A Toast Addiction

I watched a cooking show the other day.  There is nothing extraordinary about that, and in the opinion of my husband I probably watch them more than I should.  It was a show I had never seen before, and honestly I can’t even tell you the name of it.  What I can tell you is that after that show I acted like a pregnant woman out of control, on a quest to satisfy an overwhelming craving.  It was a craving for toast…..oh, but not just any toast.

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It was toast browned in a skillet with a mixture of maple syrup and butter. It was toast that was caramelized until it had a sugary, crunchy coating and then topped with a slice of creamy, yet savory cheese.  It was more than toast and I wanted to try it.

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I am not usually a maple syrup on anything kind of person.  Not even as a child did I like French toast or pancakes smothered in that syrupy sticky sweetness.  I do like the taste of maple syrup, but more in the one little bite kind of candy you get when you go back to New Hampshire or Vermont for a visit.

For some reason, however, this had really caught my eye.  For the next week I thought of nothing else and so finally over the weekend I decided I was actually going to make it.

I wish I hadn’t.  I was like a drug addict on crack I loved it so much.  I made it three times and went through a whole loaf of bread and a round of brie.  I did have a little help eating it all, but quite honestly,  if I didn’t have to share, I probably wouldn’t have.  It was just that good.

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I curse you and thank you Amy Thielen of the Food Channel.  I am now an official Maple Bread lover,  or otherwise known as a toast addict . My disclaimer is,  I cannot be responsible for you once you try this.  I will, however, welcome you with open arms to my support group.

It really is that good.

Pecan Squares and Class

No matter what we do in life, we all need to continue learning our craft.  It only makes us better at what we love..  I started this blog a year ago, jumping in and not really knowing what I was doing.  And if we’re really being honest here, I still wonder if I know what I’m doing!

A friend and local food expert teaches a class in food writing, called “Expressions in Food”.  It’s instructional in writing blogs, journals, and food reviews so I thought it might give me some insight and help improve my blog I share with all of you.  (you’re still out there….right?)

Our first class suggested we bring snacks to share.  I had a weekend of Super Bowl, moving into a new office and this class so I decided to bake Pecan Squares, courtesy of Ina Garten.  The recipe makes so many I could cover everything with one dish! So I trudged in with my plate of bars, everyone brought their food of choice and our instructor, Patrick brought wine.  Now that is my type of class!

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For two and a half hours, we shared our interest in the class, drank wine and ate our snacks, all while learning how to describe what we were eating.  It was a cornucopia of smells, textures and flavors, from creamy onion dip that jumped off the salty crunch of the potato chip around the plate to the sweet caramel and sandy texture of the pecan squares.  What a tasty way to spend my Sunday afternoon!

I left the class, happily anticipating the next one and I hope it helps me to relay to you my love of food and recipes in such a way that you will love to read my blog even more than you do now.

Happy reading (and eating everyone)!

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Pecan Squares and Class

20 large or 40 small squares

Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 20 large

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Topping
  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 cup good honey
  • 3 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teapoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 pounds pecan, coarsely chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  2. For the crust, beat the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, until light, approximately 3 minutes.

  3. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well.

  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

  5. Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined.

  6. Press the dough evenly into an ungreased 18 x 12 x 1 inch baking sheet, making an edge around the outside. It will be sticky, sprinkle the dough and your hands lightly with flour.

  7. Bake for 15 minutes until the crust is set but not browned. Allow to cool.

  8. For the topping, combine butter, honey, brown sugar, and zests in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.

  9. Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, using a wooden spoon to stir. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes.

  10. Remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream and pecans.

  11. Pour over the crust, trying not to get the filling between the crust and the pan.

  12. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set. **NOTE**

  13. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

  14. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.

  15. Cut into bars and serve. (at this time if you wish to make your bars a bit more decadent, dip or drizzle with warm chocolate.)

  16. **NOTE** This filling may bubble over the edge. Place a large baking sheet or aluminum foil on a lower oven rack to catch the drips.

Cream Cups with Raspberry Sauce

Several weeks ago, I had an opportunity to do a cooking demo for a smallish group of women.  The smallish group turned out to be about thirty, so I was a little out of my comfort zone.  However, they made me feel such a part of the group and were so fun, that I couldn’t be nervous!

I had put together a menu that was easy, could be prepared ahead of time and hopefully tasteful and something they would be happy to serve to their guests.  I decided upon Shrimp Toasts (recipe posting in the near future), Roasted Fennel and Sausage  (one of my earlier posts) and for dessert, Cream Cups with a Raspberry Limoncello sauce.

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I’ve always loved the Cream Cups. I first had them at a dinner party hosted by my former neighbor and friend Leanne Yocke.  I’m not sure where she got the recipe from but I adapted it a little and have an easy yet elegant dessert that literally could be thrown together at the last-minute.

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The recipe follows as I made it, but you can do so many things with this.  You could make it with just a fruit sauce or a reduced wine sauce, for just a couple of ideas.

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If you have unexpected guests, are planning a romantic dinner for two or stepping out of the box and wanting to do something a little different, give this a try.  I really think you’ll be glad you did!

Cream Cups with Raspberry Sauce

Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup confectionary or powdered sugar
  • 1 8 ounce package cream cheese
  • 1 8 ounce container mascarpone cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons confectionary or powdered sugar
  • 1 pint raspberries
  • 2 Tablespoons limoncello

Instructions

  1. Beat together 1 cup powdered sugar, cream cheese, mascarpone and vanilla.

  2. Spoon into muffin cups or with a #1 tip, pipe onto parchment paper in large circles.

  3. Place on a flat pan and freeze until firm.

  4. For sauce: Mix powdered sugar, raspberries and Limoncello together, mashing slightly, but trying to keep the raspberries intact.

  5. Let rest for 30 minutes.

  6. To serve: About 15 minutes before serving, remove cream cups from freezer. Top with raspberry sauce and serve.

  7. NOTE: You could also substitute Chambord or Wine for the Limoncello or omit entirely.

Spiced Honey Cake with Caramelized Figs

I was in Fresh Market the other day and saw they had fresh figs.  I’m not sure where they were from and honestly I didn’t care.  It was the last hurrah of summer and I was going to make something with them.

I brought my delicious little turkey figs home and immediately started looking through my hoard of recipes. (yes, I am a recipe hoarder). I had so many, but I wanted something different from the jam that I had made previously and I finally settled on this Spiced Honey Cake.  It was from CHOW.com and posted by Kate Ramos, although I’m unsure if she was the actual creator of this cake.  Whatever the case may be, this was an incredible looking cake and I was anxious to see if it was going to taste as good as I thought it might.

It did.

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I want to let you know that the honey liqueur that it requires is not the turkey honey whiskey stuff my husband likes to bring out at the boy’s card games.  There is a real honey liqueur and I would recommend Celtic Honey, a product from Ireland, or Bärenjäger.  Either one will work well.

This was a very nice, moist cake and the fig mixture on the top really enhanced the flavor of the cake.  If you love figs, you need to make this.  Well, even if you don’t like figs…you should still make this.  It’s that good.

I am already looking forward to next year’s crop of figs.  Yum.

Spiced Honey Cake with Carmelized Figs

Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes

Ingredients

FOR THE CAKE

  • Butter, for coating the pan
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups honey
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup strongly brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature

FOR THE TOPPING

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
  • 2 pints figs, halved (you can use mission or brown turkey)
  • 1/2 cup honey liqueur
  • 1 Tablespoon honey

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a 10-inch spring form pan with butter. Set aside.

  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and ground cloves in a large bowl to break up any lumps and aerate. Set aside. Whisk together honey, oil, coffee, sugar, and eggs in another large bowl until eggs are broken up and mixture is smooth and combined. Add dry mixture to wet and stir until combined.

  3. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out completely clean, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer to a rack and let cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the inside perimeter of the pan and remove the springform ring.

FOR THE TOPPING

  1. While the cake is cooling, add the butter to a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When the foaming subsides, add the figs cut side down. Cook undisturbed until browned, about 5 minutes.

  2. Add the liqueur and honey, stir to coat the figs, and cook until the syrup is golden brown and the figs are soft but still intact, about 10 minutes. Top the cake with the fig mixture and serve.

Chocolate Temptation Cake

There are some days when everything just goes so right.  This was one of those days.  I had my first piece printed in the local newspaper and although it doesn’t seem like much, it meant a lot to me.

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It all came about when an acquaintance,  Lorraine Eaton, wrote a cookbook titled “Tidewater Table.”  She happens to work for the local paper.  They came up with the idea that if anyone made a recipe from her cookbook and wrote about it they would publish the piece in the paper.  Well, I certainly wasn’t going to turn down a chance at notoriety for a day, so of course I had to get the book out and figure out something to make!

There were many good ideas, but I made my decision when I saw the picture of the “Chocolate Temptation Cake.”  Who doesn’t love chocolate?  I for one could live on chocolate but what made this even better was the fact it had hazelnuts and raspberries in the cake.  This recipe was from Williamsburg’s Marcel Desaulniers, the author of several chocolate-centric cookbooks, including “Death by Chocolate.”   I had to try to make this, despite the fact it was a bit of a challenge.

It really wasn’t that hard to make, just time-consuming.  The hardest part for me was skinning the hazelnuts, if you can believe that.  Those skins just didn’t want to come off!  The taste however, was well worth the time into it and would be a great ending to any dinner party you had.

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Try this recipe, try the cake and buy the book.  It will be a great addition to your collection!

Chocolate Temptation Cake

Course Dessert
Prep Time 6 hours 40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 7 hours 10 minutes

Ingredients

FOR THE CAKE

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 tablespoons melted)
  • 6-1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into 1/2 ounce pieces
  • 2/3 cups egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup egg whites

FOR THE GANACHE

  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 10 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into 1/2 ounce pieces

FOR THE FILLING AND SAUCE

  • 1 1/2 pints red raspberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • (I would double this)

FOR THE CURLS

  • 1 ounce solid piece semisweet chocolate

Instructions

  1. Lightly coat the insides of two 9-by-1 1/2 inch round cake pans with melted butter. Line each pan with parchment paper, then lightly coat the parchment paper with more melted butter. Set aside.

  2. Heat oven to 325 degrees F.

  3. Heat 1 inch of water in bottom of double boiler over medium heat. Place the remaining butter and 6 1/2 ounces of semisweet chocolate in top half of double boiler. Tightly cover the top with film wrap. Allow to heat for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat, stir until smooth and hold at room temperature.

  4. Place 2/3 cup egg yolks and 1 cup sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle. Beat on high until lemon colored and slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat for additional 2 minutes.

  5. While egg yolks are beating, whisk 2/3 cup egg whites ina large stainless-steel bowl until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes.

  6. Using a rubber spatula, fold the melted chocolate mixture into the beaten egg yolk mixture. Add a quarter of the beaten egg whites, and stir to incorporate, then gently fold in remaining egg whites.

  7. Divide between the prepared pans, spreading evenly and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool in pans for 15 minutes. During baking the surface of the cake will form a crust; this crust will normally collapse when the cake is removed from the oven. Adjust the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Invert cakes onto cake plates. Remove parchment paper and refrigerate the cakes for 1 hour.

  8. While cakes are cooling, prepare the ganache. First toast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet for 5 minutes in the 450-degree oven. Remove from the oven, and immediately cover with a damp towel. Invert another baking sheet over the top to steam the skins off. After 5 minutes, remove the skins from the nuts. Allow the nuts to cool to room temperature. In a food processor fitted with metal blade, chop nuts into 1/8-inch pieces.

  9. Heat 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, 4 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup sugar in a 2 1/2 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Place 10 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate pieces ina stainless-steel bowl. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate, and allow to stand for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir until smooth.

  10. Remove 1/2 cup chocolate ganache, and combine with chopped hazelnuts. Hold this mixture at room temperature to use for the filling. Remove another 1/2 cup chocolate ganache and reserve under refrigeration for 1 hour (this 1/2 cup will be used to decorate the Temptation) Hold the remaining chocolate ganache at room temperature until needed.

  11. Puree the raspberries and 1/2 cup sugar in a food processor fitted with a steel blade for 12 to 15 seconds. Transfer to a stainless-steel bowl. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

  12. Assemble and decorate the cake. Remove the cakes from the refrigerator. Using a cake spatula, spread 1/4 cup raspberry puree over the one cake. Spread the puree evenly to the edges. Spread the ganache and hazelnut mixture over the raspberry puree. Spread the ganache evenly to the edges. Invert the other cake layer on top of the ganache covered cake. Press the cakes together. Using a very sharp serrated knife, trim the top and sides of the cake so they are even. At this point, the cake must be refrigerated for 30 minutes.

  13. Remove the well chilled cake from the refrigerator. Pour the room temperature chocolate ganache over the cake, spreading the with a spatula to create and even coating of ganache on the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for 20 to 25 minutes to set the ganache.

  14. Transfer the 1/2 cup well chilled ganache to a pastry bag fitted with a No. 2 star tip. Remove the cake from the refrigerator. Pipe eight to 12 stars on the top of the cake.

  15. Using a vegetable peeler, shave chocolate curls from the 1 ounce piece of chocolate directly onto the center of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for 1 hour before slicing.

  16. Temper the cake slices at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours before serving. Portion 1/4 cup raspberry puree onto each plate. Place a slice of cake in the center of each plate and serve.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

If we all had one thing from our past that we all agreed was a favorite, I would have to guess that it would be warm chocolate chip cookies just pulled from the oven.  Add to that, a cold glass of milk and that chewy, gooey cookie was the only thing that seemed to make homework tolerable when I would walk in the door from school.

As the years went on, I made chocolate chip cookies for college roommates, my husband and finally my children and the cycle continued.  Well, okay….I really didn’t make them that often but when I did they still loved them like I had when I was their age.

Like most people, I always used the Toll-House recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag.  I mean, what other recipe was there?  However, I have to say over the last few years I haven’t thought they were very good.  I’m not sure if it was me or the recipe, but they just didn’t taste the same.

It was time to change tradition.

As luck would have it, I was watching the Food Channel one Saturday morning and there it was on the show “The Best Thing I Ever Made.”  Chef Elizabeth Falkner was making Chocolate Chip Cookies and calling them the best ones ever.  Yes, you and I both know what happened next.  I made them.

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They were the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies ….EVER!

The edges were crisp and the inside chewy.  They were gooey and easy to make and so good I wouldn’t change a thing about this recipe.  It does seem a bit sacrilegious to say, but I will never go back to Toll-House again.

Trust me. Ditch the bag of chocolate chips and try these.  It’s worth the break in tradition.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 3 dozen

Ingredients

  • 8 Tablespoons butter, softened but still cool
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 cups plus 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped the size of chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, cream together the butter and brown and granulated sugars until smooth but not over mixed. (If you opt to use a stand mixer, beat on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes) Add the egg, vanilla and salt and stir just until combined.

  2. Sift in the flour, baking soda and baking powder and stir gently just until combined. Add the chocolate and nuts if using and stir just until evenly distributed throughout the dough. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

  3. Position the racks in the upper third and lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

  4. Scoop up 1-inch balls of the dough with a spoon for mini scoop and set them 2 inches apart on the prepared pans. Bake the cookies, rotating the pans after 7 to 9 minutes, for 13 to 17 minutes until the cookies are golden brown. If you like very soft cookies, bake them for 13 minutes. If you like your cookies crisp, bake them for 17 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool. These cookies are best the day they are baked, but they will keep in an airtight container or cookie jar for up to 4 days. If they last that long.

Fantastic Fig Spread

When I was growing up my closest connection to figs were in the Fig Newtons my mom used to buy.  I wasn’t a big fan.

Then came the bunko game a few years ago.  We all brought a dish to share and the only thing I remember from that night of eating was the basket my friend Leigh brought.  It had a small dish of fig jam in it and I don’t recall, but I’m sure I ate the entire thing myself.  I could not believe that was what figs really tasted like.

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After that I became obsessed with figs.  We bought a small fig tree the first year, with no results.  The next year we bought more fig trees and solicited advice from the sales rep.   He knew more than we did apparently, because that year I harvested five figs.  (yes, I did say the number five).  This year, we tried netting, something for the bugs and some fertilizer and we have a bumper crop!  I have so many that I can make Fantastic Fig Spread!

I don’t know where Leigh got this recipe from but I’ve made it before and it truly is fantastic.  In the past when I have made it (from store-bought figs) I have followed the recipe exactly.  This year I opted to add a little orange flavor to it and it was…..dare I say it?…FANTASTIC!!

This is an easy recipe and if you’ve never canned anything before this would be the one to start with.  Give it a try.  You will love it so much that next year you’ll be planting fig trees like I did.

As Ina Garten would say, “How easy is that?”  Enjoy!

Fantastic Fig Spread

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh figs, trimmed and quartered (I would chop a little smaller)
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 12 ounces dried figs, stems trimmed and chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest

Note: you can add 2 tablespoons orange zest and 1/2 orange juice to the above ingredients if desired.

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover, and cool overnight.

  2. Stir jam, and bring to a boil over medium-high het. Reduce heat to medium, and cook 25 to 30 minutes, or until jam is thick, stirring often.

  3. Meanwhile, sterilize jars and lids: Submerge jars in a large pot filled halfway with simmering water, and lids in a small pot of simmering water. Keep jars and lids in hot water until ready to use.

  4. Remove jars one at a time from hot water and fill with jam, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Seal with lids. Place canning rack or cake rack in bottom of a large pot, and return sealed jars to pot, adding extra water to cover jars by 1 inch, if necessary. Bring water to a boil and boil ten minutes. Remove jars from water and cool completely.

  5. **Once cool, check lids. They won’t have that “pop” in the center. If they do, use them immediately or throw away.

Practice makes perfect

One of my favorite saying is from Julia Child, “Cooking is one failure after another, and that’s how you finally learn.”  I try new things all the time and sometimes they come out pretty darn good and other times they can be a dismal failure.  But I find the more I do things, the better I am at them.

Such was my semi failure in the kitchen today.

I wanted to make pâte á choux with a Limoncello cream idea.  I have made profiteroles before and they came out okay, so when I saw a step by step in my favorite food magazine I thought I would give it another try.

Everything was going beautifully.  I had all my ingredients ready to go and went step by step.  The water, sugar and butter boiled just like it was supposed to.  I then added the flour and stirred until it pulled away from the sides of the pan, just like it was supposed to.  Then the eggs were added…. and something went wrong.  I apparently missed the part where it said to beat the eggs first, but I beat the eggs in and it seemed to work okay.   According to the directions, this is supposed to be a smooth batter that drips from the spoon in thick ribbons.  Mine?….not so much.   It was a very thick and didn’t drip at all.   I even added an additional egg as it suggested if your batter was too thick.  No drip.  It stuck to the spoon like it was glued.

Well, this is what I found out after the fact that might help you when you make them.  Apparently even though it didn’t say any different, from asking questions, the best way to add the eggs are when they are beaten but also removed from the heat and beaten with a paddle mixer.   Add your eggs one at a time and the true test of the batter being correct,  when you run your finger through it, is the track that your finger created should take approximately 2 seconds to ooze back together.   If it takes longer, add another egg and test it again.  If it takes less time, throw the batter out and start over.  That was helpful advice too little too late, but I hope you have much better luck with it than I did!

So don’t worry if it doesn’t come out right the first time.  Have fun with it and just remember what Julia said and make it again. Chances are, the next time, it will be that much better.

Bon Appétit!!

Practice makes perfect

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 21 minutes
Servings 3 dozen

Ingredients

PATE A CHOUX FROM FOOD AND WINE

  • 1 1 /2 cups water
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 200 grams all purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 8 large eggs

LIMONCELLO CREAM

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 4 Tablespoons limoncello (you could also substitute lemon zest and juice if you don’t want the liquour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions

  1.  Pre-heat the oven to 400° F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large saucepan, combine the water, butter, sugar and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderate. Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a tight dough forms and pulls away from the side of the pan. 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

  1.  In a bowl, beat 7 eggs and add to the dough in four batches, stirring vigorously between additions until the eggs are completely incorporated and the pastry is smooth. (**please note recommendations for adding eggs in post above) The dough should be glossy and very slowly hang, stretch and fall from the spoon in thick ribbons. If necessary, beat in remaining egg.

  2. Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe 1 1/2-inch rounds onto the baking sheets, leaving 1 inch between them.

  3. Bake the choux for 30 minutes until browned and puffed. Let cool completely. Using a serrated knife, halve each puff horizontally. Fill each one with Limoncello cream or filling of your choice.

LIMONCELLO CREAM

  1. Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, heavy cream, Limoncello and vanilla. Beat until fluffy. Pipe or spoon filling into Pâte à Choux. You could also add a raspberry or blueberry if desired.

Lemon Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce for Mom’s Birthday

We all hit milestones.  Sometimes it’s when you graduate high school or college, when you get married or when you hit a major age in life.  They are all important events but none is more important than my mom turning 80.   A tremendous age to hit, with lots of stories, heartaches, celebrations and memories along the way.

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For such a big occasion we had to make a special dessert.  When I asked her what she wanted she said a cheesecake.  My mom would have been happy with any kind of cheesecake, maybe even the no bake out of the box cheesecake.  I couldn’t have that for her however, so I had to search all my recipes to see what I could come up with.  Frustrated that I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted,  I adapted my recipe from three different recipes, but what we ended up with was a dessert I could be proud serving my mom on such a special day.

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The day was so special, I have to say I forgot to take pictures of the process.  What really counted was that my mom really enjoyed herself, enjoyed the company and really enjoyed the cheesecake.  My husband, who never eats dessert had two slices.  So despite that I don’t really have pictures, please try this recipe.

It makes for a wonderful celebration of an important milestone….in anyone’s life.

mango tapioca ambrosia

It seems I’m always thinking.  Depending on the day depends on what it’s about and sometime it works, but sometimes it doesn’t.  The one constant thing, however,  is I am always thinking about what I can make and how I will make it.   And that is exactly what happened on the day I was looking through one of my food magazines and saw a recipe for a mango and tapioca parfait.  I wanted to make it.

But I didn’t have a chance to make it as soon as I had hoped to,  which was perhaps, a blessing in disguise. I just couldn’t find small pearl tapioca anywhere!  I honestly think it is a rare commodity in my area, but if you have as much trouble finding it as I did, check your local asian market.  They will have it.  During the search, however, I was looking through my friend, Patrick Evans-Hylton’s new cookbook, “Dishing up Virginia”, and came across his Ambrosia recipe.  I now wanted to make that too.

Here’s where the thinking part came in.  What if I combined the mango parfait with the ambrosia recipe?  Now that was something worth thinking about and I have to say,  this one thought was with me almost every day.  How would I combine them, what would I take out and what would I keep?  For days I had both recipes open on my counter, reading and re-reading.  Thinking, thinking, thinking.

I may have blown a brain cell with all my thinking but I honestly believe I came up with a really great combination.  I have Patrick’s Ambrosia in a whole new way.  I don’t think Patrick would really mind me taking liberties with his recipe, in fact,  I’m almost positive he would love the fact that I did!

So the next time you see a recipe you like (including this one), think about popping a few brain cells, taking a few liberties and see what you come up with.  I think it could be something amazing!

See…..there I go again…. always thinking.  However, I believe this time it worked and it was a good thing.

mango tapioca ambrosia

Prep Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup small pearl tapioca
  • 1 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 can unsweetened coconut milk (1/2 of a 14 oz can)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup peeled and diced mango
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon finely grated lime zest
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 banana
  • 3 ounces fresh or frozen coconut, toasted
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • maraschino cherries (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepan, combine the tapioca, whole milk, vanilla bean and seeds and a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat and cook, whisking occasionally, until tapioca is translucent and tender, about 20 minutes. Whisk in the coconut milk.

  2. In a small bowl whisk the egg yolk with the sugar. Gradually whisk in half the warm tapioca in a steady stream. Continue whisking and pour egg mixture back into the saucepan. Cook the pudding over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pudding to a bowl and let cool to room temperature. Discard the vanilla bean. (i usually cover with plastic wrap directly covering the top of the pudding to avoid “skin”)

  3. Whip the cream with an electric mixer in a medium chilled metal bowl until thick; fold in the sugar and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

  4. In a medium bowl, combine the mango, pineapple, lime zest and lime juice. Take half to a food processor and purée until smooth. Add purée to the other half of the diced mango and pineapple. Slice banana and add to the purée mixture to prevent browning.

  5. Once tapioca has cooled enough, fold whipped cream into it.

  6. To assemble begin with the fruit mixture, top with tapioca and whipped cream mixture, add toasted coconut, and then toasted pecans. Repeat until you have about two layers of everything. I use jelly canning jars and got six out of this recipe. Top with a maraschino cherry if desired.

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