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.
Birthday cakes. Everyone from 1-100 (and up!) should get a homemade one on their special day, and my BF is no exception. I always try to top the previous year's dessert, and for him it usually involves apples and/or caramel of some kind.
This year is no different, and oy this is a delicious cake. Adapted from my favorite baker boys of Baked Explorations, this is pure fall: moist, dense, lightly spiced, covered in caramel buttercream, and then drizzled with more caramel.
Oh, did I mention that the BF is a Batman fan? [Ed. note: You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?]
The recipe below is for an 8-inch 3-layer cake, but for my small family I make the smallest amount possible (in that case a 6-inch 3-layer cake, which is exactly one half of the recipe). I use Williams Sonoma salted caramel that was on hand, and made my own applesauce from my own recipe (I prefer the addition of boiled apple cider for an intense cider flavor), but feel free to save time and use store bought applesauce and/or caramel. No shame in that.
The list of ingredients may seem daunting, and yes there are many steps, but fear not, it is actually not as daunting as it seems. It's a cake you'll want in your fall rotation, perfect for a loved one whose birthday falls in the October-November time frame.
Adapted from: Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito
Number of servings: makes one 8-inch, 3-layer cake
November, 1995. It was my BF's birthday (he was not the BF at that time), and I remember making this first-ever attempt at baking a cheesecake. [Ed. note: To quote Private Hudson from Aliens, "Game over, man. Game over."]
Yes. This is the one. Try not to stick your fork through the screen–I dare you.
This delicious caramel bomb made repeat appearances that Thanksgiving, Chanukah and Christmas, and at different times every year after that. My mamala begged me to make it every year for the holidays, and this year I'm making it for a client's Halloween party.
The body of the cheesecake is incredibly creamy (not dense), with a touch of orange juice and a good amount of sour cream. There is a perfect crust-to-filling ratio, and the caramel apple topping is to die for (the caramel stays soft and does not stick to your teeth and harden).
Keep in mind, this makes a large cheesecake (10 inches diameter). Perfect for any get together, my favorite is to offer this at Thanksgiving.
Funny story/cautionary tale: two years ago I made this for my BF again and cut the ingredients in half to make an smaller 8-inch cake (was also going to give half to a neighbor). Just as I was presenting the entire cake to him on a platter, I dropped it. The platter broke, little shards of glass flaked all over and into the cheesecake–unsalvageable.
We stared at the floor for the longest time. Curse words seethed through clenched teeth. Tears were shed. I will not lie, this is not a 30-minute dessert. There is preparation and time involved. (Really, you have to start making this the day before you plan on serving it.) However, the process is very straightforward and the end result is so worth the effort.
Just be careful with those glass platters!
Adapted from: Bon Appetit (September 1995)
Number of servings: 16
My BF has a thing for caramely, butterscotchy tidbits and chocolate chip cookies. [Ed. Note: C is for cookie, and after proper advisement from my attorney, I submit that it is, indeed, good enough for me.] I mixed the two together and added liquor and dare I say this is the cookie, at least in our house. The butterscotch schnapps put it over the top with a toasted caramel note without it tasting boozy. Have tried this same recipe with bourbon, and it's good, real good. [Ed. Note: Hiccup.]
There are rules in our house for homemade chocolate chip cookies 1) not flat and crispy 2) not cake like 3) must be cold from the fridge 4) must be soft and chewy in the center and crispy around the edges. Some people like warm cookies out of the oven, but we like our cookies cold from the fridge.
You can eat these cookies with milk, but bourbon also works. Please designate a driver if you go this route.
Inspired by: Baked – New Frontiers In Baking
Serving size: Makes 1 dozen cookies
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.