Thursday, December 22, 2016

Raspberry Pate de Fruit

Whenever I'm down on M Street in Georgetown, I always enjoy strolling through Dean & Deluca to admire all the lovely and decadent chocolates, marzipan animals, macarons and pate de fruit. The pate de fruits are always luscious looking yet so expensive and I thought they can't be too difficult to make. 

The holidays seemed like a perfect time to try making them myself. I tried raspberry for a nice deep red color and raspberries have to be one of my favorite flavors too. I used this Food & Wine recipe by Jacque Pepin. 

It held together quite nicely after the gelatin set.

I cut several small pieces and found it easiest to wet the knife in hot water in between.

I rolled each piece in sugar and put them on a tray.  While they turned out quite nice, they were a bit too moist to package and give as little gifts. However, we enjoyed them with blue cheese and wine and it was a fabulous combination. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Sticky Toffee Cake

When we discussed what dessert to make for a holiday dinner we were hosting for a few friends, sticky toffee pudding came to mind.  I found this New York Times recipe for Sticky Toffee Whole-Wheat Date Cake.  It has whole wheat flour in it, so it's good for you too, right?

I made fun individual sticky tofee puddings a few years back that were so amazingly good and this was even easier making as one big cake.  The individual cakes seem to stay more moist, but the toffee sauce was good to drizzle over the entire cake and a little extra on each piece. It was the perfect sweet ending to a lovely holiday meal.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Granny's Christmas Cake

Each year that my Nan visited us from England, she would come with practically a full suitcase of English chocolates, candies and presents. She would usually stow away a few homemade things to bring to us. It may be some Victoria plum jam from the plum tree in the back garden or homemade cake. The cakes were not sugary frosted cakes, but instead more dense fruity cakes typically wrapped in layers of parchment and foil. One of the cakes was known by all as 'Granny's Christmas Cake.' I always thought it was called this as we sometimes called my Nan "Granny" when we were younger, but this cake had been made my my mum's Granny for years also. My mum would typically receive Granny's Christmas Cake and proceed to hide it in one of the drawers in the refrigerator by placing many vegetables in front of it thinking we would never find it. We inevitably did and would sneak a piece here and there.

My Nan gave me her cookbook when I was in England. It was kept in its original box and I treasured the fact that it was passed down to me. My first recipe to use? I wanted to recreate Granny's Christmas Cake for my mum one Christmas and I remember talking with Nan on the phone from my home in the U.S. I confirmed some of the ingredients that were unfamiliar to me, like semolina.  While she confirmed some of the ingredients, I did not confirm the quantities. Well, I came to realize that there were dozens of version of Granny's Christmas Cake in her cookbook and I struggled to figure out what one would make the appropriate amount of cake. I tried making it one year to surprise mum. She thought it was good, but not quite the same. I know she appreciated the thought though. 

We lost my Nan a little over six years ago and when my mum visited me, we reviewed through her cookbook and had fun reminiscing about all the recipes she had written out by hand. We looked through the different versions of the cake with plans to try it again. When I visited her this past Thanksgiving and had a little extra time together, I was set on us making Granny's Christmas Cake.  After a trip to the grocery store to pick up items we wouldn't normally keep in the pantry we were ready to bake. 

We reviewed Nan's recipe to ensure we used all her ingredients and also referred to 2-3 other recipes online for other similar fruitcakes or sojee cakes to confirm the quantities of each ingredient. 

I always remember Nan putting almonds that made a pretty design on the top of the cake so I did just that. 

We tested it frequently, the house was smelling lovely and we were excited with how it turned out. 

Now to cut the cake and sit at the table with a lovely fall view and a cup of tea.  Mum agreed this one was pretty close, but she thought we needed even more brandy in our next one. 

Cheers to Nan and Granny. 


8 oz./1 Cup Semolina
8 oz./1 Cup Ground almonds/almond flour
8 oz./1 Cup Light brown sugar
4 oz./ ½ Cup All-purpose flour
2 t. Baking powder
2 sticks/1 C.Unsalted butter, softened
6 Eggs, separated
3 T. Brandy
1 oz. Ginger, grated
8 oz. Mixed peel (lemon/orange), finely chopped
½ t. Cardamom
½ t. Nutmeg
½ t. Cinnamon


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Separate egg yolks and egg whites. Beat softened butter in mixer with brown sugar until combined.  Add the yolks to butter/sugar mixture one at a time until combined.
Mix together dry ingredients (Semolina, almond flour, AP flour and baking powder, cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon) and blend with a whisk.
Add dry ingredients to butter mixture a little at a time until combined. Add the brandy and mixed peel to mixture and blend together.
Beat egg whites until there are soft peaks and fold in gently.
Place cake mixture in a round buttered cake tin and bake at 375 for 1 ½ hours.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Tres Leches Cake

I'm not so much a chocolate cake person, so the idea of a vanilla cake soaked in creamy milk sounds amazing to me. It's reminiscent of tiramisu but without the espresso powder and a bit more creamy.

Tres Leches is translated to "three milks" but "tres leches" sounds so much more fancy, so the entire world outside of Latin America is going with this term. The three milks include 1) evaporated milk, 2) sweetened condensed milk and 3) heavy cream. Those are the tres leches that you use to soak the cake in. If you want to be technical about it, there are actually quatro leches as there is a fourth milk used in the cake itself. Either way, this cake is not for the lactose intolerant.

I searched around for different recipes and when we planned another family Mexican dinner night, I made it for dessert. This Pioneer Woman recipe is what I went with and she has thorough step by step instructions on her blog.

I'll show you just a few steps. After baking the cake, you turn it out on a platter. I let it cool for a while and then mixed the milks to pour over and let it soak for an hour or so. 

After the milks soaked in completely, I whipped up the cream with some sugar and vanilla and spread it on top. 

It was the perfect dessert to follow taco night and it was a hit with the kids. What kid wouldn't want creamy cake with whipped cream and a cherry on top? I'm not a huge fan of the maraschino cherries, but they are a very pretty contrast to the stark white cake. So, enjoy dessert with a cherry on top. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Lemon Bars with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

I love the classic lemon bar, but this particular New York Times recipe was unique and I love anything with sea salt. They definitely have a richer and more complex flavor and the sea salt sprinkled on top sure brings it out. They are very rich in flavor and texture though, so I cut mine into little bit size squares and loaded them with flaky Maldon sea salt.

The one cautionary advice with these is to make them on a not so humid day.  The olive oil in the recipe makes them softer and likely to break down much easier on a warmer day. However, sunny summer days just seem the right time to make a bright lemony dessert. So, bake away and turn the A/C on.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Strawberry Mascarpone Tart

I have always wanted to make one of those fancy fruit tarts that you see in French bakeries with the perfect crust and the glossy fruit. After picking two flats of berries, I had more than enough to try different recipes, so I picked out the prettiest ones to put on display on my tart.

We went to our favorite local fruit farm to pick some fresh berries, which is a very comforting and nostalgic activity for me as this was my first job growing up. I would pick strawberries straddled over the rows of berries for hours. So, leisurely picking two flats is a cinch.

We had a school picnic to attend, so I thought this would be a good seasonal dessert to bring along. I had saved aside this recipe from Food 52 for the perfect occasion and this was it.

I tried my best to arrange my strawberries nicely to match their pristine arrangement. Below is the Food 52 tart image followed by mine.  Not bad, right? The recipe is below and updated to include all the ingredients along with a few notes so go ahead and try your own strawberry t(art).

Strawberry-Mascarpone Tart

Recipe for Strawberry Mascarpone Tart
Adapted from Food 52



2 tablespoons cream

1 egg yolk

1 stick of butter

1/4 cup granulated sugar 

1 1/2 cups flour

1 pinch salt


1 quart strawberries (washed, hulled and sliced)

8 ounces chilled mascarpone

1 tablespoon rum (I would suggest leaving this out)

1/4 cup sugar 

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


For the crust: Combine the egg yolk and cream. In a food processor, pulse together the butter, sugar, salt, and flour until you have something that resembles coarse meal. With the motor running, pour in the egg yolk and cream. Process until the dough comes together in a ball around the blade. Remove dough from the processor bowl. Bring together into a ball quickly. Press into an 8-inch removable-bottom fluted tart pan. Pierce lightly with fork all over the crust. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and cover the tart pan tightly. Freeze for at least two hours. 
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Bake the tart pan (on a baking sheet) for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking another 10 minutes. Allow the crust to cool completely. 
Combine the sliced strawberries with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Allow them to rest for 15 minutes. While the crust is in the oven, start on the filling. Combine the mascarpone,  2 tablespoons of sugar, and vanilla extract and whisk until glossy. (NOTE: the filling may separate if the mascarpone is not chilled so work quickly.) If you like the taste of rum, go ahead and include it, but I felt that even the small amount overtook the creamy mascarpone flavor too much. Taste and adjust sugar if necessary. Chill the filling while the crust cools. When the crust has cooled completely, spread the filling over it using a rubber spatula. Next, arrange the sliced strawberries over the the filling. Return assembled tart to fridge if not serving immediately, but it's best served the day it is made.