Dessert

Perfect Pie Crust

Several pie crust recipes—an all butter pie crust, or pate brisee, an all butter crust with almonds, combining butter and shortening crust, and how to pre-bake or blind-bake a pie crust.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yes, you can make your own homemade pie crust! It’s not hard, once you get the hang of it, and the result is so much better than your typical frozen pie crust that you get at the store.

There are many different ways to make a pie crust. Every baker I know seems to have their favorite recipe or trick.

The most classic pie or pastry crust is made with butter. That one can take some practice to master, because if you handle it too much it will end up tough.

A more forgiving pie crust is one that is made with a mixture of butter and shortening. That way you get the flavor of the butter, with the easy flakiness that comes from using shortening.

Some people use all vegetable oil, and some swear by lard. One of my favorite ways to make a pie crust these days is to use sour cream as the fat, along with butter. No need for a food processor; the dough is easy to roll-out, and the crust is wonderfully flaky.

The following are instructions for making 1) a basic butter crust (pâte brisée) for sweet and savory pies and tarts, 2) a pre-baked pie crust needed for dishes such as quiche, 3) a combination butter and shortening crust, and 4) an egg wash finish for the pie.

The instructions will yield enough dough for 1 10-inch pie with a crust top, or 2 10-inch topless pies or tarts. If you are making a tart or just a pie bottom, cut all ingredients in half.

Pies to Make Using This Crust!

  • Classic Apple Pie
  • Lemon Meringue Pie
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
  • Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie
  • Easy Chocolate Cream Pie

These recipes call for unsalted butter. If you are using salted butter instead, omit the added salt.

Ingredients

All-Butter Pastry Crust for Sweet and Savory Pies (Pâte Brisée) (enough for bottom and top crust)

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons ice water

Variation: Swap out 1/2 a cup of the flour with ground blanched almonds or almond flour

Method

1 Mix flour, sugar, and salt: Put flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple times to mix.

2 Add butter, half at a time, pulsing several times after each addition: Add about half of the butter to the food processor and pulse several times. Then add the rest of the butter and pulse 6 to 8 times until the largest pieces of butter are about the size of large peas.

3 Slowly add ice water: Sprinkle the mixture with about 1/4 cup of ice water (make sure there are no ice cubes in the water!) and pulse again. Then add more ice water, a tablespoon at a time, pulsing once or twice after each addition until the dough just barely begins to hold together.

You know that the mixture is ready if when you pinch some of the crumbly dough together with your fingers, it holds together. Be cautious with the amount of water you add, too much and the crust will be tough.

3 Make two dough disks: Carefully empty the crumbly dough mixture from the food processor on to a clean, dry, flat surface. Gather the mixture in a mound.

Divide the dough mixture into two even-sized mounds. Use your hands and knead each mound just enough to form each one into a disk. Do not over-knead! Kneading develops gluten which will toughen the dough, not something you want in a pastry crust. You should just knead enough so that the dough holds together without cracks.

If you started with cold butter you should be able to see small chunks of butter speckling the dough. This is a good thing. These small bits of butter will spread out into layers as the crust cooks so you have a flaky crust!

Sprinkle each disk with a little flour, wrap each one in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour or up to 2 days.

4 Remove dough from refrigerator and let sit for a few minutes: Remove one crust disk from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes in order to soften just enough to make rolling out a bit easier.

5 Roll out dough, place in pie dish: Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. If necessary, add a few sprinkles of flour under the dough to keep the dough from sticking.

Carefully place onto a 9-inch pie plate. Gently press the pie dough down so that it lines the bottom and sides of the pie plate.

Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim the dough to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the pie dish.

6 Add filling to the pie.

7 Roll out second disk, place on top of filling: Roll out second disk of dough, as before. Gently place onto the top of the filling in the pie.

Trim excess dough with kitchen shears, leaving a 3/4 inch overhang. Fold the edge of the top piece of dough over and under the edge of the bottom piece of dough, pressing together.

Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with a fork.

Score the top of the pie with four 2-inch long cuts, so that steam from the cooking pie can escape.

How to Pre-Bake a Pie Crust

If your recipe calls for a pre-baked crust, as many custard pie recipes do, follow all the steps above for a single, bottom crust only, without filling.

1 Freeze the crust it for at least a half hour, until chilled. This is an important step in pre-baking. Otherwise the crust will slip down the sides.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

2 Line pie crust with aluminum foil: When the pie crust is sufficiently chilled, line the pie crust with aluminum foil. Let the foil extend over by a few inches on two sides to make it easier to lift to remove the pie weights when the baking is done.

3 Fill with pie weights: Fill the crust to the top with pie weights – dry beans, rice, or sugar. (Sugar works best.)

4 Bake: Bake at 350°F for 45-50 minutes if making a crust for a pie that will require further cooking, for example a quiche. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes if making a crust for a pie that you don’t need to bake further.

5 Cool completely before filling. You may need to tent the edges of the pie with aluminum foil when you bake your pie, to keep the edges from getting too dried out and burnt.

See more detailed instructions and photos for how to blind bake a crust here.

Combination Butter and Shortening Crust

Ingredients for one double-crust 9 inch or 10 inch pie:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup (a stick and a half) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup of all-vegetable shortening (8 Tbsp)
  • 6-8 Tablespoons ice water

1 Make the dough: Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor; pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse 4 times.

Add shortening in tablespoon sized chunks, and pulse 4 more times. The mixture should resemble coarse cornmeal, with butter bits no bigger than peas.

Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of ice water over flour mixture. Pulse a couple times. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it’s ready.

If the dough doesn’t hold together, keep adding water, a teaspoon at a time, pulsing once after each addition, until the mixture just begins to clump together.

2 Form disks: Remove dough from machine and place in a mound on a clean surface.

Divide the dough into 2 balls and flatten each into 4 inch wide disks.

Do not over-knead the dough!

Dust the disks lightly with flour, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to 2 days before rolling out.

3 Roll out the dough: After the dough has chilled in the refrigerator for an hour, you can take it out to roll. If it is too stiff, you may need to let it sit for 5-10 minutes at room temperature before rolling.

Sprinkle a little flour on a flat, clean work surface and on top of the disk of dough you intend to roll out. (We use a Tupperware pastry sheet that has the pie circles already marked.)

Using a rolling pin, apply light pressure while rolling outwards from the center of the dough.

Every once in a while you may need to gently lift under the dough (a pastry scraper works great for this) to make sure it is not sticking.

You have a big enough piece of dough when you place the pie tin or pie dish upside down on the dough and the dough extends by at least 2 inches all around.

4 Place into pie dish: When the dough has reached the right size, gently fold it in half. Lift up the dough and place it so that the folded edge is along the center line of the pie dish. Gently unfold. Do not stretch the dough.

5a Trim edges: If you are only making a single crust pie, use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim the dough to within 1/2 inch of the lip of the dish. Tuck the overhang underneath itself along the edge of the pie dish. Use your fingers in a pinching motion, or the tines of a fork to crimple the edge of the pie crust.

5b If you are making a double crust pie, roll out the second disk of dough. Gently place onto the top of the filling in the pie. Use a kitchen scissors to trim the overhang to an inch over. Fold the edge of the top piece of dough over and under the edge of the bottom piece of dough, pressing together. Finish the double crust by pressing against the edges of the pie with your finger tips or with a fork.

6 Make vents in top: Use a sharp knife to cut vents into the top of the pie crust, so the steam has a place to escape while the pie is cooking.

Optional Before scoring, you may want to paint the top of your crust with an egg wash (this will make a nice finish).

Egg Wash

A lovely coating for a pie can be achieved with a simple egg wash.

  • 1 Tbsp heavy cream, half and half, or milk
  • 1 large egg yolk

Beat egg yolk with cream and brush on the surface of the pie with a pastry brush.

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Mrs. Adams’ Delicious Pound Cake

A truly delicious pound cake recipe made with 1 lb of Imperial margarine, 6 eggs, 1 lb of sugar, and 3 cups of cake flour.

My mother has been praising our neighbor Mrs. Adams’ pound cake for many years.

My mother is a self-described cake person (“There are cake people and there are pie people. I’m a cake person.”) who gets dreamy eyed just thinking about this pound cake.

So, when Mrs. Adams prepared this cake (among several other desserts) for a neighborhood party, I couldn’t wait to try it.

It really was divine! Perfect. When I stopped by to get the recipe I captured the Adams granddaughter four-year-old Marly eyeing the cake.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of Imperial margarine (sticks)**
  • 6 eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 lb confectioners sugar
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of Imperial margarine (sticks)**
  • 6 eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 lb confectioners sugar
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Method

1 Make the batter: Beat together the margarine and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat lightly, mixing in well after each addition. Add flour and mix well. Add vanilla before, during, and after adding the flour.

2 Bake the cake: Pour batter into a stick-free or greased and floured bundt cake pan and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours on 325°F. Begin watching the cake at 1 hour. The cake is done when a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cake should be cracked on top and golden brown.

3 Cool: Cool for 5 minutes on a cake rack. Loosen the sides with a knife. Gently remove the cake from the pan while still warm.

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Buttery Apple Torte

Buttery Italian Apple Torte! This light single layer cake is filled with apple slices that have been cooked in butter.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 8 servings

This Italian apple torte is easy to make, and delicious! It’s light and springy and loaded with apple slices.

The key is to first cook the apple slices in butter before adding them to the batter. Not only do the apples get infused with buttery flavor, pre-cooking them helps remove moisture, so the cake doesn’t get soggy.

Here’s a tip, don’t leave out the zest! The lemon zest, although only a half teaspoon is used, is an essential ingredient—it helps brighten the flavor of the cake.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (8 Tbsp, 1 stick, 4 oz or 125 g) plus 1 Tbsp of unsalted butter
  • 3 Fuji, Jonagold, or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into slices 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick
  • 2/3 cup (3 1/2 oz or 105 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (See How to Tell if Your Baking Powder is Still Good)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz or 185 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (8 Tbsp, 1 stick, 4 oz or 125 g) plus 1 Tbsp of unsalted butter
  • 3 Fuji, Jonagold, or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into slices 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick
  • 2/3 cup (3 1/2 oz or 105 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (See How to Tell if Your Baking Powder is Still Good)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz or 185 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Method

1 Preheat oven and prep cake pan: Preheat an oven to 375°F (190°C). Generously butter an 8 or 9-inch (23 cm) round cake pan with 2 inch (5 cm) sides. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and butter the top of it as well.

2 Cook the apple slices: Melt the butter in the microwave or on the stovetop. Pour 6 Tbsp (3 fl oz or 90 ml) of it into a small bowl or cup and set aside.

Add the apple slices and the remaining butter to a large frying pan and cook on medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

3 Make the batter: In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the whole eggs and egg yolk until blended.

Add the 6 Tbsp of melted butter, the vanilla, the granulated sugar, and the lemon zest.

Stir in the flour mixture and the apples.

4 Spoon batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.

5 Bake: Bake at 375°F 30-35 minutes. The cake is done when it is browned, and when you press into the top, it bounces back. After about 20 minutes of baking or so, if the top is getting well browned, tent the cake with aluminum foil.

Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes.

Invert the cake onto a plate and lift off the pan, then invert the cake again onto the rack and let cool completely.

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Suzanne’s Chocolate Cake

Rich, moist, three-layer chocolate cake with a butter cocoa frosting. An easy chocolate cake recipe from scratch.

Homemade Chocolate Cake with a Story

My friend Suzanne served in the Peace Corps for two years in Kenya in the late Eighties. The Peace Corps at that time published a recipe book for their volunteers that provided a recipe for how to make chocolate cake. It was special in that one could mix it in one pot, use vegetable oil, which was more readily available than butter, and cook in the same pot over a charcoal brazier.

Suzanne perfected the recipe, especially for cooking over the brazier, and since she had the only home for miles around with a cement floor, a tin roof, and good water, she would often play hostess to nearby volunteers and serve them this chocolate cake (usually sans frosting).

Once Suzanne returned to the States, she then spent months of trial and error, and several burnt chocolate cakes, to adjust the recipe for the best chocolate cake (oven-cooked with layering and frosting). It is now her family’s favorite cake, which they dub “Kenya Cake”. A rich, easy to make chocolate cake, with a great history. Thanks so much Suzanne!

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp unsweetened natural cocoa
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 5 large or 4 extra large/jumbo eggs
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla

Frosting:

  • 1 box powdered sugar (1 pound or 454 grams)
  • 3/4 cup cocoa (use Van Houten, Droste, or other dark, high quality alkalized unsweetened cocoa)
  • A flavoring liquid (water, vanilla, rum, cognac, kirsch, or amaretto)
  • 1 1/2 cup butter – firm, not cold, not too soft

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp unsweetened natural cocoa
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 5 large or 4 extra large/jumbo eggs
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla

Frosting:

  • 1 box powdered sugar (1 pound or 454 grams)
  • 3/4 cup cocoa (use Van Houten, Droste, or other dark, high quality alkalized unsweetened cocoa)
  • A flavoring liquid (water, vanilla, rum, cognac, kirsch, or amaretto)
  • 1 1/2 cup butter – firm, not cold, not too soft

Method

Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

1 In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and cocoa.

2 Add 1 cup and 2 tablespoons of water and 1 cup and 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Mix for 1 minute.

3 Add eggs, 3/4 cup of water, vanilla. Mix 5-6 minutes with a whisk, 3-4 minutes with a hand mixer, or 2 minutes with a KitchenAid mixer.

4 Pour into three 10″ cake pans, bake at 350°F for 25-35 minutes (adjust for convection); test by placing and removing a toothpick through the center at 25 minutes. When toothpick comes out clean, loosen from pans and then put back in the pans. Let cakes cool for 15 minutes. Keep in the pans, wrap in foil, and put in the freezer for at least 2 hours.

Frosting:

This part is a little harder as it is really done to taste.

1 Put powdered sugar and 3/4 cup cocoa into a food processor. Pulse until blended.

2 Drizzle in, until about the consistency of firm butter, several tablespoons of flavoring liquid (water if you aren’t looking for flavor beyond the cocoa and butter). To not put in too much liquid, but if you do, add cocoa or sugar. Taste. When the flavor and consistency is right,

3 add 1 1/2 cup of butter (firm, not cold and not too soft). A good rule of thumb is that both the butter and the sugar mixture should be slightly firmer than you would want it to be to spread it, since the mixing action of the food processor will warm it slightly. Pulse until blended.

Assembling the cake:

Remove the cakes from the freezer and from their pans. Stack, frosting each layer as you go. Let sit for an hour before serving.

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Grandma’s Sunshine Salad

Classic retro sunshine Jello salad recipe, with lemon Jello, grated carrots, and crushed pineapple.

Years ago, in the sixties, my grandmother came to live with us. She loved to bake, especially oatmeal raisin cookies and lemon meringue pie.

She also loved to make Jell-O salads.

As kids we loved Jell-O in all flavors. Who were we to wonder when my grandmother put things like cucumbers, horseradish, carrots, and or pineapple in with the Jell-O?

One of her favorites was a Jell-O salad made with carrots and crushed pineapple. I had all but forgotten this salad until I met a woman at a counter at Logan Airport who told me about her favorite Jell-O salad, called a “Sunshine Salad”.

This is it, grandma’s salad!

Ingredients

  • 2 3-ounce packages lemon flavored gelatin
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 1 9-ounce cans crushed pineapple with juice (cannot use fresh pineapple)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 cups grated carrots

Ingredients

  • 2 3-ounce packages lemon flavored gelatin
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 1 9-ounce cans crushed pineapple with juice (cannot use fresh pineapple)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 cups grated carrots

Method

1 Empty gelatin into a small mixing bowl. Stir in 2 cup of boiling water. Stir thoroughly until the gelatin has dissolved.

2 Stir in 1 cup ice water, one can of crushed pineapple with its juice, lemon juice (or vinegar), and a pinch of salt. (Make sure you use canned pineapple. Fresh pineapple has an enzyme that will prevent the gelatin from jelling.)

3 Chill in refrigerator until the gelatin starts to thicken. Then gently fold in the grated carrots until well mixed.

4 Add mixture to a jello mold. Set in the refrigerator until firm, several hours. To unmold, dip the bottom of the pan in hot water for about 5 seconds. Invert onto a serving platter, and shake firmly to release. Slice to serve.

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Classic Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate mousse is a great dessert for entertaining because 1) it looks pretty, 2) everyone gets their own serving, and 3) you can make it a day ahead of time.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Chilling time: 8 hours
  • Yield: Serves 5 to 8

This Chocolate Mousse is thick, rich, creamy, and a perfect dessert for entertaining! Not only is it pretty, everyone gets their own serving, and you can make it a day ahead of time.

I found this recipe years ago in the Bouchon cookbook by famed chef Thomas Keller. It is somewhat of a “chef-y” recipe with melting chocolate over a double boiler, whipping egg whites and whipped cream.

But if you follow the tips I outline below, you should have success with the recipe and a beautiful, luscious chocolate mousse dessert!

Best chocolate for chocolate mousse

If you want a truly chocolate-y chocolate mousse, use a bittersweet dark chocolate, anywhere from 62% to 70% cocoa.

For this chocolate mousse I’m using the darkest chocolate I could find (Trader Joe’s has some Belgian 70% cocoa 1 lb bricks).

If you are going to serve the mousse straight – with no added cream or fruit, and you love the taste of barely sweet dark chocolate, your mousse will be perfect with the 70%.

If you layer in fruit (raspberries complement the chocolate quite well) and or more whipped cream, you’ll want either to add sugar or use 62% bittersweet chocolate.

Tips for chocolate mousse success

Chocolate mousse can be a little bit tricky! Here are some tips to help you be successful with this recipe:

  • Gently melt chocolate: Melt chocolate over barely simmering water in a double boiler. You can set up a double boiler by placing a metal bowl over a saucepan with barely simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water.) If you don’t use a double boiler, the chocolate can break or separate.
  • Cool chocolate to barely warm: Once you’ve melted the chocolate with the butter and espresso, you’ll want to cool it until it is barely warm when you dab some on your lower lip. That will be the right temperature for adding the egg yolks. Too warm and the eggs will cook. Too cool and the chocolate will seize up when you add the other ingredients.
  • Separate eggs when cold, but whip at room temp: Eggs separate easiest when they are right out of the fridge. But egg whites will whip more easily when they are room temp. So separate the eggs first, and then let them sit at room temp for several minutes.
  • Clean equipment for whipping egg whites: Egg whites will refuse to whip properly if there is any residual fat in the bowl or bowl beaters you are using, or if there are any bits of egg yolk that made their way into the whites. So make sure you are using very clean equipment, and you have picked out any bits of egg yolk that may be in the whites.
  • Fold, don’t stir, egg whites and whipped cream: Gently fold egg whites and whipped cream into your chocolate mousse and your mousse will be fluffy.

This classic chocolate mousse recipe uses raw egg whites and raw egg yolks. For most people this is not an issue, but people with compromised immune systems, pregnant women, very young or old people, should avoid raw eggs do to the risk of salmonella.

You can buy pasteurized eggs at the store if you feel uncomfortable using raw eggs in this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp (1 ounce) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 Tbsp espresso or very strong coffee (I used decaf espresso from a local Starbucks)
  • 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • 3 large eggs, separated*
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • Raspberries and extra whipped cream (optional)

*This recipe uses raw eggs. If you are concerned about salmonella risks, you can use pasteurized eggs. 

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp (1 ounce) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 Tbsp espresso or very strong coffee (I used decaf espresso from a local Starbucks)
  • 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • 3 large eggs, separated*
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • Raspberries and extra whipped cream (optional)

*This recipe uses raw eggs. If you are concerned about salmonella risks, you can use pasteurized eggs. 

Method

1 Whip the cream: Whip the heavy whipping cream to soft peaks, then chill.

2 Melt chocolate with butter, espresso: Put the finely chocolate, cubed butter, and espresso in the top of a double boiler over hot, steamy water (not simmering), stirring frequently until smooth.

Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and let it cool until the chocolate is just warm to the touch. Don’t let the chocolate get tool cool or the mixture will seize when the other ingredients are added.

3 Whip egg whites: Once you’ve taken the chocolate mixture off the heat and it has started to cool, whip the egg whites until they are foamy and beginning to hold a shape. Sprinkle in the sugar and whip until the egg whites form stiff peaks.

4 Add egg yolks to chocolate: When the chocolate has cooled until it is just warm to the touch, stir in the egg yolks.

5 Add whipped cream and egg whites: Gently stir in about one-third of the whipped cream to thin and loosen the chocolate mixture. Then fold in half the egg whites. Fold in the remaining egg whites. Fold in the remaining whipped cream.

6 Spoon into serving dishes, chill: Spoon or pipe the mousse into a serving dishes. If you wish, layer in fresh raspberries and whipped cream. Chill in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours.

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Cinnamon Sticky Buns

Cinnamon sweet sticky buns, with melted brown sugar and pecans.

Ready in:

  • Yield: Makes 15 sticky buns

“Elise, I absolutely forbid you from making these again,” exclaimed my father in exasperation after his fifth sticky bun from this batch.

“That good, eh? I’m glad you like them,” I answered smiling. We finally had to freeze the few remaining, lest we completely destroy our appetites for the entire day.

The problem with these sticky buns, loaded with melted brown sugar and pecans, is that they are irresistible. And, once you have one, you must have another.

The recipe is adapted from this month’s (February, 2006) Oprah Magazine. (It does make you wonder, with Oprah’s ongoing emphasis on weight-loss, the logic of publishing recipes like these. But then again, moderation is the key, and if you are going to eat something sweet, better make it good!)

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 1/4 cup warm water (105° to 115°)
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Topping:

  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) coarsely chopped pecans

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 1/4 cup warm water (105° to 115°)
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Topping:

  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) coarsely chopped pecans

Method

1 Make the dough: In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine warm water, yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir to dissolve and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add milk, butter, remaining sugar, egg yolks, orange zest, salt and 3 cups flour. Mix on low speed until blended.

Switch to a dough hook and then, again on low speed, slowly incorporate the remaining 1 cup of flour.

Increase speed to medium, kneading dough until smooth and slightly sticky (adding a little more flour if too wet), 3 to 5 minutes.

Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large, buttered bowl. Turn dough over in bowl to coat with the butter from the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour (or 2 hours if not in an entirely warm place).

After the dough has risen, punch down. Turn out onto a lightly floured cutting board and let sit 20 minutes.

2 Make the filling: Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Melt butter; keep separate.

3 Roll out the dough, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, roll into a cylinder, make crosswise cuts: Roll dough out into a 12″ x 18″ rectangle. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Starting with the long side, roll dough into a cylinder. Place seam side down on a flat surface and cut crosswise into 15 slices.

4 Make the topping: In a 1-quart saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter, honey and corn syrup over low heat; stir until sugar and butter are melted. Pour mixture into a greased 9″ x 13″ pan and sprinkle pecans on top.

5 Place dough rounds, flat side down, on top of prepared topping. Crowd them so they touch. Cover with plastic wrap, leaving room for the buns to rise, and refrigerate overnight.

6 Bake: Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature while the oven pre-heats. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake buns until golden, 30 to 35 minutes.

7 Remove from oven and invert: Remove pan from oven and immediately (and carefully as not to spill hot topping on your toes!) invert onto a serving tray or baking dish. Let buns cool slightly and serve warm.

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Cardamom Citrus Fruit Salad

Citrus fruit salad, perfect for winter citrus, pink grapefruit and navel oranges, sweetened with honey, seasoned with lime juice and cardamom.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

The leaves are all down, apples, pomegranates, and persimmons all picked, days mostly overcast and dreary, save for neighborhood citrus trees with their orange and yellow orbs dotting the landscape with vivid color.

Citrus trees love winter in California and our lemon, grapefruit and orange trees are heavy with fruit.

Here’s a cheerful fruit salad we found in a local grocery store circular made with colorful citrus. The cardamom provides a lovely accent to the honey-sweetened citrus segments.

Ingredients

  • 1 large ruby pink grapefruit
  • 3 navel oranges or a combination of naval oranges, blood oranges, mandarin oranges and/or tangerines
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime or lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon

Ingredients

  • 1 large ruby pink grapefruit
  • 3 navel oranges or a combination of naval oranges, blood oranges, mandarin oranges and/or tangerines
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime or lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon

Method

1 Prep the fruit: Peel the fruit. Cut away the membranes of the individual segments with a sharp knife. Collect the peeled segments in a bowl.

2 Make the dressing: Drain off any excess juice from the fruit into a small saucepan.

Add the lime juice, honey, and cardamom to the saucepan.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes and then remove from heat and let cool to room temp.

3 Combine: Pour over fruit mixture and gently fold in so that all the fruit is coated. Let stand for 15 minutes or chill until ready to serve.

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Strawberry Cream Cake

Beautiful three-layer strawberry cream cake for that special occasion. Rich pound cake cut into three layers, filled with fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and strawberry purée. Topped with whipped cream and strawberries.

Ready in:

  • Yield: Serves 8 to 10

My father has been looking for an excuse to make this cake since he first saw it in Cook’s Illustrated (May/June 2006). With dual imperatives of Mother’s Day being two weeks away and my brother John’s birthday (never mind that John lives in Oklahoma and we live in California) dad finally had the motivation he needed.

Cook’s Illustrated mentions in its write-up that this is a “special occasion” cake, and indeed it is. The cake is much more involved than our usual strawberry shortcake, but perhaps more suited to a formal occasion.

We just made a couple small changes to the recipe. We left out the Kirsch since we didn’t have it and didn’t think it was necessary. Rather than using a food processor to mash the berries we used a good old fashioned potato masher, which of course worked fine.

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Strawberry Filling

  • 2 pounds fresh strawberries (medium or large, about 2 quarts), washed, dried, and stemmed
  • 4-6 Tbsp sugar
  • Pinch salt

Whipped Cream

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Strawberry Filling

  • 2 pounds fresh strawberries (medium or large, about 2 quarts), washed, dried, and stemmed
  • 4-6 Tbsp sugar
  • Pinch salt

Whipped Cream

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Method

Make the cake

1 Prepare the oven and cake pan: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour round 9 by 2-inch cake pan or 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper.

2 Make the cake batter: In a large bowl, by hand, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and all but 3 Tbsp of the sugar in mixing bowl. Whisk in 2 whole eggs and 3 yolks (reserving whites), butter, water, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.

3 Beat the egg whites: In a separate bowl, use an electronic mixer to beat remaining 3 egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With machine running, gradually add remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form, 60 to 90 seconds.

4 Fold beaten egg whites into batter: Stir one-third of whites into batter to lighten. Add the remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain.

5 Bake: Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 325°F until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes.

Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert cake onto greased wire rack; peel off and discard parchment. Invert cake again; cool completely, about 2 hours. It does help to freeze the cake after it has cooled to make it easier to cut horizontally in later steps.


Strawberry filling

6 Macerate the berries in sugar, then mash: Cut in half 24 of best-looking berries and reserve. Slice or quarter remaining berries; toss with 4 to 6 tablespoons sugar (depending on sweetness of berries) in medium bowl and let sit 1 hour, stirring occasionally. The sugar will macerate the strawberries, making them soft, and generating liquid.

Strain the juices from berries and reserve (you should have about 1/2 cup). Put the strawberries in a bowl and use a potato masher to mash them; set aside.

7 Make syrup with strained strawberry juices: In small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer reserved juices until syrupy and reduced to about 3 tablespoons, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour reduced syrup over macerated berries, add pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Set aside until cake is cooled.

Whipped cream

8 Make the whipped cream and cream cheese: When cake has cooled, place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed.

Reduce speed to low and add heavy cream in slow, steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes more, scraping bowl as needed (you should have about 4 1/2 cups).

Assemble the cake

5 Using large serrated knife, slice cake into three even layers. Place bottom layer on cardboard round or cake plate and arrange ring of 12-20 strawberry halves, cut sides down and stem ends facing out, around perimeter of cake layer.

Pour one half of puréed berry mixture (about 3/4 cup) in center, then spread to cover any exposed cake. Gently spread about one-third of whipped cream (about 1 1/2 cups) over berry layer, leaving 1/2-inch border from edge.

Place middle cake layer on top and press down gently (whipped cream layer should become flush with cake edge). Repeat with 12-20 additional strawberry halves, remaining berry mixture, and half of remaining whipped cream; gently press last cake layer on top.

Spread remaining whipped cream over top; decorate with remaining cut strawberries.

Serve immediately, or keep chilled. If the whipped cream warms to room temperature it will be harder to keep stable while cutting.

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Peach Blueberry Cake

Elegant peach and blueberry cake with a rich, buttery, biscuit-like crust.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours
  • Yield: Serves 8

I found this peach blueberry cake recipe on Epicurious and couldn’t resist trying it!

The crust is almost biscuit-like and has a rich buttery flavor. Although the original recipe calls for the cake to be cooked for 1 3/4 hours, I ended up cooking mine for 2 hours, the last 15 minutes of which were without the foil so the top could brown a little.

The Epicurious recipe doesn’t call for buttering the pan. I found that mine stuck a bit and I had to use a sharp knife to separate the cake from the pan.

So I suggest using a stick-free springform pan or buttering your pan. Adding a round of parchment to the bottom of the pan will help as well.

If you are using a dark baking pan, reduce the oven temperature by 25°F to 350°F.

Ingredients

For the pastry crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup sugar (can reduce to 1/4 cup of sugar)
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp instant tapioca (can sub with a Tbsp of cornstarch)
  • 2 lb ripe, firm, large peaches (about 4), halved lengthwise, pitted, and each half cut lengthwise into four wedges
  • 1 cup blueberries (1/2 pint)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

Special equipment:

  • A 9 to 9 1/2-inch (24-cm) springform pan
  • An electric spice grinder
  • Food processor

Method

1 Make the crust dough: Put flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a food processor and pulse until combined.

Add the butter and pulse just a few times, until the pieces of butter are no bigger than a pea.

Add the egg and vanilla extract and pulse several more times, until the dough begins to clump together and form a ball.

2 Press dough into pan: Generously butter the inside of your springform pan. Place a round of parchment paper at the bottom of the pan and butter the top of the parchment as well.

Press the dough evenly onto the bottom of the pan (about 1/4 inch thick), and about 2 inches up the sides of the pan.

Put into the refrigerator to chill for at least 10 minutes.

3 Prepare oven: Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.

4 Make the filling: Grind 2 tablespoons sugar with flour and tapioca in a spice grinder until tapioca is powdery. (If using cornstarch instead of instant tapioca, you do not need to grind.)

Transfer to a large bowl and stir in remaining sugar. Add peaches, blueberries, and lemon juice and gently toss to coat.

5 Bake: Fill pastry crust with peach and blueberry filling. Cover loosely with foil. Bake at 375°F until the filling is bubbly in the center and crust is golden, about 1 3/4 hours.

6 Cool and remove from pan: Remove cake from oven and set on a rack to cool, uncovered for 20 minutes. Run a blunt knife around the inside edge of the pan to help release the crust from the sides of the pan. Then carefully remove the side of pan.

Cool cake to barely warm or room temperature Cut into thick wedges before serving.

Note that although the cake will come out of the oven somewhat liquidy. The liquid should gel nicely as the cake cools.

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