Category Archives: DESSERT RECIPES

CSERESZNYÉS LEPÉNY (HUNGARIAN SOUR CHERRY CAKE)

When researching what dessert to serve with a Hungarian themed meal for our JazzVox guests this past weekend, I stumbled on this recipe from Saveur magazine. Hungarian Sour Cherry Cake. It seemed, from all my reading on the subject of favorite Hungarian foods, that cherries were universally loved. Almost to the point of being part of the genetic makeup of the Hungarian people. Who knew? So why look any further? Then I saw a picture of the “cake” and I wasn’t terribly impressed.

Definitely not a thing of beauty. And flat. It looked much more like a bar cookie than a cake. But who was I to question a dessert that was absolutely adored by the population of an entire nation! So I decided to serve the cake in spite of its lack of visual appeal. And boy am I glad I did! After tasting the cake, I knew why the cake so richly deserved to be cherished. It’s wonderful. Not too sweet, full of cherries, (who doesn’t love cherries) and featuring whole-wheat flour which lends a unique texture and earthy taste to the cake. My friend Vicki suggested that using whole-wheat pastry flour would result in the same desired flavor, but with a more refined texture. So I plan to use whole-wheat pastry flour the next time I bake this simple to prepare dessert. (See which I prefer!) So then how to serve the cake?

Well I have long believed that sweetened whipped cream is the answer to the age old question of how to garnish any dessert. So I whipped up some heavy cream, added a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar, and a few teaspoons of syrup from a jar of specialty cherries* that Mr. C. uses in his Manhattans. Then when it was time to serve dessert, I dolloped each individually plated piece of cake with the concoction. Added much appeal to the presentation and tasted absolutely perfect with the cake. 

So if you need a simple dessert that serves 10-12 people, this is the dessert for you. Just don’t forget to make the whipped cream. Left over whipped cream? Add a dollop to your coffee the next morning. Ain’t nothin’ finer!

(BTW, for Mr. Cs recipe for a perfect Manhattan, enter “Manhattan” in the search box on this site.)

  • 2 cubes (16 T.) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing the baking pan
  • 1½ c. granulated sugar
  • 3 T. kirschwasser**
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 
  • 1 egg, room temp.
  • 2¼ c. regular whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 c. milk (preferably whole milk)
  • 2 lb. pitted frozen sour cherries, thawed and “drained” on paper towels
  • ¼ c. all-purpose flour

In the large bowl of your mixer, beat the butter, sugar, kirschwasser, and vanilla together until pale and fluffy. Add egg; beat until incorporated.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer running on low speed, alternately add flour mixture and milk in 3 batches to make a thick batter. Spoon batter onto a buttered 13″ x 18″ x 1″ (half sheet) baking sheet and smooth out with an offset spatula. Toss cherries with the ¼ cup flour. Set cherries evenly over the top.

Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven until cake is golden brown and feels set to the touch, 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

Great topped with whipped cream that has been sweetened with powdered sugar and vanilla, a wee bit of kirschwasser, or my favorite – the syrup from a jar of really good cherries*.  

*I use the syrup from either Luxardo Maraschino Cherries or Culinary Circle Amarena Cherries. Both are Italian products.

**According to Wikipedia – “Kirschwasser (German for “cherry water”) or simply kirsch, is a clear, colorless fruit brandy traditionally made from double distillation of Morello cherries, a dark-colored cultivar of the sour cherry. However, it is now also made from other kinds of cherries. The cherries are fermented completely, including their stones. Unlike cherry liqueurs and cherry brandies, kirschwasser is not sweet. The best kirschwassers have a refined taste with subtle flavors of cherry and a slight bitter-almond taste that derives from the cherry seeds.”

 

CHOCOLATE SHEET CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT TOPPING

When you are expecting a large number of guests, there is no simpler dessert to prepare than a sheet cake. And contrary to popular belief, cake can be really, really delicious. I found the cake part of this recipe on the Taste of Home site a few years ago. I first served it as Mocha Chocolate Cake with Sour Cream Frosting. (On this site) And it has become my number one favorite chocolate cake. And every time I make it, it always meets with rave reviews. The cake is so moist, tender, and delicious, that frosting or topping probably wouldn’t be necessary. But because I enjoy gilding a lily, I always frost or top the cake with a little “something”.

This time I decided to top the cake with a chocolate hazelnut concoction. (It was going to be dessert for an Italian themed meal, so of course chocolate hazelnut anything would have been perfect!)  I found the recipe on the Cookies and Cups website. It was actually a cake filling recipe, but it looked so wonderful, that I had to give it a try. Of course I messed with it by adding Frangelico, but then, how could a splash of Frangelico hurt?

In my mind I thought I was creating a frosting, but as sometimes happens, things don’t always work out exactly as planned. I felt the “frosting” was too soft to set properly. So I decided that serving pieces of cake with a generous dollop of this amazingly flavorful “topping”, then garnishing each serving with chopped hazelnuts, was the way to go. And not only did it end up tasting wonderful, the presentation was lovely.

For me, the most delightful thing about cooking is the experimental process. And there are so many wonderful internet cooking sites to help me achieve my goals. Anything I need, or any subject of interest is right at my fingertips. So special thanks to the wonderful cooks who share their recipes with the world. They make me a better cook and I totally appreciate every single one of them.

  • 1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 c. packed brown sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 4 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
  • 3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¾ c. cocoa powder
  • 1 T. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1½ c. room temperature coffee or 1½ c. water and 1 rounded tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1-1/3 c. sour cream
  • 8 oz. heavy whipping cream
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • ¾ c. chocolate hazelnut spread (I use Nutella)
  • 2 c. powdered sugar, or more as needed
  • 2 T. Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
  • chopped toasted hazelnuts, garnish

Cream the butter and brown sugar together. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 3 teaspoons of the vanilla. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with coffee and sour cream, beating well after each addition.

Pour into a greased and floured 9×13-inch glass pan and an 8×8-inch square or round pan or three 9-inch greased and floured baking pans. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Don’t over-bake! Remove from oven and place pans on wire racks to cool completely. When cool, cover with plastic wrap.  

In the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Transfer to another bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

In the same mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and chocolate hazelnut spread until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and the Frangelico; beat until smooth and all the ingredients are incorporated. Fold in the reserved whipped cream. Refrigerate until ready to serve generously dolloped onto cut pieces of cake. Garnish with chopped toasted hazelnut pieces.

(Thanks Brian and Bonnie for letting me know that my preparation instructions were incomplete before this revision. I must admit however, that I liked Brian’s idea that perhaps the Frangelico was just meant as a small treat for the baker, rather than an ingredient in the topping. But then, while you have the bottle out anyway, a wee dram for the baker could always become a part of the entire culinary experience. Just sayin’…….)

MINCE TARTS OR PIE WITH BOURBON CARAMEL WHIPPED CREAM

So what the heck is a mince tart? Well, I’m sure you’ve heard of mincemeat. Mince is merely mincemeat without the meat – thus “mince”! A sweet mixture of liquored and spiced minced fruit (apples, raisins, sultanas, currents, and candied orange peel), baked in a buttery crust. And a mince pie? (I’ll leave you to figure that one out on your own!)

It all started when Jim, this years’ Thanksgiving dinner host, asked me to bring dessert. No problem. I knew that meant French Apple Pie (recipe on site) and Pumpkin Pie Bars (also on site). Then he mentioned how much he loved mincemeat pie. (I can take a hint when I hear one!) So of course, I added mincemeat to the lineup.

At first I was tempted to buy mincemeat, but the good stuff is expensive.  For example: The lowest price I could find for a decent mincemeat – Cross and Blackwell Rum and Brandy Mincemeat, 29-oz. jar was $24.99 from ebay. At least it wasn’t $25.00, that would have been really too prohibitively expensive. (And yes I do know that $24.99 is really $25.00! But most retailers still must think that consumers don’t know the difference, because they continue to waste printer space and ink by not labeling a product $25, instead of $24.99!) Sorry for that little rant, but it bugs me that retailers think the general public is completely lacking intelligence! And grocery stores. What’s with “sales” prices on an item liked canned baked beans advertised as “3 for $6”? Why not just $2 a can? Because how many ever you buy, the price is still going to be $2 a can. You don’t have to buy 3 cans to get the “sale” price. (Sorry, I’ll stop now!) Back to this recipe.  

I had made homemade mince before, but it had been almost 15 years. So I looked up the recipe in my 2nd cookbook, made a couple of changes I felt were necessary (I’ve learned a thing or two about baking in the past 15 years), and came up with this recipe. And oh my! It turned out to be a really good mince recipe.

Now I know some of you have memories of mincemeat pies that weren’t terribly good. But I feel duty bound to encourage you to put your unpleasant memories behind you and give this mince a try. First of all, no critters were harmed in the making of this mince. Mince is simply, as stated above, a sweet mixture of liquored and spiced minced fruit (apples, raisins, sultanas, currents, and candied orange peel). There is nothing in mince not to like. And when you add a dollop of Bourbon Caramel Whipped Cream – it’s a holiday in your mouth.

So start a new tradition at your home this year. But don’t wait. Make the mince now so that it will be ready for Christmas. Like nice people, mince only improves with age.

  • 1½ c. raisins
  • 1½ c. golden raisins (sultanas)  
  • 1½ c. dried currents
  • 2/3 c. + ¼ c. bourbon or brandy, divided
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and finely minced
  • 8-oz. container candied orange peel
  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • ¾ c. brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground mace
  • ¼ tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • tart or pie pastry (recipes below)
  • coarse or granulated sugar

This recipe makes enough mince for 2 10-inch tarts or 2 8-inch pies

Place the raisins, sultanas, and dried currents in a small saucepan. Add the 2/3 cup bourbon, bring just to a boil, stir to coat all the fruit, remove from heat, and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, combine the apples, candied orange peel, butter, brown sugar, spices, and the zest and juice of the lemon and orange, in a large ovenproof dish. When the raisins and currents are cool, stir into the apple mixture.  

Cover the dish and place in a cool place overnight. (The remaining bourbon gets added the next day.)

The following day, place the ovenproof dish in a cold oven, bring the temperature to 200 degrees, and bake for three hours, stirring every hour or so. Remove from oven, let cool completely, and stir in the remaining fourth cup bourbon.

Store covered in your refrigerator until ready to use. (Best if left to mellow at least 4 weeks, but if you are like me, the mince only gets to age for about a week. It’s still good, so no worries.)

MINCE TARTS (makes enough pastry for 2 10-inch tart pans)

  • 3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ¾ c. (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
  • 5 to 6 T. ice water, enough to make a cohesive dough

Combine the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor. Pulse mixture until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. With the motor running, drizzle in the ice water, stopping when the dough comes together.

Divide the dough in half, and shape each piece into a flattened round disk. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

When ready to prepare the tarts, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Let warm for 15 minutes or so, till it’s “rollable.”  

If using 10-inch tart pans, roll each disk into a 12-inch circle, about 1/8″ thick. (Remember, always roll the dough from the middle outward.) Using a plate or “whatever”, cut the dough into a 12-inch circle. (Save the scraps to use for decorative cutouts for the top of the tart.)

Note: If you are making tarts smaller or larger than 10 inches, measure the bottom of the tart pan plus double the height of the sides. Roll your pastry dough to that circumference. 

Gently nestle the dough circles into the tart pans. The pastry on the sides should be flush with the top of the tart pans. (Try not to stretch the pastry too much.) Cut shapes from the dough scraps: set aside.

Prick the bottom of each pastry several times with a fork. This helps to prevent puffing while the tart bakes.

Spoon mince into the pasty lined tart pans until it reaches the top of the crust. Gently press down as you fill the tart. Top with cut out decorative tart crust pieces liberally sprinkled with coarse or granulated sugar.

Bake the tarts in a preheated 400 degree oven for 28 to 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Half way through the baking time, cover the mince with a round piece of aluminum foil to prevent the mince from browning too much and becoming dry.

Remove the tarts from the oven and cool in the pan. When ready to serve, gently push up on the removable bottom of the tart pan and cut into very narrow wedges. Serve at room temperature with Bourbon Caramel Whipped Cream (recipe below) or topping of choice.

MINCE PIE 

  • 6 T. ice cold water
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • heaping 1 c. Crisco

Step 1 – Pour cold water into a small bowl.

Step 2 – Measure flour and salt into a mixing bowl.

Step 3 – Take ½ cup of the flour back out of the mixing bowl and stir it into the water. Make a paste. Set aside.

Step 4 – Add the heaping cup of Crisco to the flour and salt mixture. Mix together. (I use my KitchenAid mixer.)

Step 5 – Add the water/flour paste to the flour/shortening bowl and mix just until blended. Do not over-mix. Divide dough in half. Roll out dough and place in 8-inch pie pans. Cut off excess dough and save for pie crust cut outs to decorative the top of the pie.

When ready to bake pies, pour mince into the pastry lined pans. Top with cut out decorative pie crust pieces liberally sprinkled with coarse or granulated sugar.

Cover edges of pie crust with 1½-inch strips of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning. Remove foil last 5 minutes of baking time.

Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until the crust is a very light brown and the filling is starting to bubble. Half way through the baking time, cover the mince with a round piece of aluminum foil to prevent the mince from browning too much and becoming dry.

Serve warm or at room temperature with Bourbon Caramel Whipped Cream (recipe below) or topping of choice.

Helpful hint: Use a pastry cloth to roll out your pie crust. It really makes a difference. You can find pastry cloths in almost any kitchen wares shop. Well worth the $10 or so.

BOURBON CARAMEL WHIPPED CREAM

  • ¼ c. unsalted butter
  • ½ c. brown sugar
  • tiny pinch salt
  • ¼ c. + 2 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 2 T. good bourbon

Whisk butter, brown sugar, and salt together over medium heat in a small heavy saucepan until brown sugar has dissolved completely. (This happens after the mixture comes to a boil and is allowed to burble for a couple of minutes or until it turns kind of shiny. Continue whisking the whole time the mixture is on the heat.) Remove from heat and gently whisk in the quarter cup heavy cream and bourbon. Allow caramel to come to room temperature and then refrigerate.

Beat the remaining 2 cups of whipping cream to stiff peaks. Add the cold caramel sauce and whip just until well blended. (The caramel sauce and whipped cream can be combined up to a few hours before serving.)  

CHOCOLATE CHIP, MACADAMIA NUT, AND TOASTED COCONUT BARS

I love bar cookies because not only are they delicious, they are just so darned easy to prepare. And I needed an easy treat to serve the guys who would be rehearsing in our home later that afternoon.

So having just returned from Hawaii where macadamia nuts are considered a staple, I decided to include them with a couple of my other favorite tropical ingredients to create a simple bar cookie that would remind all of us of warm and sunny places. I also wanted to be able to leave my stand mixer in the pantry and while I was at it, make the cookies GF (gluten free). (I sometimes ask a lot of myself!)     

So I started with a basic Blondie (a butterscotch or vanilla flavored bar cookie) recipe and went from there.        

Now I know what you are thinking. Not an inexpensive cookie to make. And of course, you are right. But these are quite rich so you really don’t need to eat a very large bar to feel like you have just eaten a rare treat.

So if some day you find yourself short of time, but need a really good cookie to serve your family or friends, I would recommend you give this recipe a try. If you want to fancy up your bars to look like an expensive dessert that just came from the kitchen of a fine restaurant, place 1 bar on top of (at an angle) a second bar placed on a lovely small plate. Surround the bars with 2-3 small scoops of vanilla ice cream, dollop with a small amount of real whipped cream, sprinkle with finely chopped macadamia nuts, and finally top with a shave or two of dark chocolate. If that doesn’t impress your family and friends, I don’t know what would? Komoika (enjoy)

  • ¾ c. unsalted butter
  • 1½ c. GF flour (I use Cup4Cup) or unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1½ c. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 c. lightly salted macadamia nuts, chopped
  • 1½ c. toasted coconut

Melt the butter in a large glass bowl. Remove from microwave and set aside to cool. Meanwhile whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a separate bowl. Set aside.

When the melted butter is cool, stir in the brown sugar and mix until well combined and smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix just until combined. Do not overmix. Gently stir in the chocolate chips, nuts, and coconut. Scoop the batter into a greased 9×13-inch baking pan and level with an offset spatula.

Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven (for glass) or 350 degree oven (if using a metal baking pan) for 30 to 40 minutes (takes longer when you use GF flour) or until the bottom is a nice golden brown and the top feels set when touched.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. When completely cooled and the chocolate chips have once again hardened, cut into bars. Store in an airtight container.   

 

 

RUGELACH

Whenever I think about soft, delicious cookie like pastries, I think of rugelach. They are just so tasty. To my thinking it’s a sin and a shame that they are not served more often both at home and in restaurants. But then I have always daydreamed of owning my own restaurant for one reason, and one reason only. Dainty desserts. Allow me to explain how this has anything to do with this recipe.

After a lovely restaurant meal, I would be in heaven if I were able to order a couple 1-2 bite desserts to finish my meal. Miniature morsels of sweetness, just large enough to provide that little something that says my fine dining experience has come to a fabulous end. Instead, what is usually offered is the same old standard collection of choices, each large enough to easily serve 4-6 aging appetites! I don’t want a warm brownie the size of a dinner plate served with 2 scoops of not-so-special vanilla ice cream! 

I want a tiny tart (lemon and pecan come to mind), or a diminutive piece of pie bar (see several examples on this site), or a beautifully frosted miniature cupcake, or a tiny exquisite chocolate mousse served in an espresso cup, or a lovely truffle (the chocolate variety), or a perfect little shortbread cookie, or a delicious little pastry like rugelach. The variety that could be served is endless.

Now, because I understand that restaurants need to make money, I wouldn’t expect any restaurant to carry more than 6-8 types of these miniature wonders. Just as long as they were small, different, and absolutely delicious, I would be one happy lady. But enough about my daydreams. Back to rugelach.

According to Wikipedia, “rugelach is a Jewish pastry. It is very popular in Israel, commonly found in most cafes and bakeries. It is also a popular treat among American and European Jews. Traditional rugelach are made in the form of a crescent by rolling a triangle of dough around a filling.”

According to me, “rugelach is easy and relatively inexpensive to prepare, absolutely delicious, and enough different from other desserts/cookies/soft pastries, as to qualify for the “Dainty Desserts” menu at the restaurant I am still daydreaming about.”

(I’ll let you know when I open this restaurant. Do not hold your breath!)

  • 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • ¼ c. sour cream
  • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 T. granulated sugar 

Cream the butter, cream cheese, and sour cream together in the bowl of your stand mixer. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, mixing constantly, until dough holds together and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. (Don’t overmix.) Scoop dough onto a lightly floured surface and form into a rough ball shape. Divide the ball into four equal pieces and again roll into balls. Flatten each ball to look like a fat disc. Cover each disc with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Refrigerate for at least 90 minutes, or up to 48 hours. Meanwhile, prepare one of the following fillings and the egg wash.

Brandied Apricot

  • 1 c. chopped dried apricots
  • 1½ c. water
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ c. brown sugar, depends how sweet you want your filling
  • ¼ c. brandy

Place the ingredients in a small pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated – 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat, cool, and mash. (Some small lumps are desired, so don’t mash too much.) Can be prepared ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

Cherry Almond

  • ¾ c. dried cherries
  • 1 c. toasted almond slivers
  • ½ c. cherry preserves
  • 1/8 tsp. almond extract

Combine ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until a thick, coarse paste forms. Can be prepared ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

Raspberry, Chocolate, and Pecan Filling

  • 1½ c. pecans, toasted and very finely chopped
  • 1/3 c. very finely chopped semisweet chocolate
  • ¾ c. raspberry jam

Combine and spread on dough as directed above. Can be prepared ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

Egg Wash:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. water
  • granulated sugar
  • ground cinnamon, opt.

Beat the egg and water together. Set aside.

To Assemble:

On a well-floured board, roll each disc of dough into a 9-inch circle. (Only take one disc out of the refrigerator at a time.) Using a small offset spatula, spread a scant quarter of the filling onto the dough to within 1-inch of the edge. Cut the circle into 12 equal wedges, cutting the whole circle first into quarters, then each quarter into thirds. Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge. Place the cookies, points tucked under, about an inch apart on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Brush each cookie with the egg wash. Lightly sprinkle with granulated sugar mixed with cinnamon to taste. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

Rugelach will keep for a several days in a tightly sealed container. They can be rewarmed in a microwave

Hint: To get a perfect 9-inch circle, use a 9-inch cake pan. Place upside down on the dough and cut around the pan with a sharp knife. Save scraps. After the 4th dough round, you will probably have enough scraps to make another 9-inch circle.

 

 

CREAM CHEESE DANISH

I love to bake. I’m told, however, that my first attempts were not well received by my family. This may have something to do with the fact that not only did my first efforts contain flour, sugar, and eggs, they also included sand. I was 3 or 4. Apparently I was just old enough to find a bowl, pilfer flour and sugar out of the large under counter bins (we lived in an old farm house) and purloin eggs out of the ever present bowl in the refrigerator. (We lived on a chicken farm.) I also knew where the muffin tins lived, and how to turn on the hose. I’m told that on more than one occasion, I became seriously upset (read here hissy fit) when I was told not to “bake” anymore sand pies.

It was about then that my mother decided (I assume) to start teaching me how to bake “real” goodies. And I’ve never stopped. So when I decided to serve brunch for our last pre-concert meal, I was in heaven thinking about what pastries I could serve our guests.

And the first pastry that came to mind was this recipe. And what I usually do when I think about preparing one of my own recipes, I signed onto this site to print a copy. What?!?! No cream cheese Danish on my blog. How had I been so remiss? So ladies and gentlemen, I am correcting that appalling omission right here and now.

Now I know what some of you are thinking. “Patti, you want me to make a cream cheese Danish? Are you out of your unbleached, all-purpose flour lovin’ mind?” And believe me, I get it. I was quite intimidated the first time I contemplated making pastry too. But as I prepared this recipe, I realized it wasn’t difficult at all. You simply needed to know how to read and follow instructions. (Heck, everyone who has been in the kitchen, even if only to prepare Top Ramen, has learned how to follow directions!) So get over your fear and give this decadent pastry a try. You don’t even need a mixer. But, if you don’t have the time or inclination right now, save the recipe and consider making it ahead for Christmas morning.  

I always make something fun for Christmas morning. This year I’ve already decided that this Danish filled with the Dried Cherry Compote (recipe below) will be on our breakfast table. Hope you make a similar decision. Then, when asked where you got the amazing pastry, tell them Mrs. Santa sent it along with all the other gifts.

Christmas is such fun! Part magic, and part an indecent amount of work for Mrs. Santa. So what’s one more task? You can always sleep later, that is after all the wrapping paper has been cleared away, the turkey is nothing but cleaned skin and bones, and the left over wine has mysteriously disappeared! 

  • ½ c. milk, room temperature 
  • 1 T. or 1 pkg. active dry yeast
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla, divided
  • 3½ c. bread flour
  • 1 c. cold unsalted butter
  • 2 packages (8 oz.) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 c. granulated sugar, plus more for dusting
  • filling (see filling suggestions below)

In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, yeast, sugar, eggs, salt, and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. Set aside. Pour the bread flour into a bowl and grate the butter over the flour. With a table knife (yes, just a plain old table knife), cut the butter into the flour. (There will still be lumps of butter, but generally distribute the butter as best you can. Actually you want some lumps. They help keep the dough tender.)

Pour the milk mixture over the flour and butter mixture, and using your table knife again, run your knife through the dough until the mixture holds together. Remove dough from bowl, shape into a rough ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Meanwhile whip the cream cheese, sugar, and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla together.

When ready to roll out the dough, cut the dough ball into 2 portions and roll each into a 10×14 rectangle. Place each on a parchment paper lined baking sheet*. Mentally divide the dough into thirds running the long way. Spread the cream cheese mixture down the middle third of each pastry. (Yes it will be quite thick.) Then spread a thin layer of your filling of choice over the cream cheese.

On the outside 2/3rd of the dough, cut 1-inch strips from the edge of the dough to the filling. Starting at one end, braid the strips over the filling. Sprinkle with just a dusting of sugar, cover each with a tea towel, and let sit for 30 minutes.

Bake the Danish in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 25-35 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Do not over-bake. There is so much butter in the dough, that if you bake it too long, the bottom will be over-browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Cut and serve at room temperature. Can be made a day ahead and left on your counter overnight lightly covered with a tea towel.

*I use the kind of cookie sheet that has three flat sides. That way, after the 2 Danish have baked, I can slide them right off onto cooling racks.

Dried Cherry Compote

  • 1 c. dried cherries, finely chopped
  • 2 T. granulated sugar
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • ¼ c. water
  • 2 T. brandy

Combine the chopped dried cherries, both sugars, water, and brandy in a medium sized saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring occasionally. Allow mixture to thicken and cherries to cook down slightly, but still maintaining their shape, 10-15 minutes. Allow mixture to cool completely before spreading on cream cheese filling.

Other Filling Suggestions

Any type of Jelly, jam, or fruit spread – raspberry, Marionberry, strawberry, blackberry, boysenberry, etc., or orange marmalade, apricot preserves, lemon curd, etc. You could even try Nutella. Go for it! It’s all good.

Cherry filled

blackberry jam filled

 

 

 

 

 

BERRY PIE BARS

Yes, I know. Berry season is just about over. So why am I publishing this recipe now rather than 2 months ago? Well the answer is simple. I didn’t have time to work on this recipe until now. (I have a life you know!) Besides, I mostly use frozen berries when I bake with berries anyway. So using fresh berries is not the least bit necessary. (I know I didn’t really need to explain myself on this issue, but sometimes I just like to set the record straight right up front.)

So – this is my spin on an averiecooks.com recipe. And why “pie” in the form of a bar cookie you might ask? Well, first of all – I love pie. But pie is a lot of work. And making enough traditional pies to serve a crowd would be a ridiculous use of my dwindling energy level. (Not that my guests aren’t worth the effort. I’m just not the energizer bunny I used to be.) 

So last evening when we hosted a potluck dinner for our friends and neighbors who are on the board and committees of our homeowners association, our guests got their blueberry pie in the form of a blueberry pie bar. And I’m happy to report, no one complained about it either. (18 good people, each and every one!)

Now, if you have already glanced at the recipe below, you might be a little put off that there are 4 steps to compiling this delicious concoction. But in my defense, each step is very easy and takes no time at all. You don’t even need a mixer, which in my case means I don’t have to take my stand mixer off a shelf in the pantry and carry it to one of the counters in my kitchen. So anytime I can leave my mixer firmly planted to a pantry shelf, I am ever so delighted.

But back to these bars. OMG, what can I say? Well, to begin with, they are just plain delicious. The crust is crunchy, the filling isn’t runny, and the cinnamon flavored topping is as lovely to look at as it is to savor. So regardless of the fact that these bars don’t come in a round pie pan and cut into wedge shape pieces, they are still the essence of pie at its’ finest.

Just so you know, I actually do know how to build a pie. Search this site for my Lemon Meringue Pie, Bourbon Pecan Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream, French Apple Pie, and Chicken Pot Pie. Ok, ok – maybe Chicken Pot Pie is a bit of a stretch, but it‘s still a pie, and delicious to boot! Enjoy them all. 

Crust and Topping

  • 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • ½ c. light brown sugar, packed
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Melt the butter in a medium sized, microwave-safe bowl. Whisk in the sugars and salt. Add the flour; stir to combine. Set aside 2 cups to be used as the topping. (Before topping the dessert, add the cinnamon to the set-aside mixture. Don’t break up the crumbs as you incorporate the cinnamon. Its best if the cinnamon just coats the crumbs.

Transfer remaining mixture to a lightly buttered 9 x 13-inch baking dish. (I prefer glass.) Using your fingers, pack the mixture down hard to create an even crust slightly sliding up the sides of the pan. Set aside.

Filling

  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 T. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 lg. egg
  • ½ c. plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and flour. Add the egg, yogurt, and vanilla. When thoroughly blended, pour the filling over the crust and tilt the pan to evenly cover the crust. Set aside.

Berry Layer

  • 2/3 – 1 c. granulated sugar (use full cup if the berries are tart)
  • 4 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1-2 T. fresh lemon juice (depending on the tartness of your berries)
  • 4 c. frozen or fresh berries – blackberries, Marionberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc. (no need to thaw frozen berries)

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Add the lemon juice and stir well. Add the berries and lightly toss until the berries are thoroughly coated. Evenly distribute the berry mixture over the filling. Sprinkle the reserved crust/topping mixture over the berries.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the berries are bubbling around the edges and the bottom crust is a nice golden brown. (That’s just one of the reasons I use glass baking pans! I can see the bottom crust. Thank you Pyrex.)

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before cutting into serving sized pieces. Great dolloped with whipped cream or a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

 

 

 

IRISH CREAM AND PECAN BUNDT CAKE

Yesterday was my dear father-in-law John’s 98th birthday. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law came over from Winthrop, we drove up from Camano Island, and the 5 of us went out for dinner. Of course first we had appetizers and a drink at John’s home before venturing into the bustling town of La Conner to dine. And as usual the 5 of us had a grand time.

Previously I had decided that John needed a birthday cake. Of course he did! So in trying to keep my work to a minimum (getting lazy in my “full speed ahead” advancement into old age), I decided to work up a recipe for a Bundt cake that would be easy to prepare, a bit different, and easy to prepare. Did I mention I also wanted it to be easy to prepare? Anyway, this is the result.

Now, not to change the subject (and of course I am going to do just that), but I am pretty darned disgusted with manufacturers whose products used to be a standard weight that I could depend upon. Until yesterday, I was completely oblivious to the package weight change on cake mixes. I don’t even know why the weight verbiage caught my eye, but before I went any further with this recipe, I checked the weight on the other cake mixes in my pantry. They were all 15.25 ounces instead of the standard 18.25 ounces. That’s a 3 whole ounce reduction! What? Why? And when did this happen? And why didn’t they just ask me if I would be willing to spend a little extra money to keep the same number of ounces? I would have answered in the affirmative. It also registered on me that the change in ounces would make a significant impact on the final product when I used cake mixes as an ingredient. Then I got mad! Grrrrr! So I went on line and did some research on the subject.

Patti’s seat-of-the pants economic analysis: Companies live or die by their bottom line. Apparently manufacturers realized that their profit margin would increase significantly if they simply decreased the amount of product contained in any given package, but failed to adjust the price accordingly. Duh! In other words, consumers would continue to pay the same price for their product, but the content of the package would be much reduced. And consumers like myself, who don’t necessarily check package weight, but rather focus on the ingredient list don’t figure it out, sometimes for years. (Guilty as charged!) In my defense, I simply don’t use cake mixes that often, but I have several killer cake recipes on this site that call for an 18.25-oz. cake mix. As a result of finally realizing what has happened in the cake mix world, I plan to edit my blog recipes in the very near future to include extra cake mix as explained below.

My solution: Since cake mixes now all seem to come in 15.25-oz. packages rather than 18.25 ounce packages, I’m going to simply add about 1/3 cup yellow cake mix to all my recipes that call for an 18.25 ounce cake mix. (I’ll use yellow because it won’t add or detract from the flavor of the cake I’ll be baking.) And yes, I know it’s a pain to always have to add that little extra cake mix. But I frankly can’t think of any other way around the problem. I’m simply going to keep an extra open cake mix (stored in an airtight container) at the ready. One additional cake mix should last me through several recipes.

I’m sure many of you are way ahead of me on this new product challenge. But sometimes I’m just clueless. This was obviously one of those times. But I still know a good cake when I taste one. And this is one good cake!

  • 1 c. chopped pecans, divided
  • 1 package (15.25-oz.) yellow cake mix
  • 1/3 c. additional cake mix
  • 1 pkg. (3.4-oz.) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ c. room temperature water
  • ½ c. vegetable oil
  • ¾ c. + 2 T. Irish cream liqueur, divided
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder
  • 2 T. hot water
  • 1-2 c. powdered sugar, or more as needed

Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan. Sprinkle ½ of the chopped nuts evenly over bottom of pan. Reserve the rest of the chopped nuts for the cake batter.

In a large mixing bowl, beat cake mix and dry pudding mix together. Add the eggs, ¼ cup room temperature water, oil, the ¾ cup of Irish cream liqueur, and the remaining chopped nuts. Beat for 5 minutes at high speed. Pour batter over nuts in pan.

Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 52-57 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Do not overbake. Remove from oven. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then gently pry the cake away from the sides of the pan, and gently invert onto a serving dish. Cool completely before adding the glaze.

To make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the espresso powder, hot water, the 2 tablespoons Irish Cream Liqueur, and enough powdered sugar to bring to desired consistency. When the cake is cool, drizzle glaze over the top letting it flow down the sides. Let the glaze set before serving.

To reiterate: – Adding an additional 1/3rd cup cake mix whenever you use a cake mix as an ingredient and the recipe calls for an 18.25-oz. cake mix and what you have in front of you is a 15.25-oz. cake mix, solves the weight problem and thus assures you a wonderful final product. But please note, if you are simply making the cake as is, and not using the cake mix as an ingredient, follow the instructions on the package.

 

FRESH RASPBERRY SAUCE

I love raspberries. In fact they are my favorite berry. Although, strawberries and blackberries both run a close second!) So when I saw fresh raspberries for sale at our local farmer’s market this past Monday, I just had to buy a 4 pint box. And since I needed to build a light dessert for our 4th of July celebration with good friends Ken and Christine, I decided to try out this recipe from my favorite magazine – Cooking Light. Well it turns out Ken is a raspberry lover too. Actually we all are, but Ken gets just about as excited about raspberries as Scooby Doo does when given a Scooby snack. It’s really quite fun to watch. (Sorry Ken, but if you can’t rat on your good friends, who can you rat on?)

Anyway, this sauce over vanilla ice cream was a total success. What made the dessert course even more delicious; Ken had made a blackberry cobbler. OMG – we were all in berry heaven until we couldn’t look at another berry, much less take another bite. What a fun way to spend the 4th of July. Watching fireworks from our good friend’s deck (west side of Camano) and eating raspberries and blackberries with shear abandon. Good times my friends, good times! Thanks again K & C for another wonderful evening together.

Please don’t take my word that this is the best raspberry sauce you will ever taste. Make it for yourself. If you end up disagreeing with me, shoot me an email. I’ll take your thoughts into consideration, promptly dismiss them, and proceed directly to the kitchen to build myself yet another batch of this amazing berry sauce. Yay raspberries!

p.s. If you want to take this whole raspberry sauce over ice cream to an even higher level, after you scoop ice cream into individual bowls, pour on some warmed Dark Chocolate Raspberry Sauce (recipe below) and then spoon on as much of this raspberry sauce as the bowl will allow.  

  • 2 pints (4 cups) fresh raspberries, divided
  • ¼ c. sugar
  • 1 T. raspberry liqueur (Chambord, Framboise)
  • ½ tsp. fresh lemon juice

Combine 1 pint of the raspberries and sugar in a food processor; process until pureed. Press mixture through a fine sieve over a medium bowl; discard solids. Stir in remaining 2 cups of raspberries, raspberry liqueur, and lemon juice. Cover and chill. Wonderful over vanilla ice cream, pound cake, or angel food cake. Watch for my recipe for Chocolate Angel Food Cake in the near future.

DARK CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY SAUCE

  • ¾ c. premium cocoa powder (I use Ghirardelli Majestic Premium Cocoa Powder purchased at Cash & Carry)
  • 6 T. sugar
  • tiny pinch kosher salt
  • 2/3 c. water
  • 4 T. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 T. raspberry liqueur or water

Whisk cocoa, sugar, and salt together in a medium-sized saucepan. Gently whisk in the water. Slowly bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in butter, vanilla, and raspberry liqueur or water. Serve warm or allow to cool completely and store in the refrigerator. Warm before pouring on ice cream. 

 

 

 

LEMON MERINGUE PIE

So, this is a plain, old fashioned lemon meringue pie recipe. No fancy frills. No new-age ingredients. No reduction in calories. No new nothin! Just your grandma’s lemon meringue pie.

So Patti, you might query, why bother posting a standard, easily obtainable recipe? Nice of you to ask. I am posting this recipe because you simply can’t improve on perfection. And Betty Crocker has had the filling and meringue part of Lemon Meringue Pie “right” for decades. So like I said, why mess with perfection?

Now as far as the crust part of this recipe, to the best of my knowledge Betty never prepared her pie crust in this manner. But I am here to tell you, this recipe always works, is light and tender, and very easy to make. It has never failed me. Never!

I had been dreaming about lemon pie for a long time. So when I was deciding what kind of dessert I wanted for my birthday dinner, there was simply no other choice. It had to be this nostalgic slice of sunshine that was such a special part of my childhood. When grandma made this pie, it was like the angels were singing right through every bite.

Now one thing you should know about pie if you are new to baking. It usually takes a couple of hours to build a pie or two, but only a few short minutes for your family and friends to devour your entire creation. So for the first time baker who has invested a lot of time in the preparation, it can cause considerable consternation to witness your pie or pies being devoured in less time than it takes to send a text message! (At least for me to send a text message!)

But for those of you like me, who have been baking pies for several decades, it’s just a matter of fact development that happens as often as you bake a pie. (Oh who am I kidding? It’s still hard to watch my piece de resistance evaporate before my very eyes only to be left with a few crumbs and an empty pie plate! All that work. Gone in mere minutes. Heavy sigh….) But if you are going to be a pie baker, it’s just the consequence of preparing a rare treat. And the first or next one you should prepare is this Lemon Meringue Pie.

So charm your family or friends with your culinary prowess, bake them a pie. Other pie recipes on this site that are delicious include Bourbon Pecan Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream, French Apple Pie, and Chicken Pot Pie. OK, Chicken Pot Pie doesn’t quite fit in the dessert category, but it’s still darned good. Just don’t serve it for dessert. Just sayin’!

Pie Crust:

  • ¼ c. very cold water
  • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • heaping 2/3 c. Crisco

Step 1 – Pour cold water into a small bowl.

Step 2 – Measure flour and salt into a mixing bowl.

Step 3 – Take 1/3 cup of the flour back out of the mixing bowl and stir it into the water. Make a paste. Set aside.

Step 4 – Add the Crisco (heaping 2/3 cup) to the flour and salt mixture. Mix together. (I use my KitchenAid mixer.)

Step 5 – Add the water/flour paste to the flour/shortening bowl and mix just until blended. Do not over-mix. Roll out dough and place in pie plate. Trim and flute the edges. (This recipe makes enough dough for a double crust pie if using a regular sized pie plate, or one large bottom crust with a little left over for a tart like the one described below.)

Prick the pie crust all over with a table fork. Bake in a pre-heated 425 degree oven until light golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool before pouring in the filling.

Helpful hint: Use a floured pastry cloth to roll out your pie crust. It really makes a difference. You can find pastry cloths in almost any kitchen wares shop. Well worth the $10 or so.

Lemon Filling:

  • 1½ c. + 6 T. sugar, divided
  • 1/3 c. cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1½ c. water
  • 3 extra lg. egg yolks, slightly beaten (save the egg whites in the bowl of your mixer – set aside)
  • 3 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 T. finely grated lemon rind
  • ¼ c. fresh lemon juice

Whisk the 1½ cups sugar and cornstarch together in a heavy, medium sized saucepan. Gradually stir in the water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil one minute. Very slowly whisk half of the hot mixture into the slightly beaten egg yolks. Then pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute longer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and continue stirring until smooth. Stir in butter, lemon rind, and lemon juice. Pour into baked pie crust and cover with meringue.

Meringue:

  • reserved egg whites
  • ¼ tsp. cream of tartar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Do not under-beat. (The secret to good meringue is to beat the heck out of the sugar.) Add the vanilla and pile the meringue onto warm pie filling, being careful to seal the meringue onto the edge of the crust to prevent shrinking or weeping. (Can’t have weeping meringue. We want our meringue to be happy, happy, happy!) Swirl or pull up points for decorative top.

Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until the meringue is a light, golden brown. Remove from oven and cool in an area with no drafts. Eat the pie slowly as to savor every delicious morsel.

SOUR CHERRY AND CHOCOLATE TART

  • pie crust
  • Nutella
  • sour cherry fruit spread or spread of choice
  • powdered sugar

Roll your pie crust out to desired thickness. Place on baking sheet. Spread Nutella fairly thickly to within 1½ inches of edge. Spread a thin layer of fruit spread over the Nutella. Fold the edges over the filling.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven until the crust is light brown, about 30 minutes. Do not overbake. Remove from oven, cool, and lightly sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.