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Just finished a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many. Just read this one first!

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 August 9th, 2017.

danish_dream_cake

An easy cake to make with a kind of caramel coconut and brown sugar topping.

A couple of weeks ago I hosted one of my book groups here at my home. In this particular book group, the hostess chooses the book herself and leads the review of it. I had several books in mind, but then my friend Janet showed me a book she was given on a recent trip to Denmark, It’s called The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well. (By the way, hygge is pronounced hoo-ga.) Janet’s son Eric lives in Copenhagen and married a Danish woman, a physician. He speaks fluent Danish (he works for a Danish world relief organization) and he gave the book to his mom, and pointed out a photo of himself in the book (he’s friends with the author). I was enchanted with the book.

Image result for danish book of hyggeDid you know that the Danes are the happiest people on earth? So researchers say. This little book, a kind of handbook of sorts, tells you how and why that’s so. As an example, the first chapter is about candles. So, for my book group, I decided to veer away from reading a novel (our usual format), and have them read this book and so we could talk about the ideas in it, and to make some Danish goodies. I knew I’d be making Almond Puff (recipe up soon), but I wanted something else to serve along with fresh fruit, as we discussed all the different things that make the Danes so happy. And I invited my friend Janet to come to the meeting and share some of her experiences as they have visited their son and his family over the last decade or so.

In case you’re as enchanted with the book as I was, I just want you to know that the American edition (link above) is an slight alteration to the U.K. edition which contains dozens and dozens of photographs. I was sad to see that my copy didn’t have the photos. It’s in color with illustrations, but doesn’t contain the photos. Janet brought her copy and passed it around so everyone could see.

So, this Dream Cake. I found the recipe online (there are dozens of them). You make a very ordinary yellow cake batter and pour it into a 10×14 glass baking dish, bake the cake, and just before taking it out of the oven you make the hot butter/brown sugar/coconut topping that is poured over the top. It hardens as it cools (to a kind of chewy caramel consistency), then you cut it into squares and serve it. It’s REALLY good. Easy to make, and might even be a kind of Snacking Cake, except that in Denmark, this is like their “national” cake. Everyone makes it. It’s in all the bakeries and you can find it everywhere, apparently. They serve this to guests, and it’s also a staple in every Danish kitchen.

What’s GOOD: it’s a simple dessert to make, and the topping is the thing that puts it over the top – makes it so very good, chewy, sweet. Altogether good. It freezes well, too, though I wouldn’t do it for a long time. I made this a couple of weeks before I had the event at my home, then very slightly heated it in the oven before serving.

What’s NOT: it’s a little bit hard to cut – I finally used a sharp-edge spatula to cut through the caramel. Once I got the first piece out it wasn’t quite so difficult. You might try a sharp knife – that might work better.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Danish Dream Cake (DROMMEKAGE)

Recipe By: Nordic Food Living (website)
Serving Size: 16

CAKE:
9 ounces AP flour
9 ounces sugar
2 ounces unsalted butter
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar — or vanilla (liquid)
TOPPING:
4 1/2 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup milk
7 ounces light brown sugar
3 1/2 ounces coconut flakes — unsweetened

1. CAKE: Whisk eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Melt butter in a saucepan, then add milk to the butter. Add to the bowl of eggs and sugar. Add liquid vanilla, if using.
3. In a separate bowl mix the AP flour, vanilla sugar (if using) and baking powder. Mix with a whisk, then add it to the egg mixture and whisk to a smooth batter.
4. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 10×14″ glass baking dish with butter (or line it with parchment).
5. Pour the cake batter into the dish and smooth it out to the corners. Bake for about 20 minutes.
6. TOPPING: About 5 minutes before the cake is done, melt butter in a saucepan. Add milk and brown sugar and let it boil for about a minute.
7. Add coconut flakes and mix well.
8. Remove cake from oven and pour topping mixture evenly over the cake, using a knife to spread it evenly.
9. RETURN TO OVEN and bake another 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Cut into squares to serve.
Per Serving: 302 Calories; 13g Fat (37.9% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 44g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 67mg Cholesterol; 104mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on July 24th, 2017.

amaretto_ice_cream

Oh my goodness, was this ever delicious! Homemade (simple) vanilla ice cream with Amaretto added and some almond extract too.

Having been invited to friends for dinner, I asked what could I bring – Joan said an appetizer or dessert. I opted for dessert. Since peaches are in season (and oh gosh, are they delicious this year!) I thought I’d make a peach cobbler. I used the recipe I’d made a year or so ago – Peach, Blackberry & Almond Crisp but I used just peaches. The brand “I AM RIPE” from Costco was the perfect choice for the peaches – gosh are those peaches wonderful. I made a big 11×14 pan of it (without the blackberries). So then, knowing I needed to serve whipped cream or ice cream with it, I thought I’d make some Amaretto ice cream. I researched recipes, but knew I didn’t want to make the longer-prep one with eggs or egg yolks. I wanted the simple stuff (cream and 1/2 and 1/2, sugar, flavorings). Found a recipe online and just altered it a tad. I wanted a more pronounced almond flavor, so I used less vanilla then added almond extract. This recipe uses quite a bit of Amaretto (more than some ice cream recipes); hence the ice cream doesn’t ever get totally hard. Made for easy scooping, I’ll say that for sure.

There’s nothing to this, providing you have an ice cream machine. I didn’t even chill the cream/half-and-half mixture because it was already cold. All I’d added to it was sugar and flavorings. This recipe makes about a quart.  Into my ice cream container it went (that long red thing you see in the back of the photo) and I froze it for about 3 hours. The peach crisp was still slightly warm when I served it. I had enough to give extras to Joan and Tom, and to take some to my friends Gloria and Grant, AND to have 2 servings of it myself. And I’ve got exactly one scoop left of the ice cream as I write this. It’ll likely get eaten today. Right out of the container!

What’s GOOD: the Amaretto flavor is very pronounced (I liked that part) and it was super easy to make. A keeper of a recipe. I’ll be making this again for sure.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. It was really delicious.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Amaretto Ice Cream

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from allrecipes.com
Serving Size: 8

2 1/8 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/16 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup amaretto
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon almond extract

1. Using a whisk, mix heavy cream, half-and-half, and sugar in a large bowl until sugar is dissolved. Add amaretto liqueur and both extracts.
2. Pour milk mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions until ice cream reaches ‘soft-serve’ consistency. Transfer ice cream to a lidded container. Freeze at least 2 hours before serving. Note: this ice cream won’t ever be super-hard because of the liquor in it, so serve it as soon as you scoop it!
Per Serving: 367 Calories; 27g Fat (68.2% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 99mg Cholesterol; 37mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on July 12th, 2017.

bittersweet_choc_almond_torte

Would you ever guess I like chocolate? Ha! I need a daily (small) chocolate fix, and was ever so glad when the FDA or someone announced some years ago that an ounce of chocolate a day is good for us. Hooray! My challenge is keeping the chocolate to ONE ounce.

This torte is all about chocolate and almonds. There’s Amaretto and almond extract in the cake/torte part, then there are toasted almonds sprinkled on top when you serve it. The word decadent comes to mind here. The cake/torte part is certainly easy to mix up – it’s got the usual ingredients (sugar, butter, chocolate and numerous eggs) but then it also contains the Amaretto too and some espresso powder as well. AND the almond extract which gives this an extra boost of almond flavor. You do have to bake it in a water bath – that may be the only down side to making this if you hate that part.

choc_almond_torte_coolingIn my previous home I designed the kitchen myself and had a small Gaggenau baking oven, the kind that you could bake things without a bain marie (water bath). It was really, really nice to have, but the oven was very small and barely would fit a casserole dish – so small that a regular 9×13 pan wouldn’t fit in it unless it was small for its size. I had just one 9×13 pan that would fit. Other, smaller baking dishes were no problem, though. Fortunately I had a 2nd, regular oven for the larger pans. When I designed my current kitchen in 2006, I bought Dacor brand appliances (plus the Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer), and the two ovens I have, as good as they are, don’t have that kind of a baking oven. In the Gaggenau, it had to do with the insulation around the oven – it had deep insulation so the heat was very gentle. I don’t know that Gaggenau makes that kind of baking oven anymore. Maybe to the professional trade.

choc_almond_torte_frostedWell anyway, back to this torte. You DO need to use a water bath – just place the torte in a large and deep baking dish or pan and pour in warm water (hot tap water works) while it bakes. Then you need to make the ganache which is nothing but bittersweet chocolate and heavy cream. Once the cake cools an hour you spread it over the torte (which you’ve removed from the pan – carefully). Ideally, let it cool completely before serving, but do serve it within a few hours with a dollop of whipped cream and the toasted almonds. And a lovely mint leaf if you have one. Yum. This was from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter.

What’s GOOD: I loved-loved the almond flavor in this – it’s VERY intense almond. And very much chocolate. You’ll swoon with each bite if you’re a chocoholic and love almonds like I do! A real treat.

What’s NOT: only the hassle of the water bath, I suppose. Maybe the calorie and fat content – cut small pieces so you won’t feel so guilty! This torte is definitely worth making.

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

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Bittersweet Chocolate Almond Torte

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking class, 2017
Serving Size: 10

TORTE:
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
4 ounces unsalted butter — cubed
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate — cut in pieces
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup Amaretto — or cold-brewed coffee
2 teaspoons almond extract
6 large eggs
GANACHE:
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate — cut in pieces
GARNISH:
1/2 cup sliced almonds — toasted
1/2 cup heavy cream — beaten with sugar and vanilla to taste
mint sprigs

NOTE: This “cake” is almost the consistency of a firm pudding. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.
1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. Butter a 9×2″ round cake pan, line with parchment paper and butter the top of the parchment.
3. Bring water and sugar to a boil; remove from heat. Add butter, chopped chocolate, espresso powder and salt and let sit for a few minutes until chocolate has melted. Stir until smooth. Add Amaretto and almond extract. Set aside.
4. Whisk eggs until thick. Add chocolate mixture and fold gently. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and place cake pan inside a roasting pan. Add warm water to pan, halfway up the side of the cake pan. Bake until puffed and soft to the touch, 40-45 minutes. Remove roasting pan from oven, then remove cake pan to a cooling rack. Let cake cool one hour. Run a knife around inside of the cake pan; invert onto a platter and peel off the parchment; cool completely.
5. GANACHE: Heat cream, add chocolate and let it sit for a few minutes until the chocolate has melted. Stir until smooth. Let cool slightly. Spread mixture over the top and down the sides of the torte. If needed, very, very carefully slide the cake onto a serving plate or tall cake stand. Cake is very tender and soft.
6. Sprinkle top with toasted almonds and serve with sweetened whipped cream. Garnish with a mint sprig on each slice.
Per Serving: 549 Calories; 50g Fat (74.7% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 27g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 185mg Cholesterol; 113mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on June 22nd, 2017.

ginger_spice_cake_dried_cherries

Think gingerbread. Think spicy gingerbread.

As you’ve read here before, every few weeks I entertain a bible study group here at my home, and I always make some kind of dessert. Since I love to bake, it’s often a cake of some kind. I’d read about this cake somewhere, and found it online at Taking On Magazines, a blog. The cake just sounded so good, and the night I served this, it was still feeling like winter.

You mustn’t expect a light and fluffy cake here – it’s pretty darned hard to get that when you use molasses anyway. Just know, if you decide to make this, that it’s a fairly firm, dense cake. Delicious, but more on the heavy side. The original recipe called for a chocolate icing, but I ran out of time, so served it with whipped cream. I actually think it would be best served with vanilla ice cream. I think the icing would make this cake truly over-the-top rich. But, I didn’t try it, so I could very well be wrong about that part.

The dried cherries (the tart, Montmorency type) are soaked in hot espresso, along with the spices. AND real Dijon mustard. What an odd ingredient – I have no idea the reason for it, but I had it, so I used it! My only recommendation, when you’re preparing the fresh chopped ginger – make sure it’s very fine, and that you include no threads of it. I used 3 different graters, including what is supposed to be a ginger grater, and none worked very well, so I ended up chopping and then mincing it like crazy with a very sharp butcher’s knife. If you have any threads visible, remove them, as they aren’t very appetizing in the cake. I thought they were cat hairs (embarrassing!) but no, they were ginger threads. Whew!

This is a regular cake – nothing unusual about the preparation of it. A stand mixer helps since it’s a thick batter. Cut it in relatively narrow pieces, and I think it will serve more than 12. I have half of it in my freezer to pull out next month when I have family visiting. That with vanilla ice cream will make a very nice and easy dessert.

What’s GOOD: the flavors are really good – you can taste the minced up dried cherries, and all the warm fall spices are tummy-warming. Even the black pepper. Just know this is a dense cake.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. This kind of dense, dark cake may not be to everyone’s taste. Do serve it with something to cut the richness of it (whipped cream, ice cream, or the icing).

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Ginger Spice Cake with Dried Cherries

Recipe By: From Taking on Magazines blog
Serving Size: 12

1/2 cup unsalted butter — room temperature, plus more for pan
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour — plus more for the pan
1 cup light molasses
1 cup dried tart cherries — finely chopped
1/2 cup crystallized ginger — finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — peeled, finely minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup espresso coffee — hot (I used decaf)
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
CHOCOLATE ICING: (optional)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons espresso coffee — hot, or strong coffee
8 ounces semisweet chocolate — or bittersweet

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter Bundt pan. Dust pan with flour, tapping out excess. Combine cherries, crystallized ginger, grated ginger, and Dijon mustard in a medium bowl. Pour espresso over cherry mixture and set aside. In a medium bowl whisk 2 1/2 cups flour, ground ginger, baking soda, salt, allspice, cinnamon, and pepper.
2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat 1/2 cup butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add brown sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in molasses.
3. Strain cherry mixture into a small bowl, reserving soaking liquid. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternately with soaking liquid in 2 additions, beating to blend between additions. Fold in drained cherry mixture. Scrape batter into prepared pan.
4. Bake until top of cake springs back when lightly pressed in the middle, about 1 hour. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
5. Remove cake from pan. May be served as is, or with icing. Or serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
6. Spoon chocolate Icing over cake, if using, allowing it to drip down sides. Cut cake into wedges to serve.
7. ICING: Heat cream in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of pan. Stir in hot espresso. Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Add hot cream mixture; let stand for 1 minute, then stir until icing is melted and smooth. DO AHEAD: Icing can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool completely at room temperature, then cover and chill. Rewarm icing slightly before using.
Per Serving: 483 Calories; 19g Fat (33.7% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 77g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 87mg Cholesterol; 508mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, Miscellaneous, on June 12th, 2017.

bing_cherry_compote

There is something beautiful about a big pile of ripe cherries. Maybe it’s just because I love the color red!

This isn’t a new recipe post, but when I bought 3 pounds of cherries the other day, I knew I’d be making this compote that’s a real favorite of mine. But, of course, only when cherries are in season. Which is NOW! I posted this recipe in 2009, and again in 2012, and I haven’t changed it; it’s still cherry_pitsthe same recipe from Russ Parsons. That I’ve been making for 8 years. Every single year in cherry season, I buy them and make this. I hoard the results, because I adore putting some of the compote over vanilla ice cream. And I nearly lick the bowl. I’m posting it again just because you may not have read my posts going back that far. I want you to make this, while cherries are in the markets! The only downside to the recipe is having to pit the darned things. But I use a olive pitter and I sat at my kitchen island while I did it.

The above bowl contains the pitted cherries, a sprinkling of sugar, whole cloves, whole allspice and cinnamon sticks. When you cook them, it’s nice to use a big, wide pan so you can put the cherries in one layer and cook them JUST until they’re cooked through about halfway or so. You want them to retain their color and shape. You add red wine to the mixture which helps them steam-cook. This year I didn’t have a bottle of red wine opened, so I pulled out an old bottle of so-so Madeira that had about a cup or so in it, and I used that instead of regular drinking red. After they’re cooked you add a big dash of balsamic vinegar, which is just the icing on the cake, IMHO. These taste better if they’re allowed to chill in the syrup for a few days – that way the spices permeate all the cherries, and the balsamic too.

bowl_of_pitted_cherries

Yes, I definitely do like the color red! Having heaped all the cherries into a bowl, I just had to take a picture of them before I cooked it all. And here, below, is the finished product:

cherry compote 3

What’s GOOD: there’s nothing quite like the taste of ripe cherries in a delicious spice syrup. Absolutely loverly on top of vanilla ice cream. No nuts. No whipped cream. JUST the cherries. They keep for several weeks. I don’t think they’d freeze well – they’ll likely get very soft and possibly lose their color too.

What’s NOT: maybe the pitting process, but that’s about it. It’s simple to make.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Fresh Bing Cherry Compote

Recipe By: Adapted from How to Pick a Peach, by Russ Parsons
Serving Size: 8

1 1/3 pounds cherries — fresh, Bing
1/4 cup sugar
1 whole clove
1 whole allspice berry
1 stick cinnamon — about 1 1/2 inches long
1/2 cup red wine — (I used more)
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1. Pit the cherries. You want to have 1 pound of pitted cherries.
2. In a bowl combine the cherries and sugar. Stir and set aside for about 30-45 minutes.
3. Add 1/4 cup of red wine, stir and set aside for 15 minutes.
4. Pour the mixture into a flat, wide skillet (just large enough to hold the cherries in a single layer). Combine in a cheesecloth bag the cinnamon stick, clove and allspice. Tie together and place it into the pan with the cherries.
5. Bring the cherries to a boil and simmer at a fairly high heat for about 10 minutes, while the juices begin the thicken. The cherries will still be in one piece.
6. Remove from heat and add the balsamic vinegar to the mixture. Cool, chill, and serve over vanilla ice cream.
Per Serving: 81 Calories; 1g Fat (7.8% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 12mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on June 10th, 2017.

plum_blueberry_kuchen

My mouth is watering looking at that photo. So delicious and in-season with berries at their prime.

Kuchen (koo-ken) is the German word for cake. It originated, obviously, in Germany, yet it has also been embraced by Russian populations ‘round the world too. When I did a search on the ‘net to verify the definition (I was quite certain it meant cake, but thought I’d best check), I found a blog from a California girl who is now a farmer’s wife in North Dakota. Apparently there is a heavy German and Russian or German-Russian population in that neck of the woods. Her version of a kuchen uses a raised, yeasted dough, and she makes them in bulk and freezes them. They’re a very popular dessert in that neck of the woods.

kuchen_ready2_bakeAnyway, THIS kuchen is not a yeast dough, just a simple enough cake batter (thick, though) that forms the base. It’s scraped into a springform pan and spread out to the edges. Fruit is added, then a sugar/cinnamon mixture and baked. Then a thin egg/cream mixture is poured over the top and baked another 10 minutes. Cooled. Then a powdered sugar top a nd served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

This cake is not as sweet as some, and in fact, kuchens are often served more like a coffeecake or for a brunch, than as a dessert. But, no matter what, it has to do with the sweetness of the fruit – you can use peaches or plums and blueberries or raspberries. Apricots would likely work fine too – just use a stone fruit for the bottom fruit and a berry of some kind for the top. This recipe was one prepared by Tarla Fallgatter at a cooking class I attended last month. It was served warm with the sweetened whipped cream on the side. Yum.

kuchen_just_bakedWhat’s GOOD: it’s VERY easy to make – just have good, ripe fruit to start with. The batter is easy to mix up, so is the topping, and also the egg/cream that’s baked at the end. I loved the taste of the fruit with the cake. A keeper. It should freeze well if you wanted to double it to make two – one for the freezer. Just press plastic wrap directly onto the fruit (don’t add the powdered sugar), wrap well in another plastic layer and foil and freeze. This dessert is very low in fat as desserts go.

What’s NOT: only that there are a few steps to preparing this – none hard – but a few extra steps to get the toppings finished. Do serve it warm if you can. Or reheat it slightly if you make it a few hours ahead.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Plum and Blueberry Kuchen

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

FRUIT:
2 pounds plums — OR peaches
1/3 cup fresh blueberries — OR raspberries
KUCHEN BATTER:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour — sifted
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk — or half and half or cream
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/4 cup unsalted butter — melted
TOPPING:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2nd TOPPING:
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons heavy cream
GARNISH:
1 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar — sifted
SERVE with vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. If you oven runs hot, lower it to 425°F.
2. Sift flour and mix with sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
3. In a food processor pulse eggs with milk and zest. Pulse in melted butter and then add the flour mixture. Batter will be thick.
4. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and scrape batter into it, spreading evening.
5. Combine topping and mix well. Set aside.
6. Arrange plum or peach slices around edge of pan, filling the center with remaining slices. Sprinkle with berries (blue or raspberry). Sprinkle top with sugar-cinnamon mixture.
7. Bake kuchen for 25 minutes and remove from oven.
8. Beat yolk and cream together with a form and pour over the top of the kuchen. Return to oven and bake another 10 minutes.
9. Coolin the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove springform side. Sprinkle top with powdered sugar (through a sieve or pre-sifted) and serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream
Per Serving: 326 Calories; 11g Fat (28.9% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 54g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 103mg Cholesterol; 279mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on June 6th, 2017.

raspberry_gratin

Hmm. That serving doesn’t exactly convey the deliciousness of this dessert. Do scroll down to see the 2nd photo of this heavenly dessert.

This was the dessert I served at the wine and food pairing awhile back. Because I’d had to make a quick trip to the Bay Area to attend a memorial service for a dear friend, I flew home on Saturday evening and knew I’d have next to no time the following day to be making a fancy dessert. I looked through what I had in my recipe file that was super-easy and this dessert just jumped off my computer screen at me, begging me, make me, make me. Smitten Kitchen made this dessert and she raved about it. RAVED! Now I see why!

I’m just going to say – this dessert is most likely the simplest dessert I’ve ever made in my entire life, except scooping ice cream and chocolate sauce into a bowl. And I cannot say enough wonderful things about it. Sublime? Unctuous? Oh, gosh, just make this, okay?

Here’s how it’s done:

1. Preheat your oven to broil

2. Mix fresh raspberries with sour cream (gently) and pour into a flat gratin dish

3. Press dark brown sugar through a sieve onto the top of the mixture

4. Broil for a few minutes until the brown sugar has melted and begun to caramelize – and eat immediatelyspoonsful_rasp_gratin

I would probably have served it in small bowls (you don’t need big servings of this – it’s rich and sweet) but we had paper plates to serve this since there were many of us . . . It needs no embellishment (i.e., no whipped cream or anything). Ideally serve this with coffee or with an after-dinner wine (port, sauternes, Madeira, etc.). We discussed this, that it might be lovely with quartered strawberries instead of raspberries, or even blueberries. Blackberries ought to be fine with it too. Or a mixture of them. The fruit and sour cream mixture gets warm only – not hot – though the sugar layer DOES get hot. By the time you scoop servings out and deliver it to people, it should be sufficiently cool to eat.

I’ll be making this again and again during prime berry season.

What’s GOOD: how unbelievably easy it is to make, first and foremost. But the flavor is just so smooth and unctuous. There’s just no other word for it.  And the little bit of crunch (think crème brulee) on top add really delicious texture to it. Rich? Yes. Satisfying? Yes. Worth making? Absolutely yes.

What’s NOT: it does need to be made at the last minute, but truly it takes about 2-3 minutes to make it. Get out the dish, the berries, the sour cream and the brown sugar (and the sieve) and have them at-the-ready and you’ll have dessert in no time. For my party I bought 2 large clamshell boxes of raspberries (I think they were $4.99 each), 2 tubs of sour cream and it served 16 with about 2 servings left over. I did small servings, though.

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

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Raspberry Brown Sugar Gratin [Russian Gratin with Raspberries]

Recipe By: Adapted from Jeremiah Tower’s New American Classics via Regina Schrambling, but on Smitten Kitchen’s blog
Serving Size: 12

4 cups fresh raspberries — or any berries
4 cups sour cream — or creme fraiche
2 cups dark brown sugar

NOTES : There are a lot of ways you can play around with this – flavoring the sour cream with lemon, vanilla, cinnamon or almond; using a mix of berries, etc. – but it is flawless the way it is. Want to fancy it up for fancy people? Make it in individual ramekins or tiny gratin dishes. Swap thick, full-fat Greek-style yogurt swapped for sour cream and serve it at a brunch.
1. Preheat broiler.
2. Gently fold raspberries and sour cream together in a shallow 1-quart dish. Press the brown sugar through a sieve or mesh colander so that it sprinkles evenly over the dish. (don’t use a sifter, it doesn’t work.)
3. Run the dish under the broiler until the sugar just starts to caramelize. Eat at once. Keeping: The leftovers are equally delicious, even suitable for a splurge breakfast.
Per Serving: 323 Calories; 16g Fat (44.0% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 44g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 34mg Cholesterol; 55mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on May 29th, 2017.

applesauce_bundt_cake_caramel_icing

Oh yummy. A tender, moist cake made with vegetable oil and applesauce. But this isn’t one of those that omits any other fat – the vegetable oil is in lieu of butter, obviously. But it’s super moist because of the home made applesauce added into the batter.

Needing a nice, big dessert to take to one of the Easter celebrations I attended (I was blessed to go to my son’s wife’s family celebration on Saturday, then on Sunday I drove to San Diego to be with daughter Sara), this recipe jumped out at me. Originally it was on Food52, but has since appeared a few other places as well. I have a new Bundt cakepan – a heritage one (but new, $36) that you can find on Food52’s website. It’s made by Nordic Ware, so you know it’s a good, solid cake pan. My older one I bought many years ago at a discounted place and it’s tweaked around the top edge, so it never bakes into a perfect round. Since I use it often, I decided I wanted this new shaped one.

applesauce_bundt_cake_coolingI bought Granny Smith apples, and used one Gala apple I had on hand too, but I used nothing but a  little bit of water and cinnamon (no sugar), and it took about 10 minutes to make it. Well, except for the time peeling the apples. The cake contains 1 1/2 cups of the home made applesauce. You can use canned applesauce (unsweetened) and buy chunky if you can find it. I decided I wanted to make my own, and once cooked, I used a potato masher to make sure pieces were smaller.

applesauce_cake_icingThe cake itself has some nice, warm spices in it (including a small amount of ground black pepper, plus cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg). It uses dark brown sugar, hence the darker color of the cake. The black pepper isn’t really discernible, but am certain it wouldn’t be as tasty without it, so don’t skip past that ingredient. The cake baked in 45 minutes at 350°, and I tested the temp – it was exactly 206°F. Perfect. I let it cool overnight (loosely tented in plastic wrap, then made the caramel icing the next morning. I had one FAIL in this – my fault – I forgot to sift the powdered sugar, so you can see little bits of powdered sugar in the glaze. Not a deal breaker. The cake was easy easy to make.

I made it a second time a few days later for another group of guests at my home. I pressed the powdered sugar through a sieve that time and got a much smoother icing/glaze. It was also just perfectly baked. Such a winner of a recipe.

applesauce_bundt_sliceWhat’s GOOD: well, the texture (moist, tender) and flavor (lovely apple flavor throughout and the combo of spices are perfect). The caramel icing adds a nice fillip to the serving. It might be over the top with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. Don’t go the whipped cream route – it wouldn’t go with the icing, I don’t think. Altogether lovely cake – a definite keeper. I heard many uhmmmms from guests who ate it.

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever.

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

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Applesauce Bundt Cake with Caramel Icing

Recipe By: Food52
Serving Size: 12

CAKE:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce — home made if possible
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
GLAZE:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — cut into chunks
1/2 cup light brown sugar — or dark brown
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar — SIFTED (important)

NOTES: You can use canned applesauce (chunky if possible) or make your own, but unsweetened. The icing is very sweet, so you don’t need added sugar in the applesauce. Do SIFT the powdered sugar or you’ll have lumps.
1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a standard-size (12-cup) Bundt pan (or spray with nonstick cooking spray).
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, pepper, and spices, and whisk to mix well.
3. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the eggs with both sugars until light. Beat in the applesauce, oil, and vanilla until smooth. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture, and beat briefly, just to combine. Use a rubber spatula to fold gently, making sure that all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the thickest part of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake for 10 minutes in the pan on a rack before turning it out and allowing to cool completely. (The cake should be room temperature before applying the glaze).
5. When you’re ready to glaze, set the cooling rack (with the cake on it) on top of a rimmed sheet pan. This will catch drips.
6. Place the butter in a medium (2- to 3-quart) saucepan with the brown sugar, cream, and salt, and set over medium heat. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute exactly, and then pull the pan off the heat. Leave to cool for about 2-3 minutes, and then gradually whisk in the SIFTED confectioner’s sugar until you have a thick but pourable consistency. Only add as much sugar as you need to make a thick glaze. If it gets too thick, add a little cream to thin it down.
7. Immediately pour the glaze over the cake, evenly covering as much surface area as possible. Let the glaze set before serving the cake.
Per Serving: 419 Calories; 19g Fat (41.2% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 59g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 55mg Cholesterol; 375mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on May 5th, 2017.

choc_apricot_torte

Oh my. Decadence on a plate. No counting calories on this one; just so you know . . .

It isn’t until I get home from a cooking class and enter a recipe into my software, MasterCook, that I glance at the calories and/or fat, or carbs for any dish. Tarla Fallgatter prepared this at a class a month or so ago, and everyone swooned over it. Me included. The torte is so soft, tender, melt-in-your-mouth chocolaty, and hits all the buttons for tasty. It’s so tender that it sinks in the middle – hence you can see the far right end of the cake has almost completely collapsed. Oh, but that didn’t detract one single calorie from enjoying it. Someone in the class asked if this was a chocolate lava cake, and Tarla said no, it wasn’t, although one could think so.

Tarla oftens does chocolate tortes, cakes, etc. That particular cooking class group loves chocolate too. Tarla loves chocolate, I’m guessing, although she never eats a bite of anything she fixes at the cooking classes, unless it’s to check for seasonings. This torte contains some apricot puree in the cake itself, and she served it with some additional on the plate, along with a scoop of sweetened whipped cream. There’s a chocolate ganache frosting on top, then toasted almonds sprinkled on top of that. It does have to be surrounded in foil (the springform pan, in a single sheet so water can’t permeate) and then baked in a water bath. Not hard, but requires a few extra steps and minutes. Do use a pan (for the water bath) that is much bigger than the springform pan because you need to steam to escape. Tarla baked this in a round pan that wasn’t too much bigger, and the cake took much longer to bake. Just so you know . . .

Serve this when you’re having a very light dinner – not at the end of a multi-course heavy meal as it’s very rich.

What’s GOOD: I hate to say this, but everything about this torte was delicious. Fantastic, really. I ate every smidgen. Will I actually make it? Maybe, but as I suggested above, not to serve after a heavy dinner.

What’s NOT: nothing except the excess of calories! Oh, and maybe the requirement to bake this in a foil covered base and in a water bath. Kind of a nuisance.

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

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Chocolate Apricot Torte

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor, chef, 2017
Serving Size: 10

CAKE:
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate — coarsely chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter
8 large eggs — separated
3/4 cup sugar — PLUS 2 tablespoons
3/4 cup apricot puree (see below)
1/4 cup Amaretto — or brandy or rum
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almonds — toasted
1 pinch salt
APRICOT PUREE:
1 cup dried apricots
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
CHOCOLATE GLAZE:
3/4 pound bittersweet chocolate — coarsely chopped
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter — room temperature
2 tablespoons Amaretto — or brandy
GARNISH:
1/2 cup sliced almonds — toasted
1/2 cup heavy cream — beaten with sugar and vanilla to taste

1. APRICOTS: Simmer apricots with water, sugar until very soft, about 20-30 minutes. Let cool; add vanilla and puree until smooth. Set aside. You will have more puree than needed.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan; line with parchment and butter the parchment. Using extra-wide foil, wrap bottom half of springform pan so none of the water bath will be able to enter the springform pan.
3. CAKE: Combine chocolate and butter in a bowl and heat over simmering water until melted. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Pulse the flour and almonds in a food processor.
4. Beat egg yolks and HALF the sugar until very thick and very light colored. Gently stir the apricot puree (3/4 cups of it only) and Amaretto into the chocolate mixture and the pinch of salt. Gently fold the almond flour and chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture.
5. In a clean bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form, then add remaining sugar and continue beating until thoroughly incorporated. Fold the egg whites, by thirds, into the chocolate mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan. Place the cake pan into a larger, open baking dish or pan (10×14 pan, or a large round or oval) and add enough hot water to the cake pan barely floats. Tent the top of the springform pan with foil. Bake for about 40-50 minutes.
6. Remove cake from the water bath and allow to cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. Gently unmold the cake from the springform pan.
7. GLAZE: Combine the chocolate, water and cream in the top half of a double boiler and melt over simmering water. Remove from heat and add butter and Amaretto. Allow to cool until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Ladle about half the glaze over the top of the torte, tilting it slightly so it spreads as evenly as possible. Use remaining glaze to drizzle on the side of each cake slice or drizzle on top of the cake when served.
8. GARNISH:: On each plate place the cake slice with a drizzle of glaze, then garnish with a spoonful of the remaining apricot puree and a dollop of whipped cream. Sprinkle the toasted almonds over all.
Per Serving: 916 Calories; 78g Fat (70.1% calories from fat); 16g Protein; 59g Carbohydrate; 12g Dietary Fiber; 264mg Cholesterol; 95mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Desserts, on May 1st, 2017.

moist_banana_pineapple_bread

Ever get a craving? I seem to mention them more frequently, of late. Banana bread was my craving.

If I didn’t buy bananas – for them to get extra ripe – with black spots all over them – then there would never be a need for a banana bread. Right? I don’t eat many bananas – this goes back to when my DH Dave was alive and as a diabetic, he knew bananas were not very good for him – all carbs and lots of sugar. Not good for a Type 1 diabetic. SO I didn’t buy them very often – really only if I planned to bake with them. I’d read a story somewhere on the ‘net at one of the blogs I follow, about a banana bread, and in the post they mentioned the Kona Inn. Memories drifted back. Hmmm. Yes, I think I remember having had banana bread at the Kona Inn. Oh no, it was at the Willows in Honolulu. But never mind . . . it was banana bread that sparked the interest. And there was a mention of baking such banana bread with or WITHOUT pineapple. Well, I decided then and there that it needed to have pineapple.

Scanning through my many recipes – and remembering my own favorite banana bread and also one that is a prize winning banana bread. also a favorite of mine too, I wanted one with pineapple. I could have adapted one of the two mentioned, but hey, I write a food blog – I need new ideas. Always! I hunted on the ‘net and found this one. It makes 2 loaves – albeit kind of shallow loaves, but still 2 loaves. It’s got lots of bananas, and it has an 8-ounce can of canned drained pineapple. And cinnamon. I added a jot of nutmeg and allspice. Just because. Otherwise it’s identical to the recipe I found at Taste of Home. It was very easy to mix up – one bowl for the dry ingredients, and another for the wet ingredients. They’re combined and poured into 2 loaf pans. Baked for an hour and it’s done. No frosting needed.

What’s GOOD: definitely good banana and pineapple flavor. And cloaked in a really moist batter. Use a napkin or a paper towel to eat it because your fingers will be a bit oily. Guess that’s what makes it so good!

What’s NOT: nary a thing – unless it’s waiting for the bananas to get extra ripe.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Moist Pineapple Banana Bread

Recipe By: Adapted from Taste of Home
Serving Size: 32

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces crushed pineapple — drained well
2 cups bananas — ripe, mashed, about 4-5

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, oil and vanilla; add pineapple and bananas. Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened. Pour into two greased 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pans.
2. Bake at 350° for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Yield: 2 loaves (16 slices each). Cut into relatively narrow slices and devour warm or at room temp. For longer storage, freeze. Bread is very moist (from the ample amount of oil). Serve with a napkin or paper towel as the bread is quite oily/damp. Guess that’s what makes it taste so good!
Per Serving: 192 Calories; 9g Fat (42.4% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 20mg Cholesterol; 113mg Sodium.

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