Tag Archives: Dessert

Cooking is Hard Work!

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I recently undertook my biggest single cooking endeavor to date: a co-worker’s wedding shower. This was difficult not only because it was dinner for 30 people, but also because I was cooking for some of my favorite people and I wanted them to know how much I cared for them via the food that I cooked.

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In order to display my love for these people (especially Lisa and Cameron, the brides-to-be) I cooked as much of the food from scratch as possible. And cook from scratch I did! There are too many recipes to put them all here, so look below for photos and links!

The hors d’oeuvres

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Zucchini Fritters

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Jalepeno Poppers

and Cheese Straws

Main Course and Side Dishes

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Brisket

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Hamburger Buns

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Roasted Veggie Pasta Salad

Also there but not pictured:
Barbecue Sauce
Summer Corn Soup (I served it chilled)
Basil and Mint Melon Salad
Ranch Dressing for a lovely green salad

For dessert we had…
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Red Velvet Cupcakes and Lime Bars

All in all the feast was a huge success and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again!

Lemon Mint Granita (with a secret ingredient!)

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For Father’s Day I wanted a light refreshing dessert and when I came across this recipe on Smitten Kitchen I knew this would be perfect! Even better, Deb suggested using limoncello which my mom just happens to make and store in our freezer!

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The combination of lemon and mint, with a slight kick from the limoncello (I only used a 1/2 cup because I wanted to make sure that the granita would freeze properly) is incredibly refreshing and perfect on a summer night, even if it isn’t so warm out. Using the hollowed out lemons makes for a lovely presentation and it is pretty easy if you employ both a grapefruit knife (bent, serrated blade) and a grapefruit spoon (serrated tip) to completely clean out the lemon.

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The freshness of the mint and the tartness of the lemon all brought together with a little liquer and a little sugar, ugh, to die for! So, without further ado:

Lemon-Mint Granita
Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients
4 lemons
3 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup limoncello
4 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
30 mint leaves (a handful)

Method
1) Slice the tops off the lemons (and a little bit off the bottom so they sit up for serving) and remove all of the pulp and pith from the inside using a grapefruit knife for the primary work and a grapefruit spoon for all the clean up. Do this over a bowl so as to lose as little juice as possible. If you are using the empty lemon shells for serving: place them in the freezer so they can firm up.

2) Pluck 30 or so mint leaves and throw them and the lemon innards into a blender and blend it within an inch of its life (about 1 minute). You want it to be so that the mint is tiny little flecks. Let this mixture sit for about 5 minutes so that the flavors can meld.

3) Pour the lemon-mint puree into a fine mesh sieve and extract as much liquid out of it as possible. You don’t want to have a chunky granita, so it’s ok if a little mint gets through, but don’t let anything else pass you by!

4) Add to the lemon-mint juice the water and limoncello (if you’re using it). Mix and add sugar 1 TBS at a time until you reach the desired sweetness.

5) Pour this wonderful mixture into a baking pan, making sure that the liquid doesn’t stand more than 1 inch deep (so that it doesn’t take too long to freeze).

6) Put the pan in the freezer. Break up the semi-frozen liquid after about an hour and then leave it undisturbed to freeze the rest of the way, about 2-3 hours.

7) When ready to serve break the granita into little pieces/flakes by raking back on it with a fork. Spoon the little crystals into the lemon cups or serving cups and eat immediately! Enjoy the brain freeze!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

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Depending on where you live the weather may just be starting to get consistently nice (as it is here in Portland) or it could be in the full throes of summer (as one of my Arizona-native roommates bemoans). We made this pie over Spring Break, which was a while ago now, even thought the weather wasn’t particularly springy at the time.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is always delicious, sweet from the strawberries and tart from the rhubarb with a lovely intermingling of cinnamon. This is a perfect recipe that is just sweet enough but one that doesn’t overwhelm the wonderful tart qualities of the rhubarb!

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Bonus: What is wrong with this picture?

Answer: I am horrible at weaving lattice, notice the mistake in the upper left-hand corner. I could pretend that this was the only lattice mistake in the pie, but that would be untrue.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Pie recipe from here via Kit Leitschuh, crust recipe from Jan Layne.

Crust
In a large bowm mix together with a pastry blender until crumbly:
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups Crisco

In a cup mix together:
5 TBS cold water
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 egg, slightly beaten

Add the mixture in the cup to the mixture in the bowl. Mix with a large spoon, DO NOT OVER MIX!

Shape into 3-4 balls. Roll out each pie crust you intend on using right away and freeze the rest.

Pie
3 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices trimmed rhubarb (1 1/2 pounds untrimmed)
1 16-ounce container strawberries, hulled, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Method
Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Toss gently to blend.

Roll out 1 dough disk on floured work surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter flass pie dish. Trim excess dough, leaving 3/4-inch overhang.

Roll out second dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Cut into fourteen 1/2-inch-wide strips. Spoon filling into crust. Arrange 7 dough strips atop filling, spacing evenly. Form lattice by placing remaining dough strips in opposite direction atop filling. Trim ends of dough strips even with overhang of bottom crust. Fold strip ends and overhang under, pressing to seal. Crimp edges decoratively.

Brush glaze over crust. transfer pie to baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake pie until golden and filling thickens, about 1 hour 25 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.

Torta Mil Hojas

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Torta Mil Hojas (Cake of 1,000 Sheets) is an amazing Chilean cake that is a real labor of love. Each layer has dulce de leche, and in the case of this cake, whipped cream in between each layer. The recipe makes ten layers, but I only had enough dulce de leche to use 6 layers.

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Each ball of dough was somewhere in size between a golf ball and a tennis ball and was pretty easily rolled into a 9-inch circle. However, I had to bake each of these layers individually, so it took about 2 hours and turned into a real labor of love. For this reason I probably won’t ever make this cake again. While in Chile I never witnessed a homemade version of this cake (only bakery-produced) and now I know why.

If you are feeling brave and have lots of time, this is an absolutely amazing dessert that will really wow your guests. My cake made ten servings, but I think my rounds ended up being a bit smaller than the 9-inches recommended in the recipe.

Torta Mil Hojas
Adapted from All Recipes

Ingredients
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
7/8 cup butter
3 egg yolks
1 cup milk

2 (14 ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
1 pint whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp powdered sugar

Method
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Mix together the flour and baking powder; set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Blend in the egg yolks, one at a time. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk. The dough will be stiff like a cookie dough. Divide the dough into 10 pieces and shape into balls. Roll each ball into a 9 inch circle. Place on cookie sheets and prick with a fork in several places.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside to cool fully, from 10 minutes up to over night.

Make the Caramel Filling: In a sauce pan, boil the unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk for 3 hours. Monitor the water closely, to make sure there is always water in the pan. Remove can from heat and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

Assemble cake about 2 hours before serving. First, whip cream until soft peaks form. Add vanilla and powdered sugar, then beat until slightly firmer than normal whipped cream. Take first layer, spread first with dulce de leche and then whipped cream, continue stacking and layering until all layers (or all filling) are (is) used. Place cake in refrigerator, remove immediately before serving.

Apple Pie

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The season is upon many of you now where apples are starting to become abundant and wonderful. Being currently trapped in Chile like I am I will have to proffer this effort from my past spring break. It was a delicious pie.

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Apple Pie
This recipe comes from a recipe jotted in my notebook, so I am unsure of the source

Crust
2 1/2 cups AP flour
1 TBS salt
2 TBS sugar
20 TBS (2.5 sticks) unsalted butter, cute into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 cup cold water

Apple Innards for Said Pie
Apples (5 if they’re big, 7 if they’re small. Use what ever variety floats your boat, I like Granny Smith.)
1 TBS lemon juice
2 TBS flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice

Method
Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined (about 2 1-second pulses). Add butter and process until dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps (about 15 seconds).

Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough around blade. Add remaining 1 cup flour and pulse until mixture is combined and mass of dough has broken up (about 4-6 quick pulses)

Empty mixture into medium bowl, sprinkle water over dough. Use a rubber spatula to fold until slightly tacky.

Divide dough into halves and flatten each into a 4-inch disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45-minutes.

After it has refrigerated for 45-minutes, remove one disk from the fridge and roll it between 2 pieces of plastic wrap until it has formed a 12-inch circle. Transfer this dough into a 9 1/2 inch round pie plate. Ease dough into pan’s corners (I know it’s circular, but you know what I mean, right?) and return to refrigerator draped in plastic wrap while you make the pie filling.

Preheat over to 500.

Peel, core, and slice apples into quarters and then into 1/4 inch slices (make these slices larger for a more rustic pie, but be prepared to bake it for longer). Toss slices with lemon juice. Mix try ingredients together and then mix the spice/flour mixture with the apples.

Dump apples into the pie crust (which you have intuitively removed from the refrigerator). Roll the second crust into a 12-inch circle and place over the filling. Trip top and bottom edges to a 1/2 inch beyond the pan lip. Tuck the rim of dough underneath itself to seal, use fork tines to press it securely into place.

Place pie on baking sheet, lower oven to 425 degrees, bake until crust is golden, about 25 minutes. If at any point you feel that your outer crust is getting to brown, feel free to tent it with tin foil.

After 25 minutes, reduce heat to 375 degrees, rotate pie, and cook an additional 35 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for as long as you can bear before digging in! I strongly recommend serving this with either vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, and some caramel drizzle would not be amiss either, but if you’re a purist that’s good too.

Chocolate Babka

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Need I say more? This chocolate babka is to die for!

I originally wanted to make chocolate babka because I love the babka that appears on my family’s doorstep every Christmas courtesy of Zabar’s and my godfather. When I came across the recipe that Deb at Smitten Kitchen determined to be the best after all of her trial and error I knew it had to be good. The cinnamon really is an underestimated element here, don’t skimp or your babka will lack that extra oomph!

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I have made this babka three times and it has received rave reviews every time. However, from these three times I have learned a few things:

1. DO NOT USE CHOCOLATE CHIPS! I cannot emphazize this enough. I know it seems like a genius time saving plan, but don’t do it! Some chips will retain their chip-shape and it will break your heart when you pull it out of the oven. Trust me.

2. The original recipe says that you should roll the dough out to about 1/8 of an inch thick, but I have found that this is a) nearly impossible and b) if you do roll it that thin you have issues with tearing dough in the twisting step. Roll it thin, but not too thin. Trial and error is best here, each batch makes 3 loaves so there is plenty of time to learn.

3. The original recipe recommends that you bake the loaf/loaves at 350 for 55 minutes and then lowering the temperature to 325 for another 15-20 minutes. Through an error of my own the first time I baked this I learned that i prefer it baked at 325 for the entire baking time, although it does take a bit longer. Following the original instructions will yield a lighter, airier bread portion of the bread, but I prefer it to be denser (hence the lower baking temperature). It’s just a matter of personal preference.

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Ready for the oven!

I know it is a long and involved recipe, but don’t be daunted! It was the first yeast bread I ever made and it turned out great!

Chocolate Babka
As seen on Smitten Kitchen

When shaping the babka, twist dough evenly throughout the length of the roll a full 5 to 6 turns. The babka can be prepared up to step 8 and frozen for up to a month before baking. When ready to bake, remove from freezer; let stand at room temperature for about 5 hours, and bake.

Makes 3 loaves (you could downscale the recipe, but they freeze really well)

1 1/2 cups warm milk, 110 degrees
2 (1/4 ounce each) packages active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups plus a pinch of sugar
3 whole large eggs, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature, plus more for bowl and loaf pans
2 1/4 pounds semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped (use a food processor if you have one!)
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Streusel topping (below)

Pour warm milk into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast and pinch of sugar over milk; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, 2 eggs, and egg yolks. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment*, combine flour and salt. Add egg mixture, and beat on low speed until almost all the flour is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Change to the dough hook. Add 2 sticks butter, and beat until flour mixture and butter are completely incorporated, and a smooth, soft dough that’s slightly sticky when squeezed is formed, about 10 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead a few turns until smooth. Butter a large bowl. Place dough in bowl, and turn to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Place chocolate, remaining cup sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut in remaining 1 1/2 sticks butter until well combined; set filling aside.

Generously butter three 9-by-5-by-2 3/4-inch loaf pans; line them with parchment paper. Beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon cream; set egg wash aside. Punch back the dough, and transfer to a clean surface. Let rest 5 minutes. Cut into 3 equal pieces. Keep 2 pieces covered with plastic wrap while working with the remaining piece. On a generously floured surface, roll dough out into a 16-inch square; it should be 1/8 inch thick.

Brush edges with reserved egg wash. Crumble 1/3 of the reserved chocolate filling evenly over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Refresh egg wash if needed. Roll dough up tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch ends together to seal. Twist 5 or 6 turns. Brush top of roll with egg wash. Carefully crumble 2 tablespoons filling over the left half of the roll, being careful not to let mixture slide off. Fold right half of the roll over onto the coated left half. Fold ends under, and pinch to seal. Twist roll 2 turns, and fit into prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining 2 pieces of dough and remaining filling.

Heat oven to 350 degrees**. Brush the top of each loaf with egg wash. Crumble 1/3 of streusel topping over each loaf. Loosely cover each pan with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm place 20 to 30 minutes.

Bake loaves, rotating halfway through, until golden, about 55 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake until babkas are deep golden, 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove from oven, and transfer to wire racks until cool. Remove from pans; serve. Babkas freeze well for up to 1 month.

*Don’t sweat it if you don’t have one, I have made it with a stand mixer and by hand, it doesn’t change the quality at all!
**Or 325 if that’s what floats your boat (see note above).

Streusel Topping

Makes 3 3/4 cups (this is way more than I have ever needed, feel free to downscale)

1 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, and butter. Using a fork, stir until fully combined with clumps ranging in size from crumbs to 1 inch.

Ina Garten’s Lemon Bars

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Hot darn are these bars delicious. The are amazingly lemony and have a rich shortbread base, they are by far the best lemon bars I have ever made! The incorporation of both juice and zest really put their lemon factor over the top, so these are definitely not for the weak of heart.

Ina Garten’s Lemon Bars
As seen on Smitten Kitchen

For the crust:
1/2 pound unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar (plain white granulated)
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt (I used regular and it worked just fine)

For the lemon layer:
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons, if they are large you will probably only need 4)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour

Confectioners’ sugar (for dusting)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into the greased baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the lemon layer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or about five minutes beyond the point where the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into triangles (or what ever shape you please) and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Remember to cut them into small pieces though, because they are delicious but rich and strong.

If you seek a lemon bar experience that offers a greater role to the shortbread crust, hop on over to Deb’s post for a variation with a thinner lemon layer.

Enjoy!