Okay. So, I can be a tad stubborn in my dessert likes and dislikes. The BF can attest.
[Ed. note: Want to answer this honestly, but I've been falling asleep before her and value my own life.]
My existence has revolved around the dictum: if it is not chocolate, it is not dessert. Would think to myself, "What's the point?" It was never a problem to pass up fruit pies, tarts, parfaits, jams, jellies, or other such confections.
Then several years ago this tart changed my mind. Discovered it from Donna Hay's Seasons and it became a real show stopper for clients. Tart, tangy, colorful, not too sweet, and light. It's also one of the easiest desserts I have ever made.
It's not chocolate, but it works as a terrific distinctive summer dessert to end the meal with.
Adapted from: Donna Hay, Seasons
Number of servings: 4-6
Tart and Topping
Tart and Topping
So, the last few weeks have been challenging. Found out that pain from my neck, down my shoulder, radiating down to my fingers was the result of pinched-nerve and mild-bone-spur issues. Not fun.
So grateful for the BF, who has been heroically helping me with everything, including the many things you can't do with one hand, such as opening jars, schlepping 50-pound food-filled bins in heavy glassware, fastening a bra hook. Good times.
It was a week where a cheesecake must be made. [Ed. note: Or a day ending in "y."]
The original recipe comes from Stella Parks of Serious Eats, and to be clear, this is not your traditional New York dense cheesecake. This particular cheesecake is creamy, fluffy and has an acutely concentrated blueberry flavor. Bodes well considering the hot summer months that will be here soon. This will be a go-to dessert for my clients.
I realize it's often said, "Hey folks this dish is really easy to make," but consider I made this for Memorial Day with one hand. It was also a hot day and I didn't have to even bake the crust. Can't wait to try the freeze-dried strawberry and mango versions.
As Stella Parks says in her blog, "Unlike fresh fruit purée or jam, freeze-dried fruit has no water or added sugar, so it packs a concentrated flavor that won't throw off the consistency or sweetness of the no-bake cheesecake filling. And thanks to the low-temperature processing method, freeze-dried fruit has the same bright flavor as fresh, not the semi-caramelized profile of a stovetop reduction."
Adapted from: Stella Parks, Serious Eats
Number of servings: 8-12
You might not think of rum in conjunction with the Kentucky Derby, but since it's such a booze-heavy event, my clients at last Saturday's party didn't seem to mind this Caribbean Rum-Soaked Bundt cake. Neither did the friends we hosted the previous Thursday, who we were thanking for a very comfortable (and stylish) ride to and from the airport. In fact, it was such a hit both times that I'm considering breaking out a third one for a client's upcoming Mother's Day luncheon. [Ed. note: The same cake thrice in one week? Is this allowed?]
While the BF likes many different types of liquors [Ed. note: As the late Robin Williams said, "I am not an alcoholic–I simply prefer living in a liquid medium"], rum is not my favorite, so I actually wasn't sure if I would take to this dessert. Oh, so wrong. There were no crumbs left on my plate, it was that good.
It's a boozy, evergreen (any season) cake that only uses one bowl, is super easy to transport, and if you follow the directions should not stick to the pan. BF chose the rum, and he chose one with lovely vanilla and caramel notes [Ed. note: Bacardi Select w/black label, but have fun with it], and it turned out super moist and fragrant. The flavor even seeps in more over time, so it was even better the following morning with coffee and tea.
The recipe is adapted from King Arthur Flour and they explain, "Yes, there's a lot of rum in this cake, and it's definitely not for those avoiding alcohol. But the incredibly moist texture and rich flavor are deeply satisfying." They are not kidding.
Adapted from: King Arthur Flour (www.kingarthurflour.com/)
Number of servings: 16 slices
Baileys Irish Cream, check.
For me, a trifecta of favorites in one dessert. In one bite, even. Boozy and creamy, while managing to be light tasting. The BF has already had too much of it. [Ed. note: <whistling and singing> We have no heads! No we have no heads!] Don't mind him.
This takes all of 20 minutes to put together, but needs to chill overnight. Have lost count how many times I've made this for family, friends, and clients. One of my clients who never eats desserts, eats this one.
A good friend is like a four-leaf clover, hard to find and lucky to have.
- Irish Proverb
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Adapted from: Nigella Lawson, Nigella Express and Jenn Segal, Once Upon a Chef
Number of servings: 12
NOTES: Savoiardi cookies are also called lady fingers. But be sure to buy crisp cookies, not the soft sponge-cake lady fingers sold in the bakery section of your grocery store. Also, this recipe uses raw eggs, so use only fresh, properly refrigerated and clean grade-A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell.
[Ed. note: We leave you with a little Traditional Irish Folk Song, courtesy of Denis Leary. Cheers and Happy St. Patrick's Day!]
We drink and we die and continue to drink!
Every night before I fall asleep, I mumble to the BF, "I can't wait until coffee tomorrow morning." [Ed. note: *insert snoring rumblings equivalent to a small earthquake*] That wasn't always the case. The BF and I didn't start regularly drinking coffee until we were in our 40s (that's right, four decades of coffee-free living). The main reason for me: I loved the smell, but hated the taste. Wasn't even a fan of anything mocha flavor.
How things have changed. Late bloomer that I am, I don't even need much creamer or milk. Will take it almost black.
Now our household has graduated to full-on coffee desserts like this delectable 4-ingredient café au lait pudding adapted from Ashley Rodriguez's Date Night In. It's perfect for the two of us because the recipe is for two individual servings, but you can easily double the quantities if you need to make four.
One of my followers commented that she doesn't eat dessert very often, but is regularly asked to bring dessert to various functions throughout the year. This works perfectly because not only is it easy and fast to make, it's super portable, with tightly closing lids for individual servings. You may have your own preferred vessel, but Weck Tulip Jelly Jars were used here. They aren't a sponsor in any way, I just love them to death and use them for everything. www.amazon.com/Weck-762-Tulip-Jelly-Jar/dp/B00F739OFC
The only thing better than coffee in the morning is this café au lait pudding for two after dinner. And if you're not already a coffee aficionado, this could very well be your gateway drug.
NOTES: Be sure to use strong coffee or espresso. It's optional, but I added an extra teaspoon of espresso to the pudding for extra zing.
Adapted from: Date Night In, Ashley Rodriguez
On this Valentine's Day, are you aiming for someone's heart through their stomach? Don't let the ingredients and directions of this recipe scare you, this is actually way less daunting than it appears. [Ed. Note: But you don't have to disclose that information if you're truly looking to impress.]
The key to the torte's simplicity is that it's made from just three ingredients: chocolate, butter, and eggs—and it only bakes for 15 minutes. I made this for the BF, myself and a few friends in a 6-inch springform pan, but am giving the recipe as originally presented (in an 8-inch springform pan) from the brilliant Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible. I happen to love flourless tortes and have made so many different kinds, and this is certainly one of my favorites. Not to mention gluten free!
Beranbaum says this is her favorite way to eat chocolate, "It's the purest form of chocolate—when you just have a chocolate bar, you can't taste the chocolate until it starts melting in your mouth. But this is just the right texture so that the minute you put it in your mouth, the flavors start exploding. It's like the creamiest truffle wedded to the purest chocolate mousse. It's the right consistency and there's nothing to interfere. There's no flour. Egg gives it texture, but it also enriches it further—it gives it a fuller flavor. And then of course butter doesn't do any harm either!"
It's creamy. moussey, and sinfully decadent. And seriously, who cares about clichés, nothing's beating chocolate on Valentine's Day.
NOTES: It's very important to have the eggs and butter at room temperature. Since there are only three ingredients, use the best chocolate and butter that you can (Scharffen Berger chocolate and Plugra European butter were used here). Finally, be sure to serve the torte at room temperature, not chilled. Read through the entire recipe before starting; while it is deceptively easy to make, there are lots of side notes that are important to its success.
Adapted from: Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible and Food 52
Number of servings: makes one 8-inch torte, serves approx 16 (depending on slice size)
I baked my own birthday cake.
What? You don't do that? It's not that my BF didn't offer to buy me the best dessert in town. [Ed. Note: Save your letters! Jeez.] It's just that I was feeling exceptionally specific, and wanted it to taste deep, dark, intensely chocolatey and extra-extra moist. We don't partake in rich desserts very often, so when we do, it needs to be amazing or it's not worth it. Many times we've found ourselves drooling over beautiful confections, only to be nonplussed by the taste. [Ed. Note: Breathtakingly meh™.]
The reason this cake is my go-to is that it has a creamy chocolate bite, and the sour cream frosting has an impressive tang that really sets it off. Also noteworthy, the frosting has neither butter nor whipped eggs (only a smidge of added sugar), making for easier preparation.
The cake itself is adapted from Ina Garten (the recipe is cut in half), the frosting from Smitten Kitchen.
Bit of a side note, but I had a perfect birthday yesterday. Our inital dinner plans in San Francisco were thwarted (there's a dog flu ripping through our area, so we couldn't find a proper sitter, and we don't take chances with our Marlowe), but we ended up having an even better day and evening sticking closer to home. The BF took me to the movies (Winchester, not our cup of tea) and then to a terrific local restaurant called Timber & Salt. The meal: an appetizer of crispy brussels sprouts with apple gastrique and whipped goat cheese, cheeseburger with horseradish mayo and bacon jam (oh yes), and a bavette steak over sauteed greens and maitake mushrooms in a red wine reduction sauce.
Once home we chilled to the far superior movie A Futile And Stupid Gesture (about Doug Kenney and the rise and fall of National Lampoon), cracked open a bottle of prosecco we'd been saving, made a cocktail with Aperol (my favorite), and tucked into this cake.
Folks, this is my absolute favorite cake. Excuse me while I have another slice.
Adapted from: Ina Garten and Smitten Kitchen
Number of Servings: makes a one layer 8-inch cake (round or 8x8 square)
Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
NOTE: Be sure that your sour cream is at room temperature before you make the frosting.
For the last seven years or so, my BF and I have held a Christmas Eve dinner for some very dear friends. For the first few, a new towering cake would be presented, i.e., spice with eggnog buttercream, chocolate with peppermint chocolate ganache and peppermint buttercream, whiskey soaked dark chocolate bundt, gingerbread roulade with eggnog filling, etc.
Then, this one. Moist, stout-spiked [Ed. note: HELLO], spicy gingerbread and mascarpone whipped cream icing–it has a deep, dark, mysterious flavor, yet tastes surprisingly light. It tastes like Christmas.
For a while I had been making a similar recipe as a gingerbread loaf, but after discovering this layered-cake version (originally adapted from a Claudia Fleming recipe, who created it while she was pastry chef at Gramercy Tavern in New York; then adapted by Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen), I knew the holiday dessert tradition was forever settled. No more auditions.
Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Number of servings: 8-10
Adapted from: Smitten Kitchen
NOTE: You’ll have up to 1 cup more whipped cream than you’ll need, which I use to frost the outside of the cake (not a fan of "naked" cakes, like the original recipe). If you wish to save the cream, it can stay stable for a couple days due to the added mascarpone. Start the cranberries the night before.
NOTE: Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen says, "This recipe makes three thin cake layers. As most of us have two cake pans, at best, you could also make it into two thicker cake layers, giving it a little more baking time. Or, you could do as I did, which is to hold the last bit of batter in a bowl until the first layer comes out and can be unmolded. It holds up just fine at room temperature for an hour."
Whipped mascarpone cream
Family is not an important thing, it's everything.
~Michael J. Fox
Six years ago today, my beloved momala passed away. The best way we have honored her life and kept her memory alive is to embrace our little family and celebrate each other as often as possible. She used to say, "If you don't have something to celebrate, celebrate anyway." [Ed. note: Spinal Tap keyboardist Viv Savage also said it well, "Have a good time. All the time." youtu.be/WrhzX3dRRiI]
Our family recently got a little bigger. My little sister Julie brought the new man in her life, Frank, by for a whirlwind visit, our first time meeting him. Seems there couldn't be a more perfect person for Julie than Frank; they share a love of nature, geology, animals and family. Bonus, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of sports and wine (we were excited to try riesling and pinot noir from his own vineyard), which endears him even more to the BF. [Ed. note: We even coexist with his love for the St. Louis Cardinals and ours for the San Francisco Giants.] We feel like he's been here all along.
Unfortunately I ran out of time and could not make cookies for them to take home, but had I been able, these would have been the choice.
My momala would have adored them as well. Chocolate and orange coupled and a hint of fresh ginger and brownie texture. It would have sent her over the edge.
Dorie Greenspan (this is originally adapted from her book Dorie's Cookies) is an excellent source for all things baking. She mentions that this cookie is best on the day it is made, but I have found it stays fresh, moist and chewy for at least 3 days. So it works well for shipping or gift giving.
Number of servings: about 20 cookies
Adapted from: Saveur (Dec/Jan 2017) and Dorie's Cookies
Patience is not my virtue. [Ed. note: I want to comment, but appreciate my life.] Rolling out cookie dough and cutting out cookies with cookie cutters? No patience for it. Hell-o slice-and-bake simplicity!
These cookies are tender, lightly sweetened with honey, and swirled with cinnamon and spice–a perfect holiday cookie that travels and keeps well, perfect for gracing your Hanukkah dessert table, a cookie exchange, or to leave as a nice treat for Santa and his helpers. I have been known to have them for breakfast with coffee, or late afternoon pick-me-up with tea.
Winter is coming: let the holiday cookie season begin!
NOTE: Although the glaze is delicious, I opted not to use it as I prefer it much better plain (plenty sweet for this household), and if you are going to ship it as a gift it's probably more practical to go glazeless. That said, if you're serving at a party or leaving for Santa, by all means glaze it up.
Adapted from: Marbled, Swirled, and Layered, by Irvin Lin
Number of servings: 48 cookies
Cinnamon Filling and Baking
Make sure the butter for cinnamon filling is truly at room temperature or even slightly warmer than that. It makes spreading the filling easier.
You can make and freeze this cookie dough for future baking. Once frozen for an hour, place the log in a labeled zip-top plastic bag. Slice and bake cookies at your convenience. Frozen dough should keep for up to 2 months.
I'm Jacquie, personal chef & recipe developer in the bay area. Living life with my wildly funny boyfriend and dog Marlowe. Lover of books, bourbon, chocolate and movies.