Tag Archives: Dessert


90 degree days have arrived and it has been MISERABLE in my house.  We have a window AC unit but need to repair the broken, lead-paint covered windows in the bedroom and dining room before we can use it.  The window has been ordered and deposit paid to the contractor.  Until it is installed, however, we are getting creative on ways to keep cool!

Some friends of ours who somehow survived living in Arizona without air conditioning had a genius suggestion:  homemade popsicles!  What can be better than frozen fruit juice on a hot day?  I’ve seen a lot of recipes popping up on the internet too that look delicious.  Here are three I’ve tried.


Courtesy of Fine Cooking’s amazing make-your-own-ice pop recipe generator
Makes 8-10 popsicles

1/2 cup granulated sugar
Pinch salt
About 10 kiwis (or 1.5 pounds)
1 cup strawberries, sliced or quartered or whatever

Make a simple syrup:  mix the sugar, salt and a half cup of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  When sugar is totally dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool.

While simple syrup is cooling, peel kiwis and puree flesh with a food processor.  Slice strawberries.

Combine kiwi puree, strawberries and simple syrup.  Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
Makes 3-5 popsicles (can be doubled)

1 large stalk rhubarb, sliced
1.5 cups sliced strawberries
Peel of 1 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
Teaspoon pectin

Peel the lemon with a vegetable peeler, carefully avoiding the pith.  Combine the sugar with 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil to dissolve.  Add the lemon peels and continue to boil for 2-3 minutes.  Remove and discard.

Add the rhubarb and cook for a few more minutes, until it starts to break down.  Add the strawberries and cook down some more, stirring and mashing with a fork as necessary.  Add a teaspoon of pectin.  This helps it congeal and will make the popsicles less hard and icy.

Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.

Creamy Honey-Lavender
Adapted from here
Makes 8-10 pops (can be halved, which I did)

I came across this recipe while searching for inspiration for strawberry-rhubarb popsicles.  I had just picked some lavender from the garden and was intrigued.  I am not convinced that lavender makes a good culinary herb — seems better suited to soap to me — but seeing as I had lavender right on hand I had to give it a try!

3 cups whole milk (I actually used hemp milk)
Buds of 6 fresh lavender flowers, or tablespoon of dried lavender flowers
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
teaspoon vanilla

Bring all the ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a boil until sugar is completely dissolved.  Allow to cool, removing the lavender flowers after no more than 30 minutes.  Pour into popsicle molds.

My favorite is definitely the strawberry rhubarb, followed by the strawberry kiwi.  Would definitely make those again!  The honey lavender was interesting, but I’m not sure I’m dying to make it again.

Stay cool!



Naturally green for St Patrick’s Day

The 5 year old in me has always been drawn to bright colors.  I think there was even a point in my life where I said my favorite color was “rainbow.”  Truth be told, I am terribly mesmerized by the bright rainbow layer cakes I’ve seen all over pinterest.  I want one!

So I’ve always looked at artificial food coloring with a nonchalant attitude.  I know they can’t be good for you, but can they really be that bad?  What’s the harm in a little technicolor icing on the occasional birthday cake? Everything in moderation, I say.

But the more I read about artificial colors, the more I start to question.  The latest issue of Fine Cooking — yes, a mainstream publication —recently featured an article by Ellie Krieger on the hidden dangers of food coloring.  Ingredients in food dyes have been associated with cancer, allergies, and organ toxicity.  Some recent studies have also revealed a connection to hyperactivity in children.

So when it came time to bake some St. Patrick’s day cupcakes, it was a little difficult to justify unnaturally bright sprinkles or dyes.  But how can you make cupcakes for St. Patrick’s day without a little green?

To achieve the colors in her recipe, Ellie Krieger looks to nature — some raspberry puree, grape juice, matcha powder, etc all provide lovely pastel shades.

I was also able to find natural food dyes at my local grocery store:  http://www.indiatree.com/.

For St. Patrick’s day, of course I had to use this chocolate stout cupcake recipe with Swiss buttercream frosting.  Yum!

The colors were not as saturated as artificial dyes.  This made my inner 5-year old sad.  But it probably also made my inner 5-year old less prone to hyperactivity too.  Well worth the trade-off in my opinion!





Hot chocolate ice cream

Yes, that’s right.  For those of us already lamenting the onset of winter, here is a cozy treat packaged as a perfect summery confection.  The best of both worlds, if you will.

Simply put — this shiz is amazing.  I know I say that about everything.  But of all the ice creams I have made (only one of which has already been written up here — lazy, I know!) this one is my favorite.  So rich, so unique and flavorful, and despite its chilly presentation, it truly warms the soul.  This ice cream was also just as good the next day as it was fresh.

Perhaps it’s also because the Aztecs knew their chocolate, and they knew just how good it is with chile powder.  Don’t be discouraged by this seemingly out of place ingredient.  It’s flavor is subtle in this recipe, serving to enhance the chocolate’s flavor and add warmth to the recipe.  The author of this recipe recommends ancho or chipotle chili powder — if you can’t find it, then it is easy enough to grind the whole chilies yourself in a food processor.  If you don’t mind a little kick, spicier chili powder concoctions would work too.

Spicy Aztec Chocolate Ice Cream
From The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

2.25 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
3 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1.25 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt
1.25 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2-3 teaspoons chile powder
2 tablespoons brandy

Combine  the cream, cocoa powder and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking continually until the mixture reaches a full boil.  Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate until completely melted.  Add the milk, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, chile powder and brandy.  Pour the mixture into a blender and blend until completely smooth.

Chill the mixture in your refrigerator, then freeze in your ice cream maker per instructions.

Enjoy.  I dare you not to.


Fresh peach ice cream

Back in the spring when I was writing a series of posts on strawberries, I fully intended to include a recipe for strawberry ice cream.  Unfortunately, the results produced from my ancient hand crank machine were not worth sharing.  Luckily, however, it inspired the purchase of a fancy new cuisinart ice cream maker, which makes homemade ice cream even easier than a late night run to the grocery store for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.  I guess, of course, if you’re like me and always have a stash of heavy cream on hand…

Of peach ice cream, David Lebovitz, the author of The Perfect Scoop, writes:

“This is the first ice cream that springs to mind when people recall hand-cranked, old-fashioned fruit ice creams from their past.  More than any other homemade ice cream, this is perhaps the most beloved of all flavors and is indeed best when spooned right out of the machine, just moments after it’s been churned.”

Truly, one of my most distinct childhood food memories is of peach ice cream freshly made on the back porch during the summer.  It is simply incomparable to anything you’d find mass-produced.  If you’ve never tasted it before, you’re missing out on one of life’s greatest experiences :).  Luckily, peach season is in full-swing, and in this heat, ice cream is the perfect way to cool off.

I’ve always had peach ice cream made in a more, shall we say, rustic way, with chunks of peaches just tossed into the machine with the cream.  This recipe, from The Perfect Scoop, is a little more refined.  More labor-intensive, but worth it if you’re up to it.

1 and 1/3 pounds peaches — about 4 large
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
A few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice

Peel the peaches:  bring a small pot of water to a boil.  Cut an X into the bottom of each peach.  Drop into the boiling water for about 20 seconds, remove with a slotted spoon, and immediately drop into a bowl of ice water.  The peel should come right off.

Cut each peach into chunks, removing the pit.  In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the peaches with the water and stir until cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the sugar.  Cool to room temperature.

Coarsely puree the peaches and any leftover liquid in a food processor with the sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla and lemon juice.  I like it a bit chunky but blend to your taste.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the fridge, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturing instructions. Be patient, as I know the temptation to dive right in with a spoon before it’s ready is STRONG.  But in the end you’ll be glad you waited for the final results.

Some feedback on the recipe:  I really loved the addition of sour cream, but thought it was a little overwhelming.  The next time I make this, I will cut it back to a quarter cup.  I don’t think I would personally need to replace it with anything since this mixture overflowed in my ice cream maker during the freezing process.  But if your machine is much larger than 1.5 quarts, you might want to add a little more heavy cream.

As the author wrote, it is best when freshly made, but you can store it in your freezer as well.

Beyond the slightly-too-strong sour cream, this recipe was absolutely divine, and will become a tradition in my household.  And now I have a massive craving for it.  I think I’m gonna hit up the leftover in my freezer right now…


Black-eyed susan cupcakes

Watermelons, fireflies, cookouts — all remind us of the summer but here in Maryland there is another ubiquitous summer emblem — our state flower, the black-eyed susan.  So when celebrating with friends and family last weekend, we had all the quintessential Maryland summer favorites — crabs and beer (natty boh of course), finished with these black-eyed susan cupcakes!

These little sugar flowers are fun and easy to make, and while I chose my state flower, you can obviously make them any color you’d like.  When made with royal icing, they will harden overnight and will keep indefinitely to easily and quickly add a decorative touch to any of your baked goods.  All you need, really, is a drop flower tip to add a simple elegance to your cakes and cupcakes!

I followed these instructions, from the Wilton website:

Ingredients and tools:

Drop flower tip (Wilton #2D)
Tip #3 (or other small round tip)
Decorating bag
Optional — leaf tip

Royal icing
4 cups confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder
6 tablespoons water

Prepare the royal icing:  in the bowl of a stand mixer (I’ve also done this — with great difficulty — with a heavy-duty handheld mixer), combine the sugar, powdered egg whites and slowly add the water.  Mix until combined and no longer shiny.  Separate into sealable containers based on the number of desired colors.  GRADUALLY add more water to each container until it is the desired piping consistency, mixing by hand.  Use gel colors to add coloring to each batch.

The color you are using for the center of the flower should be slightly thinner than the petals, to avoid that “hershey kiss” look.

Lay a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Use the drop flower tip to pipe the petals.  Hold the bag completely perpendicular to the baking sheet with the tip touching.  Gently yet firmly squeeze the bag.  Release, and then gently lift the bag away.

Yay!  You have made the petals!

Now fill in the center with the round tip.

I felt like the flowers needed a little green, so I started out adding a stem to each one.  This looked like crap.  So I stopped.  In retrospect, it would have been best to pipe some leaves separately with a leaf tip and just stick them on top of the cupcake beside the flower.

As a variation, you can twist the bag as you’re piping to give it a different look — see here.

Allow them to dry overnight, then place them in an airtight container or bag where they will keep indefinitely.

Cupcake recipe

I think it was maybe 4-5 years ago that chocolate stout cake recipes started popping up everywhere?    Maybe the trend has faded but I have all this guiness in my house that I am never going to drink, so I thought this would be a perfect use for it.  And truthfully, these cupcakes are freaking good.  Very rich and moist.

I used this basic cake recipe, simply making cupcakes instead of a bundt cake.  They were done pretty quickly, in under 20 minutes.

And the icing…

I will never use anything but this Swiss buttercream to ice my cakes and cupcakes again.  Amazing.  I could eat it straight up with a spoon.  Use a large star tip, such as Wilton #1M, to pipe it on all fancy.

So lovely, and yet, someone like me who lacks any artistic skills can do it.  Yum.


Baking backlog

So for my birthday a few months ago Mr. R gave me this AWESOME new stand mixer.  Man.  How did we ever bake anything without it?  Truly a life changer.

So with the various holidays, weddings and babies I’ve celebrated over the spring (did I mention how busy the spring was?), this thing was put to good use!

On Easter (yes, yes I’ve been that slow with updating), I made a cake inspired by the Washington Post’s peep diorama contest.

If you look real closely and use your imagination, you can kind of see it bears a resemblance to peeps engaged in an Easter egg hunt!  Ha.

I honestly don’t remember what cake recipe I used, but obviously any kind will do.

I will, however, say that with my stand mixer I was able to try a REAL buttercream icing — one that is meringue-based, not just butter and sugar — and let me tell you, I will never go back.  This stuff is like heaven.  And I’m not even a huge cake person.

Here is an overview of the various buttercream icings with a tutorial on Italian buttercream.  I made a Swiss buttercream using this recipe.  Pretty simple with fantastic results.

I also had to give this thing a try on royal icing — which was always a huge pain with just a handheld mixer.  AMAZING difference.  The most beautiful royal icing I have ever seen, with hardly any of the effort of before.  Again, life-changing!

It made these Easter-themed sugar cookies a breeze!  Well…..sorta 😉

I also could not resist making a batch of cookies for the baby shower of a dear family member of mine.  I mean…how cute are they?

Here is my post on baking and decorating sugar cookies with royal icing.  The Wilton website is also a great resource, which is where I got the idea for the teddy bears.  Of course, theirs looks much better than mine!

Tonight I’m going to put the mixer to use again in making pizza dough for my favorite pizza with radicchio and onion-balsamic marmalade.  But this time we’ll cook it on the grill!  Yum, can’t wait!



Classic strawberry shortcake

According to the cookbook “Dishing Up Maryland” by Lucie Snodgrass, from where I have adapted this recipe, “In the South, strawberry shortcake is always made with biscuits rather than sponge cake; in this and many other culinary leanings, Maryland seems to side with the South over the North.”  Truthfully, I can’t imagine it any other way.  I could eat this strawberry shortcake for every meal of the day (but I won’t admit here how much I’ve already indulged in so far this weekend!)


Strawberry shorcake
serves six

1/2 cup sugar
2 quarts strawberries, hulled and cut in half
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg
1/2 cup half and half
1 pint whipping cream

Optional:  2 stalks rhubarb, diced, 1 tablespoon pectin

While you make the biscuits, macerate the strawberries by sprinkling with 3 T sugar and placing in the fridge for about an hour.

Yesterday, I happened to have some rhubarb on hand so instead of plain strawberries, I made a quick compote by combining the rhubarb and strawberries in a saucepan with the sugar and a dusting of pectin, bringing to a boil and simmering until a nice, saucy consistency.  This was pretty awesome but pure, unadulterated strawberries are good too.

To make the biscuits:  preheat oven to 425.  Whisk together the flour, 3T sugar, baking powder, lemon and salt.  Combine butter in with your hands until mixture is crumbly.

Beat the egg together with the half and half.  Mix into the dry ingredients.  Dough should be very soft and pliable, but should not be so sticky you can not work it.  Add a bit more flour as necessary.

Turn out onto a well-floured surface and roll or press down with your hands to about a 1/2 inch thickness.  Cut into rustic squares and bake them on an ungreased sheet for about 10 minutes, until lightly golden brown.

Whip the cream, about 2T sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla until it forms soft peaks.

Split the biscuits in half and generously spoon strawberries and whipped cream.

Pause and take in this delicious moment.  Summer has begun!