Category Archives: Dessert

Mini Key Lime Cheesecakes


I have the attention span of a five year old…after they have devoured all of their Halloween candy. It’s sad really because there are times when said short attention span gets the better of me. Just recently, while driving, I got distracted by my Blackberry and missed a turn. And by distracted, I mean I was busy taking a picture of me driving in my mother’s Miata…so I could post it on Facebook (disclaimer: I was at a stop light, so it wasn’t like I was barreling down the streets of Georgia with one hand on the wheel and the other on my Blackberry trying to strike a pose).

My attention span only gets shorter when a nifty new gadget or piece of gear is in my general vicinity (and by general vicinity I mean within a ten mile radius because I can sniff out new techie things like a police dog sniffing out cocaine at an airport in Miami circa 1983). So it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that when I set out to make these mini key lime cheesecakes for our New Year’s Eve celebration, my new baby kept distracting me. Sure, this is the same camera model I had earlier in the year. But I just now got around to replacing the one that had to be sent back due to a defective flash. And this time I actually read the owner’s manual from cover to cover…and discovered you can control the camera from your LAPTOP!!! I don’t need no stinkin’ camera remote, I have my Macbook! Wait, where was I going with this post????

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Filed under Baking, Cheesecake, Dessert, Holiday Baking, Party Menus, Party Planning

Daring Bakers Challenge: Caramel Cake Cupcakes


I’ve missed the Daring Bakers! When I took a bit of a sabbatical from food blogging, I also took a break from the Daring Bakers. But I’m back and just in time for a sugar rush! Challenge hosts Dolores from Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, Alex from Blondie and Brownie, Jenny of Foray into Food and Natalie of Gluten A Go Go found what can only be described as a dentist’s worst nightmare. This month’s challenge recipe is Shuna Fish Lydon’s Caramel Cake, as published on the Bay Area Bites blog, an ode to sugar at its finest. It’s a cake…with caramel in the batter…topped with a carmelized buttercream. My teeth ached just reading the recipe. For my first challenge back in the saddle, however, this was an easy yet versatile recipe…even more so since I turned them into cupcakes.

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Filed under Baking, Cupcakes, Daring Bakers Challenge, Dessert

Summer Peach Cobbler

I have a bit of a confession: I don’t really like peaches. I know, I know, you’re thinking: “But you’re from Georgia…isn’t that I don’t know, the PEACH state?”. Yes it is, you insolent ass but that doesn’t negate the fact that I am not really a peach fan. They always seemed to lack flavor and had a weird fuzzy consistency that reminded me of eating bugs (not that I go around eating bugs, but you get the drift). But as with most things, that was before I had some fresh, lovely peaches straight from the farm.

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Filed under Baking, Dessert, Fruit

Strawberry Rhubarb Empanadas

We all know of my salacious love of cheese, but I don’t think we have yet discussed my addiction to strawberries. And nothing satisfies my withdrawal symptoms more than fresh, in season berries. This time of year, I eat so many of them, my fingertips turn red…and then I practically gnaw off my skin in an attempt to get every last bit of strawberry flavor (no I don’t have a problem…fruit is healthy for you). So it was with glee that I discovered the newest Cookthink Root Source Challenge was strawberries!

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Filed under Baking, Contests, Dessert, sweet tarts

Strawberry Pistachio Ice Cream

I was fairly tired after finally making it home (thanks to a 3 hour delay courtesy of my favorite airline), but there was also this strong craving for strawberries. So after making sure the Diva was happy (she pretends to miss me, but I’m pretty sure it’s all about the food for her) and unpacking a few things, I set my mind towards coming up with a good way to get my strawberry fix… Continue reading


Filed under Dessert, ice cream

Ode to Joy

Still being a relatively new blogger on the block, I look to other sites for inspiration. One site I visit regularly is Joy the Baker, the blog of a fantastic California baker. Not only are her recipes fantastic (I’ve made several of her creations with delicious results), her photographs are mouth watering. And to top it off, she frequently posts about my favorite dessert: Red Velvet cupcakes. In the South, Red Velvet isn’t just a cake, it’s a religion. And since moving to DC, I’ve had a hard time finding a cake worthy of being called Red Velvet. A few weeks ago, Joy posted the recipe for Red Velvet Whopper Cupcakes and I was a goner. From the first look at Joy’s pictures, I knew I had to make them.

I would never think to fiddle with the recipe of a daring baker, but Joy’s recipe didn’t include the one thing most Southern red velvet cupcakes require: shaved bittersweet chocolate. Tossed into the batter along with the flour mixture, four ounces of chocolate shavings make a huge difference in red velvet cakes. I like to think the shavings melt during the baking, giving the batter that extra bit of moistness. Either way, all you need to do is grate 4 ounces of a bittersweet chocolate bar and add it to the batter along with the flour mixture (see Joy’s recipe, linked above).

And as you may notice, I didn’t use the traditional cream cheese frosting for my cupcakes. My little twist: chocolate cream cheese frosting. To make, simply cream together 8 ounces of cream cheese and one stick of unsalted butter (both at room temperature) with a stand mixer. Then add a 1/2 cup of cocoa powder, a teaspoon of vanilla extract and four cups of sifted powdered sugar. Be careful to add the sugar slowly, especially if you have a lower powered stand mixer. Since the frosting recipe is easy to make, don’t start it until the cupcakes are cool and ready to be frosted.

Although I may have tweaked Joy’s original recipe, I did so only with the utmost of respect. And if I do say so myself, the results were unbelievably delicious! In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, “Mmmmmm….cupcakes”.

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Filed under Baking, Dessert

Baking Heaven…Part 1

For the last few days, my hip has really bothered me…blame the tango or the running (or both for that matter). But this weekend, the baking and cooking bug really hit me. So I improvised and sat on a barstool while doing most of my prep and cooking. Surprisingly, it worked out really well and I was able to make some fabulous treats (much to my housemates delight).

Since moving up to DC, I have had a hard time finding a really good, dense, flavorful pound cake. In the South, pound cake is almost a religion. Families pass down their pound cake recipes from one generation to the other and they are guarded more fiercely than the president. As I was going through my favorite blog, I found a pound cake recipe that I knew would satisfy my Southern palette. How did I know this you may ask? Because one of the main ingredients was cream cheese…delectable, full fat cream cheese. A great pound cake requires a lot of fat, so any recipe with cream cheese was fine in my book. Although the recipe I was following had a blueberry topping, I opted to instead make a vanilla bean gelato to top the pound cake. For the pound cake recipe, see the link above (the mise en place is pictured here). The gelato, however, was mostly something I created from a base gelato recipe.

10 Egg Yolks
1 Cup Sugar
1 Quart Milk
Vanilla Pod

As always, I am a strong believer in having all of your ingredients measured out before starting the actual cooking. So make sure to separate out your eggs and measure your sugar and milk. Cut the vanilla pod lengthwise and scoop out the beans.

From the quart of milk, measure out 1/2 cup and set aside. Place the remaining milk in a saucepan, along with the two halves of the vanilla pod and the beans. Add a dash of salt and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently to try to avoid a skin forming on the top of the milk. Remove the mixture from the heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until combined. Add the reserved 1/2 cup of cold milk to the egg mixture, whisking until blended. Pour the warm milk and vanilla into the egg mixture, continuing to whisk slowly to keep the mixture from spilling out of the bowl. Once combined, pour the mixture into a large saucepan and place it on low heat for about 15 minutes. Again, make sure to stir frequently to avoid that icky milk skin.

Pour the mixture through a sieve and allow to completely cool before placing in an ice cream maker. Follow your ice cream maker’s instructions to get the mixture to a good gelato consistency. For my model , I poured the mixture into the frozen mixing bowl and churned it for 25 minutes.

Once I made the gelato and pound cake, I decided to make it a bit of a sundae with walnuts. I cut a slice of the pound cake, halved it and placed it in a bowl. I scooped out some gelato and decorated the dish with walnuts. If I had whip cream, I would have added that as well! I finally had some REAL pound cake, making this Southern girl happy as a peach!

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Filed under Baking, Dessert

Pina Colada on a Plate

I am quite the fan of the Pina Colada, so imagine my pleasure when I found out about the Cookthink: Root Source Challenge ingredient for this week: pineapple. Just as a little background, the Root Source Challenge names a new ingredient each week and participants must devise a recipe based on it. I had already been thinking about escaping the winter with a nice tropical drink when I saw the challenge ingredient. So I immediately thought of ways to incorporate both pineapple and coconut in a dish. The result? A take on the apple crostata, one of my favorite winter desserts. Instead of doing the usual apple/cinnamon filling, I decided to use the same ingredients for the topping of a pineapple upside down cake. And since a Pina Colada isn’t complete without coconut, I opted to top the pineapple crostata with a homemade coconut gelato. While the gelato was taken from the food world’s favorite convict Martha Stewart, the pineapple crostata was a result of my own twisted thoughts of adult cocktails.

Since the crostata dough requires at least an hour to chill, I tackled this step first. I have used this recipe for years and I believe I originally got it from the Barefoot Contessa (it’s handwritten on an index card in my recipe box, so I am not 100 percent sure of its origins). This recipe will actually make enough for two crostata crusts (you can always freeze the second one to use later), so if you only want one, cut it in half:

2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
2 Sticks Unsalted Butter – chilled and cut into squares
5 Tablespoons Cold Water

Place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor with a steel blade insert. Pulse several times to combine all the ingredients together. Add the butter and pulse again until it’s crumbly. Add the water and pulse until the mixture comes together but before it turns into a ball. Remove the dough from the food processor and shape it into a ball on a floured surface. Separate the large ball into two smaller balls of dough and then flatten each one out to a disc. Cover each disc in cling wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of one hour.

For the filling, I like to use a whole pineapple instead of the inferior canned slices. I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to find a whole pineapple this time of year, but Trader Joe’s turned out to be my savior. Before you think it’s too hard to cut up a whole pineapple, let me tell you it’s quite easy and the difference in taste is phenomenal. However, it is important you have a good carving knife!

Cut the top off a large pineapple and then cut it lengthwise. Once you have the pineapple cut into halves, cut it again into quarters. Then carefully skin the pineapple and remove the core by slicing it out of the middle of each section. Then slice up each pineapple quarter. The remaining ingredients are as follows:

1/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 Vanilla Bean

Before starting the filling, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the vanilla bean in half and scoop out the beans from one section. Place all the ingredients, including the vanilla pod, into a heavy saucepan on medium heat. Stir the pineapple mixture occasionally, monitoring the absorption of the liquid. As the liquid starts to absorb, reduce the heat gradually. Once the pineapples turn translucent, which takes approximately 25 minutes, remove them from the heat.

Because the crostata dough will not completely cover the fruit, every crostata usually has some sort of crumble topping. The crumble topping is very easy and can be done in the food processor too. Place 1/4 cup of sugar and all purpose flour into the bowl, along with a half stick of chilled and diced unsalted butter. Pulse the ingredients until you get a nice crumble mixture. Set this aside.

Once the dough has chilled, take it out of the refrigerator and roll it out to about 11 inches. Put the dough on an ungreased baking sheet (I have a baking sheet that doesn’t require greasing, but if you don’t, I suggest lightly greasing it). Place the pineapple mixture in the center of the dough, leaving enough space on the sides to make a border. Fold the sides of the dough onto the pineapples, pinching the edges to make a decorative statement. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the visible pineapple filling and place it in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

This is best served warm, so when it’s cooled down just a bit, place it on a plate, along with a scoop of the aforementioned coconut gelato.

As a side note, since I had a half section of vanilla bean, I scooped out the beans of the remaining half and put it in the gelato (I incorporated it when the final ingredients simmered before being placed in the ice water bath). This is not necessary as the gelato is fantastic on its own. It was just a bit of improvisation on my part.

Feel free to enjoy an actual Pina Colada while tucking into this crostata. I, however, enjoyed it with a cup of hot cocoa (albeit spiked with Kahlua).


Filed under Dessert