the dough, 2 minutes after placing the sheets on the rack, use a metal spatula to push this pliable puddle towards the pastry. As it cools, this part will firm up (like candy) and adhere to the crust.)

To serve and store: Once cooled, either place the rugelach directly on a decorative serving platter or store the pastries in a large air-tight tin, separated by sheets of wax paper. When stored correctly, rugelach stay perfectly fresh for 5 days.

 

Timing is Everything:

• The dough can be assembled two days ahead and kept refrigerated, well wrapped. It can also be frozen, placed in a doubled freezer bag, for two months. To thaw, place the dough, still in it’s original wrapping, in the refrigerator overnight.

• The fruit fillings can be assembled up to two weeks ahead and kept refrigerated, well covered.

• The sugar filling, assorted dried fruits, chopped toasted nuts and the sugar-nut topping can all be assembled two days ahead and kept at room temperature, in separate well covered bowls.

• The egg glaze can be assembled one day ahead of using and stored in the refrigerator, covered.

• The unbaked pastry logs can be assembled one day ahead of baking. Keep them refrigerated, covered well with plastic wrap.

 

Prune and Apricot Butter

Dried fruit butters are thick and rich and not only make a perfect filling for some of the pastries that you’ll find in the dessert chapter but they also taste great, simply spread on toast or biscuits, lavished over a layer of cream cheese

 

Prune Butter

Yield: Yield: about 2 1/4 cups

  • 3 cups (packed) best quality dried pitted prunes
  • Water to cover
  • 1 tablespoon strained fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

To assemble the prune butter, place the prunes in a 2 1/2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan with enough cold water to cover them and bring the water to a brisk bubble. Turn the heat down to low and simmer the prunes gently (uncovered) until soft, about 10 minutes (timing will depend largely on their original suppleness). Drain the prunes, reserving 1 tablespoon of the poaching liquid and place the fruit with the lemon juice, poaching liquid and sugar into the bowl of your food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until smooth, then use a rubber spatula to transfer the puree to a bowl and stir in the ground walnuts. Let the prune butter cool before storing in the refrigerator, in a well-sealed tub, for up to 3 weeks before using.

Apricot Butter

Yield: about 1 1/2 to 2 cups

  • 2 cups best quality dried whole pitted apricots
  • Water to cover
  • 1/4 cup (firmly packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Amaretto (almond flavored liquor), or use lemon juice as a substitute
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped toasted blanched (skinned) almonds

To assemble the apricot butter, place the apricots in a 2 1/2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan with enough cold water to cover them and bring the water to a brisk bubble. Reduce the heat to low and simmer apricots gently (uncovered) until soft, 10 to 15 minutes (timing will depend largely on their original suppleness). Drain the apricots and place them into the bowl of the food processor, fitted with the steel blade. Add the brown sugar and the amaretto or lemon juice and process until smooth. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the puree to a bowl and stir in the ground toasted almonds. Let the apricot butter cool before storing in the refrigerator, in a well-sealed tub, for up to 3 weeks before using.

 

 

 

Comments (1)

Midnight Brownies with (or Without) a Peanut Butter Pocket

These brownies are named for their dark, fudge-like appearance and texture. Ironically, they look much sweeter than they taste. The addition of light corn syrup in the batter creates a wonderful shine on the top of the baked brownies and, although most brownies have a tendency to crack or sink in the center, these have never done either. As for the peanut butter filling–it elevates the entire brownie eating experience to new heights! But be forewarned; These brownies disappear immediately in my house. When younger, I practically had to frisk my son in the morning. Once I found wrapped brownies in each pocket of his pants–on the sides, in the back and down the legs! For best flavor, if your instant coffee is granular (not powdered), pulverize it to a fine powder using an electric spice grinder; or put the granules in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin or a wine bottle. Also, if you’re using the peanut butter filling, use the optional chocolate chips in the batter instead of walnuts or peanut butter chips.

Special Equipment

  • 9×13-inch baking pan (2 inches deep)
  • Sifter or a triple-mesh wire sieve

For the Peanut Butter Filling (Optional)

  • 1 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, plus more for dusting

For the Brownies

  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
  • 6 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules, pulverized, or espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsifted cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 3 generous tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • Optional Additions: 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or 1 cup chopped walnuts or 1/2 cup peanut butter chips mixed with 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1) To prepare peanut butter filling, if using: In a large bowl, thoroughly combine peanut butter with confectioner’s sugar. Knead briefly with your hands until smooth. Lightly dust a 14-inch sheet of waxed paper with confectioner’s sugar and place peanut butter mixture on the center of the paper. Lightly sprinkle the top of the filling with more confectioner’s sugar and place another sheet of waxed paper on top. Press filling to flatten gently and, using a rolling pin, roll out filling 1/4 inch thick into a 9×13-inch rectangle. Refrigerate until needed.

2) To set up: If using a glass baking dish, preheat the oven to 325o F; If using a metal pan, preheat to 350o F. Line baking dish with aluminum foil (dull side down for glass, dull side up for metal), allowing a 2-inch overhang at each end. Brush foil with melted butter and set aside.

3) To assemble brownie batter: In a 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the 2 sticks butter with chocolate over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in instant coffee and vanilla; let cool slightly. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together both flours, baking powder and salt. Sift this mixture into another bowl. Whisk sugar and corn syrup into the melted chocolate mixture until smooth. Add eggs (1 at a time) and egg yolk, whisking well after each addition. Add dry ingredients to pan with chocolate mixture and, using the whisk, gently but thoroughly combine until smooth. If desired, fold in walnuts or chips, using a rubber spatula.

4) To assemble brownies: If using peanut butter filling, pour 1/2 the brownie batter into the prepared baking dish and gently spread to each corner, using a rubber spatula. Peel off 1 sheet of waxed paper from filling and invert so filling sits directly on top of batter. Peel off the remaining piece of waxed paper and pour on remaining batter, spreading to enclose filling. If not using the filling, simply pour all of the batter into the prepared pan.

5) To bake and cool: Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick comes out almost clean when inserted in the center, 23 minutes (avoid overbaking). Place on a wire rack to cool thoroughly. Once cool, cover pan with aluminum foil and let sit at least 4 hours–preferably overnight. Then lift the brownie “cake” out of the pan (using the overhang of foil as a handle) and slice into 2-inch squares using a sharp knife. For easier slicing, wipe off any accumulated chocolate that clings to the knife after each cut.

6) To store: To best preserve moistness, store sliced brownies in an airtight tin separated by sheets of waxed paper or wrap each brownie in pliable plastic wrap. Either way, store at room temperature.

Timing is Everything:

• The peanut butter filling can be made 3 days ahead and kept in the refrigerator until needed. However, if the filling is very chilled, remove it from the refrigerator an hour before using so it won’t affect the overall baking time of the brownie mixture.

• As a time saver when assembling, sift the dry ingredients days ahead and leave in a covered bowl at room temperature. Give the mixture a good swish with the whisk before incorporating it into your batter.

 

Comments (3)

Pumpkin-Currant Loaves or Muffins

If you love pumpkin, you’ll adore these loaves–and muffins! If you have any questions about any tools mentioned, please visit the Kitchen Management, for clarification.

Tools needed:

  • Whisk (regular)
  • Whisk (batter whisk) or use a wide blending fork
  • 10 to 12-inch skillet
  • Two loaf pans (preferably nonstick), only if making loaves
  • One 12-muffin tin and one 6-muffin tin (preferably nonstick)
  • Muffin liners

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick vegetable spray
  • ½ cups dried currants, plumped in 1/2 cup very hot water or apple juice for 10 minutes and drained
  • 2/3 cup raw, hulled pumpkin seeds (if making muffins, increase the seeds to 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, to sauté the pumpkin seeds (increase to 3 tablespoons if making muffins)
  • Kosher salt, to taste (optional)
  • 2 cups pure pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup flavorless vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar, for the batter, plus 2 tablespoons for the topping (if making muffins, increase the sugar for the topping to ½ cup)
  • 2/3 cup (firmly packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon maple extract (optional)
  • 3 1/2 cups Assorted Muffin Mix or see the end of this recipe
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, plus some for the topping, if desired
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg (preferably freshly grated) for the batter, plus some for the topping, if desired
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • Pinch ground cloves

1) To set up the tins and preheat the oven: Spray the tops of a nonstick 12-muffin tin and a 6 cup tin with vegetable spray and line the cups with paper liners. If making loaves, brush two 8 x 4-inch nonstick loaf pans with vegetable spray. For muffins, preheat the oven to 400oF or for loaves, preheat to 375oF. Both are baked with the rack on the center shelf.

(If baking loaves, they can sit side by side in one oven but, if making muffins, and if not working with a double oven, each tin will need to bake successively. Regardless, the oven rack should be in the center position.) After plumping the currants, drain them and set them aside.

2) To sauté the pumpkin seeds and to make the topping: Sauté the correct amount of pumpkin seeds in the butter, stirring constantly, until very fragrant and deeply toasted, about 5 minutes. Drain the seeds on doubled paper towels and, if desired, sprinkle them lightly with kosher salt. Allow them to cool. Chop the toasted seeds into small but irregular pieces and, if making loaves, take two tablespoons of the seeds and place them into a plastic bag with 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar and, if desired, add a few shakes of cinnamon and a bit of ground nutmeg. Roll over the sugar-nut mixture to crush the nuts and to combine with the sugar and spices. (If making muffins mix ½ cup of the seeds with ½ cup of sugar, some cinnamon and nutmeg, then roll over them to crush.)

3) To assemble the batter and make loaves or muffins: Whisk together the dry mix and the listed spices in a 5-quart mixing bowl and set aside. Using a whisk, combine the pumpkin, buttermilk, oil, eggs, white and brown sugars, maple syrup and the vanilla and maple extract. When well mixed, add the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and, using either a batter whisk or a wide blending fork, combine the mixture gently but thoroughly (check for dry pockets, using a rubber spatula). Using a large, sturdy rubber spatula, fold in the drained currants with the remaining ½ cup of toasted pumpkin seeds.

4) If making loaves, divide the batter between both pans and smooth the top with an off-set spatula. If making muffins, use a medium-size ice cream scoop or a large spoon to divide the batter between the cups, filling to the top, mounding slightly (use all of the batter). Sprinkle the tops of the loaves or muffins generously with the topping.

5) To bake loaves: Place the pans into the preheated oven, with 2 to 3 inches in between them, and immediately reduce the temperature to 350F. Bake the loaves for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the golden and a tester comes out clean.

6) To bake muffins: Working with one tin at a time, place the 12-muffin tin into the center of a preheated 400oF and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 375oF and bake for 5 minutes. Insert a tester deep into the top center of a random muffin and, if it comes out clean, remove the tin from the oven. If there are still moist crumbs clinging to the tester, reduce the temperature to 325oF and bake 5 to 7 minutes more (when done, in addition to a tester coming out clean, the tops should be golden and crisp). Remove the tin from the oven and place it on a rack. Before placing the second tin into the oven, increase the oven temperature to 400F and wait 10 minutes.

7) To cool and unmold: When done, remove the muffins or loaves from the oven and place their pans on a wire rack for a few minutes, then use a knife to run down the sides of the loaf pans to help free them. For muffins, either carefully lift each one out of the tin and place on the rack or, if any muffins tops have merged during baking, use a knife to cut in between them. To unmold the loaves, place a piece of wax paper on top of each loaf and invert it onto another wire rack. Invert once more, so the loaf is right side up. Discard the paper.

8) To store cooled muffins or loaves: Wrap each loaf or each muffin in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. Both will stay perfectly moist for several days and can be frozen, well wrapped, for 2 months.

If you don’t have the pre-assembled muffin mix:

Per each batch (of loaves or muffins) you’ll need: 3 1/2 cups bleached flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon all spice and a pinch of cloves. Combine these ingredients well, using a whisk, then follow the previous instructions.

Timing is Everything:

• If you’ve made your muffin mix ahead of time, you’re well ahead of the game!

Comments (1)

Buzzed Blondies

Although their color is actually less “blond” and more tawny, their vibrant “coffee-intense” taste and incredibly moist texture makes these squares better than good—they’re amazing!

Special Equipment:

  • 9 x 13-inch baking pan

Ingredients:

  • Melted butter for the pan, plus 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter (12 tablespoons), for the batter
  • 1 ¼ cups (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder (or less, to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
  • ½ cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine table salt
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
  • 1 scant cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts or a combination, not too small, not too big)

1) To set up: Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with nonstick aluminum foil, dull side up (with a two-inch overhang on each short side) and brush the foil with melted butter. Preheat the oven to 350F. If using a convection mode reduce the oven temperature to 325F (same if using a glass baking pan).

2) To make the batter: Heat 1 ½ sticks of butter in a medium saucepan and, when almost fully melted, add the brown sugar. Heat the butter, sugar and corn syrup together and combine with a whisk. When homogenous, remove from the stove and stir in the instant espresso and vanilla. Let cool until just warm. Meanwhile, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. Sift this into another bowl. Beat the eggs lightly in another bowl and, when the sugar mixture is just warm, stir in the eggs—then add the flour mixture and combine, using a batter whisk. Fold in the chocolate and nuts.

3) To bake: Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Place the pan into the preheated oven and bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and the top feels “just set” but still soft (avoid over-baking). Remove from the oven and let the blondie-cake cool on a wire rack—then lift the cake out of the pan and use a sharp knife to cut the slab into small squares.

Comments (0)

Pate Brisée: Favorite Pie and Tart Pastry

Special Equipment

  • Food processor or a sturdy hand-held pastry blender
  • Electric spice grinder (for savory purposes) or a mortar and pestle
  • Wide blending fork (for the hand method)
  • Either a wooden surface or marble surface or a rubber baking mat, for rolling the dough
  • Tapered wooden rolling pin
  • 9, 10 or 11-inch pie plate or tart pan with removable bottom
  • Dried beans, rice or commercial pie weights

For the dough:

  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 (slightly rounded) teaspoon salt
  • 2 rounded tablespoons sugar, for desserts or 2 teaspoons sugar, for savory pastry
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes and frozen
  • 1/4 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, pulled into bits
  • 1/2 cup ice-cold water, as needed

1) To assemble dry ingredients: Place flour, salt and sugar in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process to combine and lighten them. Or, combine in a mixing bowl using a whisk. If making a savory pie, whisk herbs or seeds into the dry ingredients now.

2) To cut in butter and shortening: Drop diced cold butter and shortening bits into dry ingredients. Pulse machine until mixture resembles coarse meal. If using a hand-held pastry blender, incorporate butter and shortening until mixture reaches the desired consistency.

3) To add liquid, if using a food processor: While machine is running, pour in ice water in a slow steady stream, until the mixture in the bowl just starts to mass together. Stop machine and test several areas by gently pinching a piece of dough with your fingers; it should feel moist, but not wet, and should hold together. Avoid over-processing or the pastry will be tough. If dough seems too dry or mealy, drizzle on a little more water to those dry areas. And be sure to check several areas of the dough before adding more liquid.

4) To add liquid, if using hand method: Drizzle in ice water and toss gently with a wide blending fork. As each section becomes moistened, gently shove that part to one side of the bowl as you continue to moisten the rest. (See preceding step for judging moistness of dough.)

5) To wrap and chill the dough: Dump the dough out on to a large criss-cross of plastic wrap and place the exposed ends of the wrap over the dough. Flatten the dough into a disc and, after wrapping it securely, chill the dough for 1 hour (or up to 2 days) before using. This dough also freezes perfectly for 2 months when wrapped and placed in a labeled heavy-duty freezer bag.

6) To roll out dough: Remove dough from refrigerator and, if very cold, let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. If using a pastry cloth, lay it out on your work surface and rub some all-purpose flour into the exposed surface. Lay dough on the cloth or a lightly floured work surface or between 2 sheets of waxed paper. Roll out dough 1/8 inch thick and at least 1 inch larger than the pie plate or tart pan.

7) To line pie pan: Roll up pastry loosely on a lightly floured rolling pin and carefully unroll it onto the pie plate. Alternatively, invert the rolled pastry into an empty pie pan and peel off the wax paper. Brush off any excess flour, then turn the overhang of dough underneath itself to reinforce the sides. Crimp the rim decoratively. Lightly dock (prick) dough all over the interior including the sides and cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Refrigerate or freeze for 1 hour before baking.

8) To pre-bake partially pastry shell: If using a tart pan, place a shallow baking sheet into the center of the oven (this makes it easier to remove the pan from the oven after baking). Preheat the oven to 400o F. Line the interior of the shell with aluminum foil (shiny side down). Fill foil with dried beans or pie weights and, if the pastry is frozen, bake for 15 minutes (10 minutes, if refrigerated). Carefully lift out foil and weights and lightly prick the interior again. Reduce oven temperature to 375o F and bake 10 minutes more. The crust should appear to be lightly cooked and only just starting to brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Timing is Everything

The pastry (whether sweet or savory) can be made and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or wrapped in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil, sealed in a heavy-duty freezer bag and frozen for 2 months. Make sure to label and date the package before freezing. To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight, keeping the pastry in its original wrapping.

The pastry can be rolled and placed in a pie or tart pan 1 week ahead and kept frozen. Cover gently but efficiently with plastic wrap and slip pan into a jumbo freezer bag. Seal the bag. Do not thaw before pre-baking.

Watch the Video.

Comments (0)

Jumbo Coconut Macaroons

Incredibly chewy, moist, sweet and yet nutty, these macaroons have always been a huge hit. Actually, when entertaining, this is one of my most requested recipes. Although these are perfect for Passover, don’t be surprised if you find yourself craving them (and making them) all year long! Any time I’ve mentioned an unfamiliar culinary term or tool, please go to Kitchen Management for more information. 

Special Equipment

  • 2 or 3 cookie sheets: preferably “cushioned” kind
  • Parchment paper
  • Food processor
  • Electric mixer (large capacity) with wire whip attachment
  • Medium size ice cream scoop (with 1/4 cup liquid capacity)

Ingredients

  • 5 slightly rounded cups dried (desiccated) unsweetened coconut (from your health food store)
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided 1 1/4 and 1 cup
  • 7 extra-large egg whites (1 ¼ cups)
  • Pinch of table salt
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut, plus an additional 2 generous cups for the shaping process

1) To set up: Line 2 or 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350F.

2) To grind unsweetened coconut: Put desiccated coconut into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and add 1 1/4 cups sugar. Grind until mixture is finely ground and well combined.

3) To beat egg whites: Place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer. Place a skillet with 1-inch of very hot (but not simmering) water in it, over low heat. Place bowl with egg whites into skillet and whisk constantly until the temperature of the whites is brought up to just tepid (very warm to the touch). Stop frequently to check temperature: (To do this, stop whisking and remove bowl from skillet and test with your finger.) When whites are warm and frothy, attach bowl to the electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Add a pinch of salt to the whites and whip at high speed until starting to become white and thick. With machine running, add remaining 1 cup sugar in a steady stream and continue to beat until thick and shiny. Add 3 tablespoons corn syrup and both extracts and continue to beat until stiff (mixture will look like thick, shiny, melted marshmallow).

4) To complete macaroon batter: Remove bowl from machine and, using a sturdy rubber spatula, fold in the ground coconut-sugar mixture along with 2 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut. (Depending on the size of your electric-mixing bowl, will probably need transfer beaten whites into a larger bowl before folding in coconuts.) Combine gently but thoroughly.

5) To finish assembling: Using a small-to-medium ice cream scoop (with no more than a 1/4 cup liquid capacity), scoop leveled portions of macaroon batter onto prepared baking sheets, in 3 rows of three per each sheet. (If you ever find it difficult to release the batter from the scoop, knock the filled scoop against the sheet, then pull the release trigger. Wipe out interior and begin again.) Place a good pinch of the additional 2 cups shredded coconut on top of each mound, spreading gently to cover. If you want to correct the shape of your mound, just use your fingers to gently prop-up and round each portion of batter, which is very soft. (The outside coconut will allow you to manipulate and reshape mound without sticking to your hands. Unbaked macaroons should look nice and plump with rounded domed tops, all covered with shredded coconut.)

6) To bake: Place macaroons in preheated 350F oven and immediately turn the heat down to 325F. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until light golden brown on the outside but still somewhat soft on the inside. Let sheet sit on wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes before using a thin metal spatula to remove cookies to a wire rack to cool thoroughly. (If you have one oven, bake two sheets simultaneously using the upper and lower third shelf positions. Switch shelf positions after half the baking time. If you only have 2 cookie sheets, after baking first two sheets, run under cold water to cool before lining with fresh parchment and baking the remaining batter.)

Timing is Everything:

Although I like to serve macaroons within 24 hours of baking, they stay absolutely perfect for a week when stored in an airtight tin, separated by sheets of wax paper, or simply on a platter, covered well with plastic wrap.

Comments (2)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

If you’re looking for a do-ahead, totally delicious nibble when you just gotta have a “little something” really sweet–oh, baby, this is for you! Smooth, rich, textural, luscious–everything you’d expect from a chocolate truffle PLUS it’s got the added taste of peanut butter! Although keeping them in the refrigerator will protect them, longevity-wise, you should take some out early in the day you plan to eat them (or when you want to give some as a gift, so they soften.  When shaping, although it’s tempting to make them perfectly round–it’s much more whimsical (and sexier looking) when they are allowed to be a bit irregularly shaped–so they resemble a real truffle that was just pulled from the earth!

Yield: 30 to 50

Special Equipment

  • Medium-mesh sieve
  • Triple mesh sieve or a sifter
  • Food processor to grind wafer cookies and nuts (If unavailable, place nuts in separate heavy plastic bags and run a rolling pin or wine bottle over them to crush evenly.)
  • Small triggered scoop, to create truffles (use a spoon as an alternative)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (commercially prepared)
  • 24 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (chocolate chips are fine)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Goobers for truffle center, optional
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup finely ground chocolate wafer cookies (by Nabisco)
  • 1/2 cup finely ground cocktail peanuts

1) To prepare chocolate-peanut butter mixture and chill: Heat the cream with the peanut butter in a 1-quart heavy bottomed saucepan. Use a whisk to break up peanut butter so it melts evenly and becomes homogeneous with the cream. Meanwhile, melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. When the chocolate is melted and the peanut butter mixture is smooth, combine both, first using a sturdy rubber spatula, then with a wooden spoon and, finally, with a whisk. Force through a medium-mesh sieve into another bowl, using the rubber spatula. Stir in vanilla. Let cool, then cover and chill  3 to 4 hours (or overnight).

2) To up to shape and coat truffles: Whisk powdered sugar and cocoa together, then sift into another bowl to combine thoroughly. Grind chocolate wafer cookies in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Place into a bowl. Add peanuts to the work bowl and pulse to grind the nuts small, allowing them retain a bit of their texture. Line a large baking sheet or tray with wax paper or 30 to 50 1-inch paper candy cups (yield will depend on the size of your scoop used to shape truffle).

3) To shape truffles: If very chilled, let mixture sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes to soften slightly (or stick in the microwave for 30 seconds). Scoop or spoon out small portions of the chilled truffle mixture and place a few into the bowls of toppings. (If desired, after scooping, push one or two “Goobers” through the side, into center of the mixture.)  Roll half the amount of the truffles in the cocoa mixture and the ground cookie/nut mixture, allowing them to retain a slightly irregular shape. Place in candy cups. Continue scooping and coating the remaining truffles.

4) To store: Place in a decorative tin or gift box, separated by sheets of wax paper or decorative foil. Keep chilled to maintain best flavor but allow truffles to come to room temperature, to enjoy best texture.

Comments (0)

Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler

Straddling the fence between the essence of summer and the coziness of autumn, this dessert is just killer good. This is not a traditional cobbler, though, which bakes raw biscuit dough on top of a fruit filling. Here, I bake the biscuits separately until golden, and then I plant them in the bubbling fruit mixture and continue baking. Doing this keeps the biscuits crisp on the undersides instead of just on top, making the dish over-the-top great in both taste and texture.

Jessie was my very first taster and I got the "thumbs up!"

When making the biscuit topping, remember that this is not a yeast dough, which requires tough and persistent kneading by the cook to create proper crumb-structure. With biscuits, you’ll handle the dough much more gently. For the tenderest biscuits, each kneading movement must be lighthearted and superficial, with the goal of just making the dough cohesive enough to be rolled (or patted) out. And, homemade biscuits are usually a bit irregularly shaped after baking. Resist the temptation to work the dough aggressively, in the hopes of making the dough very smooth. Trust me, most people would take a lopsided biscuit over a tough one any day.

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management for more information.

Special Equipment:

  • Reamer or other juicing device
  • Small sieve to strain juice
  • 3 1/2-quart, oven-to-table baking dish, preferably with a lid
  • Parchment paper
  • Flat cookie sheet (not cushioned)
  • Food processor or a hand-held pastry blender
  • Biscuit cutter (2-1/2 inches, preferably fluted)
  • Pastry brush

Ingredients:

For the fruit:

  • 4 cups rinsed, drained, hulled and sliced strawberries (sliced 1/3-inch thick)
  • 4 cups sliced rhubarb (sliced 1/3-inch thick)
  • 3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
  • 2 slightly rounded cups sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes

For the biscuit topping

  • 2 cups Baking Powder Biscuit Mix (or see the end of this recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, to add to the dry mix and more, as needed, for sprinkling
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 1/3 cups heavy cream, plus a bit more, if needed, for brushing the tops
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Additional unbleached, all-purpose flour, as needed

To set up: If working with a double oven, preheat one to 350F with the rack in the center and the second oven to 425F, in the lower third. If working with oneoven, have the racks in the upper and lower thirds and preheat to 400F.

To assemble the fruit: Place the sliced strawberries and rhubarb in a nonreactive bowl and add thelemon juice, sugar and cornstarch. Stir well and allow the mixture to sit for 20 to 30 minutes, too help the sugar dissolve and theberries to render their juice. (The sugar will not fully dissolve but will become wet, slushy and much less granular.) Add a pinch of salt and then fold in the 3 tablespoons of cubed butter. Transfer this to a 3 1/2-quart oven-to-table baking dish.

To cook the fruit: Place the dish in center of the 350F oven (or in theupper section of the 400F oven, with a cover slightly ajar (if there is no formal cover for the dish, place a piece of parchment paper loosely over the top. If baking at 350F, bake for 1 hour, thenremove the cover and continue baking for 15 more minutes. If baking at 400F, bake for 45 minutes, thenremove the cover and continue baking for 15 more minutes.

Ok, while the fruit is in the oven, assemble and bake the biscuits…

To assemble the dough: Place the biscuit mix into either a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add theextra tablespoon of sugar and whisk (or whirl) together to lighten. Add the cubed butter and, if not using a machine, cut the butter into the dry mix, using a hand-held pastry cutter or your fingertips. If using a food processor, pulse the diced butter with the dry mix. Either way, blend until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Whisk the vanilla into thecream and pour all but a tablespoon of the cream into the bowl ofdry ingredients. (Reserve the little bit of cream in the cup.)

a) If working with a food processor: After adding the cream to the work bowl, give it several quick pulses, just until the dry mix is thoroughly moistened and able to be turned out and handled.

b) If making biscuits by hand: Use a wide blending fork to gently but thoroughly combine the wet and dry ingredients without overworking the mixture. As some of the flour becomes moistened by the cream, push thatsection of the dough to one side of the bowl and continue, until the dough resembles a moist, shapeless mass. (If dough seems too dry, add theremaining tablespoon or so of cream.)

To cut biscuits: Turn the mass out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it very gently, about 8 or 9 times, until it holds together (see theintroduction of this recipe formore information.) Using a wooden rolling pin, or a lightly floured hand, roll or pat the dough out to a thickness of about 1 1/2-inches. Using a floured 2-1/2 inch biscuit cutter, cut out as manyrounds as possible, using a “straight down, up and out” motion. Lay the rounds on the prepared baking sheet and gather the scraps so you can gently knead them just to smooth the surface. Pat or roll the dough out again and cut out more rounds. You should be able to get 8 thick biscuits.

To bake the biscuits: Brush the tops of the biscuits with whatever cream is left clinging to the bottom of the cup (you might need to add a bit more) and then sprinkle the tops evenly with sugar. Place the sheet either into the center of the preheated 425F oven or on the bottom of the oven with the fruit (which would be at 400F if baking together) and bake until risen high and golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. (The biscuits will need the longer baking time, if baked at thelower temperature.) Remove the sheet from the oven and place the biscuits on a wire rack, allowing them to cool while the fruit continues to cook. If using the higher temperature to bake the fruit, once the biscuits are out of the oven, reduce the temperature to 350F.

To assemble the cobbler: Once the fruit has cooked covered for the specified time and then uncovered for the last 15 minutes, open the oven and place the biscuits on top of the hot fruit (which, by now, should have thickened and should be bubbly). Push the biscuits down into the fruit so half of them is submerged and the other half is fully exposed. The biscuits should have a bit of space in between them. Continue to bake the cobbler for 15 more minutes.

To serve: Allow the cobblerto cool to just warm and servewith sweetened crème fraiche. You can also bake earlier in the day and then reheat in a preheated 350F, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes, just to warm things up.

If you don’t havethe pre-assembled biscuit mix:

For each batch of biscuits, mix 2 leveled cups unbleached, all-purpose flour with1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 tablespoons sugar and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Whisk well and follow the previous recipe instructions above. (Note: there is an extra tablespoon of sugar being added to the dough for these particular biscuits.)

SHOPPING LIST FOR STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB COBBLER

From the supermarket shelf:

  • Granulated sugar
  • Unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • Cornstarch
  • Baking powder (double-acting)
  • Kosher salt
  • Pure vanilla extract

From the produce aisle:

  • About 2 dry pints strawberries
  • About 4 large stalks rhubarb
  • Lemons (for juice)

From the dairy case:

  • Unsalted butter
  • Heavy cream (preferably not ultra-pasteurized)

Comments (0)

Sticky Date Cake with (or Without) Toasted Pecan Toffee Sauce and Crème

If you like a dessert that’s really sweet, with incredible texture variation, this one is for you! I have to say that this is probably one of the most soothing cakes I’ve ever eaten and it stays moist for days…although it won’t last that long. Please make every effort to purchase best-quality, dried dates for this cake. You want supple Medjool dates, not the pre-chopped kind in a box from the supermarket.

Also, I’ve provided, at the end of this recipe, a delicious Orange-Scented, Cream Cheese Frosting, which is an excellent alternative to the toffee sauce and crème fraiche topping (it’s also great on chocolate cupcakes!!)

Special Equipment:

  • 9 x 9-inch by 2-inch deep cake pan
  • Parchment paper
  • Food processor

Ingredients for the cake:

  • Melted butter, as needed, for brushing the pan, plus 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ (packed) sliced very supple dried Medjool dates (from a bit less than 1 ¼ pounds), halved, pitted and sliced
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • Scant ½ teaspoon table salt
  • ¾ cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs (large or extra-large), made tepid from being submerged in hot tap water (in their shells) for 10 minutes
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the optional sauce and crème fraiche topping:

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • ¾ cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup crème fraiche, whisked with ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract and superfine sugar, to taste (or cold heavy cream, whipped stiff with sugar and vanilla can be substituted, for a topping with less tang)

To set up: Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease the interior of a 9-inch square baking pan (2 inches deep). Line the bottom of the pan with a square of parchment and grease the paper. (To make a square of parchment, turn the pan over and place the paper over the bottom of the pan. Cut out a square to match the bottom.) Place the eggs into a bowl of hot tap water and let them steep, so they loose their chill, for about 10 minutes.

To soak the dates: Place the sliced dates in a bowl. Whisk the baking soda into the boiling water and pour over the dates. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. (If the dates are not as supple, let them steep for 10 to 15 minutes.)

To make the cake batter: Place the cake flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and whisk well to lighten and fully combine. Pour the dates (with the water) into the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the steel blade, and process until smooth. Add the brown sugar and butter and process until homogeneous. Add the eggs and vanilla and process until fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture and pulse until just combined.

To bake: Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and place into the center of the preheated oven. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. (I use a convection mode and my cake bakes perfectly in 35 minutes.) Let the cake cool on a wire rack and then cut into squares.

To toast the pecans for the toffee sauce, if using: Place a doubled paper towel on a plate near your work surface. Place 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 10-inch skillet, over medium-high heat and, when melted and bubbling, add the chopped nuts. Stir the nuts constantly, until they become lightly toasted and fragrant, in the melted butter. Pour the nuts onto the paper towels.

To make the toffee sauce: Place the remaining butter (4 tablespoons) into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the brown sugar, corn syrup and cream. Whisk until smooth and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn to low and simmer for 4 minutes, then remove from the stove and whisk in the vanilla and salt. Stir in the toasted pecans. Serve now or allow to cool (or chill) until needed. If well-chilled, rewarm fully in a doubled boiler or in the microwave until warmed and able to be ladled.

To serve: Cut the cake into squares and spoon a small amount of toffee sauce over the top. Top the sauce with a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraiche that’s been whisked with some superfine sugar to taste and a bit of vanilla.

Here’s an alternative topping: Orange-Scented Cream-Cheese Frosting:

  • 12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (1 1/2 eight-ounce blocks, not whipped cream cheese)
  • 1 1/2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange flavor or extract
  • 1 generous teaspoon finely minced orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups sifted confectioners sugar (sift before measuring)
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream, only if needed to correct consistency

To prepare the frosting: Cream together cream cheese and softened butter until very smooth, using an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Add orange flavor and vanilla extract and zest and mix well until totally free of lumps. Beat in the confectioner’s sugar, in small increments, mixing until smooth, thick and silky looking. (Always start the machine on low, pulsing, until the sugar is just incorporated, then increase your mixing speed). The consistency should be light enough to spread, but thick enough to hold it’s shape when piped. If the frosting ever gets too stiff, just beat in the sour cream. Cover well and refrigerate. If very chilled, let sit out for a few minutes, then beat it again to lighten the texture.

To apply the frosting: Use a medium metal icing spatula to spread a thin, even layer of frosting to the top of the cooled cake. Then, add more frosting to the top and, using the tip of the spatula, make swirls, or swooping peaks. Alternatively, fill a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip ¾ full with the frosting and, once you cut the cake into squares, pipe a decorative swirl on top.

Leftover frosting stays good for a week in the fridge. Allow to come to room temperature and beat again, with the paddle attachment, to return it to the correct consistency.

Comments (1)

Snowy-Nut Butter Buttons

These button-shaped cookies have a sultry texture and a rich, amazing flavor that makes them one of my absolute favorites. However, you might want to read some important factors, when making a cookie that relies heavily on the integrity of nuts!

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management for more information.

Special Equipment

  • Cushioned cookie sheets (use an inverted heavy aluminum baking sheet with 1-inch sides as a substitute
  • Cookie scoop: measuring 2 liquid tablespoons
  • Food process
  • Electric mixer with paddle attachment

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon double acting baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine table salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar (packed)
  • 3 tablespoons mild-flavored honey
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (pancake syrup is fine)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups finely chopped toasted macadamia nuts (pulse in a food processor but don’t over-process or you’ll end up with nut-butter)
  • 2 to 2 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar (regular or vanilla-scented)

1) Make cookie batter and chill: Using a whisk, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream butter with brown sugar, honey, maple syrup and vanilla, until smooth. Add chopped nuts and, when smooth, turn machine to lowest position and add flour mixture. Combine well. Use a rubber spatula to go way down to the bottom of bowl to incorporate any wet pockets. Cover bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours (or overnight).

2) To get ready: Position oven rack to upper and lower third shelves. (Or, if working with a double oven, have one on the center shelf.) Preheat oven(or ovens) to 325oF. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Lay sheets of waxed paper on your counter and position cookie racks over paper. Sift powdered sugar into a bowl and set aside.

3) To bake: Use a cookie scoop to scoop level portions of chilled dough. Release into your hand and roll into a walnut-sized round. (If not using a cookie scoop, use a tablespoon and form balls of directed proportion.) Place balls 2 inches apart on prepared cookies sheets. You should have 12 to 13 cookies per sheet. Place sheets into preheated oven and immediately turn heat down to 300 F. Bake 15 minutes, then switch positions of cookie sheets. Continue to bake until light golden but not overly brown on the bottom, 10 to 15 minutes more.

4) To apply sugar (twice): Remove sheets from oven and place on a wire rack, allowing the cookies to cool for 5 minutes. When cookies are just cool enough to handle (using a thin metal spatula), remove cookies to wire racks. Then, one at a time, lay cookies in powdered sugar, turning to coat each one, on all sides, in the sugar. Place back on the rack, as you continue with the remaining cookies. Let cool completely on wire racks. (At this point, the appearance of the cookies will appear gummy–which is fine.) Once cool, roll each cookie once more in the remaining powdered sugar. Replace on racks for an hour or so, until sugar is set and cookies are perfectly cool.

5) To store: Use a thin metal spatula to lift and transfer cookies to an airtight tin, separated by sheets of wax paper and store at room temperature. If needed, just before serving, sift a bit more powdered sugar on tops of cookies.


SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients: For Snowy Butter-Button Cookies:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon double acting baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine table salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar (packed)
  • 3 tablespoons mild-flavored honey
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (pancake syrup is fine)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups finely chopped toasted macadamia nuts (pulse in a food processor but don’t over-process or you’ll end up with nut-butter)
  • 2 to 2 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar (regular or vanilla-scented)

Comments (3)

Quick and Easy Ice Cream Birthday Cake

You’ll notice that throughout this recipe I’ve specified my favorite specialty “brand names” of cookies and candies and I kept things simple with vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream. This is only a guide. The ingredients you choose are strictly about the person being celebrated so pick those that would make them the happiest.

If you need more information about any of the cooking terms or equipment requested, just go to Kitchen Management.Special Equipment

  • 9-inch spring-form pan (for a larger crowd, use a 10 or 12-inch pan)
  • Food processor (optional)
  • Electric mixer or a balloon whisk and wide shallow bowl
  • Metal icing spatula, preferably with an elbow bend
  • Pastry bag with star tip
  • Cardboard cake box (optional), for freezing

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Nabisco thin chocolate wafers
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 pints each best-quality vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream, softened to a spread-able (but not soupy) consistency
  • 4 large Butterfinger bars, crumbled (whack with a can or meat mallet while still wrapped)
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed Oreo cookies (regular or fudge-covered)
  • 1 recipe Perfect Whipped Cream (see recipe)
  • Optional Toppings (below are just a couple of suggestions)
  • Assorted colored sprinkles (also called “Jimmies”)
  • Cake decorating gel
  • Chopped dry-roasted peanuts (salted or not)
  • M&M’s candies (regular or peanut filled)

1) To prepare cookie crust: Put chocolate wafers in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and grind them fine. Alternatively, place broken up cookies (in batches) in a heavy-duty plastic bag and roll over them with a rolling pin until finely crushed. Transfer crumbs to another bowl and whisk in cinnamon, if using. Add melted butter, mixing with a fork until thoroughly blended. Press a thin layer of crumbs on the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch spring-form pan, using all of the crumbs. Place pan in freezer to firm up crust while ice cream continues to soften to a spread-able consistency.

2)To set up to assemble cake: Line a shallow baking sheet with waxed paper and place chilled crust on the tray. Squeeze vanilla ice cream out of its containers onto the bottom of the crust. Using a metal spatula and your hands, spread the softened ice cream evenly over the bottom of the crust. (Dip your hands in the hot water as necessary but always dry them thoroughly before continuing.) Cover ice cream with crumbled Butterfinger bars, pressing gently. Spread chocolate ice cream over crumbs and cover with crushed Oreos, again pressing gently. Cover crushed cookies with strawberry ice cream and smooth the top with a metal spatula. Place into the freezer to firm for 4 hours.

3) To top the cake:Prepare Perfect Whipped Cream (following) as directed in recipe. Spread 2/3 of the whipped cream over the top of cake and reserve the rest for a decorative border. (For smoothest surface, spread only once, in one direction, and then scrape off excess whipped cream into the bowl. Continue spreading and scraping until surface is perfectly smooth.) Return cake to the freezer for a minimum of 20 minutes, just to firm the whipped cream.

4) To decorate the cake: Fit your pastry bag with a star tip and fill bag with remaining whipped cream. Remove cake from freezer and pipe on a simple swirled border around its circumference. If desired, sprinkle border with some colored sprinkles. Return to freezer to firm for 4 hours, uncovered (or freeze for several days). Once very firm, you can cover the cake with plastic wrap. The day of serving, write a message on top with decorating gel and/or sprinkle the inside of the piped whipped cream with another thin border of crushed unsalted peanuts or a ring of M&M’s.

5) To freeze and store the cake with a written message: Either purchase a cardboard cake box from a bakery or stick toothpicks in the border of whipped cream (to camouflage the holes) and drape aluminum foil loosely over the top. This will help prevent freezer burn.

6) To remove the spring-form sides and serve: When cake is thoroughly frozen, dip a dish towel in very hot water and wring it out. Place the hot towel around the sides of the pan to help release it from the crust. Unlatch lock and ease off sides. Return cake to freezer. To serve, remove cake from freezer 30 to 40 minutes before serving to enable it to become softened enough to cut into wedges. Present the cake whole and cut into wedges at the table.

For a 10-inch cake:
Increase the cookie crumbs (for the crust) to: 1 ½ boxes of chocolate wafers, mixed with 1 ½ sticks of melted, unsalted butter. Increase the amount of ice cream, per layer, to 2 pints. Use a bit more cookies and candies in between the layers and keep the whipped cream topping the same.

For a 12-inch cake:
Increase the cookie crumbs (for the crust) to 2 boxes of chocolate wafers, mixed with 2 sticks of melted unsalted butter. Increase the amount of ice cream, per layer, to 3 pints. Use a bit more cookies and candies in between the layers and increase the whipped cream topping, as follows: Whip 3 cups heavy cream with 2/3 cup sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.

To fill a pastry bag: The star tip should first be inserted into the bag and secured in place. Place the bag with the tip facing down into a tall drinking glass. When the tip hits the bottom of the glass, fold the remainder of the bag down over the outside rim of the cup. Fill the inside of the bag with the filling. Alternatively, you may simply cuff the top portion of the bag over your left hand (if you are right handed) and fill the bag with your right hand. The glass method is particularly good for the beginner and when filling a pastry bag in advance of a procedure so the bag can stand upright without the contents spilling out.

Timing is Everything:

* The cake can be assembled two weeks ahead through step 4 and, after being fully frozen, covered with plastic wrap until the day of serving, which is when you’ll write your “celebratory message” on top.

See recipe for Perfect Whipped Cream

SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients

  • 1 box Nabisco thin chocolate wafers
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 pints each best-quality vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream, softened to a spread-able (but not soupy) consistency (or choose three favorite flavors)
  • 4 large Butterfinger bars, crumbled (whack with a can or meat mallet while still wrapped)
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed Oreo cookies (regular or fudge-covered)
  • 1 recipe Perfect Whipped Cream (see recipe)
  • Optional Toppings (below are just a couple of suggestions)
  • Assorted colored sprinkles (also called “Jimmies”)
  • Cake decorating gel
  • Chopped dry-roasted peanuts (salted or not)
  • M&M’s candies (regular or peanut filled)

From the supermarket shelf:

  • Nabisco chocolate wafer cookies
  • Cinnamon
  • Assorted cookies and candy: Oreos, Butterfinger bars, Jimmies, M & M’s (plain or peanut-filled), roasted nuts, etc.
  • Cake decorating gel
  • Candles
  • Pure vanilla extract

From the frozen-food section:

  • 2 pints each of 3 different flavors of ice cream

From the dairy case:

  • Unsalted butter
  • Heavy cream for whipping

Comments (5)

Pumpkin Custard Torte, with a Ganache Top, Garnished with Crushed Toasted Pepita Praline & Chocolate Leaves

Whether for Thanksgiving or Christmas, this dessert is—to put it bluntly– drop-dead gorgeous!

More importantly, the flavor and texture combination of the creamy pumpkin custard, the bittersweet chocolate ganache topping and the cookie crumb crust is just sensational. And, just to guild the lily, the top border is sprinkled with crunchy pepita (pumpkin-seed) praline and the top center is decorated with overlapping, life-like chocolate leaves. Although this recipe is “involved,” every single component of the torte is completely do-ahead, making it unusually easy to pull this truly impressive dessert together.

See, I told you it was gorgeous!

Special Equipment:

  • 10 inch cake pan, 2-inches deep
  • Parchment paper
  • Electric mixer with a paddle attachment
  • Nutmeg grater (optional)
  • Small pastry brush or feather brush for making chocolate leaves

For the cookie crust:

  • Vegetable oil spray, as needed
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • One 9-ounce box Nabisco chocolate wafer cookies, (less about 5 cookies)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped

For the pumpkin custard filling:

  • One 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened and at total room temperature (not at all chilled)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup (pure or pancake syrup)
  • 2 cups fresh pumpkin puree (see instructions at the end of this recipe) or use a 1-pound can of solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon Cookie Spice Blend, or see the end of this recipe
  • 6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon natural maple extract (omit if unavailable)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (increase to 1 1/2 teaspoons if not using maple extract)
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

For the chocolate leaves:

  • 16 ounces chopped chocolate (use any combination of bittersweet and semisweet)
  • 2 generous teaspoons solid vegetable shortening
  • 20 to 30 lemon leaves (in a variety of sizes), from your local flower shop

For the pepita praline:

  • 1 cup hulled raw pumpkin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons Clarified Butter
  • Flavorless vegetable oil, as needed, for brushing
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the ganache top:

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon flavorless vegetable oil

1) To set up: Line the bottom of a 10-inch cake pan (2 inches deep) with a round of parchment paper and spray the paper and the sides of the pan with vegetable oil spray. Preheat the oven to 350oF, with the rack in the center shelf position. Fill a tea kettle and turn it on. When the water boils, turn it to a simmer, until needed.

2) To prepare the crust: Finely grind the chocolate wafer cookies either in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, or place the cookies in an unsealed heavy-duty plastic bag, and roll over them with a rolling pin. Combine 2 cups of the cookie crumbs with the chopped nuts in a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the melted butter until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Turn the crumbs into the prepared cake pan and press them down firmly, covering the bottom evenly, without extending up the sides. Refrigerate the pan while you prepare the custard filling.

3) To make the filling: Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese until very smooth. Add the brown and white sugars and mix well. Add the maple syrup and, when well combined, add the pumpkin and the spice blend. When smooth, add the eggs, one at a time, combining well after each addition. Add the maple and vanilla extracts along with the heavy cream. When mixed, remove the cookie crust from the refrigerator and push the custard mixture through a medium-mesh wire sieve directly into the crust using a rubber spatula, leaving behind any stray bits of cream cheese in the sieve.

4) To bake: Fill a roasting pan with a scant 1-inch of simmering water from the kettle and transfer the pan to the preheated oven. Carefully carry the custard-filled cake pan to the oven and place it into the roasting pan. The water should come one-half to two-thirds up the sides of the pan, so pour in more simmering water, if needed. Bake the torte for 1 hour and check for doneness by inserting a knife into the top-center. When done, the blade should come out almost clean. The custard should jiggle a little bit, since it will set further when refrigerated, but, if very loose, bake longer, checking after every 5 minute interval. When done, carefully lift the cake pan out of the water and place it on a wire rack to become cool. Lay a doubled sheet of paper towel, pulled taut, over the torte, and then cover it with aluminum foil. Refrigerate the torte for 6 hours, or up to 2 days, before continuing.

5) To prepare the garnishes: While the custard chills, prepare the garnishes. (Be sure to check out my “Timing Tips” to make these garnishes way ahead so final assembly is a snap!)

6) For the chocolate leaves: Line a tray with wax paper and place it in the freezer. Pick out about 20 lemon leaves, in a variety of sizes, and wipe each one clean with a dampened paper towel. Use a dry paper towel to dry the leaves meticulously and lay them on your work surface. Melt the chocolate with the shortening in the top of a double boiler, or in a bowl that sits in a larger pan of barely simmering water, stirring constantly until smooth. Be careful not to allow any water to enter the bowl of chocolate, which would cause it to quickly stiffen, a process called “seizing.” When smooth, remove the melted chocolate from the stove and dry the bottom of the bowl.

Working with one leaf at a time, turn it so the visibly raised veins (the under-side) is facing up. Using a small paint brush, designated specifically for food purposes, carefully paint only the veined side with a generous layer of melted chocolate. Apply a slightly thicker layer of chocolate at the stem end, which will make it easier to unmold the leaves later. Use your finger to carefully wipe off the outer edges of the leaf and lay it, chocolate-side up, in the freezer, on the tray. Continue with the remaining leaves and allow them to remain in the freezer for 30 minutes to 1 hour before unmolding them.

To unmold, keep all the leaves in the freezer while working with one at a time. Lay a piece of paper towel on the palm of your nonworking hand. Lay the chocolate coated leaf on the paper towel, chocolate-side up, and, using the thumb and forefinger of your working hand, grasp the small exposed tip of the stem. Invert the leaf, chocolate-side down, and carefully lift and peel back the stem tip, separating the leaf from the chocolate. (The chocolate should be resting on the paper towel to keep the warmth of your hand from melting it.) Immediately place the leaf back in the freezer and continue unmolding the remaining leaves. (Although you won’t need all of the leaves for the torte, it’s best to make extra to allow for some breakage.)

7) To make the praline: Sauté the hulled pumpkin seeds in the melted clarified butter over medium heat, stirring constantly, until nicely toasted, about 3 minutes. Drain the seeds on paper towels, then place them in a bowl and toss them with the salt. Brush the interior of a shallow (preferably nonstick) baking sheet well, with flavorless vegetable oil and set it near the stove. Brush the blade of a long metal icing spatula or a table knife with some oil, as well, and place this next to the baking sheet. Place the sugar and 1/4 cup water into a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, preferably with a light-colored interior. Stir the mixture, just to help liquefy the sugar, without getting any sugar crystals on the side of the pan. Place a small cup of boiling water next to the stove and insert a pastry brush. Bring the sugar to a boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat, and let it bubble until it turns a deep amber color. If, as the mixture bubbles, any sugar jumps to the side of the saucepan, use the wet pastry brush to wash this away. When the correct color is achieved (it should look like a well-brewed cup of regular tea), remove the pan from the heat and stir in the pepitas and the vanilla.

Immediately, pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and, using the oiled spatula or knife, spread the praline so it has an even thickness. Place the pan on a wire rack and let the praline cool and harden completely, about 1 hour. When cool, lift off the praline and break it into irregular pieces. Place these pieces into a doubled heavy-duty freezer bag and, using a heavy mallet or a hammer, bust up the praline into very small pieces without pulverizing it. Alternatively, pulse the praline in a food processor, fitted with the steel blade, being careful not to turn it into dust. Transfer the praline to a bowl and set it aside.

8) When ready to fully assemble the torte, make the ganache topping:Position a medium-mesh sieve over a mixing bowl and set it aside. Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Heat 1/2 cup cream in a small saucepan over low heat and, when it comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for 1 minute, then stir the mixture until it’s very smooth. Stir in the vanilla and vegetable oil, and then force the ganache through the sieve, using a rubber spatula. Set it aside, until just warm.

9) To assemble the torte: If very chilled, remove the torte from the refrigerator 10 to 20 minutes before ready to unmold. Run the blade of a sharp knife around the circumference of the pan and place the bottom of the pan on a kitchen towel that’s been soaked in very hot water and wrung out. Leave it this way for 3 to 5 minutes. Place a piece of wax paper on top of the torte and place a flat cookie sheet or a tray over the paper. Invert the pan onto the tray and lift off the cake pan. (If stubborn, place the pan on the stove, over low heat, for a few seconds.) Remove and discard the parchment paper. Carefully center your serving platter on top of the exposed cookie crust and invert it, so the custard is facing up. Discard the wax paper.

If the ganache has become too stiff to pour, rewarm it briefly, either by placing the bowl in a skillet of hot water or, for several seconds in the microwave. Pour the ganache onto the centerof the baked custard. Using a long, metal icing spatula, spread the ganache over the custard, just shy of the edge of the torte, without letting the chocolate drip down the sides. Using either the jagged edge of a decorating comb or the tines of a fork, make decorative ridges or lines over the entire top, starting at the outer rim. As you do this, the ganache will naturally move toward the outer edge of custard. If the ganache starts to fall over the edge, use your icing spatula (or your finger) to push it back up, while smoothing the sides. Decorate the top rim with a border of crushed praline, and then lay several of the chocolate leaves, slightly overlapping, in the center, in the shape of a flower. Place a small mound of crushed praline in the eye of the flower, then cover the torte with a domed cake cover and refrigerate it, until 10 to 20 minutes before serving.

10) To serve: Present the torte whole, and then slice it into individual wedges, each accompanied by a chocolate leaf.

If you don’t have the pre-assembled spice blend:

Use 1 teaspoon each: ground cinnamon, ginger, and freshly grated nutmeg. Add 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.

Timing is Everything:

• The pumpkin custard torte can be baked up to two days ahead and, once cool, covered well and refrigerated.

• The praline can be made two weeks ahead and stored in the refrigerator in a sealed heavy-duty plastic container.

• The chocolate leaves can be made one month ahead and kept in the freezer, in an air-tight tin, separated by sheets of wax paper.

• Apply the praline and leaves to the top of the torte no more than 3 hours ahead and keep it refrigerated until 10 to 20 minutes before serving. Don’t keep the assembled torte in a hot kitchen, however, or the leaves can start to soften and lose their shape.

Here’s the Scoop: On Fresh Pumpkin Puree

Although most think that canned pumpkin is made from the very familiar orange-skinned sugar pumpkins, sold at Halloween, it’s not. Usually, the canned product is a combination of the sugar pumpkin and the Hubbard squash and the latter usually dominates, yielding a puree with a drier, slightly thicker consistency. Freshly cooked sugar pumpkin is softer with a more vibrant orange color than the Hubbard variety and the flavor is more delicate. In autumn, when they’re seasonally abundant, you can cook several small pumpkins and assemble two-cup containers of fresh pumpkin puree, which can substitute for a 1-pound can of pumpkin, and freeze it. And don’t limit its use to sweet desserts since pumpkin puree is a great addition to savory soups and pasta fillings.

For every 2 cups of pumpkin puree, you’ll need a 2-pound sugar pumpkin. Preheat the oven to 350oF. Scrub each pumpkin and wipe it dry. Using a sharp 8 to 10-inch chef’s knife, halve the pumpkin through stem end, by driving the knife blade into the flesh, to one side of stem. Pull the knife handle down, bringing the blade through the pumpkin, until it reaches the bottom end. Repeat this on the other side, and then pull the pumpkin apart. Break off the stem and discard it. Use a large spoon to remove all the seeds and stringy matter from the pumpkin cavity, and then cut each pumpkin half in half again, for 4 pieces in all.

Place 1/4 inch of hot water in the bottom of a glass baking dish, large enough to fit the pumpkin pieces in a single layer. Lay the pumpkin, skin-side down, in the dish and cover it with aluminum foil (shiny-side down). Poke several slits in the foil and bake the pumpkin until very tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and allow the pumpkin to become cool enough to handle, covered loosely. Using your fingers or the dull side of a paring knife, separate the skin from the pumpkin flesh. If the pumpkin is very tender, simply mash, until smooth, using a potato masher. If that particular pumpkin is very stringy and less than perfectly tender, puree the flesh in the food processor fitted with the steel blade, with a bit of the surrounding cooking water, to help it become smooth.

Store pumpkin puree in the refrigerator, well covered, for up to three days. For longer storage, freeze the puree in heavy-duty (labeled) freezer containers. Thaw it overnight, in refrigerator. Use fresh pumpkin puree in any recipe that calls for fresh or canned pureed pumpkin. If refrigerated, bring it to room temperature before using or adjust the baking time, as necessary.

A Dinnertime Note:

If cooking pumpkin for savory purposes, brush the flesh and skin liberally with melted butter and, if desired, some maple syrup before baking for 1 hour. Under these circumstances, however, uncover the pumpkin for the last 20 minutes of baking and increase the oven temperature to 375oF. When done, the flesh should be very tender and turning golden and caramelized around the edges. No need to mash the pulp. Instead, serve the baked pumpkin, in pieces, and just scoop the flesh out of the skin and enjoy.

TO MARKET, TO MARKET FOR PUMPKIN CUSTARD TORTE

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients

For the cookie crust:

  • Vegetable oil spray, as needed
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • One 9-ounce box Nabisco chocolate wafer cookies, (less about 5 cookies)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped

For the pumpkin custard filling:

  • One 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened and at total room temperature (not at all chilled)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup (pure or pancake syrup)
  • 2 cups fresh pumpkin puree (see instructions at the end of this recipe) or use a 1-pound can of solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon Cookie Spice Blend, or see the end of this recipe
  • 6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon natural maple extract (omit if unavailable)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (increase to 1 1/2 teaspoons if not using maple extract)
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • For the chocolate leaves:
  • 16 ounces chopped chocolate (use any combination of bittersweet and semisweet)
  • 2 generous teaspoons solid vegetable shortening
  • 20 to 30 unsprayed lemon leaves (in a variety of sizes), from your local flower shop

For the pepita praline:

  • 1 cup hulled raw pumpkin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons Clarified Butter
  • Flavorless vegetable oil, as needed, for brushing
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the ganache top:

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon flavorless vegetable oil

From the supermarket shelf:

  • Vegetable oil spray
  • One 9-ounce box Nabisco chocolate wafer cookies
  • Walnuts or pecans
  • Light brown sugar
  • Granulated sugar
  • Maple syrup
  • 16-ounce can pure pumpkin puree (if not using fresh pumpkin)
  • 16 ounces (1 pound) chocolate (mix bittersweet and semi-sweet), plus 8 ounces of bitter-sweet chocolate, for the topping
  • Solid vegetable shortening
  • Flavorless vegetable oil

From the spice section:

  • Ground cinnamon,
  • Ground ginger
  • Nutmeg (preferably fresh)
  • Ground cloves
  • Pure vanilla extract
  • Natural maple flavor

From the produce aisle:

  • 1 2-pound sugar pumpkin

From the refrigerator section:

  • Extra-large eggs

From the dairy case:

  • Unsalted butter
  • 8 ounce block cream cheese
  • Heavy cream (2 cups total)

From the flower shop:

  • 20 to 30 unsprayed lemon leaves in a variety of sizes

From the specialty market (i.e. Health food store)

  • Hulled pumpkin seeds

Comments (7)

Poached Plums in Spice Plum Wine

The season for plums is from July through September but, as with almost anything else these days, plums are available (although they’re not so sweet) all year long. When in the mood for a fruity dessert in the “off season,” poaching is a great choice. It allows fruit that’s not at its peak to be enjoyed fully, by being imbued with other complimentary flavors. When poaching plums, bright red Santa Rosas are my pick, since their compact texture and sweet-sour flavor make a perfect match (and add a great color) to the hot spiced poaching syrup. For best texture retention, choose plums that yield a bit in the hand but are not too soft.

And, when you’ve finished eating the fruit, don’t throw away the syrup since it makes a wonderful drink! Pour the chilled plum wine syrup over ice with a splash of club soda (garnish with a slice of orange and/or a sprig of fresh mint). For an extra festive way to serve this drink before filling the glass, moisten the rim with water or citrus juice and rotate the wet rim in a shallow layer of granulated sugar.

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management for more information.

Special Equipment

  • 3 ½ quart non-reactive saucepan

For the plums:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 quarter-size slice of fresh ginger root, 1/4 -inch thick
  • 1 four-inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 strips of orange peel (3 inches long and ½ inch wide) with some of the fruit attached; optional
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) plum wine
  • 12 to 14 ripe but firm plums, preferably Santa Rosa plums, kept whole
  • Plain or vanilla yogurt or softened vanilla ice cream, as an accompaniment

1. To prepare the poaching liquid: Place the sugar, water, star anise, ginger, cinnamon stick, orange zest, if using, and wine in a 3 1/2-quart, non-reactive saucepan, over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

2. To poach the plums: then add the plums and bring the liquid back to a gentle bubble, with the cover ajar, over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan fully and cook gently for 5 minutes. Drag the saucepan to a cool burner and let the fruit sit, covered, for 5 minutes, then uncovered for 10 minutes.

3. To store poached plums: One by one, place the plums in a large jar or bowl, using a slotted utensil, pulling off any pieces of skin that seem to be wanting to separate (leave all other skin on the fruit). Remove the spices and pour the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve, directly over the poached fruit and let cool, uncovered. Once cool, cover the bowl or jar well and chill for at least 1 hour, but preferably 6 to 24 hours (and up to 3 days).

4. To serve: Serve the plums with the syrup, cold or gently re-warmed, with a fork, knife and spoon, accompanied by a nice dollop of plain or vanilla yogurt or softened vanilla ice cream.

Timing is Everything

  • The poached plums can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, kept securely covered.

SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients

For the plums:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 quarter-size slice of fresh ginger root, 1/4 -inch thick
  • 1 four-inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 strips of orange peel (3 inches long and ½ inch wide) with some of the fruit attached; optional
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) plum wine
  • 12 to 14 ripe but firm plums, preferably Santa Rosa plums, kept whole
  • Plain or vanilla yogurt or softened vanilla ice cream, as an accompaniment

From the supermarket shelf:

  • Granulated sugar

From the produce section:

  • 1 knob fresh ginger
  • 12 to 14 firm but ripe plums (preferably Santa Rosas)
  • 1 navel orange (optional)

From the spice section:

  • Star anise
  • Cinnamon sticks

From the spirits section:

  • 1 bottle (750 ml) plum wine

From the dairy or frozen section:

  • Plain or vanilla yogurt or vanilla ice cream

If planning to enjoy the syrup as a beverage:

  • Liter bottle of club soda
  • Fresh mint

Comments (6)

Perfect Whipped Cream

Special Equipment

  • Electric mixer or a large balloon whisk and a wide, shallow bowl

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups very cold heavy cream (preferably not ultra-pasteurized)
  • 1/4 cup regular or superfine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1)To whip cream by hand: Add cold cream to a chilled, wide and shallow bowl. Tilt one side of the bowl upward slightly with your hand and grasp a large balloon whisk in your other hand. Apply large, sweeping, circular strokes to the cream in a continuous, repetitive motion until the cream becomes thick. Once thickened, add sugar and vanilla while continuing to beat. (To relieve some of the pressure from your mixing arm, hug the bowl in toward your body as you continue to whip until you reach the desired consistency.)

2) To whip with an electric mixer: Place cold cream in the chilled bowl and begin to beat with the chilled whip attachment. As cream begins to thicken, add vanilla and gradually increase the speed while adding the sugar in a steady stream. Beat until the cream is of desired consistency, checking the consistency frequently to avoid overbeating.

3) To store: Use the whipped cream as desired and refrigerate leftovers in a covered bowl or secured in a pastry bag (with the tip in place) standing within a tall drinking glass.

Variations:
You can fold 2 tablespoons melted chocolate into the already thickened cream. Or,
reduce the vanilla to 1/2 teaspoon and, when adding to the cream, add 1 tablespoon of your favorite liqueur.

See recipe for Quick and Easy Ice Cream Birthday Cake

Comments (0)

Perfect Vanilla-Scented Cupcakes, Or Layer Cakes… with an Italian Meringue Icing

If you’re trying to decide on a great dessert for a mixed group of both, kids and adults, you’re in luck! This recipe makes the most wonderful cupcakes and layer cakes. These cupcakes (or cake layers), topped with big swoops of fluffy Italian meringue, tastes and feels like you’re sinking your teeth into a mound of melted marshmallows. I usually either torch the tips of the meringue, or I’ll douse an entire iced cake or the tops of cupcakes in a mixture of plain and toasted shredded coconut. Please read the instructions for making the meringue, from beginning to end, before getting started.

Alternatively, for a vanilla birthday cake or for a batch of cupcakes to tote to school for a child’s birthday, try the buttery, sweet, and smooth as silk Silky White Butter Frosting. My children really love that, too.

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management for more information.

For the cake batter:

  • Flavorless vegetable spray, for cupcake tins or melted unsalted butter, as needed, for brushing cake pans
  • About 2 tablespoons plain cake flour, for dusting
  • 3 1/4 cups Buttermillk Pancake Mix, or see the end of this recipe
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (only if using buttermilk)
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs, made tepid by submerging in a bowl of very hot tap water for 10 minutes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract  
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk or regular milk, at room temperature or slightly warmed (preferably buttermilk)

For the meringue icing:

  • 3 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 cup superfine sugar, for the syrup, plus 1/3 cup for the egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 cups mixed plain and toasted shredded sweetened coconut (optional)
  • Alternate frostings or icings: Silky White Butter Frosting (or chocolate variation)

1) To set up to make cupcakes or cake layers: Spray the tops of two nonstick 12-muffin tins and one 6-muffin tin with vegetable spray and line them with paper liners. If making cake layers brush the interiors of two 9-inch cake pans (2 inches deep) with melted butter and line both bottoms with a round of parchment paper. Grease the paper and dust the bottom and sides with cake flour, tilting to coat the pan evenly, and then shake out any excess flour, by rapping the pan against the sink, hard, several times. Preheat the oven to 350oF. If using a double oven, keep the oven racks on the center shelf. If using one oven, arrange the oven racks on the upper and lower third shelf positions, to accommodate all three cupcake tins. Both cake pans should be able to fit on the center rack. (Best results are achieved when cupcakes and cake layers are baked, undisturbed, in the center of the oven.)

2) To assemble the batter: Whisk together the pancake mix, if using, with the baking powder (and soda, if using buttermilk). Use the paddle attachment on your electric mixer to cream the butter and shortening with the sugar, until light. Add the tepid eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. When very light, beat in the vanilla. Stop the machine and, using a large rubber spatula, scrape down the sides and across the bottom of the bowl, then beat the mixture once more, briefly. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Mix on low, until combined very well, about 30 to 40 seconds. For cupcakes, use a medium-sized ice cream scoop or a large spoon to place the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them no more than 2/3 full (if you have a few unused cups, fill those half-full with simmering water). If making cake layers, divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and, using a small icing spatula, smooth the tops.

3) To bake: Bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes (if not baked on the center shelf, switch their positions half-way through baking). Bake the cake layers until the top is golden and a tester comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Layer cakes will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and will feel springy at the center when done. (Don’t worry if the tops of layers look a bit irregular, since they will be inverted and used flat- bottoms up.) Remove the pans from the oven and, for cupcakes, let them sit in the tins, for 5 minutes, then carefully lift each one out and let them cool on wire racks, before applying any topping. For cake layers, remove them from the oven and let them sit on a wire rack, for five minutes, then invert them onto wire racks. Let the cake layers cool completely, keeping them bottoms-up, before dividing them and applying your filling and any frosting.

4) To dress the cupcakes: Use a small metal icing spatula or a table knife to apply some of the meringue to the tops of the cooled cupcakes, covering them completely. Apply another dollop of meringue on top and use the tip of the spatula to make swirls, or swooping peaks. Either run the flame of a small, hand-held blow torch over the protruding tips of the meringue until caramelized, or lavish the meringue with a generous amount of mixed plain and toasted shredded sweetened coconut. Alternatively, if using either variation of the butter frosting or the glazes, decorate the tops with any of the suggested toppings in The I Love to Cook Book. Let these cupcakes remain at room temperature, covered either with a cake cover or, once the icing is set, with plastic wrap.

5) To cut, fill and stack the cake layers: First place each layer (on a cake disc), bottoms-up, on a rotating cake stand and slice each layer in half, horizontally, using a long sharp serrated knife. After dividing the first, keep the halves together and just move the whole layer to the side. After dividing the second layer, insert a cake disc in-between both halves and lift off the top piece. Working with the bottom of one cake layer, cut-side up, on the cake stand, spread an even layer of the icing on top, using a long icing spatula or a table knife. Don’t go overboard, or the layers will slip and slide off each other, once stacked. Place the top of that cake layer on top of the icing and press down, gently. Spread the top of that layer with more frosting. Place the bottom of the second cake layer on top of the stacked cake layers. Apply more icing, then place the last top layer, which should be the flat, golden bottom of that layer, on top. Use your hand or a cake disc to lightly press down on the top, to help the layers adhere and to level the stack. To coat the outside of an assembled cake evenly, and to pipe on a top and bottom border, see the Silky White Butter Frosting.

6) To store: Store the assembled cake or cupcakes on a platter, at a comfortable room temperature, covered with a wide, high cake cover before serving. If using a butter-cream frosting, refrigerate leftovers and bring to room temperature, before serving. (Rewhip, if needed, to bring to spreadable consistency).

If you don’t have the pre-assembled cake mix:

Whisk together 3 1/4 cups of cake flour, 3/4 teaspoon fine salt, and 1 tablespoon baking powder (and 1/2 teaspoon soda, if using buttermilk) and sift this into another bowl. Increase the sugar to 2 cups. Bake the cake as previously described.

Timing is Everything:

The cake layers can be made a day ahead and kept at room temperature, well wrapped in plastic wrap.

The cake can be fully assembled early on the day of entertaining and kept out, at a comfortable room temperature, until ready to serve.

Although the Italian meringue icing should be used the day it’s made, the vanilla frosting can be fully assembled and refrigerated, for up to three days, before using it. Bring it to room temperature, then whip it until it’s fluffy and of a good spreading consistency.

Click here for

Devil’s Food Cupcakes or Cake Layers

Silky White Butter Frosting… Perfect for a Birthday Cake

Comments (3)

Silky White Butter Frosting… Perfect for a Birthday Cake

I use this smooth-as-silk vanilla butter frosting, often, on cakes and cupcakes. I love to spread it inside and out of my kid’s birthday cakes. When making cupcakes, I make a batch of both, the vanilla and chocolate variation and split the batch between them. Actually, when feeling playful, I’ll make a double batch of vanilla frosting and divide it into four or more bowls. Then, I use a craft stick to stir a drop or two of a different pastel food coloring into the bowls, leaving one portion white.

This recipe purposely provides a generous amount of frosting, so you’ll have enough to be really generous with cupcakes or to accommodate two cake layers (after dividing each one horizontally), and also pipe on a decorative border on both, the top and bottom of the assembled cake, after frosting the outside. Although the listed meringue powder is optional, I do like the way it flavors and helps to stabilize the frosting.

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management for more information.

For the frosting:

  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups sifted powdered sugar (sift before measuring)
  • 2 rounded tablespoons meringue powder (available at www.KingArthurFlour.com)
  • Up to 3 tablespoons milk
  • Pastel food coloring, as desired (optional)
  • Assorted candy decorations: See suggestions for some fun and colorful suggestions

1) To make the frosting: Use an electric mixer to beat the softened butter with the vanilla and salt. When the butter is light, add the sifted powdered sugar in 1/3-cup increments, stopping the machine before adding more and beating well after each addition. Beat in the meringue powder, then add 2 tablespoons of milk and beat the frosting until the consistency is very light. If not fluffy enough, beat in another tablespoon of milk. Be patient–this could take 3 to 5 minutes in a heavy-duty mixer. If planning to tint the entire frosting with a color, add two to three drops of a pastel color, when adding the milk. If planning to make a variety of colored frostings for cupcakes, divide the frosting between several small bowls and stir 1 or 2 drops of an assortment of pastel food colors into each one.

2) To frost a cake: First divide, fill and stack the layers according to the directions on recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes. Keeping the assembled cake on a rotating cake stand, use a long metal icing spatula or a table knife to apply a thin but even layer of frosting to the sides of the cake, beginning on the bottom, using an upward motion. Run the blade around the sides, to smooth them. Apply a thin but even layer of frosting to the top, smoothing it out. Allow the cake to sit, uncovered for several minutes, to allow the first layer to “set.” Now, apply a more generous amount of frosting to the sides, using the same upward motion, then place a large dollop of frosting on the top of the cake and either use the tip of the spatula to make dips and swirls, so the cake is covered with lovely soft peaks, or (when making a birthday cake) smooth the frosting completely, so you can apply your decorations and written message. To get the smoothest finish on the top of a frosted cake, once the top is coated evenly, run the clean blade of your spatula over the top, just once, then clean off the blade (scrape it onto the side of the bowl containing the frosting) and smooth the top again and again, cleaning the blade after each stroke. (Try not to get obsessive, though. After all, this is a homemade cake…).

To pipe frosting onto the cake, insert a star tip into a pastry bag and place the bag into a tall drinking glass. Spoon some of the remaining frosting into the bag, filling the bag only 3/4- full. Use your working hand to twist the bag at the top, then cradle the tip end in your nonworking hand. Apply pressure at the top of the bag, while directing the tip, over the spot where you want to apply the frosting. Always keep the area being piped, directly in front of you and keep the tip 1/4 inch up from the surface of the cake. Pipe a border of frosting around the top and bottom of the cake, then if desired, decorate the inside of the top and bottom border with your favorite colorful candies.

Chocolate Butter Frosting Variation:

Follow the recipe for the vanilla frosting, with the following exceptions: After beating in the meringue powder, beat in 4 ounces each: chopped and melted unsweetened and bittersweet chocolate. Omit the milk and, of course, the food coloring. This frosting is a light chocolate brown (similar to mocha), preferred by adults and children who find dark chocolate frosting too rich. Yield: This will make enough to frost and fill a 9-inch 4-layer cake or 28 cupcakes.

Timing is Everything:

• Either variation of frosting can be made three days ahead and kept in the refrigerator, well covered. Let it come close to room temperature before rewhipping it until spreadable.

Kid & Adult Friendly Cake Decorating Ideas:

Once you’ve frosted your cakes or cupcakes, there’s no need to stop! It’s such fun to apply a variety of different whimsical embellishments. Here are some of the things you can use:

• Finely ground chocolate wafers, vanilla shortbread cookies or toasted nuts: after applying frosting, sprinkle the tops generously with one of these or a mixture.

• Pulverized cupcakes: Grind one or two cupcakes in the food processor. Use alone, or mix these crumbs with the above mentioned cookies and sprinkle them on top of glazed or frosted cupcakes or to generously coat the sides of a frosted cake.

• Coconut (shredded and sweetened): Use toasted or untoasted sweetened coconut alone, or combine both to give a two-toned look to your garnish. To toast shredded sweetened coconut, place it in a single layer on a shallow, heavy-aluminum (not dark) baking sheet and bake it in a 300oF oven, for 10 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, to redistribute. When done, the shreds should be uniformly golden, but not at all scorched.

• Whole baby Oreo cookies or tiny chocolate chip cookies: Just stick them into the frosting.

• Assorted sprinkles and candies: candy-coated jumbo almonds (pastels, silver, gold), nonpareils, Neccko wafers, M&M’s, gummy bears/worms, gum drops, jelly beans, Sweet-tarts, chocolate kisses, malted milk balls, Junior Mints, chocolate-covered espresso beans or chocolate mocha beans, crushed peppermints, etc.

Cautionary Note Regarding the Use of Edible flowers: Only use unsprayed, organically grown flowers that are known to be safe for human consumption, albeit in small quantities. Eat only the petals of these flowers and, if you suffer with allergies, hay fever, or asthma, it’s best to avoid edible flowers completely. To learn more about the flowers appropriate to eat, or to order these by mail, go to http://www.squidoo.com/EdibleFlowers

Comments (0)

Peanut Butter and Jam Hearts

These fantastic sandwich cookies merge a melt-in-your mouth texture with the most classic American flavor combination of all, making them a real family favorite. The flip side, however, is that these sandwich cookies are delicate and won’t transport well. (But don’t worry, no one will mind coming to your place in order to indulge.) It’s also wise to make a few extra cookies “with holes” since these are the most fragile.

For best results, allow the baked cookies to cool for the full amount of time specified and use a very thin metal spatula to remove them to a wire rack. You should know that these cookies are also great on their own, without any filling, and can also be cut into other shapes and sizes.

Anytime I’ve mentioned a cooking term or requested a culinary tool that’s unfamiliar, please go to Kitchen Management for more information.

Special Equipment

  • Cushioned cookie sheets
  • Medium-mesh sieve or a sugar shaker for applying powdered sugar
  • Thin metal spatula
  • Wire cooling racks

For the sandwich cookies

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) melted unsalted butter, for brushing, plus 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened, for the batter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, for shaping, plus 1 cup sugar, for the batter
  • 1 cup store-bought peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces seedless raspberry jam
  • 1/2 to 1 cup powdered sugar

1) To set up: Position oven racks on the upper and lower third shelves and preheat the oven to 375oF. Use some of the melted butter to generously grease 2 cushioned cookie sheets. Reserve any remaining melted butter. Pour 3/4 cup granulated sugar on a doubled paper towel that sits on your counter. Use some of the reserved melted butter to generously grease the bottom of the outside of a wide drinking glass and plant the buttered surface directly in the sugar, pressing down, and leave it in the sugar until needed. Put 4 wire cooling racks on your counter and place 2 long overlapping sheets of wax paper under 2 of the racks (these will be for the tops of the cookies).

2) To make the cookies: Use an electric mixer to cream 1 cup of softened butter with 1 cup of sugar until light and creamy. Add the peanut butter and combine well. Turn off the machine and add the flour. With the machine on the lowest setting, mix the batter until fully combined, without overworking it. Form walnut-size balls of batter and place them 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. (You should be able to bake 9 to 12 cookies on each sheet, if using the cookie cutter specified below.) Lift the buttered and sugared glass and press down on each ball of dough, flattening them to 1/4-inch thick. After flattening each portion of batter, rub the greased glass in the sugar before flattening the next. (If the sugared surface gets clumpy, wipe it off and reapply some melted butter and sugar.) Use a clean pastry brush to gently brush any excess sugar off flattened cookie batter.

Use a 2 1/2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out hearts from the flattened dough. Before removing the cutter, use your finger to remove the excess cookie dough and place these scraps back into the bowl with the original bowl. Insert a small round or heart-shaped cutter or a thimble into half (or a few more) of the shaped cookies and rotate the cutter, in a circular motion, to widened the hole slightly. Lift out the cutter and, using the pointed tip of a short paring knife, pick the dough out of the hole. Put these pieces of dough back into the bowl with the other scraps.

3) To bake: When the cookie sheets are full, transfer them to both levels of the oven and bake for 6 to 9 minutes, switching their positions after half the baking time. Check after 6 minutes. When done, the cookies will be slightly more golden around the edges but the tops should be only a light golden color. Remove the sheets from the oven and place the sheets with cookies with holes on the wire racks set over wax paper. Place the sheets with uncut cookies on the 2 other racks and let them all cool for 10 minutes. Using a very thin metal turning spatula, carefully transfer the cookies to their wire racks, to cool further. (Wipe off the spatula after removing each cookie from the sheet.) Cool, clean and grease the cookie sheets and repeat the above procedure, until all of the cookie dough has been used.

4) To assemble sandwich cookies: Once completely cool, assemble the sandwiches. First, generously sift the powdered sugar over the cookies with holes. Lift and turn a hole-free cookie flat-side up, and spoon a generous teaspoon of jam on the center. Carefully lift a top “sugared” cookie and (gently now) lay it, sugared-side up, on top of the jam applying only the slightest bit of wiggling pressure, so the jam plumps up through the hole. Place the assembled sandwich cookie back on its rack while you continue to assemble the rest.

5) To serve and/or store: If serving soon, use a thin metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a decorative serving platter. If serving later, that same day, or the next day, carefully transfer the cookies into a deep and rectangular container (like a large roasting pan), to protect their appearance. Cover the pan, securely, with aluminum foil and leave it at room temperature.

Chocolate Filled Variation:
Melt 12 ounces of semisweet or milk chocolate in either the top of a double boiler, over barely simmering water, stirring constantly, or in a microwave (uncovered) for 1 to 2 minutes, on high power, stirring after heating, until smooth. Apply the chocolate, as you would jam, to the flat side of a cookie and sandwich them, as directed.

Timing is Everything:

  • The cookie dough may be made one day ahead and kept refrigerated, covered. The dough can be used chilled, but expect to lengthen the overall baking time accordingly.
  • These sandwich cookies can be fully assembled one day ahead and stored at room temperature, as instructed.

SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients:

Special Equipment

  • Cushioned cookie sheets
  • Medium-mesh sieve or a sugar shaker for applying powdered sugar
  • Thin metal spatula
  • Wire cooling racks

For the sandwich cookies

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) melted unsalted butter, for brushing, plus 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened, for the batter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, for shaping, plus 1 cup sugar, for the batter
  • 1 cup store-bought peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces seedless raspberry jam
  • 1/2 to 1 cup powdered sugar

Comments (5)

Light & Tender…Yummy Marbled Pound Cake

If you need more information about any of the cooking terms or equipment requested, just go to Kitchen Management.

Special Equipment

  • 9 x 5-inch loaf pan
  • Electric mixer
  • 2 cup, liquid measuring cup with a spout
  • 2 short, metal, off-set spreading spatulas

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon melted butter, for brushing, plus 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, for the batter
  • 1 generous tablespoon plain whisked cake flour, for dusting, plus 1 2/3 cups cake flour, for the batter (whisk, don’t sift, before measuring)
  • 2 rounded tablespoons (one 0.8-ounce packet) dried buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 rounded teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs, made tepid by submerging in a bowl of very hot tap water for 10 minutes
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons minced lemon or orange zest (optional)
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)

1) To set up : Preheat the oven to 350oF. Brush the interior of a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with the melted butter, and then sprinkle the greased surface with 1 generous tablespoon of cake flour. Tilt the pan to coat it with flour, and then knock out any excess.

2) To assemble the cake batter:Whisk together 1 2/3 cups of cake flour with the dried buttermilk, baking powder, and salt and sift this into another bowl. Melt the chocolate either in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water, or in a microwave, on high power, for 1 minute (stirring after the first 30 seconds). Using an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the softened butter, until lightened. Add the sugar, in increments, beating well after each addition. In a 2-cup capacity liquid measuring cup (or other vessel with a spout), beat the eggs with the vanilla and zest, if using. Drizzle the beaten eggs into the creamed butter mixture, a little at a time, allowing each addition to be fully incorporated before adding the next. When done, the mixture should be very light. Stop the machine and, using a large rubber spatula, scrape the butter down from the sides and up from the bottom. Beat briefly. Stop the machine and add a heaping 1/2 cup of the flour mixture. Turn the machine on low, then up to medium and mix until the flour is almost totally incorporated. Continue to stop the machine, as you add another scoop of the flour mixture, and then beat again until almost combined. After adding all the dry ingredients, beat the batter, still on medium speed, for 30 to 40 seconds, or until the batter is very smooth and silky looking.

3) To assemble the marble pound cake :Scrape half the plain batter into another bowl and add the melted chocolate to the first bowl, folding it in until homogenous. Use a large, clean rubber spatula to transfer half the plain cake batter to the prepared loaf pan and, using a short, metal, off-set spreading spatula, spread batter out, covering the bottom of the pan. Do this same thing with half of the chocolate batter, using a clean off-set spatula, spreading it on top of the first layer of plain batter. Repeat this with the plain batter and then with the rest of the chocolate batter, creating 4 layers in all.

Beginning at one end of the loaf, drag a plain table knife through the batter, going up and down, in a soft sweeping swirling motion, making large loops at the top and then at the bottom, while traveling to the opposite end of the loaf pan (think of making a figure-8 over and over again). Don’t overdo this, however, or you’ll actually lose your marbled design. When done, pull the knife blade straight up and out of the batter, and gently smooth the top, using a short metal spreader. Place the pan into the center of the preheated oven and reduce the temperature to 325oF. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean and the cake is golden. Place the pan on a wire rack and, carefully run a knife around the sides of the pan. Turn the cake out of the pan and let it cool on the rack. Just before serving, dust the top with confectioner’s sugar, if desired, and cut into thick slices.

Plain Pound Cake Variation:

Prepare the batter as directed, omitting the chocolate. Add the entire batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 65 minutes (about 5 minutes less than you would a marbled pound cake). Cool and serve as previously described.

Timing is Everything:

If you love pound cake (and who doesn’t?) why not keep several sealed bags of the dry mixture in your pantry? That way, it’s much quicker to get this cake into the oven.

SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon melted butter, for brushing, plus 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, for the batter
  • 1 generous tablespoon plain whisked cake flour, for dusting, plus 1 2/3 cups cake flour, for the batter (whisk, don’t sift, before measuring)
  • 2 rounded tablespoons (one 0.8-ounce packet) dried buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 rounded teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs, made tepid by submerging in a bowl of very hot tap water for 10 minutes
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons minced lemon or orange zest (optional)
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)

From the supermarket shelf:

  • Cake flour (plain, not leavened)
  • Dried buttermilk
  • Baking powder
  • Fine table salt
  • Bittersweet chocolate (4 ounce bar)
  • Granulated sugar
  • Pure vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar

From the dairy case:

  • Unsalted butter

From the refrigerated section:

  • Extra-large eggs

From the produce aisle:

  • Lemon or orange (optional, if adding grated zest to the batter)

Watch the Video.

Comments (3)

Lavender-Scented, French-Vanilla Ice Cream with Broiled Fresh Figs

What a wonderful way to greet both autumn and Indian summer! To me, this recipe screams “Provence!” If you’ve never cooked with dried lavender, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, since, when used correctly, this gorgeous fragrance lends itself perfectly to a rich frozen custard. Make sure, however, that you only use dried lavender for the purpose of consumption and not the kind meant to be included in scented pouches, to be tucked into your sock draw. When making ice cream, make sure to set up correctly to prevent the risk of curdling the custard, which can happen if it’s initially overheated. If you don’t feel like making ice cream, just serve these buttered, sugared and broiled figs on top of a scoop of your favorite store-bought brand of vanilla ice cream or some lightly sweetened, thick creme fraiche.

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management or Knowledge is Power for more information.

Special Equipment:

  • Three-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan
  • Large, triple-mesh wire sieve
  • Ice cream making device
  • Ice cream scoop

For the ice cream:

Ice cubes or crushed ice, for cooling the custard

  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large supple vanilla beans
  • 8 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dried lavender (without additives and intended for consumption), available in specialty food shops
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

For the fig topping:

  • 6 fresh figs, wiped clean and quartered through the stem end
  • 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (or use light brown sugar, pushed through a medium-mesh wire sieve)

To set up: Before making the custard, place a shallow layer of ice cubes or crushed ice on the bottom of a 6-quart bowl. Add a little water to the ice and sit a 3-quart bowl directly into the ice, pushing it down, so it’s secured. Place a large, triple-mesh wire sieve over the smaller bowl.

To assemble and then chill the custard: First pour the cream and milk into a 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan. Using a sharp knife, slit the vanilla beans, lengthwise, through the top skin only. Open the beans and, using the dull side of the knife, scrape down the length of the beans, removing their seeds. Whisk the seeds into the cream, dispersing them throughout, then whisk in the lavender. Place the pan over medium-low heat and scald the liquid, but do not let it simmer.

Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment (or use a hand-held whisk), while gradually adding the sugar, until the mixture is thick yet very light in texture and a pale lemon color. Lower the speed of the mixer to slow and add a ladle-full of the scalded cream mixture (a little at a time, at first, to temper the yolks). Slowly add more and more of the hot cream, while mixing continuously and, when the bottom of the bowl feels hot, add the rest of the cream, in a steady stream. When all of the hot liquid is added, pour the contents of the bowl back into the saucepan, off the heat. Use a rubber spatula to scrape any remaining mixture off the bottom of the bowl and into the saucepan and place the pan over low heat. Cook the custard, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is thickened and coats the back of the spoon, about 3 minutes, once the mixture becomes hot throughout. (To check the consistency of the custard, always remove the pan from the heat first, to prevent accidental curdling.)

Pour the cooked custard into the sieve over the iced-bowl and discard anything that remains in the sieve. Stir in the vanilla and salt and drape a clean kitchen towel or paper towel over the top of the bowl. Let the custard cool to just warm, stirring occasionally, before placing both bowls into the refrigerator to cool the custard thoroughly. (If time is an issue, add more ice to the larger bowl, going up the sides, which will speed up this initial chilling process.)

To churn and store the ice cream:Tansfer the well-chilled custard to the bowl of an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. After churning, store the ice cream in a sealed container, in the freezer.

To prepare the figs and serve: First preheat the broiler with the rack as close as possible, to the heating element. Line a shallow baking sheet with aluminum foil (shiny side up) and lay the quartered figs, cut sides up, on the prepared sheet. Brush the flesh side of the cut figs with some melted butter and sprinkle them with sugar. Broil the figs, until they are warmed throughout and he sugared surface is bubbling. Use tongs to place the broiled figs on top of individual scoops of lavender ice cream and serve right away.

Old-fashioned French Vanilla Variation: Omit the lavender and keep everything else the same.

Cherry-Vanilla Ice Cream Variation: After omitting the lavender, follow the remaining instructions, as written, reducing the vanilla to 1 teaspoon and adding 1 teaspoon of naturally flavored cherry extract and a scant 1/4 teaspoon of pure almond extract. After churning the ice cream until it’s very thickened, but not yet overly firm, add 1 generous cup of drained and coarsely chopped, pitted dark sweet canned cherries. If desired, stir a few tablespoons of the cherry syrup into the chilled custard, just before churning.

Chocolate Ice Cream Variation: Omit the vanilla beans. Mix the cream with the milk and heat it until hot, over low heat. Finely chop one 4-ounce bar of semi-sweet chocolate and 2 squares of unsweetened chocolate, either by hand or in the food processor, fitted with the steel blade. When the cream is hot, stir in the chopped chocolates and keep stirring until it melts completely and the cream is, once again, very hot, but not simmering. Follow the remaining instructions, reducing the vanilla extract to 1 1/2 teaspoons. To include chocolate chips, after churning the ice cream until it’s very thickened, but not yet overly firm, add 1 cup mini chocolate chips or chopped bar chocolate and finish the churning, and freeze.

Timing is Everything:

• The ice cream can be churned two days ahead and kept frozen.

• To prevent working with very hard ice cream, just before serving, it’s wise to scoop out portions, several hours (or a day) ahead, and keep the scoops on a tray, lined with wax paper in the freezer, covered with plastic wrap.

• The figs can be buttered and sugared in the morning and kept refrigerated, covered securely with plastic wrap, until it’s time to broil.

<SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients

For the ice cream:

Ice cubes or crushed ice, for cooling the custard

  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large supple vanilla beans
  • 8 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dried lavender (without additives and intended for consumption), available in specialty food shops
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

For the fig topping:

  • 6 fresh figs, wiped clean and quartered through the stem end
  • 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (or use light brown sugar, pushed through a medium-mesh wire sieve)

From the supermarket shelf:

  • Granulated sugar
  • Vanilla beans
  • Pure vanilla extract
  • Fine table salt

From the produce section:

  • Fresh figs (firm but ripe)

From the dairy case:

  • Heavy cream (preferably not ultra-pasteurized)
  • Whole milk
  • Unsalted butter
  • From the refrigerated section:
  • Extra-large eggs

From the specialty market:

  • Dried lavender (the kind meant for human consumption, not for making your drawers smell good…)

Comments (0)

Ginger Spice Snaps

These chock-full-of-ginger cookies are one of my family’s favorite wintertime treats. When I was a little girl, we always had store-bought ginger snaps at home. At the time I thought they were good, but not after tasting these. Loaded with ginger and just the right amount of molasses, the flavor is truly alive. Their ultimate texture, however, depends on the baking time.

When baked for only ten minutes, the cookie will be chewy (my husband and children adore them this way) and when baked for twelve minutes, they will become very crisp and will yield an audible “snap” when broken (my own preference). So, I always mix up the baking times to make everyone happy. In addition to baking time, the type of cookie sheet will also influence texture. The newer “cushioned” sheets bake a little slower than the thin old-fashioned ones and are preferable for these cookies. But if you only have the thin sheets, simply shorten the baking time to reach the desired look and texture. You can also invert a regular baking sheet, with one-inch sides, and bake the cookie batter on the inverted bottom. That way, you’ll be creating an insulating air pocket underneath the batter, helping the cookies to bake more gently and avoid scorching on the bottom.

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management for more information.

Special Equipment

  • Sifter or triple-mesh wire sieve
  • Parchment paper
  • Cushioned cookie sheets
  • Electric mixer (optional)
  • Cookie scoop with capacity of 2 liquid tablespoons (optional)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 extra-large egg

1) To set up: Position both oven racks to the upper and lower levels and preheat the oven to 375o F. Line 2 to 4 cookie sheets with parchment paper; do not grease the paper.

2) To prepare the cookie batter:In a medium-sized mixing bowl,whisk together the flour, coffee, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, salt and cloves. Sift this mixture into another bowl. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer or a wooden spoon, cream the brown and white sugars with the softened butter, molasses and vanilla. When well combined, add the egg. Once the mixture is smooth, set electric mixer to lowest setting, if using, and then add the sifted dry ingredients, mixing well.

3) To shape and bake:: Place generous tablespoonfuls of the batter (leveled cookie-scoopfuls) or level cookie scoops of the batter on the prepared cookie sheets. For best results, place mounds in 3 rows of 3, without crowding. Place two of the sheets into the preheated oven using the upper and lower third shelf positions. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, switching the position of the sheets after half the baking time. While in the oven, these cookies will first plump as they spread. They will then (usually) deflate and become flat, especially if left in the oven for the longer baking time, which will produce a crisper cookie. When baking for only 10 minutes (for a chewy cookie), they might come out slightly puffed. If so, rap the sheet on the wire rack, once or twice, to help the cookies to deflate. Bake remaining sheets of cookies.

4) To cool and serve:After baking, place the sheets on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, using a thin metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire racks to cool before storing in an airtight tin.

Ginger Snap Ice Cream Sandwiches
These cookies make fabulous ice cream sandwiches! Freeze baked and cooled cookies for an hour or so before spreading the flat side of 1 cookie with a layer of slightly softened vanilla ice cream. Top with another cookie (flat side down). Squish a little, wrap in pliable plastic wrap, slip sandwiches into individual waxed-paper bags and freeze until firm.

SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 extra-large egg

From the supermarket shelf:

  • Unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • Instant espresso powder
  • Baking soda
  • Dark brown sugar
  • Granulated sugar
  • Molasses (unsulphured)
  • Pure vanilla extract
  • Table salt
  • Parchment paper

From the spice section:

  • Ground ginger
  • Cinnamon
  • Allspice
  • Cloves

From the dairy case :

  • Unsalted butter

From the refrigerated section:

  • Extra-large eggs

Comments (2)

Devil’s Food Cupcakes or Cake Layers

Once again, my Buttermilk Pancake Mix proves to be the hero. Whether the cocoa-laced batter is baked into two dark cake layers or lots of tender cupcakes, you won’t be disappointed. If you ever run out of batter when making cupcakes, just fill the empty cups half- full with very hot tap water and they’ll bake just fine.

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management for more information.

For the cake or cupcake batter:

  • About 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, for brushing or use flavorless vegetable spray
  • 2 tablespoons plain cake flour, to dust the cake pans
  • 2 1/2 cups prepared Buttermilk Pancake Mix, or see the end of this recipe
  • 1/2 cup sifted non-alkalized (not Dutch-processed) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted before measuring
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 extra-large eggs, made tepid by submerging in a bowl of very hot tap water for 10 minutes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, for cupcakes and 1 1/2 cups for cake layers

1) If making cake layers: Brush two 9-inch cake pans (1 1/2-inches deep) generously with melted butter and line them with a round of parchment. Grease the paper, then dust the pan with flour, tilting to coat the interior evenly. Shake out the excess flour by rapping the pan, hard, on the side of the sink.

2) For cupcakes: Spray the tops of two 12-cup muffin tins (or one 12-cup and one 6-cup tin) with vegetable spray and line the cups with paper liners. (The number of tins needed will depend on whether or not you’re using the optional chocolate chips. Also, if you’re not using the prepared pancake mix and instead, you’re using the dry mixture offered at the end of this recipe, you’ll yield 24 cupcakes.) If you’re using one oven and making cupcakes, position the racks to the upper and lower shelves. If making two cake layers, try to fit them on the center shelf together. If working with a double oven, it’s also best to bake the cupcake tins separately, in the center of the oven. Either way, preheat the temperature to 350oF.

3) To assemble the batter: Whisk the pancake mix with the baking soda and sifted cocoa, or assemble the dry mixture at the end of this recipe. Using an electric mixer, beat the softened butter and shortening with the sugar, eggs, and vanilla (all at once), until light. Stop the machine and, using a sturdy rubber spatula, scrape up the butter mixture from the bottom of the bowl and beat again, briefly. Turn off the machine and, all at once, add the dry mixture and 1 1/2 cups buttermilk for cake layers (or 1 1/4 cups for cupcakes), and beat on low for 1 full minute, to incorporate well. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on a moderately high speed (setting #6 on a KitchenAid) for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, until very light and fluffy.

4) If making cupcakes: Fold in the mini chocolate chips and use a medium-sized ice cream scoop or a large spoon to ration the batter between the cupcake tins, filling each cup only 3/4 full, (if you have a few unused cups, fill those half full with very hot water). Bake cupcakes for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a tester comes out “just clean,” without allowing them to become dry. If baking both cupcake tins in the same oven, switch their positions half-way through baking. Remove the tins from the oven and let them sit on a rack, for 5 minutes. One by one, carefully lift each cupcake out and let them stand on a rack, to cool before applying a glaze or frosting to the tops.

5) If baking cake layers:
Divide the batter between your prepared cake pans and, using a small metal spreader, smooth the top. Bake the layers in the center of the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes (cakes will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and feel springy at the top center. Don’t worry if the tops look a bit irregular, since they will be inverted and used flat- bottoms up.) Place two wire cooling racks, preferably nonstick and without a center pleat, on the counter. Place the cake layers, in their pans, on 2 additional wire racks (any kind) and let them sit for 5 minutes, before inverting them, bottoms up, onto the nonstick racks. Cool cake layers, completely, this way.

If you don’t have the pre-assembled pancake mix:
Whisk 2 1/2 cups of cake flour with 2 scant teaspoons baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 cup nonalkalized cocoa powder. Sift this into another bowl. Increase the sugar to 1 2/3 cups.

Timing is Everything
• Always having the pancake / cupcake mix on hand is a real time saver.
• The cake layers and cupcakes can be made one day ahead of applying frosting and kept at room temperature, well covered with plastic wrap. Place the cooled cake layers on two separate cake discs (keeping them bottoms-up) before covering them.

Click here for
Perfect Vanilla-Scented Cupcakes, Or Layer Cakes…
With an Italian Meringue Icing

Perfect for a Birthday Cake…Silky White Butter Frosting

Comments (0)

Chunky Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Sandies

These cookies will absolutely melt in your mouth! Typically, a cookie labeled a “sandie” is one with a seductive texture that’s firm at first bite and then melts away on the tongue. Because this cookie has the added texture of chopped peanuts and chocolate chips, the dough tends to be on the crumbly side, but it’s still easy to work with. For best texture, use a regular peanut butter instead of one from the health food store, labeled “natural.”

This recipe is always a hit with my students, frequently requested by my friends and always gobbled up by my family. Once cool, these cookies store well and make a nutritious addition to a lunch box or an after-school snack. At holiday time, bake them in bulk, package them in decorative tins and send them off to friends and business associates.

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management for more information.

Special Equipment

  • Cookie sheets, preferably cushioned
  • Food processor or sharp chef’s knife to chop peanuts
  • Electric mixer (optional)
  • Cookie scoop with capacity of 2 liquid tablespoons (optional)

For the cookie batter:

  • Melted butter, for cookie sheets
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1 rounded cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup salted cocktail peanuts, finely chopped
  • 12 to 16 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate chips (I use 16 ounces)

1. To set up: Position both oven racks to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly butter cookie sheets and set aside.

2. To prepare the cookie batter: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. In another large bowl, using a wooden spoon or electric mixer, cream the softened butter with the sugar until light. Add the egg and mix until smooth. Add the peanut butter and combine well. Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips. Finally, stir in the flour mixture and continue to stir until the batter is smooth throughout. If the dough is a bit crumbly on the bottom, squeeze dry areas gently with your hand to help mixture bind together.

3. To shape and bake cookies: Place rounded tablespoonfuls or level cookie scoops of dough 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. You should be able to bake 4 rows of 4 cookies per sheet. (If using a tablespoon, shape each portion of dough into a round.) Using a fork, press each round down gently in a crosshatch pattern. Bake cookies on both levels of the preheated oven until light golden, about 10 minutes, switching shelf positions of the sheets after half the baking.

4. To cool and store cookies: Place the cookie sheets on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes. Then remove cookies using a thin metal spatula and allow them to cool thoroughly on wire racks before storing in an airtight tin.

SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients

  • Melted butter, for cookie sheets
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1 rounded cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup salted cocktail peanuts, finely chopped
  • 12 to 16 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate chips (I use 16 ounces)

From the supermarket shelf:

  • Unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Granulated sugar
  • Smooth peanut butter (not one labeled “natural”)
  • Salted cocktail peanuts
  • Semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

From the dairy case:

  • 1 box (with 4 sticks) unsalted butter (you’ll need 2 sticks)
  • ½ dozen extra-large eggs

Comments (0)

Chocolate, Chocolate-Chip Brownies, Swirled with Sweetened Cream Cheese

If you love both, brownies and cheese cake, then you’ll really love this dessert. Personally, I prefer to use my index finger to swirl the sweetened cream cheese mixture into the brownie batter, but you can use the stem end of a wooden spoon, or even a table knife. And, don’t leave out the chocolate chips since they make these brownies even more interesting, texturally, not to mention great-tasting!

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management for more information.

Special Equipment

  • 9 x 13-inch brownie pan>
  • Electric mixer (a stand mixer or a hand-held appliance)
  • Triple-mesh wire-sieve or another sifting device
  • 2 1/2-quart, heavy-bottomed saucpan (no lid necessary)

For the cream cheese mixture:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted for greasing the baking dish
  • 12 ounces cream cheese (1 1/2 eight ounce blocks), at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1/4 cup each: granulated sugar and powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt

For the brownies:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsifted plain cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 generous tablespoons “Lyles” Golden Syrup (or use light corn syrup)
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1) To set up to bake: Line a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with aluminum foil (dull side down for glass, dull side up for metal), allowing a 2-inch overhang at each end. Brush the foil with melted butter and set the pan aside. If using a glass dish, preheat the oven to 325o F. If using a metal pan, preheat to 350oF.

2) To assemble the cream cheese mixture: Beat the cream cheese with the sour cream, sugars, vanilla and salt, until smooth.

3) To make the brownie batter: Combine both types of flour, baking powder and salt, using a whisk. Sift this mixture into another bowl. In a 2 1/2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt 2 sticks of butter with the chopped chocolates, over low heat. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the instant coffee and vanilla. Whisk the sugar and sugar syrup into the melted chocolate mixture until smooth. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, whisking well, after each addition. Whisk in the egg yolk and, when smooth, add the dry ingredients. Using a batter-whisk, combine the mixtures, until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips, using a large rubber spatula.

4) To swirl in the sweetened cream cheese mixture: Pour half the brownie batter into the prepared baking dish and gently spread it to each corner, using a long metal icing spatula. Drop heaping spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture, randomly, on top of the chocolate batter. Pour and spread the remaining brownie mixture, trying to spread, superficially. Drop spoonfuls of the remaining cheese mixture on top and swirl both mixtures together, using either your index finger or the stem end of a thin wooden spoon or a regular table knife going through both mixtures, until intertwined, with swirling streaks of sweetened cream cheese remaining visible on top. (If using a knife, be careful not to tear the bottom sheet of foil)

5) To bake and serve: Place the pan into the preheated oven and bake the brownies until a toothpick, inserted into the center, comes out with some chocolate adhering to it without being overly wet. (If you shake the pan, gently, the brownie cake will jiggle, just a bit), about 35 minutes, avoid overbaking. Place the pan on a wire rack and let the brownie cake cool thoroughly. Once cool, cover the pan with aluminum foil and let it sit, for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight) in the refrigerator.

6) To cut the brownies: Lift the brownie cake out of the pan, using the overhang of foil as a handle and invert it onto another flat tray, lined with wax paper. Peel off the foil, then re-invert, right side up, and discard the wax paper. Slice the slab into 2-inch squares, using a sharp knife. For easier slicing, wipe off of the knife, after each cut. To best preserve moistness, store sliced brownies in an airtight tin or in a heavy-duty rectangular plastic container, separated by sheets of waxed paper. Either way, because of the cream cheese, store these brownies in the refrigerator. For best flavor, however, bring them to a “cool” room temperature, before serving.

Timing is Everything:
• These brownies can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days, before cutting and serving, if wrapped securely.

• As a time saver, sift the dry ingredients days ahead and leave the mixture in a covered bowl, at room temperature. Whisk well, however, before incorporating it into your batter.


SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients

For the cream cheese mixture:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted for greasing the baking dish
  • 12 ounces cream cheese (1 1/2 eight ounce blocks), at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1/4 cup each: granulated sugar and powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt

For the brownies:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsifted plain cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 generous tablespoons “Lyles” Golden Syrup (or use light corn syrup)
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Comments (1)

Chocolate Crisps

I’ve been making these chocolate candies with my kids since they were little. Each year, they would give them to their friends and teachers as holiday gifts. These also make wonderful party favors for adults and kids. Regardless of the occasion, it’s nice to wrap them in colorful foil papers, available in professional candy making/baking supply shops.

If at

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management for more information.

And, click below, to hear my thoughts about what I, as a mother, have learned regarding the importance of Teaching Our Children to Feel Good About Giving.

Special Equipment:

Instant-read thermometer: optional

For the chocolate crips:

  • 24 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon solid vegetable shortening (regular or transfats free, available at the health-food store)
  • 1 1/2 rounded cups Rice Krispies cereal, plain and/or cocoa-flavored

1. To set up to make the candy: Line the bottom of a 15 x 10-inch baking sheet with wax paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang at each end. Line a second tray with wax paper and place both trays next to your work surface.

2. To temper the chocolate: Melt the semisweet chocolate with the shortening either in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water, or in a bowl that sits in a pan of very hot (but not simmering) water, over low heat. Stir the chocolate constantly, as it melts, being very careful not allow any water to enter the bowl which will cause it to quickly stiffen, a process called “seizing.” Also, don’t let the chocolate overheat. (If using an instant thermometer, remove the bowl of chocolate when it reaches between 115oF and 118oF.) When just about smooth (one or two small pieces of chocolate may remain visible), immediately remove the chocolate from the stove and briskly stir in the remaining chopped milk chocolate. Stir constantly and briskly, until perfectly smooth. After stirring until smooth, check the temperature. The chocolate should be cooled to between 88oF and 90oF, in order to be in proper “temper” after setting.

3. To assemble the chocolate crisps:Stir the cereal into the melted chocolate as soon as it’s tempered. When well combined, use a large rubber spatula to transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. Use a long metal icing spatula to spread the chocolate mixture evenly within the pan, then lift the pan and rap it, once or twice, on the counter, removing any air bubbles. Place the sheet into the freezer, uncovered, for no longer than 5 minutes. Remove the sheet and, using sturdy cookie cutters (rounds, squares, hearts, etc.), in one or a variety of sizes, cut the chocolate into shapes. (If the chocolate is very firm, place a quilted pot holder or a folded kitchen towel on the top of the cutter, to protect your hand when pressing down.) Gently push the cut chocolates out of the cutter and onto the second paper- lined tray.

If desired, wrap the chocolate crisps individually in colored foil wrappers or just lay them unwrapped, in a tin, separated by sheets of wax paper. Since these candies are tempered, they can be stored at a comfortable room temperature.

Timing is Everything:

  • When tempered properly, these candies can be stored at room temperature for several weeks.

SHOPPING LIST

At-a-glance reminder of ingredients list

  • 24 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon solid vegetable shortening (regular or transfats free, available at the health-food store)
  • 1 1/2 rounded cups Rice Krispies cereal, plain and/or cocoa-flavored

From the supermarket shelf:

  • 24 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate
  • Solid vegetable shortening
  • Rice Krispies cereal (regular and/or cocoa-flavored

Comments (0)

Chewy Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Cookies

Totally yummy, chewy, chocolaty and extra textural because of the additional chocolate chip, these cookies will be gobbled up! Although the texture of these cookies are wonderful, even after a couple of days, my preference is to serve them about 20 minutes after they’ve left the oven. This shouldn’t pose a timing problem if you’ve made the dough in advance and chilled it shaped in logs. That way, when ever the time is “right,” just unwrap a log, slice it and bake away!

So, if you’re looking for a great way to greet the kids when they come home from school, just bake a few cookies before you head out the door to pick them up and let them sit cooling on a wire rack. Or, if entertaining on a weekend night, when you sit down for your main course, slip some cookies into the oven and set the timer…Trust me, you won’t be sorry.

Special Equipment

  • Electric mixer (optional); preferably one with one central paddle attachment
  • Large sturdy rubber spatula
  • Jumbo, heavy-duty freezer bags
  • Cushioned cookie sheets
  • Parchment paper

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (or mix whole wheat pastry flour with all-purpose flour)
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (firmly packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 generous tablespoon “Lyles” Golden syrup (in the supermarket with the corn syrup, honey and molasses)
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (or use half chopped walnuts and half chips)Powdered sugar (optional, for dusting)

1) To set up: If planning on making the batter and chilling or freezing, lay a 14-inch sheet of plastic wrap on your counter and overlap another sheet on top, just to one side, to widen the plastic surface. Do this once more on other areas of your counter (if you don’t have enough counter space, just work with one plastic set-up at a time.) If planning to bake, straight away, preheat the oven to 350F and line a few cushioned cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2) To prepare cookie batter: In a medium bowl, use a whisk to combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa, and cinnamon, if using. Using an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, (alternatively, use a wooden spoon), cream the butter with the sugars (including the syrup) until light. Add the egg, espresso powder and the vanilla, and beat until well incorporated. On low speed, mix in dry ingredients until well combined. Stir in the chocolate chips (or nuts and chips) and mix until well-distributed (expect the batter to be stiff). If using all whole wheat pastry flour, mix 2 tablespoons boiling water with the espresso powder and allow it to cool to just warm. Add this to the machine when you would add the vanilla.)

3) To roll dough into logs and chill: Using a large, sturdy rubber spatula, divide the mixture into two or more sections, placing one on each plastic wrap setup. Lift up one long edge of one piece of plastic and lay it over the cookie mixture. Roll mixture in the plastic until you reach the opposite edge. Using your hands, gently hold and press the plastic, over the cookie mixture while moving your hands, going in the opposite direction, to create a long log of cookie dough, about 2-inches in diameter. Smooth and correct the shape, then twist ends of plastic and secure them with twist ties. Repeat with the remaining portion(s) of dough. Store the logs in a doubled, jumbo heavy-duty freezer bag (if logs are longer than your bags can accommodate, wrap the logs in heavy-duty foil. Refrigerate the logs for up to 3 days or freeze them for up to 2 months.

4) To set up to bake: If dough is frozen, place as many logs as desired in the refrigerator overnight to thaw, but keep chilled until ready to bake. Position the oven racks to the upper and lower levels and preheat the oven to 350oF. Line one or two cookie sheets with parchment paper but do not grease paper. Unwrap a log of dough and, using a knife or the blade of a pastry scraper, cut off chunks of dough about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick. Round off any squared edges, if needed, and place the cookie dough pieces 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet(s). Using the palm of your hand, flatten each cookie slightly and correct the shape a bit.

5) To bake: Bake in preheated oven for 9 to 12 minutes, switching the shelf position of the sheets after half the baking time. When done, cookies will be low yet puffed and will seem underdone in the center. If very chilled, the dough will take the full 12 minutes and, if baking right after assembling the batter, the cookies could be done after 9 (baking time will also depend on the size of your chunks of batter). Most important is to avoid over-baking. The texture will be best if it seems a bit more underdone than you think appropriate.

6) To cool, serve and store: Remove sheets from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Use a metal turning spatula to lightly tap the tops of each cookie, deflating their “poofiness” and then let them sit on the hot sheets, on the rack, for 10 to 20 minutes. Using the metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool further. Serve warm (they’re really good warm) or completely cooled. Store cookies in an airtight tin or tightly covered cookie jar. If desired, right before serving, dust with sifted powdered sugar.

SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients:

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (or mix whole wheat pastry flour with all-purpose flour)
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (firmly packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 generous tablespoon “Lyles” Golden syrup (in the supermarket with the corn syrup, honey and molasses)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (or use half chopped walnuts and half chips)
  • Powdered sugar (optional, for dusting)

From the supermarket shelf:

  • Unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • Unsweetenend cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
  • Baking soda
  • Fine table-salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Light brown sugar
  • Granulated sugar
  • Lyles Golden syrup (with the honey)
  • Pure vanilla extract
  • Instant espresso powder (optional)
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

From the the refrigerated section:

  • 1 extra-large egg

Comments (2)

Caramel-Chocolate Crispy Crackers, With (or Without) Toasted Almonds

This is a real favorite around my house… I just love the savory quality of using salted crackers in this sweet dessert. I often leave out the nuts and just top the melted chocolate with twice as many crushed cookies. (I mix Lorna Doones with Chips Ahoy). Be sure to use the right size baking sheet, for assured success. I’ve never met anyone that didn’t absolutely adore these… I trust you and yours will too.

Here’s what these amazing candy-like confections look like …And, they taste five times as great as they look!

Special equipment

  • 10 x 15-inch jelly roll pan
  • Parchment paper
  • 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan

For the candy:

  • ½ cup, sliced almonds, lightly toasted on a shallow baking sheet in a 350F oven for 10 minutes (optional)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup (firmly packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 scant teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 35 Saltine crackers (preferably salted)
  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup each: whole blanched almonds, deeply toasted and chopped and crushed vanilla shortbread cookies, like Lorna Doones

To make the candy: first preheat the oven to 350oF. Melt the butter in a 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, over medium heat. Line a 10 x 15-inch jelly roll pan (with 1-inch sides) with parchment paper, with a bit of overhang, and grease the paper, lightly and evenly, using some of the melted butter. Line the pan with rows of the crackers, in a single snug layer.

Get the melted butter hot, over medium heat, until it’s bubbling, then carefully whisk in the brown sugar, until homogeneous (the butter can splash until homogeneous with the sugar). Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla (make sure all the butter is completely incorporated into the sugar). Stir in the toasted sliced almonds, if using. Drizzle the caramel mixture over the crackers and use a small metal spreading spatula to disperse the caramel evenly, on top of the crackers. Bake the candy for 12 minutes, then let pan sit on a wire cooling rack, for 3 to 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate either in the top of a double boiler, over barely simmering water or in the microwave, on medium, for 2 minutes, stirring after each minute, until perfectly smooth. Pour the melted chocolate on top of the crackers and spread it out, so it covers them completely. Mix the chopped nuts and crushed cookies and sprinkle this over the chocolate. Stick the pan into the refrigerator, uncovered, for 1 hour. Lay a sheet of wax paper lightly on top and chill for another 1 to 2 hours.

To unmold and cut the candy: Lift one end of the parchment paper and release the slab of candied crackers from the sheet. Peel off the parchment paper and then break up the candy, into irregular pieces. Alternatively, for a more finished look, after removing the parchment, position the slab horizontally in front of you (on a cutting board) and use the blade of your pastry scraper to divide it into four 3-inch strips. Cut the strips into angular shards. Either way, put the candy onto a platter or into an airtight tin.

To store: Store the candy in an airtight tin, at room temperature.

Comments (2)

Bread Pudding With Bananas, Spiced Apples and Brandied Raisins

The flavor and aroma of this comforting dessert is reminiscent of banana bread, but the consistency is chunkier and the top is crisper. The combined flavors–bananas, sautéed spiced apples and raisins plumped in apple brandy–make this bread pudding one that you will never forget. The most preferred type of bread for this recipe is Challah that’s been baked in a loaf pan without a seeded top, but any high quality store-bought white or egg bread (without seeds) would also produce fine results. This dessert is particularly soothing in cold weather, served slightly warm with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream. And in warmer weather, layer this bread pudding slightly warmed in a parfait glass with vanilla ice cream.

Any time I’ve suggested the use of an unfamiliar tool or piece of equipment, or to clarify any culinary terms, go to Kitchen Management for more information.

Special Equipment

  • Nutmeg grater (optional)
  • 2-quart baking dish (2 inches deep)
  • Blender

For the Topping

  • 1/3 cup walnut halves
  • 2 rounded tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)

For the Pudding

  • Melted butter or vegetable spray, for baking dish
  • 4 packed cups day-old egg bread or white bread with crusts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/3 cup mixed light and dark raisins
  • 1/4 cup apple brandy (Calvados or applejack)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups packed peeled, cored and coarsely chopped Golden Delicious apples
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy cream or (preferably not ultra-pasteurized) or half-and-half
  • 3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup banana puree (about 2 large very ripe bananas)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for garnish

1) To prepare the topping: Place all topping ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process, using on-off turns, until mixture is finely chopped. Set aside. (Alternatively, place topping ingredients into a heavy-duty plastic bag and roll over mixture with a rolling pin until finely ground.)

2) To set up: Preheat the oven to 350o F. Brush a 2-quart baking dish with melted butter or spray with vegetable spray. Place cubed bread in a large bowl. Place raisins and brandy in a small saucepan over low heat until brandy comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and let plump in brandy.

3) To sauté the apples: Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in an 8- to 10-inch skillet over medium heat. When bubbling, add chopped apples. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg and, when apples are well coated with butter and spices, reduce heat to low. Cook over low heat until apples are softened and spices are fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. (Do not overcook apples; they should remain textural.)

4) To assemble the bread pudding: In a large mixing bowl, combine cream, eggs, banana puree, vanilla and brown sugar. Stir well to combine and pour over the bowl of bread cubes. Scrape sautéed apples onto bread mixture and fold together along with raisins and brandy. Combine well. Dice the remaining 3 tablespoons butter and fold into mixture. Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the reserved topping evenly over the top.

5) To bake and serve: Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit until just warm. Serve warm or at room temperature with a spoonful of softly whipped cream.

6) To store and reheat: Place leftovers covered in the refrigerator; bring to room temperature or re-warm gently before serving. The best way to reheat bread pudding is in the microwave on low since conventional heat tends to dry it out. If you desire a crisper top, after microwaving, run the pudding very briefly under the broiler. Keep a watchful eye out to avoid burning.

Reduced-Fat Variations

Although you’ll lose some of the flavor, you can substantially reduce the saturated-fat content of this recipe by doing the following: When sautéing apples, omit butter and substitute 3 tablespoons unsweetened apple juice or cider, simmering until softened and fragrant. When assembling pudding, use milk instead of cream and reduce eggs from 3 to 1; increase banana puree to 1 1/2 cups and omit the last application of diced butter to the pudding.

SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients:

For the Topping

  • 1/3 cup walnut halves
  • 2 rounded tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)

For the Pudding

  • Melted butter or vegetable spray, for baking dish
  • 4 packed cups day-old egg bread or white bread with crusts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/3 cup mixed light and dark raisins
  • 1/4 cup apple brandy (Calvados or applejack)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups packed peeled, cored and coarsely chopped Golden Delicious apples
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy cream or (preferably not ultra-pasteurized) or half-and-half
  • 3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup banana puree (about 2 large very ripe bananas)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for garnish

From the supermarket shelf

  • Walnuts
  • Granulated sugar
  • Light brown sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg (whole or pre-ground)
  • Challah bread (unseeded) or another sturdy white bread (only if not making your own)
  • Light and dark raisins
  • Pure vanilla extract

From the dairy case

  • Unsalted butter
  • Heavy cream (for the pudding and also for whipping, if desired)
  • Vanilla ice cream (only if serving this as an accompaniment to the bread pudding)

From the refrigerated section

  • Extra-large eggs

From the produce aisle

  • 2 large Golden Delicious apples
  • Ripe bananas

From the spirits section:

  • Calvados (apple brandy)

Comments (1)

Apple Galette (with a Fresh Peach Variation)

Crisp pastry, tender and glistening cinnamon-scented apples and an aroma to knock your socks off, this is my most favorite way to make an apple tart and it’s the one I created in hopes of getting you to try something that is usually left to the professionals. The most important thing to remember is to slice the apples very thin, about 1/8-inch thick and shingle them from one top corner of the pastry down to the opposite bottom corner, in very snug and slightly overlapping diagonal rows. If you run out of apples when applying them to the unbaked pastry, you’ll know you sliced them too thick. If you have one or two slices leftover, it’s just right.

I hope you and your family love this dessert (which is also a wonderful morning pastry) as much as we do. Enjoy! (Oh, and check out the peach variation, given at the end of the recipe!)

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management for more information.

Special Equipment

  • Food processor or hand-held pastry blender; for the pastry
  • Rolling pin; preferably tapered and without ball-bearings
  • Pastry wheel to trim pastry; use a sharp knife as a substitute
  • Pizza stone; optional, use a heavy flat cookie sheet (not cushioned) as a substitute
  • Parchment paper
  • Pizza peel; optional, use a flat cookie sheet as a substitute
  • Reamer (or other juice extracting device)
  • Sturdy vegetable peeler
  • Apple corer or melon-ball scoop; to core the apples
  • 2 or 3 soft pastry brushes
  • Pizza wheel (cutter); optional, use a sharp knife, as a substitute

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 3 generous tablespoons well-chilled solid vegetable shortening
  • Ice water, as needed

Remaining Ingredients:

  • Egg-wash: 1 egg, mixed with 1 teaspoon water and strained
  • 3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large Golden Delicious apples (or 8 peaches, if making that variation)
  • About 1/4 cup cinnamon sugar (or vanilla-cinnamon sugar)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Apricot glaze: ½ cup apricot preserves mixed with 1 tablespoon water

1) To assemble the pastry and chill: Put the flour, salt and sugar into your food processor, fitted with the steel blade. Whirl the dry ingredients together for 30 seconds, until combined. Add the frozen butter cubes along with the bits of shortening. Pulse to cut the fat into the flour until it’s well distributed and the pieces are the size of peas. Pour in 1/4 cup of the ice-cold water. Pulse until the mixture in the bowl just starts to come together. Stop the machine and test several areas by gently pinching a piece of dough with your fingers (always unplug your food processor, before inserting your fingers into the work-bowl). The dough should feel moist, but not wet and should hold together when pressed gently between two fingers. If dough seems overly dry or mealy, drizzle on a little more water on those dry areas only and pulse, just to incorporate the added moisture. Be sure to check several areas of the dough before adding more liquid. Depending on your bag of flour and the humidity in the air (that day), you should need between 1/3 and 1/2 cup liquid, total.

Dump the dough out on to a large criss-cross of plastic wrap and place the exposed ends of the wrap over the dough. Flatten the dough into a rectangle and, after wrapping it securely, chill the dough for 1 hour (or up to 2 days) before using. This dough also freezes perfectly for 2 months when wrapped and placed in a labeled heavy-duty freezer bag. To thaw, leave in the refrigerator, in its original wrapping, overnight. Let the dough sit out of refrigeration for 5 to 10 minutes before proceeding.

2) To prepare the oven: Preheat the oven to 425F with a pizza stone placed on the center shelf (no rack should be above the pizza stone). Once the oven has reached the correct temperature, let the stone heat for at least 30 minutes more. Alternatively, if not using a pizza stone, place a flat (not cushioned) heavy cookie sheet (one without sides) into the oven to heat as you would a stone.

3) To roll out the dough: Place two overlapping sheets of wax paper on your counter and sprinkle it lightly, but evenly, with flour. Place the unwrapped dough on the center of the floured paper and sprinkle more flour on top. Place two more overlapping sheets of wax paper on top of the dough and roll the dough out into a large rectangle, 1/8-inch thick. Take off top sheets of paper and trim the edges using a fluted pastry wheel (or use a knife) to even the sides. Place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the trimmed dough, then place a baker’s peel (or a flat cookie sheet) on top of the paper and invert the dough so parchment paper is now underneath the pastry, which is now resting on top of the baker’s peel. Peel the wax paper off the top of the dough and brush off any surrounding flour. Fold in sides to create a border of pastry all the way around (1/2 inch wide), then slide the parchment holding the pastry onto a baking sheet and then in the refrigerator or freezer (covered with plastic wrap).

4) To prepare the apples: Place the lemon juice and vanilla into a nonreactive mixing bowl. Peel the apples and roll them in the lemon juice. Core the apples using an apple corer or cut each apple in half, through the stem end and remove the seed cavities on each half, using the small receptacle on a melon scoop. Use a pastry brush to paint some lemon juice inside the, now empty, cavities. Place each apple half on its side and slice very thin (no more than 1/8 inch thick (cut from side to side, not from cored top to bottom). Place all slices into the bowl with the lemon juice and toss to coat.

5) To assemble the tart and bake: Take pastry out of the refrigerator or freezer. Place the apple slices on the pastry, beginning in one of the top corners of the border and shingle the apples in a very tight overlapping pattern so there is no pastry bottom visible. You should use all of the apples. If you have any leftover, tuck them into a spot that seems a bit empty (apples should be very snug). Brush the border of pastry with the egg wash and, if desired, use the dull side of a paring knife to make a criss-cross design over the egg wash. Brush the top of the fruit all over with the melted butter (use all of it) and then sprinkle the top of the fruit generously with cinnamon sugar (to keep the rim of pastry from burning in the oven, try to keep the sugar on the fruit and only very minimally on the pastry rim).

Drag the parchment holding the unbaked galette onto a baker’s peel (or onto a flat cookie sheet) and place into the preheated oven, directly on top of the hot pizza stone (or hot baking sheet) and bake the galette at 425F for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 375 and bake for 5 minutes more. Reduce the temperature to 350F and bake for 5 more minutes, or until the pastry is very golden and the fruit is tender and caramelized around the edges.

Baking Note: I use a convection mode. If you use a conventional bake mode, you might need to bake the galette longer to achieve the correct degree of color and crispness.

6) To assemble apricot glaze: While the tart is in the oven, heat the apricot preserves with the water in a small saucepan, over low-medium heat and bring it to a bubble. Let become totally liquid, stirring frequently, then pour this through a small, medium-mesh sieve that sits over another bowl. Use a spoon or a sturdy rubber spatula to force as much of the preserves through the holes of the sieve as you can (scrape it off the bottom of the sieve) and set the glaze aside. (I have a small, electric device (a mini food processor works well) that I use to puree the liquified preserves. I then force through a strainer.)

7) To glaze the galette and serve: Use the peel to remove the galette from the oven and place on a wire rack. While the galette is still hot, gently paint the cooked fruit generously and evenly with the apricot glaze so it glistens. Let the galette cool until just warm or reheat briefly before serving alone, or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. To cut the galette into individual portions, run a sharp pizza wheel down the center, lengthwise, and then cut the halves crosswise into thirds or fourths.

Fresh Peach Variation: Instead of apples, remove the skin and stones from 8 medium (preferably free-stone) peaches. Cut each half into quarters and place, as you would the apples, on the pastry (You’re using more fruit because you won’t be slicing as thin. Position the slices as snug as possible on the pastry. Because of the nature of the type of fruit, this will not be as uniform looking as the tart made with apples. (I’m telling you this so you don’t make yourself crazy…) You can omit the cinnamon sugar and just use regular sugar but this is optional. Keep all other instructions the same. You can use peach preserves instead of apricot, if you choose.

Fresh Peach Galette

SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients

For the pastry:

  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 3 generous tablespoons well-chilled solid vegetable shortening
  • Ice water, as needed

Remaining Ingredients :

  • Egg-wash: 1 egg, mixed with 1 teaspoon water and strained
  • 3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large Golden Delicious apples
  • About 1/4 cup cinnamon sugar (or vanilla-cinnamon sugar)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Apricot glaze: ½ cup apricot preserves mixed with 1 tablespoon water

From the supermarket shelf:

  • Unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Fine table salt
  • Solid vegetable shortening (trans-fat free)
  • Pure vanilla extract
  • Apricot preserves

From the produce aisle:

  • 3 large Golden Delicious apples (or 8 peaches, if making that variation)
  • Lemon

From the the refrigerated section:

  • Eggs

From the dairy case:

  • Unsalted butter

Comments (4)

Amazing “Double-Almond” Biscotti

These “amazing” biscotti are rustic looking and just loaded with the sultry taste, aroma and texture of toasted almonds; but not just any almonds. If you’ve never tried Marcona almonds, from Spain , you’re in for a treat. They’re flatter than the regular almonds and they’ve been skinned, toasted and sprinkled with sea salt. You’ll find them in well-stocked food shops that cater to those that know good food when they taste it!

Special Equipment:

Electric mixer (optional)
Cushioned cookie sheets
Parchment paper

For the cookie dough:

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter , melted
  • 3 extra-large eggs, made tepid by submerging them, in their shells, in a bowl of hot tap water for 10 minutes
  • 3 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped Spanish “Marcona” almonds (purchase those that are whole and are toasted with safflower oil and sea salt, before chopping), plus more for the topping
  • Powdered sugar, as needed, for shaping the raw cookie dough

For the topping:

  • 2 cups finely chopped Marcona almonds
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. To make the cookie dough and chill: Melt the butter and let cool until just warm. Meanwhile, submerge the whole eggs (in their shell) into a bowl of hot tap water and let sit, undistur bed, while you move on. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Pour the melted butter into the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or pour into a mixing bowl). Add the sugar, eggs and extracts and combine well (if using an electric mixer, try not to incorporate too much air into the mixture, so only use a mode rate setting). Add the flour mixture and coarsely chopped nuts and mix, on low; until cohesive dough forms (the cookie dough will be somewhat soft). Cover the bowl and chill for 1 to 2 hours.

2. To bake : Preheat the oven to 350 and line two baking sheets, prefer ably cushioned cookie sheets, with parchment paper. If working with a double oven, have the racks on the center shelf. If using one oven, have the racks positioned in the upper and lower third shelves. Sprinkle your work surface with some powdered sugar and divide the chilled cookie batter in half. One at a time, lightly knead each half, shaping them into long logs. Place the log onto the parchment lined baking sheets and correct their shape, using your hands (sugar your hands, if the dough ever sticks). Do this with the second half of dough. Bake the logs of cookie dough in the preheated oven fo r 25 minutes. (If baking two sheets in one oven, switch their shelf position after half the baking time.)

3. To make the topping : While the logs bake, mix the 2 cups of finely chopped nuts with the corn syrup, milk and vanilla. Set this aside, until the logs come out of the oven.

4. To cut the logs and bake again : Remove the baking sheets from the oven and place them on wire coolingr acks for 5 to 10 minutes (do not turn off the oven). Slip 2 long off-set turning spatulas under each end of the cookie log and transfer this to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, slice each log into ½-inch thick slices, on the diagonal, and place them, flat side down, on their baking sheets (divide them evenly). Place the sheets back into the oven for 5 minutes. Remove the sheets and turn each slice over and bake again for 5 minutes.

3. To apply the topping : Remove the sheets from the oven and spoon (and spread) some of the topping on top of the exposed flat side of each cookie. Try to evenly distribute the topping, although they won’t be evenly spread out. Place the sheet(s) into the oven and turn the heat down to 325F. Bake for 12 minutes. Turn off the oven(s) and allow the cookies to stay there, undisturbed, for 10 minutes. Remove the sheets to wire racks to cool for a few minutes, before removing the cookies from their sheets, to cool completely on racks, before serving or storing in an air tight tin, at room temperature.


SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients

For the cookie dough:

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 extra-large eggs, made tepid by submerging them, in their shells, in a bowl of hot tap water for 10 minutes
  • 3 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped Spanish “Marcona” almonds (purchase those that are whole and are toasted with safflower oil and sea salt, before chopping), plus more for the topping
  • Powdered sugar, as needed, for shaping the raw cookie dough

For the topping:

  • 2 cups finely chopped Marcona almonds
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

From the supermarket shelf:

  • Unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Fine table salt
  • Pure vanilla extract
  • Pure almond extract
  • Powdered sugar
  • Light corn syrup

From the dairy case:

  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Eggs (extra-large)

From the specialty store:

  • Skinned Marcona almonds (that are toasted in oil and seasoned with salt)

Comments (0)

Fresh Fruit Parfaits

These parfaits are as beautiful for breakfast as they are refreshing, for dessert. The addition of a few ripe rounds of banana is very strategic, since their creaminess adds a surprising (and very soothing) contrast to the cold, juicy melon.

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management for more information.

Special Equipment

  • Food processor
  • Fine-mesh sieve (only if pureeing raspberries)
  • Melon-baller (only if making balls of fruit)

For the parfaits:

  • 1 rounded cup (1/2 dry pint) blackberries, raspberries, or hulled strawberries), plus 2 extra beautiful berries, per person, for garnish
  • 1 rounded tablespoon seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 rounded tablespoon seedless raspberry jam
  • 4 cups of cut up melon, from 2 or 3 different types of ripe melon, including watermelon, if available (or make melon balls using a melon-baller )
  • 2 large, ripe, but firm bananas
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons strained fresh lemon juice
  • 2 8-ounce containers vanilla yogurt
  • Fresh mint leaves, for garnish
  • Optional additions: Your favorite granola or some dry-toasted, sliced almonds

1. To make the berry puree: Place the berries into the bowl of your food processor fitted with the steel blade, or in a blender. Process the berries until thoroughly pureed. Place a generous tablespoon of seedless raspberry jam into a 1-quart saucepan. Position a fine-mesh sieve over the pot and pour the berry puree into the sieve. Using a sturdy rubber or a wooden spatula, rub the puree through the sieve, leaving the seeds behind (straining is not necessary if using strawberries). Bring the pureed mixture just to a simmer, over low heat, stirring to break up any coagulated jam. Remove this from the stove, pour it into a bowl and let it cool.

2. To prepare the bananas for the parfaits:When you’re almost ready to serve the parfaits, cut the banana into either rounds or dice or make balls of banana, using a melon-baller. (To do this, lay each peeled banana on a flat surface. Use a gentle but firm hand to scoop down into the banana flesh, making a full clockwise revolution with the scoop. Lift the scoop and, to help the banana ball pop out, knock the stem of the scooper over the rim of a bowl.) When you’ve measured at least 1 cup of cut banana pieces, toss them with the lemon juice, to prevent them from discoloring.

3. To assemble the parfaits:Gently fold together the banana and melon. Place 1 1/4 cups of the fruit into each parfait glass and ladle 1/3 to 1/2 cup of vanilla yogurt over the fruit. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the berry puree on top of the yogurt and allow the parfait to sit for a few minutes so the toppings can trickle down throughout the fruit. If desired, top each parfait with a tablespoon or so of your favorite granola or some sliced toasted almonds. Garnish each serving with two plump berries and a beautiful sprig of fresh mint.
Technique Reminder: To toast nuts

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place nuts on a shallow baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the type of nut and whether they’re whole, sliced, skinned or not). Use your nose as your guide. As soon as you smell that first savory waft of toasting nuts, they’re almost done. Nuts with skins toast quicker than blanched (skinless) ones and it’s best to shimmy the pan to occasionally distribute while they’re in the oven. (Over-toasting nuts with skins can leave them bitter-tasting.) Also, because nuts, when whole, are all shaped differently, they require a different amount of time in the oven, so only place one type of nut on a baking sheet, when toasting.

Timing is Everything:

  • The fruit puree can be prepared up to two days ahead and stored in the refrigerator, well covered.
  • Although the bananas must be prepared close to assembling the parfaits, the melon can be cut one day ahead and stored in the refrigerator, well covered.
  • The parfaits can be assembled (without the granola or nuts) up to 2 hours ahead of serving. Cover them carefully (loosely) with plastic wrap and refrigerate. If using a topping, add it just before serving.

SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients

For the parfaits:

  • 1 rounded cup (1/2 dry pint) blackberries, raspberries, or hulled strawberries), plus 2 extra beautiful berries, per person, for garnish
  • 1 rounded tablespoon seedless raspberry jam
  • 4 cups of cut up melon, from 2 or 3 different types of ripe melon, including watermelon, if available (or make melon balls using a melon-baller )
  • 2 large, ripe, but firm bananas
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons strained fresh lemon juice
  • 2 8-ounce containers vanilla yogurt
  • Fresh mint leaves, for garnish
  • Optional additions: Your favorite granola or some dry-toasted sliced almonds

From the produce aisle:

  • Assorted berries (include more of either raspberries or strawberries to make the berry puree)
  • An assortment of melons (choose ones with different colored flesh)
  • Ripe bananas
  • Fresh mint

From the dairy case

  • Vanilla yogurt

From the supermarket shelf

  • Nuts (optional)
  • Granola (optional)

Comments (1)