Category Archives: Desserts

French Yogurt Cake with Lemon and Rosemary

Lots of Lemons!

Lots of lemons at this neighbor’s house!

     A walk around my neighborhood tells a tale of bumper crop lemons.  I am only seeing front yards, and they are laden with lemons!  This quick loaf cake recipe uses only the lemon rind, leaving you with options for using the juice.  I suggest making lemonade, to serve along with this cake, and setting out a lovely Mother’s Day brunch table.

     I hope you find the combination of lemon and rosemary in a cake appealing.  It may be a new cake combo to you, and if so, you may well be delighted with their subtle pairing here.  I use a mild, “buttery” olive oil for another intriguing layer of flavor.  As you might imagine, the resulting cake is fragrant, light, moist, and tender.

     Oil-based cakes stay moist for days.  And left overnight, the lemon and rosemary become more flavorful.  I mention this to say this is good for making in advance.  Once it’s served, it’ll go fast in any case.  It certainly does at my house!

     Speaking of Mother’s Day, coming up this weekend, this recipe is easily made by novice bakers.  A bit of measuring, mincing and whisking and you’ve got a top-notch gift for Mom, or Grandma, or Auntie, or a cherished friend.

Happy combination of sugar, lemon and rosemary

Happy combination of sugar, lemon and rosemary

A few advance tips:

  • Pre-measure the 3/4 cup of yogurt and bring it to room temperature before you begin mixing the ingredients. The eggs should also be at room temperature.
  • Use a quality olive oil that boasts a “buttery” taste. Save a “grassy” or “peppery” olive oil for another time.
  • This cake is perfectly delicious without the rosemary, so feel free to take baby steps with adding it. But I promise, if you enjoy rosemary, it does bring a taste sensation to desserts.

 

French Yogurt Cake w-Lemon & Rosemary v2

French Yogurt Cake with Lemon and Rosemary

Adapted from Andrew Knowlton/Bon Appétit

 

Ingredients

 

  • 1-1/ 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/ 4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh rosemary, to taste
  • 3/ 4 cup whole milk, plain yogurt
  • 1/ 2 cup olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional (include if using a lesser amount of rosemary)
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar for the topping, “Turbinado” raw cane sugar is a good choice

 

Preparation

 

  1. Lightly coat an 8-1/ 2” x 4-1/ 4” loaf pan with olive oil. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.  Dust with flour, tapping out any excess.  Set aside.
  1. Position an oven rack to the lower third position. Preheat oven to 350*F.
  1. Whisk 1-1/ 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/ 2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Using your fingers, rub 3/ 4 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest in a large bowl until sugar is moist. Stir in the minced rosemary.
  1. Add 3/ 4 cup whole milk yogurt, 1/ 2 cup olive oil, 2 large eggs, and 1/ 2 teaspoon vanilla extract; whisk to blend.
  1. Fold in dry ingredients just to blend. Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth the top. Sprinkle the top evenly with the course sugar.
  1. Bake until top of cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes.
  1. Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert onto rack; let cool completely before slicing.
Sprinkled with Coarse Sugar 2

Coarse sugar sprinkled atop makes for a bit of crunch

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Chocolate-Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Pretty Much Always on Hand

Pretty Much Always on Hand

     Cookies are the favorite dessert in my house.  No question.  Hands down.  My family certainly enjoy other desserts; but when asked, they want a big plate of cookies set at the center of the table.  And dishes of ice cream for good measure.

     I am a longtime fan of David Lebovitz.  I enjoyed his desserts when he was pastry chef at Chez Panisse; and now his cookbooks and blog bring his recipes straight into my kitchen.  When it comes to chocolate, he’s masterful.  You can bet on rich, deep chocolate flavor.

     These cookies are very chocolate-y, soft and have a burst of brightness from the dried tart cherries.  They come together very quickly, with typical staples you may have on hand.  You will be rewarded within an hour of commencing the recipe with these endearing cookie bites.

A few advance tips:

  • Use quality chocolate. That’s the predominate flavor here.  I use Guittard, conveniently packaged in baking wafers for easy melting.  And easier snacking—that’s a clue by the way, the chocolate must taste good to you on its own!
  • Do not over bake these cookies. They may seem under-baked when you pull them from the oven, but they will firm up as they cool.  You are aiming for soft, fudgy cookies.
  • By all means experiment with other dried fruits; and add some chopped nuts if they’re your thing.
  • I halved the original recipe here, so it will double perfectly if you’re in need of greater quantities.

Chocolate Cherry Cookies Cooling Close

Chocolate-Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Adapted from David Lebovitz, Ready for Dessert

Makes about 30, 2-inch cookies

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped or baking wafers
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/ 4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/ 4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/ 8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 7/ 8 cup (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/ 4 cup dried, tart cherries, cut into pieces about the size of the chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Combine the bittersweet chocolate and butter in a large, heat-proof bowl.  Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted and smooth.  Remove the bowl from the heat.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.  Using a hand mixer (or stand mixer with the whisk attachment), beat at high speed until the mixture forms a well-defined ribbon when the beaters are lifted, about 5 minutes.  Adjust the mixer speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate-butter mixture until thoroughly incorporated.  Use a spatula to stir in the flour mixture, followed by the chocolate chips and dried cherries.
  4. Cover and refrigerate the dough until it is firm enough to handle, about 15 minutes.
  5. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  6. Drop the dough in generous tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, spacing them evenly, about 2-inches apart.  Gently flatten the dough to an even thickness.
  7. Bake for about 9 to 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway through baking, until the cookies feel just slightly firm at the edges.  Baking time will vary slightly based upon the thickness of the cookies.
  8. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets until firm enough to handle, then use a thin spatula to transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Note:  The dough can be refrigerated for 1 week or frozen for up to 1 month.  You will have to bring the dough back to room-temperature to scoop the cookies.

Flatten the cookie dough for quick, even baking

Flatten the cookie dough for quick, even baking

Baked cookies do not spread much

Baked cookies do not spread much

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Pumpkin Chocolate Snack Bars

pan-of-pumpkin-chocolate-bars     Stay with me here, as we jump into the already crowded field of pumpkin-mania…This entry is a keeper.  I knew I was onto a winner when the batter tasted like pumpkin pie filling, before it’s baked.  With an intentional light hand with the spices, there’s plenty of pumpkin flavor.  And when highlighted by chocolate chips, you have one of my favorite pairings.

     The sugar content is dialed down to a mere half cup.  The addition of walnuts steer it toward a slightly healthy-ish direction.  Hence I’ve dubbed these “snack bars” rather than a cookie or cake.  Clever me!  The bars are plenty sweet enough to qualify for “treat” status, but enjoy them anytime.

     I envision a future batch with a streusel topping to land it into breakfast territory; or a drizzle of melty chocolate frosting to fancy it up a bit.  The batter is sturdy enough to hold a handful of dried cranberries for a festive, seasonal version.  By all means, do with it what you will.

     P.S.  I see a very easy, direct substitution of mashed, ripe bananas in place of the pumpkin puree.  This idea comes to me as I stare upon about six very speckled bananas on the counter.  Of course then we call them Banana Chocolate Snack Bars – another favorite pairing.

pumpkin-chocolate-bars-close-3

Anytime Pumpkin Chocolate Snack Bars

Makes one 9 x 9-inch pan

Ingredients

  • 3/ 4 cup pumpkin puree; canned is fine
  • 1/ 2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/ 4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/ 4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Line a 9 x 9-inch pan with aluminum foil and butter lightly. The easiest way I’ve found to do this neatly is to invert the pan and cover it with a 12 x 12-inch sheet of foil.  Carefully fold the corners as if wrapping a gift box.  Gently lift the foil off of the pan, turn the pan right-side-up, and then tuck the perfectly molded foil neatly into the pan.
  2. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  3. Measure the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl; stir or whisk to combine. Set aside.
  4. Combine the pumpkin and sugar into a large bowl and mix to blend. Either a sturdy hand whisk or electric mixer does the job.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well to incorporate into the batter.  Add the spices, mixing until they are evenly distributed.  Add the melted butter and mix until smooth.
  5. Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until fully incorporated. When the batter is smooth, taking care to not over-mix it, add in the chocolate chips and nuts.  Stir to combine well.  Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before cutting.  I cut into 16 bars, each about 2-1/ 4 inch square, but I’ll leave the particulars to you!
Thanks to my taste-tester Grant. He approves.

Thanks to my taste-tester Grant. He approves.

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Peaches and Crème — A Perfect Pair

Variety of Peaches     A “milestone birthday” celebration in May for my friend, Ginger, found us in the Dordogne region of southwest France.  This rustic, and fertile river valley deserves its reputation as the soul of French cuisine.  The region’s gastronomic treasures include truffles, walnuts, goat cheeses and all manner of duck delights.

     In addition to taking in our share of castles and prehistoric caves, we visited local farmers’ markets and ate our way through memorable meals from the most humble menus to Michelin-starred affairs.  All very satisfying!  IMG_2515

     Now it’s getting hot out there, and many of us dread the thought of firing up the oven.  I get it.  This recipe is a no-cook, no-fuss option that’s brimming with fresh, seasonal peaches.  It’s satisfying without being cloyingly sweet or rich.  As a matter of fact it’s mostly peaches, frozen and whizzed up with a dollop of crème fraîche and a bit of sugar to taste.  Three ingredients.  Done.

     I’ve been making a version of frozen fruit ice creams and sorbets for a while.  It was an easy adaptation from making a too-thick fruit smoothie just once, and preferring the semi-frozen texture over a slushy one.  Improve the texture, add a bit of sweetness and voilà – dessert!

     Imagine my delight whilst enjoying a day-long market tour and cooking class at Le Chevrefeuille Cookery School in St. Cyprien, France; when Chef Ian Fisk included a banana ice cream recipe using the same technique. (He uses a commercial-strength food processor.)  His unique twist uses crème fraîche (we were in France after all), and of course he also amps up the flavor by including vanilla beans.  He’s “chef-y” that way, and will tell you so himself, with a wink and a grin.

     Side note:  Ian and Sara Fisk live here with their family.  It is charming and I highly recommend staying here as your base when traveling in the area.  Sara Fisk’s deft hand with accommodations assures your comfort; and your meals taken there will be fantastic!

Chef Ian Fisk's Banana Ice Cream with Chocolate Cake

Chef Ian Fisk’s Banana Ice Cream with Chocolate Cake (Prepared by moi in his kitchen at Le Chevrefeuille)

A few suggestions:

  • Prepare in advance by cutting and freezing the fruit.
  • Substitute any fruit that is not too watery; nectarines, firm berries, mango, bananas, etc. Or mix and match!
  • Fold in small pieces of a complimentary fruit, nuts or chocolate bits after the ice cream is blended. Example:  raspberries into peach, chocolate into banana.
  • Boost the flavor by adding mint, basil, grated citrus zests; or vanilla bean as does Chef Ian.
  • Use caution when stirring down the fruit in the blender or food processor! Use an appropriate tool such as a tamper or suitable spatula.
Fun and Tasty

Fun and Tasty Ice Cream Sandwiches Made with Ginger Snaps — Another Classic Pairing

Peach “Ice Crème” – Blender Easy

Adapted from Ian Fisk’s Version

Makes about 4 cups

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups peaches; peeled, pitted, sliced into 1/ 4” wedges and frozen
  • 1/ 2 cup crème fraîche
  • 2 -3 tablespoons powdered sugar, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Remove frozen peaches from the freezer and place into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to soften them slightly.
  2. Break them apart and put half of the still frozen, but slightly softened, peaches into the blender or food processor.  Add half of the crème fraîche and 1 tablespoon of the powdered sugar.  Whizzzzz until it begins to emulsify, looks a bit creamy and the fruit easily moves about the bowl.
  3. Add the remaining frozen peaches and 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar.  Whizzzzz again until it is all creamy and the consistency of ice cream.  Taste for sweetness and add sugar as needed.
  4. At this point the texture will be soft and creamy.  It is excellent at this stage (actually my favorite), as you will discover when tasting for sweetness!  This is also the stage when I scoop it to make ice cream sandwiches.  It may be served immediately, or if preparing in advance, transfer the ice cream to a storage bowl and store in freezer.
  5. Remove it from the freezer about an hour before serving and place it in the refrigerator for easier scooping and softer texture.  (Remember, it’s mostly peaches, so it will freeze quite hard.)
Four Cups of Prepared Peaches Fill a 9 x 13-inch Pan

Four Cups of Prepared Peaches Fill a 9 x 13-inch Pan; Ready for the Freezer

1. Peaches 2. Creme Fraiche 3. Sugar THREE Ingredients!

1. Frozen Peaches 2. Creme Fraiche 3. Sugar

Stored for Freezing 2

Peachy Keen and Smooth.  Make Ice Cream Sandwiches Right Out of the Blender.

With Chef Ian Fisk in his Le Chevrefeuille Kitchen. Thanks for the fun day!

Preparing Asparagus with Chef Ian Fisk in his Le Chevrefeuille Kitchen. Thanks for the fun day Ian and Sara Fisk!

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