There is nothing like eating a fresh ripe nectarine or any ripe fruit for that matter. Its sweet perfume and the soft give of its’ flesh, informs me that I am holding a delicious and ripe nectarine. I love the warm colors. Each nectarine has a unique and variegated mosaic of rich sunset colors. No two nectarines are the same. The bright perfume and one bite will tell you just how ripe the nectarine is. As the juice drips down my chin and elbow I forego all good manners just to get every drop of its sweet juice. To eat a fresh ripe nectarine, is tasting the fruit at its brightest and sweetest. I am in awe of Mother Earth and her many nourishing gifts.
Fresh fruit is refreshing and delicious, but sometimes extra preparation and cooking will reward you with a sweeter and more concentrated fruit-filled flavor. A simple baked fruit tart is an easy and delicious choice for a summer dessert. One of my favorite baked fruit dessert is a galette. The free form structure of a fruit galette is just my style. I love pie, but I am never satisfied with how mine look. I feel a lot of pressure to present a pristine and detailed pie crust without any flaws. Whenever I try to make a pie, I feel like my fingers just get in the way and I lack the extra-fine motor skills to perform such neat and detailed work. I know practice makes perfect, but the simplicity and informality of a galette appeals to me.
Every celebration deserves a fun dessert, and for Cinco de Mayo I discovered Coconut Pie. This pie is from the Yucatecan region of Mexico with a nutty crust and a creamy fresh coconut filling. This is not a custard pie, more like a giant nutty coconut macaroon. Coconut pie has a nice balance of sweet, nutty and light caramel flavors with crumbly and chewy textures.
This recipe originated from Rick Bayless, Yucatecan-Style Fresh Coconut Pie, in Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen. My intention was to make his coconut pie recipe as directed with fresh coconut, then adapt it. Unfortunately, my first pie did not work out as I planned, and left me with more unanswered questions than not.
The truth is, after cracking open my coconut, the shell had moldy looking spots on the inside. This unappetizing vision shattered my tropical dream and forced me to consider if the coconut was going bad. So, instead of reveling in fresh coconut perfume and fantasizing about sunny Mexican beaches, I scoured the world wide web. Google, “Do coconuts go bad?” The unanimous answer is, yes. Normally I am up for any culinary adventure, but this experience left me feeling there was too much work involved for something with a high chance of not working out.
Nowadays, coconut products are widely available in all stores. Purchased coconut water and dried shredded coconut may not be fresh, but they have their merits. The biggest merit being, I could confidently buy them seeing the expiration date in clear view. But more importantly, buying the coconut water, coconut flour, and shredded coconut made it easier to make this delicious pie.
About Double Coconut Pie
Traditionally, Pay de Coco, Estilo Yucateco has an almond and breadcrumb crust and filled with grated fresh coconut, slivered almonds and condensed milk. Rick Bayless altered the traditional coconut pie recipe by replacing the condensed milk with a reduction of fresh coconut water and heavy cream. He essentially made a condensed milk, but with extra coconut flavor.
I liked his idea of using coconut water, but because I planned to buy it, I needed to figure out how much to use. Based on the amount of coconut water that dribbled out of my expired coconut, I estimated a 1/2 cup of coconut water. You could add more, 3/4 cup, but keep in mind the time needed to reduce the cream will take longer.
Gluten Free Double Coconut Pie
As much as I wanted to make a traditional Mexican dessert, the original crust seemed dry. Additionally, I wanted to make a gluten-free pie. Alice Medrich has a delicious gluten-free pie crust recipe in Flavor Flours, using coconut flour and shredded coconut. I believed if I adapted her recipe and substituted it for the traditional one, the integrity of the Yucatecan pie would still be intact. Also, this gluten-free coconut pie crust adds extra cookie-like texture and doubles the coconut flavor. I included ground almonds in the crust with the shredded coconut to keep the warm nutty flavor of the traditional coconut pie recipe.
With my recipe adjustments, I made coconut pie easier to make, yet maintain the appeal of the original recipe. By using store-bought products I cut down on the time commitment, and the risk of buying a bad coconut. If I ever live in a tropical environment, I will certainly make it with fresh coconut. Until then, my tropical daydreams will continue while enjoying coconut pie. Not only is this a great dessert to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, it will be well received any time of the year.
This is a luscious pie and a great combination of a coconut and almond crust with a creamy coconut filling. A double coconut treat. It is not too sweet and had wonderful coconut flavor. The original recipe is made with fresh coconut, but I adapted it to be easier to make. Feel free to make this with fresh coconut if you wish.
Best served warm and with a dollop of creme fraiche or ever so slightly sweetened whipped cream.
Also, delicious drizzled with melted dark chocolate.
You will need a 9 inch / 23 cm tart pan with a removable bottom.
The pie recipe is adapted from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen by Rick Bayless.
The pie crust recipe is adapted from Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich.
1 cup / 122 g almond slivers
1/2 cup / 112 g granulated sugar
1/2 cup / 40 g coconut flour
1/2 cup plus 1 Tb/ 50 g unsweetened dried shredded coconut
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
6 Tbs / 85 g unsalted butter - very soft
1 large egg white
1/2 cup / 125 ml coconut water
1 cup / 250 ml heavy cream
2/3 cup / 147 g granulated sugar
2 1/2 cup grated dried coconut - flaky coconut 1 1/4 cup / 94 g, and shredded coconut 1 1/4 cup / 105 g - plus more flaky coconut for garnish
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat the oven for 325F / 160C / Gas Mark 3. Place the almonds on a sheet pan and toast in the oven until lightly golden, about 7-10 minutes. Halfway through the toasting, stir the almonds and turn the sheet pan from front to back.
Once toasted, measure 1/2 cup / 61 grams of the almonds and set aside for the pie filling.
Put the remaining almonds and the sugar in a food processor and pulse until the almonds have a fine texture.
In a medium size bowl, mix the almond-sugar, coconut flour, shredded coconut, baking powder, salt, softened butter and egg white until well combined. Your clean hands will do the best job of getting everything all mixed through.
Press the coconut / almond mixture evenly across the bottom and up the sides of a tart pan. The sides should be thicker than the bottom of the pan.
Place the pan on a sheet pan and bake in the oven for 12 minutes, or just starting to turn golden at the edge. Remove the crust from the oven and set aside.
Raise the oven temperature to 350F / 175 C/ Gas Mark 4
While the crust is baking, simmer the coconut water, heavy cream and granulated sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the liquid to 1 cup / 250 ml. It could take from 15-20 minutes from the time the cream reaches a good simmer. The cream will become thicker and lightly golden. And bubbles will be larger and less foamy. I measure it in a heat proof liquid measure just to make sure.
Add the reduced cream to a mixing bowl, then add the reserved slivered almonds, shredded and flaky coconut, egg yolks, and vanilla. Stir until well combined and spoon into the pie crust. Make sure the filling is up against the sides. Place the pie on a sheet pan then bake in the middle rack in the oven for 30 - 35 minutes until lightly golden. Check the pie half way through and make sure the crust is not browning too much. Cover the edge with foil if needed
While the pie is baking, scatter a couple of handfuls of flaky coconut on a sheet pan and toast in the oven with the pie, until it is just beginning to brown in the oven. Watch the coconut carefully so it does not get too dark and burn. About 4-5 minutes. Slide the toasted coconut on a plate to cool. Set aside.
Once finished, cool the pie on a wire rack for 10 minutes then slip off the rim of the tart pan by placing the tart on top of a secure glass, and easily slide the side rim down. This will help prevent the crust from sticking.
The pie slices easier when it is cool or cold, but tastes best warm. If you wish, completely cool the pie or chill it, then slice the pie into serving pieces and warm in the oven.
Garnish with toasted coconut flakes and creme fraiche.
It turns out for the past half century I missed out on a special dessert. I recently learned this dessert originated in Oregon in the 60’s, then variations developed all over California. I was there. How did I, or anyone in my family or friends, not know about this? If it was hot in Eureka, it was hot in San Francisco. Despite the gravitational pull of anything pink had on me then, this popular and pink dessert slipped by unnoticed. Pink Champagne Cake was a popular dessert in the 60’s but I believe a resurgence is in order. It is a beautiful tower of pale pink cake and buttercream, flavored with pink champagne.
I first discovered it in a cookbook,American Cakeby Anne Byrn. My thoughtful sister gave me this book because she knows how much I like to research the history and story behind the food I make. It is a great cookbook about the history of cakes in America with recipes from the 17th century to present time. Pictured right on the cover is a beautiful pink cake garnished with white chocolate and bright pink rose petals. It is a true sight of beauty and elegance. Apparently, as Anne Byrn explained, pink champagne was a popular drink in the 60’s among hip California women. It also became a popular color from jewelry to shag carpets. This cake was created to ride the Pink Champagne trend. I love seeing how food culture and popular culture connect and influence each other.
Pink champagne cake is the first recipe I have made from this book and it is an unexpected winner. I was not sure how it would taste, but the subtle flavors balance with the light texture. The cake is moist and made with egg whites, like a chiffon cake, but is slightly denser because of the butter. The frosting is very sweet, and even though it is a buttercream Confectioners sugar is the dominant ingredient. There are several types of buttercreams and this recipe I consider is an American buttercream. They usually are not as smooth as European buttercreams and have a lot more sugar.
I made pink champagne cake twice, first as written, and the second time with a different buttercream. American buttercream is not my favorite frosting. They tend to be too sweet and slightly gritty from all the powdered sugar. Instead, I used a recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaumcookbook, The Cake Bible. Her buttercream recipe is light, silky smooth, not as sweet, and very buttery. I thought the texture of this mousseline buttercream matched the light texture of the cake. I also added some strawberry purée because strawberry adds a little more depth to the pink champagne buttercream. This is an American cake, but the European buttercream is a lot nicer and more elegant than the American one. Anne Byrn shared her recipe on Food 52 if you want to see her original.
One downside, the mousseline buttercream is not an easy frosting for a beginner to make. It helps to have a confident eye and hand that experience develops. There is always a first time. Be patient and give yourself plenty of time to make this. You will also need a candy thermometer, or a good instant read thermometer that goes up to 255˚F (124˚C). My version is somewhat of a production between the strawberry purée, buttercream, the cake, and all the layers. The original frosting is a lot easier to make.
If you want to bake this cake, but are unsure about making a European buttercream, make the original frosting from the recipe provided in the Food 52 link. However, taste as you add the sugar. The frosting is very sweet. When I made it, I cut back on the amount of sugar by two cups and I still thought it was too sweet. I added lemon juice and lemon zest to cut the sweetness.
The original recipe is a three layer cake. It is a beauty to look at, but I thought making six layers with strawberry mousseline buttercream would be a nice way to add more strawberry flavor throughout the cake. I am a little embarrassed by how uneven my layers came out. I have not had this issue before. In the past my measure and marking technique has been successful in creating even layers. I believe the cakes were more domed shaped than I realized. I do work hard to be consistent. However, wouldn’t you know the one time I am documenting my work for reference and prosperity, it does not turn out the way I want it to. As I always say, “This is how you know it is homemade. It is perfect in its’ imperfections.”
Springtime is the beginning of a lot of special occasions, and Spring is one of them. After a long winter who doesn’t want to come out and celebrate the new season’s emerging life. No more dormancy and short days. Life is blooming all around and that alone is worth celebrating. It is also the beginning of Easter, Passover, more birthdays, graduations, bridal showers, baby showers, bachelorette parties, weddings, and anniversaries. Pink Champagne Cake is the perfect cake to make for these momentous occasions.
A special cake for any celebration. Pink champagne adds a light flavor to the cake and the buttercream for a very delicate party cake. Strawberries and white chocolate complement the delicate champagne flavor to make the cake shine. Pink champagne cake was popular in California during the 1960’s.
Best eaten the day the day it is made and assembled, but will last for a couple of days unrefrigerated.
This cake recipe is from American Cake by Anne Byrn. The buttercream and strawberry puree recipes are slightly adapted from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. The amount of buttercream in my recipe will cover an 8 inch 6-layer cake, which is one and a half of the original recipe. Listed in the notes section, are the ingredient amounts if you want to make a 3-layer cake.
Three recipes make up this cake and the prep and cook times are listed in the instructions for each recipe. Give yourself plenty of time. All three recipes can be made in advance.
Butter and flour for preparing three 8-inch cake pans
3 cups / 348g cake flour*
1 Tbs / 16g baking powder
½ tsp Kosher salt
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1 cup / 250ml pink champagne, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 cups / 447g granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) / 226g unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pink food coloring*
20 oz / 567g frozen strawberries with no added sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
2-3 tsp granulated sugar (optional)
Pink Champagne Mousseline Buttercream
3 cups (6 sticks) 1 ½ lb / 680g unsalted butter, soften but still cool
1 ½ cups / 332g granulated sugar, divided
⅓ cup / 75 ml water
7 large egg whites, room temperature
¾ tsp + ⅛ tsp cream of tartar
3 fl oz / 90 ml / 5-7 Tbs pink champagne, room temperature
Finely grated zest from one lemon
Pink food coloring*
½ cup / 125 ml strawberry purée
Decorate with shaved white chocolate, or sliced strawberries, or grated coconut, or edible rose petals, or other candy garnishes
Strawberry Purée -Takes about 20 - 30 minutes to make, not including the defrosting time.
Start defrosting the strawberries the day before or first thing in the morning. They will take several hours for the strawberries to defrost and release their juice. Suspend a colander over a large mixing bowl. Add the frozen strawberries to the colander and let the strawberries thaw out and release their own juices. Occasionally press down on the strawberries to encourage the juices to release. You should get close to 1 1/4 cup juice.
In a small saucepan, pour in the strawberry juice and turn the heat to medium high. Reduce the juice to about 1/4 cup.
Purée the strawberry pulp in a food processor until smooth. There will be some texture because of the seeds, but you want it as smooth as you can.
When the strawberry juice is reduced add the strawberry puree and stir. Add the lemon juice and taste the strawberries. Depending on how tart or sweet the strawberries taste, add about 2 -3 teaspoons of granulated sugar. You will not want it very sweet because the buttercream will be sweet. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the strawberry purée into a heat proof glass measuring cup. You should have about 1 ¼ cup. The purée can be stored in an airtight container for 10 days in the refrigerator, or frozen for up to one year.
Cake - Takes about 20 minutes to mix, about 25 minutes to bake, 40 minutes - 1 hour to cool
Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350˚F/ 175˚C / Gas Mark 4
Prepare 3, 8-inch cake pans. Cut a circle of parchment paper for each pan, large enough to fit inside your cake tins. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of each pan, then coat with a light dusting of cake flour around the sides and bottom. Tap the pan against the counter to release any excess flour. Discard the excess flour. Place the parchment paper circles inside each cake tin. Set aside.
Place the flour, baking powder, and Kosher salt inside a medium size bowl. Mix the flour mixture with a wire whisk to get all the ingredients thoroughly mixed together. Set aside.
Place the egg whites, champagne, vanilla and oil in a medium mixing bowl and whisk together until thoroughly mixed through. Set aside.
Put granulated sugar and butter in a bowl of a stand mixer, or large bowl if using a handheld mixer. Mix on medium speed until lighter and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula.
Turn the speed on low and add a portion of the flour to the butter, and mix. Then add a portion of the egg whites to the bowl and mix. With the beater on, alternate adding the flour and the egg whites to the butter, ending with the flour.
Turn off the mixer and stir in one tiny drop of pink food coloring. Stir by hand until all mixed through.
Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared cake pans.
Place all three pans in the oven on the center rack and bake until the cake is lightly golden brown, the cake has pulled away from the sides of the pans, and a cake tester comes out clean when poked in the center of each cake. About 23-27 minutes. Be careful not to overbake the cakes. The cakes will taste dry if they are overbaked.
Place the cakes in the pan on cooling racks and cool for 10 minutes. After the cakes have cooled for 10 minutes, run a knife around the edge of each cake pan to loosen the cakes. Turn the cake upside down resting the top of the cake in one hand, and pull the pan away. Carefully peel off the parchment paper and place the cake right side up on the cooling rack. Repeat for the remaining cakes. Cool completely before frosting. Can be made in advance. Wrap each cake tightly with plastic wrap and store on the counter for 1 day.
Pink Champagne Buttercream- Takes about 20 to 30 minutes to make.
In a large mixing bowl beat the butter with a hand-held mixer until smooth. Set aside away from any heat source.
Place a heatproof glass measuring cup to the side next to the stove where you will be working. In a small heavy saucepan heat 1 cup plus 3 Tbs sugar and 3/8 of a cup (90 ml) of water over medium high heat. Stir the sugar in the water until it is completely dissolved and the liquid is bubbly. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting. (If using an electric range turn off the heat and set the saucepan aside).
In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until the egg whites form soft peaks. Add the remaining sugar, one tablespoon at a time to the egg whites, and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Turn off the mixer and return your attention back to the sugar syrup.
Turn the heat up to high and boil the sugar syrup until it reaches the temperature of 248˚F - 250˚F (120˚C) using a candy thermometer or an instant read thermometer. Pour the syrup into the heatproof glass measuring cup to stop the cooking.
Return to the egg whites and turn the speed up to high speed. If using a handheld mixer, slowly drizzle the syrup into the egg whites without the syrup touching the beaters. If you are using a stand mixer, turn the speed off, add a little of the syrup, then turn the speed up to high and beat for 5 seconds and stop. Repeat the process until the syrup is added into the egg whites, scraping the clinging syrup with a rubber spatula to get every drop. If you get the syrup on the whisk or beaters, the syrup will just spray over the sides of the bowl and not mix into the egg whites. Once all the syrup is added, turn the speed down to medium and beat for a couple of minutes to cool the whipped egg whites.
On low speed, beat in the whipped butter into the cool egg whites, one tablespoon at a time. The buttercream will look thin at first, but it will eventually thicken up. If at any time the buttercream starts to look curdled, stop adding butter and turn the speed up a little. Beat until smooth. Once smooth, continue to add the butter one tablespoon at a time until done.
Lower the speed and add in the pink champagne and lemon zest, and beat in. Add one tiny drop of pink food coloring and mix until thoroughly mixed through. (Can be made in advance up to this point, keep in the refrigerator for 2 days or freeze).
Measure in a dry measuring cup, 2 ¾ cup (685 ml) buttercream and place in a medium mixing bowl. Set the remaining buttercream aside. Add ½ cup (125ml) cooled strawberry purée to the buttercream and beat by hand until mixed together. Cover both bowls of buttercream and keep on the counter away from any heat until you are ready to assemble the cake.
Putting it all together- About 30 minutes to assemble.
For a 6-layer cake, measure with a ruler the height of each cake and mark the center with a toothpick. Measure and mark the center point around the circumference of each cake. The toothpicks are your guide to cut each cake in half through the middle. With a long serrated knife, rest the serrated edge up against the side of a cake and on top of the toothpicks. With a gently sawing motion cut through the cake, paying attention to your markers and turning the cake as you work your way around the circumference, and then through the middle of the cake. Repeat for each cake. Keep the pairs together. Select which cake layer is going to be your top layer and set aside.
Take apart one divided cake and place the bottom portion of the cake on your cake plate.
Spread ½ cup (125ml) of the strawberry buttercream over the top of the cake. Make a smooth and level layer of buttercream. Place the top portion of the cake on top of your frosted layer and spread ½ cup (125 ml) of strawberry buttercream evenly and smoothly across the top.
Continue to stack and frost the tops of each layer with ½ cup (125ml) strawberry buttercream until you get to the top layer. The strawberry buttercream is to be used only for the middle layers of frosting. While you are stacking your cake layers, try to get them as level as possible. Trim off the top of each layer if they are uneven, before you frost the layers.
For a three layer cake frost each layer with 3/4 cup pink champagne buttercream or strawberry pink champagne buttercream.
Once the layers are assembled, spread a thin "crumb" layer of pink champagne buttercream around the top and sides of the cake. This is to get the cake frosted with a thin protective layer so the crumbs won't show through the frosting. Once done, spread more buttercream all over the top and working down the sides of the cake for a nice finishing layer of buttercream. Frost as much as wanted or needed.
Decorate the cake with shaved white chocolate over the top of the cake and extra strawberries for decoration.
Keep the cake in a cool spot loosely covered with aluminum foil up to 2 days unrefrigerated. Best if eaten the day it is assembled.
Cake flour has less gluten and produces a more delicate cake than with all-purpose flour. If you like to bake cakes, cake flour is nice to have around. Swans Down and Softasilk are two brands that sell cake flour. Do not buy self-rising cake flour. If you do not want to buy cake flour, or cannot get some, substitute 1 cup of all-purpose flour, plus 2 Tbs all-purpose flour, plus 2 Tbs cornstarch for every cup of cake flour. Recipe from The Kitchn
Ingredient amounts for buttercream if you want to make a 3-layer cake:
Unsalted butter - 1 lb / 454g (4 sticks),
Sugar - 1 cup / 200 g,
Water - ¼ cup / 2oz 60 ml,
5 large egg whites,
Cream of tartar - ½ + ⅛ teaspoon,
Pink Champagne - up to 3 fl oz or 90 ml, Tiny drop of pink food coloring.
Use 3/4 cup of buttercream between the three layers, instead of 1/2 cup.
I used Wilton Liquid food coloring - Base Pink. Wilton also makes a gel food coloring in pink.
For Saint Patrick’s Day, I wanted to pay tribute to my husband’s Irish heritage by posting a blog about stout floats. It wasn’t just any old stout float. A new microbrewery called Broken Bow in Tuckahoe NY, produced a stout that we have a small world connection to. It just so happens this brewery is in the hometown of my mother-in-law. Yet, not just in her hometown, but right around the corner of her childhood home. Brewed in the chocolate coffee stout are 5 types of chili peppers. By coincidence, 4 of 5 chili peppers are grown on farms in Yorktown, where we live. Hell Hath No Fury is the name of the stout. Unfortunately, it is a seasonal beer for the fall.
Yet, even if I could not make a direct home front connection, I was determined to write a post about beer floats. I can still honor my mother in law and her family and use Guinness Extra Stout. After all, Guinness is brewed in the Grogan and Begg families motherland. So, Guinness Float it is. The funny thing is, I don’t believe I have seen Agnes drink beer let alone stout. Nor, for that matter, have I seen her mother drink beer. It is the thought that counts, right?
I never enjoyed a Guinness Float before I went on this adventure. Also, it is only fair to admit that I am not a big stout drinker. However, my son is educating me about all kinds of beer in hopes that I will expand my repertoire. At first, I wasn’t sure if mixing the very bitter and malty stout with creamy vanilla sweetness would work. However, upon my first sip, I was pleasantly surprised. The two are really a great combo. I used to believe that there was nothing better than a root beer float, especially on a hot summer afternoon. Guinness float is giving my old favorite some competition.
The milky creaminess of vanilla ice cream works wonderfully with the malty bitterness of Guinness Stout. Please don’t feel like you need to be a stickler to just one type of ice cream. We also tried coffee ice cream, and a combination of the two. I am sure chocolate ice cream would taste great as well. You could also change-up the flavor by using different stouts. I have a chocolate hazelnut stout I am curious to try. The possibilities are endless.
My life changing discovery is the stout simple syrup I found on The Food Network website. The Hearty Boys on the Food Network came up with this idea. Oh man, it is like a malt caramel syrup. I added some chili powder that has a bright heat flavor. I used a chili powder we received as a gift. All we know about it is, it is from Pakistan, but it is incredible. Adding the ground chili to the stout syrup had an amazing effect. I recommend adding your favorite chili powder if you don’t mind a little heat. I am not embarrassed to say, that I kept sneaking over and tasting it by the spoonful. Stout syrup is also delicious drizzled over a bowl of ice cream. Add it to chocolate syrup and you will get an amazing chocolate experience.
A couple of weeks ago I began my journey learning about Irish cuisine. It may have originated through the backdoor of a pub, but I have vicariously traveled out to the green pastures and coast of Ireland during my exploration. One day I hope to visit Ireland in person and enjoy the landscape, people and culture. Until that time, I will continue to be inspired by its cuisine. Cheers!
Guinness floats are just like root beer floats, but it is an adult beverage. Adding the ingredients together can either go smoothly or cause an eruption. No matter which method you choose, add half the bottle first then let everything settle down. Once you know everything is calm slowly add more beer, or ice cream.
Each way produces a slightly different float. Both are equally delicious.
Add the ice cream in the glass, then slowly pour in the beer. This sequence will produce a more blended stout float. You can also get more ice cream this way. It is important to pour the stout slowly pausing periodically to let settle and not cause it to overflow.
Pour the Guinness just over half way up in your glass. Then carefully add one scoop of ice cream on top of the stout. Let it rest to see how the ice cream will displace the stout. If wanted, carefully add another scoop of ice cream. This sequence will create a float with more of a delineation between stout and ice cream. You will also have more stout than ice cream. You can slowly add more ice cream and/or stout until you reach your desired amount. Careful it will overflow if you work too fast or pour in too much beer.
Guinness Floats are fun and refreshing. They are great after an afternoon of hiking, or any activity. They also can be served for dessert. For dessert you can reduce the amount in half and serve in a smaller glass with one scoop of ice cream and half a bottle of Guinness. Vanilla ice cream and Guinness are great combination but chocolate and coffee ice cream are nice combinations.
You can play around with the flavor of your stout float by using any type of stout. Coffee chocolate stouts would be delicious. The possibilities are endless.
Don't forget to have some root beer for minors, or for family or friends who do not drink alcoholic beverages.
2 scoops Vanilla ice cream
1- 12 oz bottle Guinness Extra Stout, or your favorite stout
Guinness Simple Syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1-12 oz bottle Guinness Extra Stout
pinch of red chili powder (optional)
In a large tumbler glass add one scoop of ice cream. Drizzle a tablespoon of the stout syrup over the ice cream. Add another scoop of ice cream and stout syrup. Hold the ice cream filled glass at a 45-degree angle and carefully pour the stout into the glass. Make sure the stout eases into the glass by pouring the stout so it glides down the inner side of the glass. Pour until the stout fills the glass about halfway up and let the stout settle for a bit. Carefully pour more stout in the glass, pausing every now and then to make sure it does not overflow. You will not use the whole bottle of stout for your float. Add stout until it reaches close to the top of the glass. Enjoy.
Open a bottle of Guinness and let it rest on the counter for 15 minutes to lose some of the carbonation. Add the sugar and the Guinness to a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium high and bring the liquid mixture to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and stir the mixture to help the sugar dissolve. (Optional) Add a small pinch of your favorite hot red pepper chili powder to the syrup. Cook the syrup down until it gets syrupy and has reduced, about 15-25 minutes. Once it has thickened and reduced, turn off the heat and set aside to cool. Keep in a glass container with a tight sealed lid.
There is no occasion too ordinary that does not deserve recognition and celebration. For any reason, be it a birthday, anniversary, honor your national heritage, a promotion, or simply because the whole family is together, a celebratory acknowledgement is welcome and cake is the perfect finale.
If you are partial to chocolate cake, then chocolate stout cake is a terrific stand in. This is a very moist cake with deep dark chocolate flavor. Guinness Stout enriches the chocolate without any boozy aftertaste. Adding the Guinness to the cake makes a moist cake with deep malty and dark chocolate flavor. The extra bonuses are, it is simple to make, baked in one pan, and does not require fancy cake decorating skills. Chocolate Stout Cake is perfect in its simplicity as well as flavor.
I believe chocolate stout cake would taste delicious by itself without frosting, or just simply topped with whipped cream. Yet, it is nice to give cake more pizzazz and a creamy rich frosting will compliment the dark chocolate. Also, adding white frosting creates a cake that resembles a pint of stout. Many recipes frost chocolate stout cake with dark chocolate ganache, or cream cheese frosting. Fortunately, I discovered one made with white chocolate and cream cheese frosting and that sealed the deal for me. Normally, cream cheese frosting does not excite me, but add some white chocolate to it, I just knew it would be spectacular.
Baking with stout is not a novel idea. According to Anne Byrn in her book American Cake, people across the globe have baked with ale, porters and cider for ages. Centuries ago people used to make their own ale or cider. This common ingredient was often included in baked goods to keep cakes moist and add extra flavor. During that time, cakes were cooked inside a cast iron pot with a lid and placed directly on top the hot embers of the home fire. These were not like the delicate cakes that we now know and love, but hearty ones with preserved and fermented ingredients.
Traditional Irish Stout Cake is more like a spice cake with raisins and citrus. The origin of this type of cake could date back several hundred years. I am not sure when chocolate stout cake became popular in Ireland, or the US, yet I believe it was an inevitable pairing. Chocolate and stout are perfect mates.
My recipe for Chocolate Stout Cake is a combination of three recipes. From my research, I discovered Chocolate Stout Cake is not for the faint at heart. One recipe I found uses a pound of butter for one cake. That is more like a pound cake with all that butter. I was hoping for something not so heavy, and kept searching for a “lighter” version. Nigella Lawson’s recipe from the New York Times came through. Her recipe for Chocolate Guinness Cake uses only 10 tablespoons of butter, and another bonus includes 1 cup of Guinness. The other recipes I found used a half cup of stout. This was an easy decision to make, less butter… more stout. I believe that is a fair trade.
I was thrilled when I discovered Donal Skehan’s recipe for White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. His Chocolate Guinness Cake recipe is like the other ones I researched, but his idea of adding white chocolate to the cream cheese frosting is brilliant. The past few times I made frosting with white chocolate has been nothing but extraordinary.
Additionally, I discovered a recipe for stout simple syrup from Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith. I added chili powder to the syrup then drizzled it over the frosting. I thought the stout syrup would resemble the amber stout making its way up through the white foam in a pint. Honestly, I could drizzle this stuff on anything. Right now, I am wondering how it would work in whipped cream, ice cream, or espresso martinis.
I am sure there are many potential adaptations for my pieced together cake. Most recipes for Stout cake select Guinness as the stout of choice. Fortunately, there are so many stouts to choose from, why not have some fun with it? I may try a stout from a local microbrewery the next time I make Chocolate Stout Cake.
Chocolate Stout Cake is a perfect cake to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. Yet, it is too delicious to serve only once a year. I know I will want to make it for any time good cheer is on the menu.
Chocolate Stout Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Next time you are in the mood for chocolate cake, Chocolate Stout Cake will give you that chocolate flavor you crave. The addition of Guinness stout makes this delicious chocolate stout cake very moist with some extra lift. The stout makes the chocolate richer without a boozy taste. The white chocolate cream cheese frosting is a delicious compliment to the dark chocolate cake. A luscious double chocolate treat.
This recipe is from three recipes: Cake from Nigella Lawson's, Chocolate Guinness Cake via the New York Times. The white chocolate cream cheese frosting is from Chocolate Guinness Cake by Donal Skehan. The Stout Syrup is from Stout Float by Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith from the Food Network.
Chocolate Stout Cake
1 cup / 8oz / 250ml Guinness Stout, or your favorite stout
10 Tbs / 5oz / 132g of unsalted butter plus more for greasing the pan
3/4 cup / 2 ½ oz / 70g unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups / 1 lb / 450g sugar
2 cups / 10oz / 291g all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup / 6oz / 200ml sour cream
2 large eggs
1 Tb vanilla extract
White Chocolate and Cream Cheese Frosting
7 oz / 200g good quality white chocolate, 30% cocoa butter
4 oz / 125g unsalted butter at room temperature
1- 225g package cream cheese
1½ cups / 225g confectioners sugar
Stout Syrup (optional)
1 cup / 225g granulated sugar
1-12 oz / 355 ml bottle Guinness Stout
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 inch / 23cm springform pan. Add a parchment paper liner to the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
In a medium sauce pan add the butter and stout. Turn the heat to medium low and stir occasionally until the butter has melted. Once the butter is melted, remove from the heat and add the sugar and cocoa powder. Whisk together until well combined. Let cool for 10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl add the flour and baking soda and whisk together to get the baking soda evenly mixed through. Make a well in the flour and add the slightly cooled chocolate mixture, the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Mix together until thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter in the prepared cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for 45 min - 1 hr, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Place on a wire rack and cool the cake in the pan.
Stout Syrup (optional)
If using make the stout syrup while the cake is baking.
Pour the stout and sugar in a medium saucepan and turn the heat up to medium high. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat then simmer the liquid until it becomes thick and syrupy, about 15 minutes or more. Let the syrup cool before using.
White chocolate and Cream Cheese Frosting
Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler. As soon as it is melted remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
In a bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or large mixing bowl with a hand held mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and light. This will take awhile. Periodically stop beating and scrape down the sides of the bowl so it mixes evenly.
Add the cooled white chocolate to the cream cheese and butter, and mix together at medium speed.
Sift the confectioners sugar, then gradually add it into the white chocolate and cream cheese. Mix on low speed between each addition of confectioners sugar. Once all the confectioners sugar is added, beat the frosting until smooth.
Putting it all together
Run a knife around the edge of the cake pan to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Release the latch from the springform pan and lift the rim away from the cake. Loosen the bottom of the cake from the pan with an icing spatula or knife, then remove the bottom of the pan. Holding the cake upside down, carefully peel off the parchment paper. Place the cake on a serving plate.
Spread the frosting across the top of the cake. The cake will look like a pint of stout with the dark bottom and the white cloudy top.
(optional) Drizzle the stout syrup randomly across the top of the frosting on the cake. Swirl a knife through the stout syrup drizzle to create a random pattern.
Serve and enjoy. The cake tastes best at room temperature and eaten the day it is made.
In the gentle quiet I hear, “Love and happiness… Yeahhhh. Something, make you want to do wrong. Make you do right. Yeahhhh. Loooooooove……” Then comes an anticipatory thump, thump, thump, thump priming me for his melody of syncopated guitar licks. bass, and swooning. The song is not so quiet anymore. Al Green guides me along with his lyrics and invites me to sing out loud and dance. He is generous that way and knows how to get the romantic heart pumping.
At the stove, wooden spoon in hand, I stir, sway, and sing “Love and Happiness,” while creating a love song with dark chocolate and Nutella. The name of my love song is, Chocolate Nutella Pots de Creme, a silky custard that could easily compete against any love song. This dessert has the right amount of everything; silky smooth custard for the base line, rich dark chocolate mixed with Nutella for the rhythm notes, Sriracha for the added syncopation and palpitations, then finishes with flaky sea salt to tie it all together. A pure love melody.
Chocolate Nutella Pots de Creme, could be one of the best things I have ever had, period. Not just the best chocolate dessert, or the best dessert. It tops the charts in all categories. I would be lying if I told you it is a cinch to make. It is and it isn’t. All the steps are not complicated to perform, but methodic actions and attentive observations are necessary for success. If you have never made a custard base before, use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to start. No pressure. Aren’t we supposed to take chances with the ones we love?
Clues for Success making Chocolate Nutella Pots de Creme
The only challenging part is getting the custard cooked to just the right consistency without scrambling the eggs.
Cook the custard slowly and stir constantly. The stirring will prevent the custard and eggs from sticking to the pan and solidifying.
The finished custard will have the consistency of thick paint. It will coat the back of a wooden spoon with an even layer. Swipe your finger across the back of the custard covered spoon, if the edges run it needs more time to cook. If the lines stay formed, and the custard is thick, the custard is finished. The temperature for the finished custard will be between 175F and 180F. Above 185F the eggs will scramble.
There have been several times that my custard has reached 175F, but was not thick enough. Keep stirring and control the heat of the pan by turning down the heat, or taking the pan off the heat for a minute then place it back on the heat. Keep stirring.
Trust your judgement.
For Your Listening Pleasure
Here is a link to my unfinished play list of love songs on Spotify. It is an eclectic list of music, with an R & B foundation. Enjoy it while you are creating Chocolate Nutella Pots de Creme or a love song of your own. Enjoy!
What is your favorite Love Song? Let me know in the comments section below.
This version of chocolate pots de crème could be one of the best things I have ever eaten. It is very sensuous with the perfect amount of spice to jazz things up.
Serve in glasses, espresso cups, small coffee cups, or ramekins.
Recipe is from Aarti Sequeira, Food Network
1 cup Nutella, or other chocolate-hazelnut spread
3.5 oz dark chocolate (70 percent) chopped
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup granulated sugar
¾ tsp Kosher salt
6 large egg yolks
1 tsp Sriracha sauce (up to 2 tsp if you like it really hot)
½ tsp instant espresso powder
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
Lightly sweetened whipped cream or crème fraiche
Cocoa powder for dusting
Minced hazelnuts for garnishing
Flaky sea salt (I like Maldon)
Spoon the Nutella into a medium bowl, then add the chopped dark chocolate. Set aside.
Turn the heat up to medium temperature. Then add the milk, heavy cream, egg yolks, sugar and salt into a medium, nonreactive saucepan. Briefly whisk together the ingredients. Switch out the whisk with a wooden spoon and cook the custard stirring constantly, scraping along the bottom and crevices of the saucepan to make sure the custard does not stick or burn. After the custard has cooked for a while, about 8-10 minutes, you will notice the custard beginning to get thicker. This is an indication your custard is getting finished. Two clues that the custard is done cooking; first, dip your wooden spoon into the custard to coat the spoon and run your finger across the back of the spoon to paint a line. The line should stay intact at the edges, not runny. Second, the temperature of the custard should register between 175˚F and 180˚F. Above 185˚F the eggs will start to scramble. Depending on the temperature of your stove, the cooking time should take between 10-15 minutes. When the custard is done, turn off the heat and pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl with the chocolate and Nutella. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, organize your serving glasses or ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet.
Stir the custard and chocolate until just incorporated. Then add the instant coffee, sriracha, vanilla extract and stir again making sure the chocolate is melted and the custard is well mixed together.
Pour the chocolate into a container with a spout and pour the mixture into serving dishes. Tap each glass against the countertop to remove any air bubbles in the chocolate pots de crème. Slightly cool, then cover the pots de crème with plastic wrap (leaving some pockets around the edges for the heat to escape) and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.
Serve garnished with whipped cream or crème fraiche, sprinkled coco powder, sea salt and chopped hazelnuts.
My family knows, they can always give me a cookbook as a gift. It does not matter if the cookbook is an older publication or a new one, I will always welcome any addition to my collection. This year my husband gave me The Baking Bible Cookbook by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I am familiar with Rose Beranbaum’s work because I own another book of hers, The Cake Bible. She is a one of a kind baking guru and a significant authority about the science involved with baking. If you are curious about culinary science, she is the number one resource. Learning from her cookbooks will make you a better baker.
As I turned each page of my new book I made mental notes to myself of baking projects to try later. Ultimately, my goal was to find inspiration for something I could make immediately. Upon first sight of her recipe Stilton Baby Blue Cheesecakes, I decided this was the one. These baby cheesecakes enriched with blue cheese instantly grabbed my attention. They were beautifully photographed with slivers of Bosc pears draped over their tops. Additionally, the crust of the baby cheesecakes is made with one ingredient, crushed walnuts. They are a new twist on the classic pairing of walnuts and blue cheese. Add some champagne to serve with these baby blues and you have an elegant party spread for all to enjoy.
Another great feature of these baby cheesecakes is the blue cheese itself. The combination of blue and cream cheese creates flexibility for the cheesecakes to be served as either an appetizer or a dessert. I can add additional blue cheese to make them more savory, or less to make them sweeter for dessert. As well, they can be made in advance, which is always a plus. I am not usually a cheesecake fan, however this recipe for baby cheesecakes came across as a pleasant surprise. They are savory, sophisticated and unexpected all in one bite.
One change I made to the original recipe was to switch the type of blue cheese. The original recipe called for Stilton cheese, which I like, however I love Point Reyes Blue Cheese. It is creamier and not as sharp as Stilton, yet still maintains that distinctive blue bite. This is my favorite blue cheese, and is made in the sacred land of my childhood, the Point Reyes National Seashore in California. I can’t help myself when it comes to Point Reyes Blue Cheese or any of the other cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery. Their cheeses remind me of home and help me feel connected to this treasured seashore.
Dinner Ideas when serving Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes
Serve Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes as a cheese course along with fresh and/or dried fruits at the end of the meal.
My new book, The Baking Bible, has been christened and I have a new recipe using one of my favorite cheeses. Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes are an elegant, versatile and creamy bite of bliss.
Cheers to a beautiful, happy and healthy 2017. Enjoy!
Helpful Hints Making Point Reyes Baby Cheesecakes:
If using a metal muffin pan, do not skip the step of placing parchment paper into each muffin cup. Even if you have a non-stick pan the parchment will make it a lot easier to lift the baby cheesecakes out of the cups. Additionally, the parchment paper will stick to the pan so you will not have to pull the paper off the bottoms.
Boil water in a tea kettle and then pour into a medium bowl. Use the hot water to heat up a metal spatula or knife and then wipe clean with a kitchen towel. The heated and cleaned knife will make lifting the cheesecakes out of the tins easier and smooth out the edges.
Garnish the baby cheesecakes with fruit, nuts or minced arugula combined with chopped walnuts and pears. Lightly dress the greens with extra-virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar.
If serving as an hors d’oeuvres, serve them on a multigrain cracker. It will taste great and will be easier to manage.
For a first course serve the Blue Cheese Baby Cheesecakes with a salad of arugula and pears, lightly dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar.
These delicious Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes can double as a dessert or an appetizer. For a personal touch, feel free to use your favorite strong flavored blue cheese. The original recipe used Stilton cheese in these baby cheesecakes. This recipe is from The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, Stilton Baby Blue Cheesecakes.
1 shy cup (3 oz/84 g) walnut halves
1/4 cup plus 2 Tb (2.6 oz/75 g) granulated sugar
1 Tb (9 g) cornstarch
Kosher salt, a pinch
1 1/3 cups (12 oz/60 g) cream cheese at room temperature and cut into pieces
1/4 cup (2.1 oz/35 g) sour cream
2 -3 Tb (35 g - 52 g) Point Reyes Blue Cheese*
2 large eggs lightly beaten
Prepare the muffin pans
2 - 6 cup silicone muffin pans set on a wire baking rack and placed into a sheet pan Or 1 - 12 cup muffin tin.
For the silicone muffin pans - lightly coat the muffin pans with cooking spray then place them on a wire rack set in a baking sheet.
For the muffin tin - coat each muffin cup with shortening or butter and cut small circles of parchment paper to set in the bottom of each cup. Lightly spray each cup with cooking oil spray.
Toast the walnuts
Set the oven rack in the middle of the oven and pre-heat the oven at 350˚ F/175˚ C/Gas Mark 4. Let the oven heat up for twenty minutes before you toast the walnuts.
Spread the walnut halves evenly over a small baking sheet, place in the oven and toast the walnuts to bring out the oils and enhance their flavor. Toast for 7 minutes turning the walnuts over a couple of times while baking.
When finished spread the toasted walnuts over a clean lint free dish towel and fold one end over the walnuts to cover. Place your hands over the covered walnuts and gently rub back and forth to loosen and remove the walnut skin. Rub off as much of the walnut skins as you can and place the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor. Discard the skins.
Lower the oven temperature to 225˚ F/107˚ C
Pulse the food processor to finely chop the walnuts. You want an even consistency without turning the walnuts into flour.
Spoon 1 Tb of ground walnuts into each muffin cup and press down evenly to pack the walnuts together.
Using a stand mixer or hand held mixer, mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt until just mixed together. Add the cream cheese and beat on low speed until the ingredients are evenly combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until very smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape the batter down the sides of a bowl.
In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream and blue cheese until evenly combined. A fork is great for this job. Add the blue cheese mixture to the cream cheese and mix together on low speed until just combined, about 15 seconds.
Add the lightly beaten eggs and mix until evenly combined. The batter consistency should resemble sour cream.
Pour the cheesecake batter into each muffin cup almost up the top, about 1.8 oz/50 g in each muffin cup. Smooth over the tops of each cheesecake with an offset spatula.
Bake in the 225˚ F/107˚ C oven for 15 minutes. Rotate the muffin pan in the oven from front to back to encourage even baking and bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer. The muffins are done when an instant read thermometer reads 160˚ F/71˚ C. The batter will jiggle somewhat and the centers of each muffin will spring back when touched. Put muffin tin and/or baking sheet on a cooling rack.
Allow the cheesecakes to cool in the muffin pan for 30 minutes. Cover the muffin pan(s) with plastic wrap lightly coated with cooking spray and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before unmolding.
For the metal muffin pan: run a small spatula or knife, heated up with hot water, around the edge of each muffin cup. Press the spatula or knife up against the side of the pan to not scrape the sides of the cheesecakes. Clean the spatula with warm water and wipe clean with a cloth for every cheesecake. Lift the cheesecakes out of the muffin cups with a spatula. Smooth the sides of each cheesecake using a small metal spatula that has been heated with hot water and wiped clean.
For silicone muffin pans: Rose Levy Beranbaum recommends placing a baking sheet on top of the plastic wrap-covered muffin pan and turn it upside down. Then place a dish towel in very hot water. Wring out the excess water and drape it over the muffin pan. Make sure to press the hot wet towel into the recesses of the pan. Let it sit for about 2 minutes. Remove the towel and carefully lift off the muffin pan. If the cheesecakes do not release, repeat the above steps, and try again after another minute. Once released, place a second sheet pan on top of upside down cheesecakes and turn them right side up.
Place the cheesecakes on a serving platter and serve.
Store, refrigerated for up to 5 days.
*To make the cheesecakes more savory add the total 3 Tb blue cheese to the batter. If you want the cheese cakes for dessert use 2 Tb blue cheese.
A thank you. A greeting. An introduction. A small gesture… A homemade gift can be all those things. Homemade treats do not have to be fancy or time consuming to make, a simple gift will do. They are always appreciated. I like making gifts, but I do not get around to making them as much as I would like. I usually think of an idea for a homemade gift too late and eventually buy something along the way. When I found this recipe for chocolate bark, I had an ah ha moment. I can do this. This recipe for chocolate bark is unusual, simple to make, beautiful to look at, and satisfies all chocolate cravings.
I have been a fan of chocolate bark for some time now and must admit to be a total dark chocolate fanatic. A day does not go by without a chocolate snack. My dessert choice usually has chocolate as the main attraction. I can’t help myself and totally find chocolate irresistible. I discovered this recipe while reading, Seasonal Fruit Desserts, by Deborah Madison. Yes I see the perplexed expression on your face: a chocolate bark recipe in a fruit dessert cookbook? Yes, Deborah Madison is no dummy and included this recipe in her dried fruit and nuts chapter. There is something for everyone in all of her cookbooks.
Her chocolate bark recipes are different, which was the main attraction for me. Laden in her chocolate bark are dried fruit, nuts, rose petals, citrus zest, and other floral attractions, reminding me that chocolate bark can be whatever I want it to be. The add-ins do not need to be limited to pretzels, peppermint and coconut. It can hold up to any variety of flavors that compliment chocolate, like citrus, chili, cinnamon, coffee, sea salt, ginger, and all nuts, just to name a few. One could go crazy with add-ins for chocolate bark and have a surprise in every bite. I do not recommend going too crazy, the flavors do need to get along and marry with each-other and the type of chocolate.
Chocolate bark is a welcome dessert by itself or with fruit, nuts, cookies, or sorbet. You can keep it in your refrigerator to have on hand to serve for an impromptu dinner party. Chocolate bark will also make a lovely hostess gift, or a small gift to the chocolate lover(s) in your life. A homemade gift that can easily fit into anyone’s busy schedule.
Dark Chocolate bark flavored with crystallized ginger, dried apricots and pistachios make a delicious dessert and pairs well with fruit, cookies, nuts and ice cream. Pair Dark Chocolate Bark with White Chocolate Bark flavored with orange zest, pistachios and lavender, and you have an extra special dessert treat that is almost too pretty to eat.
Both chocolate bark recipes are delicious and easy to make. They will make an excellent hostess gift or a nice gesture just for giving.
The actual cooking time is very short but you will need at least an hour for the chocolate to set in the refrigerator. Plan on at least 1 1/2 - 2 hours in total.
This recipe is very slightly adapted from Seasonal Fruit Desserts, From Orchard, Farm and Market by Deborah Madison, 2010
Dark Chocolate Bark -makes one 10 x 6 inch slab of chocolate bark
4 oz dark chocolate, between 60% to 70% cocoa butter
2-3 Tb chopped candied ginger
2-3 Tb chopped dried apricots
3 Tb salted green pistachio nuts, some chopped and some nuts left whole
Pinch of flaky sea salt like Maldon
White Chocolate Bark makes one 8 x 5 inch slab of white chocolate bark
4 oz white chocolate, good quality such as Lindt - or Lindt white chocolate with coconut
2 Tb finely chopped salted green pistachios
Orange zest removed with a citrus zester in thin strips
1/2 tea lavender or other dried edible flower pedal like hibiscus or rose petals
Dark Chocolate Bark
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
Put the broken up chocolate in a bowl fitted over a pot of simmering water. If you want to add any dried spices add them now as well. Make sure the simmering water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Just a small amount of water is all that is needed, no more than an inch high. Gently stir the chocolate while it is melting, and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
When the chocolate is melted stir in half of the chopped fruit and nuts.
Spread the melted chocolate over the parchment paper in a thin slab, then sprinkle the remaining fruit and nuts evenly across the bark. Gently press down of the fruit and nuts so they will stick to the chocolate when it sets. Sprinkle lightly with flaky sea salt.
Refrigerate the chocolate until it is set, at least an hour.
White Chocolate Bark
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper large enough to hold a 10 x 6 inch slab
Add the chopped white chocolate bark to a bowl and place over a pot of simmering water. Keep the heat low and stir and scrape down the sides of the bowl while the white chocolate is melting.
When the white chocolate is melted, pour it out on the parchment paper and spread the chocolate into an even slab.
Sprinkle the remaining ingredients decoratively and evenly over the white chocolate and gently press them to adhere to the chocolate.
Refrigerate until set, at least an hour.
Break up the bark into irregular pieces and serve by itself or with other nuts, fruit, cookies or ice cream.
Keep the chocolate bark in an air tight container and wrapped in parchment or wax paper. Keep in the refrigerator.
I love breakfast and will never skip this meal. Most of the time I am just having a bowl of yogurt with fruit and coffee, or almond butter multi-grain toast. No matter what I am eating, breakfast is a sacred and meditative time of day even if it only lasts for 10 minutes.
Our usual breakfast routine is self-serve. I stock our pantry and frig with our habitual breakfast foods, Joe does his thing in the morning and I do mine. Joe makes us a big pot of coffee so all I have to think about first thing in the morning is locating a clean mug. Sometimes it is the little gestures that mean so much, I love waking up and seeing a full pot of coffee ready and waiting. The coffee is made, and I can ease into the routine of the day.
Thanksgiving is a month away, and I am looking forward to having a full house and time to dig into a big breakfast shared with people I love. The table loaded with any variety of cherished breakfast delights like eggs, pastries, bacon, fruit, coffee, and oj. Everyone is lounging around in their pj’s, hair ruffled and the sleepiness wearing off of their expressions, helped along by jokes and ease. We are all relaxed and enjoying the morning before the work or activities begin. Family breakfast time is a luxury and I cherish each one I get.
But why wait until a holiday to enjoy a breakfast meal together? I believe it is time for me to bring back an old tradition we used to have when we were dating. It is time for a breakfast date, and pancakes will be on the menu.
Not just any pancakes though, Dutch Baby pancake with a slight variation: made with oat flour. Dutch Baby, or German pancakes, are light pancakes cooked in a skillet in the oven. It is one of the easiest things to make and has very few ingredients. It is incredible. They are similar to crêpes and popovers with the light layers of dough and air, but what makes them really stand out is adding a hint of nutmeg in the pancake batter and finishing with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the sprinkled confectioners sugar. Wow. The plain and simple transform into a regal delicacy.
Why change a good thing and substitute all-purpose flour with oat flour? Why not. Oat flour has a slightly nutty and caramel flavor making it a complimentary ingredient to use in a variety of baked goods. It is also a great gluten-free substitute for all-purpose flour. Replacing all-purpose flour with oat flour makes the butter taste more buttery, if that is possible, and the slight nuttiness is a nice welcome. You do not have to worry about over-mixing the batter either when you use oat flour. Dutch Baby pancakes made with oat flour will not rise up the sides of the pan like a traditional one, but it will puff up randomly, creating hills and valleys for pools of butter and syrup to collect. This oat flour Dutch Baby pancake reminds me of funnel cake with its irregular shape.
It is also great to experience cooking with alternative flours in the event you need to prepare a meal for someone on a gluten-free diet. Cooking with gluten-free flours is not that simple, but making pancakes with them is because you do not have to worry about the structure like you do for making a cake. Using alternative flours in pancake recipes is an easy starting point to become familiar with gluten-free flours.
More recipes with alternative flours click here for my favorite gluten-free cookbook by Alice Medrich, Flavor Flours.
Make a breakfast date with your special someone, or enjoy breakfast with good friends. This Dutch Baby pancake recipe is simple to make, impressive to look at, and taste light and airy and bright, just asking to be drizzled with warm maple syrup.
Where to buy oat flour? Oat flour is becoming widely available at some large supermarkets, such as Stop&Shop and Whole Foods, and smaller specialty grocery stores like Mrs. Green’s and other family run markets like DeCicco’s in Westchester and Putnam Counties. Bob Red Mill is the most common brand and they have a gluten-free oat flour and rolled oats. King Arthur, and Arrowhead Mills have oat flour but they may not be gluten-free. Oats and wheat are often grown together and/or milled at the same place. Unless it says Gluten-free on the label it could be made from rolled oats that have been cross pollinated or cross contaminated with wheat. You can also buy oat flour on-line at Amazon, but it is double the price compared to my grocery store.
Using oat flour to replace all-purpose flour in this Dutch Baby Pancake recipe is a flavorful and gluten free alternative. This Dutch Baby is similar to popovers and crepes with its thin and airy layers, but it is cooked in a hot skillet in the oven. This breakfast treat is so simple make and is surprisingly delicious. The little bit of lemon juice and the hint of nutmeg makes this pancake standout and is a real treat. Serve immediately for either breakfast or dessert.
It is great served with macerated fruit, fresh fruit, and warm maple syrup, or honey.
This recipe is adapted from David Eyre's Pancake, The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser.
1/3 cup (1 1/2 oz/ 43 g) oat flour*
1/2 cup whole milk (118 ml) *see note for a dairy free alternative
2 large eggs
1/2 tea of freshly grated nutmeg
4 Tb butter (2 oz/52 g)
1 Tb confectioners sugar
*If you want to use all-purpose flour use 1/3 cup (1 5/8 oz/46 g) of all purpose flour
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place a 10 inch cast iron skillet, or sturdy oven proof skillet in the oven to heat up.
Sift the oat flour into a medium mixing bowl. Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl and add to the flour. Add the milk and nutmeg and mix all the ingredients until combined.
With the skillet still in the oven, place the butter in the skillet to melt. When the bubbling subsides and the pan is very hot, pour the batter into the center of the pan. The batter should spread evenly out. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. The pancake should be evenly golden brown and set in the middle.
Sprinkle the Dutch Baby with powdered sugar and put the pan back in the oven for a minute or so.
Remove from the oven and squeeze the juice from half a lemon all over the pancake. Serve immediately.
You can slice it right in the skillet, or slide it onto a serving plate then serve.
Serve the pancake with fresh fruit topping of your choice, and or maple syrup.
Dairy free option: I made the recipe using oat flour and almond milk for a dairy free and gluten free alternative. Use the same amount of unsweetened almond milk as cows milk in the recipe. The Dutch Baby pancake will not be as puffy, but it still will puff up and taste great.
Dutch Baby is also great as a dessert. Drizzle it with Nutella or chocolate sauce and creme fraiche or ice cream. Any fruit topping with cream is a good option as well.
There is no denying it, the heat is turned on and the leaves are turning and dropping. Summer is over. Fall has established itself and cast a deciduous mosaic of red, orange, yellow, brown, and green leaves gleaming across the hillsides. Along with the change of season, the tempo has picked up. The quiet and relaxed pace of summer is replaced with back to business with intense purpose. No more half days on Fridays.
Despite the hurried tempo, cooler temperatures, and reminder that winter is not too far away, I love fall. It is a great time to play outside, hiking, gardening, sightseeing and foraging the last of the season’s bounty. Even though the growing season is ending, there continues to be an ample selection of vegetables and fruits to buy at the market before everything dies down for the winter. Fall belongs to apples, winter squash, pears, persimmons, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and so much more.
I visited a local apple orchard, Stuart’s Fruit Farm, on Columbus Day. It was heartwarming to see many couples, families, or just friends walking around the orchard picking apples, enjoying a crisp and sunny fall day. Children’s laughter and the excited child pitch, “I got one!” echoed across the orchard. Glee, family love, activity, and the sweet aroma of fermenting apples with trampled grass enveloped me as I walked about. I saw in the faces of the playing children the reflection of my own children as preschoolers, running and climbing around the same trees. When you are surrounded by your history, it is easy to see how simultaneously time stands still and moves forward.
I am grateful that Stuarts Fruit Farm is still here. A lot of apple orchards sold off their land to developers in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. The land is very valuable and farming work is difficult to make profitable. Stuart’s Fruit Farm recently received grants and secured a conservation easement from The Westchester Land Trust. These combined efforts will protect the farm land from development and allow the Stuart Family to own the land and continue to farm there. Stuarts has been an operating family farm since 1828, and is the “oldest working family farm in Westchester County,” (LoHud July 11, 2016).
I went to Stuarts with two purposes, take photographs of the apple orchard and buy apples. I feel so fortunate to be able to drive 6 minutes and step out on farm land. It is so close to home, I could ride my bike, or walk to the farm if I was so inspired. I love being able to go out in my neighborhood buy fruit and vegetables grown on the very same land. It is amazing to me that I live in a suburban NYC metropolitan area and have an apple orchard in my neighborhood. The additional bonus is it is not the only family farm in the Somers/Yorktown area.
I returned home with a memory card full of images, a bag full of apples, and a desire to make apple pie. Being that it was late in the afternoon, I did not have enough time to prepare a pie crust, so I decided on one of my best and easiest dessert recipes I have, Swedish Apple Pie. It is the perfect recipe for any last-minute impulse bake or invitation to dine. Swedish Apple Pie is more like a cake in texture, but because apples are the main ingredient, it satisfies like a pie.
I first discovered this dessert staying at the home of a college friend. Her mom gave me the recipe and I have made Swedish Apple Pie for over 30 years. All you have to do is peel and slice apples, mix together flour, sugar, egg, and butter, then pour the batter over the apples and bake. It is that easy. People who say they cannot bake, can make this dessert. You mix it by hand, and you do not need special equipment, just a pie pan. If you don’t own a pie pan, just buy the aluminum pans available at the grocery store. The pie will taste just as delicious. You can make this recipe with confidence knowing it is a delicious and easy dessert that all will love.
Swedish Apple Pie is a family favorite dessert that I can practically make in my sleep. It is so well-loved in my family, one of my sons asked to have it as his “Birthday Cake.” Making Swedish Apple Pie will not interrupt your play time during this gorgeous fall season. You can spend the day outside and have time leftover to bake Swedish Apple Pie. Fill your home with the aromas of baking apples and cinnamon and a reminder of a beautiful fall day well spent.
Swedish Apple Pie is an easy dessert recipe that anyone can make. It is more cake like in structure, and assembles without a lot of fuss. All you need to remember is "1": 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 stick of butter, 1 egg. It is that easy. Swedish Apple Pie is a delicious dessert and a family favorite. Great for any occasion.
It is easy to add additions to the apples or batter. Chopped nuts like walnuts or pecans can be added to the batter. Dried cranberries or other dried fruits are nice with the apples. I like to add lemon zest or lemon juice to the crust batter, it really brightens it up. You just do not want to add anything that will bring in more moisture.
5-6 apples, Granny Smith, or other crisp and not too sweet apple *see notes
1-2 Tb granulated sugar
1-2 tea ground cinnamon
1 cup (4 oz/ 117 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 5/8 oz/ 218 g) granulated sugar
1 stick, (1/2 cup/ 4 oz/ 113 g) butter
Zest of one lemon, or juice of half a lemon (optional)
Heaping 1/4 tea of freshly grated nutmeg. If you own ground nutmeg, just use a level 1/4 tea (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Use a 9-inch pie pan (Pyrex or metal pans are preferred)
Melt the butter set aside to cool.
Peel, core and slice each apple and put into pie pan. Slice the apples no bigger than 1/2 inch across the bottom of each slice. The size of your pan and the size of your apples will depend on how many apples you will need. If you have a regular 9-inch pie pan start with 5 apples. You want the apples to fill the inside of the pie pan and have a slightly rounded top. Add more apples if it looks flat and you see bare spots. Optional - squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Toss to mix.
In a small bowl mix the 1-2 Tb of sugar with the cinnamon. The amount of sugar depends on the type of apple you are using. If you are using Granny Smith Apples you should use the full amount of sugar because they are not that sweet. All other apples are sweeter and might require using less sugar.
Sprinkle the sugar cinnamon mixture over the top of the apples in a nice even layer.
In medium size bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, ground nutmeg, and lemon zest until just combined. Add the cooled melted butter and egg, then stir until the batter is thoroughly mixed. Make sure you scrape down the sides and across the bottom of the bowl to mix in all the flour.
Spoon the batter over the apples starting at the center and working your way around the pan. The batter will be thick but still fluid, and will slightly ease over the apples and into holes. Try to evenly spread the batter in an even layer all around the apples, then spread it into any holes. The batter should read as one smooth top.
Put the pie pan on a sheet pan and place in the oven. Bake, checking to see if it is done beginning at the 45-minute mark. The cooking time will vary depending on the number of apples you have. For me, it has consistently baked at least an hour and often a little longer. The pie is done when the crust is golden brown all across the top, and none of the crust looks uncooked. You will get some crispy crust along the edges and a cake-like middle, not mushy, or too moist.
When it is done baking, take the pie out of the oven and let it completely cool to room temperature before serving.
Serve with vanilla ice cream or creme anglais. Caramel sauce is a delicious addition with the ice cream.
When testing this recipe I used Cortland Apples. Over the years I have used many different types of apples, but the best ones are apples that are well suited to baking. Some good examples are, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Cortland apples. You want very crisp apples that are not too sweet. You can even use more than one type of apple. McIntosh apples and Red Delicious apples do not work well because they are a softer apple and your pie will become apple sauce.