HAPPY ST PATRICK’S DAY!
It’s that time of year when everything goes green in honor of Ireland’s patron saint. What was once simply a religious feast day back in the 17th century has somehow evolved into a grand celebration of Irish culture.
Of all the Irish myths that exist, the story of the leprechauns and their pots of gold, seems to have infiltrated American culture the most. There are many old European stories describing fictitious creatures that hoard treasures. In Irish folklore, fairies put a pot of gold at the end of each rainbow with leprechaun’s guarding it.
These moist cupcakes use fresh avocado in the batter then are filled with raspberry filling & topped with a lime cream cheese frosting. I think they definitely make a real ‘pot of gold’ treasure fitting for St Patrick’s Day.
Pot of Gold Cupcakes
Lime Cream Cheese Frosting
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line muffin pan with 8 cupcake liners.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder & sugar. Add butter to dry ingredients & rub in until it resembles crumbs.
In a blender. place avocado, egg, milk & lime juice; blend until creamy & smooth. Stir into flour mixture until JUST mixed.
Divide batter between the 8 paper cups. Bake 20-25 minutes or until they test done. Remove from oven & allow to cool before filling & frosting.
In a bowl, using a hand mixer, cream avocado with butter & cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar. Once all the sugar is incorporated, add the lime juice & vanilla. Add milk as needed until frosting is light & fluffy. Beat on medium spread for 5 minutes.
When cupcakes are cool, cut a cone shape out of the center of each cupcakes with a sharp knife. Fill a piping bag, fitted with an opening that the raspberry will pass through. Pipe filling into each cupcake. Cut a small piece (of cake) from your cake 'cones' & place over filling.
Fill another piping bag (fitted with a star end). Pipe a swirl of lime frosting on top of each cupcake. Sprinkle your little 'pots of gold' with some gold pearls & lime zest if you wish.
Pairing chocolate and cream cheese has long been a favorite of bakeries. Brownies come in a variety of forms and may be either fudgy or cakey, depending on their density.
Arguably, one of North America’s major contributions to the dessert world, the first printed mention of them appeared in the Sears Roebuck & Co. Catalog of 1897, advertising ‘fancy crackers, biscuits, cakes, brownies …. in 1 LB. papers’.
Brownies were widely baked in the 1920’s and by 1931, the first edition of The Joy of Cooking included a recipe for ‘fudge squares’.
There are literally hundreds of types of brownies as well as ways to eat them. Cut them up to make parfaits or add a dollop of whipped cream, berries or a sprinkle of dried fruit and nuts or maybe some ice cream.
My choice today are some blueberry cream cheese brownies that consist of four layers. With the use of the Lor Ann Company’s blueberry emulsion, that wonderful blueberry flavor is intensified. These are brownies at their best!
Blueberry Cream Cheese Brownies
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
In a bowl, combine all oatmeal layer ingredients until crumbly. Pat into prepared pan & bake for about 8 minutes.
In a bowl, beat cream cheese & sugar until fluffy. Add egg; beat well then add milk & blueberry emulsion & combine well. Set aside in refrigerator until chocolate batter is prepared.
In a microwave safe dish, carefully melt chocolate then add butter. Stir until combined & slightly cool; add beaten egg & sugar. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder & salt. Add to chocolate mixture alternately with combined milk & vanilla. Fold in walnuts. Carefully spread batter over baked oatmeal crust.
Pour cheesecake filling over chocolate layer & carefully smooth out. Bake 20-25 minutes or until chocolate & cheesecake batters test done. Remove from oven & cool on wire cooling rack.
In a small saucepan, combine cornstarch, sugar & salt. Add water & blueberries; cook until clear & bubbling. Remove from heat; add lemon zest (if using) & blueberry emulsion. Stir & allow to cool.
When brownies are cooled cut into serving size pieces. Spoon blueberry topping over brownie cheesecake & serve.
- Don't hesitate to add a bit more Blueberry Emulsion for a stronger flavor if you wish.
- Just for fun, I made some of the brownies as individuals to see what they would look like.
If you can’t have a tropical vacation at this time, why not enjoy some of the tropics in the form of dessert!
You may never have thought fruits were destined for you’re roasting pan. Although it does demand a bit of time and work, the return is worth it. Try it once and you will do it over and over again.
Fruit is a highly versatile item and its uses go far beyond a mere snack. During the summer months, grilled fruit is often a tasty end to a barbeque. Grilling caramelizes the fruits natural sugars and brings out the sweetness. During winter or colder months, continue the same process indoors by roasting and broiling fruit in the oven.
For the tarts on this blog, I roasted the fruit in the oven with a bit of extra butter and brown sugar as well as some spices to enhance the flavor. Another idea would be to arrange fruit slices on the filled tarts and sprinkle them with a bit of sugar. Then place tarts under the broiler until sugar bubbles and browns …. your choice!
Roasted Tropical Fruit Tarts
In a bowl combine butter & sugar, beat until light & fluffy. In another bowl whisk together flour & baking powder & add to butter/sugar mixture. Blend together.
Divide pastry between 6 individual tart pans. Using your fingertips, evenly press the dough into pans. Place on a baking sheet & blind bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven & prepare custard & fruit.
Vanilla Cream Custard
In a small saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. In a bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch & salt. Add egg; whisk until blended.
Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg mixture. Return to same saucepan; whisk over medium heat until sauce thickens & boils, about 5 minutes. Whisk in vanilla & remove from heat to cool.
Roasted Tropical Fruit
Preheat oven to 450 F. Peel & thinly slice fruit.
In a small saucepan, melt butter & add brown sugar, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom & vanilla; mix well.
Line a baking sheet with foil paper. Place sliced fruit on it & pour butter/sugar mixture over it. Gently turn fruit over to make sure all is evenly coated.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping over about half way through. The fruit is done when it turns a rich golden & begins to brown BEFORE it starts to blacken.
Place pastry shells on a serving platter. Divide vanilla custard between tart shells. Top with roasted tropical fruit & serve. Any extra fruit can be enjoyed just as a dish of fruit or with yogurt.
Chances are good, you’ve tried rice pudding at least once. That’s because humans have been eating the dish for thousands of years across the world.
Today, rice pudding is considered a humble dessert …. a simple mixture of rice with milk, sugar and spices. But for centuries, rice pudding held a place of distinction in the royal courts of Europe. Because rice did not grew well in the European continent, it had to be imported from Asia along the Silk Road or by water. The extensive trade routes made rice an expensive commodity that only the rich could afford. As the world seemingly grew smaller through the effects of globalization, the import of rice became affordable and common.
Many early rice puddings did not resemble the sweet dessert we think of today. This sweetened version didn’t arrive until the 15th century. Usually rice pudding is sweetened with white or brown sugar, honey or dried fruit, but you can also use maple syrup, jam, date sugar or fruit juice concentrate.
Different varieties of rice lend their own tastes and aromas. I opt for Arborio, which makes the pudding creamy even when I use low fat milk or non-fat milk. Fruit, whether fresh, dried or candied is the puddings perfect partner. Today, rice pudding is considered an easy and versatile dessert which many of us associate with our childhood.
Baked Apricot Rice Pudding
In a bowl, combine egg whites, egg, milk, sugar & vanilla. Beat until combined but not foamy. Stir in cooked rice, snipped apricots, cardamom & orange zest.
Place 4 custard cups in a rectangular baking dish. Divide rice mixture among dishes, Place baking dish on an oven rack. Pour boiling water into the baking dish around custard cups to a depth of 1-inch.
Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes or until just set, stirring after 20 minutes. Serve warm or chilled. Garnish with slivered apricots & pistachios.
More than ever, our souls need Valentines Day right now. It’s time to embrace the challenge and think outside of the box on how to create something special for the occasion. Since February 14th falls on a Sunday this year and the pandemic keeping many celebrations at home, its the perfect excuse to enjoy a brunch with a grilled cheese …. ‘angel food grilled cheese‘ that is!!
When most people think of grilled cheese they imagine a savory, cheesy sandwich served over lunch, but have you ever tried a sweet grilled cheese? Is it dessert? Is it breakfast? It really doesn’t matter.
Sometimes we get stuck in a rut with that cheddar on white bread thing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that there’s so much more cheesy goodness out there to be melted. Grilled cheese ideas only continue to evolve.
Obviously, a good cheese is the key to grilled cheese success, but the truth is, you can never really go wrong. Its your personal preference that really matters.
The tone is set for a great grilled cheese with the first slice of bread or in this case, loaf of angel food cake. Lime flavored cream cheese gets melty and gooey spread between the cake slices. Its the perky part of the sandwich that adds something unexpected.
If strawberries aren’t your thing, try raspberries, blueberries, mango or even kiwi and if you prefer a sturdier outside, use a sweetened brioche or challah bread. Whatever works for you!
Brion absolutely L-O-V-E-S angel food so for me the choice was clear. The fact that the ‘grilled cheese’ is not overly sweet made it a real nice brunch item for us.
Angel Food 'Grilled Cheese'
Angel Food Cake (Yield = (8) 1-inch thick slices)
Angel Food Cake
Preheat oven to 325 F. Have a 9-inch loaf pan available. Do not line or grease the pan in any way.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar, flour & cornstarch. Set aside.
In another bowl, add egg whites, vanilla, cream of tartar & salt. With a hand mixer on medium speed, beat until foamy, about 30 seconds. Slowly stream in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Continue to beat on high speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes.
Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, gently FOLDING them into the egg whites using a rubber spatula. Repeat with remaining flour mixture in two increments. FOLD EVERYTHING TOGETHER GENTLY so egg whites do not become deflated in the process.
Pour batter into the loaf pan. Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet & bake for 35-40 minutes. When cake is baked it should not be sticky to the touch.
Once the cake comes out of the oven, immediately turn it upside down & invert it over two cans. The cake needs to cool upside down so it doesn't deflate. Allow it to cool for at least an hour.
In a small saucepan over low heat, add sliced strawberries, sugar, lemon juice & cornstarch. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, & cook for 6-8 minutes or until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat.
Lime Cream Cheese Spread
In a small dish, beat together cream cheese, lime juice & powdered sugar until smooth & creamy.
Grilled Cheese Assembly
Slice angel food loaf into 8-inch slices. In a shallow container, whisk together 2 cups milk or half & half, 2 eggs & 1/4 tsp cinnamon.
Soak cake slices in milk/egg mixture for a couple of minutes, then cook on a griddle (or skillet) like you would with French toast. When the slices are golden on both sides, divide cream cheese spread between four of the slices. When cheese is warm & melted, top each with one of the remaining four slices.
Place on four serving plates & top with strawberry sauce. Serve warm.
When it comes to some of the most common baked fruit desserts, there are a number of concoctions that go by many names. All work with whatever fruit is in season (or available) and in any shape pan.
The question is, what makes a cobbler, crisp, crumble, Betty or buckle different? To start with, a cobbler is so named because the topping is made with dollops of biscuit dough, not a smooth sheet of dough like a pie. The irregular surface, once baked, resembles the surfaces of streets paved with rough cobbles.
A crisp has a topping made with a combination of oatmeal, flour, butter & sugar (sometimes nuts). This topping completely covers the fruit and is baked.
Crumbles are very similar to crisps, however, usually they do not contain oats.
A Betty, although similar to a crisp has no oatmeal in the topping which is layered throughout instead of solely on top of the dessert.
Last, but not least is the buckle, which consists of fruit and cake baked together with a streusel topping. As it bakes, the fruit and streusel topping make the cake ‘buckle’.
This mango cobbler is a delicious dessert and a nice alternative to peach or apple cobbler. Fresh mangoes are peeled and sliced or diced and then simmered with a thickened syrup mixture. If you don’t have fresh fruit, feel free to use frozen sliced or diced mangoes in the cobbler.
In a large, heavy saucepan, combine mango, sugar, butter, flour, cornstarch, vanilla & salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly until bubbly & thickened. Place in a baking dish, set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, oatmeal, sugar baking powder, spices & salt. With finger tips, blend in butter until crumbly. Add milk, stirring only to combine.
Drop large tablespoons of dough on top of warm fruit. Place into preheated oven & bake for 35-40 minutes, until the edges are bubbling & the top is golden brown.
Serve warm as is or topped with ice cream.
As if the flavor alone didn’t make these tartlets special, I decided to make them in some unique, little Scandinavian cookie molds. I’m not sure where and when I actually acquired these vintage tins, but since I have them, it seems a shame not to use them.
The molds are traditionally used to make a Scandinavian cookie known as ‘Mandelmusslor’ in Swedish or ‘Sandbakkels‘ in Norwegian. Some are simple fluted round molds while others are more decorative shapes. The trick is to make sure the dough is pressed down thinly and evenly into the individual tins. This will ensure even baking.
These cookies are traditionally served as a shell tipped upside down on a pretty plate. Alternately they can be filled with fresh fruit or a baked filling.
Fig, Pear & Gorgonzola Tartlets
In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar & salt. Add cold butter, vanilla & lemon zest. Cut into flour mixture with a pastry blender until dough starts to come together & form clumps.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Divide pastry between 12 mini tartlet pans. Using your fingertips, evenly press the dough into pans. Place on a baking sheet & bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven & place on a wire rack until you have your filling ingredients prepared.
Quarter the pear & remove core. Halve each quarter & then thinly slice each one. Finely dice or crumble Gorgonzola cheese.
Place about a teaspoon of fig jam in the bottom of each tart shell. Top with pear slices, laying them in a fan shape, then divide Gorgonzola cheese between the 12 tartlets.
Place in the oven & bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven & place on a wire rack until cool enough to remove tartlet pans. Serve warm or cold.
- Put a small ball of dough into the center of the cookie mold then using your thumb, press the dough down, working it up to the upper rim of the mold.
- It should be fairly consistent on the sides & bottom.
Butter tarts were a staple of pioneer cooking with the first known recipe dating back to 1915, becoming extremely popular during the twenties and thirties.
If you’re Canadian, chances are you have eaten a butter tart. They are part of our DNA! As a croissant is to France, the butter tart is to Canada.
Chatelaine Magazine printed its first butter tart recipe in April 1931. By the 1950’s, butter tarts were part of the picnic lunch boxes sold at Eaton’s Department Store in Toronto, Canada.
Tarts have continued along this commercial journey and now are pretty much in every cafe, bakery, at your nearest grocery store and even Tim Horton’s has them.
Overtime, the recipe for our ‘national treasure’ has been adapted to suit many different applications. Today’s recipe is a good example of that. I’ve swapped out the regular pastry for a shortbread crust and pumpkin seeds and cranberries for the raisins. Take note, that the one constant in butter tarts …. that syrupy, buttery filling remains in tact.
Pumpkin Seed Butter Tart Squares
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8 X 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper using only one piece so none of the filling leaks out during the baking process.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar & salt to combine. With a pastry cutter, cut in cold butter, adding vanilla & lemon zest. Transfer dough to prepared baking pan. Using your finger tips, evenly press the dough onto the bottom of the pan.
Carefully prick the bottom of the crust with the tines of a fork making sure not to make any holes in the parchment. Bake for about 20 minutes or just until a pale golden color. Remove from oven & place on a wire rack to cool while you prepare the filling.
In a bowl, beat together butter & sugar with a hand mixer until light & fluffy. Beat in eggs until incorporated then the corn syrup & vanilla. Stir in flour, salt & baking powder.
Sprinkle 100 gm of the pumpkin seeds & all of the dried cranberries over the baked shortbread base. Then pour the filling over this mixture & bake for about 20-25 minutes or until filling is set. Remove from oven & place on a wire rack to cool. Sprinkle remaining 20 gm of pumpkin seeds on top for decoration. Serve at room temperature or chilled (or straight from the freezer).
I have always found the sweet, earthy flavor of figs so unique. Their high sugar content pairs perfectly with similarly intense flavors, adding a burst of sweetness to a savory dishes and a distinctive texture and aroma to sweet treats.
Figs are surprisingly easy to work and have endless ways to prepare them. Just to name a few ….
Pies & Tarts * Cakes * Puddings * Fig Rolls * With Cheese * On Pizza & Breads * With Meat * Salads * Stuffing * Or just let the natural beauty and taste of figs take center stage to end a dinner party.
Today, I chose to use some to decorate our lemon tart.
LEMON + FIGS = AMAZING!
Lemon Fig Tart
In a food processor, combine flour, sugar & salt. Process for a few seconds then add butter. Pulse until mixture becomes crumbly and resembles coarse meal, about 15 pulses. Add egg & vanilla; pulse until dough is no longer dry & starts to clump together, about 10-15 seconds. Dough should be quite crumbly with large clumps.
Place dough on a lightly floured surface & form into a ball. Flatten slightly to form a disc. Wrap with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
In the top of a double boiler saucepan, place eggs, sugar, lemon zest & cream (if using). Whisk to combine. Place top saucepan over boiling water (in the bottom of double boiler saucepan). Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture becomes thick, about 10-20 minutes. The filling will thicken more once cooled.
Remove from heat & immediately strain mixture through a sieve. Add butter, a few cubes at a time, whisking until completely melted & incorporated. Mixture should be smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature before filling the tart shell.
Remove dough from refrigerator & allow it sit on the counter for a few minutes to soften slightly for easy rolling. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a rectangle. Gently place into a tart pan (preferably with a removable bottom). Brush away any excess flour on the surface. With a sharp knife, trim the edges of the pastry to fit tart pan. Cover pan with plastic wrap & place in the freezer until firm, about 30 minutes to prevent it from shrinking.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Place rack in center of oven. Remove tart shell from freezer; press some parchment paper or foil tightly against the crust. Cover edges to prevent from burning. Fill with pie weights, distributing them evenly over entire surface.
Bake crust for 20 minutes, until paper no longer sticks to dough. Transfer crust to a wire rack & remove weights & paper. Return to oven & bake about 10 minutes longer until golden brown. Transfer to wire rack to cool.
Glaze & Assemble
In a saucepan, cook 1/4 cup sugar with 1/4 cup water over moderate heat. Stir occasionally, until sugar is dissolved & syrup is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Allow to cool.
Fill the baked tart shell with the lemon filling. Decorate with sliced figs. Brush the syrup lightly over the figs. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours until well chilled before serving.
- An alternate glaze you could use would be heated orange or apricot preserves.
The fall season seems to orchestrate a return to the kitchen, to lure us who enjoy to cook, back to the stove. With the cooler days and nights, heating up the oven to cook or bake becomes conceivable once more.
Like many baked desserts, the self-saucing pudding is a combination of mystery and chemistry. In the baking process, the flour/baking powder, rises to the top and the heavier sauce falls to the bottom.
Not quite a pudding and not exactly a cake, self saucing pudding has a souffle-like quality. It’s origins are unclear, but there is evidence that the concept of pouring hot water (or sauce) over the cake before baking to partially steam it as it bakes may be an Australian innovation.
It really doesn’t matter where the concept came from. What matters is that it works brilliantly to create a dessert with lightness and richness all in one pan. A simple dollop of whip cream on the top and there you have it … home baked goodness!
Caramel Pear Pudding Cake
In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water & butter; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover & set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter 4 oven-proof custard dishes ( 1 1/4 cup capacity) & place on a baking sheet. Place half of a pear in each dish.
In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, butter, spices, milk & vanilla; mix well. Spread the mixture evenly over pear halves in dishes. Sprinkle batter with pecans. Carefully pour HOT caramel sauce over pudding batter in custard cups.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until puddings are firm. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.