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Just finished reading The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant. A very, very intriguing book. The book is written from the voice of a Jewish grandmother as she tells her granddaughter the saga of her life starting about 1910, who struggles with her own individuality, with her domineering mother who never says a kind word to her. It’s certainly a coming-of-age story as she grows up, finds a job, makes friends, joins a literary girls club, moves out, but still suffers under her mother’s thumb and tongue. She becomes a reporter on a local newspaper, which opens her eyes to more of the world than she ever knew. She finally meets the right man (of course!) and she shares the stories about her life, and her friends and family members as she grows up, giving some sage advice along the way. Part of the time she’s talking to herself – to her young self  (really wanting to tell young Addie to keep on, forgive herself for her perceived transgressions, to live life, and experience the world).

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

As soon as I finished the above book I promptly visited my church library and found a whole shelf of Rivers’ books, and grabbed one called The Atonement Child. This book takes place in the 1980s or 90s, about a young college student who is raped. She was engaged to be married, was a stellar student. The book chronicles what happens to her when she discovers she is pregnant from the rape. Every possible thing goes wrong in her life. I don’t want to spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. I ended up spending a good part of a day plowing through it. You hear her inner voice (I’m guessing this is a common thread in Rivers’ books) from a Christian perspective. Lots of meaty issues to discuss in a book club if your group would be interested and willing to talk about rape, abortion, adoption and the thorny issues surrounding all of those things, but with a Christian bent, for sure.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. It’s kind of amazing how many and varied plot lines can be created from events of WWII. This is another one, about a current day woman who finds papers in the attic, after her father’s death, with references to “the child.” She never knew her father could have had another child – could she have a step-sibling somewhere? Her father she knew, had been shot down over Italy, but he never talked much about it. But of course, she must go to Italy to find out about this “child.” The book flips back and forth from this daughter on the search, to her father during the war, all of it taking place in a very small town in Tuscany. It’s about the varied people she meets who want her to go away and not dredge up anything about the war years (are they hiding something, you question), about how much she loves the landscape, and some of the people. And about the intense love affair between the injured pilot and a caring woman of the village. Very charming story. I could almost smell the flowers, taste the olives, hear the bees flitting, and loved the prose about the simple meals that were described. I really enjoyed the book. Perhaps not enough meat for a book club read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Desserts, on May 4th, 2018.

spiced_cranberry_bundt_cake

Do you still have some cranberries stuck in the back of your refrigerator? Or maybe a package in the freezer. This one’s for you!

The other day I was trying to find cornichon pickles in my refrigerator. I knew I had some, but couldn’t seem to find them. People who don’t cook much don’t have that kind of problem, I’d guess, since you might be able to open the refrigerator and you can see everything in it at one glance. Not so with mine. I’ve got all kinds of stuff in mine, little jars and packages of this and that, some in little long rectangular box/trays slid onto a shelf, on rounders on the top shelf, etc. Anyway, lo and behold, I had a bag of fresh cranberries pushed up against the back wall on the bottom shelf. That package, unfortunately, had to be tossed out, but I also had a small amount of fresh cranberries in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Perfect for this cake.

spiced_cranberry_bundt_cake_wholeHaving been invited to dinner with my friends Cherrie and Bud, I was asked to bring dessert. And knowing my schedule on that date, I knew I needed to make it the day before. Whatever it was I decided to make. I scrolled through my to-try recipes and settled on this one, since cranberries were on my brain. One of my criteria was to NOT have to make a trip to the grocery store. So, this one fit the bill. I had everything, including Greek yogurt, Chinese five spice, almonds and both the frozen cranberries and dried cranberries. Zi-pi-dee-do-da. Did I spell that right? Haven’t a clue!!

spiced_cranberry_bundt_sliceThe dry ingredients are mixed up together. Easy. The butter needed to be warmed (my Dacor microwave does a stellar job of bringing chilled butter to room temp with one 10 second period, a pause to turn over the cubes, and another zap of 6 seconds, and the cubes are soft but not too soft. The batter was begun by whipping the butter (adding lots of air), then the sugars were added, eventually the eggs, yogurt, then the dry ingredients and mixed just briefly. Once that was combined, the dried cranberries and the halved frozen cranberries plus toasted almonds were added and it easily slid into the greased and floured Bundt cake pan. It baked for over an hour, cooled for an hour, then I upended it onto my wood cutting board to cool completely. I covered it in plastic wrap overnight (since I don’t have a glass dome cake cover). It was easy enough to bring along a fresh orange and I decorated the cake just before serving. I also bought some vanilla ice cream on the way to their house.

What’s GOOD: loved the Chinese five spice (it’s different because of the little amount of ground fennel and Szechuan pepper in it). It gives this cake a different flavor – but you can’t quite identify it. It was moist and sweet. Liked the use of frozen cranberries (tart) and the dried cranberries (sweet). You will want ice cream with this. I brought more than half of it home (even after sharing some with Cherrie & Bud) and it’s now in the freezer from some occasion when I need a dessert in a hurry! On the scale of heavy cake to light cake, I’d say it was about in the middle. The cake pan was heavy. Just don’t overcook it (test with a toothpick) so it doesn’t get dry.

What’s NOT: maybe that you don’t have frozen cranberries on hand. The cake was easy to make, although the ingredient list might be daunting – it’s not really that difficult.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Spiced Cranberry Bundt Cake

Recipe By: Epicurious
Serving Size: 14

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup almond flour — or almond meal (about 2 1/2 ounces)
2 1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup unsalted butter — (2 sticks) room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar — (packed)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or 2% works too
1 cup almonds — chopped toasted
1 cup fresh cranberries — chilled, halved (or frozen cranberries, not thawed)
1/2 cup dried cranberries — chopped
1 tablespoon orange zest
2/3 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons orange juice — (about)

NOTES: Chinese five-spice powder is a combination of spices: make your own with 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1/2 tsp fennel seed, toasted and ground, 1/2 tsp star anise, ground and 1/2 tsp szechuan peppercorns, toasted and ground.
1. CAKE: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Whisk first 8 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract, then Greek yogurt. Add dry ingredients; beat just until blended. Fold in almonds and all cranberries. Transfer batter to prepared Bundt pan. Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack and cool completely.
2. ICING: Stir powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons orange juice in small bowl until sugar dissolves. Mix in more juice by 1/2 teaspoonfuls to reach consistency of heavy cream. Spoon icing over cake, allowing it to drip down sides. Sprinkle top with orange zest. Let stand until icing sets, at least 30 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream. DO AHEAD: Cake can be made 3 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and store at room temperature. Freezes well for up to a month.
Per Serving: 429 Calories; 22g Fat (45.9% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 88mg Cholesterol; 187mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on April 25th, 2018.

choc_brownie_cobbler

What’s in a name? Is this a cobbler? Not like a traditional one with fruit. Is it a brownie? Sort of, but much looser. Is it a lava cake? Possibly, but made in a casserole instead of individual ramekins. Maybe it’s really a pudding cake in disguise. Whatever you call it, it’s worth making.

Years ago I read an article about all the differences and variations of cobblers, crisps, buckles and pandowdys. And from my recollection, I don’t know that this recipe quite qualifies, but hey, it’s just a name. What this isn’t is a brownie you can pick up with your fingers. As I explained above, this is more like a pudding cake. Decadent, full of chocolate flavor. Tarla Fallgatter made this at a recent cooking class, and I all but licked the bowl. But then, I love chocolate in almost any way, shape or form. Oh, except milk chocolate. Someone offered me a chocolate bar the other day that contained cinnamon and crispy things inside, but it was made with milk chocolate. I had one bite and threw the rest away. Not for me. It was also exceptionally sweet.

choc_brownie_cobbler_baked_whole

Don’t you just want to dip your spoon into that? From the look of it, it’s a chocolate cake. But oh no, it’s not. Well, yes, it IS a cake, but its properties are much more fluid, soft, oozy. Totally decadent in my book. The batter is just like a chocolate cake (butter, eggs, chopped chocolate, sugar flour, nuts, and some chocolate chips thrown in at the end) and it’s baked in a ceramic or glass dish. If you have big eaters this won’t serve 10. But serving smaller portions  you definitely could feed 10 since you’ll serve it with vanilla ice cream. You need the ice cream to balance the sweet and rich of the pudding/cake. Make this, okay?

What’s GOOD: definitely the chocolate flavor. If you’re a chocoholic like I am, you’ll swoon over this one. You could, I suppose, make this with milk chocolate if that’s your chocolate of choice. I much prefer dark chocolate! There’s plenty of texture in this – cake part, oozy chocolate lava-like part and a bit of crispy crust plus a few little chunks of chocolate chips. Altogether wonderful and easy to prepare.

What’s NOT: if you don’t like chocolate, well, this isn’t for you! This is a keeper as far as I’m concerned. Very easy to make also.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chocolate Brownie Cobbler

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 10

1 cup unsalted butter
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup walnuts — toasted, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chocolate chips — or pieces
cocoa powder
vanilla ice cream

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Butter a 9-inch baking dish (glass or ceramic).
3. Melt butter and chocolate in a bowl over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and add sugar and eggs. Mix well. Add vanilla, both quantities of flour and salt. Stir in walnuts and chocolate pieces/chips and transfer to prepared baking dish.
4. Bake until top is crisp, 40-50 minutes. Center of cobbler should be soft. Cool in a rack for 15 minutes. Dust with cocoa powder. Spoon the cobbler into bowls and serve with vanilla ice cream. As the cobbler cools, it firms up some and won’t have the soft, runny consistency.
Per Serving: 531 Calories; 37g Fat (58.7% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 134mg Cholesterol; 141mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on March 20th, 2018.

sour_cream_rhubarb_pie_slice

Do you like rhubarb? Gosh, I sure do, and here in SoCal, it’s hard to find sometimes. When I see it at any of my local markets, I buy some.

There aren’t many rhubarb recipes here on my blog. Mostly because over the years I was married to my DH, as a Type 1 diabetic, rhubarb was a dangerous fruit for him because it requires so much sugar to make it edible. I was never successful using artificial sweeteners with rhubarb. But I grew up knowing and eating rhubarb. My mother used to make a simple rhubarb sauce and that would be dessert whenever the big patch of rhubarb in our back yard was bearing fruit. My mother did make rhubarb pie now and then too.

rhubarb_in_shell_rawDid you read my last post about the new pie crust I made? That has a bit of cornstarch added into the dough? This one – see the lovely flaky-looking edge – I’ll just tell you even those edges were tender and oh-so flaky – I ate every bite of my slice.

First the raw rhubarb was trimmed and cut up into 1/2” slices. Easy to do. They were piled into the crust. Meanwhile, I’d made an egg and sour cream mixture (plus a tetch of flour and salt), added some vanilla and poured it onto the rhubarb. It took a minute or so for the viscous fluid to sink down in, but it did.

rhubarb_pie_raw_filling_addedInto the oven the pie went, first at a high temp, then after 10 minutes the temp is reduced to 350°F and baked about another 30 minutes.

The crumb topping is kind of standard (sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and butter) and mixed up well with a fork. When the pie comes out of the oven at this point, the crumb topping was added and the pie was baked for an additional 15 minutes.

sour_cream_rhubarb_pie_streusel_crust_out_of_ovenI had to leave the house at the exact moment this pie was finished, so if I’d wanted to add another 5 minutes of baking I couldn’t have done it. I was concerned, though, as the center was still looking a little bit jiggly, but it had completely set by the time the pie cooled and it was served.

Results? Every one raved about it – me included. Fortunately everyone in my group that night liked rhubarb. I thought the sour cream aspect of it added a lot of mellowing flavor. The recipe came from The Splendid Table, and it’s a keeper.

What’s GOOD: everything about it was good – the pie crust, the filling, the topping, etc. I served it with vanilla ice cream, and then the leftovers were served with whipped cream instead. Both were good. This recipe is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nary a thing. I’d definitely make this again.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie

Recipe By: The Splendid Table
Serving Size: 8

1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rhubarb — (fresh or frozen), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
CRUMB TOPPING:
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter — softened

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla, then add to the flour mixture.
3. Place the rhubarb in the prepared pie shell. Pour the egg and flour mixture evenly over the top.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for 30 minutes more.
5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the crumb topping and mix with a fork until crumbly.
6. Remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle the crumb topping over the top. Return to the oven to bake for another 15 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned.
7. Remove from the oven again and allow the pie to cool slightly before slicing. Pie can be frozen at this point. Once it is defrosted and warmed slightly in a 200°F oven, you would never know it had ever been frozen.
Per Serving: 326 Calories; 13g Fat (35.8% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 81mg Cholesterol; 294mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on March 16th, 2018.

pie_crust_w_cornstarch

One might think there couldn’t be anything “new” regarding pie crusts. But lo, behold, there is a pie crust that’s very easy, has a bunch of butter, but also cornstarch. Amazing.

If someone had given me a recipe for a new pie crust, well, maybe I’d have smiled, said thank you, and promptly set it aside and not even looked at it. But this one, oh gosh, what a mistake to not try it! This one came from Christopher Kimball, from his new venture, Milk Street. And there was a very big write-up about it in the magazine, so I input the recipe into my MasterCook software and didn’t think about it for awhile. I don’t make many pies.

But the other day, needing a dessert for my weekly bible study group, I was going through to-try recipes, and it just so happened I had rhubarb in the refrigerator. That led to a recipe, and that led to my needing a pie crust.

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile (it’s been nearly 11  years now I’ve been blogging) you likely have gone to my recipe index. It’s prodigious. I’m not bragging, truly I’m not. But sometimes when I’m actually writing in the additions to the index, I’m kind of blown away by how MANY recipes I have on this site. And I was particularly amazed at how many cakes are there. Obviously I love baking. And I use any occasion as an excuse to try something new. Occasionally I go back to a tried and true recipe (like my mother’s Crisp Apple Pudding that I made recently and used both apples and pears) but because I write a blog, well, one must keep truckin’ and try new recipes.

My next post will be the pie filling part – but today we’re just talkin’ about the crust. I’m not often lured into making pie crusts. They just seem like so much work. More work than I want to do. I’m not fond of making a pre-baked crust – more work with digging out the pie weights, getting them cleanly out of the shell, etc. In this case the sour cream-rhubarb filling was put into the raw crust and baked together (easier!).

The crust isn’t difficult, although you do have to briefly cook the cornstarch with water in the microwave until it’s hot and set. It gets cooled some, then stuffed in the freezer for 10 minutes to cool off. Then it’s added to the usual dry ingredients (flour, sugar and salt) in the food processor and pulsed until that mixture is smooth. Then you add the sour cream (only 2 tablespoons) and 10 tablespoons of butter. Once pulsed for a bit, it all comes together into a ball. It’s flattened into a 4-inch flat disk, wrapped in plastic wrap and chilled for an hour (or longer). I was on a time schedule, so I did 60 minutes.pie_crust_w_cornstarch_sideview

But now, the crust – when I took it out of the refrigerator and began rolling it, it had a definite texture difference. It was supple and soft and the amount was perfect for my 9-inch pie plate. It didn’t roll out into that magical perfect circle that one would like (darn) but when I patched the dough in a couple of places, it adhered and was very easy to finish rolling. I rolled it up onto the rolling pin and gently let it down into the dish. It was easy to move, because, of course, I hadn’t centered it correctly, but the dough allowed me to do that without tearing or stretching it. Yea! I trimmed some of the edges off, then folded the 1/2 inch outer edges under and crimped with my fingers and the crust was DONE! It was easier than I thought. I didn’t freeze the dough-filled plate (as you would do if you wanted to blind bake it) and the finished pie was just fine – not overly browned even though I baked the pie at a different temperature than the suggested for a blind bake.

And oh, my. Is this crust tender! Even those tall, thick finger-crimped edges were as tender as could be. Sometimes when you make a wet kind of pie filling (like the sour cream rhubarb one I did) it makes the bottom crust soggy. Not this one. Why, I don’t know. I may just be making this pie crust anytime I need one in the future. The recipe says to make two and freeze one of the disks, which would be a great idea – just use within a month, though. You can also make the dough a couple of days ahead and keep chilled.

What’s GOOD: everything about this crust is a good thing! Easy to make. Easy to roll out. Easy to get into the pie plate. Baked perfectly. Bottom crust stayed a crust and wasn’t soggy. Easy to cut and get out of the pie dish too. Sometimes that first slice is a bummer. Not with this one, anyway. A day later when I had a leftover slice that had been refrigerated, the bottom crust was still firm and not soggy, and the chilled crust was tasty and flaky. Truly, this pie crust is a bit of a miracle for me!

What’s NOT: nothing at all – just one extra step to cook the cornstarch and water before starting and cooling it in the freezer for 10 minutes. You should chill the dough, too, so do plan a few hours ahead.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Single-Crust Pie Dough with Cornstarch

Recipe By: Milk Street, 2016
Serving Size: 8

3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
159 grams all purpose flour — (equals 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons butter — WITH SALT, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
2 tablespoons sour cream

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the water and cornstarch. Microwave until set, 30 to 40 seconds, stirring halfway through. Chill in the freezer for 10 minutes.
2. Once the cornstarch mixture has chilled, in a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt and process until mixed, about 5 seconds. Add the chilled cornstarch mixture and pulse until uniformly ground, about 5 pulses.
3. Add the butter and sour cream and process until the dough comes together and begins to collect around the blade, 20 to 30 seconds.
4. Pat the dough into a 4-inch disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 48 hours.
5. When ready to bake, heat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle position.
6. On a well-floured counter, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle.
7. Hang the dough over the rolling pin and transfer to a 9-inch pie pan. Gently ease the dough into the pan by lifting the edges while pressing down into the corners of the pan.
8. Trim the edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, then tuck the overhang under itself so the dough is flush with the rim of the pan.
9. Crimp the dough with your fingers or the tines of a fork, then chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.
10. To blind bake, line the chilled crust with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake until the edges are light golden brown, about 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.
11. Remove the foil and weights and bake until the bottom of the crust just begins to color, another 5 to 7 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before filling.
12. Once baked and cooled, the crust can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Tip: Don’t skip the sour cream; it’s key for a tender crust. And don’t skimp on the pie weights; use enough to come 3/4 of the way up the sides.
Per Serving: 214 Calories; 15g Fat (64.1% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 40mg Cholesterol; 216mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on March 12th, 2018.

banana_cc_upside_down_cake_slice

That may not look like much – I’ve mentioned it here before – brown food doesn’t look very appetizing. But, oh, you’d be wrong about the flavor!

Often my bible study group meets at my home, but we pass around the duties of hosting, and of providing some kind of dessert. One of our members is 95 years old (young). There is almost nothing Dottie won’t do – she still travels often in countries around the world. She walks, she studies, she’s often busy all day long with various activities. Her husband passed away many years ago, but Dottie is such a trooper. We all admire her immensely and only hope we’ll be as agile and sharp as she is when we reach 95.

Recently she was supposed to keep one leg elevated, but was willing to host our group, so I offered to take the dessert. I didn’t think I had anything much at home, but I did have some aging bananas. I looked into my to-try recipe file, and sure enough there was this one, and I’d even marked it “MUST MAKE.” That’s a signal I put on some recipes so I might try them sooner rather than later.

The recipe came from David Lebovitz’s blog. Years ago he developed this recipe for a diet type magazine, apparently, and it became a favorite of his. And what a great use of a bunch of bananas – there are supposed to be 3 bananas that dot the bottom of the pan (which becomes the top once you up-end it) and a few more in the cake batter. As it happened I didn’t have as many bananas as he suggested, so I skimped on the number you’d see and put in the right amount (a cup) in the batter. I didn’t follow all the diet ingredients, but did use butter, and 2 eggs, rather than an egg and an egg white. If you want to make this as he did, just click onto the link above and you can see it all there. Along with the funny story he wrote about the bananas.

banana_cc_upside_down_cake_wholeThis cake is very easy to make – truly it is. You do make a little sauce that becomes the kind of caramel top, then the bananas (the recipe calls for about 5 bananas) are sliced decoratively, in overlapping rows, into the sauce. This is made in an 8-inch square pan – NOT a 9 inch one. It’s not a thick cake to begin with, so do not make the mistake of making it in a 9-inch pan.

You can see there that I didn’t have enough bananas to really make the pretty, decorative overlapping rows, but hey, it all worked out – nobody knew there was supposed to be oodles more bananas. A cup of mashed bananas is needed for the cake batter, and once made you stir in some chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup). The chocolate is not prominent in this cake, yet you know it’s got something else in there besides bananas.

banana_cc_upside_down_cake_whole_sideviewWe served it with vanilla ice cream, which was really good with it. Whipped cream would work too. I sent all the leftovers home with one couple in our group, so I wouldn’t end up snacking on it for days.

What’s GOOD: loved the flavor – the caramely top with the slightly caramelized bananas is really good, and the cake itself with the hint of chocolate is also delicious. Definitely I’d make this again, but I’d be sure to have 5+ bananas to start with!

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Banana Chocolate Chip Upside Down Cake

Recipe By: David Lebovitz
Serving Size : 9

TOPPING:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar — packed, PLUS 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons butter — or water (if butter, warm to room temp)
3 bananas — ripe, medium sized
A few drops of lemon juice
CAKE BATTER:
1 1/2 cups flour — (210 g)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup granulated sugar — (150 g)
2 tablespoons melted butter — (30 g) salted or unsalted
1 large egg
1 large egg white — or use 2 large eggs total
1 cup bananas — (250 g) pureed (about 2 bananas)
1/2 cup sour cream — (120 g) regular or low-fat
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips — (80 g) or chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

1. TOPPING: place the brown sugar and water or butter in an 8-inch (20 cm) square cake pan. Warm the pan directly on the stovetop over low heat, stirring until the sugar is thoroughly moistened. If using water, simmer the mixture for about 45 seconds. If using butter, stir just until the sugar is moist and bubbling, then remove from heat. (It won’t melt completely smooth, and there may be a few bare spots, which is normal.) Let cool to room temperature.
2. Peel and slice the bananas in 1/4-inch (1 cm) slices. Arrange them in slightly overlapping rows over the melted brown sugar. Sprinkle with a few drops of lemon juice.
3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
4. CAKE BATTER: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl, making sure there are no lumps. Mix in the granulated sugar.
5. In a small bowl, mix together the butter, egg, egg white, banana puree, sour cream, and vanilla.
6. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients until almost combined. Do not overmix. Gently fold in the chocolate pieces.
7. Scrape the batter into the pan over the bananas, then use a spatula to carefully spread the batter over the sliced fruit.
8. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the cake feels just set in the center when you touch it.
9. Cool the cake for about 20 minutes, then run a knife along the edges of the cake to help it release from the pan. Serving: The cake is best served warm with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or by itself as a snack. If made an hour or so in advance, it can be inverted on the serving platter, and left with the cake pan over it, to keep it warm. Otherwise is can be rewarmed in a low over, covered with foil. Or enjoy at room temperature. Storage: The cake can be made up to two days in advance, although it is best the day it’s made. To freeze, wrap it securely in plastic wrap; it can be frozen for one to two months. Invert the cake onto a serving platter.
Per Serving: 374 Calories; 13g Fat (28.9% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 65g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 43mg Cholesterol; 321mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on January 20th, 2018.

instant_pot_7-in_1

So, maybe many of YOU asked for this little gem for Christmas. No, it’s a big sized kitchen gem.  Or maybe you already have one. I was late to the parade because I already have a pressure cooker (2, actually); a slow cooker (1); and rice cooker (1); and a Breville multi-cooker (1). But the idea of doing more one-dish meals interested me, plus I particularly liked the suggestion that I could get rid of all of those other kitchen appliances. The only thing this new I.P doesn’t have is a risotto function. I did see a recipe for risotto, so will have to try it and see if it does it as well as the Breville. If so, I’ll get rid of that also.

Daughter Sara wants my pressure cookers, so I’ll be happy to give them to her. Don’t know if she has a rice cooker, but I’ll take that along too, when I see her next. I may keep my slow cooker only because it’s a really big one and perhaps I’ll be sorry to not have that for some large function in the future.

Image result for sunbeam electric skilletSome years ago I bought a new electric skillet. Those of us of a certain age will remember the old 1960s era electric skillet as a kind of a one-dish frying pan, but it plugged into the wall, had 4 legs on it, was square shaped. Anyway, my original one died (photo at right, from ebay), so bought a new fangled one, but found that I almost never used it. And it was a good one – Cuisinart, I believe. Anyway, I gave that to my granddaughter Sabrina (the one attending Clemson Univ.) and she’s already used it in her dorm room to make chicken tortilla soup. She was so proud to tell me that she was really happy with the results. Being a Southern California girl, she really misses Mexican food, a regular staple for almost anyone who lives in this neck of the woods.

Out of the box, the IP suggests running it through a test pressure cooker run. I did that. No problem. I’ve also subscribed on FB to the IP page, and have been reading recipes from there. And it was there that I saw the link to an IP rice pudding at PressureCookingToday.  Also in amongst my received Christmas gifts was a cookbook for the I.P. (Henceforth I’ll just call it the IP).

My cousin Gary (who lives in Santa Clara and has been spending Christmas with me for decades) was here over the holidays, and on day 3 of his visit he came down with a very bad cold. And he was sick with it for the entire remainder of his 8-day visit. Poor guy! He didn’t get to participate in any of the usual family Christmas festivities. We drove to San Diego to have a get-together with daughter Sara and her family on December 23rd, and it was while he was there that he realized he was coming down with the cold. He went into their guest room and slept the rest of that day’s visit. Sara and the family (and me) all made home made tamales that afternoon (my job was to spread masa onto the damp corn husks). We made 124, and I have 6 tamales in my freezer, waiting for an occasion to steam them. The tamale recipe belongs to my daughter’s mother-in-law, Jean, and I don’t know that she would share the recipe, but there are plenty of them out there on the ‘net if you’re interested. Sara’s family always makes (1) pork in a mild red sauce and (2) cheese and jalapeno.

IP_arborio_rice_puddingAnyway, all that to say that Gary has been sick enough to not even feel up to preparing any food for himself, so I’ve been feeding him meals throughout his illness. And I asked him how he felt about rice pudding. He said “yum.” So, that was my first dish in my new IP.

As I’ve learned with the brief amount of time I’ve had my IP, there’s a special lingo to IP cooking. If you’re really preparing and providing a recipe (as below) you start off with the quick list of cooking. In this case it’s the following:

  • Total time – 20 minutes
  • 2-4 minutes prep
  • 3 minutes pressure cook high
  • 10 minutes slow release, then quick release
  • About 7-8 minutes sauté

IP_arborio_rice_pudding_top_viewThat how you inform a reader how much time is required and what functions you’ll be using on the IP. Adding rice (Arborio, the kind you use for risotto), water and salt to the IP, it’s pressure cooked on high for 3 minutes. Then you turn off the IP and let it just sit – it’s not on, but still under pressure. This allows the rice (I’m guessing) to continue to cook very slowly – and to develop that extra special creaminess that accompanies anything with Arborio rice. Then you release the pressure (and remove lid, of course), stir in sugar and milk, stir, turn IP to the sauté function, then mix up 2 eggs and 1/2 cup milk and whisk well. Pour it through a sieve into the IP and allow the pudding to just come to a boil (that took about 5-7 minutes I’m guessing) and it’s done. Add raisins if desired. And vanilla. Stir and pour into individual ramekins or into a large storage bowl. Allow to cool to room temp and serve. It’s best warm, but it’s also yummy once chilled.

Now, I’ll grant you, making rice pudding isn’t exactly gourmet cooking!! BUT, in this case, the use of Arborio rice makes for a really creamy consistency. I think more creamy than regular rice.

What’s GOOD: the overall flavor – I think the amount of sugar – rice – milk ratio is absolutely spot-on. And the texture is so smooth and creamy. Loved it. This will be my new go-to rice pudding. Rich tasting. I did use whole milk – no cream.

What’s NOT: not a single thing. A keeper.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Instant Pot Arborio Rice Pudding

Recipe By: Pressure Cooking Today
Serving Size: 8 (1/2 cup servings)

1 cup Arborio rice
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk — divided use
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup raisins

IP Instructions:
* Total time – about 20 minutes
* Prep time – about 5 minutes or less
* Pressure cook high – 3 minutes
* Slow release 10 minutes, then quick release
* 8-10 minutes saute
1. In instant pot, combine rice, water, and salt. Lock the lid in place and select High Pressure and 3 minutes cook time.
2. When beep sounds, turn off pressure cooker and use a natural pressure release for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, release any remaining pressure with a quick pressure release.
3. Add 1 1/2 cups milk and sugar to rice in pressure cooking pot; stir to combine.
4. In a small mixing bowl, whisk eggs with remaining 1/2 cup milk and vanilla. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into pot. Select sauté and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to boil. Turn off pot. Remove pan and set on counter to cool. Stir in raisins.
5. Pudding will thicken as it cools. Serve warm or pour into serving dishes and chill. Serve topped with whipped cream, and a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg, if desired. Makes eight 1/2-cup servings.
Per Serving: 230 Calories; 3g Fat (13.0% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 61mg Cholesterol; 121mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on January 13th, 2018.

sicilian_love_cake

Oh, mouth watering going on here. As I write, I have 2 pieces left over in my refrigerator. They won’t last long . . . what you see is a kind of cheese layer on the bottom, a chocolate cake in the middle, plus a “frosting” that starts with an instant chocolate pudding mix.

Now that my bible study group is back to normal weekly meetings again (after a break for Christmas), we met at my house, and that meant DESSERT. Sara (daughter) had mentioned making this cake and that her family had loved it. So I looked up the recipe, and read all kinds of different reviews of it (not everyone was successful at baking it correctly) but nearly everyone raved about how GOOD it was, plus the unusualness of it. Sure enough!

Most likely you’ll need to make a trip to the grocery store for 28 ounces of whole-milk ricotta cheese and about 14 ounces of mascarpone cheese. And perhaps a chocolate cake mix box AND a package of chocolate instant pudding.

What happens here: first you mix up a chocolate cake mix according to the box directions (eggs, oil or butter, water) and it’s poured into a 9×13 pan. Then you mix up a batch of the kind-of cheese layer consisting of mascarpone cheese, eggs, ricotta cheese, sugar and salt. Once it’s smooth and sort-of light, that gets poured all over the top of the raw cake batter in the 9×13 pan. Into the oven it goes and bakes for nearly an hour. In that time, the heavier cheese layer sinks to the bottom and the lighter chocolate cake rises to the top. Here is where the directions online (recipe comes from Valerie Bertinelli) are incorrect and so far no one at the Food Network has seen fit to correct the recipe info. The cake must bake nearly an hour to get all of it done in the middle. Mine took 60 minutes.

sicilian_love_cake_panThen the cake has to be allowed to cool completely – and I’m just telling you – it takes longer than you think. Because of the denseness of the cheese layer (the most likely reason) it took at least 1 1/2 hours for mine to cool to a bit warmer than room temp. THEN, you mix up the frosting. Which consists of a small box of chocolate instant pudding, 10 ounces of mascarpone cheese and a cup of milk. It makes a lovely spreadable consistency which you put on the top of the cake. And serve it right away. Everyone who had it that night raved about it. Me included.

It does keep – but it must be refrigerated because you’re dealing with milk and cheese products that could easily make not-nice bacteria.

VARIATIONS: So I read, this cake can be made in many flavors – you’re only limited by the types of cake-mix flavors and instant pudding flavors. So, lemon-lemon, spice-butterscotch (maybe), vanilla-vanilla. Use your imagination. But since I’m a choco-holic, this may be the only flavor combo I’ll try.

What’s GOOD: well, the flavor and texture of this cake is just so different. Good-different. Delicious! The cheesy (kind of like cheesecake) layer is smooth and tasty, the chocolate cake layer is well, like a chocolate cake, and then the frosting, which isn’t very sweet, has a lushness about it too. Altogether wonderful. Don’t let the more savory frosting lull you into thinking this is a lower calorie dessert. Nope. Very high, likely from the mascarpone and ricotta cheese. But worth it – yes, indeed. I’ll definitely make this again!

What’s NOT: only that you do have to make 3 layers of stuff, so a bit more work than just mixing up a boxed cake mix and a frosting. But I’m just sayin’ . . . it’s worth it, in my opinion.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Sicilian Love Cake (Chocolate)

Recipe By: Valerie Bertinelli
Serving Size: 12

BATTER:
1 Chocolate cake mix
MASCARPONE-RICOTTA FILLING:
4 ounces mascarpone cheese — 1/2 cup
28 ounces ricotta cheese — 3 1/2 cups (whole milk)
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
FROSTING:
1 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese — (10 ounces)
4 ounces chocolate pudding mix — INSTANT type
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to according to package instructions for a 9×13” pan. Coat baking dish with canola oil or cooking spray.
2. CAKE BATTER: Prepare the batter according to box instructions. Pour the batter into the prepared dish and set aside.
3. CHEESE FILLING: Combine the mascarpone, ricotta, eggs, sugar, and salt in a bowl of a stand mixer and whisk until smooth. Gently pour the filling onto the cake batter so the top is completely white.
4. Bake cake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean and the chocolate layer has risen to the top, about 55-60 minutes. Let the cake cool before frosting it, which may take up to 2 hours.
5. FROSTING: Just before serving, make the frosting: In a stand mixer, blend together the mascarpone, instant chocolate pudding mix, sugar and milk in a small bowl until smooth and thickened. Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting evenly all over the cake and serve. If you have leftovers, cover and refrigerate. It will keep just fine for several days.
Per Serving (doesn’t include cake mix additions): 456 Calories; 25g Fat (48.4% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 48g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 119mg Cholesterol; 395mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on January 8th, 2018.

hazelnut_choc_torte_sliice

So wonderfully rich with chocolate and textured with hazelnuts. Altogether a great dessert for chocolate lovers everywhere.

My mouth is watering. That happens sometimes as I’m writing up a blog post. The picture is added into my writing/editing window first (after I’ve already sized it and added text to the photographs) and I get to stare at it while I write. I’m a sucker for chocolate and try so very hard not to have much. That recommendation that we not have more than an ounce a day . . . hmmm. I haven’t ever measured – my chocolate sin of choice is Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips. I have a container in my pantry and when I’m craving, I go grab a small handful – hopefully no more than about 8-10 of them. If I’m being good, I don’t go back to the container later in the day to have more. Right now – I’m writing this up about a week before Christmas – I’ve got Christmas cookies on hand, plus a plate full of new Christmas cookies given to me by friends, and I’ve got my favorite Bishop’s Bread that I made over Thanksgiving weekend. I’ve had a slice today, in lieu of a little mound of chocolate chips. As I write this, I’ve just made myself a second coffee latte and enjoyed the slice with it.

hazelnut_choc_torte_nuts_sidesSo, this cake. Oh my. I wish it was a purely flourless cake so I could make it for my cousin Gary, who must eat gluten-free. I suppose I could use a different cake batter to accommodate that. He loves-loves chocolate, so maybe I’ll do that for him. The cake is very light and fluffy, mostly because you separate the eggs and beat the whites and fold them into the cocoa-laden batter. The batter also has a lot of finely ground toasted hazelnut “flour” in it to give it a boost of hazelnut flavor. It’s baked in a higher-sided 8” cake pan (that you’ve buttered and dusted with cocoa powder). Once baked you allow it to cool before upending it and right side upping it again, then pouring a chocolate ganache over the top and down the sides. Meanwhile, you have slightly more chunky hazelnuts at-the-ready to gently pat onto the sides of the cake. Let it set for awhile so the ganache firms up, then slice and serve with sweetened whipped cream.

The recipe came from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter. You may not want to read the calorie count on this one – just know it’s a treat, and you’ll hopefully have only one slice. Make it to share with others. Then you’ll feel virtuous. Maybe.

What’s GOOD: the chocolate flavor is intense in this cake. Not for the faint of heart when it comes to the cocoa bean, for sure! It’s rich. Very filling, but oh-so-good.

What’s NOT: just the calorie and fat content, I’m afraid!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Hazelnut Chocolate Torte (Cake)

Recipe By: from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter, 2017
Serving Size: 8

CAKE:
2 3/4 cups hazelnuts — toasted, skins removed (divided use)
3/4 cup unsalted butter — melted and cooled
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder — plus more for dusting the pan
1/3 cup all purpose flour
6 large eggs — separated
1/2 cup light brown sugar — packed
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup sugar
GANACHE:
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate — chopped
3 ounces heavy cream
WHIPPED CREAM:
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

NOTE: the hazelnuts are used in the batter and also to press onto the sides, so note there are 2 quantities needed.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch cake pan (with 2″ sides), dust with cocoa powder and tap out the excess.
2. Grind 1-3/4 cups of the hazelnuts in a food processor with the flour. Pour out into a bowl and set aside. Process remaining hazelnuts to a medium texture and set aside (for patting onto the sides of the cake).
3. Mix together cocoa powder and hazelnut/flour mixture. Beat egg yolks and brown sugar until very thick.
4. In another bowl whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt added until it reaches soft peaks. Add the white sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff.
5. Fold egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture in THREE additions. Pour the reserved cocoa mixture over the egg mixture; gently fold in with rubber spatula until just combined (some streaks may show). Fold in the melted and cooled butter.
6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Smooth the top. Bake until the center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Transfer cake to a wire rack to cool completely. Run a knife around the outside edge and invert cake onto the wire rack, then turn over, right side up. Allow cake to cool 15-20 minutes at least.
7. Place a piece of plastic wrap or parchment underneath the wire rack (to catch drips).
8. GANACHE: Place chocolate in a small bowl. Bring cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate pieces and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until all the chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth. Set aside until thickened to the consistency of thick cake batter, about 10-15 minutes.
9. Pour chocolate ganache over the top of the cake and use an offset spatula to gently coax the ganache barely over the edges, using spatula to spread on the sides as much as possible. If there is enough ganache make a second coat of frosting on the cake. Press the reserved hazelnuts on the sides of the cake, pressing in so the nuts will hold. Dust top of cake with a bit of cocoa powder. Serve with whipped cream.
10. WHIPPED CREAM: In a bowl combine heavy cream and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and serve on top or alongside the cake slice.
Per Serving: 1002 Calories; 91g Fat (74.9% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 11g Dietary Fiber; 261mg Cholesterol; 103mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on November 29th, 2017.

mocha_chip_chiffon_cake

Very different . . . it’s almost like an angel food cake, it’s so light and fluffy. This doesn’t contain anywhere near the number of egg whites, so it can’t BE one, but it’s flavored with espresso granules and finely minced semisweet chocolate.

I follow a blog from a guy, Phillip Oliver, who is crazy about Maida Heatter, and it’s called MadAboutMaida. He blogs about her recipes (exclusively, I think). The cookbook this recipe came from isn’t one I own, so can’t give promises that this is exactly the recipe from the cookbook, but I’m guessing it is. It’s from her book Maida Heatter’s Cakes.

mocha_chip_chiffon_closeupWhen I saw his photo of the cake, it just spoke to me. I love light and tender cakes, so I decided to make it for a group function since it serves 12 people. It’s a straight-forward chiffon cake recipe except for the addition of chocolate chips and espresso powder. It takes a couple of bowls and 7 eggs, but it’s not difficult. It bakes up high and fluffy, and once cooled (the way you cool an angel food cake, inverted onto a narrow-topped bottle) it may take a spatula to dislodge the cake. Mine came off the tube pan easily, with just a bit of a nudge. The finished cake is very moist so it does stick to the sides, but not with difficulty.

When served, I had some vanilla ice cream too, which was nice with it. Or you can serve it straight. With coffee, please!!

What’s GOOD: so light and tender, you’ll truly think you’re eating an angel food cake. Easy to make. The espresso and chocolate flavors are subtle, so don’t expect a chocolate-centric cake cuz it isn’t!

What’s NOT: nothing really, unless having to use two bowls to make a cake is too much! One for the cake batter, the other for the egg whites.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Mocha Chip Chiffon Cake

Recipe By: Mad About Maida blog, 2017
Serving Size: 12

3 ounces semisweet chocolate — chopped VERY fine
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon espresso powder — or instant coffee granules
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
7 eggs — separated
1/2 cup Kahlua — or Tia Maria or other coffee-flavored liquor
1/4 cup cold water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Powdered sugar to sprinkle on top

NOTE: This cake has the texture of an angel food cake, although it isn’t, as it contains egg yolks. It’s super light and fluffy.
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. You will need a tube pan, the type that has two pieces and which comes apart. Do not spray or butter the pan.
2. Chop the chocolate into pieces that are 1/4 diameter or less. Do not use chocolate chips as is, as the pieces will sink to the bottom of the cake.
3. Sift together the flour, 1 1/4 cups of sugar (reserving the rest), the powdered coffee or espresso, baking powder and salt.
4. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the oil, egg yolks, coffee liqueur, water and vanilla. Whisk together until smooth. Use a large spatula to fold in the chopped chocolate. Set aside.
5. In a separate mixer bowl, beat the egg whites until they are foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat on high speed until soft peaks are formed. Always use the whisk beater for egg whites. Start out slow and gradually increase the speed until full speed. Reduce the speed and add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Increase speed to high and beat again until stiff peaks are achieved. Beat for an additional minute to be sure the mixture is stiff.
7. In three additions, slightly fold in about 3/4 of the yolk mixture. Do not fold in thoroughly, just barely! Then fold the whites into the remaining yolk mixture, being a bit more thorough this time. Pour the batter into the pan and bake in the center of your oven for 1 hour and 10-15 minutes until the top springs back when pressed. The top will crack during baking. Internal temperature should be 198-205°F.
5. After removing the pan from the oven, invert it on a narrow bottle and let it cool completely. After cooling, use a long, sharp knife and gently run it around the rim of the pan and around the center tube. Carefully slide the pan apart and run the knife along the bottom of the pan under the cake. Remove the cake from the pan. If it is still sticking, use the knife to saw it carefully from the pan.
6. Use a flat pan, dish or an elevated cake plate. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar, if desired.
Per Serving: 382 Calories; 14g Fat (34.8% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 54g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 124mg Cholesterol; 254mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on November 11th, 2017.

salted_caramel_apple_parfait_glassdish

My mouth is watering looking at that photo. ‘Tis the season of apples. This one’s not hard, although there are 4 steps to it: (1) caramel; (2) apples; (3) crunchy pecan and oat granola; and (4) whipped cream.

Having had this at a cooking class with Susan V a month or so ago, I knew I’d make it. So when my son and family decided to have a small family gathering, I offered to bring this. I could make everything ahead; all I had to do was heat up the caramel a little bit so it would pour (microwaved it) and layer the caramel, apples, granola and then add a bit of whipped cream on top.

sugar_turning_to_rocksFirst I made the caramel – it was very easy and I made it in my really good (All-Clad copper core) saucier pan (not nonstick, and it’s not dark colored). The sugar (see photo at left) actually turns into sugar rocks – that’s what it’s supposed to do, so don’t think you’ve done something wrong. Once upon a time I did that (thought I’d bungled the sugar melting part and threw it out!) You need to be able to SEE the caramel as it develops, adding the heavy cream at the end (see next photo). This caramel sauce is really easy, however. I let it cool in the pan for about 5-10 minutes, then poured it into a glass jar and let it cool completely. Then I made the granola – rolled oats and pecans. They are pan-toasted (easy); just don’t let them burn. You want the granolacaramel_bubbling to be toasted but not blackened. Then you pour a melted butter and maple syrup mixture over the toasted granola and pour that out onto a plate to cool. Then I transferred that to a jar.

Then it’s the apples (photo below). Very easy. Peel and slice the apples (not too thin) then add them to a wide frying pan with melted butter and cinnamon. You stir them as they cook – you do want them to be nice and soft. Do use an apple variety that doesn’t fall apart – I used Honey Crisp. If you use Granny Smiths, you’ll likely need to add more maple syrup to make them sweet enough. pan_fried_applesUsing Honey Crisp doesn’t require much sweetening. Anyway, once the apples are cooked, add maple syrup to coat and you set them aside. I put them into a plastic container so I could transport them.

All I had to do then was whip some heavy cream (no added sugar as the dessert is plenty sweet) and added a tiny tetch of vanilla. It took all of about 5 minutes (with my grandson Vaughan right by my side, licking his chops and waiting for the whipped cream bowl) to put it all together.

At the cooking class, Susan raved about a new cookbook she’s just purchased (this recipe came from it) called Eat Delicious: 125 Recipes for Your Daily Dose of Awesome by Dennis Prescott. He’s made a name for himself mostly via Instagram and Twitter. He has jillions of followers. Some of his recipes are on his website: DennisThePrescott. He doesn’t write a blog – he just posts recipes. Since I don’t do much Instagram, and I don’t do Twitter, I’d not heard of him. Have you? . . . Anyway, Susan said she’d made several things from his new cookbook and said they were all really fabulous.

What’s GOOD: loved the combo of the salted caramel, the crunchy granola and the super delicious apples. This dessert is SO perfect for a fall dinner. The recipe says it serves 8-10 – I’m just mentioning that it doesn’t make really large portions. That was fine for this dinner, but you might want to increase the size of it if you know your family would want to devour it or you know you want leftovers!

What’s NOT: there are 4 steps to making this, but really, everything can be made ahead. All except the whipped cream, which could be made a few hours ahead.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Salted Caramel Apple Parfaits

Recipe By: Eat Delicious by Dennis Prescott
Serving Size: 8

CARAMEL:
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon sea salt
APPLES:
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds apples — Honeycrisp, or other sweet crispy apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
GRANOLA:
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup pecan halves — chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
WHIPPED CREAM:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. SALTED CARAMEL: In a high-sided nonstick pan, heat the sugar over medium heat, stirring continuously. It will turn into strange rock-ish pieces—that’s normal! See photo. Slowly but surely, the sugar will melt and turn into a gorgeous amber colour. When the sugar has melted entirely and is now golden brown in color, carefully stir in the butter and let it melt. It will bubble like crazy. Stirring continuously, slowly pour the cream into the pan in a slow and steady stream until it has been incorporated into the caramel. Let the mixture bubble away for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla and sea salt and very carefully pour it into a medium heatproof bowl. Set aside.
2. APPLES: Heat a large skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the apple chunks and cinnamon and cook, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, or until the apples are very soft. Add the maple syrup and give the pan a toss to coat the apples. Cook for 1 minute, then transfer to a bowl and set aside.
3. GRANOLA: Heat a large, dry skillet over medium heat and add the oats and pecans. Cook, turning every minute or so, until the oats are fragrant and have started to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
4. Place the pan back on the burner and melt the butter and maple syrup. When the syrup is simmering, remove from the heat and stir in the oats and pecans. Mix thoroughly to evenly coat the oats, then transfer to a plate and set aside.
5. WHIPPED CREAM: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or whisk by hand or use a hand-held mixer), whip the cream until thick, then fold in the vanilla.
6. Build each parfait with about 2 tablespoons of the salted caramel, a scoop of the apples, and 2 tablespoons of the granola. Top with a dollop of whipped cream, then repeat. Finish with a final drizzle of caramel and serve.
Per Serving (assumes you’ll use all the caramel – you might not): 587 Calories; 40g Fat (59.0% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 58g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 96mg Cholesterol; 299mg Sodium.

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