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Monday, June 30, 2014

Sweet Treats for the 4th of July!

Happy Monday! After a 20 hour weekend of training towards a fitness certification, I am ready to focus on the deliciousness that is the 4th of July! Whether refreshingly cold or just refreshing, these desserts are worth the time.

Turning big cookies into little bites of heaven...
Ice Cream Sandwiches
Chris Morocco


  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1 pint ice cream (any flavor)
  1. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, and corn syrup in another medium bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolk and vanilla; beat until combined.
  2. Reduce mixer speed to low, add dry ingredients, and mix until just combined. Mix in sour cream. Form dough into a 3/4"-thick square, wrap tightly in plastic, and chill until firm, 2-3 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out dough between 2 sheets of parchment to about 1/8" thickness. Transfer dough (still between parchment) to a large baking sheet and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes. Remove top sheet of parchment (it will come away easily if dough is well chilled) and trim to a 14x10" rectangle. Bake cookie until dry and just set at edges, 8-10 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack; let cookie cool.
  4. Trim cookie to a 12x9" rectangle, then cut into twelve 3" squares. Scoop ice cream into a medium bowl and mix just until softened, 2-3 minutes. Turn 6 cookies bottom side up. Dividing evenly, scoop ice cream on top and flatten slightly; top with remaining cookies, pressing down gently. Place sandwiches on a parchmentlined baking sheet and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours. Cut sandwiches in half on a diagonal to make triangles. Wrap in parchment, if desired, and freeze until ready to serve.
DO AHEAD: Ice cream sandwiches can be made 1 week ahead. Keep frozen.

Sophisticated celebrations...
Strawberry-Ricotta Tartlets
Heather Tirrell

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 cup graham flour (see Note)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons molasses
  • 3/4 pound strawberries, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh ricotta (10 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  1. In a bowl, whisk both flours with the cinnamon, salt and cloves. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter, light brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar at medium speed until fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in the honey and molasses, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the side of the bowl and beat in the flour mixture at low speed, just until incorporated. Pat the dough into a disk, cover with plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick. Using a 3 1/2-inch oval cookie cutter, stamp out 16 ovals; reroll the dough scraps if necessary. Transfer the ovals to the baking sheets and bake for about 12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until lightly golden around the edges. Let cool on the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer the ovals to racks to cool completely.
  3. In a bowl, toss the strawberries with the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and the lemon juice. Let stand until syrupy, 20 minutes.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, confectioners' sugar and lemon zest. Spread about 1 tablespoon of the ricotta mixture on each oval. Arrange the strawberries over the ricotta, drizzle with the syrup and serve.
NOTES Graham flour is a type of whole wheat flour. Look for it at health-food stores.

Bringing back memories of childhood...
Peanut Butter and Jelly Ice Cream Sandwiches
Carol Kicinski

PB Ice Cream:
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of kosher or fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
PB Cookies:
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar plus more for rolling the cookies in
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten with a fork
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 3/4 cup jam or jelly, room temperature
PB Ice Cream:
  1. Using a handheld mixer, cream the peanut butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth. Add 1 cup of half-and-half and beat on low speed until well mixed. Add the rest of the half-and-half and the cream and whisk by hand—if you try to use your mixer you will end up with it splattering all over the kitchen.
  2. Pour the mixture into ice cream maker and process for 25 to 30 minutes, or according to the manufacturer's directions. The ice cream will be on the soft side but can be eaten right away or put into the freezer to "cure" or harden up for a couple hours. Stored in an airtight container, the ice cream will keep at least a week in the freezer.
PB Cookies:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with either parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  2. In a large bowl mix the peanut butter with the 1 cup of sugar, using a wooden spoon. Stir until well blended. Add the egg, baking powder, and vanilla and stir well. Pour some additional sugar in a small bowl. Scoop out 1 tablespoon of the dough and roll it into a ball. Roll the dough ball in some of the remaining sugar and place on the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the cookies 2 inches apart.
  3. Using a dinner fork, first stick the tines of the fork in sugar and then gently press the tines down on each dough ball to flatten. Turn the fork 90 degrees and gently press again to make the traditional crosshatch markings of a peanut butter cookie.
  4. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Then, with a spatula, gently transfer the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  1. Prepare the peanut butter ice cream and let harden in the freezer for about 6 hours.
  2. Prepare the dough for peanut butter cookies and divide the dough into 16 walnut-size balls. Proceed with the recipe from there, baking the cookies 10 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool completely.
  3. To assemble the ice cream sandwiches remove the ice cream from the freezer and let it stand at room temperature for about 5 minutes to soften slightly.
  4. Spread a layer of jam on the flat side of each peanut butter cookie. Place a scoop of peanut butter ice cream in the center of half the cookies, on top of the jam. Top with the remaining cookies, jam side down. Gently squeeze the cookies together until the ice cream and jam come to the edges of the cookies. Put the ice cream sandwiches back in the freezer for at least 15 minutes to harden the jam. These can be made 2 days ahead. Place them in a large plastic storage bag or airtight container and store in freezer.

Happy baking!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Grill Season's BACK!

Happy Hump day everyone! So you know I just L-O-V-E LOVE to grill, and desserts are no different. I'm bringing back three new dessert recipes to try this year, while you're out on the grill. Enjoy!

Classic...reinvented...and grilled...
Grilled Strawberry Shortcake with Lemon Cream
Kelsey Nixon

Lemon Cream:
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
Shortcake and Glaze:
  • 16 large strawberries, from a 1-pound package, hulled
  • 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • store-bought pound cake, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
  • Special Equipment: 4 metal skewers

  1. Preheat a grill to medium-high heat.
  2. For the lemon cream: Beat the cream, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest in a mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Add the sour cream and then hand whisk until slightly more thickened. Place in a 1-gallon resealable bag, chill and set aside. This can be made ahead of time and kept well chilled until ready to use.
  3. For the shortcake and glaze: Slide 4 strawberries onto each skewer. Mix together the sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl.
  4. Grill the cake slices using tongs until grill marks appear, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Follow by grilling the strawberries, flipping once, until grill marks appear, about 3 minutes. Transfer thestrawberries to a cutting board and slice in half. Coat the strawberries in the glaze or brush on.
  5. Build the sandwiches by putting lemon cream on one side of the cake, followed by 4 strawberry halves. Add another layer of lemon cream and top with the remaining cake slice.
  6. Cook's Notes: The gallon bag used to hold your lemon cream can be easily turned into a pastry bag that allows for easy piping. Simply pull up on one of the bottom corners to the top of the resealable bag and twist making a cone shape into the opposite corner which you will snip with your scissors. Then apply light pressure moving from the top to the bottom of the bag and you now have a pastry bag! Wrap sandwiches in parchment paper and serve.
  7. If you are traveling from a prep area to another grilling destination, pack an On the Go Grilling bag. Some suggested items to make the cooking cleaner and easier is to include things like heat-resistant gloves, matches, mini cutting board, salt, pepper towels, tongs, disposable gloves, paper towels, knife, trash bags, newspaper and kitchen shears or scissors.
Lizzy Bee's Note: While the recipe says "Store bought" cake, if you have your own favorite pound cake, use that! Takes more time, but it makes it your own. If you're in a hurry, there are some great brands of store bought in the supermarket.

From the grill master...
Grilled Banana and Nutella Panini
Bobby Flay

  • 3 ripe bananas, sliced
  • 12 slices whole-wheat bread
  • 1 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (recommended: Nutella)
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
  1. Place the bananas in a bowl and mash until smooth. 
  2. Place the slices of bread on a flat surface and spread each slice with some of the hazelnut spread. Spread the mashed banana over 6 of the slices and combine the slices to make 6 sandwiches. 
  3. Heat the grill to medium-high. 
  4. Spread 1 side of each sandwich with some of the butter and place on the grill, buttered-side down. Grill until golden brown. Spread the remaining butter on the bread facing up, flip over and continue grilling until golden brown. Remove from the grill and sprinkle with the confectioners' sugar. Eat immediately.

Fire it up!
Fire-Roasted Berry Crostini with Honey Creme Fraiche
Michael Chiarello

  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Three 1/2-inch-thick slices of country bread, halved crosswise
  • Softened unsalted butter, for brushing
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 4 cups mixed fresh berries
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  1. Light a hardwood charcoal fire. In a bowl, whisk the crème fraîche with the honey.
  2. Brush both sides of the bread slices with butter and generously sprinkle with sugar. Grill the bread over moderately high heat, turning once, until crisp and caramelized, 3 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let cool.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss the berries with the 1/4 cup of sugar and the salt. Spread the berries on a perforated grill sheet or in a grill basket and grill over moderately high heat, tossing, until starting to burst, 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool slightly.
  4. Spoon the berries on the crostini and top with dollops of the honey crème fraîche.

Happy baking (and grilling)!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Light Summertime Pasta Salad!

Happy Thursday! It turned into a beautiful day here in the tri-state area, but unfortunately the grills are a little too wet to use. Fear not my friends, because today I bring you a deliciously filling, satisfying, and healthy pasta salad that would still be great to eat while sitting outside. It's fast and easy, and full of flavor. Enjoy!

Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes 
Ina Garten


  • 1/2 pound fusilli (spirals) pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, medium-diced
  • 3/4 cup good black olives, such as kalamata, pitted and diced
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, medium-diced
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
For the dressing
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1 teaspoon capers, drained
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves, julienned

  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water with a splash of oil to keep it from sticking together. Boil for 12 minutes, or according to the directions on the package. Drain well and allow to cool. Place the pasta in a bowl and add the tomatoes, olives, mozzarella, and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.
  2. For the dressing, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt, and pepper in a food processor until almost smooth.
  3. Pour the dressing over the pasta, sprinkle with the Parmesan and basil, and toss well.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

World Class Desserts for the World Cup

Happy Hump Day everyone! The soccer fever has been spreading quickly online, and it's time we got in the spirit! Here are a few recipes for your soccer viewing pleasure. Spread the deliciousness from around the world!

Dulce de Leche and Chocolate Chunk Bread Pudding
Jill O'Connor

  • 8 1/2-inch-thick slices egg bread (about 4 x 5 inches), crusts trimmed, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup purchased dulce de leche ice cream topping or butterscotch-caramel sauce plus more for serving
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place bread in large bowl. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons melted butter; toss. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet. Bake until bread begins to color, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Cool. Brush 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish with 1 tablespoon melted butter.
  2. Stir whipping cream and 1 cup dulce de leche in medium saucepan over medium heat until blended and bubbling. Remove from heat. Whisk eggs and yolks in large bowl. Add rum, vanilla, and salt; gradually whisk in warm dulce de leche mixture. Stir in bread cubes. Let soak 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Mix chocolate chips into custard mixture. Pour into prepared dish. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake pudding until puffed and set in center, about 35 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar. Serve warm, passing more dulce de leche topping alongside.

Lamington Bars
Shaun Hergatt


  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons milk
Chocolate Ganache
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • One 9-ounce jar of raspberry jam
  • 1/2 pound unsweetened shredded coconut

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on high speed until light and foamy, about 5 minutes.
  3. In another bowl, sift the flour and baking powder together.
  4. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and add the corn syrup.
  5. Remove the egg mixture from the mixer. With a silicone spatula, fold in the flour mixture. Add the milk, and then the butter mixture, just until combined. Spread the batter onto the prepared pan. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack
Chocolate Ganache
  1. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream over a medium heat, just until boiling. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, stirring until melted and smooth.
  1. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper. Cut the sponge in half, down the middle. Spread the raspberry jam evenly over one half and place the other half on top. Cut into even cubes.
  2. Using a fork, dip each cube into the chocolate ganache, and then roll each one in a bowl of the coconut, coating the entire cube. Place the coated cube on the parchment-lined half-sheet pan. Repeat this process and chill the pan full of cubes, uncovered, in the refrigerator for a few minutes to set.

Passion Fruit and Guava Pops
Rochelle Palermo


  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
  • 7 to 8 ripe passion fruits (about 11 ounces), halved
  • 1 11.5-ounce can guava nectar (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • Special equipment: 8 3-ounce disposable paper cups; 8 ice pop sticks or lollipop sticks
  • Ingredient info: Choose passion fruit that is wrinkled on the outside, which indicates that the fruit is ripe.

  1. Combine 1/3 cup water, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon lime juice in small bowl; stir until sugar dissolves. Using spoon, scoop flesh from passion fruits into sugar mixture. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer into small bowl; press on seeds with rubber spatula to extract as much liquid as possible (you will need 1 cup strained liquid); discard seeds in strainer.
  2. Divide passion fruit mixture among eight 3-ounce paper cups (about 2 tablespoons for each). Stretch plastic wrap tightly over top of each cup, covering completely and securing each with rubber band. Insert ice pop stick or lollipop stick through plastic wrap and into mixture in each cup (taut plastic will hold stick in place). Place cups in muffin pan, tilting cups at angle. Freeze until passion fruit mixture is set, about 3 hours.
  3. Meanwhile, stir guava nectar, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1 tablespoon lime juice in 2-cup measuring cup until sugar dissolves. Chill mixture until cold.
  4. Remove cups with frozen passion fruit mixture from freezer; stand cups upright in muffin pan. Peel back some of plastic wrap on each. Pour guava mixture atop frozen passion fruit mixture in cups, dividing equally. Cover with plastic wrap, secure with rubber band, and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep frozen.
  5. Using scissors, cut off paper cups from pops and serve immediately.

Happy World Cup baking!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Light, Light, Light Pasta Salad AND Desserts with Booze

Happy Tuesday everyone! Gloomy, gloomy here this week, so last night I made a really delicious Greek pasta salad. You can easily make your own at home - fusilli pasta (let cool slightly), kalamata olives, red onions (I sauteed with garlic), tomato chunks, cucumber chunks, parsley, and feta cheese. Dress lightly with an olive oil-based dressing with dill, basil, and oregano. Yum!

Now finish your meal with a boozy are some ideas.

Cucumber-Lime Pops with Gin
Tim Love

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup gin
  • One 12-ounce cucumber—peeled, seeded and pureed (1 1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar with the 1/4 cup of water and the mint and bring to a boil. Cover, remove from the heat and let stand for 15 minutes. Strain the mint syrup into a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Whisk in the lime zest, lime juice, gin and cucumber puree.
  2. In a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining 1 tablespoon of water and let stand until softened, 5 minutes. Microwave the mixture at high power for 8 seconds, until the gelatin dissolves. Whisk the gelatin into the cucumber mixture.
  3. Arrange ten 2-ounce paper cups on a baking sheet. Pour the popsicle mixture into the cups and freeze for 1 hour, until partially frozen. Insert a stick in the center of each cup and freeze for 30 minutes longer, until fully frozen. Tear off the paper and serve.

Herbs and citrus...
Lemon Thyme Madeleines with Lemon Vodka Syrup
Gourmet, January 1995

For madeleines
  • 2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest (from about 7 large lemons)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
For lemon syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon vodka
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
Make madeleines:
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. and generously butter and flour a madeleine pan (preferably non-stick), knocking out excess flour.
  2. In a bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, zest, and thyme.
  3. In another bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter, lemon juice, and sugar until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, and add flour mixture, beating until just combined.
  4. Spoon some of batter into prepared madeleine molds and with a spatula smooth surfaces, scraping back and forth over molds and returning excess batter to bowl. (This will eliminate any air pockets and ensure that molds are not overfilled.) Wipe excess batter from edges of pan.
  5. Bake madeleines in middle of oven 20 to 25 minutes, or until edges are browned and tops are golden. Loosen edges and transfer madeleines to a rack set over a baking dish. Make more madeleines in pan, cleaned, buttered, and floured, with remaining batter in same manner.
Make lemon syrup:
  1. While first batch of madeleines is baking, in a small saucepan bring syrup ingredients to a boil, stirring, and remove from heat.
  2. Brush warm madeleines with some of hot syrup and repeat with remaining madeleines as they are baked, keeping syrup warm.

Southern fun...
Buttermilk Cake with Sour Milk Jam and Gin-Poached Cherries
Ari Taymor, Alma


Buttermilk cake:
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour plus more
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
Sour milk jam:
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup crème fraîche
  • Gin-poached cherries and assembly:
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1 cup gin
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons juniper berries
  • Fennel fronds (for serving)
Special equipment:
  • A 9"-diameter cake pan

For buttermilk cake: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour pan. Whisk baking soda, salt, and 2 cups flour in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour pan. Whisk baking soda, salt, and 2 cups flour in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and 1 1/4 cups butter in another medium bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and scraping down sides of bowl.
  4. Reduce mixer speed to low and, with motor running, add dry ingredients in 3 additions alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Scrape batter into prepared pan.
  5. Bake until cake is golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool before turning out.
DO AHEAD: Cake can be made 2 days ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.
For sour milk jam:
  1. Bring milk and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar; reduce heat and simmer gently, whisking occasionally, until mixture measures a scant 1/4 cup, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl; let cool (it will thicken as it sits). Whisk in crème fraîche, cover, and chill.
DO AHEAD: Jam can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.
For gin-poached cherries and assembly: 
  1. Bring cherries, gin, sugar, juniper berries, and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat and simmer until liquid is syrupy, 6-8 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Spoon a few dollops of jam onto plates. Tear cake into pieces and arrange around jam. Top with cherries and fennel fronds.
DO AHEAD: Cherries can be poached 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.

Happy baking!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Baking Bonanza!

Happy Wednesday! It's been a busy baking week for me, and I've got the pictures to show for it! Take a look:
Pecan streusel  banana cake

Cinnamon babka!

Box clockwise from left: babka, chocolate chip
cookies, and sables.
Not pictured: Lizzy Bee's famous brownies
Now let's talk babka! If you make it with a cinnamon shmear filling and a streusel topping, your home will smell just like cinnamon cake! (I'm salivating already.) Think of a babka like a yeasty coffee cake. This recipe takes a few hours to rise, but it'll be worth the time - trust me. 

"Better Than the Bakery's" Babka
Adapted from Marcy Goldman

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons yeast
  • pinch sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 drops almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup milk powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter - softened in small pieces
  • 6 cups (approx.) Hodgson Mill or Five Roses unbleached all-purpose flour or combination (or see notes above).

Chocolate, Cinnamon (below)

Egg Wash
l beaten egg
Sugar for sprinkling

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together water, yeast, and pinch of sugar.  Let stand about five minutes to allow yeast to swell and dissolve. Stir in eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, almond extract, lemon juice, sugar, salt and milk powder. Fold in softened butter and flour. Mix dough, then knead as it becomes a mass (with a dough hook or by hand) for about 8 to 10 minutes - until smooth and elastic.
  2.  Place dough in a well greased bowl and place entire bowl in a plastic bag and seal. Allow to rise until puffy, about 45-90 minutes. (Can also be refrigerated overnight to resume next day, allowing dough to warm up a bit before proceeding). Divide dough in two equal parts. Cover with a tea towel and let rest ten minutes. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or generously grease two 9 inch springform or layer cake pans. If making one large bubka, generously butter a 10 inch tube pan.
  3.  On a lightly floured board, roll dough into a 16 by 16 inch square. Arrange or spread on filling of choice (below) all over dough surface. Roll up dough into a large jellyroll. Cut in half. Place both halves in prepared pan, beside each other - it doesn't matter if they are a little squished. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with some sugar. Place loaf pan in a  plastic bag and let rise until bubka is flush or over top of pan.
  4.  Repeat with other half of dough, using a different filling, if desired.
  5.  To use all of dough in one large bubka, procedure is the same but you will be using all of dough at once. Roll dough out into a 20 inch square (instead of 16 by 16) and proceed as above. A large bubka is especially dramatic but two smaller ones give you two flavor and assembly options.
  6.  Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake 35-45 minutes (50-70 minutes for one large bubka) until bubka is medium brown. Cool pan fifteen minutes before removing to a rack or serving plate.

Chocolate Filling (baker's call this a 'smear")
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine

Grind chocolate chips, cinnamon, cocoa, sugar, and butter in a food
processor to make a loose paste. You can also use a chopped up, imported
Swiss chocolate bar, semi-sweet or milk chocolate.

Cinnamon Smear:
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 2-4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts - optional

In a food processor, process the butter, sugar, corn syrup, cinnamon and
walnuts to make a loose paste. You can substitute maple syrup for corn syrup.

Happy baking!