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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2022, I’m still doing 99% of the blogging and holding out hope that these two lovely and excellent cooks will participate. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

Have only begun Geraldine Brooks’ brand new book, Horse. Oh my, is it a page turner. Loving it so far. It’s a fictional creation but based on a real racehorse owned by a black man, back in the 1850s. Technically, the story is about a painting of the horse but there are many twists and turns. If you’ve ever enjoyed Brooks’ books in the past, this one won’t disappoint.

The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel (no, not Hannah). Certainly a little-known chunk of history about a woman who becomes a master forger during WWII to help get Jewish children out of France. Not easy to read, meaning the difficulty of anyone finding the means and place to DO the forgery and right under the noses of the Nazis. Really good read.

Liane Moriarty’s first novel, Three Wishes, follows the travails of adult triplets, so different, yet similar in many ways. Two are identical, the third is not. So alike, and so not. It takes you through a series of heart-wrenching events, seemingly unrelated, but ones that could bring a family to its breaking point and test the bonds of love and strength.

Recently I’ve read both of Erin French’s books, her cookbook, The Lost Kitchen, and since then her memoir, Finding Freedom. About her life growing up (difficult) about her coming of age mostly working in the family diner, flipper burgers and fries (and learning how much she liked to cook). Now she’s a very successful restaurant entrepreneur (The Lost Kitchen is also the name of her restaurant) in the miniscule town of Freedom, Maine. She’s not a classically trained chef, but she’s terrifically creative. See her TV series on Discover+ if you subscribe.

Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy. To say that this book stretched my comfort zone is the least of it . . .think about a time in the not very distant future, when global warming has done it’s worst and nearly all animals are extinct. No bird song in the air or fish in the sea. There’s this woman, Franny, who is on a quest to follow the very small, but last migration of arctic terns, who fly from pole to pole each year. She somehow sees this migration as a paean to her own life (of many travails). Is this book a foretelling of what our world will be like?  There’s a lot of angst going on here in this book, with her marriage, with her career, with her perpetual need for travel . . . always needing to go somewhere else other than staying at home and finding peace and happiness there. Then this final, gritty, illegal at-sea voyage trying to find the terns. Very much worth reading if you can stomach the sadness in it. Soul-searching is a common denominator here, but then aren’t a lot of books?

Jo Jo Moyes has a bunch of books to her credit. And she writes well, with riveting stories. Everything I’ve read of hers has been good. This book, The Girl You Left Behind, is so different, so intriguing, so controversial and a fascinating historical story. There are two timelines here, one during WWI, in France, when a relatively unknown painter (in the style of Matisse) paints a picture of his wife. The war intervenes for both the husband and the wife. A German Kommandant enters the picture in this tiny berg in France. Knowing her husband is in a camp, most likely a death camp, she compromises her morals to save the picture and possibly save her husband’s life. Jump to somewhat current day and the painting, which has survived all these years, and is in the hands of a young widow who has an extraordinary connection with the painting. A lawsuit ensues having to do with art stolen by the Nazis and a convoluted trail of how the painting traveled in the intervening years. Even though this was WWI, not WWII, but the law encompasses the past. It’s a heart-wrenching story. There’s a love interest too. Well worth reading. Would make a good book club read.

Memoirs are such fun, especially if you really enjoy/love the author. This was the case as I read Rachael Ray 50, an ode to  her age. So I read online, Rachael discloses more about her personal life in this book than she has done in her many other cookbooks. I really enjoyed reading the book, as she told stories about her growing up, including some of her mother’s recipes and from other family members. She and her family eat tons of pasta, so lots of the recipes I probably won’t prepare, but okay, I still enjoyed reading all the stories.

Eli Shafak’s Island of Missing Trees. This book was just a page turner. If you’ve never read anything about the conflict in Cyprus (the island) between the Turks and the Greeks, you’re in for a big history lesson here. But, the entire story centers around a fig tree. You get into the head/brain/feelings of this big fig tree which plays a very central part of the story. You’ll learn a lot about animals, insects (ants, mosquitos, butterflies) and other flora and fauna of Cyprus. I’m not a gardener at all, but I found the story just fascinating. It chronicles the love story between a young couple, human ones, not trees, one a Greek, one a Turk and their relationship (verboten back in the 70s). It goes back and forth between the 70s (when the real conflict was going on) and current day (2010ish). Loved this book from page one to the last.

If you’re a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro, you’ll find his newest book a league apart. Klara and the Sun. It takes place in the near future when we humans can go to a store and buy an AF (artificial friend). These robotic humanoid “things” have knowledge and personalities. The book follows along as a family buys Klara, an AF with perhaps a better personality than some. She has feelings, but not very many needs. The reader never really “sees” Klara except for a few descriptions of her human-type shape. You get into Klara’s brain (her PC chip) and know how she feels about her family. Her main job is to be a friend to the daughter, Josie, who has some kind of unnamed illness. The AF must spend a part of every day in the sunshine (some kind of hidden solar unit must be within Klara). There are any number of other characters in the story (mostly human, not AFs) which add dimension. I was quite mesmerized by the story and am in awe at the creativity of this author. Loved the book. May not be for everyone. I’m not a science fiction fan at all, but this was believable. And you’ll fall in love with Klara who wants so much to be wanted and loved.

Also read Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. Ohhh my, such a good book. I couldn’t put it down. Whatever you do, do not read the ending before you start the book. I’ve never understood people who do this. The book chronicles the day a mom just ups and disappears. The grown children come back home, in panic. The dad isn’t much help, and he becomes the prime suspect of foul play. There is no body, however. The husband and wife own a tennis school (this takes place in Australia) and the children grow up surrounded by tennis everything. The children don’t necessarily get along. The parents haven’t always gotten along, either, although through many years the parents were quite besotted with each other, to the detriment of the parenting. Much travail from all the family members. But oh what a story. It had me riveted and wondering, until the last 5 pages of so when the resolution occurs. Big surprise.

Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally it’s a page turner. I think it’s still on the best seller list. A young man, Emmett, is released from a youth work camp (back in the day) and is returned home (by the camp warden) following the death of his father, to find that the home they’d lived in was in foreclosure. His mother abandoned them years before. His intent is to pick up his 8-year old brother and they will head off for Texas, but then he discovers two of his work-camp-mates had hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Oh my goodness, such a tangled web. Fascinating, and Amor Towles has such a way with words. His sentences are like blooming flower vines, with metaphors in nearly every sentence. Such a gifted writer.

If you’d like a mystery read, try Dete Meserve’s The Space Between. It’s just the kind of page-turner I enjoy – a wife returns to her home after being away on business for a few days, to find her husband missing and what he’s left for her is an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean. Oh there are plenty of twists and turns. Couldn’t put it down.

Read Alyson Richman’s historical novel called The Velvet Hours. Most of the book takes place in Paris, with a young woman and her grandmother, a very wealthy (but aging) woman who led a life of a semi-courtesan. Or at least a kept woman. But this grandmother was very astute and found ways to invest her money, to grow her money, and to buy very expensive goods. Then WWII intervenes, and the granddaughter has to close up her grandmother’s apartment, leaving it much the way it had been throughout her grandmother’s life, to escape the Nazis. Years go by, and finally answers are sought and found. An intriguing book, based on the author’s experience with an apartment that had been locked up similarly for decades, also in Paris.

Susan Meissner is one of my favorite authors. This book, The Nature of Fragile Things tells a very unusual story. About a young Irish immigrant, desperate to find a way out of poverty, answers an ad for a mail order bride. She moves to San Francisco and becomes the bride, and mother to the man’s young child. But all is not right with the world. Sophie senses an undercurrent about her husband’s life. He’s elusive, leaves her alone for days on end, doesn’t share her bed, and she begins to feel the only reason he wanted a wife was to care for the child. Then the world turns upside down with the 1906 earthquake. And then there’s more. . . and more. . . very gripping read.

Also read Rachel Hauck’s The Writing Desk. You could call this a romance. A young professional, a writer of one successful book, has writer’s block. Then she’s asked to go to Florida to help her mother (from whom she’s mostly estranged) through chemo. She goes, hoping she can find new inspiration. Oh the various twists this book can give you. There’s a guy she meets, but she’s keeping her boyfriend at home on the string, sort of. Then there’s the desk itself, that has history. Oh my, does it have history. Really interesting story, light reading.

One of my book clubs has us reading Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library: A Novel. What a premise for a book. About a library you can whiz to in the middle of the night and discover other lives you could have lived. And experience them. To find out the answers to those questions we ask ourselves sometimes, “I wonder what would have happened if I’d . . . .” taken that other job, gone out with that guy, taken that trip. That kind of thing. You’ll find out what happened to one particular woman who thought she had nothing left to live for. Good read. Very different. A bit space-agey. Sort of time travel, but not really. But yes, maybe.

James Shipman has written an intriguing book, It Is Well: A Novel, about a man who has lost his wife. And about a woman who has lost her husband. But their relationship stalls, big time, because the guy made a promise to his wife, and he feels duty-bound to honor it. There is much angst about it all. Much wringing of hands, some tears on her part. Nice book; good read.

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers. The story is mostly about a young woman, educated, a Jew, who is the scribe (in secret) to an aging religious leader (in a time when women would have been verboten to hold such a position). And about her own curiosity about her religion and how she eventually begins writing letters (using a male pseudonym) to various Jewish leaders abroad, questioning their religious beliefs. The book is extraordinarily long – not that that kept me from turning a single page! – and complex with the cast of characters from the 1600s and the cast in today’s world of highly competitive experts analyzing the ancient papers. Altogether riveting book. Loved it from beginning to end.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid. Then to current time as a young woman tries to ferret her family history and particularly about some old-old jewelry that they can’t quite figure out – how the grandmother came to have them. Fascinating tale.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then becomes something else. There is graphic detail here.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name. She meets a guy and they share a bond of reading and some romance. Years go by and she’s now owner of a failing independent bookstore (and married, or separated) and suddenly begins receiving a used book (that she recognizes) every day from a different place in the country. A message for sure, but where will it lead? Yes, it’s a romance. Lots of introspection going on. Enjoyed it.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.

 

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 6th, 2022.

I’ve done so much cooking of late I’m having a hard time keeping track of what I’ve posted or what I haven’t.

A post from Carolyn. It’s been a couple of months since I made this – – rhubarb was plentiful at the grocery store, and I was having a moment with almonds – either in almond paste form, or almond extract in things. I do love almond flavoring in whichever form. This galette (which means rough pastry with fruit) was so very simple to do. I had a Pillsbury sheet of pie dough. And just an FYI: I don’t buy store brands of pie dough – – I just think they’re inferior. If I were really doing this right, I’d have made my own pie crust, but I was lazy and bought the ready-made.

First I combined the fresh cut rhubarb with some sugar and lemon zest and set it aside. The pie crust was put out onto a Silpat (or you could use parchment paper) on a big sheetpan. Then I made the frangipane (almond flour, sugar, salt, egg, orange liqueur and almond extract). That was pureed in the food processor and I poured/scraped it out onto the center of the pie dough and spread it evenly leaving an ample border as the pastry gets rolled inward. Then the rhubarb went on top – note that I cut some of the rhubarb in long chunks and mostly short ones. No reason, just thought it would look more interesting. Then you gently bring up the sides of the dough. Do this gently – do NOT under any circumstances try to stretch the dough. You might note that my crust cracked on one side and some of the rhubarb and filling oozed out a bit. Not so attractive, but it made no difference in the end result. Crimp the edges so the dough will stay in place (hopefully) and HOLD the frangipane and the fruit inside.

Melted butter is brushed over the edges of the dough and any remaining you can drizzle on top of the tart. Sugar is sprinkled all over the top, then the galette is baked for about 35 minutes, or until it’s golden brown on the pie dough edges. It needs to cool some before serving (warm is perfect). Then make some whipped cream with a few drops of almond extract and sugar in it. You could add vanilla too, but I prefer the almond. The recipe was adapted from one I found at Alexandra Cooks.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was delicious. Loved the frangipane (almond filling) with the rhubarb. Loved the almond flavoring in the whipped cream too. And then, there’s rhubarb, which I am crazy about anyway.

What’s NOT: only that you need rhubarb on hand to make this.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Rhubarb Frangipane Galette

Recipe By: Adapted from Alexandra Cooks blog
Servings: 6

1 sheet pie pastry — store-bought (not a formed pie shell)
RHUBARB:
3/4 pound rhubarb — cut into 1-inch lengths, cutting a few longer lengths for top
1/3 cup sugar zest from one lemon
FRANGIPANE:
1/2 cup almond meal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 pinch salt
1 small egg
2 teaspoons orange liqueur
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
ASSEMBLY:
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar — for sprinkling, regular or turbinado
2/3 cup heavy cream — whipped, sweetened, for serving, may also add a few drops of almond extract to the cream

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF and place a rack in the center of the oven.
2. RHUBARB: Stir the rhubarb with the sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl and set aside.
3. Pastry: Unroll the pastry dough onto a Silpat or parchment lined sheetpan.
4. FRANGIPANE: Combine almond flour, sugar, salt, egg, orange liqueur and almond extract in a food processor. Purée until smooth, about 10 seconds.
5. Spoon the frangipane into the center of the rolled out dough leaving a 1- to 2-inch border. Pile the rhubarb and all of the juices into the center of the frangipane and spread out to cover. Choose some of the more red pieces of rhubarb and arrange them on top. Carefully bring up the sides, gently crimping pleats as you move around the galette. Do NOT stretch the dough.
6. Brush the edge of the dough with melted butter. If there is any remaining, drizzle the remainder over the exposed rhubarb. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the top.
7. BAKE for 35 minutes or until golden. Remove pan from the oven and let rest on cooling rack for 5 to 10 minutes or until Silpat or paper is cool enough to handle. Grab the edges of the paper or Silpat and slide to a cooling rack to cool further or to a cutting board to serve. Cut into wedges. Serve on its own or with vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream with almond extract added.
Per Serving: 431 Calories; 28g Fat (57.2% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 42g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 71mg Cholesterol; 232mg Sodium; 19g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 97mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 288mg Potassium; 96mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on August 2nd, 2022.

Bars that are kinda cookie, kinda dessert, a happy match of the two.

A post from Carolyn. It’s been years ago that I downloaded this recipe from a now-defunct food blog called Alpineberry. It’s been long ago enough that I don’t remember the writer’s name, just that I remember her blog’s name, and I’d made a note of it in my recipe, and I have a few other recipes from that blog too. This recipe is a keeper, for sure.

It does require the making of three layers (a crust, an apple layer and a cream cheese filling). None is hard to do – the most tedious is probably the peeling, coring and slicing (thinly) the apples. The crust contains the usual things plus some cream cheese AND both almond and vanilla extracts. Some of it is set aside to make the topping. The filling is a cream cheese, egg, sugar and lemon juice combination. You can barely see it on top of the apples in the picture above. It’s not a thick filling – just enough to provide some nice creamy texture to the finished bars.

The crust is baked, cooled some, then the apples are added (you use Granny Smith so the apple filling doesn’t turn into applesauce) and gently smoothed out. Then the cream cheese filling is poured on top and gently spread out. Then the topping (the remainder of the crust plus some almonds, flour and more sugar. Sliced almonds are added on the top. That’s it. Baked for about 50 minutes.

What’s GOOD: loved the apple flavor, the texture, the little creamy layer and the crunch of the almonds. Altogether delicious bar or dessert. My granddaughter Taylor loved these. They’re especially nice served with some vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream. But they don’t need embellishment – served as is would be fine too, even out of hand.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Almond Apple Bars

Recipe By: From Alpineberry blog (no longer exists)
Servings: 12

CRUST:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt — (or 1/4 tsp table salt)
3 ounces cream cheese — softened
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — softened
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar — may use half artificial sweetener
1/4 cup light brown sugar — may use half artificial sweetener
1/3 cup almonds — finely chopped
TOPPING:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar — may use half artificial sweetener
2 tablespoons light brown sugar — may use half artificial sweetener
1/4 cup almonds — coarsely chopped
FILLING:
5 ounces cream cheese — softened at room temp.
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 pinch salt
1 pound Granny Smith apples — peeled, cored & cut into thin slices (about 3 apples)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9×9 inch square baking pan with parchment. Butter the parchment.
2. CRUST: Sift flour and salt. Set aside dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Add the almond and vanilla extracts and beat on medium until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium speed until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. On low speed, mix in the flour-salt mixture and the 1/3 cup of finely chopped almonds just until the dough comes together. It should be crumbly.
3. Reserve about 2/3 cup of the crust mixture for the topping. Press the remaining dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. You may use an offset spatula, your fingertips, or the bottom of a glass to smooth out the dough. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Bake until light golden, about 16-18 minutes. Remove crust from the oven.
4. TOPPING: While the crust bakes, make the topping by adding the flour, granulated and brown sugars to the reserved crust dough. Mix until well combined. It should be crumbly. Set aside topping and 1/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds while you make the filling.
5. FILLING: In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg, lemon juice and salt until well mixed.
6. ASSEMBLY: Arrange the apple slices over the baked crust. Pour cream cheese filling over the apples and gently spread (using an offset spatula) the filling to cover. Crumble the topping over the filling. Sprinkle with the almonds. Bake until light golden brown, about 45-50 minutes. Let the bars cool in the pan for about 30 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a cooling rack before cutting.
Per Serving: 279 Calories; 14g Fat (45.7% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 45mg Cholesterol; 176mg Sodium; 20g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 49mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 151mg Potassium; 83mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on July 13th, 2022.

My friend Dianne made this scrumptious pie – so good while strawberries are at the top of their form! And this one is super-easy.

A post from Carolyn. Think refreshing. Think summer. And strawberries. Last summer I remember thinking the strawberries I’d purchased were just the best I’d ever had. And this year isn’t much different. Just such good strawberries on the market. My friend Dianne made this the night she had my granddaughter Taylor and me to dinner. Taylor has just fallen in love with my friends. How life-affirming is that when your young millennial grandchild thinks your friends – who are nearly all about my age – are the bee’s knees? She even ASKS me when she’s going to get to see so-and-so. Love having this grandchild of mine living with me, but it won’t be long now and she graduates from nursing school and will be moving back home to Northern California to begin the next chapter of her life – hopefully as a labor & delivery nurse. She’ll have to take the nursing exam, then she can begin applying to hospitals in the east Sacramento area where she hopes to find a job. She’ll live at home with her mom (my daughter) until she’s saved up enough money to buy a house, she hopes. Her plan is that’ll happen within a year. And maybe so as nurses are so very well paid these days.

Back to this pie – – it requires a graham cracker crust, then you chop up the strawberries, make the cream mixture (sweetened condensed milk and whipped cream, sugar, a little bit of lemon juice and vanilla), add the berries and pour it into the shell. Freeze for 6 hours or so and it’s done. Save a few berries for the garnish. And let the pie sit out at room temp for 5-10 minutes before trying to slice it. Make this before all the strawberries are gone. The recipe came from Joanna Gaines/Magnolia Network.

What’s GOOD: how good strawberries are this year – and making them into this pie is super easy.

What’s NOT: only if you can’t get good strawberries – save the recipe for another day if the strawberries are not at their peak.

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Strawberry Pie – Frozen

Recipe By: Joanna Gaines, Magnolia
Servings: 8

3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk — PLUS 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups strawberries — hulled, cut into 1/4″ dice, to yield about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 whole graham cracker pie crust
More berries for garnish

1. In a large bowl whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice, then stir in diced strawberries.
2. In a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, mix heavy cream, vanilla and powdered sugar, on low for 30 seconds, then increase speed to medium high and beat until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.
3. Add whipped cream to bowl with milk mixture and gently fold it in. The consistency will resemble a thick pudding. Pour the pie filling into a graham cracker crust.
4. Freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight. Garnish with strawberries (fanned).
5. Remove from freezer and allow to thaw for 5 minutes or so before slicing into wedges. Will keep in freezer for up to 5 days.
Per Serving: 344 Calories; 19g Fat (49.2% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 43mg Cholesterol; 153mg Sodium; 27g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 117mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 256mg Potassium; 131mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on July 1st, 2022.

If you were to be able to leap into that photo and grab just a bite of this cake you’d have something ethereal. So very tender. So very lemony, and almond-y at the same time. Almost melts in your mouth.

At post from Carolyn. I needed something for two group things I was attending. Needed a dessert to take to one of my book groups, then needed another one for a morning book group too that met at my home at 9:30 am the following day. Totally different people, so it was okay that I served this cake both times. So I doubled the recipe and made this. The recipe comes from Flo Braker. I don’t own her cookbook, but must have found this one online somewhere. I stuck to the recipe except for one tiny thing – I used almond extract instead of vanilla; otherwise, this is Flo’s recipe.

When you make this, just know from the get-go that you won’t have a cake in hand (so to speak) for several hours, as it needs cooling time and resting or firming-up time. It’s an extremely tender cake. So tender that it’s quite a feat to get it off of the cooling racks (use double spatulas). But it’s so very worth it. You can make this a day or two ahead, even. I’m going to add that note in my recipe below – it keeps beautifully.

The making of this batter is DIFFERENT. Once you read the instructions, you’ll understand why. First, and foremost, you need a tube of almond paste. I don’t know about you, but I’ve purchased it on occasion, and then forgot about it on my pantry shelf, and it turned hard as a rock. It’s unusable in that condition. So make sure you have fresh almond paste, that’s still soft to the touch.

The first instructions that are different is how you manipulate the almond paste. My experience didn’t quite match Flo’s instructions, but it all worked out eventually. You mix the almond paste (I broke it up into pieces and added it to the bowl of my stand mixer), and you’re supposed to mix it until it’s turned into little pea-sizes. Well, no, mine didn’t do that, it congealed into one big piece and climbed it’s way up the blade of the mixer. Twice I tried to make it malleable – it was soft, but it would not break up no matter what I did. So finally I added in a little bit of sugar. That seemed to get it more on the right track. So gradually I added the sugar until it did break up well enough. It’s important you do this right as once you begin adding other ingredients you do not want any little globs (tiny as they might be) of almond paste. So take your time in that portion of making this.

Next you add in butter (very softened). As you watch it, it incorporates the butter – you add it one tablespoon at a time, and it’s important you do that so it aerates. That part should take 3-4 minutes. I guess the batter could “break” if you don’t do it right. Toward the end I was concerned, but it held. Next were eggs, and those were to be added a tablespoon at a time too. Very time consuming, but you don’t want to make a mistake this far into the process. The last part was adding in the dry ingredients (a very little amount of cake flour, baking powder and salt). I did that by hand. In the photo you can see the batter – I tasted it (yes, I know, raw eggs and all) because I wanted to make sure there weren’t any little bits of almond paste (there weren’t).

Into a bread pan it goes, using an offset spatula to level the batter. Bakes for about 30 minutes until golden brown. Remove, cool completely and serve. Now my loaf (two, I made, remember) had a little sink in the middle. I’m not sure why that happened, but it made no difference in the long run as you turn the loaf over (upside down). On the pieces in the center of the cake, I cut those in half so it wasn’t at all noticeable.

What’s GOOD: the very soft, tender crumb and the over-the-top lemon and almond flavor. A keeper.

What’s NOT: only that you need almond paste on hand (or make your own).

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Almond Lemon Tea Cake

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Flo Braker’s “The Art of Simple Baking”
Serving Size: 14 (maybe more)

CAKE:
3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs — at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract
7 ounces almond paste — (3/4 cup) at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
8 ounces unsalted butter — (2 sticks) at room temperature, cut into 16 pieces
1 tablespoon lemon zest — finely grated Meyer lemon
GLAZE:
2/3 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons lemon juice — freshly squeezed Meyer

NOTE: Allow ample time for prep of this cake, PLUS 3 hours of cooling time before serving, so at least 4 hours. If you use regular lemons, add more sugar to the cake batter.
1. Position a rack in the lower third of an oven. Preheat to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan; tap out the excess flour.
2. CAKE: Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt twice. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, combine the eggs and almond extract. Whisk to just combine. Set aside.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, beat the almond paste on low speed until pea-size crumbs form, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. [If the paste doesn’t break up, but stays in one piece, begin next step very slowly with adding a bit of sugar. Beat further until the almond paste begins to separate.] Slowly add the granulated sugar in a slow, steady stream and beat until incorporated. This should take about 2 to 3 minutes. If you add the sugar too quickly, the almond paste won’t break up as well. Make certain there are no little pieces of amond paste in the batter at this point. Taste the batter to make sure!
5. On low speed, beat in the very softened butter, tablespoon by tablespoon. This should take about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of bowl. Increase speed to medium and cream the mixture until lighter in color and fluffy in appearance, about 3 to 4 minutes.
6. Still on medium speed, slowly add in the eggs, cautiously at first, tablespoon by tablespoon. After each bit of the eggs have been absorbed, add more. If at any time the mixture appears watery or shiny, stop the flow of eggs and increase the speed until a smooth appearance returns. Then decrease the speed to medium and resume adding the eggs.
7. Continue to cream, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl at least once, until the mixture appears fluffy, velvety and nearly white, and has increased in volume. Including the time to add the eggs, this should take about 2 to 3 minutes. Fold in the Meyer lemon zest. Remove bowl from stand mixer and using a large spatula fold in the flour mixture. Continue folding until no more flour streaks appear.
8. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface gently with an offset spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the top springs bake when lightly touched, about 45 to 50 minutes or until it reaches 200° in the center, using a instant read thermometer. It might require another 5 minutes of baking to reach that temperature. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if the cake has a little dip in the middle – you’ll be turning the cake upside down anyway.
9. GLAZE: Make the glaze while the cake is cooling in the pan. In a bowl, stir together the sugar and Meyer lemon juice until smooth.
10. Set the wire rack over a sheet of parchment paper, waxed paper or foil to catch any drips of glaze. Invert the loaf pan onto the rack and very carefully lift off the pan. Do not turn cake back over, but leave it top down. Using a silicone pastry brush, generously brush the entire warm cake (top and sides) with the glaze. Continue glazing until you’ve used all of the glazing mixture. Let the cake cool completely on the rack, at least 3 hours, or until the glaze has set. The cake is fragile when warm so don’t try to move it.
11. When the cake is cool, gently transfer it to a serving platter by inserting 2 large spatulas (one from each end) to fully support the cake. Serve at room temperature. Ideally slice in thicker slices, but you may cut them in half (makes them easier to pick up if you decide this is finger food). This will keep, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature for 3-4 days. Ideally, make this cake the day before you need it, allowing all that glaze to absorb to the center.
Per Serving: 328 Calories; 19g Fat (50.7% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 101mg Cholesterol; 63mg Sodium; 29g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 53mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 88mg Potassium; 99mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, Desserts, on June 28th, 2022.

So easy to make with puff pastry dough, fresh fruit and some frangipane.

A post from Carolyn. I’ve been on a tear lately with frangipane. I made some recently for a rhubarb galette (don’t think I’ve posted that recipe yet), then decided to make it again using a different recipe for my book review group meeting at my home. I was expecting about 12-13 people, but at the last minute only 6 of us showed up (not sure if was the book, or just other circumstances). I sent everyone home with one of these plus some of the lemon almond tea cake (haven’t posted that one yet, either).

It was years ago when I was attending a cooking class near me and the hostesses served something similar to these as we all arrived for the class. They were quite easy to make, so I input the recipe in my files, but never had gotten around to making them. With fresh summer fruit in season, I decided to try these. But I decided to use some apricot halves (canned) and some fresh blackberries instead. And in lieu of the cream cheese filling (from the original recipe) that was going to be underneath the fruit, I made the frangipane.

If you’re not familiar with frangipane, it’s pronounced fran-jeh-payn.  Wikipedia says frangipane:

. . .is a sweet almond-flavored custard used in a variety of ways including cakes and such pastries as the Bakewell tart, conversation tart, Jésuite and pithivier. A French spelling from a 1674 cookbook is franchipane with the earliest modern spelling coming from a 1732 confectioners’ dictionary. Originally designated as a custard tart flavored by almonds or pistachios it came later to designate a filling that could be used in a variety of confections and baked goods.

You might know it from the center filling of a bear claw. Certainly that was my earliest knowledge of an almond filling. I remember stopping at a bakery in Europe (France, I think) one morning and we bought a little slice of a tart – sure enough, frangipane. Yummy is all I can say.

So these little numbers require puff pastry. Pepperidge Farms brand is probably the most widely available. My grocery carries a store-label also, but I opted for the Pepperidge Farms. There’s also one called Dufour, I think it is. Also very good, probably better than the Pepperidge. The unopened packages defrosted in the refrigerator for more than a day. If you decide to try these, be sure to look at the expiration date on the puff pastry box. Do not used any that are “old.” And be sure to give them the full 24+ hours to defrost fully.

The pastry sheets are lightly floured, but you need a bit more flour on your work surface to keep them from sticking as  you roll it out further, to about a 11″ or 12″ square. Then cut that square into quarters, so about 5 1/2″ squares. One box will make eight pastries.

Meanwhile you’ll have made the frangipane – some butter and sugar, some almond meal (flour), an egg and a little bit of regular flour, PLUS a jot of almond extract. Perhaps if you used freshly ground almonds the frangipane would have a significant almond flavor, but I wanted it stronger, so I used almond extract instead of vanilla.

Then you scoop a bit of the frangipane pastry cream in the center, position the fruit on top (they kind of look like sunny-side up eggs, huh?), then roll in the pastry edges and crimp them (similar to the edge of a pie crust). Onto a baking sheet they go. They got a brush of an egg wash and some sprinkled Turbinado sugar on top. They take about 30 minutes to bake, to get that lovely golden brown.

What’s GOOD: everything about these was good. Delicious. Loved the frangipane filling, loved the flaky pastry, ate one. Gave the rest away. Why did I give them away, you ask? Because I’d eat them all! And I had about 10 of them left.

What’s NOT: only that you’ve got to buy the puff pastry a couple of days ahead so it has time to completely defrost in the refrigerator. There are instructions for defrosting in the microwave, but I wouldn’t do it.

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Apricot Frangipane Croissant Pastries

Recipe By: Adapted from a long-ago recipe from a cooking class
Servings: 8

1 pound Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets — defrosted in refrigerator at least 24 hours ahead
8 canned apricot halves — drained, or fresh apricot halves, and/or fresh blackberries
1 large egg — mixed with a teaspoon of water, for glazing pastries
1 1/2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar — for sprinkling on top
FRANGIPANE FILLING:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup almond meal
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

NOTE: Defrost pastry sheets for a minimum of 24 hours in the refrigerator.
1. Roll out puff pastry onto floured board. Use a floured rolling pin to flatten slightly and cut into squares approximately 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ inches. You may want to cut off the corners so the pastries roll inward more easily.
2. FRANGIPANE: Using a hand mixer, combine butter and sugar until thoroughly mixed and crumbly. Add almond meal, egg, almond extract, adding flour last. Mix until there are no streaks in the batter.
3. Spread about 2 tablespoons of frangipane in the middle of the puff pastry square. Top with a drained apricot half, cut side down (or with about 7 blackberries in one layer). Roll the pastry edges toward the middle, leaving some space between the filling and the edges. Press the edges gently (crimping like a little pie crust) so they will hold in place.
4. Add about a teaspoon of water to the beaten egg and whisk. Brush the croissant with the egg wash. Top with turbinado sugar.
4. Preheat oven to 375°. Place the pastries on a Silpat lined baking sheet and bake approximately 30 minutes.
Per Serving: 143 Calories; 9g Fat (52.5% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 58mg Cholesterol; 20mg Sodium; 11g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 28mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 135mg Potassium; 61mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on June 9th, 2022.

Have you learned to trust Ina Garten’s recipes?

A post from Carolyn. If you haven’t, you should trust Ina’s recipes. I’ve not ever thought of making a grand statement about Ina’s recipes, but here goes: I’ve never made an Ina Garten recipe that hasn’t been spot-on. She’s a genius in the kitchen. And almost never are her recipes difficult or laborious. Some are expensive since she uses nothing but the best ingredients like pounds of fresh crab right off the boat, or beef tenderloin, or imported cheeses. But many of her recipes are simple. Easy. And many use ordinary ingredients.

So speaking of lemon bars here . . . have you ever eaten some that were not quite up to snuff? I sure have. And I’ve made them too, and not been happy with the results. I mean – they were okay, but not exceptional. These – this recipe – goes into the exceptional category. Just the right amount of sweet to tart, and just the right amount of lemon filling to the sugary topping. And the right amount of crust too.

One time, years ago, I was making a recipe for an appetizer. Don’t even remember what it was, but it was a loosey-goosey kind of recipe – a little this and a little of that. Oh, I remember, it’s on my blog already, they’re called Ginger Picks. It required a little square of ham, a fresh piece of pear and a little nub of crystallized ginger. In making them, I needed to taste it to see if the flavors worked. They did, but I figured out that you needed a piece of ham in a just-so size, a piece of pear in a just-so size, and a piece of crystallized ginger in a just-right size. In order to be perfect, each needed to be a very particular size, otherwise it didn’t work. Hence the same with these lemon bars. They need to have each part – crust – filling – topping be just right.

What’s GOOD: that they’re perfect. Just the right amount of tart to sweet, filling to crust, all in one bite. Make these.

What’s NOT: really, nothing at all. Ina Garten is a wizard.

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Lemon Bars

Recipe By: Ina Garten
Serving Size: 40

CRUST:
1/2 pound unsalted butter — at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
FILLING:
6 extra large eggs — at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest — grated, 4-6 lemons
1 cup lemon juice — freshly squeezed
1 cup flour Confectioners’ sugar — for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.
3. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
4. For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature. Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
Per Serving: 156 Calories; 6g Fat (31.2% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 43mg Cholesterol; 20mg Sodium; 18g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 8mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 30mg Potassium; 29mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on May 27th, 2022.

A post from Sara: I’ve always been a huge fan of chocolate and peanut butter. And when you use chewy brownies and melted peanut butter? Well, simply fantastic. I made these little jewels to ship to my kids in school in the South. It packages and ships well enough. I do put each in its own cupcake paper so they don’t stick. Then I boxed them up in aluminum 8×8 throw away containers with lids before packaging in a shipping box.

I used my go-to recipe for chewy, dense brownies. They’ve been posted here on the blog before. After pouring the batter into 9×13 pan, melt 1/2 cup peanut butter. I use a glass measuring cup and heat it gently in the microwave so it’s easy to pour onto the brownie batter. Then use a knife and swirl peanut butter into brownie batter for a marble effect. (See photo at left)

Bake according to directions. Once cooled, frost with a basic peanut butter frosting recipe.

I use a Betty Crocker recipe, and once frosted you need to place the pan in the freezer for a few hours. Then I cut out the shape I wanted using a cookie cutter. Since it was Easter, I chose egg shapes. You freeze again for at least 30 mins. Then use a chocolate glaze made with dark chocolate chips and a smidge of margarine. Using your hands, each one is dipped into the chocolate and set on a rack to dry, then sprinkled with decoration before the chocolate sets.

What’s GOOD: I was really surprised at how easy and professional they looked. They were a huge hit as every bit of leftovers pieces (photo above right) were consumed at Easter. I guess everyone loves peanut butter and brownies as much as I do! The number of servings is based on cookie cutter size. In this case the batch made about 32. Would make a great gift in an Easter Basket.

What’s NOT: it takes a bit of time to make the various layers, but altogether they’re very easy to make. Allow for freezing time in between.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie Eggs

Recipe By: A combination created by Sara
Serving Size: 32

PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIES:
1 cup butter — PLUS 2 tablespoons
2 1/4 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour — PLUS 1 tablespoon
3/4 cup cocoa powder — PLUS 1 tablespoon
1/4 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped nuts — (optional)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter — for swirling in batter
FROSTING:
1 cup butter — softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
CHOCOLATE GLAZE:
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tablespoon margarine — yes, margarine, not butter
decorative sprinkles for the top

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Line 9×13 pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray.
3. Melt butter and sugar in a heavy saucepan on very low heat. Let the mixture cool slightly and transfer to a large bowl. Add eggs gradually, mixing well. Add vanilla extract.
4. Sift dry ingredients together and add to egg mixture, stirring gently and minimally. Add chocolate chips and nuts (if using). Pour into prepared pan and spread to edges if needed.
5. Melt the 1/2 cup peanut butter in a glass measuring cup in microwave on low power (spout is important here) until pourable. Pour on top of the brownie batter in the pan. Using a knife, swirl the peanut butter throughout.
6. Bake approximately 35 minutes – do NOT overbake or you’ll lose the fudgy, gooey texture! Cool completely.
7. FROSTING: Beat butter in medium bowl on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in peanut butter, 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, the milk and vanilla. Gradually beat in remaining 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, beating after each addition until smooth. Spread frosting all over the brownies, then place pan in freezer for 1-2 hours.
8. Using a cookie cutter (in this case an egg shape) cut brownies into preferred shape. Freeze again for about 30 minutes.
9. GLAZE: Melt chocolate chips and margarine in small saucepan over low heat until completely smooth. (Once cooled the margarine helps the chocolate to set up more firmly.)
10. Using your hands, dip each cookie/egg into chocolate to cover the top and sides. Set on a rack to cool, then sprinkle decorations on top before the chocolate cools and sets. Cool completely. To package for shipping, place each egg in a cupcake paper to keep them from sticking together. Pack in a disposable aluminum pan with a lid.
Per Serving: 378 Calories; 23g Fat (52.1% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 42g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 60mg Cholesterol; 207mg Sodium; 35g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 24mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 128mg Potassium; 50mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on May 13th, 2022.

Are you a fan of Tres Leches Cake? Oh my. This version will rock your boat. It sure rocked mine.

A post from Carolyn. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you already know I’m a fan of tres leches cake. A big fan. There’s something about the luscious almost drippy cake with the gobs of whipped cream on top that sends me into reverie. One might think that’s bacon adorning the cake – no, just overly-toasted coconut. Daughter Sara and I laughed  – we thought we were going to have to start over, but Sara tasted the mighty-toasted coconut and pronounced it delicious. So we went with it. Even the totally blackened coconut tasted just fine!

This cake was our finale for Easter dinner. Taylor and I drove to Sara’s house and 12 of us enjoyed a delicious Mexican feast (birria tacos, beans, rice, salad, fruit, appetizers too, some Champagne of various types) then this cake was brought out. I think I can safely say we got raves from the recipe. It’s the coconut and the rum that made it so good. Not only is there coconut extract in it (you might have to hunt for that), but also coconut cream, plus rum in the cake, the tres leches and a little jot in the whipped cream too.

The cake was baked the day before in a 9×13 pan, and the three milks mixture was poured over the top of the cake (that’s the tres leches part). The whipped cream topping was made at the last minute. Some of the well drained canned pineapple was added to the cream, but most of it was spread over the top of the wet cake itself. And the overly toasted coconut sprinkled all over at the end. This recipe is an absolute winner. I’d started off with a recipe from The Pioneer Woman (hers was called a Pina Colada tres leches cake), but I changed it quite a bit, so I’ll call it mine at this point. Whatever its provenance, do make this.

What’s GOOD: every single little morsel of this extravagant cake was fabulous. I’ll be making it again soon. As soon as I have a good reason for baking a cake for 12 people!

What’s NOT: only that you need to start the day before (to bake the cake). It’s not difficult to make unless you consider having to separate the eggs and whip the whites and yolks separately. Yes, it did make a few dirty dishes too.

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Pineapple Coconut Rum Tres Leches Cake

Recipe By: Adapted from Pioneer Woman
Serving Size: 12

CAKE:
Nonstick cooking spray — for greasing the pan
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour — plus more for flouring the pan
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 large eggs — separated
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
TRES LECHES MIXTURE:
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
12 ounces evaporated milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup cream of coconut — or Thai Kitchen coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract
1/4 cup rum — optional
TOPPING:
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon rum
15 ounces crushed pineapple — chilled, drained well (divided use)
1/2 cup coconut flakes — toasted

1. CAKE: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease with cooking spray and flour a 9×13 pan. If using glass, reduce oven temp by 25°F.
2. Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.
3. Beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on high until the yolks are pale yellow. Stir in the milk and coconut extract. Pour the egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.
4. Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl (make sure beaters are clean with no residual egg yolk) with the mixer on high until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until the egg whites are stiff but not dry. Fold the egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and spread to even the top.
5. Bake the cake until risen and lightly golden, 23-28 minutes, or until you can see the cake begin to brown on the edges and pull away from the pan. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan.
6. TRES LECHES: Combine the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, cream of coconut (this may need some mixing to combine the coconut fat with the milk/cream – use a whisk), coconut extract and rum in a medium-sized pitcher. Gently use a whisk to make sure it’s evenly mixed. Poke holes (using a large fork or toothpick) all over the cake, pushing the implement all the way to the bottom. There should be holes at least every 1/2 inch throughout. Slowly pour the milk mixture over the cake. Cover and chill for 4-24 hours.
7. CREAM TOPPING: Whip the cream with the sugar and rum until soft peaks form. Add about 1/3 cup crushed pineapple to the whipped cream and mix in gently.
8. FINISH: Spread the remaining pineapple all over the top of the cake, then spread the whipped cream all over the top of that. Chill (covered) for several hours, or you can serve it immediately. Sprinkle on the toasted coconut. Cut into squares and serve.
Per Serving: 635 Calories; 34g Fat (47.8% calories from fat); 12g Protein; 71g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 175mg Cholesterol; 293mg Sodium; 52g Total Sugars; 2mcg Vitamin D; 291mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 427mg Potassium; 347mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on December 13th, 2021.

What I’ll say is that this dessert received many, many raves.

This post from Carolyn. Aren’t those glasses the cutest? I bought them about 20 years ago, tall shot glasses, and I’ve never used them for shots. But then, I don’t drink shots. Hence, they’ve been used for little servings of soup (usually cold, since holding the glass of hot soup might be difficult) and for little servings of dessert. This time for a mini-serving of chocolate. My cousin Gary, who was visiting over Thanksgiving, can’t eat wheat, so I always make a GF dessert for him to enjoy. I gave him a choice of a GF flourless chocolate cake or torte, or rich chocolate pudding. He enthusiastically said the pudding.

So, on Thanksgiving morning he and I made this pudding. I started with a recipe from Circle B Kitchen, but changed it a little bit because I wanted more chocolate-truffle-like pudding that was decadent. This certainly filled that bill! My cousin is an engineer (retired) and I assigned him the task of figuring out how we were going to get the pudding into the narrow little glasses without getting pudding all around the top edges. Finally, a traditional funnel was found to be the best resource, although once the pudding began to thicken (as it cooled) it became more and more difficult to do.

There are a few steps to making this: combining the dry ingredients, cooking the milk/half and half mixture, then tempering the egg yolks, then pouring it all over the other ingredients .  Then the pudding is cooked – watched very carefully so it doesn’t plop all over – just below a simmer for two minutes. Then the bar chocolate (I used semisweet) is added, and because the pudding is very hot, it melts quite easily.

Then you add the Kahlua. And stir it in well. Gary and I worked feverishly to get the pudding into the glasses immediately. Once cooled, they went into the refrigerator. I have a tall square refrigerator container, so they went into that with the lid on top, so I didn’t have to attach plastic wrap to each shot glass. You don’t want the pudding to develop a skin.

Using the whipped-cream-in-a-can was the best way to get whipped cream on top – though you can certainly do your own whipped cream for this – just be careful as you add the dollop on top (if you’re using a similar tall, thin glass).

What’s GOOD: very rich. Quite decadent. Strong Kahlua flavor. If you’re not a fan of Kahlua, of course, leave it out. Substitute vanilla, if needed. There is no question this is a chocolate Kahlua dessert.

What’s NOT: this isn’t a simple whip-it-up-quick kind of pudding. Several steps. Needs to chill a few hours as well.

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Rich Chocolate Pudding (GF)

Recipe By: Adapted from Circle B Kitchen
Serving Size: 8

6 ounces semisweet chocolate
3 tablespoons cocoa powder — (unsweetened)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
1 cup half and half
1 1/2 cups milk — full fat
1/2 cup sugar — or less
1/3 cup Kahlua — or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt. Slowly whisk in the cream, a little at a time, until you have a smooth mixture and then whisk in the egg yolks.
2. Pour the milk and half-and-half into a 3-quart saucepan. Add the sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Slowly pour the hot milk into the bowl of cream and egg yolks. whisking until well-combined, then pour everything back into the pan.
3. Bring the pudding mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Watch carefully, stirring continuously and once it begins to boil, reduce heat and cook for about 2 minutes, whisking constantly.
4. Remove the pudding from the heat and stir in the chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate is fully melted and blended and then stir in the vanilla or the Kahlua, if using.
5. Divide the pudding into small ramekins or dessert cups, cover each with plastic wrap (to avoid creating a skin on top) and chill for at least 2 hours. Serve with whipped cream if desired. This will serve more than 8 if you use very small bowls or tall shot glasses.
Per Serving: 394 Calories; 24g Fat (54.4% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 118mg Cholesterol; 125mg Sodium; 33g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 121mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 248mg Potassium; 153mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on November 29th, 2021.

Pure bliss. Chocolate and nuts make my day. These are wonderful any time of year, but particularly so around the holidays.

This is a post from Carolyn, but actually Taylor made these. I merely helped a little and took photos. It’s such a joy to have this granddaughter of mine living with me. She wanted to make some cookies, asked me for some ideas and this one popped to the forefront. It’s a recipe from Food & Wine. Since she made them a month ago, I’ve made them as well and served them at a luncheon, topped with sweetened whipped cream. As I write this there are still 8-10 squares (I served larger squares as a dessert rather than a triangle or bar) in the frig. I wish they weren’t so darned delicious because I know that box beckons me nearly every day.

These aren’t hard to make at all, although they do have two steps – the shortbread crust, then the chocolate topping. You can combine the shortbread ingredients in a stand mixer or a food processor, which makes a dough. I’d separate the dough into about 6 pieces, then place them strategically on the sheet pan – which makes it easier to push the shortbread into the corners. There is just barely enough dough to fill a sheet pan.

You can see all the fingerprints in the dough (at left). It might have been nicer if we had used a flat glass to flatten it out, but it truly makes no difference in the finished product.

That gets baked (watch it so it doesn’t burn). Then you make the filling which is butter, dark brown sugar, a little bit of corn syrup, bittersweet chocolate, and cream. Once it cools slightly you add in the beaten eggs, and pour it out over the shortbread crust. That is baked awhile, then cooled slightly before you add the sea salt flakes on top. Cool completely, and they’re done. Oh so good.

At right you can see the baked bars, with all the pecans pebbling the surface. Once cooled you can cut them, or you can wait until they’re chilled. Be careful as you cut so the knife or sharp spatula doesn’t crack the shortbread. I cut them when they were room temp. After cutting, I put them into a refrigerator storage box with waxed paper separating the layers. Don’t put the cookies right on top of one another or it’ll ruin the chocolate top.

What’s GOOD: oh my goodness, so much chocolate and nut goodness. Loved these bars as a cookie or as a square piece as a dessert with the whipped cream on top. Altogether fabulous recipe. The chocolate part is a bit sticky, so when you handle them, do have them refrigerated first. And store them in the refrigerator. They make a bunch – they’re an easy dessert or cookie/bar to make. Great for the holidays.

What’s NOT: nothing really.

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Chocolate Pecan Shortbread Bars

Recipe By: Food & Wine magazine
Serving Size: 32

SHORTBREAD:
2 sticks unsalted butter — softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
CHOCOLATE TOPPING:
3 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate — finely chopped
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 large eggs — beaten
3 cups pecan halves — chopped (10 ounces)
Flaky sea salt

1. SHORTBREAD: Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 12-by-17-inch baking pan with foil, allowing it to extend 1/2 inch over the edge on all sides. Spray the foil with vegetable oil spray.
2. In a standing mixer or food processor, beat the butter with the confectioners’ sugar, flour and salt until a soft dough forms. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, breaking it up into about 6 chunks and evenly place them on the baking sheet. Then use a flat-bottomed glass, to press the dough into an even layer. If you have difficulty, use your hands to gently coax the dough into the corners. Freeze the dough for about 10 minutes, until firm.
3. Bake the shortbread in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, until lightly golden. Do not overbake.
4. TOPPING: In a saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, chocolate and cream and cook over low heat just until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. If you add the eggs too soon, the hot chocolate mixture will “cook” the eggs, rather than thicken the topping. Add in the eggs, then fold in the pecans.
5. Spread the topping over the shortbread crust. Bake the shortbread bars for about 25 minutes, until the topping is set. Allow it to cool a few minutes, sprinkle lightly with sea salt, then cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until firm. Using the foil, carefully lift the bars out of the pan; discard the foil. Cut the shortbread into 32 triangles and serve. If you cut them into squares (larger) you can serve these as a stand-alone dessert with a topping of sweetened whipped cream. Or cut into triangles or smaller bars to serve as cookies. Store bars in refrigerator. You may stack them with pieces of waxed paper in between.
Per Serving: 312 Calories; 26g Fat (72.5% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 62mg Cholesterol; 34mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 21mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 67mg Potassium; 52mg Phosphorus.

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