Archive for the ‘desserts’ Category



The other day Steve, my photographer husband, had to shoot some rhubarb for a client. Since winter was still in the air, I wasn’t sure that I could find it. But, lo and behold, I found bright pink stalks stacked up at my local Whole Foods. Once he photographed it, I couldn’t let it go to waste. So, what does rhubarb say to me? Spring! Strawberries! Pie! But there really has been no sign of spring here in New York City – as March stilled its winds we still had snow in the air.

Besides, I really didn’t have enough rhubarb or strawberries to make anything significant. I cut what I did have into small pieces, added maybe a cup of sugar, a tablespoon or so of lemon juice, and grated a bit of fresh ginger into the mix. I popped it on the stove while we ate dinner and ended up with a lovely 10 ounce jar of rhubarb/strawberry compote that will be delicious over ice cream or yogurt, drizzled on roast pork or even on a slice of whole grain toast. But, most of all I had a taste of spring!

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Every night after dinner Steve says “Do we have any cake?”  and most nights I give a negative nod.  But, once in awhile I decide to take pity on him and make a simple cake to offer with a cup of decaf.  The problem with cake making is that Steve eats one dainty slice and forgets about it while I am left to devour the remains.  I have a terrible sweet tooth which makes eating an entire cake not difficult to do – over a few days, of course.  Since I am always trying to watch my weight (and not watch it increase) this is not something I like to do so cake making isn’t often on my list of kitchen chores.  Since Steve prefers a simple cake – pound cake, angel food, spice – I can always quickly put together a plain cake from memory.  Here is a chocolate version of bundt cake that is easy to make and keeps well over a few days, well-wrapped in the fridge.  If desired, you can add a cup of chopped nuts or chocolate chips or other flavored chips to the cake or drizzle the top with a glaze or sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Makes one cake

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
2 ¼ cups sifted flour
¾ cup sifted dark cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Lightly coat the interior of a bundt cake pan with butter and flour or with nonstick baking spray. Set aside.
Place the butter in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle and beat on low to soften.  Add the sugar, raise the speed to medium, and beat until light and creamy.
Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  Begin adding the flour mixture to the creamed mixture, a little at a time, alternately adding the milk and one egg.  When all of the ingredients have been blended in, add the vanilla and beat to incorporate.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.  Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until the edges pull away from the pan and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and invert the pan onto a wire pan.  Lift off the pan and allow the cake to cool before cutting or covering with a glaze.

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Makes About 3½ dozen

3 large egg whites
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup superfine sugar
One 14-ounce package sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 325° F.
Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.
Place the eggs whites in the bowl of a heavy duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle.  Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes or until foamy.   Add the vanilla, and cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form.
With the motor running, slowly add the sugar and beat for about 3 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved and stiff peaks form.  Add the coconut and beat on low to just combine.  Do not over-beat or the coconut will begin to disintegrate.
Using a medium melon baller or small ice cream scoop, drop about 1 tablespoon of the dough onto the prepared cookie sheets, leaving about 1-inch between each cookie.  When all of the cookies have been formed, transfer to the preheated oven and bake, rotating the cookie sheets about halfway through the baking time, for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from oven and let cool completely on the cookie sheets.
Serve or store, airtight, in single layers separated by waxed paper for up to 1 week.

NOTE:  If desired, you can dip one side of each macaroon into melted bittersweet chocolate and garnish with a toasted coconut chip.

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Steve loves this photo of me – why I don’t know.  But it might be because it amuses him and everyone I know that I can wield a knife and talk on the phone at the same time.  Looks like – in this instance – that I was putting together one of my impromptu fried rice meals, but I really don’t remember what I was doing.  I was probably on the phone with one of the many health professionals that have recently been part of our lives, but I could just as easily been gossiping with a friend.  I hope the photo amuses you as much as it does my family and friends.

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pumpkin cheescake


Rather than pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving (which nobody in my family likes except me) I try to come up with a new pumpkin or squash dessert each year.  And, sometimes I just go back to an old favorite, pumpkin cheesecake, which I would make many years ago at MOM, our bakery, to offset the tedium of making the 100s of pies that were ordered.  Sometimes I make a graham cracker crust, sometimes a chocolate cookie crust, and sometimes and gingersnap crust.  Sometimes I marble it with chocolate and sometimes I just make it plain with no crust at all.  I hope this recipe will become a long-standing holiday favorite in your house, too.


For the crust:

1½ cups gingersnap (or other cracker or cookie) crumbs

¼ cup melted unsalted butter

For the cake:

2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup light brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 cup well-drained pumpkin puree

1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon fresh ginger juice

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

4 large eggs, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 325°F.


Combine the crumbs with the butter and, using your fingertips, press the mixture together.  When well-blended, pour into the bottom of a lightly buttered 9-inch round springform pan and gently pat the crumbs into the pan to make an even layer.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until just set.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle.  Beat on low to blend.  Add the 2 sugars and beat until very well incorporated.  Add the pumpkin, vanilla, and ginger juice and continue to beat to blend completely.  Add the spices and beat until blended.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate completely.  Do not over-beat or you will incorporate too much air which allows bubbles to form in the batter.  The batter should be smooth and creamy so that you cake will be also.

Pour the batter into the springform pan and, using an offset spatula, smooth the top.

Transfer to the preheated oven, turn the oven to 300°F, and bake for about 1 hour or until set.  The center may be a little wobbly, but it will continue to cook as the cake cools.  Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to sit, undisturbed for another hour.

Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool for at least 2 hours before removing the rim of the pan.


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In so many parts of the country the winter has been long and hard so we are particularly thrilled to feel the sun and see nature come back to life.  As we welcome this season of renewal along with the deeply felt religious celebrations of Easter and Passover, I spent a few hours in my kitchen coloring eggs and decorating cookies.  I like to say that is for my grandchildren, but the truth is I do it for myself.  These childhood rituals bring such joy which I share with all of you.  Happy Spring!




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Some weeks ago my Irish-speakin’ almost daughter, Anne McDonagh, called me with big news.  She had ordered vanilla beans online and they had arrived – what she didn’t imagine was the amount of vanilla beans she had ordered so could she send me some.  Of course, I said, I can always use vanilla so shortly thereafter I received a big bundle in the mail.  But then she apparently still had more vanilla beans than she could disperse across the country so, being inventive, Annie decided to make vanilla extract.  When she came home for the Christmas holidays, she presented me with 2 beautiful bottles of her homemade extract – one with a vodka base and one with bourbon.  I now not only have a goodly store of vanilla beans, but I have enough vanilla extract to be baking daily for months.  But, she did tell me that it makes a lovely addition (and a great start to the day) to morning’s coffee – a tipsy way to begin the day!

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It’s odd that when I think of my mom I don’t think of her as the “Nana” she was at the end of her life, but as a vital, aggressive, and, in her own way, nurturing “Mom” of my childhood.  As I was making a waffle treat for our breakfast this cold January morning I was suddenly overtaken by nostalgia – partly because the Christmas holidays were my mom’s favorite time of the year and it was during this period that she taught me so much about baking and sharing. And partly because I still make the waffle recipe she taught me.  And partly because I have the same “sweet tooth” that she had and love a waffle oozing with maple syrup.   But mostly it is at this time of the year that I deeply miss her by my side in the kitchen.

Just when a waffle came out of the waffle iron I said to myself “I’m going to make one for mom” and so I fried up 2 eggs and placed them on top of the waffle and then drizzled it with maple syrup…..just as she liked it…..and said “Here’s to you, you are missed.”

P.S.  A version of the waffle recipe can be found in the below link entitled “Waffles for Dinner?” from January 2011.


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maple bacon doughnut


Not much to say except “yum, yum, yum”.  Whenever we are in San Francisco, we always make a stop at Dynamo Donuts (www.dynamodonut.com) for just a bite of their famous Maple Bacon Donut.  I can’t say that donuts are my favorite treat, but they sure work for my lovely husband.  I have never made those light and fluffy raised donuts, but I do, from time to time, make my mom’s old fashioned ones.  I’m thinking I might just make up a batch and coat them with some maple frosting and then sprinkle some salty, crisp bacon bits on top.  If you want to try this version, here is mom’s recipe (which can also be found in my out-of-print book, Homemade).  I would imagine that the maple frosting is simply confectioners’ sugar, maple flavoring, and a bit of milk or maybe even black coffee to moisten.

Nana’s Doughnuts (You’ll note she spelled it correctly)
Makes about 2 dozen
3½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg (you can really use any spice you like, but nutmeg is what you
taste in most commercial donuts)
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature and beaten
½ cup whole milk
Wondra flour
Approximately 4 cups cinnamon-sugar or confectioners’ sugar (if you are not frosting), for
Approximately 6 cups vegetable oil
Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg together.  Set aside.

Combine the sugar and butter in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle and beat until crumbly.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat thoroughly.  Then, add the milk.  Slowly add the dry ingredients and beat on low until all added and a smooth dough has formed.
Using Wondra flour, lightly flour a clean, flat surface.
Scrape the dough onto the floured surface and lightly sprinkle the top with Wondra.  Pat the dough out to about ⅝-inch thickness.  (If the dough seems very sticky, slowly knead in no more than ½ cup all-purpose flour into it.)  Using a donut cutter, cut out circles, separately reserving the holes.
If using, place the cinnamon-sugar or confectioners’ sugar in a resealable plastic bag.  Set aside.
Fill a heavy-duty skillet at least 3-inches deep with the vegetable oil.  The oil should be deep enough that the donuts can easily float.  Place over medium-high and bring the oil to 360ºF on a candy thermometer.
Place the donuts, a few at a time, into the hot oil and fry, turning once, for about 5 minutes or until perfectly golden, slightly raised, and cooked through.  Lower the temperature if they cook and darken too quickly.
Using a slotted spoon, move the donuts to a triple layer of paper towel to drain for just a minute.
Quickly transfer the hot donuts to the sugar in the bag and shake to thoroughly coat.  Remove the sugar-coated donuts from the bag and place on wire racks to cool slightly.  Best eaten while still warm.
If you decide to frost them, cool first, and then frost and decorate in whatever manner you choose.

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My sweet, sweet gluten-free baker buddy, Antonella Zangheri, recently asked me to visit her kitchen at Krumville Bake Shop (www.krumvillebakeshop.com) to help her come up with a great gluten-free stuffing to puff up the coming holiday birds.  When I got there, she had made a big tray of croutons from her gluten-free focaccia which were to be the base of the stuffing.
(For those of you who don’t know it, focaccia, usually made with a high-gluten flour, is similar to pizza dough in texture and flavor.  Like pizza dough, it is quite simple – a combination of nothing more than flour, yeast, salt, olive oil, and water.  A thick slab of dough is generally fitted into a baking pan with a rim and then, using fingertips, poked in random spots all over the top to “dimple” it.  This keeps the dough from rising up and bubbling on the surface when it is baked.  The focaccia is often flavored by brushing with olive oil and then sprinkling the top with fresh herbs (often rosemary), aromatics such as garlic or olive, or shredded or grated cheeses prior to baking.  Antonella frequently makes her dough with add-ins, such as pitted olives or bits of soft cheese like feta – a slab of which fed us while we made the stuffing.)
Anto had made a large pot of rich broth the night before so my job was really quite simple.   She helped me chop a large onion, 3 stalks of celery, some fresh sage, marjoram, and thyme and we sautéed this mix in a bit of olive oil.  I took about 6 breakfast sausage from their casing and pulled the meat into chunks.  We added the sausage to the pot and continued to cook until the meat was beginning to color and the aromatics were soft.  I added a few sliced, dried apricots to the mix along with about 2 cups of the broth.
We put the focaccia croutons in a large mixing bowl and then added the hot sausage mixture, stirring to combine.  Some of the focaccia turned into mush and some stayed quite firm, a perfect combination for all-round great stuffing.  We oiled a baking dish and spooned the stuffing into it.  Into a 350ºF oven it went for about 25 minutes.  Crisp and golden brown – out it came.  We each had a plate of it and unanimously gave it 4 stars.  Antonella is now trying to figure out how to create a version to package to make a gluten-free stuffed turkey possible for her many devoted customers.  My suggestion – everybody should buy a few loaves of Krumville Bake Shop focaccia and turn it into croutons or crumbs and then follow our steps to make a terrifically satisfying holiday side dish.



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