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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, IP, on November 8th, 2021.

This post comes from Taylor, Carolyn’s granddaughter. 

This part from Taylor. This is such a special cheesecake recipe! One of my dear coworkers, Candy, was famous for bringing this to birthday celebrations at work. Our department went all out for birthdays and Candy was known for her baking! Everyone had requests for what their special birthday treat would be. This was always mine. After my sweet friend Candy retired, she passed the famous cheesecake recipe on to me to continue making it for celebrations. It was an honor to take this on and while it may not ever taste the same as hers did, it sure is a good cheesecake! There are some special additions I’ve included that make it that much more delicious.

This additional info from Carolyn.  At right is a photo of Taylor – at her nursing school’s “white coat ceremony” recently. I was privileged to be the family member who helped her put on her coat. Taylor is living with me while she attends nursing school through Concordia University near where I live. Taylor is my daughter Dana’s daughter. Home for her is near Placerville (east of Sacramento). A few years ago, after she graduated from Sacramento State (with a BS in Health Care Administration) she began applying to nursing schools, which took awhile. She worked in a clerical job in the ER at her local community hospital while she applied to nursing schools. That’s where she met Candy. Anyway, now Taylor is in Concordia’s accelerated nursing program (13 months long, rather than the more traditional 2 years) and when she graduates next August, she’ll have a 2nd bachelor’s degree (this one a BSN). After that she’ll probably go back home to Placerville, study for and take the nursing exam, then try to find a job in the Sacramento area.

Taylor isn’t a cook – she’d be the first one to tell you that – but she does like to bake. As I write this, Taylor made some wonderful cookie bars recently that will be posted eventually. I’m just loving having this granddaughter of mine living with me. She’s a great companion, helps me out when I need things done around home, and we have a lot of fun together. Although she doesn’t have a whole lot of extra time – she’s in classes, working a day a week at a local hospital (part of her nursing program) or studying like crazy on her days off.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Instant Pot Cheesecake with Cherry Topping

Recipe By: adapted from Pressure Cook Recipes
Serving Size: 8

CRUST:
10 whole graham crackers — finely ground, 120 grams
3 tablespoons unsalted butter — (42g – 56g) melted (3 to 4)
1 pinch sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar — or less if you prefer it less sweet – start with 2 tsp
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
BATTER:
16 ounces cream cheese — (454g) room temperature
2 large eggs — room temperature
2/3 cup sugar — (133g)
1/2 cup sour cream — (120g) room temperature
2 tablespoons cornstarch — (16g)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract — (10ml)
2 pinches sea salt
TOPPING:
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
CHERRY TOPPING:
15 ounces cherry pie filling

NOTES: Use a hand mixer, not a stand mixer, as it overmixes the batter.
1. Place cream cheese, eggs, sour cream on counter-top to reach room temperature. Then, melt the 3 – 4 tablespoons unsalted butter. This step is critical to the success of the batter.
2. Crust: Finely grind in a food processor. Or place the graham crackers in a Ziploc bag and roll them with a rolling pin. Then, in a small mixing bowl, mix finely ground graham crackers, a pinch of sea salt, brown sugar together with a fork. Mix in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour. Mix in roughly 3 – 4 tbsp unsalted butter until the mixture sticks together.
3. Line the side and bottom of cheesecake pan with parchment paper. Do not butter parchment paper. Pour in the graham cracker crumbs mixture. Gently press down the crumbs with a ramekin or Mason jar to form an even layer. You can also use a spoon for the edges. Blind bake crust in a 325°F oven for 15 minutes. Cool completely before continuing.
4. Mix cornstarch, 2 pinches of sea salt, and white sugar together in a small mixing bowl.
5. In a medium mixing bowl, briefly break up cream cheese by beating it for 10 seconds with a hand mixer using low speed. Add in HALF the sugar mixture and beat until just incorporated using low speed (roughly 20 – 30 seconds). Scrape down the sides and hand mixer blades with a silicone spatula every time a new ingredient is added. Add remaining sugar mixture and beat until just incorporated using low speed (roughly 20 – 30 seconds).
6. Add sour cream and vanilla extract to the cream cheese mixture. Beat until just incorporated using low speed (20 – 30 seconds).
7. Blend in the two eggs using low speed, one at a time. Mix until just incorporated (about 15 – 20 seconds with a hand mixer and less time if you are using a powerful stand mixer). Try not to overmix on this step.
8. Scrape down the sides and any batter on the hand mixer blades with a silicone spatula and fold a few times to make sure everything is fully incorporated. Pour batter in cheesecake pan. Tap cheesecake pan against the counter to let air bubbles rise to the surface. Burst the air bubbles with a toothpick or fork. Tap until you are satisfied. Ensure the surface is clear of air bubbles or fork marks.
9. Place a steamer rack and pour 1 cup water in pressure cooker. Bring water to a boil (Instant Pot users: Press manual/Pressure Cook and set the time to 28 minutes). When the water begins to boil, place cheesecake pan on the steamer rack with a foil sling right away. *Caution: Don’t wait too long to place the cheesecake in pressure cooker, as it’ll affect the cooking time. Place it immediately once the water begins to boil. This prevents too much water from evaporating. Immediately close the lid with venting knob at venting position. Turn venting knob to sealing position and let it pressure cook at high pressure for 28 minutes and full natural release. It should go up to pressure in roughly 1 minute. Natural release will take roughly 7 – 9 minutes. Open the lid gradually. Absorb any condensation on the surface by lightly tapping it with a soft paper towel.
10. Allow cheesecake to cool to room temperature with the lid open in the pressure cooker. Or place it on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
11. After cooling for 10 – 15 minutes, carefully run a thin paring knife between the sidewall and parchment paper to release the cheesecake from the pan. Pull the slightly wrinkled parchment paper lightly to straighten it out for a smooth side.
12. Once the cheesecake has completely cooled, place it in the refrigerator for at least 4 – 8 hours (preferably overnight).
13. Before serving, add sour cream mixture and spread it out fully to edges. Pour cherry topping over the top and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, to get the topping cold.
14. Serving: Remove cheesecake from the refrigerator and cut into wedges to serve.
Per Serving: 551 Calories; 32g Fat (51.3% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 60g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 129mg Cholesterol; 365mg Sodium; 29g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 110mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 220mg Potassium; 152mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on September 27th, 2021.

Such heavenly flavor from the almond paste in the cake. Beautiful to look at, too.

A post from Carolyn.  I’ve been a long-time follower of Luisa Weiss, from The Wednesday Chef blog. Some years ago she moved to Germany (Berlin, I think) and now has a venerable cookbook to her name, Classic German Baking. She’s a baker of the first order – my opinion from having made a few of her things over the years. Although I don’t own her cookbook. But occasionally one of her cookbook recipes pops up, this one on David Lebovitz‘s blog. I quick-like made sure to save it. So glad I did.

First off, though, you need to know that I’m a big fan of almond paste. It’s an intense almond flavor, and since it’s finely ground almonds and sugar, you can’t just add it to another recipe unless it’s called for. And as many of you have discovered, almond paste doesn’t keep on your kitchen pantry shelf for all that long. A few months at the most. After that it gets dried up and turns into the texture of a rock! I’ve learned that from experience. As I type this I have a 2nd tube of it on my shelf that needs to be used sometime soon before it’s over the hill.

When the 1st of September rolls around, my cooking brain begins to think about apples. I begin to long for cooler nights (hasn’t happened yet, as I write this), and cooler days as well (that won’t happen until mid-October here in SoCal). One year – decades ago – my DH and I took a driving trip in the New England states during September, and I was awed by the side-of-the-road fruit stands with baskets and barrels, displayed within inches of the paved road, just overflowing with apples I’d rarely heard of before, like Northern Spy, Empire, Macoun. Well, perhaps I’d read about them, but never tasted any. Is it because they don’t ship well? Probably they don’t do well with long-term storage? I’d never seen any of them in California. We ate some in the car, we bought some apple juice, and also used some of the apples in baking when we returned to Philadelphia to stay on with our friends Judy and Jerry. I have no recollection what I baked, but something. We all bought apples, and when we left to fly home, THEY still had apples overflowing in their 2nd refrigerator. I probably could have put a few in my suitcase that wouldn’t have been discovered (you aren’t supposed to bring raw fruit into California). What I did do, after I got home, was go online to one of the farms we’d stopped at, and ordered a 25-pound box of mixed apples to be shipped. What a treasure those were. Haven’t done that since, but it was fun.

So, back to this cake. This cake is a real winner . . . I’m just sayin’. Lovely moist cake (with some cubed-up apples in the batter) baked in a springform, with sliced apples angle-shingled on top, then baked to perfect tenderness, and then some apricot jam is brushed on top to let it glisten. This cake lasted for several days. I served it at that lunch I mentioned before, with some of my old employees from 25+ years ago. I sent slices home with several of them, and Taylor and I ate the rest.

There, at right, is an image of the about-to-be-baked cake. You nestle the apple slices into the batter – pressing in just a little. I used Granny Smith apples, and they held their shape well. In fact, some of those slices on the top were still bite-able. Not crisp, but certainly plenty of apple texture.

Thanks to Monica from Playing with Flour, for the photo

One of the interesting techniques mentioned in this recipe (one you need to remember) is to GRATE the almond paste using a box grater. Even the freshest of almond paste can sometimes be a bit firm, and I’ve always wondered how to best disperse it in a cake batter. A-ha moment with the grater.

Forgetting to take a photo of this genius technique, I found an image on the web, from PlayingwithFlour. Monica used a fine-grind. My tube of almond paste was perhaps a month old, and I couldn’t grate it finely, but did it using slightly larger holes on another side of my box grater. And it seemed to disperse easily in the cake batter. Hooray!

Luisa didn’t say to serve the cake with anything, but I had a tub of crème fraiche, so each piece got a dollop of that when I plated it.

What’s GOOD: everything about this cake was marvelous. Can’t say enough good things about it. Love-loved the intense almond flavor (from the almond paste) and the tender cake itself. Loved how beautiful it was. I served it at the table on a cake stand. So pretty! My recollection is that everyone loved the cake. Cake was easy to make. I’ll definitely make this again.

What’s NOT: only that you need a fresh tube of almond paste.
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German Apple Almond Cake

Recipe By: Luisa Weiss, blogger, Classic German Baking (cookbook)
Serving Size: 10

4 medium apples — (1 3/4 pounds, 800g)
1 lemon — zested and juiced
7 ounces almond paste
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted and cooled
1 teaspoon almond extract
4 large eggs — at room temperature
1 cup flour — plus 3 tablespoons (150g)
9 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder — preferably aluminum free
1/4 cup apricot jam — strained if lumpy

1. Butter a 9- to 10-inch (23cm) springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. Peel and core the apples. Divide the lemon juice into two separate bowls. Slice two of the peeled and cored apples into 8 sections, and toss the apple slices in one bowl of lemon juice. Dice the other two apples into 1/3-inch (1cm) cubes, then toss them in the other bowl of lemon juice. The cubed apples are added to the cake batter; the sliced apples are placed on top.
3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
4. Using a grater with large holes, grate the almond paste into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar and salt and mix until the almond paste is finely broken up.
5. Add the melted butter, almond extract, and lemon zest, and continue mixing until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, stopping the mixer and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
6. Whisk together the flour, cornstarch and baking powder in a small bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the almond batter mixture by hand, then fold in the diced apples, along with any lemon juice in the bowl.
7. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Place the sliced apples in concentric circles on top of the batter, pressing them in very lightly.
8. Bake the cake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. If using a 9″ springform pan (meaning the batter is higher), it might take an extra few minutes to get the very center cooked through.
9. Remove the cake from the oven. Warm the apricot jam in a small saucepan and brush it over the top while the cake is hot. Let the cake cool completely, then run a knife around the inside of the cake pan to release the cake, and remove the sides of the cake pan. Keeps at room temp for a day or more; refrigerate after that.
Per Serving: 465 Calories; 24g Fat (44.7% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 60g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 117mg Cholesterol; 226mg Sodium; 36g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 129mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 227mg Potassium; 213mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, easy, on August 2nd, 2021.

What is more beautiful than summer fruit topping a cake?

A post from Carolyn. This recipe has been hanging around in my to-try file for awhile. It came from Beth Hensperger from her book: Best Quick Breads: 150 Recipes for Muffins, Scones, Shortcakes, Gingerbreads, Cornbreads, Coffeecakes, and More, I don’t own the book and can’t find a reference online to this recipe, but it’s a keeper. I think I must have borrowed the book from the library and entered it into my MasterCook program. Her recipe only contained peaches. I had nectarines, and I also had about a cup of blueberries that were on the over-ripe side, so decided to add those in also. The other change I made was to substitute 3/4 cup of artificial sugar (I use So Nourished brand Erythritol Sweetener Granular – 1:1 Sugar Substitute, Keto – 0 Calorie, 0 Net Carb, Non-GMO). And then I rounded out the quantity with 1/4 cup of real sugar. Otherwise, I used her recipe. You know, of course, that baking is all about chemistry. You don’t want to adjust measurements of dry ingredients or wet ingredients, or you’ll throw off the chemistry of it all. I used less nectarines (or you can use peaches) but then added in the cup of blueberries, so it all works out.

Beth’s recipe had you halve the peaches (after peeling and removing the pit) and simply lay them on the top of the batter. I cut the nectarines into wedges instead (peel on) and sprinkled the blueberries all over the top too (first). Some of the batter baked up beside the fruit. Makes for a very pretty dessert. There at right is the photo of the raw batter with the fruit on top. I didn’t mind the peel on the fruit (isn’t it good for us?) and I thought it looked more beautiful that way. I love the color contrast of the blueberries nestled in amongst the nectarine slices.

See, I couldn’t decide which photo was better – the cake whole at the top, of this photo below of the slice of torte.

The dry ingredients include almond flour – her cookbook was published before the recent craze for all things non-wheat flour, so instead of grinding up raw almonds, I simply used almond flour from my big bag of Costco’s blanched almond flour that I keep in my freezer. There’s nothing low calorie about this cake – it has a cup of butter in it and 4 eggs as well. I served 3 pieces the evening I made this. The recipe said it’s best eaten the day it’s made, but I can say that the next day (left out at room temp, covered) it seemed fine. But for me, baked goods don’t like hanging around very long before they begin to stale, hence I froze the remains. I served the cake with some vanilla ice cream.

What’s GOOD: everything about this cake was good – very tender, tasty. Loved the almond flavoring and with peaches or nectarines in season, so delicious. It probably could be frozen whole – but the top of the batter is kind of wet (from the juice of the fruit). If you do freeze, reheat it briefly. Freeze what you haven’t eaten after 2 days.

What’s NOT: nothing at all, really. Pretty easy cake/torte to make. I’d definitely make it again.

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Peach or Nectarine Almond Torte with Blueberries

Recipe By: adapted from Beth Hensperger, The Best Quick Breads
Serving Size: 8-10

3 large peaches — about 1 pound OR use a 29-ounce can of peaches, drained, patted dry
1 cup blueberries — fresh
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups almond flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter — room temp
1 cup sugar — (or substitute artificial sugar or part or all)
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1. If using fresh peaches, fill a deep, medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add peaches and blanch them for 10-15 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and cool under running water. Place on a cutting board, slip off the skins, cut peaches in half and pit them. Drain on paper towels. If peaches are very tart, sprinkle them with some sugar and set aside at room temp. If using nectarines, peeling is not necessary.
2. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan and set aside. Combine flour, almond flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a mixing bowl.
3. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add almond extract. Gradually add the dry ingredients and beat well until fluffy, smooth and quite thick batter is formed. There should be no lumps or dry spots. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Cover surface evenly with blueberries, then add nectarine slices in a spoke pattern or place peach halves over the batter, with flat sides down.
4. Bake in center of oven until cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, the center springs back when gently touched, and a cake tester inserting into the center comes out clean, about 55-60 minutes. Let the cake stand for 10 minutes before removing the springform ring. Serve warm or at room temp, cut into wedges. This cake is best eaten the day it is made. It will keep for a day, covered, at room temp. After that, freeze. When defrosted, warm cake in a 200°F oven for about 10-12 minutes.
Per Serving (based on 8 servings): 547 Calories; 34g Fat (53.9% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 55g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 154mg Cholesterol; 108mg Sodium; 32g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 138mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 306mg Potassium; 257mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on June 7th, 2021.

In cooking terms, what does “outrageous” mean to you?

A post from Carolyn.  So, outrageous . . . the word? Out of the box? Rich? Decadent? Probably all of the above. And this recipe qualifies on all counts. Maybe not so much on “out of the box” except that it’s an outrageous amount of chocolate in them. You can see on the right all the various packages of chocolate I unwrapped – unsweetened, semi-sweet plus the dark chocolate chips too.

Of course, the batch, baked in a half sheet pan, makes 20 (or more) servings, so to tell you that it calls for a pound of butter and nearly 3 pounds of chocolate . . . it does make a lot. I cut them into smaller pieces, so I got about 30+ squares from the pan. Not counting the two small one-inch square pieces I ate while the pan was cooling. . .

The recipe comes from Ina Garten. I think I saw her make these on her TV show awhile back – that’s probably why I already had it in my recipe collection. And perhaps it’s in one of her cookbooks as well? I haven’t checked. As I write this I’m having a wine tasting event here at my house. To serve a variety of wines with appropriate appetizers to go with them. Some white, some red. I’ve made home made caponata (I’ll post it soon – couldn’t believe that recipe wasn’t already here on the blog). I’m going to open a bottle of red after-dinner wine, which will go with the brownies. I still have a couple hundred bottles of wine in the wine cellar – 99% of them from when my DH Dave was still alive (and he’s been gone for 7 years now). And 95% of them are reds. A few of the bottles got poured out as they didn’t cellar well, but mostly the wine has been fabulous.  I did go out and purchase a couple bottles of Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc, one of my favorites if I’m drinking a white. Many years ago Dave and I spent time in New Zealand, and I fell in love with Cloudy Bay wines.

Know from the beginning, that there are several steps:

Melt the semisweet and unsweetened chocolate and butter

Mix the 7 eggs, sugar and vanilla together

Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl

Mix the add-ins (chocolate chips and walnuts) separately, and coat with flour.

If you know all of the above when you start, you’ll get it all in the right order. First thing is to melt the chocolate and butter (either in the microwave – see the instructions – or over the stove in a double boiler or on top of a flame-tamer – the latter is what I did) and let it cool some. While you’re doing that, get all the rest of the ingredients together in their proper bowls. Heat the oven, then start mixing. The chocolate mixture does need to cool to room temp before you can proceed. Hot chocolate + raw eggs = scrambled eggs, maybe. So be careful.

The only unusual thing – after 20 minutes in the oven, open the door, pull out the rack, pick up the sheet pan a bit and rap the pan on the baking rack, to pump out any air trapped in between the pan and the parchment. After they finish baking, the brownies are cooled to room temp, refrigerated (yes) for an hour – THEN you can cut them. Makes for easier slicing. They’ll store in the frig (in an airtight container) for a week. Otherwise, freeze them, tightly wrapped in foil.

What’s GOOD: oh my gosh, are these wonderful. If you’re a chocoholic, you’ll be over the moon. I used dark chocolate chips so these were pure decadence for me. Wonderful. Marvelous. A keeper. Rich. Buttery. Yessss.

What’s NOT: don’t be on a diet when you make these.

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Outrageous Brownies

Recipe By: Ina Garten
Serving Size: 20 (or 30)

CHOCOLATE BUTTER MIXTURE:
16 ounces unsalted butter
16 ounces semisweet chocolate — finely chopped
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate — bar type, finely chopped (not cocoa)
EGG MIXTURE:
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
7 large eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
DRY MIXTURE:
1 cup all-purpose flour — divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
CHIPS & NUTS:
3 cups chopped walnuts
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup flour

1. PREP: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 13×18-inch rimmed half sheet pan (or grease and line with parchment paper).
2. CHOCOLATE BUTTER MIXTURE: Place the butter, semisweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl and microwave on 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until completely melted and smooth. (Alternately, you can also melt the butter and chocolates in a double boiler on the stovetop). Allow to cool slightly.
3. EGG & SUGAR MIXTURE: In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla with a wooden spoon. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.
4. DRY MIXTURE: In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture and stir gently with the wooden spoon until mostly combined.
5. NUT & CHIPS MIXTURE: In a medium bowl, toss the walnuts and chocolate chips with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter and stir until totally incorporated. Pour into the baking sheet and spread into an even layer.
6. Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool thoroughly, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and cut into 20 large squares (and those are very large). Leftover brownies can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Freeze in foil for longer storage. If you cut smaller squares you can certainly have 30 servings that are more “normal” sized squares.
Per Serving (cut into 20 pieces): 670 Calories; 48g Fat (61.5% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 59g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 114mg Cholesterol; 205mg Sodium; 45g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 107mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 335mg Potassium; 266mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on December 9th, 2020.

pumpkin_pudding_pie

What do you do when you want pumpkin pie, but are trying to limit carbs? Make the pudding part this way.

Since I spent Thanksgiving at home, by myself (it was okay, don’t worry), I still wanted to have a traditional kind of meal. So I planned out a menu that would satisfy my desire for the full dinner.

thanksgiving_plateI roasted a whole chicken, with a recipe I’ve posted here before, and by far it’s still the BEST roasted chicken I’ve ever made. I’ve probably made it four times this year. I try not to eat chicken skin, but oh, this one, well, I had to have a bite (actually two). It makes a gorgeous golden bird, done in an iron skillet, partly at 450°F and then with the oven turned off. I prepared an old favorite, Broccoli Casserole. I’ll bet I haven’t made that in 10 years. It’s cooked broccoli with a kind of cream sauce, with mayo in it, and eggs to gel it. As I write this, I’ve had that for my dinner the last 2 nights. Now it’s all gone, as I made a smaller sized casserole of it this time. I baked a sweet potato and had it with butter on it. I also made two cranberry sides. My old favorite, Cranberry Relish. It originated with my mother’s recipe, but I’ve embellished it a little, by adding apple and the ginger. It’s a raw relish with apples and oranges in it, plus a little bit of ground ginger for zing. And I’ll post next a different cranberry side I made that’s more a savory one, called Cranberry Caponata. It’s an interesting story how I came upon this recipe. More on that in my next post.

So, back to this pumpkin dessert. Obviously  – if you’ve followed this blog long enough – you know that pumpkin pie is one of my favorite desserts. Years ago I used to make a layered ice cream and pumpkin pie (that was served frozen, obviously) in a pie crust. Haven’t made that in years. I think my family (once I married Dave in 1983) didn’t much love that pie so I began baking my own very traditional ones, using the Libby label recipe. Of all the pumpkin pie recipes I’ve ever made, that one is still my favorite. Then I discovered Costco’s pumpkin pie and game over. I bought that for years. But I didn’t want to visit Costco this year (I’m being really careful about Covid exposure). I suppose I could have made the same Libby’s filling recipe for this. I may try that next time. But this one was really good, and very easy.

Recently I bought a flat (12) of those cute little Ball 4-Ounce Quilted Jars. They’re small but really perfect for a small dessert, and so cute to serve. And I’ve discovered plastic lids (made by Ball) that work so much better than the metal rings and inserts that seem to rust after you’ve used them 3-4 times. For canning you do want to use the metal rings and inserts, but for ordinary food storage and making a dessert for refrigerating, the plastic lids are a dream. The jars and gray plastic lids are on amazon, if you’re interested (click on the links I’ve provided). Just make sure you buy the right size lid – they make them for the Ball Mason Jar Lids – Regular Mouth (Mason Jar Caps) – Leak Proof (Standard), and for Ball Mason Jar Lids Caps) – Leak Proof (Wide). These little jars use the regular size lids.

9_puddings_to_bakeSo, I prepared the filling/pudding and poured it into the little Ball jars, placed them in a baking pan and baked them (without a water bath) for about 25 minutes. Once cooled, those little babies went into the refrigerator until ready to serve. Whip up some heavy cream with a little sugar and vanilla, or be lazy and use the canned, which is what I did this time.

What’s GOOD: that I could enjoy pumpkin “pie” without making a crust. Since I was having lots of calories for this Thanksgiving dinner, it was good to limit something! Easy recipe to make. Easy to store in those cute little Ball jars, and easy to serve.

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

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Pumpkin Pudding – pie with no crust

Recipe By: probably online recipe somewhere!
Serving Size: 8

3/4 cup granulated sugar — or sugar substitute
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves — scant
2 large eggs
15 ounces pumpkin purée — Libby brand, preferably
12 ounces evaporated milk Whipped cream for serving (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and cloves in a small bowl. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
3. Pour into glass or ceramic baking dish. A good thing to know is that you can fill a baking dish deeper than a pie crust, but it’s best not to exceed a depth of about 1 1/2 inches. Baking times vary with depth, size, and type of baking dish, so you just have to watch and check.
4. Bake until knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack, then refrigerate overnight, until ready to serve. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.
NOTE: Can make in individual ramekins, bake about 25 minutes or more.
Per Serving: 167 Calories; 5g Fat (23.8% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 59mg Cholesterol; 211mg Sodium; 25g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 136mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 260mg Potassium; 130mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on November 24th, 2020.

peach_upside_down_cake

So easy, so tender. Have an iron skillet? Make this.

It’s been awhile back – mid October actually – when my grandson Vaughan was visiting me for 5 days, we went to my friend Cherrie’s house and had dinner with them.We stayed social-distanced the entire time. Bud made his wonderful gin ‘n tonics (using Fever Tree Light Tonic). So refreshing – it was a warm evening. We had a very hot summer in Southern California.

Cherrie isn’t much of a baker – she will tell anybody that. So I was surprised when she brought out dessert! I made meatloaf and a vegetable (a Brussels sprout dish I’ve shared here). Cherrie had an appetizer (plus the dessert). Vaughan got some very gingery ginger ale. And then we had this wonderful, light dessert. Cherrie served it with whipped cream. We brought some of it home and Vaughan couldn’t WAIT to have seconds. We had it with ice cream the next day.

Cherrie gave me the recipe. And Vaughan asked Cherrie if she’d send it to his mom, because he wanted to have it again once he got home. It was THAT good.

Since I didn’t make this myself – I will, however, as I have some white peaches frozen – I don’t have firsthand knowledge of the making of this, but I trust Cherrie when she said this is very easy to make. She had gorgeous peaches which are put on the bottom of the iron skillet, but on top of some melted butter and brown sugar. Then the white cake is made and spooned over the top. It’s baked and once removed from the oven and cooled for 10 minutes, you carefully flip over the hot pan (or iron skillet) onto a platter and serve it warm. You could make this ahead and simply reheat very gently in a low oven for about 10-15 minutes to get that wonderful warm-out-the-oven taste. The recipe came from Taste of Home. So the original recipe said, this is a very old recipe – I can just see it created from an old farm kitchen with peach trees in the back 40.

What’s GOOD: this is SO easy to make, so Cherrie said. And I can certainly attest to the taste (and so will my grandson Vaughan) – it’s not all that sweet (good) and the cake is VERY tender. I liked that part a lot. Cherrie suggested sifting the dry ingredients first.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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Peach Upside Down Cake

Recipe By: Taste of Home
Serving Size: 8

PEACH LAYER:
4 tablespoons butter — softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups fresh peaches — sliced peeled
CAKE LAYER:
8 tablespoons butter — softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg — room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk — 2% works fine here

1. Melt butter; pour into an ungreased 9-in. round baking pan or iron skillet. Sprinkle with brown sugar.
2. Arrange peach slices in single layer over sugar.
3. In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and sift once (helps to make the cake light in texture); add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Spoon over peaches.
4. Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before inverting (carefully) onto a serving plate. Serve warm with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Per Serving: 391 Calories; 19g Fat (42.0% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 54g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 70mg Cholesterol; 285mg Sodium; 38g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 97mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 187mg Potassium; 135mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on November 14th, 2020.

gooey_fudge_brownies

A post from Sara . . .

This is my new go-to brownie recipe.  It’s a bit more challenging than the one-bowl recipes but well worth it.  They taste great out of oven (if my kids are home, I usually loose 1/4 of the tray within minutes of removing it from the oven!).  And soooo much better frozen.  They are the true dense, chewy chocolaty taste that I feel brownies should be. The recipe comes from the back of the Rodelle brand cocoa package. It’s been on the back of their product for years and years.

The recipe requires the extra step of melting the butter with sugar to make a syrup.  Then the 5 (that’s right, 5) eggs makes the chewy (and tender) factor.  You can double this recipe easily and bake it in a large sheet pan.  Don’t skip the parchment paper on the bottom for easy removal. The recipe says it makes 12, but I think I cut them smaller, so I get about 18 out of the 9×13 pan.

I’ve been known to modify the recipe by adding these items:

1. melted smooth peanut butter and swirl it in

2. or dulce de leche and swirl it in

3. or stack it on top of a batch of my chocolate chip cookies in bar form.

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Gooey Fudge Brownies from Rodelle

Recipe By: Rodelle’s famous recipe
Serving Size: 12 (or 18)

1 cup butter — PLUS 2 tbsp
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)

NOTE: If you cut smaller squares, you’ll get more than 12 brownies.
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 bake approximately 35 minutes – do NOT overbake or you’ll lose the fudgy, gooey texture!
5. Cool before cutting. Turn onto a surface and peel parchment paper off. Cut into squares. They are great frozen, just so you know.
Per Serving: 431 Calories; 25g Fat (48.6% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 118mg Cholesterol; 298mg Sodium; 42g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 35mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 200mg Potassium; 124mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on August 26th, 2020.

whoopie_pies

A post from Sara . . .

Do you remember that childhood treat, the Whoopie Pie?  That hand-held delectably moist chocolate cake with marshmallow buttercream inside?  I recently made this recipe again. I can’t remember when I made it last but whoa, was it good! My kids and their friends who are now in their 20’s ate them within 2 days and I made a double batch! I’ve already been asked to make more. They are an excellent make ahead individual dessert that travels well and freezes easily.

My suggestions while making the cakes:

  • Use a scoop so that the cakes are close in size and shape.  That way they can be matched up easily to make the sandwich-style “pie.”
  • Keep the cake batter chilled, as it tends to spread out if it gets too warm.
  • When assembling the pies I paired the cakes on a cooling rack. Then flip every other row onto its top to expose the flat bottom of the cake for frosting.
  • Use a smaller scoop to add frosting.  It spreads out on its own, no need to use a knife.  I topped each upside down frosted cake with another so that both cake tops were showing.
  • If it’s warm, the top cake will slide.  So once assembled,  immediately refrigerate to solidify the frosting.

Due to COVID, I chose to wrap each pie individually in plastic wrap so the kids could just grab and enjoy.  

The recipe makes 8 pies but they are quite large.  I think using a smaller scoop and making twice as many would be better next time. There is a Wilton 12-Cavity Whoopie Pie Baking Pan available on amazon, but those are the larger (standard) size. If  you decide to make them smaller, just use a cookie sheet. These dessert cookies are very rich and full of flavor so I believe the smaller size is a better choice.

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Whoopie Pies

Serving Size: 8 (or 16, if you make them half-size)

CAKES:
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsalted butter — softened
1 cup brown sugar — packed
1 large egg
FILLING:
1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 cups marshmallow cream topping
1 teaspoon vanilla

Notes: Sara’s advice – make smaller cookies, about half as large as indicated, which would give a double yield. These are very rich.
1. Mix flour, cocoa, soda and salt in a bowl.
2. Stir together he buttermilk and vanilla.
3. Beat together sugar and butter in large bowl until mixture is very pale and fluffy.
4. Add egg. Reduce speed, then add buttermilk mixture with flour mixture, alternately, starting and ending with flour.
5. Spoon 1/4 cup batter on greased baking sheet, 2″ apart. Bake in 350°F oven for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.
6. FILLING: Mix all ingredients together in electric mixer. Spread 1 large tablespoon of filling onto flat side of cake. Top with a second cake, flat side down. Chill immediately.
Per Serving (for 8 cookies): 695 Calories; 26g Fat (32.7% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 113g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 87mg Cholesterol; 674mg Sodium; 65g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 75mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 300mg Potassium; 137mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on August 20th, 2020.

iron_skillet_peach_crisp

Oh, lovely peaches. They are SO good this year.

When I asked my neighbor to buy peaches for me, I asked for eight of them. And I had some kind of peach whiskey drink in mind I’d read about that used a reduction of peaches. But then, I couldn’t find the recipe. So, as two days went by and the peaches ripened to perfection, I had to decide what to do with them. I’m trying NOT to make desserts – because I’m the only one eating them – but alas, what to do except make peach crisp. What a treat this was. There’s not a lot of topping on this, and I used monkfruit sweetener – and truly I cannot taste the difference. The original recipe came from a 2015 issue of Bon Appetit. I adapted it a little bit –  less sugar, then the substitution of monkfruit in the topping and the peaches. I added a bit more garam masala (what an unusual addition).

What is garam masala:

it’s a frequent ingredient in Indian cooking, but it’s a combo of spices and maybe a few herbs (coriander, cumin, bay, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, maybe star anise and sometimes fennel). So, it works fine here in a fruit dessert.

peach_pecan_layer

There at left you can see the skillet with just the peach mixture and the pecans sprinkled on top.

The peaches were dripping juice off my hands as I peeled them, then sliced them into a bowl, adding just a tetch of monkfruit sweetener, lemon juice, garam masala and salt. Into the buttered iron skillet it went. The topping is very easy to make, and I used less monkfruit than the recipe called for too. The little chilled butter cubes are easily mushed into the dry mixture – using your fingers. Pecans are an essential ingredient – they are so perfect with peaches (they’re one of those magic combinations made in heaven) which tells me God had a plan when he made Georgia (and the South) peach country, and also pecan iron_skillet_peach_crisp_unbakedcountry. So the topping is sprinkled over the top and it’s baked for 25-40 minutes. It kind of depends on how thick the peaches are in the skillet. If you have fewer peaches, do use a smaller iron skillet. You want the peaches to be about 1 1/2 inches thick in the pan. Maybe even more as they shrink as they bake.

There, at right, is the crisp, just out of the oven. The topping doesn’t get all that brown, just a bit golden.

Because this was a treat for me, I ate just that for dinner. Nothing else. And oh yes, it was just wonderful. I let the skillet sit out on my counter overnight and then put what was left of the crisp (a lot) into a storage container. The topping won’t be crisp anymore, but the flavor will still be just as good. And probably the pecans will be soggy. So, ideally, make just enough of this that you’ll eat at one sitting.

What’s GOOD: I liked everything about this. The peaches, of course, which were at the peak of perfection; the toasted pecans were also SO good. I couldn’t discern the garam masala, but am sure they contributed to the flavor even though I couldn’t actually taste it. I’d definitely make this again.

What’s NOT: nothing really – it helps to have really ripe peaches. Ideally, eat all of it at the first serving of it as the topping won’t stay crisp and the pecans will get soggy. Eat up!

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Iron-Skillet Peach Pecan Crisp

Recipe By: Adapted from Bon Appetit 2015
Serving Size: 8

TOPPING:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup light brown sugar — (packed) or artificial sweetener like monkfruit brown
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter — chilled, cut into very small cubes
FILLING:
1 1/2 cups pecans
1 tablespoon unsalted butter — room temperature, to smear inside skillet
2 1/4 pounds peaches — (about 7 medium), cut into 1/2″ wedges
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar — or artificial sweetener like monkfruit
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

NOTES: If peaches are not fully ripe, use more sugar mixed into the peaches. If you reduce the size of this, make the crisp in a smaller iron skillet.
1. Topping: Whisk flour, brown sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Rub in butter with your fingers until clumps form and no dry spots remain.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast pecans on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until slightly darkened in color, 8-10 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop.
3. Smear bottom and sides of a 10″ cast-iron skillet with butter. Toss peaches, brown sugar, granulated sugar, lemon juice, garam masala, and salt in a large bowl to combine. Transfer to skillet. Sprinkle toasted pecans on top, then add crumble topping, breaking up into large pieces, over filling.
4. Bake crisp until topping is golden brown and juices are thick and bubbling around the edges, 25-40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temp with vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.
5. Crisp can be made 1 day ahead. Store lightly covered at room temperature.
Per Serving: 405 Calories; 27g Fat (56.7% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 34mg Cholesterol; 295mg Sodium; 26g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 37mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 361mg Potassium; 99mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, Grilling, on August 2nd, 2020.

grilled_lemon_pound_cake_grilled_peaches

Another recipe from Sara.

Some weeks ago I spent the day with daughter Sara and her family. In her backyard. Social distanced. It was a beautiful sunny Southern California day – the kind that makes you glad you live in California. Sara had made two new dishes – I’ve already posted the Italian Meatball Sub Sandwiches (which were SO good). For dessert she made this lemon pound cake. She’d baked it the evening before, and her family went so NUTS over it, they ate the whole thing. So the next morning she had to bake another one. Her words: this is the best pound cake I’ve ever made. What it is, is VERY lemony. It’s a pound cake – dense like a pound cake is, but so tender. SO tender.

lemon_pound_cake_ready_to_grillThe  cake comprises the usual ingredients – eggs, butter and sugar, but what was different was cake flour. Which always makes baked goods lighter in texture. That’s not to say it’s like a normal cake – no. It’s a pound cake, meaning more dense. And it is all lemon – there’s 1/4 CUP of lemon zest in this pound cake. I wonder if there’s ever too much lemon zest in things?

Do use ripe, but not overly ripe peaches. And get everything in place when you begin the grilling. Have the serving platter or dishes handy. Grill the pound cake so you get pretty grill marks, remove them, then start on the peaches. If you have a big grill, put the pound cake on the unheated side while you do the peaches. That way the pound cake will stay warm. This could be served with ice cream (vanilla) or whipped cream. grilling_peaches

Years ago I posted a recipe for grilled pound cake with grilled peaches, but the cake didn’t have the lemon in it. That makes this recipe much more interesting to me. Everybody loved it.

What’s GOOD: what bring summer to mind any more than fresh, juicy peaches? The pound cake would be good any time of  year, but the lemon aspect of this is off the charts delicious. And the combination of pound cake and peaches is sublime.

What’s NOT: can’t think of anything. Great for an outdoor barbecue.

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

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Grilled Lemon Pound Cake with Peaches and Cream

Recipe By: Bryan Calvert, James (restaurant), Brooklyn
Serving Size: 10

2 cups cake flour
1/4 cup lemon zest — finely grated, from about 3 lemons
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter — at room temperature
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs — at room temperature
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Vegetable oil — for brushing the grill
4 large peaches — sliced into 1/2-inch wedges
Lightly sweetened whipped cream

1 Preheat the oven to 325°. Spray a 9 1/2-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk the cake flour with the lemon zest, baking powder and salt.
2 In a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the side of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. At low speed, beat in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Beat in the milk, lemon juice and vanilla, scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary.
3 Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and let the cake cool for 20 minutes. Unmold the cake and let cool completely, about 3 hours.
4 Light a grill. Using a serrated knife, cut the pound cake into 10 slices. Lightly oil the grate and grill the slices over moderate heat, turning once, until toasted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to plates. Lightly oil the grate again. Grill the peaches over moderately high heat until lightly browned and tender, about 2 minutes. Spoon the peaches over the cake, dollop with whipped cream and serve.
Per Serving: 490 Calories; 22g Fat (39.3% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 69g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 161mg Cholesterol; 201mg Sodium; 46g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 75mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 209mg Potassium; 152mg Phosphorus.

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