Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

Ever been to one of those olive oil/vinegar bars? I know they are popping up all over the place – even the local mall. When I was in Door County, WI a few months ago, I finally visited one.

If you live in, say, the Chicago area, you should be quite familiar with Door County. It’s one of the 20-some destinations in Wisconsin that frazzled Chicagoans escape to on the weekends during the summer. And as such, yes, there is a bit of Chicago-Wisconsin animosity. I know – I used to live there. I readily used the term FIB* and yet…now I am one.

Anyhow, Door County is filled with little shops and restaurants. I am a bit nostalgic about the place – having gone there almost yearly since birth (in my pre-FIB days). As I said previously, on my most recent trip, I came across a little olive oil/vinegar bar called Fish Creek Oilerie. They had all kinds of oils and vinegars to sample. I came across their aged balsamic – did a shot and…swoon! This is some of the best balsamic vinegar I’ve ever had. Especially for the price. So I scarfed up a bottle.

Now what to do with it? Tons of things. I’ve been meaning to glaze some chicken with it. But for today, we’re going to throw it on some berries.

I wish I could give a recipe for this, but I really don’t have one. I eyeballed everything.

More or less, this is what I did:

Balsamic Vinegar
Vanilla Extract

Sliced some berries.

Poured a few tablespoons of balsamic into a bowl. Added a smidge of sugar. Tossed in the berries and stirred to coat.

Then I grabbed another bowl – threw in maybe half a cup of mascarpone cheese. Then maybe 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla. And maybe some sugar. Stirred it up.

Then I put the berries in a serving dish and served them with a dollop of mascarpone.

Good stuff! Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

*For your education: FIB.

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Peanut Butter Jelly with a baseball bat (sorry! I couldn't resist!)

Peanut Butter Jelly with a baseball bat (sorry! I couldn't resist!)

I promise not to break into song on this one. Even though I want to just scream out Peanut Butter Jelly Time at the top of my lungs. How one song could be both so stupid and so catchy…

Anyway, this is take two in Ina Garten is a goddess series (previously, it was her Fruit Tart). What could be better than a dessert like your childhood favorite sandwich? They are delightfully nostalgic, yet fit for adults. Peanut butter crust, jelly in the middle, more peanut butter and topped with a sprinkling of more peanutty goodness.  Be warned though – these little guys are sweeter than sweet. I undercooked them a bit – I can’t remember why I did that, but be careful doing that with these bars – when really undercooked, they barely hold together.

Shoot. These are just good. My mouth is watering thinking about them.  So quit listening to me and just go make your own? I’m probably going to go whip up another batch anyway.

Peanut Butter Jelly Bars


1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups (18 ounces) creamy peanut butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (18 ounces) raspberry jam or other jam (I used blackberry)
2/3 cups salted peanuts, coarsely chopped


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch cake pan. Line it with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pan.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light yellow, about 2 minutes.

4. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter and mix until all ingredients are combined.

5. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

6. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture. Mix just until combined.

7. Spread 2/3 of the dough into the prepared cake pan and spread over the bottom with a knife or offset spatula. Spread the jam evenly over the dough. Drop small globs of the remaining dough evenly over the jam. Don’t worry if all the jam isn’t covered; it will spread in the oven.

8. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown.

9. Cool and cut into squares.


Ms. Pantry Raid

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Whether Sabayon or Zabaglione, this is the easiest, most impressive dessert you can make.

Whether Sabayon or Zabaglione, this is the easiest, most impressive dessert you can make.

It is the end of summer and it is time for one of my all-time, favorite desserts. Sabayon if you are French or Zabaglione if you are Italian.

So really, what’s the diff?

Ah, who knows. My guess is it’s the type of wine used. Traditionally, it should be sweet Marsala (for Zabaglione). But I use whatever white I have on hand. You can also use a sparkling wine like Champagne or Prosecco.

So, uh, really, what IS it?

Sabayon/Zabaglione* is an extraordinarily easy-to-make dessert consisting of egg yolks, sugar and wine. It is served warm, usually atop something else (more often than not, it is fresh berries).  I love this dessert because it is so easy, can be made to order, is always impressive and has no leftovers.

I like to use Emeril Lagasse’s recipe because it makes a relatively small amount.

* You can also make a savory Sabayon, but I know absolutely nothing about this except I’m assuming you’d use a drier wine and nix the sugar.


From Emeril Lagasse
Serves 4

2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup white wine

1. Fill a 1-quart saucepan half-full with water over medium heat and bring to a simmer.

2. Place all ingredients in a medium stainless steel bowl and whisk until well combined. Place the bowl over the saucepan and continue to whisk until the sauce is thick and doubled in volume, 3 to 5 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough so that it will support a ribbon of sauce trailing off the end of the spoon when lifted.

3. Serve warm over berries, poached fruit or whatever accompaniment you like in small bowls or decorative glasses.

Ms. Pantry Raid

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Ina Garten's Fresh Fruit Tart

Ina Garten's Fresh Fruit Tart

Oh Ina Garten, how I love thee. Everything you touch turns to gold.

Seriously, I have never, ever had a problem with a Barefoot Contessa recipe. Be it appetizer, entree or dessert; everything turns out perfectly. I will admit to being a little more trusting of chefs and cookbook authors who aren’t stick thin. It is a bias I have. I am sorry if that makes me a bad person. I quote a friend’s husband, “she suffers for her art”. That may be true, but I am thankful for it because her recipes are ALWAYS – I repeat ALWAYS – dead on.

One of my favorite desserts I’ve ever made is her Fresh Fruit Tart out of the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I used to be in the “dessert can only consist of chocolate” until I had this tart. I am fully converted to the idea that fruit can be in integral part of my dessert.

Really, I have nothing to say. This recipe is foolproof IMO. The pastry cream comes together easily, the tart shell too. It is rather sweet, so I don’t ever use the glaze over the berries. Alright – to be honest, I usually don’t have any jam on hand for that part and that’s the REAL reason I don’t do the glaze. But really, I don’t think it needs it. Besides – isn’t it really just to make the berries look better anyway?


Here you go – my favorite fruit tart:

Fresh Fruit Tart

Pastry Shell
Fits a 10 inch tart pan (whatever, I have a 9 inch. Hence why my tart is a little thick looking in the photog).
Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

3/4 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. flour, sifted
pinch salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, mix butter and sugar until just combined.
  3. Add vanilla
  4. Turn mixer onto low speed and add sifted flour and salt to the butter mixture. Mix until dough starts to come together.
  5. Dump onto floured surface and shape into a flat disk.
  6. Press dough into tart pan, making sure the edges are flat.
  7. Chill until firm. Butter one side of a square of parchment paper that will fit into tart shell and place it, buttered side down, on the chilled pastry. Fill with rice, beans or pie weights.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights, prick tart all over with tines of a fork. Bake for 20-25 minutes more, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool at room temperature.

Pastry Cream
Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
make 2 1/2 cups (enough for 2 10 inch tarts)

6 extra large egg yolks
3/4 c. sugar
3 T. cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
2 T. unsalted butter
1 t. vanilla extract
2 T. heavy cream
1 t. Cognac or Brandy

  1. In bowl of electric mixture using paddle attachment on medium high speed, beat egg yolks and sugar until mixture is pale yellow and falls back into the bowl in a ribbon (about 3 minutes).
  2. On low speed, beat in cornstarch
  3. Bring milk to a boil in a large saucepan and , with the mixer on low, slowly pour it into the egg mixture. Then pour mixture back into the saucepan.
  4. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon, until mixture is thick, bringing mixture slowly to a boil.
  5. Once mixture is to a boil, cook for 2-3 minutes longer.
  6. Remove from heat and mix in butter, vanilla, cream and Cognac.
  7. Strain into storage container. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the pastry cream and refrigerate until cold.


  1. Fill tart shell with pastry cream.
  2. Add seasonal fruit.
  3. Optional (this is the part I NEVER do): Brush with glaze. (Melted Apricot or Currant Jelly thinned out with hot tap water) to make it look shiny and purty.

Ms. Pantry Raid

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Great way to use up leftover sour cream. And no eggs needed!

Great way to use up leftover sour cream. And no eggs needed!

It’s been awhile! Yeah, I’m inherently lazy in case you haven’t noticed. That’s really the only reason for my hiatus. Well, and my birthday was last month and I’ve been going through one of those “what does it all mean?” phases. And I seriously understand the mid-life-chuck it all, buy a convertible or run off to an island somewhere-crisis.

But I digress. We are talking about a super easy-schmeasy ice cream recipe today. One that requires no egg-custard making – score! And makes use ripe, in-season, bursting with flavor blueberries. Double score!

Alright, I’ll be brutally honest. The ONLY REASON I’m making anything with blueberries is due to a new “get out of your comfort zone” blogging event on a forum I visit WAY-TOO-OFTEN. I cannot stand blueberries. There. I said it out loud. CANNOT STAND BLUEBERRIES. They are about the only fruit I do not like. One of the only foods I don’t like. Period. But I rose to the occasion and came up with a dish.

On previously-mentioned-forum, someone asked about ways to use up sour cream. For some reason, I thought ice cream. So in a six-degrees of separation way, I thought sour cream blueberry ice cream would do just fine to fit my blueberry requirement. A quick Google turned up (lo and behold) a Dorie Greenspan recipe that the Tuesday’s With Dorie group made some time back. Another score! And really, I just couldn’t resist the color.

So, verdict? This was very tangy, very lemony. Kinda reminded me a lot of the creme fraiche ice cream I made a long time ago, but not nearly as creamy. And not very blueberry-y. But gosh, that color. Gorgeous! So if you’ve got some leftover sour cream, some blueberries and you want ice cream, give it a go! But one final note: this does not freeze well. The next day, it will be hard as a rock. No matter, just take it out of the freezer a bit before you eat it.

Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream

as published in Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

1 cup blueberries – fresh or frozen (if frozen, thaw and drain)
1/3 cup sugar (or more to taste)
pinch of salt
grated zest and juice of 1/4 lemon (or lime as you prefer) or more juice to taste
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sour cream

1. Put the blueberries, sugar, salt and lemon zest and juice into a medium nonreactive saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until mixture boils and the berries pop and soften, about 3 minutes.

2. Turn the berries into a blender and whir until you have a fairly homogeneous puree, about one minute. (It will never be completely smooth, and that’s just fine.) Add the heavy cream and sour cream and pulse just to blend. Taste and, if you’d like, add a squirt more lemon juice or a tiny bit more sugar.

3. Pour the custard into a bowl and refrigerate until it is chilled before churning it into ice cream.

4. Scrape the chilled custard into the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Pack the ice cream into a container and freeze for at least 2 hours, until it is firm enough to scoop.

Ms. Pantry Raid

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A tribute to a legend: Katharine Hepburn Brownies

A tribute to a legend: Katharine Hepburn Brownies

Admitted – I wasn’t sure I had the energy to partake in this week’s Tuesdays With Dorie. I just got back from NYC, which is always a whirlwind, and I’m more exhausted than I ever thought possible. However, I rose to the occasion because:

1. I LOVE Katharine Hepburn. Ever seen Philadelphia Story? You know, C.K. Dexter Haven (aka Cary Grant – swoon!)? My, she was yar? No? Add to your Netflix queue pronto.  It’s one of my all-time favorite movies. EVER.

2. I’ve had my eye on this recipe for oh, I don’t know, 5 years now and it’s about time I got off my butt and made it. The recipe, with a few added Dorie Greenspan tweaks (cinnamon, espresso powder – both of which I added – and nuts – which I left out), is supposedly a Katharine Hepburn family recipe.

So there you have it.

These brownies have everything that makes brownies fab – dark chocolate, a bit of espresso powder to intensify flavor and a dash of cinnamon for kick. They are chewy and dark and wonderful. And so easy to make. I could eat the whole plateful right now.  In fact, I just might…. **running off to pop Philadelphia Story in the dvd player**

Thanks to Lisa at Surviving Oz for the great pick (recipe after the jump)!


Ms. Pantry Raid

Edit: Ok, apparently there is a Katherine vs Katharine controversy. My bad! I had no idea. Post has been updated to switch Katherine to Katharine. Apologies to Ms. Hepburn. 🙂

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A long rest, sprinkle of sea salt and thin discs of chocolate make the difference in these cookies!

A long rest, sprinkle of sea salt and thin discs of chocolate make the difference in these cookies!

So I had heard rumblings about the amazing cookies at Jacques Torres. Then a co-worker came back from a trip to Brooklyn and said she had this fabulous cookie at, you guessed it, Jacques Torres. So I just had to bump the recipe to the top of the “to make” list.

I had read that the secret to these cookies was a long rest in the fridge. 36 hours to be exact. Supposedly this rest dries out the cookie dough and makes for a toffee taste in the cookie. But yikes. THIRTY SIX HOURS?! Who can wait that long?

Torres also uses thin discs of chocolate (couverture – used in truffle making to be exact) instead of chips or chunks. This makes for layers of chocolate in the cookie. After a visit to a local chocolate factory to pick up the obligatory chocolate discs, I was on my way. However, I’m quit sure using regular old chocolate chips would work out well too.

Oh yeah – did I mention the sprinkle of salt each cookie gets before baking? How smart is that??!

Ok, admitted – the recipe is a little picky in that it calls for a mix of flours. It’s kinda funny cause he mixes cake flour (low protein) with bread flour (high protein). One would wonder – can’t we just use all purpose since it’s in the middle and call it a day? Well, I found a Q&A that says sure, although to be honest, I’m not really sure if he is saying just use all-purpose for the bread or use all-purpose for the whole dang thing. So I did a sub for the cake flour (basically subbing 2 T of cornstarch for 2 T of flour in each cup of flour) and used all-purpose in place of the bread flour since I was not in the mood to go back to the store.

The verdict?

Damn good. And the sprinkling of salt on top is pure genious. The cookie bakes up crisp at the edges and chewy in the middle. I cut the baking time to 16 minutes (cause I want more chewy, less crunchy) and that worked out fine. I’m totally converted and will now make no other cookie. Oh and those chocolate discs? Yeah…I’m converted to those too. Gonna have to hit up that chocolate factory again…

Oh – AND eating the dough straight up out of the freezer (cause that’s the way we eat cookies at my house)? Wow. Yep. These are my new go-to cookie for sure.

The recipe – since someone else was nice enough to type it up. Make it. Now. Especially since you have to wait 36 hours to enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Ms. Pantry Raid

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I served my Maduros with short ribs roja and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. Drool...

I served my Maduros with short ribs roja and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. Drool...

Quick – name a food you could eat every day for the rest of your life.

Ok, I’ll go first since I’m here, and since I’m pretty sure you’ve already guessed my answer (ahem…plantains).

This past spring we took a trip to Costa Rica and our hotel served fried plantains every.damn.day. Yes, it was a buffet, but that’s even better! I could load my plate up and still go back for more.

Fried plantains = heaven

I mean really, what other dish can you describe as an appetizer, condiment, garnish, side dish AND dessert?

So what do you need to know? Ok, there are different outcomes for your fried plantains based on the ripeness of the fruit. You know how a banana starts to get dark and you immediately toss it in the freezer to save for banana bread? Yeah, you want the plantains to go FURTHER. All black if you can wait that long (tossing in a paper bag for a day or two supposedly speeds up the process, but that STILL is asking for a lot of patience IMO). Slice ’em up, fry them in oil and finish with a sprinkle of salt. Called Maduros, these are the kind of fried plantains I like.

For fried sweet plantains (Maduros), your plantains should look kinda like this

For fried sweet plantains (Maduros), your plantains should look kinda like this

You can also fry green plantains. Often called Tostones, they aren’t the sweet kind. Basically, you slice up your green or barely ripe plantain, fry it, flatten it and then fry it again. It’s crispy and used more for savory purposes – often accompanied by a garlic sauce. These, admitted, aren’t usually what I have in mind when I think fried plantains. But I’m sure in the right place at the right time…

I’m pretty sure this doesn’t warrant a recipe, does it? You’ll probably want to pick a neutral oil with a high smoke point for the frying part. I used a cast iron skillet. Tossed in an inch or so of oil. Waited for it to get good and hot. Threw in the plantains (no overcrowding please!) and fried them for maybe 3 minutes or so on each side.  Remove with slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and enjoy them HOT!


Ms. Pantry Raid

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Mango, curry and chocolate. Why not?

Mango, curry and chocolate. Why not?




5 Weeks. 9 Pounds to lose. Starting…after the mango bread is gone.

Since I started posting with Tuesdays With Dorie, I’ve gained some weight. Ok, let’s be honest here – a LOT of weight. So I took a couple of weeks off from TWD – thinking that would cut it. Well, it hasn’t. So the “official diet” starts right after the mango bread is gone.  And anyway, I had a mango sitting in the fruit bowl that was starting to shrivel so I couldn’t  have NOT made this week’s recipe, right?


A couple of substitutions…

I know many of you make changes to the TWD recipes and I wanted to prove I could play with the big girls this week, so I looked over the recipe and thought of what I would do differently. Hmmm…what goes with mangoes… Curry!  Since my ground ginger is smelling especially rank (I noticed that it came from Wild Oats – the last time I visited a Wild Oats was when I lived in Cincinnati… eight years ago…), the curry powder went into the bowl in place of the ginger. This turned out really well, but I think maybe upping the amount to 2t would make it even better. 

Next up – in honor of National Chocolate Chip Day (May 15), I replaced the raisins with chocolate chips. Ok, that is not really the reason for the substitution – I found out about the holiday after the fact. Truth is, I don’t like raisins in my bread. Or cookies. I just don’t. Put them in a savory dish and I’m THERE. But I don’t like them in my desserts. I believe we have covered this in previous posts. So chocolate chips go in for the raisins . I don’t know how much – I didn’t measure. Another aside – I know I could never be a cookbook author since I belong to the  “oh just throw a little of this and that in the bowl and kinda do this and voila!” camp of cooking.

Alright. Mango and curry and chocolate – now we are talking! If you’ve ever had the Vosges Naga bar, you’ll know I’m not totally off my rocker here. Alright, if you are gonna call me out, I am well aware that the Naga uses coconut, not mango, but I figure it’s similar. And I’m trying to pull off soft of an Indian flavor here. Are you feeling it?


The result? Day one it was good. Not outstanding, but a damn fine bread. Day two? Yep. This is good stuff people! I toasted it and slathered on some homemade butter and it became instant dessert. Yum!

So thanks to Kelly over at Baking with the Boys for selecting this recipe! The recipe will be posted over there. My only subs were curry for the ginger and chocolate chips for the raisins.


Ms. Pantry Raid

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Tuesdays with Dorie - Chocolate Cream Tart  

Tuesdays with Dorie - Chocolate Cream Tart

Imagine my chagrin…

Alright people. How come y’all never told me that Dorie actually READS some of these Tuesdays With Dorie posts and RESPONDS? I had no idea I needed to be on my best behavior! Oh I do hope I haven’t said anything too embarrassing. 

So let’s have a pleasant discussion about this week’s dish – the Chocolate Cream Tart chosen by Kim of Scrumptious Photography (page 352-3 of  THE BOOK). It starts with a chocolate shortbread crust layered high with rich dark chocolate cream and topped off with a layer of whipped cream. The magic of this dish is when all three parts come together. 

Alright alright. Enough of that. It’s brutal honesty time. I had difficulty with the crust. Again. It didn’t come together very well so I had to force it together in the pan. And I didn’t really care for the taste prior to baking. Didn’t really care too much for it after baking either. It’s kind of bitter. So if I were to do it again, I would try another crust. 

I do really like the chocolate cream though. Who wouldn’t? It’s dark, rich, creamy chocolate. Slathered with a thick coating of whipped cream, I could eat this all on it’s own. I do think an additional spice would do it some good though. Since I normally suggest cinnamon, how about some five-spice powder? Yes, I think that would be a mighty fine addition. 

Hope all you TWDers enjoyed it as much as I did.

Ms. Pantry Raid

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