Tag Archives: Dessert

Blueberry-Peach Focaccia

25 Jul

1-1/3 cups warm water (105 degrees to 115 degrees F)

1 pkg. active dry yeast

4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. sugar

3-1/4 to 3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

tsp. kosher or coarse sea salt


cup fresh blueberries

Tbsp. sugar

tsp. vanilla

to 3 Tbsp. small fresh basil leaves (optional)

1.In a small bowl combine the warm water, yeast, 3 Tbsp. of the olive oil, and 1 tsp. sugar.

Let stand 5 minutes or until bubbly.

In a large bowl combine 3 cups of the flour and 1 tsp. of the salt. Add yeast mixture to flour mixture. Stir until combined. If necessary, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough.

Turn out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that is nearly smooth but still slightly sticky (about 3 minutes).

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning once.

Cover. Let rise in a warm place until double in size (1 to 1-1/2 hours).

2.Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a 15x10x1-inch baking pan with parchment paper; lightly oil paper. Turn dough into prepared pan and gently press evenly into the pan. Loosely cover; let stand in a warm place while halving, pitting, and slicing peaches.

3.Arrange peaches and blueberries atop dough in pan. Sprinkle with 3 tbsp. sugar and the remaining 1 tsp. salt. In a small bowl stir together remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil and the vanilla. Drizzle over focaccia.

4.Bake about 30 minutes or until peaches are softened and bread is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with basil just before serving. Makes 24 servings.

Make-ahead: After placing dough in the oiled bowl, cover and chill dough up to 24 hours. Let dough stand at room temperature for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until the dough is double in size. Continue as directed in step 2.

Better Homes and Gardens, August, 2010

This is one of my favorite sweet snacks and/or desserts to bring to bigger get-togethers.  It’s both salty and sweet, light and fruity, soft and crunchy.   I also think it allows for some fun experimentation – you could substitute strawberries or raspberries for the blueberries, plums or plucots for the peaches.   You can get creative with the fruit arrangements.  And so far I’ve never served this to anyone who didn’t like it.  Perfect for hot summer block parties and cooler evening grill-outs.


Coconut Cream Pie

2 Mar

  • 1/2  (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough (such as Pillsbury)
  • Cooking spray
  • 2  cups  1% low-fat milk
  • 1  cup  half-and-half
  • 1 1/2  cups  flaked sweetened coconut
  • 1  vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 2/3  cup  sugar
  • 1/3  cup  cornstarch
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 4  large egg yolks
  • 2  tablespoons  butter
  • 3  large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2  teaspoon  cream of tartar
  • 1/2  cup  sugar
  • 1/4  cup  water
  • 1/4  cup  flaked sweetened coconut, toasted

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Fold edges under; flute. Line dough with foil; arrange pie weights or dried beans on foil. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes; remove weights and foil, and bake an additional 10 minutes or until golden. Cool completely on a wire rack.

3. Combine milk and half-and-half in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 cups coconut. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; stir seeds and pod into milk mixture. Bring milk mixture to a simmer; immediately remove from heat. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Strain through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a bowl. Gather edges of cheesecloth; squeeze over bowl to release moisture. Discard solids.

4. Combine 2/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add milk mixture to egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly. Return milk mixture to pan; bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Remove from heat. Add butter; whisk until smooth. Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for 6 minutes, stirring to cool. Pour into prepared crust. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

5. Place 3 egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until candy thermometer registers 250°. Pour hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over egg whites, beating at high speed until thick. Spread meringue over pie. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Top with toasted coconut before serving.

Kathy Kitchens Downie, RD, Cooking Light, March 2011

Best coconut cream pie recipe I’ve ever tried.  Both the filling and the merengue came out to the perfect consistency.  The filling is light with a subtle flavor and the crust adds the perfect crisp complement.  Instead of using the prepared dough, I recommend using Alan Carter’s Pie Recipe (https://chicagodinnerbell.wordpress.com/2010/12/26/alan-carters-pie-pastry/).  I also use flat rocks that we brought back from Lake Superior as my pie weights.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a nice alternative to having to buy yet another kitchen tool – I, for one, am out of room!

Banana Bread

23 Feb

  • 1 1/2  cups  mashed ripe banana
  • 1/3  cup  plain fat-free yogurt
  • 5  tablespoons  butter, melted
  • 2  large eggs
  • 1/2  cup  granulated sugar
  • 1/2  cup  packed brown sugar
  • 6.75  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4  cup  ground flaxseed
  • 3/4  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/8  teaspoon  ground allspice
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/3  cup  powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  1% low-fat milk

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed. Add granulated and brown sugars; beat until combined.

3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through ground allspice).

Add flour mixture to banana mixture; beat just until blended.

Pour batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack.  Remove bread from pan; cool completely. Combine powdered sugar and milk, stirring until smooth; drizzle over bread.

Maureen Callahan, Cooking Light, OCTOBER 2010

The biggest challenge to making this banana bread is hoarding the bananas from the hungry banana thieves rummaging your kitchen (in my case, my boyfriend Tom) until they’ve fully ripened.  Once you’ve got your bananas, the rest couldn’t be easier – measure, mix and bake.  I like this particular recipe because the flax adds a little texture and the glaze makes it just a bit sweeter.  The glaze also makes it look like you added extra effort – without any effort at all.   I also recommend adding a handful of walnuts.

Chocolate Loaf

10 Feb

  • 1 cup  unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup  packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup  natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp.  baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp.  salt
  • 1/2 cup  unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp.  vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup  hot tap water
  • 1 recipe  Easy Fudge Frosting, recipe below
  • Natural unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Position rack in lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease sides of 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; set aside.

2. In large mixing bowl whisk together flour, brown sugar, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add butter, eggs, and vanilla. Whisk gently until dry ingredients are moistened and mixture resembles a thick paste. Whisk briskly about 30 strokes. Tap or shake any batter from whisk. Use rubber spatula to stir in hot water, scraping sides as necessary, just until batter is blended and smooth. With spatula scrape batter from bowl into prepared pan and spread to make a thin even layer.

3. Bake 14 to 16 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Slide a thin metal spatula or knife around cake edges to loosen from pan. Invert cake onto rack. Remove paper liner; carefully turn cake right side up. Cool completely.

4. Cut cake crosswise in three equal rectangles. Thickly spread frosting on one piece, top with a second piece and spread with frosting. Leave top unfrosted. Thickly frost long sides. Before serving, dust top with cocoa powder. Makes 12 servings.

Easy Fudge Frosting: In medium saucepan melt 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter. Stir in 1 cup sugar, 1 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder, and a pinch of salt. Gradually stir in 1 cup whipping cream. Heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and hot but not boiling. Remove from heat; stir in 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract. Set aside; cool until thickened and spreadable. To cool quickly, loosely cover and refrigerate 1 hour. Store up to 1 week in refrigerator. Makes 2 cups.

On Saturday my boyfriend asked for a chocolate cake and, since he rarely makes special requests, I was happy to oblige.  However, I must tell you that while I love dark chocolate, fudge, chocolate pudding, hot chocolate, French silk pies – you name it – I am not a huge fan of chocolate cake or chocolate icecream (gasp!).  To be more specific, I love chocolate cake, but only if smushed up inside vanilla icecream.  Yes, I am a 7-year-old.   I am only revealing these bad manners (yes, I will smush up your beautiful cake without thinking twice) because I thought the fudge frosting was overwhelmingly rich.  Tom agreed, but then proceeded to eat the entire cake by himself over the next few days (busted!).   So you’ll have to be your own judge on this one.

The texture was perfect, falling somewhere between a cake and a brownie.  However, as you can see, I still need to develop my frosting skills because this cake was downright ugly.  I think my baking in general could use a little work (but I do make awesome pies!)

Apple-Cranberry Pie

29 Dec

  • 2 portions  Alan’s Pie Pastry, or 2 rolled refrigerated piecrusts
  • 6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1/2 cup  cranberries
  • 2 Tbsp.  lemon juice
  • 1-1/4 cups  sugar
  • 1/4 cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp.  ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp.  ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp.  salt
  • 1 recipe  Pastry Cream (recipe below)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp.  whipping cream

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. On a floured surface, roll one pastry portion to a circle 14 inches in diameter. Transfer pastry to a 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Trim pastry even with rim of pie plate; cover and set aside. On a floured surface roll remaining pastry to a 12-inch circle; cover and set aside.

2. In a large bowl combine apples, cranberries and lemon juice. In a small bowl combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, allspice and salt.

3. Spread bottom of crust with Pastry Cream. Toss apple mixture with dry ingredients; add to pie tin. Immediately add top crust. Trim to 1/2-inch beyond edge of pie plate. Fold top pastry under bottom pastry. Crimp edge as desired. Cut 4 small openings, so the steam is released. Combine egg and whipping cream; brush liberally on pie. Place pie on a baking sheet.

4. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Cover edges of pie with foil, if necessary, to prevent overbrowning. Cool on wire rack.

Pastry Cream: In a small saucepan combine 1 cup milk and 1/4 cup sugar; cook over medium heat just until bubbly on edges. Meanwhile in a medium mixing bowl beat 2 egg yolks, 3 tablespoons sugar, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until combined. Gradually beat in 1/3 cup hot milk mixture; quickly beat in remaining milk mixture. Return to saucepan; cook and stir over medium heat until mixture is thick and comes to a boil. Remove from heat; stir in 2 tablespoons butter and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Transfer to bowl; cover surface with plastic wrap. Cool. Chill to store.

Bettter Homes & Gardens, November 2010

After making this recipe, I feel that I can rest easy, contented that I have made the best apple pie in the entire world.  I am hesitant to even share this recipe as I would like to horde it forever and claim it as my crowning achievement in life.  It is amazing.  Enough said.

So here is a cheesy picture of me – being proud of my best-ever pie.

Lemon Velvet Cream Pie

26 Dec

  • 1 portion  Alan’s Pie Pastry, or 1 rolled refrigerated unbaked pie crust
  • 1 tsp.  unflavored gelatin
  • 2 Tbsp.  cold water
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1-1/2 14-oz. cans  sweetened condensed milk (2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup  whipping cream
  • 1/4 tsp.  salt
  • 3/4 cup  lemon juice
  • Whipped Cream
  • Thin lemon peel slivers

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roll out pastry portion on a floured surface to a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer to a 9-inch pie tin or plate without stretching. Trim pastry to 1/2 inch beyond edge of pie plate. Fold under extra pastry. Crimp edge as desired. Prick bottom and sides of pastry with a fork. Place in freezer 10 minutes. Line pastry with foil pie pan (see Blind Baking*); fill with dried beans or pie weights. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet; bake 30 minutes. Carefully remove foil pan. Bake 15 minutes more. Cool on wire rack. (If using rolled refrigerated crust, bake according to package directions.)

2. In a small bowl soften gelatin in water 5 minutes. Heat in microwave for 14 seconds; set aside.

3. In large bowl combine egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk. With an electric mixer, beat on high speed for 2 to 3 minutes until well combined. Beat in gelatin, whipping cream and salt on low speed. Add lemon juice and beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Pour into prepared crust (pie will be full).

4. Bake 22 to 25 minutes or until center of pie looks set when gently shaken; cool on wire rack 1 hour. Cover loosely and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

5. Top with whipped cream and lemon peel slivers just before serving. Makes 8 servings.

*Blind Baking:When blind baking (prebaking the pastry shell) for the Lemon Velvet Cream Pie, Alan uses a disposable 8-3/4 inch foil pie pan to help the pastry keep its shape. Snip the rim of the foil pie tin every 2 inches or so and fold the rim upwards. After fitting the dough in the pie plate and crimping the edge, place the foil pie tin on top of the dough. Fill the tin with dried beans or pie weights and bake as specified in the recipe.

Better Homes & Gardens, November 2010

I made this one exactly as recommended, except because I forgot to read ahead (as usual), I didn’t have a second pie pan (see Blind Baking above) so I tried to shape one out of foil.  As you can see from the photo above, the pie crust was not pretty and I feared disaster!  If this happens to you, fear not! as it turns out whipped cream topping can hide any mistake just so long as it still tastes great (and it will).

Or you can always eat the whipped cream straight from the can as demonstrated by my boyfriend, Tom..

Everyone loved it at Christmas!

Alan Carter’s Pie Pastry

26 Dec

In a very large bowl, combine 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 to 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.  With a pastry blender cut in 1 3/4 cups cold unsalted butter leaving chunks the size of peas.  Combine 2/3 cup ice-cold water, 2 tablespoons of sour cream and 1 teaspoon vinegar.  Add liquid all at once to the four mixture.  Quickly stir to distribute; do not overmix.  The dough should be slightly crumbly.  Let rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.  The finished dough should break, not stretch.  Divide into three portions; shape into disks.  Use at once or wrap and refrigerate up to 3 days. Or freeze up to 1 month.  Thaw overnight in the refrigerator if frozen.

Makes 3 single-crust pastries.

Better Homes & Gardens, November 2010

Gingerbread Cookies

9 Dec


Sift 3 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon each banking soda and salt, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon each ground cloves and allspice into a bowl.  In another bowl, mix 6 tablespoons melted butter, 1 tablespoon melted shortening, 2/3 cup light brown sugar and 3/4 cup molasses; beat in 1 egg with a mixer.  Beat in the flour mixture in two additions.  Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic and pat to 1/2 inch thick.  Chill 2 hours.


Preheat oven to 350.  On a floured surface, roll out each piece of dough to 1/4 inch thick, dusting with flour, if needed.  Cut into 3 to 5-inch gingerbread men and arrange 1 inch apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Brush off the excess flour and chill 15 minutes.


Bake until the cookies are golden around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes.  Transfer to a rack to cool.  Then decorate.  Makes 2-3 dozen cookies.

Food Network Magazine, December 2010

My boyfriend and I are having a little holiday party this weekend and I’ve been trying to think of cheesy Christmas-y snacks to make so I thought it would be a great idea to have my boyfriend’s sister and her son over to make some gingerbread cookies.  We made plans to meet up at our house after I get home from work and I didn’t think much more about it.  At 7a.m. yesterday morning, I’m sifting through the ingredients to make sure I have everything before I take off for work and realize that the dough has to chill for 2 hours!  Luckily for me, it was 10 degrees outside so my boyfriend had the day off from work.  Lucky for me, sad for him.  So at that lovely hour of the morning I inform my boyfriend that he’s going to have a fun little project – to make cookie dough, yay!

Well, he didn’t think so so for nearly an hour I’m getting calls at work- are you sure we have this? How long am I supposed to blend it?  We don’t have a sifter!  I tried my best to manage all major emergencies and in the end he calls and says, “alright fine, it’s done.  But it’s all crumbly, like, really crumbly so I don’t know..”  I roll my eyes and finish the day, assuming I need to go home and whip up some sugar cookies on the fly.  And when I got home, he was right.  The dough was very crumbly.

But if you experience this, fear not!  Simply knead the dough for a little while using the wax paper to keep it together and it will quickly become more pliable.  Tragedy averted, the cookies turned out just fine.  I strongly recommend inviting friends and having your kitchen stocked with wine and eggnog so you can laugh it off when the shit hits the fan (as we did).  Overall, a great success.