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Lemon Buttermilk Bundt Cake - Code Name: Hurricane Matthew Evacuation Relief Dessert


I’m never getting off this baking buttermilk bandwagon (say that three times fast then LOL at yourself).

      The original recipe for this is from the CIA (the cooking school in Hyde Park, NY, not the spy guys in Langley, VA) obviously.

     I mean for one thing, we’d never get the spy guys’ recipe. If they even have one for lemon buttermilk cake, which they probably do underwraps, but it’s probably super secret, classified even; unlike Hillary’s hacked risotto revelations.

      But, the CIA, the one in Hyde Park, regularly disseminates their secrets and prized, classified recipes. Which makes us all better in the kitchen.

      I had a little CIA Intel situation of my own going on. I made it once, and this covert CIA wannabe decided the recipe needed a lot more lemon juice and zest. I confess. I did the unthinkable. I altered a CIA recipe/brief. Whoops sorry, not sorry.        

     Here’s what I did. First I sprinkled the pan with sugar instead of flour. Enter a nice carmalized outside. I doubled/tripled the lemon zest and juice, pucker up! Then with the glaze; who wants water when, that’s right, LEMON is right there at your now zesty fingertips.

     So - Sugar, on lemon on buttermilk, on more lemon on sugar gets you a really crunchy, tart and sweet on the outside, soft and lemony on the inside CAKE.

     Sorry CIA I didn’t pay attention to orders. I deviated from the plan of attack and I think the mission was successful. 


Makes 1 9-inch cake  


1 cup (2 full sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature plus more for pan

1 ¾ cups sugar, plus more for pan

2 2/3 cups all purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups buttermilk

3 lemons, zested

10 tablespoons lemon juice from zested lemons (may need a bit more to make up 10 tablespoons)

4 large eggs, room temperature

For the glaze

¾ cup confectioners’ sugar

2 lemons zested and juiced

     Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter Bundt pan and sprinkle sugar around to coat the inside, tap out excess.

     Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl, set aside. In another bowl whisk buttermilk, lemon juice and zest together, set aside.

      Add butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

     Add eggs one at a time, beat well and scrape down bowl after each addition. Reduce speed to low. Add dry ingredients to the egg mixture alternating with the buttermilk mixture in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix until incorporated, and batter is smooth, do not over beat.

     Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth with a spatula. Bake 1 hour until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when touched. Check after 50 minutes just in case.


     Let cake cool completely on a wire rack and make the glaze. Whisk confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice and zest together in a small bowl until smooth. If glaze is too thick, add more lemon juice, too thin? Add more sugar.  Invert cake onto plate and spoon glaze over cooled cake. Let glaze harden, then cut and serve at room temperature.


Note: Adapted from Baking At Home With The Culinary Institute Of America



Bon Appetit's Pull-Apart Potato Rolls (Don't make these)


     Let me start by saying these rolls are amazing so don’t make them. If you do make them, you eat them, and then you’ll never want a store bought potato roll again. You’ll have ruined it for yourself, and have been warned.

     Here’s the recipe in case you take the dare. Pull-Aprt Potato Rolls from Guard and Grace 

     Potato bread/rolls are lighter, the texture fluffier, slightly sweeter than plain ole white bread run. Even the store bakery bought potato rolls are/were pretty good – so I thought until yesterday when the above rolls baked their way into my kitchen.

     These homemade rolls are like beautiful clouds in bread form. They’re fluffier, lighter, and tastier (that little sprinkling of salt on top before baking is a subtle necessity) then anything you’ll get in or out of a package from a grocery giant or their in-house bakery department – IMO.

    Here’re a few things I gathered making these.

-       If you use a potato ricer – peel the potato’s skin off. It will save you the slight annoyance of picking out the stray pieces of skin from the fluffy potato.

       If you don’t have a potato ricer you could force the potato through a mesh strainer

   Either way, you want your cooked potato to be as smoothish as possible, without it getting gummy.

      Mix the potato and milk together until smooth – the recipe states this, and it’s important.

      I used buttermilk rather than whole milk and the result was, as I’ve said, AMAZING.

      A metal non-stick baking dish works a treat.

-       When you divide the dough. Weigh each portion to about 3 ½-4 oz. This will give you 18 same size pieces.

-       If a few portions are slightly smaller, stick them in the middle of the pan – as the rolls rise, they’ll fill in the gaps. And oh, boy the last rise is a beauty.

      Be generous with the melted butter on top of the dough balls.

      Don’t skip the salt on top. It’s a nice addition

      The next day these rolls are still terrific and will actually stand up to sandwich ingredients better. Sliders anyone?

So keep all that in mind when you don’t make these for Thanksgiving.


 Initially the dough looks spongy


 Comes together quickly after adding the eggs and bread flour - It needed a good 5 mins in the mixer

The second rise is a thing of beauty

Last rise - the rolls are getting all cozy 

Sampled the smallest one :)

NOTE: This recipe is orginially from Guard and Grace in Denver, CO



Linguine & Clams & White Wine & Garlic = Perfect



   Lucky me! Yesterday I came across Cherrystone Aqua Farms little neck clams. They’re based out of Virginia and have been clamming since 1895. These were the most tender, sweet, fresh clams I’ve had in a shucking long time. They tasted like the sea, as anything that comes from the sea should. When you have something this good, you don’t want to screw it up with an OTT recipe, so I kept is simple – garlic, shallots, white wine, olive oil, parsley and lemon juice – classic ingredients.

      The only difficult/tricky thing about this is to make sure you get all the grit off and out of the clams. Here’s a link from on how to clean clams. I’d add that you should rinse and change the water more than once, at least two times.


      As far as the quantity of clams per person? That’s up to you. Some recipes suggest one dozen per person, which I think is on the very stingy side, for sure. Obviously it depends on the clam size. I’d go with at least two dozen – maybe three - per person for a main course. Okay, make it four then and call me shellfish.

Serves 2

6-8 cloves garlic, smashed

Extra virgin olive oil

Lots of fresh littleneck clams, soaked, scrubbed & cleaned

1 cup white wine

1/2 cup water

1 medium shallot, minced

Crushed red pepper flakes to taste

½ lb linguine (1/4 pound per person)

2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley leaves

A couple teaspoons of fresh lemon juice

Baguette slices

     Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add garlic and cook until aromatic and golden brown, remove and discard. Put half the clams in skillet pour in wine and water. Cover and cook until clams open, about 10 minutes. As the clam open, remove them from pan. Do not let them over cook, or they’ll be rubbery and tough. Add the rest of the clams and remove as they open. When cool enough to handle, remove clams from shells and set aside, discard shells. Pour cooking liquid into a measuring cup. Let settle, there will still be a bit of grit at the bottom.

     Heat a few tablespoons of oil in the skillet. Add shallots and red pepper flakes, cook until the shallots are translucent and softened. Slowly add the reserved cooking liquid, making sure you don’t add the grit from the bottom (a ladle helps with this). Bring to a boil and reduce my half.

     While the clam stock is reducing boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta. Cook the pasta to just under al dente. Drain, and add pasta and clams to skillet, and continue cooking until sauce clings to pasta. Add parsley, lemon juice and toss to combine. Serve with baguette slices on side to mop up the delicious sauce.






Very Lemony Pistachio Shortbread Cookies


     Lemon shortbread? Yes. Pistachio laced lemon shortbread? Hell yes! Three tablespoons of lemon juice may sound like a lot and it is. It’s what makes these melt in your mouth cookies zing your taste buds and standout from other shortbread recipes. That plus the added silky, subtle, crunch from the pistachios helps make the tedious task of shelling, blanching and skinning the nuts worth it.  

Makes up to 2 dozen cookies

1 ½ sticks butter, softened and cut in pieces (12 tablespoons)

2/3-cup sugar

1 egg separated

1-teaspoon vanilla

Grated zest from two lemons

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup chopped pistachios, shelled, skins removed

1 ¾ cups cake flour

     Preheat oven to 325°F. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together, on medium speed, until light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Add egg yolk and vanilla, continue beating until incorporated, add lemon juice slowly. Lower speed to stir, mix in pistachios until evenly distributed, then add flour. Mix until combined; remove bowl and finish incorporating flour using a spatula. The dough will be soft.

     Using a tablespoon measure, or small ice cream scoop, place dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 1 inch apart. Press dough down slightly to flatten. The cookies won’t spread, but will puff up.

     NOTE: This is a perfect dough for a shaped cookie pan like the one I used.




Reversed Impossible (it's possible) Chocolate Flan



I’ve been threatening to make the Reversed Impossible Chocolate Flan featured in  “Sweet & Southern” by Ben Mims and on NYTimes cooking for weeks. I’d been looking for a recipe like this after I made the Lemon Pudding Cake a few weeks ago (if you haven’t tried it do so. It’s amazingly delicious). I secretly tried to come up with a recipe for a one batter magic cake myself, hoping I could achieve the same separation with one chocolate batter. Well, I didn’t have much luck, but I did have a really nice chocolate mousse cake in my fridge.

     This cake has two batters (they’re both dead easy) so twice as much magic happens. Before your eyes, the pudding sinks, the cake rises and a dessert worthy of a banquet at Hogwarts appears. No charm or wand waving needed. Helga Hufflepuff would be proud.


For the cake

½ cup butter, room temperature (1 stick)

¾ cup sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1-½ cups flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1-teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ cup buttermilk

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cooking spray

For the chocolate custard

12 oz. can evaporated milk

14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

½ cup cocoa powder

1-teaspoon vanilla extract

4 large eggs


     Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a Bundt pan with cooking spray. Place it in a large roasting pan, fill roasting pan half way up with water. Remove Bundt pan, and place roasting pan on rack in middle of oven.

     In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, beat in egg and mix until incorporated. Whisk flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together in a bowl. Whisk buttermilk and vanilla together in another bowl.

     Beginning and ending with the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk, add to butter and sugar in three stages, beating just until incorporated. Spread evenly in Bundt pan, smooth top.

     Using a hand mixture, beat evaporated milk, condensed milk, cocoa, eggs and vanilla together until smooth (the mixture will be thin). Ladle custard gently on top of cake batter.


     Transfer to roasting pan, and bake for 35-40 minutes until a tester comes out clean.

     Cool completely on a wire rack before even attempting to turn out (I put it in the fridge towards the end to make sure the custard set). Invert pan onto a plate, cake should slide right out. Grab a fork.

Some notes if you make this: A few of the reviews mentioned that the custard portion was rubbery. I didn’t find that at all. The custard was silky with a rich chocolate flavor. Also, some thought the cake was bland; so with that in mind I decided to triple the vanilla, used buttermilk rather than coconut milk and skipped the vinegar.




Grilled Summer Corn, Zucchini, & Tomato Tart (Not Quiche)


     Anytime I mention quiche to someone I get a HUGE eye roll. I know it is so very passé, but sometimes it works. And in this case, it was all that was going to work. The reason being? Hermine decided to drop a shit ton of rain, wind and palm fronds all over the place. It wasn’t fit for woman nor beast out there. I had a fridge full of leftovers from the previous night’s BBQ that I wanted to use in some way. Now, I could have made a blueberry tart, but didn’t think that was a good choice for dinner, plus I love the combo of grilled corn and zucchini. I did add diced tomatoes, but probably wouldn’t next time, they didn’t really add much. If I had fresh basil, I would definitely have used that, but I didn’t so I used thyme. Plus, I had pastry dough in the freezer, and that made a savory, summer, light dinner even easier. This is very much a seat of your pants sort of recipe, no exact quantities, or ingredients, just use what you have on hand.


Pastry dough for a 9-inch tart (recipe below makes enough for two crusts)

3 large eggs

Heavy cream

Grated cheese (I had Manchego on hand)

Grilled corn, kernels off the cob

Grilled zucchini, diced

Fresh thyme

1 cup diced tomatoes, drained (optional – in fact don’t bother)

Salt & pepper

For the tart

     Preheat oven to 450°F. Roll out dough on a floured surface 2-inches larger than a 9-inch tart/quiche pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough up so it’s slightly higher than the pan’s edge. Prick and freeze 20 minutes. Line chilled pastry shell with parchment paper and cover bottom with pie weights or beans. Blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove weights and parchment then continue baking to dry out the shell (no one wants a soggy bottom). Let cool 20 minutes before filling.

     Lower oven temperature to 375°F. Toss the corn kernels and zucchini together in a medium bowl, add fresh thyme or basil, season with salt and pepper. Lightly beat three eggs then add enough heavy cream to make up 1 ½ cups (thanks Julia Child for that tip – think 1 large egg and enough liquid to make up ½ cup), season with salt and pepper, set aside.


     Spread about ½ cup of shredded cheese on the bottom of cooled pastry, top with enough filling to cover the entire tart bottom.


     Pour egg mixture over and bake 25 minutes. Spread more grated chees on top, bake for an additional 10 minutes until slightly brown and puffed up around the edges. Let cool 10 minutes and there you go. A yummy corn and zucchini not quiche


For the crust

2 cups all purpose flour

¾ cup shortening/lard – chilled and cut in cubes

Ice water

     Process flour and shortening together in the bowl of a food processor for 30 seconds. If the dough does not form a rough shape, add a little ice water by tablespoon. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface, divide in two equal pieces, and shape each piece into a disk. Cover one disk with cling film and freeze. Roll disk out 2inches larger than tart pan   


Lemon Pudding Cake 




I had lemons, I had buttermilk and wanted cake. So, when my NYTimes “what to cook” email came through featuring this recipe, again, I took it as a culinary sign that lemon pudding cake was in my future.

     This cake was a snap to make. I was a little skeptical about it separating and turning into sponge on top and custard on the bottom. But, like the magic that baking is - it happened. One batter two layers.

     Well, I don’t believe in magic (since I’m a muggle – sigh) and we know baking is actually a science, I wanted to know the “why” behind the magic science. Turns out that during the baking process, the egg whites and flour rise, while the pudding stays at the bottom. The water level in the oven bath helps determine how much pudding there’ll be. The water insulates and slows down the bottom layer’s cooking, which allows the cake portion to form and bake, like magic, I mean science (Thank you, America’s Test Kitchen for the info). A lot of recipes suggest serving this fresh tangy cake warm, I liked it cold. Next time, there’ll be vanilla ice cream and blueberry sauce to go with.


Makes 1 8-inch cake

 4 large eggs, separated

Zest from two lemons

2/3 cup lemon juice

1-tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1-cup sugar

½-cup flour

½-teaspoon salt

1½-cups buttermilk

     Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square or round cake pan. Place it in a large roasting pan, fill roasting pan half way up with water. Remove buttered cake pan, and place roasting pan in oven.

     Whisk egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and butter together in a large bowl. Whisk sugar, flour, and salt together in another bowl. Whisk half the sugar mixture into the egg yolks, followed by half the buttermilk. Whisk remaining sugar mixture, then buttermilk, and whisk until smooth.

     Beat egg whites into soft peaks, then carefully fold into batter. Pour batter into prepared pan, place in water bath and bake until the cake is set, about 35-40 minutes.

Note: Adapted from Julie Moskin’s NYTimes cooking recipe.




Great British Baking Show - Paul's Pitta Bread - Tech Challenge week #5


     This week in the GBBS technical challenge is gluten free pitta bread. I’m slightly out of order here. I’ll make Mary’s magnificent meringue Spanische Windtorte from week 4 at some point when I want to gain one million pounds.

      Let’s get to a few things straight right off the bat. It’s not a true challenge. I know that.

     I have clear advantages. From the start, I know what the challenge is. My recipe isn’t stripped down. I know what it’s “supposed” to look like. I’ve seen others make it with successes and failures.

     And here’s why all that doesn’t matter. You can give the same recipe to now 8  different people and 8 different results get churned out.

     So, I’ll attempt to make Paul Hollywood’s Pitta breads. I’ve never made anything like pittas or flatbreads, but today I’ve 2 hours to get twelve pittas, and there’s Sue’s voice in my ear….BAAAAAKE.

     Well, first off – my dough was not very wet. I used all the water and oil that the recipe called for. It was sticky for a bit, but it soon turned into a smooth dough after kneading it for the minimum time (5 minutes).

     My pitta dough is rising on the sunny windowsill with 1:41 on the clock. So far this has been the least messy challenge, and what I thought was the easiest to make. Although, my typical stupid panic started when I didn’t think my dough was rising. Had I killed the yeast? After about 40 minutes it looks like the dough is rising. There’s lots of waiting around with this challenge, nothing else needs to be done except roll out and bake, obviously I put on the GBBS while I wait and watch. Even though I know that the pittas only need to bake for 10 or so minutes, I do the typical thing I do and rush. With 40 minutes left, I turn out the dough, punch it down and start dividing it in the most stupid irregular ways possible. And THEN don’t even try to make them uniform in size, the clock is in my head and just start rolling any which way. Your supposed to knock back the dough so there aren’t any air bubbles, I didn’t do that and as I rolled I heard popping. UGH…I stress myself out for no good reason. Pittas are out of the oven in 7 minutes.

     Verdict – I had 12 completely irregular pitta breads. While I thought this was turning out to be dead easy, it was a little tricky since I didn’t take my time (shocker). Some pittas looked like and felt like flat breads with no inside pocket. Others had a decent natural pocket that could be filled and others, yet, had a pocket that could be forced open. The color was okay, maybe a little light, but they were cooked through.

     To put it in perspective – I would have come in 8th like Alvin. My pittas were irregular, some were thin and slight, but they were tasty not bland.

     Would I make this again?- YES! And will never buy those store bought pittas again. This is a good recipe for the repertoire.



Peach & Blueberry Pie


…Was not what I had intended for these fruits. I had that brief moment of insanity when I thought I’d grab a handful of berries or bite into a peach for something healthy during the day. Well that lasted a Nano second. Each time I circled those peaches on the counter and

moved the berries to a different shelf in the fridge I said to myself, “you really should eat these before they go off.” But I didn’t. I kept circling and moving telling myself tomorrow. And when tomorrow finally came, I had pie. A delicious perfect pie made from perfectly ripe peaches and perfectly sweet blueberries.

     Some recipes I’ve come across call for (what I thought) a crazy amount of sugar,  more than a cup, which I think is unnecessary. I want to taste the fruit, not just a bunch of sugar wrapped up in a crust.


For the filling

7 medium peaches – peeled and sliced

1 pint blueberries – picked through

Zest and juice from 1 lemon

½ cup sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

For the crust

2 cups all purpose flour

¾  cup shortening/lard – chilled and cut in cubes

Ice water

A few tablespoons of milk for top of pie

     Process flour and shortening together in the bowl of a food processor for 30 seconds. If the dough does not form a rough shape, add a little ice water by tablespoon. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface, divide in two equal pieces, shape each piece into a disk. Cover one disk with cling film and refrigerate. Roll disk out 2inches larger than pie plate. 

     Toss the blueberries, peaches, sugar, lemon zest, juice and cornstarch together in a large bowl.

     Spoon into crust, top with 2nd crust rolled out crust, crimp edges, brush all over with milk, score the crust in four places with a sharp knife (this allows steam to escape while baking). Place pie on a rimmed baking tray lined with parchment paper to catch any juicy overflow. Bake in the middle of oven at 425F for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350F, bake for another 30-40 minutes until golden brown and juices are bubbling and thickened. Test to make sure the fruit is done by slipping a sharp knife or tester through the vents in top. The filling should be soft and tender, not mushy. If the crust edges begin to brown too much, cover with foil.




Great British Baking Show - Paul's Baguettes - Tech Challenge #3



     This is my third week attempting the GBBS technical challenge. Let’s get to a few things straight right off the bat. It’s not a true challenge. I know that.

     I have clear advantages. From the start, I know what the challenge is. My recipe isn’t stripped down. I know what it’s “supposed” to look like. I’ve seen others make it with successes and failures.

     And here’s why all that doesn’t matter. You can give the same recipe to 12 (in this case 13) different people and 12/13 different results get churned out.

     This week’s challenge was Paul Hollywood’s Baguette recipe. I’ve made a lot of bread with varying degrees of success. I’ve had loaves explode and others fall in the middle. I’ve made plain white bread, rye, spelt, whole-wheat honey, sweet bread, but never attempted a baguette(s). For some reason baguettes scared me, I guess because they’re so quintessentially French and the French really know how to bake.

     I’m not going to let any of that bother me today. I’ve 2 ½ hours to make 4 crusty baguettes. Time starts now, and there’s Sue’s voice in my ear….BAAAAAKE.

     Making the dough with my kitchen aide was a dream. It couldn’t have been easier. With 2:11hours to go the dough is in the plastic container, in the oven with the light on and will stay there until it doubles. Now the recipe I had doesn’t mention anything about kneading by hand. It pretty much lets it all happen in the mixing bowl. So, that’s an advantage for me.

     I must have misplaced my linen couche so I improvised with a piece of canvas I had (no idea why) and a few binder clips (which I have to say I thought was pretty gosh darn clever of me).



     With 1:21hours to go, I had divided my dough, rolled and pinched the seams, floured and turned them into my makeshift couche. I let them double again.

     So far, this seems like the easiest challenge. These baguettes don’t seem to be THAT difficult at all. I’m actually pretty pleased with myself and a little bit excited. Until the clock starts ticking down and I can’t tell if my loaves are rising (I left them at room temp covered). Now I’m a bit antsy and worried. I’ve written this before, it’s slightly ridiculous on my part - I’M NOT BEING JUDGED. With 36:37 on the clock, I stick my overly floured baguettes in the oven (with a pan of water – which I always do anyway – so Paul Hollywood, you wouldn’t have tricked me with that omission!). Four baguettes out with 12:56 left. I did it.

     Verdict – I had 4 baguettes relatively the same size with the correct cuts on top. They were under proved, with a seam that you could see on the bottom. The structure of my baguette was decent with an “ish” open texture, not great, but good. They were definitely crispy, since they were a touch over baked (I thought), so the color was good a little more than golden.

     To put it in perspective -  My baguettes were not as good as Ian (star baker again). A lot better than Paul (10), Nadia (9), Sandy (7), Dorret (6), and Ugne (5). Mine were most like Flora (2), Tamal (3), Alvin (4) and Matt (8). Basically, under proved, crispy, decent texture, slightly dark, good flavor. I over did it on the flour during baking, but all in all – I thought I’d be mid-div again some where around 5th-6th.

     Would I make it again? Yes. This recipe is a keeper. Straight forward, delicious, and the more you make them the easier they’ll be. Plus you get 4 wonderful homemade loaves of bread in one go or freeze a few for a later date. No longer am I afraid of making baguettes – thank you British Baking Show, Paul and Mary <3.



Great British Baking Show - Paul's Arlettes - Tech Challenge #2




     This is my second week attempting the GBBS technical challenge. Let’s get to a few things straight right off the bat. It’s not a true challenge. I know that.

     I have clear advantages. From the start, I know what the challenge is. My recipe isn’t stripped down. I know what it’s “supposed” to look like. I’ve seen others make it with successes and failures.

     And here’s why all that doesn’t matter. You can give the same recipe to 12 (in this case 13) different people and 12/13 different results get churned out.

     I’m giving myself the same time limit that the bakers get. I know, I know – I’m in the comfort of my own home without a TV crew or judges in my face asking me unnerving questions to shatter my already fragile confidence. So, again, an advantage, but I still thought this would/could be fun. I want to see if I can produce something anywhere close to what Paul and Mary would approve of and/or what it should look like. We shall see.

     This week’s challenge was Paul Hollywood’s Arlettes. I’ve never had an Arlette, but I have made puff pastry, I’ve just never made “reversed” puff pastry. And this recipe looks tricky. Even the full recipe from the BBC Food website is a little vague in certain steps. I’m not going to let any of that bother me, I’ve 2 ½ hours to make the Arlettes. Time starts now, and I can almost hear Sue’s voice….BAAAAAKE.

     The dough recipe was pretty straight-forward, I had no issues there at all. The butter portion of the dough, turned out really, really soft which I guess is normal since it needs to be rolled out. All that went fine, while between the cling film (emphasis while in the cling film). Banged the doughy dough in the freezer to chill and the butter dough in the fridge. Took me about 20minutes (including kneading) to get them both done. At this point I was pretty happy with myself. This wasn’t the sloppy, messy, sticky situation I had last week (yet).

     Time to wrap and book turn for the 1st time and it was a MESS. Let’s keep in mind, I’d already seen this done, and still messed up. After folding the butter around the dough – I rolled, just like the recipe indicated. Well, there was more butter on the rolling pin than on the dough. I scraped the butter back onto the dough, added some flour, put the cling film back on and rolled again. It seemed to look okay, did my book turn and popped the dough back in the freezer.



     With 57minutes left, and one more turn to go, the dough looked smooth. I was pretty confident that all would work out at this point. 45minutes to go, final turn time, roll and chill, this time with the sugar filling incorporated. Back in the freezer for another 25minutes. Again, the swiss roll looked great and soon I’d have 8 perfect Arlettes.


     And this is when the anticipated panic set in. When I cut the Swiss roll, the individual pieces unraveled, leaving little tails. I kept thinking I’m going to have little snails like Paul. With 18miutes on the clock, 8 Arlettes in the oven, tails tucked underneath and rolled flat (I hope).


Sticky mess alert

These not so little biscuits needed a solid 10minutes, and they still didn’t crisp up enough (for Paul and Mary’s taste – I could tell). I finally pulled them out with 6:26 on the clock to cool.

     Verdict –  Looking at the mine, they definitely weren’t thin enough, like Nadiya’s. She came in 9th. Also, they were a bit chewy in the middle, Tamale (8th) had the same problem, but like Ian’s they were crispy and chewy, so I’m giving myself some credit there. Ian came in 3rd. Paul’s Arlettes (10th) had tails, so did mine, but I rolled them under, the judges would never have known (yeah right).

     To put it in perspective – Overall, I had 8 Arlettes, with distinct layers and swirl, they were a bit thicker, but were crispy, if not a little chewy in the middle. I think I’d have come in mid-div, and be safe from going home.

     Would I make these on my own? Only if I was bored stupid and felt a compelling desire to practice my “reverse” puff pastry technique. Here’s what’s fun about these challenges – I’m learning something new each week. It’s really a good way to gain baking knowledge. Bring on the next challenge! 



Tomato & Corn Salsa - Summer In A Bowl




     It’s summer so that means fresh local tomatoes and fresh local corn. And right on cue this NYTimes Cooking recipe popped up on my news feed. It’s easy. It’s fresh. This salsa hits the sweet, hot, and tart tastes. One little change I did make was to blanch and peel the tomatoes. I also used nice meaty, ripe, plum tomatoes. Just one note of warning – the recipe calls for you to season to taste. Well, you’ll probably end up, spoon in hand, unable to stop tasting. It’s really that good. Simple ingredients combined for a big taste. 


Great British Baking Show - Mary's Walnut Layer Cake - Tech Challenge #3

If you’re one of the 13 million fans of The Great British Baking Show or GBBS on PBS then you’ll get this and might have even done it yourself.

     I’m hooked, follow along each week and fall in love with the bakers. I feel their pain when there’s a disaster in the kitchen. I admire them for making their signature bakes, blind technical challenges, and showstoppers on a time limit in front of a camera. I couldn’t do it, no way and I’m a pretty experienced cook/baker.

     So, for fun I thought I’d put myself through the GBBS tech challenges.

     Let’s get to a few things straight right off the bat. It’s not a true challenge. I know that.

     I have clear advantages. From the start, I know what the challenge is. My recipe isn’t stripped down. I know what it’s *supposed” to look like. I’ve seen others make it with successes and failures.

     And here’s why all that doesn’t matter. You can give the same recipe to 12 (in this case 13) different people and 12/13 different results get churned out.

     I’m giving myself the same time limit that the bakers get. I know, I know – I’m in the comfort of my own home without a TV crew or judges in my face asking me unnerving questions to shatter my already fragile confidence. So, again, an advantage, but I still thought this would/could be fun. I just want to see if I can produce something anywhere close to what Paul and Mary would approve of and/or what it should look like. We shall see.

     This week’s challenge was Mary’s Walnut Layer Cake. A sponge, with buttercream filling, caramelized walnuts, and meringue icing.  I’ve made cakes with walnuts in them, I’ve made buttercream, I’ve caramelized nuts and made meringue icing. This should be easy…right? I have 1 hour and 45 minutes to get it done. Time starts now – BAAAAAKE.

     First almost disaster – only put three eggs in the batter instead of four – saw the lone egg before I added the flour mixture – disaster averted.

     2nd batch of walnuts look pretty good –1st batch was a sticky, glob of a mess.


   54:22 to go – cakes are out. While they were baking I made the buttercream and stuck it in the fridge. Next is the cooked icing – fingers crossed.

     I started the meringue icing before I spread the buttercream on the layers – CRAP. Now the buttercream is a little to cold to spread, and the layers aren’t totally cool yet.

     This on the clock thing is praying on my mind. I feel like I have to get it all done…NOW. Which is so wrong as I’ve seen in many episodes.

     Also, I was so worried about the cooked icing that I spread the buttercream on the warmish layers and watched them slide – aaand, I put the top layer on upside down. Now I've got something that looks like it belongs in a Whoville bakery, not the gingham alter. 

     While trying to check the consistency of my marshmallowy icing – I lifted the whisk [electric] still whisking away and gave myself, and the surrounding area a nice sticky shower. I needed a set of tiny windshield washers for my glasses. I’m nervous for no reason – I’M NOT BEING JUDGED.

      So now I’m scared ABOUT the time, and scared OF the icing and Mary and Paul [who don’t exist in my kitchen]. I toyed with the idea of taking the icing off the hot water and continue whisking it until it cools – that’s the way I’ve made this stuff before – heat and whisk until the egg whites are a little frothy and the sugar is dissolved – Igotthis.Iknowthis.

     Well I didn’t do that.


I decided to continue on with the disaster in the bowl and once again, sprayed myself and kitchen with the now gooey, runny white stuff [wish I took a picture to show the hilarity of it]. I even had time to redo the icing, but for some reason the idea of being on the clock made me forget all sense of any baking technique. I was in grab, go, goop, momentum, all because of the DAMN CLOCK.

     I completed the challenge with 16:31 minutes to spare, but I could have used the time better – I need better time management - I screwed up the easiest tech challenge.

     Verdict – the cake turned out okay. There were a few larger pieces of walnuts in there [which I didn’t mind, [but old blue eyes probably would have had something to say]. I thought it was on the tough side, possibly over cooked. My layers were even. The buttercream was fine, but due to spreading it on warmish layers, it eeked out of the edges.


     The second batch of walnuts were, also, fine. But I placed them wrong on the cake [again, I even knew how they should have been placed]. I tried to move them around, but they left funny marks. The cooked icing? Effing disaster. A Runny, grainy, mess.

    To put my tech challenge in perspective [with my other contestants] - my walnut cake was most like Stu’s on the icing side and Ian’s on the cake side. I had height, I had even layers, I had decent butter cream, some larger chunks of walnuts and grainy icing. I think I’d have been 11th in the challenge. That was Stu. He went home.

     I’m already nervous for next week’s challenge. I had no pressure except the timer on my iPhone and that’s what I turned out? I DON’T know how they do it.



I Made Crack Pie And Thought It Was...


     …one of the most overrated desserts - ever. Clearly I'm not a Milk Bar cult member. Crack Pie [wait for it] ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s just not. 

     I had heard nothing but raves, raves, raves, about this addictive confection and curiosity got the best of me. Twice. Yeah, I made it twice. Why? I didn’t think that something SO good could look SO bad. The first one looked blah, uninteresting. The second pie wasn’t much better, hence the liberal dusting of confectioner’s sugar in all of the pictures I saw online. And the filling? It’s is just a bunch [a whole bunch] of butter and sugar.  I get how that appeals, not exactly caramel, but still gooey. I just think it’s BORING.

     Which brings me to what I liked about the pie - the oatmeal cookie crust.

Great idea, so great that I’ve logged the recipe in my repertoire and will use it the next time I make a cheesecake. Goodbye boring graham crackers. Hello crunchy, oatmeal cookie crust.

     Here’s the Bon Appetit recipe I used. This is in no way a slight about the recipe – it works and you’ll know it works when your pie comes out looking like a mess that needs to be covered with confectioner’s sugar. If you don’t want to make your own Crack Pie – you can pick one up for a pricey $44.00 at a Momofuku Milk Bar – that alone should break you of the crack addiction.





Vanilla Genoise with Mascarpone Cream and Fresh Strawberries


I saw a recipe for a Strawberry Cassata on the NYT Cooking website the other day and it looked so appetizing. A light sponge cake, soaked in vodka laced syrup, layered with sweetened fresh ricotta and topped with berries. While that recipe wasn’t a “traditional” cassata – no candied fruit on top and no marzipan. It did get me thinking about making a copycat dessert. So I did.


For the cake: 

3 large eggs, room temperature

6 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for dusting

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour

3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

1-teaspoon vanilla extract

1-teaspoon lemon zest

For the Mascarpone Cream:

1-cup heavy cream

8oz. mascarpone cheese, room temperature

3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

1-teaspoon vanilla extract

16oz. fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced

     Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan, line bottom with parchment paper, butter paper and dust entire pan with sugar, tap out excess. Whisk vanilla into cooled, melted butter – set aside.

     Beat eggs, sugar and lemon zest together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on high, until a thick, ribbon forms when the paddle is lifted. This will take at the very least 5 minutes - don’t under beat.

     Remove bowl from stand, sift flour over mixture and fold in until incorporated. Add ½ cup of batter to butter and vanilla, gently fold together until completely mixed, fold butter mixture back into batter. Spread batter into the prepared pan, smooth top. Bake for 25 minutes until top springs back when lightly pressed and a tester inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan until you can handle it, run a knife around the edge of pan, and turn out onto a cake rack. Cool completely then use a serrated knife to cut in half making two layers.

     Whisk cream, sugar and vanilla together until soft peaks form. Whisk in mascarpone until smooth.

     Place bottom slice of cake on a plate, cut side up. Spread with ¾ of mascarpone cream. Place strawberries in a circle starting from the edge, filling in until cream is covered. Cover with top slice, spread remaining cream and decorate with strawberries.

     Keep chilled until ready to serve.