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121 posts categorized " 06) Cakes, Desserts, Fruit Desserts & Pies"

02/24/2017

~ My Buttery Sour Cream & Buttermilk Pound Cake ~

No embellishments necessary. There is nothing like the first slice of a perfectly baked, slightly-warm pound cake. With or without a dusting of Confectioners' sugar or a drizzling of sweet creamy glaze, it's the perfect foil for berries, ice cream, whipped cream or all three. For me, just as pictured here, it is all I need for breakfast or brunch with a cup of coffee or tea. It's irresistible. Pound cake is personal. I'd never proclaim to have the best recipe because almost everyone's mother or grandmother made the best pound cake they ever tasted. I'm no exception: My grandmother...... View full recipe for "~ My Buttery Sour Cream & Buttermilk Pound Cake ~"

02/20/2017

~ All-American Presidents' Day Gingerbread Cake ~

Say "snack cake" and folks my age think "Twinkie" or "TandyCake". Interestingly, snack cakes have been in America since Colonial times. Recipes for gingerbread, both the hard cookie and the soft cake or loaf, came to the us with the English and German settlers. Gingeroot was delivered by boat to the pilgims -- they used it fresh, dried it, and, made syrup from it. Ginger beer, made by pouring boiling water over brown sugar and pounded ginger combined with yeast proofed in warm milk was bottled and served as a refreshing beverage on hot days. The first recipe for gingerbread...... View full recipe for "~ All-American Presidents' Day Gingerbread Cake ~"

02/14/2017

~ How to Make Whole Buttermilk & Crème Fraîche ~

Once upon a time here in Happy Valley, circa the 1970's and into the 80's, crème fraîche wasn't an item one could find in the dairy case of any market. Why? Most folks had no idea what it was except for schooled chefs and those of us who scoured French cookbooks and/or read magazines like Bon Appétit, Food & Wine and Gourmet. Yes indeed -- foodie life was very different pre- Food Network and the information superhighway we refer to as the internet. A bit about crème "fraîche" (pronounced "fresh" and meaning "fresh cream"): In technical terms, it's a French-invented...... View full recipe for "~ How to Make Whole Buttermilk & Crème Fraîche ~"

02/12/2017

~ Powdered Buttermilk: What it is & How to use it. ~

Once upon a time, buttermilk was something I kept on hand. As a cook and baker for our family of five, I used it regularly to make quite a few things: pancakes, waffles, biscuits, scones, coffee cake, pound cake, fried chicken and salad dressing. To breads and cakes it adds tangy flavor and volume and produces a fine, soft crumb. Its acidity when used as a marinade is a natural tenderizer for poultry and meat. There's more. It does all this without adding a lot of extra fat. Times change. Our children grew up and left the nest. That left...... View full recipe for "~ Powdered Buttermilk: What it is & How to use it. ~"

01/20/2017

~ The Differences Between: Cupcakes and Muffins ~

Cupcakes and muffins. Past their shape and portable-foodness, they have less in common than one might think. The fast, simple generic answer is: Cupcakes are fancy little cup-sized cakes and muffins are plain little cup-sized quick-breads. Served with an ice-cold glass of milk or cup of piping hot coffee, rare is the person who would take a pass on either. That said, I will always choose a muffin over a cupcake. Sorry cupcake -- this post is going to be a bit biased. Shape. They're both baked in multiple-cupped pans, to produce individual-sized, portable portions. Prior to the invention of...... View full recipe for "~ The Differences Between: Cupcakes and Muffins ~"

01/04/2017

~ Alice's Super-Simple Georgia Peach-Pie Cobbler ~

Alice was a friend and a member of our tailgate group back in the 1980's and 1990's. Alice was a Southern Belle who lived most of her life in Atlanta, Georgia. She made no secret of the fact that she detested the sport of cooking -- which complicates things for a woman in a tailgate group like ours. That said, she participated and prepared something good each week, and, from her, I got a few very nice recipes that were easy to make too. Since Georgia is known as the Peach State, it wasn't surprising that one of Alice's dessert...... View full recipe for "~ Alice's Super-Simple Georgia Peach-Pie Cobbler ~"

11/15/2016

~ So Sophisticated: Sweet Potato & Frangelico Tart ~

"So sophisticated." That was my mother-in-law's comment when I served this dessert in place of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving a few years back. I hung onto those words because Ann was a woman of few words who didn't hand out compliments often. We were having an unusually small gathering of eight people that year. Making one easy-to-serve dessert to feed us all, enabling me to offer seconds to a few, and, save me time too -- it worked out perfectly. Sweet potato or pumpkin pie (in addition to Dutch apple, pecan, and rhubarb) was/is always a part of my three-four...... View full recipe for "~ So Sophisticated: Sweet Potato & Frangelico Tart ~"

11/02/2016

~ Simply Divine: Chocolate Tart (Tarte au Chocolat) ~

Don't look now but the season of holiday entertaining and festive gatherings is quickly approaching. If you're like me, you're always "in the market" for another elegant yet easy-to-make dessert to serve at your own get-together or take to someone else's. A chocolate tart is a perfect ending to any occasion, and, in the case of this recipe, it doesn't require the skills of a trained pastry chef -- feel free to keep that a secret and let 'em think you slaved all day over it. "Tarte au Chocolate" -- No special skills required. A chocolate tart, or as they...... View full recipe for "~ Simply Divine: Chocolate Tart (Tarte au Chocolat) ~"

10/30/2016

~ Short and Sweet: A Three-Ingredient Tart Pastry ~

Pies and tarts: Two of my all-time favorite desserts. This isn't a "pass/fail", but, you only get out of something what you put into it, and, the pie or tart pastry you choose to use can turn a dessert from ordinary to extraordinary. While we all agree we love the time-saving convenience of picking up a store-bought pie crust or pastry on occasion, in our hearts we also know their taste and texture are a compromise. Even a store-bought, artificially-flavored graham cracker or cookie crust pales in comparison to one made at home using real-deal melted butter instead. Is there...... View full recipe for "~ Short and Sweet: A Three-Ingredient Tart Pastry ~"

10/27/2016

~ Pucker up for French Lemon Tart (Tarte au Citron) ~

One thing I love about the late Fall and Winter is the vibrant-colored citrus fruit. Because it's available all year long, a lot of folks don't realize that citrus fruit (lemons, limes, grapefruit and oranges) are in fact "winter fruit". This year, for some reason, the citrus fruit I've been purchasing, is extra-over-the-top, plump, tart 'n sweet and juicy. I've been eating grapefruit every morning, putting orange segments in our salads, lime slices in my gin and tonics, and, today I'm baking a lemon tart for dessert. Tarte au citron is a classic French dessert and every patisserie (bakery) in...... View full recipe for "~ Pucker up for French Lemon Tart (Tarte au Citron) ~"

09/15/2016

~ The Old-Fashioned Classic Coconut Custard Pie ~

When I was growing up, two trucks pulled into my family's driveway twice a week (and they weren't FedEx or UPS which didn't even exist then). They were: The milk man and the baker. The milk man delivered milk, butter, eggs, sour cream and some cheeses. The baker delivered bread, sandwich rolls, cakes, pies and cookies. In the case of both, via a paper checklist, you ordered on a Tuesday what you wanted delivered on Saturday, and you ordered on Saturday what you wanted delivered on Tuesday. When mom said it was my turn to pick a dessert, it was...... View full recipe for "~ The Old-Fashioned Classic Coconut Custard Pie ~"

09/13/2016

~ Silky-Smooth & Delicate: Traditional Egg Custard ~

I have a penchant for sweet treats with smooth, creamy consistencies: pudding, mousse, ice cream, cheesecake, éclairs, cream pie, brûlée and crème caramel are off-the-top-of-my-head examples. They're luxurious and make me feel all "la-tee-da". As a young bride and novice cook it was only natural that these were the first dessert recipes I gravitated too. After a while it occurred to me that, technically speaking, they are all a form of basic egg custard -- the only creamy-type dessert my grandmother ever made and the first dessert that was spoonfed to me. In its most basic form, custard is thickened...... View full recipe for "~ Silky-Smooth & Delicate: Traditional Egg Custard ~"

09/11/2016

~ Bird's Custard Powder. You make it so special... ~

Custard powder. These are two words not typically on the tip of the average American foodie's tongue. That's understandable, because, unless an American cook has some form of culinary ties to the United Kingdom or Australia (via cookbooks, travel or personal friendship), it's not an ingredient that has made its way into our food lover's vocabulary. Given its popularity "across the pond", I find that hard to understand, because, for me it's a "nifty", time-saving pantry staple. I learned about custard powder back in the early 1990's. This was not an ingredient I ever found in my grandmother's or mother's...... View full recipe for "~ Bird's Custard Powder. You make it so special... ~"

07/20/2016

~ Plantation Cake: A Very Southern Vintage Cake ~

I first came across this recipe in a stack of recipe cards held together with a rubber band. They were in a plastic bag full of newspaper- and magazine-clipped recipes that my late grandmother collected. I don't recall her making the cake, but, at some point in her life she must have, as she took the time to write it down in her own hand. It's an unpretentious, yellow cake made of butter or margarine, sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla, home-canned peaches or pears, pecans or walnuts and buttermilk or sour cream. It sure sounded good to me, and, its name...... View full recipe for "~ Plantation Cake: A Very Southern Vintage Cake ~"

06/30/2016

~ Coconut and Rum Pineapple Upside Down Cake ~

Remember the first time you watched your mom make a pineapple upside down cake? I was mesmerized. I stood stoic, across the counter, watching as she carefully arranged and layered the ingredients in the pan. I stood vigil, peering through the glass, at the oven while it baked. I stood breathless, fingers crossed behind my back, when she inverted it out of the pan. In the end, I didn't know whether to joyfully jump up and down or hug her with pride -- I think I did both. I was five or six at the time, and, that Norman Rockwell...... View full recipe for "~ Coconut and Rum Pineapple Upside Down Cake ~"

05/07/2016

~ Nana's Oatmeal-Applesauce-Raisin-Walnut Cake ~

I've always loved oatmeal and anything edible containing oatmeal, and, let me tell you: this recipe "takes the cake" in terms of oatmeal recipes. When I was 19 and still living in Tamaqua, PA, my fiancé's grandmother, Nana, made this for dessert the first time I was invited to their house for dinner. For me, it was genuine "love at first bite". After that, she made it almost every time I visited, just because she knew I liked it so much. Fond memories of a lovely, gentle lady. For my bridal shower, Nana gave me the identical stainless steel baking...... View full recipe for "~ Nana's Oatmeal-Applesauce-Raisin-Walnut Cake ~"

05/05/2016

~ Deli-, Bakery-, & Coffee-Shop- Style Crumb Cake ~

If you're under the impression that "coffeecake" and "crumb cake" are words that can be used interchangeably, you haven't spent much time in the delicatessens, bakeries and coffee shops of the Northeast, namely: New York, New Jersey, and here in Pennsylvania too. We take our crumb cake seriously. Simply stated: it is a medium-textured buttercake with a coarse-grained, flour-based cohesive-crumb layer on top. Confusing it with other types of crumby cakes (which sometimes contain fruit or nuts and get topped with a sort-of similar-looking but looser streusel topping), is easily avoided -- once you taste a crumb cake, the difference...... View full recipe for "~ Deli-, Bakery-, & Coffee-Shop- Style Crumb Cake ~"

05/02/2016

~ Come on Over for Coffee & a Classic Coffeecake ~

Thanks to post WWII advertising campaigns by the American Coffee Bureau, by 1950, America was a country of coffee drinkers. In the workplace, the 15-minute coffee break was born, and, if you were a housewife, once you got your husband off to work and the kids off to school, you likely participated in a daily, weekly or occasional mid-morning "coffee klatch" with neighborhood friends. The term "coffee klatch" comes from the German word "kaffeeklatsch", meaning "coffee chat" -- a casual gathering for sharing coffee and conversation with close confidants. Literally translated: kaffee = coffee, and, klatsch = gossip. I like...... View full recipe for "~ Come on Over for Coffee & a Classic Coffeecake ~"

04/17/2016

~ Chocolate-Glazed Chocolate-Raspberry Tart Bars ~

The purchase of a few rectangular- and square-shaped tart pans were some of the best baking investments I've ever made. When it comes to serving crumbly cookie-type crusted tarts with custardy-textured centers, I find portioning and slicing a tart into bars or squares, instead of wedges from a round-shaped pan, more "user friendly" -- it's a kind of unique presentation too. There's more: When I'm making tarts that require refrigeration, I find these shapes to be a more efficient use of refrigerator space -- which, in my kitchen, is valuable real estate. "Tarte au chocolat" -- no special skills required!...... View full recipe for "~ Chocolate-Glazed Chocolate-Raspberry Tart Bars ~"

04/04/2016

~A Sophisticated Indulgence: Mousse au Chocolate~

Not being a chocolate lover (yes, that's what I said, I am not a lover of chocolate), when pressed to name my favorite chocolate confection, the French dessert, mousse au chocolate, is at the top of my very short list, which includes truffles and chocolate cheesecake made with a chocolate cookie crust. For me, mousse au chocolate is chocolate confection perfection. Calorie for calorie, every light, airy, creamy, thick spoonful is full of deep, rich, intense chocolate flavor. As easy as chocolate mousse is to make in theory, if you've never made one, it can be a bit confounding. Demystifying...... View full recipe for "~A Sophisticated Indulgence: Mousse au Chocolate~"

03/24/2016

~ What's Up Doc? A Carrot Pie w/Gingersnap Crust ~

In the Fall, we all flaunt our favorite recipes for pumpkin, squash and sweet potato pie. Well, it's Spring now, and I am here to tell you: anything a pumpkin, a squash or a sweet potato can do, a carrot can do better. It's got way more flavor than a pumpkin or a squash and a lot less calories than a sweet potato. There's more: besides being a great source of vitamins and minerals carrots contain more natural sugar than any vegetable aside from beets, which intensifies during the cooking process. Also, I have it on good authority, it's the...... View full recipe for "~ What's Up Doc? A Carrot Pie w/Gingersnap Crust ~"

03/01/2016

~ Pie-O-My: The Famous Mar-a-Lago Key Lime Pie ~

Don't shoot me I'm only the messenger. Finding common political ground with anyone this election cycle is harder than it has ever been. The climate is downright trash-talkin' nasty "out there". That said, when a friend suggested I post a recipe for key lime pie yesterday, I couldn't wait to get up this morning and make this particular one -- I could hardly sleep. For the first time ever here on Kitchen Encounters, I am mixing food with politics (and my wickedly-sarcastic sense of card-carrying DNC Super-Tuesday humor). I'm making what is touted to be "the most requested dessert on...... View full recipe for "~ Pie-O-My: The Famous Mar-a-Lago Key Lime Pie ~"

02/29/2016

~ Making Graham Cracker & Cookie Crumb Crusts ~

Cheesecakes, cream pies, many layered bar-type cookies, and, some refrigerated pudding and frozen ice-cream desserts call for using a graham cracker or cookie crumb crust as a buttery, crunchy base. While homemade graham crackers, sugar cookies, gingersnaps and chocolate wafers make exceptional crumb crusts, I won't lie, it would have to be one heck of an insanely over-the-top dessert for me to bake any of them for the sole purpose of starting with a real-deal scratch-made base. That said, I don't at all care for the quality of ready-made crumb crusts. Why? They taste bland to me, and that's primarily...... View full recipe for "~ Making Graham Cracker & Cookie Crumb Crusts ~"

02/27/2016

~ Pretty in Pink: No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecakes ~

When you find a big beautiful box of fresh strawberries in your market in February, you don't pause to ponder. Into the cart they go, you checkout, and, by the time you're out of the parking lot, your mind is recollecting "that recipe" you made "that time" for "that woman", who, two days before her Oscar party, decided to add mini-strawberry cheesecakes to her menu -- which caused you to go looking for strawberries in February -- not to mention 28 mini-cheesecake pans. "That woman" would be me, and, as I always say, "the devil is always in the details."...... View full recipe for "~ Pretty in Pink: No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecakes ~"

02/24/2016

~ Take it Easy: Cherry-Berry & Triple-Ginger Crisps ~

This luscious, easy-to-make dessert turns a gloomy, cold, wet, end-of-February day into a bright taste of sunny, hot, Summer. Made with frozen tart pie cherries, sweet blueberries and ingredients I keep on-hand in my pantry, it didn't require a trip to the grocery store or more than about twenty minutes of my time. FYI: A "crisp" is an American heritage dessert consisting of a fruit mixture topped with a crispy streusel usually made with oats. I happen to love gingersnap cookies (and all things ginger), which, when used in place of oats, gives it an extra-crunchy top. Why don't I...... View full recipe for "~ Take it Easy: Cherry-Berry & Triple-Ginger Crisps ~"

12/31/2015

~ Butter-Rum, Vanilla Bean & Eggnog Pound Cake ~

If you're planning on drinking some eggnog over the course of the next two days, set a cup of it aside until you read the rest of this post. You can thank me later. In my opinion, any cake, cookie or confection that starts out as plain vanilla, gets jettisoned to star status with the addition of the flavors of eggnog: cinnamon, nutmeg, and, of course, rum. Even folks who don't care to drink eggnog per se seem to love it if it is used as a flavoring in a dessert -- like this cake. Eggnog literally means eggs in...... View full recipe for "~ Butter-Rum, Vanilla Bean & Eggnog Pound Cake ~"

11/09/2015

~ Oh My Cup of Tea: Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares~

I love cheesecake -- on many levels, it's my ultimate-indulgence dessert. For me, a slice of cheesecake is a celebration on a plate. Ponder that last statement for one moment. Now: Would you rather celebrate your birthday with a candle in a slice of real-deal cheesecake, or, no matter how moist and decadent, a piece of cake or a cupcake? You've guessed my answer. I'm guessing I'm not standing anywhere close to alone. I hear a resounding cry for "cheesecake"! A bit about cheesecake: Cheesecake, a sweet dish of one more layers, is a beloved dessert around the world. A...... View full recipe for "~ Oh My Cup of Tea: Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares~"

08/22/2015

~ Plumb Scrumptious: E-Z Plum & Almond Galettes ~

Our purple plum tree is up to its old tricks again -- it's gifting us with these tart, juicy beauties faster than we can eat them hand-to-mouth, right-off-the-tree (which is my favorite way to enjoy them). Plums and peaches are my two favorite stone fruits. When they begin coming into my kitchen a basket or two at a time, using them to make a few rustic, freeform French galettes is a great way to keep up with them without a lot of effort on my part. When they pick up the pace and start coming in faster than that, I...... View full recipe for "~ Plumb Scrumptious: E-Z Plum & Almond Galettes ~"

08/03/2015

~ Golden Goddess: Shiro Plum & Egg Custard Tart ~

Plums fall into two categories: European and Japanese. Did you know that? I never knew that. I grew up thinking all plums were blue-ish purple and they showed up in farmers markets in August. Mostly I remember my mom putting them in a bowl on the kitchen counter for us to snack on 2-3-4 at a time -- nobody can eat just one plum. My grandmother turned them into thick jam, which we adored slathered on crepe-like pancakes called palacinki. And -- you can't grow up in an Eastern European house without acquiring a taste for slivovitz (plum brandy). Mel...... View full recipe for "~ Golden Goddess: Shiro Plum & Egg Custard Tart ~"

08/01/2015

~ Love is Blue: Very Berry Blueberry Creme Brulee ~

Resisting a rich, creamy, vanilla-laced egg-custard topped with a crackly layer of caramelized sugar is not something many people can do. I certainly don't have that kind of will-power. For us custard lovers, creme brulee and its cousin, creme caramel (flan), are the definition of decadent. Could anything possibly make it more tempting? Heck yea. Throw in a handful of freshly-picked blueberries, or, blackberries, or raspberries, or a combination of all three. A bit about creme brulee: Literally translated, "burnt cream" is a silky-smooth egg custard that is gently baked/steamed in a porcelain mold or in individual ramekins at a...... View full recipe for "~ Love is Blue: Very Berry Blueberry Creme Brulee ~"

07/30/2015

~ The Facts about ClearJel (Cook-Type vs. Instant) ~

On more than an occasional basis, everyone who enjoys the sport of cooking needs to thicken food, and, choosing the right thickening agent for the particular job can mean the difference between delight and disaster. Because thickeners come in many forms and they all work a bit differently, depending upon what's being prepared (a savory sauce, gravy or stew, or a sweet preserve, pie filling or pudding), it's in one's best interest to be well-informed in this arena. I am not a rocket scientist, so when it comes to discussing thickening agents, I stick to discussing what I know: how...... View full recipe for "~ The Facts about ClearJel (Cook-Type vs. Instant) ~"

07/17/2015

~ Andrew's Favorite: His Mom's Cherry Cookie Bars ~

Cherries and cherry desserts -- more specifically sour cherries and sour cherry desserts -- I don't know anyone who doesn't love cherries. My husband picked 150 pounds of pie cherries from our backyard tree last week, and ever since, I've been "making hay while the sun shines" -- posting as many of my favorite cherry recipes as I am physically capable in order to use up all of these culinary jewels. Click on the Related Article links below to get the most recent ones. Andrew is the Production Manager for WHVL-TV here in State College, PA. He's the host of...... View full recipe for "~ Andrew's Favorite: His Mom's Cherry Cookie Bars ~"

07/12/2015

~ Sweet Treats: Sour-Cherry-Pie Cookie Squares ~

When it comes to cherry desserts, these sweet little easy-to-make cherry treats hold their own amongst the heavy hitters. I can't lie either, this is not an original recipe of mine, it is my amped-up version of one that came straight from the pages of Taste of Home magazine, which, as most home cooks know, is one of a handful of reliable sources for good-tasting, easy-to-make, family-friendly, kitchen-tested recipes made from readily-available or on-hand ingredients. When it comes to baking fruit pies, tarts and galettes, with few exceptions, I never consider using pre-cooked, store-bought, canned pie filling (which is what...... View full recipe for "~ Sweet Treats: Sour-Cherry-Pie Cookie Squares ~"

07/09/2015

~ Seriously Simple Stovetop Sour Cherry Pie Filling ~

When it comes to baking fruit pies, tarts and galettes, with few exceptions, I never consider using pre-cooked pie filling, the kind made-from-scratch, in advance, on the stovetop. Lots of people do, and, I'm not here to criticize. If the end justifies the means, there is nothing wrong with pre-cooked. In fact, it's a commonly used, kid-tested, mother-approved method. There's more. Even when I'm faced with an over-abundance of fruit, depending on the fruit, whenever it's applicable, I choose freezing the fruit or cooked fruit concoction over the more laborious option: water-bath canning and preserving (which was a necessary way...... View full recipe for "~ Seriously Simple Stovetop Sour Cherry Pie Filling ~"

07/07/2015

~ Making Clafoutis and the Classic Cherry Clafoutis ~

If I were to write The Big Book of Effortlessly-Regal No-Brainer Desserts, clafoutis would be on the cover. Whisk up a simple batter (eggs, cream or milk, sugar, salt, flour, melted butter and brandy or extract), pour it over some fresh fruit and bake. Cherries are the classic addition, with berries or stone fruit like apricots, plums and peaches being common substitutions. I was pleased with one I once made with ripe pears. Apples work too, but, apples are firm and crisp by nature, so, they need to be peeled and very thinly-sliced to get a luxurious texture -- truth...... View full recipe for "~ Making Clafoutis and the Classic Cherry Clafoutis ~"

07/05/2015

~ Easy Cinnamon-Orange Berry-Blend Fruit Topping~

Berry season is about to begin. Berries, the kind that grow on bushes. For me, that means: blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. The thing about berries is: in the beginning, they ripen in "dribs and drabs" -- you never know how many of which ones your going to get, or, how many you're going to get at one time. Here in my Happy Valley backyard, at their peak, I can count on enough blueberries to make a few pies, enough raspberries and/or blackberries for some smaller tarts or galettes, and, enough of all to sprinkle into a daily bowl of cereal...... View full recipe for "~ Easy Cinnamon-Orange Berry-Blend Fruit Topping~"

07/02/2015

~ Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup (Hideg Meggyleves) ~

In my opinion, sour cherries are one of the most regal, refined fruits you will ever eat. My grandmother simply referred to these ruby-red jewels as "pie cherries", but, if you are on a quest to purchase them, they are sometimes marketed as "tart cherries". Joe and I live at a high elevation here in Central Pennsylvania, which I have come to learn is ideal for them, which is why our tree thrives, and thrives, and thrives. That said, even in this ideal environment, the sour cherry season is quite brief, with the cherries being ready to pick at the...... View full recipe for "~ Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup (Hideg Meggyleves) ~"

06/30/2015

~ Cheese-Filled Blintzes with Sour-Cherry Topping ~

Whoa Nellie -- please hold -- wait a minute -- is Mel making blintzes or blini? That's a valid question with an all-too-often misunderstood answer. Most experts will tell you the name is used interchangeably all over Central and Eastern Europe, with "blinchick" being the generic word for pancake in general, and, "blintchiki" being the plural. The slang terms "blintz" and "blin" were born from those words, and, nowadays, here in the USA, what they're called depends upon where your European ancestors came from, where they settled when they immigrated to America, and, who your American grandma got her recipe...... View full recipe for "~ Cheese-Filled Blintzes with Sour-Cherry Topping ~"

06/18/2015

~ How and When to use Liquid or Powdered Pectin ~

I grew up eating home-canned jellies, jams and preserves (and lots of apple butter too). In all seriousness, in their lifetimes, between my grandmother and her sister, Ann and Mary, no one in either family ever had to pick up a jar of Smucker's or Welch's. For a child like me, I found watching these two rocket scientists at work more interesting than anything on television. This type of fruit preservation can be very frustrating to the uniformed novice: every fruit gets treated a bit differently, no two recipes are alike and many recipes are cryptic. It really is rocket...... View full recipe for "~ How and When to use Liquid or Powdered Pectin ~"

06/04/2015

~ "Secrets" to Seriously Moist Cakes and Cupcakes ~

"It's a piece of cake" is an old saying that was popularized in WWII in reference to how easy the upcoming mission was going to be. "A cake walk" was military slang for a raid that turned out to be much easier than expected. "Takes the cake" is an expression that means "wins the prize". "If I knew you were coming I'd've baked a cake" is an expression of delightful surprise at having a special someone drop back into your life. Cakes really do play a significant role in all our lives! "Anyone can bake a cake" is a true...... View full recipe for "~ "Secrets" to Seriously Moist Cakes and Cupcakes ~"

05/30/2015

~ Delightfully Double-Vanilla Sour-Cream Frosting ~

Every great cake or cupcake deserves an equally great frosting. The two must play off each other so well you can't imagine one without the other. While vanilla, known for its enchanting scent and exotic taste, is indisputably the number one flavoring added to baked goods, when it comes to using it as the lone flavor enhancer in an otherwise flavorless cake, most published recipes don't add enough of it. Be it vanilla beans, paste, extract or powder, I typically double the recommended amount and I have never once been disappointed. There's more: I'll bet a lot of you do...... View full recipe for "~ Delightfully Double-Vanilla Sour-Cream Frosting ~"

05/28/2015

~ For the Love of Vanilla: Double-Vanilla Cupcakes ~

Vanilla is easy to love -- its scent is enchanting, its taste is exotic. It can be used in an array of sweet and savory culinary applications, but, it is indisputably the number one flavoring in baked goods. For my taste, most published recipes don't add enough vanilla. Be it vanilla beans, paste, extract or powder, I typically double the recommended amount -- yes, I double it and I have never once been disappointed. There's more: I'll bet a lot of you do the very same thing. Not being a professional baker does not mean I'm not a good baker...... View full recipe for "~ For the Love of Vanilla: Double-Vanilla Cupcakes ~"

05/22/2015

~David's Devilishly Dark & Dense Devil's Food Cake~

Tell someone to "name a chocolate cake". Nine out of ten times, the answer will be devil's food. This iconic childhood-memory-of-a-cake has a place in the hearts and minds of everyone who loves a forkful of rich and moist chocolate cake. I'll take it one step further: I'm willing to bet that nine out of ten times, if you ask, "what was the first chocolate cake you baked from scratch", the answer will be the same. It was indeed the first chocolate cake I baked from scratch, and, there was a period in time when I had the recipe committed...... View full recipe for "~David's Devilishly Dark & Dense Devil's Food Cake~"

04/21/2015

~ Madeleines: 'Hoity-Toity' Shell-Shaped Tea Cakes~

If you ever want to be accused of being hoity-toity (a pretentious show-off), serve some freshly-baked buttery-rich madeleines with tea or coffee as a finish to your next ladies luncheon. Within my small circle of close friends this kind of thing happens all the time. We take it upon ourselves to poke fun at each others talents -- especially after a few cocktails. It keeps us grounded. When lunch is at my house, I am the designated target. "La-tee-da, Melanie made madeleines." Revenge is sweet because the jib-jabs flow both ways. "Mel, these cookies are great." "Barb, they're not cookies,...... View full recipe for "~ Madeleines: 'Hoity-Toity' Shell-Shaped Tea Cakes~"

03/11/2015

~The day I turned Pastry Cream into Frozen Custard~

Me talking to Me at 9:00AM today: Seriously? Seriously. Seriously? Can I turn pastry cream into ice cream? I don't see why not, it contains all the same stuff. What do I do -- just empty this container of leftover pastry cream into the gelato machine and see what happens? Think this through -- your mad-science experiments never end well. You probably should add some cream to it -- it's much thicker than any ice-cream base you've ever worked with. Add the cream -- pastry cream IS egg custard. So, am I making frozen custard then? It would seem so...... View full recipe for "~The day I turned Pastry Cream into Frozen Custard~"

03/05/2015

~ Pretty in Pink: Easy, Elegant Strawberry Mousse ~

It's amazing what biting into a fresh, juicy strawberry can do to lift your spirits up and out of the Winter doldrums. Strawberries are in season in Florida right now and I for one am grateful. I've been binge-buying these plump, sweet beauties for about two weeks now -- this is my third 2-pound box. We've enjoyed strawberries with homemade rum cake and pastry cream, strawberry sauce on strawberry ice cream, sliced strawberries with fig-infused balsamic vinegar, and, because these are so sweet, just plain strawberries with softly-whipped cream dolloped on top! A bit about mousse (mOOse): This French term...... View full recipe for "~ Pretty in Pink: Easy, Elegant Strawberry Mousse ~"

03/03/2015

~ I've Got Ganache! Gotta make Chocolate Truffles ~

Chocolate truffles. Sigh. I know people who pay big bucks for them. Sigh. I am not of that mindset -- I make my own, and the end 100% justifies the means. Chocolate truffles are the easiest confection you will ever make resulting in the most gratitude and accolades. You got kids? Conduct an experiment. Give them a choice between a chocolate cupcake, a brownie, or, a truffle as an after-school snack. Truffle moms are the best moms -- call it "truffle love"! A sweet treat as an after school snack? Simmer down & read: Save your "don't give your kid...... View full recipe for "~ I've Got Ganache! Gotta make Chocolate Truffles ~"

02/24/2015

~ Silky Smooth Creme Caramel (Crema Caramella) ~

Meet my husband Joe's favorite dessert. I don't mean sort-of his favorite. It's his all-time favorite. It became incredibly popular in the United States the early 1960's when Mrs. John F. Kennedy hired a French Chef to oversee the White House kitchen. Everybody who wanted wanted to "be like Jackie" was off buying French ramekins and learning words like "bain-marie"! A bit about creme caramel: Creme caramel is a sophisticated dessert that is eaten around the world, but, was made famous in the later part of the 20th century in French restaurants. It is a silky-smooth custard that is gently...... View full recipe for "~ Silky Smooth Creme Caramel (Crema Caramella) ~"

02/22/2015

~ Sweet Dreams: Creme Patissiere (Pastry Cream) ~

Some people dream about chocolate. I dream about egg-laced pastry cream: silky-smooth, lushly-thickened creme patissiere. It's decadent and naughtily-seductive in an elegant sort of way. Desserts containing this sophisticated custard are at the top of my 'favorite sweet things' VERY short list. They're up there next to freshly-made real-deal lemon or blueberry Danish, and, the original Lindy's cherry cheesecake with their signature vanilla-wafer cookie crust. A bit about "creme patissiere" (pah-tees-SYAY): These are the two fancy French words for "pastry cream". It's essentially "sauce anglaise" (ahn-GLEHZ), aka a drizzly "vanilla sauce" that has been thickened with a starch (flour can...... View full recipe for "~ Sweet Dreams: Creme Patissiere (Pastry Cream) ~ "

02/20/2015

~ Oh Baby it's Never too Cold for Boston Cream Pie ~

Minus ten degrees. It could be worse. I could live in Boston. I don't want to think about that. I'd rather think about this: Boston Cream Pie, a feel-good dessert that won the hearts of Americans over a century ago. What got me thinking about this retro blast-from-my-past dessert? It was another one of those "thirty-one days to Oscar" flicks I watched on my kitchen TV yesterday: Some Like it Hot (Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis & Marilyn Monroe)! In this hilarious 1959 Billy Wilder movie Daphne (Jack Lemmon in drag) says, "When I was a kid, I used to have...... View full recipe for "~ Oh Baby it's Never too Cold for Boston Cream Pie ~"