Monday, January 15, 2018

Pineapple with Hazelnuts and Vanilla

Can you roast a fruit in the oven like you would a cut of meat? Apparently, you can. I was thumbing through One Knife, One Pot, One Dish: Simple French Feasts at Home by Stéphane Reynaud and came across an interesting dessert. It called for making a caramel (my nemesis), then pouring it over a fresh pineapple, baking it in the oven, and basting it as it baked. I couldn't get the idea out of my head!

I thought the flavors were delicious and not too sweet. The nuts add a nice texture and roast alongside the pineapple. You can't just slice entire slices across the pineapple, it must be the outside, leaving the core, so just plan accordingly. I served my shards with the High Road Bourbon Brown Sugar ice cream, and that was a great pairing as the caramel also has alcohol.

Pineapple with Hazelnuts and Vanilla

Serves 4

1 good-looking pineapple
1 vanilla bean
7 tbsp (80 g) sugar
6 tbsp (3/4 stick/80 g) butter
2/3 cup (150 ml) rum
Generous 1/3 cup (50 g) hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 300 F.

Peel the pineapple, heat the sugar over medium-high heat, without stirring, until the sugar melts into caramel, about 10 minutes.* If necessary, brush down any crystals that form on the side of the pot with a damp pastry brush.

Add the butter, rum, and vanilla bean pod and seeds. Stir to melt the butter and combine.

Place the pineapple in the Dutch oven, cover with the rum-flavored caramel, and add the hazelnuts.

Bake for 40 minutes, basting the pineapple with the caramel frequently during cooking, until it is tender, and then serve immediately.

*I don't believe sugar just melts down into caramel, so my interpretation of this step was letting the sugar cook a while until it was a medium-dark brown. It tasted okay so I think this works. When I added the butter and alcohol, everything seized up but I just kept stirring..... 


This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party. All experiences and opinions are my own!

Monday, January 08, 2018

Butterscotch Pots de Creme

 I made this recipe from a cookbook for which I received a digital review copy. More info at the bottom of the post!

Butterscotch Pots de Creme

4 tbsp butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
4 cups heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
8 large egg yolks
sour cream
Butterfinger, crushed (optional)

1. Dump butter and sugar into a midsized saucepan and stir together over medium heat. Cook until mixture starts to brown and smoke ever so slightly, or about 15-20 minutes.
2. Slowly add the cream, a cup at a time. Cook butterscotch until any seized sugar dissolves again. Then add the rest of the cream, vanilla, and salt.
3. Next, whisk those yolks - and do not stop! Add some of the hot butterscotch cream while continuing to whisk. Once the yolks are warm to the touch, dump the yolks back into the pot of hot butterscotch and gently whisk.
4. Strain the mixture, and then crank the oven to 325 F.
5. Divide custard into the ramekins. Then place the ramekins in a water bath (fyi, water should be hot!) and loosely tent with foil.
6. Bake for 25-40 minutes, or until the pudding pots jiggle like a bowl full of jelly.
7. Finally, remove the pan from oven and cool completely. Fridge it for at least an hour - unless you like room-temp pudding, ya weirdo.

Chocolate sauce

2 oz dark-chocolate chips
3 tbsp heavy cream
pinch of salt

1. In a small saucepan, stir all ingredients together over low heat.

To assemble

Plop a spoonful of sour cream into each pudding pot, drizzle-whizzle with chocolate sauce, and sprinkle with crushed Butterfinger, if desired.

The recipe above comes verbatim from Sweet Revenge: Passive-Aggressive Desserts for Your Exes & Enemies by Heather Kim.  I made a few changes - first of all I cut the recipe in half (4 cups of cream?!). I used 6 oz custard cups because that's what I have, but I suspect from the yield and pictures that she intends you to use smaller ones - this is never specified, however. But because I used 6 oz cups I had to bake it longer than upper time limit given here. I may have slightly overbaked but the custard was not scrambled eggs. I also didn't bother with sour cream, butterfinger, or chocolate sauce - just put whipped cream and sprinkles. The flavors are intense and deep, not overly sweet, but rich.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Peppermint Brownies

One of the recipes I wanted to make for Christmas was postponed to New Years Eve, because we had way too many sweet things already! I based this recipe on "Brownies My Way" in The Artful Baker by Cenk Sönmezsoy. He has several brownie recipes in the cookbook, and "Brownies My Way" were slightly less sweet and also included pistachios. I adapted it slightly for my ingredients on hand, and adding peppermint elements. Please see his cookbook for all his brownie variations!

Peppermint Brownies

4 oz bittersweet chocolate
4 oz semisweet chocolate
12 tbsp unsweetened butter
3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp peppermint extract (optional but no more than this!)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup peppermint bark pieces (I used Ghiradelli peppermint chunks but actual chocolate coated peppermint bark would be even better)

For glaze:
4 oz semisweet chocolate
Peppermint dust sprinkles or more peppermint bark, chopped up

Preheat oven to 350 F and prepare an 8 or 9" square pan with buttered parchment paper.

In a pan set over barely simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate until smooth. Allow to cool completely. Mix in peppermint extract, if using.

In a mixer with a wire whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar at medium-high speed until sugar has dissolved, mixture is light in color and slightly thickened, 4-5 minutes. Scrape in chocolate-butter mixture and mix at medium speed until incorporated, about 30 seconds.

Stir together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Add to mixer at low speed and only mix until barely incorporated. Remove from mixer and stir in peppermint chunks.

Spread into pan, and bake 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out with gooey (but not liquid) crumbs. Allow to cool.

Melt chocolate (I just used the microwave) until smooth. Cool slightly, then spread over cooled brownies. Top with desired topping. Chill at least one hour before serving (after this initial chill the brownies may remove at room temperature.)

Verdict: These were delicious. To go over the top we had brownies with Jeni's dark chocolate peppermint ice cream, at around 11:30 pm, so definitely the last dessert of the year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

Growing up, I lived in an area with many people from various parts of Latin America. This meant that most grocery stories had aisles of Hispanic foods, and several of them made them into the staples at my house. One was Abuelita hot chocolate tablets (not a paid advertisement), where you could drop a chocolate tablet and hot milk in a blender and in no time, you would have a delicious, spicy hot chocolate. Coffee shops would sell Mexican mochas, which would be a spicy mocha. These were delicious times.

I came across a recipe from Aaron Sanchez on the Food Network website for "Cinnamon-Spiced Hot Chocolate Cookies." I adapted it slightly and renamed it to what I think he meant. Chocolate mixed with spices has Mexican heritage and we should be proud to say so!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
generous pinch black pepper
generous pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup dulce de leche (or more if you are making sandwich cookies)
1/4 cup almonds, toasted and chopped

  1.  Mix flour, cocoa powder, spices, baking soda, and salt together in a small bowl.
  2. Cream butter and sugars until sugar is well incorporated. Beat in vanilla and egg, scraping down the bowl.
  3. Gradually add dry ingredients, mixing until just blended.
  4. Lay out sheet of plastic wrap and dump dough into a pile on top, using plastic to form it into a log shaped roll.
  5. Chill about 30 minutes, and take out to roll into smoother cylinder.
  6. Let chill at least another hour but preferably overnight.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  8. Slice cookies to desired size but try to make them close in size.
  9. Bake 10-11 minutes, but do not overbake!
  10. When completely cool, you can choose to make sandwich cookies by spreading one cookie with 1 tbsp dulce de leche and sandwiching on another. Or you can "drizzle" dulce de leche on top and sprinkle with almonds. (To drizzle dulce de leche it is likely you will need to heat it, otherwise it is more accurate that you will just glomp it on the cookie. Tasty but not as attractive. Cookie pictured had dulce squeezed on from a ziploc that had been heated for about 15 seconds in the microwave.)
I found I preferred these after they'd sat around with the dulce, at least overnight. You could leave the dulce and almonds out if you needed a cookie that was easier to transport, but it's definitely an elevation of the entire recipe!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Double Chocolate Almond Biscotti

This is based on the Chocolate Biscotti recipe in Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. It made the rounds a few years ago during the Tuesdays with Dorie baking series a bunch of bloggers participated in, but I didn't make that recipe.

Mom, don't read this! Ha.

I have not done a lot of holiday baking this year.

Partly because of a trip in early December, partly because the weather is wrong, partly because holidays are strange after a death in the family, and traditions are all wrapped up in memories.

What I should really do is make peanut brittle and fudge, the two things my Dad would spend an entire day making around the holidays. But I'm not there yet.

My Mom asked me if I could make her some biscotti, so I decided to try a new recipe. I will have some on the way to her the day this posts.

Biscotti should be shipped separately from other baked goods, because extra moisture in other items may soften the cookies. And with biscotti, it's all about the "twice-baked" texture.

Double Chocolate Almond Biscotti

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp instant espresso powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 stick (6 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp (at most) or a drop of almond extract (it's strong! don't add more!)
1 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
3. Beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until pale, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and extract(s), scraping down the sides of the bowl, and beat for another 2 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing only until a dough forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix in the nuts and chocolate, then turn the dough out onto a work surface and press in escaped ingredients.
4. Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, roll the dough into 12-inch-long logs. Flatten the log with the palm of your hand, so that it is 1/2 to 1 inch high, about 2 inches across and rectangular in shape. Lift onto baking sheet. Repeat for second half of the dough.
5. Bake the logs for about 25 minutes, or until they are just slightly firm. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, put it on a cooling rack and cool for 20 minutes. Leave the oven on.
6. Using a long serrated knife, cut each log into slices between 1/2 and 3/4 inch thick. Stand the slices up on the baking sheet with space between each and bake again, this time for 10 minutes. Let cool.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Afternoon Tea in St. Augustine, Florida

It appears that the options I will describe below are temporary and linked to the Dressing Downton exhibit at the Lightner Museum, but I hope either site changes its mind and starts offering afternoon tea on a regular basis. Why not?

My husband and I recently spent half a week in St. Augustine, one of our favorite places to visit in the southeast. This time around we decided to do more of the historical places, including the Lightner Museum, the Castillo de San Marcos, the Flagler history tour, a carriage ride, and even a tour at the place we stayed, The Collector Inn. Since the Dressing Downton exhibit was also at the Lightner, they offered afternoon tea at the Cafe Alcazar (now through January 4, 2018.)

The tea required reservations, and we were very fortunate that someone working there took pity on us and added a table, as they were technically booked when we tried making reservations. The cafe is in what used to be the pool of Flagler's second huge hotel in St. Augustine, and is now the center of the Lightner Museum. Tea started with a soup or salad course along with iced tea, while they took our hot tea orders (pretty smart, I thought!). The rest of the tea is portrayed above, with sandwiches on the bottom, scones and a cookie in the middle, and tiny sweets on the top. While we had tea, they played music from Downton Abbey. They sent us home with samples of the hot teas on offer, so everyone was able to try at least two kinds - one in the pot, and one in loose leaf brewed at home.

It looks like after this particular exhibit moves on, and afternoon tea goes along with it, you can continue to lunch at the Cafe Alcazar.

I recently discovered that you can also have afternoon tea and view Gosford Park at the nearby Corazon Cinema and Cafe.  That's a place we will want to visit in the future, because we didn't make it this time around.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Pumpkin Spelt Scones with Maple Glaze

I have been watching the new episode of Martha Bakes (not a paid advertisement) and this season she is focused on what she calls healthy baking and is really more about alternative flours. (I clarify this because just using an alternative flour does not necessarily cut down on carbs, but can, so your mileage will vary as to if the alternatives are healthier.) Many of the recipes seem to come from a newer cookbook by Martha, A New Way to Bake.

The pumpkin spelt scones she made looked good and I had not yet tried spelt in baking, which is not low-carb but is supposed to be easier to digest than all-purpose flour. One of the blogs I use frequently, Chocolate Covered Katie, seems to use spelt flour most often! Most places that discuss spelt recommend using only half spelt in a recipe because using all spelt flour can cause structural problems. Martha referred to this as creating a "tender" texture, and I decided to go with it for the first time. Next time I'd mix spelt with other flours, because the others were right! But these were still tasty. I did use coconut sugar instead of real, to try to cut back some on the carbs.

Pumpkin Spelt Scones with Maple Glaze
(recipe from Martha Stewart via Martha Bakes on

2 cups spelt flour
1/3 cup natural cane sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Coarse salt
1 stick (1/2 cup frozen unsalted butter, grated on large holes of a box grater; plus 1 tablespoon melted
2 tablespoons heavy cream, plus more for brushing
1 large egg, room temperature
1/3 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cane sugar, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ¾ teaspoon salt. Stir in grated butter.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together cream, egg, and pumpkin; stir into flour mixture just until dough forms. (It will still be crumbly.) Pat into a 6-inch round on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with cream. Using a knife or bench scraper, cut dough into 8 wedges, and pull 2 inches apart.
  3. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until scones are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely on sheet on a wire rack.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together melted butter, confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, and a pinch of salt until smooth. If glaze is too thick, add additional maple syrup, 1 teaspoon at a time. Dip tops of scones in glaze and transfer to rack set on baking sheet. Allow glaze to set for 30 minutes before serving. (Scones are best the day they’re made but can be kept in a single layer in an airtight container up to 1 day.)