About a year ago, my beloved wife decided she was going to radically change her diet. She has some health challenges and one day decided she was going to stop eating any refined sugars and basically all refined carbs. No pasta, no white flour, no rice. I’m so proud of her for the determination and grit that she has shown, but it’s a bit of a challenge for me to cook without all of my favorite ingredients! This torte is one of the success stories from me taking that challenge. The recipe that I adapted comes from Deb Perelman’s wonderful The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.
Note: If you are totally sugar free, you’ll want to use unsweetened chocolate and probably increase the stevia (or sucralose or whatever) by another tablespoon or two. Also, I have substituted agave for the honey with fine results.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Allow the butter to spit a little bit until small brown flecks start appearing at the bottom of the pan. The butter will be aromatic and smell like nuts. Once your butter browns, take it off the pan and stir in the chopped chocolate. Stir or whisk until it is well mixed and allow it to cool.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease and/or line a 6″ springform or round pan and set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk the eggs and sweeteners until it’s smooth and consistent. Add in the cooled chocolate mixture (make sure to scrape the brown butter bits off the bottom of the pan) and keep beating until it becomes a rich brown color and all ingredients have been well incorporated. Add the vanilla and salt and mix some more.
In a larger bowl (or your stand mixer bowl) beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Stir about 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter. Then gently fold in the remaining 2/3 using as few strokes as possible.
Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the center of the cake puffs up (it will deflate shortly). Allow the cake to cool for about 10 minutes, then release the cake and allow to fully cool on a plate or a wire rack.
Even though my beloved Georgia peaches took a beating this year, you should be able to find some for this. Canned peaches have worked for me in a pinch as well, although I adjust the sugar when I go that route.
Put everything except the butter and oats into the bowl of a food process and pulse a couple of times to mix everything up. Add the butter pieces and half of the oats, then pulse a few more times until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Then add the rest of the oats and pulse two or three more times. Put the entire thing in the refrigerator for 15 minute or so. I usually do this first and then work on the fruit.
Also, I usually preheat the oven to 375 degrees at this point.
Toss all of this together and pour into your baking dish. If you’re like me, peeling the fruit takes forever and it’s been way more than 15 minutes for the topping to set. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit and then bake about 40 minutes. I usually turn on the broiler at the end and get the top perfectly golden brown. **Caution** If you do this, DO NOT walk away from it. Stand there and stare at it until its done or it will get away from you! (Ask me how I know.)
A bonus recipe that is probably my second most requested recipe. Make this Peanut Butter Cheesecake today. Seriously.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Set a large tea kettle of water to boil.
Use a 9-inch springform pan. Tear off a rectangular piece of 18-inch aluminum foil, and wrap it underneath the springform bottom and fold up along sides of pan, creating a water-tight barrier. It’s a good idea to use a second piece of foil to ensure water tightness.
Inside the pan, brush bottom and sides with melted butter. Drop in crumbs, and tilt the pan around to coat bottom and sides with crumbs evenly. Press crumbs into place.
Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar cheese and beat about 3 minutes on low speed. Add peanut butter and beat until combined.
Add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated. Add vanilla extract, mix. Add heavy cream, mix. Add a pinch of salt. After ensuring all ingredients are mixed evenly and thoroughly, pour mixture into the prepared pan.
Place springform pan into a roasting pan.
Place roasting pan on middle rack in oven, securely, and pour enough boiling water to go half way up side of springform.
Bake for 55-60 minutes. Doing the jiggle test: gently shaking the springform pan, the outside of cake will appear firm but the center will jiggle like Jell-O, and the top will not look browned, thus giving the appearance that it is underdone. But this is what you want because the hot cheesecake will continue to cook.
Turn off oven. Use a wooden spoon to open keep the oven door ajar a couple inches in order to cool. Leave cheesecake in oven for an hour.
Remove springform pan from roasting pan, place on rack on counter to cool to room temperature for 2-4 hours.
Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight. Optionally, drizzle melted chocolate over the top.
No, No No. I was JUST KIDDING, HONEY! Remember you said they were awesome. My son and I were debating about what to make for dessert and so I started listing all the things we had in the pantry to work with. We had coconut, white and bittersweet chocolate, and coconut milk. He won’t eat coconut, but he thought it was a good idea to make truffles. I should listen to that kid more often.
Macadamia Coconut Truffles
Break up the white chocolate into small pieces and put into a medium sized microwave safe bowl. Zap it for 30 seconds at a time, stirring until melted. Add coconut, sugar, and coconut milk, stir until combined, Put coconut mixture into the freezer for around 30 minutes.
Break up the chocolate and melt in the microwave, once again for 30 seconds at a time. Once it’s completely melted, let cool for 5 minutes or so (who has time to temper the chocolate?). Take the coconut mixture out of the freezer and use a small ice cream scoop or melon baller to form the insides of the truffles. Drop them one by one into the melted chocolate and roll them around until completely covered on all sides. Put the truffles onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. If you’re going to use the macadamia nuts, sprinkle them over the tops.
Let truffles cool for at least 30 minutes (try your best) and the chocolate hardens and turns shiny. Enjoy them!!
A few weeks ago I made egg rolls and I ended up with a bunch of extra wonton wrappers. I decided to cut them into strips and fry them plain just to see what would happen. They turned out great. After just a couple of minutes, they were golden brown and crispy. We drizzled honey on some of them and my wife tossed some others in cinnamon and sugar and they were a hit with everyone.
The cinnamon and sugar one was the one that got us thinking about pairing up with apples and ice cream. Let me know what you think of this one!
Caramel Apple Sundae
For the apples:
Heat a heavy deep skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat. Melt the butter, then add the apples and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the rest of the ingredients and stir until mixed well. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes more, until the apples are fork tender. Mix the cornstarch and water in a small bowl, then add to the apple mixture, stirring until it’s thick and smooth.
For the wontons, just take ordinary wonton wrappers and cut them into interesting shapes (go nuts) and fry them for 30 seconds or so on each side in hot oil. Drain on paper towels.
For the caramel sauce:
This is really easy to do, but BE CAREFUL. The sugar will get “boiling lava” hot, and can be very dangerous if you come into contact with it. (That’s a quote from my wife.) As a matter of fact, go read David Lebovitz’s How to Make the Perfect Caramel before you start. Go on, no cheating. We’ll be here when you get back.
Get your heaviest skillet or pan out and make sure that it is very clean. Then put the sugar in an even layer over the bottom and set it over high heat. Get a wooden spoon out and when about 25% of the sugar has melted, gently start mixing the solid sugar bits together. When the caramel starts smoking (it will, don’t panic) you want to wait just a minute or so past that, then add the cream slowly while stirring constantly. Be careful as you add it because it will bubble up (remember that it’s lava) and if it hardens up in places, just keep stirring. Take it off the heat when it gets to a nice even consistency. If it’s too thick you can add another 1/4 cup of cream.
To bring it all together, get a nice scoop of good vanilla ice cream, surround it with the apples, then drizzle the caramel sauce over a couple of the wontons and garnish with them. Everyone will love it, trust me.
I love the transition between the seasons. Spring to Summer (along with Fall to Winter) are my favorites, because that’s when the menus really change. All of a sudden you see ramps (which are a kind of wild leek) in the farmers market and everyone is cooking with berries and making lighter dishes.
For me, that idea of lighter goes all the way to the dessert course. Ordinarily I am a huge fan of ultra rich desserts in which chocolate (the darker the better) plays at least an ensemble role. Summer comes around, though and all of a sudden I’m thinking about fruit salsa and strawberry trifle and one of my all time favorites, fruit pizza!
I came up with this in one of my horrible moments of realization that I committed to bring something in for an office party and totally forgot about it until 10pm the night before. As you can imagine, it’s VERY simple and quick. The results were unanimously approved though!
Roll out the sugar cookie dough until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. If needed, trim the dough down to fit in the bottom of a greased 11”x13” pan. Bake as (more or less) directed by the instructions on the package. Start looking at it a couple minutes before it’s supposed to be done. You don’t want to over bake this. When the dough is a nice golden brown, remove to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.
Spread cut fruit out on a large cutting board or half sheet pan and sprinkle with sugar. Let it set while the crust cools. This will both draw out some of the moisture and add sweetness.
Mix cream cheese, marshmallow cream and vanilla until combined and smooth. When crust is room temperature, spread the cream mixture evenly over the top. Finally, arrange the cut fruit pieces artistically over the top of the cream. Serve immediately or refrigerate.
I love a good custard. Creme Brulee is another one of those “must order” compulsions that I’ve mentioned before. This is a simplified take on the classic French Pots de Creme that I got from a Cooks Illustrated magazine. Judging from her reaction, this is a new favorite of Kitty’s.
I found this gorgeous image of someone else’s recipe for this, which is way more appealing than I could come up with. Her recipe is the classic preparation of the dish where you bake the custard and so on. I really don’t think the extra steps are justified…but you be the judge.
Chocolate Pots de Creme
Put chocolate pieces in a large heat proof bowl. Put a fine mesh strainer over it. Set aside.
Whisk together egg yolks, sugar, salt, cream and half and half in a large sauce pan until combined. Put over medium low heat and stir constantly – this is critical. If you let the pan get too hot or don’t stir it enough, the eggs will scramble and you will not be happy.
This is an exercise in patience as it will seem like nothing is happening for a good 8 or 9 minutes while you endlessly stir it. You will be rewarded all of a sudden when it starts to thicken. If you have an instant read thermometer, you’re shooting for between 175 and 180 degrees. The consistency should be a little thick, enough to thinly coat a spoon and leave a clear line if you run your finger through it. You also don’t want to overcook this (it will curdle), so take it off the heat as soon as you feel good about the consistency.
Pour the custard through the strainer, over the chocolate and let sit for about 5 minutes. Gently whisk together the custard and chocolate until combined, then add the vanilla. Pour into 8 ramekins or cups, then allow to cool to room temperature. Chill completely, about 4 hours. Serve with fresh whipped cream – don’t forget: cool whip blows.
This post will probably leave you with the absolutely inaccurate idea that I prefer non-chocolate desserts. This is heresy, plain and simple. I like this recipe and I haven’t really found a scratch brownie recipe that gives as good results.
I have mentioned before that I am no photographer, and looking over the pictures I’ve posted so far, you already knew that. I also forgot to take a picture of these before they were all eaten. (Yeah, they’re that good). Instead I’ll post a picture of my favorite Hollywood Blonde (pun intentionally not avoided), Ingrid Bergman. I’m a huge old movie fan and I’ll watch any movie she was in…
This recipe comes from Cook Illustrated Magazine, which is done by the same guys as The Best Recipe Cookbook. I like the magazine a lot, but I really hate their whole web strategy of making you pay for content. That’s a different post entirely.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 pan with tin foil long ways, leaving a couple of inches of foil to hang over the edge on either side. Then do another piece of foil the same way across the width of the pan. Spray the inside of the pan with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt together. In a large bowl, mix brown sugar and butter. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Then fold in the flour with a rubber spatula until just combined, don’t overmix it. (Folding means running the spatula from the bottom of the bowl to the top and then circling the side. It’s not that big of a deal if you just stir it…) Now mix in the chocolate chips.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out with your spatula. Bake for about 20-22 minutes. Be careful not to leave this in too long. It’s a little tricky to tell if it’s done, because the toothpick in the middle trick doesn’t work (if you leave it in until it’s clean, they will be hard bricks). When they top is shiny and cracked and a golden brown color, it’s done. Take them out and let them cool on a rack to about room temperature. Slice them into whatever size you look and enjoy.
Try them with chocolate ice cream for a kind of reverse brownie sundae (my brilliant wife’s idea), it’s really tasty.
I debated long and hard over which of my MANY favorite desserts to post first. (Anyone who has seen me can clearly see that I wear my love of dessert on my midsection.) I came home from work and noticed that we had some strawberries that needed to be used, so I thought, what about a fresh strawberry shortcake. Ordinarily I am very much of the “If it’s not chocolate, don’t bother” mindset, but there’s something about fresh berries in spring time.
The shortcake recipe comes directly from the Best Recipe Cookbook, which is one of my staples. I just kind of threw the berry part together and it turned out pretty well. The one thing I have to say is PLEASE don’t use Cool Whip with this. Whipping the cream takes a little more effort, but it is SO much better, don’t cheat yourself.
Put the berries in a bowl, add the lemon juice and sugar. Mix well and let sit at room temperature while making the shortcakes.
You can also do a mixture of berries or substitute some other fruit. Go crazy.
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, salt and 3 tablespoons of sugar in the bowl of a food processor (or other large bowl, if doing by hand). Scatter the butter pieces, then toss with flour to coat them. Cut butter into flour with about 5 1 second pulses, or use a pastry blender to cut the butter until it looks like coarse cornmeal. Turn mixture into medium bowl.
Mix beaten egg with half and half, then pour into bowl with flour mixture. Combine with a rubber spatula until a large clump forms. You don’t want to over mix this, so don’t worry if you have a bit of unincorporated flour at the bottom. Turn out onto floured counter top and knead dough lightly until it comes together. Pat dough out to about a 9” x 6” rectangle that’s about 3/4” thick. Flour a 3” biscuit cutter (I’ve used glasses, ramekins, etc when I couldn’t find the biscuit cutter) and cut out 6 dough rounds. Place the rounds about 1” apart on a heavy baking sheet.
Brush tops with egg white, then sprinkle on the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. This is going to give them a great golden color and a crunchy sweet top. Bake them for 12-14 minutes, then take them out and cool them on a wire rack for about 10 minutes or so.
Homemade Whip Cream (Cool Whip Blows)
Put cream, sugar and vanilla in large stainless steel bowl. With a whisk (if you’re crazy) or a hand mixer beat at high speed for a few minutes until soft peaks form when you pull the beaters out.