Archive for category Dessert
Rice Krispie treats are for summer. I mean, sure, you can make them any time, but some desserts are just designed for summer. They’re light (so you don’t feel quite as wrong putting on a bathing suit after having one). They’re quick and simple (the sun sets late in summer, leaving less time to make dessert). They leave the oven off and only use the stove for a moment (so you don’t boil alive just from making dessert if you’re living in the South in mid-August).
So you may be wondering why I’m writing about them on a rather chilly evening in February. Maple syrup, folks. Any dessert can be made to suit cooler months with maple syrup and a little nutmeg.
I’ve seen people try to tweak Rice Krispie treats before. I’ve seen red velvet ones and Nutella ones and a lovely Dulce de Leche version brought to parties. Inevitably, people try them. The comments tend to include phrases like “how unique!” or “I never would have thought of that!” but no one goes back for seconds, and eventually someone will just admit what they’re all thinking: “It’s not quite the same as I remember. “
So knowing that, why would I try yet another version? First of all, it’s winter. Regular Rice Krispie treats aren’t right for winter. Secondly, it’s Deb’s fault. (Can I just start saying that about everything from now on? Okay, thanks.)
This recipe is adapted from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. Go buy it already. Yes, it’s that good. Her version isn’t maple flavored and contains no nutmeg, but there’s browned butter in hers and the combination of all three is what really makes these treats perfect.
Ingredients (makes an 8×8 pan, about 16 servings)
1 stick (8 T) butter
1/4 cup maple syrup (grade B if you can find it)
1/2 t nutmeg
1 10-oz bag marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies
Place the butter in a large pot over medium heat.
Keep it on the burner. It will froth and begin to brown. Once it starts to smell a bit nutty and reaches a rich amber color, remove the pot from heat.
Add the maple syrup. It will bubble like mad.
Add marshmallows. Stir them in until they melt. This is faster with the mini mallows, but use any kind you like.
Add salt and nutmeg and fold them into the marshmallow mixture as well.
Pour on the cereal and fold it into the marshmallow mixture until it’s all thoroughly coated.
Press the treats into a buttered 8×8 pan.
Let them cool and set for at least an hour or so. Cut into squares and serve.
I don’t mean to brag*, but these treats? People went back for seconds. And thirds. And demanded the recipe. there may have been gushing. Not a bad result for a 5-ingredient dessert made in 10 minutes.
*Okay, that’s a lie. Totally bragging. Seriously though, look at this nutmeggy close-up. You can’t stay mad.
The hardest thing for me to get used to in New Orleans is one of the things I like most about it. But I also hate it. It’s ridiculous.
See, I’m not a people person. I’m shy, and awkward, and really really don’t know how to handle it when strangers strike up conversations out of the blue.
Everyone is just so darn nice here. They all want to talk. They’re friendly. They actually wait, looking interested in your answer, after saying “hi, how are you?” I just want to run away and hide in the produce department until they’ve all gone. Maybe I could live there, among the collard greens.
My first visit to the local grocery store involved no fewer than four conversations with strangers. While I was just shopping quietly. First a lovely older gentleman asked me whether “that green stuff” I’d just put in my cart was kale. It was not. It was collard greens. Two pounds of them. Don’t judge me. At any rate, I took a few minutes to show the man to the kale, tell him how to cook it, and nod while he complained about his wife making him buy this crap she saw on “that food channel on the TV.” Okay, fine. I’ve got all day to shop, and food is a more than comfortable topic for me. I was even cheerful at the end of it.
So I moved on from produce. And as I picked up some soy sauce a teenaged girl in a hoodie came up and said “Hey, what are you having for dinner tonight?”
Surely she’s just mistaken me for someone she knows, I thought. But she looked so expectant. “Sorry, me?” I asked.
“Yeah. I don’t know what to make. Give me some ideas. My name’s Sam, by the way.”
“Um. I’m making tacos.” She looked pointedly at the soy sauce. “This is for tomorrow. Teriyaki chicken.”
This was followed by ten minutes of explaining and writing down how to make teriyaki. Again, this is in the middle of an aisle of the grocery store. By this point I was seriously befuddled. I don’t know what I would have done without my grocery list.
The third conversation was expected, at least. It’s normal for customers and clerks to chat in order to avoid awkward silences during check out.
Still. She took one look at my driver’s license and said “You ain’t from Dallas.”
“Dallas. That’s not where you’re from originally. You’re a small town girl. I can tell.”
It’s true, actually, though my small town in South Florida has gotten pretty big since I’ve moved away. At this point, I’d surpassed my ability to converse with strangers for the day. I had a ton of groceries, which seemed like a good excuse to go home.
Unfortunately, I had a ton of groceries. Unfortunately, everyone around here is unreasonably nice. So a random guy in the parking lot offered to help me load my car. While talking nonstop about football. (Thanks for the help, random guy, but to be honest I wasn’t even sure what sport the Saints played until halfway through that conversation*. Sorry.)
So basically, everyone here is very friendly and it’s very nice and I just want to hide in my apartment alone and talk to people on the Internet like God intended from now on. And bake blondies. With liquor in them. Everything’s better with moonshine, right?
Ingredients (makes an 8×8″ pan of bars, about 12-16 servings)
1 stick/8 T/ 1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T apple flavored moonshine. Or Goldschlager. Or just a nice bourbon.
1 C flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 T cinnamon
2 apples (I used a gala and a Braeburn, because that’s what was in the apartment)
1 C butterscotch chips (substitute nuts if you like. My way is less healthy, but way tastier.)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine the butter and sugars in a mixing bowl.
Cream them well and add an egg.
Add moonshine, too. Mix just to combine.
Add the flour, leavenings, salt, and cinnamon. Mix just to combine.
Peel and chop your apples. (If Arctic Apples get put on the market, you’ll be able to do this ahead of time without them browning. I want to play with this feature.)
Add the apple bits and butterscotch chips (or nuts, if using)
Fold them into the batter.
Butter an 8×8″ pan and spread the batter evenly into it.
Bake at 350°F for 45-50 minutes. These are easier to cut once they’ve cooled, but it’s hard to wait that long.
They are ooey-gooey, tasty, apple-filled delights. Serve alone, or with a shot of moonshine (no, grandma, I’m not an alcoholic. The flavors are complementary.), or the very best way, with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. Devour.
*The Saints do play football, right? I hope so, because otherwise I made an ass of myself in that convesation.
Do you see the little “Science!” label down there on the right? After you scroll down a bit, underneath all the tasty stuff?
Those scientists and science bloggers are working hard to make foods better, safer, and more understandable for everyone else. Recently, the good folks at Biofortified have explained, in very clear terms, why GM foods don’t have any more scary genes in them than any other foods you’ve ever eaten, since of course bacteria and viruses are already everywhere, and every time you eat anything you eat the little guys and all of their genes as well. And if you still think after my earlier discussion of the subject that GM foods lead to horizontal gene transfer and presumably plant-people? The GMO Pundit explains an article that shows that a happy little beetle managed to get a useful little bacteria gene all his own, without a GMO in sight.
I know this is a food blog, and I promised chocolate, so I’ll keep this short. Basically, if you cook, you use science. You don’t have to think in terms of chemistry when caramelizing sugar, because following the
protocol recipe will get you results just the same. You don’t need to know the biological mechanisms of capsiacinoids to add the heat of chile to a dish. But I think at least knowing the information is out there– and that it’s available and understandable if you’re interested whether you did well in science in school or not– is important. And hey, it’s cool! Scientists are doing things with plants and nutrition that look straight out of science fiction, and it’s brilliant. Give it a quick peek, is all I’m saying.
So now we can get back to caramelizing sugar and melting chocolate and keeping that smell in your kitchen as long as possible. Because caramel and chocolate go together like nothing else. Because coffee makes both caramel and chocolate taste better. And because everyone should have a chocolate tart recipe. So I adapted one from David Lebovitz. I removed the flour from his filling, as mine seemed thick enough without it and I want to be able to pour it into a gluten-free crust* if we have company with Celiac. The chocolate is a tad darker in mine as well, but offset by the slightly sweeter chocolate ovals used to decorate it. And the smell in the kitchen? I turned off all air circulation in the apartment just so we could breathe it a little longer. It’s sweet and complex and full of coffee. If we could bottle that smell, I could quit my day job and just sell chocolate-caramel-coffee scented candles because who doesn’t want a dozen of those?
Ingredients (Makes 1 9-inch tart; serves 10-12. Crust adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s sweet tart dough, filling adapted from David Lebovitz’ chocolate tart)
For the crust:
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
9 T butter
For the filling:
1 cup sugar
6 oz. espresso
8 T (1/4 lb, 1 stick, 4 oz) butter
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
3 oz bittersweet (72% +) chocolate
2 eggs at room temperature
1 T vanilla extract
optional: for a bit of heat, add 1-3 t chile powder when you add the chocolate (how much you use depends on the heat of the powder you’re using; a pinch of Habañero powder goes a lot further than a whole teaspoon of Poblano).
Directions The crust comes first, of course. To prevent it being grainy, you’ll want to use superfine sugar. To make superfine sugar, place granulated sugar in the bowl of your food processor and run it for about 30 seconds to a minute.
Add the flour and salt and pulse briefly to combine.
Add the butter and egg (and the vanilla, not shown).
Apparently I forgot to keep taking pictures of dough making, but if you’d find them helpful it’s just about the same dough as used way back here for a lemon-blueberry tart. Sorry about that. Pulse the dough in 2-3 second bursts until it comes together in a smooth ball. Chill the dough for two hours or more, then roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick. Line a buttered 9-inch tart pan with the dough, and line the prepared crust with buttered tin foil. Add pie weights and bake with foil and weights at 375°F for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and weights and bake another 10 minutes to brown. Set aside the crust and turn the oven down to 350°F. Start the filling by caramelizing some sugar. Just pour a cup of sugar into a saucepan. . .
. . .and heat it up over medium-high heat, stirring gently, until you have thick, bubbly caramel.
Pour in the espresso and whisk vigorously to combine.
Try not to spill espresso all over the chocolate. Add the butter to the coffee-caramel mixture.
Whisk in the butter and add the chocolate.
Whisk the mixture until smooth.
Test the temperature of the mixture by dipping a spoon in it and tasting. If it’s scalding to the tongue, keep whisking until it’s merely pleasantly warm before adding your eggs. Unless of course you want scrambled eggs in you chocolate tart. When the mixture is not too hot, add the eggs.
Whisk the eggs in, giving the filling a lovely pudding-like texture, and pour it into the waiting tart shell.
Bake at 350°F for 20-22 minutes until the filling is just set but not dry or cracking. If you have any pretty chocolate pieces like these Valrhona fèves lying around, grab a handful for decorating the top. What can I say? I can’t resist the bulk chocolates at Central Market.
The texture is completely smooth, almost a warm pudding. The tart shell adds sweetness and a lovely crunch to the mixture, and the sweeter chocolates on top (only 53% cocoa) finished it out perfectly.
I didn’t cut into the tart warm, as it was a birthday tart for a co-worker and tradition dictates that the birthday boy or girl gets to cut the first slice, but I did re-heat a slice in the oven the next night and it was divine. Not that anyone complained at room temperature; there really is no comparison to a good chocolate tart.
Sadly, I can’t make or eat anything like this right now; I had my third molars removed this morning and am having a certain amount of difficulty with yogurt and mashed potatoes, let alone a delightful flaky-crisp tart shell. So eat one of these for me, okay?
* to make this a gluten-free pie or tart, simply use this filling and the gluten-free graham cracker crust found here, or any other GF crust that you like.
Meyer lemons only seem to appear here for a scant few weeks every year. When they do, I buy more than I can use and cook up a storm in hopes that the lemony goodness will last me until next winter. It never does, but that’s all right because there are sweet, delicious Meyer lemons right now.
As much as I love a traditional tiramisu, coffee and chocolate seem to make the dish a bit too rich for my taste. Replacing them with lemon removes any heaviness from the dish, replacing it with a tart freshness that acts as a perfect foil to the slight sweetness of the ladyfingers. A sprinkling of lemon zest and shaved white chocolate provide a perfect finish.
Probably the best thing about tiramisu is how easy it is to make, and how mind-bogglingly impressed people are when you make one. I buy ladyfingers pre-made, because although they’re not difficult to make, getting the sides perfectly straight isn’t a trick I’ve mastered yet, and I have no complaints about the flavor of store bought cookies. I do use raw egg, which bothers some people, but if your eggs are fresh and clean the risk of Salmonella infection is minimal. If you prefer, you can use pasteurized eggs to remove the possibility entirely.
Other than an egg and some ladyfingers, all you need is marscapone, a touch of sugar, the juice and zest of a Meyer (or regular, if you prefer) lemon, and a splash of vodka or limoncello.
Ingredients (makes a square three-layer tiramisu, serves two)
8 oz Marscapone cheese
2 T sugar
juice of one Meyer lemon, divided use
2 T vodka or limoncello
zest of one Meyer lemon
white chocolate shavings, to garnish
Measure out 2 T of lemon juice.
Combine the marscapone, egg yolk, sugar, and 2 T lemon juice, and 1 T of vodka in a mixing bowl.
Mix until uniform in color and texture.
Whip the egg white to stiff peaks. Scoop the egg white over the marscapone mixture.
Fold it in gently to incorporate.
Set the bowl aside and combine the rest of the lemon juice and the remaining 1 T of vodka in a shallow dish. Dip three ladyfingers in the mixture for about 2 seconds each side, being careful not to oversaturate. You’ll know it’s oversaturated if it crumbles in your hands. Arrange the three cookies on a serving plate.
Spread about 1/3 of the marscapone mixture over the three ladyfingers. Dip the next three, add them perpendicular to the first stack (this add structural stability, like in Jenga), then another 1/3 of the marscapone mixture, and finish with the rest of the ladyfingers and marscapone.
Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. Before serving, grate the zest of a Meyer lemon over the top of the tiramisu, and grate a bit of white chocolate over that.
The flavor is bright but not overwhelming. The lemon is present, but takes a backseat the the creaminess of marscapone and the delightful contrast of texture provided by the ladyfingers. If you want something simple and elegant for Valentines day, add a couple of raspberries for the obligatory pink color and you’re set for dessert. In any case, make this soon. It’s amazing.
Laminated dough, like that used to make such delightful pastries as croissants, pain au chocolat, cheese danishes, or delightful little asparagus and cheese tarts, is one of those things that seems to make some people flee the kitchen in terror. The rest roll their eyes and tell me I have too much time on my hands.
I admit, I wouldn’t make this dough on a workday. I wouldn’t make it on a particularly lazy week-end, either. But if I’m up and about and antsy for some reason, I’ll make this dough. Then I’ll freeze it, and be able to thaw it out and make croissants whenever I want them.
That, my friends, is power. These are not the strangely flavorless, apparently butter-free (but very flaky) croissants found at your local supermarket. This dough makes pastry that is light, flaky, buttery, even more buttery, and billowy as a cloud thanks to the added yeast that allows it to soar above even puff pastry.
Ingredients (makes just shy of 3 pounds of dough)
For the sponge:
1 cup flour
1 cup warm water
1 T vanilla
1 t dry yeast
For the dough:
2 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup cream
1 t salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks, 24 T) butter
Add the yeast and 1 cup of flour in a mixing bowl.
Stir to combine.
Add vanilla. I know, it’s against the law according to the French but I will have vanilla in my sweet pastries.
Add water. Now, we want the yeast to start happily breeding and producing carbon dioxide bubbles so don’t cook them, and don’t keep them inactive in the cold. Use water just a bit warmer than your skin.
Stir it up a bit, and you have a yeasty slurry.
Cover the bowl with a towel and amuse yourself elsewhere for an hour or so. Or stand in the kitchen staring at it, if you like, but that sounds boring.
After an hour the slurry will have risen and be full of bubbles.
Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups of flour and the salt to the yeast mixture.
Then add the cream.
Stir the dough with a spoon just until it forms a shaggy ball.
At that point, put the shaggy dough on a well-floured counter top.
Knead the dough by hand for about 10 minutes.
Wrap up the dough and toss it in the fridge while you prepare the butter for laminating.
Lay down a double layer of plastic wrap. Cut the sticks of butter in half laterally and dust them with about 3 tablespoons of flour.
Lay another double layer of plastic wrap over the butter.
Get out your beat stick. Incidentally, if your rolling pin has moving parts, or you don’t want to frighten everyone in your building with the rather loud, violent noises you’re about to start making . . . well, you came this far; you may as well get out some aggression.
Beat the butter and flour together until it forms a smooth, putty-like slab. It should be pliable but not shiny.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll it into a rectangle about 11×18 inches.
Center the butter on the dough.
Fold the sides over the butter and pinch them together at the top and bottom.
We’re not done with the mindless aggression yet. Smash the butter into the corners of the pastry with the rolling pin.
Roll the dough back out into an 11×18 rectangle.
If the edges of your rectangle are uneven, just shove them back in place with the side of your rolling pin. Fold the dough in thirds again and roll it back out to 11×18. At this point the dough will need to be refrigerated for a while to chill the butter and keep it from erupting, Alien-like, from the layers of dough.
After about half an hour, pull the dough out of the refrigerator. Roll the dough out and fold it in thirds another three times.
Cut the finished dough into three equal pieces and wrap them in plastic wrap.
I set aside and froze two thirds of the dough for later, and made an enormous pain au chocolat out of the remaining third. I’ll post about what to do with this lovely dough in a couple of days.
I know it’s been said about 84 million times before, but it still bears repeating: peanut butter and chocolate are made for each other. It’s Mr. B’s favorite-ever flavor combination. So you can imagine my shock when, at a delightful restaurant in Atlanta clever enough to ask you to order dessert before you eat, he went with peach cobbler.
I ordered the peanut butter pie for him. After I tried it, I wouldn’t share. It was that good. (Mary Mac’s, people. I’d move to Georgia just for this restaurant.) That pie was the sort of dessert that leads to religious conversions and serious risks of diabetes (the peach cobbler was also delightful.) It was the silky texture of a Key lime pie, and tasted more peanut-buttery than peanut butter by itself. It was an awe-inspiring dessert.
When I decided to make it at home, I had to guess. There are a million peanut butter pie recipes on the Internet, and half a dozen in my
modest scary and growing cookbook collection, but none of them seemed quite right. The one I ended up making was good, but I had to go order the Mary Mac’s cookbook at the end of it, because after eating theirs a close second simply would not do.
This didn’t stop us devouring it.
Ingredients (makes one pie, serves 8-12 depending on gluttony and availability of ice cream)
For the crust:
4 T melted butter
For the filling:
1 1/2 cups sugar (I’d probably use 1/2 brown sugar next time; I was out.)
1 1/4 cups peanut butter
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 T vanilla
1/2 t salt
4 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the Oreos, filling and all, in the bowl of a food processor.
Process them until finely ground. There will probably be a few outlying chunks. I just ate them and didn’t worry about it.
Pour the crumbs into a bowl and mix in the melted butter.
Press the chocolate cookie mud into a buttered pie pan. Set the crust aside.
Place the cream cheese, peanut butter, and sugar(s) in a mixing bowl.
Mix well. The mixture will be very grainy and thick, like cookie dough.
Add the egg yolks, salt, and vanilla.
Mix them in, too. The mixture should be creamier now.
Add the cream.
Pour the mixture into the Oreo crust.
Bake at 300°F for 40-50 minutes until the filling doesn’t slosh anymore. The filling on mine cracked and bubbled and was altogether rather evil-looking (I’d have taken pictures, but we had guests.) but it was very tasty. I think it needed less cream, maybe even none at all, to get the thicker and richer consistency.
Chill before serving. As with most pies, this only gets better with ice cream!
Rosh Hashanah came and went in a blur this year, and before I knew it Yom Kippur was here, with no time to stop and think, let alone give myself a few hours of Internet time to
mess around on foodie websites write on my blog. Now that’s passed, and I find myself in an awkward position. See, I really want to talk about all the delicious things we ate on Rosh Hashanah. However, an apple confit isn’t really something any sane person wants to make at any other time of year. You see, it’s kind of a huge time investment. I spent an hour and a half slicing and peeling only to have to bake the darn thing for five hours, chill it, heat it in a water bath to loosen the caramel from the dish, and finally serve. It’s pretty much a major pain.
On the other hand, it’s very tasty, like is homemade applesauce and caramel apples got together and combined all their best qualities under the care of a talented mad scientist. It’s delightfully tart, gently caramel flavored, and just about the most apple-filled Rosh Hashanah dessert anyone could come up with. Plus, it’s completely pareve so you can still have meat as a main course. Which is good, because brisket is the best thing ever.
This recipe is adapted (slightly) and reduced from the delightful Crave, by Ludo Lefebvre. While I admit there are a tom of recipes in there that I will never ever make–the man loves pork and shellfish, apparently–it makes me sad that this cookbook has gone out of print, because it’s charming and fresh and can really make a person feel inspired to get into the kitchen right now and create a masterpiece. Keep that in mind, if you make this. It isn’t pretty, and it isn’t quick or easy, but it’s a work of culinary art nonetheless.
Ingredients (makes 1 2-quart confit, serves about 6, maybe 8 with ice cream.)
For the candied zest:
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
For the confit proper:
2 cups sugar (divided use)
3 T water
8-10 Granny Smith apples (about 5 pounds)
about 1 T vanilla
cinnamon or anise to taste
Wash the citrus in hot water to remove any wax, dirt, chemicals, or whatever else from them. Peel the lemons and oranges.
Julienne the peels as finely as you’re comfortable with. This takes longer than it ought to.
Put the peels in a pot of water and boil them for 5 or 6 minutes, to leach out the bitter flavors.
Heat the sugar and water up to dissolve the sugar.
Add the julienned peel and simmer the mixture for about half an hour.
While that’s simmering away, let’s make some caramel. Combine 1 cup of sugar and 3 T of water in a small saucepan.
Bring it to a boil.
Let it just barely start to turn golden brown.
No, not that brown!
If you burn it (like I did. Twice.) just throw it away and start over. If you didn’t burn it, pour the caramel into a 2-quart soufflé dish and swirl it around so the caramel coats the sides. When you’ve done that, plop the dish in the freezer to firm the caramel up.
Finally, you can start working on the apple part of this dish. if you have an apple corer, use it. If not, just cut each apple in half.
Slice them either manually or with a mandoline. Full disclosure: I hate my mandoline. It’s bulky and gets dull faster than any of my knives and takes about ten minutes to clean. But nothing makes cleaner slices. So about twice a year I grouse and groan and pull the darned thing out of the cabinet. Use a small biscuit cutter or a knife or an ice cream cone mold to remove any bits of core.
Lay some apple slices in overlapping circles in the caramel-lined soufflé dish . Brush that layer with a bit of vanilla and sprinkle on 2-3 T of sugar and a bit of cinnamon or anise.
Continue making layers and topping them until the apples are just taller than your dish. Top that with about 1/4 to 1/3 of your candied citrus peels.
Top the whole thing off with a round of parchment paper and an oven-safe plate.
Put the confit in the oven at the low, low temperature of 250°F for five hours. Just ignore it, it’ll be all right.
Once it’s fully baked, put it in the refrigerator for at least two hours. When you’re ready to serve, put the soufflé mold into a big pot of simmering water for about two minutes to melt the caramel on the outside of the confit.
Remove the confit from the pot of water. Place your serving dish up-side down on top of the soufflé dish and flip the confit over onto the serving dish. The confit should slide out onto the plate.
Top with the remaining candied peels and serve.