When life gives you lemons, make lemon sauce.

I’m not going to talk about politics. I’m going to make dessert.

When I turn off the news and close Facebook, what’s left is home and home is a happy place. Yes, let’s stay involved and current, but also know when it’s time for a break.  You owe it to yourself to have some dessert.

I’m thinking of all my friends as I make this… I made bite-sized portions so you could each have one.  No fighting.



Mini Angel Cakes with Lemon Sauce


Mini Angel Cakes with Lemon Sauce

  • 1/2 cup cake flour (sift before measuring)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 6 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 3/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract

Lemon Sauce

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 tbsp. butter (unsalted)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Angel Cakes

Preheat over to 325 degrees. Use a mini-muffin pans (makes 24). You can also use a regular muffin pan, but line the bottom of the cups with parchment circles. Minis pop out easier than regular sized. They’re also cuter.

Stir the cake flour and 1/3 cup sugar together. Set aside. In a larger bowl, mix 6 egg whites with cream of tartar, salt and lemon extract. Use a hand-mixer to mix until frothy. While continuing to mix, gradually add 1/3 (the rest) of the sugar. Mix until stiff peaks form.


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Stiff peaks


Gradually sprinkle the flour/sugar mix into the egg mix and fold with a spatula. Fold until all flour has been blended smoothly. Folding (not mixing) ensures that the air stays in the mix to keep it light.


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Fold, don’t mix.


Divide batter into muffin cups.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until dry in the center. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.


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Mini and regular muffin cups.


Lemon Sauce

Stir sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan. Gradually add the water while stirring on medium to high. Sauce will start to boil and thicken. Stir occasionally.

Remove from heat and add butter, lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir. Pour sauce in a metal bowl and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. It will continue to thicken.

Pop the cooled cakes onto a serving platter and drizzle with the lemon sauce.



So light!



fini angel cakes.jpg

Drizzled with Lemon Goodness – like Sunshine!


Eat each one purposefully. Taste the lemon zing your tongue. Feel the soft cake melt in your mouth. BE in the moment.

Happy baking!









Posted in Cakes | Leave a comment

As American as Apple Crumble?

It’s Election Day and, can I just say, that this election is more frightening than Halloween? I don’t know how the rest of the country is coping, but my fingers are crossed for a miracle. This is the year for miracles, it seems. At least in this house. So far this year we’ve moved to a new house, gotten married (yay!), had a spectacular honeymoon directly in the path of (but were unaffected by) Hurricane Matthew, and I have been able to dedicate myself (almost 100%) toward my art. A truly miraculous year, indeed. Now just one more, God, please….

Today is tense. The vibe is anxious. Outside, it’s unseasonably warm for November. Gorgeous, yes, but my cynical side wonders if we are just moving closer to hell. I guess we’ll know in a few hours. Ballots are being counted.

Needless to say, amidst the anticipation, I need some comfort food. Apple pie offers some solid comfort, but I’m aiming for easy. Sweet, slightly salty, with a crumble top. Apple crumble!


Apple crumble is my absolute go-to dessert. In fact, until now I’ve never written down the recipe – I’ve been winging it for years. This time I’ve measured everything so we can share the comfort like a warm blanket. We’re in this together!

As I write this, my crumble is in the oven. The house is slowly filling with cinnamon-apple goodness. I feel better already. It’s going to be okay.

You’ll need:

  • 5 apples (my favorites are honey crisp)
  • 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 3/4 all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, halves and pieces (optional)
  • 6 tbsp. chilled butter (1 tbsp. to prep pie dish; 5 tbsp. for crumble)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Peel the apples and cut them into medium to thin slices.



Apple pyramid.



Put all of the slices in a bowl with 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp sea salt and 1/2 cup water. Mix together until all the apple slices are coated.


Butter a standard pie dish and pour the apple-mix in.



Sliced apples coated in cinnamon, sugar, water and a bit of sea salt.


In a separate bowl, mix 3/4 cup flour, 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Cube the butter and add to the mix. Kind reminder: take off your rings!

Mix the ingredients with your hands to create the crumble. Use your fingertips first until the butter is incorporated and the mix resembles rough bread crumbs. Next, squeeze your ingredients together by the handful until it clumps in your hand, then release. You want it lumpy. Clumpy. Crumbly.


Nuts are optional. If you like them, add 1/2 cup nuts to the crumble and “squeeze them in” until they are incorporated, too.

Gently sprinkle the crumble atop the apples evenly. Use the squeeze and release method to keep your crumble crumbly. I’m sure these are the technical terms la Cordon Bleu uses, right?



Crumbly crumble.


Bake at 375 for 35 minutes or until top is golden.



Golden top.


Enjoy! And remember… no matter who wins, it’s really the small, seemingly insignificant moments between us – the people –  that determines the nature and character of who we are.

Happy baking!



Warm apple crumble.







Posted in Fruit | Leave a comment

Before sliced bread, there was flour.

Before sliced bread, the Cubs won the World Series. I keep hearing this as a reference to how long it’s been. Well, things change. The Cubs are on top again, and I’m learning about flour.

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Because I want to be a reliable baker who knows the difference between all-purpose, white wheat, and bread flour, today I’m brushing up on the basics. I’m baking soft dinner rolls with something called Strong White Flour. But first, what the heck is strong white flour?

Tired of being confused, I did some research for us, dear reader. Here’s the low down on the most common flours. We teach best what we most need to learn, so they say. Hopefully, this will help us both.

First off, this is a wheat kernel. And probably more than you cared to know about it.

Most flour we use in the US comes from the wheat kernel of the wheat plant. The kernel has three sections: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ.



Bran. The bran, as you can see, is the outer shell of the kernel. The bran shell is fibrous.  The bran is what gives whole wheat bread, for instance, fiber. So, whole wheat bread, muffins, etc.- anything made from whole wheat flour – contains the whole wheat kernel. The bran, once milled, has sharp edges. Tiny, microscopic sharp edges. Remember that. We’ll come back to it…

Endosperm. The endosperm makes up most of the interior of the wheat kernel and is milled to make white flours. Two proteins exist within the endosperm: gliadin and glutenin. Together, they create gluten. We’ll come back to that, too…

Germ. Meanwhile, deep inside the wheat kernel (like the seed of a grape) is the germ. The germ contains necessary fat.

Back to protein.  When the two proteins that live in the endosperm are combined with liquid, they form gluten. Gluten is the essential glue that holds dough together. It’s a binding agent – a thickener – and determines the chewiness and density of breads, brownies, pastries and other baked goods.

For example, a muffin is more dense than a cupcake. A loaf of bread is more dense than a croissant. The flour used to make these denser goods necessarily contains more of the wheat kernel’s endosperm and, therefore, more protein. The more protein, the more gluten.

What about yeast? As the yeast added to dough activates, it releases carbon dioxide. You can feel the dough actually getting warmer as you knead it. Now imagine  gluten as a net that traps the carbon dioxide. When the carbon dioxide gas gets trapped inside the dough, it rises.

So why is whole wheat dough flat if it has so much protein? If whole wheat uses the whole kernel, shouldn’t it rise more than any other dough? Well, it probably should except for the sharp little bran bits (remember those?) that cut the gluten stands as they begin to form. They act like little knives inside the dough, cutting the gluten net and setting the carbon dioxide free. Whole wheat breads, as a result, are quite dense.

Now, on to flours.

Totally off-topic, but worth it. I can’t think about various flours without recalling my favorite scene in the movie, “Stranger Than Fiction.” Mr. Krick (Will Ferrell) is an IRS auditor trying very awkwardly to win the heart of  Miss Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a beautiful baker he is auditing. In this scene, he brings her a “bouquet” of flours. I’ll post the scene on my Facebook.  It melts me.

Seriously, on to flours.

Self-rising flour  has a protein count of about 8%. Very low.  This flour is perfect for biscuits. Sometimes it’s also known as Soft Wheat flour. This flour contains baking powder and salt already. Different brands seem to add different amounts of baking powder and salt to their blends, so experiment to see which brand works best for you.

Cake Flour has about 9% protein content. It’s very fine and soft. Typically, cake flour comes in a box. It may be tucked in with the cake mixes instead of the flours at your grocery store. Softasilk is my go-to cake flour for making sponge cake and other airy treats. The dough has stability without toughness.     

All-Purpose flour is just what it says. The protein count is middle-of-the-road (10.5 to 11+%, depending on the brand) so it works for most things. It’s dense enough for brownies; light enough for most cakes (not all). Sometimes All-Purpose flour is also called Hard Wheat flour.

Bread flour (the flour I’m using today), is also known as Strong White Flour (so I’ve learned!). It has a protein count of about 13% – a little more than All-Purpose. This makes for a stronger gluten net and more chewiness.  Think of bagels and chewy dinner rolls.

Whole wheat flour has a protein count of about 14% so it creates denser baked goods. Remember those spikey bran shards that cut through the gluten net to keep it from rising? Whatever you’re making, it’s going to be dense.

White Whole Wheat flour is essentially the same as regular whole wheat flour, except their wheat kernels of origin are white and red, respectively. Don’t be fooled by the color of white wheat flour. It’s still a whole wheat flour and will result in a dense texture.

Those are the basics. There are so many other flours – more than I could ever hope to learn! Armed with knowledge, I’m feeling inspired to start experimenting. Bring on the White Strong Flour (a.k.a. Bread Flour)!

Soft Dinner Rolls!



Soft dinner rolls with sea salt!


This recipe is from “Breads & Baking”: editor, Gina Steer; Flame Tree Publishing; 2008.

You’ll need:


  • 50 g unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp. caster sugar
  • 8 fl. oz milk
  • 550 g Strong White Flour (or Bread Flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast (*Note: dry yeast is only good for about 4-6 months after opening. Also, once open, keep it refrigerated or in the freezer. Check your expiration date before starting.)
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten

To glaze and finish:

  • 2 tbsp. milk mixed with about 1 tbsp. of beaten egg 
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds 

Heat the butter, milk and sugar in a small saucepan until the butter is melted. It should be warm, but not hot. This mix will activate your yeast. If it’s too hot, it will kill the yeast and your bread won’t rise.



Butter, milk and sugar mixture will activate the yeast.


Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Stir in the dry yeast and make a well in the center. Reserve 1 tbsp. of the beaten eggs for brushing the rolls before baking.

Pour the beaten eggs and warm milk mixture into the well.



Knead the dough about 10 minutes.


Knead by hand or use a stand-mixer to knead the dough for about 10 minutes. You’ll feel the dough get warmer as the yeast activates. After about 10 minutes, the dough should be smooth and elastic.

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap.



Smooth, elastic dough. Cover loosely and leave to rise.


I use my microwave as a proofer. To do this, put a small bowl of water in the microwave and heat until boiling (2-3 minutes). After the microwave shuts off, put the dough in the microwave with the steaming bowl of water. Let it rise for 1 hour or until about doubled in size.



Doubled in size after 60 minutes.


After the dough has risen, knead by hand another minute or so. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces.



Risen dough.




Divide the dough into 16 pieces.


Shape the 16 pieces into balls, braids, cottage buns. Just have fun with it.

Place your rolls on 2 lightly oiled baking pans and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let them rise for 30 minutes. To keep them warm, you can set them on the stove as the oven preheats. They should double in size.



Rising a second time… 30 minutes.




Dinner rolls, doubled in size


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Once the rolls have risen, brush them with the egg/milk mixture. Alternate sprinkling them with sea salt, sesame seeds or poppy seeds. Or leave them plain.



Sprinkled with Sea salt, Poppy Seeds and Sesame Seeds


Bake the rolls in the oven for about 20 minutes or until golden. I baked mine 10 minutes and then turned them 180 degrees for even browning. Toward the end, I moved them to the top rack to keep the bottoms golden (not too brown). Everyone’s oven is different. Don’t be afraid to move things around a bit for the best result.

Transfer to a wire rack and cover with a towel to keep them soft.


Let them cool as long as you can stand it then break out the butter and jam!



Buttery Soft Dinner Roll made with Bread Flour


Happy baking!








Posted in Breads | Leave a comment

Hazelnut Chocolate Molten Cakes, now Gluten-free!



Mr. & Mrs. Latchford


I got married recently (October 1!) and became the lucky step-mom of two beautiful (and very health conscious!) daughters. The oldest of the two is gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free… oh, my. I think I’d have to question my reason for living if I were to do without butter, cream, and the delights of cheese. She’s a stronger woman than I!

While I don’t plan to abandon my pastries, I have widened my scope to experiment with some lesser known (and gluten-free) flours. Today I learned to love hazelnut flour. Thanks Bob’s Red Mill!

This recipe comes from La Tartine Gourmande by Beatrice Peltre. She’s written a charming book packed with recipes for those who are living gluten-free, as well as the rest of us!

You’ll need:

  • Four 3/4 cup ramekins (my ramekins are a bit larger, but I made do)
  • 6 tbsps. (85 g) unsalted butter (plus a little for coating the ramekins)
  • Flour to dust the ramekins
  • 4 oz  (115 g) dark chocolate
  • 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) light cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp fleur de sel (I had to look this one up. It’s a flake salt that’s not commonly found in the US. I found mine at World Market, but also learned that Jacobsen Salt in Oregon is now making a flake salt.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp. (22.5 g) hazelnut or millet flour
  • 1 oz (30 g) hazelnut flavored chocolate
  • Confectioner’s sugar to dust



My new friends: Fleur de Sel and Hazelnut Flour

If you’re planning to bake this right away, heat your oven to 450 degrees. If not, you can make these and refrigerate them. Bring them back to room temperature before baking.

Brush the ramekins with melted butter. Coat them with a flour of your choosing (I used the hazelnut flour).


Melt the dark chocolate and butter in a bain-marie (otherwise known as a stainless bowl over a pot of boiling water). Remove from heat and stir until smooth.



In a mixer, combine eggs, sugar and fleur de sel. Mix for about 8 minutes until the volume and thickness has increased. The batter should be fluffy and full of air.


Add the vanilla and fold in the hazelnut flour. Make sure you “fold in” so the batter stays light. Add the melted chocolate gradually, continuing to fold.



Pour each ramekin 3/4 full of batter. Insert a piece of hazelnut chocolate into the center and then cover with the remaining batter.


Bake the cakes in the oven for about 10 -12 minutes. The less time you bake these, the more gooey the centers will be.


After baking, let them rest for 5 minutes then flip them out onto plates or serve them in the ramekins dusted with a little confectioner’s sugar.

I flipped two of mine onto plates. They looked a bit crumbly due to the naturally course grain of the hazelnut flour I used to coat the ramekins. Next time, I may coat with general all-purpose flour.


I also left two in the ramekins. In my opinion, they look a bit nicer in the ramekins (at least mine did). Either way, both taste delicious! Rich, super chocolatey and, whodathunkit, gluten-free.


Happy baking!




Posted in Chocolate | Leave a comment

Roasted Chicken Bouchées (aka: succulent roasted chicken in a flakey pastry cup!)

I’ve been a little distracted…

I’ve been remiss in my food blogging, although I’ve been cooking up a storm!

I appreciate everyone who continues to follow my blog, despite the hiatus, and I promise to be more prolific moving forward.

The good news on this end is that I’m no longer cooking just for me. I’m still in my tiny kitchen (which I love!), but now there are two of us. Sometimes it’s a little cramped, but close quarters are fine when you love the company.


This is my fiancé and master taste-tester, John. He’ll be showing up here from time to time as he tests my blog recipes. It’s always good to have an extra set of eyes in case I miss some detail. Never one to shy from a challenge, he went for the gold with his first test…

On New Year’s Eve he made Beef Wellington!


I’m not sure he realizes yet how showing me he can cook could be a double-edged sword…

Roasted Chicken Bouchées

Recently I served up Roasted Chicken Bouchées. The rough puff recipe is from Michel Roux’s book, “Pastry”.  There are just so many ways to use this dough!  Use the search option to find more ideas on this blog!

Rough Puff Pastry

Much easier than classic puff pastry, rough puff pastry is quicker to make. It’s every bit as flavorful and rises to 75% of the classic version.

  • 500g all-purpose flour
  • 500g very cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 6g salt
  • 250ml ice-cold water


Put the flour in a mound on your counter or in a large mixing bowl. Work in the butter and salt with your fingertips until the texture becomes crumbly.


Once your mix is grainy, work in the cold water. When the water is fully incorporated, roll the dough into a ball. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes.


After 20 minutes, flour the counter and roll the dough into a large rectangle.


Fold the dough like a letter (into three).


Give the dough a quarter turn, then roll it into a second rectangle. Fold into three again. Your dough should be gaining a smoother consistency.


Wrap the dough in cling film and put it back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, you’ll be doing two more turns, just like these.

After you’ve done a total of four turns, let the dough rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before using.   While the dough is resting….

Roasted Chicken

To serve, I cut this chicken up into small pieces anyway, so there are many ways to cook your chicken. Don’t feel hemmed in.

In this instance, I used two large bone-in chicken breast/thighs. Rubbed the skin with sea-salt and pepper. In a shallow baking dish, add 1/4 cup olive oil, about a cup of water, some thyme, onions and a bay leaf.

Bake the chicken, uncovered, at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes. When cooked through, slice the chicken. Save the pan of juices for gravy…


Back to our dough!

Reset your oven temperature to 350 degrees.

You can use all of the dough, or just part, depending on how many people you are serving. This dough will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator, or up to 4 weeks in the freezer.

I used only 1/3 of my dough here and saved the rest for later.


Flour the counter and roll the dough into a rectangle. Your dough should be about 1/4″ thick or slightly less. Use a 3.5″ biscuit cutter to cut an even number of circles.


Use a smaller biscuit cutter (2″ – 2.5″) to cut smaller circles out of HALF your circles. The rings will form the walls of your cups.


Set your circles on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Lightly brush the edges with egg wash. Place the rings on top of the circles, egg wash down, pressing slightly.


Prick the centers of your cups a few times with a fork.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden.


Once risen, remove and place on a rack. Use a paring knife to gently remove any excess puff from the centers and discard (discard can also mean eat!).

Gravy, anyone?

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 water (or use juices from chicken – or a mix of both)
  • 1/4 cream
  • 1 tsp Arrowroot

In a small bowl, whisk the flour and Arrowroot into the water until smooth. In a small sauce pan, bring the remaining water and cream to a simmer. Slowly add the flour mix and stir over med-high heat until it thickens. Season to taste.


Place the chicken slices in the bouchées. Ladle gravy over the bouchées and garnish with thyme. Serve immediately.


I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we did.

Happy Cooking!






Posted in Breads, Dough, Meats, Pastries | 3 Comments

Perfect Buttermilk Biscuits


Flakey buttermilk biscuits are a Southern favorite. If you’ve been following my blogs, you know I didn’t inherit strong cooking genes. My sweet Southern grandmother, bless her heart, made biscuits (naturally!) but they were “Cat Head biscuits” – meaning if you threw them at a cat’s head, you’d probably kill it. Like a rock.

Despite her biscuits, I have fond memories of the huge breakfasts she used to make for us. Gravy, sausage, eggs, bacon.. cholesterol hadn’t been invented yet!  She’s the main reason I love to make a big breakfast on the weekends, so I’m dedicating this recipe to her. Thank you, Nanny.



Looking good at 91, Nanny!


For years I have been experimenting to discover the perfect biscuit recipe and I think I’ve finally nailed it! Fluffy inside with a crisp bottom and golden top – these biscuits may just be too simple to make.  Dangerously simple!  You’ll need:
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/3 cup Crisco shortening
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp melted butter

Self-rising flour really is the key to biscuits. I know you’re not supposed to have to add baking powder and salt to self-rising flour, but different brands of flour vary slightly. I’m using Gold Medal here, and so I’ve added the baking powder and salt.

You can also make a smaller batch of these biscuits by dividing the recipe in half.  The small batch makes about 4 – 6. A full batch makes 6-8, depending on the size of your biscuit cutter. I like to use a small cutter. The biscuits seem to cook more evenly and rise more. Here we go…

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Prepare a pan to bake the biscuits. I use a small cast iron skillet. Cast iron makes the bottom of the biscuits a little crispy. You can also use a baking pan. Whatever pan you use, make sure it will fit in your microwave (I’ll explain later!). Rub the pan with butter or Crisco.

Start with 2 cups flour in a bowl and stir in your baking powder and salt. Use your fingers to mix the shortening into the flour until crumbly.


Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk. Again, mix with your fingers until you have a very sticky dough. If it’s too wet, sprinkle it with a little flour and mix in. You don’t want dry dough – you want the dough to be sticky enough to get all over your fingers, but not dipping wet.

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Pour buttermilk into the well

After washing your hands, sprinkle flour on the counter and pat the dough into the thickness you desire. About 1/2″ or slightly more is fine.


Here comes the fun part: biscuit cutting!


I’m making a half batch here.

Another great tip (besides the self-rising flour) is to put your biscuits in a proofer for a few minutes before baking. Don’t have a proofer? Sure you do! Heat a bowl of water in the microwave for 2 minutes until it’s steamy. That’s your proofer! Now put your pan of biscuits into the microwave for 3-5 minutes and let sit (don’t turn the microwave back on!).

After letting them proof, you should notice that they are slightly risen. Put them in the oven immediately for 8-10 minutes. The time will vary slightly depending on the size biscuit you cut.

After 8-10 minutes, they should be nearly done (risen but not quite golden). Take them out and brush them with the melted butter. Now put them back in the oven on broil just until golden. Watch them closely! They can go from golden to “too dry” quickly!


Brush with melted butter.


Golden biscuits!

Serve with jelly or gravy for breakfast, or fried chicken for dinner. If you’re not sure how to fry chicken, that’s coming up soon!

Happy cooking!



Posted in Breads, Dough | Leave a comment

’tis the season for Rhubarb Roulade!

Rhubarb Roulade

Rhubarb Roulade

Kruger's Market

Kruger’s Market, Rhubarb Season!

Rhubarbs have been sort of a mystery to me for years. Until now, I’d never cooked with rhubarbs, nor had I actually eaten rhubarb before last summer (a wonderful strawberry-rhubarb pie), but by the time I realized how good they were, the season had ended.  Luckily, the season has come around again… time to experiment.

So what is a rhubarb? Is it a fruit or a vegetable?  Well, it’s commonly considered a vegetable but, in 1947, a US court decided that since we so often use it as a fruit (in pies and such), it could be reclassified as a fruit.  Tariffs were higher for vegetables than fruits at the time, so it saved us money. Apparently, some foods are whatever courts decide they are, despite what they may actually be.  Either way, it’s a plant.  In some of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, she refers to rhubarb pie as “plant pie”. So, I guess what I’m making here today is a plant roulade.

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Fruit or vegetable?

The recipe I am using is exactly the same as the raspberry roulade I made in August 2013, but with rhubarb. Also, I’m making two (one to keep and one to share). Note, the recipe below is for one.


  • 20 g butter to grease the pan
  • 125 g flour, sifted (Softasilk)
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 125 g superfine sugar
  • 30 g melted butter, cooled

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour a 11 x 14 shallow baking pan.

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Whisk the sugar and eggs together in a bowl for about 10-12 minutes until the mix trails in ribbons. Dust with flour and gently fold to incorporate. Be sure to fold thoroughly so all the flour is incorporated. Lastly, gently fold in the melted butter. The idea is to keep the air pockets – to keep it light.

Fold the flour in completely.

Immediately pour the batter evenly into the pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the sponge cake is golden and springs back to the touch.

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Set the pan on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then flip the cake out onto parchment paper.  My cakes each had a crisp bottom layer so I used a long, serrated knife to slice it off and make it more malleable. I didn’t want it to crack when I rolled it. I also trimmed all the edges.

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Clean and slice the rhubarb stalks about 1″ thick. In a pan on medium/high heat cook about 1 pound of sliced rhubarb with 1/2 cup sugar. It will release it’s own juices as it heats and cook down into a soft spread. Cook covered for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Once soft, spread in a shallow pan and leave to cool.

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Chantilly cream.

  • 500 ml heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 50 g confectioner’s sugar

Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the cream. Put the cream in a chilled metal bowl with the sugar and whip with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes at medium speed. Increase to high speed and mix until thickened.

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Vanilla beans from the pod

Spread a layer of soft rhubarb on the cake(s), then top with a layer of whipped cream. Spread flat with an offset spatula.

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Carefully roll the roulade from the short end. A lot of the filling will want to squeeze out at the end – that’s normal. It’s messy. Keep going. Scrape the excess away.

DSC_0095_3750 copy Fold the parchment over the roll and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

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After the roulade has set, place on a cutting board and peel away the wrap. With a clean, serrated knife, trim the two ends to reveal clean edges.

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Dust the top with confectioner’s sugar and serve in 1″ slices. If we consider this a vegetable, could it be dinner? You decide.


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Posted in Cakes, Fruit, Vegetables | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Plating pretty: Individual Chocolate Key Lime Cakes

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A friend of mine asked me to create a dessert for a six-course dinner he was serving. Since mine was the last of some very impressive (and somewhat heavy) dishes, I wanted to make something light and fruity. I chose this recipe from Classic Charleston Desserts. Specifically, it’s from the Kiawah Resort. Right off, I’ll tell you that the recipe itself has a few “problems”. Some of the mousse directions are questionable and the assembly directions actually create the cake upside down, if you follow them exactly. The directions here have been modified.

Overall, the cake turned out well and dinner was a success. Well done, Rick!

Chocolate sponge cake 

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 8 whole eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 8 egg whites
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • Pinch cream of tartar

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.

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Combine the egg yolks, whole eggs and sugar and mix with an electric mixer at high speed until batter falls in ribbons.

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Sift the flour and cocoa together and gradually fold into the egg mixture. Be sure to fold thoroughly so there are no pockets of powder hiding in the mix.

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In another bowl, beat the egg whites, 1/3 of the sugar and the cream of tartar until it forms stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter gradually. Divide the batter evenly between two pans.

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Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate and bake for another 10 minutes or until the cakes are springy to the touch. Cool on a rack. Once cool, remove the “skin” from both cakes so that each cake is as light as possible. Set aside.

Key Lime Mousse

  • 2 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tbsp cold water
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 7 tbsp Key Lime juice
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water to dissolve. Combine the milk and key lime juice in a small pan and bring to a boil.

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Combine the egg yolks and sugar in another bowl until well combined. Pour a small amount of the heated egg mix into the sugar egg mix to temper the eggs, then pour it all into the saucepan to cook.  Heat to 184 degrees.

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Add the gelatin and stir to dissolve completely. Cool the saucepan in a bowl of ice. (This last bit of instruction is from the recipe book but, better yet, use a bain marie to heat the custard. Mix with an electric mixer until it develops some body before cooling).

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Whip the cream until soft peaks form and fold into the cooled custard.

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Raspberry Mousse

  • 2 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup raspberry puree
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Again, sprinkle the gelatin over the water to dissolve. Puree one cup of raspberries and strain to remove the seeds.

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Bring the raspberry puree to a gentle boil in a saucepan. Combine the eggs yolks and sugar in another bowl. Pour a small amount of the heated puree into the egg mix to temper the eggs, then pour it all into the saucepan to cook. Stir gently until it reaches 184 degrees.

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Stir in the gelatin until it’s dissolved. Remove the thickened custard from the stove and let cool completely. Whip the cream in another bowl until soft peaks form and fold into the cooled custard. Set aside.

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Cocoa Sauce

  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar (use half this)
  • pinch of salt

Combine the sugar, water, salt and cocoa in a saucepan and stir until thickened. Again, this is from the recipe book, but half the sugar would do. And you might need to add some Arrowroot or Corn Starch or you’ll be stirring all night. Cool in the refrigerator overnight.

To assemble, lay a layer of cake on parchment paper. Spread the raspberry mousse over the cake thickly and evenly, then layer with the second cake.

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Spread the key lime mousse thickly over the top. Put the cake in the freezer for at least 24 hours.

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When frozen, trim the edges (run a serrated knife under hot water and wipe dry each time). Score the top before cutting so your pieces are even, then cut into even pieces.

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Top with raspberries and serve with the chocolate sauce and espresso. Enjoy!

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Posted in Cakes, Fruit, Mousse | Leave a comment

Anytime is the right time for Brioche!

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Classic french brioche. Slightly sweet with a soft biscuit-like center and a crispy crust, it’s unlike any other dough. Of course, it’s also packed with butter and takes serious time to make. But that’s true of anything worth enjoying, isn’t it?  Love doesn’t simply come as an end result; within the process of creation itself, there must be love.

Julia Child wisely stressed, “One of the main reasons that pseudo-French cooking falls far below good French cooking is just this matter of elimination of steps, combination of processes, or skimping on ingredients such as butter, cream – and time. “Too much trouble,” “Too expensive,” or “Who will know the difference” are death knells for good food.”

Preach it, Julia.

Magical brioche takes several hours and there’s no getting around it, so let’s just jump in with joyful anticipation.

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  • 70 ml tepid milk
  • 15 g fresh yeast
  • 500 g all-purpose flour
  • 15 g fine salt
  • 6 medium eggs (room temperature)
  • 350 g softened butter
  • 30 g superfine sugar
  • eggwash (1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tsp milk)

Put the milk and yeast into a bowl and stir to dissolve the yeast. Put the flour, salt and eggs into an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and pour in the yeast mixture. Mix on low to knead for 5 minutes.

Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and knead for another 10 minutes on medium. The dough should be smooth and elastic.

In a separate bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar together. I also added some springs of dill to mine. You can add other herbs as you like, but keep it mild so it doesn’t overpower the tender, buttery flavor.

Add the butter-sugar mix to the bowl a little at a time as it turns. The dough should become glossy and smooth and come away from the sides easily.

DSC_0076_3516 copyRemove the dough hook and cover the bowl with cling film. Let it rise for about 2 hours or until doubled in size at about 75 degrees. Making a proofer out of your microwave works wonders. Just microwave a small bowl of water for about 4 minutes until it’s nice and steamy, then put your bread in to rise.

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After 2 hours in the proofer.

Knock the dough back down by turning it in the bowl. Cover and leave overnight in the fridge (not more than 24 hours).

Day two:

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The classic French brioche form requires a brioche mold, of which I have ONE. It’s a small one, too. The rest of my dough is going to take other forms, but it’s all good.

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Whatever mold you’re using, butter it first. Shape your dough to fit and brush lightly with eggwash. Let it rise again. If you’re making small, individual brioche, let them rise for about 30 minutes each. A larger loaf may take 90 minutes to rise. Either way, the dough should just about double in size.

Make some “expansion cuts” in the top of your dough about 1/2″ deep before baking. A good pair of sharp scissors will work better than a knife since the dough is so soft.

Bake immediately at 350 degrees. Larger brioche may take 30 minutes; small rolls may take 10 – 20 minutes. Just keep checking for the shade of golden brown you prefer.

DSC_0084_3520 copyLet rest for 5-10 minutes before unmolding. Cool on a rack.

DSC_0091_3531 copyBrioche can be served a thousand ways… with jam, more butter, sliced and toasted, topped with salmon and capers, goat cheese, made into hamburger buns (OMG! That’s good!), or just warm, as is.  Most importantly, it should be savored and shared. Enjoy!

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Posted in Breads, Dough, Pastries | Leave a comment