Archive for the 'dessert' Category


Watermelon Granita

Complain about the weather and watch me roll my eyes. But this summer, I get it. I am complaining, too. It’s been a million degrees every day this past month in St. Louis. When the sun isn’t blazing, rain is pouring. And before it got hot, we had tornadoes every other week.

Yes, I am tired of it.

How hot was it this week? I’ll spare you the triple-digit heat index. It was so hot that a colleague of mine baked two dozen cookies in her car outside the paper. It was so hot that the Tower Grove Farmer’s Market was packed before 8:30 a.m. It was so hot that Gabi hasn’t gotten to splash around in her wading pool since the beginning of July.

When it’s 100-plus degrees, it’s almost too hot for ice cream. Sorbet or granita is better. Both are lighter, cleaner, stronger. This weekend, watermelon granita fit the bill.

Granita is an Italian semi-frozen dessert made from water, sugar, and fruit. First you make a simple syrup. Then puree the fruit in a blender. Combine the two in a metal baking dish, freeze, stir with a fork after a few hours and sha-bam. You have granita. If you need to,  put it on the counter for a few minutes to thaw a bit before serving.

I love this recipe. If you love watermelon like my toddler and I do, then you will too.

For extra indulgence,  drizzle a half-teaspoon of Campari over your bowl of granita. The result is an adult icee that will make you feel better about the heat.

Watermelon Granita
adapted from Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups watermelon,  cut into 1-inch cubes
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 to 2 teaspoons Campari (optional)

Heat sugar and water in a heavy small saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Cool.

Puree the watermelon in a blender. Measure out two cups of puree. Stir in sugar syrups and lime juice. Pour into 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan. Freeze 2 hours. Stir with a fork, then freeze until solid, about 3 hours. Using for, scrape granita to form crystals. Spoon into bowls. Drizzle 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Campari over each.


Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

It’s Memorial Day weekend. We’ve had hints of summer –a few humid, hot days — but  it’s definitely still spring. Case in point: rhubarb abounds. And strawberries are at full tilt. They’re the best kind of strawberries, the ones that are so red you can taste the color. We’ve had two weeks of incredible strawberries in our Fair Shares CSA box, and we’ve needed them. They’ve been mood lifters. For those of you who haven’t heard, we’ve had some pretty crummy weather in the Midwest this spring. Tornadoes everywhere. The sirens go off almost weekly it seems.

Fortunately, strawberries and rhubarb provide comfort.

The most obvious combination is this simple crumble. The strawberries and rhubarb almost melt into each other. It’s a fusion of sweet and tart. I made this for the first time in 2008. It’s so amazingly delicious that it’s an annual ritual.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Divine.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
slightly adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

For filling:

2 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved (quartered if strawberries are large), about 6 cups
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb stalks, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch slices, about 4 1/2 cups
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt

For topping:

1 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, slightly softened

Put a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 425° F.

Gently mix the ingredients for the filling in a large bowl. Spoon the mixture into a shallow 3-quart baking dish.

Stir together oats, flour, brown sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Blend in butter with your fingers until mixture forms small clumps.

Crumble topping evenly over strawberries and rhubarb. Bake until fruit is bubbling and topping is golden, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool slightly on a rack and serve warm.

Serving suggestion: with vanilla ice cream.

Serves 8


Gooey Brownie Pudding

I’m clearly in a rut, because I’ve made this THREE TIMES in two months.  Deep chocolate flavor, dense and gooey. It’s set around the edges, but almost molten in the middle. It’s not really a brownie, and not really pudding. I was relieved when Sarah requested a chocolate dessert when she invited us to dinner last month, because I had gooey brownie pudding on the brain.

But within a week, I wanted more. So, I made it again and took it to work, because two friends of mine were moving to different desks across the newsroom (that’s how desperate I was). Unfortunately, I left it covered on the kitchen counter for two days, so it had dried out a bit. It was still delicious. No one knew the difference.

I promised my mom I’d make it for her. My parents were here last weekend, so guess what we had for dessert?

Aside from being addictive, this is not overly sweet. I reduced the amount of sugar in the original recipe by two-thirds a cup, and didn’t miss it. Vanilla ice cream is essential on the side.

I must move on.  It’s looking more and more like spring, so it’s time to transition into lighter desserts. That’s what I’m telling myself. We’ll see.

Gooey Chocolate Pudding
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the dish
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup good cocoa powder, such as Ghirardelli
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier, or framboise liqueur (optional)
Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 2-quart (9x12x2-inch) oval baking dish. Melt the butter and allow it to cool.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high for 5 to 10 minutes. The mixture should be very thick and light yellow. Sift the cocoa powder and flour together in a different bowl. Set aside.

Using a sharp knife, slice open the vanilla bean lengthwise. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, reduce the mixer speed to low and add the vanilla seeds, liqueur (if using), and the cocoa powder and flour mixture. Mix only until combined. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the cooled butter and mix again just until combined.

Pour the batter into the buttered dish and place it in a larger baking pan. Add enough hot tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish. Bake for exactly one hour. A toothpick or knife inserted 2 inches from the side should come out three-quarters clean. The center will appear very under-baked, but it’s supposed to be that way. This dessert is part brownie, part pudding.

Allow to cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6


Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chunks and Cranberries

I often wonder if Giada De Laurentiis ever eats what she bakes. Because a week ago, when I saw her whipping up these cookies on the Food Network, I had to bake them. Now I can’t quit eating them.

Seriously. There are cookies, and then there are cookies. These are truly sinful. They’re chewy, chocolatey with bits of sweetness from dried cranberries (a nice break from raisins).

Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chunks and Cranberries
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
scant 1/2 cup light brown sugar
scant 1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 (3- to 4-ounce) bittersweet chocolate bar (recommended: 60% to 70% cacao), chopped into 1/4-inch chunks

Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. With the machine running, gradually add the flour mixture. Add the oats, cranberries and chocolate chunks. Mix until just incorporated (dough will be stiff). Using your hands or a 4-ounce cookie scoop, scoop slightly rounded mounds of the dough into 12 (2-inch-diameter) balls. Arrange 6 balls of dough, spaced evenly apart, on each baking sheet. Using the back of a spoon, flatten the tops slightly and bake until the cookies are slightly golden on the edges, about 13 to 17 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 20 minutes before serving.


Jam Thumbprints

I’m not ready. Not at all. No matter how many gifts I buy before Thanksgiving, and no matter how many times I pledge to be more organized next year, I always find myself frantic this close to Christmas. I just returned from a 9 p.m. shopping trip, and still am short a couple of things. All this after a long day at work and kissing Gabi goodnight. All I really want to do is curl up on the couch with some spiced cider. And these cookies.

Last weekend, despite my to-do list, I took an hour and baked two batches of Christmas cookies. I’m so glad I did. The buttery dough in these thumbprints smelled like heaven in the oven. I filled the centers with raspberry jam. Jeff and I gobbled up about six of them. We would have finished the rest quite easily had I not put them in a tin with a couple dozen palmiers, and a note for the women who take care of Gabi every day.

The dough here can be tricky. If it doesn’t come together for you, add a bit of water until you can roll the dough into balls with your hands.

Jam Thumbprints
slightly adapted from Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies, 2001

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon table salt
4 tablespoons cold water
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds, finely ground [I used blanched slivered almonds]
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1/2 cup jam or preserves [raspberry is awesome]

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat together butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolk and vanilla, beat well. Whisk together flour and salt, and add to mixture, beating on low until combined.

Combine almonds with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Form dough into 1-inch balls. Squeeze the dough and roll between your hands to help it come together. If it is too dry, add 1 teaspoon of cold water at a time, and mix into dough your hands.

Dip the cookie balls in egg  white, then in almond/sugar mixture. Press the center of each ball with your finger, or the bottom of a thick wooden spoon, or the bowl of a small spoon . Transfer to the lined baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and press down the centers again. To keep your fingers from burning, dip them in water first. Rotate sheets, and bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes more. Remove from overn and place on a cooling rack. Fill centers with about 1 teaspoon of jam.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies



You only need two ingredients for these classic French cookies: puff pastry and sugar. Could they be any easier? There seems to be some debate as to where these cookies originated. Palmier is French for palm tree, and the French lay claim to these simple pastries. Some say they came from Vienna, where they’re traditionally served with tea or coffee. Whatever the origin, these are addictive. It’s hard to go wrong with butter and carmelized sugar. You make them by rolling out store-bought puff pastry, sprinkling both sides with sugar, and tightly rolling both sides until they meet in the middle.

After that, you take a knife and slice off thin pieces.

You could add cinnamon for some variation. Because it’s Christmastime, I sprinkled red sugar on them before baking. If you’re making an assortment of cookies, these are a nice addition.

adapted slightly from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

scant 3/4 cup sugar
12 1/2 ounces store bought puff pastry [if the package isn’t 12 1/2 ounces, don’t sweat it]

Sprinkle half of the sugar on a clean work surface, making sure that it’s even. Put the pastry dough on top of the sugar and evenly sprinkle the rest of the sugar on top.

Gently roll out dough into a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Don’t press too hard around the edges. Use a pastry wheel or sharp knife to trim the edges.

Roll up one long side as tightly as possible into a cylinder, being careful not to stretch out the dough. Stop when you reach the middle. Repat on the opposite side until you have two tight cylinders that meet in the middle. Wrap tightly in plastic and freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.

Using a sharp knife, cut dough crosswise into 3/8-inch thick slices. Place them on ungreased baking sheets (preferably non-stick for better browning), about 2 inches apart, and flatten each pastry firmly with the palm of your hand. Add decorative sugar if you like. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Bake for 7 minutes; reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Remove cookies from oven. Using an offset spatula, flip the palmiers over; continue baking until pastry is golden brown and well caramelized, about 10-12 minutes more. Using the spatula, immediately transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, shiny side up. Palmiers are best eaten the same day they are baked, but they can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.


Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting

If there’s one thing I struggle with most in the kitchen, it would be cakes. My success rate is low. The first time I baked a cake from scratch (Jeff’s 32nd birthday), I forgot to remove the wax paper between layers. I’ve baked a cake with the wrong kind of flour, and it tasted like cardboard. I’ve baked cakes with frosting that appears to be melting off the side. I’ve almost given up on butter cream icing — it never works for me.

I tell you this so you’ll understand why I feel so obnoxiously proud of this cake.

Jeff’s parents gave me a fabulous baking book for my birthday. I’d checked it out from the library a couple of times and made a few things over the summer —  chocolate-banana marble bread and peach-vanilla bean cobbler . Since Jeff’s parents are here for a few days, I thought I’d crack open the cookbook and bake them a pumpkin cake. Pumpkin one of Susan’s favorite flavors. Mine too. Few things smell as good as pumpkin as it bakes in the oven with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.

This cake is soft, moist and comforting. It’s not too sweet. The cream cheese frosting has real maple syrup and is easy to make. Coming from a baker who’s cake-baking  record isn’t very good, this says a lot. By the way, that’s Jeff sitting next to me. He describes the frosting as yummilicious. He’s’ right. This cake is pretty darn good.

The frosting calls for Grade C syrup. which is the darkest and has the most intense flavor. I have a hard time finding in St. Louis. If you can find Grade B, you’ll still have delicious frosting.

Continue reading ‘Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting’


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