I guess I’ll have to take the blame for Brion’s love of dessert. When we were first married years ago, he really didn’t care much about sweets. I, on the other hand, had grown up in a German family where every meal was finished with something sweet. It didn’t have to consist of anything more than a dish of vanilla pudding, but it was sweet and that’s what mattered. Funny how something like that can become so ingrained in your life. Of course, over time Brion has come to like dessert as much as I do, not really a good thing now that we are getting older … hmmm!
But I need to explain today’s decadent blog dessert. I just happens, we are celebrating Brion’s birthday so we are pulling out all the stops and having cheesecake! Of course, some of it will probably end up in the freezer but that works to.
Brion and I have never been much on giving each other ‘gifts’ for special occasions. Our time spent together ‘just living’, whether its at home or on a vacation has always been the best gift. Throughout our married life Brion has always gone above and beyond to look after us. I’m grateful to have the privilege of such a loving and caring husband.
So here we are, celebrating you, my love with rhubarb cheesecake and all the trimmings. Life is good!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY WITH LOVE!
Candied Rhubarb Curls
Make the simple syrup, combining the sugar & water in a small pot and heating until dissolved. Let the syrup cool to room temperature, add gel food coloring stirring to combine. Using a paring knife (or try a vegetable peeler), slice long, thin strips of rhubarb from the outer stalk. Soak the ribbons in the cooled simple syrup for about 5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200 F. Line or lightly grease a baking sheet. Lay each ribbon on the baking sheet. Bake until the ribbons have dried out. Note: they will still be sticky and flexible from the heat.
If you want to make curls, work with one or two ribbons at a time so the remaining ribbons can stay soft in the oven. Wrap each ribbon loosely around skewers or the handles of cooking utensils, and let dry for around 10 minutes before gently sliding the curled ribbons off.
Cook rhubarb, sugar & water. Simmer for 8 minutes over medium heat. Add in the cornstarch & cook 2 more minutes. Set aside to cool.
Beat together the cream cheese with icing sugar until smooth then add eggs. Try not to overmix at this point. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Line a 9-inch springform pan with foil paper. Crumble together butter, flour, oats, brown sugar & salt. Add two thirds of the mixture to springform pan & press firmly. Add walnuts to the remaining crumbs & set aside.
If using a silver springform pan, bake at 325 F. If using a dark nonstick springform pan, bake at 300 F. Bake bottom layer of crumbs for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, pour cheesecake mixture over the crust & spread with a spoon, being careful not to disturb the crust layer too much.
Spread the rhubarb mixture on top of the cheesecake.
Crumble the remaining crust/crumb mixture evenly over the top & lightly press down.
Bake until topping is golden brown & cheesecake is set, about 50 minutes.
Cool completely, then decorate with fresh strawberries, rhubarb curls, chocolate malt balls & silver sugar pearls or as you wish.
- You will have extra candied rhubarb to nibble on!
There’s just something incredibly refreshing about pineapple tarts with their tangy, bright, acidic flavor nestled in shortbread crusts. Adding meringue puts a tropical twist on the classic meringue pie making them a perfect summer treat.
When it comes to making meringue, simple ingredients and instructions can lull you into thinking preparation is quick and easy. Make it once under the wrong conditions, however, and you may quickly change your mind.
Meringue is temperamental. Getting it right can be a tricky process. Weeping meringues aren’t very pretty. The meringue pulls back from the crust, moisture beads on the topping, and a clear liquid forms below the crust. It doesn’t hurt the pie but it’s not presentable.
Years ago, when I worked in the commercial food industry, I started using the idea of adding cornstarch to meringue to help stabilize it. Cornstarch is especially helpful in hot, humid weather when a meringue is most likely to absorb extra moisture.
The science behind this ‘secret ingredient‘ is that cornstarch is composed of long molecules that it is believed insert themselves between egg white proteins to prevent them from clotting too much while meringue is baking. Corn starch molecules also provide more hold for meringue. It will be easier to cut and is less likely to weep.
Brion & I are not crazy about meringue but do enjoy it for a treat once in a while.
Pineapple Meringue 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 & allow to cool.
In a saucepan, combine cornstarch & sugar. Gradually add water, stirring until mixture is smooth. Add lemon zest & undrained pineapple. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture starts to boil. Reduce heat, boil 2 minutes while continuing to stir. Remove from heat, quickly stir in butter & egg yolks blending well. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature.
In a small saucepan, combine water & cornstarch. Heat & stir until it boils & thickens. Cool thoroughly.
Beat egg whites & salt until a stiff froth. Add sugar gradually, beating until stiff & sugar is dissolved. Add vanilla & cornstarch mixture. Beat until blended & stiff.
Divide pineapple filling between tart shells. Pipe meringue over tarts sealing to edges. If not sealed well, meringue will shrink when cool. Bake in 350 F. oven about 10 minutes until golden. Cool away from drafts.
Rhubarb is the rebel of the vegetable world. It looks like celery, tastes like sour candy, its leaves are poisonous and unlike most spring and summer produce, its barely edible raw. With such a feisty personality, its no wonder some are intimidated to cook it.
More than any other fruit or vegetable, rhubarb to me is the sign of the changing season. It is the signal that summer is arriving in those ruby red or speckled green & pink stalks. I snap up what I can in the garden and when I see it at the supermarket. I take all I can and more, slicing and freezing the excess for rhubarb cravings that come in winter.
Year-round, I save rhubarb recipe ideas I hope to make once I get my hands on the first stalks of the season. No summer would be complete without cinnamon rhubarb bread …. still warm from the oven and the heavenly smell of cinnamon in the air!
Cinnamon Roll Rhubarb Bread
In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except vanilla & food color. Heat to medium high & stir occasionally until rhubarb begins to break down completely. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla & food coloring; allow to cool to room temperature.
In a small dish, combine yeast with lukewarm water & 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Allow to sit for a few minutes until frothy.
In a large bowl, slightly melt butter; cool a couple of minutes then whisk in egg. In another bowl, whisk together flour, salt & remaining sugar. Add yeast mixture to butter mixture, whisking together. Add flour mixture, combine then turn on a floured work surface & knead for about 5 minutes. Dough will be very soft but not sticky.
Lightly grease bowl, place dough ball in it & cover with a towel. Place in a draft-free place & allow to rise for about 20 minutes. Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan; set aside
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface & press down to deflate it. Fold in the two opposite sides to meet in the middle, then fold in the remaining two sides to meet, so that you've formed the dough into a square. Press down to flatten it slightly, then cover loosely and let stand for 10 minutes
With a floured rolling pin, rolling the dough to form a rectangle that's 12 by 22 inches. Make the corners as square as possible. If you're having trouble with the dough shrinking back, pause briefly before trying again.
Spread rhubarb/cinnamon filling over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Now fold the two long sides of the dough in one at a time, so that the meet each other in the middle. Pinch them together gently to seal the seam. Gently roll over the surface with a rolling pin to flatten the folded dough to about 7 by 25 inches.
Starting at the narrow end, roll up the dough, making a thick spiral. When you get to the end, brush a little egg wash on the loaf at the spot where the end will hit. Pinch the end a bit to seal it.
Carefully & gently place the roll, seam side-down in the buttered pan. The roll of dough should nearly fill it. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap & place in a warm, draft-free place to rise for about 25-30 minutes, until almost doubled & about 2 inches above the top of the pan. Meanwhile, adjust the oven racks so that you have one rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven.
Lightly brush remaining egg wash over loaf & bake for about 20 minutes. You may need to cover the top loosely with aluminum foil towards the end of baking to prevent over-browning. Bake until the loaf, when removed from the pan, sounds hollow when tapped with your fingertips. Cool on a rack.
Make glaze by whisking together 2 Tbsp rhubarb filling, 1 cup powdered sugar, and enough lemon juice to make the glaze pourable (1-2 tbsp should do it). When bread has slightly cooled, drizzle with glaze if desired.
Limoncello, (pronounced lee-mon-CHAY-low) the Italian lemon liqueur, is known for its refreshing sweet and tangy flavor. It is made from lemon rinds, alcohol and sugar. Although, traditionally served as an after dinner drink, it is a wonderful ingredient to use in cooking and baking.
Families have passed down recipes for limoncello for generations, as every Italian family has their own recipe. In the winter of 2013, Brion and I spent some time travelling Italy. It was in Sorrento where we tasted limoncello for the first time and loved it. As we walked through the quaint artisan shops packed together onto a maze of medieval alleys, we came across one that sold liqueurs & confectionery. One of the treats that they made were limoncello sugar coated almonds … to die for!
Limoncello origins are disputed. Some say it was created by monks or nuns while others credit the wealthy Amalfi Coast families or even local townsfolk. In any case, its roots are in Southern Italy, primarily along Italy’s Amalfi Coast and the Sorrentine Peninsula known for their meticulous lemon cultivation. These lemons are considered the finest lemons for making limoncello. Prized for their yellow rinds, intense fragrance, juicy flesh and balanced acid.
Today, I’m using limoncello not only in the cake but the glaze as well. This is definitely a refreshing cake, great for a summer picnic or dinner.
Glazed Limoncello Cakes
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray an 8-inch square cake pan with cooking spray or baking pans of your choice.
Whisk sour cream, white sugar, canola oil, eggs, 3 tablespoons limoncello, and lemon zest together in a large bowl.
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in another bowl. Add flour mixture to sour cream mixture; stir with a wooden spoon until batter is just combined. Pour batter into prepared cake pan or pans.
Bake for about 35 minutes OR until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool cake(s) in the pan for 5 minutes.
Whisk powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons limoncello liqueur together in a bowl until glaze is thin and smooth. Drizzle glaze over the top of the cake. Cool cake completely before serving. Top with a bit of whipped cream if desired.
- You may need a bit more glaze if you have made individual cakes as I did here.
The idea of lightly mingling two different batters in one cake seems to have originated in early 19th century Germany. The earliest version of marble cake consisted of a kugelhopf (sweet yeast bread), one half of which was colored with molasses and spices to achieve a dark colored batter. Bakers next began to do the same thing with sponge cake batter.
The marble cake came to North America with German immigrants. It wasn’t until the late 19th century, when chocolate gained a greater hold on the North American public, that ‘marble cake‘ as we know it today really took shape. The first known recipe to appear in an American cookbook went with the spice and molasses variety, though the base was a butter cake rather than a sponge or yeasted cake. Jewish German bakers eventually introduced the idea of using chocolate to create the darker batter in marble cakes.
Of course, there is no right or wrong way to create the marbling effect. The only thing to know is that you should not overmix the batter. The colors are supposed to mingle but stay separate creating the distinct marbling design.
German Marble Cake
Preheat oven to 325 F. Either butter or line with parchment paper, (2) 5-inch mini springform pans; set aside.
In a bowl, melt butter, in microwave. In a small bowl, sift flour, baking powder & salt; add to butter & combine.
In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks, milk & vanilla then add to butter mixture. Whisk until combined.
Beat egg whites until foamy then gradually add sugar; beat until stiff peaks form. Fold into batter.
In a small cup with a spout, place about 1/2 cup of the batter & add cocoa powder. Fold in to combine.
Divide white batter between 2 prepared pans. Pour chocolate batter onto each cake forming circles with it. Using a wooden skewer, make lines from the center out making a spider web design.
Bake for 45 minutes on bottom rack of the oven or until cake tests done with a wooden pick. Remove from oven, allow to cool for about 5 minutes on cooling rack. Flip over & cool in pans for at least 30 minutes. We enjoyed a small bit of raspberry puree with the cake.
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!
Chocolate & strawberries not only add a touch of decadence but are the quintessential Valentine treat. These little chocolate lava cakes not only look and taste great, but they’re pretty quick and easy to make. You don’t need any special equipment, just a couple of bowls and a whisk and the recipe only makes two.
As always, I wondered about where the idea had originated. It seems the first known cake with a deliberately runny center is the ‘Tunnel of Fudge Cake’… the second place winner of a Pillsbury bake-off contest in 1966. Invented by Texan homemaker, Ella Helfrich, the cake is a walnut-flecked Bundt cake with a wet fudge center, which Ella achieved by the pretty ingenious inclusion of powdered frosting. The original recipe called for Pillsbury’s Double Dutch Dry Frosting Mix, which would, in the oven, cook into a runny, pudding like tunnel. The cake recipe became a cultural icon and put Bundt pans, (which had been created in the ’50s but were never particularly popular) in mass demand.
In 1987, a chef in New York city, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, was credited with ‘inventing’ the lava cake but this has been disputed as Jacques Torres, a French chef & chocolatier, says that the lava cake already existed in France before that time. As time has passed there have been many versions adapted to the original idea which mostly include the variations on the fillings. Instead of the chocolate fillings, other flavors like lemon, caramel, strawberry and orange can be found.
I think these White Chocolate Strawberry Lava Cakes will make the perfect ending for our Valentines supper.
White Chocolate Strawberry Lava Cakes
In a blender, process strawberries then press mixture through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl; discard seeds. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Pour in strained strawberry puree. Allow mixture to come to a boil & bubble until slightly thickened, about 6 minutes.
Melt white chocolate with butter. You can do it in the microwave with 30 second breaks or over a double boiler. Blend well.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter & flour 2 - 6 oz ramekins; set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together eggs, egg white, sugar, salt, vanilla, lemon juice & zest.
Add chocolate/butter mixture then flour; combine. Add strawberry puree & coloring (if using); blend.
Divide batter between the 2 ramekins & bake for about 15-20 minutes. Make sure not to OVERBAKE or you won't have the lava effect.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar & serve with any extra puree if you wish. For an extra treat, top with some dipped strawberries.
The Caramilk chocolate bar is a Canadian creation that has been around since 1968. First produced at the Cadbury factory in Montreal then production moved to the Gladstone factory in Toronto in 1978 and has been made there ever since.
The general name for the candy confection is actually Cadbury Caramilk, but in the USA, this candy bar is more familiarly known as Caramello. The entire styling of the bar is different depending on where it is sold and this can lead to confusion that these are different candy bars when they are actually the same product. There are some variations in the recipe in different countries but the overall taste is remarkably similar.
There have been countless theories and debates about how Caramilk gets the soft flowing caramel inside the Caramilk bar. To date, it is still one of those Canadian enduring mysteries as Cadbury has guarded the Caramilk ‘secret’ for over 50 years.
These apple tart/baskets are certainly taken up a notch by simply adding a piece of Caramilk chocolate to the center. Who knew …. what’s old is new again!
Caramilk Apple 'Baskets'
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. Divide 2/3 of pastry between 10 tart/muffin cups. Using fingertips, evenly press the dough into each cup. With remaining pastry, divide it into 10 balls & flatten each to form a top for each tart. Place pastry in refrigerator until filling is prepared.
In a saucepan, whisk together 1 1/4 cups water, both sugars, spices, salt & lemon juice. Add the diced apples & simmer for 10-12 minutes to soften apples, stirring occasionally. Combine remaining 1/4 cup water with cornstarch & add to apple mixture; continuing to cook until thickened. Remove from heat & allow to cool.
Place a Tbsp of apple filling in each tart shell. Divide the Caramilk bar into 10 pieces. Place one piece in the center of each tart. Divide remaining apple filling between the 10 tarts. Top each with a pastry round & bake for about 35 minutes or until golden.
Serve inverted on a serving plate, either as is or with your choice of topping.
For many, orange juice and oatmeal are seen as breakfast food. I like both, so using them in baked goods works for me.
Most of the time, when it comes to cake or cookies, extract is where your flavor will come from. I recall an orange loaf my mother made by first cooking the sugar with orange zest and adding it to the batter. It gave the loaf such a bold orange flavor.
In these cookies, I’m using both the zest and juice of a fresh orange and a tiny bit of lemon zest to add another dimension of citrus. The oatmeal is processed to an oat flour.
The use of both butter and olive oil further enhances the flavor of the cookies. Butter is smooth and creamy, adding the dairy richness, while the oil provides a unique flavor and aroma.
Once the cookies are baked, a glaze using more fresh orange juice and zest makes these orange slice cookies ‘addicting’ as Brion says.
Orange Slice Cookies
Combine remaining orange juice & zest with enough powdered sugar to make a glaze consistency. When cookies are cool, brush with glaze,
Cream puffs start with choux pastry, a heady mixture of butter, milk, water, eggs & flour. When you combine these ingredients, they become so dense and sticky that it seems impossible they’ll come together as soft, puffy, light, tender. Heat is what initiates the expansion of the dense paste. Steam from the milk and water expands the pastry’s edges, puffing up its capacity until the oven heat provides just enough crispness and structure to hold the puffs’ boundaries. A cream puff expands so dramatically in the oven that it creates a cavern inside to hold any number of things—whipped cream, pastry cream, ice cream or savory fillings.
Cream puff pastry (or choux pastry) is the base for profiteroles (smaller puffs filled with ice cream), éclairs (elongated puffs filled with pastry cream and glazed), croquembouche (a tower of cream puffs held together and drizzled with caramel) and savory appetizer puffs called gougeres with cheese and herbs.
Craquelin (pronounced kra-ke-lan) is a thin biscuit layer that can be added over choux pastries before baking them. It is used to create a crackly appearance, crunchy texture and a buttery sweet taste as well as helping the choux pastry bake evenly to form hollow rounds. This topping reminded me of a similar cookie-like topping used on Mexican sweet bread called ‘conchas’. It certainly dresses up ordinary cream puffs.
Mandarin Orange Cream Puffs w/ Craquelin Topping
Mandarin Orange Pastry Cream
In a food processor, process sugar & butter pieces until it forms large crumbs. Add flour, salt & vanilla; process until a dough forms. Bring the dough together to form a disk.
Roll the dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper until 1/16-inch thickness. Place covered in the freezer for at least an hour then cut the dough into (18) 2-inch circles & keep circles in the freezer until ready to use.
In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar & cornstarch until it turns pale yellow. In a saucepan, combine milk & orange zest; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, slowly add the egg mixture a little at a time, whisking well until fully incorporated.
Return mixture to heat & keep whisking over medium heat until it thickens. Stir in orange juice. Transfer to a bowl & cover with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the surface of the pastry cream. When it comes to room temperature, refrigerate.
When cooled & you are ready to use the pastry cream, whisk with an electric mixer for 15-20 seconds to a smooth texture.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a couple of cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a saucepan, combine milk, water, butter & salt; bring to boiling. Add flour, all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook & stir until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat & add eggs & egg white, one at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition.
Place dough in a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe (18) 1 1/2-inch circles. Cover each with a frozen craquelin round circle.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden & firm. Transfer to a wire rack & allow to cool.
Carefully slice puffs. Fill a pastry bag with mandarin orange pastry cream & gently fill each puff. Place on serving platter & sprinkle with powdered sugar if you wish.