I saw the photo of this Peanut Butter Cup Pie on Serious Eats and, as a big fan of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, I had to taste it. I pestered my mom until she made if for me for Thanksgiving. The crust didn’t turn out as she would have liked — it was perhaps too finely ground and fell apart on serving — but the pie itself tasted exactly like a gourmet peanut butter cup! So it fulfilled all my expectations. Next time, my mom plans to purchase a chocolate cookie crust to use, and I can’t see anything wrong with that.
Tag Archives: Desserts
For this week’s challenge, I wanted to make a chocolate cake for Valentine’s Day. It was a challenge for me because I don’t make a lot of desserts and sometimes my baking efforts wind up as miserable failures. I definitely need more practice, but on the other hand, I don’t really need to be eating more sweets. So it’s kind of a double-edged sword.
Anyway, here’s how the cake turned out:
Looks pretty good, doesn’t it? It tasted good too, like an ooey-gooey gigantic brownie.
I chose a recipe from Nigella Lawson‘s Feast for a cake that was almost flourless (only ½ cup) because I really like dense, chocolatey cakes and because I wanted to use some instant espresso powder I already had in the pantry. A good cook always tries to make use of what she already has on hand. However, I did have to go shopping for one thing: a springform pan. That’s right, I’ve gone this long without owning one, and there are plenty of times when I could have used it. So now I’ve got one.
One thing I didn’t have to buy was a double boiler to melt the chocolate. Instead, I placed a small pot on top of a larger one of simmering water. The chocolate melted perfectly. (I don’t have a microwave anymore, which is handy for melting chocolate, I will admit.)
The cake did not rise up as high as the one pictured in Nigella’s book, probably because I didn’t beat the eggs enough at the beginning. I don’t own a stand mixer, and I tend to get tired of beating and quit before I ought to. It didn’t make much difference to the flavor, though, which was dense, chocolatey and a big hit with everyone. I topped it simply, with a dollop of whipped cream to cut the richness. I didn’t pour coffee liqueur over the top, as Nigella does, since one of my tasters is a toddler, but I don’t think its absence detracted from the cake at all.
I’m not going to post the recipe, since I didn’t change it very much and I don’t want to violate copyright. But the wonders of the Internet always provide, so here is the exact recipe from Food Network’s website. Enjoy.
For this week’s challenge, I am doing a brunch dish: an old-fashioned country scramble. I’ll probably also make biscuits, because what’s a country breakfast without biscuits?
It seems that blueberry season is upon us. We haven’t even been blueberry picking yet, but my fridge still overflows with fresh, cheap berries, or as my son calls them, “boobrees.” As in “mo boobrees. Peeeeze?” Here are a couple of ideas of what to do with excess blueberries.
Popsicles are always a tasty treat and super-easy to make, if you have the molds. Here is my master recipe, but it’s as simple as pureeing the fruit, mixing in enough water to thin and sugar to taste, and freezing. A food mill works well for pureeing berries as it strains out most of the seeds and stems for you.
As a special Sunday morning treat, make blueberry syrup for pancakes. You can use fresh or frozen berries for this syrup. Not only does it taste good on pancakes, but you can stir leftovers into yogurt or oatmeal to liven up your breakfasts all week. I expect it’s also very nice on top of ice cream or pound cake. (The recipe comes from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.)
Serves: 4 or more
Time to make: ~15 minutes
- 2 cups blueberries, fresh or thawed
- 1 tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp. water
- additional water as needed to thin (about ½ cup)
- sugar and lemon juice to taste
Combine the blueberries, cornstarch, water and a tablespoon or two of sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sauce thickens. This takes about 10-15 minutes. Add more water as needed to thin, if necessary. Stir in lemon juice to taste and more sugar if needed. Refrigerate up to 1 week.
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Since it has been an unseasonably cool and very rainy week, keeping us stuck indoors, it has also been a week of treats. Last night, I made silver dollar pancakes and bacon for dinner. I don’t know what is so sinful about transferring a Sunday-morning meal to a Wednesday evening, but it certainly brightened up everyone’s week.
It being strawberry season, I had all the things to make strawberry shortcake on hand, which was my project Monday afternoon when the rain poured down like Armageddon outside.
Strawberry shortcake is, of course, absurdly easy to make. It has three components:
- Strawberries, hulled and quartered, and mixed with a small amount of sugar; the riper they are, the less sugar they need. Let them macerate a while to produce some juices.
- Shortcakes, made from your favorite biscuit recipe with a little more sugar added. I like to make biscuits with half-and-half or cream for dessert recipes. I brush the tops with egg white and sprinkle with sugar to get deeper browning when baking and add a touch more sweetness.
- Whipped cream (see below).
To assemble, bake the biscuits, let cool and split. Spoon some strawberries in the center and top with whipped cream. This treat brings spring to a dreary day.
How to Whip Cream
Chill a mixing bowl and the mixer beaters in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Add 1 cup heavy cream, 1 tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla (optional) to the bowl. Start beating on the lowest speed until bubbles start to appear, about 30 seconds. Switch to medium speed until the cream starts to thicken, another 30 seconds. Switch to high speed and beat until peaks appear, about 20 seconds more for soft peaks and 30 seconds more for stiff peaks.
Store covered in the fridge for several hours. Here’s a guide to whipping cream with pictures of soft and stiff peaks.
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I love this time of year, because we are currently inundated with fruit. Strawberries are for sale along the sides of country roads. Blueberries and raspberries are cheap again, but oranges are still plentiful. And it’s only going to get better. Melon season is coming, and peaches, and plums.
When your wealth is so abundant, the best thing to do is to make salad. Sure, you can just cut up different kinds of fruit and toss them together in a bowl. But a few simple additions can make an ordinary fruit salad sparkle.
First, pick fruits that are in season and are absolutely ripe. I usually limit myself to three different kinds of fruit, as I think too many varieties muddy the individual flavors. Cut into bite-sized pieces and toss gently with the juice of 1 lemon. This will help keep the fruit from browning. Depending on sweetness, I may add a spoonful or two of honey to the mixture.
There are many options for adding a little extra flavor. Here are my favorite ideas:
- Add ¼ tsp. vanilla extract.
- Shave over some lime or orange zest.
- Sprinkle in a little cayenne or black pepper.
- Toss with nuts or cheese.
- Instead of the honey, muddle minced mint or basil with sugar and toss with the fruit.
- Add up to ½ cup of white wine, champagne or liqueur and chill.
- Serve over vanilla yogurt or ice cream to make an instant parfait.
Spring is here! I can tell because I have so many good, fresh things to eat in my refrigerator. Oh yeah, and all the flowers blooming and stuff.
Here’s a simple spring dish: pasta with peas, bacon and mint. While the pasta is cooking, mince and fry a few slices of bacon until crisp. Turn the heat down, add a cup or so of peas and some chopped mint. Season with salt and pepper. Warm the peas gently and mix with the cooked pasta. Garnish with grated Parmesan or similar cheese. This sauce works very well with a filled pasta like cheese ravioli.
Having a surplus of berries, I made the fruit crisp recipe in Mark Bittman’s Food Matters for dessert. I thought this was a very nice recipe, particularly good mixed with vanilla yogurt (I’m sure ice cream would work just as well). My two-year-old turned up his nose at it, though, even though it contained three different berries. I just can’t get that kid to eat his dessert.
Blueberries are on sale at my local co-op. Yesterday I made a bread pudding with semolina flour topped with blueberries as a special snack for my two-year-old. He ate the blueberries, disdained the bread pudding. Lesson learned (although I thought it was good).
For dinner I broke open the cookbook Chefs of the Triangle for the first time and made Il Palio’s recipe for tomato bisque. It was a pretty easy recipe and a delicious soup. Both my boys snarfed it right up. I’m too lazy this morning to type in the recipe though — sorry.
Last night, my husband took over the kitchen for our New Year’s Eve dinner. He spent all of Wednesday making a vat of tomato sauce and used some of it yesterday to make baked pasta with sausage and mozzarella, his signature dish. (The rest we bagged and froze in case of a post-apocalyptic event.)
I put together a simple Italian-style salad to go with it: romaine, diced red onion, shaved Parmesan, capers and a creamy Italian-garlic vinaigrette. (Hint: To make any vinaigrette creamy, substitute 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream for some of the oil.) I got this nifty salad dressing mixing/storage bottle for Christmas that I was able to try out. You just put the ingredients in and use a pump handle to mix the dressing right before you pour it. Works really well. Here’s a picture of it.
We don’t eat dessert very often around these parts, so I like to make a dessert on holidays and special occasions. Yesterday I wanted something light and easy, so I tried a chocolate souffle recipe I clipped some time ago from the New York Times. It was designed to serve 2, which I like in dessert recipes because then there are no tempting leftovers; we only ended up eating about half of it, though, and this morning I am putting leftover whipped cream in my coffee — so much for that thought. Anyway, it was very light and easy, pretty much a chocolate mousse that you bake, perfect with some champagne after a heavy meal. Next time I will use the smaller ramekins for baking so as to achieve a more dramatic puffing effect. Here’s the recipe.
Time to make: ~1 hour
- two 2-cup or one 4-cup souffle dish
- butter and sugar for the dish
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate
- pinch salt
- ¼ tsp. cream of tartar
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tbsp. sugar
Preheat the oven to 350. Butter the souffle dish (or use butter-flavored Pam, like I did). Sprinkle the inside with sugar, then invert and tap the bottom to remove the excess.
Chop up the chocolate. Melt it over low or in a double boiler, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula.
Separate the eggs. Set aside 1 tbsp. of sugar from the 1/3 cup. Beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until very light and thick. The mixture will fall from the beaters in a ribber when it is ready. Stir in the chocolate until well combined. Set aside.
Wash and dry the beaters. Beat the egg whites with the salt and cream of tartar until they hold soft peaks. Gradually add the remaining tablespoon of sugar while continuing to beat until very stiff and glossy. Stir a spoonful of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten in. Folk in the remaining whites using a rubber spatula. Transfer to the prepared souffle dishes. (Note: At this point, you can refrigerate, covered, for several hours, at which point you will have chocolate mousse.)
Bake until the center is nearly set, 20 minutes for individual ramekins and up to 35 minutes for a larger souffle dish. In the meantime, wash the beaters yet one more. Pour the whipping cream into a chilled bowl and beat until it holds soft peaks, adding the final tablespoon of sugar halfway through. Serve the souffles topped with some whipped cream.
If you received Ad Hoc at Home for Christmas and are wondering what to make first, may I suggest the chocolate brownies? They are easy to make but sinfully delicious. Yes, they call for three sticks of butter, but it is still the holidays! The best touch is chopping a high-quality dark chocolate bar into “chips” to scatter through the batter. When you eat a brownie, it’s like tiny chocolate explosions in your mouth.
The brownies taste best the day they are made or the next day, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Invite your friends over, as these brownies do not keep.
Recipe rating for Brownies from Ad Hoc at Home: A+
Popsicles are a great hot-weather treat, but the ones from the grocery store have a lot of sugar, artificial flavors and artificial colors. It’s just as easy to make your own from whatever seasonal fresh fruit you have on hand, and you control the sugar content. The whole family loves these.
I’ve found that pretty much any sorbet or granita recipe also makes good popsicles. However, you don’t really need a recipe if you follow this method.
Fresh Fruit Popsicles
Time to make: 10 minutes + time to freeze
Yields: 8 popsicles
- 2 lbs. fresh fruit, such as berries, melon or peaches
- 1/3 cup sugar, or to taste
- 1 tsp. lemon or lime juice
- pinch of salt
- water to thin (up to 1 cup)
- popsicle molds
In a blender or food processor, puree the fruit with the lemon or lime juice, salt and enough water to thin the mixture to pouring consistency, between ¼ and 1 cup. More watery fruits, like watermelon, will require less water, naturally. Mix in the sugar to taste. Riper, sweeter fruit will probably need less sugar. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.