My Mother-In-Law’s Napoleon Torte

My Mother-In-Law is an amazing cook. As much as I enjoy baking, I had to take her up on an offer to bring a dessert for our Thanksgiving weekend feasts. After one bite of this beautiful torte, my son exclaimed that it was the best dessert he has eaten in his entire life. I knew that I had to share her recipe as a guest post of sorts. My son wanted the title to be “The Best Dessert the World Has Ever Known.” :)

Delicious and pretty! Here it is:

For the Cake Layer:

  • 3 cups (390 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup light cream

For the Caramel:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 cans (14 oz each) sweetened condensed milk (Carnation or Borden’s Eagle Brand)

For the Pudding:

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 T sauce flour (Wondra brand)
  • 1 T granulated sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup light cream
  • vanilla extract or 1 envelope of Dr. Oetker vanillin sugar
  • 3 oz (1 package) serve and cook vanilla pudding (Jello brand)

For the Apricot Layer:

  • 1 12-oz can Solo Apricot Cake and Pastry Filling

To Make the Cake Layer:

  1. Combine the flour, butter, egg yolks, and light cream until a dough is formed.
  2. Divide the dough into 7 equal balls; refrigerate overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Line 9.5″ cake pans with parchment; coat with cooking oil spray.
  5. Roll out each ball of dough into a 9.5″ circle (to fit into the cake pan), trying to make rounds of equal thickness.
  6. Prick each round of dough with a fork, cover with aluminum foil (or parchment), and pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Remove the foil and weights and continue baking for 4 to 5 minutes, or until lightly brown. (You may have to use a shield to prevent the edges from over browning.)
  8. Repeat these steps and bake the remaining rounds.
  9. Use 6 rounds for the torte. Crumble one round for decorating.

To Make the Caramel:

  1. Place the cans of sweetened condensed milk in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring water to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 hours- making sure that the cans are covered with water at all times. Cool completely. (This step can be done in advance.)
  2. Cream the butter until fluffy.
  3. Add 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cans of caramel (to taste) and mix to incorporate well.

To Make the Pudding:

  1. Beat 3 egg yolks with granulated sugar and vanilla until lemon-yellow.
  2. Mix in flour.
  3. Combine the milk and light cream.
  4. Add one cup of the milk-cream mixture to the egg-flour-vanilla mixture. Mix well.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan; add the remaining milk-cream mixture. Add the vanilla pudding mix.
  6. Mix well and heat on medium until the mixture comes to a boil. Cover with plastic wrap and cool completely in the refrigerator. (The pudding must be cold!)

To Complete the Filling:

  1. Fold the Caramel into the Pudding until a uniform mixture is achieved.

To Make the Apricot Layer:

  1. Using a small blender, immersion blender, or food processor, blend the apricot filling to make a uniform mass.

To Complete the Torte:

  1. Spread the first cake round with a thin coat of apricot filling and then spread the Caramel/Pudding on top.
  2. Top with the second round of cake; top with the Caramel/Pudding filling layer only.
  3. Continue the process, spreading the apricot filling on every other round.
  4. Cover the top and sides of the cake with the remaining Caramel/Pudding filling.
  5. Crush the 7th round of cake and decorate the sides of the cake to hide any imperfections.
  6. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Three Years Ago:

Country Apple Fritter Bread

When I recently saw this recipe on The Company She Keeps– I needed an excuse to make it. Thankfully we had a surprise snow day! (We seriously didn’t even know that snow was in the forecast… :/ ) I knew it would be the perfect special breakfast.

This recipe was adapted from The Baking Chocolatess. I modified the recipe to incorporate whole wheat pastry flour, unsalted butter, and coarse salt. I also baked the bread in my favorite Pullman loaf pan. Decadent and delicious.

Yield: Serves 8

For the Cinnamon Sugar:

  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the Batter:

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk or almond milk (I used whole milk)

For the Apple Mixture:

  • 2 large apples, peeled and chopped (any kind – I used Pink Lady apples- my favorite!)
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • walnuts, to taste, optional

For the Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1-3 tablespoons of milk or cream (depending on desired glaze thickness)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Grease desired loaf pan with non-stick spray.
  3. Make the Cinnamon Sugar: Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Set aside.
  4. Make the Batter: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat granulated sugar and butter together until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes.
  5. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until blended in; add in vanilla extract.
  6. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a separate bowl. Add to creamed butter mixture and mix until blended.
  7. Add milk to batter and mix until smooth.
  8. Make the Apple Mixture: Combine chopped apples, granulated sugar, and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Add nuts, if using.
  9. Spread half of the batter into the prepared loaf pan; add half the apple mixture, then half of the cinnamon sugar mixture.
  10. Lightly pat apple mixture into batter.
  11. Dollop the remaining batter over apple layer and top with remaining apple mixture, then the remaining cinnamon sugar mixture.
  12. Lightly pat apples into batter; swirl brown sugar mixture through apples using a knife.
  13. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, approximately 45 minutes for a Pullman loaf or 50-60 minutes for a standard loaf.
  14. Make the glaze: Mix the powdered sugar and milk or cream together until desired consistency is achieved. Mix well.
  15. Remove loaf from pan. Let cool for about 15 minutes before drizzling with glaze.

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Three Years Ago:

Momofuku Milk Bar Corn Cookies

When my mom comes to visit, she often brings along the Food section from the Washington Post for me to peruse. :) I was thrilled when she brought one that included cookie recipes from Momofuku Milk Bar!

Some of the best cookies I’ve ever made are from Momofuku Milk Bar: Momofuku Milk Bar’s Cornflake – Chocolate Chip – Marshmallow Cookies. SO GOOD!!

There was also the Milk Bar Crack Pie- which was worthy enough to make on a few occasions…

Momofuku Milk Bar recipes are held in high regard in our home! ;) Before finally tracking it down, my husband and I went to at least 5 grocery stores to hunt down freeze-dried corn to use in this cookie batter. Knowing the recipe source, we were pretty sure that they would be worth all of the effort!

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This recipe was adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi, via The Washington Post. I decreased the cookie size and the resulting baking time. I weighed all of the ingredients as well. I ground the freeze-dried corn into a powder using a food processor. Yummy!!

I’m sharing these special cookies at Fiesta Friday #104– hosted by Mila @Milk and Bun and Hilda @Along the Grapevine. Enjoy!!

  • 16 T (225 g, 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 300 g (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 225 g (1 1/2 cups packed) bread flour
  • 45 g (1/4 cup packed) corn flour
  • 65 g (2 oz) freeze-dried corn, ground to a powder (2/3 cups packed)
  • 3/4 tsp (3 g) baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp (1 1/2 g) baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp (6 g) kosher salt

  1. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Using a food processor, grind the freeze-dried corn into a powder.
  3. Whisk all of the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl to combine.
  4. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat on medium-high speed for 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and beat for 7 to 8 minutes or until very light and fluffy. (Do not rush this step, as it helps the cookie dough incorporate a large amount of butter.) Stop to scrape down the bowl.
  6. On low-speed, add the bread flour, corn flour, corn powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; beat just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute.
  7. Using a large cookie scoop (mine is almost 1 3/4″ in diameter), portion out the dough on one of the parchment-lined baking sheets. Pat the tops of the dough domes flat.
  8. Wrap the baking sheet tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or up to 1 week).
  9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  10. Place the chilled dough portions on the parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing at least 2 inches apart.
  11. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned on the edges yet still bright yellow in the center. They will have puffed, cracked and spread.
  12. Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheets before serving or storing.

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Eleventh Birthday Longboard Cake! (Yellow Cake with Chocolate Icing)

The number one gift on my son’s Christmas wish list was a longboard. He learned how to ride one with his friends at the beach this summer and has been desperate for one ever since. My husband & I let Santa know that WE wanted to give it to him! The designs on these longboards are really works of art. I cannot even begin to tell you how long we searched for the perfect one for our special gift. We fell in love with the giant squid eating a lighthouse!! Isn’t it cool? ;)

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So, of course, I tried to recreate this design on his 11th birthday longboard cake. (It’s pretty close considering I recreated the design with cookies and m&m’s!)

The second special thing I must share about this cake is where I got the amazing recipe. One of my friends gave me a very special- out of print- cookbook for Christmas. She has a copy and I had been desperate for my own. It is loaded with gold standard recipes for classic baked goods. The author’s shop is now known as Tate’s Bake Shop in Southampton, New York. What a sweet friend! <3 I love it!!

The cake and icing recipes were adapted from Kathleen’s Bake Shop Cookbook: The Best Recipes from Southampton’s Favorite Bakery for Homestyle Cookies, Cakes, Pies, Muffins, and Breads by Kathleen King. I used unsalted butter and coarse salt. I also baked the cake in a convection oven. I made the squid, house, and axles with my birthday Number Cookie recipe. If you have been following my blog, you can guess that my son wanted Roman numeral “11’s” (XI’s) this year! :)

For the Yellow Cake:

Yield: Makes one 9-inch 2-layer cake (or 1 longboard cake)

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • chocolate icing (recipe below)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Grease and flour pans of choice, two 9-inch round cake pans for a layer cake or one Pullman loaf pan, one mini loaf pan, and 4 cupcake tins for a longboard cake.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In another large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  4. Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  5. Beat in vanilla.
  6. Add dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream, ending with the dry ingredients.
  7. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold egg whites into cake batter, and pour into the prepared pans.
  8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Remove pans to a wire rack. Cool 10 minutes before removing cake from pans; finish cooling on a rack.

For the Chocolate Icing:

Yield: 3 1/2 cups (enough to ice a 9-inch layer cake or 1 longboard cake)

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup milk (I used 1 percent)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Confectioners’ sugar
  1. Melt butter and chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler.
  2. Stir in milk; add vanilla.
  3. Stir in sugar.
  4. Place mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  5. Chill mixture for 45 minutes, then beat with an electric mixer every 15 minutes (chilling mixture between beatings) until it becomes light and thick enough to spread. (This will take three or four beatings.)

I’m bringing this one to share with my friends at Fiesta Friday #103 this week hosted by Sonal @Simply Vegetarian777 and Petra @Food Eat Love. Enjoy!!

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Three Years Ago:

Speculaas: Dutch Spice Cookies

One of my all-time favorite cookies are Belgian Biscoff cookies. They are SO GOOD! When my husband picked up this holiday cookie cookbook at the library for me, this recipe immediately caught my eye. These Northern European spice cookies are called Speculaas in the Netherlands, Speculoos in Belgium, and Spekulatius in Germany.

This recipe for Dutch Spice Cookies was adapted from Christmas Cookies: 50 Recipes to Treasure for the Holiday Season by Lisa Zwirn. It was recommended to use a diamond-shaped cookie cutter with fluted edges, but I made Christmas trees for the occasion! (Any other shape would truly make them seasonless.) The dough had an ideal texture and rolled and cut like a dream. :) I am going to make them again for sure- and will (at least) double the recipe next Christmas. I may also have to get the traditional cookie cutter.

Yield: Makes about 50 (2 1/2-inch diameter) cookies

For the Cookie Dough:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice (or cloves) (I used freshly ground allspice)
  • 8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest (I used the zest of 1 lemon)

For the Egg Wash & Topping:

  • 1 egg white whisked with 2 tsp water until frothy
  • sliced almonds, to taste

  1. Whisk together the flour baking powder, salt cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice in a medium bowl.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until creamy.
  3. Beat in the egg, then the lemon zest.
  4. With the beaters on low-speed, mix in the flour mixture until throughly combined.
  5. Gather the dough in to a ball, then divide it in half.
  6. Shape each half into a disk and wrap separately in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (I refrigerated the dough overnight.)
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees on convection. Line 2 rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Working with one disk at a time, roll out the dough  between two sheets of plastic wrap or on a lightly floured surface to a 1/4-inch thickness.
  9. Using a diamond, square, or round cookie cutter measuring about 2 1/2-inches in diameter, cut the dough and arrange on the prepared baking sheets about 1 1/2-inches apart.
  10. Reroll the scraps and repeat.
  11. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the egg wash over the tops of the cookies.
  12. Press a few almonds onto the center of each cookie.
  13. Bake for 11 to 14 minutes or until the cookies are slightly browned around the edges and the almonds are golden. (The cookies will crisp up as they cool.)
  14. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool.

Note: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 3 months.

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If you like this you may also like:

Haselnussmakronen: Raspberry-Hazelnut Macaroons

Oh my goodness… I hope it’s not too late to wish all of you a Happy New Year! :)

I am so behind on my posts- so please forgive me. :/ I have to do a little catch-up with a couple of holiday cookie posts before I can move on! ;)

These Raspberry-Hazelnut Macaroons were a new addition to my Christmas cookie plates this year. I thought that they were special and tasty- but my biggest critics (read: my husband & my son) were skeptical. Well, let me tell you that TWO of my neighbors told me that they were their absolute favorite!! I was absolutely thrilled. :)

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Luisa Weiss. I doubled the original recipe and reduced the baking time for a convection oven. These cookies are described as “extremely no-fuss”; they require minimal ingredients and no chilling time. Truly the hardest part of their preparation was roasting and peeling the hazelnuts!! I used a hand mixer (as instructed) but would use a stand mixer (with whisk attachment) next time to whip the whites to a little bit past soft peaks. My thought is that the cookies would be less flat as a result. I’ll keep you posted! ;) They would also be wonderful for Valentine’s Day! <3 <3

Yield: approximately 30 cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups whole hazelnuts
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam (I used Trader Joe’s)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400° on convection. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Spread the hazelnuts in a pie plate and toast until the skins split and the nuts are fragrant, about 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel and 
rub together to release the skins. Let 
the hazelnuts cool completely.
  4. In a food processor, pulse the hazelnuts until finely chopped.
  5. In a medium bowl, using a hand mixer (or stand mixer), beat the egg whites with the salt at medium speed until foamy, 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted, 
5 to 7 minutes.
  6. Fold in the hazelnuts.
  7. Using a 1-ounce ice cream scoop 
or a soup spoon, scoop 1 1/2-inch rounds 
of the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.
  8. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes on convection, or up to 11 to 13 minutes in a standard oven, or until fragrant and lightly browned; rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking.
  9. Remove the cookies from the oven and, while they’re still hot, carefully make an indentation in the center of each with 
the back of a teaspoon.
  10. In a small saucepan, boil the raspberry jam for 30 seconds, until slightly thickened. Carefully spoon about 1 teaspoon of the hot jam into the center 
of each cookie. Let the jam set and the cookies cool completely before serving.

Note: The cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container between wax paper for up to 4 days.

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Christmas Cookies 2015

Every year, I wait to start my Christmas baking until after I have completely finished shopping for gifts. and then… Every year, I feel as if I am running out of time and won’t be able to make it all happen. Well, I did sacrifice other things – going to the gym, cleaning my house… cooking dinner!?!? – but I did make my Christmas cookies! :) I even added two new types: Speculaas and Raspberry-Hazelnut Macaroons (posts to follow).

Thank goodness, it always works out somehow! It would be hard to have Christmas without them. Happy Holidays to you!! <3

Center:

Speculaas: Dutch Spice Cookies (1x recipe- I need to make more next year!)

Clockwise from Top:

Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps (4x recipe)

Pecan Shortbread Cookies (4x recipe- two batches of 2x recipe)

Lemon Butter Cookies (2x recipe)

Haselnussmakronen: Raspberry-Hazelnut Macaroons (2x recipe)

Raspberry Meringue Kisses (2x recipe)

Haystacks (2x recipe)

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Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

This was the most wonderful pumpkin pie I have ever eaten. The texture was so light it was like eating a cloud. :) This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Grace Parisi. I made a 9-inch deep dish pie. AMAZING!

Total Time: 2 1/2 hours

Yield: Makes one 10-inch pie or one 9-inch deep dish pie

For the All-Butter Pie Crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  1. In a food processor, pulse the flour with the salt.
  2. Add the butter and pulse until the size of peas, 5 to 10 seconds.
  3. Drizzle in the water and pulse until the crumbs are moistened; turn out onto a work surface.
  4. Gather into a ball, flatten, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (I refrigerated mine overnight.)

To Complete the Pie:

  • All-Butter Pie Crust (recipe above)
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • Pinch of coarse salt
  • One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  2. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 13-inch round a scant 1/4 inch thick. (I lightly flour the dough and roll it out between sheets of plastic wrap.)
  3. Fit the dough into a 10-inch glass pie plate (I used a 9-inch deep dish ceramic pie plate) and (trim the overhang to 3/4 inch). Fold the dough under itself and crimp decoratively. Refrigerate the pie shell for 10 minutes.
  4. Line the pie shell with parchment paper and then foil; fill with pie weights or dried beans. Place on a rimmed cookie sheet. Bake in the center of the oven until nearly set, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  5. Remove the foil and weights, discard the parchment, and bake until the crust is pale golden, about 10 minutes longer. Let cool slightly.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar, the cornstarch, cinnamon, cloves and salt until smooth.
  7. Whisk in the pumpkin puree then whisk in the cream.
  8. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and beat until the whites are glossy, about 1 minute longer.
  9. Fold the beaten whites into the filling.
  10. Working near the oven, pour the filling into the crust. Bake the pie for about 45 to 50 minutes, until the custard is set and the top is cracked; cover the edge of the crust with strips of foil if it browns too quickly. (I covered mine with a silicone pie crust shield from the start and then removed it near the end.)
  11. Cool the pie on a wire rack completely before serving.

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Pear & Almond Cream Tart

My entire family cannot stop eating pears this season. We are absolutely in love with them. Especially Bartletts. So, I really branched out by making these pear tarts instead of an apple pie for Thanksgiving this year in celebration of our love of pears. (As an aside, I have always had a love of tarts as well!)

This lovely tart recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Elisabeth Prueitt. I substituted 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract for the 2 tablespoons of brandy. I also made one 9-inch tart and one 10-inch tart because those are the size tart pans I own. ;) The original recipe was for two 9-inch tarts. Because the tart sizes were different, each had a different pear pattern on top. Beautiful and delicious.

Total Time: 1 1/2 hours

Yield: Makes 2 9-inch Tarts

For the Pastry:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk mixed with 1/4 cup ice water

For the Filling:

  • 1 cup milk (I used 1 percent)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 1 stick plus 6 tablespoons (7 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups sliced almonds, plus more for garnish, if desired
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or 1 T vanilla extract
  • 6 ripe medium Bartlett pears, peeled, quartered and cored
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar and salt. Pulse in the butter until it is the size of small peas.
  3. Sprinkle the egg mixture on top and pulse just until a dough forms.
  4. Scrape the pastry onto 2 sheets of plastic wrap and form into 2 disks. Wrap and refrigerate until chilled. (I let it chill overnight.)
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each pastry disk to a 12-inch round 1/8 inch thick. Fit the pastry into two 9-inch fluted tart pans with removable bottoms. Fold the overhang onto itself. Using a sharp knife or a rolling pin, trim off any excess pastry. Chill to set while you prepare the filling.
  6. Bring the milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan.
  7. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar with 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch.
  8. Whisk in 1 egg and the salt.
  9. Gradually whisk in the hot milk, then return it to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, whisking, until thickened and just beginning to bubble around the edges, about 4 minutes.
  10. Strain the custard into a bowl and let cool slightly. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the butter.
  11. Using an electric mixer or a stand mixer, beat the remaining 12 tablespoons of butter with the sliced almonds at medium-low speed until the almonds are slightly crushed.
  12. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar and the remaining 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 2 eggs, then beat in the custard and brandy/vanilla.
  13. Spoon the filling into the tarts. Place 1 pear quarter in the center of each tart; arrange the remaining quarters in a circle around it. (I made different patterns with the different size tarts, and was only able to place a pear quarter in the center of the 10-inch tart.)
  14. Bake the tarts in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, rotating halfway between the cooking time, or until the pears are very tender and the custard and pastry are deep golden.
  15. Let the tarts cool for 30 minutes, then unmold. Garnish with additional sliced almonds, if desired.
  16. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

Note: The tarts can be stored overnight in airtight containers.

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Pig Party!

My daughter adores PIGS. :) She collects stuffed pigs, reads fictional and non-fictional books about pigs, and even wrote her first research paper (in 2nd grade!) about pot-bellied pigs. To celebrate her 9th birthday, she invited over a few friends for a pig-themed sleepover party. It was perfect!

We started with a pig invitation- inviting everyone to come PIG out and celebrate. ;) It included a custom rhyme based on one of our favorite books “If you Give a Pig a Party” by Laura Numeroff.

We PIGged out eating pizza, pig cupcakes, pig pancakes, and pig cookies. We also had our traditional “Number Cookies” as well as chocolate fondue. (Which will most likely become a new tradition!)

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Yes, there were a lot of sweet treats. :)

The girls also made beanie boo sleeping bags adapted from Doll Diaries.com. SO cute! :) (I cut 2 pieces of fabric 19″ x 16″ and 1 piece 11″ x 16″, with a 4″ fringe border.)

For the Yellow Cupcakes: (Recipe from The New Best Recipe All-New Edition from the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated)

Yield: 12 cupcakes

  • 7 1/2 oz (1 1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 7 oz (1 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg, plus 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Line a standard muffin tin with paper or foil liners. (I prefer foil-lined paper liners!)
  3. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer.
  4. Add the butter, sour cream, egg, yolks, and vanilla and beat the wet ingredients into the dry at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds.
  5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and stir by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain.
  6. Divide the batter evenly among the cups of the prepared tin using a 2-oz ice cream scoop or a spoon.
  7. Bake until the cupcake tops are pale gold and a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes.
  8. Use a skewer or paring knife to lift the cupcakes from the tin and transfer to a wire rack; cool the cupcakes to room temperature, about 45 minutes.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting & Pig Decorations:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened but still cool
  • 5 T unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1 T sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 oz (1 1/4 cups) Confectioners’ sugar, plus more for glaze
  • red gel food coloring
  • 6 jumbo marshmallows
  • 12 standard marshmallows
  • pink sanding sugar
  • semi-sweet chocolate chips for the eyes and piping
  • 12 sugar flowers
  1. Using a serrated knife, cut each jumbo marshmallow in half to create two smaller rounds (snouts). Cut each standard marshmallow in half on a diagonal (ears).
  2. Combine a few tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar with a teaspoon of water. Add more water as needed to create a thin glaze.
  3. Cover the top surface of the snouts and the inner surface of the ears with the glaze. Place on a cooling rack and sprinkle with pink sanding sugar to coat. Set aside to set.
  4. When the cupcakes are cool, process the cream cheese, butter, sour cream, and vanilla in a stand mixer until combined, scraping down the bowl as necessary.
  5. Add the 5 oz Confectioners’ sugar and process until smooth.
  6. Using a toothpick, add a small amount of red gel food coloring and process to combine. Continue to add small amounts until desired shade is achieved.
  7. Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting evenly over the surface of each cupcake. (I place a dollop on each cupcake before spreading to ration it evenly.)
  8. Place the snouts, ears, sugar flowers, and eyes on each cupcake. Pipe melted chocolate chips to create the nostrils on the snouts.

Note: I refrigerated these cupcakes overnight and brought them to room temperature prior to serving.

Although I thought the cupcakes were absolutely delicious, the chocolate fondue was the big hit for dessert. I prepared it in minutes and served it during the intermission of our first pig-themed movie, “Babe”.

We used marshmallows, pound cake, pretzel rods, and banana chunks as dippables. The recipe was adapted from Rachel Ray. I used a combination of Lindt milk chocolate and dark chocolate instead of all bittersweet chocolate. I also omitted the optional liqueur and the nuts. Eating fondue is FUN! :)

Chocolate Fondue
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, divided, reserve 1/4 cup to thin if fondue begins to thicken
  • 4 bittersweet chocolate bars, chopped, 3 1/2 ounces each (I used 1/2 Lindt milk chocolate & 1/2 70% Cacao Lindt dark chocolate)
  • 2 tablespoons Frangelico or Amaretto liqueur, optional
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped hazelnuts or almonds, optional

Suggested Dippables, choose 3 or 4 selections of the following:

  • hazelnut or almond biscotti
  • salted pretzel sticks or pretzel rods
  • cubed pound cake
  • sliced bananas (large chunks work best)
  • marshmallows
  • strawberries
  • pineapple chunks
  1. Heat 1/2 cup cream in a heavy non-reactive saucepot over moderate heat until cream comes to a low boil.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and add chocolate.
  3. Let the chocolate stand in hot cream 3 to 5 minutes to soften, then whisk chocolate together with the cream.
  4. Stir in liqueur and/or chopped nuts, if using, and transfer the fondue to a fondue pot or set the mixing bowl on a rack above a small lit candle.
  5. Arrange your favorite dippables in piles on a platter along side chocolate fondue with fondue forks, bamboo skewers or seafood forks, as utensils, for dipping.

Note: If fondue becomes too thick, stir in reserved cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, to desired consistency.

In the morning, the girls watched their second pig-themed movie, “Gordy,” while I prepared their “pig” pancakes. I used this gold standard recipe.

Before…

After… (well, almost after…)

HBD, sweetheart! <3

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pig cake

Apple & Pear Galette with Walnut Streusel

Nothing is better than having a Happy Birthday Galette after Happy Birthday Mushroom Soup! :) I made this delicious free-form galette for my mom’s early birthday dinner celebration. Today is my mom’s actual birthday, so I felt like it was about time I posted it! Happy Birthday, Mom! <3

This recipe was adapted from a Food and Wine “staff favorite” recipe, contributed by Justin Chapel. I loved that the fruit was left unpeeled. It would also be absolutely fabulous for Thanksgiving.

I haven’t joined a link party for some time, so I’m sharing this deliciousness at Throwback Thursday and Fiesta Friday this week! Woo hoo! Enjoy. :)

Yield: Serves 12

For the Crust:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup ice water

For the Streusel:

  • 2/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed

For the Filling:

  • 2 Granny Smith apples—halved, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 2 firm Bartlett pears—halved, cored and sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick (I used Red Bartlett pears)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • turbinado sugar, for sprinkling the crust
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting, optional
  • freshly whipped cream, for serving, optional

IMG_1022

Make the Crust:

  1. In a food processor, pulse the 2 cups of flour with the salt. Add the butter and pulse until the pieces are 
the size of small peas.
  2. Sprinkle the water on top and pulse until the dough just comes together.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather up any crumbs and pat into a disk. (I turn it out onto a large piece of plastic wrap to decrease the mess.) Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until well chilled, 1 hour or up to overnight.

Make the Streusel:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°, on convection. Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and bake for about 5 to 8 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool, then chop.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the brown sugar and salt. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender or your fingers, pinch it into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. Add the walnuts and pinch the streusel into clumps. Refrigerate until chilled, about 15 minutes.

Make the Filling:

  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the apples with the pears, 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, the salt and lemon juice.
  3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 19-by-13-inch oval. (I roll the dough out on a piece of parchment paper fitted to the baking sheet.) Ease the dough onto the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Mound the filling in the center of the oval, leaving a 2-inch border. IMG_1019
  5. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the fruit and fold the edge of the dough up and over the filling. IMG_1020
  6. Brush the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle evenly with turbinado sugar.
  7. Bake the galette for 37 to 40 minutes in a convection oven, or up to 45 to 50 minutes in a standard oven, until the fruit is tender and the streusel and crust are golden brown.
  8. Let the galette cool. 
Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if using, before serving. Serve with fresh whipped cream, if desired.

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Throwback Thursday #15 is hosted by Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau and Quinn @ Dad Whats 4 Dinner.

Fiesta Friday #94 is hosted by Judi @Cooking with Aunt Juju and Stef @The Kiwi Fruit.

Soft Baked Snickerdoodles

I am drawn to recipes promising soft-baked and perfectly puffy cookies because I love the texture. BUT… I think it’s me… My soft-baked cookies are soft and delicious, but never as puffy. It’s weird! (and disappointing…) I’m blaming every oven I’ve ever had. :) It just can’t be me! ;)

Snickerdoodles just seem like the perfect autumn cookie. The cinnamon sugar topping is really season-less, but it just speaks to me this time of year. Most recipes seem to include shortening which is an ingredient that I completely avoid. This wonderful shortening-free recipe is from Buttercup Baking. Her cookies were SO puffy!! Mine were a little flatter (as you now know!) but super tasty.

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

For the Cookie Dough:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the Cinnamon Sugar Topping:

  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and mix.
  4. Whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, cinnamon, and baking soda.
  5. Add the salt after sifting and add the flour mixture slowly to the butter mixture. Mix until just incorporated.
  6. To Make the Topping: In a small shallow bowl, mix 2 T of sugar and 2 tsp of cinnamon.
  7. Using a large cookie scoop, make equally portioned balls of dough, about 3 dozen.
  8. Roll the balls of dough into the cinnamon sugar topping and place on baking sheet lined with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper.
  9. Bake in oven for 8 minutes on convection or up to 10 minutes in a standard oven (do not overbake). Let sit on baking sheet for 3 minutes before moving to cooling rack. The cookies will continue to cook on the baking sheet (so do not be tempted to put them back in the oven).

Note: These cookies are best eaten within a few days. For best taste, store in an air-tight container with a slice of white bread to absorb excess moisture.

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