Friday, July 10, 2009


I'm taking a break from this blog, but am keeping it up for the archived info and photos.

Thanks for visiting! Enjoy!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fellow Foodie Interview Chocolatier Art Pollard

Interested in the world of dark, yummy, luxurious chocolate? 

Then read this fabo interview with chocolatier Art Pollard. The interview was conducted by blogger Christine Mack (AKA The "Mistress of Cakes") on her blog Maman and Gourmand: Homemade with Love.


Friday, July 3, 2009

June Daring Bakers Challenge: Bakewell

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

Wow. This was a cool challenge, because there's there’s no “one" way to make a Bakewell Tart. However, Jasmine and Annemarie shared that most versions made today are either “puddings,” where a layer of jam is covered by an almondy pastry cream and baked in puff pastry, or a “tart,” in which a rich shortcrust pastry holds jam and an almondy sponge cake-like filling. Read this Wikipedia article for more history on the tarts, if you like.

Our challenge was to make is a combination of the two: a sweet almond-flavoured shortcrust pastry, frangipane and jam.

NOTE: I am having technical difficulties with my camera, so my pics are not yet attached. But not to worry. Here's a lovely photo of a tart from flickr, and a link to a bunch of Google pictures so you can see the width and breath of how they might look!

You really must try making these. They're perfect for afternoon tea, or to take to your next dinner party. And if you don't care for almonds, try substituting other nuts (perhaps pistachio or hazelnut), or leave them out completely if you're a nut-free person.  ;-)


*This recipe makes one 9” tart or 6 4" tarts
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes (or 20 minutes for mini tarts) -- note: baking time may exceed these directions. Just bake the tart until it doesn't jiggle when you tap the pan. If the tart is getting too dark, cover it with tin foil.
Equipment needed: tart pan(s) or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges) and a rolling pin

One recipe of sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Extra flour
1 cup jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One recipe of frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds (or not!)

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry Recipe

Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, and cling film

note: most of the recipe ingredients below are in ounces. You really need to get yourself a digital scale, if you don't have one. Baking requires accuracy; a scale is the best way to achieve that! I used to have a scale that jumped to pounds once it got over 16 ounces. I hated that, because it messed up my thinking, when I was adding in a number of ingredients! So be sure the scale you buy fits with your brain! HA!

8 oz all purpose flour
1 oz sugar
½ tsp salt
4 oz unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 egg yolks
½ tsp almond extract (optional) -- note: I don't really like almonds, so I left this out, substituting vanilla extract instead
1-2 Tbsp cold water

* Sift together the flour, sugar and salt.

* Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater.

* Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

* Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

* Form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Frangipane Recipe

Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, and rubber spatula

4.5 oz unsalted butter, softened
4.5 oz icing (powdered) sugar
3 eggs at ROOM TEMP
½ tsp almond extract -- note: remove, if you don't like almonds
4.5 oz ground almonds -- note: remove, if you don't like almonds
1 oz all purpose flour

* Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in color (pale yellow) and very fluffy.

* Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle (kinda looks like vomit!), but it's fine. When it's baked, you'll be smacking your lips!

* After all three eggs are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds, scraping down the sides again. (Or skip this step!)

* With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Assembling the tart:

* Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let the dough warm up for about 15 minutes before you roll it out.

* Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 1/4 inch thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the center and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll.

* When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes. DO NOT SKIP THIS LAST STEP!! ;-)

* Preheat oven to 400F.

* Remove shell from freezer, and spread with an even layer jam. NOTE: Your filling ingredients should be at room temp before spreading into crust!! If they are too hot, they will start to cook the pastry shell, making it go soft before it gets in the heated oven, thus giving you a soggy crust.

* Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart (it won't overflow as it cooks, so really do place it all the way to the edges). Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brown.

* Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking. (Or skip this step!)

* Remove the tart from the oven when the crust is golden and the frangipane tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce, if you wish.

Additional Notes:

• When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

• If you choose a jam with a lot of seeds, such as raspberry or blackberry, sieve the seeds out.

• Use anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1 cup of jam, depending on how “damp” and strongly flavoured your preserves are.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Blueberry Muffin Tops. YUM!!

These blueberry muffins, just out of the oven and slathered with a dab of butter, are so yummy that my curls nearly curl with pleasure as I'm inhaling them! HA! So it's a good thing they're kind of a pain in the butt to make (but isn't any good treat?!), or I'd be whipping up a new batch every morning for breakfast!

You can make these with or without the crumb topping, but the contrast of textures is so lovely that I suggest going all out!

Note: I make mine in mini muffin pans (in a subconscious way of giving myself permission to eat more because they're so small!), but you can make them in a regular muffin-top pan, if you like your muffins big and beautiful. The best part about muffin tops is that they're mostly crunch and less "bread." Which is why I love them soooooooo!

Batter Ingredients:
3/4 stick (6 T) unsalted butter
1/3 c. milk
1 large egg
1 large yolk
3/4 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
2 c. (12 oz) fresh or thawed frozen blueberries

Topping Ingredients:
3 T. cold, unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3 1/2 T. sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, placing oven rack in upper third of oven. 
2. Generously butter muffin pans.
3. Melt batter butter in small saucepan over low heat, then remove from heat. 
4. Whisk the milk into the butter, followed by the egg, yolk, and vanilla. Whisk until well combined.
5. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. 
6. Add the milk mixture to the dry mixture and stir JUST until combined.
7. Fold the blueberries in gently.
8. Evenly spread the batter between your muffin cups.

1. Combine the topping ingredients together in a bowl.
2. Rub the ingredients together with your fingertips until crumbly.
3. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the batter.

Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean. This cake take from 20 minutes on.

IF YOU HAVE THE PATIENCE (HA!), cool the muffins in their pan(s) on a rack for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of each muffin and gently remove it from the pan. 

(But if you're like me, you won't have the patience to least until you've downed one or two or three of these tasty morsels!!!)

Enjoy! This recipe is courtesy of 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Daring Bakers Do Cheesecake!

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Prep note: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Plan accordingly!

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake


2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 stick butter, melted
2 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese (total of 24 oz), room temperature (I used the “1/3 less fat” bars!)
1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 cup heavy cream

1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. liqueur (I used a coffee liquor)

(note: I also topped mine with a caramel sauce. The recipe for that follows below the cake photos.)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan (I use a spring form pan). I suggest just pressing the crust into the bottom. Set prepared pan(s) aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add the heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and liquor and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust(s) and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan, so that you can make a water bath. TIP 1: You’ll add the water once you get the pans in the oven, to avoid your possibly splashing the boiling water on yourself. TIP 2: do the pouring quickly, or go ahead and set the oven to 375, so that the temp will only drop to 350 by the time you close the door. If you do this, however, remember to then turn the oven down. YOU MUST SET THE CRUST PAN IN TWO LAYERS OF FOIL, AS YOU DON’T WANT THE WATER TO LEAK INTO THE PAN. Pour the boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until cheesecake is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to be solid around the edge, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let the cheesecake rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill.

6. Just before serving, remove the spring form pan. Or, if adding the caramel topping as I did, leave the plan in place until after you've poured the caramel over the cheesecake and given it time to set in the fridge.

** I USED THE FOLLOWING SUGGESTED VARIATION, but also added chocolate chips, so I could create two layers (one vanilla colored, one brown):

Cafe au lait cheesecake: take 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and heat it in the microwave for a short amount of time until very hot. Add 1-2 tbsp. instant espresso or instant coffee; stir to dissolve. Add this to the remainder of cream and use as normal.

**This tasty caramel sauce recipe came from Simply Recipes. Store-bought doesn't compare to homemade, as it typically lacks dairy!

1 cup sugar
6 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream


1. First, before you begin, make sure you have your three ingredients measured and ready to put in the pan, as making caramel is a fast process. If you don't work fast, the sugar will burn.

2. Heat sugar on moderately high heat in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan. As the sugar begins to melt, stir vigorously with a whisk or wooden spoon. As soon as the sugar comes to a boil, stop stirring. You can swirl the pan a bit if you want, from this point on.

3. As soon as all of the sugar crystals have melted (the liquid sugar should be dark amber in color), immediately add the butter to the pan. The caramel will foam up a bit. Whisk until the butter has melted.

4. Take the pan off the heat once the butter has melted. Count to three, then slowly add the cream to the pan and continue to whisk to incorporate. The caramel will foam up again as you add the cream, which is why you should use a much larger pan (at least 2-quarts) than you think you need, to make sure you don't accidentally burn yourself.

5. Whisk until caramel sauce is smooth. Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then pour into a glass jar or measuring cup and let sit to cool for about five minutes. Pour over the chilled cheesecake, then return the cheesecake to the fridge for at least half an hour so the caramel gels a bit. This is a nice, thick sauce. Makes about one cup. Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

These Chef Tools are So Cute!!

From sifter, to icing spreader, to pastry brush to measuring cup, these silicone chef tools are sooo cute! Why? Because they look like little people! They stand up sturdily on suction cup feet, and their arms and legs are bendable. HA!

This pastry brush is my favorite!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I'm Addicted to Stuffed Banana Peppers!!

One foodie item I have grown to love since moving to Buffalo, NY, is stuffed banana peppers. YUM! If you've not tried them, then do so. NOW! 

Sorry I only have two photos of the finished product. (Count yourself lucky -- I nearly forgot to take even those before the hubby and I scarfed these down for dinner!)

Here's how to make these yummies. Note: you can serve them up as an appetizer, a side dish, or a main meal. For an appetizer, provide one per person. For a side dish, prepare two per person. For a main meal, you better count on three per person, if not more. Trust me, you can't make too many. They're addictive!!


*8 banana peppers (don't get really small ones; they're harder to stuff)
*4 oz. log of goat cheese
*8 oz. grated cheese (my grocery sells a delicious mix of Asiago, Fontina, Parmesan, and Provolone)


1. On a cutting board, make a slit across the stem-end of the pepper, but don't cut so deeply through the pepper that the stem falls off.

2. From that cut, make a slit the length of the pepper. This slit will allow you to pull the front of the pepper open so that you can remove the seeds and membranes. TIP: banana peppers can run very hot. If you like things tame, you might want to remove *ALL* of the seeds and membranes. If you like things a bit spicy, try leaving the membranes intact. (There's no shame in grabbing a glass of milk, if needed!)

3. Cart your peppers over to the sink. With the tap on low, quickly rinse the inside of each pepper to remove the seeds and membranes. TIP: Don't hang your head directly over the peppers; the fumes can really get you to coughing!

4. Drain the peppers on a paper towel, cut side down, so that you don't transfer any water to your saute skillet.

5. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in your skillet over medium heat. Add the peppers and saute on both sides until they soften. This takes only about five minutes on each side. They should have whitish burn marks on both sides. Gorgeous!

6. Transfer the peppers to a baking dish large enough to accommodate your peppers. I use a 9x11 glass baking dish that I use for brownies.

7. While the peppers cool enough to handle, mix your cheeses together. Mash the log of goat cheese with a fork, then mix in the shredded cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.

8. Distribute the cheese mixture evenly between your peppers. I typically use one hand to open the slit and the other to sprinkle in the cheese.

9. Finally, sprinkle a layer of your shredded cheese over the tops of the stuffed peppers. This cheese will crisp and brown. Delicious!

10. Cook the peppers at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.