Category Archives: Dessert

Peanut Butter-Banana Cookies

I went to a concert with a good friend last night. I bought tickets a few months ago, knowing that I would need to force myself out of the house during the month of November. Music has always been restorative for me; it makes me feel more intensely. I tend to intellectualize emotions instead of just feeling them. Towards the end of the show, I saw two elderly women singing along to the music and dancing in their seats. They were living in the moment and so full of joy. It made me smile. Whenever I witness someone saying or doing something that makes me feel the warm fuzzies I think, “That’s the kind of person I want to be.” I want to attend concerts and sing along to the lyrics when I am a senior citizen! Watching these women sing along to the music jolted me out of my despair. It was a good reminder that I am still alive, even if my sister isn’t. In a way, I am living life for both of us now. And singing along at a concert is definitely something my sister would have continued to do well into her eighties.

Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of positive examples of the type of adult I wanted to become. I did have a mother who was, and is, very kind, and I knew I wanted to be like her in that regard. I also had some good teachers along the way, who awakened my curiosity to the world. But I also had a lot of bad examples of adulthood–adults who were selfish, angry, fearful of the world, and cruel to other people. There’s the old adage about relationships that says you may not always know what you want, but you find out along the way what you don’t want.

For most of my youth, I had so much anger inside of me, and I was fearful of becoming an angry, resentful adult. It took many years to learn how to express my feelings in a healthy way. It took me even longer to learn that I have the ability to be the kind of person I want to be, regardless of my upbringing. I have a magnet on my refrigerator that reads, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” It’s a great daily reminder. Even so, there are many ways I fall short of being the best version of me. But I hope I never stop striving.

I created this recipe four years ago when I wanted a sugar-free cookie that was fairly healthy but every bit as delicious as a “normal” cookie. I have fallen so in love with these cookies over the years that I now make sure that I always have a bag of these in the freezer. As soon as I see that I am down to one or two cookies, I make another batch. Obviously, I love the trifecta of banana-peanut butter-chocolate, but even if it’s not your favorite, I think you will like these. Because they are on the wetter side, I keep mine in the refrigerator. If you don’t want a wet cookie, feel free to add more oats to the recipe. Because they have oatmeal and bananas in them, I often eat these cookies for breakfast!

Peanut Butter-Banana Cookies

Yield: 16 cookies

3 bananas, smashed
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (if you use sweetened peanut butter, only use 2 bananas)
1 cup quick-cooking oats*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place parchment paper onto a baking sheet.
2. Mix smashed bananas and peanut butter in a medium-sized mixing bowl with a whisk
until fully incorporated.
3. Add oats, vanilla extract, sea salt, and chocolate chips to bowl. Mix thoroughly. Mixture will be very wet.
4. Using a 1″ cookie scoop, scoop batter onto baking sheet, making a total of 12 cookies per sheet.
5. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Wait 5 minutes before transferring cookies onto a cooking rack.
6. Store in refrigerator for up to 1 week, or in freezer for up to 3 months.

*If you prefer less wet cookies, add another 1/4-1/2 cup oats.

Almond-Cocoa Nib-Smoked Salt Bark

I’ve been trying to keep my head above water lately. I think I was in denial about my sister’s death for most of the summer. I went back to Minnesota frequently to spend time with my family, and somehow I was able to convince myself that Heidi hadn’t really died. Now that fall has set in and the weather has turned, sadness has enveloped me. It’s almost as if my body was waiting for the outside world to start dying so that it could accept my sister’s death as well. I’ve always loved the melancholy of fall, but this year it has taken on a different meaning for me. Like a lot of people I know, fall was Heidi’s favorite time of year. And so, I am thinking about her a lot. It’s her birthday tomorrow; she would have been 43. I plan on getting a carrot cupcake to celebrate my beautiful big sister. Sometimes I think about years down the road, when I am that much older, and my parents are elderly. How is it possible that she won’t be there with us? Neither of us had children, so this is the end of the line for my family. I am staring down my mortality these days.

Trying to stay busy helps to keep the sadness at bay some days. And other days, it’s useless. The tears can spring up when I least expect it: seeing another blue-eyed redhead sitting across from me on the subway, hearing one of Heidi’s favorite songs playing in the grocery store, or watching a movie that has siblings in it. For a while, I was baking obsessively simply because I didn’t know what else to do. My freezer is now full of cookies, muffins, and brownies.

In reference to grief, I’ve heard people say that they were initially scared about forgetting their loved one if they attempted to move on with their life. It’s a horrible catch-22: when I am feeling the full weight of my sorrow, I feel closest to my sister, and so in a strange way the rawness feels nurturing and restorative. And on the days where I am keeping myself distracted and not thinking about the loss of my sister, I feel very disconnected from it all. In order for me to feel closer to her, I want to get back to the sadness and pain. Maybe it’s just a necessary part of grieving, a way for our brains to force us to process our emotions. Regardless, I will get through it.

In celebration of Halloween, try this recipe for Almond-Cocoa Nib-Smoked Salt Bark. If you use chocolate that is 60% cacao or higher, it’s packed with anti-oxidants and other good stuff.

Happy Halloween!

Almond-Cocoa Nib-Smoked Salt Bark

20 ounces (60% or darker) chocolate chips

1 cup almonds, toasted and roughly chopped

1/4 cup cocoa nibs

2 tablespoons smoked coarse sea salt

1. Line a 8×8-inch square pan with parchment paper; set aside.
2. Gently melt the chocolate using a double boiler or microwave method.  Remove from heat.
3. Pour chocolate into parchment-lined pan.
4.Evenly sprinkle the almonds, cocoa nibs, and sea salt over the chocolate edge to edge.
5. Using the back of a spoon, gently push the almonds down to make sure each piece has adhered to the chocolate.
6. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 20 minutes until firm.

Sugar-and-Spice Candied Nuts

l1050692I let a few months pass in-between posts again.  Like a lot of other people in this country, I have been trying to find healthy outlets for my anger, sadness, and disappointment in the election. I have been doing a decent amount of holiday baking.  One day, I came home from work and just decided to start looking for craft projects online. If nothing else, I figured it would be a nice distraction for me, and a way to channel my feelings into something creative.  My mom, being a very crafty lady, is very happy about this.

Mr. K and I had a pretty rough autumn with both of my grandma’s dying within one month of each other. We flew to Minnesota for both funerals, and in between those trips we moved to a new apartment.  The past few weekends have started to feel “normal” again, as we slowly return to our old weekend routines and attempt to create new ones. We moved to Harlem and we are both very excited about trying new restaurants and discovering all of the little gems that define our new neighborhood.
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I am taking advantage of living in Manhattan again. Before we moved to Astoria, one of my favorite things to do on a Saturday was to go to a matinee and/or bring a book along and sit in a coffee shop and read. I did that last weekend and it felt so indulgent. It was a good reminder for me that I need to force myself out of the apartment on the weekends. Being around other people, and just being out in the world observing things, always helps my state of mind.

Word of caution:  if you make these candied nuts, you might not be able to stop eating them. They are incredibly good, with the perfect combination of smoky, salty, and sweet. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
l1050695Sugar-and-Spice Candied Nuts
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/3 cup dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup white granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon of hot smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound walnut or pecan halves
1 egg white, room temperature
1 tablespoon water

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix sugars, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon, making sure there are no lumps; set aside.
2. Beat egg white and water until frothy but not stiff. Add walnuts, and stir to coat evenly.
3. Sprinkle nuts with sugar mixture, and toss until evenly coated. Spread sugared nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet fitted with parchment paper.
4. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven, and separate nuts as they cool. When completely cool, pour the nuts into a bowl, breaking up any that stick together.

Almond Butter and Apricot Bars

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I got a call from my dad last Tuesday saying my grandma had become unresponsive. The nurse told my dad and his siblings that she would most likely pass in the coming days.  I asked my dad to call me as soon as she passed away. I waited for the call. It was excruciating. By the end of the day Thursday there was still no change. By then, I had become extremely anxious and wasn’t sleeping well. I needed to numb the pain and not deal with my feelings. I didn’t know what else to do with myself, so I started to eat and didn’t stop until Saturday night.  I ate potato chips, ice cream, pizza, chocolate and cookies. I couldn’t shove the food in fast enough to fill the hole.  I hadn’t eaten like that in years. I actually went to bed Saturday night feeling sick. My dad called Sunday morning to tell me that my grandma passed away Saturday night with several of her kids by her bedside. And just like that, the bingeing was over. Now that my grandma was gone, I could let myself feel the pain of losing her. I wanted to go for a run and process my grief while listening to music. It was the most nurturing thing I could think of to do for myself. I blared Beyonce in my earbuds and started to run, all the while thinking about my grandma’s life. It wasn’t an easy one, but I hope that she had true moments of joy and contentment.
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This recipe is an Ina Garten one that I tweaked simply because I had apricot jam in my refrigerator that I wanted to use. I love the combination of almond and apricot, especially when almond extract is involved. Of course, you can easily swap out the almond butter for peanut butter and use strawberry jam in lieu of the apricot jam if you want a straight-up classic combination. But it’s fun to try new flavors, and if you haven’t experienced the almond/apricot pairing, I encourage you to try this. Even if you’re not a seasoned baker, it’s a very approachable recipe.  It also feels a bit autumnal, which is absolutely perfect for this week.

Almond Butter and Apricot Bars
Adapted from Ina Garten

Yield:  24 bars

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups creamy almond butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups apricot jam
2/3 cups almond slivers

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x13x2-inch cake pan. Line it with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pan.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars on medium speed until light yellow, about 2 minutes.
3. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla and almond extract, eggs, and almond butter and mix until all ingredients are combined.
4. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the almond butter mixture. Mix just until combined.
5. Spread 2/3 of the dough into the prepared cake pan and spread over the bottom with a knife or offset spatula. Spread the jam evenly over the dough. Drop small globs of the remaining dough evenly over the jam. Don’t worry if all the jam isn’t covered; it will spread in the oven.
6. Sprinkle with almond slivers and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely, and cut into squares.

 

Peanut Butter Fudge Cookies

L1050494A few years ago, I turned a corner and started enjoying going to the gym. Like a lot of people, I used to dread it. Now, I actually feel better on the days when I’ve gone to the gym. Sadly, I don’t think I’m in much better shape than I used to be (damn you peri-menopause!) but my mental health has improved, thanks to my regular workouts. I love starting my day by pushing myself physically and increasing the dopamine that my 40-year-old brain produces.
L1050483I’m in week 4 of my food regimen, and so far it’s going pretty well. I haven’t felt too terribly deprived, despite the fact that I work at a bakery and smell cakes and cupcakes all day long. I really enjoy creating healthier versions of some of my favorite sweets. That definitely helps ease the pain of not being able to eat sugar. These cookies are a new favorite of mine, and I think most people would be surprised to learn that they are sugar-free, grain-free, and made with just a few simple healthy ingredients.
L1050499Peanut Butter Fudge Cookies

Yield: 16 cookies

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup all-natural peanut butter (no sugar added)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place mashed bananas in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add peanut butter, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and sea salt. Mix until well incorporated.
3. Using a medium-sized cookie scoop, place 1″ rounds of batter onto lined baking sheet.
4. Bake for 10 minutes.
5. Let cookies cool completely. Can be refrigerated up to one week or stored in freezer.

Sea Salt Caramels

DSC_6671I had a nice, leisurely brunch with a good friend today.  It was one of those enjoyable, meandering conversations that could have easily continued for several hours.  After we parted ways, I found myself thinking of several more things I wanted to talk to my friend about––what was the name of that running app she mentioned?  Avon Barksdale is in the new Creed movie!  When can we do another double date?
DSC_6656After I returned home, I started in on my holiday baking:  melting butter, whipping meringue, and rough-chopping chocolate, all the while thinking about the incredibly rich and meaningful female friendships I’ve had over the years.  There is a beautiful passage in an Anaïs Nin book that I love:  “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”  She articulates so elegantly how different friends show us a side of ourselves that we hadn’t previously tapped into.  They see our potential, and challenge us within a safe space.   By the time I started cleaning up my post-baking mess, I found myself reminiscing about my college days and all of the incredible friendships I made throughout those four years.  Those women saw something in me before I really knew who I was or how I wanted to live my life.  Through their eyes, I learned so much about myself.
DSC_6668I haven’t made caramels, or any other candy, since the day I closed my business 2 ½ years ago.  I wasn’t sure if I would remember how to make them, but it all came back to me.  My stepdad has asked me to make these for him ever since I closed my business, and he will finally get some for Christmas this year!

Sea Salt Caramels

Yield: 35-40

12 oz. sugar
12 oz. evaporated milk
5 oz. heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split
10 oz. corn syrup
1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sea salt

1.  Line 8×8 pan with parchment paper.
2.  Combine sugar, evaporated milk, heavy cream, and vanilla bean in a large pot, and cook over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, and add corn syrup.  Stir to incorporate.
3.  Insert candy thermometer and clip onto the side of pot.
4.  When temperature reaches 230 F degrees, add butter and stir until melted.  Mixture will start to thicken and darken in color.  Turn heat down to low, and stir frequently, scraping bottom of the pan every once in a while.
5.  When temperature reaches 240 F degrees, remove pot from heat, add sea salt, and stir until combined.
6.  Pour caramel into parchment-lined pan.  Using a spatula, smooth the caramel out, making sure it is distributed evenly throughout pan.  Cool completely, and cut into 1×1-inch squares.

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently learned that my cholesterol is dangerously high.  In lieu of going on medication, I decided to actively try and cut out a decent amount of sugar from my diet.  Of course, there will still be plenty of dark chocolate.  I mean, I haven’t lost my mind.  There will ALWAYS be dark chocolate in my life.  What’s more, I have a huge sweet tooth.  Therefore, dessert will always be a part of my life as well, but I needed to find some recipes that incorporate sugar substitutions.   Turns out, there is a lot out there.  For the most part, bananas and dates are the healthiest options when substituting sugar in a recipe.  Although they still contain a decent amount of sugar– like fruit– they also contain fiber, which slows down the rate at which the body absorbs the sugars from the fruit.  Therefore, I have been making A LOT of (healthier) desserts lately to try and figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of my favorite things to eat around the holidays is gingerbread-flavored anything.   I love the spices, along with the deep, complex flavor of molasses.  I had a deliciously spicy slice of gingerbread loaf last week from a bakery in Manhattan.  It inspired me to try and give gingerbread muffins a go, but with no sugar (other than the molasses, which I made an exception for).  They turned out really well.  My only complaint is that they are not quite spicy enough.  Therefore, if you really want that bite that you get from a gingersnap cookie, feel free to double the amount of ginger in this recipe.  If you are ok with a milder flavor, these will be perfect for you.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHealthy Gingerbread Muffins
Adapted from Pinch of Yum

Yield:  22 Mini-muffins

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup molasses
1 egg
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (sub 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
11/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
11/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
Candied ginger, roughly chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or butter.  In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with the molasses.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, mashed bananas, sour cream, yogurt, milk, ginger, vanilla extract, and orange zest.
  3. Add the olive oil and molasses from step one.
  4. Add the flours, baking soda, salt, and dry spices. Stir a few times until just combined. Scoop into a mini-muffin tin and place a piece of candied ginger on top of each muffin. Bake for 10-12 minutes (if making full-size muffins, bake for 17-20 minutes) or until the tops are puffy and firm to the touch. Cool for a few minutes before serving.

Peach Crisp with Brown Butter Crumble

DSC_6052The older I get, the more aware I become of my place in the world, good or bad, as a woman.  Being raised in the Midwest (in the 80’s), I was taught, whether advertently or inadvertently, that women were second-class citizens.  My sister and I were not encouraged to speak up for ourselves, nor for other girls/women.  Perhaps because of this, I found myself interested in the notion of feminism after I left for college, even if I didn’t wholly understand what it meant.

My first job out of college was working as a Women’s Advocate at a domestic violence shelter in southern Minnesota.  It was a cause I knew something about, having witnessed it and heard about it throughout much of my childhood.  I loved that job, and learned much about the cycle of domestic violence, and why it can be hard for so many women to break that cycle.  In my naiveté, I thought “good people” would support this kind of work, and applaud my young idealism.  But I was dumbstruck one night at dinner when a distant (female) family member said, “What about domestic violence shelters for men? ”  Anger washed over my body, and it took everything in me not to scream at this woman.  Did she not know the national statistics on domestic violence?  How could she be so ignorant?  That was the first time–and thankfully one of the few times–I remember a woman going against the Sisterhood Code.  I don’t remember how I responded that night, but I do recall thinking that I needed to remain polite and nice in my response, because I was a young woman and had no right voicing my opinion.  Back then, I didn’t have the courage to speak up when I encountered an ignorant, racist, or misogynistic comment.

Fast forward 16 years, and I still struggle with asserting myself when it’s the right thing to do, mainly because I am female.   It’s hard to unlearn what you are taught as a child.  I love that feminism has taken center stage in recent years.  People might disagree on the specifics of the definition, but no one can argue that, in general, it means full social, economic, and civic rights for all women.  That said, I think one of the most difficult parts of being a feminist is dealing with the day to day, and often more subtle, situations, comments & behaviors that women encounter and have to navigate.  For example, is it ok for me to disagree with a male colleague in a work meeting or will I come across as a loud-mouthed bitch?  If I point out a sexist statement made by an acquaintance, will I be labeled an uptight feminist who needs to “relax”?

I recently experienced the latter scenario, but I did not call out the misogynistic behavior and comments.  My rationale was that I didn’t want to cause a kerfuffle, but if I’m truly honest with myself, I also didn’t want to be labeled That Girl.  That Girl is super-sensitive and prides herself on policing sexist language, etc.  I lacked the courage to speak up in a really uncomfortable situation, and I am disappointed in myself.  There is still the young, naïve, and idealistic girl inside me who thinks, maybe they just don’t know!  I’ll explain why this is offensive to them, and they will take back what they said!  But there is also the cynical, frustrated pessimist in me who thinks that misogyny, racism, etc. simply have to die out with the older generations.  The next time I encounter language or behavior that doesn’t jive with my values, I hope to be braver.

I am a big lover of fruit crisps.  However, some are better than others.  The “crisp” part of the dessert can really vary depending on the recipe:  sometimes it’s super-sweet, other times it can be very crispy with not a lot of heft to it.  The crisp in this recipe is aptly named a crumble, because that’s exactly what it is.  And my god, is it delicious, largely due to the brown butter crumble.  Browning butter adds so much depth of flavor.  I want to start advocating that we brown butter whenever butter is called for in a recipe.  Make this asap (peach season is almost over!) and thank me later.

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Peach Crisp with Brown Butter Crumble
Adapted from Food and Wine

Peach Crisp
Unsalted butter, for greasing
2 lbs. ripe peaches, pitted and cut into 1/4-inch thick wedges
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. cornstarch
Pinch of salt

Brown Butter Crumble
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1/2 tbsp. sea salt
1/4 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 2-quart baking dish.
2.  In a large bowl, toss the peaches with the sugar and lemon juice.  Cover and let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the peaches have released some of their juices.
3.  Drain the peaches in a colander set over a small saucepan, then return them to the bowl.
4.  Add 1/4 cup of water and the cornstarch to the peach juices and bring to a simmer.  Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and translucent, about 1 minute.  Add the thickened juices and the salt to the peaches and toss to coat.  Scrape into the prepared baking dish.
5.  In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the oats, the 3 sugars, the salt and cinnamon.  In a small saucepan, cook the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until deep golden and nutty-smelling, about 8 minutes.  Scrape the butter and any browned bits at the bottom of the pan into the flour mixture and stir until well combined.
6.  Press the topping into small clumps and scatter over the peaches.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the crisp is golden and bubbling.  Transfer to a rack and let stand for 15 minutes before serving with vanilla ice cream.

Pistachio Pavlova with Rhubarb Cream

DSC_5996One of my oldest and dearest friends came out to visit with her 5-year-old son last weekend.  I had no idea how much I had missed her over the years.  Since she’s had kids, we haven’t had as much time to see each other, or even have phone chats more than a few times a year.   Her son, Trevor, is such a sweet kid, and I found myself repeatedly being amazed by how well-behaved he was the entire weekend.   One funny aside:  on the plane out to NYC, they sat next to a guy wearing a yarmulke and reading–what I’m assuming was the Torah–in Hebrew.  After noticing this, Trevor turned to his mom and asked, “What language does MaryAnne speak?”  This struck me as both very thoughtful and very hilarious.
DSC_5967DSC_5980Mr. K was kind enough to babysit Trevor Saturday night so that my friend, Meghan, and I could have some solo lady time.  I don’t have a lot of close girlfriends who live nearby, so I cherish my visits with those friends who I only see once a year.  While sipping delicious cocktails, we caught up on all of the necessary things.  Over the course of the weekend, I felt  like a plant, not knowing that it was a bit dry, being watered.  There is something so comforting about an old friend who knows you so well.  Unlike spending time with newer friends, there is no effort in trying to get to know them better, wanting to present yourself in the best light, etc.  It’s like curling up with an old pillow you’ve had for 20 years that fits your head perfectly.
DSC_5974This was my first time making pavlova.  It was a bit intimidating at first, as I’ve heard horror stories about people making pavlovas, only to have them collapse after taking them out of the oven.  Luckily, I did my research before making this, and learned that it is of the utmost importance to leave your pavlova in the oven, after turning it off, until it has been completely cooled.  This slow decrease in temperature prevents the pavlova from collapsing.  If you are a fan of meringue, or marshmallow, or both, you will love this dessert.  And even better, it is an homage to rhubarb season.  Enjoy!
DSC_5988Pistachio Pavlova with Rhubarb Cream
Adapted from Food & Wine

Pavlova
1 cup chopped unsalted pistachios
2 tablespoons cornstarch
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar

Rhubarb Cream
4 ounces rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces (1 cup)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup hulled and quartered strawberries, plus 1/2 cup small strawberries for garnish
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, chilled
1/4 cup chopped unsalted pistachios, for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
In a small bowl, toss the pistachios with the cornstarch.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the egg whites with the salt at high speed until foamy, 2 minutes. Beat in the vinegar, then beat in the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue beating until the whites are glossy and stiff peaks form, 8 to 10 minutes. Gently fold in the pistachio mixture. Using a large spoon, dollop the meringue onto the prepared sheet and spread into a 10-inch round with a slight indentation in the center. Lower the oven temperature to 225° and bake the meringue for about 1 1/2 hours, until crisp but still chewy on the inside. Turn the oven off; let 
the meringue rest in the oven for 1 hour. Transfer to a rack and let cool.
  3. MEANWHILE, MAKE THE RHUBARB CREAM
    In a small saucepan, simmer the rhubarb, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice over moderate heat, stirring and mashing the rhubarb with the back of a wooden spoon, until the sugar is dissolved and the rhubarb breaks down, about 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the quartered strawberries and vanilla bean paste. Let cool completely.
  4. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the cream with the mascarpone at medium speed until moderately firm, about 3 minutes. Stir 1/4 cup of the whipped cream into the cooled rhubarb, then fold the mixture into the remaining whipped cream. Spoon into the center of the meringue. Garnish with the small strawberries and chopped pistachios and serve.

 

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Buttermilk Icing

DSC_5199I went home last weekend to surprise my sister for her 40th birthday.  I forgot how fun it is to surprise people.  The night before her birthday, on Halloween, I showed up at her door wearing a mask and said, “Trick or Treat!”  She immediately started jumping up and down and screamed something like, “No you did NOT!”  I don’t really know what that means, but it was fun to see her surprised.
DSC_5171I don’t make it back to Minnesota that often anymore, but when I do it’s usually a mad scramble of trying to fit in time with my divorced parents, my sister, and both of my grandmothers, among other people.   I wanted this trip to be different.  I was going back essentially to celebrate my sister, so everyone else was going to be an “If I have time” item on my list.  The morning of my sister’s birthday, my dad asked if he could take my sister and I to a little river town in Wisconsin for breakfast.  I realized after we got into the car that we had not spent time together just the three of us in many years.  I know I have a horrible memory, but I want to say that it’s been since maybe high school?   It was such a nice time, and so unexpected, that I found myself trying to really soak it all in.  After breakfast, we decided to visit the top of a nearby bluff that has beautiful scenery.  On the way there, I was overcome with a strong feeling of tranquility.  It made me so happy to know that the three of us can spend time together and truly enjoy each other’s company.  Like most families, we have had our share of rough patches.  I really wanted to turn to them and say, “I love you guys”, the way I would to a close girlfriend but I was afraid it would make things awkward.   So I didn’t.  I let the moment pass.  I hope the next time I am overcome with emotion for them I have the courage to tell them how I feel.
DSC_5204I have been meaning to buy a bundt pan for over a year.  I finally bought one a month ago, and was so excited about it that I had the crazy idea I was going to make a different type of bundt cake every week.  Well, I’ve made one so far.  And of course it was pumpkin.  There’s really no other option when the beginning of fall is in the air and the weather starts to change.  What am I going to make­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­– a zucchini cake??  PLEASE.  I increased the amount of spices from the original recipe, and also substituted a bit of brown sugar for the granulated sugar.  The only thing this recipe needs is chocolate chips.  Then it would be perfect.

DSC_5208Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Buttermilk Icing
Adapted from Gourmet

Cake
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for greasing bundt pan
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15 oz. can)
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 large eggs

Icing
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons well-shaken buttermilk
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Special equipment:  a 10-inch nonstick bundt pan

1.  Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter bundt pan generously, then dust with flour, knocking out excess.
2.  Whisk together flour (2 1/4 cups), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a bowl.
3.  Whisk together pumpkin, 3/4 cup buttermilk, and vanilla in another bowl.
4.  Beat butter (1 1/2 sticks), brown sugar and granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes, then add eggs and beat 1 minute.
5.  Reduce speed to low and add flour and pumpkin mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until batter is just smooth.
6.  Spoon batter into pan, smoothing top, then bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
7.  Cool cake in pan on a rack 15 minutes, then invert rack over cake and re-invert cake onto rack.  Cool 10 minutes more.
8.  While cake is cooling, whisk together buttermilk and confectioners sugar until smooth.  Drizzle icing over warm cake, then cool cake completely.  Icing will harden slightly.