Pie, to Fill the Void {Buttermilk Crack Pie}

Well, friends, once again I’ve left this space feeling lonely and neglected.  No excuses, other than work and children and life.  Where once this was my escape, now it sits forlorn, waiting.

I suppose everything has its season, and maybe the season for this blog has past.  I don’t know.  I think I’ll keep it around for days like this, when inspiration hits, and I have something worth sharing.

This recipe for Momofuku Milk Bar’s Crack Pie(r) has been floating around the interwebz for a few years now.  I have to say I didn’t really pay it any mind until Bon Appetit featured it a couple of months ago. And then, a few days ago, they went and ran a piece on Desperation Pies making a comeback.

And so, that’s where the idea for this crazy marriage between buttermilk chess pie and crack pie was born.  It’s a little bit salty, a little bit tangy, and a lot sweet – just the way I like it.  The only thing I can find wrong with this recipe is the fact that you have to wait overnight to dig into the finished product (I, of course, couldn’t wait and tried cutting it while it was still warm.  It was a delicious ugly mess).

It was so good, it brought me back to this space so that I could share it with you.



Servings: 10 to 12

Oat Cookie Crust

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 4tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt


  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon nonfat dry buttermilk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Begin by making the oat cookie crust.  Preheat oven to 350F and line a 13x9x2 inch metal pan with parchment paper sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Place 6 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 tablespoons white sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Cream on high for 2 minutes.  Add egg and beat until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Add oats, flour, powder, soda and salt and mix to combine.  Pat dough into prepared pan, spreading evenly, and back at 350F for 17-18 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.

crumbsCrumble cookie as finely as you can, and work the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter into the crumbs so that when you squeeze them together they form a ball.  Press cookie crust into a deep-dish pie pan. Prepare filling.


For the filling, combine sugars, buttermilk powder and salt.  In another bowl, combine the sour cream, milk, melted  butter, egg yolks and vanilla.  Pour over sugar mixture and stir thoroughly to combine.  Pour filling into prepared pie shell and place on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, then reduce oven to 325F and bake for 20 minutes more (or until filling is mostly set).  If the edges start to get too brown, shield with foil.


Remove pie from oven – the center may be a little loose still (it will continue to set up).  Allow to cool to room temperature.

crackpiesugarDust with powdered sugar.  Place, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 24 hours to rest. crackpieeatEnjoy!

Thinking of You {Molten Dulce de Leche Cakes}

I’d like to tell you I was thinking of you when I made this recipe.  I really would, because then, somehow, I could justify having eaten as many as I did.

The truth of the matter is, I haven’t thought about much of anything lately except these cakes. And maybe (perhaps?) the fall/Halloween festival at my son’s school which has (maybe?) consumed my entire world for the last month (or three).  But also these cakes.

And now?  That the fall festival has come and gone (and there was much rejoicing!)?  I can focus on you (ahem, I mean, these cakes).

Because holy molten deliciousness, Batman.  These are good.  No, not good.  No.  These are sinful.  Evil, really.  Mostly because they’re much too easy to make.  If they were difficult or time consuming, I might not be tempted to make them again.  And again.  And again.

And it only gets worse.  You can add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream for a truly ridiculous, over-the-top indulgence.  That’s how evil this really is.  But also?  Rich, and creamy, and gooey.  It’s really too good to pass up.  Terribly, awfully, sinfully good.

So see? I really was thinking of you after all.  You’re welcome.

This recipe entered my world via my Facebook newsfeed back at the beginning of the month.  It may have appeared in an earlier issue of Bon Appetit magazine, but I got it from bonappetit.com.   The ingredient list was comically short: 1 egg, 2 egg yolks, 2 1/2 Tablespoons of flour and a can of dulce de leche.  Mix and bake.

The only reason it took me almost a whole month to try it was I couldn’t find the canned dulce de leche they specified in the ingredient list (I wanted to try it exactly as written first – next time I’ll try making my own caramel).  I finally decided to check our local Wal-Mart of all places, and voila!  There, nestled on the top shelf, next to a variety of cans of la lechera, was a small collection of Nestle-brand dulce de leche.  I snatched up four, and scurried home to fulfill my month-long desire for these cakes.

You can find the recipe here.  I followed it to the letter, only deviating to add a pinch of salt to the batter before baking (next time I think I’ll add a bit more salt,  just because salted caramel is always better in my humble opinion).  I also didn’t have any 4-oz ramekins, so I used my 4-oz canning jars, and they worked like a charm.  We baked ours in a convection oven for 10 minutes, rather than the 12-14 the recipe specifies, and they were just right when they came out.  The whole thing only took 15 minutes start to finish, so you could easily whip these up at a dinner party (or just when you’re craving something sweet.  Like, right now).  I did mine in a stand mixer, but you could use a hand-held mixer if you don’t want to lug out your Kitchen Aid.  I would say you could mix them by hand, but you’d need to whisk pretty vigorously in order to get your eggs to double in volume.

Which, come to think of it, might mean you’d burn off enough calories to justify eating more than one of these little babies.  Not that anyone would ever be that self-indulgent.  Especially not me.

Enjoy (and Happy Halloween)!

Let’s Talk About Running {And Fig Cake}

This title may seem incongruous at first glance.   And possibly at second glance, too.  The truth is, I don’t care.  I want to talk about both, and this here is my blog, so I’m gonna do what I want to do.

So there.

Back in January, I made a commitment publicly – right here in this space – to complete the Couch to 5K program.  I haven’t really talked about it much since then, but that’s not because I haven’t stuck with it.   I ran (sort of) my first (and only) 5K back in March.  And I did run the majority of it, but I was unable (unwilling? unmotivated?) to actually RUN the entire time.

Even now, six months later, I’m still struggling to run more that two miles continuously.  And the truth of the matter is, I’m really not sure if it’s a matter of ability, or just a matter of will.  Because honestly?  I still don’t really like it.  I do it, but I haven’t yet learned to enjoy it.

Please don’t misunderstand – I can definitely tell a difference.  Both in my endurance, and in my body.  And I like that part.

I’m thinking that maybe I need to add some strength training to my routine, because it’s not so much that I get winded, or that my heart-rate is too high; it’s more that my legs start to feel like they weigh about a ton.  And you know, a ton is a lot.  So maybe some strength training would benefit.

This morning I went for a run around our neighborhood.  It was around 10 AM, and the day was just starting to heat up.  I felt pretty good when I started, and I managed to get to about the one-and-a-half mile point before I felt like I needed to take a little break.  I walked for 30-seconds or so, and then picked up the pace again.  I finished it out at a good pace, only stopping to walk the last little bit to cool down.  The problem is, I had really planned to do three miles when I set out from the house. Somewhere along the way, I talked myself out of it and ended up only doing two.

Why do you think that is?  If you run, how do you stay motivated to keep going?  What kinds of strength training do you do?  Do share – maybe I’ll gather some inspiration and motivation from your suggestions.

As a thank you in advance, I’ll share this fig bundt cake with you.  Figs are good for you – especially for runners, as they contain high levels of potassium and fiber.  So, you know, this cake is kind of healthy.  Sort of.

As I was running yesterday, I was contemplating what to take as a dessert to a late lunch/early dinner (dunch?) at my in-laws’ house.  They had graciously kept our boys overnight on Saturday so we could have a grown-ups-only night with some friends and family.  I wanted to contribute a little something as a token of gratitude for their willingness to open their home to our two hooligans.

My mind kept settling on some figs I had put in the freezer back in June after spending an afternoon plucking them from our neighbor’s tree.  I decided on this simple bundt cake that uses fresh fig puree, and I was pleased with the outcome.  The texture was a little funny, more like a steamed pudding than a cake, but that’s probably more because I transported it almost directly from the oven in a cake carrier, so it sat in it’s own condensation for a while.  You won’t have the same problem if you allow it to cool completely before serving.  The flavor is delightfully figgy, and it’s not at all too sweet.  It would be especially nice for breakfast with a cup of coffee.

Fig Bundt Cake with Honey Butter Glaze (adapted from this recipe at Andrea Meyers’ Blog)

prep time: 15 minutes

bake time: 45-50 minutes

yields: 12-15 servings


Fig puree

  • 1 lb figs, destemmed and pureed in the food processor


  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 cups honey granules (can use granulated sugar)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups fig puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3  cups flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda


  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 Tablespoons butter

  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 325F and greasing and flouring a 12-cup bundt pan
  2. Cream together the butter and honey granules using an electric stand mixer with a paddle attachment
  3. Add the eggs, one at the time
  4. Add the fig puree and the vanilla
  5. Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking soda
  6. Add flour mixture slowly to the fig mixture
  7. Scrape batter into prepared pan
  8. Bake at 325F for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean
  9. Turn out and cool on a cooling rack
  10. Prepare glaze by placing the honey and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook until butter has melted and mixture is warm
  11. Glaze cake while it is still slightly warm
  12. Enjoy!

Honey, Cake {Honey Cake}

First, let me just say that we’re not big on terms of endearment in our house.  We don’t call each other Sweetheart or Babycakes or Darlin’.  Or, god forbid, Lover (I think I just threw up in my mouth a little). Sometimes I’ll call my husband stinky, but that’s mostly a descriptor and not so much a term of endearment.

But today’s his birthday, so I’m throwing caution to the wind.

Honey, this cake’s for you.

Happy Birthday, Loverboy.

I married a man whose ideal dessert is yellow cake with white icing, so sometimes I like to change things up a bit in the flavor department.  This year’s cake is a variation on a basic buttermilk cake, but it uses honey granules in place of granulated sugar, and raw honey and honey granules in the cream cheese frosting.  It’s a honey cake.  For my honey.

I think what I like most about honey is that it has a sort of savory quality.  It’s sweet, but also a little salty.  Or musky.  Or earthy.  Or something. It has a complex flavor profile is what I’m getting at.  It works well in this cake, playing against the sour tang of the buttermilk and the cream cheese, and adding a slightly salty note to the whole thing.  It’s almost like a salted caramel, without the caramel or the salt.

It’s tasty, and I think you’ll like it.

Honey Cake with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting
prep time: 30 minutes (total, cake and frosting)
bake time: 25 minutes
yields: 2 eight or nine-inch layers


  • 3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 1/3 cups powdered honey granules
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 2 1/3 cups sifted whole-wheat pastry flour (I used freshly milled here)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon real salt
  • 1 cup cultured buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup raw honey honey
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 16 oz. cream cheese
  • 4 oz. butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered honey granules

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease and flour two eight-inch round cake pans
  2. Sift together your flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside
  3. In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat 3/4 cups room temperature butter on high speed until light and fluffy
  4. Slowly add 1 1/2 cups of honey granules, beating on high speed for 3-5 minutes
  5. Beat the eggs together and slowly add, taking about 2 minutes
  6. Add 1/2 a scraped vanilla bean and mix to incorporate.
  7. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts – begin and end with flour.  Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans and bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes (mine were actually quite dark at the 24 minute mark).
  9. While cake is baking: combine 1/2 cup honey and scraped vanilla bean in a small saucepan.  Add a tablespoon of water and stir to combine.  Heat over low heat until it comes to a simmer.  Remove from heat and allow to cool
  10. Remove cake layers from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5-1o minutes.  Turn out onto a cooling rack and cool to room temperature.
  11. Brush the tops of your cake layers with honey/vanilla mixture.  Reserve the remainder to add to the frosting.
  12. For the frosting: place the cream cheese and 4 oz. of butter in the bowl of your electric mixer.  Beat on high speed until light and fluffy.
  13. On medium speed, slowly add the honey/vanilla mixture, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.
  14. Add powdered honey granules with mixer running.  Scrape down sides of bowl as necessary.
  15. Frost cake layers as desired.
  16. Enjoy.

Because We’re Friends {Chocolate Sorbet}

I’d like to think that we’re friends.  You know, the kind of friends that tell each other about stuff.  Like, you might call me and tell me about a promotion at work or about the terrible day that you had yesterday.  And I might email you or text you when I hear some juicy gossip or when there’s a sale at Victoria’s Secret.

Okay.  Maybe we’re not those kinds of friends.  But we might be after I tell you about this super simple, impossibly rich and creamy chocolate sorbet recipe.  You might just decide that I’m your best friend.  You might drop all of your other friends just to spend time with me.  It’s that good.

Just to be clear – it’s not my recipe.  I’m just passing along a link I saw on Facebook the other day.  And maybe you saw it too – in all likelihood you did.  But the question is – did you try it?  Because if you didn’t?  You’re totally missing out.

Food52’s Kristen Miglore does a weekly feature on recipes she considers to be “genius.”  This past Wednesday, it was David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Sorbet from his 2007 cookbook The Perfect Scoop.  When I saw the ridiculously short ingredient list, I was skeptical.

Cocoa, water, sugar, bittersweet chocolate, vanilla and salt.

That’s all.  Really.  And it comes together in all of 5 minutes.  The longest and hardest part of the recipe is waiting for the chocolate mixture to cool enough to put it in the ice cream freezer.  It’s really dumb how easy it is.

I’m not going to reproduce the recipe here, since I followed it to the letter.  I will tell you that Food52 says this is a vegan recipe, but I used Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate and it contains milk solids – so if you’re looking for a truly vegan version, this ain’t it.  I urge you to try this – especially if you’re a chocolate lover.  It’s creamy, smooth and deeply chocolatey.  This is chocolate ice-cream’s grown-up alter ego.  It forgoes the extra trappings of eggs and cream, leaving you with the true essence of chocolate.

And, because we’re friends (and we really are now, aren’t we?), I’ll leave you with this little tip.  Pour some of this banana liquer over top that chocolate sorbet, and your life will never be the same.  Bananas not your thing?  Try some Grand Marnier or Franjelico.  Whatever you do?  Make this sorbet.  You’ll thank me (your BFF).

David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Sorbet on Food52

Nannerpuss (Or, If You Like, Banana Pudding)

This is a little glimpse into the inner workings of my squirrel-y gray matter.

I sat down to write this post this morning – a post about banana pudding (and an excellent one at that) – when I got sidetracked.  I was trying to come up with a title, and I kept getting stuck on the silly name that my mother had for banana pudding when I was little: nanner-poo (please don’t judge).  From there, I got an endless loop of this:

Do you remember Nannerpuss?  When my oldest son was around three years old, this commercial was popular.  A friend/coworker and I had a mild obsession with this obnoxious dancing and singing banana puppet – mostly because my little boy would sing that annoyingly catchy song in his adorable little three-year-old voice.

As an aside – what does a banana really have to do with pancakes, anyway?  Ponder that and get back to me.

And that jingle?  It really is hard to get out of your head.  So this morning?  When it got stuck in my head?  I decided I needed to share it with all of you so that you could share in my misery joy. Now you, too, can enjoy this little ditty every time you make this glorious banana pudding (nannerpuss) recipe.

You’re welcome.

Now, onto the recipe.  This is an adaptation of an adaptation, so forgive me for indulging in a little background first (as though I haven’t already been more than a little self-indulgent this morning – see above).  As a southern girl, I grew up on banana pudding – layers of  ‘Nila Wafers, sliced bananas, vanilla custard/pudding, all topped with a toasty meringue.  Delightful.  The one thing that always bothered me was that the pudding/custard didn’t taste banana-y enough.  And why should it?  It was vanilla pudding after all.

So, I set out to figure out a way to make my custard more banana-y.  Because, hey! why not?

I turned to my trusty pals at Tastespotting, knowing that someone, somewhere, sometime must have had a similar idea.  And lo and behold, I was right.  Boulder Locavore (who I love, by the way), posted this version a while back.  It was an adaptation of award winning Chef Alex Seidel‘s recipe, which calls for you to make a banana-infused milk before you begin to make your pudding.  You do this by steeping very ripe or roasted bananas in whole milk and then letting the mixture sit overnight to allow the flavors to infuse.  I was intrigued, so I thought I’d give it a go.  Of course, I changed things up just a bit (as I do), but mostly I followed the recipe fairly closely.  What resulted was the most flavorful, silky-smooth banana pudding I’ve ever had.  Try it – I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Nannerpuss Banana Pudding

prep time: 24 hours

cook time: 15 minutes

yields: 12 servings


  • 30 oz. banana milk
  • 4 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 very ripe bananas (the skin on mine was almost black they were so ripe)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 2 1/2 oz. sugar
  • 1 oz. butter
  • 9 oz. sugar
  • 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 oz. egg yolks (approx. 7 egg yolks)
  • 8 oz. whole eggs (approx 5 whole eggs, without shells)
  • 1 3/4 oz. cornstarch
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 2 ripe bananas, sliced
  • 1 box vanilla wafers
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  1. Begin a day in advance – place your whole milk, very ripe bananas, vanilla bean (seeds and pod), 2 1/2 oz. sugar and 1 1/4 oz. butter in a heavy saucepan and bring almost to a boil.  Remove from the heat, cover, and chill overnight.
  2. Strain the banana milk through a fine mesh strainer, pressing with a rubber spatula to extract as much liquid from the bananas as possible.  Discard the mashed banana and vanilla bean pod.
  3. Combine banana milk, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan – bring to a simmer
  4. In a blender, combine egg yolks, whole eggs and cornstarch.  Blend on high to thoroughly combine.
  5. Once the milk mixture has come almost to boil, temper the egg mixture by adding a little bit (1/2-cup or so) of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture in the blender while it is running.  Then add the egg mixture to the hot milk, stirring constantly to avoid curdling.  Be careful – it sets up fast.
  6. Stir constantly, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan as you do.  Remove from the heat if it starts to get too thick.
  7. Once the mixture is thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove it from the heat and pour it through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps.
  8. Add the melted butter, stirring to combine.
  9. Set aside to cool.
  10. Whip the heavy whipping cream and 1 tablespoon of sugar to stiff peaks
  11. To assemble – have ready 12 half-pint mason jars
  12. Place two vanilla wafers in the bottom of each jar
  13. Place two to three slices of banana on top of the cookies
  14. Ladle 1/2-3/4 cup of custard into each jar
  15. Place two more vanilla wafers and three more banana slices in each jar
  16. Ladle the remaining custard into each jar
  17. Top each jar with a dollop of whipped cream.
  18. Enjoy warm, or chill if you prefer.

PS – voting in the Marx Foods’ Integrale Gauntlet is still open (until 1 PM PST tomorrow, in fact), so if you haven’t already, please go take a look at my Risotto Carbonara recipe, and then click over there and vote (for me, if you’re so inclined).  Thanks!


When You Need a Little Pick Me Up: Tiramisu

While there are plenty of things at which I excel, one of the things that I’m not so good at is keeping a tidy and well-organized house.  I struggle with day-to-day chores like vacuuming, dusting and keeping toys picked up and counters wiped off.  It’s just not my thing.  I envy people for whom this comes naturally – like my cousin.  Her house is always spotless, and her kids’ toys are neatly organized and stowed away in color-coordinated bins.  I’m working on it,. but I’m not there yet.My most recent foray into home organization can be seen above.  I got tired of everyone coming home (me included) and leaving their jackets draped across the backs of dining room chairs and kitchen stools, bags sitting on counters or floors and shoes strewn about the house.  I thought if we had a place by the front door where we could remove our shoes and hang our jackets and bags it would be a step in the right direction.  For the last year or so, I’ve been looking for photos of mudrooms and entryways, and when I found something I liked, I would add it to one of my pinterest pin boards.  My goal was to try to recreate these ideas at home on a very restricted budget. I finally managed to do this for under $150, and so far it seems to be working.

Now I just have  to get to work on organizing the rest of the house.  And keeping up with the laundry.  Which is never ending.  Just thinking about all of it is exhausting.

Yesterday, after a morning of house cleaning – which really just entailed me locking myself in my bedroom for four or five hours and filling trash bags with junk and removing every bit of stuff from all of the flat surfaces and thoroughly dusting each and every bit of furniture (including the bookshelves and the books), and vacuuming under the bed, dresser and side tables – I emerged with my lungs full of dust and a hankering for something a little indulgent (as you do).

I settled on Tiramisu, which in Italian means “pick me up.”  It seemed appropriate after a long morning of terrible housework, plus I knew it would be a hit at a neighborhood get together that evening.  Espresso-soaked lady fingers, layered with a rich combination of zabaglione and mascarpone – what’s not to love?

prep time: 20 minutes
cook time: 8-10 minutes
rest time: 2-4 hours
yields: 10-12 servings


  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup plus 4 tablespoons honey granules (can use granulated sugar)
  • 4 tablespoons Marsala wine
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb. mascarpone cheese
  • 2 7 oz. packages lady fingers
  • 2 cups brewed espresso
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

Begin by making the zabaglione.  Combine 5 egg yolks and 1/4 cup of honey granules in the top part of a double boiler.  Using a hand-held mixer, beat on high speed until light in color and foamy.  Bring water to a boil in the bottom part of the double boiler then reduce to a simmer. Add the marsala wine to the egg yolk mixter and place over the simmering water.  Continue to beat on high speed until it has thickened and increased in volume – it should form soft mounts.  Removed from the heat, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cream, mascarpone and 2 tablespoons of honey granules.  Beat on high using the whisk attachment until light and fluffy.  Once the zabaglione has cooled, fold it into the mascarpone mixture.

For the espresso mixture, take two cups cooled espresso, add 2 tablespoons honey granules and 1 tablespoon of vanilla.  In a glass trifle or baking dish, assemble the Tiramisu.  Begin by dipping one side of each lady finger into the espresso mixture and then laying them in the bottom of the dish.  Once you’ve covered the bottom, pour 1/4 of the mascarpone/zabaglione mixture over the ladyfingers and spread it out to cover them.  Sprinkle this with a dusting of cocoa powder, and repeat three more times (ladyfingers, espresso, mascarpone, cocoa).

Once the whole thing is assembled, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

This was the perfect little pick me up yesterday – the strong espresso plays perfectly against the rich, creamy mascarpone and the eggy zabaglione. Paired with a hot cup of coffee or a bit of freshly brewed espresso, it’ll keep you going for hours.



Let Them Eat Brioche

This recipe may seem a little ill-timed, since tonight marks the end of the Carnival season and tomorrow is the beginning of Lent.  If you’re making any sort of Lenten resolutions, you probably won’t be baking this any time in the next forty days.  However, it was too good not to share, so I thought I’d go ahead and put it out there for you debaucherous souls who might want to give it a go.

Given that today is Mardi Gras, I wanted to treat the family to some traditional gumbo and a Gateau des Roi.  I didn’t grow up eating King Cake, or really observing Mardi Gras at all.  As such, I have no reference for what makes a good King Cake.  As an adult, I’ve seen a number of different (shortcut) variations, including cinnamon roll-based cakes and crescent roll based cakes.  While I knew that these recipes that used processed and pre-packaged ingredients were probably not the most traditional versions, they did give me a basic idea of what a King Cake entails – rich buttery dough, stuffed with a sweet filling and topped with a sugary glaze

With some digging, I discovered that traditional King Cake consists of rich brioche bread, filled with cinnamon, almond paste or cream cheese and glazed with simple icing sugar glaze.  They are often sprinkled with purple, green and yellow sanding sugar to reflect the colors of Mardi Gras.  I figured if I could find a good brioche recipe, the rest would be a piece of cake (ha-ha).

For the brioche recipe, I turned to a trusted and reliable source: Michael Ruhlman.  The tagline on Ruhlman’s website is “translating the Chef’s craft for every kitchen,” and he does a skillful job doing just that.  His recipes are well tested, and you can be assured that you will find success if you follow his instructions.  I knew that any brioche recipe I found on his site would be delightful.  When I saw that it called for five whole eggs and twelve ounces of butter (that’s three whole sticks), I figured it could not disappoint.

Since I followed his recipe almost to the letter, I’ll suggest that you click on over to his site if you want to make it.  I did substitute freshly ground hard white wheat flour for the bread flour that he suggests and I used honey granules in place of the sugar.  I also shortened the second rise, choosing to let the dough rise in a warm oven for one hour instead of in the refrigerator overnight.

To make the brioche into a King Cake, I made a cream cheese filling, combining eight ounces of cream cheese, 1/2 cup of honey granules, one large egg, three tablespoons of flour and the zest of one lemon.  I beat this all together until it was smooth.  After the dough had risen the first time (and doubled in volume – this took approximately three hours at room temperature), I punched it down and rolled it out into a long, thin rectangle.  I spread the filling evenly onto the rectangle and folded the dough over onto itself, pinching the edges to seal the filling inside.  I then formed it into a ring and placed it in a greased tube pan.  I covered it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm oven (preheated to 150F, then turned off) for about an hour.

To bake it off, I preheated the oven to 350F, baked the cake for 20 minutes uncovered, then 25 minutes tented with parchment paper (to keep it from getting too brown).  Once it was fully baked, I removed it from the oven, turned it out onto a cooling rack and allowed it to cool completely.

For the glaze, I combined 2 cups of powdered sugar with a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream, stirring to combine.  I added a 1/2 a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, then glazed the cake once it had cooled completely.

Even if you don’t make a king cake, I highly recommend this brioche recipe – it practically melts in your mouth it’s so buttery.  I can imagine using it for breakfast in french toast, or making a decadent croque-monsieur (or even more decadent croque-madame) with it.  In this instance, stuffed (albeit unevenly) with slightly sweet cream cheese and smothered with creamy vanilla glaze, it was the perfect way to top off our family Fat Tuesday celebration.

Now, what to do with the leftovers tomorrow?

Winter. Finally. {And a Recipe for Dried-Apple Slab Pie}

Winter has finally found its way to Georgia.  After weeks upon weeks of unseasonably warm weather, sub-freezing temperatures have arrived with a vengeance. 

I can’t say I’m sorry.  I enjoy the warmth, but I also relish a cup of coffee by the fire, clear cold days and nights curled up under layers of blankets.  The fourth season is often a short one in Georgia, but I’d miss it if it chose to bypass us altogether.

The warm temperatures we’ve experienced up until now have led to some confusion in the garden.  I went out yesterday to cut back the asparagus ferns, brown and dry except for a few red and green berries that are still hanging around.  As I cut the stalks off close to the ground, and pulled weeds from around the bed, I noticed a couple of tender, fresh spears poking up through the dirt.  One of them was nearly white from having been covered over by a patch of chickweed, while the other was bright green tipped in purple.  I carefully cleared the space around them and left them to bask in the bright January sun.  I’m not sure they’ll survive the hard freezes we’re having overnight, but hopefully this bodes well for our spring asparagus crop.

The true onset of winter is signaled by a dearth of fresh fruits at the market.  There are still some varieties of storage apples available locally, but for the most part we’re seeing fruit that’s been flown in from far-flung places. Luckily, I had the presence of mind to dry a bunch of apples back in October.  When we received an invitation to dinner from some friends the other day, I knew just what I wanted to take as my dessert offering.

I had seen a recipe from the King Arthur Flour Baking Banter Blog for an Apple Slab.  I was intrigued by this combination pie/bar/cookie concoction, so I pinned it on one of my Pinterest boards.   I used it for inspiration, but as usual I also made the recipe my own.  The original calls for fresh apples that you layer with bread crumbs and sugar and cinnamon between two pie crusts.  This appears to result in a firmer textured filling.  I was looking for something slightly more pie-like, but that could still be sliced into neat little squares.  Enter the dried apple.

  Dried-Apple Slab Pie with Caramel Glaze

prep time: 1 1/2 hours (allows for filling to cool and crust to rest)
bake time: 1 hour
serves: 12


  • 2 pie crusts (you can use store bought, or your favorite double-crust pie dough recipe)
  • 2 quarts dried apples
  • Apple cider to cover apples (approximately 1 quart)
  • 2 tablespoons sucanat (can use brown sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch mixed with 2 tablespoons water (to form a slurry)
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup honey granules (can use granulated sugar)
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Place dried apples in a large saucepan and cover with cider
  2. Cover and bring to a boil, allowing apples to rehydrate.
  3. Remove apples from the pan and place in a heat-proof bowl, leaving the cider behind in the saucepan.  Add the sucanat and cinnamon to the cider and return to a boil.  Slowly pour the corn starch slurry into the boiling cider mixture, whisking to avoid lumps.
  4. Boil to reduce slightly and thicken.  Remove from heat and pour over apples.  Refrigerate to cool.
  5. While the filling cools, make your pie crust dough.
  6. Preheat your oven to 350F
  7. Roll 1/2 of the pie dough out to a 9×13 inch rectangle.  Place it in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan.
  8. Pour the cooled apple filling into the pan.
  9. Roll the second 1/2 of the dough out to a 9×13-inch rectangle and place on top of the apple filling
  10. Bake for 1 hour.
  11. While pie is baking, make the caramel.
  12. Combine the evaporated milk and honey granules in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Allow to boil until it reaches the firm ball stage.
  13. Remove from heat, add the butter and vanilla, whisking to combine.  Continue whisking until it begins to thicken and loose its sheen
  14. When pie has finished baking, remove it from the oven and pour the caramel over the top.  Use an offset spatula to spread it evenly.
  15. Allow to cool, then slice into 12 squares.

What results is a juicy, tart filling between two flaky layers of pastry, and a creamy rich caramel glaze on top.  The fact that there’s only two tablespoons of sugar in the filling means the true flavor of the apples really comes through.  I had dried a combination of Granny Smith, Pink Lady and Arkansas Black, so the apples were all quite tart.  They balanced quite well with the sweet, buttery caramel. We ate ours plain, but I imagine it would be especially delicious topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

Or maybe even for breakfast with a piping hot cup of coffee.  Curled up with a good book in front of the fire, that sounds like an excellent way to spend a cold winter morning.

Homemade Holiday Gift Ideas ( A Round-up of Sorts)

Can you believe that tomorrow is December 1? I’m kind of in denial about the whole thing – holding on to November for as long as I possibly can.

Maybe it’s because I’m starting a new job on Monday. Yes, right in the middle of the holiday fray, I’m starting a new job and putting my youngest back into day care. What stress? What added pressure?

It’s definitely for the best, and I’m really excited about the opportunity. It just comes (as most things do) at a particularly busy time.

With that in mind, it might be a while before I post anything on the blog. It’s not that I won’t be baking and cooking, it’s just that I’m not sure how much writing and editing time I’ll have. I’m prepared, though. I’m arming you with some of my favorite holiday posts from last year to get you started. These were all big hits with my friends and family, and I hope you’ll enjoy making and giving them as much as I did.

Homemade Panettone (excellent for French Toast)
Time consuming, but totally worth it!

Cranberry and White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
A versatile cookie recipe that adapts to all manner of flavors and add-ins.

Pink Peppercorn Sea Salt Caramels
As delicious as they are beautiful!

Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing
If you’ve ever been intimidated by royal icing, this should help you overcome your fears!

So, thanks to all of you for continuing to come to this little corner of the internet.  I’m grateful for your support and feedback, and for your patience when things get a little sporadic.  Life continues to happen for all of us outside of cyberspace, and I’m thankful that I still have a creative outlet and a place to share the things I love.

Let me know if you try any of these recipes, and if you give them as gifts or keep them all to yourselves (I know I’m tempted to do that with those caramels, and with that panettone).  Hopefully I’ll find that I have time to continue to post regularly, but if not, maybe you’ll find some inspiration from these in the meantime.