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Posts Tagged ‘Sweet Treats’

I had pinned this recipe for Pistachio-Citrus Pound Cake from Orangette to save for sometime when I had citrus fruits to use up, and yesterday was the day. She never steers me wrong, especially when it comes to sweets. Though it calls for lime and orange zest, and lemon and orange juices, I think you could be a little flexible with which fruits you used – I added a little lime juice in place of some orange juice just because I love the lime flavor. Citrus works equally well for cold or warm weather flavors, so it’s really a year-round cake.

The cake is very dense and buttery but the citrus keeps it fresh and light. It’s a DELICIOUS cake. Good for packing in lunches or picnics, I’d imagine, because it will hold up well. Great with coffee or tea for breakfast or snack. I’m sure you could dress it up with whipped cream and berries for a fancier dessert but honestly (and it’s not often I say this), it doesn’t really need it! I’m happily adding this to my file for anytime I need to use up some lemons, or when only a tasty tea cake will do.

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My sister called recently looking for ideas on dessert to take to a dinner party the next day. For the life of me I couldn’t think of more than one on the spot, but a few more have come to me since then, so I thought I’d catalog them for myself, and anyone else who’s interested.

The best things about all these desserts is that they have a fancy, WOW factor yet are extremely easy to prepare. So they’re perfect for dinner parties when you don’t want to add a lot more cooking to your agenda, or for a last minute dish.

1. Choco Hoto Pots – Basically your classic molten chocolate cake, in a ramekin. You can buy very cheap ramekins at World Market so don’t let that stop you. The ingredients are probably already in your pantry (if you keep chocolate chips on hand, which you should).  You can use regular sugar and skip the white chocolate chips. Mix these up by hand (no getting lots of dishes dirty) and then pour into the ramekins and stick in the fridge til you’re ready to bake them. I like to put them in the oven just when everyone has finished dinner, that way there is plenty of time to digest and be ready to eat again by the time they’ve cooked and cooled a bit. Be sure to err on the side of under-baking than over-baking…they need to be gooey in the middle! Spectacular with fresh whipped cream on the top or side if you have extra time.

2. Chocolate Roll – this is a recipe my Mom makes and we’ve all loved it since we were kids. You buy these Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers in a yellow box, often stocked near the ice cream toppings for some reason, in my grocery store. Whip up some fresh whipped cream and then just layer them on top of each other with the cream between, then ‘frost’ the whole roll with whipped cream after laying it on the platter. Super easy. After it chills in the fridge for several hours, the wafer cookies soften and taste like little cake layers. Be sure to cut on a diagonal to get a pretty looking slice.

3. Gingerbread – This is best for fall and winter, and it’s full of all the best spices of those seasons. The cake is a very basic batter to whip up and it’s quite moist so it doesn’t need a frosting. I love it with fresh whipped cream on top. There is also a nice lemon sauce that you can pour over. Easy to make in advance. Very classic recipe.

4. Pumpkin Streusel Squares – This recipe feels like cheating when I make it (using a couple other prepared products makes me feel like it’s not really baking) but it tastes delicious, makes the house smell great, and people go crazy for it. To fancy it up for company, I’d serve it with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

5. Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries – This is a wonderful, cool, flavorful summer dessert. Panna cotta sounds fancy but you’re essentially just mixing a few dairy products together with flavorings and gelatin. Balsamic strawberries are genius – macerated strawberries all grown up with the balsamic vinegar and pepper which somehow, I swear to you, totally work. You can make the panna cotta the day in advance and strawberries a couple hours ahead.

Hopefully these are helpful ideas the next time any of us are in a pinch for something easy and special at the last minute!

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I made these lemon cookies, as a last-minute addition, for a wedding shower this weekend, and they were cleaned completely off the plate! I was a little surprised, because I didn’t know if they were really THAT good or just ok. When I added them to the menu I’d figured they were nice and summery for a bbq and anyone who didn’t like coconut on the cupcakes (poor souls) could enjoy them. But I was really blown away by the response! Since they are so popular I thought I’d throw them up here too.

I double the recipe because it makes a rather small batch. The first time I made these, I didn’t quite double the lemon zest and juice and they definitely were not as lemony as I wanted. The second time I added the full amount and they were, as stated, pretty good. I might like even a little more next time…maybe a little more zest to not add more liquid but get a lot more flavor.

The texture is really chewy with a crackly top that comes from the powdered sugar dusting before baking. These have frozen BEAUTIFULLY – put the fully cooled cookies in a ziplock and they come out of the freezer like new.

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Thanks to an idea I found on Pinterest and my newfound love of using the ice-cream scoop for making cookies, I’ve started using a new method of sharing homemade cookies with friends. There is really not much better than a homemade cookie (especially, it must be said, if it’s this chocolate chip cookie recipe) and fresh-out-of-the-oven homemade cookies are the absolute pinnacle of such pleasures. If I bring cookies over to someone I like them to be quite fresh, made the same day preferably, and that can be challenging to plan around delivery. On the other hand, bringing raw cookie dough still requires some work on their part and if they are truly quite busy, it may not be helpful. Finally, for folks who had a new baby or may otherwise be inundated with lots of food at the same time, they may not need or want extra baked goods at that moment.

The perfect solution to all these problems is to pre-roll the cookies and bring them over frozen!

I spent a couple hours one afternoon making two batches of cookies – chocolate chip and Ina’s wonderful oatmeal raisin cookies (the perfect blend of crunchy and chewy). Since I had all the ingredients and equipment out, it took just a few minutes more to make two instead of one. When the dough was all pulled together, I used the ice cream scoop to make the cookies on the sheet pan and then put the whole pan in the freezer. Once the balls of dough were completely frozen, I took the pan out and let it sit for a couple minutes to release the cookies from the pan a bit, and then plucked those little frozen balls of doughy goodness off the pan and popped them into a freezer bag.

(I thought it would be helpful to include specific directions on how to cook them directly on the bag so that a paper wouldn’t get lost.)

Then, all my friends need to do is turn on their oven, lay as many cookies as they want to cook at that time on the pan, and they’ll have hot gooey buttery homemade cookies in just a few minutes!

Having a supply of these bags in the freezer means that I can easily grab them to run over to someone on a moment’s notice – and if I need them for us or company and don’t have time to bake, they are ready for me to use on demand as well! I’ll be keeping my freezer stocked with cookie dough from now on.

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I must give full credit to Pinterest for this delicious find (recipe here). (See, Hubby, it IS productive!). There’s not much my girlfriends love more than chocolate and red wine, so I felt I really had no choice but to try this recipe. I definitely think they are going to like it.

The recipe is  not complicated – a basic cream-butter-and-sugar-then-add-dry-ingredients batter with red wine splashed in at the end. I was somewhat concerned about the level of alcohol after I licked the batter and felt a little tipsy…but most of it cooked out. This tastes like a moist chocolate cake, with a hint of something adult in the aftertaste. It’s really yummy, though fairly plain – a tea cake almost, perfect for afternoon snack. I think it would be extra good dressed up with a homemade whipped cream or creme fraiche and some berries. This cake may be a summer staple when berries are in season! And perhaps the best thing about it is that since we always have red wine on hand, it’s an easy pantry dessert that you can whip up in a snap without needing to go to the grocery store!

Bon appetit!

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There’s a yummy little cookie called Speculoos that I always savored and saved in the freebie packets I got on the plane when flying through Belgium. They are a thin, crisp cookie, which isn’t the kind I normally love (i.e. not chewy or frosted). But they are very flavorful – full of the fallish flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc. In Europe I have also seen (okay, eaten) Speculoos-flavored gelatto and other treats. They are all good. It’s yummy stuff.

Last summer I made an expensive and questionable spur-of-the-moment decision to buy a jar of Nutella-like spread from the charming but overpriced Pain Quotidien, a Belgian cafe chain that has a few outlets in the DC area now. They had a sample jar out when I was buying a sandwich and it was so heavenly, I bought it on the spot. It was really delicious spread on warm toast, but at the hefty price tag, I’ve only stared longingly at it through the window and not purchased it again since.

Fast forward to last week at Trader Joe’s. (We go there a lot as there is now a store open within walking distance of our apartment!) I saw this in a huge endcap display:

I have to wonder how popular that jar has been, because if I hadn’t already loved me some Speculoos cookies and other treats, I’d have passed by without a second glance. Maybe they are doing samples to get people hooked. But if you live near a Trader Joe’s, let me just spare you the suspense – go buy a jar tomorrow. Make a regular piece of toast (though the better the bread, the more yummy). Spread it on THICK. Let it sit for a moment to totally melt. Then eat the gooey, sweet, delicious thing completely up. Suitable for breakfast, post-lunch, afternoon coffee break, or dessert. Or all of the above.

You’re welcome. 🙂

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Foster’s Blondies

One of the highlights of living in the Durham/Chapel Hill area is Foster’s Market. I had known about Sara Foster from reading her recipes in Cottage Living (wipe tear for the demise of that awesome magazine) – every time I made something from that recipe that I liked, it was one of her recipes. I was so excited when my husband told me that she actually has a couple cafe’s in North Carolina. The first morning we woke up in North Carolina, we went to Foster’s Market in Chapel Hill so I could gleefully check out her fabulous foods in person. It continues to be a great treat for us to go to Foster’s for breakfast or lunch – it was even our first meal out with our daughter after her two week check up.

I already have her Fresh Every Day cookbook and have really enjoyed it. Then we had the coconut macaroons on a recent visit – and oh my goodness was that cookie AMAZING!!! I had to find out which cookbook the recipe was in so I could make them at home as soon as possible. Happily for me the recipe is in Sara’s first book, The Foster’s Market Cookbook, and even more happily my sister sent it to me for my birthday! Hooray!

I’m getting to the coconut macaroons tomorrow…and will share the recipe and some pics! But the first recipe I made were these UNBELIEVABLE Blondies. We grilled out with friends the other night and I wanted to make a dessert but did not want to go to the grocery store. I had all the ingredients for these in my pantry, and really love good blondies, so I decided to give them a try. Ooooooh am I glad I did! A really good blondie is hard to find, I think – they can taste more like a chocolate chip cookie bar, which is fine, but not that exciting. These were perfect – even though we overcooked them, they were still really chewy and REALLY caramely, exactly how you would want a blondie to taste! There is a ridiculous amount of brown sugar in the recipe – 4 cups!!! – and no white sugar, so I’m sure that’s what gives it such a deep rich nuttiness.

This recipe fills a half-sheet pan (one of the most useful tools in my kitchen, for baking, roasting and all kinds of other uses) so it makes a huge amount, but I popped the unused half in the freezer and am sure they’ll be just as delicious the second time around.

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