Advertisements

Summer, with a capital “S”, beginning with the longest day of the year, is weeks away, but thanks to our local school board, summer is in full swing here.  School is out, pools are open, and that means it is time to break out the ice cream maker.  My kids and I (since I teach for a living) are wholeheartedly leaping into carefree summer-mode.  I am now in the business of putting smiles on their sweet little faces and nothing works better for that than some form of sweet frozen goodness.

Lebovitz’s Strawberry Frozen Yogurt made its way into our lives (and bellies) last summer.  As strawberry season unfolded this year, I could not wait to make it again.  David Lebovitz is a master of desserts and this frozen yogurt is no exception.  The recipe starts with a full pound of perfectly ripe seasonal strawberries macerating in sugar and vodka.  Once they are nice and syrupy, simply blend them with yogurt (he calls for whole milk, but I find lowfat makes it perfectly creamy) and pour into your ice cream maker.  Wow, the result is frozen yogurt with an amazingly intense strawberry flavor not to mention the remarkable pink color.  The yogurt has a tender yielding texture and truly tastes like strawberries.  Head for the field or market, gather the most delectable strawberries you can find and make this dessert.  It is sure to bring a smile to your face.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

I fell in love with carrot cake, when I fell in love with my husband. For years I had an exclusive (some would say dependent) relationship with chocolate. Given a choice of ice cream, cake, cookies, snacks, drinks (you get the picture), I would almost always sway towards the chocolate offering. So you can imagine the shock and ensuing protest when he suggested we serve carrot cake at our wedding. I still do not know how he convinced me, but I did give up the vision of rich chocolate cake with richer, thicker chocolate frosting willingly agreed to carrot cake. One of our marriage’s first big compromises.

Key to our agreement was that we found an absolutely fantastic bakery, The Buttery in Santa Cruz, that baked up the most luscious carrot cake imaginable. This was 10 years ago and I still remember how delicious it was! This recipe is NOT from The Buttery, I adapted it from one clipped from a newspaper years ago, but it is the next best thing. It includes the absolutely key ingredient BUTTER! Flip through a pile of carrot cake recipes and you will see how rare this ingredient is. Almost all of the carrot cake recipes in my collection call for vegetable oil, which makes a nice moist cake, but fails to deliver the distinctive buttery note that reminds me that chocolate (while a delicious intoxicant) is not the only way to celebrate an occasion. The cream cheese frosting is super creamy and just sweet and tangy enough to add a nice counterpoint to the rich cake.

This particular cake I whipped up for a very special person to celebrate her 65th birthday. Which brings me to another reason to love carrot cake… there is no need to wait for a birthday or wedding. Carrot cake is fancy enough to hold its own on these occasions, but simple enough for an afternoon snack. Really, it is full of carrots and nuts and raisins; it is practically health food!

Read the rest of this entry »

Meyer Lemon Pudding Cakes

February 25, 2012

The birthday spirit lives on around here, but the cake does not.  Given one more chance to sing a Happy Birthday, I whipped up a second birthday dessert, this one a bit brighter and lighter than the first (Caramel Cake).  There have been a lot of posts about sweets and liquor lately, but to be honest, that pretty much sums up the month of February around here.  I did mention the “birthday month“, did I not?

Meyer Lemon Pudding Cake is just the thing for a sweet wintery treat.  A cross between a souffle and lemon curd, but so much easier to prepare.  Prepare the batter and bake.  As the cake bakes it separates into two delightful layers, a lemon pudding on top and an incredibly light and moist cake on the bottom.  Serve with a gently sweetened berry sauce.  I used ollalie berries from my parents bushes (thanks Mom!), but blackberries, raspberries, even blueberries would be delicious.  This can be made one day in advance, making it a great dessert for guests.

Read the rest of this entry »

It is (one of many) “birthday months” at our house.  My husband, who resisted the idea of the birthday month for years, finally sees the beauty.  Of course it is his birthday month, and a big one at that.  Celebrating for an entire month allows for a thorough celebration.  Why choose between a party, an outing, a nice dinner, a trip?  With a birthday month you can do it all!

Our festivities began with a few good friends, lots of (still eating the leftovers!) good food, a backyard fire, and of course a birthday cake!  My husband is a caramel guy, so after trying to tempt him with cake after cake that featured the power duo of chocolate and caramel, we finally settled on a cake that did away with the distractions and featured the caramel promptly.

Caramel Cake with Brown Butter Frosting is my adaptation of a cake from Maya Angelou’s cookbook, Hallelujah.  It is a basic butter cake infused with caramel.  So there was no mistaking the caramel, I added an extra layer between the cake layers and drizzled it over the top of the cake.The frosting is the kicker.  The standard American buttercream is blown into complete deliciousness, by browning the butter and then chilling it back to proper temperature before whipping it up with powdered sugar and cream.  Yes, this frosting is outstanding! All in all, they are a great match and the cake was very well received!

Read the rest of this entry »

My search for the perfect banana bread ended years ago.  There are plenty of recipes out there, but none that fit my tall list of criteria.  So many have a dead bland banana flavor, others are too dry, or full of overpowering seasoning.  This recipe, which is my standby banana bread, is to my taste, the best. It has just the right amount of sweetness (not a lot), a crispy , crunchy, buttery crust, a moist bananay interior, and a delightful tang from the baking soda.   Chunks of dark chocolate melt into the bread making it just a little more special.

This is why, though I attempted to give another recipe a try last weekend, I simply could not find another one worth baking.  Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread, developed from years of tinkering, is the one for me.   We ate this bread for dessert after a disappointing football game, the rest served as a happy surprise in my son’s school lunch.

Read the rest of this entry »

The darkest night of the year has come and passed and the holidays are well underway, but I would be remiss to not share with you this one last edible gift.Chocolate Bark with Chile-Spiced Mango and Pepitas is everything I want in a chocolate bar.  Dark chocolate (first and most important ingredient), sweet dried mango, spicy chile pepper, crunchy pepitas, and of course the sparkling salt dancing across the top.  This combination is unexpected and delightful.

Chocolate Bark makes an excellent gift, wrapped up with a tag and a bow.  It would also be a delicious way to encourage your guest to linger at the table after their dinner.  Put out a plate of chocolate bark and let everyone break off their own piece.  It is delicious with wine or coffee.

You can find chile-spiced mango at Mexican markets and Trader Joe’s.  If you have a different taste sensation in mind, go for it!  This recipe is incredibly adaptable, just keep the proportions of chocolate to chunks the same.  Other ideas  I would like to try are Dried apricot and pistachio and dried cherry and almond.  If you want chunks of another type of chocolate (white chocolate or milk chocolate in the bark, simply chop them up and add with the nuts and fruit (do not melt).  The possibilities are endless!

Read the rest of this entry »

My holiday baking got off to a late start this year.  There are still many edible holiday treats still on my to-do list, but this was one recipe I was not going to let pass.  In fact, this the only batch of holiday cookies that I was able to fit into my schedule this year.   They are so tasty!

Chocolate Candy Cane Crackle Cookies combine rich fudgy chocolate with a hint of peppermint flavor and crunch from candy canes and peppermint schnapps.  If you like dark chocolate and peppermint, these should definitely be on your “To Bake” list. The recipe is based on one from Dorie Greenspan that ran in the November 2006 Bon Appetit.  I made the original recipe years ago and enjoyed it very much.  The seasoning (cloves and cinnamon), make it more of an adult flavored cookie.  My adaptation below follows Dorie’s basic recipe, but leaves out the spices.  In their place are chunks of candy canes and a touch of peppermint schnapps. (Finally a use for that bottle I picked up at a white elephant gift exchange last year!)

There are a few things to keep in mind when you make these cookies.  First, the candy cane chunks are bound to melt in the oven.  There is nothing really wrong with this since they will still impart their flavor, but if you, like me, want to be able to see the candy canes in the final product, be sure to leave the chunks rather big (1/4 to 1/3 inch long).  Second, the dough is tough to work with.  It is super dry and firm and  tough to roll in your hands.  Both my kids were helping to roll and we ended up with chocolate crumbs everywhere and a bunch of squarish cookies.  The good news is, it does not really matter.  The cookies will still taste great.  Lastly, do not overcook these cookies.  Since the dough is so dry, it is much better to undercook them.  Think of brownies.  You want to pull them when the dough just begins to set, but is not completely cooked through.

My happy helpers bagged these up and delivered them to our friends and neighbors.  What are your favorite cookies to bake during this time of year?

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: