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Am still reading The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

Recently finished C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Also finished Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. About a dysfunctional family, through and through. I picked this up from amazon from someone who read the book, named “McReader,” and she says: “Set in the 70s, the story follows a Chinese American blended family in Ohio. When Lydia [the daughter] is found floating in the lake, her family is forced to analyze what put her there. Was it pressure from her family to succeed? Was it pressure to fit in? Was it a crime of passion or convenience? I was spellbound reading the last half of this book. I loved each flawed family member, especially Hannah,. While the story went where I hoped it would go, I was not disappointed at all with the progression. It was also quite insightful on the prejudices that society had about Chinese Americans still during that timeframe and how careful parents have to be to put their dreams onto their children.” Such a good book and definitely worth reading. Would be a good book club read. You’ll be hearing more from this author. Am currently reading her next novel, Little Fires Everywhere.

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 October 18th, 2017.

pear_walnut_upside_down_cake

It’s pear season, you know. Don’t let it slip by without trying this. Although, if you use Bosc pears (recommended) you can generally find those year around.

Since I’m a fan of America’s Test Kitchen, it was a given that I would try this when they made this cake on a recent program. My mother used to make a pear pie, and I always loved it, and seems like I don’t use pears enough. Here’s a good occasion to do so.

pear_walnut_pears_onbottomReally, I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I haven’t loved whatever ATK recommended and I’ve since made. This cake is much like the old standby, pineapple upside-down cake, but using pears here, and walnuts in the cake batter. Use Bosc pears if you can get them – they bake up just perfectly in this cake. They’re placed in the prepared pan in a spoke-shaped pattern, and it does take exactly 2 1/2 pears to do it right, providing you’re using a 9” cake pan (with higher sides, not just a regular cake pan). Amazon carries one – USA Pan Bakeware Round Cake Pan, 9 inch, Nonstick & Quick Release Coating, Made in the USA from Aluminized Steel for $14.99. I didn’t  used to have a cake pan that size, but bought one many years ago and I use it often, so have felt I got my money’s worth from buying yet another kitchen item.

pear_walnut_bakedTo make the cake batter you first start with toasted walnuts in the food processor along with the flour, salt and B.P. and soda. That’s set aside, and eggs are added to the processor and pulsed a couple of minutes until they’re pale yellow. Then you add in melted butter and oil and lastly, the walnut/flour mixture. That’s poured over the pears and into the oven it goes for a bit over an hour. It needs to cool 15 minutes or so (you DO want the cake to invert properly), then carefully turn it over onto a wire rack to cool completely. See photo at right when the cake came out of the oven. Mine was still slightly warm when I served it – I think it needs some whipped cream – I forgot to take a photo of it with the cream added.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was good. The pears still retain some texture and they add a lovely flavor to the cake. It’s really pretty to serve. The servings are not overly large, and probably a good thing as the cake tastes rich. This recipe is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing other than a few extra steps in making the cake batter, but well worth it.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pear-Walnut Upside-Down Cake

Recipe By: America’s Test Kitchen
Serving Size: 8

4 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted
1/2 cup dark brown sugar — packed (3 1/2 ounces)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 whole Bosc pears — ripe but firm (8 ounces each)
CAKE:
1 cup walnuts — toasted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour — (2 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar — (7 ounces)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Notes: It is strongly recommended to baking this cake in a light-colored cake pan with sides that are at least 2 inches tall. If using a dark-colored pan, start checking for doneness at 1 hour, and note that the cake may dome in the center and the topping may become too sticky. Serve with creme fraiche, or lightly sweetened whipped cream.
1. TOPPING: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300°F. Grease 9-inch round cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Pour melted butter over bottom of pan and swirl to evenly coat. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in small bowl and sprinkle evenly over melted butter.
2. Peel, halve, and core pears. Set aside 1 pear half and reserve for other use. Cut remaining 5 pear halves into 4 wedges each. Arrange pears in circular pattern around cake pan with tapered ends pointing inward. Arrange two smallest pear wedges in center or cut the pieces to fit.
3. CAKE: Pulse walnuts, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in food processor until walnuts are finely ground, 8 to 10 pulses. Transfer walnut mixture to bowl.
4. Process eggs and sugar in now-empty processor until very pale yellow, about 2 minutes. With processor running, add melted butter and oil in steady stream until incorporated. Add walnut mixture and pulse to combine, 4 to 5 pulses. Pour batter evenly over pears (some pear may show through; cake will bake up over the fruit).
5. Bake until center of cake is set and bounces back when gently pressed and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 1/4 hours, rotating pan after 40 minutes. Let cake cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Carefully run paring knife or offset spatula around sides of pan. Invert cake onto wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet; discard parchment. Let cake cool for about 2 hours. Transfer to serving platter, cut into wedges, and serve.
Per Serving: 501 Calories; 29g Fat (50.9% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 56g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 111mg Cholesterol; 235mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, Desserts, on August 21st, 2017.

almond_puff_slice

Almond Puff Loaf. Oh gosh. Love this.

It had been decades since I’d last made this. I used to make it back in the 1960s – I’d found a recipe in one of my homespun cookbooks. Then one time I made it and it failed completely, and I had no idea why. The 2nd layer kind of spread out all over everywhere (now I know what happened) but after that failure, I thought oh well, I won’t try that again. Then it was featured recently on King Arthur Flour’s blog, and I was reminded about my previous love of it, then distress of it. As I read, I discovered that you must use large eggs, not extra large. I used to buy extra large all the time, but then about 10-15 years ago I read that bakers use ONLY large eggs because they’re more consistent with the normal size used in almost all baked things. And it was mentioned that if you use extra large eggs, this baked goodie might fail. Ah-ha! That must have been it. If you go the blog write-up then go to the recipe itself at King Arthur Flour, you’ll read all the details, if you’re interested. They actually mention how much one large egg weighs. One website says an average large egg weighs (just the egg part) 50 grams.

I served it at one of my book club meetings recently, held here at my house. The recipe is Danish in origin, and I wanted to make Danish goodies because the group was reviewing The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. We had such an interesting discussion of the book because I invited my friend Janet to come and talk about her experiences in Denmark. Her son lives there with his wife and children, and Janet and Dick visit them regularly. She shared some stories about celebrating Christmas in Denmark (many different traditions), and she also brought a beautiful candle (candles are really, really important in Denmark, and NOT scented) with an unusual glass surround with pine boughs. My meeting was held in my family room – I lit about a dozen candles, had lights on (low) wherever I could (and had it not been mid-summer and hot, I would have lit the fireplace [fireplaces are big deal for hygge]).

almond_puff_fullAnyway, this Danish – well, it’s NOT like a “real” Danish (as we in American might call it), the kind you’d buy at a bakery. This is a pretty easy one to make at home. It has a bottom layer (look at the photo up at the top to see the layers), a top layer that’s like cream puff batter which rises quite a bit in the baking because of the eggs in it, then once baked (it takes an hour) you spread warm jam (I’m quite enamored with Trader Joe’s Peach Bellini jam) on top, then sprinkle on some toasted almonds, then drizzle with a simple powdered sugar icing.  There are a bunch of steps, but none is difficult in the least. A bit of stirring, mixing, melting, spreading, etc. After doing all the layering, I cut it into slices about 1 1/2” wide, 3” long (across). The photo above is of one of the finished loaves – it’s about 10” long and 3-4” wide. The puff was still warm when I put it onto a serving plate and invited my friends to grab a piece, along with coffee (another integral part of Danish life) and makes for a lot of hygge (HOO-GAH). We laughed a lot about how much difficulty we have pronouncing it.

What’s GOOD: this is altogether delicious – it has crunch, almost like croissant flakiness in the middle (but it isn’t, it’s cream-puff flakiness), the jam and almonds adding a nice mouth-feel. There were some pieces left over and I invited my friends to take them home – there was none left after that. Now that I’ve figured out about only using LARGE eggs, I’ll be making this again someday. And then, I love almond anything, so that was an added bonus for me.

What’s NOT: If you don’t like managing all the different layers, maybe this isn’t for you, but it’s not difficult in the least. You do need to start about 1 1/2 hours ahead since it must bake nearly an hour. And it really should cool for 10-15 minutes before serving (I didn’t because I’d run out of time!).

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Almond Puff Loaf

Recipe By: King Arthur Flour (but this is an old-old recipe I’ve had for decades)
Serving Size: 16

FIRST LAYER:
1/2 cup butter — cut into pats or 1/2-inch cubes, (8 tablespoons)*
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup water
*If you’re using unsalted butter add 1/4 tsp salt
SECOND LAYER:
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter — (8 tablespoons)*
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
3 large eggs — at room temperature; warm them, in the shell, in hot tap water for 10 minutes if they’re cold from the fridge
1 teaspoon almond extract
*If you’re using unsalted butter add 1/4 tsp salt
TOPPING:
2/3 cup jam — or preserves (preferably apricot or peach)
2/3 cup sliced almonds — toasted in a 350F oven for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until they’re a light, golden brown
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar — or glazing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 teaspoons milk — or water (approximately)

NOTE: Be sure to use only LARGE eggs.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) a large cookie sheet.
2. First layer: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the butter, flour, and salt (if you’re using it), working the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or fork, your fingers, or a mixer. Mix until everything is crumbly, then stir in the water. The dough will become cohesive, though not smooth.
3. Divide the dough in half; if you’re using a scale, each half will weigh about 4 5/8 – 5 ounces. Wet your hands, and shape each piece of this wet dough into a rough log. Pat the logs into 10″ x 3″ rectangles on the sheet, leaving at least 4″ (but preferably 6″) between them, and 2″ on each side. These puff up in the oven (hence the name), and you need to leave them room for expansion.
4. Second layer: In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Stir until the butter melts, then add the flour (and salt, if you’re using it) all at once. Stir the mixture with a spoon till it thickens, begins to steam, and leaves the sides of the pan; this will happen very quickly. Transfer the stiff batter to a mixing bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat it at medium speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just to cool it down a bit.
5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; beat until the batter loses its slippery look, and each egg is totally absorbed. Mix in the almond extract.
6. Divide the batter in half. Spread half the batter over one of the dough strips on the pan, covering it completely to the outer edges. Repeat with the remaining batter on the 2nd and dough. With a spatula (or your wet fingers) spread the batter until it completely covers the entire bottom layer of dough. Smooth it out as best you can.
7. Bake the pastry for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until it’s a deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and transfer each pastry to a wire rack.
8. Topping: Spread each warm pastry with about 1/3 cup of jam or preserves.
9. Sprinkle the toasted almonds atop the jam. By this time, your beautifully puffed pastries are probably starting to sink; don’t worry, this is all part of the plan.
10. Icing: Stir together the sugar, vanilla, and enough milk or water to form a thick but “drizzlable” icing.
Drizzle the icing atop the pastries. Cut into squares or strips to serve.
Per Serving: 257 Calories; 16g Fat (54.4% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 71mg Cholesterol; 138mg Sodium.
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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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