Category Archives: Desserts

sprrrriiiing?

I’m not quite sure it’s spring here yet.  We’ve had days in the 60s, the tulips are ready to burst open, multiple frilly rhubarb leaves have unfurled, but now the weather people are predicting SNOW! (I will say that I’ll take snow over flooding any day and my thoughts are with everyone in the South who’ve got much worse weather than we do.)

But in my head (and my stomach), it’s definitely spring. I’m craving  my family’s traditionally “spring” foods, like new potatoes roasted with thyme and carrots cooked with a little butter and honey.

There are cats in open windows. Definitely a sign of spring.

We grilled a white chicken pizza with asparagus on Sunday- a perfect meal after a long weekend of patio- and firepit-building.

And, of course, we’ve been indulging in one of my favorite spring treats- roasted strawberries with boozy whipped cream. It’s a perfect combination, and of course the extra whipped cream is a natural accompaniment for your first-of-the-season cobblers and pies.

Roasted Strawberries

I didn’t get a picture of the roasted berries, but will try to remember to take one and upload later in the week.
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Wash and hull 1 cup of strawberries.  Slice the large ones into quarters and the medium and small guys into halves.  Place on the parchment and sprinkle 1/4 cup white sugar over the top.  Toss gently to distribute the sugar and coat the berries evenly.  Roast on the bottom rack for 30 minutes; cool at room temperature for 10 minutes and transfer to a container to finish cooling in the fridge (or the freezer, if you’re as anxious as I am!)

Boozy whipped cream
And you thought the strawberries were a cinch?  This is truly the easiest thing in the world:

Set a small bowl and beaters of an electric mixer (or stand mixer) in the freezer for 5 minutes.  Assemble 1 cup of heavy whipping cream (avoid the ultra-pasturized if possible), 2 teaspoons white sugar, and 2 tablespoons of brandy, bourbon, or your favorite liqueur.  Begin whipping the cream in the cold bowl; after a minute, add the sugar and booze. Continue whipping until it’s set. Serve on anything and everything, including those strawberries.  And go outside to admire the flowers.

Also delicious served with angel food cake, pound cake, or short cakes!

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Condiments, etc., Desserts, Spring, Summer

Chocolate espresso biscotti


My mother-in-law has a special spot in her heart for biscotti, and her passion has been passed down to her son and daughter. With both siblings’ birthdays in April and Mother’s Day in May, what better opportunity for the daughter-in-law?

And the best part is, my mother-in-law loves them.  They’ve been part of her Christmas gift for the last two years, and both times she called in January to tell me that she had hidden and hoarded them, enjoying one every few days to make them last.  She called me after she ate the last one and told me she needed more, pronto- the biscotti were helping her maintain her sanity.

When I first set out to make biscotti, I had my heart set on a “mocha” flavored cookie and I felt like I had won the lottery when I found this recipe.  I increased the espresso powder slightly, and the effect is exactly what I was looking for– crunchy, crumbly texture with an initial pungent punch of espresso, followed by the bitter/smooth combo of 60% cacao chocolate. Add in the ribbons of white chocolate on top and the occasional burst of white chocolate sweetness in the biscotti, and you’ve got heaven. Italian cookie heaven.


I use Ghirardelli chocolate chips, because the quality and taste is pretty consistent, I think they’re much better than some of the cheaper brands, and they won’t break the bank.  Target seems to have them every Christmastime, so I stock up for a few batches throughout the year.

Chocolate espresso biscotti
Adopted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
3 T instant espresso powder (I used the darkest instant coffee powder I could find, because I couldn’t find instant espresso)
3/4 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1 t salt
6 T unsalted butter,  room temperature
1 c sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 c (4 oz.) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or chips
2 c (16 oz) white chocolate, chopped or chips

Directions:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until pale, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs and the vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes. (Don’t worry if the mixture looks funky; it gets better, I promise.) Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the dry ingredients gradually, mixing only until a dough forms.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix in 1 cup of the white chocolate and all of the bittersweet chocolate.

Sprinkle some flour on a clean work surface.  Dust your hands with some flour – the dough may be very sticky.  Turn the dough out and knead in any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing, and then divide the dough in half.  Working with one half at a time, roll the dough into 10-inch long logs.  Transfer logs onto the baking sheet.  Flatten both logs so that they are 1/2 to 1 inch high and a couple inches apart.

Bake the logs for 20-25 minutes, or until they are just slightly firm.  The tops should spread and crack during baking.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven, place on a wire rack and allow to cool for 20 minutes.  Then working with one log at a time, cut each log into slices 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick– cut parallel to the shorter edge.  Slightly separate the slices on the baking sheet.  Bake the cookies again, this time for 10 minutes.  Transfer to a rack to cool.

While cooling, melt the remaining white chocolate.  (I add 1/2 tsp. of shortening, if I’ve got it, to the melting chocolate to encourage a glossy consistency.) With a teaspoon, drizzle the white chocolate over the biscotti in ribbons. Let the chocolate set before serving or storing.

*These cookies can be stored in a sealed container for a few weeks, or indefinitely in the freezer- if they last that long. Enjoy!

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Filed under Cookies, Desserts, Winter

Ritz cookies

Is this even a recipe?

I’m pretty sure it’s not.  But I still think that besides being my husband’s favorite, it’s the easiest Christmas “cookie” ever.

I have never seen these outside of my family’s holiday gatherings, though I’m not surprised… they really shouldn’t count as cookies.  But for whatever reason, they’re always loved.  Something as simple a creamy peanut butter spread between two Ritz crackers and dunked into melted chocolate bark shouldn’t be this good.

And yet, it is.

Ritz Cookies

Spread approximately 1/2 T of creamy peanut butter onto a Ritz cracker; add another cracker to make a sandwich. Dip in melted chocolate bark and lay on waxed paper til cool.  Stores in an air-tight container at room temperature for about a week, or in the freezer for a month or longer.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Cookies, Desserts

[fantastic] cocoa brownies

Deb wasn’t kidding when she titled these, “the best cocoa brownies.”  For the last few years, I have been a tempered chocolate snob. Cakes, cookies, biscotti… all of them have come from a chocolate recipe.

Let me tell you, that attitude is out.the.window. Gone. Because these brownies are THAT good.

That easy, too- one bowl! 

I made very few changes:  I personally love a subtle molasses flavor in my chocolate treats, so included dark brown sugar. I also doubled the salt, and instead of vanilla I used coffee liqueur.  I figured that a small amount of delicate vanilla might get lost under the rich texture and taste, whereas coffee would play a strong supporting role.  I definitely suggest it if you’ve got it in your liquor cabinet (and you should- White Russians are one reason for the season). Otherwise a teaspoon of leftover coffee or made with instant coffee granules would work nicely.

Cocoa Brownies
adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen, originally from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet

10 T. unsalted butter
3/4 c. white granulated sugar
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
3/4 c. + 2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/2 t. salt
1 t. coffee liqueur
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 c. all-purpose flour

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.

Place the butter in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Add the sugars, cocoa, and salt.  Stir once the butter begins to melt. Continue stirring as the butter completely melts and the ingredients come together. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. [It may look gritty (photo belongs to Smitten Kitchen), but will it smooth out once the eggs and flour are added.]

Stir in the coffee liqueur with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.  Add the flour and stir until well combined, and then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon.  Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter; 20 to 25 minutes is Medrich’s suggestion but it took me 30 minutes. Let cool completely.  Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

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Filed under Desserts

Sourdough Chocolate Cake

I made this cake for my love on our first wedding anniversary.  Not only was it pretty and quite rich and delicious, there was actually a little thought and symbolism behind it.

Because the way I see it, our sourdough starter is a sort of pseudo-first child. We began our starter shortly after we moved into our first house together. And it started with three very basic ingredients- flour, water, and love. (Okay, so it was flour, water, and a nearly-neglected Amish friendship bread bag-o-mush picked out of the office breakroom. Which could be similar to love, to some people.)

We fed and watered our sourdough. We let it bubble and breathe. We stirred it gently with a wooden stick. We baked some of it every weekend, more and more excited as it became sourer and sourer.

And as we adopted a cat, tore down a garage, built a new garage, adopted a second cat, bought new furniture from a real furniture store (not a thrift store) for the first time… we nurtured our sourdough. It brought us closer together.  Really. It did.

Hence the cake. It was really delicious. And topped with love. And ganache.

Sourdough Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Sourdough Jack’s Cookery, via Orangette

1 c. thick sourdough starter
3/4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. dark brown sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 c. milk at room temperature
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. coffee liqueur
1 t. ground cinnamon
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 t. salt
1-1/2 t. baking soda
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Leave a cup of starter out overnight (this is called proofing).

Preheat oven to 350 (or 330 with convection). Cream the sugars and butter until fluffy, then beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in starter, milk, vanilla, liqueur, cinnamon, and melted chocolate. Beat with an electric mixer or a muscled arm for two minutes.  Sprinkle the salt and baking soda over the top of the batter and then fold in gently. Fold in flour until batter is smooth. Pour into buttered and floured pan. (I used an 8-inch round springform; Mollie used a Bundt pan.)

Bake until cake springs back when pressed lightly and a cake tester comes out clean, 35-60 minutes, depending on the type of pan you use. Cool; frost or sprinkle with powdered sugar; serve to your love; savor the moments.

Basic chocolate ganache
Be sure your cake is cool to the touch before frosting with ganache, as it’s very sticky and can crumb up easily if the cake is warm.

8 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
3/4 c. heavy cream
2 T. butter
1 T. coffee or chocolate liqueur

Roughly chop the chocolate into small pieces, and place them into a medium glass bowl. Heat the cream and butter in a saucepan just until it begins to boil on the edges. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk carefully until all of the chocolate is melted. Whisk in the liqueur. Allow the ganache to sit for a few minutes before frosting.

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Filed under Desserts, Marriage

home + easy apple cake

Home.  It took awhile, but finally the place where I live feels more like home than any other “home” I’ve had.

My parents, brother, and I moved into their current house when I was about 14. We were old enough that there are no childhood memories of playing make-believe with my brother or hearing Santa on Christmas Eve in that house.  Still, until recently, I felt most “at home” snuggled up in a quilt on my parents’ living room floor, with N and my brother and mom and dad in front of the TV.

It took awhile for N and I to make our first house feel less like a storage unit. But slowly, the little things– knickknacks that find their windowsills; smells that become familiar and welcoming; my cats sleeping on my lap; and most importantly, my husband beside me– make me feel like I’m at home.

This apple cake did the same thing.

Quick Apple Cake
from Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax

Serves 8 (or fewer!)

The reason the piece in the picture looks so wonky is because we suddenly were eating the last two pieces and I realized I hadn’t yet taken a picture!

The recipe calls for thin slices of apple, but I cut my slices slightly thicker with a shorter rectangle shape, and we loved the definite commitment to apple vs. cake.

3 medium-sized apples, peeled, cored and chopped into bite-sized (about 3 cups)
1 t. lemon juice
3/4 c. plus 3 tablespoons sugar
2 t. cinnamon
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 t. good vanilla
1/2 t. salt
1 c. sifted all-purpose flour (sift in salt)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a pie or cake pan. Toss the apples in the pan with the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and the cinnamon. Spread apples evenly in the bottom of the pan

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook until lightly golden, about 7 minutes. Watch carefully and stir to avoid burning. Pour the clear, browned butter into a medium bowl, leaving any sediment or foam in the pan.

Stir the 3/4 cup sugar into the butter with a spatula or spoon (not a whisk). Gently stir in the eggs and vanilla; stir in the salt and flour until blended. Spoon the batter evenly over the apples and spread into a layer. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake until lightly golden and crusty, 35 to 45 minutes.

The recipe suggests serving with vanilla ice cream, but eating a warm slice with fresh softly-whipped cream made me go all melty on the inside.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Desserts, Fall

Apfelstrudel

I made this last weekend for part of our Oktoberfest meal. I made it easy by using a pre-packaged puff pastry, but an ambitious individual could certainly make their own puff pastry in addition to making the filling. We served this with plenty of fresh whipped cream, and it only lasted 2 days between the 2 of us!

Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel)

1 puff pastry sheet
3 T. raisins
2-3 T. golden rum or bourbon
3 medium green apples, about 1.25 pounds
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 c. butter, separated (3 T. butter + 5 T. butter)
3/4 c. fine bread crumbs
1/2 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped

Set puff pastry out to thaw according to directions. You’ll want it chilly but malleable when it comes time to roll out.

Combine raisins and rum in a small bowl.  Peel, core, and slice the apples into quarter-slices about 1/4 inch thick. Place them in a large bowl and add sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg; toss and set aside.

In a large pan, melt 3 T. butter on medium-high heat. Add the bread crumbs and stir to coat; continue to stir while the crumbs toast, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.

Heat oven to 400 F.  Melt the remaining 5 T. butter. Roll out the puff pastry sheet to approximately 9 x 13 inches. (I did this on parchment paper that was generously floured.) Brush half of the melted butter onto the puff pastry. Sprinkle and pat the bread crumbs on top of the buttered pastry.

With the long edge positioned left to right, sprinkle the walnuts down the center of the pastry from top to bottom, in a column about 4 inches wide. On top of the walnuts, place the sugared apple slices compactly and somewhat stacked. Pour the raisins, rum and all, over the apple slices and distribute evenly.

Wrap the edges of the pastry over the top of the apple column, which may require some flour, stretching, and patience. Pinch the ends closed best you can. Brush the remaining melted butter over the top of the strudel, and make a few slices across the top to vent and for aesthetic.

Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the top third of the oven for about 30 minutes, until pastry is golden brown and baked through.  Let cool at room temperature for half an hour or longer before dusting with powdered sugar and carefully slicing with a serrated knife.

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Filed under Desserts, Fall