Tag Archives: Dessert

Lemon Curd

Lemon Curd

Lemon Curd

Lemon curd… just the words make me start drooling.  I happen to love sour foods (read: vinegar, citrus, mustard, rhubarb, etc.) and pairing sweet and sour together makes me even more happy.   On a recent trip to London I enjoyed some lemon curd spread on scones with my afternoon tea.  The British are so darn civilized with their little sandwiches and scones in the middle of the afternoon.  When I came home, I was itching to make some curd of my own.  Lemon curd is one of those things (like custards and pie crusts) that have always intimidated me.  Turns out, I really didn’t need to fret.  Making lemon curd was surprisingly easy and the results were fantastic.

Curd ingredients

Curd ingredients

Marc helpfully picked up a sack of organic lemons from Trader Joe’s and set about juicing them over a fine mesh sieve using a lemon reamer.  On the other side of the counter I zested the spent lemon halves, measured the sugar, and cut up the butter.  Then came the stirring, and the standing in front of the stove, and more stirring.  Admittedly, the stirring part took a long time.  I kept my heat on the low side of medium because I was afraid of scrambling my eggs.  Next time, I might turn it up a bit to speed things up (keep in mind, I have an old electric stove that takes quite a while to heat up. I might not try this if I had a powerful gas version).

Spent lemons

Look at all those spent lemons

Luckily, all the stirring time was absolutely worth it. The finished curd is a thing a beauty… deep yellow color, thick, satiny-smooth texture, and the best tart/sweet lemon flavor.  I had my mother-in-law do a taste test – our curd vs. Trader Joe’s.  We did not tell her one was homemade.  She picked ours “hands down because it tasted more like lemon and less like sugar.”  Now that is a ringing endorsement if I ever heard one!

Straining the thickened curd

Straining the thickened curd

Lemon Curd

Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

Ingredients:

1 tbls plus 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

1-1/3 cups sugar

4 large eggs

14 tbls salted butter (if you use unsalted butter, make sure to add a pinch of salt to the curd)

To Make:

Choose a 2 quart, heavy-bottomed sauce pan to make the curd in.  Set the pan over medium-low heat and whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and eggs until smooth.  Adding the butter, a few tbls at a time, and whisking constantly, cook until the curd is done.

How to tell if the curd is done:

After you have been cooking for a while, the curd will start to thicken noticeably.  It is done when the curd is thick and bubbles are just starting to form on the top.  The original recipe said this take about 10 minutes.  Using medium and medium-low heat it took us closer to an hour.  So don’t be surprised if it takes longer than you think.  Just keep whisking and be patient and you will be rewarded with a rich, thick curd.

As soon as the curd is finished cooking, run it through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl.  Let it cool to room temperature on the counter, stirring occasionally.  Once it is cool, refrigerate covered until it is cold.

To Serve:

Lemon curd is a remarkably versatile condiment.  You can spread it on toast, spoon it over ice cream, or use it between the layers or on top of a cake.  You can fold it into whipped cream to make an instant “mousse”.  Spread it on a muffin, scone, or waffles.  Or just eat it with a spoon.  The original recipe says to consume within a few days and once you taste it, I assure you that won’t be a problem.

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Filed under Add-ons, Breakfast, Dessert, Eggs, Gluten-Free, Recipes

Apple Dumplings

Apple Dumplings

Apple Dumplings

As I mentioned in my last post, we are hosting Thanksgiving this year and working hard at menu planning.  One interesting fact about Thanksgiving with Marc’s family is that it is mandatory that there are nearly as many desserts as there are adults joining us for the meal.  Marc’s mother is a great baker and his sister is a trained pastry chef so you can imagine how high the dessert bar is set.  So in addition to the obligatory pumpkin pie, we have a whole bunch of great desserts planned, including this one.

Fresh Apples

Fresh Apples

Of course, many people go the apple pie route.  It’s a great choice and a Thanksgiving classic.  We love apple pie around these parts which is one of the reasons why this recipe is a family favorite.  It has all the flavors of apple pie – the flaky pastry, the apple, and the sweet cinnamon-infused sauce – but in a neat little individual package.  Because the apples are whole you save time chopping and you only have one crust to manage (which makes life just that much easier).

Apples waiting for their wrapping

Apples waiting for their wrapping

This recipe is the one that my mother-in-law has been making for years.  It is delicious as is so we really didn’t make many changes.  If you like, you could increase the spices a little bit, maybe adding a dash of cloves for a little spicy flavor.  But really, this recipe is as good as it gets, just the way it is.  Make sure to have some vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream on hand for serving.  After all, it is Thanksgiving.

Pouring the sauce

Pouring the sauce

Apple Dumplings

Recipe from Charlene Marino

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups sugar, plus additional for sprinkling if desired

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbls butter, plus more for dotting the apples

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2/3 cup lard (or shortening)

1/2 cup milk

6 medium apples, peeled and cored

To Make:

First, make a simple syrup by combining the sugar, water, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium sauce pan.  Set the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Remove the syrup from heat and add 3 tbls of butter and the vanilla.  Stir until combined and set aside.

To make the pastry, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut in the lard until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add milk all at once and stir until flour is just moistened.  Turn the pastry out onto a lightly floured surface and roll dough into a 12×18 inch rectangle.  Cut the pastry into 6, 6-inch squares.

To assemble the dumplings start by placing an apple on each dough square.  Sprinkle apples generously with sugar, cinnamon, and freshly ground nutmeg and dot with butter.  Moisten edges of pastry, bring corners to the center of the apple, and pinch the edges together.

Place the wrapped apples about 1 inch apart in an ungreased baking pan.  Pour syrup over dumplings and sprinkle with more cinnamon and sugar if desired.  Bake in a 375 degree oven until the apples are tender, about 35 minutes.

To Serve:

Serve warm with fresh whipped cream or ice cream.  Serves six.  Recipe can be doubled.  Also, if you want your dumplings really saucy, feel free to double the syrup.

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Filed under Baked goods, Dessert, Fruit, Recipes

S’mores Cookie Bars

S'mores Cookie Bars

S'mores Cookie Bars

We are in the throes of the lazy, hazy days of summer around these parts.  With all the sun, my basil and hot peppers are loving life, though we have been wilting a little under 90+ degree days.  However, this weekend is glorious.  Sunny and warm days with cool nights, it is perfect weather for sitting by the campfire under the stars and toasting marshmallows.

Beating the dough

Beating the dough

Unfortunately, with all the birthday parties and visitors this weekend, there is no time to go camping.  Luckily, we found this recipe for s’mores that you can make in your oven.  While it might be blasphemous, I dare say these s’more cookie bars are even better than the original.   Layers of chocolate bars and marshmallow sandwiched between two graham-cracker flavored dough sheets, all baked until melty and golden… well, it’s pretty darn close to campfire heaven.

The layers

The layers

So if you can’t get to the campground this weekend, don’t despair.  Eat these cookies while sitting in your backyard, looking at the stars, and you will feel like you are truly roughing it… and you don’t have to sleep on the ground. 

Fresh from the oven

Fresh from the oven

S’mores Cookie Bars

Adapted from Hershey’s

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 6 squares)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

4-5 (1.55 oz. each) HERSHEY’S Milk Chocolate Bars

1 cup marshmallow creme

To Make:

Heat your oven to 350°F and grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla and beat until well blended.  In a small bowl, stir together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt.  Add to butter mixture and beat until blended.  Divide the dough in half and press half of it into the prepared pan.

Next, arrange the chocolate bars in a single layer over dough, breaking as needed to fit.  Spread the marshmallow creme evenly over the top of the chocolate.   Break off pieces of the remaining dough and gently press them over the marshmallow creme to form a solid layer.  If you feel like being a perfectionist, you can roll out the dough and place it carefully over the top of the marshmallow.  Either way, it tastes delicious.

Bake the bars until lightly browned, about 30 to 35 minutes.  Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

To Serve:

Cut into 16 bars.  Enjoy outside with a glass of milk, campfire optional.

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Filed under Baked goods, Bars and Brownies, Dessert, Recipes

Strawberry Granita

Strawberry Granita

 

Strawberry season is all too fleeting.  As soon as we get the email that the strawberries are ripe and ready for picking, we go into hoarding mode.  Similar to squirrels gathering nuts for the winter, we pick and pick until our freezers are full of strawberries in gallon-sized bags.  We pick and process until we have enough berries that we can enjoy them deep into the winter (and until our hands are permanently stained pink). 

A glut of strawberries

 

With the end of the season rapidly approaching and our freezer full of 40 lbs of strawberries, it is time to take a breath and think about making some delicious summer treats with the few remaining pounds that are hanging around the house.  First on deck, a strawberry granita.  If you aren’t familiar with the granita, come and sit by the pool with me so we can discuss. 

Berries macerating

 

Granitas are quite possibly the perfect summer dessert.  Icy, clean, and fresh, they are a grown-up version of what you used to make with your Snoopy Sno-Cone machine.  They are also very easy to make and don’t require any special equipment (i.e., no ice cream maker needed).  Heaped high in a bowl or mixed with some sparkling wine in a champagne glass, granitas are a lovely way to celebrate the summer. 

Straining the mixture

 

Strawberry Granita 

Recipe from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz 

Ingredients: 

2 lbs fresh strawberries, hulled 

6 tbls sugar 

1 cup water 

a few drops of lemon juice 

To Make: 

Slice the strawberries and place them in a large bowl.  Add the sugar and stir to combine.  Let the strawberries macerate for about an hour. 

Pour the strawberries, their juices, the water, and the lemon juice into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to strain out the seeds. 

Place the mixture in a 9x13x2 inch metal, plastic, or glass dish (you can use larger or smaller dishes, make sure to adjust your total freezing).  Put it in the freezer and let it sit for an hour.  At the end of the hour, use a whisk or a fork to break up any ice crystals that have formed, raking from the sides towards the center of the dish.  This article offers a good overview of how to make granita (and some yummy-sounding recipes too).  Keep doing this every 30 minutes or so until you have a pile of ice crystals (stir more frequently as you get closer to frozen).  If at any point, the mixture gets too hard, let is thaw a bit on the counter and then resume stirring.  It should take bout 3-4 hours, depending on your freezer, pan, sugar content, etc. (if you were to spoon some into a bowl at the slushy phase, I wouldn’t tell). 

To Serve: 

Serve in pretty glasses, bowls, or any other serving vessel.  Garnish with fresh mint, or top with some sparking wine, champagne, or prosecco.  Serves 4-6 as a dessert, many more as a palate cleanser.

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Filed under Dairy-free, Dessert, Fruit, Gluten-Free, Ice cream, Recipes

Doughnut Bread Pudding

Doughnut Bread Pudding

This post has been brought to you by Fat Tuesday.  Eat on, New Orleans!

Alex, I’ll take oxymorons for $2000.

A:  The absolute best use of leftover doughnuts.

Q:  What is doughnut bread pudding?

Custard

The oxymoron in this case is, “leftover doughnuts”.  Really, how often do you come across leftover doughnuts?  Well, in the rare case that you do, you’ll now know what to do with them.

Doughnuts taking a bath

It’s important to realize that doughnuts come in two primary forms.  There are the yeast doughnuts which are super light, airy, and it’s easy to polish off a half dozen before realizing that you haven’t stopped to breath yet.  There are also cake doughnuts.  These are much denser, but equally tasty.  Both kinds result in a wonderful bread pudding, but in different ways.  The yeast doughnuts will puff up when baked while the cake doughnuts tend to be more dense.  Feel free to co-mingle or make two desserts-in-one as done below.  Either way, this is a rich and decadent dessert that is just right to help celebrate the debauchery of Fat Tuesday.

Fresh from the oven

Doughnut Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

3 glazed doughnuts (yeast)*

3 chocolate glazed doughnuts (cake)

4 eggs

3 cups whole milk

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

mix of cinnamon and sugar to top (optional)

To Make:

Cut the doughnuts up into approximately 1/2 inch pieces.  Lay out the pieces on a cutting board in order to dry out a little bit (you can skip this step if your doughnuts are already a couple of days old).  Once they have sat for a few hours, make the custard mixture.

Beat the eggs.  Whisk in the milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and vanilla.  Grease a 9″x13″ baking dish.  You can lay out the doughnut pieces in any fashion that you’d like.  Either mix and match the two (or more) types of doughnuts or keep them divided.  Evenly pour the egg mixture over the doughnuts.  Use the back side of a large spatula and press the doughnuts into the egg mixture.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 5 hours (or overnight), every once in a while pressing the doughnut pieces to be sure they are submerged in the egg mixture.

When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 325F.  Sprinkle the top of the bread pudding with cinnamon and sugar, if desired.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until the the center is just set.

To Serve:

Enjoy hot.  Now.  Right now.  This very instant.  Or cold, the next morning for breakfast, with a cup of good coffee or a glass of milk.

* If you are feeling a little crazy, go ahead and use any kind of doughnut you have hanging around… jelly, frosted, crullers, it is all fair game.

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Filed under Baked goods, Dessert, Recipes

Citrus-Almond Bars

Citrus-Almond Bars

 

In my opinion, one of the best things about winter is the availability of fresh, US-grown citrus.  We try to eat locally as much as possible but in the middle of winter, I really start to miss fresh fruit.  Come January, my definition of local expands to include Florida so we can load up on oranges, grapefruits, and lemons. 

Filling ingredients

 

 In addition to providing lots of nutrients, all this citrus brings a much needed dose of sunshine into otherwise dreary days.  We eat oranges plain, juice lemons to add to sauces, and use all kinds of citrus to make desserts.  These citrus-almond bars are one of our favorites.  This recipe offers a little twist on the traditional lemon bar by using chopped almonds in the crust and a mix of lemon and orange juice and zest in the filling.  There are more almonds studding the top of the filling with a little extra crunch.  Dust the whole thing with powdered sugar once it has cooled and your wintery day suddenly seems a little bit brighter. 

Baked bars, dotted with almonds

 

Citrus Bars 

Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Smoke Cooking 

Ingredients:

Crust

1/3 cup butter 

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 tbls finely chopped almonds 

Filling

2 eggs 

3/4 cup granulated sugar 

2 tbls almond meal (you can substitute all-purpose flour) 

The zest of one medium orange 

2 tbls freshly squeezed orange juice 

The zest of one lemon 

1 tbls freshly squeezed lemon juice 

1/2 tsp baking powder 

3 tbls finely chopped almonds 

Powdered sugar for dusting (optional) 

To Make: 

 For crust, in a medium bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for 30 seconds.  Add the 1/4 cup granulated sugar.  Beat until thoroughly combined.  Beat in the 1 cup flour and 3 tbls nuts until the mixture is crumbly.  Press the mixture onto the bottom of an ungreased 8x8x2-inch baking pan.  Bake in a 350 degree oven about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. 

Meanwhile, for the filling, in a small bowl stir together the eggs, the 3/4 cup granulated sugar, the almond meal, the orange and lemon zest, the orange and lemon juices, and baking powder.  Beat on medium speed about 2 minutes or until combined.  Pour over hot baked layer and sprinkle with 2 tbls of chopped nuts. 

Bake (350 degrees) for about 20 minutes more or until the edges are lightly browned and the center is set.  Cool pan on a wire rack. 

To Serve: 

Sift powdered sugar over the top if desired.  Cut into bars.  Store, covered, in the refrigerator.  Makes about 20 small bars.

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Filed under Baked goods, Bars and Brownies, Dessert, Recipes

Bourbon Balls

Bourbon Balls

Thanksgiving is over but the marathon holiday season has only just begun.  If you are anything like me, you inevitably find yourself with a lot of things you want to do and a lot of (fun) commitments, but not a lot of time.  No matter how crunched for time I get, when the cookie bug bites, I have to respond.  Thankfully, I found this recipe for Bourbon Balls. 

Mmm, bourbon

These little gems whip up quickly, taste delicious, and only get better as they sit.  Plus, they have the added benefit of making you feel like you are having a nice stiff drink with your dessert.  And who doesn’t need a drink now and then during the holidays?

Making the balls

Bourbon Balls

Recipe from The Joy of Cooking

Ingredients:

1 cup plus 1/2 cup powdered sugar, divided

2 tbls unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa

1/4 cup bourbon (use the good stuff because it is the predominant flavor in the cookies)

2 tbls light corn syrup

2 1/2 crushed vanilla wafers (about 10 ounces of whole cookies)

1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

To Make:

Sift 1 cup of powdered sugar and the cocoa powder together into a medium bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk together the bourbon and corn syrup until well blended.  Stir the bourbon mixture into the sugar and cocoa.

Crush the vanilla wafers in a food processor or by putting them into a plastic zip top bag and crushing with a rolling pin until the cookies are medium-fine crumbs.  Stir the cookies and pecans together and add them to the sugar and bourbon mixture until well combined.  The dough will be crumbly.

Using your hands, roll 1-inch balls of the mixture.  Don’t be afraid to work it a little bit to make sure the balls are stuck together.  Roll each ball in the remaining powdered sugar.

To Serve:

Makes approximately 40 balls.  Store at room temperature in an airtight plastic container with a layer of parchment or wax paper in between.  They will store for up to 3 weeks and get better as they age.

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Filed under Cookies, Dessert, Recipes