Archive for the ‘dessert’ Category


I love this recipe for pumpkin cheesecake. It’s pretty, it’s rich, and it’s always a crowd pleaser. However, I never, ever fix it for Thanksgiving dinner. Why? It’s too rich, that’s why. With all the other goodies I serve at the Thanksgiving Feast (turkey, dressing, my famous make-ahead gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole with the candied pecans around the top, cranberry/strawberry salad, peas, balsamic roasted vegetables, rolls and butter, pecan pie), I would rather have the traditional pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream. 

Any other time of the year, I’m game for whipping up the pumpkin cheesecake. I’m a sucker for cheesecakes, anyway. Key lime cheesecakes are probably my favorite, especially the two layer one I often fix in the summer because it’s so doggone refreshing! 

The pumpkin swirl cheesecake has my vote as one of the best autumn or winter desserts to serve for a crowd. The servings can be on the small side because they are so rich and it’s easy to get at least 12-15 servings from a large springform pan.  It’s a make-ahead dish, so it’s perfect for a busy person to prepare a day or two in advance. Go for it. 

By the way, this is a recipe from Philadelphia (AKA Kraft) Cream Cheese


For the crust:

25 Nabisco Ginger snaps, finely crushed (about 1 1/2 cups)

1/2 c. finely chopped pecans

1/4 c. (half stick) butter, melted


For the filling:

4 – 8oz. pkgs. Cream Cheese, softened

1 c. sugar, divided, 3/4 c. and 1/4c,

1 t. vanilla

4 eggs

1 c. canned pumpkin

1 t. cinnamon

1/4 t. nutmeg

dash cloves


Oven 325, 300 for a dark pan.


1. Mix ginger snap crumbs, pecans and butter; press firmly onto bottom and 1″ up sides of 9″ springform pan.

2. Beat cream cheese with mixer, adding 3/4 c. sugar and vanilla.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition, until well blended.

3. Remove 1 1/2 c. plain batter; place in small bowl.  

4. Stir remaining 1/4 c. sugar, pumpkin and spices into remaining batter; spoon half of the pumpkin batter into crust; top with spoonfuls of  half of the reserved plain batter.  Repeat layers.  Cut through batters with knife several times for swirl effect.

5. Bake 55 minutes or until center is almost set. (It will jiggle a little when moved.) 

6. Cool completely on rack.  Run a knife around the sides but do not remove the sides until the cheesecake has cooled. Then remove the sides and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight before serving.  Store leftovers covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator for a few days. 


Serves 16

Read Full Post »

Pork? Sauerkraut? Black-eyed peas and greens? Cornbread? Pickled herring? What is your New Year’s Day guarantee of good luck?

For me growing up, it was a nice pork roast, cooked over and under a bed of sauerkraut. Lots of buttery mashed potatoes, and probably carrots, but the pork and sauerkraut were the biggies.

Lately, we have been having the pork and mashed potatoes, but as often as not, the sauerkraut is replaced with braised red cabbage, and the carrots with collard greens. Maybe some cornbread to sop up the nummy juices.

That’s what we’ll be having tomorrow, only no greens. Probably a tossed salad with lettuce and spinach will supply the green quotient for the meal.

I’d like to fix a dessert of some kind but am without inspiration as of 7:00 New Year’s Eve. So whatever it may be it will have to be made of something I have on hand, which gives it a lot of latitude, actually. I have a well stocked pantry. I should be able to come up with a dandy dessert.

Maybe we’ll have those trendy chocolate lava cakes. You know what I  mean, little cakes made of deep, dark chocolate and, when upended on a plate and you dig your spoon into them, the molten center of rich chocolate rolls out. Heaven.

I assume the cakes were initially a failure. Someone made these small individual servings of chocolate cake and the centers didn’t get quite done. The decision was made to serve them anyway. The name “Cakes with the not-quite-all-cooked-middles” didn’t sound right and the name “Lava Cakes” came to mind and it stuck.

Anyway, they are good, quite easy to prepare, and they can be started ahead of time, left in the frig and baked just before you want to serve them. Perfect.


[You can prepare these ahead unbaked if necessary. Keep them covered 2-4 hours in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before baking.]

Serves 4.

4 T. butter, room temperature, plus 1 T. to butter the muffin tins

3 eggs

1/3 c. flour

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely, and melted in bowl over pan of simmering water

1/4 t. salt, if using unsalted butter

1/2c. sugar, plus some for dusting pan

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously butter 4 cups in a muffin tin. (I use a non-stick tin.) Dust with a little sugar.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

3. On low speed, beat in flour and salt just until combined. Don’t overmix.

4. Beat in chocolate.

5. Divide among cups. 

6. Bake on a baking sheet 8-10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes.

7. To serve, turn out cakes and place on serving plates. Dust with confectioner’s sugar if desired or serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

To save leftovers, store covered in refrigerator. Reheat in microwave oven, 2 cakes for 1 minute at 60% power.

Read Full Post »

images.jpgThe current (September, 2007) issus of Food & Wine magazine features Italian cuisine. I have dog-eared more pages than I will be able to fix in the next year, but I will give it a try.

I had guests for lunch today and, although we only had carry-in sandwiches for lunch, I wanted to fix something new for dessert. I remembered seeing a rather simple “mousse” recipe in Food & Wine and I decided, two hours before my guests were to arrive, to see if I had the necessary ingredients. I did, with one exception – creme fraiche.

My small local grocery doesn’t carry such things, and I didn’t have time to drive to a larger store. I remembered reading somewhere, sometime that one could make a reasonable substitute for creme fraiche. Google came to the rescue, as it often does. A quick substitute is 1 part sour cream and 1 part heavy cream, both of which I had. Problem solved. It took about 5 minutes to put the mousse together and it was in the frig for nearly two hours.

It was a big hit. In fact, my two guests copied the recipe at the table in order to be able to make it at home. It is one of those rich, satisfying desserts that belies its simplicity.

So, here is your gift for the day, compliments of Food & Wine. Be warned, however. The recipe makes a pitifully small amount, supposedly for four servings. We had three servings. I suppose four would have been possible and would have made a sufficient dessert after a large meal. We only had sandwiches, so it seemed rather scimpy. I would double the recipe to make adequate servings for 6. I served small cookies for the crunch factor that is missing in mousses.

Gianduja Mousse

1/2 cup chocolate-hazelnut paste, (Nutella)
1/4 cup creme fraiche (1/8 cup sour cream mixed with 1/8 cup heavy, whipping cream)
1 1/2 t. brandy or hazelnut liqueur
1/2 c. heavy cream
Cookies (optional)

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the chocolate-hazelnut paste with the creme fraiche and brandy at low speed until smooth. In another bowl (smaller) beat the heavy cream until firm peaks form (about one minute). Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the chocolate-hazelnut mixture until no streaks remain. Spoon the mousse into small bowls and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Serve with cookies if desired.

(The author, Grace Parisi, suggests spooning the mousse between chocolate wafers and freezing overnight to make ice cream sandwiches.)

Read Full Post »

Thanks to Rachel who sent me a recipe for bread pudding that I am trying for the first time today.  It is one from a BBC America TV show that she happened to catch one day.  It seemed interesting to her so I am giving it a try.

The first thing I had to do was to convert all the metric measurements to the standard ones with which I am familiar, grams to ounces, Centigrade to Fahrenheit, etc. Then I had to find out what castor sugar and demarara sugar are. Castor sugar is extra-finely granulated white sugar. You can make your own with a food processor by grinding regular white sugar for a few seconds.  Demerara is a brown sugar also granulated, but slightly coarser than white sugar but not as coarse as turbinado sugar.  At least that’s what I think they are based on what I could find out on the internet. 

There are websites that  can convert metric measures to US friendly measures. I found a handy conversion calculator for degrees Celsius to degrees Fahrenheit and vice versa.

I used regular white sugar for the castor sugar and I ground up some Turbinado in a coffee bean grinder to make a substitute for the demerara. As my luck would have it, the grinder had last been used to grind up some herby concoction and smelled of savoriness unsuitable for mixing with sugar. I had to clean it out by grinding some white rice. That should serve as a lesson for us all. Clean up as you go. Unfortunately, when preparing a meal there is enough to do without remembering the benefits of grinding white rice in a coffee grinder before putting it away. Anyway, I wound up with a weird textured brown sugar and I had no idea whether or not it would be adequate. A check of the recipe told me that it was just to be sprinkled on the top of the pudding so I figured it wouldn’t matter too much whether I had ground it or not. Another lesson: read the entire recipe carefully before proceeding. I would have saved myself some trouble. Of course, I did get the coffee grinder clean.

Double cream isn’t readily available in the US. I used heavy cream with somewhat less butterfat than double cream has. It is possible to make a closer substitution but I didn’t want to go to that trouble.

The rest of the ingredients were pretty standard. Baileys Irish Cream was one of the ingredients. I had both Baileys and Brogans. I used the Brogans because I don’t like it as a drink quite as well as Baileys. It was just a flavoring for the pudding, after all.

After baking, and glazing, the pudding rested for a while and I had lunch. For dessert I had warm bread pudding and it was very tasty. I would definitely make it again.

Baguette Pudding Laced with Baileys

50 g. soft butter (I have no idea how much this is. I just used as much butter as necessary to butter the baking dish and the bread, probably about half a stick.)
1/2 large baguette, thinly sliced (150 g, about 1/3 lb.)
60 g. Sultanas or dried cranberries or both (I used about 2 ounces of raisins)
2 large eggs
2 large yolks
40 g. Castor sugar (1.3 ounces – I used my kitchen scale to measure)
300 ml Double Cream (I used heavy cream, about 1 and 1/4 c.)
300 ml Milk
4 T. Baileys
Demerara sugar (to sprinkle on top)
3 T. apricot jam

1. Use butter to grease the sides of a 1.5 litre shallow ovenproof dish. (I used an 8 X 8 pyrex dish.) Spread 2-3 teaspoons jam on the bottom of the dish and sprinkle some of the fruit on top.
2. Butter the bread slices. (I just buttered one side)
3. Arrange the bread in the dish in overlapping layers, sprinkling the dried fruit between.
4. Beat the eggs, yolks and sugar together until creamy. Then beat in the cream, milk and Baileys.
5. Slowly pour this mixture over the bread.
6. Press the bread down gently with your fingers so they are completely submerged.
7. Let stand for about 20 minutes to allow the bread to soak up the custard.
8. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. (356 degrees Fahrenheit – I set the oven to 350)
9. Place the dish in a roasting pan and surround it with boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the dish. (This “bain-marie” or water bath prevents overheating the custard which might curdle.)
10. Sprinkle the pudding with the demerara sugar and bake for 40-50 minutes until golden brown.
11. Shortly before the time is up, warm the apricot jam until runny.
12. Dab this glaze over the surface of the pudding and leave it to stand for 15 minutes before serving. (The custard will continue to cook and firm up during this time.)
13. Trickle a little more Baileys over each portion to serve, if desired.

Note: I tore up the bread slices so that they would fit in the pan more easily, and it worked out fine.

Read Full Post »