Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Berry and Peach Tiramisu

Berry and Peach Tiramisu

Long before there was French Fridays, there was my dinner club! It was my introduction into cooking outside my comfort zone. Our group has been getting together for over 25 years. Our kids were still in high school when we began this gourmet dinner challenge. We started out by rotating hosts, and they would pick the menu. We traveled all over the world with this group. Experimenting with German cuisine for our Oktoberfest, and impressing ourselves with our accomplishment of a perfect French dinner.  We also delved into Italian, Russian, Lebanese, Dutch, Chinese, Irish, and good old American cuisine.
We even hosted a few murder mystery dinners!  Way back then, we would pick desserts that were complicated, and sometimes took hours to prepare, and then found that some of the best and most delicious desserts, were the easiest to prepare. 
After some 25 years, we have gotten away from all the structure, and now just want to enjoy an evening with good friends.

Mouthwatering, creamy and topped with seasonal berries and fruit

A few weeks ago, one of my friends decided to host a brunch instead of dinner. Since it’s summer, our time is a lot less restrictive, and we thought it would be fun to enjoy an afternoon together. The hostess chose a lovely menu, starting out with a luscious fruit salad and Classic Mimosas. We then enjoyed a delicious French Toast Casserole, a Mexican Frittata, sausage, and my contribution, a Zucchini Tart (I will be posting the recipe soon).  It was a lovely Brunch with wonderful friends. We discussed the issues of the day, the books we were reading, our children, and our grandchildren. Then the hostess took out dessert! It was this very delectable Berry Tiramisu. Not only delicious, but easy to put together! I enjoyed this dessert so much, I made it for a lunch I was hosting for some friends. My only change was mixing some sweet Jersey peaches in with the berries. This lovely tiramisu can sit in the fridge for up to two days, which makes it a perfect choice for do-ahead prep. Enjoy!

Once you layer the Tiramisu….refrigerate it for at least 2 hours, or up to two days
A great dessert, for an evening with good friends

Berry-Peach Tiramisu
adapted from Rachel Raye


1½ cups brewed coffee
2 tablespoons sambuca
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 pound container mascarpone cheese
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
Ladyfinger cookies
Cocoa powder
1½ cups mixed berries
¾ cup sliced peaches 

In a shallow bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups brewed coffee, 2 tablespoons sambuca and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved. In a separate bowl, whisk together one 1-pound container mascarpone cheese, 1/4 cup heavy cream and 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar. Using enough ladyfinger cookies to cover the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish, dip the ladyfingers in the coffee mixture and arrange in an even layer at the bottom of the pan. Spread half of the mascarpone mixture on top. Repeat the two layers. Sprinkle with cocoa powder and 2 cups mixed berries. Refrigerate the tiramisu for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

TWD ~ Baking Chez Moi Cherry Crumb Tart

Tuesdays with Dorie ~ Baking Chez Moi Cherry Crumb Tart

I can’t believe it’s August already. My Georgia grandchildren are starting school tomorrow. And it’s time for Tuesdays With DorieAugust edition. Honestly, when I saw this Cherry Crumb Tart was the pick of the month, I was thrilled. Not only do I love cherries…but I also love tarts! A win...win for me!  
Dorie tells us this tart was inspired by the Streusel-topped creations of Alsace, where she and Michael were visiting. It is the region to the east that borders Germany. 

Delectable Cherry Crumb Tart
Dories’ tart crust is delicious, and easy to put together in a food processor. For some reason, it gave me a little trouble this time. It was just a bit too soft. Maybe the very warm weather had something to do with that. I decided to press it into the tart pan, rather than roll it. I then put it into the freezer for an hour. Perfection!

Ready for the streusel…so pretty

The tart pan then gets popped into the oven, to partially bake the shell. Once slightly cooled, the tart gets filled with a layer of almond cream, and topped with the fresh cherries. This recipe calls for a pound of fresh cherries, pitted. Lucky me…I have a cherry pitter. Dorie suggests using a chopstick to pit the cherries, if you don’t have one. A great idea!

Now it gets popped into the oven and baked for about 45 minutes. At this point, you pull it out and layer it with the streusel topping. Back into the oven for another half hour, with the most wonderful aroma permeating my kitchen! The verdict on this delectable tart, a two thumbs up, from both my hubby and me! 

Buttery-melt in your mouth...Cherry Crumb Tart
A two thumbs up for this one
Look at all those cherries….yum!

This post participates with Tuesdays with Dorie. The recipe can be found in Dories’ new cookbook “Baking Chez Moi”. However, since this Tart recipe has been shared on-line, I’m sharing it here with you. Hope you’ll  give it a try…better yet buy the book, Baking Chez Moi. It is filled with the most wonderful desserts! Then you could join us, and bake along on Tuesdays With Dorie


Cherry Crumb Tart

Adapted slightly from Baking Chez Moi
For the streusel
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the filling
3/4 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
6 tablespoons butter
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 tablespoon kirsch or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 pound pitted cherries
1  tart crust for 9-inch tart, rolled and stored in the refrigerator
To make the streusel, whisk together the sugar, flour and salt in a medium bowl.  Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work in the butter until you have big coarse crumbs.  Drizzle the vanilla and stir until distributed. Stash in the refrigerator.
To make the filling, pour the almond flour and cornstarch into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter and mix until combined and crumbly.  Add the egg yolk and kirsch/vanilla/almond extract, and process until smooth.  Chill in the refrigerator for about an hour.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Scoop the almond filling into the tart shell and spread to the edges using the back of a spoon.  Add the cherries and gently press into the filling. Bake in the center of the oven for about 45 minutes until the filling has puffed somewhat.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle the streusel topping, pinching them into clumps for crumbliness.  Bake another 30 – 35 minutes until golden brown.  Cool and serve.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

TWD ~ Baking Chez Moi Mango Panna Cotta

TWD ~ BCM Mango Panna Cotta

It’s time for Tuesdays with Dorie, Baking Chez Moi. I was so excited with this weeks pick! I adore Panna Cotta! I’ve made it several times in the past although, it’s been awhile!

Last summer, while visiting Italy, I succumbed to the creamy, luscious texture of Panna Cotta much more than I should have. While my grandkids were eating their fill of Gelato, I was enjoying this magnificent, vanilla flavored, velvety dessert. I am a pudding kind of girl anyway. Rice pudding, custard pudding, chocolate pudding, Creme Brulee, tapioca or Pots de Creme. You name it, I love it! I think you get the picture! 

Dories Panna Cotta was absolutely luscious…I loved the contrast of flavors between the vanilla cream and mango

While in the picturesque Tuscan countryside, we visited a family owned and operated farm called, Fattoria Poggio Alloro. We made pasta, we toured the winery, and we sat on a patio, covered with beautiful floral vines to eat lunch. The patio had the most spectacular views of San Gimignano. We were served a magnificent lunch, including fresh tomato bruschetta, and our choice of several pasta entrees.  Our table had several bottles of family made white and red wines. I remember the food being amazing. What stands out in my mind most, besides the beautiful country side views, was the dessert! I was served an incredibly smooth, light and silky Panna Cotta, covered with berry compote. Panna Cottas can be flavored with a variety of different ingredients; the richness comes from the cream that makes up the base for this dessert. 

The view with San Gimignano in the distance
Our table with the stunning view
My Panna Cotta from Fattoria Poggio Alloro

Dorie’s recipe was quick and easy. First taking a sliced up mango, placing it into a blender and blending till smooth. I added a touch of honey, and a bit of limejuice.  Spoon this mixture into the glasses you will be using to serve your dessert, then place into the freezer for approximately 20 minutes.  While you wait, it’s time to make the Panna Cotta. Heat the cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla bean to a boil, let the flavors meld for about 20 minutes. Once it's rested, add water to the gelatin, and let bloom.  Microwave the gelatin mixture for 20 seconds to liquefy. Bring the cream mixture back to a boil, add to the gelatin, stir and let cool. Now top the mango filled glasses with the cream. Refrigerate at least two hours until chilled before serving.

 So good and yet so easy

Rich and succulent….A perfect summer time dessert!  Happy Tuesday everyone!
This recipe can be found in Dorie’s new cookbook Baking Chez Moi. We don’t share the recipes  unless they have been previously published. If you would like to see what the other bakers thought of this one, check it out here. There are many Panna Cotta recipes on-line, this one at the The Splendid Table is pretty similar. 

CCC ~ Marinated Cucumbers, Couscous Salad with Herbs & Walnuts, and New Potato, Green Beans & Olive Salad

New Potato, Green Bean and Olive Salad...

Welcome to another month of fun and adventures in the kitchen! July is here, and that means it’s time for this months edition of the Cottage Cooking Club. This group, led by Andrea of the wonderful Kitchen Lioness blog, is cooking through River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall. The book is divided into seasonal sections, and Andrea provides a list of recipes from each section of the book. Then we, the members, get to decide which of these recipes we’d like to prepare. And if you’re especially energetic, you might choose all of them. For me it’s usually two or three! 

What I love best, about picking recipes from this book, is that they are considerably healthy, easy, and fit into my everyday busy lifestyle. This month I chose Couscous Salad with Herbs and Walnuts, New Potato, Green Beans and Olive Salad.  Also, because my cucumbers are growing faster then I can keep up with...The Marinated Cucumber with Mint. 
I really enjoyed all three of these dishes but, my favorite was the New Potato, Green Beans and Olive salad! It was a winner all around and, my hubby loved it! What’s not to love? The olives add a nice touch of flavor.  

My favorite of the month….this was a great side dish…full of flavor, and scrumptious! 
The Marinated Cucumbers with Mint was the easiest to prepare, and extremely fresh tasting…I will be making both of these all summer long. 

Marinated Cucumbers with Mint
This was a delightfully fresh salad…with cucumbers just picked from my garden
The Couscous Salad was my least favorite. It just didn’t seem to have as much flavor as I would have liked. That was my fault for not adding all the spices. Bill didn’t enjoy this one at all! My plan is to give it one more try, adjusting the spices and ingredients more to our liking.  

Couscous Salad with Herbs and Walnuts

Not my favorite…I played with the spices without trying it the way it was written…so “my bad”. I will make this again, being more true to the recipe. Loved the addition of the toasted walnuts.

Marinated Cucumbers with Mint 
This is really a non-recipe. It was quite refreshing made with just-picked cucumbers from my garden. The cucumbers are young and not waxed, so I didn’t peel them. I halved them lengthwise, scooped out the seeds, and then sliced them kind of thin into half moons. They then get tossed with cider vinegar, olive oil, and a small handful of finely chopped mint. Add a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper and let them rest for 30 minutes. I couldn’t wait the 30 minutes…I ate mine after 10 minutes and they were delicious! 

Couscous Salad with Herbs and Walnuts
Recipe from River Cottage Veg by the author Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Serves 4

2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 to 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
7 oz whole-wheat Israeli couscous
A bunch of flat-leaf parsley
A handful of chives, chopped (optional)
A handful of tarragon, chopped (optional)
3/4 cup of walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Put the cumin and fennel seeds in a dry frying pan and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan often, for a few minutes until fragrant. Tip into a mortar and, when cool, grind with the pestle to a powder. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in the frying pan and saute the onion, celery, fennel, and garlic over medium heat for 5 minutes or so, until softened but still with a bit of bite. Remove from the heat and add the ground spices and lemon zest.

Cook the couscous in salted water following the package instructions. Drain well and mix with the onion and spice mixture. Allow to cool.

Stir in the lemon juice, herbs, walnuts, and plenty of salt and pepper. Before serving, add more oil to lubricate the couscous to your taste – you might want a little more lemon juice, too.

New Potato, Green Beans and Olive Salad
Recipe from River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall 

1 pound/ 500g small new potatoes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
7 ounces/ 200g green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch / 4cm lengths
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly slivered
2 ounces/ 60g pitted black olives, very coarsely chopped
A good handful of basil, shredded
A generous squeeze of 
lemon juice

Cut the potatoes into 2 or 3 pieces each. Put them in a saucepan, 
cover with water, add salt, and bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Simmer for about 8 minutes, until tender, adding the beans for the 
last 2 or 3 minutes. Drain well and return to the hot pan.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small frying pan over low heat. Add the garlic and cook very gently for a couple of minutes, without letting it color. Add the chopped olives and cook for a minute more. Remove from the heat.

Tip the oil, garlic, and olives into the pan with the potatoes and beans. Add the basil, a generous squeeze or two of lemon juice, and some salt and pepper. Toss together and serve warm.

Potatoes and "deconstructed pesto"
Omit the beans. Heat the garlic in the oil, as above, then toss with the drained potatoes and loads of shredded basil (a good bunch), some lemon juice, and plenty of slivered or finely grated Parmesan, hard goat cheese, or other well-flavored hard cheese.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Elderflower, Vanilla, and Lemon Syrup ~ and The Hugo Cocktail

Elderflower, Vanilla, and Lemon Syrup
Many years ago, as we cleared the property to build our house, I walked through our three acres, trying to identify plants that I wanted to save. Plants that I knew would bring a bounty of enjoyment for years to come. The property was scattered with several species of wild berries including blackberries, blueberries, black raspberries, and concord grapes. During my walk, I spied a little bush in one corner of the property, filled with sprays of lovely white flowers. I tagged it so it wouldn’t be destroyed, and then quite honestly forgot about it until a few years later. I thought it might be Elderberry, but wasn’t quite sure. That was, until I went to lunch with several girlfriends. One of my friends was quite knowledgeable about foraging, so I asked her about the Elderberry bush. She confirmed, what I had thought. Lucky me, I had an Elderberry Bush in my yard. Since then, I have been keeping it from being overgrown by wild grape vines, that seem to creep onto everything, trimming it back, and fertilizing it. 

Elderflower Syrup with sparkling water and raspberries 

Last year, after seeing the Internet inundated with recipes using these lovely blossoms, I decided to make a batch of syrup for myself. My bush was full of beautiful sprays of flowers, growing in compact bunches. The umbels are delicate and have a light creamy-pale yellow color. I picked about forty, and left some for the birds to enjoy. The fragrance is highly aromatic with a lemony-honey scent.
This syrup was such a hit with friends and family, I ventured out again this year to make another batch! I love this stuff! It’s great mixed with sparkling water, or poured over strawberries. It’s also lovely sprinkled over pound cake! And it was marvelous mixed with sparkling wine, a perfect summer-time drink! So, as long as my Elderflower bush is producing flowers…I see a lot of syrup in my future! 

Oh, one last thing, give the Hugo Cocktail a try…I’ll just say you’re welcome now!! Enjoy everyone! 

If you don’t have a bush, you could buy a bottle of St. Germains, or next spring go foraging!

Beautiful bush, with a highly aromatic lemony-honey scent 
Shake off any little bugs, and lightly wash the flowers
The syrup….
Mix the blossoms with the syrup…let rest, then bottle it
This drink is light, lovely and refreshing…enjoy!
Sit back, relax and enjoy a lovely glass of summer! 

You can read more about the Elderflower syrup here at About.com. Here is the recipe I used.

Elderflower, Vanilla, and Lemon Syrup

1kg/ 4½ cups granulated sugar
2 organic lemons, halved, plus a strip of peel
1 vanilla pod, seeds reserved
1 tbsp citric acid powder
about 40 fresh elderflowers, shaken free of bugs, lightly rinsed

1. Rinse the elderflowers under cold water to remove any dirt or small bugs. Be gentle.
2.  Fill a large pan with 2 litres/ 2.1 quarts water. Add the sugar, lemons, vanilla pod and citric acid powder, and bring slowly to the boil. Boil rapidly until the mixture has reduced by half, then remove from the heat.
3. Add the elderflowers to the pan and stir gently. Leave to cool completely, then pass through a sieve lined with muslin into another clean pan. Whisk in the vanilla seeds and store the cordial in sterilized bottles with a strip of peel and the vanilla pod added. To make a refreshing drink, use 1 part syrup to 5 parts iced water.

As I searched for recipes on-line, I came across this lovely sounding cocktail…YUM!

The Hugo Cocktail  
Fill a wine glass with sparkling wine or dry white wine. Pour in a dash of the elderflower syrup (to taste), add 1-2 ice cubes, stir and garnish with 2-3 strips of lemon peel and 3 mint leaves. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

TWD ~BCM Apricot-Raspberry Tart

TWD ~ BCM Apricot-Raspberry Tart

This week the Tuesdays with Dorie ~ Baking Chez Moi bakers tackled an amazing Apricot-Raspberry Tart.  Lucky me…the stars aligned! The raspberries in my garden have been ripening all week, I was even able to pick about a cup…more than what I needed for this tart. And when I got to the grocery store, they were stocking some beautiful, fresh apricots. 

Lovely apricots and freshly picked raspberries from my garden

The tart starts off with Dories’ sweet tart pastry; it gets partially baked, before it’s filled. I really love this type of dough, also called pâte sablée. It's really simple to make in your food processor, and always comes out perfect.

Ready for the oven

After the crust is baked and cooled, it is filled with ladyfingers, stale cake or Brioche crumbs. I happened to have a handful of ladyfingers in my freezer, left over from our Strawberry Shortcake. 
I decided to “minify" this recipe since there would only be two of us eating it. I used two mini tart pans, placing a ladyfinger disk in each, and proceeded layering the apricots. As you can see, I sliced the apricots to make sure they fit into the mini pans. Then I sprinkled a teaspoon of sugar over each tart and baked at 350 for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with an additional 2 teaspoons of sugar, distribute the raspberries over the apricots, dot with slivers of cold butter, and place back into the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and scatter with chopped pistachios, continue baking for another 10 minutes. I adjusted the times to accommodate my mini tarts. 

Once your dough is made and baked, these tarts are pretty straightforward.  Definitely company worthy! My hubby and I enjoyed them on our back deck, with a cup of coffee, as an afternoon treat! Magnifique!  Happy Tuesday everyone!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook, “Baking Chez Moi”. Although I consider this tart a pretty much non-recipe…it can be found here at google books.

Coffee on the deck with this lovely Apricot Raspberry Tart
This is one tart I will make again, and again…
Totally divine! 
Take a peek at the ladyfinger under the apricots…yum!
Raspberries ripening in my garden

Monday, July 13, 2015

Blueberries ’N’ Cream Cheesecake

Blueberries ’n’ Cream Cheesecake
Did you know that there’s a day dedicated to honor Blueberry Cheesecake? It occurs sometime in May, and I missed it! However, I do have an amazing creamy Blueberry Cheesecake to share with you today. I flagged this recipe months ago…waiting for local New Jersey blueberries to be in season.   
I adore cheesecake! Definitely one of my favorite desserts! Velvety, rich, and delectable! I bake one for just about every holiday, or special occasion. Check out this Amaretto Cheesecake, and read how to fix a crack if it occurs, or maybe bake up this Ricotta Cheesecake.  A friend, who had entered it into the Abraham & Straus cheesecake contest, gave the recipe to me, years ago.  

This was a winner of a cheesecake….incredibly luscious!
Did you know that cheesecakes date back to Ancient Greece? When they started out, they were a far cry from the sweet flavored confections we know and love today. So although many people assume cheesecakes got their origin in New York, they actually date back over 4,000 years. Anthropologists have excavated cheese molds that have been dated circa 2000 BC. I’m impressed!!  
Most of the flavor and texture of a cheesecake is dependent on the type of cheese used to make it. American cheesecakes are almost exclusively made with cream cheese. Some have sour cream, and/or heavy cream added, creating a creamy, dense texture. Italian cheesecakes are most often made with ricotta, and in Eastern Europe cheesecakes are made with quark, a type of curd cheese.

A perfect ending to a wonderful Fourth of July barbecue…along with some fireworks!

This wonderful Blueberries ’n’ Cream Cheesecake comes from a 1986 Southern Living Annual cookbook. I’ve made it twice in the last few weeks.  The first time I followed the directions as written, and felt it came out a bit too soft in the center, but delicious! So, for my Fourth of July barbecue I made another one…the result was pure perfection. One of my friends even went so far to say; she thought it was the best cheesecake I’ve made! Insert smiley face here! 
I baked my cake about 10 to15 minutes longer than suggested. It was creamy and luscious, a winner for sure, and it takes advantage of all those plumb, juicy blueberries that are quite prolific now in NJ. A perfect dessert to showcase them! 

A perfect summer cheesecake
Notice the blueberries swirled throughout the cake…so good!
Go ahead and bake it….you know you want to!

Blueberries ’n’ Cream Cheesecake
from Southern Living Annual ‘87  Yield: 10 Servings

2 1/2cFresh blueberries
38-ounce packages cream cheese; softened
1 1/2cSour cream
1/2tsVanilla extract
11/2 cFresh blueberries
Combine 2-1/2 cups blueberries and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in container of an electric blender; blend unti smooth. Cook puree in saucepan over medium-high heat about 15 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly. Set mixture aside to cool. Reserve 1/2 cup puree for glaze.
Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, mixing well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in 2 tablespoons cornstarch and salt. Pour batter into a greased 9-inch springform pan. Pour puree over cheesecake batter; gently swirl with a knife. Bake at 325 F degrees for 45 minutes or until set. (I baked mine for an hour) Remove from oven; cool on wire rack 20 minutes.
Combine sour cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl; mix well. Spread sour cream mixture over cheesecake. Bake at 325 F degrees an additional 10 minutes. Cool cheesecake on wire rack. Cover and chill 8 hours.
Combine reserved 1/2 cup puree, 1/4 cup sugar, and water in a small saucepan; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Gently fold in 11/2 cups blueberries; let cool.
Remove sides of springform pan. Spoon blueberry glaze on cheesecake. Yield: 10 to 12 servings.