Showing posts with label desserts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label desserts. Show all posts

18 February 2014

New! Window Shopping for Sweets

Strawberry desserts from a bakery near the Bastille, 2007.

There's enough Catholic school girl left in me that I actually want to make a Lenten sacrifice of some sort and just enough Jewish to make me feel guilty if I don't.

08 November 2008

Low-Carb, Crustless Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

Crustless Chocolate-Pumpkin Pie

 The act of coming home is the greatest small joy I know. So it has been since I was a child.

When we lived on Main Street all those decades ago, I would often come home at 3:15 on Indian Summer afternoons to find my mother hanging laundry to dry in our vast backyard, or removing a batch of cookies from the oven in the sunny yellow kitchen.

She was young and vigorous and full of life then. I so vividly remember finding her in the back yard on a particular balmy fall afternoon, romping with my baby brother on a blanket. We have photographs of that afternoon, and it remains memorable to me because my mother had been to the drugstore down the street and the market, and had returned with a pumpkin, a bag of chocolate, and two eye masks, one black and one turquoise.

“Halloween is coming, and we’re getting ready,” she told me, and I was delighted. At six, I was just developing an idea of the yearly round and what it meant as the seasons shifted and were marked with rituals and celebrations.

On this day and others like it, the inside front door of our home would remain open, letting in the cool autumn air as the sun slipped down into the west and the shadows of dusk set in. I can still hear the sound of early-evening traffic outside, and the clanging of pots and pans as my mother prepared supper. Our Craftsman bungalow was small and cozy and no room was any great distance from another. I still like this proximity in a home.

These days, I return home much later, and my routine is different: Get the mail, check the e-mail and phone messages, change into jeans, and think about supper. In cool seasons, I turn up the furnace, and in warm weather, I open the windows.

One thing has not changed: I want a snack to tide me over until supper, which is eaten rather late at our house, at least by American standards.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of ways to pair pumpkin with chocolate. Since it’s gray and blustery today; I don’t want to go out. So I used what I had on hand to make this crustless, low-carb Chocolate Pumpkin Pie.
  • 1/2 cup baking mix
  • 2/3 cup sugar 
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash pumpkin pie spice
  • dash salt
  • ½ cup melted unsweetened chocolate, cooled, or chocolate syrup
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 350. Blend dry ingredients in large bowl and set aside. In a second bowl, blend chocolate syrup or melted chocolate with sour cream, pumpkin, eggs and vanilla. Gradually fold into dry mix. When mixture is smooth, pour into greased pie plate or square baking dish and bake for 45 minutes until the pie is firm, but not hard. Chill before topping with cream cheese frosting.

A day later, the dessert is firm and flavorful, and tastes richer than it did a few hours after I made it. You may have to adjust the sugar, depending upon our preference. I like a dessert that is not too sweet.

26 November 2007

Sweet and Salty Roasted-Nut Bars

In the old days, when we lived in the house on Main Street, kitty corner from O’Neill’s little store with the bell over the door and three doors away from the busy dairy, Sunday night was craft night, especially at Christmas time.

We did not call it craft night then, and it was not planned; it usually occurred organically when my mother was driven to make something she wanted but did not have or could not find. Candles, wreaths, tree decorations, stockings, you name it, she made it, starting Thanksgiving weekend. When I was old enough to be useful, I helped.

Why Sunday? I suppose it was because our big dinner was at noon and supper was catch- as-catch-can, or simply fresh bread or blueberry muffins my father made. Or maybe because weekends were busy, and Sunday nights were quiet as we got ready to slip back into our weekday routine.

We’d gather all the supplies and do our work around the kitchen table after supper. It was a small kitchen – this was a 1915-era house – and by the time we were finished at 10 p.m. and tired (or not finished and cranky), the room was a mess. I am quite certain I left cleanup to my mother, selfish as I was at that time.

This Sunday night, the last hours of a glorious four-day weekend, my dining room table was piled high with greenery and ornaments and a glue gun for I am making a centerpiece. Next week it will be auctioned off with about 30 others to raise money for a good cause. I hope someone buys it.

On the kitchen counter, a pan of sweetness was cooling.

Yes! I made my version (photo above) of the gooey sweet and salty nut bar we sampled last spring from a bakery in Paris. It's a blend of nuts and caramel perched upon a dense, crumbly crust. Here’s my version, inspired by a recipe at Epicurious:

Sweet and Salty Nut Bars

For the crust:

  • 1 1/3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon fleur de sel
  • 1 and ½ sticks cold butter, in pieces
  • 2 eggs

For the topping:

  • 3 cups mixed salted nuts (cashews, pecans, almonds), coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup peanuts, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter

For the caramel:

  • 2/3 cups honey
  • dash fleur de sel
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons half and half

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Blend flour, baking powder, sugars and salt. Cut in butter and blend with a pastry tool or fork until meal-like in consistency. Blend in eggs. Place dough on floured board and divide into four parts, kneading each piece only once.

Grease and line an 8 by 13-inch glass baking pan with foil, making sure several inches remain above the edge of the pan. Grease the foil and press the dough into the pan, spreading evenly. Line only the bottom of the pan, not the sides.

Bake for 16-20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Reduce heat in oven to about 200. Place nuts in large bowl. Melt one tablespoon butter and add it to the nuts, coating each nut. Add sugar and cinnamon and blend to ensure each nut is coated. Roast for about 45 minutes at low temperature. Set nuts aside. Return oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Blend honey, brown sugar and salt in saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add butter and half and half and bring to a boil. Remove from burner and add nuts, coating each nut.

Press nut mixture into crust. Bake for about 20 minutes until caramel mix begins to bubble. Cool. Place another sheet of foil over the bars and press down. Refrigerate.

Sweet and salty, of course, with a hint of spice. Very satisfying.

24 August 2007

Paris: On the Cheap

I cannot tell you how much I wanted this raspberry confection in the window at LeNotre near the Bastille one dreary morning in May.

I craved it. I could taste it. I wanted to consume it.

Eating it - posessing it - would have brightened my day considerably.

But it was 40 euros, and it was a big. I should have bought a smaller dessert, which was about 7 euros. But even that is hard for me to do, as my frugality gene rears its practical head regularly when we are on the road.

The way I see it, you never know when you will need every extra penny you have. So: No frivolous purchases.

My husband and I often split desserts. We want a taste, not the whole thing. This saves us both money and calories, not to mention carbs, fat, salt and other things that are bad for you but good tasting.

We restrain ourselves, shooting photos instead.

I'm not sure if I am entirely happy being so darned prudent and frugal.