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   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!

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.


Holiday traditions: Panettone

For quite a few years, our family has had a tradition of making french toast on Christmas morning.  For the longest time we made it with Challa because of it’s rich eggy flavor and wonderful texture – perfect for soaking up all that custardy goodness.

One year, though, we discovered the wonders of french toast made with panettone, and we’ve never looked back (at least on Christmas morning).

For about five years, I worked for Williams-Sonoma, and believe you me, I took advantage of the discounts that their associates receive every chance I got.  Oh, how I miss that discount.

Anyway, every year at Christmas, they would sell these huge tins of panettone chock-full of dried fruit and these lovely candied chestnuts.  And every year I would hope and pray that there would be one left after they went on sale toward the end of the season (you see, they cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 each, which was more than I was willing to pay for a loaf of bread – I don’t care how good it was).  Luckily, most years I was able to score one, and I would proudly bring it home and make the best french toast you ever did taste.

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve worked at the old W-S, and I’ve managed to make do each year since with other brands of panettone, but the tradition has definitely continued.

A couple of years ago, my mother tried her hand at making panettone at home, and she was sorely disappointed with the results.  It turned out dry and cakey, without the lovely light, moist crumb that you expect from good panettone.  I’m not sure what recipe she used, so I can’t steer you clear of it, unfortunately.

This year, I decided to throw my own hat in the ring and make a go of it.  I searched the internet for recipes, wanting to find a really good authentic version.  Unfortunately, I found that most folks who claimed exceptional results were hesitant to share their secrets.  There was one constant thread, though, that ran through most of the success stories, and that was using a sponge starter, biga or sourdough starter.  Evidently, the most traditional versions are made this way in Italy, and the best results are achieved by doing so.

In my search, I came across this website, which gave a cute little history of the bread, detailing the story of a protective father, a smitten suitor and a resulting famous loaf of bread that has lived on in infamy for centuries.  Additionally, it gave a recipe.  It seemed straightforward enough and it used a sponge starter, which appears to be the key to all good panettone.

A couple of people who’d written up their panettone adventures mentioned using Peter Reinhart’s recipe from the Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  His starter uses buttermilk in place of water, which seemed like an intriguing idea to me.  I’ve recently begun replacing the water in my bread recipes with the whey I have leftover from various cheese-making experiments.  Since whey is similar to what buttermilk used to be before it became the modified food-starch and carageenen-laden cultured skim milk you find in the grocery store these days, I thought it might work here.

And I was right.

prep time: 18-24 hours
bake time: 45 minutes
yields: 1 large loaf
1/2 Tablespoon dry  yeast
1/4 cup warm whey (110 – 115 degrees F)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup apple cider
1 Tablespoon honey or agave nectar
5 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 eggs
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup warm whey
   (110 – 115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon vanilla
4-4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped candied citrus peel
  1. Begin by combining yeast, 1/4 cup of warm whey and 1/2 cup of flour in a container.  Stir to combine thoroughly and let sit for at least 6 hours or overnight (mine sat for about 8 or 9 hours).
  2. Combine raisins, cranberries, apple cider and honey or agave nectar in a bowl and let soak while the starter is resting.
  3. After the 6-hour window has passed, drain the liquid from the fruit and press to remove as much moisture as possible.  Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the softened buttter, eggs, egg yolks, sugar, 1/4 cup warm whey and vanilla.  Stir to thoroughly combine.
  5. Add the starter to the egg mixture and stir to combine
  6. Gradually add the flour, sifting one cup at the time into the bowl an stirring to combine before adding the next cup.
  7. Once last cup of flour has been added, you may have to mix by hand to incorporate.  
  8. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead vigorously until the dough forms a smooth ball – about 10 minutes.
  9. Butter a large bowl, place the dough in there and turn to coat both sides with butter.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Set in  a warm place to rise for at least 6 hours (mine rose overnight, and actually over-rose the bowl I put it in – oops!).
  10. To make the panettone mold, I used an 8-inch cake pan with 2 1/2-sides, and made a tall collar out of parchment paper – the whole thing was probably 10-inches tall by the time I got done with it.
  11. Butter/spray your panettone mold thoroughly
  12. Punch down the risen dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
  13. Shape the dough into a rectangle and sprinkle the raisins, cranberries and candied citrus over the surface.
  14. Fold the dough in thirds, covering the fruit, and knead it to fully and evenly distribute the fruit (this was a messy process, and required me to continually add more flour to keep the dough and fruit from sticking to my board.  In the end it yielded a fairly homogeneous mixture).
  15. Place the dough in your prepared pan and allow it to rise for at least another hour (I let mine go for a couple of hours, while I was running last-minute Christmas errands).
  16. Preheat your oven to 375F.
  17. Cut an X in the top of the dough and place the panettone in the oven to bake at 375F for 15minutes (the top element of my oven gets really hot, and tends to burn things if I’m not careful.  After the first 15 minutes, I had to cover the panettone with foil to keep it from burning to a crisp.  As you can tell by the pictures, it got pretty brown in that first 15 minutes).
  18. Lower the temperature to 350F and bake for another 30-35 minutes, or until a long skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  19. Allow to cool on a rack on the countertop for 30 minutes before removing it from the mold.

What resulted was a lovely, light, moist loaf of panettone.  It isn’t too sweet, and it has just enough fruit in it so that you can taste it, but it’s not overpowering.  I think it will make a wonderful french toast on Christmas morning.

If I don’t eat it all before then.

Try it and let me know what you think!

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!