Recently in Desserts Category
The restaurant in Vermont where I started my cooking career was famous for their apple crisp- fragrant with cinnamon, and boasting a delightfully crunchy walnut and brown sugar topping. Each fall, as soon as the Santa Anna winds subside here in Los Angeles and brisk weather arrives, I think about my autumns in New England and want to cuddle up with a warm bowl of fruit crisp, with vanilla ice cream melting into the tangy filling.
Today it finally cooled down enough to get enthused about planning our Thanksgiving menu, and I want to serve an apple crisp for dessert.
This will be my second gluten-free Thanksgiving. Last year my sister-in-law brought her signature fall offering- a big bowl of pomegranate arils and blackberries, topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream. We will enjoy that again this year, but I am prepared to bake a gluten-free dessert to add to the feast.
Baking holiday cookies is a fun project for this cold and wet weekend. I warmed up my kitchen this morning with a big batch of tender rugelach. The contrast of a delicate unsweetened crust wrapped around a sweet nut filling has always made these bite-sized pastries impossible for me to resist. They take a little more work to form than simple drop cookies, such as chocolate chip or oatmeal, but they are so tasty with such an exquisitely fragile texture, every bite reminds me why I like to make them.
Mixing the butter and cream cheese dough the night before simplifies baking day. This morning I sprinkled the dough with nuts, sugar and spice, rolled it up into little rugs (the meaning of rugelach), and popped them in the oven. Within minutes, the cinnamon in the filling scented the house, and made me eager to taste the first batch.
I created this festive dessert for a holiday gathering with my gal pals (Steve’s name for the group of friends with whom I celebrate birthdays several times a year). Rather than making a disappointing imitation of a baked treat that relies on wheat flour, I prefer naturally gluten-free desserts, and this intense chocolate mousse topped with whipped cream and a sparkling cranberry and crystallized ginger compote was so pretty and indulgent, everyone wanted seconds.
The mousse relies on lots of bittersweet chocolate for its rich flavor. The better tasting the chocolate, the better the mousse. I used Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Organic Dark Chocolate
. I melted it in water with only a little cream, not wanting cream to obscure the distinctiveness of the chocolate. The fluffy texture of the mousse comes from whipped egg whites rather than cream, again to preserve the nature of the chocolate. However, whipped organic cream sitting atop the mousse offers a luxurious contrast to the bitter chocolate, helping show off its unique taste with each spoonful.
It is easy to fit cooking this dessert into a busy holiday schedule. The cranberry embellishment will keep for days in the refrigerator, so you can make it whenever you can find 15 minutes. I stirred up the mousse the night before our party and mounded on the cream and cranberries in the morning. Three days after the lunch, the small amount leftover was every bit as good as on the first day, so I will most likely make it a few days ahead next time.
Pretty, indulgent, relatively healthy, and easy to craft, I made a tin full of these gluten-free confections for us to enjoy during valentines’ week. But, we realized our stash was dwindling yesterday, so we rushed to take the photo here before they were all gobbled up.
I subscribe to the recent wisdom that dark chocolate is beneficial to health, and never miss my 1-ounce daily dose. To transform the routine prescription into something distinctive for Valentines Day, I added nuts, dried fruit, and crystallized ginger to a base of intense, full-bodied bittersweet chocolate. Large walnuts halves, deep red dried tart cherries, and the sugar on the ginger make these delicacies festive and glittery. For a little more polish, I sometimes drizzle melted white chocolate over the top.
The rain this morning forced me to cancel a hike with friends, and so I baked cookies for them instead. I was eager to taste the organic, reduced sugar fruit spreads Crofter's had given me, and knew that thumbprint cookies, their indentations designed to be filled with jam or jelly, would be a yummy way to try the preserves.
These cookies are a variation on the first thing I learned to bake. I was 6 years old, my grandmother was visiting, and I begged her to make her brown sugar thumbprint cookies- our name for them was Grandmother Cookies. She showed me how to mix the simple dough by hand, roll spoonfuls of it into rounds, and stick my finger into each to form an indentation- all great fun for a kid’s first attempt at baking. I now form the dough in an electric mixer, but still call these delightful morsels Grandmother Cookies.
To avoid the crowds of holiday shoppers and to give personal gifts, I have started preparing goodies in my kitchen. Today I boiled up a batch of Maple-Nut Pralines. It took me only half an hour to turn out a large batch of confections, and my house smells like maple sugaring time in Vermont.
Pralines are a New Orleans-style candy fashioned from sugar, cream, and pecans. I put my own flavor stamp on these sweets by replacing the standard white sugar with pure maple syrup, stirring in walnuts in addition to pecans, and adding a pinch of nutmeg for a festive touch.
I plan to concoct more candies and bake cookies all during December, and will post some of the recipes on this blog. They will be treats I have thought up over the years and enjoy making again and again. These recipes, and many more, can also be found in Cooking at Home
. I am going to thumb through the book again, to select a cookie to make for the friends I will be visiting this weekend.
was excited about the pomegranate tart cherry juice
she discovered at Whole Foods. It is 100% fresh-pressed organic juice, not reconstituted from concentrate, no sugar added. However, the bottle she gave me sat on the kitchen counter for a week because I like eating fresh fruit more than drinking juice.
When I returned home after brunch with girlfriends on Sunday, I found the path leading to our house covered with trimmed branches from our rosemary bushes, and my beau Steve in the kitchen, stirring rosemary syrup into the pomegranate cherry juice.
Steve is not a cook; he provides takeout sushi on my yoga nights, and grills anything that I have readied for the fire. I create our meals, and this is my preference. For dinner parties, I like to serve make-ahead desserts, thus four summers ago I purchased an ice cream maker to churn old fashioned peach ice cream. Steve was intrigued. Sorbets and lime pops are his favorite sweets, and he wondered if the machine would freeze sorbets. With a lemon sorbetto recipe from my files, he launched into his first culinary project.