Grown Up Root Beer Float

Grown Up Root Beer Float with stoli vanilla

Summer BBQs are a great time for classic root beer floats; you can take it to the next level with vanilla vodka and make my Grown Up Root Beer Floats. While of course the vanilla vodka is an extra little treat your guests won’t necessarily be expecting, you can dress this up even more with some fancy straws and your iced tea spoons, if you have them. What a fun reason to break out the silver. Guests will love the whimsy- talk about comfortable, elegant entertaining. When it comes to ratio, it’s all about personal preference in a Grown Up Root Beer Float. Definitely let guests mix their own so they can get just what they want. And you may wish to put out bottle of classic coca-cola as well. For many people a vanilla coke will take them right back to memories of old fashioned soda fountains. To prevent a spill over, start with the ice cream. When you add the soda, the Grown Up Root Beer Float will foam and fizz. Make sure you go slowly, kind of like pouring champagne. With a little vanilla vodka in the Grown Up Root Beer Float, kids and big kids alike … Continue reading

Lavender Rosemary Goat Cheesecakes

Lavender Rosemary Goat Cheesecakes honey drizzle

I perfected these Lavender Rosemary Goat Cheesecakes some time ago (read: a really long time ago) for a fabulous dinner party but for some reason, I’ve been holding out on you. My friend was serving some very special wines, including a dessert wine that had been bottled in the 1920’s. It was an amazing, Spanish Sherry, caramel-y and rich with a hint of orange. It turned out that these little cakes were a perfect pairing, because they are not too sweet and they are full of rich goat cheese. All in all, great for pairing with dessert wine, since they’re almost like a little cheese course in a crust. So if you’re thinking of trying something new this Valentine’s Day, then forgo the champagne (or who am I kidding- just commit to an extra indulgent meal) and buy a dessert wine to serve with these Lavender Rosemary Goat Cheesecakes. They’re creamy and smooth with herbaceous and floral notes. And the honey. Oh man, the honey. I try hard not to send you on wild goose chases for specific ingredients, but this honey is serious business and absolutely makes the cheesecakes all that extra special. If you’re not going to track … Continue reading

Banana Foster Brioche Bread Pudding

Banana Foster Brioche Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Happy almost Mardi Gras friends, have I ever got a recipe for you in this Banana Foster Brioche Bread Pudding. While it’s based on a bon appetit recipe, I have made some serious modifications to this Banana Foster Brioche Bread Pudding to make it more user friendly, as well as to make it fit in the pan. I have no clue how the original recipe ever fit this in an 8×8. It’s simply impossible, at least in my house! Maybe the pan they used was a foot deep? And then I don’t know how you’d eat a whole piece of this Banana Foster Brioche Bread Pudding at all, because it’s SUPER rich, which is also probably why it remains one of the best desserts I’ve ever had and on my now and then list. When you cook as often as I do, there aren’t that many dishes that have you coming back, again and again. It’s always onto the next new thing, you know? But this Banana Foster Brioche Bread Pudding is so special, and so satisfying that I remember it each year when the Crawfish Boil rolls around, it’s Mari Gras, or a Cajun emergency pops up, like a very … Continue reading

Dense Walnut Cake

Dense Walnut Cake with blood orange

Go ahead, bake this Dense Walnut Cake today and “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!” The checkout line at the grocery store was so long that I simply shopped from the line yesterday, so I can tell snowpocalypse or snowmagedon must be upon us. We’re cozied in and ready to enjoy? a massive Philly snow storm, so we’ll definitely need a satisfying treat of some sort to warm up the house and our cold wintery hearts. And when I think about the most wonderful of winter cakes, one of my first thoughts is of this bon appetit recipe, but since it’s about as rich as it gets, I’ve modified the recipe to make it smaller. A full 9×13″ pan of this cake is just a little too much to have around the house unless you have a large party on the way over. Just a little square of this Dense Walnut Cake will perfectly revive you after a winter ski or skate. The cake is not all that sweet, which cements its status securely in Scandinavian baking; we Scandinavians often tend towards fat rather than sugar when it comes to winter treats and this cake certainly follows … Continue reading

Rye Crust Apple Custard Pie

Rye Crust Apple Custard Pie dallop of creme fraiche

I love everything about this Rye Crust Apple Custard Pie, except perhaps the fact that it requires a deep-dish pan and it’s a bit of a pain to make. The dense, savory, buttery crust goes so well with the cool creamy custard. Then the tart but caramelized apples bring bushels of fall flavor and provide texture and balance to the vanilla custard. It is playful and unexpected all the while fulfilling my love for old-fashioned dessert flavors. This Rye Crust Apple Custard Pie is oh-so-worth the extra effort this recipe may require, and I have broken it into a two or three day process to make it feel less arduous when I make it. Simply make the pastry one day, roll it out and bake it another, make the apples a day or two ahead and refrigerate them. When you’re ready to bake it, it will be a matter of throwing all of the ingredients together, rather than the make and wait all-day process this looks like. That said, if you’re having a busy, multi-tasking full-meal sort of cooking day, you won’t notice the challenge at all because the steps are straightforward and you can use the downtime for other … Continue reading

Swedish Almond Loaf Cake

Swedish Almond Loaf Cake

This very simple Swedish Almond Loaf Cake is one of my special pan exception recipes. I don’t really have another use for the wacky little pan (other than making half batch Bundt recipes I suppose). But I’m fine with it because it’s so good, so fast, and so beloved. In fact, this recipe (which is so old and reprinted on any Swedish pan you buy that I don’t know how to attribute it to a source) really makes two special pan exceptions, because the cake tray is pretty specific, too. But what’s the point of having rules if you don’t have good reason to break them? Swedish Almond Loaf Cake is lovely for brunch/coffee cake needs as well as for dessert. It’s great with a coffee or tea warm from the oven and without garnish, and it’s perfect with berries, crème fraîche, or ice cream. It’s also the cake I use as the base for my Saffron Poached Apricot Almond Trifle, and it was absolutely perfect. So what I’m trying to say, is that this cake may cause you to break a “no special pan” rule of your own. Or, you’ll just double it and make it in a Bundt … Continue reading

Homemade Marshmallows for Smores

Homemade Marshmallows for Smores

I definitely didn’t recreate the wheel when it came time to learn how to make Homemade Marshmallows for Smores, rather I looked to David Lebovitz, for a recipe, and it turned out that he went with a know entity as well, so my citation should also note that The Great Book of Chocolate was his original source. That said, I’m glad I started with David Lebovitz’ recipe, because it came out perfectly on the very first try. I was thrilled with both the vanilla and almond Homemade Marshmallows for Smores that I made, but going forward, I liked the almond so much that I’ll always make them with the hint of almond extract. One fun part of making Homemade Marshmallows for Smores is that you can control the texture of the marshmallows a little bit. Mine were soft and pillowy and light as clouds, but if you like them more firm, then a slightly hotter syrup will yield those results. Aside from the awesome marshmallows, of course, my friend Susan is way too smart to only buy standard hershey’s chocolate bars and instead bought the mini hershey’s candy assortment bag, so we had twix, snickers, peanut butter cups, milky ways, and of course plain hershey’s. … Continue reading

Saffron Poached Apricot Almond Trifle

Saffron Poached Apricot Almond Trifle for picnic

In keeping with our Colonial English, Polo Picnic theme, we arrive at this Saffron Poached Apricot Almond Trifle for dessert. The saffron, cardamom, almond and apricot flavors all nod to the Persian and Indian origins of polo. The flavors blend and meld and enhance each other. Each flavor is subtle but distinctive with lots of earthy, savory, floral and sweet notes to delight your pallet. Even though there’s a plenty of Eastern flavors present throughout the dessert, a classic English trifle? Well, it doesn’t get much more English than that. I know what you’re thinking, “A trifle, at a picnic?” I’ll admit that hauling the glass trifle bowl out on a picnic is a bit of a chore, but it’s go gorgeous, I deemed it “worth it,” and you might too. That said, I had a small band of merry helpers; if you aren’t up for all that, a large clear plastic bowl with a lid works rather well in a pinch. Just keep the Saffron Poached Apricot Almond Trifle on the drink ice until you’re almost ready to serve. The delicate spongey cake, creamy custard, and brandy laced fruit make this Saffron Poached Apricot Almond Trifle the perfect cool down … Continue reading

Baked Lime Ricotta with Blackberries

Baked Lime Ricotta with Blackberries

Specialty cheese shops commonly sell an amazing sweet Lemon Ricotta I’ve riffed on with this Baked Lime Ricotta with Blackberries. The original Lemon Ricotta is fun to put on a cheese board, especially a dessert cheese board, because it’s such a great bridge between traditional dessert and cheese for dessert. If it’s easy to buy in cheese shops, and it’s oh-so-wonderful, then why did I need to make it you ask? Fair point. But I never said it was easy to find, and even in a big city with good cheese shops, every now and then I can’t find it, which makes me really sad, especially if I traipsed all the way down to the Italian Market. I didn’t set out to write this recipe at all because I figured it would be easy to find an official recipe on the subject. When things are mass-produced, usually there’s a sort of consensus on how to make them, but as I searched it became apparent that there weren’t really recipes for the lemon ricotta. The recipes I saw were basically just variations on cheesecake, and that’s really not what this is (you’ll note I’m definitely not calling it a cake). The … Continue reading

Chestnut Sticky Buns

Chestnut Sticky Buns

Chestnut Sticky Buns, Barrett? Why are you messing with perfection? It’s a reasonable question, I agree. I have a reasonable answer though. I really love a good sticky bun, I mean, really, who doesn’t? Despite that, I seldom order them out, because, so often they’re disappointing. And once you know how much butter and sugar goes into the darn things, well, one can’t afford to be disappointed. The sticky bun needs to be really fresh, as in made that day, because they dry out so quickly and the dough loses its tenderness and then you have to microwave it to eat it and then you have to wolf it down really quickly or it hardens back up because microwaving is terrible for heating things. True tragedy, I know. So of course, like so many things in life, I decided that if I wanted it done right, I had to do it myself. So I decided I’d learn to make the perfect sticky bun for Christmas Brunch. And then of course, since I was making it myself, I began tweaking the recipes, because if I have to make it myself, then it may as well be exactly how I want it. … Continue reading

Citrus Flowers with Spicy Pistachio Brittle

Citrus Flowers with Spicy Pistachio Brittle cara cara oranges

I’m sure you have no need for this Citrus Flowers with Spicy Pistachio Brittle recipe. Afterall, I’m fairly certain I’m the only person on the planet who wants some sort of dessert every single night whether they went to the gym or not. Right? Cue eye roll. Because I don’t always do as I’m supposed to and go to the gym, or eat perfectly, I need to have recipes on hand that satisfy my dessert cravings without breaking the caloric bank so to speak. This is one of those desserts. The beautiful rainbow of citrus feeds your eyes and your taste buds, and the little hint of spice, salt and more from the pistachios helps you know you’ve had dessert. This dessert is also easy to whip up at a moment’s notice. Simply keep the extra brittle in a jar in the pantry and this time of year, in the height of citrus season, your fruit basket is probably full of oranges anyway, right? Win, win, win. A dollop of ricotta or crème fraîche on top makes my Citrus Flowers with Spicy Pistachio Brittle guest worthy. And it’s not like you need to save this one for virtuous only menus. It’s … Continue reading

Dulce de Leche Tiramisù

Dulce de Leche Tiramisu

All over both Brazil and Argentina, dulce de leche was all the rage. Pastry chefs filled croissants, cream puffs, and crepes with the delicious caramel. Creameries flavored gelato with it. Hotels served it with bread at breakfast time. And it was everywhere; they sold it in grocery stores, wine stores and cheese shops. Of course I hauled some back to Philly, along with plenty of Argentinian wine, and lucky for you, this Dulce de Leche Tiramisù is the result. Why Tiramisù you might ask? Because of all the different ways we had it in Brazil and Argentina, in Tiramisù was not one of them. Well, believe it or not, Argentina has a strong Italian presence and the cuisine is very influenced by the Italian immigrants. So believe it or not, it makes a lot of sense, despite the fact that we didn’t see it anywhere. And the combination of a South American ingredient like dulce de leche utilized to enhance a traditional Italian dessert fits a lot of what we saw while dining in South America. But mostly, I love a good Tiramisù and it was the first thing that came to mind as something I thought would be fun … Continue reading