Saturday, May 25, 2013

Caramel Latte Cupcakes--Oooh!....

Catagory: Desserts
Difficulty: Sorta Hard (due to it's length)

I'm a frosting person. Yep...that's why I go to weddings--for the frosting.  It can't be too sweet and it should perfectly balance with the cake. And most of the time I go for light and airy cakes and frostings. I don't know why--maybe it's a throwback to a childhood miserably spent without Twinkies? Another thing we were miserably without in our kitchen when I grew up were rubber spatulas. You need rubber spatulas to fold in egg whites and to scrape the sides of fluffy frosting and cake bowls, yes? So, now I have 4 rubber spatulas. And I make a lot of cakes that are light--like Twinkies but with better ingredients. Here's one with an incredible carmel latte filling that I just love!

This incredible filling is balanced by plain butter cupcakes. But in order to make the whole thing light and airy...I used whipped cream frosting to balance it all out. It worked!! Decoration? --an easy little squiggle of caramel on the top.  Almost as good as kissing my husband! ( Hey! Maybe I should squiggle caramel on top of Alan? heh)

Butter Cake:


16 T unsalted butter...softened
3 C cake flour...sifted
2 1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 C milk
2 t vanilla
1 1/2 C sugar
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put 24 cupcake liners in cupcake pans. Set aside. Whisk together in a bowl:
flour...baking powder...salt in a bowl--set aside. Combine milk and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl fitted with a paddle or with a hand mixer...cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add at a time...beating well after each addition. On low speed... add dry ingredients in 3 batches and wet ingredients in 2 batches. Increase speed to high and beat until batter is smooth...about 5 seconds. Divide batter among cupcake pans. Bake about 15 minutes until center springs back when touched with a finger. Let cakes cool for 10 minutes in pans then invert onto wire racks to cool thoroughly before filling and frosting.

Caramel-Latte Filling or Frosting:


1 1/2 C unsalted butter... soft but still cool and cut in cubes
1/4 t salt
4 oz. cream cheese.... soft but cool and cut in cubes
3 C powdered sugar
3/4 C caramel sauce (use leftover sauce for caramel squiggle decoration)
1 T warm water mixed with 1/2 t instant espresso (such as Medaglio D'Oro or Starbucks VIA)
Optional Topping: crunched-up toffee (Heath Bar has this out in bags in the chocolate chip section of your grocery)

Using a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a hand-mixer and beat butter and salt until fluffy. Add the cream cheese and beat until fully incorporated and smooth. Reduce the speed and add the powdered sugar a little at a time. Mix until fully incorporated. Add the caramel sauce and then the warm water mixed in a tablespoon with powdered espresso.

Whipped Cream Frosting: Whip 1 pint whipping cream in a chilled (preferably metal or ceramic) bowl with chilled beaters until frothy. Gradually add 1/2 C powdered sugar...then vanilla. Beat until stiff enough to pipe on top of cupcakes ( at the moment stiff peaks form).

Assembly:  Bake the cupcakes. While cakes are baking make the Caramel Espresso Filling... whip the Whipped Cream Frosting and put in the refrigerator until cupcakes are cool. Core cupcakes with a paring knife...carving a cone-shape into the cupcake with the large end at the top --about 1-inch wide. This is so there is enough room for  filling to truly achieve the full cupcake experience. Fill cupcakes with filling--I use a dinner knife. Then...using a pastry bag--pipe whipped cream onto cake. Drizzle leftover caramel sauce over the cupcakes by swinging a fork dipped in sauce over the tops of the cakes lined up on a baking tray or clear counter space covered with parchment or paper. Alternative: use Heath Bar toffee crunch to sprinkle on top.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Huckleberry Buckle with Lemon Sauce

Catagory: Desserts
Difficulty: Easy

I remember picking huckleberries in the early morning light near my grandmother's vacation cabin. It was in Northern California redwood country--where the air is as soft as the branch-strewn loam under your feet.  Behind the cabin were bushes plump with huckleberries, growing all silver and blue in the morning sun.  A tiny berry, they are perfect for childish fingers to gather. My sister and I would fill empty coffee cans with them, enjoying the occasional tangy handful until  juice ran in purple streaks down our faces. Then we would run to the cabin (bringing what we hadn't eaten), and beg our mother to make a rare dessert called "Huckleberry Buckle".

A "Buckle" is kind of like a "Crisp" as well as being first cousin to a "Cobbler". They're similar; all being some kind of yummy, sticky cake baked with fruit , spices and sugar. The "buckle" refers to how the top of this struesel-clad cake looks like after it bakes. Bumpy and uneven...  buckled, like an old wood floor.

This is my great-grandmother, Sarah Robinson's, recipe.  Her family came over the Oregon trail in covered wagons. But you don't need a covered wagon to make Huckleberry Buckle. You just need huckleberries or ollaliberries or blackberries or mixed berries. Serve it warm from the oven...with whupped cream or vanilla ice cream.


1/2 C shortening
1/2 C sugar
1 egg
2 t baking powder 
1 C flour
4 1/2 t baking powder
1/3 C milk
1 pint huckleberries (or other slightly sour berries)
1/2 C sugar
1/4 C butter
1/3 C flour
1 t cinnamon

Lemon Sauce:
1/2 C sugar
1 C hot water
1 T cornstarch
pinch salt
1 egg yolk (separated from white)
3 T lemon juice
2 T butter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8"X 8" pan. Cream shortening, and sugar then add 1 egg and combine. Sift 1 C flour and 2 t baking powder together and add to the creamed sugar mixture with 1/3 C milk. Put in pan. Sprinkle 1 pt. (2 cups) berries over the top. Crumble together and put over this: 1/2 C sugar, 1/4 C butter, 1/3 C flour, 1 t. cinnamon. Bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

For Sauce: In a saucepan combine 1/2 C sugar, 1 C hot water, 1 T constarch and a pinch of salt. Bring to boil, for 15 minutes. Put over boiling water in the top of a double boiler. Add 1 egg yolk, 3 T lemon juice and 2 T butter. Stir well till thick and serve over the top of large helpings of warm Buckle. Total comfort food heaven!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Addictive Carrot-Feta Salad

Catagory: Salads
Difficulty: Easy-ish
Very Healthy

This is so good it should be registered as an addictive substance. My daughter brought something similar to this to our last Mother's Day Barbeque. It's her new "go-to" pot-luck salad. It can be yours, too, if you have a good food processor with a grating attatchment! The taste is very unusual because of the cumin and the Harrisa. Harissa is sort of a chili paste mixed with with garlic, coriander, salt and cumin. It's extremely inexpensive--but make your own by finding a recipe online if you don't have a specialty store nearby. Very Middle Eastern, very pretty, very YUM!  Adapted  from "Smitten" which acknowledges Cuisine Magazine.


1 pound carrots, peeled, trimmed and coarsely grated ( I used a pack of peeled baby carrots)
1/2  C sliced black olives (drained)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 crushed clove of garlic
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon Harissa (very hot--don't use heaping spoonfuls!)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 T lemon juice
1/4 C flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 C fresh mint, finely chopped
1/2 C fresh coriander, finely chopped
2/3 C crumbled feta


Saute garlic, cumin, paprika, harissa and sugar in the oil until fragrant, about one to two minutes in a small pan. Remove from heat. Throw in  lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Add to carrots and sliced olives. Add the herbs and toss with a fork.  Put in refrigerator for at least an hour to meld the flavors and add the feta just before eating. Please serve the same day as you make it. It's fabulous but does not age well!

Memorial Day Barbequed Beans

Catagory: Side Dishes
Difficulty: Easy
Not Very Healthy

Tired of the same old barbequed or baked beans, boo-boo? Here's something a little different. It's an old-fashioned recipe from the 1970's, so it is tried and true. Great for a Memorial Day picnic!


1 15 oz can each: chili, kidney, black beans and  a large (32 -36 oz) can baked beans
1 can baby lima beans (or one defrosted frozen package)
1 lg. onion--chopped
1 clove garlic ((minced)
2 T vegetable oil
1//2 T chili powder
1 can tomato soup, undiluted
2 t Worcestershire sauce
1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C cider vinegar
1 t salt

Directions:  Drain beans that come without sauce. Combine and cook together in a slow cooker or in a casserole at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Then uncover and bake an additional 15-20 minutes.
Note: If casserole gets too soupy, sprinkle on a couple of spoons of flour and mix until thickened.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Butter Cake with Perfect Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting...For My Lauren

Catagory: Desserts
Difficulty: Medium-Hard

For all of you who like frosting that is not too sweet but sweet enough to be sunshine on a cloudy day--this recipe is for you. I created it for my very grown-up daughter Lauren. She has lots of nick-names too: Munchkin...Bee-Bee...Miss Lauren...Boo-Boo etc. She is also "Chef Lauren" because she had a cooking column in her high school paper. She is a fabulous cook!  But when she has her birthday she always wants the same cake: Butter Cake (the Duncan Hines mix) with Fudge Frosting (whatever ready-made is on sale). This is because that's what I made her every year when she was a little girl. This year... now that I have more time to cook, I am going to try to lure her away from prepared mixes and plastic tubs with a from-scratch version. I recently found the most delicious butter cake recipe EVER in Saveur magazine. It's so moist and buttery... with a very fine crumb which can only be achieved with cake flour. I paired it with a Perfect Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. All for you Lauren! Love you! Yield: 8 servings


Butter Cake:
16 T unsalted butter
3 C cake flour
2 1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 C milk
2 t vanilla
1 1/2 C sugar
4 eggs (at room temperature--or warmed while still in shells in a bowl of hot tap water for 5 minutes)

Perfect Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting:
12 oz. cream cheese
1 C sifted good cocoa ( I like Droste)
1 stick salted butter (softened)
1 1/2 t vanilla
6 C powdered sugar
Add one or two t milk if needed


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour three 9-inch cake pans and set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together milk and vanilla in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted witha a paddle, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, alternately add dry ingredients in 2 batches. Increase speed to high and beat until batter is smooth, about 5 seconds. Divide batter in prepared pans and smooth top with a spatula or knife. Bake cakes until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cakes cool for 20 minutes in pans, then remove to wire racks if you have them. If you don't--that's OK. Keep them in the pans. I usually can't find my own racks. I think I used them last Christmas to spray walnuts gold.

For Frosting: Mix first three ingredients in a medium-sized bowl on medium speed until creamy. Add vanilla. Gradually add 6 C powdered sugar 2 C at a time--beating on high speed the last few minutes. Be sure and let the frosting "rest" for a couple of hours either in the refrigerator or on the cake or cupcakes before you serve them. For some reason this makes any bitter aftertaste of the cocoa go away. I don't know why. Ask Alton Brown when you see him.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Seattle Grilled Salmon

Category: Fish
Difficulty Rating: Easy

If you ever go to Seattle, visit Pike's Place Fish Market. It's FUN! The guys there yell a lot of crazy things and throw huge fish around like they're baseballs. They also have wonderful seafood salads and sides and great smoked salmon. There's something they have called " Salmon Candy" which sounds awful, but is really a sweet smoked salmon. Since Seattle is so far away--I found an alternative that's really good and reminds me of Pike's Place. It's not as sweet at "Salmon Candy" but it has a wonderful combination of smoked paprika and honey that make for a similar taste. My hubby gave it a big thumbs up! Common Sense Tip: get a large quantity of Wild Salmon fresh in season at Costco or another Big Box store and wrap what you don't use right away in portion-size pieces. Wrap  first in plastic then in foil and freeze. Recipe Yield: enough for 2 very small fillets or salmon slices.


1 T thyme (fresh)
1 clove garlic (crushed)
1 T dk. brown sugar or Palm sugar
1 T honey
5 t smoked paprika
sea salt to taste
pepperto taste

Combine all these together in a small bowl with a fork. Really mash it. Then, slather it on top of your salmon fillets after they have been patted dry.  Grill on the side without glaze. Put a piece of foil on the grill and flip  salmon over on the glazed side to finish cooking. Take the skin off the salmon when it is light and flakey, yet still moist. Transfer it to a plate with lots of oven-roasted potatoes and enjoy!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Filling and Chocolate Ganache

Don't you just love the combination of Peanut Butter and Chocolate? These cupcakes are like big Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. The first time I saw the idea for these was when I was watching a TV show that reviewed all the best cupcake places in New York. So I tried to make one up of my own. In the midst of trying out diffferent combinations, I realized that I liked the peanut butter filling A LOT! I am not super wild about dark chocolate so I used it for the frosting as well as the filling. Then I used  the ganache as just a drizzle over the top of the cupcakes. HOWEVER, If you absolutely adore dark chocolate, you can just divide the recipe for the peanut butter filling in half, and use it for filling only. Then, use the ganache as a glaze for the top of the cupcakes. It's GORGEOUS--especially after topping each one with a half of a small-size peanut butter cup Yield: 23-24 cupcakes


Black Magic Cupcakes (or Cake):

1 3/4 flour
2 C sugar
3/4 C cocoa powder
1 t salt
2 eggs
1 C strong black coffee
1 C buttermilk
1/2 vegetable oil
1 t vanilla extract


Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer. Add eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Beat at medium speed for two minutes. Batter will be thin. Pour batter winto a two greased and floured cupcake pans or a  9x13" pan or two 9-inch cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees until cupcake springs back when touched with a finger. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then move to a cooling rack.

Peanut Butter Filling and Frosting: (divide recipe in half if you decide to use the Chocolate Glaze as frosting)

2 C creamy peanut butter (I like JIF)
12 T unsalted butter, softened but still cold, cut in pieces
2 C sifted powdered sugar
1 t vanilla

Measure peanut butter and unsalted butter in a large bowl and  a mixer until combined. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Continue mixing until fluffy.Set Aside.

Chocolate Ganache or Drizzle:
3/4 C heavy cream
9 oz. Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips or 3.4 oz the best semi-sweet chocolate you can afford
1 T unsalted butter with pinch salt or 1 T salted butter
12 small peanut butter cups without papers (plus a few extras to snack on) or a small box of peanut brittle.

This glaze is so easy it's ridiculous. in a microwave-safe glass bowl, heat the heavy cream and butter for 1-2 minutes until mixture just bubbles. Add the chocolate chips. Let chocolate chips melt for a minute. Then stir constantly until thick and creamy. Set aside till cool.  If you do not have a trivet to set the bowl on, use a baseball cap that's lying around on the kitchen sink. Works fine.


After cupcakes are cool, hollow out a 1-inch hole with an apple corer or a sharp knife in the middle of each. I use a paring knife to cut the hole in an upside-down cone shape--small end down. It looks pretty and provides more room for filling. More is more with filling! Using a dinner knife or a pastry bag to fill each hole with peanut butter buttercream. Now you have two choices:  If you love rich, dark chocolate, using a dinner knife, smooth ganache thickly over the top of each cupcake. If you aren't fond of dark chocolate, do consider frosting the cupcakes, preferably using a pastry bag, with peanut butter buttercream and just drizzle the ganache on top of the frosting. Finish both versions of the cupcake by putting a half of a peanut butter cup in the middle of the top. A little edible gold leaf sprinkled on would look nice too. Alternatively, munch up peanut brittle or Butterfingers candy bars and sprinkle on the top. Delish!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Beef Stew with a Spanish Accent...

Category: Beef
Difficulty Rating: Easy-Medium
Healthy except for the fat (which isn't all that bad according to some folks)

It's Common Sense to make beef stew. It uses tough cuts of inexpensive beef to make delicious and healthy meals. Even better-- you can make it in large quantities and freeze it in individual portions! I LOVE Julia Child's Beef Bourginon--which is French beef stew with red wine and bacon. This stew is sort of like Julia's, satisfying and rich , but it's oh so much easier! What gives it the Spanish accent is the Spanish Pimento olives and the Serrano Ham. Serrano is the Spanish version of Proscuitto, a thin, salty, cured Italian ham. Since the ham is thin, it ends up crumpling up in succulent little scraps that have absorbed all of the stew's flavors. Common Sense Tip: if you have Canadian bacon or even regular bacon you can use that instead of Serrano or Proscuitto. Save your money--it will still almost be as good. Serve with big chunks of bread and large glasses of good wine! Adapted from a recipe from a Spanish cookbook featured on by Ines and Simone Ortega. Yield: Serves 6. Freezes very well!

3 lb.s beef stewing meat (ask your butcher to cut up some chuck into chunks)
3 T olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 T flour (Pamela's GF works fine)
1 lb. can stewed plum tomatoes
1 C chopped Serrano or Proscuitto ham (or Canadian bacon)
1/4 t Bouquet Garni  mixed dried herbs OR a real Bouquet Garni made of 1 clove garlic, 1/4 t oregano, 1 sprig parsley and 1 bay leaf tied in a small cheesecloth pouch with string.  Note: I use a piece of clean old  sheet instead of cheesecloth--who has cheesecloth always on hand, anyway?
3/4 C  white wine
1 C Spanish pimento-stuffed olives


Heat the oil in a large pot or a Dutch oven. Add the beef, in batches, and cook, stirring occasionally, until evenly browned. Rmove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Drain off most of the oil, leaving enough to just cover the bottom of the pan. Reheat. Add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes until just beginning to brown. Sttir in flour and cook, stirring for about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking them up with a spoon. Return the beef to the pan, add ham and wine. Season with salt and add the bouquet garni. For best results: if using a bouquet garni pouch, wet it with warm water before adding to the pot. Mix well, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Pour in water to cover and simmer for at least 3 hours. Meat should be very tender when done.

While stew simmers, cover olives with water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 1 minute. Drain olives and add to stew, cooking for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Serve in a warmed dish or individual casseroles.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Lemon Curd Layer Cake

Category: Desserts
Difficulty: Hard-ish (make the cake one day, make the frosting the next)

My neighbor Emilie called me and asked me come up to her house to have a slice of this. We are walking buddies. I thought I was in shape, but it's a long, VERY steep driveway and I arrived panting at her doorstep. She was there, at the door, with a couple of slices of this cake. "It's the last of it," she said " and I wanted to make sure you tasted it". She handed the plate to me as if it were pure gold. It was! It is now one of my very favorite cakes and I am going to make it for my next birthday. The recipe originally came from the March 1999 issue of Bon Apetit magazine. Yield: Serves at least 8


For Lemon Curd:
2 1/3 C sugar
2 t cornstarch
1 C fresh lemon juice
4 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
3/4 C (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 -inch  pieces

For Whipped Cream Frosting:
3/4 C powdered sugar
2 C chilled whipping cream

For Cake:
1 1/2 C cake flour
1 1/2 C sugar
2 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
4 large egg yolks
1/4 C vegetable oil
1/4 C orange juice1 1/2 t grated lemon peel
8 large egg whites
1/4 t cream of tartar

Thin lemon slices, halved and patted dry


Lemon Curd:
Combine 2 1/3 C sugar and 2 t cornstarch in heavey medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in fresh lemon juice. Whisk in eggs and yolks; add butter. Whisk over medium heat until curd thickens and boils, aboutt 12 minutes. Pour intto medium bowl. Refrigerate until cold, at least 5 hours. Note: Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.

Whipped Cream Frosting:
Sifted powdered sugar into a large bowl. Add 1 1/4 C lemond curd until just blended. In medium bowl, beat cream until firm peaks form. Fold cream into curd mixture in 3 parts. Chill until firm--at least 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and put parchment on the bottoms of 3 9-inch pans. Whick 1 1/2 C cake flour, 1/2 C sugar, 2 1/2 t baking powder, and 3/4 t salt in large bow. Add 4 yolks, 1/4 C vegetable oil, orange juice, lemon peel and 3/4  C Lemon Curd to bowl (do not stir).  Combine whites, and 1/4 t cream of tartar in another large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1 C sugar, beating until stiff but not dry. Using same beaters, beat yolk mixture until smooth. Fold whites into yolk mixture in 3 additions.

Divide batter among the 3 pans. Bake until testers inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 15 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks; peel off parch ment. Cook cakes completely.


Spoon 1 C frosting into pastry bag fitted with plain round tip; refrigerate bag. Place 1 cake layer on cake platter. Spread top of cake layer with 1/3 C curd then 1 C whipped cream frosting. Top with second cake layer, spread with 1/3 C curd and I C frosting. Top with third cake layer. Frost the top and sides of cake--reserving 1 C of whipped cream frosting. Spread a "puddle" of lemon curd in the middle of the top of the cake--leaving at least a 3/4-inch  border around the top of the cake. Pipe reserved frosting around the top edge of the cake. Place lemon slices at intervals in the piped edge. 


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Chocolate Mousse Cupcakes with Raspberry Chambord Filling

Catagory: Desserts
Difficulty: Hard --requires patience (best if you make the cupcakes one day and do the rest the next day)

When I started making these cupcakes--a rich combination of a fluffy chocolate cake, glorious French chocolate mousse and spiked raspberry preserves; I knew they would be difficult. The cakes themselves came out fine. So, I was feeling pretty confident when I started to pipe the raspberry/Chambord  filling into the middle of the cupcakes. Unfortunately, while I was filling the pastry bag I forgot to put my finger over the tip and therefore managed to pipe a large quantity of raspberry/Chambord right into my lap. As 1/2 cup of preserves rushed in thick raspberry tributaries down my jeans leg, I looked at it in shock. I had decorated my SELF! I threw my head back and laughed. Zen baking: Be the Cupcake!

1 3/4 C flour
3/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
2 C sugar
2 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
2/4 t salt
1 C buttermilk
1/2 C vegetable oil
2 t vanilla extract
2 large eggs--at room temperature*
1 C strong, piping hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with liners and set aside. In a large bowl...sift together dry ingredients. Then mix together with a fork or a large whisk. In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, vegetable oil, vanilla and eggs. While mixing on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix to combine...but do not over mix! Slowly add hot coffee, mixing until just combined. Don't bruise the chocolate! (heh)  The batter should be thin--break up any lumps with a fork.  Pour the batter into each cupcake liner from a measuring cup. Wipe off cup after each pour.  Bake for 14-15 minutes, without opening the oven. After 14 minutes, test for done-ness by pressing a finger lightly on top of a cake. If it springs back--it's done! If it makes an impression, leave 'em in there for a couple of minutes (every oven heats differently). Once done, cool for 10 minutes in pan then transfer to a cooling rack to continue cooling. While they cool, make the Chocolate Mousse...this is the hard part.


6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, in chips or chopped (a good chocolate is best-- I like Dagoba or Guittard. But if saving money, use Nestle's or Baker's chocolate, not Hershey's)
3 T unsalted butter
3 egg whites
3 egg yolks
1/2 t cream of tartar
1/4 C
1/2 C heavy cream (very cold)
1/2 t vanilla
2 additional T sugar

Warm 3 eggs (in shells) in a hot tap water in a bowl if they are not room temperature. Keep them in there at least 5 minutes. Place the chocolate and butter in the top of a double-boiler or a heat-proof bowl on top of a pot of barely simmering water. Stir with a wooden spoon till smooth. Remove from stove and cool slightly--chocolate should still be liquid.Separate eggs, reserving whites in a medium bowl and whisk the yolks into the chocolate mixture one at a time. 

Beat egg whites in medium bowl until foamy. Add cream of tartar and continue to beat. Gradually shisk in 1/4 C sugar and continue beating until stiff peak form. Beat the cream in a chilled bowl until it begins to thicken and foam. Add remaining 2 T sugar and the vanilla. Continue to whup cream until it holds soft peaks.
Gradually fold in the egg whites into the chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula. When the egg whites have almost disappeared, delicately fold in the whipped cream until the mixture , stopping the minute it is no longer two-tone. Don't rush this--slow and steady wins the race! Refrigerate until ready to frost cupcakes.

Raspberry Filling:
Use 1 C (or more) raspberry preserves for this. If you want to make it really fancy mix together 1 C raspberry preserves with 6 t Kirsch or Chambord liquer. Take an apple corer and core each cupcake. Using a knife and spoon or a piping bag with a large tip...push a small ammount of the preserves into the cupcake. Be careful to put the piping tip deep inside of the cupcake BEFORE you put the raspberry mixture into the piping bag. Do it one teaspoon at a time--otherwise it will get all over your counter and you! I know this because I am sitting here with rasberry filling all over my jeans.

After filling cupcakes, frost with a pastry bag and a large pastry bag tip. I use a swirl pattern--you can do what you want. Place a fresh raspberry in the middle of the top for fun---and if you have extra chocolate--grate some on top. I would refrigerate these a few hours or overnight before serving! I was amazed at the difference this made.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fresh Fruit Tart...

Catagory: Desserts
Difficulty: Easyish --just because the recipe is long doesn't mean it's hard!

In the summer of 1993 someone brought a fresh fruit tart with a cookie crust and a cream cheese filling to a party I attended and a near riot broke out. It came from "The Farm" bakery in Aptos and it was a brand new concept to all of us. Still popular in kind of reminds me of a fruit pizza!

Using fresh fruit like strawberries, kiwi, seedless grapes, nectarines and  blackberries placed artistically in concentric rings makes this a gorgeous dessert. The only thing I don't like is that when people eat this you can hear them chewing seeds. It's the kiwi and strawberry seeds! Aaaaaaah! If you're warped like can leave the kiwi out, they're the worst, but I wouldn't leave out the strawberries. They just taste too darn good. Just wear earplugs or something. Once I actually peeled strawberries for a man I loved because he couldn't stand seeds. Now that was crazy!  Stick with me schweetheart, and you'll have all kinds of psychological problems! This started out with Paula Deen's recipe for "Fresh Fruit Tart"which I combined with another recipe. Yield: a 12" tart -- Serves 8-10

Note: If you make the crust and the filling one day and fill it with fruit the next, the crust will stay crisp and the flavors will meld. If you make it and eat it all the same day --that works too. It's showy and as easy, as well... pie!


1/2 C powdered sugar
1 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 C butter, softened and sliced (if you don't want to make crust you can always use Pillsbury Sugar Cookie refrigerated dough-- this homemade version, however, is more like shortbread and is less sweet)

1 (8-oz) pkg. cream cheese--softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar (if you like things super-sweet use 1/2 C)
1 t vanilla extract

Fresh Fruit Topping:  
(use 3 C or more of any combination of those listed below--be free to be artistic!)
Strawberries (cut in half or quarters--looks pretty as a "star" in the center of the tart)
Peaches or nectarines (sliced thinly)
Seedless grapes (slice in half and lay sliced part down for easy eating)
Red pears (sliced thinly)
Kiwi (sliced thinly--you can overlap these when you lay them on the crust--artsy)
Star Fruit (sliced thinly--best used on top of another fruit like bluebeirries or in the middle of the tart)
Exception to fresh: canned mandarin oranges--super easy--no slicing!


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, combine the dry ingredients and butter in a food processor and process until it forms a ball . If it won't form a ball your butter wasn't soft enough--keep processing. Lacking a food processor, use two forks to keep cutting the butter into the flour mix until you have a dough texture.  Press dough into a 12-inch tart pan with a removeable bottom. If you (or the kids)eat any of the dough you may have to use a 10-incher. Be sure and push the dough flat and squish it into the side indentations of the pan. This takes a little muscle. You may have to enlist a passing male to help. Put pie weights or dried beans in the unbaked crust to discourage shrinkage and pop in the oven for 10-18 minutes until lightly browned.  Remove and cool.

Mix filling ingredients together in a small bowl with a mixer and spread thickly on cooled crust. Pat dry washed fruit and apply to cream cheese layer in concertric circles starting with the middle and working outward. Make fruit glaze...

Fruit Glaze:
1/2 C fruit juice ( apple, peach, pineapple)
1/4 C sugar
1 T cornstarch (mix with a T of water before adding)
OR: warm up some honey or melt some apricot jam in a small sauce pan to use for glaze


Combine fruit glaze ingredients in a saucepan and heat to a simmer. Simmer until thick and remove from heat. Cool slightly before brushing on to fruit.  Did your cat eat up your pastry brush? In a pinch...use a scrape of paper towel to brush on the glaze. Hey...stuff happens! I refuse to run to the store for one item. Be creative.